My Hearthstone Tournament Mode Feature Wishlist

My Hearthstone Tournament Mode Feature Wishlist

Last year, there was some discussion about new features being added to Hearthstone. Eventually, we discovered that the new game mode was none other than Tavern Brawl but we know that the developers are watching and considering idea for a tournament option. We didn’t get anything during the Grand Tournament expansion either. At the moment, tournaments are more community run than anything else. Players can look up events on Battlefy, Strivewire, and on other sites. Blizzard seems to be reluctant to take full control of running competitive tournaments at the moment (but that could be changing in the future after their purchase of MLG).

With Standard mode being implemented, the Hearthstone team has addressed the issue of stale meta games and evolving playstyles. The next step forward should be to look at the quality of life aspect for competitive players and tournament organizers.

Match history

No need to delve into this one too much. Wrote about it not too long ago. I’m sure they could put in the level of detail consistent with Heroes of the Storm and Starcraft 2 match histories. It solves the issue of having to screenshot the results right after a match in case someone forgets to take a screenshot.

Turbo mode

One of the problems with Conquest mode is the amount of time it takes to get through a best of 5 match. Control matchups often take up a whole hour and in Swiss tournaments, every match needs to finish before the next round can begin. My Fireside’s often last over 8 hours and it’s more an exercise in attrition than anything else.

Those of you familiar with online poker might be aware of some tournaments that are under turbo mode. Think of it as express games. Blinds and ante’s go up twice as fast. You have less time to make adjustments, to wait for premium hands, and to recover from any errors.

I’m not advocating for faster turn limits. Those can be kept the same.

What I would like to see is a checkbox or an option to speed up animations. If it could be sped up even 25%, it would help accelerate matches. Both players would have to enable it.

Do we really need to see Ragnaros rise up from the board again?

Or for every minion to enter a melee after a Brawl gets played?

Or Unleash the Hounds into a Knife Juggler which happens to hit an Acolyte of Pain or Armorsmith?

I get that much of the appeal in Hearthstone is in the visual effects. It’s just fun to watch our cards interact with other elements on the board. It separates Hearthstone from other digital card games (or card games, period). However, in tournaments, we have to do everything we can to keep games going at a reasonable level. There’s certainly things I can do on my end as a TO to help speed things along and get everyone going more efficiently when an event is under way.

Besides, once a tournament enters a playoff stage, the turbo mode option can be unchecked and animations returned to their original speeds for spectator appeal.

Unique Deck IDs

This would solve deck submission list problems. I was talking to a friend the other day who participates frequently in online tournaments. Now, when you connect to a player and are in the deck selection screen, you cannot back out. If you do and and enter your collection, you’re liable for a forfeit loss. One of his opponent’s did that and he had to report him after they connected and he dropped out to his collection then reconnected again.

mws

Thankfully, this is a problem that was solved in other card clients like Apprentice and Magic Workstation. What they did was automatically generate a unique deck ID (or security code as illustrated). Maybe even mention that the deck type is standard or wild. There’s no way to re-engineer a deck list from the deck ID string. The deck ID would be visible to both opponents. It would be submitted ahead of time to tournament organizers for players to lock in their decks. If a player had a different ID than the one submitted, then it could be grounds for further investigation. But this way, it would help address the issues of players mistakenly dropping out of the connection screen.

Overtime

This one is a trickier thing to address. Should there be an overtime option added to the game? Or should every match be played out to it’s conclusion? I hate Control Warrior vs Reno Lock matchups or other similar type games because I know how long those games can stretch. I’d like to see 50 minute match times for best of 5s, but that wouldn’t really be fair. People could whip out Control Warrior or Control Priest as their third deck and play for a draw instead of for a win. In Magic, once time is called, there are five total turns left and if you can’t win before the final turn is up, the game is considered a draw. In a Swiss tournament, that’s okay because you can award the draw to both players but in an elimination round, that isn’t possible. I’d love to see time limits in place during a group stage and then lift them during playoffs.

Thankfully, the existing turn timers are in place to help mitigate and reduce slow playing. There are times where I don’t believe it’s enough.

Fireside Incentives

This is a tough issue to address. The biggest question that’s asked of me when I’m hosting events is always, “Why should I come out to a Fireside tournament if I know I’m going to get slaughtered by pros? I’d rather just stay home and play in my PJs.”

And that’s a fair criticism. There’s more that can be done on the event organizers and maybe even Blizzard. I know I’ve held my own share of Fireside events and had conversations with players about the very topic. Last year, when Firesides had just launched, Blizzard gave organizers redeemable codes that they could give to players for a free Hearthstone classic pack (with a limit up to 10 redeemed). Or if they hadn’t yet, players could come out and grab their Fireside card back just for participating in a couple of games with other players on a local network.

Ever since then, there’s been nothing. Their Fireside program’s been restructured and no codes have been given out in a while. The Fireside cardback’s been exhausted and most players probably have one by now (or at least, it’s still easy enough for them to obtain it).

In my case, I’ve held a few giveaways with some prizes from the Blizzard store like posters or plushies or other smaller stuff to random attendees that show up.

