WotLK Progression Statistics: Looking Forward to Cataclysm

Progression in ICC has been moving along at a steady rate for many guilds. The stacking buff in Icecrown Citadel that updates about once a month to add increased healing, health, and damage done allows many guilds  to do previously impassible encounters and gives them enough steam to work through many more encounters until the buff is updated. Indeed, if we look at the graphs from WoWProgress, the leading site in tracking guild progression, the mechanic of the Icecrown Citadel buff has caused a steady increase in the number of guilds defeating each encounter.

In fact, they look rather linear. In comparison, the tier 8 and 9 progression graphs are not nearly as linear. After a short burst of hardcore guilds downing content, the number of new guilds defeating the content tapers off. Additionally, many less guilds have done older content than ICC. Click through for more…

Even in the same amount of time and nearly the same number of guilds attempting each tier, Icecrown raiding has had much more steady progression. The same players that downed the Lich King a month ago are now 8/12 in heroic ICC. I think players are likely to find this kind of progression rewarding; instead of guilds hitting a wall on one encounter as they did in Ulduar and ToC (as seen by the slow growth of the graphs past a certain point), it seems that with enough time and attempts, everyone can progress. It seems likely that Blizzard will continue with this model in Cataclysm.

We know that raids will have the same four difficulties as ICC, all sharing the same lockout. Regardless of the lockout concerns, the idea of the linear growth of guilds able to down specific encounters is both encouraging for players and efficient for Blizzard development: the more players that consume the content you create, the less content you actually have to make to satisfy everyone. If everyone can have a rewarding raiding experience, there is less need for things like the Argent Tournament to keep players preoccupied. Combined with a possible raid queueing tool, or at least an improved LFG tool for raids in Cataclysm, we could see a new dawn in our current notions of raiding.

“But n00bs shouldn’t beat heroic Lich King!”, you might say. Well, just because there is linear growth doesn’t mean that all guilds will do all of the encounters, because encounter difficulty is not linear.

I want to share some data about specific ICC encounters to address the previous statement and to start thinking about the balance of 10- and 25- player raids in Cataclysm. Here are the number of guilds that have successfully defeated encounters in Icecrown Citadel as of May 9th. The percentages show what percentage of guilds of completed that encounter proportional to the number of guilds that have defeated Lord Marrowgar (the first boss) on normal mode for that size raid:

Encounter Kills (25) Kills (10) % (25) % (10)
Heroic: The Lich King 31 229 0.08 0.46
Heroic: Professor Putricide 1094 5601 2.78 11.31
Heroic: Sindragosa 1147 4423 2.92 8.93
Heroic: Lady Deathwhisper 2343 12089 5.96 24.42
Heroic: Deathbringer Saurfang 3094 10672 7.87 21.56
Heroic: Festergut 3447 10645 8.76 21.5
Heroic: Blood-Queen Lana’thel 3503 9786 8.91 19.77
Heroic: Blood Prince Council 3505 8437 8.91 17.04
Heroic: Valithria Dreamwalker 3258 7794 8.28 15.74
Heroic: Rotface 4004 10984 10.18 22.19
Heroic: Lord Marrowgar 4324 12198 10.99 24.64
Heroic: Gunship Battle 4456 13241 11.33 26.75
The Lich King 4654 14278 11.83 28.84
Sindragosa 8577 25055 21.8 50.61
Blood-Queen Lana’thel 11478 32528 29.18 65.7
Professor Putricide 14983 37835 38.09 76.42
Valithria Dreamwalker 15228 36311 38.71 73.34
Blood Prince Council 17591 34206 44.72 69.09
Rotface 22286 43870 56.65 88.61
Festergut 23919 45914 60.8 92.74
Deathbringer Saurfang 39030 49277 99.22 99.53
Gunship Battle 39124 49353 99.46 99.69
Lady Deathwhisper 39133 49372 99.48 99.72
Lord Marrowgar 39338 49509 100 100

For those that hate to read, here is a graph:

10 player raids seems to have a lot more kills on difficult encounters. Here is a graph with both raid sizes sorted from highest to lowest clearance rate:

I think the implications of this chart are brilliant. It looks very much like a power law distribution. Progression through the first few encounters is available to like everyone, but as you progress further, it becomes marginally more difficult. This “diminishing return on effort” means that the people who put a lot of work into progressing can get all the way through, but people who don’t get exponentially less far. This “long tail” of encounters ensures that few guilds down the hardest of the hard content and the amount of progression achieved by each guild is tuned very closely to their effort and ability. While the number of guilds that downs each encounter grows linearly, the difficulty scale is very well tuned. If you accept that this is all true, we should expect this graph to look the same as time goes on, only “scaled up”. The ratio of heroic Lich King to regular Festergut kills should be about the same months down the road.

The second observation that I made when looking at this is that both 10- and 25- man share this same power law effect. In Wrath and ICC, 10 man is designed to be easier, and we should expect the number of guilds downing 10 man encounters to be greater than 25-man on all accounts. However, the shape is still very similar. You could almost fit the two lines together. The 10-man data could feasibly be 25-man data a month or two down the line. While 10 man is indeed easier, it seems like 10-man raids could be made as difficult as 25-man raids by just “twisting a few knobs”. If the DPS and healing requirements are similar or even harder in 10-man in exchange for requiring less coordination, this ICC data implies that progression would be almost identical. Maybe not on an encounter-by-encounter basis, as some encounters are downed proportionally more on 10-man than 25-man and vice versa, but as a whole, I am confident in the Cataclysm raiding changes.

