There’s a newly-released raid in World of Warcraft, which gives players the chance to work their way through the Zandalar city of Dazar’Alor. While the raid is available in normal and heroic difficulties, the competitive mythic mode won’t open until Jan. 29. This will spark off another race to World First — the record for working through the raid and downing the final boss before anyone else in the game. In many ways, the stakes for this World First are the highest they’ve been. One guild, in the hunt for any possible advantage, had more than 50 of their characters abandon the Horde and join the Alliance for the best possible start.
Dazar’Alor is a raid that offers different boss orders for both Horde and Alliance, and we’re fighting several major lore figures, including Jaina Proudmoore, the Warcraft 3 veteran and star of one of the three “Warbringer” shorts. The recent race through Battle for Azeroth’s first raid, Uldir, saw EU-based guild Method win by killing G’huun in a neck-and-neck race against America’s top guild, Limit.
Method streamed its race through Uldir, drawing huge numbers. Sco, the main tank and GM of Method, was the most watched individual streamer during the raid; 162,035 viewers watched Method take down G’huun through Sco’s stream. This was in addition to the official Method stream, and other members of the raid team running their own POV stream. It’s no coincidence that Method also boasts a suite of sponsors — World First raids draw interest, which gives tangible gain to the players, and so guilds seek every possible advantage.
World of Warcraft’s War Mode has suddenly become a very useful tool for Limit. War Mode is a feature that allows players to toggle whether they want to PvP in the world. If it’s on, they get a bonus to experience and rewards, but risk being attacked by other players. With the new Incursions feature causing players to cluster together at points on Kul Tiras and Zandalar to contest objectives, War Mode has become much more controversial. If you look at the flat player bases for Horde and Alliance, the two factions look pretty even. But if you look at end-game characters who are equipped and in the world, the game skews Horde.
Part of this is due to the faction’s races, including the aesthetically popular Blood Elves and the lore-important Nightborne. Another part of it is that over the years, players who want to play seriously go to the faction with more like-minded players, which is Horde. This effect snowballs, and now many players feel like the Alliance is relegated to number two in raiding and PvP. It’s more than just population numbers; the skill gap between the best Horde end-game characters and Alliance end-game characters is wider as well.
As a result, Blizzard gave the losing faction (usually the Alliance) additional War Mode experience, artifact power, and rewards bonuses to make up for the fact it’s behind. Right now, that means the Alliance is reaping the rewards on many servers — including two opportunities for item level 400 gear, a huge gap over what is currently available for the Horde.
So, Limit transferred 50 characters from Horde to Alliance to get those delicious items and get a major advantage for the Battle of Dazar’Alor raid. This is a massive investment — in cash, it would cost hundreds of dollars, as a single server transfer runs about $30 USD. However, World of Warcraft players can change gold into BattleNet credit. A guild like Limit is able to sell runs and achievements to other players, meaning they ponied up millions of gold for the faction change.
Some Alliance players are hoping that this issue sheds light on the discrepancy between the factions, although it won’t be a quick fix to make both sides equally as competitive in end-game content. As the top guilds continue to compete, Horde racial powers — especially the Blood Elf Arcane Torrent — will likely continue to win out in a fight where every advantage matters.
With this faction change, Limit now has characters among the Alliance under the guild title <this game is bad>, alluding to the balance issues they’re seeing in the game. Limit will likely faction change back to the Horde after they get their high level gear, and due to server resets and time zones, they’ll also have a few hours head start on the raid over Method. This World First race is set to be even more competitive than the last.