Raid Leading 101: Starting your Roster

**Forgive the absence of last week’s post. I got “blessed” by a crazy work schedule that had me away from my desk a lot. Don’t forget that if there’s anything you’d like to discuss or see in a RL101 post, you can always email me**

So, you’ve made the choice between 10 and 25. You know which feels right for you and your friends. Now you need to look at your roster. Your roster is the list of players on your team that you can pull from to make your raid on any given night. Hopefully you’ve got a group of friends that you’ve started with, which will take some of the stress off of recruiting and assembling your team. We’ll start out with the basics of your raid (this is a 101 course, remember). You need tanks, healers, ranged DPS and melee DPS.

Tanks

Tanks are the classes that will take the brunt of the damage while protecting your raid. The classes that can fulfill this role are:

  • Protection Paladin (“Prot Pally”, “Tankadin”)
  • Feral Druid in Bear Form (“Bear”, “Meatshield”)
  • Protection Warrior (“Prot Warrior”)
  • Blood Death Knight (“Blood DK”, “BDK”)

It’s best in a 10-man raid to have ~3 Tanks on your roster (~4 for 25-man). Most raids encounters will require 2 tanks for encounters. Either your 2 tanks will have to alternate who is tanking the boss, one will tank the boss while the other tanks one or more mobs that join the fight, or you’re doing a Council-style fight.

Your Main Tank (or “MT”) should be your most talented tank and will seldom need a DPS off-spec. The other tanks on your roster (“Off-tanks” or “OTs”) should have a DPS off-spec so they don’t need to be totally swapped out mid-fight. Warriors can spec into Fury or Arms, Druids into Balance or Feral Cat, Paladins into Retribution, and Death Knights into Frost or Unholy.

Healers

Healers are the players that you pay to keep you alive long enough to see the boss take its last breath. Classes blessed with this ability:

  • Restoration Shaman (“Resto Shammy”)
  • Restoration Druid (“Resto Druid”, “Tree Druid”)
  • Holy Paladin (“Holy Pally”, “HPally”)
  • Holy Priest
  • Discipline Priest (“Disc”)

For your 10-man crew, count on having ~4 Healers on your roster (~9 for 25man). You’ll always need a minimum of 2 healers (5 in 25-man) for an encounter, depending on how healing intensive it is. It’s best to have the other healers in your roster work on a DPS offspec in case you need to convert to more DPS in an encounter. Priests can spec into Shadow, Druids into Balance or Feral Cat, Paladins into Retribution, and Shamans into Enhancement (Melee) or Elemental (Ranged).

Melee/Ranged DPS

DPS are the players that put the hurtin’ on the boss. They’re primarily responsible for dealing damage to the boss and any adds that may pop up, as well as crowd control, interrupt, off-heal, or help mitigate damage. Here’s the laundry list of DPS you’ll find:

Melee

  • Enhancement Shaman (“Enh Shammy”)
  • Rogue (Subtlety, Assassination, Combat)
  • Arms or Fury Warrior (“Arms War”, “Fury War”)
  • Retribution Paladin (“Ret Pally”, “lolret”)
  • Feral Druid in Cat Form (“Cat”, “Kitty DPS”)
  • Death Knight (Unholy, Frost)

Ranged

  • Elemental Shaman (“Ele Shammy”)
  • Hunter (Marksmanship, Beast Mastery, Survival)
  • Warlock (Affliction, Demonology, Destruction)
  • Mage (Arcane, Fire, Frost)
  • Balance Druid (“Moonkin”, “Boomkin”, “Boom Chicken”, “Lazer Turkey”)
  • Shadow Priest

In 10-man, you’ll want ~8 DPS’ers (~22 for 25-man) on your roster, with a mix of melee and ranged. There will be some fights that will be better for melee DPS or ranged DPS, so a mix will give you a good chance of success. Having any of your DPS players with a tank or heal off-spec is great, but more often than not, you’ll be better off if your tanks and healers are all main-spec.

Summing It Up

A standard 10-man raid will consist of: 2 Tanks, 3 Healers, 5 DPS.

A standard 25-man raid will consist of: 2-3 Tanks, 6-7 Healers, and the rest DPS.

Of course different raids will deviate from this basic model, but in my raiding experience, this is usually what you’ll find. To start out, aim for those numbers. Once you have your 10 or 25, add 1-2 more for each role to solidify your team. Your raiders will need nights off or have real-life commitments from time to time, and those extra people will help keep your raid going consistently.

Coming up, we’ll look at more advanced roster planning, as well as a couple recruitment tips!

Thespius’s State of the Dungeon/Raid

There’s been a lot of great conversation about how things are tuned in regards to Cataclysm Heroics and Raids (meaning normal Raids, I haven’t seen Hardmodes yet). This is starting to dip into the usual “Casual vs. Hardcore” debate, which I think is not what this entire argument is about. This game has made leaps and bounds toward making the game challenging for all. There are definite challenges for the people at the edge of blistering progression as well as for the family man/woman that can only log on once/twice a week, if that. I’d like everyone to take a look at a few different things, including adapting to change, the nature of challenge within the game, and the mindset of the “average” WoW player.

Know Where You’re Going, Know Where You’ve Been

Vanilla WoW – I was never a Vanilla WoW player. I understand that there was a very clear delineation between the casual player (questing and alts) and the hardcore player (40-man guild raiding). It’s very daunting to play a game when you know you have no chance of getting into any of the endgame content, stocked full of lore and goodies. This definitely took things too far in segregating the community. Casual players wanted to see the content, and Hardcore players loved feeling entitled to the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, the Holy Grail of the game.