Aside from that, the biggest draws have been cash prizes from entry fees or potential HCT points (although that can’t be considered anymore because it seems HCT events need to be free for everyone to join which hurts the organizers because they can’t afford to cover venue fees — It’s not like I have my own game store I can host Firesides at, I have to work with venues and there’s a business aspect that needs to be covered, but that’s a rant all on it’s own).

So back to my original point. How can Blizzard increase Fireside participation?

When I used to play Magic at FNM’s, pre-releases, and other tournaments, you could always count on receiving some boosters or promo cards. With Hearthstone, it’s a little different. Since accounts are capped at 10 redeemable packs, there’s only a limited number of those that can be awarded.

What about rotating Fireside card backs? I’d be game for that. Have a new Fireside cardback that’s obtainable during certain Tavern Hero seasons. That gives collectors something they’d be interested in coming out to events for.

Ranked play offers gold cards depending on what rank you reach at the end of the month. I would’ve suggested that, but it might be too much of the same thing. Alternate art cards maybe? Or maybe a code for 1000 dust? Heroes of the Storm gives out skin codes and hero codes during tournaments. For Hearthstone, I don’t know, but it seems to be getting increasingly more difficult to encourage players to come out to Firesides these days.

I wish there was more I could do but there are only so many resources I have at my disposal here and want to keep promoting the game while hosting events. It’s tough.

The Post Warcraft Life

Have you seen this poll from my editor, Adam “His Holiness” Holisky? He was taking a quick pulse on some of the readers and followers of Blizzard Watch and wanted to know how many of them are still playing World of Warcraft. At the end of his study, he came to the conclusion that around 60% of those players have stopped playing.

I did have a few questions about this study.

How many hours constitutes “Barely playing” or “Somewhat”?

A sample size of 1300 isn’t anything to sneeze at but with a subscriber base of millions, is it truly representative? If this poll was held on MMO Champion or WoWHead, would the same approximate percentages hold up?

Anyway, I’m just giving him a hard time. I’m sure his scientific methods are sound and precise. If it weren’t for him, sunshines and rainbows would cease to exist.

Has he stopped reading yet? Okay, good. 

Reading the poll made me reflect on some of my motivations for leaving. I played the game straight on from Classic to Warlords with no significant break in between (and I classify significant as taking two or more weeks off from the game). In my case, there was always something to do. I threw my time and effort into the guilds I was a part of — Positions like healing officer, to recruiting, to GM, and I frequently filled in other roles until we found people to help out. 

There were moments where I truly enjoyed the game. Getting takedowns on Kil’Jaeden, the Lich King, and Yogg-Saron were some of my more memorable highlights. Helping my guild engineer Val’anyr, Shadowmourne, and Dragonwrath also helped feel like I was a part of something instead of this whole “Legendaries for everyone” philosophy that’s going on now. I ultimately agree with the change, but it’s lost that team work lustre now. 

Ultimately, I ran out of energy. In theory, I should have run out of energy years ago, but I was largely driven to not let my team down — This unit of goofballs made my life a pain in the ass sometimes, but they were still my goofballs even after I met them at BlizzCon. You take the player out of Conquest, but you can’t take the Conquest out of them. At the very least, I can say I helped facilitate introductions and friendships for people who otherwise never would have crossed paths to begin with. I hope they’re all doing fine now wherever they are. 

It’s not just Warcraft though, I’ve also taken a step back from playing Hearthstone. The upcoming format changes are much needed but I can’t be bothered to compete or even play for fun right now. It’s like I’ve lost the desire to engage in anything. The last Fireside Gathering I ran was a couple of weeks ago at one of the Universities. Something was different about it though. I wasn’t as excited or as invested in this one compared to previous ones. I’m not sure if it’s because of disappointment that I was unable to secure HCT points for the event or if I’m starting to not have fun anymore. I’m just biding my time until the Wild and Standard formats kick in before I start playing again. Wild or Standard? Not sure yet, but I’m leaning towards Standard.

Overwatch? Yeah, that was fun for a while but there’s only so much solo queue I can take. I imagine I’d play more once ranked matches enter the system. With a beta wipe somewhere on the horizon, I’m hesitant to play often because I’m worried I’ll unlock a cool skin that I really like only to lose it later. Happened to me in Hearthstone when I opened a gold card and it had to get wiped.

As for Legion, I don’t know. It is up in the air. If the game was close to releasing, my answer would’ve been a yes. But I’ve grown accustomed to this routine of not playing that I’m not sure if I want to get back into the universe again. I want to know more about the Val’kyr, the Legion, and the other storylines that are going on but what I don’t know is if I’m invested enough to get back into playing to find all that out. One things for certain, if I do make the call to go back, it won’t be in a leadership position. I’ll play the grizzled and grumpy veteran, but it’s time to call it a career on shot calling or anything management related. I’ve played some of the artifact quests though. I figured I should at least help test for usability. My litmus is that as someone who has never played a certain class or spec before, I should be able to unlock the the artifact with a reasonable degree of difficulty. In other words, I should be able to ace a Priest or Paladin quest, but I expect a wipe or two if I was playing a Warlock.

