Raid Leading 101: Starting your Roster

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

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

Tanks

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

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

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

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

Healers

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

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

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

Melee/Ranged DPS

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

Melee

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

Ranged

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

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

Summing It Up

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

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

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

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

Tough Call: Is Preparation Enough?

Tough Call: Is Preparation Enough?

683292_50743243Welcome to Tough Call with me, Viktory.  This column aims to answer some questions and start even more discussions about one of the trickier aspects of raiding, raid leadership.  Sometimes “raid leadership” will mean strictly talking about class composition, role management, benching policies and loot, and inevitably sometimes it will bleed over into overall guild leadership. 

Based on my own experiences and the conversations I have every week with current and past guild/raid leaders, I know that this is one area where there is almost no black and white, and everyone can use some help or constructive criticism at times. 

I can tell you now that my answers will not be the universally-applicable answer, nor will they be the happy/nice/”make everyone love me” solutions.  That simply is not effective; raid management isn’t a WordPress plug-in, it’s a graduate-level course in human relations and resource management and we’re all crazy for trying to do it. 

My aim is always to have the most efficient raid possible, so that we can get in, get the job done, then go have a beer and pat ourselves on the back afterwards. 
Bottom line, the intent of this column will be to discuss how to make the decisions that the 24 other people in your raid would hate to make.  After-all, “uneasy lies the head that wears the crown”; but hey, you get to wear a frickin’ crown!

Now let’s move on to this week’s topic.

Preparation is the bare minimum

This week, many of you will either be grouping together for your guild’s first serious raids this expansion, or will be seeing more of your guildies hitting the gear levels to be able to join your raiding ranks.  Either way, you should be in a position where you have to decide who you will take to raids and who will be coming in off the bench.

In order to field the best team possible as you roll into a brand new expansion, you cannot always rely on the players who were your all-stars in Wrath.  Some may have grown complacent.  Some may have life commitments that prevent them from gearing-up (or even leveling up) as the same pace as the rest of your guild.  Some may even be less interested in raiding than they were last go-round.  Regardless of the reason, you owe it to your group to take an honest look at every possible option and make the best decisions.

If your group is already 12/12, please accept this High-Five and check back with us next week.  If your group is exactly 10 people and you would never dream of raiding with anyone else regardless of how long you have to wait…  let’s agree to disagree

If you’re still with me, I assume you’re not in one of those first two groups, and you’re probably facing some of the same decisions I’ve had to make this week.

For the sake of argument, let’s presume you’re doing 25-man raiding and have a roster of 30-40 people to choose from.  Six months ago, you could have considered multiple factors: experience, achievements, badge-gear vs boss-drops, etc.

Today, preparation is king.

Preparation does not always mean gear.  Sometimes people can get lucky and every instance they run drops exactly what they need.  I’ve seen it.  That doesn’t mean that they are any more prepared to raid than they were the day before, it just means that they may have a larger margin for error.

  • Among your healers, who is most prepared to keep your team alive when you’re in those first raid encounters?  
  • Who has taken the time to watch the videos, read the boss breakdowns, and consider what parts of their class/spec are best suited for each fight mechanic?  
  • Which of your tanks knows what is expected of them on each fight and which one is just hoping you’ll point them towards a boss and let them button-mash?

It should be absolutely unacceptable for your raid members to expect you to give them boss breakdowns before each pull.  Efficient raids will already be slowed down by new class mechanics and everyone needing new loot, you absolutely cannot allow another 10-15 minutes per raid to explain the strat.  Certainly you may review how your implementation of the suggested strat may differ (where to group on Altramedes, which drake to focus first on Halfus, etc), but the concepts and fight mechanics should have been discussed on your guild forums well before raid day.  This includes making sure the vital roles (such as interrupts, counter-spells, DPS tranquilities, etc.) have been assigned, preferably including back-ups.  If someone cannot meet this minimum standard, then they are not prepared to meet the challenges of raiding in Cataclysm and have made your decision that much easier. 

Remember, your roster should be a living document, constantly changing to meet your needs, and hopefully constantly improving as time goes on.  If you bring in the player who is most prepared, the one who went through the beta, has cleared every heroic 20 times, did 10-man raids before your guild had 25 people ready and thinks they know exactly what to do on each fight; that player can still fail.  They might have learned all this to mask the fact that they suck as moving out of the fire.  Preparation doesn’t show skill, but it does show dedication to the ideal of efficient and knowledgeable raiding.

