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CLASSIC ERA
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RETAIL
CLASSIC ERA
WRATH

Mythic Raiding and Progression: Is the Bar too High?



Throughout each WoW expansion, Blizzard has continued to develop exciting and increasingly difficult boss mechanics. Tens of thousands of players in World of Warcraft set high-end raiding as their main priority in the game, and the difficulty of WoW’s hardest PvE content has always drawn in new players who aspire to face the toughest challenges in their MMOs. Even over a decade after the introduction of Hard Modes back in Wrath of the Lich King, many games still look to WoW as the pinnacle of endgame boss and raid design. However, there is a potential downside to the rising challenge of Mythic raiding content – it raises the barrier to entry for players to even start progressing at all.

Yesterday, we asked you, our Raider.IO community, how you felt about Mythic raiding and whether it is too difficult to get into. Today, let’s take a closer look at some of the requirements that many Mythic progression guilds set to tackle the raids’ increasing challenges and discuss the difficulties that arise for players as a result.





Table of Contents





Raiding Schedule and Roster



The process of becoming a Mythic raiding guild starts with finding like-minded players that want to progress through Mythic content together. Although the easier raid difficulties have a flexible roster size (Normal and Heroic modes), Mythic raiding has a strict 20-player requirement to complete the content. The 20-player raid size has been around for many years now, and Blizzard does not appear to have any intention of changing it in the near future, but it stops many guilds from regularly engaging in Mythic progression.



Once a raiding guild’s progression goal has been set, the most valuable resource for almost any Mythic raider is time. While some guilds manage to progress by scheduling two raid nights a week, the vast majority of Mythic guilds commit to raiding between three or four days a week – typically around 3-4 hours per night. There are also quite a few guilds that are committed to clearing the newest raid as quickly as possible, with the Race for World First (RWF) competitors devoting an incredible amount of time to being the fastest to finish a new tier, and Hall of Fame guilds aiming to clear the raid within just a few weeks (without competing in the RWF).

For players who are not aiming to be at the very top or even claim a spot in the Hall of Fame, the weekly commitment to raiding is fairly tame. From 2-day guilds only raiding 3-4 hours each, to 4-day guilds pushing for 16 hours of Mythic raiding every week, the raiding schedules can vary considerably. However, there are two constants for most guilds: the required attendance of their raiders, and the expectation that progression will last anywhere from two to four months.

While it is not a big deal to miss a raid night once in a while, Mythic progression demands consistent attendance in order to tackle some of the hardest content in the game. Jumping into ongoing progression on a fight after missing the previous day is immediately noticeable and sets back the raid until the returning player has caught up. As a result, many guilds require as close to 100% attendance as possible, and it makes little sense for a guild to recruit a player that is regularly going to be missing on one of the set raid days.

Despite requiring such a high attendance rate, many guilds opt to run fairly large rosters, in order to be prepared for the eventual and inevitable intrusion of real life into players’ raiding schedules. Most guilds want at least an extra healer or two, and have a few extra DPS for both melee and ranged positions available to jump in. But as attendance is expected to be close to 100%, this means that those extra players will unfortunately be spending a large amount of time on the bench, where they might be farming some Mythic+ or simply following along with their team’s progression.

Outside of raids, players are generally expected to fill their Mythic+ Great Vault every week for more loot choices, especially early on, while also spending some time preparing for a new boss. Mythic raiding itself is typically a 9-16 hour commitment every week, but that does not include any time that has to be spent in Mythic+, preparing for bosses, or setting up one of the many required WeakAuras or Addons. With the game’s aging playerbase, fewer players are able or willing to commit this much time to progression, and family or work responsibilities make it very difficult to meet the ~100% attendance requirement alone, not to mention the additional weekly requirements outside of raid time.