Burning CrusadeThis is where I stepped into the ring. I started as a very casual player, barely being able to throw a Karazhan run together with friends. It was ridiculously hard to climb up the progression ladder to see higher content, but it was doable. Sadly, I had to leave some friends behind because of it. Guilds operated as “stepping stones” to the next level. There existed the “KZ” guilds, the Gruul/Magtheridon guilds, the “SSC/TK” guilds, and the “BT/Sunwell” guilds, meaning the highest those guilds could accomplish. With the release of Zul’Aman, we now had harder 10-man content that my ~9 friends and I could hammer through. Granted, I was single and working as an actor at the time, so I had lots of extra time to play. That would definitely change soon. Still, not being able to see Illidan really sucked.

Wrath of the Lich King – Ahh, the release of 10- and 25-man raiding, but things got easy REALLY quick. So much so that I found multiple PuG 25-man ICC Hardmode Runs. Hardmodes were supposed to be the culmination of progression, really only reserved for the highest of raiders. I was fine with that. I wanted to give them a shot but didn’t have any grand visions of getting my HM Lich King kill. The gameplay was such that mechanics could be avoided. Phrases like “just heal through it” were peppered in boss explanations. DPS started to complain if they had to stop their rotation, tanks screamed at healers if they couldn’t/wouldn’t heal through a mechanic that wasn’t being interacted with properly. Entire mechanics were being glazed over, and the general WoW community got lazy (that’s right, I said it). Although PuG raiders were in Hardmodes, they really didn’t know what to do, and had forgotten entire pieces of their class/spec. Mages decursing? Druids CCing? Hunters trapping? Unheard of!! The bonus part: people got to see the content. My opinion, it became trivial too quickly.

Cataclysm – 10-man and 25-man raiding becomes equalized as much as it can be. 25’s only slightly hold the advantage of being the “truer form of raiding”. Blizzard realized that people were completely ignoring fight mechanics and made them less forgiving (if you let Dragha’s Invocation of Flame get to its target, you’re dead). Justice/Valor Points from your Daily Heroic are no longer things you’re “entitled to”. They must be earned and fought for. With changes to healing and fight mechanics, players are forced to actually look at their spellbooks once again (any Dwarves looking at Stoneform again?). Encounters now begin to feel like a group effort, rather than 5 individuals who wish they could just solo the content so they don’t have to be around other people. Raids feel more daunting for most of the player base, and guilds are back to trying to beef up their own team rather than PuG’ing from Trade Chat. It takes longer to gear up, but the gear is obtainable. Epic gear is actually epic again! Even without running Heroics, it’s possible to get 346 gear for your character. People don’t want to PuG, thus forcing the player base to look for guilds of people they get along with.

I look at all of these as good things. With my guild being called “Team Sport”, it’s no wonder that I long for a gaming world where it feels more team-oriented and not so individually cut throat. If I had the time to run things more, I’m sure I would be geared to the teeth at this point, but I’m not. It’s taking me a little while, but that’s always giving me something to strive for. A trinket I need from Archaeology, or the rep from Baradin’s Wardens, all of which give me something to shoot for that takes time and dedication. I don’t expect it to come easy.

Challenge Yourself

Ever work out? Ever have that great feeling when you finally get your jogging route under your target time? What about finally getting able to lift some weights heavier than the 5-lb ones you’d find in an aerobic class? It’s a good feeling, isn’t it? It’s a high, a rush of endorphins. Did it come easy? Probably not.

Think of any hobby the same way. If you start out knitting, don’t expect yourself to whip out a complicated Afghan in a day. You start out with ‘easy’, and when you’ve mastered ‘easy’, you move to the next level. Look at model building, sports, or anything you do for fun. You can’t expect to be the best at it before you even pick it up. Just about any hobby is worth putting the work in, because without the work the payoff isn’t as good.

Now look at dungeons and raids. If you can face-roll Heroic Stonecore, then that one piece of gear that drops off of Ozruk doesn’t mean as much. You don’t value it the same way you would if you had to work as a team to get it done. That piece you now wear has a story behind it. Working hard to defeat that Heroic Ozruk has brought you close to your gear, and to the 4 other people that help you beat him.

When you find yourself in a group that is struggling with a Heroic Dungeon, ask yourself if you’re using everything in your power to make it go smoothly. Do you have some ability that would make the rest of the team’s job easier? Maybe you can step out of your normal role to help someone that’s struggling. I’ve seen Hunters that have issue frost-trapping a mob. My DK friend Aaron loves to Death Grip that mob back to the frost trap. It’s something that in WotLK a DK wasn’t expected to do, but Aaron does it because it helps the group. Is it easy to do? No, but it’s certainly not back-breaking. However, it’s more rewarding when we down bosses after thinking outside the box. It becomes an accomplishment to finish the encounter, rather than the accomplishment being the addition of a few Justice/Valor Points to your pool. That should be the reward for the accomplishment, not the accomplishment itself. Again, you value the prize more when you worked for it.

The Average WoW Player

A lot of complaints have come from the community (especially on the Official Forums) about the quality of the average LFD group. Rogues get instantly kicked for “not having reliable CC”, a Tank gets kicked for “one pull going awry”. I’ve been kicked from a group as a Resto Shaman simply for suggesting CC be used in Grim Batol. The quote: “Only bads use CC.” The forums are cluttered with threads such as these, and it makes it a really bleak outlook.

