High-end Raiding has, in my estimation, become little more than 20-man Co-op Super Meat Boy; a group of people waiting for the RNG gods to bless the team with perfect execution of every mechanic for anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes. That is, the current paradigm that the encounter team seems to use when designing fights is such that when they want “more difficulty” the only real tool they have left is to either throw more one-shot mechanics into the fight, or to give the boss more and more health, effectively making the fight last longer and opening up more opportunities for those aforementioned one-shots, or to design fights such that if you do not have a specific roster available, you simply have no shot.
Player progression use to include elements of player skill AND character power. But now, even very skilled guilds with full Mythic ilevel (or higher) gear are getting walled by multiple bosses every tier, with their only hope of getting past them being either large nerfs or “getting good”.
Now there is a very strong argument that “getting good” should be a big part of high-end raiding, and I agree… to an extent. But the situation has gotten progressively worse expansion after expansion. The difficulty dials have been turned past 11. One need only gesture to the graveyard of defunct progression guilds or to the weekly nerfs that have become not only expected but necessary for so many to progress. In my opinion this is not a failure of the players to “git gud”, or “growing out of the game”, but a failure of a design philosophy paired with ever-increasing ease-of-access to in-game combat information.
What used to be an accessible progression system whereby if a group was having difficulty with a boss, maybe a weeks worth of gear from a reclear and a raid night or two of practice would be enough, has become a hostile, unforgiving wasteland whereby if you don’t have the right classes, the right specs, the right legendaries, and right covenants, you simply have no chance. In some cases, if you don’t have “the right setup”, no amount of gear, practice, or patience will ever be enough.
This constant arms race between the developers trying to make interesting, engaging, difficult fights and the increasing amount of information and player assistance offered by addons and WeakAuras has degenerated into the encounters we now see. Top end guilds wanted difficult fights? Well, working under the assumption that by the time they got to Halondrus they would all have their tier sets, have near max ilevel, and have multiple addon and WeakAura developers on standby ready to make whatever HUD may be needed by the raid team, the only option left to the developers was to pepper the entire fight with one shot mechanics and increase the bosses health to absurd levels.
In my opinion, this trend began with the introduction of Mythic in Warlords of Dreanor. When announced, there was specific language dedicated to how this new mode would allow more intricate and purposeful fight design. Instead of needing to worry about how the fights would play with 10 or 25 people, a fixed raid size would allow the design team to make more assumptions about what raid compositions would look like. We’ve seen this design philosophy play out multiple times throughout this expansion alone. Don’t have two priests? Good luck dealing with the bombs on Ner’zhul. Don’t have two DKs willing to play Necrolord? Good luck beating the P1 downstairs phase timer on Anduin (at least until they nerf it a few times).
One could argue that the high difficulty of pre-nerf Mythic bosses is good. That is it healthy for the game to have World First races that don’t end in just a few days. I would challenge that by asserting that designing the end-game around the gaming habits of a select few groups has led this game down a path that the vast majority of the player base is either unwilling or unable to follow.
In an effort to cater to the 0.01% of the player base that play at these extreme levels, the end-game experience has been decimated for the rest of the community. We are seeing it in real time every week: more guilds choosing to stop raiding; more nerfs targeted specifically to reduce overall difficulty and allow more guilds to get past the walls; and of course, the lamentations from those who really enjoyed the pre-nerf challenges and hate seeing them taken away.
Is it time for yet another difficulty mode? A “pre-nerfed” toggle? A new Beyond-Mythic Hardmode for raids? Or is it time to cut off the tail ends of the difficulty curve that have been getting longer and longer every tier; is it time to flatten the difficulty curve and remove Mythic all together?
One thing is for sure: the current difficulty of the raids is killing the raiding scene. Whether it be just one comorbidity among many or not, something needs to change.