The Burden of Leadership, Lodur bares his thoughts

There are a lot of folks out there that think being in charge, or in a leadership role, of a guild is a big fun thing. You get to set permissions, invite, kick and all that other cool stuff! Truth is, at least for me, it’s another job. Being in charge means that, like at every other job, you are responsible for those beneath you and how they perform. On top of that you become involved in the day to day running of something larger than yourself. This is especially true if you are among the leadership of a raiding guild.

After leaving Unpossible after 5 long years, I had put the officer mantle in the laundry bin to be cleaned pressed and put under glass. Circumstances did not allow me to leave the mantle alone for long, and I find myself in a leadership role again. Over the last two tiers I’ve had a lot on my plate between being in game, my podcast For The Lore, still consistently writing for WoW Insider, and also writing a novel that I’m submitting for publication consideration in the following weeks. On top of various other personal things, it’s been a hell of a long year and I find myself with an over abundance of ideas on the topic of leadership in a raiding guild. So, bear with me here, because I’m about to dump my thoughts a little.

The burden
The wear and tear
The hard choices

Truthfully it wears on you over time. You have to make a lot of hard decisions that are not always easy, and certainly aren’t popular with everyone. Lets take on the topic of friendship in real life, and raiding in game. I’ve talked about it before, but it’s something that keeps rearing it’s ugly head over and over again. Being someone’s friend does not make you immune from being included in those hard choices a competitive raiding guild faces. This includes officers and the rank-and-file of the raid team. Sometimes,  you have to look at someone’s performance, and if found wanting must bench them or otherwise remove them from a fight or raid, until performance can be fixed. It’s for the good of the entire team, and the progression of the raid, and ultimately if that’s your goal that’s what matters most. Don’t take it personally, it’s not a slight against you as a person, it’s just that the numbers aren’t where they need to be. I’ll use myself as an example here.

Firelands was not very kind to restoration shaman. The fights were ones that didn’t let us take advantage of our strengths and as a result other healers tended to do better than us. In our raid team, there were many fights where I would sit myself for the other healers because they were that good and the numbers worked out better. I did the same thing with the second restoration shaman in our group. Do I think I’m a crappy healer? Do I think the other restoration shaman just sucks? No, I don’t, it was just better numbers to configure our raid healers a different way to optimize success.

When you have to bench someone who is a friend of yours, especially in real life, sometimes it’s hard for that person not to be upset by it. I understand that, I get that, but it’s not personal. It’s not that they aren’t your friend, or that you suck at the game, it’s just that things needed to be done a different way. It’s not an easy decision to make, but sometime’s it’s the necessary one You have to separate the leader from the friend when those decisions are handed down the same way you would if your friend was your boss at your 9-5 job. It’s not easy, but it is what it is.

A sellers market
Make your own choices
Evaluate your position

There’s a saying that “it’s my game time and I’ll play how I want to play.” That’s all good and true, I mean you are paying to play the game. Consider, however, that you might not be in the best place to play the game the way you want to. A progression raiding group is going to be looking for a pretty solid set of criteria.  These include, but are not limited to the following

  • Are you willing to change your spec, gearing, chants and reforging to a more optimal setup?
  • Are you willing to play a spec you don’t normally play?
  • Are you willing to be benched if it’s for the good of the team?
  • Are you open to criticism about your performance and information to help attempt to improve your output?

If you answer no to any of these, then you should probably not try to get into a progression raiding guild. If you don’t want to budge on how you play your game it’s just not the right environment for you. Blizzard has made a big deal out of “bring the player, not the class, or spec or cooldown” etc. For the most part that’s true, but when you’re edging into hard mode encounters, or sometimes just a normal encounter in itself, and you want to get through it quickly and efficiently, then it simply isn’t always the case. See above where I benched myself for the good of the raid on a fight. No matter what, there’s always going to be an optimal setup. Whether it’s a raid full of paladins, or nothing but druid healers in a group, there will always be a tweak. Can you do the fights without the optimal group? Sure, but it becomes harder and harder as you progress through content. Sounds counter intuitive, but I assure you it’s true.

Another truth here is that right now it’s a sellers market. What do I mean by that? Cataclysm has royally screwed recruitment over pretty badly. Finding new members to add to your guild  can be a pain and prove rather difficult, especially when you’ve something specific in mind. It’s not that “beggars can’t be choosers” or anything of that nature, but a progression raiding guild might not be keen on accepting that applicant in normal Cataclysm blues and can’t spell their own name when the group is trying to kill heroic Deathwing. There’s a guild for everyone out there, and you need just look if you want to play a particular way that you aren’t allowed to where you are.

LFR
Doing what it takes
Better for the guild as a whole

This is something of a recent development, and something that irked me a little bit. A lot of guilds out there do LFR weekly as a group in order to obtain set bonuses for raiders, gear up new recruits and sometimes just to get a feel for the fight. It makes sense really, it’s an easy way to gear up and see the fights, and still have a bit of a safety net. Hell, my guild even did it for a few weeks to get some set bonuses in action. As a group we were going to go in, and just pound out the 8 bosses on LFR and then go back and do normal raiding. With the raid as geared as it was, LFR should have been easy and would do nothing but help everyone.

What got me about it was that some folks just simply said no and refused to participate in the LFR runs, even if it would help them and the raid as a group. I understand having a preference, I myself am not a huge fan of LFR any longer, but even I showed up for those runs because it allowed people to gear up, see fights and did nothing but raise the entire guild higher and help with normal raiding. What got me was that those same people wanted priority on invites to the normal raid, and expected to get the normal equivalent gear. When neither happened, they complained.

