For the purpose of this analysis I will refer to the raids as "raid M" and "raid E" after their respective servers. Raid M is the one I've been attending nearly every week for months now. It started in the spring, broke up for several weeks due to drama in the guild sponsoring it, then started again minus the most well-geared members. Raid E, if I understand correctly, has been in existance for a couple of months. Raid E downed Ragnoros for the first time one or two weeks before Raid M finally managed to down him.
The first thing I noticed was that Raid E started on time. I believe that their timescale was invite at 6:30, first pull at 7, raid end by 11. By my clock the first pull happened slightly before 7, but I was looking at my computer time readout, not sever time, which may differ slightly. The raid was not full for the first pull, though I think we were over 35 members. Raid M tends to waste time at the beginning trying to fill out the raid, even though we don't strictly need it to start clearing trash. This effect is especially bad if the normal raid leader can't make it on time for some reason.
Raid E was better geared. Even though raid E has supposedly been around nowhere near as long as raid M, it was clear that raid E had more MC gear and more epics in general. I didn't have time to go around inspecting people, but I would guess that about half the priests in raid E have Benediction, whereas none of the raid M priests have it. (Raid M got its first Eye of Divinity drop ever this weekend.) I noticed at least a few people in tier 2 helms in raid E, which no one in raid M has. There were two other hunters, one with Striker's Mark and what looked like a full (or almost full) set of Giantstalkers, and the other of which had Blastershot and got 5/8 Giantstalkers when the boots dropped. That puts raid E at above the typical gear level for raid M as far as hunters are concerned, though that is partly because the guy in full Giantstalkers quit coming to raid M (shortly after getting 8/8, grrr).
Another general thing I noted was that raid E never did a ready check. Raid M does them a lot. My guess is that this reflects a difference in attitude. Raid E expects that you are ready, raid M just really hope you are. There was no waiting around for people in raid E. I got no knitting done during the raid. There was no time that was clearly being wasted. I tend to get a fair amount of knitting done during raid M. Going off on an aside, the waiting for people has a snowballing effect. If you wait for a couple of people who are AFK, then other people may find that they have to do something AFK. The longer the raid drags on, the more people will need potty breaks. Plus, you are slower to start up because people like me have to put down their knitting, but seriously, I would claw my eyeballs out if I didn't have knitting for those waits. Raid M really needs to crack down on the time wasting, which I think the raid leader is trying to do, but its an uphill battle at this point.
One thing raid E did differently was the raid leader switched to FFA loot during core hound fights and back to master looter after. In raid M you generally have, on average, four calls of "loot the hound" per hound before the the hound can be skinned. I think this holds us up, especially when the guy who is raid leader and main tank of raid M pauses to type it. Raid M typically also loses several core leather a raid because the hound will disappear before its looted. We believe this is partly do to people not paying attention, but mostly due to them being AFK and auto-following other raid members. The FFA loot switch would help raid M, but I think they might be resistant to doing this. In raid M, the raid leader and mater looter are the same person. In raid E, they switch things around so that they are not, so the switch to FFA loot would include more switching than it does for raid E. In raid M, the raid leader is also the main tank, thus the need to have someone else be master looter. In raid E the raid leader was a tank as well, but did not appear to be the main tank. This is a culture difference on the servers. On server M, the top PvE guild had their main tank as raid leader, so now people on server M believe it should be done that way.
Raid E did not stop to redo paladin buffs except before boss fights. Raid M, at least before this week, would stop frequently to renew pally buffs. This is partially a function of the gear differences, and partially a raid makeup thing. Raid E has worse gear than raid M, and it has more paladins. Typically in raid M I have every poissible pally blessing on me except for might, which is useless for a hunter in a raid. In raid E I did not, though I had the important ones for the boss fights. Raid M has got to the point a while ago where they do not actually need those pally blessings from trash, but I think they are only just now realizing it.
Speaking of paladins, I can now give poor raid M a break and speak of one of the ways in which they are better (from my perspective) than raid E. Judgement of Wisdom. Everything, but everything that raid M fights gets a judgement of wisdom thrown on it. Not so in raid E. I was really feeling its lack too. I was running out of mana. Now part of this is clearly a differnece between my two hunters. My hunter on server M has better gear, which includes a +9 spirit enchant on her bracers. She has better mana related stats. She also has a slighly different build, 5/5 talent points in efficiencly as opposed to 1/5. My hunter on server E needs judgement of wisdom more. My hunter on sever M seems to be unable to use more than half her mana bar on most boss fights, and that's going all-out. Of course you could make the argument that the vast majority of raid E does not need judgement of wisdom on things... they have the place on farm status without it.
