Breaking Up is Hard to do

Things change. This is one of the only true universal things that will remain constant. Every day you log into the game there is always something changing. Whether it is your gold totals, your gear or just what content is active at the time. Things change from an administration perspective as well.

These last few weeks I went through a large series of changes. It started with me stepping back from raiding for a bit due to personal reasons, and has culminated with me now leaving my former home on Zul’jin, Unpossible. That’s right folks, I am no longer a member of Unpossible, a place where I have done everything from dinging 60 and killing Ragnaros with all the way up to the current content. It was not an easy decision, in fact it was one that I dreaded and hemmed and hawed about. I’m not too ashamed to say I lost sleep over it. At the end of the day though I had to do what was right for me, and so I’ve moved Lodur to a new home.

Over time things will change in a guild. As people drop out of the game, or come back, or new people take charge as officers and old ones drop away. Over time the climate can change, and you may find yourself in a position where you don’t feel you fit 100% anymore. This is something we get contacted about quite a bit through email, about how you gracefully quit. Well, I recently have first hand knowledge of this and figured I would share my insight.

Take time making your decision

Before you make the decision to quit, be absolutely sure that this is the right decision. Weigh the pros and cons. Think about why you are considering leaving your current position and guild. Are you leaving to take up a position with another guild? If you consider the environment you’re about to join. Why are you considering them? Before making your final decision, see if you can maybe make an alt in the potential guild to see how everyone is. Maybe see if you can hang out on their vent or mumble servers.

The key here is to really not do anything brash. Take your time and evaluate all the angles before you hit that /gquit. The last thing you want to do is quit only to go somewhere else and realize that you didn’t want to quit in the first place. It’s never an easy decision, and honestly it shouldn’t be. It’s a big decision, especially now that there are other things to consider like guild level, perks and reputation.

You’ve decided to quit after all, now what?

Assuming you want to leave on good terms, give notice. A heads up, a forum post, even a notice to the officers or gm is nice.  It’s also good for you to get a goodbye post if your guild has forums. This gives you a chance to say goodbye to your friends, and also to make sure everyone knows what is up. Without notification, a guild quit can cause quite a stir, and one of the last things you want to do is cause a stir.

When contacting guild leadership about your pending gquit, there are a few things that you need to do.

1.) Be clear about when you are expecting to be gone by

2.) Be clear about why you are leaving. If there are things that need to be addressed or concerns that are causing you to leave, be sure to inform them. Even if it’s something as simple as a shift in playstyle and times. Management will usually be interested in why anyone is leaving so that they can fix any problems they come across.

3.)  Be respectful. Again if you want to leave on good terms, try to keep that in mind while you’re writing your resignation letter to the leadership and any farewell posts.

Sounds like leaving or resigning from a job right? Well, in many cases it is just like that. When you’re in a guild you tend to spend a lot of time with these people. If you’re a raider, it can be as many hours as a full time job. It may sound silly, but in the world of MMOs that’s something very true.

Personal note from Lodur

Leaving Unposssible was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. When I hit the send and submit buttons on my PMs  and forum posts it was honestly quite an emotional thing. Having spent the vast majority of my WoW career with this group of people, drinking with them, gaming with them, sharing personal support with one another, it was like leaving a family. My decision to leave was based entirely upon my own personal issues, and it was the best of a series of bad options available to me. My departure was in not the result of failure on the part of leadership or anything else like that. I still have the utmost respect for all my friends, former raiders and former officers from Unpossible, and I never had, nor will, have a bad thing to say about them. If you’re on Zul’jin looking for a home, look them up. So for anyone from Unpossible that I didn’t get to say goodbye to, I will still be around and you better not be strangers. We’ll cross paths again soon, you have my word on that.

So how about you folks? Have you ever had an emotional moment leaving a guild or stepping back from the game? How have you left guilds before if you’ve done so? Why did you leave?

PTR 4.1: Holy Word Sanctuary and other Screenshots

PTR 4.1: Holy Word Sanctuary and other Screenshots

This post goes without saying. There are going to be a few spoilers in here. If you’re not into that sort of thing, mark as read and move on.

But here’s a look at Holy Word: Sanctuary.

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Yeah.

I know.

I don’t think the graphics work is complete yet. It just seems a touch small. Actual affected radius is still the standard size. Bliky over there on the right is still being affected by it.

* Yes, that’s my PTR UI. I just picked a random compilation and set it up because Real UI wasn’t functioning properly.

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The current Zul’Gurub load screen. Wonder if its a placeholder or if it’ll be updated with WoW 4.0 tech.

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Quest area just to the left of the entrance as you stroll in.

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Also the front area of the instance. Learned fast that the cauldrons provide a 90% magic resist buff. Once you kill that mob that’s got those tendrils attached to it, the area gets flooded with gas which is where the cauldron kicks in. Don’t dispel it. You’ll find another cauldron further down along the path.

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Nesingwary’s camp under siege. Many snakes. Handled it.

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Found this on the ramp leading up to the raptor boss area. Frogger, yo?