Not going to say someone should be forced into doing something they don’t want to do, but the way it was handled was bad. Immaturely logging out, refusal to listen to reason, and claiming that there wasn’t anything in it for them so they wouldn’t do it. Even when it was needed most, refusing to help the guild by tagging along. Like above, you have to be willing to give a little, especially in a group who wants to accomplish progression raiding. Sometimes you’ll be asked to do something you don’t want to do to help the group. Sometimes you have to bite the bullet, and if you can’t, then maybe you’re in the wrong place.

In the end

This is what’s been on my mind for two tiers now. Working out ways to do what needs to be done, and convey that the decisions aren’t personal, that the raid group as a whole is a larger organism thriving on everyone in the group working to the same means. It’s hard sometimes. It’s frustrating, and borderline infuriating some nights. But, it is what it is. At the end of the day, it’s the officers who bear an incredible amount of burden. Now, I’m not quitting or burning out mind you, just needed to gather my thoughts and get them out “on paper” so to speak. I appreciate my raiders and the ones that not only give me their all but also do more than that. The ones that send me funny tells in raid to keep me laughing or just making sure we’re progressing, I appreciate their actions and what they do for us the officer corp, and for the raid group as a whole.  Sorry for the brain-dump folks, but hope you enjoyed a glimpse into the skull of ol’ Lodur here.

Heroic Morchok Down: Where Next?

Heroic Morchok Down: Where Next?

Managed to score Heroic Morchok on Tuesday. Ended up using 6 healers. Another classic 22% wipe, then a 16% wipe, then a 13% followed by an 8% then a kill. Actually, the numbers aren’t precise. But that’s what it seemed like anyway.

How to Land 3 Healing Spells in Under 2 Seconds

It seems impossible, doesn’t it?

Note that I didn’t quite say I would cast 3 spells only that I would land them. You have to be precise when it comes to timing and you need to be ready to pounce on the next spell the moment the other one is finished.

We were working on heroic Morchok for a total of 6 – 8 hours (over 4 weeks, with raid hours lost due to a healer shortage). Our longest attempt was just under 6 minutes. Most of the wipes occurred between 2 – 3 minutes. The trickiest part for me was maintaining tank health right after a stomp. A common occurrence I noticed is that after Kohcrom stomped, he would attack the tank around 2 seconds later. If I timed it right, I could land a Flash Heal and a quick Holy Word: Serenity. But sometimes that wasn’t enough. I needed another way because those two spells just weren’t consistent enough. Sometimes the tank lived, sometimes he died. I wanted a better (and consistent) way in keeping that tank alive.

It all revolved around the Stomp.

After a few wipes, I realized the consistency of his melee swing following the stomp. I didn’t want to focus exclusively on the tank to the detriment of the group. But at the same time, if the tank dropped it was game over.

Timers from DBM gave me a 5 second count down on approximately when the stomp would land.

I ended up watching the animation of the stomp. The moment the foot start rising up, I’d target the tank and hit Prayer of Healing ensuring it would land just after Stomp connected with the group. This gave me time for a quick Flash Heal (Or Binding Heal) followed up with Serenity (or a Circle of Healing if the tank was sufficiently high enough.

Credits to

Lodur for gemming all strength reforging to Mastery giving him the ability to really stabilize players and allowing me to spike them back  up.

The DPS warriors on my side who picked up on the fact that when I frantically called their name, it meant I wanted a Rallying Cry (and giving us that buffer after a fumbled heal).

Logan of the LeetSauced podcast (and soon-to-be host of the Matticast) for remaining calm, collected and patient after enduring hours of frustrating incidents beyond his control.

Tanks with 4 piece bonuses. Seriously. More bonuses like this in the future.

Old Spice. I smelled awesome that raid.

Now what?

What’s the next hard mode boss that you went to after Morchok (25 man as I understand 10 man has different priorities)?

Hagara?

Ping pong guy?

Ooze boss?

Seems like we’re going to take a hard look at Hagara. Pointers?

The Mistweaver Monk: Will it Work?

Additional details about the Monk was released a few days ago on. Ghostcrawler fielded the answers to several of the questions that I’m sure were on most people’s minds. The Monk healing spec (Mistweaver, a catchy name) is designed to rely heavily on punches and kicks. You get to DPS while you heal (or… heal while you DPS). Thankfully, there is going to be some semblance of familiarity as being in Mistweaver means that we do get a mana bar.

DPSing as a healer

Every punch, every kick, somersault, roll or whatever martial arts move is supposed to elicit some sort of heal. The traditional healing class simply gets through by targeting players and casting spells. This new Monk style of healing is going to shake things up. It sounds to me that a Monk at the top of their game is going to be contributing some DPS. There’s no plans to include auto attack meaning that you have fine control over your abilities (and as  Monk, you know you’re not going to accidentally right click Ragnaros and start the fight).

We know that Monks aren’t going to attack from range. They’re a melee class and designed to tango up close. Now I’m no melee expert, but I have a Ret Paladin (not helping my cause, I know). I’ve endured and seen first hand some of the difficulties that melee players go through. There’s all sorts of cleaves, AoEs and constant movement going on. Doesn’t that seem a little excessive for a melee healer?

On top of the obstacles that a melee class needs to deal with, a Monk must also worry about the players surrounding them and ensure that their health is sustained.

Get the picture? The Mistweaver playstyle blends in two incredibly stressing roles into one. This expansion plain sucked for melee classes.

Playing an Atonement Priest is the closest feeling one can get to the idea of DPS and healing. You’re just standing there, shooting a mob and watching as your healing is applied to whichever player needs it the most.

Envisioning the Monk

When I think of the Mistweaver, I imagine a sagely-like Panda who builds up their light or dark side abilities through melee attacks. We know that Monks have another resource system in addition to the base (Chi and mana). Dropping Statue of the Jade Serpent in key locations is the first step. You get three of these. One near the melee, one near the tank and one near the rest of the ranged would be the default setup. After that, what’ll probably happen is that the Panda leaps into melee range and begins their martial arts sequence by filling their Light or Dark force and then channelling that energy among the different statues which heals nearby players as necessary.