As stated above, we come from a Wrath mentality. The population both surged and got lazy in the last expansion. Mass pulling and AOE fests were more plentiful than senseless slander in American politics. Now we’re changing in Cataclysm, and change doesn’t come easy to most. It’s difficult for people to adapt to having to do more to get the same results.

Look at Trade Chat. Outside of gold and profession spammers, Trade Chat is pretty gross. I rarely am ever in it. Same goes for the official forums. Those that are the most unhappy or feel “scammed” talk the loudest. Anyone trying to be a voice of reason is usually shouted down, and good productive discussions are few and far between. This is no different than the LFD situation. There are a lot of people in that system that are bitter, jaded, and hate change. Rather than encouraging a nurturing environment, they’ll curse up a storm and belittle everyone else around them.

Where are all the nice players? They run with their guild, or have a friends list of people they’ve found that value a fun environment over the prospect of running a “boot camp dungeon”. They are out there, I promise. You just have to be patient and look.

I know the 45-minute queues are unbearable. It’s how I built up my Resto set–by queuing as Enhancement. It’s a total roll of the dice, and you may completely bottom out with your luck if you queue alone. Lodur posted a great article about being a teacher within the LFD. Strongly recommend checking it out, as it may give you a glimmer of hope.

The Light at the End of the Tunnel

If you’re one of the people who feels like you’ve been wronged by Blizzard, I ask you this: What is it you really want out of this game?

  • “I want to be able to log in, get my badges/epics, and log off.” I’m sorry, but those days are gone. People very quickly were behaving like drones. Those players in the game looked at dungeons and badges as “tasks” or “chores”, instead of events and rewards for those events.
  • “I want to see the lore and the content.” The normal dungeons provide all the same lore that the Heroics do, as far as I know. Heroic Deadmines and Heroic Shadowfang Keep offer their own lore but aren’t really in line with the Deathwing plot line. They’re great little side stories. As for raids, think of the storyline as Mt. Everest. I would love to see the top one day, however, I know that it will take work and dedication to get there. I don’t expect to just stroll up to the top.
  • “I want it to go faster! It takes too long!” You lose the journey this way. The struggle. Anything worth getting is worth the fight. Take Lord of the Rings for example. If Frodo just flew over the mountain and dropped the ring in from the start, it’d be a short movie, and not very gratifying.

If you want to find enjoyment in the game with people that are like-minded, you have to work for it. Blizzard stated before this expansion that they wanted to encourage more group- and community-oriented game play. It’s time for us as players to adjust to this shift in ideology.

Perhaps you’re in a guild that doesn’t really offer itself up to run dungeons with you. Maybe the group you’ve found yourself in isn’t really supportive when it comes to learning your class mechanics. Everyone starts somewhere, right? To me, both situations mean it’s time to start looking to surround yourself with people you share a mindset with. That’s what this particular MMO is built around, and that’s how Blizzard wants it. If you want to be solo and do your own thing, it’s going to be tougher and cause you more headaches. Start looking for a guild of people that you actually get along with. There are guilds out there that can get through the content and not belittle their members along the way. Whatever your schedule is, whatever your goals are, I promise there is a guild out there for you.

Focus on the journey and the challenge, rather than whining that you can’t have it all right here and right now.

I’m Thespius, and I approve this message.

Raid Leading 101: 3 Important Communication Tips

Last week, we covered some of the basic pro’s and con’s to both 10- and 25-man raid styles. Thanks everyone to their input and comments. I’ll be updating the post soon to get those new items in there! This week, we cover the art of communication.

Now that you’ve donned the crown of Raid Leader, you have to pontificate with your subjects… meaning you have to talk to your raiders. This sometimes can be the hardest aspect of the job. You definitely have to be more “on the ball” than the other people on the team. In my time as a raider, and also as a Raid Leader, I’ve always found the best Raid Leaders have been great communicators.

Choosing Your Style

When I raid, I like a positive and friendly environment. In raid environments, I usually do best when people are laughing, smiling, and overall having a good time. This is a game for me, and although I take it seriously, I work hard to make sure people are having fun. As a Raid Leader, I try to impress that upon my raiders.

It’s on you, as Raid Leader, to decide how you’re going to motivate your team. Positive reinforcement? Brow-beating? Drill Sergeant? I’m particularly biased towards the positive reinforcement, but I also see the benefits of other styles as well. Think of it this way:

  • You can take each good thing from a wipe and build on it. Encourage that kind of behavior or style of playing. Praise the healers for an excellent job handling that attempt, even if they ended up wiping.
  • You can point out the faults in each attempt, in an effort to discourage that from happening again. Even take it farther and threaten substitution if it happens again. Point out that if the mage doesn’t move the split second he needs to, he’s getting replaced.
  • You can be the strong, silent type. No news is good news. Set your assignments, and let the raiders discover what went wrong.

Either way you go, you must be aware of what kind of style you possess. This will easily decide what kind of raiders you’re going to have. There are plenty of raiders out there that enjoy different styles of raiding. Some like tough competition, some like the team environment. Be conscious of the tone you’re setting, whatever that may be.