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Sup Bloodlord Mandokir? Way to instan-gib me. (Hint: Remember those spirits back in the day? Yeah, don’t release)

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Ran into the first boss already where the old ZG snake guy was. Dude is absolute nuts. Likes to paint the whole ground with poisons and stuff. Some kind of nature resist will be handy to have.

Note that it appears heroic level instances at tier 2 when randomed into offer 140 Valor points (twice that of current). No word on whether you can run tier 1 and tier 2 for a combined 210. Gut instinct says its one or the other. Will verify and confirm later. Some problems with zoning back into the Zul’Gurub portal. Looks like theres a few phasing bugs that need to be fixed. For now, if you want to run ZG, I advise you abandon all ZG related quests. You can teleport into it via the dungeon finder. But if you die (and you will), then you won’t be able to zone in since the portal is non existent in that phase.

More to come…

Tough Call: Are your officers carrying their weight?

Tough Call: Are your officers carrying their weight?

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Welcome back for another week of cupcakes and snugly puppies. 

Psych!

We both know we’re not here for that, so let’s get down to business. What follows will be Part 1 of an 18-part epic series.  When I am through, angels will descend from on high and carry the compiled works to the Vatican for safe-keeping.  Ages from now, historians will place this up there with The Illiad, Kafka’s Metamorphosis and Hitchhiker’s Guide. 

Hey, a guy can dream right?

Recently we discussed the important roles and differences between the GM and the Raid Leader.  In a 10-man strict guild, you may be able to get by with only have these two officers and some trusted guildies from whom you can expect honest answers.  However, I find that even 10-mans and almost certainly 25-man raiding guilds run better with multiple officers.

In my experience, and from what I’ve been told by other leaders, there often arises a situation where guilds have officers who seem to be the Deputy of Do Nothing.  (As opposed to my own favorite title: Deputy of Awesome.)  I have found that this unique problem can stem from three sources.

  1. Not a Leader – These are the officers who may be great players, may be long-term guildies, but once they become an officer, they don’t really do much other than give their opinion when prompted by the RL or GM.
  2. Fatigued Leader – They were great officers but are not just phoning it in, and are only around out of a sense of obligation.
  3. No-Confidence Leader – They would do a great job, if they thought they had the back-up and the RAA to do it.  As it stands, they feel that the average member has more say than them and may be tired of the squeaky wheel getting the oil.

The Deputy of Do Nothing is a drain on your raids efficiency and on the potency of your leadership team.  As the Captain of this ship, it’s up to you to diagnose this malaise before it spreads to the rest of the crew.*

(* unless, of course, they have no authority while in raid and everyone knows it.  In which case, carry on.)

Not too long ago, I read an article about someone who’s trying to have a “Guild Without Officers”.  While I don’t agree with this idea, I thought the insights below were especially suitable to this conversation:

“I look back on how it used to be, with too damn many officers, all of whom did very little to actually help the guild, preferring instead to treat officership like some sort of insiders club where they could talk amongst themselves in their little clique. I recall making rules and chivvying and cajoling and beating my head against the brick wall that was getting anyone else to step up and take responsibility for anything.”

How do I spot this before it’s too late?
Part of being the GM includes an unwritten commitment to your members that you will make sure the rest of your leadership team has the responsibility, authority and accountability to handle their respective areas.  Therefore, you MUST make sure that among your GM duties you include your due diligence.  Kick the tires, shake the branches and see what turns up.

  1. Talk to your members.  I’m sure you’re probably running heroics, or BGs or whiling away the hours getting that fishing feast while in Mumble with your teammates/members.
  2. Try to recall the last time you had an in-depth conversation with your officer.
    • Did they prompt the conversation or did you?
    • How many solutions did they present to the problems your team was encountering?
    • How many of those solutions have been implemented?
  3. Review how organized/engaged their part of the team is on your forums. If this is something that is important to you or your guild community, your officers should be on top of it.
  4. Lastly, think of what you would be doing if you were in their position.  Don’t think that just because you don’t play healer, you can’t tell a healing officer what to do.  Management skills are not class-specific, and chances are you were once doing their job.  At minimum, you will come up with some ideas to discuss next time you talk to them. At best you’ll see that there are opportunities that you both can capitalize upon.

How do I prevent this?

The first step in preventing anything, is to clearly state your expectations upfront.  After all, human nature dictates that people will operate to the level that is expected of them, and if you don’t set that bar, you’re asking them to decide how to run your guild.  You and I both know that the reason you promoted someone to a position of authority is because you trust their opinion, intelligence, communication skills and reliability.  So the only thing missing is your guidance/structure to tell them how you want these skills applied.