You know what it is? Maybe I just can’t seem to have fun playing anything alone anymore. I’ve been so used to having someone around to blast other players, take down dragons, and explore dungeons that I’ve completely forgotten how to solo anything. As a guy who players healers, can you blame me for that? Yeah, maybe a little. I should be more selfish and pick the dude with the badass guns instead of being a team player.

I’ve been engrossed playing Final Fantasy Record Keeper and recently picked up Pokemon Alpha Sapphire. I have like 8 years worth of Pokemon to catch up on it seems.

Also, for us fellow hockey fans, happy trade deadline day! I hope your team’s made moves to improve!

*glances sadly at the Canucks*

 

The Overwatch Support Life

The Overwatch Support Life

Happy Thanksgiving to my American friends and readers!

It’s been a running joke for a while now. In WoW, I played a healing Priest (and the spec didn’t matter) for raids. In Heroes of the Storm, I mainly stick to heroes like Rehgar, Kharazim, or Uther if I’m playing with others. With Overwatch, I’m used to maining Symmetra, Lucio, or Mercy. All of them are support or healing roles.

During the beta weekend, I thought there’d be more players trying out a wider variety of heroes.

I thought wrong. Most teams I solo queued into had compositions like 3 Widowmakers, a 76, and 2 McCrees. These are glass cannon compositions which have loaded fire power but didn’t have a lick of staying power whatsoever. Even in games where I dominated as the 76 with 20+ eliminations or 10+ final blows, it led me to a sinking conclusion I realized right from the beginning:

Someone’s got to play support or a tank in order to secure objectives.

It’s nigh-impossible to carry your team to victory on the scoreboard alone without some sustainability from other heroes.

In that particular matchup, I activated 76’s Visor ultimate and just blew it to get as many quick kills as I could before switching to Lucio. He’s one of my more favourite support heroes to use on close encounters maps since your team will be near you to benefit from buffs. After that, the key to playing support is keeping yourself alive first and then healing the rest of your team. Lucio’s speed boost does not build up towards his ultimate, however. Make sure the healing aura is active if you’re not in the middle of setting something up.

If you’ve PvP’d in WoW or other games as a healer, you’re going to have a headstart here. Many newer support heroes tend to heal from the center of the action — which is absolutely stupid! Do not make yourself vulnerable and give the opposition free shots at you. If there’s a lull in action at any moment, look for places to hide or find cover. Behind cars or in side rooms or other objects are always a good start. Don’t give the defending Widowmaker a free shot at you.

Positioning is important. Lucio makes it a little easier because your team just has to be near you. Mercy emits an obvious beam as to where her location is. By putting yourself off to the side as you’re healing your team, now you’ve split the enemy’s focus. If they attempt to pursue you, they leave themselves open to suppression from your team. If they decide to go after your team, you’re busy healing them at the same time thereby giving them extra staying power.

Nothing says your team is limited to just one or two supports, either. Last night I was playing offense on Watchpoint: Gibraltar, and defense fielded a lineup of Reinhardt, Pharah, Bastion, two Lucios, and a Mercy. After captured the first check point we simply could not push back that line at all. Some of that was due to our team composition since I think we lacked a tank.

I’ll be streaming more often during weekday evenings so keep an eye on mattic.us!

More Overwatch thoughts to come later!

 

BlizzCon 2015

Let’s talk about BlizzCon. We knew we would be receiving the Warcraft movie trailer finally. I don’t believe anyone expected there to be a Legion cinematic at the same time though. I love watching the fleet of airships as they make their assault against the Burning Legion’s foothold.

Sadly, this BlizzCon didn’t come without a personal cost. A few players from my guild decided to part ways while I was at the convention. Consequently, I’ve suspended all future raids for the time being and players have the choice to explore free agency if they wish. This was a horrible expansion for me when it comes to raids. Couldn’t get much mythic headway in at all. After 8 years at the helm, we’re finished. It hasn’t quite hit me yet since I have the emotional range of a Dwayne Johnson (a Rock). My time’s being kept busy with Hearthstone, Overwatch, and Starcraft 2. I’m more disappointed with my inability to get the job done. It’s a little crushing to watch your own guild dismantle piece by piece like that. No one’s fault but my own. I haven’t decided on my future yet but my plan is to continue being the Jagr of Warcraft.

Without the mullet, that is.

World of Warcraft

  • Transmog system looks amazing, moreso of the fact that I free up a boatload of inventory space
  • Challenge modes, we were expecting a D3 announcement of sorts, but the fact that WoW is taking a page from the Greater Rift system is neat
  • Non-linear leveling! Zones scale up! This is going to put a damper in my plans to shoot for server first again since I have to figure out optimal routes and stuff now
  • Priest changes look ground-shattering. More on that to come later
  • Mythic and 20 player raids are here to stay, it looks like

Starcraft 2

  • Managed to beat the campaign on hard, working on the epilogue now
  • Coop mode is enjoyable but the difficulty is lacking especially as you progress through the individual character levels. Even brutal becomes easier to stomach
  • Delighted to hear about the first set of mission packs that will come later in the year

Hearthstone

  • League of Explorers is fun! Managed to defeat the first wing on both normal and heroic. Temple Escape is one of the more enjoyable encounters. My video guides will be up on Blizzard Watch on Sunday shortly.