Your Intentions

Just like in the olden days when a gentleman would court a lady, they would state their intentions. You must do the same. This goes back to our discussion on motivation. Have you been honest with yourself about your motivation? What do you want to achieve? How do you want to go about it (all things we’ll eventually cover)? You need to be up front with your raiders on what the goal of this adventure is:

  • What size are you going with? 10 or 25?
  • Are you going to work towards heroics? or just normal?
  • Are you bringing close friends? or are you valuing performance over history?
  • What sort of attendance policy do you intend to have?

By setting out the groundwork to your raiders, there’s very little room for guessing on your part. When you talk things out, it solidifies it in your own mind. Also, all of your raiders and potential recruits will know what they’re getting into, and what to expect.

Honesty is the Best Policy

An awesome line from my favorite movie, Swingers: “Respect my ass. What they respect is honesty.” The same holds true for being a Raid Leader. You need to be a straight shooter. If you want someone on your team, you need to be up front about it. If something’s not working out, you gotta speak up.

I’ve learned this first hand as a Raid Leader. **STORY TIME** When I was running the original Team Sport raids, we had a warlock that was never up to snuff. We tried to be up front from the beginning about what we expected of the raid team, and we knew that this warlock wasn’t up to it. Nice person, and fun player but just didn’t have the extra “oomph” to raid at the level we wanted to. Constantly long AFKs, not paying attention in fights, etc. Since we let it go on for so long, it had become acceptable to this player to act like that. When it came down to saying that we wanted to move forward but without the warlock, we were met with some unnecessary drama.

Essentially, if we had been honest up front regarding what we expected and that the warlock’s behavior wasn’t what we were looking for, we would’ve saved a lot of trouble. Now, within the Raid Team, I have little to no problem telling people that not signing up is unacceptable, or that not having food/flask is not gonna cut it. I’m not a jerk about it, but I’m honest with my raiders about what I expect of them on the team, and when they’re not getting invites or raid spots, they should know why.

How have you stepped up to the task of communicating to your raid? Are there any alternate methods/tips you’ve used that have been particularly efficient?

Raid Leading 101: 10 vs 25

Probably as old as when Burning Crusade launched is the discussion of 10man vs 25man. The jump from 40man to 25man jolted a lot of raiders and caused the collapse of several teams. Raid teams started out in 10-man Karazhan, which geared them to enter the 25-mans until the end of the expansion (Gruul’s Lair, Magtheridon’s Lair, Serpentshrine Cavern, Tempest Keep, Black Temple, Sunwell Plateau), with a 10man Zul’Aman thrown in for flavor.

From what I saw, there was a stigma that 10mans were inferior to 25man. 25man Raid Leaders were thought of as more commanding and needed more control over their team, whereas 10man Raid Leaders didn’t have as much responsibility. The only way to get any decent gear in Burning Crusade was to run 25man raids. Legendaries were obtained only in the greater of the two. The end result was people preferring 25mans over 10mans, even lasting into Wrath of the Lich King. Anyone else remember needing to get into 25-man Trial of the Crusader to get a decent trinket at the time?

However, with Cataclysm, the tables have shifted toward more balance. With the changes that Blizzard implemented, there is less pressure on needing to raid a certain size. Let’s take a look at the pro’s and con’s (as I’ve seen it).

25-man

  • More likely to have every raid buff due to a larger raid.
  • Raiders of the same class can feel more free to tweak their specs.
  • More forgiving to players that may be a little “sub-par”.
  • Battles have a more “epic” feel with a bigger raid.
  • More players = wealth of opinions in strategizing fights.
  • Three in-combat resurrections allowed per fight.
  • Raid competition may not be as crucial (melee vs ranged).
  • ————————————
  • Maintaining control over a bigger group.
  • More standby’s may be needed.
  • More people may equal conflicting egos/personalities.
  • Possible to run into scheduling difficulties.
  • Harder to start up from scratch.
  • Easier for people to slightly slack at times.
  • More officers may be needed.

10-man

  • Usually tighter-knit group.
  • Easier to start up from scratch.
  • More responsibility on each player.
  • Possible to have one of each class (very little gear competition).
  • Fewer standby’s may be needed.
  • Fewer officers or leaders needed.
  • ——————————–
  • Less input for fight strategies.
  • With fewer people, the fights may feel “less epic”.
  • More responsibility on each player.
  • Less room for error.
  • One in-combat resurrection available per fight.
  • Possible to miss certain raid buffs because of limited raiders.
  • Less room for error because of fewer players.
  • Raid composition may matter more (melee vs ranged).

The Choice is Yours

When you’re deciding on which side to go with, keep all of these things in mind. Some of the pro’s and con’s are the same. “More responsibility for each player” may be a good thing for your team or it may not be. You and your team are going to weigh these points differently, and that’s perfectly fine. It all goes back to what you want out of your team. Maybe you want the “epic feel” of 25man and don’t mind dealing with more people/schedules. Perhaps you like less gear competition but don’t mind putting more responsibility on each individual raider.

Remember, the same ilevel gear drops off of 10man vs 25man, so that’s no longer a factor. More gear drops on 25-man than on 10-man to even the scale. Also, Blizzard is still working on balancing the difficulty of the raid sizes, so one doesn’t feel noticeably harder than the other. Personally, I feel this is hard to achieve, but I’m fine with them getting it as close as they can.

As for me, we’ve decided on 10-man since the beginning. I don’t want to put in the extra effort needed to wrangle 24 other players, and we like the greater responsibility placed on each raider. We may not have that “epic” feel because we prefer a more intimate raiding environment. It’s not that I don’t enjoy 25man raiding, but I prefer 10man.