  • Rule #1: Do NOT promote all your friends.
  • Rule #2: DO promote everyone you can trust in your absence
  • If Rules 1 & 2 overlap, you should either make more friends are trust more people.
  • Clearly define the duties of each officer position
  • Grant them authority to do their job as they see fit. Nobody can do a job well if they think they have to ask permission.
  • Agree upon how often you expect feedback from them. Ex: Post-Raid Debriefings, Weekly Status Reports or End-of-Tier strategy sessions.
  • Make sure their position is easy enough for the rest of your team to understand. You don’t want anyone saying “what does he do again” or “he’s an officer just because he’s friends with XYZ, he doesn’t do anything”.  
  • Make sure they are NOT the type of person who settles for just doing their job description.  Good leaders appreciate new talent and new ideas.  Encourage those people who could probably do your job.  They will keep you fresh and your team will benefit.
  • Let them know that it’s acceptable to come to you for help BEFORE a fail.  
  • Establish a routine or set reminders for yourself to remember to review these steps and refine them where needed.

Next week we will continue and discuss what you can do once you’ve spotted the problem.

As always, comments, suggestions and questions are appreciated.  Also, the CD of my stand-up routine is available at the table by the door.  I’m here all week.  Tip your waitress!

Our Cho’gall 25 Video and Heroic Halfus down

We actually killed Cho’gall several weeks ago, but I didn’t have time to properly edit and such. Check out the new guild intro that Brian created for us. Loooove it!

Scored a heroic Halfus kill last night with 5 shots on him. The tough part is definitely making sure the pulls are stable. The second hardest part is ensuring those interrupts are not missed because those shadow novas just destroy. Once I get the perspectives from other players in the raid, I’ll get our kill video up with our Mumble audio. Think I’ll put that on our recruiting page too. If players can’t make the livestream, they can get some idea of how we operate from that at the least.

That boss feels way easier than Nef, that’s for sure. Back to work on taking out the dragon on Monday. We seem to fare better with 6 healers as opposed to 7. I suspect its because the phases go by quicker and there isn’t enough damage being passed out which means overall the healing is less. However, having a 7th healer grants us that extra safety net of being able to account for anything that could trip us up. A 7th means we can counter those Cackle’s easier. Except we’re still taking so much damage. Are we supposed to spread out on those phase 2 pillars to mitigate something?

Have a good weekend!

Evaluating Your Raid Group by Time Spent on Boss

The idea of trying to come up with a working series of classifications for different types/levels of raiding guilds seems to be one of those subjects that everyone has an opinion on and most people love to discuss.

If you caught the Weekly Marmot a couple of weeks ago, Lore discussed some of the differences between the extremely hardcore, the super casual, and “everything in the middle” when it comes to raiding guilds. It is that “everything in the middle” group that I think seems to inspire so much discussion.

Bleeding edge world-first type guilds are just simply in a different league for the most part.  They are formed with people who push themselves beyond what most of us are able to in pursuit of being able to say that they are among the best in the world.  From what I was able to find, these guilds raid up to 30-40+ hours a week until they have cleared all of the available content, and then they quickly fall back to the 2-3 hours a week it takes them to clear all of the available content for a few months until a new tier of content comes out.

While I probably would have been able to pull that off while I was a student in college, it’s just not something I am personally able to commit to at this point in my life.  So instead I land firmly in the “everything in the middle” group.  Most of us in this group raid somewhere between 8 and 20 hours a week (2-5 days of raiding at 3-5 hours a raid) For the majority of the people in this group, there is one “shared” goal that I believe defines this group.  This one goal is simply to clear all of the available content, including hard modes, before the next tier comes out. There are also a lot of people interested in the competitive aspect of trying to clear the content ahead of as many other guild’s as possible in an effort to end up as high as possible in the various rankings as possible.

The issue that seems to cause such a surprising level of stress and consternation among people in this group though is based on the assumption that we should be evaluating ourselves in the same way that the guild’s chasing world first kills do.

New York Marathon

The whole discussion tends to remind me of the New York Marathon for some reason.  In the New York Marathon, the goal is simple; each participant needs to run 26 miles through the five boroughs of NYC in the fastest time possible.  Among the ~45,000 people running, there are only a small handful of ~10-20 people who have any real chance of actually winning the race.  For the past few years, the winner has usually clocked in at just over 2 hours. That is two freaking hours to run 26 freaking miles. The level of training and raw ability involved in accomplishing a feat like that is something that most of us are just never going to be able to experience first hand.  The average finish time for the marathon is four and a half hours. The longest record time for a finisher last year was nine hours and forty-five minutes, anything over 10 hours is not counted as having officially finished the race.

There is a lot of news coverage that goes on during the race every year and invariably you can find at least a couple of people whose journey seems particularly appropriate for this post.  The people I am talking about are the ones who will do something like stop partway through the race to join their families at brunch for an hour or so to catch their breath before continuing on with the race. There are also a lot of people who simply end up walking most of the course.  That being said, I think that there is something to be said for anyone who can cover 26 miles on foot in a single day.  It should count as an accomplishment.

My proposition for guilds and raid groups that are trying to evaluate how well they are progressing is to stop trying to compare your own performance to the rough equivalent of a professional athlete.  I would instead propose that one of the best ways to evaluate your team’s progress is instead to look at how many hours it takes you to progress through the content as well as how many attempts it takes you to kill each boss. I think that one of the most important lessons that we can learn from “the professionals” is that our time spent killing things should rapidly taper off once we have cleared them once or twice.  While I don’t think that any of us should be trying to claim that there are a lot of similarities between a guild who can clear a full tier of hardmode raid content in a manner of a few weeks and a guild that takes a few months to clear the same content, I think that one important similarity is simply looking at the amount of time both groups put in to accomplish the same task. 