Overwatch

  • Yes, I’m in the beta. Game is infinitely more fun when playing with friends than playing solo
  • Problem with shooters is that I get frustrated at myself 🙁
  • Like Warcraft and Heroes, I’m usually playing a support
  • Anyone else manage to get in? Looking for more people to play with

Heroes of the Storm

  • What? Cho’gall? Really?
  • Tracer is in the first wave of Overwatch heroes. Iconic and an excellent choice
  • Can’t wait to give the arena mode a spin

All in all, it felt like a more muted BlizzCon but then again, BlizzCon 2014 brought us a completely new game and franchise and it’s tough act to follow.

6 Game-Changing Battlecry Cards that Pair with Brann Bronzebeard

6 Game-Changing Battlecry Cards that Pair with Brann Bronzebeard

My annual post-BlizzCon thoughts will come a little later this week.

For now, Brann Bronzebeard joins the latest set of legendaries that come with Hearthstone’s League of Explorers adventure. While I have high hopes for the card, I’m not sure if he slots into any pre-existing deck types.

But who cares? He’s a fun card that can amplify existing cards with Battlecry! Which ones? Here’s my personal list:

Dr. Boom

Huge no brainer. What’s better than two Bomb Bots? Four Bomb Bots! You’re guaranteed a minimum of four damage that could explode on different targets. More bombs leads to more damage. I can hear that resigned sigh from my opponent now…

Iron Juggernaut

All of a sudden, Iron Juggernaut turns from a giant recyclable heap of scrap into a curiously playable card. Originally adding a 10 damage bomb, now it places your opponent on the clock with a potential 20 damage just ticking away within their deck. Those bombs are one way to get around Ice Blocks!

Quartermaster

Initially, your Silver Hand Recruits would simply get +2/+2 and turn from Silver Hand Recruits into Gold Hand Recruits. But now they’re getting an additional +2/+2 on top of that. Does that mean they become Platinum Hand Recruits? Nothing like a board full of 5/5s that give your opponent pause and just out of Flamestrike reach.

Dragon Consort

If I’m reading it right, your next dragon becomes much more affordable. In fact, cards like Nefarian or Alexstrasza cost 5 mana instead of 9 giving you more card playing options to go with it. Protect a dragon with a Sludge Belcher on turn 10. Or, turn one of those beasts into a formidable minion that your opponent needs to deal with by playing a Defender of Argus.

Loatheb

If you really want insurance, Loatheb’s a great follow up since your opponent’s spells should now cost 10 mana more. It locks them out of every spell. Free turn where they can’t respond or affect your board with spells? Yeah, I’ll take that!

Goblin Blastmage

This is one of my favourite pairings. It turns into Avenging Wrath on a stick. Instead of 4 damage, 8 damage goes flying out in any direction towards your opponent or their board.

There’s a few more excellent combinations (like Shieldmaiden and Antique Healbot), but the ones above are my personal picks. It does have a downside though. Make sure you don’t place Brann with cards like Flame Imp (ouch!), Injured Blademaster (oof!), or Doomguard (yikes!)

Will You be Capping Valor Again?

We all saw the news bombshell yesterday.

Valor is back with a vengeance. Points are only obtainable in Mythic dungeons or in the raid finder difficulty. We can’t double dip and snag them from normal mode bosses are higher. I’m waiting for reforging to come back in a future patch.

Couldn’t believe the announcement.

On this week’s episode of The Edge, the crew and I discussed merits of nerfs to Hellfire and when they’d be needed. I made an off-hand remark that item upgrades should be brought back because it was a much better way of nerfing content compared to flat percentage nerfs to abilities, attacks, or health. It gave players a sense of progression even though they weren’t visibly progressing. You might’ve gotten stonewalled on Gorefiend on week 1, but the raid collectively received a 5% buff due to item upgrades heading into week 2, for example.

So what’s the difference between valor points in Warlords and valor points in Mists?

In Mists, they compensated for “bad luck” whereby you could purchase items in case you weren’t getting drops from raids. With Warlords, you have Apexis crystals that already fulfill role. Furthermore, the bonus roll system and the personal loot system help tip and equalize the “bad luck” factor in your favor (At least, in theory, because I’m still missing that Intuition’s Gift trinket from Kilrogg).

I don’t know if these changes are going to be enough of a subscription reactivator on their own.

Between this and the enabling of mythic cross-realm raiding, the pool of available raiders for mythic should go up due to the reduced restrictions and to players who might now be equipped for it.

And mythic dungeons? If you weren’t running these before, are you going to run them now? The shortest path to valor points for a solo player without the backing of a reliable group is going to be in the raid finder. You can try to get lucky with a mythic dungeon group but you can work your way through the forgiving trials of raid finder to cap out. We don’t know what the valor cap is or how many points each of the activities offer.

