The current hot topic amongst the raiding blogo- and twitterspheres is the question of the tuning of the new Dragon Soul raid instance: far too easy and not enough to keep us going for potential 8 months? Tuned about right, when you consider it as a difficulty curve and realise that Firelands was rather flat compared to a strong curve in Dragon Soul. I also commented that I thought the raid was undertuned, but I think I may have been a little hasty in that assessment.
<Abraxas> cleared Dragon Soul on Normal this week, taking a total of 20 pulls for the first 6 bosses and then 33 pulls on the last two together, although quite a few of those were on the Spine where we were 9-manning for practice because we had too many people LD that evening. For a better sample (albeit still small), I’ve taken the top 5 guilds on my server and averaged their pulls to kill for each boss for which data were available; it’s not very scientific, but it’s interesting:
Caution is due here because there may have been server issues affecting guilds on later bosses, or experimentation with tactics, or less information available from the PTR, but this does suggest that there was a pretty strong increase in the difficulty throughout the raid, for whatever reason, lining up with what Rohan observed over at Blessing of Kings.
For additional data, we turn to WoL again, tracking the kills-to-total-pulls ratios for the bosses, again on 10-man normal for comparison:
Madness of Deathwing has no kill detection so it doesn’t appear, and Spine seemed to have dodgy kill detection earlier in the week so take that figure with a pinch of salt.
With the exception of Zon’ozz who seems to be causing raids a great deal of difficulty, once again you can see a curve there. Morchok is a pushover, but then there’s a good ramping up of difficulty between Yorsahj, Hagara and Ultraxion.
Both of these data sources point to a strongly-graded difficulty curve. Compare that to Firelands:
Again, a note of caution. Dragon Soul is a snapshot of week 1, whereas the Firelands graph includes the effects of nerfs which I’d expect to have flattened the curve somewhat, but again it’s suggestive of a difference.
So Is Dragon Soul Actually Too Easy?
Initially I thought it was. We’re a very strong but not elite guild and we’ve cleared 8/8 bosses in the first week. And we’re far from alone: on Dath’Remar, hardly a hotbed of hardcore raiding, 7 guilds went 8/8 in Week 1, and a further 8 are 7/8.
However, the situation we’re in is atypical. Guilds like ours, high-ranked but not the cutting edge, benefited from the Firelands nerfs to gain a gear advantage that wouldn’t have been available to us in previous tiers, so Dragon Soul normal probably should feel easy to us. It’s meant to be done in ilvl378 gear, not ~ilvl388 like many of us have, and it absolutely has to be designed that way. By the time we came to the Madness of Deathwing we were very close to the Cataclysm and Berserk timers on several occasions, so a starting position closer to ilvl378 should indeed mean a few weeks of farming would be needed to meet the checks of the later encounters.
In short, I think all is as it should be with the raid, the trouble is more a consequence of the previous tier, and perhaps premature reactions to first nights from surprised raiders like myself incorrectly assuming the whole place is at the same level.
The trouble though, with guilds like us being in this position, is that we’ve lost something important in the raid lifecycle: the “inevitable kill” phase.
Working through normal modes, for a guild like us, is supposed to be something that takes a bit of time while we learn the fight, but which we always know we’re intended to kill. It’s a good feeling, it’s reassuring, and the successes help to lift our spirits and build some momentum. Now, instead, what we have to look forward to are heroic modes which are a far from a certain prospect. We didn’t kill heroic Ragnaros; most of us didn’t make much progress in heroic Tier 11 let alone kill Sinestra; heroic Lich King (even with the 30% buff) evaded many. So every kill from now until MoP is likely to be a long, hard grind, and some kills we may not even get.
You’ll forgive me for feeling a little cheated.