RWF: The 21st Raider

While you are watching all of the Race to World First (RWF) events starting December 15th, you are likely to hear casters and others talk about the “21st Raider”. BDGG recently tweeted about their Guild Master (GM) Lozy assuming the role of the 21st Raider to call shots, and you may even see it happen live on stream in front of you during more than one RWF event. If the current raid size for Mythic is 20 people, what exactly is the 21st Raider? In this second installment of our RWF series, we explore and explain the 21st Raider strategy by looking at its origins, its evolution, and what it’s like raiding with one more person behind the helm.

What is the 21st Raider?

In Vanilla WoW, guilds defeated Ragnaros the Firelord, dealt with the many whelps in Onyxia's Lair, and stormed the gates of Ahn'Qiraj, all in groups of 40 working together to save Azeroth. In the next handful of expansions, bosses and raids were defeated in groups of 10 and 25, until the end of Mists of Pandaria, when Blizzard reformatted the raid system yet again. The 20 man Mythic Raid that was created during the end of Siege of Orgrimmar is the raid format we still see today, and will be seeing for the upcoming Castle Nathria RWF.

The term “21st Raider” is a colloquial way of referring to a raid leader making all of the calls and decisions during an encounter, while not actually being a part of the raid themself. It is more of a coach role, but much more hands-on with to-the-second decision making like a conductor of an orchestra. Essentially, a guild will have 20 people taking part in an encounter, and a 21st person will be watching live streams of the others, and will be in voice communication making all of the required raid calls and decisions.

For anyone that has been involved in the WoW raiding scene since the old days of 40 man teams, it is obvious that the mechanics of raid encounters have increased in difficulty, scope, and complexity over the years. It has gotten to the point where there are mechanics occurring near constantly, many of which are important or deadly enough that they require WeakAuras, addons, and leaders to micromanage the raid.

As a raid leader, it is very easy to become overwhelmed taking on the task to manage all of these mechanics, make callouts and on-the-spot decisions, all while playing your own character. At the RWF level where every character has to be played to its fullest capacity, and every mechanic has to be executed flawlessly, this can become an increasingly daunting task. Therefore, it makes sense that we have seen more guilds make use of the 21st Raider, to have someone whose task is dedicated solely to coaching the players through all of the mechanics of an encounter, without being distracted by their own gameplay. The main reasoning behind using the 21st Raider is that you get more focused and better quality raid leading, and you don’t have any players whose performance may suffer as a result of needing to pay attention to all of the mechanics for the entire raid.


The use of the 21st Raider is not a new phenomenon in WoW raiding, although it truly gained prominence during the last RWF in Ny’alotha during the Complexity Limit stream event. We were interested to learn about its use in the past, both in and out of the RWF, so we reached out to a couple guilds who have made use of the 21st Raider to see where this all began.

It turns out that other guilds have utilized remote raid callouts for many years whether it was coined as the 21st raider or not. In the three boss encounter Trial of Valor in Legion, North American guild Encore implemented the 21st Raider strategy on the final boss, Helya. According to former GM Goopzilla, this strategy enabled them to have one of their most successful finishes to a raid tier. Goop commended this strategy for helping “alleviate brainpower” so that their raiders could focus more on their personal performance rather than simultaneously worrying about the raid as a whole.

For some guilds, the 21st Raider strategy emerged due to technical necessities rather than the need for more focused raid leading as we’ve seen in the highly competitive atmosphere of the RWF. Back in the Tomb of Sargeras raid during Legion, Fat Pandas made use of a 21st Raider near the end of their raid progression when their raid leader suddenly moved from a large city to an extremely rural area and suffered severe internet issues as a result. He would regularly get disconnected from instanced content and had to deal with consistent 400+ ping, rendering the game unplayable. Therefore, their GM streamed his PoV to their raid leader with a program called Parsec which eliminated stream delay.