I posted a report card for my own guild a couple of weeks ago outlining how much time and how many attempts it took us to clear all of the normal mode content (12/12 normal modes) and I was pretty pleased with the results considering that we only raid 9 hours a week.  It took us just over ~45 hours of raiding.  Had we had the time to devote to it, maybe we could have cleared everything before December?  We’ll never know but in the mean time I can be happy that we are well on pace to accomplish our goal; clearing all current content before the next tier hits the live servers.  WowProgress and GuildOx say that we are ranked ~500th in the US for 10man guilds, but that doesn’t account for our choice to take December off, or our choice to only raid for 9 hours a week (and it shouldn’t account for those either.)  There is no way to fairly evaluate yourself against another guild unless you either both agree to follow the same basic route the world first guild’s take (the clock is always ticking) or somehow devise a way to accurately measure how much time your group actually spends (something that isn’t really possible, and would be ridiculously easy to cheat at) and so in reality, unless you are competing for world or server firsts, the only people you are competing against is yourselves and Blizzard’s timeline for the next tier of content.

How is your guild or raid group doing so far? Do you keep track of any similar statistics for your own group, or do you measure your progress in some way other than the number of bosses you have killed?

Resto Druid Mana: Tips and Tricks

This is a guest post by Arajal. No, not related in anyway to Archmage Arugal.

My guild began our 25 man raiding about a month ago, throwing our entire healing team out of the frying pan of heroics and into the fire of raids. It was a system shock for everyone, myself included. We were all quickly finding that our old Wrath tricks weren’t working so well under the new healing system; we had to relearn our methods on the fly. Through this trial by fire (literally in some cases), I’ve come up with a few ways to save mana while still having good healing output, which I want to share with you all today.

Tank Healing

Lifebloom is your best friend for this now. While we used to spam this on everyone back in Wrath, it’s limited to one target now, so your best option is to slap this on a tank. Luckily, it’s a cheap spell, so if you need to swap it on a tank-switch or toss it to that DPS taking hits, feel free. Once your target is picked and the Lifeblooms are in place, don’t let that stack fall off. If you do, not only will you have to put up another stack, but you’ll also temporarily block yourself from Malfurion’s Gift, a talent that gives you a chance at a free casted spell every time Lifebloom ticks. Clearcasting procs are immensely helpful for saving mana; by keeping a stack rolling, you can guarantee you’ll always have access to the procs. You can refresh Lifebloom by casting it on the stacked target, or by using any casted burst heal.

Speaking of Clearcasting, the most mana-efficient way to use these procs is by using Healing Touch or Regrowth to consume them, as these are the two most expensive non-cooldown heals we have. Regrowth is good to use if you want a Swiftmend target and a quick heal, while Healing Touch is good for a free massive heal.

Rejuvenation is also a good spell to throw on the tank alongside your Lifebloom stack. This gives you the extra healing ticks and the option to use Swiftmend (just as cheap as Lifebloom in cost) for burst healing.

Raid Healing

Rejuvenation still shines as our go-to heal for throwing on other raid members. The main difference in Cataclysm is that we can’t spam it for too long without hurting our mana. As such, feel free to cast it on a few members who have taken damage, but don’t spam it like you would have on, say, Blood Queen Lana’thel, in Icecrown Citadel. That’s a one-way ticket to running out of mana.

Instead, using Wild Growth to start raid healing is a good choice. It’ll target the 6 (if glyphed) lowest-health targets and heal them for a pretty good amount. This is far more efficient than spamming Rejuvenation on everyone right away. However, be sure to look where your target is before you cast it. Throwing a Wild Growth on the DPS by the far wall of the room, away from the rest of the raid, doesn’t do your mana or raiders any good. Make sure casting it will hit the maximum number of targets possible.

The other way to throw out a good amount of healing for little mana is Efflorescence, a healing circle dropped at the feet of your Swiftmend targets. Now, I’ve read what Elitist Jerks has posted about the talent: How the talent is optional if another druid has it, how the math doesn’t show it to be very good throughput, etc. I don’t agree with this assessment*; any healing tool is worth getting, especially in a raid environment. Throwing down an Efflorescence circle is an incredible way to save mana while raid healing, and in some cases can make or break a heal-intensive boss phase, such as during Chimaeron (those of you who have done this fight know what I’m talking about). Also, just like Wild Growth, make sure the target you are casting your Swiftmend on to spawn the circle is standing in a place where the Efflorescence circle will hit as many people as possible (unless you need Swiftmend for the burst heal, of course).

Cooldowns

Tree of Life (as much as some people may hate the new version) is a good mana-saver if you’re running low or run into a damage-intensive fight mechanic. Lifeblooms revert to their spammable form, thus giving you an even greater chance for Malfurion’s Gift to kick in. Regrowth also becomes instant, giving you the perfect outlet for all those Clearcasting procs. Even Wild Growth is affected, giving you two more targets per cast.

