Life in Group 5 – A Resto Shaman Blog
A resto shaman perspective on raiding


March 16, 2012

Minipost: Tier11/12 Progression Data

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Written by: Vixsin
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As part of my efforts to substantiate the theories presented in my 2-part series on endgame gearing and progression, I sorted through a ton of data dealing with achievements and guild progression in Tiers 11 and 12. I had originally drafted those two posts with the results of that data analysis included, but due to the fact that I can be a long-winded arse at the best of times, it ultimately was put on the chopping block in my final round of edits. However, because it is, I think, pretty interesting data, I wanted to offer it up for consumption if for no other reason to provide some insight into the numbers behind it all.

So, to set the stage for this data, let’s start with an idea that Zarhym put forth in March of last year when speaking about the longevity of Tier 11 versus the difficulty it presented to the raiding community:

We expect a fair amount of players will still run this content for loot and achievements once Firelands is released … This content will still be there, still be a viable means of progression, and become easier as Cataclysm’s lifespan continues. (Source)

Of course, if you read the Endgame Gearing posts you know that my contention is that Zarhym’s vision about “old content” never came to pass, at least not when it came to it still being viable progression.

To back up this hypothesis, I turned to the amazing mind behind one of my newest favorite sites, Bethink of The question that I asked– could he provide me a numerical breakdown of guild first kills pre- versus post-patch for both T11 and T12? Here’s the graphical representation of what he gave me:

Guild First Kills for T11 and T12, NM and HM, tracked has having occured before and after Patches 4.2 and 4.3

As detailed in the graph’s legend, the blue bars represent Normal Mode first kills and the green bars represent Hard Mode first kills. The kills of each type are then further subdivided between pre-patch (dark blue and dark green) and post-patch (light blue and light green). It’s important to note that his numbers differ from those displayed by WoWProgress because, as Bethink  so aptly described to me, tracking kills is a function of parameters, and thus you can only represent what defines a “first kill” in your system. So, there’s likely some room for movement on the numbers, and it’s certainly expected that they have changed since I requested them over a month ago.

Regardless, the picture that the above data presents is, at least to me, enough to validate the idea that progression content in Cataclysm was generally isolated to the current tier; as much as Blizzard hoped that guilds would return to older content for progression purposes, very few actually did. Now, what’s important to note here is that I asked for guild kills, not player kills. The reason that I made this distinction is that I wanted to isolate and exclude, as much as possible, inflation of kills due to alt participation. Scoring a kill on an alt or in a new guild is not the same progressing on a boss that you’ve never killed before (which is an interesting thing to consider given the lengths that HM guilds go to test new bosses—can we really call those kills progression? … but I digress.)

What I found curious about the data above, once I had it in nice chart format, was the rise in the number of hardmode kills from Tier 11 to Tier 12. As many guilds killed HM Atramedes pre-patch as killed Alysrazor HM pre-patch? Quite frankly, I was boggled. Until I remembered the incredible fuss that surrounded the Firelands hotfix, which substantially nerfed both normal and hard modes and was decried loudly by the vocal minority on both forums and community blogs.

So this time around I asked Bethink to give me a “Before & After” picture of Firelands content. And here’s what that looked like:

Guild First Kills for Tier 12: Firelands, NM and HM, Pre- and Post-Hotfix

In the above, you have the same color distribution as in the previous chart—blue equates to NM kills and green equates to HM kills. But this time I swapped the darkness of the colors in order to draw something to your attention—the large jump in kills of hard mode content post-hotfix. In the case of Alysrazor and Baleroc, HM kills shot up by over 400% in the newly-nerfed content. In contrast, though, NM Ragnaros kills only increased by around 15-20%, seemingly indicating that the encounter’s “difficulty” couldn’t be easily overcome by a nerf to damage. Interestingly enough, the hotfix had the opposite effect on HM Rag kills, which increased by over 700% post-hotfix, but even with that meteoric rise, still wound up about as killable as Sinestra.


I think what I’m left with after reviewing this data, and it’s a contributing reason as to why I chose to cut it out of the gearing post, is really two things:

  1. I’m struck by how much space there is between the guild that can kill NM Shannox and a guild that can kill HM Ragnaros. Yes, I think there is a differential in skill/aptitude, but more importantly, I think that divide represents a differential in what those players value. The player that loved HM Rag is an entirely different beast than someone with is satisfied with LFR content. And I’m not saying that with any malice or condescension, but rather saying that from a raid design perspective, the audience is getting bigger.
  2. The Firelands nerf, as contested as it was, ended up pushing the raiding community to the “right” levels of progression, slightly below that of Tier 11. This is incredibly evident if you look at the chart below, which details total guild first kills on each boss in Tier 11 and Tier 12, as of Feb. 15th. Had that nerf not gone into place, I think we would have seen a much larger drop off in the players participating in DS; with a lower average gear level in the raiding populace, LFR might not have been as successful. So the result was right, it was the application that was flawed.