In Dragonflight, Blizzard caused a paradigm shift for Mythic raiding guilds by implementing a new model where all raid difficulties release simultaneously rather than staggering the release of Mythic difficulty by 1 week. Although guilds can technically enter Mythic difficulty immediately and skip what used to be “Heroic Week”, rushing into Mythic has shown to be more futile since everyone now enters Mythic difficulty with outdated gear from the previous raid tier. Adding more raid days to a schedule during the first few weeks of a tier is not a new way that guilds can adapt to a rising challenge, but additional nights were typically only necessary to enable some split-raiding or allow players to progress through Heroic at a relaxed pace or earn themselves some extra gold with a boost run or two. Now that Mythic opens up immediately, guilds face significant pressure to blaze through Normal and Heroic modes for tier-sets, while also spamming Mythic+ dungeons.



Raid Release Times



Even for those who still manage this time commitment and plan their lives around raiding days, the raid release schedule of the last two expansions has not been very kind. Three out of the six most recent raid releases (Castle Nathria, Vault of the Incarnates, and Amirdrassil, the Dream’s Hope) happened right before the holidays, with progression dragging out over Christmas and New Year’s. The holidays are a time where many players take time off from the game to visit loved ones, and scheduling raids during this time is all but impossible. Getting back into the groove of things takes a while, and guilds often face the daunting task of re-progressing a fight they already spent hours on, simply because the holiday break caused some atrophy in the muscle memory that naturally builds up during steady progression.

The ultimate goal of most Mythic raiders is to clear the raid before the next one releases. Having major holiday downtime tightens that window, and there is another time of year that causes similar attendance issues - the summer. The summer months are the most common for prolonged vacations, and for those of us who live in a temperate or subpolar climate, they also mark the prime time for outdoor activities that inevitably clash with the early evening start times of many raiding guilds. All these factors, of course, make perfect raid attendance much more difficult, and while most guilds are very understanding that players won’t be around 100% of the time, missing a key player for even just a single raid can cause serious issues for the guild’s progression, and often feels like a wasted raid night.

Unfortunately, out of the three remaining raids in the last two expansions that didn’t overlap with the Christmas holidays, Sanctum of Domination released in the middle of July, and while Aberrus released in early May, the progression for many guilds lasted into the best summer days as well.

While Blizzard only has so much control over the raid release times due to their development cycles, Morgan Day mentioned in our BlizzCon Interview that Blizzard is aware that the recent raids fell on less than ideal dates. As The War Within expansion is expected to release sometime in Q3 of next year, we will hopefully be able to avoid future Christmas or Summer tiers, at least for a little while.



Getting Your Character(s) Ready



As mentioned before, there is often an unspoken expectation for Mythic raiders to invest additional gameplay time beyond the initial scheduled raid hours. Whether this time is spent running Mythic+ for gear upgrades or to unlock all Great Vault options, meeting certain reputation or Renown thresholds, or even just accrue enough gold to pay for some of the more expensive consumables that your guild might not provide for you – all of this takes a considerable amount of time and effort.

Raiding in a Mythic progression guild means that you will be spending quite a bit of extra time doing all of these things in addition to the already lofty time investment dedicated to raid progression. Since these outside raid activities are a lot more free-flowing, they are not always done as an organized group, and pugging Mythic+ can be a vastly different experience than playing with a dedicated group.

As a result, it is easy to feel burned out from the “extracurricular” activities that supplement Mythic progression, but without actively engaging in these activities it is easy to be left behind, or feel like you are letting your fellow raiders down. This is not a good feeling to have, and while Dragonflight reduced the amount of weekly chores you have to do slightly, players still sometimes feel forced to choose between doing content they do not enjoy, just to ensure they get the maximum number of loot options, or not being as well-prepared as possible for raid nights.



On top of that, many guilds in the Top 100-200 require at least one additional character for just the first week or two, in order to run a Heroic split or two to get even more gear, and jump-start their Mythic progression with more complete 4-sets and a higher average item level. Maintaining these additional characters, even during farm, can add a lot of extra hours to the schedule, and it is a big reason why many players refrain from joining one of the many Hall of Fame guilds for Mythic progression.



