I've done a lot of raiding in the past week. I started with Archavon 25, then Obsidian Sanctum 25, then my first-ever Naxx 25 (yes, appallingly, every boss except Thaddius and KT is much, much easier on heroic than in normal) clear, all as part of an alliance with another guild, along with a few pugs. Then, my small 10-man guild decided that we were going to take out Malygos. We'd only even entered the Eye of Eternity once before, and only had time for one attempt to try out the fight (we made it to the 3rd phase, but then hit the 10-minute enrage timer). After finally downing Malygos, we went and got the achievement for killing Sartharion with only 8 people in the raid (we are very close to also having this in Naxxramas, with only the abom wing and sapph/KT left to be done with 8. We even did 4 Horsemen with 8 people, even though they are the only boss NOT part of the achievement, presumably because it would be too hard!). Then the next night we cleared all 4 wings of Naxx 10 in about 3 hours, leaving Sapph and KT for tonight before the reset.
So Naxx 10, a mere 2 months after Wrath's release, is already more trivial than Karazhan was 2 years after TBC's release. I can't decide if this is a good or bad thing. Kara was too hard for entry-level raiding. I think the problem right now is that Naxx is pretty much all of the raiding content we have. Once Ulduar is out, I think it will become clear that having an easy entry-level raid instance was a good call. It just isn't working at the moment because the next step hasn't been patched in yet.
So, back to Malygos. Learning and defeating Malygos took us about 3 hours of concentrated attempts, with no breaks. Maly is the only boss in Wrath where learning him felt like a real raid encounter. Back in vanilla WoW or TBC, when it was time to learn a new boss, you'd spend an entire night or two wiping on him over and over while you figured out your strategy, got everyone to follow it, and perhaps optimized your stats or group makeup. In contrast, every Wrath boss until Maly took at most 2-3 attempts, but were usually one-shot the first time we saw them. The old experience of feeling that rewarding progress through content was gone. Defeating Malygos is the first time my guild actually cheered over vent since the day we got our Amani War Bear. Winning really felt like an accomplishment.
At first, we struggled with the sparks until we got a good system down. The sparks move toward Maly, and must be killed before reaching him. Ideally, you kill them on top of your dps so you get a damage boost. Once we found the right way for our group to manage that, it mostly came down to practicing the third phase, letting everyone get the hang of their dragon's abilities and when/how to use them. Manuevering was especially difficult, since everyone needed to stay together and have split-second reactions to shield themselves and get out of aoe damage areas while staying with the group. We had many attempts where we brought him down to 10-15% health and hit the enrage timer, mostly due to losing too many people during the dragon phase. It just goes to show how much practice can pay off that when we finally beat him, we had over 30 seconds left and only 2 people were dead. What an improvement!
What really worked for us was using a Death Knight to control the sparks, allowing us to stack two at a time and cut down how long we were in the first phase. We started with a TG warrior in the raid, but he had to leave and we swapped in a DK. The first few attempts were much more difficult due to the lack of Death Grip; I feel sorry for any 10 man group doing this encounter without a DK (which seems like an oversight in designing the encounter). We managed OK with good movement of the boss, and with a Druid rooting the sparks, but we still had to settle for usually having only one spark buff on our DPS instead of a stack of two.
On phase 3, we used 2 healers and 8 dps stacking their fire dot. What really pushed us over the edge, though, was realizing that the combo-point-building HoT was largely useless compared to the aoe heal finisher. So we had the healers spam their fire attack for combo points, and then just use the combo points to AoE heal. This proved to be by far the most effective strategy.
Even though we wiped at least 10 times, this was the most fun I've had raiding in Wrath, and the jubilation when we downed him was nothing short of amazing.
There is a place for easier encounters, for entry-level raids that can be pugged. But there is also a place for "real" raiding. As I've been harping on non-stop lately: I hope that balance will be restored with Ulduar.
And hopefully my gear concerns will be answered in 3.1 as well. It would be nice ifUlduar 25 was tuned to require much better gear than Ulduar 10. That will at least make Ulduar 25 somewhat more difficult than 10, helping justify the tier jump in rewards.
I also hope that Ulduar 10 gear is a clear upgrade over Naxx 25 gear. It would be pretty sad if elite 10-man guilds, no matter how good they got at Ulduar 10, still only managed to match, rather than exceed, the gear of some scrub who got carried through Naxx 25, which certainly will be easier than Ulduar 10 in every way.
But I'm also wary of the common belief in the community that Ulduar will "save" raiding. There is no way for it to live up to the expectations that are being put on it. If only Blizz hadn't allowed the raiding game to get to its current, sorry state, we wouldn't have to be pinning all of our hopes on Ulduar. I have high hopes, but I'm keeping my expectations low. I'll whine and complain here about bad game design and poor choices, but in the end I'm going to keep paying Blizzard so I can beat up dragons with my friends. And I think Blizzard knows that.
WTB an MMO market that isn't monopolized. I'd love a real alternative to WoW. Other MMOs on the market, like City of Heroes and WAR, have appealing qualities, but in the end don't offer an experience that I find competitive with what WoW has to offer. I wouldn't fault others for preferring different MMOs, but I've tried many and I know that for me, WoW is the most fun. They have yet to screw it up so badly that I'll accept what are, for me, vastly inferior alternatives.
People complain about ads on the general forums, and other ways Blizzard is further monetizing the playerbase. Personally, I think we are lucky. Blizzard could probably insert in-game ads, sell ad space on the loading screens, start offering true micro-transactions, and go to other cynical lengths to increase profits. I think they could do all of that, and still retain 80-90% of the playerbase, because they are the only real "game in town." I think we're lucky that the Activision accounting department hasn't already forced them to do so.