What about you and your team? Have you already made a decision? Are you split? What other pro’s and con’s can you add to the above list?

 

Raid Leading 101: What’s your motivation?

Welcome to Raid Leading 101! I’m Thespius, and I’ll be writing weekly about the in’s and out’s of what we see (or what you can expect to see) stepping into this coveted leadership role. I plan on covering a variety of individual topics: Tips, Lessons, Conflict, Loot Systems, Recruitment Systems, Scheduling, Add-ons, and whatever you feel needs to be covered. I am a new Raid Leader myself, so I look at this entire experience as a discovery. I’m certainly not perfect, but then again, no one really is.  If you have a topic you’d like covered on “Raid Leading 101″, email it to elder.thespius@gmail.com.

On your mark, get set, GO!

I don’t believe any of us woke up one morning thinking, “Wow, I think I’m gonna be in charge of 9/24+ people!” For the most part, our desire to lead has come from experience. You may have started raiding for the first time, and saw the command that the raid leader had. He/She knew the encounters inside and out and what everyone’s job needed to be. People listened to that “General” and obeyed orders.

OR, you had a horrible Raid Leader. Maybe you felt he/she didn’t have a good hold on the situation, using out-dated or unrealistic strategies. You just felt that the job wasn’t being done correctly, and you started to see all the things NOT to do. Therefore, you take it upon yourself to be a better and wiser Raid Leader.

In either scenario, you most likely learned from what you saw. Something in your past experience guided you to this position. You’re taking the lessons you learned and the stories you lived through, and you’re putting it towards your own system. You have a great trust in what you think is helpful and what is not. The question you have to ask yourself is, “Why?”

Meaning of Life My Leadership

I got my raiding feet wet in Karazhan, and I wanted more. My original guild <Sword Through the Horde> didn’t have the roster to do Serpentshrine Cavern or beyond. I joined <Rise of the Phoenix>. Drama on a low-population server tore it apart. I joined up with the newly-minted <Team Sport>, but the raiding was just too casual. I got cozy with <Concedo Nulli>, but drama crumbled that fun to the ground. I aligned myself with Lodur’s <Unpossible> and found a great home, but it was missing something.

I was missing the friends that I “grew up with” in the game. You’ll probably hear about them throughout this “column”. They’re near and dear to me, which is why I decided to go back to <Team Sport>. However, I knew (as they did) that we needed to implement a more solid structure. They all loved hearing the stories of our boss downings in <Unpossible>, and I would even invite my friend Jayme over to watch our Lich King kills. They were slightly jealous and wanted similar. It was at this point I started to tip-toe into the leadership position.

I’ve discovered that the most important thing to me is to progress through raid content with my friends that share the same mindset. There are 6-7 of us that share the similar belief of a light schedule but with solid progression. Hence, I’ve tasked myself with creating a Raid Team based around that. My closest in-game friends and I taking on 10-mans with force.

Your turn, Grasshopper

So you have to take an inward glance. If you’ve ever thought about taking the “Reins of the Raid”, you have to ask yourself, “Why?” It’s not an easy job, so you need to be passionate. Know what it is you want to accomplish, and stay true to what got you here in the first place. Maybe it’s friendship, maybe it’s hunger, maybe it’s adrenaline. Whatever it is, take some time to identify it. It’s going to be the backbone of your leadership.

What drives you to be the Raid Leader? What is it that convinced you to take on the role?

Raid Leading Backbone

**Image from “Patton” courtesy of 20th Century Fox Films**

I have a fault. Well, I have lots, but the one I’m going to talk about is my propensity to be “too nice”. Ever since I was a kid, I’ve hated confrontation. I wanted everyone to be happy. People in Team Sport (my guild) have called me “The Politician” (without all of the negative stigma from current American politics). I try to make sure everyone is listened to and catered to as much as possible.

However, with regard to leading Team Sport’s Raid Team, I’ve hit the biggest snag. I can’t be “The Politician”. I have to be a leader. Previous incarnations of Team Sport raiding were very casual. If people happened to be online that night, we raided. If not, no big deal. As time went on, I noticed a few of us were very passionate about getting a raid going, while others were very lackluster about the whole ordeal. I always tried to get us raiding while not being inconsiderate to those that weren’t interested that particular night. Everytime we came close to getting something solid going, it would fall apart. Someone would have a real life issue (totally understandable) or just randomly disappear on a WoW break. Each time it would fall apart, I would most likely take my raiding desires elsewhere but found myself always back in Team Sport once it looked like raiding was possible again.

With about 2 months left to the expansion, I worked with a buddy of mine to throw some much-needed structure into the system. It started out great. We did a merge with another small guild that had the same issues, and we killed 10-man Arthas within one month. This proved to me that our team has what it takes to be a good progression crew. We just need some structure and drive.

The Present

We’ve had a good amount of guildies return to the game from “retirement”. A lot of them seem incredibly excited to raid the current content. However, when I mention this new structure (scheduling, accountability, responsibility), a few have balked at it. The main goal of the team is to actually progress through content while it’s still current, not eventually bash through it when it’s old news and nerfed to the ground. To do that, I’ve been working diligently to implement some guidelines:

  • Consistency – I justly understand and sympathize with real-life issues. Sometimes I have to work late, or I have something important that needs to be taken care of on a raid night. However, the core of us have done what we can to work our schedules around being able to raid together. We raid 3 hours each night, 2 nights each week. I don’t think it’s too much to ask for core raiders to be consistently available (within reason…don’t miss the birth of your child or risk getting fired).
  • Responsibility – A cardinal rule of raiding is being prepared. Make sure your gear is enchanted and you have flask and food available. Take the time to look up the fights. Don’t take unannounced AFK breaks or breaks that are longer than what the Raid Leader has set forth. Pay attention and look for ways that you can contribute.