Preparing for the Raid



The depth and level of preparation for the raid is what truly sets the RWF, Hall of Fame and CE guilds apart from one another; much more time is spent on raid prep in higher-ranking guilds, not just by the Raid Leaders and Officers, but by every single member. Preparing for a boss by ensuring that you know each of the mechanics, whether that is studying a written or video guide, or talking to fellow players on one of the many class Discords, is the bare minimum these days. More often than not, you will be expected to prepare and set up a multitude of other tools to improve your and your guild’s chance of success. All of this preparation is done before you even step into the raid, and as a result, quite a bit of time is spent not actually playing the game, but analyzing, thinking. and planning for it.


WEAKAURAS


The WeakAuras addon is one of the most commonly used tools for preparing for a new boss, but its use has grown beyond what anyone thought possible in the last few years. What was once a useful tool for reminding players of certain buffs or debuffs has now developed into a much more complex tool to guide players through any given encounter. WeakAuras have become a staple for any raider, and you will be hard-pressed to find a single guild in the Top 1000 leaderboards that isn’t utilizing them to some extent.

Many encounters seem borderline unplayable without the addition of WeakAuras, and developing and configuring these required auras prior to progressing on a new boss is a massive time-saver for many guilds. Unfortunately, this also means that every single player, especially the Raid Leader, must spend more time outside of raid to set up the WeakAuras to work perfectly for the anticipated boss fight. Nowadays, RWF guilds rely upon dedicated developers to create custom WA packages for each RWF, and tend to release these packages once the Race has concluded. However, using these WeakAuras is rarely as easy as simply “importing” them.

Raid Leaders typically have to set up individual lists, tinker with the code, or ensure that everybody is using the same exact version to avoid any kind of malfunction. Troubleshooting a specific WeakAura can cause quite a bit of delay during a raid, and without the technical know-how to read and write Lua code, one broken aura can cost a raid an entire night’s worth of progression – something many guilds experienced in Amirdrassil when progressing Fyrakk.

Just some of Liquid’s MRT lists that feed into their WeakAuras

With help like this available to the players, Blizzard had to design encounters to be more complex and not as easily solved by external tools, but the RWF guild WA developers and players have consistently figured out the best ways to deal with entirely new mechanics and complexities.

Blizzard’s newest attempt at hiding certain mechanics from WeakAuras released alongside Aberrus, the Shadowed Crucible, in the form of “Private Auras”. Private Auras are a way for Blizzard to hide the information that Addons or WeakAuras would use to track whether a player was afflicted by a specific debuff, or targeted by a specific mechanic. However, the reality is that this experiment seems to have failed, and has hurt the regular raider way more than the RWF teams.

The RWF guilds have decided to employ a simple yet effective work-around for hidden auras: The player presses a macro to send a command to the WeakAura, telling it that the player is affected by any given mechanic. For the high-end players, the macro press only adds an extra step into the process, and you can reasonably expect all players participating in the RWF to do so without fail. However, players at a lower skill or gameplay knowledge level may forget to press it once in a while, or do not know how to troubleshoot a non-working macro or WeakAura, and consequently, they are unable to utilize these WAs without difficulty.

Echo’s Fyrakk Intermission WeakAura. Ten players must press their macro, otherwise the WA might not work correctly.

As a result of the ever-increasing complexity of boss mechanics, WeakAuras have become a necessity to play the game at such a high level, and worse, knowing how to read the code and troubleshoot issues is now a skill-set that is required of at least one player in any Mythic raiding guild. When a WeakAura that assigns players a specific position or responsibility isn’t working correctly, continuing to pull is a waste of valuable time. When every raider has carved out a few hours of their evenings to play and progress in WoW, the last thing anyone wants to do is update and re-download a variety of WeakAuras or snoop through code in the hopes of making the encounter “playable” again, but many players encountered this exact issue during both their Aberrus and Amirdrassil Mythic progression.