I’m hoping we’ll see some awesome Monk mobility in action. The ability to leap, roll or somersault their way from player to player while blasting them with close range healing before re-engaging the boss would really cool! Can you imagine it? It’s a melee healer. They’re not going to be doing much spell casting from a distance. It makes total sense for Monks to heal from close quarters.

Actually, Felade had a great idea on Plus Heal in line with mobility healing.

For instance, a modified roll that healed everyone in a line between your current location and the roll target, or a kick that healed everyone in its arc.For instance, a modified roll that healed everyone in a line between your current location and the roll target, or a kick that healed everyone in its arc.

I really like that bit about being a position based healer. Another idea would be a short range kick which adds shields to the target. As much as I hate Lightwell, I wouldn’t be surprised if Monks had the ability to deploy something similar. Maybe a really large Brewmaster keg instead of a Lightwell. Instead of seeing Priests screaming click the damn Lightwell, you’ll be seeing Monks saying click the damn keg. Something tells me that getting people to click a keg would be easier than getting people to click on a Lightwell.

How about a Monk Rebirth? Dead player? No problem! Leap to their corpse, slam the palm into the player and watch as they get brought back to life! Basically just slam the death out of them.

Now here’s the million gold question. Which classes get paired up with the Monk when it comes to tier tokens?

Occuthar Strategy, the new Baradin Hold Boss

This mutt has been available on the PTR for some time. He had way too much health on 10 man during my initial times with him. He’s much more manageable now. You’ll find that this fight is a slight DPS check and skill check.

When you first engage the encounter, the tanks will need to pull him back to a corner and point him away from the raid. The rest of the group will need to stand and spread out around him. Naturally, there is a tank switch involved. When your first tank eats the shadow debuff, your second tank needs to taunt right away until that debuff wears off. The second tank needs to stay off near the side so as to not get hit by Searing Shadows.

Watch out for large, glowing circles around the room. Stay out of those. The DPS check kicks in when he does his Gaze of Occu’thar ability. He launches those little eyeballs of his from the top of his head and sends them towards every player. They’ll hit for around 5000+ damage a second. Have everyone gather up in one central location and light up your AoE. If you don’t kill the eyes quick enough, they’ll explode and dish out 25000 damage to everyone nearby. Spread back out as soon as that’s done!

Enjoy the ridiculous amount of PvP gear that’s bound to drop!

Here’s a kill video from Memento  Mori and Method on 25 man in the PTR

Does Your Guild Need Social Media Guidelines?

Does Your Guild Need Social Media Guidelines?

In a word, probably not.

More and more players are finding themselves on Twitter and Facebook. Guild members are adding each other as friends to all these other social networks and their thoughts are then broadcast which expose themselves to even moreplayers. There is always an inherent risk though. Much like the way companies operate, the wrong tweet or message could lead to getting fired or facing a penalty. I’ve witnessed cases where WoW guilds did very much the same thing.

One disgruntled player said something damning and they were pretty much run out of the guild.

With something like 10+ members of Conquest on Twitter, I keep an eye on it as much as I can. I prefer to address problems privately and directly. I don’t want to find out about issues via someone’s blog or their stream. At the same time, I recognize the need to vent frustration. It’s a fairly fine line to walk between presenting the best image for the guild and allowing people to just be people. I’ve written out a set of guidelines just to remind players who do blog and use social media to keep this stuff in mind before they start blasting stuff openly.

Recruiting is hard

Again, it’s partially about image control. Smart and tech savvy players might uncover blogs or tweets from individuals talking about a guild that they want to join. I’ve spoken with players before in the past who stated that while they expressed interest in joining Conquest, scouring the twitter list of players gave them pause because some of their thoughts about the guild was upsetting. The truth of that is going to vary. My point is that social media stuff has direct impact on the recruiting efforts of guilds. So if you’re sitting there complaining about how raiding has sucked because no one’s applied and people are getting restless and no one’s showing up or applying to the guild, how do you think that’s going to look to potential applicants? No one’s going to put in an application to a guild that looks like its on the verge of collapse. Granted, that guild might have a motivated GM trying to rebuild and put things back together. But tweets and blog posts that reflect negatively could hamper their efforts.

The Public Drama

Things like loot drama or so forth should be kept internal.

Now, I toe an extremely fine line when I write about players past and present. Years ago when Syd was still with me she and I had a philosophical disagreement. She felt that publically recognizing players was a good thing. I disagreed because there was a potential chance it could lead to elements of dissatisfaction from other players who felt snubbed at not being given the same treatment. From the GM perspective, I wanted to avoid the potential headaches that it would cause. I have no qualms when it comes to writing about certain situations, but I’ll go out of way to obscure select details. When it comes to blogging, I do it to help educate not to vindicate. I’m not one to hold grudges. But not every blogger out there shares that sentiment. Some use it to write about their thoughts without regards to the ramifications of what they’re saying.

At the end of the day, if any player gets to the point where they’re extremely unhappy about their situation within the guild, that’s something the GM need to address. Every solution needs to be considered even if it means dismissal. Sometimes a change of scenery is needed. If it were me, if I was tweeting and blogging about how upsetting my guild was to me, I’d take a step back and wonder what the heck I’m doing in here in the first place.

Another reason? Can you imagine getting into a public mudslinging fight? I would much rather have a conversation in private detailing a player’s shortcomings. If a player decides to take things public, then I can either walk away and take the hits or come back and publically rebuke them. For example, if I had a player who was particularly venemous and wrote a blog post about why they felt they should have gotten this item instead of that other player, that loot council sucked and that it wasn’t fair and so forth and I noticed that the post generated some number of comments, I feel obliged to reply to explain our stance.

