So, full disclosure, I never raided until patch 2.4, late into TBC's lifespan. Hell, I didn't even get to 60 in vanilla before quitting. Mainly I quit because I saw how horrific the raiding cabals were: 40mans were such a chore to organize, guilds set their raid times and let their members work around them, because it is literally impossible to pick 40-odd random people and get the same gaps in their schedules. Can't raid on Mondays or Wednesday? Find a different guild. That, coupled with a deeply inferior questing experience, lead me to quit WoW for years.
Now, I started TBC to play lowbie dungeons with my closest of bros. It was hard going with only 4 of us, but between trade chat goofballs and manly gumption we got to 70 (with me lagging behind, because more than two hours of questing made my brain turn to goo). Getting to the party so late, I only ever did Kara, ZA, a single Mag, a single SSC, and half of TK. I liked the 10mans a lot more; they had a much stronger feeling of camaraderie and we developed an eccentric (read: mind-blowingly crass) rapport that I never got in the professional business-time 25 mans. That might have been my guild, but whatever. Anywho, because the 25s were bustling with already geared elite soldiers, there was no way for me to rise to the top ranks of Tier 6, so at the bottom I stayed.
Across Wrath, I rejoiced; not only was the leveling experience aided by superior Northrend quests and later the dungeon finder, but all the raids fit in my beloved 10 man format. There would be no glass ceiling for Zarat, only the ground floor (which is where he got on) and the sky (being the approximate location of The Limit). And while I got to experience the full of the raiding content, from being the only DPS consistently unmolested by Heigan's Dance to playing Santa with the Frozen Throne, I saw a problem in the youth. The youth are the traditional place to see problems in, but even still, they were entitled, uncultured, and lazy. They had not endured the hardships of waiting five minutes to fight KT. They had not learned the terror of Yogg-Saron's mind link, nor of the not-it game for frost orb duty on Anub'Arak. They lived in a world where you finish heroics and go right to ICC, the pinnacle of progression. The imputence!
But consider the world of the young (sometimes called noobs). The problem is, to a new 80, there are only heroics and ICC. The old raids give such inferior rewards, there's no reason to visit them; best to bang our heads against the only raid of any worth. I remember, when Blizzard made Wrath, they cited a major problem of TBC as not enough new players seeing the later raids because it was too hard to gear up. But now there is the opposite problem: no one who levels up now sees any earlier raid content! Wrath solved nothing here, it just flipped the problem around. Cataclysm needs to reverse this design to an extent, or all Blizzard will be really doing in content patches is replacing the old tier, rather than adding a new one.
For once I am somewhat at a loss for a perfect solution. Obviously it was too hard to get into top tier raids late in TBC, but going straight from heroics to ICC doesn't work either. The goal is to enforce a progression like this: dungeons -> h. dungeons -> Tier 11 -> Tier 12 -> Tier 13. And it must be enforced across the expansion. This is also necessary for creating a proper difficulty curve; each tier should be harder than the last, so those of us who played from the beginning get a good progression of challenge to go with our loot. It is the WORST for everyone if the Wrath philosophy of jumping new 80s right into top tier content is continued, because it creates a poor diff. curve, and from that, a sub-par experience. Take ICC: there are so many brick-wall jumps in difficulty it's hard to count.
I might have a solution in mind, but it's too formative to really commit to it right now (step one would be returning multi-tier tokens). What's really noteworthy is that Blizzard seems perfectly able to see their failings in other areas (poor quest design, gathering professions suck, etc) and they take action to correct them. They have said nothing negative about this major failing of game design (indeed, they sometimes reference it as a success), and that worries me. Sadly, I won't even get to see if any of this is true until 4.1. At least dungeons will be hard again, maybe that will instill some proper attitude in those youngsters.
EDIT: happy birthday to On Cooldown. Here's to another eleven months before graduate school hopefully devours all my life and sanity.