Guild First Kills in T11/T12, NM and HM, as of 2/15/12 (Based on data)

To wrap this all up, I want to leave you with a quote from Bashiok, back in May 2011, talking about the gradual and continual nerfing of content:

It’s always been our intent to offer new raid tiers in Cataclysm that are difficult to provide challenge to the raiding guilds, and then gradually allow older content to self-nerf as people gear up through VP, and then eventual literal nerfs to the content. That’s something we’ve been communicating for some time.

Burning Crusade swung the pendulum one way, and Wrath of the Lich King swung it back too far the other. We’re attempting to find that middle ground where there’s still something brutally difficult for the cutting edge, but content gradually comes down until it’s extremely accessible (ie PUGable) either simply through gear proliferation, or literal content difficulty nerfs. (Source)

To be fair, after reading that statement, I don’t think Cataclysm’s content was all that far off from the middle ground that they were looking for. It just leaves me wondering where, in that pendulum’s arc, is the sweet spot for Mists.

PS: Yes, for me, 1220 words is a “mini” post. /facepalm


  1. shakyra

    hi vixin ^_^, no post in almost 2 weeks, quit making me get worried

    • Dude! There was a Resto Shaman update just this week! And don’t worry, I haven’t fallen off the raiding scene, just doing it on 4 different characters now. 😛

      Speaking of which, why the hell didn’t you tell me that Priests are bloody AWESOME?!

  2. I think what I am the most surprised by in the data is how close the kill numbers are for Sinestra and Heroic Rag. I wonder if that is because of the relative difficulty of the Sinestra encounter for 10 man guilds as opposed to the relative “ease” of Herioc Rag for the 10 man guilds. I’d be curious to see those two encounters broken down into 10 vs 25s – I would speculate that significantly more 25s killed Sinestra, while far fewer killed Rag, but what makes it so interesting is that the overall numbers are quite close, so somewhere in there the two “end” fights balanced out in overall kills when looking at the generic “raid”. If my hypothesis is correct, I’d be curious how many of those 25 man guilds that killed Sinestra never finished out HM Firelands, or finished it out on 10s. I don’t even know if that data is availble, or how reliable it would be if it could be obtained.

    For me, personally, I really enjoyed the Sinestra encounter, but found that I got really burnt out on Rag progression. I can’t tell you how many applicants I’ve seen where their guild history includes “My guild blew up during Rag progression, after x number of pulls, when we couldn’t get him down”. I don’t know how I feel about the end of T13 – but I will say that H Spine was the worst encounter I’d ever experienced as far as engaging the player and making interesting decisions was concerned.

    As for the pendulum, I don’t know where I’d put it for Cataclysm. I think I’d say that BT was one of my favorite instances in WoW, which is a TBC era zone – but a close second is definitely Ulduar, which is a LK era zone. I thoughly enjoyed most of T11, was kind of hot and cold about T12, and have had a lot of non-zone related struggles clouding a lot of my judgement of T13. That being said, going into Mists, I think I’d rather see more Sinestra level difficulty encounters than Rag level of difficulty.
    Beruthiel´s last post ..Makings of the Mundane – A Look at Heroic Spine

  3. I would disagree that the gulf between the players who down the hardest encounter of a tier and those who can only down the opening encounter has gotten bigger. It’s remained fairly static since the introduction of the single tier progression model in T8. Compare the gap between Flame Leviathan normal and Yogg+0, or Normal Beasts and Heroic Anub, or Normal Marrowgar and HLK, or Normal Halfus and Sinestra or HAC. The divide has been consistent. The first boss is downed by 95+% of guilds that raid that tier, the final boss is downed by 2-5%.

