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 pushes many guilds to be able 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 (click to enlarge):

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 (click to enlarge):

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

Graph (click to enlarge):

Instance difficulty (click to enlarge):

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 (click to enlarge):

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

Graph (click to enlarge):

Instance difficulty (click to enlarge):

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!


  1. Well, ya can’t beat charts. :P

    But really, while Wrath raiding has gone through a bumpy road of trying to find it’s sweet spot, I believe blizz has learned Alot from all of it and will continue to morph raiding into that just “Sweet spot”.

    From all the data being read, it looks like Cata raids will be a new breed of raiding all together, so we should see progression be Much more focused in the end.

  2. Thank you for this very, very informative read. It was quite enjoyable to see all the numbers stacked up, and I’m definitely more excited for the cataclysm raid changes now.

  3. I learnt two things from this:
    -Heartbourne likes graphs.
    -30 000% of guilds cleared the easiest T8 content. Staggering figures!


  4. Good information, although I strongly disagree with some conclusions. Can the analysis separate PUGs from guilds? It seems this would be the key event. PUGs can’t get much past rotface, due to time constraints. Further, the 25/10 distribution shows this very clearly, fester has like a 80% clear rate but much lower with 25. Fester 25 has a tighter dps requirement and it takes longer to get up there (because there are 25 people). So naturally the progression for 25 Fester is lower. As for all of the ulduar stuff, there is a reason none of this is attempted, because there is no point aside from saying ‘i did it’ and a mount. The loot is substantially worse than what is available now.

    To me this shows that blizz has succeed in saying ‘hey,any PUG get get past the first four bosses of any instance, but to get further, you need a raiding guild’. That’s all this data says.

    Also the linear progression trend may or may not have anything to do with the nerfs/buffs, it may be a function of time. Since you don’t have a similiar graph for normal modes of ulduar/TOC it’s hard to tell. My feeling is that those graphs would be equally linear.

    If progression really was a cockblock, you would see a spike when the buff increased, but you don’t. There is no immediate effect on progression due to the ICC buffs. So, yes, there is probably more progression but how much of that is the buff over the fact that, hey, we’ve been running this for 3 months and everyone is well geared. It also shows the heroic modes except LK really isn’t all that much harder than normal modes, and progression proceeds apace. That’s good and bad in my book. The hardcore guys have something to do but its not freaking impossible (like hmLK).

  5. @Rob: We must be looking at different graphs if you can’t see the bumps in H-25 kills that coincide with the new buff week, most obviously on the H-Saurfang-25 plot. Bear in mind that the effects of the buff will be spread over the whole week, according to raid schedules, so the spike may be subtler than you’re hoping for.

  6. It’s pretty hard to maintain a 25-man group stable PUG for more than a day, and it’s not that much easier to do that in a casual raiding guild.

    If 2-3 players don’t show the other day to continue to beat a hard boss encounter, your group is pretty much finished until the next tuesday, unless you have at least 5 players to agree to stand in as replaces (and be prepared to do a PUG themselves later in the week if that doesn’t happen).

    Which is also why the Tier 8 Algalon kills are really low, it takes a great deal of time to reach down there, even Yogg-Saron normal kills are low. Considering many are already running around with Heroic ICC 10/25 gear, I’d be disappointed if I were a encounter designer to see all the work being played by only 8% of all the raiding population.

    This is one point that will get fixed in Cataclysm, we’ll do many small raid instances in the same raid complex location instead of a big one. You will even be able to do different wings with many different groups, one day at a time.

  7. You might want to consider including of the “gear related” progression stats that you get from Guildox.com

    Specifically: http://www.guildox.com/go/g.asp?a=6

    This lists progression Vs gear score of the raid team Vs number of guilds that have completed and gives a new perspective.

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