The Ultimate Raid Tier List
Here we are with the Sanctum of Domination pre-race “warm up lap” aka Heroic split week in full effect. The real race starts next week, so we thought we’d take this last opportunity to gather some info from the top raiders before they get too much into Heroic splits and such. We’ve decided to tackle one of the big all-time World of Warcraft questions: What was the best raid ever?
We’ve expanded on this simplistic question a little and came up with a collective tier list, composed from the opinions of raiders from six of the top 10 world guilds: Complexity-Limit, Echo, Pieces, FatSharkYes and BDGG. We also asked the players to give us some comments about their most favorite raids, which you can find below in the collective tier list!
The Tier List (and Make Your Own!)
Before we get into it all, there’s a fun thing you can do - make your own tier list based on this template and then you can compare it to the top raid one below. Here’s mine if you want to take a look.
Before we get into it, there are some things to note about the rankings and methodology. Some players were very generous, giving out A and S tiers like candy, while others were very strict with their ratings, only giving 2 raids the top honors. Another interesting pattern is that many players scored the early WoW raids very low, perhaps judging them solely on difficulty and encounter mechanics - and while that’s a perfectly fine angle to take, it’s certainly not the only thing to consider (and other players clearly scored them with that in mind). Another thing to note is that Classic may have affected perceptions of Vanilla and BC bosses, as they were shown in a pretty negative light in that environment, while WotLK’s raids are still safely locked away in memory.
Also, about the methodology: it’s really hard to separate personal experiences with raids when judging something like this (which is fine and the way it should be), and so for this reason we gave the 5 guilds the same number of “votes”, meaning we took the same number of players from each guild, despite getting many more answers from some than from others (with FSY contributing a smaller amount). This way a guild’s history wouldn’t impact the scoring too much (believe me, it’s REALLY hard to forget that World First or a really top kill for your guild and separate that from the normal rankings).
The tier listings are pretty obvious, but also keep in mind that the raids are ordered by rating within each tier as well, so the ones to the left are more highly ranked than the ones on the right within the same tier, so we also get a direct top 43 ranking as well. Only the large player count raids were taken into consideration and only the best and hardest versions (meaning old Naxxramas and Onyxia, Hardmode Ulduar and similar).
The Top Raider Ultimate Tier List, Compiled
Some fun facts from the numbers:
- Baradin Hold has the lowest score (but wasn't a "real" raid).
- Molten Core actually has the next lowest score.
- Crucible of Storms is the most "conflicted/controversial" of all raids, getting both S and D tiers consistently, and everything in between.
- All the most recent raids got most of the votes (but we offset for that), with Serpentshrine Cavern receiving the fewest, immediately followed by Black Temple and Battle for Mount Hyjal.
For the players who provided responses for this article, there seemed to be a lot of bias around which tiers were actually played, which is why you won’t be seeing a whole lot of early raids (and, let’s face it, they weren’t anywhere near as complex as today’s). However, plenty of players still respected the truly great older raids as well. But enough chit-chat, let’s see what some top players have to say!
Commentary from Top Players
Source: “Yogg-Saron” by JJcanvas
RogerBrown - Echo: When the raids first started getting serious, the introduction of hard modes, cool aesthetic overall, Algalon as an extra boss was cool. This was the first time I played seriously in my WoW career.
Tisumi - Pieces: Ulduar: Nostalgia for me, Hardmodes are super fun and I wish stuff like that would be a thing again. Also features my personal favorite fight, Yogg-Saron +0.
Aestis - BDGG: While the difficulty for Ulduar probably doesn't hold up by today's standards, the creativity of the Hardmode mechanics makes it my top raid. Ulduar has also had a lasting impact, as I believe Hardmodes became the canvas for the multiple levels of difficulty we see in raids today, since Heroic was introduced in the next tier with Trial of the Crusader.
MUQT - Pieces: Icecrown Citadel (ICC) was my first real raid. Every time I went in there, it was fun and it felt epic. The Lich King fight was probably the best one they ever made and I don’t think it's ever gonna be beaten.
Impakt - BDGG: My absolute favorite raid of all time is Throne of Thunder, without question. Class design was at its peak, the gearing and other systems in the game were outstanding, the bosses were excellent, and Lei Shen specifically is the greatest raid boss ever made. The tier had a stellar zone attached to it, tons of content to do, and the tuning was perfect. Even the final Mythic-only boss was incredible – the entire tier was absolutely amazing to play and to watch others try and progress. Personally, I played a Feral Druid, and MoP was the pinnacle of the spec’s design. Feral with the trinket Rune of Re-Origination back when snapshotting was still in the game is still my favorite iteration of any spec at any point in WoW’s history. The raiding was in part so much fun because the game itself and classes were just so absurdly fun to play. I remember raiding in multiple weekend guilds with my friends at the time because we had so many alts that we wanted to raid with. Legion came close towards the end, but I have never felt the same way about class design as I did in MoP.
