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Player Perspectives: How Do Top Guilds Feel about the Upcoming RWF?

While preparations are in full effect for the upcoming Race to World First (RWF) of Sepulcher of the First Ones, we spoke to players from 6 of the top world raiding guilds about their expectations, hopes, and concerns for this new tier. Today, we chat about their thoughts on having 3 untested bosses in Sepulcher, the impact the untested bosses had on their preparations, the divide between NA and EU, and more!

Table of Contents

“I would rather have some bugs here and there that Blizzard needs to fix as opposed to the untested bosses being massively undertuned. If Blizzard can nail the tuning and there are no game-breaking bugs, then I am sure the encounters will be received well, and I am excited.” —Cayna, Method

Balance & Tuning

Q-1: What are your general feelings about playing 3 untested bosses in terms of potential bugs and mid-progression hotfixes?

Nnoggie - Echo: After having been part of the Echo blind progress team in Final Fantasy 14 (FF), I am definitely excited to play new bosses that have not been tested on the PTR. The FF raids were super fun, and figuring out a new boss is what progression should be all about. There is some big potential here to throw curve balls at the players, even though the dungeon journal should have probably been left blank by Blizzard in my opinion. I have seen many obvious bugs be hotfixed mid-progression, so I hope that the internal testing team steps up their game this time around and finds the more obvious bugs before we do.

Maevey - Liquid: It’s exciting to be going into a tier with 3 fully untested bosses, as it will allow guilds to show off their initial experience against a boss encounter. In terms of bugs, final bosses that are generally less tested have a high frequency of containing bugs or over-tuned parts of fights that need mid-progression hotfixes, so I would assume there will be quite a few. I think we all hope the last 3 bosses are well tuned and there is no need for mid-progression changes, but that seems like a large feat.

Kaspar - SK Pieces: Well, in theory, we are actually getting 4 untested bosses due to Halondrus receiving major changes after testing concluded; but in the great scheme of things, I'm personally a big fan of the way Blizzard went with this if they are ready to solve major issues immediately. I think all of us are expecting the bosses to have some issues. However, as long as we don’t run into the Kil'jaeden issue we had in Tomb of Sargeras where the bugs persisted over several days, or bugs that completely hold up progression, it will br fun to see how top guilds deal with this and what guilds come out on top when it comes to making strats "on the fly".

Cayna - Method: Blizzard has stepped up communication quite a lot in this tier with competitive guilds. There’s nothing I can share in detail but just want to give a shoutout to Blizzard for the solid communication! It will be interesting for sure. I would rather have some bugs here and there that Blizzard needs to fix as opposed to the untested bosses being massively undertuned. If Blizzard can nail the tuning and there are no game-breaking bugs, then I am sure the encounters will be received well, and I am excited.

Romp - Aversion: I’m very keen on playing untested (at least by the public) bosses, as I haven’t experienced that before. Part of figuring out tactics always comes from PTR testing, watching our recordings, and talking about little things that come to mind. On the other hand, I’m a little concerned about potential bugs you mention; I don’t doubt that Blizzard has a competent internal testing system and takes the testing schedule very seriously. However, I also am very sure that there will be some bugs or issues that went under the radar because fewer people could lay their eyes on the boss. PTR has so many people testing and reporting bugs — the sheer amount of people looking at bosses just can’t be provided by Blizzard alone. Since Blizzard is watching the RWF very closely, I’m sure we won’t throw our heads against bugs for hours before receiving a fix though! Overall, I think untested bosses add a ton of possible fun to the race for everyone involved, and think it’ll be a good thing.

Riggnaros - Soniqs Imperative: With this new setup, all of the agency is put on Blizzard, as they have to make sure the tuning and mechanics are working properly. Blizzard will have data and footage from Normal and Heroic difficulties before anyone will be pulling the last three bosses on Mythic, so a lot of issues can probably be fixed beforehand.

Q-2: What criteria do you expect the tuning to be based upon — Having a full 4-set of tier pieces and double legendaries on everybody, or variations of that?