Preparation is king, but it is not a guarantee.  Pick the guys who know what is expected of them so that you stay alive longer and can get the best possible looks at the new content.  Then, after a few nights, go back and use this experience to help you pick out who your top performers are.

Raid Leading 101: 3 Important Communication Tips

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

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

Choosing Your Style

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

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

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

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

Your Intentions

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

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

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

Honesty is the Best Policy

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

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

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

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

Raid Leading 101: 10 vs 25

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

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

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

25-man

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

10-man

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

The Choice is Yours

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

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

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

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

 

Raid Leading 101: What’s your motivation?

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

On your mark, get set, GO!

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

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

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

Meaning of Life My Leadership

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

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

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

Your turn, Grasshopper

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

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

Raid Leading Backbone

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

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

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

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

The Present

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

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

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

The Challenge

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It Came From the PUG: Could you turn that macro off?

Recently, Mike Sacco wrote about how kindness in a PUG pays off. In truth it does, quite a bit. Taking a little time to explain fights, and explain CC and such to new players is always a good idea. After all, we were all noobs once right? Let me give you an example from my recent travels.

I’ve been leveling my hunter now that I’ve started raiding on the Shaman. Lodur is Justice Point capped, and there’s nothing more for him to buy or really do except the daily heroic for Valor Points. I queue for a random dungeon on the hunter with a guildie while I’m questing, and after about 30 minutes, we get Vortex Pinnacle. The tank, the healer and the other DPS are all from different servers. As we start the instance, the tank asks us if we’ve been here before, because he has not. Before we even make the first pull he asks what we can CC in the group, and what marks everyone wants as their own personal CC marker. The healer admits he’s never been here before and asks that we keep him apprised of any surprises before we encounter them.

I’m floored at this point. Weeks of PUGs have left me slightly jaded with tanks careening in ignoring or breaking CC, and just leaving me awful messes to clean up. The communication in this group was absolutely flawless. We walked the paladin healer through the encounters, and the tank’s main was actually a holy pally so he spent some time explaining spells and stats for the healer. It was honestly the most informative, and best communicating group I’d been in to date. Because there were clear lines of communication and education, the run was smooth, having zero wipes, and was truly just enjoyable. My other guildie commented to me at the end of the run that it was the “Best damn group” he had had since Cataclysm’s release.

Now, while being patient and communicating is always a good thing, there comes times you have to draw a line in the ground so to speak. Take for an example a daily heroic I did with Lodur just recently. I was set to heal, and was able to pull three DPS from the guild, but no tank. We queue up in the LDG tool and get Heroic SFK as our instance, and a tank that had very, very low health. To put this into perspective, fully buffed Lodur sports around 115-116k health. This tank, a warrior, had 119k health fully buffed. Now, I honestly gave this guy a chance. I already know he juked the system to be able to queue for heroics, but hey, maybe he’s actually good right?

We set our CC marker out, and shackles go out, stuns hit home, and the tank charges right in and breaks all CC. He promptly dies. We run out, reset, come back in. He hasn’t even released. I res him up, and we politely explain that he needs to not break CC or he will die. He says he understands, but low and behold on the very same pull he charges in and breaks CC. I try one last time to explain to him about CC and he just leaves group. We re-queue and get another tank, this time we get a DK tank with 160k HP. Already looking better, he’s got the requisite tank gear and looks like he should have a handle on what’s going on.

We go in, and make it to the first boss. First boss goes down, and we start making our way to the second boss through the courtyard. The pulls go very well until right before entering the kitchen. The tank decides he’s going to pull the adds on him into the kitchen, aggroing the pack of servant, the cooks and everything in between. Needless to say it’s a wipe. We explain to him he’s got to slow down a little and watch what he pulls giving CC time to go off and healing time to situate. His only reply is to go careening back into the packs. At this point either the person is just very dense, or being an ass on purpose. We kick him from the group and the last one makes it all the way through.

Another good example of how patience pays off also takes place in heroic SFK. Me and a guildie queue up for a random, get SFK and the tank is a warrior, who looks right about where they should be on health and gear. Before we start the pulls the warrior says “Hey I’m a little rusty at tanking so any help will be appreciated.” We start our pulls and everything goes really well. We explain the first and second boss and make our way to the third boss of the instance. Most people hate that boss, it is arguably one of the hardest to manage in all of the heroics right now. There’s just a lot going on. We explain the fight and the mechanics and mark the adds. We explain what to avoid and how to move around it etc. Full run down. First pull winds up in a wipe, tank gets smeared and we release and run back in. Tank asks what went wrong and how he can improve it. We go over what happened and find out he can’t see the desecration. We walk him through enabling projected textures, and pull again. This pull goes way way better, and we get the boss to about half before the adds start running wild. After we recover from the wipe, the tank asks again what he can do to fix the problem. We develop a strategy that has the tank running from door to door picking up adds. After the boss dies on the third attempt, I’m ecstatic, and the tank is ridiculously happy.

