Why a World Top 10 Guild Doesn’t use Loot Council

I received a lead on a potential recruit the other day as a guild member referral. The fellow had a few questions about the guild before he submitted a formal application. He’d been out of the game for a while having not played since the early tiers of Cataclysm. I set aside my in-game responsibilities so I could devote my full attention and answer whatever his concerns were.

  • What were our immediate class needs?
  • How is Mists raiding?
  • Is it okay if he applies sometime before patch 5.2?

I answered him as honestly as I could. Our immediate needs are DPS warriors, resto druids, and mistweaver/DPS monks. Ultimately it depended on what he wanted to play the most. Mists raiding is engaging and fun. Yes, he can apply specifically for 5.2.

We chatted a little more. I went over his guild history and made attempts to verify his accomplishments and affiliations as best I could. After I was satisfied, I asked him what loot system his previous guild used. Conquest has always utilized loot council from the beginning.

“We used DKP.”

My eyes widened. I was quite surprised. Normally, I expect cutting edge guilds to rely on Loot Council or some other similar system to maximize the effectiveness of loot on their players and to make sure it goes to the right people.

But DKP? I didn’t think this was the type of guild to use it. Why did they choose to use DKP?

“We originally used Loot Council for a long time. However, we eventually realized that it took an extraordinary amount of time to really add all the potential stats gained for different players. It simply took too long for the officers to make the most effective choice even though they were all quite knowledgeable of the different classes. Plus once we entered farm mode, the loot drops would eventually sort itself out since we were raking in tons of drops a week making gearing the raid up easy.”

In our raids, it can take a little longer than normal to get through select items like weapons and trinkets so I can see where the interest of time comes from. When you’re in the race for world first, you need to really be on point with time management. No one wants to lose out on world firsts because they were busy distributing loot.

I’m not planning on shifting loot systems at the moment but I found it a fascinating insight into how top tier guilds work. While each loot system has it’s distinct specialties, it’s up to you to select the right one for your guild.

The 300 Stat Food Question

The Heroic version of Blade Lord fell to us on Thursday. The last few wipes were edge-of-your-seat attempts largely because we kept wiping with less than 5%. Players had a hard time making the run from one side to the other. We had some deaths early on and I ran out of battle res’s for them. Tornadoes were snatching up people out of the air. We hit the enrage timer multiple times. Eventually, we scored the kill with around 11 seconds left before the berserk.

After one of our close attempts, one of our officers made the comment that players should be busting out their own 300 stat food instead of the usual 275 stats.

Kudos for making a fair point.

We were a couple of million health short of finishing off the Blade Lord at the time and there are no arguments from me saying that if the players alive had those extra stats, it would have easily translated into a kill. The combined 600+ stats would’ve turned those low percentage wipes into a kill.

As the GM, I could “demand” the players make the necessary changes and effort. But deep down I know that’s no small feat. How am I supposed to enforce a directive like that? This is one of those things where I have to appeal to them. Your GM needs to make the case to you that this stuff is important and the time and energy to get this steroid food created is worth it.

Now if I go down this route, I’d have to ask players to valor cap as well.

I know for a fact that not everyone valor caps. People are sick of doing their dailies and their faction grinds. I get that and I had to bite my tongue for the longest time. Even though I personally just suck it up and do them to get my coin rolls and stuff, I find ways to deal with it. I’ll watch something on Netflix while mindlessly knocking them out. Not everyone has time to grind these out either because people have to work or they have family obligations or other things and don’t have the capability to commit that time to them.

Raise that bar too high and you run the risk of alienating (or worse, running out of) the players that you raid with. It’s a fine line to walk.

I’ll be completely frank.

As GM, I’d love it if every player did the following:

  • Valor capped on a weekly basis
  • Provided their own potions and flasks
  • Pushed their dailies enough to hit exalted with all the factions
  • Continue pushing dailies to sustain bonus rolls on a weekly basis
  • Did their own cooking with their personal supply of 275 and 300 stat food

But this is not a realistic expectation for a guild of this calibre as much as it pains me to admit it. We’re not the kind of organization with those level of demands. Based on that list, the average player does maybe 3 or 4 of those tops.

