I don’ t think I actually used the word “viable” in regards to 10 man raiding in Cataclysm in my post on the topic, but a lot of people have.

Cassandri over at HoTs & DoTs was a little confused about what exactly is meant when people are getting excited about 10 mans being a viable progression path in Cataclysm. She points out that Blizzard did design 10 mans to have their own progression path.  But there were a few problems with the way it actually worked:

  • Since non-tier loot in 10 man raids and 25 man raids was completely different, there were often slots that didn’t have a properly itemized upgrade per tier available to 10 man raiders. Now, where it was no big deal for a 25 man raid team to toss together a 10 man on an offnight to go farm the rare 10 man BiS item, getting two and a half 10 man teams to do the same in 25? Was nearly impossible.
  • Raid difficulty was balanced around having the “proper” gear progression. Ulduar 10 in Naxx 10 gear was pretty damn hard at first. Ulduar 10 in Naxx 25 gear? Was a lot easier. Blizzard’s not-so-elegant solution to this was to take out the 10 man “realm first” titles for Ulduar.  I don’t think I have to explain how completely and unequivocally unequal that was.
  • I see a lot of talk about the difficulty in organizing, running, & recruiting for 25 man focused guilds. I would argue that keeping a strong, reliable roster of quality players for a 10 man-only guild in WotLK is far harder. Committing to a 10 man-only (or worse, a 10-man strict) progression path meant that most best-in-slot items, all legendaries, and all vanity drop items would be forever out of your reach. A lot of 10 man guilds in WotLK struggled with the stepping-stone phenomenon – players would join, spend a couple of weeks working through the latest tier of 10 man raids, and once they got the gear/badges/experience they needed, would apply to a 25 man guild. Running a 10 man guild was a treadmill of training & gearing new players so they could move on to guilds that would allow them a shot at the best loot in the game.

The loot equalization in Cataclysm will hopefully address all of these issues.  The same BiS items will be available in either raid size, 10 man raids of the current tier will provide approximately equivalent challenge as 25 man raids because it will not be possible to outgear them at release, and people who truly favor the 10 man raid experience will not be forced to choose between getting the best items available and raiding the way they enjoy.

Will everything work out perfectly? That remains to be seen. But I believe this is a good solid effort on Blizzard’s attempt to make the 10 man progression path truly viable, with equal challenges and rewards to the 25 man progression path.