I feel like it's been a pretty big debate since the inception of the concept, whether 25-man or 10-man raiding is the end all be all. Which is "real" raiding? Which is more difficult? Which offers you the most rewards? These questions have almost been a plague on raiding discussion since the option first became available. To be honest, I've never much cared for the debate. I'm the type of person that is a live and let live when it comes to personal preferences in video games.
For me, I've always just been a raider. It has been a huge part of my enjoyment with the game, second only to the story and lore of Warcraft. I've also always been a large group raider from Classic World of Warcraft right up to Mists, but I did always run with a 10-man group right up until the point where 10 and 25 started to share a lockout, just so I could keep raiding and so I knew how to handle both situations. Recently, due to personal scheduling reasons, I've had to make some changes to my World of Warcraft playtime that has resulted in not only me re-joining the Horde, but also having shifted from 25-man raiding to full time 10-man healing on Lodur.
This post is just my opinions and observations based on my own change from 25-man raiding to 10-man raiding. Your mileage may vary.
Shifting from 25 to 10
So, mostly due to scheduling reasons, I found myself recently looking for another raid group. Leaving raiding behind simply wasn't an option for me, I just enjoy it way too much to really ever truly be done with it. An offer was extended to me to join a Horde side guild over on the server of Drenden. It was a 10-man raiding guild, and the scheduled days and times were an absolutely perfect match for my real life needs. I sat and thought about it for quite a while, weighing my other offers and opportunities. There were plenty of 25-man raiding groups that were in need of a decent healer, but nothing else really quite lined up with what I needed time-wise. So I decided to take the plunge, typed in my PayPal info and a mere hour later Lodur was whisked away to a far off server.
The last time I had healed a 10-man with any sort of regularity, there wasn't much difference between 25 and 10. Then again, there was no reforging, gems were very different and the gear was pretty darn similar. Now, my gear was already pretty well set when I transferred, I had everything socketted and enchanted. Reforging was done... but everything was done with a 25-man raid group in mind. My first raid with the new group showed a pretty bad performance from me. To put it bluntly, my first raid I sucked pretty hard core and I was very obviously the weakest link on the heal team. Pouring over logs, as I'm often found to do after a raid in which I felt I didn't quite do my best. I looked at my spell usage and saw the old familiar break down that I've been used to seeing for quite a while now. But then I looked further and saw that the numbers the spells were producing were far lower than I had expected.
I sat back and looked at the healers I was going to be working with on a regular basis, and then at the raid group as a whole with the boss mechanics we were starting to face. I re-evaluated my choices and reforged, regemmed, and shifted enchants. When you're healing with a Paladin named Fabulor, you have to make sure you are optimizing the right way! I looked at spells next. Healing Rain, as expected, wasn't quite doing as much as it would in a 25-man. Healing Wave and Greater Healing Wave were doing pretty much what I expected, and I just sort of broke it down from there. The next raid I showed up, ready to do my part and feeling pretty confident in my changes.
My numbers were better, but I still found myself going to my habits learned in a 25 man raid group. They weren't exactly cutting the mustard. I found myself having to fight against my normal instincts. I had spent so long Triage healing in 25-man raids that I was just doing it without thinking. I learned pretty quick that, at least now, you don't always have that luxury in a 10-man raid. I started shifting my spell priorities a bit. Chain Heal became a much larger part of my rotation, especially with the increased jump distance. I found myself relying a lot more on Spiritwalkers Grace to make sure I could keep healing while on the move. While it's true I used it a lot in 25-man raids, there was always someone available to cover the gaps while I ran if the spell was on cooldown. Here, I found myself planning moves and reactions to certain mechanics based on when the CD was available. The hardest thing, though, was the breaking of my triage habits. I couldn't just barely keep someone alive anymore, I needed to keep people topped off, and in truth keep a tighter handle on where everyone was at all times. It was an interesting learning curve, and one I'm still adjusting to. Thankfully my new raid group is encouraging and helpful in the transition.
A strange lesson learned
Among everything I learned, and experienced in the course of the last two weeks, probably the strangest lesson came after someone asked me a question. One of my friends that I had been raiding with previously asked me what I thought was harder? 25-man raiding or 10-man raiding. Again, I've never really cared for the debate, but i did stop and think about it for a while. Honestly, for the life of me it was a question I couldn't answer. I couldn't definitively say which was the harder raid type. They both have some unique challenges, and while I may personally be struggling with making the adjustment to 10-man healing full time in the current content, that's more me trying to break the mentality of having five other healers to work with in a group at a time than any failings of the format.
I'm sure I'll catch some hell for it at some point, but I find both raid sizes rewarding, for different reasons. In 10-man I'm loving the fact that the smaller number of bodies means I have to work a little harder and keep health totals a little higher. I enjoy the fact that I'm having to change some of my habits and forcing myself to rewire that muscle memory. I truly enjoy the fact that I'm forced to re-evaluate what I do on a boss by boss basis now, because I'm so out of what has been my normal environment in a raid for the last several years. I don't hate 25-man raiding, I will never say that I didn't enjoy it, or that I'm glad to be gone from it. Truth is, I really do enjoy both, just for different reasons.
It has been a strange journey, going from 25-man raiding to 10-man raiding as my main mode of raiding. I still have plenty of challenges to overcome, and things to tweak and adjust, but it has done nothing to lessen my raid enjoyment. I'm learning more than I expected to, and striking a new raiding balance, and that is making the transition all the more rewarding and fun.
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