Right there, simple communication and patience beat the hardest boss in the zone. So there’s a moral to this story, next time someone is doing something wrong, or maybe doing it in a way that isn’t the ideal way, take a minute or two and try explaining to them calmly and clearly how to do it or offer suggestions to improve the outcomes. Be constructive in your criticism and pay attention to how you say it to them. A little patience and kindness can lead to a smoother run. Now if they wont listen or are just jerks well… there is a kick button for a reason.

As an added bonus, I’ve begun livestreaming my exploits in the LFG system late night, and early on Sundays and Mondays. Check my Twitter for when the streams start, or periodically swing by my Livestream Channel.

Accountability Starts at the Top

This is a guest post by Arkom.

If you’re a guild or raid leader, you have certain expectations for your guild or team members. You establish rules and policies, you set up strategies, and you assign people to handle certain jobs. These aren’t hollow gestures and you want people to follow what they’re told to do. I mean, you do all of these things for very specific reasons. And when someone doesn’t follow along in the spirit of things? You hold them accountable for their actions, right? But what does that mean for you? How do you figure into the grand scheme of things, since you are at the top of whichever chain of command? What should you do when you make a mistake? Have you ever really thought about it?

The View from the Top

When you are in a position of leadership, it’s easy to miss things. You end up being responsible for so many things in your guild or your raid team that some of them will naturally slip by. This is unfortunate, but it happens because we are human and we’re dealing with other humans. We are not infallible. But in this sense, we get a broader view of what’s going on. To paint a mental picture, you can imagine you’re on a balcony, looking down at a crowd on the street. You see the group as a whole, moving to and fro, busily doing the things that they do in their day. Things may appear to be normal and perfect on the surface. However, there may be someone in that crowd who just stole someone’s wallet and no one is the wiser because there are too many people and all of them have their own things going on.

The View Looking Up

The people on your raid team or in your guild, however, have precisely the opposite vantage. In their picture, they may all be standing in that crowd on the street, looking up at you on the balcony. That is to say, as a leader, you are under constant scrutiny. Where you may not see the mistakes of an individual in the whole group every single time, you can bet your dear Aunt Mavis that more than one person in that crowd will see the mistakes you make. That’s sometimes an uncomfortable position to be in, but that’s why you get paid the big bucks. It may also be the reason you pop Extra Strength Tylenol like they were candy.

R. E. S. P. E. C. T. Find Out What it Means to Me

Now that I have you feeling like you’re you’re trying to use the bathroom in a house with glass walls, what DO you do when your human side (not the one referenced in the bathroom bit) shows and you make a mistake? Well, that really depends entirely on what you’re comfortable with. What should be obvious, I think, is that the best course to take in this situation is to fess up to falling short. Admit your error, apologize if that’s necessary, and do your best to not have a repeat performance. The tricky part of this scenario is that not everyone is comfortable with these things. To those people I say, “You’re in the wrong position.” One of the greatest tools a leader has at his or her disposal is the ability to honestly account for their failings. If you just glaze over the issue, ignore it completely, or offer up an empty apology to your team or guild, you’ve severely injured your reputation, your credibility, and the respect that those people have for you.

There’s a common notion that leadership is a position of servitude. Perhaps it isn’t correct in its every facet, but it certainly is true that we are, to some degree, beholden to those that we lead. We have a responsibility for them, which we have taken on of our own free (and sometimes I think, insane) will. After all, those who lead but have no followers have often been referred to by such colorful terms as, “crazy,” “eccentric,” and things that Matticus probably wouldn’t like me to put in his blog. So let’s just say that without people to lead, you aren’t a leader at all. When you damage their respect for
you, when you hurt your credibility, when you tarnish your reputation, you give those people a reason to leave. The more reasons you give them – and believe me, these reasons compound faster than you would think – the harder it will be to get others to join and stay in their place. So if you do have problems with saying things like, “I’m sorry, I made a mistake there and I will do my best not to let it happen again,” you should probably work on that or consider a future in playing games like Solitaire.