Saltad - Echo: All the Mythic raid testing was done with double legendary and 4-set, which means that all the data Blizzard has available is under those conditions. With progress now being without double legendary and 4-set also not being guaranteed, there are grounds to worry about the overall tuning. I'm expecting the original tuning of the last 3 bosses to either be spicy or very easy, but I want to believe in the abilities of the encounter designers.

Maevey - Liquid: The tuning of this raid is probably the biggest question mark out of all recent tiers due to the return of tier sets as well as double legendary unlocking on the 3rd reset of Mythic. Due to this, I believe the raid will be tuned around double legendaries for sure, but tier is a bit more questionable since the acquisition of tier is not guaranteed. I suppose that puts me in the 2-set and double legendary camp.

Nate - SK Pieces: I'd imagine tuning to NOT be based on the full spectrum of having 4-set + double legendaries, as usually the final fights of the tier are initially down-to-the-wire in terms of difficulty due to the lack of player power acquisition early on. It's an easy pre-built system in place to nerf said encounters over time for players reaching them later down the line (similarly to Domination Shard upgrades in Sanctum of Domination).

Cayna - Method: Honestly, this terrifies me more than anything else. In my guess, the tier is tuned for 4-set. Legendaries will be a way to get a good power spike to nerf the raid without having to nerf the bosses. The main issue with tuning for 4-set is that, if your guild is unlucky, it will be a rough tier. I just hope they tune harder rather than easier. I'd rather have a tier that lasts 13/14 days than a tier that’s over in 6/7 days as long as the tier does not take 14+ days to get world first. If that’s the case, the race will most likely get too long, and then it’s nearly an auto-win for Liquid as they can just log in, do the campaign to get double legendaries, and kill The Jailer.

Romp - Aversion: We’ve talked about this a lot internally, with friends, and with other guilds. However, we obviously don’t know more than the public does. I could imagine the first 5 bosses being balanced around 2-set, the 5 first tier bosses tuned to 4-set, and The Jailer himself tuned to 4-set with double legendaries, which might be killable for the best of the best in the second mythic reset. That’s just my personal opinion, however!

Riggnaros - Soniqs Imperative: The initial Mythic bosses are going to be tuned to be killable without set bonuses or double legendaries. On the other hand, the tuning baseline for the untested bosses will likely be on the basis of double legendaries and 4-set.

Q-3: Did the individual class strength of the 2-set bonus play any role in deciding on mains or alts, or do you expect to be able to supply everybody in your raid with a full 4-set within the first Mythic week? Are there concerns that bad RNG on the tier-set might lead to benching-issues, similar to what we’ve seen with Domination Shard sets in Sanctum of Domination?

Nnoggie - Echo: The general theme of the tier sets is that the 4-set bonus heavily outweighs the 2-set bonus, so this is what most decisions are based on. With the current design, I don’t think that we can successfully supply 20 players with their 4-sets in Mythic week one. Funneling those pieces is extremely hard and requires an insane amount of community support. Not having a 4-set will absolutely lead to benching issues. The strength of these bonuses is quite a lot higher than the Domination Sets from SoD, so we will probably not see many players that have 4-set sit out.

Maevey - Liquid: There is some consideration in terms of 2-set and 4-set strength as to who we hope to funnel based on gear drops from Heroic week. However, I think RNG will play a decent hand in who will be in the raid. The “Domination Shard issues” in Sanctum are slightly mitigated here since tier is tradeable once a piece is acquired, whereas Domination Shards were completely up to RNG.

Crystallize - SK Pieces: Personally, my choice of main character was not affected by the tier bonuses; although, that is because the healer balance is not exactly well rounded for a progress setting. There were some exciting things in the works, but the latest tuning passes put me back in Discipline Priest prison. Not getting tier sets is always a worry, but it will more likely be a situation that will bench people for DPS players — healers can usually just play better to outplay having lower amounts of gear. There are never fights that are designed around doing your max HPS all the time; it's just not how healing works in WoW.

Cayna - Method: Yes, the issues will happen. Let's say you are a Warlock main and get unlucky, and an alt Warlock gets lucky and somehow obtains its 4-set. You will be benched for an alt lock. It's a nightmare system. We might do something different than other guilds this tier to hopefully give us more 4-sets but we will see.