This raiding model is quite different from lower tiers. With two difficulty levels over 12 encounters, this effect is very much achievable. Hard modes are a pretty recent development, so this kind of progression is pretty new. It didn’t exist on tier 7 outside of Sartharion, and it was very primitive on tier 8. Tier 9 had the closest model, but only 5 real encounters, with the “tribute runs” providing more progression. As such, this model doesn’t fit the older content as well. Additionally, the content has been out for longer and less players have even attempted them, but even on the same time scale, the difference in the graph shapes are notable. Check it out:

Tier 9 (as a percentage of Onyxia kills):

Encounter Kills (25) Kills (10) % (25) % (10)
Onyxia’s Lair 41103 54106 100 99.97
Beasts 40705 54125 99.03 100
Lord Jaraxxus 40442 53990 98.39 99.75
Faction Champions 39604 53645 96.35 99.11
Val’kyr Twins 39248 53549 95.49 98.94
Anub’arak 38765 53468 94.31 98.79
Heroic Beasts 12629 41479 30.73 76.64
Heroic Lord Jaraxxus 11156 37822 27.14 69.88
Heroic Faction Champions 8764 34003 21.32 62.82
Heroic Val’kyr Twins 6574 32596 15.99 60.22
Heroic Anub’arak 2044 26269 4.97 48.53
Tribute to Skill 1942 23772 4.73 43.92
Tribute to Mad Skill 1629 20406 3.96 37.7
Tribute to Insanity 1125 13880 2.74 25.64


Instance difficulty:

This is not a good model. It is flat until about halfway through, and close to linear at the end. The only real progression here starts on the heroic encounters, and they come proportionally as easy instead of in a power law distribution. This is sub-optimal because it takes as much skill and effort to get from the first to second encounter as it does from the third to fourth, meaning hardcore guilds can burn through it much faster than with power law progress. Compared to the ICC power law progress, guilds can burn through content much faster. Casual guilds hit an impossibly steep part of this curve as it shifts into the linear phase from the flat part. This all explains why these graphs from earlier are logarithmic; the guilds that are going to do hard encounters burn through it quickly and casual guilds just don’t progress past a certain point:

Additionally, the 10- and 25-man instances are not even comparable. The graphs don’t fit at all.

Now, this data is deep into tier 10 content. A lot of people can successfully PUG the tier 9 content now, and a lot of people view ToC25 and ToGC10 as stepping stones to ICC and don’t even give the other encounters in tier 9 any thought. This could skew the data, but the above graph shows that not many more people have even done this content since November.

Finally, here is tier 8 for what it’s worth:

Siege of Ulduar 29923 100
Antechamber of Ulduar 24239 81.01
Keepers of Ulduar 16383 54.75
Descent into Madness 10420 34.82
Heartbreaker 9794 32.73
Orbit-uary 9269 30.98
I Could Say That This Cache Was Rare 6306 21.07
I Choose You, Steelbreaker 5445 18.2
Three Lights in the Darkness 5394 18.03
Lose Your Illusion 5002 16.72
3x Knock on Wood 3466 11.58
I Love the Smell of Saronite in the Morning 3377 11.29
Firefighter 3044 10.17
Two Lights in the Darkness 2471 8.26
One Light in the Darkness 2458 8.21
Observed 2327 7.78
Alone in the Darkness 718 2.4


Instance difficulty:

This is actually a good model and not that different from ICC. The difference is that 30-50% more players are actually participating in ICC than Ulduar, and the progression “path” is much more clear with the “heroic” label. Additionally, there is hardly any casual progress; very few players got very deep in Ulduar. Many players argue that Ulduar was the best instance in Wrath, and with good reason by the arguments made in this article.

So what did we learn today?

  • The current ICC raiding model is very successful. Many of the same mechanics will likely be implemented in Cataclysm, such as progressively stacking buffs and many encounters with interchangeable difficulties.
  • 10- and 25-player raids as implemented in ICC could be made to be the same difficulty.
  • Linear progress with power law difficulty, as seen in ICC, creates a rewarding raiding experience.
  • Raids have changed significantly in Wrath and have matured to a model that is friendly to both hardcore and casual raiders.

If you want to use any of these charts, make sure to link back to this article and credit LoreHound.com and wowprogress.com!

This post originally appeared on lorehound.com.

  • Pinnick


  • Hoofit

    Thanks for linking to this on Twitter! This is very nice data to look through.

  • Joey

    “In comparison, the tier 8 and 9 progression graphs are not nearly as linear. After a short burst of hardcore guilds downing content, the number of new guilds defeating the content tapers off”

    There’s a gross level of mis-reading going on here. The reason old content progression ‘tapers off’ is because in nearly every raid instance, killable ‘entry’ bosses drop better loot than the ‘hard’ older bosses, and guilds don’t go back and kill old content very often. When Cata comes out, there will be a similar tapering of the ICC achievements, too.