Only this time, it's different. This time, the realm first was taken by a guild that wasn't really a raiding guild at all. The guild that nabbed the golden ring used a method that skipped all progression fights and instead plopped them at the feet of the final boss, the only one whose death counted for that realm first achievement. How would that make you feel? How would that make your guild feel?
This isn't a far-fetched situation at all. It's already happened. And it spells a bleak future for low-pop realms and the raiders that diligently work at content -- only to have a realm first taken away due to the cross-realm raiding feature.
Getting a realm first usually requires clearing a majority, if not all, of the prior bosses in that raid on heroic mode in order to unlock the heroic option for the final boss. It's not just killing that final boss on heroic; it's the process of unlocking the heroic option that is intrinsically part of the trial involved. In most situations, guilds that have realm firsts have them because they have systematically learned the strategies for the each fight leading up to that final encounter and then learned that final encounter itself.
So you want to know how to nab a realm first on a low-population realm? It's far easier than that. Form a guild group with the minimum amount of required players. Invite a few people from off the realm, people who already have a lockout for the raid with everything cleared but the final boss. Zone in, and enjoy skipping all progression content, not having to learn every other fight in the zone. Concentrate instead on learning one fight instead of six, seven, eight -- and rake in the realm first once you've killed that last boss.
If this sounds too difficult for your guild, pay a few people who have already killed that boss several times to transfer realms and join your guild. Because they are wearing your guild tag, you will still be counted as a guild group. The more people you can pay to transfer, the better; obviously, your chances of killing the boss quickly will improve if you have more people who have done that content already and already know what to do.
Any guild on a low-population realm can do this right now, provided they have the cash to pay for the transfers (and possibly a method of paying the people with the cross realm lockout as well). It's not considered cheating, which is why I am spelling out the process to you. Basically, for low-population realms, realm first achievements are no longer a matter of earning the spot -- they're a matter of how deep your pocketbook happens to be.
Low-pop raiding guilds may not have much to think about as far as competition on their server, but they do have to worry about people paying to bring in lockouts and players from another realm to take the title right out from under them.
It's a low blow for low-pop realms that are already struggling to keep afloat. Realm firsts arguably aren't the most important things in the world, but for raiding guilds, they are the golden ring that waits at the end of the endless nights of wiping and progression. Having that option taken away not by legitimate hard work but by someone with a lot of money to spend is an even lower blow to the morale. What exactly is the point of a realm first title if it can be bought? More importantly, how can Blizzard keep realm firsts legitimate in the face of the cross-realm raid feature?
There are actually several different solutions they could bring in, the first being a cross-realm raid check for the achievement itself. If there is no cross-realm lockout, then there's no way to skip the prior bosses.
Alternatively, change it so that realm-first kills must be composed of a full guild group. Everyone in the group would have to be wearing that guild tag, or it simply doesn't count. But then, what's to stop a raider on one server from going to a cross-realm raid, sitting in the background and earning that lockout themselves, then sharing it with the rest of the people on their server the following week by extending that lockout?
Then again, you still have the lingering possibility of paying a bunch of people to come raid with you for a week or two and clear the content for you, wearing your guild tag. Once upon a time, before realm firsts became guild achievements instead of individual, players who had not been in the guild for a certain period of time did not get that personal realm first achievement. When realm firsts were switched to guild achievements, I guess the requirements involving length of time within the guild were taken out of the equation.
If a group has to be comprised of a certain number of players from the same guild to count as a guild group, perhaps there should be a secondary tracking for realm first kills -- length of time within a guild. I'm not saying that everyone in the guild should have been with that guild from the get-go, as raiding guilds by and large do experience a large amount of legitimate turnover. But perhaps a percentage of that guild group should be raiders that have been with the guild longer than a month or two to qualify for the realm first.
When this exact situation happened to my guild, on our tiny, wee little realm in the corner of nowhere, it wasn't fun. And it wasn't the fact that someone took a potential realm first from my raiding guild -- to be perfectly honest, the realm first was from content from the prior tier. It was content we'd already moved past and headed back to complete after we were done with clearing Dragon Soul. In the grand scheme of things, it wasn't really a big deal.
But two points stuck with us that have been sticking with us since it happened. First -- the achievement that other guild got wasn't earned. The other guild didn't clear the content for it, and they didn't work particularly hard at getting the achievement itself. There's no problem, as far as we're concerned, with other guilds getting realm first achievements -- as long as they're earned legitimately. This was not.
Second and far more important in our minds was the grim visage of the future of raiding on our realm. This time, it was an old tier of raid content, and it didn't really matter. But what does this incident spell for the future of raiding in Mists? It seems that now we're suddenly competing not with other guilds on our realm but other realms that are far more progressed than we are. For low-population realms, those realm first achievements aren't restricted to realms anymore. Once the rest of the world starts clearing things, any raid guild on a low-population realm has to worry about potentially losing achievements to people who didn't legitimately earn them.
In the end, that's what this tale boils down to -- a warning for raiders on low-population realms. While you may think you are only competing with those on your realm, this no longer seems to be the case. Perhaps Blizzard will do something about it eventually, but for now, it doesn't seem to be a concern. And if that isn't enough to keep your guild pushing onward -- well, you can bid any chance of obtaining realm firsts in the future a fond farewell.