Romp - Aversion: I don’t think there are any concerns that bad RNG will drop people to the bench, I think there’s certainty that this will happen. The higher you are in rankings, the likelier it is for people to be benched based on loot from splits. That’s how it’s always been and, with tier sets offering increases of up to 34% and shards offering not much less increases, we’re playing two tiers where it’s more relevant than ever to be lucky at “spinning the wheel”. Tier sets in general played a somewhat deciding factor in choosing potential mains, but we’re more than happy to have people on comfort picks over a 2% DPS increase.

As for expecting to fully supply everybody with a full 4-set, I can’t give any detailed information, but we made sure to plan out our splits in a very detailed manner and prepare for all types of cases.

Riggnaros - Soniqs Imperative: It’s possible for some people to have 4-set, but I think that fewer people will be having 4-set than we had Domination sets in Sanctum of Domination. I expect a lot of guilds to not be doing Mythic first to make sure that they start Mythic with the correct Mirror Main characters.

Q-4: Based on tuning, are there expectations or concerns that this tier might go into a third Mythic week? If so, how would a 3-week RWF affect your raiders’ availability?

Saltad - Echo: My guess would be a 12-14 day race. I would not be worried about the race going into the third week since Blizzard have stated their own goal regarding the tier length multiple times.

Maevey - Liquid: I’m sure some raiders might have an issue, but I doubt it will impact us too much if the raid goes to a third lockout in terms of raider availability.

Crystallize - SK Pieces: I don't think the RWF will go into a third Mythic week. If it did, it would also be an insane nerf to the raid, and almost certainly result in all bosses dying within 16 hours of the reset hitting, as double legendaries offer a huge power spike.

Cayna - Method: I think it should not affect our raiders availability. I don’t believe that the race will go that late either. Although, if there is any race that COULD go that late, it would be this one.

Romp - Aversion: Opinions are split on this. Some think the Jailer won’t be killable without the second legendary, hence we’re not ignoring the “rep grind”. Others think that the final boss will be very doable in the second mythic lockout. As our team ranges from students to self-employed and full-time workers, we have a lot of people taking time off for the RWF. Slipping into a 3rd Mythic reset won’t affect us as much, as our raiding schedule evolves around availability after a certain time threshold is met, not the other way around. Having a patch announced only two to three weeks in advance is another topic — I’m just not a big fan of that, but I won’t go into detail here.

Riggnaros - Soniqs Imperative: If there is a tier where it could happen, it would be this one. We might only see a handful of guilds clear the raid within two weeks. Everyone else will most likely go into a 3rd reset and will get massive power increases with more 4-sets and double Legendaries. For the top guilds, I don’t think it’ll go into a third reset, though.

Being “First”: NA & EU Discuss

“For me, it’s always more mentally comfortable to be chased rather than the guy doing the chasing. However, with potentially bugged bosses, the advantage of being ahead could be nullified.”
—Deepshades, Echo

Q-5: Do you personally consider it to be an advantage or disadvantage to be first/second to reach any boss? Do mid-progression hotfixes lead to a mental shift on how your raiders feel about being ahead/behind? Does the fact that bosses are untested change that perception or enhance it?

Deepshades - Echo: It’s definitely great being ahead. For me, it’s always more mentally comfortable to be chased rather than the guy doing the chasing. However, with potentially bugged bosses, the advantage of being ahead could be nullified. Being the first to reach bugged bosses would obviously be sad, but I do think being ahead is still the greater position to be in for the mood of the raid. Especially as an European guild, taking the lead is always a great pleasure.

Maevey - Liquid: This is a hard question to answer fully, as there are obvious advantages and disadvantages to getting to a boss first. The advantage is you’re clearly ahead and able to practice mechanics before your competition. On the other hand, there are two disadvantages that stand out to me. One is if there are any parts of an encounter that are bugged or overtuned; in these cases, you are at the mercy of the speed at which hotfixes are being deployed to resolve them. The second disadvantage is that all the guilds that are behind in progression have the ability to watch what strategies work best and replicate them. I personally don’t experience a mental shift when bosses are hotfixed unless they are changed extremely slowly.

