... and it wasn't nearly as bad as I expected. I mean, my initial predictions for this new feature were pretty dire, but the reality actually wasn't nearly as bad. There was a lot of rotation as players continually dropped out and were instantly replaced, but it all happened so fast that I barely noticed. A couple of people said rude things, but it wasn't anything particularly out of the ordinary for WoW (as sad a statement as that is to begin with). I didn't really look at the time, but I think I completed the whole Siege of Wyrmrest Temple in a little less than two hours and with only one wipe. On the whole I would say that the entire affair felt a lot like an average dungeon finder run - which isn't exactly glowing praise, I know, but I hope you get what I mean. It's not really particularly fun if you're looking to socialise, but if you just want to "get things done" and collect some loot, it definitely works as intended.
To start at the beginning, I had just completed a random heroic with a guildie and he mentioned wanting to "do a raid finder" next. I asked to come along since two guildies vs. 23 puggers is still better than a single person vs. 24 puggers, right? As we queued up, I had a brief moment of worry as I realised that I knew pretty much nothing about any of the fights, but I quickly reassured myself with the argument that this was probably perfectly in line with the audience the tool had been designed for.
We got into a run in progress and zoned in just as people were clearing the trash leading up to one of the squidiphant bosses. A few people said something about stacking and spreading out, but I didn't quite catch whether we were supposed to alternate this pattern between trash packs or during different parts of one pack - not that it seemed to matter. I noticed a mechanic that temporarily removed all my mana and then returned it later, but couldn't figure the details of it out on the fly.
In a way, these early trash packs were an amusing throwback to more old-school raiding for me, as one or two people died pretty much on every pull. Just being in a bigger group again was nice too - I do kind of miss the twenty-five-man atmosphere sometimes.
Then we got to the boss and he was pulled with no explanation. As a healer I just healed whoever took damage. Again, people shouted something about stacking up every now and then. I deduced that the tanks did some taunting at some point, purely because one of them died and then whinged at the other tank for not taunting at the right time. The main mechanic of the fight seemed to be a bunch of coloured blobs that spawned in different corners of the room and then crawled towards the boss. I gather that only one of them has to die, and someone was always kind enough to spam a raid warning macro to yell "Purple!" or whatever and as long as at least a few people were confident in their colour choice, the rest followed them anyway. Things seemed to go quite well until we lost the main tank a second time after a few minutes and then we wiped. A couple of people immediately started shouting abuse at whoever they thought was to blame. My guildie said that he wanted to try again from the start and left. I followed him and was surprised to not get any kind of debuff.
In the end my guildie ended up having to log however, and I was intrigued enough to requeue on my own. Since my healer queue was instant, I tried to requeue a few times to see if a fresh run would pop up, but there just seemed to be several different ones in progress. Eventually I just accepted a 2/4 and found myself clearing trash to Mr Squidiphant once again. This time things went more smoothly however and he died right away. Much to my surprise I ended up winning a pair of tier leggings.
Since I hadn't seen any other part of the raid except for this boss's room, I was a bit lost and blindly followed the throng of people through a portal and up to the top of Wyrmrest Temple. A lot of well-known NPCs were there and seemed to be having a talk about something important, but I didn't dare to pause and actually listen to them because I had enough trouble following what was going on with the raid. Suddenly we jumped through a portal and were in the Eye of Eternity. Bwuh? Really made me wish I had listened to the NPCs after all.
We started Hagara the Stormbinder with no explanation as usual. To be fair, someone had asked whether everyone knew the tactics, but nobody spoke up either way (myself included). I suppose it served me right that I died to an ice wave pretty early during the fight, along with about ten other people. One or two players suggested to wipe it since they weren't going to beat the enrage timer with half the raid dead, but in the end they kept going. I leaned back in my chair and continued to watch the rest of the fight for five minutes or so, in order to at least learn something, and yes, they did beat it with half the raid dead. I was actually kind of relieved that this one didn't drop any loot for me, because I would have felt bad about rolling on gear that I hadn't really earned.
After the group had disbanded, I immediately requeued again because the whole experience hadn't taken very long, and I now wanted to see the other two bosses that I was still missing. Presumably other people were doing the same, as I got into a fresh run right away. This helped to put the story of the raid into context somewhat, but I still found it very hard to pay attention to what was going on with the NPCs while trying to keep up with my group ploughing through the trash. Morchok really was just tank and spank with a detour behind a pillar every so often. I got a ring from him.
There seemed to be a bit of disagreement about which of the two squid bosses to take on first, but in the end the majority pulled the group towards the one I hadn't done yet (yay me), the General Vezax lookalike. I thought that this one would have some sort of mechanic to him (something about bouncing a ball around?), but someone said that this didn't matter in the raid finder and we just stood there and spanked him, except for the couple of times when everyone had to stack up on him to avoid dying in the void, or something. Basically, similar to the last boss of Grim Batol, only easier. I also dispelled some debuffs occasionally, but I don't even know whether that was actually necessary. My loot luck continued and I won a new trinket as well. Afterwards I left though, as I had seen everything there was to see in this half of the raid.
Three new pieces of loot for relatively little time investment, not too bad a deal. Even though I had no clue about how any of the bosses worked, I only suffered a single wipe. In a way that sounds way too easy, but after having experienced it myself, I have to say that this strikes me as as a decent enough difficulty for a pugging tool like this. In a way the reduced reliance on individual performance is actually very "old school" - I can still remember when you would sometimes down a normal raid boss with half the raid dead, like my group did with Hagara, but in normal raiding this isn't something that's generally possible anymore as far as I know.
So, is the raid finder a success? I honestly don't know. I can see how this must be awesome for people who like to use the dungeon finder but don't usually raid. No commitment but you get to fight more epic feeling battles with lots of people (the number of players does make a difference in that regard), see the bosses and gather tier gear. But if you're not that keen on the dungeon finder... it's really more or less the same, just scaled up in size. The whole experience has little in common with raiding in the classic sense: no camaraderie, friendly banter or the sheer joy of overcoming a challenge together. In my opinion you can't even experience the story properly because in typical "gogogo" fashion you constantly have to scramble to keep up with the rest of your group. Is that really "getting more people into raiding"? Not by my own definition, but your mileage may vary.