So I might have to come back with reasons like this:

  • No actually your DPS wasn’t that high. You got out DPS’d by players who were under geared and who were doing specific things (like dispelling or doing gongs).
  • You’ve been missing the past 4 raids or have left early.
  • I’ve blown 10 battle res’s on you in the past 15 bosses. That’s 10 too many.

I don’t like embarrassing players in public and I’m thankful it’s never gotten to that situation. But I knew I wanted to create a reference for players who used social media.

I think there are many GMs out there who aren’t quite adept when it comes to things like public relations or damage control. They often want to take the easiest solution and run with that. Sometimes the easiest and fastest solution is to kick out the troublemaker without even trying to establish a conversation.

Note that I didn’t say it was the best. I just said it was the easiest and fastest.

smedia-2

Drafting the guidelines

It’d be stupid and fruitless of me to try to discourage players from using Twitter or from blogging. I can’t control that. At the same time, when I came up with the guidelines I wanted to ensure that the team had an idea of what was cool and what would give me headaches. I don’t like getting headaches. I get headaches from healing raids and figuring out how to tackle certain bosses. Those are good, acceptable headaches. I don’t want unnecessary headaches. They’re a waste of time.

When harnessed correctly, social media can be a strong asset for any guild. I’ve managed to recruit players, drive up interest and gain some raiding insight from players who use it. Its a neat way to meet new players and get a handle on different personalities.

When I came up with the guidelines, I approached it from the angle of encouraging players to think about their experience and how they wanted it presented to their followers. Keep things light yet professional. It was also a reminder to them that the leaders and I would always be available if there was something truly troubling them. Unless they seal and privatize their accounts, they would always represent the guild in everything they say or do.

In the end, like it or not, everything said online has an impact on the relationships around you whether you intend to or not.

I went through several drafts and revisions before I settled on this iteration of it.

Conquest Social Media Guidelines

These are the suggested guidelines for the use of social media at Conquest. Conquest members are encouraged to create, contribute, or comment on blogs, Twitter, Facebook, forums, online games, or any other kind of social media both on and off Conquest. If you do, you are kindly asked to understand and follow these guidelines.

We’re not here to censor you.

Principles

If you participate in social media, follow these guiding principles:

  • Understand and follow the Conquest Code of Conduct
  • Try to keep remarks meaningful and respectful—do not post spam, offensive or derogatory comments
  • Take a moment and think before posting
  • Respect confidentiality whether it’s guild related or otherwise
  • When you’re disagreeing with the opinions of other players, keep it appropriate and polite

Guidelines to Keep in Mind

Openness – If you are blogging or tweeting about your adventures and efforts in Conquest, don’t be afraid to disclose it. You are free to write and launch creative projects at your discretion. Projects like Redhawks’ Gaze and the LeetSauced podcastare maintained by the very same players who are a part of the guild and I have no intention of trying to restrict their creativity. Feel free to approach Matt for advice or assistance.

CommunicateProblems First – Conquest is a transparent guild. I don’t have a problem allowing players to vent. However, if you experience any severe problems with the guild or its leadership, you’re asked to approach the leaders first to see if a resolution to the problem can be found before taking it public.

Try to Stick to Your Expertise– I write about healing and raiding. I wouldn’t dream of advising a Mage on things like their rotation or stat weights. Don’t intentionally mislead players who may approach you for advice. If you’re not sure, do refer them to other players in the guild or other resources on the internet.

Your Words Have Effects– By saying you are a member of Conquest, every tweet, post and comment you make indirectly reflects upon the guild as a whole. This can have a severe effect when it comes to things like recruiting new members to when securing guild partnerships/sponsorships in the future.

Be Conversational– Have some fun interacting with your readers and followers. You don’t have to be mechanical and personality-less all the time. There are many interesting players out there. Don’t hesitate to reach out to them.

Accountability- What you write is ultimately up to you. I can’t restrict your speech. Being a part of social media as a member of Conquest reflects upon the guild, so treat it well. Follow the terms and conditions for other communities you are a part of.

The Grandma Rule- If you’re about to publish something that doesn’t feel right, think about whether or not you should post it. If your grandma or parents saw this, would you be embarrassed or worried? If the answer is yes, you may want to consider modifying or refraining from publishing altogether.

The Internet is Forever– Stuff that you put out there can be saved. When you publish information, any efforts to destroy it or render it anonymous might work. It also might not. If you’re not prepared to have something published for all eternity, re-work it or reconsider it.

This is your guild – If being a part of the guild gets to the point where the direction is severely upsetting to you causing you to start publically blasting players and its leaders, you may wish to reconsider your status within the guild. I have no intention of trying to keep players who have absolutely lost their desire to remain in the guild. I want players to be happy, irrespective of what guild they belong to.

A Lesson in Guild Ultimatums

It’s been 2 and a half years since Conquest has been formed. We’ve had our shares of victories and defeat. I figured a situation like this would come one day. I never imagined it would come from a main tank. Least of all from a main tank. I knew he wasn’t having much enjoyment out of the raiding scene.

Let me be clear for a moment. The story I am about to tell is not one of vindication or shame. It is one of education so that my guild leading colleagues would be better prepared should a scenario like this arise. It would come in many forms, but the most common would be if I don’t get <this>, I’m leaving.

Threats never work. Even if the leadership allows the request to go through, you can be damned sure it’ll be done so reluctantly and not out of loyalty. If anything, such gains are only for the short term.

Right, let me resume my story. Our main tank had opted for retirement. Not having fun’s a perfectly valid excuse and one that appears to be echoed throughout the community by several players. I have absolutely zero desire to force someone to play a class or role that they don’t want to play. It’s just bad for business. So I accepted it and moved on. Every player that had a tank position in my raid group was bumped up 1 rank. The secondary tank became the primary tank. Tanks 2-4 frequently rotated depending on the encounter. I am blessed with having 6 players w ho are capable of tanking should that need arise.