Dyse - SK Pieces: In my mind, it is always beneficial to be first to a boss, as it gives you the most time to progress it. I will add though that, if the boss is bugged, it's obviously not always beneficial to be there first — especially if you have already done your splits for the week, thus making you not be able to progress towards anything at that moment. The fact that there are several untested bosses changes the advantage significantly because you might hit either a loot piñata or a Fallen Avatar 2.0 situation, and you won't know until someone is there. This makes it so that your decisions for splits could be incorrect when you see the untested bosses.

Cayna - Method: Being ahead definitely gives a different mentality. Personally it REALLY sucks for the EU to always have to play catchup. We often have super good ideas for bosses and it will just be looked at as a copy if we end up with the same plan as the guild ahead. It also depends a bit on the boss you arrive at first.

For example, if Echo had reached Kel’Thuzad in Sanctum of Domination before Liquid, it would have been bad for Echo since their tactic was WAY ahead of that of Liquid. On the other hand, the fact that Echo reached Guardian before Liquid made it really easy for Liquid to do an “Okay, 6-heals, and let’s one-shot this” type of thing. In general, I think being ahead is good. Yes, you might show some things to the others, but even if they can see things you do, you still have to get it right and often some things swap around. A good example of this is Queen Azshara. Liquid reached it before us back then, so we looked at their intermission phase. We started with a flat copy, which definitely saved some time. However, we still screwed up executing it. In the end, we played intermissions completely different to them anyway.

Romp - Aversion: In general, I think it is always an advantage to reach a boss second to some extent. However, I also think it’s not a necessity. As you can imagine, we’re not just copying what Liquid or Echo do, but we evolve our own tactics (that often match what e.g. Liquid does, but was planned way ahead of seeing them in action), and we modify and shape them based on what we face in the raids.

I think being ahead always provides a better mentality than being behind; that’s just human nature. As for us though, we always have a very good group mentality and a positive attitude throughout farm, preparations, and the race itself. I’m certain that figuring out an untested boss will be a great feeling. The dungeon journal is available to everyone and I’m sure everyone has their tactics pre-made. However, executing a tactic on a yet unseen boss will feel awesome!

Riggnaros - Soniqs Imperative: Being on a boss first is a big advantage, but it is also a bit of a guinea pig situation, and it’s going to be be even more amplified this tier due to the untested bosses. There have been some egregious mid-progression changes to boss fights in the past that drastically altered the fight, completely changed the trajectory, and this affected the progress race. However, with how many eyes are on the RWF these days, it’s unlikely that something like this will happen again.

Q-6: How does the NA/EU difference in progression time play into your daily preparation? Do you catch up on the progress of competitors during your off-time, or is it beneficial to not concern yourselves too much with how others are doing?

Saltad - Echo: During the tuesday NA release, we watch the race and note down things from streams to try to minimize mistakes when we enter the raid the following day. Mid-progression, there is not much time leftover for the raiders to watch the NA streams. For the people that are benched though, there is definitely value in comparing strategies and trying to find tactics that other teams are using that we aren't.

Crystallize - SK Pieces: We definitely catch up on what other guilds are doing while we are not playing. There are people specifically assigned to look at what our competitors are doing to help with our strategies etc.

Cayna - Method: Personally, I wake up and look at the progress of the race. If a boss dies, I watch the kill video with my morning coffee. If not, I watch some of the best pulls. Yes, we also have people who do not raid with us who stay up longer or are from the US to watch streams and take notes.

Romp - Aversion: It’s a mix that does it for us. As mentioned, we have our own tactics prepared well in advance and generally don’t stray away from them, but a fresh wind that watching competitors provides never hurts either.

Riggnaros - Soniqs Imperative: We absolutely keep tabs on all the top guilds regardless of region. A lot of time is spent outside of raid hours where we look at vods, screenshots, etc.

Raid Preparation

“After all these tiers, we are kind of accustomed to being initially behind and, unless Liquid or another competitor is really close to killing the last boss, we focus on our own gameplay/plan.”
—Deepshades, Echo

Q-7: Does it make sense to commit time to test and collect data in Heroic during the first Mythic Week, or is any time spent outside of Mythic considered “lost time” (with the exception of splits)?