These issues aside, there is another major use of WeakAuras, which is to map out the encounter and how each individual player will be using their raid cooldowns. Where previously this was used to ensure that those players with raid-wide defensive cooldowns would be using them every pull at the same time, it has now shifted towards even more minute assignments, with every player's DPS cooldowns, DPS potions, and defensives being planned out in advance.

Additionally, if you happen to play an Augmentation Evoker, then you better do some deep analysis on which players do the most damage in each ~30 second interval of the fight to figure out who is the best target to buff. You’ll have to do it without fully accurate combat-log hooks, though. Good luck.



SPREADSHEETS


If WeakAuras represent one side of the Raid preparation coin, then spreadsheets represent the other. Spreadsheets have always been used as a way to organize raid assignments, and in combination with the analysis of other guilds' kill videos and the publicly available logs on WarcraftLogs, raid leaders are planning out how to play the entire encounter before they have even pulled the fight a single time.

In order to convey all this information to the raid, Officers and Raid Leaders are now using massive spreadsheets with a whole host of information contained in them, often gleaned from other guilds' public logs. When do Paladins use their Devotion Aura? When is Bloodlust used? When does their Warlock use Dark Pact?

Raiding without the help of spreadsheets like Viserio’s seems like an impossibility nowadays.

The more ambitious and dedicated the raid team, the more in-depth the analysis goes, and all of that information will eventually be input into a spreadsheet which will then generate a piece of code that can be incorporated into the game. A WeakAura will pick up this information, and tell every player exactly when to press their cooldowns and buttons.

With the amount of work that goes into spreadsheet organization, it is no surprise that many Raid Leaders are spending just as much time outside of the raid looking at logs, both their own and other guilds’, as well as adjusting and preparing the sheets, as they do actually playing the game. It’s not an enviable responsibility, but one that is crucial and key for a Mythic guild’s success.

The spreadsheet will generate your cooldown assignments for easy import via Copy/Paste.

The increasing complexity and difficulty of encounters necessitates this approach, as the optimal usage of raid and DPS cooldowns will be the difference between killing a boss in 120 or 150 pulls, which might end up saving an entire night’s worth of raiding. And while this saves the entire raid ~3-4 hours, it will likely cost a handful of analytical players more than twice that in preparation time.

While all the aforementioned issues generate a lot of frustration among players before they even step foot into the raid, there are of course many who also enjoy this level of analysis and optimization to their class and the raid as a whole. With this much preparation done before the raid begins, it all comes down to actually executing the strategy and not messing up any of the numerous mechanics.



Difficulty and Raid Wipes



When talking about the struggles and problems that players have to deal with when committing to fully progressing Mythic difficulty raids in WoW, we absolutely have to talk about general boss design and the difficulty rise over the last few years.

One of the most frustrating moments in raiding is when a player makes a single mistake that either cascades into a series of events that will eventually but inevitably wipe the raid, or mechanics that simply kill off every player almost instantaneously. Dragonflight has had more than enough mechanics of either variety, and the amount of mistakes a player can make that are recoverable has been shrinking over the last few expansions.

Gone are the days where a missed soak can be made up by an incredibly talented squad of healers that magically manage to keep everybody alive anyway, or when a missed interrupt didn’t immediately or gradually wipe the entire raid. Flawless execution is expected in most encounters these days, and despite the increasing frequency and severity of nerfs to individual raid encounters, even guilds who do not aim to get into the Hall of Fame have to deal with this binary approach to boss mechanics – you either do it 100% correctly, or you fail.

Every encounter has a certain amount of wipe-mechanics, as in, demands of the raid that, if not met, will make it impossible to finish the encounter. Legion as an expansion was well known and even infamous for having a lot of soak-mechanics on almost every fight, and not soaking every circle on the ground typically spelt doom for the raid. These binary raid-wipe mechanics have developed a lot in recent years, becoming a lot more complex, thematic and unique, like the Blood of Azeroth mechanic on The Jailer, the Bombs on Halondrus or ensuring that all of the the Kaldorei Spirits on Fyrakk manage to make it into the tree with full health.

