Tough Call: Handling the Churn

Tough Call: Handling the Churn

Note: Read the following italicized text in this voice.

In a world where bosses just don’t down themselves…

Cataclysm is crushing the souls of poor performers and now everyone is recruiting…

Top 100 US Guilds are looking for more players for this tier still….

Middle-of-the-Road Guilds are doing hard modes and need stronger players to progress…

Guilds that a year ago would have disbanded and now downshifting to 10-mans and are still recruiting to have a reliable 10…

All of this amounts to lots of homes and very few buyers with available credit. You may have never gotten that Guild House that you asked for at every Developer Q&A, but we sure are getting an equivalent to the housing-crunch. 

This month I’ve had conversations with multiple GM’s, recruiters and available raiders. Everyone agrees that the market for available raiders is shrinking as guilds stall out, disband, or stop fielding successful raid teams. On my server there used to be about 40+ functional 25-man raid teams during ICC. Last night I checked WoWProgress and there are only five 25-mans left (Edit: Many of the ones listed have become inactive or switched to 10s). Lots of teams shifted to 10-mans in January & February, largely because of less-dedicated raiders leaving the pool. It was easier for them to shift to 10-mans and keep their identity & guild perks. Even so, several guilds folded entirely as their best players gave up the ghost and left for Top 100 squads, and the remainders are scrambling.

This is called the Churn and it is an unavoidable fact of life in Cataclysm. 

churn

So where does this leave you and your team?

Between now and the next tier of raiding, a lot of your performance as a leader will be judged upon how well you handle the churn.

To be certain, even if you’ve decided to go the route of 10-man raiding instead of 25, attendance and turnover issues are still part of the territory. I’ve yet to speak to a “close-knit 10-man” that doesn’t have some issue with either cancelling raids due to sign-outs, or trouble balancing bench players who may be brought in only occasionally.

Of course, no matter what size your raid is, the best way to handle the Churn is to stay one step ahead of it.  The steps below, in no particular order, should help you stay well informed and ready to act appropriately.

Things you can do for the team

  1. Know your team.  Know when they are approaching burn-out and make adjustments to help them de-stress before they give up the raiding game.
  2. Know your weaknesses.  Cata raids are harder; that’s a fact.  Eventually you will have to make either a personnel decision or a social one. Are you willing to replace the weak-link, even if it means bringing in an “outsider”, or are you willing to get the rest of your team to be satisfied with stalled progression for the sake of not changing your roster?  Are you willing to make concessions to keep that irreplaceable clutch player satisfied?  Are parts of your team not on the same page?
  3. Know your strengths.  You’ll be under pressure to pull off a raid team that not only survives the churn, but gets better and downs more bosses each week.  Don’t let the pressure make you try to act outside your leadership style.  If you’ve built a successful team, your leadership style must be working thus far (unless it’s the Sheerluck Holmes style, of course) but make sure that acting on your terms doesn’t mean ignoring future problems, because that’s how you get pushed into a corner.  
  4. Act fast!  Machiavelli teaches us that to delay war only serves to aide your enemy.  In less aggressive terms, one could say “a stitch in time saves nine”. Handle problems quickly and definitively.  When operating in a world of scares resources, you cannot afford to let problems fester and spread. 