Over-stating the Obvious

Am I? I wish I was. Oh, by Ghostcrawler’s chitinous shell, I wish that I was. I sometimes find it hard to believe the number of times I’ve found myself in situations where the leadership’s reply never came at all, or if it did it was completely empty (and that’s much, much worse than not saying anything at all) or something about how their mistake wasn’t a mistake at all, because they’re the leadership and what they say goes. It happens. Perhaps you’ve been in a situation like that, from either the side where the leaders were saying it to you, or being part of the leader group that was saying it. If you have ever been subjected to those things, I’m guessing they didn’t endear you to those who were supposed to be leading you. World of Warcraft is a game and it’s something we play to have fun and unwind. That doesn’t seem to add up with the part where you have this whole crazy responsibility thing to worry about, but it’s true regardless. So when you find yourself at one of those points in your life as a leader when you’ve just boned it in front of a group, my advice is to take a moment to consider what you would expect of one of the other people in that situation. Would you want an explanation? Would you want an apology? Would you want to make them cry by bawling them out loudly and publicly and then yell at them more for crying like the More DoTs!!! guy? Well, for all of those but the last option, I suggest you do the same yourself. Apologize. Explain the mistake. But stand up and admit you were wrong. For that last one? Anger management. Seriously.

When you lead a raid or you lead a guild, the people who run with you or who are members of your guild are putting a trust in you to be an example of what you expect in them. You are in a position that allows you to directly influence the experience they have in this game, for better or for worse. That’s a huge responsibility and it should be taken seriously. If you can’t admit when you’re wrong, you aren’t just making things bad for yourself, you’re making things bad for them, too. Remember, it all starts with you and it all ends with you. And let’s face it, when you do have to take the heat, it kinda sucks, but when you know that you’ve played an important part in making other people’s time in World of Warcraft better, more fun, more exciting, and more entertaining? That’s a pretty great feeling. That’s the feeling that makes it all worthwhile.

Can Your Raid do More With Less?

Can Your Raid do More With Less?

Its a dark and stormy Monday night. Rain drops are slowly streaming down my face as I wearily walk through the door. I kick off my shoes and my feet are practically screaming in glee after escaping the cold, damp prisons of my New Balance sneakers. I hustle straight to my computer and flip the switch on. As the machine slowly spins to life, I change into something drier and comfortable.

“Gentlemen.” I spoke after joining our guild voice server, “How are we looking tonight?”

I received a chorus of acknowledgements ranging from “Good, what are we doing?” to “Your mom”. Just another day in Matt’s guild.

Once I logged into a game, I noticed of activity in officer chat. During the minutes that lead up to the first pull, we’re constantly assessing our roster and determining what bosses to aim for. One of the initial steps is to see what our attendance is like. There are times where there are some last minute player signouts or late notices. I got my raid invite and took a mental stock of our roster.

23 raiders with no other players in sight. It was about time for first pull. Some were starting to wonder if we would go since we didn’t have a full raid. The only boss remaining was Lich King. We wanted more weapons.

“We have the tanks to do this.” My tanking officer reported.

“More than enough stuns and slows for valks. Good to go.” Confirmed the raid leader. “Matt, healing?”

I quickly assessed my healers. There were five of us. We normally took six. I felt we could operate with less but I’ve always preferred the extra safety net when we were short bodies. It was time to get out of the comfort zone and see what the healing unit was capable of.

“It might be choppy. Being down two isn’t going to help. I think we can pull it off.” I responded with confidence.

Pushing the limit

I’ve always wondered what the minimum number of players for taking down Lich King would be. Could he be taken down with 24? With 22? How about at 80% capacity with 20? There was only one way to find out. You’re not going to know what your raid capacity is going to be unless you actually try it. Its good to stress test the raiders in shorthanded situations because you never know when it’ll happen during future raids. Someone might disconnect early on an attempt or die halfway through it.

Can your raid adjust to that sort of temporary setback?

Raid potential

raid-potential

While it is somewhat simple to quantify exactly how much DPS or healing is needed to successfully get through an encounter, there are other factors which you can’t really put a number on. Things like raid intelligence, awareness, and skills are all variables that determine whether your raid has the that mentality to gut through an encounter.

I’ve been surprised before in the past. When I think the raid group is lacking in certain roles or DPS and we go out and take down a boss, a little part of me inside cheers. The inverse also holds true. On moments where we wipe when I felt certain that we had the kill in the bag, I experience that sinking feeling in my stomach wondering what went wrong.

You’re never going to know what your raid can do unless you go out and try it. Obviously if raid potential is far below whatever the raid requirements might be, then the unpopular decision of calling it an early night might be the better course of action. When raiding short handed, the performance of everyone else needs to go up in order to compensate for the lack of players.