Rescuing one of these Ancients is not just for show. Without it, it is impossible to keep Amirdrassil alive.

Fundamentally these mechanics are still the same, but with added steps or hoops to jump through. A single mistake on these raid wipe mechanics will still make it impossible to kill the boss, and while some might allow you to continue seeing more of the fight before inevitably succumbing to the mistake that was made, executing these mechanics flawlessly for a boss kill is much more difficult.

Over the years, and due to the support of third-party tools like WeakAuras, players are capable of much more than they were 5 or 10 years ago. Consequently, mechanics need to be less forgiving – there is less time to react to them, positioning needs to be much more precise, and the frequency and output required to meet certain DPS or HPS checks needs to be much more finely tuned, else the bosses and their challenges are too easily overcome. The latter is also reflected in the importance of the raid composition itself, where missing even a single raid buff like Mark of the Wild or Battle Shout is avoided if at all possible. Between ensuring that all raid buffs are available, and that all the demands for unique raid utility like Warlock Gateways or Rescue are met, there are only a handful of raid spots left that any class or player can take, and if any of these “mandatory” abilities or buffs is unavailable, it is often better to cancel or reschedule the raid than bash your head against a progression wall.

A typical baseline raid-comp that provides every raid buff and unique utility, with only 5 spots left for duplicate classes.

In this modern raiding environment, most wipes can typically be attributed to a single player making a mistake. This adds a lot more responsibility for each raider, and recognizing and publicly admitting a mistake is still not something many players are comfortable with. This increased emphasis on single-player mistakes has introduced a new level of stress to raiding Mythic, as oftentimes the cause of the wipe has to be identified immediately following the mistake. Even if every player plays perfectly 95% of the time, it only takes 1 player to wipe the raid. If the erroneous player cycles through all 20 raiders one after another, no progress is made despite everybody playing well the vast majority of the time.

Given the binary nature of today's Mythic raid mechanics, fights extending past 10+ minutes must necessarily become a thing of the past. Thankfully, Blizzard has made a push towards keeping boss fight durations shorter in recent tiers, with the last two raids not having a single encounter make it past the 10 minute mark. This is likely a necessary development due to the much tighter tuning and complexity of mechanics. Making easier mechanics would lower the overall pull count for many bosses significantly, as the average player is a lot better now. But because these mechanics need to be more threatening and more difficult to execute, having 12+ minutes of mechanics like that is only going to frustrate raiders and inflate pull counts more than necessary.

Designing encounters to be shorter, even if it's the last fight of a tier, is therefore necessary to ensure that a boss still provides a challenge and takes a hundred or two hundred pulls, without it feeling like a waiting game for that single perfect pull. Unfortunately, this is not a scalable solution, and if the complexity and lethality of raid wipe mechanics continues to increase, it will only cause more and more players to feel like they are not up for the challenge, or or too frustrated by the number of mistakes their peers may make in a typical raid night.



Closing Thoughts



Over the last few years, raiding has become more demanding, both in terms of player skill, and the amount of time and effort one has to commit in order to raid at a certain level. I myself have raided in a Top ~100 guild for most of my 19 year WoW raiding career, making it into the Hall of Fame on about half the raid tiers, and barely missing it on the others. During this time, I’ve been a Raid Leader for the majority of my time raiding, progressing on a relaxed 3-day a week schedule and dedicating 4 hours each raid night to raiding. Between that and preparing myself for new bosses, I’ve had to spend about 15 hours a week to play the game up until Legion.