Things you can do for the team you want

  1. Promote, promote, promote.  Make everyone on your realm aware of your guild, because you never know when another team will call it quits and their good players will be looking for a new home.  There is no benefit to being an unknown or understated guild.  Be proud of your team’s accomplishments; success breeds success.  Guilds that look stable, welcoming, efficient and knowledgeable will all appear attractive to raiders who want to get on a new team and not stop raiding.  In business we learn that every interaction is a step towards your next sale, the same holds true here.
  2. Recruit early and often.  Be honest about how soon and how often new recruits will have a shot at raid time, but don’t think that just because you don’t need them today, that you won’t be glad you have them tomorrow. I can speak from experience that if you stop recruiting for even a fortnight, you will regret it. Once the apps dry up, you start losing flexibility and start losing ground on the war of attrition.
  3. Be in touch with other leaders on your realm.  While you may consider them your competition, they can also be a good source of info, and potentially a future teammate. With the number of guilds imploding, merging, or breaking up and reforming as “super-guilds”, it’s better to be aware of the goings on than to be the guy who’s wondering why he just missed out on potential recruits and/or lost a few of his own guys.  
  4. Have a plan, even if it’s one you never want to use.  During Wrath, the rule was that you’d lose about 30% of your members (and the gear you’ve given them) from the start of one tier to the start of the next.  Due to the spike in difficulty for entry-level raiding, we’ve yet to get a good idea what this loss-percentage will be in Cata, but I’m certain it will be well higher than 30%.  Therefore, while we all may prefer to raid with the same team for the next year, as a leader you must have a plan of action for the day you find yourself with a dwindling roster.

In the end, the roster you will have the night 4.2 drops is almost certainly not the roster you had on December 7th.  The same thing will happen again between 4.2 and 4.3, only this time you can be ready for it, and hopefully be the one controlling the changes.  

A Letter from a Level 25 Guild Leader

First, I just want to say to my Chicago readers that you should be extremely proud of your team. They’re going to be an awesome hockey franchise for years to come. And oh my god did they give me the biggest scare of my life.

Anyway…

I found this letter linked on Reddit the other day. It’s one of the side effects of the new guild leveling and perks system in WoW.

Dear Plebs,

If you’re here, and raging, it’s probably because you just realized you were gkicked. I’ve already deleted all your forum accounts, and removed all your boards. There’s nowhere you can post or vent so please, just read this.

For the most part this was an awkward experiment we never intended to go as far as it did. I jokingly recruited a few people out of trade chat, gave them ginvite power, and this thing for the most part grew itself. With it was the nice realization that our 10m raid crew could push levels faster and not have to farm heroics every day, so we let it ride. We figured it was a nice give and take, you guys got the best perks available and we got our XP cap every day. To be honest we mostly let it go because we thought cash flow was going to be awesome, but it turns out you guys were collectively pretty sh*tty at farming gold. (Over the last 5 months we’ve made about 14k off of a roster of 900+ people). But the XP was flowing, life was easy, and this was a nicely self-sustaining little eco-system that we just sat back and watched grow.

Unfortunately what accompanied this was an alarming number of less desirable members. Guild chat was basically useless, there were too many idiots to even try to manage, and for the most part nobody wanted to do anything. We gave you forums. We gave you vent. We gave you calendar events. We left GMOTD’s saying “come sign up on the forums for X event!” and 2-3 people would do it. We tried to coax some of the more promising members into leadership roles, we gave them an entire section of the forums with spelled out raid strats, pvp discussion, and more.

We tried. We really did try.

What we got was a whole lot of nothing but people bitching that we wouldn’t buy their epic flying, or pay their repair bills, or let them have potions out of the bank. People whining that we never carried them in our main raids, or that we didn’t run them through heroics or lower level dungeons. We got a million stupid questions a day about how to spec or what stats are good for X class. We got the few people we thought were worth keeping making a mess out of the little power we gave them. Promotions / Demotions were fucked around enormously, guild MOTD and notes were all ruined, and gchat just eventually became a giant sea from which all the idiots could troll.

When we hit 25 I kicked everyone that was inactive. I gave you all a few weeks after I cleaned out the roster to see if you would actually do anything other than occupy space in the guild pane and badger the bejesus out of us with stupid f*cking tells. I gave you your time to finish reps, buy heirlooms, get what you needed, and get out. The time has come, and now, the ride has come to an end.

That’s not to say you’re all bad, or useless, but let’s be honest; any of you worth a sh*t shouldn’t be in this guild anyway because the reality of it is that we’re never going to do anything but 10m raiding. We have no spots for you. We have no spots in an alt raid for you. We have nothing to offer you but a backup spot on a roster of people that don’t ever miss raids. It probably seems like a dick move to kick you, but in the long run we’re doing you a favor.

