With the launch of World of Warcraft: Dragonflight, players in Azeroth have been enjoying everything the Dragon Isles have to offer, whether that's the fantastic dragonriding or delving deep into the professions overhaul.
Now that players have had time to find their feet (and wings), eyes are starting to turn towards the worldwide event that comes with a new raid launch. I am of course talking about The Race to World First, or the RWF as it's known in the community. But what does the RWF entail, who's involved, and what significance does it have to World of Warcraft as a whole? Come with me as we journey into the Caverns of Time and explore just how this once forum-only discussion became a popular streamed event.
Since WoW's launch back in 2004, dungeons and raiding have been a huge part of the adventure, with many players gathering their friends and cohorts to take down dragons, elemental lords, and most recently Gods of Death.
Blizzard has made it a lot easier to get into dungeons and raids than it was back in vanilla, but the RWF is where the more hardcore raiding guilds get to shine. This means that all eyes are on the teams with a reputation for taking on the toughest challenges the moment they appear. The term World First (WF) will generally refer to the guild that clears the hardest version of a raid first, so while some guilds may claim world first kills on bosses within the raid, people generally consider the guild to claim the WF kill of the final boss the "victors".
The very first examples of these WF victors are the two guilds Ruined (US) and Ascent (US), who took down Onyxia and Ragnaros respectively—the end bosses in Onyxia's Lair and Molten Core back in 2005. However, when it comes to early WoW raiding, there's no bigger name than Nihilum (EU). The guild took eight straight RWF titles, stretching from the first kill of the Old God C'thun in Ahn'Qiraj in 2006, all the way up to the end of Illidan, the Betrayer himself in Black Temple the following year. Their streak broke when SK Gaming (EU) were able to kill Kil'jaeden in Sunwell Plateau in 2008 and put an end to Nihilums reign.
Heading through the expansions, names such as Ensidia and Paragon always enter into the conversation when the RWF is bought up. Both of these guilds are synonymous with the early days of the RWF, when information was sparse and footage of attempts rarer still. Websites such as MMO Champion had forum posts hundreds of pages long, with folks attempting to see what composition teams went with based on information from WoW armoury. The armoury updates when players log out, enabling everyone to see gear, spec, and talents.
During the later releases of Warlords of Draenor and Legion, the RWF discussions reached fever pitch. Gone were the days of Nihilum, Paragon, and SK Gaming. Instead, guilds such as Method, Exorsus, and Blood Legion had taken their place, and it was through Method that the RWF would change forever.
Go big or go home
Up until Battle for Azeroth in 2018, the RWF had been secretive. Guilds didn't want to show their strategies for fear of giving their opponents an advantage, and would even resort to logging off in different specs and gear so their characters couldn't be investigated on the armoury. The guilds BDG, Future, and Alpha did stream their progression at the tail end of Legion, but the idea of a streamed RWF event was practically unheard of. With the release of Battle for Azeroth and the Uldir raid, that idea became a reality.
Method announced that they would not only be streaming their progress (opens in new tab) during their Uldir attempt on Twitch, they would be doing so from a central location where all their raiders would gather, alongside commentators, producers, and event staff, to create the first full RWF event that players had ever seen. While Method came out on top to claim the World First title in Uldir, the Warcraft Community were the real winners, getting to see just how the RWF looked from the player's perspectives.
The RWF event was seen as a risk by more than a few in the community when it was first announced, but the impact it had was undeniable. For the first time, we didn't have to resort to rumours on a forum, and other top guilds followed suit by streaming their own progress during subsequent raid releases. Guilds like Limit (now Liquid) and Echo have largely dominated recent raid tiers, but other guilds such as Pieces, BDGG, Aversion, and a reformed Method have all been fighting their way up World Rankings while showing off to an increasingly large viewership.
The event that we know now is almost unrecognisable when compared to the race that used to take place behind closed doors. Gone are the days of refreshing a forum thread to see if there was new information or a screenshot of health percentage giving you an idea of a certain group's progress. Now we get almost 24/7 coverage, with analysis and commentary from some of the very best in the WoW community. It's taken on a life of its own.
KILL CLIP: pic.twitter.com/vTdJseTizLMarch 26, 2022
While there are some huge esports events in the yearly calendar, there is nothing quite like the RWF—watching a group of 20 players taking down the hardest bosses in WoW, during 16-hour raid days, while racing against several other guilds doing the exact same thing across the globe. Viewers of the RWF can tell you that the highs are incredible. Method's kill of Queen Azshara in Eternal Palace, Echo and Limit leapfrogging each other on the final day of Sire Denathrius pulls in Castle Nathria, Echo claiming the world first kill of Sylvanas in extraordinary circumstances in Sanctum of Domination—it's riveting stuff. These are marathons, not sprints, keeping people tuning in day after day. Echo's recent fight through the Sepulcher of the First Ones ended up being the longest race in memory, lasting a whopping 19 days.
We have so much to look forward to going into the first Dragonflight raid, Vault of the Incarnates, with multiple guilds once again hosting their own RWF events. Echo (opens in new tab), Liquid (opens in new tab), Method (opens in new tab), and BDGG (opens in new tab) are all giving us a front-row seat to the race. And by the end, we'll all have a better idea of how to tackle it ourselves.
Will Liquid be able to return to form following their fall out of the top five in the previous race? Will Method be able to improve on their 2nd place and once again ascend to the top of the RWF? Can Echo claim the RWF crown for the third time in a row? We're going to find out the answers to all of these when Vault of the Incarnates opens on December 13.
Disclosure: Kerren is a streamer for Method and has been a caster for Echo, Method, and Pieces during RWF events.