Tranquility may not seem like a very good way to save mana, but it can be a life-saver for both your raid and your mana if used well. If you coordinate your Tranquility casts with other druids (or priests with Divine Hymn), you can save yourself the time and mana you would have otherwise used on casting Rejuvenations and Wild Growths by instead using Tranquility to stabilize your raid  and give the rest of your healing team a breather.

Mana Regeneration Tools

For regaining mana mid-fight, Innervate is your best option. However, using it when you’re scraping the bottom of the mana barrel won’t save you from running out. Instead, if you know you’ll need mana later in a fight, use Innervate early on in the fight (I like to use mine at about 75-80% mana). This allows it time to cooldown in time for a second use later, when you’ll likely need all the mana you can get.

Potions are a bit different, as you can only use them once per fight. While Mythical Mana Potions do work for emergency mana, I’ve found Potions of Concentration to be a good go-to source of mana in a fight. The only drawback to using these is the fact that you’re not healing and otherwise a sitting duck for the duration. However, there is a way to mitigate this: About midway though your mana (while Innervate is still on cooldown), find a safe spot, wait for a time when healing isn’t at a premium, and use the potion. Let the other healers know when you’re using it so they can be prepared for those ten seconds where you’re not healing. It’s a great tool to use to get your mana pool back up.

Nourish

Nourish is unique in many ways, even more so with the release of patch 4.0.6. Nourish is useful for both tank and raid healing, as it benefits from having a HoT already on your target when you use it and it refreshes your Lifebloom stacks. In 4.0.6, the Nature’s Bounty talent was changed to reduce the cast time of Nourish by about one-third if you have three or more Rejuvs active at one time. Most importantly, however, Nourish is among the cheapest heals druids have available, alongside Lifebloom and Swiftmend. When in doubt, Nourish!

While all of these are good ways to save your mana during raid encounters, I’ve found the most beneficial thing to do when your mana is at a premium is to trust your fellow healers. Don’t try to take the entire raid’s health into your hands; let the other healers in the raid help you keep everyone alive. If you’re low on mana, ask a priest for Hymn of Hope or a shaman for Mana Tide Totem to help not only your own mana, but everyone else’s. That teamwork can mean the difference between a wipe and a dead boss.

*I’m not against Elitist Jerks. I applaud them for their work and find a lot of their information useful. I just prefer to use my own five years of druid healing experience rather than raw mathematical data to base my conclusions on.

Matticast Episode 9 – BOEs, Calling Wipes, and Picking Raiders

Welcome to Episode 9 of The Matticast. This week BorskMattKat, and Brian, discuss:

- The Economics of BOEs

- When to call a wipe.

- Resto Shaman Spirit Refresh

- When/How to test new raiders.

Sites mentioned

State of DPS

Posts referenced

When do you call a wipe?

Don’t forget you can send us your questions or topic, and be sure to checkout and participate in the listener topic every Wednesday.

Subscribe to the show: iTunesRSS

Play

Handling the Guild Dirty Work

“Nothing so conclusively proves a man’s ability to lead others as what he does from day to day to lead himself.”

- Thomas J. Watson

And I don’t mean scrubbing the toilets.

As leaders, we have an obligation to the players within our guilds. Whenever a boss comes up where something needs to dispelled, I’m the first person to volunteer for it. Not necessarily because I want to, but to show that I can and am willing. The mantle of being an officer comes with a set of unique responsibilities. In order to have the right to ask people to do something, you must be willing to do it yourself.

This is why my raid leader is the first in line when he needs to eat a debuff, maintain constant crowd control or take care of some other craptacular job that no other player really wants to do.

  • Gong banging in Atramedes? He’s always there.
  • Dispelling Blackouts? Sure, I’ll take care of it.

So whether you are a class officer, a role officer or otherwise, it doesn’t hurt to show the troops that you still have it. Because if you keep hiding behind lame excuses and continue giving players assignments you’re unwilling to do, no one’s going to take you seriously anymore. In pickup raids where I’m raiding on my Shaman, I’ll volunteer to tackle any interrupts or purges that need to be done.

To be fair, that’s the only thing I’m really good for on an encounter like the Omnitron Defense System anyway.

Bob Sutton, author of Good Boss, Bad Boss, states that, “Being in a position of leadership is the most reliable way to become oblivious and emotionally insensitive. Fight this by remembering that you’re under a spotlight. You’ll be watched closely by the people you lead – even more so than how you’re observing them.”

Even though you’re an officer, by the nature of your position, you are placed on a much higher pedestal when compared to everyone else in the raid.

Let’s move on to another aspect of dirty work. Let’s go through the not-so-cool responsibilities that officers need to do.