So, to all of you, thanks for what you did, we hope you enjoyed the perks while they lasted, but we’re ready to have our nice quiet, mellow guild chat back. Enjoy the heirlooms, enjoy the mounts, enjoy the recipes, and I hope you enjoyed the ride. I can definitely say it was at least, interesting, for me.

I sympathize with what the GM went through. The guy tried to help create a cohesive ecosystem  out of chaos but ultimately wasn’t able to pull it off. It virtually polluted the guild and he got frustrated with everything before dropping the reset button. It sucks putting time and effort in, just to get stomped on or disregarded.

At the same time, I can’t help but imagine if there were a few productive members in that pool. If the GM had been open from the start stating that they were going to be utilized in power leveling the guild to 25 and in exchange those members could purchase whatever rewards they wanted heirloom  wise, would that disclosure have made a difference? I can’t help but wonder if the situation could have been salvaged. What if incoming players were more thoroughly filtered? 

I still think the design of the guild leveling and perks system was a good decision for WoW.

There are always going to be guilds that will abuse the system and the players. That isn’t the fault of the system though. There is much more “power” to the GM’s position and that of the leadership. When there were no guild levels or perks, guilds were nothing more than organized geeks. But now, not only can a GM wipe away membership they can also remove a member’s access to powerful bonuses and items.

On a side note, we discussed player satisfaction and guild leaving in  Episode 16 of the Matticast. If you’re torn between leaving your guild for personal progressions, listen to our thoughts on the matter.

Zul’Gurub and Zul’Aman Boss Strategy Notes

Plan on invading Troll instances today? Not quite sure what to expect? Got you covered. You can find the TLDR versions here. Comment if there’s any additional noteworthy mechanics that you find on live servers that glossed over. Notes were taken from my experiences on the PTR and from kill videos.

Zul’Gurub

Venoxxis

Stay within the maze.

Players will get linked (Toxic Link) which deals damage to both players. Break the link by increasing the distance between the two players. Poison bolts get shot at players, heal through it. Boss has a frontal cone attack. At some point, watch out for pools of poison. Not sure if that’s linked to time or health.

Bloodlord Mandokir

Randomly targets a player and one-shots them. Mandokir levels up. Kill the raptor. The raptor goes around killing ghosts (which will resurrect you when you de) and you have a certain amount of them.

Watch out for big conical, fire spike thing

Kilnara (Panther boss)

First 50%: Tank and spank. Last 50%: Calls in panther buddies.

Interrupt Tears of Blood. Pull 2 packs of panthers during phase 1 and kill them to reduce the amount of panthers coming in the final phase. When they do engage you, AoE them down.

Zan’zil

Three phases (Fire, Ice, Poison)

Zombie troll phase: Grab red cauldron . Gives your attacks additional AoE powers. Destroy zombies.

Berserker phase: One big mob? Grab the Ice cauldron. Attacks gain freezing powers. Slows down Berserker and kills them quick.

Cloud phase: Entire environment covered in gas. Grab poison cauldron, become i mmune.

Jin’do

Phase 1:

Casts a green shield bubble reducing magic effectiveness within it. Keep the tank and Jin’do within it. When Jin’do casts Shadow of Hakkar, run into the shield. Then run back out and resume DPS. Last I checked, he’ll do an AoE chain nuke of some kind if you stay too long within the shield.

Phase 2: Hakkar

There are four chains on the ground. They each have 1 million health. Those chains need to be broken. Look for Gurubashi Spirits. Really big mobs that have the ability to jump. The group needs to stay near chains so that the big guys will jump onto the chain thereby breaking it. Arrow on the player’s head signifies the target. Clear out the Twisted Spirit mobs.

Kicker: Need to keep moving to dodge assorted Shadow Blasts.

Zul’Aman

Akil’Zon (Eagle boss)

Eagles will pick players up and fly them around. DPS the birds. If you’re picked up, you can still DPS them. Look for the thundercloud and stand beneath it.