Not expecting to see Valor stick around with Legion, though.

I’m beginning to wonder if the perceived boredom in Warlords about the lack of activities to partake in is actually a lack of meaningful (or forced) activities. Players were running ragged throughout Siege because every week was a constant re-clear of the same content just to upgrade one or two items every week. We were sick of it then but we had to do it in order to buff our characters in order to reach and defeat a boss that actually mattered.

Seriously.

A typical raid week was 3 hours of farming for valor on bosses, 4 hours to clear the 11 mythic bosses to get to Blackfuse, and then 2 hours of meaningful progression on Blackfuse which involved learning how to run away from fire beams and avoiding saw blades.

We have optional content in the game at our disposal but we think there’s nothing to do because we don’t want to do it.

I suppose the argument could be made where one could say “Players don’t have to run mythic dungeons or raid finder for valor”. That argument holds true for players largely well within entrenched in mythic raids though. For them, the barrier isn’t going to be the gear. It’s going to be the skill cap of their fellow players in the group. To the rest of the mortal heroic raiders though, the gear upgrades will lead to confirmed kills versus near-death wipes and is going to be sorely needed to give players a foot in the fabled mythic doorway.

I’m getting too old for this.

Gorefiend: Warlords’ Guild Killer?

I first caught wind of this when I was scrolling through the recruiting forums. With around 20 players, we’re finally poised to enter mythic Hellfire. Hellfire Assault was infinitely more engaging and dynamic compared to the normal and heroic counterparts. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to put that notch up there yet. We’re getting past the intermission phase but end up getting overrun. Our margin of error is razor thin. A little more DPS, and it’ll help us secure that kill.

Anyway, let’s get back to my original observation about Gorefiend. That dude is tough. On the forums, I’m seeing guilds that are 5/13 recruiting or players who are 5/13 looking for new guilds because their raid group folded. The game is no stranger to guild killers. Some of my personal favourites included Kael’thas, Mu’ru, and ol’ Yogg (0 light). To be fair, I don’t think for a second that Gorefiend even comes close to any of those bosses up there.

I’m not sure what it is. There’s something about this current generation of raiders that seem to want more instant gratification. The mere instant that a difficult problem shows itself, many are quick to abandon ship and look for a new guild instead of working through it. Compare that to players in classic Warcraft, Burning Crusade, or even Wrath though where players frequently stuck it out and when they did get those kills, it felt extremely gratifying. For me, no encounter post-Cataclysm has captured the same satisfying feeling of a boss kill akin to Kil’Jaeden, Archimonde (from Hyjal), or even Illidan. But maybe that’s because it often took weeks or months just to get there, learn it, and beat it.

With the availability of group finder, raid finder, and the other convenience tools, it’s simply too easy to look around for options. You don’t see those kinds of “grinders” anymore among the player population. Could be a by product of the player base getting older and not having the time to invest anymore, I’m not sure.

With the start of the new school year, I’ve had to re-think our schedule. Demographically speaking, it seems many players are concentrated on the east coast. I can’t ask people to stay up until 1 AM anymore. I made a snap call to restore our original raid times.

  • Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday: 6 – 9 PM Pacific

I’m keeping the days though. I do like the idea of getting all raids done in a quick burst through the middle of the week. With the Warcraft population down to 5.5 million, I have to appeal to as many players as possible (at least, from a scheduling perspective).

Right now, we’re looking for more ranged DPS and healers. Interested? Check us out!

Recruiting Tiers

Not to be confused with recruiting tears (which sounds common for many guilds out there right now).

At present, we’re 11/13 normal and 5/13 heroic. I did manage to find a skilled pug on the weekend to get the normal Manneroth kill and the heroic Gorefiend kill just to get my quest going. Difficult getting consistent progression with three healers and a rotating fourth every raid night.

The creation of multiple tiers of raiding is great for the game, no doubt. Players and guilds can pick and choose the difficulty they want to progress and see the rest of the game at. This has a natural side effect of trickling down to the recruiting side of things.

During Burning Crusade, guilds could be bracketed and organized into completed content. If you were attuned to Serpentshrine Cavern or Black Temple, you were highly sought after largely because guilds didn’t have to go through that effort of going through that process for you.

In Wrath, the raiding scene split to those who wanted the tighter knit feel of a 10 player group or those who craved the 25 player scene (and it was divided further more into those who were okay with just doing normal and those who wanted heroic content).

Fast forward to present day, the selections have opened up to mythic raiders, heroic players, and normal players. In Burning Crusade, there were no raiding filters in place since you either wanted to raid or you didn’t. There’s so much choice that exists now.

Even as I’m cruising through the recruiting forums, I’ve started automatically sorting through players in my head. That 705 Mistweaver shaman that’s cleared 10/10 Mythic Blackrock during the first two months? Probably going to want something more than I can offer. I won’t waste their time or my time so I’d pass on making a pitch. What about that 660 Holy paladin? Sounds like they finished Heroic Highmaul but their guild wasn’t able to get down Heroic Blackhand in time. Sounds like an investment project since they’d need additional gear to get up to where we are (and survive the unavoidables). Is it worth making the pitch? Can they help us now?