Do not avoid the dirty work

A quality officer must do things that will upset players. As the guild leader, I have to reprimand, gkick and talk to players who need improvement. The last bit is a bit tricky because I don’t have enough knowledge of a class to offer effective feedback. This is where I need my officers to come in play and assist me in supplying that feedback. None of those are responsibilities we need to shoulder alone. Reprimands and giving critical feedback can be a difficult thing to do. If you can’t handle that aspect of it, you might not be the right guy for the job.

Alternatively, grab a guy willing to do the dirty work. I recommend hunters.

In that same book by Sutton, he quotes a study that “Bosses of the most productive work groups confronted problems directly and quickly, issued more warnings and formal punishments, and promptly fired employees when warnings failed.”

Translating that into guilds, productive raid raid groups address any internal problems head on within a reasonable time frame. Denial doesn’t help anyone. You can talk the smack you want, but you better have the guts to confront players as well. Bad officers continue to conjure up some kind of excuse in order to put off what needs to be done. An example would be like me saying I can’t cast Dispel because I don’t have the mana to do it. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not the best bad cop type of personality. It’s not in my nature. However, I am driven by own desire to excel and succeed in what I do. If it’s a necessity, it needs to be done.

The first thing I’ll do is delegate it. The next thing I do is set an internal deadline for myself where if an officer doesn’t pull off the reprimand, I’ll take care of it personally.

Actually now that I think about it, setting deadlines tends to help in most aspects of life.

Heck, take the extra step and tell someone what deadline you’re setting and what it’s for.

Implementing the two man (or person) rule

I love he said, she said arguments.

It’s difficult to determine and sift through what’s true and what isn’t. Because of recent incidences, I’ve implemented the two person policy. When any type of feedback, reprimand or anything along those lines are being given, there needs to be another officer in the channel with them. They don’t have to be the same class or role. They just need to be players who the GM trusts and who are able to keep each other in check.

No whispers or tells either. Don’t underestimate the importance of tone. Sure there;s no facial contact unless you’re using a webcam. But listening to the tone of someone else is the next best thing you can do to subtly improve communication.

This was an oversight on my part, but I hope this is a step in the right direction.

Quick Guide to Dirty Work

  • No problem is just going to go away. So don’t delay too long in making the hard decisions.
  • Make the hard decisions to the best of your ability. You’re going to screw them up, but it’ll be a learning experience. If you can’t do it, delegate someone who is willing.
  • Tell players why this is necessary. Example:
    • “The stuff you’re saying in raids, whether you realize it or not, is having a negative impact on our morale.”
    • “You’re not nailing those interrupts. Looking at the same fight for the past 3 weeks, your interrupt success rate is 50%. If there’s something stopping you from doing your job, tell me. Otherwise, I’m going to have to pick up another Rogue”.
  • You do not humiliate, belittle, or bad-mouth people if they’re the ones that are under fire. Of course, you’re free to poke fun at the guy who’s at the top of the meters or if he’s the GM, apparently.
  • Don’t lie to your raid. It kills your own reputation.
  • If you’re not able to do say what needs to be said the correct way, don’t do it until you figure out the best approach.
  • Set an example to the rest of the team. Show them you can compete on meters. Show them you can dispel, purge and interrupt like the best of them.

I’m still learning this stuff. I also need to begin applying these principles.

Thinking about starting your own guild?

Tough Call: When to Recruit

The answer is TODAY. 

(Actually, “yesterday” would have been a better answer, but I’m sure you had a good reason to take yesterday off.  “Today” is also an acceptable answer if you have a sizable nerd-crush on Ann Curry…not that I do or anything…)

As a raid officer, at some point it will come to you to bolster your ranks.  The first step to doing this right is to properly assess what you need and when you need it.  Even if you’re accomplishing all your goals currently, you need to plan for the next round.
As I see it, there are two schools of recruiting:

  1. Gap-Prevention Recruiting
  2. Roster-Improvement Recruiting

Gap-Prevention Recruiting

A wise boss of mine once taught me, “If you don’t have a Plan B, you don’t have a Plan.”. 

This means, of course, that:

  1. Things will go wrong, and
  2. Rarely will they go wrong when it’s convenient to you. 

In raiding, this most frequently means a loss, or temporary depletion, of players.  I’d wager that we’ve all been there at one night or another. 
For me, this used to happen at least once a month during Naxx.  I’d log in, and people who had signed up for raid ended up not being online.  It was Naxx, we ALL were burned out before Ulduar came out, so I can understand the lack of motivation, but I still had the job of fielding a viable raid for everyone who wanted to get the job done.  From those times spent using Trade Chat to fill out a raid, I learned a valuable lesson:

Recruit BEFORE you have a spot you need to fill

Since everyone is already reading Thespius’s Raiding 101 column, I know we don’t have to go over the pros and cons of having back-ups/part-timers.  They’re good; keep them around, be honest with them, and keep them satisfied. 

But what about scenarios where a back-up/part-timer just won’t do?  What about when your main tank has a baby, your invincible priest healer has to start taking night classes, or any of the other myriad reasons people can no longer raid?  Fact is, these situations can leave you in the lurch is you’re not prepared for them.  THAT is why a smart officer will never close recruiting, and will most certainly always look to improve their roster.