Nalorakk (Bear boss)

Standard tank and spank. Also does an AoE silence.

Charges the furthest player standing away. Inflicts a +500% damage taken debuff on the target. Don’t get charged twiced. Rotate with other group members in being the furthest person away. (Thanks Katherine and Wynn)

Halazzi (Lynx boss)

Kill totems. Kill the pet Lynx (likes to randomly rush players, healers need to stay on top of that). Lynx form frequently hits random players for massive damage. Your healer needs to be on the ball. Any self surviving cooldowns are encouraged to be used. (Thanks Katherine)

Jan’Alai (Dragonhawk)

Has a straight line fire attack, watch for it.

Watch for fire orbs and make sure you don ‘t stand near them. That hit box is a little larger than the graphic. Kill 1 of the hatchers. Healers need to dispel a fire debuff which comes from the hatched eggs. If Jan’Alai drops beneath a certain percentage, he hatches all of the eggs.

Hexlord Malacrass

Only 2 ads now. Kill them, blow up Malacrass. Remember Malacrass will assume the powers at random of the different classes in your group due to his power drain.

Daakara

Similar to Zul’Jin, he instead undergoes 2 animal forms instead of 4. Switches phases every 33%.

  • Lynx form: He rushes everybody and his damage gradually ramps up.
  • Dragonhawk form: He will dish out fires in a line from him as a center point. Watch out for flame pillars. It was a pain in BC, it’s a pain now.
  • Bear form: Randomly charges a player.
  • Eagle form: Spawns 5 random cyclones. They tend to stay stationary but will shift position every few seconds. Will shoot out lightning to players nearby.

Healing Priests in 4.1

Expecting an imminent patch drop! How are healing Priests stacking up? Pretty darn good actually.

No significant nerfs to Holy anywhere in 4.1. Some of our mechanics have changed slightly. Discipline suffered a slight nerf but gained buffs in other areas to the Atonement specs.

  • Power Word: Shield duration has been reduced to 15 seconds, down from 30.

Pre-emptive shielding continues to remain lucrative but the practice of shielding significant amounts of players in a raid is all but gone. In most logs, Power Word: Shield should be somewhere from 30% – 45% of the healing done due to the way it works and based on encounters as well as healing assignments. With the duration of it halved, the chances of it falling off unused become much higher. Discipline Priests will need to exhibit discipline and really make sure players get full benefits out of them.

Dispel mechanics have also changed slightly. Shadow Priests won’t be relied upon to dispel members in the raid anymore. It’ll be up to us to take care of it.

Holy

  • Absolution (new passive) enables priests to use Dispel Magic on up to 2 harmful effects on friendly targets.
  • Chakra now lasts until cancelled, up from 1 minute.
  • Holy Word: Sanctuary healing done has been increased by 35%. In addition, it has a new spell effect.
  • Surge of Light can now also trigger from Binding Heal.

Chakra dancing is just about gone now. Your present Chakra state will last as long as you like. I guess they saw no need to keep mindlessly pressing keys to refresh your Chakra state. It’ll be easier for Holy Priests to stay in one Chakra stance from now on.

Sanctuary gets a huge buff. It’ll go from “Ugh, never use” to “Eh, I’ll use it when we all stack up”. PTR numbers looked promising, but without being able to put a raid together, I’ve never been able to gauge  how awesome it would be.

Discipline

  • Absolution (new passive) enables priests to use Dispel Magic on up to 2 harmful effects on friendly targets.
  • Divine Aegis duration has been increased to 15 seconds, up from 12.
  • Atonement now works with Holy Fire in addition to Smite.
  • The direct damage portion of Holy Fire can now trigger Evangelism.
  • Power Word: Barrier’s cooldown has been increased to 3 minutes, up from 2, and its effect has been reduced to 25%, down from 30%.
  • It is now possible to remove Weakened Soul effects that were a result of another priest’s Power Word: Shield through Strength of Soul.
  • Holy Fire damage has been increased to be approximately 30% higher than Smite.