Hitting exalted with the Pandaria factions has a high value early in the expansion but it greatly diminishes as you gain gear from raiding. It’s just not as important in the late stage.

Further analysis of our raids and our logs showed that we can improve our performance in other areas with greater effect without exerting that much time and work. Using Phoenix Style, I discovered that while a large majority of our players were already pre-potting, there were still a small number that were not. That’s unfortunate because if they had been, it would’ve easily been enough to secure the kills earlier!

This is partially my fault to blame. Our raiding roster often has a turnover and sometimes you expect players to do already do things like pre-pot, but some people don’t because they don’t have access to the herbs or don’t know an alchemist who can make this stuff for them. Personally, I think potions and flasks are much more accessible nowadays than they were in the past. I don’t think there’s any reason or excuse at all to come to a raid without a supply of your own. I did not make that expectation that players are to utilize pre-pots but I set the record straight on that one shortly before Blade Lord dropped.

Where does this leave us with the steroid food?

My thought was that if we were consistently pushing bosses into the enrage timer with all players alive and executing near-flawless, that’s when the super food should be used. If we’re just learning a new boss or if players continue to die to simple things, then we shouldn’t use them just yet because we’re getting outskilled and need to tighten up our play.

Going back to that Blade Lord example, we were consistently getting better at not dying in the first 80%. But had we perfected our survivability on Blade Lord, then this discussion would not have come up.

Eventually, a compromise was reached. It just so happens a small group of players are chefs and just love cooking, farming, and fishing. They generously volunteered their time to stockpile the bank with a large supply under the conditions that these items should only be used in the event of an imminent kill. Of course, the raiders were asked to provide the necessary items like the Black Pepper and Rice Flour items which are only purchasable with Iron Paw tokens.

Our next step is Wind Lord. This guy seems easy — In theory.

By the way, thanks for the Blade Lord pointers, LedonLite! They helped!

Age Old Question: Farm or Progression?

The appearance of patch 5.2 on the PTR has placed a clock on our raids. In several weeks, the content we’re currently working on will soon be obselete because of the new Throne of Thunder raid. I find myself amazingly not tired of the current raid content just yet. There’s enough diversity and variety to still hold my interest. Raiding in Pandaria started in October and we’re about 3 months into this expansion.

I had grown weary of Cataclysm’s tier 11 raids after 3 months.

Firelands? Wanted out of it after 3 months.

Dragon Soul wasn’t as bad. That one took me a little longer than 3 months for me to get truly sick of it.

The team destroyed the Sha of Fear and banished it back to where it came from before Christmas. Now it’s time to do it all over again. We managed to get an early kill on heroic Stone Dogs a week before Heart of Fear released. Duplicating the kill again is no easy feat though due to the RNG that just comes with it.

At the moment, I find myself thinking long term and what’s the best strategic move for the raid team going into Throne of Thunder. I actually think the group we have right now is the strongest group we’ve had since our ICC heroic days (and that team scored heroic Sindragosa along with a full set of raid drakes).

Our biggest enemy right now is time.

My personal goals

  • Get every player a Sha-Touched weapon that is normal quality or higher
  • Complete as many tier sets as possible
  • Get as many hard mode kills as possible

Naturally, the first two goals are going to come in conflict with the last goal. Time spent farming for weapons and completing tier sets means time not attempting to get hard mode bosses. Luckily, we’re going to head into heroic Mogushan Vaults and attempt to get as much of that down as possible thereby freeing up Heart of Fear and Terrace of Endless Springs for possible farming and cleanup.

Suppose we manage to take down heroic Feng. The kill could either result in everyone mostly alive or the raid in an entertaining disarray of chaos with the tank and healer still alive a second after an enrage. Who knows?

When we get back to it next week, is it worthwhile to spend the time and try to kill it again? Or should we just knock it out on normal mode really fast and push into heroic Gara’jal instead? In the grand scheme of things, 9 hours a week of raiding just doesn’t seem like a lot of time for 16 bosses.

Once we learn a boss, it usually takes another week or two before we can consistently get it down fast enough. But continuing to go after them means potentially less time on future bosses.

