Note: For some additional commentary by Tobold and myself, check here at the bottom after reading this:
Gear or Skill: What Separates Great Guilds from Mediocre Guilds
From a reader comment over at Tobold's MMORPG Blog we get this little gem:
"I think the core of this casual raid vs hardcore raid debacle that WotLK is turning into lies with the age old Gear vs Skill thing. Hardcore raiders prefer to attribute their success to skill. Rather than better geared than casuals, they are better skilled, and the gear is only a symptom of that. The reason that people are reacting so violently to easy Naxx is that it is making it plain to see for all is that gear is really the ONLY thing that matters in WoW."
"Naxx at 80 has all the same skill requirement as it did at 60 (Plus or minus a very very few changes). You still have to get away from anub'arak, stay out of the slime and behind the boss on grob, change sides on thaddius, dance on Heigan, be smart with healing on Loatheb, and get behind the Iceblock on Saph. If you aren't "skilled" enough to to those actions, you can still fail in naxx. The ONLY real thing that has changed is the gear requirements (From "Have to have perfect gear" to "You can get by as a fresh level capped character"). Wow is and always has been about the gear treadmill."
Absolute rubbish. First off, a lot of the difficulty that top end guilds encounter is in defeating content that hasn't been analyzed and strategized and movieized a thousand times over. Naxxramas is old content and it is thoroughly understood. Having an encyclopedia of information available about every encounter significantly trivializes them. Second, the tuning is quite different. Naxx originally DID have a decent amount of easy fights which are still easy. But there were a lot of fights that used to be much more tightly tuned (Patchwerk, Gothik, Thaddius, Four Horseman, Sapphiron, Kel'thuzad). To say they're the same encounters now just because the base mechanics are nearly the same is to show how ignorant one is about how much tuning effects the difficulty of an encounter. As an example, original M'uru (the hardest fight in the game ever) and M'uru with 30% less HP are completely different fights. The names of the mobs and the graphics are the same, but it's not the same fight. Not even remotely close. The same can be said for Naxx at 60 and Naxx at 80.
Beyond that, this read is ignorant of the changing paradigm of measuring raid progression. Blizzard is making content accessible and inclusive while retaining difficulty through the addition of achievements. It's a genius move on their part. The content itself is easy but hardcore guilds can still demonstrate their prowess by completing difficult achievements. Sure all the mediocre guilds have cleared Naxx and Malygos, but they haven't killed Sartharion with three drakes. They haven't gotten Immortal. They haven't gotten Heroic: Glory of the raider. Wowprogress.com is still doing a fine job of ranking guilds by progression despite the fact that most raiding is easy.
It always amuses me to read posts on the front page of guild sites like "Malygos down, all content cleared!". No, no you did not clear all the content. Go kill Sartharion with three drakes. Go get Glory of the Raider. You're not done. People need to wake up and realize the paradigm of how progression is measured has changed. Ulduar will drive this point home when Blizzard makes a hard mode for every encounter that gives additional loot and rewards and all the major progression sites count towards progression rankings. People will realize that clearing the zone is just the first step, an easy step that every half decent guild will complete. Completing the achievements will be the true competition and is what will separate the great guilds from the mediocre ones. Not the gear.
It's doesn't take gear to get Immortal. It doesn't take gear to kill Sartharion with three drakes. It doesn't take gear to kill Malygos in five minutes. Sure when people have another tier or two of gear those will be easier, but right now that's not what it holding people back.