Atonement Priests get extra help now that it works with Holy Fire (at least, the direct damage portion of it). Not only that, Holy Fire gets buffed? I’m curious to see how this will play out in raids and if Atonement healing will become  more widely practiced.  

Power Word: Barrier gets nerfed with a cooldown increase along with  reduced effectiveness. Shouldn’t be too much of a bit hit. With Druid Tranquility cooldowns lowered and Shamans gaining access to the equalizer totem,  healing leaders now have much more options at their disposal.

Enjoy the patch! Looking forward to your thoughts when it goes live!

Matticast Episode 16 – Adopting Change, Unnecessary Heroics, and Patch 4.1

On Episode 16 of The Matticast, BorskMattKatChase and Brian discuss:

– Adopting Change

– Are Heroics Necessary?

– Parting Ways

– 4.1 For Healers

Don’t forget you can send us your questions or topics or tweet us with the hashtag #matticast

Subscribe to the show: iTunesRSS

 

Matticast Episode 15 – Combat Logs, Healing Meters, and Throwing In The Towel

On Episode 15 of The Matticast, BorskMattKatChase and Brian discuss:

– Combat logs and setting up World of Logs

– How to read and interpret healing meters

– Listener Tweets and Emails discussing guild moral, calling it quits, and raid comps.

Don’t forget you can send us your questions or topics or tweet us with the hashtag #matticast

Subscribe to the show: iTunesRSS

 

The Automated Healing Line

Ever wonder what would happen if you’re in the middle of the instance and your healing spells just aren’t working? What if you had to phone in for divine tech-support to get those heals flowing? How about placing an order for a buff or a healing spell? Well, reader Wistoovern mused this very topic and this is the end result. I present you with the Automated Healing Line. I couldn’t help but laugh pretty hard at this one, I mean could you imagine having to do this every time you healed someone?

I don’t know about you, but working in tech support for a number of years and being a dedicated healer I just find this incredibly amusing. It’s especially funny for me because having worked in a call center with many WoW gamers as co-workers this just makes perfect sense to me. It combines call center humor with priest healing and gives a possible explanation as to that occasional healing latency.

Wist did a great job splicing everything together and getting the monotone computer voice just right, next time maybe we’ll hear the screams of the dying in the background as that raid boss comes bearing down on the group while the healer is on hold.

So, what did you think?

[POLL] Your Healing Raid Frames

The Matticast team received numerous emails and feedback regarding our most recent show on healing raid frames. I just want to emphasize that there isn’t a right or wrong answer here. You should ultimately use the addons that are most comfortable for you. We certainly understand and respect that your experiences may have differed from ours.

So just a quick poll here. I’m quite curious. Which healing raid frames do you use? If your option isn’t listed, go ahead and specify it on the comments. What convinced you to use that particular addon?

Which site hosting does your guild use?

View Results

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A story

Let me tell you where my personal disapproval of HealBot came from. I touched on it briefly on the show, but I’ll write about it here in more detail. I was in a pickup Naxxramas raid.  We were clearing to  Clifford Gluth and this Holy Paladin just spazzes out. Apparently his HealBot broke after he switched to Holy. Memory is a bit fuzzy here. We spent a good 15 minutes waiting for this guy to download and reinstall and reconfigure his HealBot but he wasn’t able to get it going right. A patch had come out recently and HealBot had not been updated yet to work with it. Ultimately, we had to call that raid. When we asked if the Paladin could just use a different addon, he stated that he didn’t know how. He would just use whatever spells HealBot suggested. He mentioned something about not knowing how to heal without the use of HealBot. Couldn’t even use the default, drag-out UI either.

I was amazed because this one guy’s dependency on a single addon crippled the efforts of 24 other players.

I hearthed out of that instance vowing to never participate in a pickup Naxx again.

I violated that rule in about 48 hours on my alt Shaman.

Anyway, to reiterate, use the addons that make you comfortable the most.