From the other side, I know what a huge edge heroic gear gives us when going into the next tier of content. After we had gone 6/7 heroic in Firelands, we sliced through half of Dragon Soul in one night. Knocking out Trial of the Grand Crusader resulted in us running out of things to do the rest of the week because we killed Saurfang on day 1.

I also know that once the new Throne of Thunder raid is released, we’re not coming back here.

Our efforts will be 100% devoted to that raid instance and the only way people will come back is whenever the next expansion is out and they can either solo it or join a small raid group for achievements and stuff. I know the feeling of elation when a raid kills a boss at a level that’s relevant. I also know the feeling of emptiness and despair when a raid misses out on that. I’ve harboured so many regrets and lost opportunities on my shoulders over the past expansions at being unable to deliver to the team what I feel they deserve.

I can either invest in the future by farming our future hard mode kills or capitalize on the present moments and get as many first kills on the guild belt as possible.

Somehow, I don’t think either choice is going to be popular. Either way, we’ve got a lot of work to do! Heroic Feng is within reach right now. Just need to get the transitions and timings down pat.

Where Personal Responsibility Begins and Guild Responsibility Ends

“Could you expand on the “augments for players” section?  I’ve always been interested in the spectrum of policies from raiders get their own stuff to raid leaders getting all consumables, etc. for the raid.  Where do you stand on this?  Does it depend on where the power position is where raid leaders feel they have to provide for raiders or else they will go elsewhere vs raid leaders that have raiders to choose from and don’t mind telling raiders to be responsible for getting their own consumables / enchants?”

This is a solid question posed by wewhoeat in the comments section of my recent A Night in the Life of a GM post I wrote last week. There is a definitive line between what a player is responsible for and what a guild should look after. But this line naturally varies from guild to guild.

I notice a strong correlation between player performance and their ability to provide their own character improvements. In other words, the players who farm for their own materials or purchase their own augments tend to not die as much and will consistently perform well in their roles.

Why is that?

My own non-scientifically backed, non-peer revered theory on the subject is that the players who take the time and resources to improve their character have this mentality of personal improvement no matter the cost. It starts with taking care of their character. This character care then slowly translates into overall better play. My theory is that the more inclined a player is of maxing their character’s stats, the more inclined they are to maximize their play. It seems to help instil a sense of discipline. They’re spending thousands of their own gold to augment their character. Why not spend some more time referencing the information needed to play better? It shows me that they are heavily invested in their character and they’re not willing to wait around because they need to have that super awesome enchant right now.

Now let me answer wewhoeat’s question.

What is the player responsible for?

Blizzard has seeded Pandaria with a staggering amount of herbs. I often get sidetracked because I see those golden circles on my minimap and I just end up farming. In fact, I’ll end up watching Castle or Flashpoint for 40 minutes while lazily farming for herbs. Such a huge supply has made flask and potion generation extremely affordable. The Spirit of Harmony system makes it accessible to purchase 3 Golden Lotuses, as well as herbs like kratom near you.

Not everyone has an alchemist or herbalist alt. I encourage players to send their lotuses to an alchemist who can get this stuff created for them on the cheap. I’ve been slowly trying to encourage people to get their flasks and pots created after a raid. It was getting disruptive and irritating when players logged in requesting flasks and potions made when raid begins. Players should be responsible for at least supplying the herbs. The guild can get this stuff cranked out for them instead of paying the AH costs for flasks. The thing is, we need to do this stuff way before raid time (5 minutes before first pull is just cutting it and asking for it 10 minutes past raid start just merits a frown).

Feasts used to be something that the guild provided. But the way feasts were done this expansion seemed overwhelming at first. I can’t quite place my finger on it, but it seems like most players have enjoyed the farming and are providing feasts of their own stat. I’m seeing Pots, Grills, Steamers and other stuff placed down. It’s not all by one person either. It’s nice to see the guild pitching in on stuff like this because it’s overall one less responsibility I need to look after.

What is the guild responsible for?

