Despite being teased in the beta events for Heart of Thorns the raids (or raid, singular, in this case) did not ship with the expansion.

Finally, after almost a month of what I can only imagine was extra time to polish and balance it, the first Guild Wars 2 raid, Spirit Vale is coming to the game in November 17, 2015.

 Story wise we're looking at a completely new arc given that the expansion story is mostly wrapped up (loose ends aside). Details so far are unknown but if I am to hazard a guess this raid will bring with it the introduction for the Living World 3 story. As far as what is known we are to attempt a rescue mission in Northern Maguuma, an area that "holds dark secrets and strange magic".

The raid will feature three bosses as well as an event (which is a boss in everything but name) totaling 4 encounters, and four chances to get some sweet, sweet shinies.

Along with the raid there are two important features coming to the game, the enhanced squad UI as well as the first phase of legendary armor crafting.

The squad UI was showcased in the beta events for Heart of Thorns but got pulled from the release version due to game-crashing bugs. Its role is to allow commanders an easier way to keep tabs on how everyone is doing as well as to help with organizing large amounts of people.

The usefulness of the new improved UI in the raid is obvious but where I believe the new features will really help is with world events. Areas like Dragon Stand require the coordination of many, many players spread across different events so having commanders be able to group them up and order them as one will be a great boon.

As far as the legendary armor is concerned it has been announced that the journey towards unlocking it will become available once you kill your first raid boss. From then on you will need to gather materials from all over the world, as well as the raid itself, in order to create an Ascended (highest item tier below legendary) Precursor armor which will then go towards making the Legendary armor in the future.

The boss has a bit of an Alien vibe to it

Naturally, when you have raids filled with big bad bosses there's going to be some pretty cool rewards.

The rewards will be on a weekly timer, much like how WoW does it. Your first kill of the week will reward you with 4 gold, a bunch of random items (don't get your hopes up on any of it being good), and a chance at Ascended gear or even rare skins.

Before I get around to discussing the rest, allow me to restate how much gold you get, 4 gold! That might sound measly when you compare it to Warlords of Draenor where people regularly have over a million, but 4 gold in Guild Wars 2 is a decent chunk of change.

And yet, with the launch of Heart of Thorns almost every single avenue of getting pure gold was nerfed in an effort to curb inflation. But now they give you 16 gold per raid clear a week (that's 160 gold entering the game for a 10 man raid).

This renders their previous efforts pointless and just makes the older content less enticing. I'm not sure what exacatly their plan is here, maybe the raids will be so hard only the elite can do them, or maybe they've realized the cash flow in the game has become a bit stagnant.

If the circle's red you're probably dead

Outside of gold you are also guaranteed a large amount of experience in the form of 2 Compendiums of Knowledge, items that when used give you a huge chunk of mastery experience. So if you're not a fan of doing random world events you can use raids to get your desired masteries to a higher level.

The bosses, as I mentioned, also have a chance to drop Ascended gear, both armor and weapons. What the drop chance is we don't know but I can't imagine it being too likely because it would almost invalidate crafting. Then again, that wouldn't be the worst thing in the world, it would simply be a different way of acquiring the gear, not through gathering a lot of ingredients but through doing tough encounters.

Unique skins exclusive to the raid are another reward you might find after you defeat a boss. Personally these are the best way Guild Wars 2 can reward its players without resorting to a gear treadmill. At the end of the day everyone wants to be the coolest guy in the room, and if fractal weapons have proved anything its that having hard to access weapon makes them a lot more interested.

And the last reward, but by no means least, there is a small chance to receive an Infusion (a ... thing you socket in to your trinket much like you would a gem) which will give your character a ghostly aura, perfect for the newly released Reaper specialization.

Fortunately, even if you don't get the item you wanted from a boss you will still get raid tokens which can then be exchanged for boss items at a currently unknown rate but the important thing is that there is a system in place to prevent people from doing the raids without getting anything in return, an annoying issue that plagued the early years of WoW and many other MMOs.

The Spirit Vale will be entering Guild Wars 2 on the 17th of November, I'll see you there.