3 Questions to Ask After a Recruit’s Trial Period Ends

3 Questions to Ask After a Recruit’s Trial Period Ends

In a recent episode of the Matticast, one of the topics we discussed was what guilds look for in applications. Once a player gets accepted, they typically undergo a trial process. The period could range anywhere from days to weeks. An application is a start, but it’s during this evaluation period where the recruit’s skill and attitude are truly scrutinized.

The questions vary from guild to guild, but there are 3 big ones that cross my mind.

can-they

We’re looking for the technical players. Can we count on recruits to execute? In Cataclysm raids, we want players who can easily understand and respond to the different challenges with minimal hand holding. For Conquest, things like DPS rotations are foundations that are expected before applying. If I give a Rogue a spell or an ability, I expect them to shut it down when paired up with another player. If I give tank healers their assignment, I expect tanks to survive through the worst. It shouldn’t take more than an attempt or two to stay out of fires, dodge discs or deal with any easily avoidable mechanics.

Because if a recruit can’t handle that, then we’re not the guild for them.

will-they

The nature of boss fights means there will be players who have to do the crappy job. No one really wants take on these responsibilities because they’re either:

  • Boring
  • Crappy
  • High stress

These are the roles that won’t get you the girl, but it is a necessity all the same.

Taking one for the team and volunteering for these will amplify your value. The guy who says yes to doing the hard stuff looks better. It’s one thing if you can’t actually do your job because your class or setup prevents you  from doing so. But not doing interrupts or dispels because you don’t want to and making the raid jump through hoops is a frustrating experience for leaders because we need to come up with a functional setup that might not be optimal for what we’re doing.

That’s just selfish. It might end up being the reason you get passed over for future raid invites.

Normally, I’m the guy that tackles the dispels . But it’s reassuring to know that another player or two in the raid is both able and willing to tackle the high stress jobs in the event I’m not around.

Especially with playoffs starting today. Go Canucks go!

they-fit

This is actually something more along the lines of what Kat would say. Although she is the more warm and fuzzy hosts on the Matticast, I would have to back her sentiments on this one (but don’t tell her I said that, I have an image to maintain). While the aforementioned skills and willingness to do the dirty work are important, at the end of the day if recruits aren’t fitting in with the guild, then they need to get cut loose. Not every guild is right for every player. It’s easy for guilds to say yes, you’re in. It is much harder for guilds to say no, you didn’t make the cut especially after a breakout performance. Being able to recognize players who don’t fit in and acting on it swiftly will save you grief in the long run.

It was a difficult lesson for me to learn during the first year of Conquest. I had to make several compromises. I either found a way to work with troubling recruits or we didn’t raid. It took every ounce of diplomacy to maintain an uneasy peace. The two week grace period we have going lets me check out players and see if they fit in both in the raid and outside the raid. I might even join up with them in PuGs or other activities and see how they react to the banter in guild chat. I actually booted a really creepy player a few months ago because he made several members in the guild uncomfortable. But that’s a story for another time.

If you happen to recruit a player who answers positively to all of the above questions, then the odds are in your favour that they’ll be an excellent addition to your guild.

New Appreciation for Potion of Concentration

I’ve started using Potion of Concentration on some of the more difficult fights more out of necessity than anything else. That additional ~10000 compared to the standard issue mana potions offer a sizeable advantage. The catch is that you need to find a time during the encounter where you can spare the time. Although you can interrupt it anytime, don’t do it. Maximize the gain. There were times where I’ve cheated and took a tick or two of needless damage to squeeze out as much drops as I can out of these potions.

Heroic Magmaw? Any of the head phases.

Heroic Maloriakk? I use it during the first part of any Dark phase.

Nef? Once I’m on a pillar.

Cho’gall? Any part where there is no abomination  (Or whatever its called) up.

I’m not sure if I can find a spot for it consistently on other bosses. I’ve only recently started using it. It’s going to take a bit of trial and error until I find the perfect sweet spot on encounters like heroic Chimaeron, Atramedes, and Theraliona. 

Also, ding guild level 25! It took us about 4 months but we did it!