RWF: How "Secret Strats" Are Making a Resurgence in Castle Nathria

Something interesting happened in the Castle Nathria Race to World First (RWF) today, as we may have seen a brief return of the old-school RWF ways: killing a boss off-stream with a delayed release of the kill video. After they had ended their public livestream and called it a night, Complexity Limit decided to test a “secret strategy” on The Council of Blood for their last hour of raid, but to their surprise, they actually killed the boss.

Complexity Limit Guild Master and Raid Leader Maximum tweeted that they intended to merely safeguard their strategy by testing it first off-stream, but that they ended up downing the boss and planned to release a video the following day.

So what’s the big deal then? It must have been an easy fight if they killed it accidentally, right?

As the EU guilds caught up in progression, it quickly became apparent that The Council of Blood was not an easy code to crack after all. When world-first contender guild Echo arrived at The Council of Blood, fans expected to see them clear it quickly, given that they were almost exactly on-pace with Complexity Limit for the previous boss kills of the tier so far. However, Echo was in for a rude awakening as they ended up spending almost 8 hours progressing on the boss before killing it themselves. Therefore, it seemed as though Complexity Limit had figured out a very strong strategy which they executed perfectly in a remarkably short time span.

So why is this old-school? The significance here is that Complexity Limit waited until just after the world second kill before making their video public. Soon after Echo killed the boss after ~8 hours of progression, Complexity Limit published their kill video on YouTube.

Buying time on world-first boss kills by protecting secret strategies was exactly the environment of the RWF before it became a live-streamed event in recent years. Raid progression was shrouded in mystery as guilds would wait before publishing videos so that their strategies would not be given away too soon. Guilds were constantly in the dark about everyone’s progress aside from knowing what had died, so there were strategy "leaks", "spies", and other forms of espionage when trying to get any intel on what other guilds were doing. There was a consensus among the top guilds to not release endboss and similarly difficult boss kill videos before the top 5 world kills were complete, which was later lowered to 3 and then removed entirely in recent years. However, there were even some guilds that broke the "pact" and got plenty of heat for that when they would release videos before the rest of the top guilds felt it was “time”. As there was so much time between the kills and video releases, some of the videos themselves were much more “produced”—decked out with extensive intros, many different PoVs, fancy editing etc., so the first time the public would see a boss kill video from a top guild, they would be met with lavish presentations like this Exorsus video of their Siegecrafter Blackfuse kill on 25 man Heroic difficulty:

Given the secrecy of the RWF back then, each guild had to come up with their own strategy that was uniquely theirs in any hopes of gaining a competitive advantage. This often meant that boss kills were further apart, as some guilds could end up going down blind avenues and struggle for much longer periods of time than we see today. The strength of a guild was very much dependent on how well they could analyze bosses and invent strategies, which has somewhat fallen to the wayside now with the advent of streaming. With live coverage from many of the top guilds as well as support from new esports organizations entering the market, strategies are immediately available to the public way before a particularly challenging kill even occurs. Viewers can quickly evaluate cutting-edge boss strategies in real-time, spot out important details, and make tweaks to tailor them to their own raid composition before they even set foot in the instance themselves. Therefore, guilds can rarely win the RWF by out-strategizing each other to the same extent as before. Progression streaming has shifted the entire dynamic of the race as we see less emphasis now on secret strategy/analysis as we do on execution and pure player skill.

Complexity Limit’s world-first Council of Blood kill yesterday shows that the history of the RWF has not been forgotten. Despite having "hidden" the boss kill accidentally, they still decided to test their strategy off-stream and wait until the second guild had killed it before showing their kill video to the public. In doing so, they effectively bought themselves about 7 hours of time, since they spent maybe less than an hour on the boss while the runner-up guild (Echo) struggled for nearly 8. While there are always other possible variables such as differences in player skill and execution, there's no denying that a guild of the caliber of Echo would have gotten the kill faster with access to Complexity Limit's ingenious strategy. Would Echo have actually gotten the boss down significantly faster if they had seen Complexity Limit's video? That seems likely, but even if they hadn't, the use of this old-school tactic is still pretty interesting to see.

In the end, this may not have a significant impact on the overall race in Castle Nathria, but it does showcase how the modern streaming age of the RWF may have changed the landscape, but not forgotten its roots. Even the well-known 16-hour time advantage that has always been afforded to North American teams in the race (which was more like 10 hours this time in Castle Nathria) has become much less relevant due to the modernization of the race over livestream. With the livestreaming progression having lifted the veil, the international playing field of the RWF is more level than ever before.

So does this mean that the new way of doing things is bad and we should go back to stream-less races? Of course not! The race has merely evolved, which comes with new advantages and disadvantages for both the audience and guilds alike. However, considering the benefits to withholding particularly innovative strats, we may see more of the old ways making a resurgence in the future of the RWF.


About the Author

Starym is an old-school raider with a wide history of World Firsts under his belt. He is a long-time news writer and interviewer for Icy Veins and formerly Manaflask. Having raided in the Race to World First (RWF) until the end of The Burning Crusade, he has been covering the events since Cataclysm and the RWF has become his greatest passion in WoW. A (Tauren, obviously) Warrior main at heart, when pushed, he will admit to loving Diablo more than WoW and, thus, should be punished.