Once Mythic+ was introduced, I spent a lot of time pushing it to its limits, which naturally supported my gearing process for raiding. For those who did not enjoy Mythic+ all that much, Legion’s Artifact Power grind added a lot of stress to their raiding efforts, as a lot of additional time had to be spent to be properly geared and prepared for an upcoming raid night. Ensuring that you optimized your Legendary acquisition odds in Legion added a lot of extra effort as well. Many consider Legion to be the start of a new era of Mythic raiding, as it introduced a lot of supplemental systems that needed to be engaged with in order to be fully prepared for your raid.

Since then, there has been a noticeable increase in time required outside of standard raiding hours, a time investment that simply didn’t exist 10 or more years ago. Filling out the Great Vault inarguably takes more time now than getting a weekly chest in Legion or BFA did. WeakAuras have become more complex, and are therefore more difficult to troubleshoot. Boss fights are more tightly tuned, and require multiple pages of raid plans to ensure that every player knows exactly where to stand at what point.

While a new player stepping into Mythic has no frame of reference for how these things used to be, the preparation time required is certainly a lot to take in when they step out of their current environment and want to truly progress and clear Mythic in a reasonable amount of time. These demands on player time inadvertently affect recruitment as well, as many new players need to learn how to do all of these prep “chores” as they play Mythic for the first time, creating an additional layer of possible frustration between the veterans of Mythic progression, and the newly initiated raiders. But when it succeeds, the feeling of accomplishment is enormous.



The entire premise of Mythic raiding is a result-oriented one, but new players will need a tier or two to develop the necessary soft skills and wrap their heads around all the things that would make an exceptional Mythic progression player. Meanwhile the veterans have already gone through that process, and likely watched many new players come and go over the years. While everybody is cognizant of the need to help newcomers learn the ropes of Mythic progression, the burden of closing the gaps between newer raiders and seasoned veterans can severely affect everybody’s enjoyment.

A new player clearing Mythic for the first time will feel a great sense of accomplishment, but they are unlikely to be satisfied with their performance through their first Mythic tier, having made many mistakes from which they learned valuable lessons. The veteran Mythic raider will have gained the satisfaction of helping unlock the potential of the new players, while also knowing that a team full of veterans would have cleared the raid a lot faster. This naturally leads to elation and frustration on both sides, yet everybody knows that with the aging player population and players quitting due to other responsibilities, new blood who understands the scope and time commitment required of Mythic raiding is desperately needed.

Hopefully Blizzard continues to make it easier to meet certain weekly criteria, i.e. lowering the number of Mythic+ dungeons needed for a full Great Vault, but with changes like the simultaneous raid release and the introduction of Private Auras, it seems that when it comes to making Mythic Raiding more accessible, we are taking two steps deeper inside the rabbit hole for every step that Blizzard allows us to walk out of it.

With The War Within on the horizon, we will certainly keep an eye out on any improvements to the current environment, and as the expressed goal is to focus more on fun and accessibility, we can only hope that the hoops required for Mythic raiding guilds will become less numerous and far less hefty.



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About the Author


Seliathan has been playing Rogue for over half his life, since the initial release of WoW over 19 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 Raider.IO as Staff Writer, and writing guides for Icy Veins.


About the Editors


Gogogadgetkat has been playing WoW since late BC, and has been the GM of her guild Propaganda since its creation in 2014. As a career healer, Kat has a number of CEs and old-school heroic kills under her belt, all on a variety of healing classes and specs—she’s a serial altoholic! In addition to Mythic raiding and a little Mythic+, creating safe, inclusive spaces in gaming is her longtime passion; Kat has been an admin for the Perky Pugs community since late BfA, and is also a founding council member and the community manager for the DEIBAJ initiative Liquid Women in Warcraft. She is excited to bring her wealth of experience and love of writing to the Raider.IO team.


VitaminP (VP) is the Content Manager of Raider.IO. VP holds a Master’s degree in Business Administration and has worked for Raider.IO since the formation of its News Section in November 2018. VP specializes in tanking classes and has loved doing competitive Mythic+ on and off since early Legion.