How the world first race has changed since Vanilla
The endgame culture around World of Warcraft has changed over the course of 15 years. It’s not hard to see why. Streaming platforms like Twitch and Mixer have allowed anyone to pull up a chair and watch the best players in the world tackle the hardest challenges. Having even five thousand people watching your Molten Core attempts in 2004 would’ve been unthinkable. Now many times that have been watching as Method, Limit, and other guilds from around the world pit themselves against the most difficult content in the newest raids.
With the success of their raid streams so far in Battle for Azeroth, it’s little wonder that Method would put on a Race to World First for Classic. Over the course of the event, they had 24-hour coverage of players doing everything they could to reach level 60 as fast as possible. Ultimately that feat went to JokerD, a Gnome Mage who was just playing by themselves. Still, they pressed on, getting ready for the first Molten Core and Onyxia attempts.
European guild APES managed to get both of the worlds first kills — on the same day! Just five days short days after Classic launched. The hardest part of these first kills was just getting enough players into the raid, especially with the attunements needed to even get into Onyxia’s Lair. They had to take some players who weren’t even 60 yet!
Vanilla raiding was different as a whole
When Warcraft first came out. Ragnaros lasted for a record-setting 154 days before Horde guild Ascent killed him. No other boss in the entirety of the game has lasted as long as that. All of the end bosses in Vanilla lasted far longer than we’re used to. Nefarian took 77 days, C’thun 113 days, and Kel’thuzad clocked in at 90 days. In recent expansions, Kil’jaeden is the longest-lived boss, with a measly 19 days in comparison.
The difficulty in Vanilla raiding stemmed from a variety of factors. These were still the early days of the internet. Between hardware and internet speeds getting 40 players into the same area — even instanced — could often result in lag. That’s after clearing the first hurdle of finding 40 players who were ready to spend their Saturday wiping to Core Hounds.
Then there’s the knowledge. There was no PTR for Molten Core. Everything was trial and error. Even just summoning Ragnaros needed players to figure out the mechanic behind extinguishing the runes scattered throughout the raid. There were occasional hiccoughs — like C’thun being mathematically impossible on release.
The individual fights from back then are mechanically easier though. Most encounters only have a couple of abilities to watch out for. For example, as long as you paid attention to if you got the Living Bomb during Baron Geddon, you were probably able to beat it.
The next phases
Now that Classic is in full swing I don’t know what sort of race there can be for the rest of the phases. We’ve seen that with the gear set to 1.12 values coordinated groups don’t have much trouble in clearing these old raids. Having the extra spell power and stats from the buffed gear has helped immensely with being able to overpower the first pair of raids — especially with 15 years of knowledge behind their strategies.
It’s entirely possible that the first guild to set foot in Blackwing Lair is going to be able to clinch first place. Hardly the same exciting race that we’ve gotten so far in Battle for Azeroth’s raiding. If guilds can down Onyxia and claim their server first with only 29 players — who are probably still in leveling gear — what chance does Nefarian have against the full 40 players? Especially when they’re barreling toward him wearing the best gear that they can get from farming Ragnaros for weeks.
For PVP servers, the world Dragons will have the added difficulty of opposite faction raids — and increased server capacities. The Dragon wouldn’t be the most dangerous thing in Duskwood anymore, it would be the 5 other raids just itching to get their shot at it. Of course, increased server population will also make opening the Scarab Gates easier. More players farming materials for the war effort and contributing to the rep necessary to create the Scepter of Shifting Sands.
The only raid that I can see being even close to a challenge is Naxxramas. First, the gear is itemized to the Naxxramas patch. The players will be on an even playing field with the raid. Resistances might even be more of a factor. There’s a reason why Sapphiron’s achievement back in Wrath of the Lich King was to do the fight with nobody over 100 Frost Resist. Guilds will be able to prep for that by farming and crafting, but it’ll still change how they play.
Naxxramas was also the least cleared raid. The general pool of knowledge for the fights is a lot lower than Onyxia’s. I only raided Onyxia a few times back in Vanilla, but even I know to get out of the way of the Deep Breaths, and to stay away from the Whelps. There have been private servers, and we did go back during Wrath, but the number of players who did Naxxramas the first time around is orders of magnitudes smaller than the ones who did Blackwing Lair.
Would any of the next phases have enough content to sustain a major stream even like Method and Red Bull have been putting on? We’ll have to see. I’m sure that the hype will be pretty high around the actual opening of the Scarab Gates, but I don’t want to watch someone spend three hours doing linen turn-ins for the war effort. Whatever ends up happening, a Classic event will have to change to accommodate the speed of the content.
The culture of World First
Why is there such a big difference between Vanilla and WoW Classic? Beyond just the fifteen years of knowledge about the encounters and buffed gear, I think fifteen years of raiding in Warcraft has changed the way we look at the endgame. We’ve spent the last decade and a half tracking our kills, and competing with other guilds on our servers and across the world. With each new raid tier, the races are getting bigger and flashier. Major sponsors like Red Bull and Corsair are getting involved and these massive weeks-long events have been popping up. There’s more at stake than just killing some virtual dragons now.
These races have been interesting to watch too. Finding out how much prep can go into getting everyone ready to race through Mythic has been fascinating. I wouldn’t want to do it myself, but I’m in awe at the lengths that people will go to in order to squeeze every last potential point of damage out of their raiders.
With how focused Warcraft has become on the endgame it’s easy to see why these races have become so popular. Expansions have a much more unified story, and raids have become the exclamation points on that story. Being able to go into LFR and play everything for yourself is fine, but some people really like the added thrill of seeing just how tough Jaina can be when she’s not pulling any punches. The World First races can give anyone a glimpse of the hardest content WoW has to offer, but without having to farm the gear or be part of a raiding guild.
In hindsight, raiding in Vanilla WoW felt like more of a journey. Sure the raids were there, but they weren’t as front and center. It was much more possible to play and never realize that Blackwing Lair existed. There was also the barrier to entry in the raids. Attunements and resist gear could make raiding seem like a daunting task.
Hopefully, there’ll be more of these events down the line. The community around the World First has been great, and I love seeing what Warcraft can do when pushed to the limits.
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