I finally made it into a flex-mode raid on part 1 of Siege of Orgrimmar with my guild this week. Giving this mode of raiding a try was something I’d wanted to do as part of my return to the game for the holiday period. Gearing up as much as possible on the Timeless Isle was one reason for a delay in getting started, it’s RNG heavy so my ability to replace old purple or blue items was partially limited by the luck of the draw from daily or weekly chests on the island.
I’ve not raided regularly ever, but did have two distinct periods of raiding in the late TBC and middle Wrath eras of the game. For me raiding was always about playing with a bunch of friends and having fun, not much different from 5-man dungeons but with more friends along. I was never motivated by ‘progression’ or ‘server firsts’ and the like. Working together to beat a challenge I’m down with though.
This first foray was relatively short, we cleared part one in just over an hour. There few issues with the four bosses we encountered and it was a good enough taster of the mechanics in the more modern era of WoW raiding. The game has changed quite a lot since my older experiences with raiding. Boss fights tend to be dance-heavy and full of mechanics to memorise. That’s my biggest issue with the activity really, I play for fun, not to learn fight-dances rote. In normal mode there seems to be very little room for failure, so I welcome the addition of flex-mode as it offers an opportunity for guilds to bring along more casual players, like myself!
I’ve heard that part 2 is tougher, and 3 and 4 even more so. I dropped out of continuing with the raid as they were jumping to part three – I’d rather see the sections in order and my gear would be below-par for a later wing. My gear level is still pretty low for this, 511 average now, so I still want to gear up some more (especially replacing my weapon) before I progress into the later sections. It’s hard to ignore the pervasive nature of damage/heal meters in the game, they’re add-ons still but *everyone* uses them. So if your gear is low like mine is you do feel like a bit of a drag on the group regardless of the effort you put into play. Despite that I’m enjoying shaman healing and have swapped a few talents to focus on survival and maneuverability during hectic phases of fights.
Towards the end of the session someone asked about expectations for the next expansion. There were several comments about the expansion or extension of flex-mode. Will it mean no more 5-man dungeons at all in future? Could it encourage a return to 40-man raids at the extreme end? I do think Blizzard are onto something with this new mode – normal raiding since Cataclysm has been over-tuned in my mind given heroic mode also exists. Having four different difficulties (raid-finder, flex-mode, normal and heroic) seems excessive but then if there are separate groups of players who prefer all four then perhaps it’s justifiable to keep them going forward.