In my eyes, the guild acts as a “safety net”. Not everyone has the cash flow or income to acquire 10 Sha Crystals for a weapon enchant. This is where I step in. We do receive a steady supply of disenchanted epics to help fuel our Sha Crystal demands plus whatever enchanting transmutes on a week to week basis and we can use those to help offset the cost. Overall, it’s in the leadership’s best interest to help provide them to the players that need them because it usually results in that extra DPS or healing that could (literally) be the difference between a 2% wipe and and a kill. Really expensive augments fall under here as well (Leg enchants, shoulder enchants).

However, I know there’s players who do extremely well on the auction house. They’re patient and are able to build up quite a fortune. These guys have no problems buying their own stuff. They’re also willing to donate and help replenish gold stores in the bank if we’re in a crunch.

In addition, guild repairs are covered. The guild challenges along with the rewards earned from kills help contribute to that. It’s effective for the funds gathered from the war chest to go back to the players that need them. But depending on raid activities, a guild may not be able to sustain repairs solely on the income gathered from raids. Thankfully there is an option to set a cap in place. Personally, I think the challenge rewards are due for an increase. The cost of raw mats and repairs seem to be going up but the challenge rewards have remained the same since last expansion (although, we did receive Scenarios to help offset that). Anyway, that’s a different topic for another day.

One would say that some of these policies are socialist.

But you know, Canadian.

Other guilds use different systems. Some lock down the bank. Others provide full access to everything. I’m not certain what differences a 10 man guild vs a 25 man guild would be when it comes to benefits. I imagine it’d be the same. If you look on recruiting forums for guilds, you’ll notice a common trend of raiding guilds providing flasks, feasts, enchants or a combination thereof. A recruit would expect that stuff at a minimum. This makes me wonder if the gradual change from players farming their own TUBERS in Felwood to the consumables on a silver platter have gradually shifted player mentality towards entitlements and the like. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t miss setting aside half a day to go farm TUBERs, Scholomance for Dark Runes, or creating a boat load of fire resist potions. Playing during vanilla gave me a whole new appreciation for the ease at which to access the resources we have today.

Now I’m curious. What benefits does your guild have in place? Do you agree with them?

The Things we Balance

Life is a balance. We balance our work lives and our personal lives. We balance academics with extracurricular activities. We balance beer with hard liquor (some of us, at least).

WoW’s obviously no different. With that in mind, I wanted to pose some things to think about. These are questions that most guilds and officer teams will find themselves in. Not regularly or often, but they’ll do happen.

Progression vs Gear

Time needs to be managed with precision. With 9 hours allocated to raiding, it needs to be used effectively. Going into this week, we were only 5/6 with Heart of Fear coming out. The intel and opinion we had from other players and other GMs was that the first two bosses of Heart of Fear would be easy. Our options were to go into Heart of Fear and try to get two bosses down quick or fall back to the Vaults and secure additional weapons and trinkets. Elegon still drops fantastic weapons and trinkets. For whatever reason, we’ve always had a problem when it comes to acquiring weapon upgrades.

The flip side of that argument? If we secure the kills, it helps us with our overall standings. In the long run, this helps us with attracting quality recruits.

Besides, rumor has it that Garalon is serious business.

Learning vs Stacking

New players and recruits need a chance to crack the lineup. They need to have a basic understanding and exposure to a boss so that they can get their feet wet. Not only this, there may come times when a regular player can’t make it and someone from the bench needs to be activated. Do we bring in the recruits and risk maybe a few wipes so that they understand what the mechanics are? In the long run, this is almost always the better option. Experience time in the raid is always a plus. On the other hand, if you’re on a limited raiding schedule, would you rather blitz through the farm stuff as quick as possible by stacking the raid?

Every wipe on farm means less attempts on the harder bosses for the week.

There are other types of balancing questions and acts that we regularly answer. But off the top of my head, those two are the ones that come up. I find that those two topics generally face the most disagreement. You can make strong arguments for both sides and it’s not always easy to answer it. It depends on what stage you are at an expansion and what the guild goals are.

As an aside, we’re hurting on ranged DPS at the moment*. If you’re looking around for a new guild for 25s, check us out (and that invitation is open to healers and other roles/classes).

So desperate that I switched over to Shadow.