/Cast Pandemic: How Covid-19 Will Affect the Race to World First

Blizzard has released the updated launch dates for the Shadowlands expansion and its first raid tier: Castle Nathria. On December 15th, we will see the top guilds in the world storming the gates of Sire Denathrius’s domain on Mythic difficulty to compete for the title of World First! Across the world, WoW players and fans are excitedly waiting to cheer on their favourite guilds and to tune into the live streams to watch as the world’s top raiders toil away at the newest threats to life on Azeroth.

The Race to World First (RWF) has become an iconic event in the PVE scene. It is almost hard to believe that it really only came to the forefront as a broadcasted event during the Battle for Azeroth expansion when Method partnered with Red Bull to broadcast the race in Uldir. Since then, the RWF event has quickly skyrocketed to the extent that we now expect fairly large-scale events, especially now that multiple top guilds have signed with notable esports organizations.

With all of these new organizations and a fair bit of funding being funneled into the RWF events, Castle Nathria should be the biggest event yet…or will it? With a raid schedule that is very likely to go into the holidays, AND the continuing presence of the Covid-19 pandemic worldwide, what kind of RWF are we expecting to see?

Photo Credit: (Left to Right) Method, Complexity Gaming

Last raid tier, both Method and Complexity-Limit held “boot camp” style events, where a large portion of each guild was flown into a central location for the duration of the RWF. This type of event is great for the players both in terms of raiding efficiency and enjoyment. It also makes broadcast production a lot easier, and creates a better experience for the viewers.

Whether or not guilds/orgs will be holding boot camp style RWF events is unclear at this point. According to Melody of top 3 Chinese guild 天涯 Skyline, they might still be hosting a boot camp style event due to the Covid-19 situation being under control in China for the past few months now. We have yet to see any official announcements, but the logistical issues presented by both the timing of the raid release and the Covid-19 pandemic will certainly have an effect on RWF event plans.

Many countries still have their borders closed, and travel to and from the United States is very difficult at the moment. Complexity-Limit is a US based team, but they have a number of European players. Travel restrictions may force those players to play on NA servers with EU ping, which could potentially impact their performance dramatically. Other teams face similar issues with players from multiple countries/continents.

If any guilds or organizations choose to move forward with a boot camp event due to the benefits to be gained, it will be interesting to see if they follow the lead of the NHL, the NBA, or League of Legends Worlds and create a “Covid bubble” to protect their players. The main obstacle is that these other Leagues required their players and team staff to isolate and quarantine for 14 days with regular Covid testing. With an esport within a game like World of Warcraft where many players have other jobs, traveling or quarantining for 14 days prior to the event may not be a viable option. The availability for regular testing is also hit-and-miss, especially in the United States.

Additionally, the fact that the Mythic raid is releasing on December 15th means that there is real potential (depending on tuning) that the RWF could last into Christmas. Whether guilds/orgs decide to raid on those days, the implications of how this could affect their events is a complete unknown at this time.

Photo Credit: Blizzard Entertainment

It is fairly likely that we will see at-home broadcasts similar to how Blizzard presented their Mythic Dungeon International (MDI) and Arena World Championship (AWC) this year. This type of event will certainly tax the people working production behind-the-scenes. One nice benefit of at-home broadcasts, combined with the fact that we are expecting more than just two guilds/orgs hosting an event, is that we may get the chance to see some new faces in host and caster roles.

The styles of events and which guilds will be hosting them is currently all under speculation. Regardless of what happens, we are looking forward to another RWF. 2020 has been a difficult year for so many people, and it will be a welcome respite to sit back and watch as our favourite players go for the glory!

Don’t forget, Raider.IO is your home for all RWF content, progression, and statistics, so stay tuned for the big event this December!

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About the Author

Hulahoops has been playing WoW since Vanilla. If she’s not leading her Mythic Progression guild TBD through raids, she’s probably practicing for the MDI with her team Angry Toast. Hulahoops is a Holy Paladin in every sense of the term: she moderates the Hammer of Wrath Paladin Class Discord, and she was a practicing Lawyer for the last 7 years. Judgment isn’t just a spell! Hulahoops recently decided to put the law books away and follow her passion for esports by joining the team at RaiderIO as the Events and Community Coordinator. She is also passionate about making Azeroth an inclusive, welcoming space for all gamers and is a proud co-founder of the Defias Sisterhood community.