RogerBrown - Echo: Great class design at the time, notable good bosses - Durumu (great tight enrage fight); Dark Animus (first time I made a crazy picasso picture; Lei Shen (different platforms to choose from to make your strategy, and also just a really fun fight to progress on with a tight P3 kill or get killed feeling); Ra-den (extra Heroic only boss and although a bit cheesable, was a fun extra thing to focus on after real progress was done).
Veyloris - Complexity-Limit: My top tier is Throne of Thunder because it was the first tier a guild I was running actually full-cleared. I was also raiding with my future wife and a couple of real life friends, so there's a lot of nostalgia. It's also the raid where I started tanking and playing my Paladin, so it has a lot of firsts. On top of the above, it's also a wonderful coincidence that the raid itself was excellent. Horridon, Council, Animus, and Lei Shen were all fantastic bosses and allowed tanks to abuse the heck out of Vengeance, which allowed you to take more damage to do more damage. That was spectacularly fun, but also allowed Paladin to do a lot to carry the damage and healing requirements for a fight, which was very satisfying to perform.
Saltad - Pieces: Throne of Thunder was at the point when class design peaked, in my opinion.
RogerBrown - Echo: Operator Thogar (unique fun fight, with steady progression and figuring it out as it comes); Blast Furnace (although a lot of people hated it, I enjoyed progressing and finding a way to make P3 doable by changing our strat in p1); Blackhand (probably the best end boss ever, 9 min fight which felt always exciting to play... not something we can say for many end bosses which usually have some boring phase 1/phase 2’s).
Wolsku - Pieces: Blackrock Foundry was an all around great tier, from the first bosses to the last, the difficulty curve was very pleasant. Thogar was such an innovative design in my opinion and that fight never got boring. The Blackhand fight was also very enjoyable, also the class design was pretty decent overall in MoP/WoD so that's why most of the raids I enjoyed were from that era.
Source: “Archimonde” by XN, freelance illustrator
Rinoa - Pieces: Hellfire Citadel had a wonderful difficulty curve towards the end of the enormous raid and it was also somewhat non-linear, managing to have three interesting bosses you could defeat in any order before you progressed to Mannoroth and Archimonde. The fights were engaging and challenging, and taking down one of the original big-bads of Warcraft in Archimonde felt quite satisfying - particularly considering the remarkable difficulty of the encounter, being one of the hardest of all time.
Goopzilla - Complexity-Limit: The reason why I chose The Nighthold was that it had some of the best bosses. The only bosses in there that felt mediocre to me were Skorpyron and Tichondrius. Every other boss design I enjoyed and the overall look of the raid was amazing. Also, the secret phase of Gul’dan was one of the best, especially since I very much enjoy Mythic-only phases that add a whole new boss.
Klaus - Echo: Nighthold overall had some solid fights which were enjoyable, but it really escalated near the end with Star Augur, Elisande and Gul'dan being very well tuned and interesting fights. Especially Gul'dan’s secret Mythic phase having some really interesting mechanics.
Thdlock - Complexity-Limit: Nighthold is for sure the best raid I ever played. The last 3 bosses were well designed, required different combos + coordination and had such amazing tuning (probably because the raid got tested 1 year before it came out).
Spud - FatSharkYes: For me personally, raids such as Trial of Valor and Nighthold were my favourite in FSY. Class design was good and so were the fights, on a visual and interactive basis, and I think they were real learning curves for the guild to become what it is now. Nighthold is probably my overall favourite, but I don't think you can have a tier list without mentioning Throne of Thunder, Siege of Orgrimmar and Blackrock Foundry.
Soulsi - BDGG: Nighthold was the best raid for me because it was the first raid I took seriously as a player. Since that point, I've improved every tier to try to be better. I also am a Warlock and a huge fan of Gul'dan, so getting to fight him AND Illidan in the same fight is super cool in the secret Mythic phase. Elisande's mechanic was super unique, and Star Augur is my favourite non-end boss of all time. There were no real duds in this raid, which is why it's #1 for me.
Klaus - Echo: Tomb of Sargeras, while for the most part not being mechanically interesting, was just incredibly hard and required a lot of individual play. It felt incredibly rewarding, finally beating Fallen Avatar and Kil'jaeden after numerous pulls and the screams from my guild after finally finishing the tier was one of my greatest moments playing this game.
And so those are the accumulated and averaged opinions of some of the best current WoW players from 6 of the top guilds. There were some upsets, some really close calls between tiers, but all-in-all it's looking like a pretty solid ranking (aside from the potential Vanilla and BC raid issues I mentioned before). Crucible of Storms remains the biggest outlier, with players either hating or loving it, and Dragon Soul actually came out much better than I would have expected. Sanctum of Domination Mythic is coming up very soon and will have the honor of being judged and added to the list (and it seems Sylvanas might have a shot at one of the better bosses of WoW). We might be asking the community for their thoughts on the rankings and their favorites soon as well, so stay tuned!
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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.