Consider this:  A business wouldn’t tolerate an inconsistent supplier, they would immediately find a supplier selling an identical product who can assure them of on-time delivery.  I’m pretty sure this is Fed-Ex’s bread-and-butter, actually.  The same should be true of your raid.  You may love the players you raid with.  I know I’m rather fond of a number of the people I’ve played with over the years.  That said, if one of them had to take off, stop playing, or just became overall unreliable, I would owe it to myself and the rest of the team to take actions to ensure the raid continued.  After all, the show must go on.\

TLDR Version: 

Have a plan in mind for who will take over your vital positions if someone has to depart/goes AWOL. 

Don’t turn away potential recruits just because you’re “full” today.  See what options you can provide them before you burn that bridge.

Roster-Improvement Recruiting

Parental Advisory: When I say “Roster-Improvement Recruiting”, I’m talking about doing what it takes (within your own best judgement) to see content and down some end bosses before they become passe.  This is the one that’s going to fill my inbox with hate mail, but it has to be said:

Not everyone you raid with today will be ready when your group wants/needs to move to the next level.

I would never call the environment I raid in hard-core, bleeding-edge, or anything like that.  What I would say is that we’re a results-driven team.  If you can do your job and do it well, and aren’t a complete dick, we’ll be glad to count you among our ranks.  Everyone competes for their spot and everyone has that much more faith in their team-mates because they know that every spot has been earned.

A team like this never “stops” recruiting.  There will certainly be times when you have a solid group and may not have a lot of NEED to recruit, but you should never flat-out deny someone on the basis that they would have to take a spot from someone you already have.

Example:  Let’s say you’re openly recruiting for a healer as gap-prevention recruiting, when along comes a deathknight asking about joining.  (Isn’t it always a DK when you don’t need DPS?) Assuming they are some-what as progressed as your current line-up, and understand that it’s a competitive environment they’re looking to join, take a moment to consider the opportunity in front of you.  Instead of turning them away, point them towards the logs for your current members and if they can beat that, encourage them to apply.

In an environment like this, a recruit should never be seen as a threat.  Your existing members should see recruits as a chance to improve the raid team in one way or another.

True Story: I intentionally recruit other priests to help push me and keep me competitive.  I know I can handle my assignments, but competition teaches me I can always do it better.  Also, the priest who comes in ready to beat me at my own game is surely a formidable ally to have.

Whether you establish rules that spur further recruitment, or simply keep a high profile for your guild and get applications that way, the key is to always ask yourself “will this player help us get through the next step”. 

Crossing the Finish Line

In the end, I say you should think of your raid team as a racecar.
A racecar can’t go anywhere without all four wheels.  That’s gap-prevention recruiting.
A racecar will go faster with performance parts.  That’s roster-improvement recruiting.
Now go finish the race.

When should you change your raid strategy?

I have been reading numerous posts lately about how to pick a strategy for an upcoming boss fight and even more discussion about how to go about tailoring a strategy to your particular group. While I have read many good suggestions and valuable tips, I still think I disagree with the the basic premise of “choosing which strategy is best for your group.” The portion related to tailoring your approach based on your specific group is good, but the vast majority of the time, boss fights have one basic strategy that they were intended to be completed with.  Everything else is a modification of the basic strategy. Each decision to make additional modifications should be for a specific and, more importantly, *intentional* reason.

Here are the basic reasons for modifying a boss strategy. Whether it be during the research stage, during an actual raid, or after a full night of raiding, once you get some logs, a little perspective will help with the decision making process.

Wait! I can think of examples of multiple strategies used for bosses!

No, I actually put a fair amount of consideration into that statement.  For the most part, all WoW raid bosses have one basic approach/strategy that everyone used to defeat them.  That being said, almost every group that originally “progressed” through the boss fight made certain modifications to this basic strategy in order to adopt it to the particulars of their own group and situation. Generally though, each boss encounter has a single strategy/approach that is dictated by the mechanics of the encounter. Far too often I see people confusing two different modifications to the one basic strategy as somehow being completely separate from each other.  Understanding where something comes from is an essential step in the road to gaining mastery over it.

For example: in the Yogg Saron fight, the basic strategy required to complete the encounter is to kill sarah by blowing up adds next to her, then you send people through the portals to damage the brain, finally you kill Yogg himself all while dealing with the various adds/abilities/”bad stuff.” Whether you tank the adds in phase1 in the center of the room next to Sarah, or tank them by the door and then kite them into the center is a difference in tactics, the strategy is the same. Who you send into the portals during phase 2 is a question of assignments, the fact of the matter is though, in order to get to phase3, you send some people into the portals and they have to damage the brain to push through the phase while everyone else does stuff to stay alive.  In phase 3 you can tank the adds over here, over there, all grouped up or separated out, the individual assignments and tactics used will vary from group to group and depend on a number of factors but the basic strategy used to complete the fight is always going to be the same.

Reasons for modifying your strategy

You overgear or “out-awesome” one or more of the basic mechanics of the fight.