If a Team Sport raider can’t consistently be available, or just lacks responsibility and preparedness, they’ll be placed in a standby slot (at best) or just not on the team (at worst). I’ve made it clear that we’ll do more casual raiding nights any other evening of the week (akin to the “if we have people on, we raid” mentality), but the Raid Team core wants Tues/Thurs night to be focused and dedicated.

The Challenge

There are some that have thought that it is too much to ask. I’ve been told that I’m making raiding “feel too much like a job” and that I’m “taking the fun out of it”. Frankly, I expected this out of some. These are people that have always enjoyed the “casual” mentality of our old raid style. I don’t blame them. It was fun when we all had the time and were just kind of strolling around Azeroth, hittin’ up a raid when we could. However, many of us don’t have that kind of time or mentality any longer. That is the precise reason these changes were made.

I’ve been recruiting to fill those spots that were once occupied by the more casual players or ones with unpredictable schedules. It does pain me to be looking for other people instead of the long-standing Team Sport members that I’ve been playing with for 3+ years, but it’s just not fun for the Raid Team core to log on, and find out we’re not raiding because of people that we can’t rely on.

So the challenge I face: How do I institute this structure and work toward the raid’s success, while still maintaining in-game friendships with those that simply don’t want to be a part of a Raid Team like that?

Matticus already told me: “Don’t be friends with your raiders.” I get that. It makes sense. It’s why there are corporate rules of management not fraternizing with employees. It muddies the water. However, I feel it’s possible that I can be strict and firm with regard to the raid, and then just be myself whenever it’s not about the raid. The trick is to let them all know that’s what’s going on.

I need to continue to be firm on what the goal of the raid team is, and how we plan on achieving that. I also need to be diligent about communicating what’s going on with the raid and its raiders. If I make sure everyone’s aware of what’s expected, then they can’t legitimately get angry when something is not up to snuff.  I have to hold the raid accountable, as well as hold myself accountable.

Have you ever dealt with being a Raid Leader of your friends? What tricks have you used to keep things moving forward without sacrificing friendship?

On that note, Team Sport is looking for a melee DPS or two for core slots. Other roles are full. However, if you’re interested in being a part of the team in a standby role, those applicants are always welcome. Outside of raiding, we’re very active in PvP and regular casual gameplay. We’re an Alliance guild on the Ner’zhul server (PvP-PST). Further info and an application @ http://teamsport.guildlaunch.com.

A Must-Read for the Cataclysm Player

Needless to say, I’ve been enjoying a nice little break from WoW before Cataclysm. Spent time with family for Turkey Day, beat Mass Effect (never played it before), and I’ve been looking forward to the new expansion for the WoW TCG–not for the loot card but to actually enjoy the game.

I came across a great post on the MMO-Champion forums which let me reminisce about my original post here when I was still a guest. I’ve tried to focus a majority of my blogging on how everyone can help each other. The name of the guild I’m in is Team Sport, and that’s what I believe this game is. Hence, when I read the forum post by Daetur, I felt like a proud father. Not because I had any direct impact on him/her but because it goes along with everything that I believe this game should and could be. Instead of making a small link to it in the midst of this text… I’m going to make sure you don’t miss this:

DAETUR’S CATACLYSM FORUM POST

Daetur discusses what each player (Tank, Healer, DPS) can do to ensure the success of any dungeon or raid. He takes the stance that many of us have gotten “complacent” in WotLK with regard to raiding and dungeons. Through my experience, I have to say I agree. We’ve come to expect AoE’ing down 3 packs of mobs, healing through debuffs, and risking death to get a few more casts in. According to Daetur, we’re in for a rude awakening. I’m excited! A few things he mentions:

  • CC is key. We are going to need to CC mobs, and avoid breaking them at all costs.
  • Defensive cooldowns are key all around. Tanks, Healers, and DPS are going to need their cooldowns to help stay alive.
  • Healers need to manage their mana, since it’s now at a premium and no longer infinite.

I can’t help but feel like the whole thing meant to make the job of the healer’s more manageable. Well, it’s true. The goal of any fight is to kill them before they kill you. We may be able to burst to high hell, but if we can’t stay alive doing it, then what’s the point? I’m already bracing myself for the backlash of the “uninformed”: “L2Heal noob.” We no longer live in a world of invincibility. Everyone is reponsible for helping everyone else stay alive and do their job easier.

Remember, I only lightly summarized the forum post by Daetur. I implore you to please read the entire post. You may not disagree, and all of it may not be pertinent to you, but you’ll know what everyone is up against in Cataclysm. Help each other out.

Bored? Try Lore!

We’ve still got a pain-stakingly long two weeks (roughly) until Cataclysm drops. 4.0.3a will bring a wealth of opportunities to see the new zones and play with the race/combo changes, but how else is your time being spent?  Here’s what I’ve seen a lot of in Trade Chat:

Player1: What’s going on in SW?

Player2: Pre-Cata Event

Player1: What do you do for it?