Deepshades - Echo: Honestly, in most cases, it’s better to work on your own plan. After all these tiers, we are kind of accustomed to being initially behind and, unless Liquid or another competitor is really close to killing the last boss, we focus on our own gameplay/plan.

Maevey - Liquid: In terms of the last 3 bosses, doing some Heroic exploration to see how certain mechanics play out can be viable, but it is usually things that can be figured out on Mythic anyway. Obviously, these bosses will be killed on Heroic by several guilds before they are defeated on Mythic, so some exploration will be done naturally.

Ironi - SK Pieces: Bosses in this tier seem to be quite scripted and don’t require too much data collection. The only exceptions are the few bosses that were changed totally from PTR, and the last 3 bosses that are untested. For those, you need to somehow gather the data for bossmods and WeakAuras. Some of that can be done via public logs and streams without having to pull the bosses, and mostly you can do the rest during the splits.

Cayna - Method: People will definitely need to go to the bosses first since they are the way to get tier 4-set. You can’t get your 4-set without doing the bosses. After a few splits, you will have a general idea of the fights and can imagine how things will work out. There is a fair chance we will maybe have benched people/analysts/trusted friends doing some pulls on their own off stream to try some sneaky things? Maybe? It kind of depends how the fights turn out.

Romp - Aversion: Again, I personally believe a mix would be the best approach. Figuring out stuff, ticking that “oooooh I got it” moment off of everybody’s todo-list, and getting some mental release from being focused over a whole day can’t hurt. However, splits aren’t just splits; as you can imagine, we’re going to use split runs to grab information without having a wasted (loot-wise) Heroic run.

Riggnaros - Soniqs Imperative: I expect that a lot of guilds will be immediately going into Heroic to see and loot the new bosses. Which characters to bring into Mythic will depend a lot on the loot RNG during splits, so getting Heroic out of the way early means that you can bring the best-geared characters.

“Time is the most precious resource in the race. We will have to adjust the split setups based on how the last 3 bosses end up playing out in general, and their loot on Heroic.” —Riggnaros, Soniqs Imperative

Q-8: Have the loot-trading restrictions on tier-sets and 2 of the 5 pieces being unavailable during Week 1 affected your Splitraid preparation and planning? Are there any other items in this raid you consider worth aiming for via splits or using gold to pay outside helpers?

Saltad - Echo: Ye…the loot trading changes have changed the goal and possibilities of gear a huge amount. And with 2/5 tier pieces not being available on Heroic week, it means that choosing a main character is often delayed until the actual start of Mythic.

Crystallize - SK Pieces: Loot trading restrictions definitely affect us a lot. I for one am playing 3 Priests just to increase my chances of looting tier set pieces. There is nothing enjoyable about playing the same class multiple times, but the reality is just that it has to be done with how the current loot system works.

Romp - Aversion: Yes, the restrictions absolutely changed our splits preparation. It changed the way we plan so much that we just threw the old sheet away and made a new one from scratch that provides features that make switching around depending on several different situations very easy and less time-consuming. As announced by several guilds already, there are some obvious key items that everyone will try to lay their hands on next to tier pieces, and those items will also be worth tons of gold to everyone willing to trade them away.

Without going too much in detail, our Sanctum of Domination splits were very straightforward. We announced needing helping hands on several platforms, had a ton of people sign up, and we even had to decline some helper applications. As you might know, we are mostly not matching the sums that other guilds offer. A great advantage we do have is being the best German guild, which leads to having a great and overwhelmingly awesome community that is willing to help without considering rewards. However, we always try to offer some form of direct compensation as well as indirect compensation through giveaways.

Riggnaros - Soniqs Imperative: Time is the most precious resource in the race. We will have to adjust the split setups based on how the last 3 bosses end up playing out in general, and their loot on Heroic. Adjustments need to be made short-term, and extra time will need to be spent on that planning during Mythic Week.

“Without the Great Vault providing tier piece options, we would most likely face an even longer period of people not getting tier on specific characters.” —Romp, Aversion

Q-9: Do you think the Great Vault Tier Set acquisition is helpful, or does it make item acquisition too random on top of requiring every raider to fill all 9 slots in the Vault on most of their characters?