I come back the next day and visit my forums. I discover that our retiree posted a message:

“If you don’t make me an officer, I’m going to quit the guild.”

Was that what this was all about? Power and recognition? My gut instinct was to flat out say no. Officers are selected based on certain qualifications. There are certain traits that make them special and dependable. However, what you may not know is that there are qualities which automatically discount a player from ever being an officer.

I’ll list some of them here.

Attendance

When a player takes a break from a game without mentioning anything, I might give them a bye for it if their reason is justified. When a player pulls that stunt multiple times without saying a word, that’s the line for me. I cannot have leaders who decide to come and go at their own whims without notice. It would do more harm than good. A leader needs to be available when they can and to say so when they cannot. If a raider does this, I cannot trust they won’t abandon their position when issued additional responsibility.

Shirking responsibility

Conquest has an unspoken leadership ladder. As leaders are appointed by myself with the consent of the other leaders, there needs to be a way to evaluate their mettle and skills. Our loot system involves the use of loot council. The only way to ascend is to go through the process and sit on the council at some point. If a player refuses to handle loot council, then they may not be fit for command at all. If they’re not willing to handle important decisions like who they believe loot should go to, then I don’t know if the harder decisions can be handled (such as roster, player evaluations, and so forth).

Saying no the first time

When the boss asks a player if they want additional responsibility, the player shouldn’t just say no and then issue an ultimatum months later. If I asked someone and they said no the first time, that’s that. I wouldn’t approach them again because I figure there’s no interest in it. Onus is on the other player if they reconsider. I can’t chase people down and hound them repeatedly. I do that enough during raids calling stacks, spreads outs and debuffs. I generally don’t make offers more than once. But that’s a personal style.

Stability

This one actually just occurred to me. Leadership players need to be a rock (or at least, pretend to be one in front of everyone else). It’s okay to be pissed off and upset once in a while. But constant brooding does no good to anyone. A long time ago, I had a player who would crumble and fold when they were chastised for blowing an assignment. Officers have to be made of tougher stuff to withstand the criticism that’s bound to happen. Someone who sheds tears or anger every time something negative is said in their direction isn’t a player fit for command and I doubt such an individual would be able to garner the respect and loyalty of the players.

That being said, I learned a few things from this experience. Strong player depth is what allows guilds to keep going and to survive. The very day that ultimatum was issued, the player was flatly denied and practically laughed out of the guild. We went and took down Theralion and Valiona on heroic mode that same night. While tanks are a critical component for raiding guilds, an awesome tank does not a successful guild make. You still need the DPS and the healers to play at their best. One of my faults is not keeping a tighter finger on the pulse of the guild. It’s difficult to split time between work, raid and just general socializing. It’s also nigh impossible to know what goes on in the heads of others. But I have to make a better attempt somehow even if that means sacrificing my peace and quiet time.

The burden of command is not a light weight to carry at all. Anyone that tries to make such demands for it is just out of their mind.

Next time you’re annoyed about something, I’d suggest talking about it first and requesting it rather than trying to make a threat. Odds are good it won’t end well.

I, Shaman: Speculation of the future of resto

I, Shaman: Speculation of the future of resto

With all the changes to healing between the expansion’s release and subsequent patches, restoration shaman have kind of gone in a bit of a circle almost. We started out the expansion with the inclusion of a few new spells that really set the tone. Healing Rain was an absolute power-house addition to our healing, and Spiritwalker’s Grace along with Unleash Elements gave us some additional healing versatility.

Not too long after Cataclysm’s release, shaman healing started falling behind some of the other healers not from lack of trying but for lack of throughput and cooldowns. We have a diverse toolkit to use, but there just wasn’t enough juice in the batteries. The developers at Blizzard ramped up our healing in an attempt to bring us up to par with other healers, and gave us a brand new cooldown to use. It just so happened to be a spell that we’ve been pining over for almost three years. As of patch 4.1 our healing has gone up exponentially and we can keep pace with the other healers pretty well, and we have enough tools an abilities to cover the main healing roles.

But now it’s time to look to the future. One of the big things about Cataclysm was that there would be a great homogenization where all healers could cover all of the roles in a raid or group. This is mostly true at this point. I can tank heal pretty damn well now, and have been for the last several weeks, and can switch between that and raid healing at the drop of a hat without losing pace. Paladins can pile on some massive raid healing and still nuke heal a single target. I think, though, that we’ve reached almost full circle and while we can cover all the roles necessary I think we all still have a specialty. Lets look at shaman and the toolkit we have.

Healing Rain is a massive AoE healing spell with an area of effect large enough to encompass two priest or druid healing circles. It is affected by mastery at each tick, so it can be used for lower health targets to great effect, and each healing tick has a chance to proc Earthliving. Chain Heal has had its coefficient buffed, and overall throughput increased. It was changed to include the additional target from the glyph as a base part of the spell, bringing our total targets up to 4. Riptide, with glyph, can be rolled across multiple targets when applied every cooldown, and Healing Stream Totem also got a bit of a boost and Spirit Link Totem is a clutch cooldown that can bring a raid from the brink of death to flat-out victory.  Shaman still thrive pretty hardily in the barren lands of AoE healing, it’s the point I think we excel the most at overall. This isn’t bad, it’s good to have a specialty, but we’ve done maybe a 310 turn. I won’t say 360 because we aren’t in that awful spot we were before, but we’re close enough to our old niche that we can still claim it, and we get the tools to be able to hang with the single target healers as well. I think though, that it was an intentional move to put us in the niche to give us that specialty and I think that it will become important in the next tier of raiding.