    And I also disagree that the nerf to firelands brought T12 to the level commensurate with T11. It did so for Heroic Ragnaros, but the rest of the tier was made much easier than it was in T11. Look at the massive gap between Heroic Rag and Heroic Bethtilac. More guilds went 6/7H in T12 than went 4/13H in T11. More guilds went 85% of the way through T12 than went 30% of the way through T11. If T11 is assumed to be a reasonable baseline for objective difficulty, then Firelands after the nerf was significantly easier with the exception of the final boss.
    The Renaissance Man´s last post ..Blackwing Descent: Missed Opportunities

  4. @Beru

    There have been 685 Sinestra 25 kills, and 402 HRag25 kills. Although it is worth mentioning that there were only 435 HAC25 kills, and 357 HAA25 kills. There’s actually more 7/7H T12 25 man guilds than there were 13/13H T11 25 man guilds.

    In ten man difficulty, things invert themselves, there were 1,376 Sinestra 10 kills, versus 3,145 HRag10 kills.
    The Renaissance Man´s last post ..Blackwing Descent: Missed Opportunities

  5. Masith

    I have always felt that the hardcore need to accept nerfs as essential to ensuring they get a game that challenges them when it is fresh. The key is how they introduce them I have rarely heard vent so silent after a first heroic kill as my guild’s vent was after our heroic baleroc kill the week of the nerf. However killing Warmaster heroic the week of the 5% nerf still felt like a big acheivement and got a big cheer.

    The other issue with firelands for me is the giant gap between 6/7H guilds and 7/7H guilds. Nerfing the rest of the content so much caused a vast number of guilds to find themselves faced with a boss they had little realistic chance of killing and nothing else to do. As Beru said this detroyed a large number of raiding guilds and made life very difficult for many others. My own guild nearly collapsed and I felt that it was partly because despite being a 5/7H guild before the nerf we found it difficult to stand out from the crowd of 2/7H pre nerf guilds who ended up stuck on 6/7H with us for months. This made recruiting good enough players almost impossible and we actually went into DS with a roster of only 28. Without a lucky group app from a guild that collapsed on raggy progression we would probably of been forced to raid 10 man by now.

    @Beru I suspect the similar number of kills on Sinestra as Raggy is at least partially down to the length of tier 11 for most guilds just for Sinestra to be their current progression target they had to of killed 11/12 other progression targets compared to 6 in Firelands.

    • I definitely agree; I think nerfs should be a part of aging content. And I absolutely second the idea that a phased implementation is much more rewarding that the cold shock of going from just needing a little extra to flat out destroying a boss (as a number of guilds experienced in Tier 12).

      I think guild collapse is another topic for another day though, because I tend to take the side that it’s a necessary part of the game. Unfun (I’ve been through 2 thus far), but necessary.

  6. It’s a little unfair to compare t11 all the way to the 4.2 patch and t12 only to when it was nerfed halfway through. T11 bosses were nerfed a number of times similar to firelands, it was just more spread out. Unfortunately it makes the numbers a lot harder to figure out.

    Sinestra got nerfed the same way Ragnaros did, but since the nerf happened before most guilds even got to it it’s treated differently. The nerf definitely did happen though, Korean guilds complained about it and Ehwa Women’s University responded by releasing their Sinestra strat publicly.

    • Agreed–comparing the relative difficulty of encounters is incredibly hard and more often than not a reflection of personal challenge. But, what I found interesting in looking at Tier 11 versus Tier 12 was the total number of first kills was about equal by the time the next patch went out. Why this struck me is because without that major Firelands patch, a boatload of guilds and players would have been undergeared for DS. So as much as the community bitched about the nerfs, I do think that they were appropriate. And that’s an opinion I didn’t hold before I looked at those numbers.

      Re: the hotfix in Firelands, I actually was talking about the one that took place on September 20th, not the Rag HP nerf that occurred prior to that. The Sinestra hotfixes, IIRC, were applied prior to her first kill on the 20th by Paragon, not once a handful of guilds had killed it.

      • The Sinestra nerf was in March, definitely after there had been a few kills. Ehwa Women’s was furious over it since they had killed Sinestra-10 pre-nerf, and they posted their strat on an english private forum in a rage.

        By far most of the Sinestra kills did come after the nerf. Ragnaros was the same story, no one at all in the US killed H-Rag 10 pre-nerf (25 yes, but not 10).

  7. Chad

    I have to say the biggest surprise to me in this data is the low amount of first Nefarian kills after 4.1, especially with a couple of bosses in BWD showing first kills post patch.

    Going forward, I’m curious what effect the LFR will have on normal mode completion rates, though I suppose the slow nerf in T13 will likely skew the data for now.

  8. […] at Life in Group 5 has a great mini post on Tier 11/12 Progression with data, lots of data. I really like […]

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