The strategy continued to gain even more traction when it was implemented by notable guild and RWF contender BDGG, formerly known as Big Dumb Guild. After the race for Tomb of Sargeras ended, BDGG’s GM and raid leader Glade (aka “Bloo”) decided to transition his official role to that of the 21st Raider:

I finished KJ prog with the guild but I had spent the tier working approximately 60 hours a week on top of planning my wedding, so it was clear to me that it was time to step back. I still wanted to guide the guild and help, so I was the 21st man for Antorus, Uldir, and then Dazar’alor. It wasn’t an easy decision, but by the time Antorus hit, I was struggling to run the 200 Maw of Souls runs needed to get my weapon level up. At that point it was clear I had to start to pass along my responsibilities as GM but it’s a lengthy process to delegate things out and prepare the guild for a smooth transition, so I took the role of the 21st Raider to help ensure the changeover of guild leadership was as easy as possible.

I knew leading the team from outside of the raid would be a solid idea from the beginning. I was hoping to do it a little longer but I eventually started taking on more responsibilities on the organization side of the guild. It really only took the one tier for other guilds to catch on to what we were doing and see the benefits, but not until Complexity-Limit’s World First win of Ny’alotha did it catch the world’s attention.

As we were the first guild to use the 21st Raider in the RWF scene, other top guilds wanted the program that I updated to make it work. Even though Discord has screen share now, we’ll still likely make use of the program we used in the past as with it we get around 20ms instead of 1kms as we are back to having a dedicated 21st Raider for the upcoming RWF in Castle Nathria. In our case, the program we use is a little more involved. The screen casters run a client and have to do a port forward in their router, and then our “Nasa Commander” can view the source in a web browser. We usually set up a few PoVs so the full room can be viewed.

While we may not be able to track the true origins of the 21st raider, it’s clear that it is becoming more popular as the RWF continues to grow in scale with each new raid tier.

Logistical Concerns

When it comes to raid calls and decision-making, every second matters. Reaction times are important from both the raid leader and the raiders responding to the call. For this reason, there are some logistical concerns for anyone hoping to make use of a 21st Raider. As mentioned above by Glade, a key consideration when implementing a 21st Raider is the delay from the source player and the raid leader. Discord screen-sharing is a decent way to stream multiple PoVs for a 21st Raider to watch and make calls from, but even then, many guilds may be looking to use a different hardware/software setup to provide even higher quality streams to their 21st Raider with less delay.

Leading a raid from someone else’s perspective can be a difficult task, especially since the 21st raider cannot control the character or the camera angles being presented. Surely there is communication from the 21st Raider to the players whose streams are being used, instructing them to look at something in particular or click on something, etc., but this can probably get frustrating. How many times have you been watching a stream on Twitch of a WoW raid and tried to click on their details window before you remembered it was a stream and not your computer!? Therefore, it is likely that players may set-up their UIs and WeakAuras in ways that streamline information and alerts to better support the process of using a 21st Raider.

Photo Credit: Complexity Gaming

Complexity-Limit Takes Us to New Heights

As previously mentioned, the use of the 21st Raider really caught the raiding world’s attention during Complexity-Limit’s RWF event stream of Ny’alotha this past year at the Gamestop Performance Center. The guild’s GM and Raid Leader Max was shown spending the majority of the tier raid leading the team as the 21st Raider live. In fact, we even saw Max’s PoV as he streamed his process as the 21st raider on his own channel. Ny’alotha is where the 21st Raider strategy was brought to the masses, and we all followed along as he led his guild to victory in Ny’alotha, all from outside of the boss room itself.

Understandably, with so much on the line for Castle Nathria, the folks at Complexity-Limit are keeping their cards close to their chest, so we were unable to get any comments from them on their use of the 21st Raider in the upcoming race. All we can say from our experience watching the Ny’alotha RWF on the Complexity event stream and their comments on the 21st Raider strategy in Ny’alotha back in February, the 21st Raider strategy is not only an efficient tool for high-end guilds, but also very exciting for the viewers to watch. We eagerly await to see if Complexity-Limit and other guilds choose to implement and even evolve this strategy in Castle Nathria and future raid tiers.

We hope this brief look into the 21st Raider will help to further explain some of the niche aspects we see in raiding when the world’s top guilds compete for World First. Is there anything else specific to the RWF you want to know more about? Let us know on our Twitter and we just might feature your question in our next article of the RWF series!

Keep your eyes on Raider.IO for live global coverage of the Castle Nathria RWF. We’ll keep you updated on everything that happens, when it happens.

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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.