Nnoggie - Echo: I think the Great Vault is one of the best features of Shadowlands and I like that non-raiders can get Tier pieces through it as well. The Great Vault is kind of a bad luck protection function when it comes to tier pieces, as chances that you receive a tier piece from your vault are relatively high.

Maevey - Liquid: The Great Vault is great for overall gear acquisition. If tier pieces were not available from the Great Vault, it would feel flat. There is some clear RNG in terms of what items are contained in each individual’s vault, but the Great Vault is overall a much better system than prior expansions’ 100% random boxes from Mythic+ and PvP. As far as filling out all 9 options of the vault, it was already something we did in the past, as PvP rewards were quite powerful if the Mythic+ loot options were lackluster.

Kaspar - SK Pieces: Getting a full Vault on your characters is already more or less expected from anyone Raiding at this level, so it doesn't really change in that regard. However, it does give you that extra chance to acquire your 2 or 4 set and, thus, potentially a raid spot even though you were unlucky in splits. So overall, the time investment to fill out the Great Vault is not really a big downside in my opinion.

Cayna - Method: I don’t think most guilds will do it. Instead, I think they will choose a main and hard farm with that specific character. It's hard to say what other guilds will do, though. Personally, I think filling out the Great Vault is worth it.

Romp - Aversion: Both, sort of. Without the Great Vault providing tier piece options, we would most likely face an even longer period of people not getting tier on specific characters. Yes, the vault is based on RNG, but it provides some form of security fallback. You are very likely to get a set piece from a full 9 slot vault, so we’re mostly positive on that. Blizzard also just lowered the workload required to fill the vault, which is a massive, massive time release and a very welcome change.

Riggnaros - Soniqs Imperative: It depends a lot on each individual player, as a lot of them already enjoy doing Mythic+ and PvP. It’s also just a short-term thing and it’s unavoidable when the entire system is set up in this way. While it’s frustrating to have to fill out the Vault, it is much healthier in the long-term to have these extra options for gear that is limited to raids.

Q-10: Does the new setup with 3 untested bosses make it harder to prepare Weakauras and Timers, or is most of that work done during progression anyway? Will people follow/gather data from the first day on heroic once Mythic opens?

Deepshades - Echo: We have outside people (thanks Dradux, Grim, and Justwait) that are constantly working on BigWigs and WeakAuras before and during progress. Their work load definitely gets increased by untested bosses. However, a lot of times our WeakAuras need some slight adjustments anyway, so they are used to working on them during progress.

Tisumi - SK Pieces: A lot of stuff is being done beforehand through the spell data in Blizzards database, but obviously there might be something needed that you can't prepare in advance. We continuously have people like Ironi (Pieces Addon Dev) and this time around Tscheb and Tador creating and improving WeakAuras and timers, as well as analyzing our progress all the time, to help us as quickly and thoroughly as possible.

Cayna - Method: You basically just have to think of more. WeakAuras that are needed always come half prepped and a bunch will be made on the fly. We have discussed the last 3 bosses in depth, including WeakAuras we COULD want.

Romp - Aversion: It makes testing Weakauras a bit harder, but overall, it’s not really required to be in the specific raid or encounter to test a WeakAura. We’re preparing our stuff as usual, and will adapt and edit during progression, so untested bosses that only unlock in the first Mythic week don’t really change anything for us. Depending on our splits schedule, we will gather data from Heroic and maybe adapt some Weakaura here and there. But overall, we are in a very good spot without having entered the raid on live yet.

Riggnaros - Soniqs Imperative: EU guilds will have a bunch of invaluable intel going into the raid the first time due to the earlier NA reset. From a viewer's experience, it’s going to be great because no one really knows what’s happening, and guilds have to quickly figure out everything from scratch.


About the Author

Seliathan has been playing Rogue for over half his life, since the initial release of WoW over 16 years ago. After a long career of Raid Leading, Theorycrafting, and pushing Mythic+, Seliathan enjoys creating all kinds of PvE content on Twitch, co-hosting the Tricks of the Trade Rogue podcast, contributing to the Raider.IO RWF Coverage, and writing guides for Icy Veins.