Tier 12 promises to ramp up the AoE damage. This is based purely on speculation of the content as well as some of the items that have been data-mined for set bonuses. As Vixsin pointed out in comments to my last post, is that every 4pc focuses on providing additional splash healing. This is a pretty good indicator as to what we’ll be dealing with, considering the set bonuses are usually tooled towards boosting your healing for the current content. So from set bonuses, and from the general fact we’ll be in the elmental plane of fire, we can expect a lot of raid wide damage and healing. This is something shaman normally can capitalize on by using all our tools. I think that T12 raiding content could be a shaman break out tier, where due to just the nature of our healing, you will see some ridiculous healing done. Basically I think we’ll make a strong showing in the next tier of content based on our cooldown, our healing spells and our ability to just be general healing bad-asses. After that, on the road to Deathwing, who knows what we’ll look like. But for right now I think we’re poised for greatness in the next tier.

Healing Heroic Magmaw

Healing Heroic Magmaw

h-magmaw-480

Note: That’s actually Lodur’s kill screenshot. How he heals with raid frames that small, I have no idea =).

Healing from World of Logs

Conquest is officially 2/13 in the hard mode 25 progression. It was nice getting the kill and getting the monkey off our backs. It had been weeks since our last progression kill and this was much needed.

Why Magmaw?

We had been struggling for a long time on heroic Chimaeron and it was felt that a change of pace was needed. Knowing it was nerfed, we detoured straight to him instead. I think it took us about ~20 wipes.

Setting up

The first 14 attempts of the night saw us using 7 healers and 4 tanks (1 Frost DK kiting). On the kill, we ended up with 7 healers and 5 tanks (2 Frost DKs kiting).

Healers

2 x Resto Shaman
1 x Resto Druid
1 x Holy Paladin
1 x Disc Priest (Shields)
1 x Disc Priest (Atonement)
1 x Holy Priest

magmaw-heroic

Every DPS player and healer stands on the star and DPS’s from close quarters. The two tanks on Magmaw positioned themselves on the shield depicted above. Our resident Holy Paladin and Resto Druid were assigned to both of them. The triangle, diamond and square marks served a purpose.

We had a group of players who would stand on the outside in order to draw fire from pillars and Nef’s fireballs. We had a Frost Deathknight pick up the parasites but I was having trouble keeping him alive towards the end. This was offset with a second Frost Deathknight who assisted on picking up additional parasites (and split the parasite damage accordingly).

Bro tip: Place all of your outside players together in a group to maximize group healing. In our case, both of the Frost Deathknights, myself and two Hunters were placed in that group. Prayer of Healing combined with Chain Heals and other spells were enough to keep us alive through the pillars.

Tank healing

You will want to use two dedicated players. One healer by themselves may not be enough (at least, when learning). If you’re tank healing, you can’t even deviate for a moment because that tank will die. It’s going to take everything you have to keep them alive. Configure your raid frames to show debuffs like Mangle. If necessary, get your tanks to call the switches so you can keep pace with them. 

Assign another healer to cover the tank grabbing the Constructs. They can switch between the tank and the raid if they choose.

Raid healing

Raid damage is going to continue slamming the players (the outside group especially). I wasn’t able to keep them and the kiters alive myself. You’re going to want to use 2-3 healers at least. It’s to counteract the damage from Magma Spit and Lava Spew. Be fast with any Ignitions. It’s up to the players to move, but if you’re standing at the right spot, it shouldn’t take more then a few steps to get clear.

Head phase

When Magmaw eats the spike, this is the time to regenerate and use mana cooldowns. With 3 Priests, we used our Hymn of Hopes separately. Our Resto Shamans used their Mana Tide totems earlier on. Telluric Currents for Resto Shamans helps immensely from what I understand.

Additionally, you may want to consider having 1 Atonement Priest. Smite during the head phase to heal up any residual damage from the transition.

Concentration Potions are awesome here.

Parasite kiting

For the kiting healer on the outside, I suggest using a Holy Priest. My main job was to heal our Frost DKs as they were weaving figure eights around the room. Body and Soul was enough to give them a little burst of speed if they needed it. The benefit of a Priest is that if the DKs get trapped with incoming parasites or encroaching fires, Life Grip gave them a way out. If the kiters were in no danger, I’d default to throwing Renews on the group while running around fire dodging.

This job sucked for me. I had to hog Innervates and use the expensive spells. There  were times when I had to swing through in front of the marked positions to get in range of Druids. With the amount of cooldowns we had and the DPS, we were able to afford to do that. The faster a fight goes, the higher the HPS since you’ll have more mana.

Hunters: Don’t use Ice Traps. Outside group may not be able to see Pillars or Nef’s Blazing Infernos

Final phase (sub-30% health)

Spread out immediately (Try 6 – 8 yards). This is the most stressful part of the encounter.

Your healing lead is going to want to take a broader look at the health of the raid. Use Tranquility and Divine Hymn accordingly. Don’t forget about DPS Druids or Priests.

The DKs and I drop back further away to allow room for players. Shadowflame Barrages are going to hurt. You may wish to take a moment before the encounter to manually position your healers to maximize the area.

Continue to keep 2  tank healers for Magmaw, 1-2 on the Construct tank and the rest on the raid. Construct tank healing is going to be sketchy. Your raid leader might have to call a DPS burn on a Construct if there’s too many up when you transition. It’s going to be nearly impossible to keep a tank alive with 3 Constructs up. It’s doable if they have 2 Constructs. Watch their tank cooldowns and when theirs wear off, use yours. That should buy you about 30-50 seconds if healers have their single target cooldowns free.

Good luck!

The next question is heroic Maloriakk or heroic Atramedes next.

Also, Conquest healing corps is looking for another Holy Paladin, Boomkin/Resto Druid, Shaman (all specs) and Priest (all specs are welcome). DPS classes are also encouraged to apply.