Objectively speaking, it’s best to just cast a wide open net or take the shotgun approach. If I keep throwing crap against the wall, something will stick, right? Or at least, that’s what my University TA told me during exam prep. Even so, I can’t help but mentally filter and sort out players between those who are the right fit and those I’d pass on because I have a good idea my guild would get passed over.

Things were so much easier back then.

 

The Magic of Server Transferring Guilds

In the last story, you listened as the budding guild leader had finished a guild merger. Things were looking good for a while. Bosses were going down cleanly. But it wasn’t going to last because the attrition boss reared it’s head again. Something is up with this expansion causing guilds to collapse. My suspicion is that guilds that used to cut it during heroic came to the start conclusion that Mythic just wasn’t in the cards. Players that excelled in heroic suddenly couldn’t execute at the level demanded in Mythic and lacked either the perseverance or general skills to proceed. In any case, my players were beginning to show signs of fatigue and disinterest.

Coasting: To move easily without exerting power or force. In Warcraft, doing the minimum required to defeat a boss simply because you can overpower it easily.

With raiders, it’s apparent that once you reach a point in the tier where enough players are equipped and the content doesn’t pose a suitable challenge anymore, many mechanics can simply be brute forced. Like it or not, players will naturally take the path of least resistance. Why bother structuring all these intricate defensive cooldown rotations when player health has reached the point where it can withstand a major boss attack without casualties? Reluctantly, I began putting those away and giving free reign to the team to revert back to the tried and true strategy: Kill it first before it kills you.

Okay, back to the story of the server transfer. At the rate we were losing players and recruiting them, I did the math in my head. We weren’t going to make it to Hellfire Citadel in patch 6.2. No way in hell. I explained this to a few of my officers and they all agreed that something had to be done because recruiting wasn’t getting us anywhere. A few of my raiders proposed tabling the idea of transferring servers again.

This is a massive decision which can overwhelm even the most seasoned of leaders and cause them to freeze up or stick to the status quo. We’re going to put a pin on this because I want to share a story that helped with the decision process.

Saving Intel

Did you know that Intel used to be both in the memory and microprocessor industry? It was many years ago but it’s true. Except their memory business was absolutely haemorrhaging money.

Former Intel president Andy Grove faced the toughest decision of his career: Whether or not to kill the company’s memory business. Intel originally had been founded on memories. In fact, it used to be the only company that manufactured memory. However, whole companies had started manufacturing and competing in the memory business just before the 1980s. The microprocessor came along later after a small R&D team developed and presented it. They caught a huge break when IBM selected Intel’s processor chip to power their personal computers.

Now you have a company with two major products: Memory and processors. At that time, memory continued to be the primary source of revenue for Intel but they were starting to have problems competing due to the threat of Japanese companies.

“The quality levels attributed to Japanese memories were beyond what we thought possible,” said Grove. “Our first reaction was denial. We vigorously attacked the data.” But they eventually confirmed the claims, said Grove, “We were clearly behind.”

In the ten years between 1978 and 1988, the Japanese companies doubled their market share from 30% to 60%. There were leaders within Intel who wanted to buff their manufacturing. Another group wanted to hedge bets on some new tech that they felt the Japanese wouldn’t be able to compete with. A last group wanted to stick with the strategy of serving these speciality markets.

The debate continued to rage while Intel kept losing more money on the memory business. Grove continued discussing the memory dilemna with Intel’s CEO, Gordon Moore. Then Grove had an epiphany:

I looked out the window at the Ferris Wheel of the Great America amusement park revolving in the distance, then I turned back to Gordon and I asked, “If we got kicked out and the board brought in a new CEO, what do you think he would do?” Gordon answered without hesitation, “He would get us out of memories.” I stared at him, numb, then said, “Why shouldn’t you and I walk out the door, come back in, and do it ourselves?”

This “revolving door test” provided a moment of clarity. From the perspective of an outsider, shutting down the memory business was the obvious thing to do. The switch in perspectives—“What would our successors do?”— helped Moore and Grove see the big picture clearly.

It’s called the “revolving door test”. To an outside person looking in with an objective mindset and no ties, killing off the memory business was the correct course of action. Asking — “What would our successors do?” helped the two men see the big picture.

Naturally, many of their colleagues within the company opposed it. But they held firm and the sales team was forced to explain to their customers and clients that Intel would not carry memory anymore.

Of course, one customer said, “It sure took you a long time.”

I’d say Intel has done well since then with a good share of the microprocessor market.

When you’re shopping for a car, you have to consider a number of important factors. You tend to think about the initial cost, the mileage, maintenance, safety, and other features (Bluetooth is a must, in my book). Not only that, each factor might be weighted differently. Safety over maintenance or fuel economy is an example.