Unfortunately, we found out after a while what our limit was. Turns out if a player is lagging out, they’ll always get targeted with a Defile. On a side note, it seems that healers seem to respond to the instinctive need to keep healing. What else is a healer supposed to do with player who has lagged out in the middle of a Defile?

(Hint: The answer isn’t to keep healing him)

Alas, with multiple disconnected players the executive decision was made to call it an early night. Better luck next week.

Have you ever been in a raid where you were astonished at what the group could do because of class composition or lack of numbers? Was there any creative strategy used to get around the problems?

Reserved Loot in PuG Raids

After our 10-man raid Tuesday night, I had some extra time before I needed to head off and gain some real-life rested xp.  Since my server is a low-population server–let me correct that, SUPER-low-population–,  PuG raids are hard to come by.  I generally don’t enjoy these raids on my server, because most of the people in those groups don’t know how to work as a team. They also tend to be ignorant to fight mechanics or are too lazy to learn them.  Every now and then, though, I have an “inkling” for a 25-man.

I had Trade Chat open in a separate window, looking for something to do. A Prot Pally from another guild was looking for a healer and a ranged DPS for ICC25. Since I don’t get a chance to heal on my Shaman a lot, I opted in. I knew I’d have a limited amount of time, but PuGs on Nazjatar don’t last long.  I rarely see an ICC PuG get a good shot at Plague Quarter (let alone Putricide) before people start getting “raid A.D.D”.

Ooh! An ICC 25! I run through a check of the gear lists, and I know that my Shaman is still using Protector of Frigid Souls, so the Bulwark of Smouldering Steel from Marrowgar would do nicely! What’s a hard-working Resto Shaman gotta do to get a decent shield in this place?! ToC runs are non-existent, obviously, and I don’t have the 1800 rating (yet) for the Wrathful Gladiator’s Barrier.  There isn’t a 10man shield in ICC until Sindragosa, and I always seem to be working on the nights that we kill her.  So this PuG is a perfect opportunity, right? Wrong.

The Bomb Drops

I step into this fresh ICC 25-man raid. I’ve got my Well Fed buff and my flask going; I’m ready to rock. Right before the first pull, and after all the buffs have been put out, the Raid Leader says in chat that the Bulwark of Smouldering Steel is “reserved”. I check his spec, and he’s a full-blown Prot Pally. I ask him if he’s trying to get it for off-spec. He says no, it’s for their Resto Shaman that just hit 80 not too long ago. I send him a whisper: “That’s really the only reason I’m here is to roll on that Shield. I’d like to roll on it, if you don’t mind.” I’m essentially (and politely) told no, and if I didn’t want to continue, then he’d understand. Well, in a flash of frustration, I bowed out and left the raid. Other spouts of disapproval of something being “reserved” echoed through Raid Chat as I clicked my “Leave Party” option.

My Reaction

Although there is one exception, I’m totally against this kind of loot distribution or raid leading, especially in a PuG. I find that it’s disrespectful to the other people that are brought in to help. You’re essentially saying to me, “I want your help in downing these bosses, but you’re not going to get a fair crack at what drops.” I’ve found a trend also in these types of situations. Either they’re entirely in the mindset of thinking that they can’t possible perform well enough without said gear, or they’re just plain inconsiderate, selfish, and rude. In most of these circumstances, I’ve even had a lower GearScore (means little to me, but means THE WORLD to PuGs), and have been able to incredibly out-heal (with little overhealing) the raider in question. I’m not saying that since I have higher numbers that I should get the Shield, but saying that I’m putting good work in but not allowed to roll on the Shield is a straight smack in the face.

The only exception I’ve been able to see (and from reactions I’ve gotten on Twitter), is a Legendary (and I agree). Things like the Fragments of Val’anyr or Shadowfrost Shard‘s (or any of the Shadowmourne pieces) are entirely fair, just so long as it’s laid out beforehand. Those are long treks to get that one item finished. Other loot, though, should be fair game using whatever loot system you dole out. Straight up reserving them is just selfish, in my mind.

Except for the loot system we use in my ICC 10-man, Team Sport always uses an open roll system. If you’re putting the work into the raid, you deserve a chance to get main-spec loot.  Some people would think that means that we get people rolling on stuff they don’t necessarily need, but it works out great. Since people know that’s how we run our raids, we have a wealth of people that love to run with us. Hence, we can be picky about bringing honest and friendly raiders.

After an experience like this, I’ll never take part in a “reserved loot” raid. Whether it’s my gear or not, it’s just principle.

What do you think? Would you continue to run with a “reserved loot” raid? Or would you bow out?