I’m not going to spend much time on this one although I think it is the most prevalent reason for differences in strategies being discussed. 10 man Sartharion 3D is a great example of this as is Yogg+0. Both are highly technical fights with what were some very unforgivable mechanics when they were “current content.” With access to greater gear and higher performance numbers from your average raider, it became possible to ignore the majority of these encounters core mechanics and opened up access to “new strategies” (and again, I am arguing that it is the same basic strategy to kill the boss, you are just choosing to ignore/skip a portion of it)  It is important to be aware however if you have chosen to ignore one of the basic mechanics of the encounter.  This can often be especially important when you get to the point of switching the encounter to hard mode or try and work on one of the raid achievements.  If you have only learned how to do the fight using some kind of short cut or something that ignores a basic mechanic, then forcing yourselves to relearn the fight is often times a tough sell for the raid leader and a frustrating experience for your raiders.  My advice is to learn to do it “right” the first time through.

You are missing some sort of raid utility buff/skill integral to the fight.

A lot of fights require something to be purged, dispelled, stunned, interrupted, etc… Especially when you are doing 10man raiding, it isn’t impossible that you will find yourself without one of these things while standing in front of a boss who “requires” that skill. Thankfully Blizzard is aware of this possibility and usually provide some method to address the issue.  For one, they have spread around all of the basic raid utility skills so that the likelihood of finding yourself in this position has gotten MUCH less likely.  In the past, they have usually toned down the adverse effects of the ability in case you don’t have the ability to purge/interrupt/cleanse each one.

One example of this for us in ICC were the occasions we found ourselves in front of Saurfang with 3 melee and no hunter to distracting shot kite one of the adds.  We have done this fight with just about every composition of range and melee possible at this point, and our raiders have pulled all of them off without any more struggle than we were having at the time with “optimal” setups.  Another example is when we were progressing through Naxx 25 and reached Instructor Razuvious without any priests in the raid, sorting out how to do that was an adventure all in itself.

The plan isn’t working

You outlined the plan on the guild forums ahead of time, you gave a brief synopsis over vent before you started, why isn’t the boss dead yet? Being able to accurately articulate the answer to “why isn’t this working” is a critical step that a surprising number of people get wrong in my experience. Here are some questions to ask yourself when trying to figure out the answer to this question:

How many times have you attempted the fight already this raid using this plan? If the answer is less than ~15-20, then unless you either clearly misunderstood some mechanic during your research, you probably need to collect more data.  Unless you feel that everyone in the raid is executing the plan exactly the way they were asked, keep trying.

At what point in the fight did the group diverge from “the plan?” Was it a milestone you failed to meet?  Unless everything went exactly as it was supposed to and your dps are putting out the same numbers they always do, you probably just need to let everyone work out their own kinks with some more practice.  Depending on the type of milestone involved, possibly consider things like switching between 2 and 3 healers.

Are people dying? Every raid leader should have some sort of death tracking addon installed so you can easily review what caused people to die and what happened to them in the ~15 seconds prior to death.

  • Tank death: did they use their defensive cooldowns appropriately? Were they where they were supposed to be? How much healing did they receive during their last ~10 seconds alive? If the healing received looks low, all appropriate cooldowns were used, and they were not out of healing range for some reason, it might be a “healing issue.”

If the healers weren’t healing the tanks, then what were they doing?

Were they all moving or unable to heal for some reason, maybe the positioning needs to be changed.

Were they healing someone else/themselves? Then those people need to get better at avoiding damage and your healers need to either have better healing assignments or different healing priorities.  This is one of the biggest mistakes I see raid leaders make in blaming the healers for people dying when in reality it is the healers being forced into a no-win decision in to try and compensate for other people’s mistakes. Find out why they weren’t keeping the tank alive.

  • Healer death: were they standing somewhere they weren’t supposed to be? Did someone fail to taunt/CC an add that killed the healer?  …there shouldn’t really be any other reason for the healer to have ever died.  Keeping themselves alive, followed closely by keeping the tank/their assignment alive is every healers only real responsibility in most fights.
  • DPS death: Were they standing where they weren’t supposed to be?  Did they pull aggro on something they weren’t supposed to?  If they weren’t killed via a one-shot, how much healing did they receive before they died?

If you can’t figure out why your plan is failing and the boss isn’t dying, then your biggest problem isn’t with the plan you are using. Thankfully there are a wealth of resources available to you as a raid leader and a truly amazing number of members in the various raid leading communities that are just waiting to help you figure it all out. All you have to do to find help is be able to do is follow two simple steps:

  1. Generate a combat log during your raid and upload it to one of the available *free* services that will parse the information into a useful format.  My personal preference is World of Logs.
  2. Ask someone for help.  Everyone starts out as a newbie at some point, none of us are born with the ability to play wow or lead raiders.  Some of us still remember what it was like starting out and we are more than happy to offer help.  Being able to provide a log of the your raid attempting the encounter in question will allow FAAARRR more useful feedback then trying to communicate all of the details through any other method.

Have you ever had a boss kill which came from a simple, yet overlooked strategy modification?