But in major decisions, there tends to be the emotional element that’s missing. With the Intel story, Grove’s decision had plenty of information going around and alternative options. It was agonizing because he felt emotionally conflicted. He was torn about the future of the company and the loss that comes with dropping a historical product.

Short-term emotion can seriously affect decision making. Going back to server transferring, there are multiple factors when it comes to choosing servers. The question the GM needs to ask themselves first is, “Is it time to transfer off?”. It’s an agonizing question. Maybe you have history on the server. Perhaps you or your guild are well known to the server or you’ve developed a bit of a reputation. If you’re still conflicted, then the next question to ask yourself is this:

“If it were my best friend’s guild, what would I tell them to do?”

You can actually use that “What would I tell my best friend to do?” question for a personal dilemma. 

A little perspective might be just what you need. Just being detached will help conquer that emotional component.

Once the decision to move has been green lit, now you’re faced with additional factors with server selection.

  • Realm size
  • Faction population and ratio
  • Realm progression
  • Realm type
  • Realm latency
  • Economy

WoW Progress provides a nifty snapshot of realm information. You can glance at the information and use it to figure out what your next move should be. In my case, I wanted a server with a really high and healthy population. On the other hand, I didn’t want it too high either to the point that it affected our capability to login and play. In addition, the server either had to be completely Alliance dominated or PvE. I was sick of potential recruits turning us down because they weren’t down for playing on a PvP server and I wasn’t prepared to go Horde. A server with strong raid progression is a plus because it tells you that there’s enough players on there who take it seriously.

In the end, Kel’thuzad looked like the winner. After our last raid, I started making all the preparations for the transfer. Players were informed of where we were going and what we were doing. I knew that not everyone was going to come with us. Anywhere between 25% to 40% would either not transfer over or quit the game.

All in all, we had about 15 raiders ready to go. But our work still isn’t done. Mythic raiding starts at 20 and we had many slots to fill up. Attrition problems didn’t go away though. We continued to recruit and even though there was a high population of raiders, we had to continue filling in players for group finder and the like. I guess we weren’t the only guild that had the same idea of moving to a more populated realm.

And then the bot banwave hit and our prayers were answered.

 

Case Study: Guild Mergers

Actually, that’s a bit of a lie. There’s no real science behind it. It takes hard work and the desire from everyone to keep things going. If there’s players not interested or coasting along, then it’s highly unlikely that merges will work. Our new core of players has managed to continue raiding and stave off server transferring, for now. The updated roster managed to defeat Blackhand and put us within 5% of defeating Mythic Beastlord.

He’s so close to dropping.

Or rather, he was. Fast forward to present day and we now have half the original roster that defeated Blackhand and that worked on Beastlord. In addition, we’re also on a new server. Just how on earth did we get to that point? I’ll get there in a moment. Let’s talk guild mergers first.

I was approached a few weeks ago by another guild on server with a similar progression to ours. We were working on Blast Furnace and so were they. They opened talks with us first floating the idea of a guild merge because their guild was having difficulty attracting and retaining players (as were we all). I was certainly receptive to the idea and I hopped on to their Mumble channel to just open talks with both their guild leader and raid leader (with one of my officers also in attendance).

In discussions like this, it helps to have at least one other officer around to help cover your bases and remind you on things you might have forgotten. When it comes to merges, you’re looking at combining rosters, philosophies, personalities, and so forth. It’s going to be messy but you have to break it down point by point. This wasn’t my first guild merge and I doubt it’s going to be my last. Here’s a list of important factors to consider:

  • Guild name
  • Guild resources
  • Roster personnel
  • Roster roles
  • Officer positions
  • Loot systems
  • Policy
  • Event scheduling

Our opening discussions were fruitful and we shared the same goals. Their GM suggested we take the weekend to think it through and then meet again the following week for a more in-depth discussion.

Guild Name

With guild names, there are three options: Your name, their name, or an entirely new name. On this, I could not compromise at all. Conquest had been around for nearly 8 years. We had the branding in place with the site and customized apparel. Plus not to mention the endless work when it comes to changing all the various recruiting threads and social media branding. Not only that, we also had a sponsorship arrangement with Enjin. This is your identity. You decide what it’s worth. If your guild is relatively new, it might be worth considering a brand change.

Guild Resources

Resources can be thought of all assets. This doesn’t mean just gold and stuff in the guild bank. This means voice servers, websites, etc. Who provides and assumes the costs of those? Since ours were on the house, it was a no brainer there. I would’ve volunteered to assume the costs otherwise or open up donation coffers to allow anyone to pitch in. We didn’t merge banks though. I felt we had enough resources stock piled that it wasn’t entirely necessary. I suggested that whatever funds that remained could be redistributed to the rest of their guild.

Roster Personnel

This was a harder one. Combined, our roster would shoot up to 32. Who sits and who goes? We opened the door to volunteers who wanted to rest or did not need loot from certain bosses. Our mythic roster would be delayed until after we had another week or two of combined heroic clears under our belt to see how well we worked together. In most guilds, there’s players that you want to cut due to lack of performance but you can’t because of numbers reasons for Mythic. Now the flexibility is there for those kinds of decisions.

