The Dragon Soul raid has arrived. Deathwing, the biggest and baddest foe we have fought, was defeated within hours of the patch going live.
Does that mean that Dragon Soul is too easy? I don’t think so, personally. It seems pretty on target to me.
In answering that question, I discount the accomplishment of the top guilds. These guilds spend hours and hours on the PTR perfecting their strategy so that they can make short work of the raids when they go live. The guilds that are competing for world-firsts are a different breed of player and should not be used to judge the relative difficulty of the content.
However, looking at my server (a medium population PvE server), there are six guilds that did a full clear in the first week, and a total of nineteen guilds that are at least 5/8. To me, that indicates that the early bosses are probably not much of a challenge for the more accomplished guilds.
I think that some of this is due to the proliferation of heroic-level raid gear. When Blizzard first offered up heroic raid difficulty as an option, it was meant as a further challenge for the guilds that wanted/needed that kind of challenge. There was not an expectation, as I recall, that most guilds would do heroic modes.
Nowadays, it seems like the normal modes of the raid are seen as just a speed bump on the way to heroic modes. They are considered a part of the progression path rather than an extension of the path. When people say that they have cleared the available content, they don’t mean Ragnaros – they mean heroic Ragnaros. That’s a big shift in attitude. I don’t think that there was as much expectation among guilds to kill heroic Lich King back in Wrath.
As a test of this hypothesis, I arbitrarily chose the 15th-place guild on my server (as listed in GuildOx) and found the 15th-best geared person in that guild. That means this is a character is probably not one of the top raiders in a guild which is not a top guild to begin with. Upon armory inspection, that person had heroic Firelands gear on.
If a lot of guilds are walking into raids with heroic gear on, then how exactly is Blizzard supposed to tune the raids? I think that normal-mode raids should be tuned assuming normal-mode gear. In other words, the difficulty of the early Dragon Soul bosses should be such that it will be a moderate challenge to players in full or almost-full normal-mode Firelands gear. Normal modes are supposed to be the norm. That’s why they are called “normal”.
With that in mind, it makes sense that a lot of raiders would burn through the early content if they are sporting some heroic FL gear. They will also complain that the content is “too easy” and that Blizzard is aiming the bar too low. In fact, it may just be that heroic modes are too commonplace and they are outgearing the tuning of the raid right from the start.
What this means is that the raid is not too easy, but rather than the players have too much gear.
Its not just heroic mode gear. There is a player in my guild who hit 85 last week and already he almost outgears me, even though I have full Firelands (normal) gear. Gear is plentiful and easy to obtain. Again, this makes it tough to tune the early raid bosses because you have to make it doable by people in regular 378 gear.
I’ve just fought the first three bosses in Dragon Soul and only killed one of them. Morchok is certainly not complicated, as is appropriate for a first boss. The next two are a fair challenge – especially on healers in normal mode gear. I don’t think they feel “too easy”.
My hope is that the Dragon Soul heroic modes are really challenging. If that is the case, then the heroic-geared players will settle into heroic-mode Dragon Soul and stop complaining that the content is easy. The rest of the players can then concentrate on working their way through normal mode Dragon Soul, and the whole discussion of “easy or not” will fade away.