Full list

Application page

Patch 4.1 Dungeon Finder Call to Arms, Lodur’s thoughts

Patch 4.1 Dungeon Finder Call to Arms, Lodur’s thoughts

Unless you missed it, Blizzard has announced an idea that they wish to implement in an attempt to shorten queue times and address the tank and healer shortage that has been plaguing the LFD for a while now. Here’s the actual blue post for you,

Source

In patch 4.1 we’ll be introducing Dungeon Finder: Call to Arms, a new system intended to lower queue times. Call to Arms will automatically detect which class role is currently the least represented in the queue, and offer them additional rewards for entering the Dungeon Finder queue and completing a random level-85 Heroic dungeon.

Any time the Dungeon Finder queue is longer than a few minutes for level-85 Heroics, the Call to Arms system kicks in and determines which role is the least represented. In the case of tanking being the least represented role, the “Call to Arms: Tanks” icon will display in the Dungeon Finder UI menu where class roles are selected, and will also display on the UI when the queue pops and you are selected to enter a dungeon. Regardless of your role, you’ll always be able to see which role currently has been Called to Arms, if any.

Call to Arms is meant to lower wait times by offering additional rewards for queuing as the currently least represented role. To be eligible for the additional rewards you must solo queue for a random level-85 Heroic in the role that is currently being Called to Arms, and complete the dungeon by killing the final boss. Every time you hit these requirements (there is no daily limit) you’ll receive a goodie bag that will contain some gold, a chance at a rare gem, a chance at a flask/elixir (determined by spec), a good chance of receiving a non-combat pet (including cross faction pets), and a very rare chance at receiving a mount. The pets offered come from a wide variety of sources, and include companions like the Razzashi Hatchling, Cockatiel, and Tiny Sporebat, but the mounts are those specifically only available through dungeons (not raids), like the Reins of the Raven Lord from Sethekk Halls, Swift White Hawkstrider from Magister’s Terrace, and Deathcharger’s Reins from Stratholme.

This system is meant to address the unacceptable queue times currently being experienced by those that queue for the DPS role at max level. The long queue times are, of course, caused by a very simple lack of representation in the Dungeon Finder by tanks, and to some extent healers. We don’t feel the tanking and healing roles have any inherent issues that are causing the representation disparity, except that fulfilling them carries more responsibility. Understandably, players prefer to take on that responsibility in more organized situations than what the Dungeon Finder offers, but perhaps we can bribe them a little. While this system gives tanks and healers something extra, the incentive is being provided so that we can help players in the DPS role get into more dungeons, get better gear, and continue progressing.

While the gold, gems, flasks, and elixirs are OK incentives, we knew we needed something more substantial. We had briefly considered Valor Points and epics, but decided that wouldn’t be working toward the goal of helping DPS players progress, and ultimately wouldn’t keep tanks and healers in the Dungeon Finder system for very long. We settled on pets and dungeon-found mounts as they’re cosmetic/achievement items that players tend to try to get on their own, so why not change that up and offer them a chance to get some of those elusive pets and mounts in a way that also helps other players? Even if they don’t get a pet or mount, or get one they already have, the gold and other goodies still feel rewarding enough that it won’t feel like a waste of effort.

We think it’s a pretty solid incentive to get tanks and healers queuing, give max-level players another way to collect the pets and mounts they so desire, and above all, to improve wait times for DPS players sitting in queues. In the case of lower level dungeons, it’s actually not uncommon for DPS to be the least represented role, and so if this new system works out and we’re pleased with the results, we may consider applying this same mechanic to lower level dungeons as well.

Well there it is. Since it was first announced, people have been going crazy about it and from the general reaction you’d think the sky was falling. Well, it’s not. Lets look at the proposed rewards,

Vanity Pets: These look to be ones that can be obtained easily on your own if you decide to put the time into it. So DPS aren’t really losing anything there, it’s just a simple cookie to offer Tanks and Healers. If you’re really so worried about these pets, go ahead and get them yourself. I did, and I’m a healer.

Mounts: A lot of people are bitching about this, I can understand why, mounts are a pretty big status symbol at times, but you know what? The mounts they’ve discussed aren’t anything you can’t get by yourself, or anything DPS isn’t already soloing. Hell I’m a healer with a DPS offspec and I can solo all of the old heroics and have been in an attempt to get the mounts.

My main issue with the incentive is that it won’t really fix the problem so much as shift the issue in another direction. In the last week, I’ve queued for about 15 heroic dungeons solo. 10 of those times, I got a DPS that strapped on a shield and a sword and decided they were going to tank. Those were fantastic runs let me tell you. What I think will happen is that we’ll see more of that. People that will want the mount or pets and will try to cheat the system. So for a bit queue times may go down, but then there will be sub-par tanks and healers that people will complain about. And even then if there’s nothing you want from the random dungeon bonus, those same folks will stop queuing once they have the items they want, giving the incentive a finite amount of time. While I like the incentive idea and as a healer appreciate the thank you, it’s not a fix, it’s a bandaid. Tanking and Healing are thankless jobs lets face it. Healing and Tanking are pretty hard when you’re first starting out, and people like to criticize you often for any deficiencies you have at the role. Giving us what amounts to a Chotchkie doesn’t really help all that much as a lasting incentive.

The other problem is the additional changes to how the LFD works in terms of Valor Points. The first 7 random dungeons you do will award you the points, meaning that you will no longer need to queue once a day, but can knock them all out at once if you want to. Personally I think that change will encourage more people to get random guild groups together and just knock out the heroics all at once. This then removes a whole set of potential Tanks and Healers from the pool.

Is there a better fix for the queues? I don’t know, I’m not one of the guys in charge of things over at Blizzard and I’m not sure I can really come up with a better option. Do I think it’s worth calling out that the sky is falling over the change? I don’t think so. Personally I’m enjoying the fact that Blizzard recognizes there is a problem and is looking at ways to fix it. I hope they find a happy balance, and I hope that the fix doesn’t produce a series of under-geared Tanks and Healers flooding the queues. It’s a fine line to walk, but I’m confident that Blizzard will find the fix, that they will figure out a good enough cookie to offer under represented roles without completely unbalancing the system. In the meantime though, I do not think that it’s something we should be seeing the amount of QQ we are in the last few hours, lets give them some time to see how it actually works out. Besides, it doesn’t really hurt you, it’s not taking anything away from you, and it is a slight thank you to a set of roles that is normally criticized and never thanked. That’s my opinion on the matter at least.

