Essentially, Blizzard Insider #45 hinted that the raid instances might be staggered upon the launch of the game and this was a similar thought that Lore spoke about in the Weekly Marmot a few weeks ago. It appears that this has actually come to pass as the official policy, and not all of the raids will be available when the game launches. In fact, no raid will be available when the expansion launches with Blizzard wanting to give players time to level up, get dungeon-geared and then spend some time doing the other content that’s going to be inaugurated in Pandaria.
Personally, I think that’s a great plan. I do, however, worry that hardcore raiders who really have no other interest than raiding are going to end up twiddling their thumbs for a week rather than getting stuck in. That said, it’s only a week and I distinctly recall Sco (GM and main tank of the EU’s Method) commenting on just how brutal progression was during tier 11 and that a gating policy might have been appropriate.
Does this achieve that goal? Well, yeah – I think it probably does.
Staggering raids is a good thing.
Make no mistake, the raid schedule for tier 14 is going to be pretty punishing on progression guilds. The cynic in me wonders if tier 14 is so busy because we’re going to be starved of content after it, as we were in Cataclysm, but let’s hope for the best and view things positively. Effectively, this is the raid schedule for us on launch:
- September 25: Mists of Pandaria launches.
October 2: Mogu'shan Vaults opens for normal mode
October 7: Mogu'shan Vaults opens for LFR, heroic for those clearing normal.
October 30: Heart of Fear and Terrace of Endless Spring open for normal mode.
November 6: Heart of Fear and Terrace of Endless Spring open for LFR, heroic for those clearing normal.
Terrace of Endless Spring is actually considered a tier beyond the Heart of Fear, which means you have to complete the latter before attempting the former. This is true for normal mode and LFR, but I’m not sure if you have to complete heroic Heart of Fear before starting the heroic Terrace of Endless Spring; I’m assuming that’s not the case. I reckon that if you complete the normal versions of each raid, you can get right on with heroic Terrace of Endless Spring if that’s your choice. Hell, there’s even an Ulduar-style hard mode reward when fighting the Protectors of the Endless.
All told, staggering the raids in this way is a very smart move and one that’s easy to support when you look at it. It’s accepted that the schedule will push the vast majority of guilds into Yuletide raiding, but that’s been part and parcel of the last two expansions so clearly nobody worries about it too much.
But there is another interesting development. To name it, there are now “Cutting Edge” feats of strength that are awarded to players who kill these bosses within their patch cycle and without nerfs of any kind. That means the nerfs themselves are now going to be a staple of future raiding, which shouldn’t surprise anyone. What does concern me slightly is the length of time between content patches if the same gradual six nerfs are applied to each tier. If we assume the gradual application will start at 5% and finish at 30%, there still has to be a reasonable amount of time to pass between each nerf so that Blizzard can look to see how many guilds are actually getting over their current wall and continuing progression.
Even if the gap between these nerfs is as small as three weeks, that leaves us at 18 weeks for the entire round of six to go in while adding three weeks prior to 5% and three weeks after 30%. All told, this rounds out at just over five months in total AFTER November the 6th, which is when the last content unlocks.
We’re looking at the beginning of March ’13 for new content?
Truth be told, that probably sounds about right and would be in line with prior expansions. The problem is that I find it VERY unlikely the nerfs will start a mere three weeks after the Terrace of Endless Spring opens, so April is probably a safer bet for 5.1. That’s still quite a jump for those not really interested in heroic raiding, but is acceptable so long as we don’t start pushing into June or July. Hell, maybe that extra time will mean that 5.1 will contain the 10 to 12 bosses a raiding tier needs to be acceptable?
Anyway, this is pure speculation – don’t take this as a legitimate prediction of any kind. Considering the lyrical waxing about gradual nerfs, I would expect that to be the way they’re applied rather than the gutting that happened in Firelands, but that doesn’t mean that six gradual 5% nerfs will be the way they go. They could easily put in 10% nerfs with four-week gaps, but that would still put us around the start of March at the very best.
Let’s go with mid to late April, shall we?
But we’re almost there.
How are your Pandarian plans coming along?