Player3: It’s 5 quests and that’s it.

Player1: What do you get for it?

Player4: Nothing.

Player1: Lame.

Now that the new Elemental Invasion is underway, I saw a lot of this:

Player1: What’s going on in IF?

Player2: Elemental Invasion for Pre-Cata

Player1: Grr… I can’t do anything here right now.

Player3: You have to kill the elementals and rescue civilians.

Player1: What do I get for it?

Player4: ilevel 251 epics from some dungeons.

Player1: Awesome!

I gotta say, this makes me sad. I’m well aware of the addictive nature of seeing a shiny new purple epic show up in your inventory, but the complete shunning of anything potentially entertaining in the game baffles me. Of course, not everyone is going to like every little nuance in the game. Blizzard has tried to do a thorough job of making the game diverse enough for everyone. In the 4 years I’ve been playing WoW, I think they’ve done a bang-up job, too.

Give your eyes some exercise!

I’ll be the first to admit that throughout most of my WoW career I read only the objectives, then looked to QuestHelper (or the new WoW version) to guide me on my way. I paid no attention to the text or lore of the quests.

Wrath of the Lich King changed that for me. In Burning Crusade, I didn’t have any passion to see Illidan dead. Yeah, I knew he was the last boss, but I didn’t harbour a pure hatred for him. Arthas was a different story. The way we saw Arthas throughout this latest expansion instilled a desire to annihilate him when Icecrown Citadel was opened. We got to play as him, we were taunted by him, and we were at times aligned with him. In short, we became invested in the story and its outcome.

When Cataclysm was announced, I immediately started to thirst for knowledge. Who was Deathwing? How did he get to be so horrible? Why is he so mad? What other forces might we fight against? My first homework was to check out WoWpedia for an overview. It gave me a decent amount, but not enough. I then decided to go to the books. Christie Golden’s The Shattering is a quick and easy read. I tore through it in a day. There are other books that give you more history on Deathwing and the Dragon/Demon Soul, and it’s on my nightstand as I write this.

Also, I took the time to read the quests in the pre-Cataclysm event. Following the Doomsayers, visiting the Twilight Hammer’s camp, seeing the image of Cho’gall, all driving me further towards my passion of seeing Deathwing dead. Not for “epic lewtz”, but just to see the antagonist dead.

What can I do to get involved?

  • Take time to read the quests. They’re 2 paragraphs at most, and take no more than 30 seconds to read.
  • Check out WoWpedia. Search for Deathwing and get “click-happy”. I found myself on so many different wikis learning about the characters we’re spending the next ~2 years with. (The combination of Thrall and Magni Bronzebeard made me decide to race change my Shaman to Dwarf)
  • Read some of the novels! Across the board, people have recommended Lord of the Clans as a great place to start. From there, if you’re gearing up for Cataclysm, read The Shattering right after. Both are quick reads and really enjoyable (though I have issues with some of Golden’s writing choices).

Think of it this way: Why do people get so involved in movies and TV shows? It’s because we get invested in them. We learn to love the protagonists and hate that antagonists. Maybe it’s the other way around! Either way, you become attached to the characters in the story. The same exists with video games. Some of the best video games out there have compelling storylines with deep characters. WoW, in my opinion, is no different. I look at my playtime as “living through a story.”

I know that in Cataclysm, I’ll be trying to get my main up as fast as possible, while using an alt to actually read the quests along the way. I want Deathwing’s head on a platter, including his metal chinny-CHIN-CHIN!!

Chakra: Renew is Gone

Chakra: Renew is Gone

Note: the tooltips in the quoted text boxes do not reflect the current changes to the abilities they describe.

Since 4.0.1 changes were even announced, I was overwhelmed with anticipation to try a Holy spec. Now, I’ve been Discipline since before Wrath of the Lich King dropped, and I’ve loved the entire playstyle (minus that “bubble spam” thing). When I saw the Chakra ability, as well as the corresponding Holy Word: Chastise states, I started to digitally salivate. I’ve always enjoyed classes that had a wealth of abilities to use (which is why I never rolled a Paladin — KIDDING!!). In the “lame duck session” before Cataclysm, I’ve been experimenting with the new playstyles and adapting to the new juicy mechanics that have been laid out for us. Chakra Heal has potential to be real potent. Chakra Prayer of Healing offers a beautiful and useful “stand in the good” zone, as well as an AoE Healing buff. Chakra Smite has been amazing for farming meat, mats, or anything else for which I need to “nuk da mobz”.

Chakra Renew has been a bit ambiguous to me. I understand that Renew is a very powerful tool in a certain-specced Holy toolbox, but its implementation into Chakra kind of baffled me. Now, I *like* to think I’m a pretty creative guy, but I just couldn’t really see the use or fun in it. Maybe it’s because I come from a Discipline playstyle, but I didn’t see a need to constantly spam renew beyond just blanketing my 10man raid. Well, we were given this nugget of info (thanks MMO-Champion):

  • Chakra no longer works with Renew. No longer costs mana. Sanctuary (Prayer of Healing, Prayer of Mending) now increases healing done by your AoE spells and Renew by 15%. (Old – Only increased AoE spells by 10%)
  • Effectively, they’ve killed Renew’s exclusivity with Chakra and teamed it up with Prayer of Healing, adding in Prayer of Mending, too. You’ll get more healing out of Renew, but remember that you have to activate it with Prayer of Healing or Mending. You cannot activate your steroid-juiced HoT by hitting that Renew key. Patience, grasshopper.