How about you? What do you think of the idea? Do you think there’s a better way to improve queue times?

Tough Call: Fighting Progression Frustration

Image courtesy of leonardobc

This week the crew has been hitting our heads against a progression boss, and the talk around the campfire has a decided air of frustration to it. As a leader, you need to be aware of your team’s motivation levels when tackling new challenges. Encounters surpassing your raid team’s ability level can often turn frustration into futility.

But how do does a raid leader handle this precisely?

The same way we handle any problem – with planning and execution.  Sun Tzu, who probably would have been a Vodka/Paragon level raid leader, teaches us:

“The general who wins the battle makes many calculations in his temple before the battle is fought. The general who loses makes but few calculations beforehand.”

It sounds simple, and when you’re doing it well, it really is simple.  Knowing what needs to be done ahead of time and adjusting as you go along are the two key ingredients to successful raid progression no matter the size of the raid or the strategy being used.

Below are a few points I recommend keeping in mind when your raid team is approaching difficult content:

Planning For Raid Progression

  • Read, understand and analyze the intended boss strategies as dictated by your raid leaders well in advance of attempting the fight. This allows you to see mistakes as well as make changes easily.
  • Be honest with yourself about the capabilities of your team. Have an idea where your weaknesses and strengths lie. This could be include aspects ranging from movement, DPS, healer skill or people with high raid awareness.
  • Know when to call a wipe and when to extend an attempt to see the next phase. Part of your team being dead might still allow the rest of the raid to practice key mechanics of the fight.
  • Experimentation is good. Figure out what works and what doesn’t when you deviate from a typical boss strategy. It might just be easier for your team.
  • Ensure your team is on the same page. Present a united and focused front for your troops to follow.

Sometimes, though, even our best-laid plans… well, you know what happens.  So the question becomes, what next?  What do I do when my team is getting weary, my strategies are in question, and I need a win quickly?

First of all, do not ditch your plan just because it isn’t working.  A strategy can fall apart in a lot of places. It may be execution, it may be a certain raid composition due to attendance; it could be any number of factors.  Find out where the strategy is failing and decide which elements you can change.  Can you swap personnel?  Slight positioning adjustment?  Time your cooldowns better (this is often a fix in Cataclysm raiding)?
Whether your plan needs a complete overhaul or just some minor adjustments, it is still crucial to address the frustration of your raiders and regroup.

  • Do not avoid the tough conversations. When your members bring up their gripes, listen to them. Answer appropriately.
  • Know the difference between toxic negativity and someone just blowing off steam. Sometimes people just need to vent. However, there is line between getting out some frustration and poisoning the morale of your squad.
  • Give responses that are logical and concise. You need to lay out for your team exactly what you’re doing, why you’re doing it that way,  and why you don’t think it can be done in an alternative way.  The more details, the better.
  • Accept suggestions and give them their due consideration. After all, if the 9 or 24 other people in your raid aren’t intelligent enough to help you with their observations, then you probably shouldn’t be raiding. Applaud valuable and constructive criticism from your raid.
  • Kill the boss and go out for beer!

Remember, the future is brighter.  Your raid will down this boss and will continue downing bosses. Success breeds further success.  Get out there and prove you’re all winners.


Reader Question

Last week, regarding my post on Real Officer Set-Ups, Kalette asked:

“Do you have any comments on how to incorporate this into a 10 man guild with two separate 10 man teams?”

Recently I had a conversation with Matticus about different ways guilds could operate more than one progression-oriented raid team within the same guild. (See Matt’s post here for his thoughts.) My feeling on the idea is that when you’re setting up policies for your guild, (attendance, loot, recruiting, critique, etc) they should apply to everyone playing that portion of the game, not just your raid team.

Clearly each raid needs their own raid leader, both of whom will need to be equally trusted by the GM, and trusted to work alone, because at least one of them will likely be raiding in without you overseeing them.

Beyond that, I think you could pull off a two 10-man raid guild with the same positions mentioned before.  You may have to get creative about which officer raids with which team, but in theory your role officers could oversee recruiting, critique and mentoring for every raider under their domain.  Since we’re talking about smaller numbers, they would each be responsible for roughly the same amount of players as they would in a healthy 25-man team, they would probably just need to be better at analyzing WoL logs parses since they can’t see everyone first hand.

Another approach is to combine a few roles, and have those role leaders cooperate with each other.  Tanks and melee DPS can easily be combined, and you could put ranged DPS and healing in a group together.  Then each 10-man raid would have one officer over each of those pairs.  Outside of raid, you may naturally specialize and have one ranged/healing role leader who is more attuned to healing and another who is better at the pew-pew, but so long as they can learning from each other, you can benefit from both being specialized.

By the numbers:
1x GM
2x RL
1x each Role Leader

Alternative:
1x GM
2x RL
2x Tanks/Melee Leader
2x Ranged/Healing Leader

I think the key caveat I’d make is that recruiting should still be done on a scale of “does this person meet our guild’s standards”, not just will they meet the needs of Raid A or Raid B.  When you’re fielding two squads who are both responsible for pushing progression and increasing your guild’s standing, it’s important to make sure that every raider meets the criteria to deserve that guild’s name above their heads.
Kalette, great question; I hope this helps.  If not, call me dumb and I’ll give it another look.

As always, leave your questions/comments/paternity suits in the comments.  I’ll lovingly read them all.  Also, if you have a topic you’d like to see addressed in a future episode of Tough Call, just let me know.