The current state of the 5 man dungeon is rather simple. Start it, run through it, finish it. Even with mostly new people in the group, you are destined to get some, that know what they are doing it will be easy. You will work through it. Very few encounters are dead ends for people even in quest greens. Everything can be done with minimal skill.
Of course, for the most part, many people know these dungeons like the back of their hand now. So even when running a new character through them it is easy enough. You will occasionally run into a new player that does not know the fights but if you take 3 seconds out of the run to explain you will be fine. Public Service Announcement: Please do not be the jerk that kicks someone just for being new.
One of the advantages of the LFD system is that people start using it at a low level. No more do we see Warriors leveling as fury or arms only to respec prot the second they hit 80. They are now leveling as prot and leveling in dungeons. So they do not hit 80 and walk into a dungeon and have no clue. While they might still have a lot of learning to do they had many levels to get a grasp of the skills required. The LFD system allows tanks to level as tanks and healers to level as healers.
With Cataclysm coming fast I have read a lot, most of it negative, about the difficulty of the 85 heroics. It makes me start to wonder about how the game is going to change. I like that some difficulty is being added to them, that's for sure, but I also am aware that it will surely be nerfed within a week or two of a few people hitting 85 and crying. I am slightly torn here.
If the level 85 heroic dungeons stay hard:
It will take time, a good deal of it, to gear up. Your daily run will not be 15-20 minutes it will be an hour and a half at best. These new heroics are like mini raids. Raids on a 5 man scale. I love that. Actually, pick 5 people that have never stepped foot into Black Temple and know nothing about the fights in Black Temple. Even at 80 they are going to have their asses handed to them if they do not take their time.
What this means is that the people that make the effort to do those heroics and work that hour plus to get it done will get a chance to get some gear, get some points and get some experience. Those will be the people with better gear scores (for lack of a better way of explaining it) and the ones that you know have at least took the time to try and learn to play appropriately.
When the time comes to start raiding you will know who "earned" their gear and who has "welfare" gear. People who earned their gear will have achievements from heroics, will have heroic drops and will have some points gear. People who did a few bosses here and there and weekly's or only the easy dungeon whatever that might be will only have their "welfare" gear only. The gear someone is wearing will actually show their skill. That might actually mean that gear score will come to mean something. I shutter at the thought, but it would be nice.
If they continue to treat heroics as mini raids then I see a bright future for raiding guilds. Picking out the people that are willing to put the time and effort into it will be easier. No more will we have to listen to people say I have 8 characters with over 6K gear score because quite frankly no one has that much free time if one dungeon is going to take nearly 2 hours sometimes. However, for this to work Blizzard will need to make sure that the badges do not become like they are now. Points should only ever be able to buy T11. Even when we are up to T15, you should never be able to buy anything better then T11 with them. Maybe trinkets only or something else so they are not useless, but not full gear. Full gear should only be earned. Like heroics will give points for T11. T11 raids will give points for T12. T12 raids will give points for T13. And so on. If they do that, which seems their initial intention, then I see a bright future ahead.
If the level 85 heroics get nerfed:
Then it will start turning into what WotLK became. A joke fest for gear. Everyone will have T11 in their first week after hitting 85. What would follow that is that points will then be able to buy T12, then T13, then T14. It will take away any chance of progression and being able to tell where someone is based on their gear. It will turn into what it is now. How it is now is the reason gear score is a useless add on. Everyone can have over 5K gear score 1 week after hitting 80 if they took one weekend to chain heroics.
You see, the problem is not about welfare gear so to speak. The problem is with giving continually increasing welfare gear. Let people get some solid starter gear from working for it. Do not let them keep getting upgrades forever from it. That is what turned WotLK into a joke.
If people could only buy T7 with spamming heroics they would finish that off and then need to work their way up. A few weeks of Naxx, then a few weeks of Ulduar, then a few weeks of ToC, then maybe they could have earned their way into a ICC run. It will have shown they deserve to be there. They worked for it.
I was in an ICC 25 PuG last week where everyone had reasonable gear but we could not make it past deathwhisper. Even after it was explained to them a dozen times and they still could not understand. Most people where all in 245/251 or better gear. An occasional 213 piece here and there and a hunter with a 200 greatness, which as a hunter I will never even think of questing that, even up to ICC that was a fantastic trinket. But these people had gear. The gear numbers show they should know what they are doing or at least it would if they had earned that gear and not gotten it from chain running heroics.
The way the system turned out in WotLK, and will turn out in Cataclysm if they give in and nerf dungeons, is that people will be able to buy the most recent tier of raiding gear from doing heroics. That creates a trickle down effect. That means more people will have more gear which means that more random heroics will have more over geared people which will turn them all into a joke fest like it currently is. Which again in turn means new players will end up getting carried through because of such huge over gearing no one will notice they have no clue how to play and then that asshole that just got his top gear from being carried through heroics is the idiot assembling the fail raid that can not get past the second boss even with a 30% buff.
The dungeons is where it starts. Heroics need to feel heroic and stay feeling heroic. Then hopefully they will not make the gear selling mistakes they did in WotLK but allowing fresh 80s that know nothing to get into ICC gear while never having actually had to run a dungeon when it was hard. By never having to deal with raid mechanics. Those people are the reason why there are so many failed ICC PuGs. Because they never worked for their gear, they did not earn it, it was given to them.
Even if things get to the point where heroics become a joke fest because of the people that did make the effort then the one person that got carried thought will still need to start raiding at the lowest level to move up.
I heard about the days in Vanilla and BC when it was like that. It was before my time. I am a WotLK baby but I really want to see things like that again. I want to get a piece of gear and know I earned it and not have the feeling like I do now where I consider I deserve it because everyone else has it. I consider myself a reasonable person and if I feel that way how do you think these kiddies feel. We all know they do not want to work for anything, they think when they hit 80 there should be a mail waiting for them with all their T10 gear, and no, I am not exaggerating. I say this is a great way to make sure they never get into our raids. Make them work for it.
So as it seems (and yes I know beta is beta) the future looks bright for the future of 5 mans to start off with. I hope with everything I can hope with that Blizzard does not make the mistake they made in WotLK and give away so many thing so easily like they did this time around. Sure, I may stumble on my feet and become one of those people that just could not make it but if I do, then that means I need to get better. I await the challenge. Lets hope it stays that way.
I foresee a future of many many long heroics and many many kicked people in the first month or so of 85 heroics while the people that are willing to learn and the scrubs that have been carried through WotLK are separated. I hope I can keep up and not become one of the scrubs. At least I can assure you one thing. I know I will be one of the people that is going to try my hardest. Please blizzard, do not give the gear away that I am going to bust my ass trying to get to other people 2 months after I worked for it. Let everyone else work for it too.