One week ago, Blizzard introduced the concept of Flexible Raiding — a raid mode between Normal and LFR where the difficulty of the content is scaled based on the number of people you have, allowing for groups of 10 to 25. There are two schools of thought on just how much of a good thing this will be.
The general consensus seems to be a positive one. Players can schedule raids and not have to worry about the evening being a disaster if one or two people don’t show up. No longer will they need to PUG an extra member or queue for LFR; guilds can continue to engage in current raid content, though at a simpler level. The dissenters, however, view flex raiding as a problem because the additional lockout it provides will force them to run it for additional gear upgrades each week; thus giving them a fourth possible required raid. Blizzard can’t police everyone, and whenever Blizzard attempts to raise any limits, all they find is that people will run headfirst into them. There are plenty of voices of reason, including Blizzard, arguing that people need to play how they want to play. While Blizzard has created the World-First race with their actions, to cater to the handful of people who engage in that race out of the millions that otherwise play the game would be counter-productive.
Blizzard claims that Flex Raiding will not become the standard for normal raiding, and the plan is to proceed with four tiers of raiding. Though it will be great that guilds can still run raid content with 24 people, the rewards from the full 25 are better, and removing that barrier would make the most sense. Ghostcrawler has already proposed an ilvl of 528 for flex and 536 for normal raids. A loss of 8 ilvls may seem small, but it seems harsh to penalize the 24 guild members who followed through on their promise to attend a scheduled raid simply because one member slacked off. Flex Raiding only makes sense if it provides gear equal to Normal Raiding, and once it does that, then it replaces Normal Raiding outright.
At the very least, Flex Raiding continues the trend of Blizzard making the game easier. Blizzard wants the most difficult aspect of raiding to be the boss fights themselves (and sometime the trash *cough*Throne of Thunder snails*cough*), not organizing a raid of 25 people (plus alternates) on a weekly basis. This isn’t the first such quality of life change Blizzard has implemented over the years, and it won’t be the last.
The sneaky aspect of this is that, as currently described, Flex Raiding uses the LFR loot method where each player rolls for loot independently and either gets a drop just for themselves or only gets gold. If Flex Raiding replaces Normal Mode raiding, this could be Blizzard’s way of slipping the personal-loot model into Normal Mode raids like a trojan horse. Again, dividing up loot can be an issue for less experienced guilds or immature players, and this could be Blizzard’s way of improving that aspect of quailty of life. One would think that they will leave Heroic Raiding alone, as at that point the guild master would best know how to allot gear for progression purposes. However, if LFR and Normal/Flex follow the same model, Heroic may be dragged along regardless.
Overall, Flex Raiding will be a welcome addition to WoW. It will be exciting to see how it is implemented on the PTR. In all honesty, I can’t wait to see what Blizzard does with the Patch 6.0 raids, as those will be designed from the ground-up with flex raiding in mind. Patch 5.4 is looking to bring massive changes to the World of Warcraft, and Flex Raiding is just a part of that.
Patch 5.4 PTR patch notes! Virtual Realms! The Siege of Orgrimmar! Titan’s Grip for Polearms! Its a great day! http://us.battle.net/wow/en/blog/10158897/
Dawn of the Aspects Part V excerpt is up now! Yawn. Dragon Aspects are SO 2011. http://us.battle.net/wow/en/forum/topic/9280508013#1