Roster roles

As a follow up to the previous point, now it’s time to look at player roles. Raids won’t need four tanks. They’re not going to need 13 healers. How does that get consolidated? For example, with two discipline priests in raid, it means we’d have to change things up because it wasn’t exactly ideal. We could’ve made it work but it wouldn’t be as effective as having a discipline and a holy priest. I volunteered to switch back to holy since I had the gear in place for it. It was a little rusty, but that was nice change from playing discipline for two straight expansions. The rest of the healers would be evaluated accordingly. Tanks were a little harder and I was willing to compromise on both of them and cede tank responsibilities to theirs. Our Death Knight had played DPS before and our Prot Paladin was willing to give it a go. Mind you, since I insisted heavily on retaining our name and branding, I had to be willing to give up something as a show of good faith and this was one of those.

Four tanks will need to be cut to two. 13 healers have to be reduced to 6 (or even less for mythic). Have talks with the players it will affect the most. Be prepared for players to leave or simply stop showing up the moment they realize they’re not as valuable as they were before.

Officer positions

This is the leadership question. We didn’t want too many cooks in the kitchen but we also wanted to ensure that there was fair representation. I discovered that we shared similar leadership structures (A GM, a raid leader, and role officers). I was not in a position where I was willing to give up executive authority as GM and this was one of the points I would not give in on. However, I was absolutely willing to switch raid leaders and change role officers. I was willing to expand it and have secondary role officers as well. I suspect that there were officers who were okay with giving up the responsibility and just being a player again without having to stress over everyone else.

If you’re tired of being a GM or a raid leader, this is your way out in a merge. If things change, you can even step back into the arena after some time away from all those responsibilities. I was prepared to float the idea of a rotating leadership during each month or each tier as another compromise.

Loot systems

Another sticking point is loot distribution. If one guild does EPGP and the other does loot council, then one group’s going to get fried no matter what. If it’s EPGP coming into a loot council dominated system, players are going to be pissed that their EPGP points will be wasted. Loot council players going the other way are going to start with 0. Thankfully, both raid groups utilized loot council so that was not a major sticking point. However, they did use EPGP for attendance tracking and incentive reasons.

I’m actually not sure how to reconcile guilds with completely different loot systems. Not unless the majority of the guild agrees to it. You’re going to naturally lose players in the process anyway.

Policy

If there’s any special rules, this is where it gets discussed. No stabbing on Wednesdays? Immediate benchings on players who trip a mine on Blackhand? No heavy swearing in guild chat? This is where it needs to be brought up. In my case, I said easy on the language on anything in game. I’ve had players banned before who said something they shouldn’t have in Eye of the Storm and they were struck with a 3 day ban which affected our Black Temple progression at the time. I was livid. At the same time though, if they’re in Mumble with their own group or set of friends and as long as no one’s taken exceptional offence, I don’t want to know. Any other forms of disciplinary action would be decided here.

Event scheduling

Do the raid times line up? This is the last thing that needs to make sense for both groups. Our original hours were from 6 – 10 PM Pacific. These guys raided from 630 – 1030 Pacific. I had players on the east coast and I stood firm on the 10 PM end time. But I was willing to be flexible on the start time. To that end, we agreed to proceed to a 630 start instead. Their raid days were on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday whereas we raided our days mid-week from Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. They were more than willing to move Monday to Wednesday which is where our schedule is now.

Aftermath

And that’s it! If both leaderships can come to a mutual agreement on all of the points listed above, welcome to your new merged guild! The work isn’t over yet. The first week or two is going to be a feeling out period. You have to remain extra diligent to minimize perceptions of favortism especially on loot decisions. Keep an open ear to the ground. Continue to stress to new players coming in that you’re always open to strategy change and feedback (and for it to be done in between raids not during raids). We actually picked up some neat alternative strats that made life easier even. Work with players from both sides of the roster. Eventually, you have to stop referring to players coming in as “their guild” and your existing players as “your guild”.

Those guilds no longer exist. You have to drill it in player’s heads that this group is now “our guild”. Us vs them mentality, if it continues, it will gradually eat away at a guild. It’ll be subtle at first. People will blame each other for mistakes or low DPS performance. But these are aspects of the game that everyone needs to work on and it starts with stamping out “us vs them”. A unified front is much stronger than a divided one.

We worked really well together for the first few weeks. The Blast Furnace kill was repeated with the new group. Blackhand was similarly taken down. We even stepped back into Highmaul and defeated Brackenspore. For that month, it seemed like a reinvigorated roster was just what the doctor ordered. Eventually, attrition struck. Some players stopped showing up because with all the players around, they felt their presence was no longer needed or that their position was in jeopardy and didn’t want to bother competing for it. We let a few players go due to personality and motivational conflicts. Soon we reached a point where we were starting to have a hard time fielding a full group for mythic and it was time to revisit the plan to transfer servers.

Ner’zhul, my home for 8 years, was dying.

Anyway, that was a long enough read. Next time, we’ll touch upon server transfers.