If I needed any more confirmation that all of the level 70 game had been heavily nerfed, I got it in last night's raid in Sunwell Plateau. Where we took down the first two bosses despite it being our first time in there. This week in 9 hours of raiding we completed SSC, TK (first time as a guild killing Kael), Hyjal, BT, and the first third of Sunwell. Um, awesome? Disappointing. It was like going to play basketball at the middle school gym and slam dunking the 8 foot rims. Kinda cool the first time, but you feel pretty silly after a bit.
There's two explanations for why raiding is so heavily nerfed now. Part of it is that Blizzard just didn't bother with game balance, has tuned all the specs and raid buffs to level 80 and is just letting the game go. You see that with Retribution Paladins turning in 1.5-2x the DPS of any other class. Good for them, but it's clearly not a finished game design.
The other explanation is Blizzard deliberately nerfed the endgame content to let more people have some fun and see it before the expansion. Not only do all the raid bosses have 30% less health, they all hit significantly less hard now. I have very mixed feelings about this. It doesn't bother me so much that other guilds are suddenly able to see Black Temple, I think it's great for folks to see more of the game. We've taken advantage of it ourselves in Sunwell. I do wish the game explicitly recognized that killing Illidan now is a different thing from killing him a month ago though.
What really bugs me is the nerfing has ruined a lot of the more subtle encounters. Kael'thas was one of the hardest fights in the game requiring a careful dance and management of his posse for many minutes while you healed and DPSed your way through a long fight. Now you barely need to even tank anything, it dies so fast, and a third of your raid can be doing the wrong thing and you still win. Teron Gorefiend used to be a terror of five raid members managing constructs correctly; now only one person has to get it right before the inflated DPS kills the boss. And I can only imagine how hard Kalecgos used to be in Sunwell, careful coordination of DPS and tanking across the two realms. We blasted through it on our third or fourth attempt well before we really mastered the portal rotation.
I've always known that all these months of hard work learning the Burning Crusade endgame encounters and gearing up was artificial, meaningless time spent. I mean, we're just killing virtual monsters in an online game. But it's a bit deflating to see all that hard work and game balance go out the door this last month. Then again it is just a game, and it's meant to be fun, and it's still fun to go slam dunk the virtual bad guys. Even if they're only 8 feet tall now.
Update for an alternate take on the raid evening, see Karthis' post.