Once you have your own little Raid Machine up and running, it’s very easy to get a particular kind of tunnel vision. In the context of Burning Crusade, many new raiding guilds or casual raiding guilds worked and struggled to become the kind of organization that could reliably clear Karazhan. However, once Prince started going down every week, these guilds stalled out or stagnated. Believe me, I’ve seen it–I used to be in one of those guilds! One week, the end boss of the entry-level raid is dead and every one is happy. The very next week, the best players are leaving the guild for more progressed organizations on other servers.
So, What Happened?
Many Karazhan-capable guilds encountered problems after they cleared the place for one simple reason. The guild’s wildest dream had come true, and it’s hard for a guild to outlive its founding vision. When you are at the helm of the raiding guild, it is your responsibility to adapt your goals and plans to a changing environment. Always plan weeks or months ahead, and make sure your guild is aware that you have a vision for their future.
Your thoughts and planning should extend to at least one instance beyond where you are. Collateral Damage practiced an extreme version of this. Because we started late, hitting Serpentshrine Cavern only in January, we had a very small window of time to clear two full tiers of content. We are less casual now than we were when we started, and we spent a full five months in T5. However, we started thinking about the next step about the time Leotheras went down. At the time, attunements were still in place for T6, and the officers started planning and strategizing about how we were going to kill Vashj and Kael. We shared part of our plans with the guild, in the first of what became a series of goal-setting posts from our raid leader.
In T6, we knew time was running short. Attunements were lifted just as we were ready to start, and we knew that Sunwell was on the horizon. Our goal, however, was to get through Illidan and Archimonde–we didn’t think about anything beyond that. We made posts promising a dead Illidan by the end of the summer, and all of my recruitment ads promised full clears of T6 by that time. And you know what? We did it. I think that the planning, goal-setting, and above all, the stubborn refusal to accept the possibility of failure allowed us to do it. Mind you, we’re not a hardcore guild, and we were even less so the first time we took a peep at Naj’entus.
In order to survive, a raiding guild must always have progression in mind. Some weeks no new bosses will die–that is only right and good, as it is the sign of challenging content. We don’t want it to be easy, right? However, a guild must never be content to rest on its laurels and only raid farm bosses. As your group masters more and more bosses, the farm list will grow longer, potentially leaving less and less time every week to work on new content. There are two ways to manage the dichotomy of progression and farming: the fast method and the slow method. Each way has its own benefits and drawbacks.
The Fast Method
Following this method, a raid leaves farm content behind as soon as it is feasible. The raid may set some essential gear goals, like a certain amount of tank health or survivability, but no attention is paid to the completion of gear sets or the acquisition of best-in-slot items. End bosses in particular, because of their relative inaccessibility and high level of time investment, are more or less neglected. The raid may kill the end boss of an instance three or four times at maximum, and all fights in the dungeon will not be on farm status before the raid moves on to the next boss. Inevitably, gear gaps arise, as people do not have the opportunity to collect all the gear from the instance. In Burning Crusade, players looked to badge gear, craftables, and Zul’Aman gear to fill the gap. Similar opportunities for gear outside of raids may also be available in Wrath. This method allowed Collateral Damage to get through T6 in short order, but if you ask some of our members, the progress was too fast at times. The pressure was consistently high, especially for a casual raiding guild, and members spent a great deal of time outside of raiding optimizing their gear.
However, the great benefit of this method is that players never get bored. The challenge is consistent, and the raid doesn’t stagnate. Even if they farm on Tuesday, they know they get to wipe to fun new content all night on Sunday. If you are a guild behind the curve of progression, which many guilds that start up at the dawn of Wrath might be, this is probably the best progress model to adopt. Before you do, however, make sure your players are up to the pace.
The Slow Method
According to this tactic, the raid farms instances until the majority of its players complete their gear sets. These guilds do spend time on new content, but they happily farm the old until they reach a comfortable overall gear level. If the guild follows this method, the members have little need to acquire gear outside of raid instances. They can spend their non-raid time in less stressful ways. The risk, however, is that members will get bored. Over time, a good raid can master so much content that it is impossible to go through it all in a week. There will always be people who want one last thing out of an old dungeon. Take, for example, all those raiders, casual and hardcore alike, who farmed Karazhan into the ground.
The slow method, however, can backfire as easily as the fast method. Raiders may become complacent and sloppy if they’re not motivated to reach new content. It feels terrible to wipe repeatedly to farm content–this is what happens when players do not pay attention or, worse, stop attending farm days.
The Happy Medium
Is there a way to combine the approaches? I would tend to say yes, but from my experience, certain types of guild structures manage the struggle between farming and progression better than others. Naturally, hardcore guilds are the best at farming–they have structures that ensure their members’ attendance, and those members tend to be really interested in raiding anyway. Smaller guilds will always have an easier time leaving instances behind than guilds with deep benches because they have less members to outfit. However, small guilds run the risk of not filling farm raids if members lose interest. However any raiding guild, regardless of size or structure, can both farm and progress, as long as its leadership is actively managing the relationship between the two. The key idea here is responsibility: farm responsibly, and progress responsibly. Here are some tips on maintaining the equilibrium between these two opposing terms.
1. Farm it like you mean it.
When you do farm old content, or clear the front half of an instance in order to get to new bosses on the back, play as if every fight were a progression fight. Many raid leaders will be tempted to be more inclusive on farm rosters, letting more casual members of the guild see the content. Do this with caution. Make sure that whoever you bring along will not slow the group down. Your highest commitment should be to your regular raiders–make them happy, and you will have a stable guild. I also advise against allowing raiders to bring alts in farm content. In the long run, they will be sorry they spread their DKP over more than one character, and their play may even suffer because they have not concentrated adequately on one class and role.
2. Always have progression time.
In a 12-hour raid week, which seems to be a typical raid schedule, try to dedicate at least 4 hours to new content. That is enough time to take down a new boss if it’s fairly easy or to make significant progress on a difficult one. I have seen bad weeks and good weeks of raid progress, but the only thing that guarantees a stagnant week is dedicating insufficient time to the fun new stuff. Make sure your people have a reason to farm quickly–they should know that, at the end of their raid week, they get to challenge themselves with something new.
The key idea here is reasonable progress. Don’t force your raid through content at lightning speed, but don’t let your group stagnate either. Remember that a guild that makes steady progress will be happier and more stable than the server-first guild that rushes through thanks to sleep deprivation and a Raid Leader who knows how to crack the bullwhip.
After all, what are you going to do when you run out of content? At that point, it’s all farming until the next patch comes out. Make sure that when your guild gets to that happy point, the members all like each other enough to stick around through some slow farming weeks. That’s the kind of organization with real staying power.