I’m not always convinced that I explain things well. So there’s no substitute for a good picture in these circumstances. The one above isn’t a tedious explanation of how raiding was more difficult back in the day, it’s merely a comparison of the available raiding levels. We had normal raiding, which Blizzard presented as entry level, and heroic raiding which represented more of a challenge. It’s not my objective to try to judge how difficult Naxrammas 40 was relative to Siege of Orgrmmar or Tomb of Sargeras. I find that discussion tedious…since most of the people engaged in it never stepped into Naxx40 (3% of player base and they can’t all be in my guild!)

In Mists of Pandaria (MoP) Blizzard introduced a new level of raiding between the Looking For Raid ‘tourist mode’ (arguably making LFR obsolete) and the previous entry level raiding of normal. Originally there was no “normal” there was only raiding and heroic raiding (raiding with knobs on). Now we had three layers above LFR: Flex; normal; and heroic. In Legion the ranks got a makeover. The point of the bar chart is to emphasise that the levels were only renamed, essentially the difficulty remained the same.

In the bar chart you’ll see the dark blue colouring the bar representing LFR. In terms of raiding difficulty we can rank LFR as -2 and leave it out of the discussion. If you look at MoP, in yellow you’ll see an entry level of raiding, raiding = 1, labelled during this expansion flex(ible size). The next level of raiding up from flex, in terms of difficulty, we have the so-called “normal” mode of raiding, this is essentially of a very similar level of difficulty to the normal mode in (Cataclysm and) Wrath of the Lich King. The last MoP bar, in burgundy, represents the hardest level of raiding available, heroic, which is roughly similar to the heroic difficulty raiders encountered in Wrath. I’ve tossed Wrath heroic hard modes in for a laugh and to illustrate how top level raiders had an option to tune the difficulty of Ulduar and Icecrown Citadel dungeons to present more of a challenge, giving raids more longevity.

It won’t only be the geniuses amongst you that observe that the MoP and Legion bars look identical, except for colour. That’s not a coincidence. The difficulties levels have remained more or less consistent since Cataclysm, you can argue everything has been dumbed down and so everything is ladder rung, or more, easier since Wrath with each expansion bringing greater convenience and a slew of mechanic simplifying changes that all make the game easer. This is probably true and probably a good thing. The game is thirteen years old, accessibility was always at its heart, it began as the dumbed down RPG for people who don’t play RPGs. It’s rather amusing that some people get precious about it now.

Yes the colours have changed in Legion, that’s it though. The hardest level of raid difficulty is now called Mythic and it’s essentially the same difficulty level MoP raiders will recognise from their heroic raids. The common misconception of many casuals and casual raiders is that another tier was added above the top of raiding, heroic, and called mythic. Heroic has simply been renamed mythic, the raiding in mythic is no harder than heroic was in the last expansion. The same is equally true of Legion‘s heroic raid difficulty, it’s analogous to the raiding difficulty raiders in the last expansion experienced in “normal” raiding. Blizzard‘s renaming master-stroke, to make raiding more accessible, is appropriating the “normal” convention, enshrining it in the game, and inserting it at a lower difficulty level (i.e. the flexible, on rung up from LFR level). There are now raid quests that specify a raid difficulty of, for example, normal (or higher) stressing the quest must be completed at raiding entry level, rather than just in LFR. The old normal mode of raiding, the entry level of raiding since Wrath is now called heroic (talk it up!) in Legion. Raiding difficulty level 3 (on my bar chart), was conventionally referred to as normal in Wrath onwards through to the last expansion. Before Legion I would’ve marked normal difficulty level 1, but that now creates problems. We have a new entry level difficulty of raiding and Blizzard have called it normal. The new normal you all know and love in Legion is no more difficult than flex was when it was introduced in Mists of Pandaria.

There isn’t an argument to be made here, this is simply stating facts: there is a new normal, a new entry level of raiding in Legion. It’s a level of raiding that presents a genuine challenge compared to Looking For Raid, however it is much easier than the previous entry level to proper raiding, which in Legion is now called heroic raiding. Blizzard wants to get value for money for it’s development costs and getting more players to raid is the way to do this. Whichever way you cut it 3% of the player base accessing content you pay designers and developers to create is a massive failure. Making the skill requirements lower for entry level raiding makes the transition from LFR to working cooperatively with your guild, learning tactics and progressing your character easier. More people raiding is more people raiding. The only problem is for us old raiding lags who want to do mythics. All the new crop of raiders find the initial step up in proper raids much easier, normal mode is much easier now. However raiding doesn’t really start for us until the instance starts to get as difficult as we remember in normal…in Legion that clearly means in heroic mode. Once you’ve dragged your team through a raid twice they’ll be spent. No one is going to want to take it on a third time, “Cheers and all that. We cleared it on heroic and that’s enough, thanks, mythic is just one step too far.” Ironically some of the people saying this used to raid in previous expansions and after defeating the instance in normal mode used to have a good go at heroic before the next patch and new raid dropped. That is: they used to raid at mythic difficulty and didn’t want anyone patronising them or by suggesting that normal mode (heroic) was very hard.

Flex, sorry normal raiding does mean more raiders. They’re slack and lazy and don’t want to step up to the top level any more, but there are more of them…