While we are singing the praises of raid M, I must regretfully admit that the main tank in raid M is really kick-ass. His dogmatic approach gets on my nerves. I don't think he should do everything himself. I wish he would delegate more. I wish he would listen more (it took him weeks of wiping on Rag before he listened to us and did the LBRS fire resists buff). But I must hand it to the guy, he knows how to tank. When he is tanking, core hounds stay pointed away from the raid and bosses do not move. The latter is vitally important to me as a hunter. There are a number of nasty effects that can be avoided as a hunter if you stand at exactly 41 yards from the boss. If the boss moves during the fight, then all the hunters have to move too, and find that magic 41 yard range. Otherwise you will either not be in range to fire at the target or you will be in range of those nasty AOE curses. Warren (watching over my shoulder) also claimed that the tank in raid M got Shaz back to the center of the ring faster after blinks. He specculates that tank M does this by strafing, though I will have to watch more closely next time to be sure. To be fair in all this, though, tank M does have good gear. The other tanks in the raid basically passed on any piece of Might he didn't have until he had 8/8. Raid E does not do things that way, obviously, as the gnome tanking Shaz had just picked up her might helm from Garr. Don't get me wrong, raid E's tanks did a fine job too, its just that having a comparison with tank M made me have to admit he is good, much as I want to wring his neck at times.
There were not that many differences in the boss fights. The strategies for Molten Core are well known, it seems that everyone works out of the same play book with only minor differences. The Magmadar fight was one difference. Raid E had all the hunters in the tranq shot rotation, granted there were only three of us. While I hated it when I first got tranq shot, I think I prefer raid M's method of having just two hunters do the tranq shot rotation, and having the others hunters on backup. Its easier to track who's turn it is that way. Once you've done it once, there is no big deal about tranqing Magmadar, you're just hitting a button. Its not like you're missing out on the excitement if you're not in the rotation, at least once the novelty of doing the job wears off, which it did for me months and months ago.
Another minor difference is that raid E had people in four corners of Garr's room for the Geddon & Shaz fights instead of the more loose ring formation that raid M uses. I'm not sure why they do it that way, but it didn't seem to make any difference. What did make a difference is they did a little more clearing before the Geddon pull and then pulled Geddon and Shaz back to back. This was much quicker than raid M's way of clearing, pulling Geddon, running back and clearing more, then pulling Shaz. They also left two lava packs uncleared. Raid M takes extra time to clear all the trash, partly in the hopes of BOE drops, but given the poor drop rate I'm not sure its worth the time, even though we're waiting on a Gianstalker belt.
Another minor difference was in the Sulfuron fight. Raid E tanked Sulfuron in the very back and the priests not being killed a little forward on the far side, whereas raid M does it the other way. Raid E's way seems to be faster, though that may just be that their members are better geared and their offtanks are more skilled. Raid M had major problems with Sulfuron before the offtanks got the hang of bringing the priests to the DPS, and they can still be a little slow about it.
Raid E did not use the LBRS fire resist buff on Ragnoros. They didn't need it, due to their better gear. Various members did use consumables, but there was not the systematic handing out of potions that raid M does. Again, unnecessary due to their superior gear. The did wipe the first time, but it was clearly unusual. Several people complained of getting punted into the lava in places where they did not know how to get out. To give raid M credit, they did take the time to tell everyone how and where to get out of the lava in the various locations. On the other hand, raid M only killed Rag for the second time this past weekend, having killed him for the first time three weeks previously, but not trying in between because the raid leader/main tank had availability issues.
The last big difference was the loot system. Raid M uses a zero-sum auction system, raid E uses suicide kings. Loot went a lot faster with raid E. All the items were bid on at once, and there was no back and forth bidding up. Auctions used to take a long time for raid M, though it has been getting faster and we have finally gotten to the point where uninterested parties can start clearing again, but it will never be as fast as raid E.
I have been complaing for some time about the amount of time raid M takes to do the core. This weekend they did it for the first time in one day, it took just under 7 hours. Raid E did it in three and a half. Part of this is organizational difference, part of it is gear. If we could get raid M to clean up the organizational stuff it would shave a fair amount of time and the gear will eventually take care of itself. Of course the expansion is due out in less than two months, so Molten Core might soon lose its importance.