    Because of this change, our State of Mind talent has been altered:

  • State of Mind no longer affects Renew, affects Prayer of Mending instead.
  • Now, I use Prayer of Mending almost always on cooldown out of habit. Adding this into extending that Chakra state will benefit a lot of Priests out there. If the best play for a certain encounter is to keep that Chakra going, I’m not too big a fan of spamming one button to extend it. I think a change like this could also be implemented in our Heal Chakra or Smite Chakra. Only add one additional spell to extend it. Chakra Heal could also be extended by Greater Heal, a spell that we don’t really spam anyways. Chakra Smite could be lengthened by Holy Fire as well, since it’s impossible to spam it while it’s on cooldown. Here’s an image of the new tooltips (thanks, Matticus!):

    All in all, I’m pleased with the change. As it stands right now, I don’t use Renew Chakra as it is and didn’t see much use in the future. However, as would be my luck, I’ll step into that first Cataclysm raid encounter and think, “Man! I wish I had Chakra Renew back for this fight!” C’est la vie.

    Do you feel the alteration of Chakra and State of Mind are changes for the better or worse? Are you going to miss the Renew Chakra?

    Updated Flexible Raid Lockout System

    **Forgive the slight grammatical errors. I wrote it in a hurry and overlooked the “it’s” that I had written incorrectly. Thanks to those who pointed it out.**

    Up until today, the new 10/25 raid lockout method has been met with praise and condemnation. Most of us have believed that if you started a 25man, you could stick with that 25, or downgrade to 10 on the same lockout. It was thought that you could not “re-upgrade” to 25man. Until now.

    As posted on MMO-Champion today, Bashiok wrote a Blue Post about the new system that we’ll see VERY soon.  As in, 4.0.1 soon. In terms of current raiding, this new system will only be in place for ICC and Ruby Sanctum but will persist through all of Cataclysm. The post itself took a couple times for me to digest it, so I’m going to attempt to break it down for you. (Key word: attempt)

    Its Purpose

    The purpose of this new “Flexible Raid Lockout System”, as opposed to trapping people into raid IDs or limiting their raid potential, seems to allow a more fluid movement through a typical raid week. Before this system, you’d step into a raid, and as soon as you killed the first boss, you were locked to that ID. The raid could sit dead mid-way through, and you’d be stuck. You couldn’t really progress unless you found people from that raid or people that weren’t saved yet. Except for guilds, it would be really hard to continue.

    Its Mechanic

    Each raid, rather than being designated an entire lockout, has a lockout for each encounter in it, regardless of raid size (10 or 25). For Icecrown Citadel, this means 12 “lockouts”. As Bashiok said, they want raiders to have the “opportunity to defeat each encounter once a week.” You are locked out of each individual encounter as you down a boss. A couple things to keep in mind:

    • You cannot enter a different raid where bosses that you’ve defeated are still alive.

    What does this mean? Let’s say you’ve killed Marrowgar, Deathwhisper and Gunship in your raid on Wednesday night. On Thursday, you cannot join a raid of either size that still hasn’t defeated Gunship. From what it seems, that raid would have to defeat Gunship before you joined in.

    • Upon entering a new or different raid, you’re not saved to their “list” until you down a boss. Getting saved to a more progressed raid will lockout all bosses until that point.

    In using the example above, if you’ve killed Marrowgar, Deathwhisper and Gunship, and join a different raid that has the first four bosses, as well as Rotface & Festergut killed, you won’t be saved until you down any of the other bosses alive. If you defeat Putricide with them, your raid breakdown will now say that you’ve defeated Saurfang, Festergut, and Rotface as well (even though you didn’t ACTUALLY kill them).

    • You can switch between 10- and 25-player raids along the way. The above stipulations still apply.

    You can kill the first quarter on 10-man, join a 25-man to kill the 2nd quarter, then finish out the rest on 10-man. We once thought that once we downgraded to 10, we couldn’t upgrade to 25. This obviously is not the case anymore.

    Heroic / Hardmode

    Heroic Mode or “Hardmode” seems to work on a very strict lockout system, where once you’re in, you’re in. I’ll try to bullet-point how this works:

    • If you down a boss on Heroic (in any size), you can only continue to raid Heroic with that specific raid. You cannot change raid sizes and continue on Heroic.
    • If you down a boss on Heroic and join a different non-Heroic raid, that raid cannot upgrade to Heroic with you in it.
    • You cannot join someone’s else’s raid if they’re already defeated a boss on Heroic.
    • If you down a boss on Heroic, then the rest of the raid clears the rest without you, you can still join another non-heroic raid that already has your same bosses down.

    The one problem I have with this is not being able to join a raid with Heroic bosses already down. If my guild starts Heroic ICC without me because I have to work on the first raid night, then it seems like I can’t join the raid mid-run. Is this intended to make it harder and “more Heroic”? Or is this maybe an oversight or misreading of the mechanic?

    —-

    I do like that you can continue to raid if your normal group can’t, but the restrictions on Heroic seem just an ounce too tight. Overall, this really will allow people to raid 25s if they want or can, and doesn’t penalize people for only being able to do 10mans. It in fact let’s them join in on a more progressed 25-man raid that may need an extra body. With it being a little less restrictive than we all thought, I’m really looking forward to seeing this new “lockout system” play out. What do you think? Interesting mechanic? Or too confusing?