11 Suggestions for the New Guild Leader

Whether it’s Rift, WoW, or Star Wars: the Old Republic, guild problems and solutions can be carried over from one game to the next. Having organizational skills are crucial to being an effective guild leader.

I went around and had an open call with several guild leaders in the community to see if they had specific advice to offer to anyone who wanted to  be a guild leader (Many of them started off with “Don’t do it”).

Think long term

Well planned guilds have long term commitments from the leadership. I’d classify long term as something over a year. Conquest has been around for almost 3 years. It wasn’t something I wanted to just do for 6 months. I wanted to commit to it over a long period.

The top bit of advice I can give is find your essence and let it guide you. Find what makes your guild truly unique and special, and be proud of it. That essence isn’t your ranking, or how progressed you are – it’s what makes the people and the team a fun place to be. My guild, Imperative, started with an essence of serious college gamers with a light schedule, and even a year later, we’ve still got that one core. 

Don’t ever sacrifice that essence for short term success. Think in the long-term. Starting now, don’t think about making a “successful guild in Firelands” – think about making a kick-ass guild in patch 4.5, or the next expansion. We have an old saying that “progression is a marathon, not a sprint.”

As a guild leader, you have quite a responsibility: you will be solely responsible for the happiness of several people for multiple hours each week. People are going to look to you for the enjoyment of their hobby. At times, it’s easy to feel that burden and consider quitting. At times, every leader will get a feeling of burn out and think that the costs outweigh the benefits. Just remember that what you have is real, even if it exists within “just a game.” There is an essence to your team that can never be recreated, and it has value beyond the game.

Blacksen, Imperative

Delegate what you can

For some players, assisting comes naturally. In other cases, it’s best to outline exactly what you need your officers to do. They want to help but may not know what boundaries they shouldn’t cross.

If you’ve never been an officer before, you will be absolutely overwhelmed with the amount of time you will need to dedicate to your guild as the guild master.

The best piece of advice I can offer an aspiring or new GM is to delegate. Delegate, delegate, delegate. I’m a bit of a control freak myself, so it’s difficult for me to delegate, but surround yourself with people you trust for officers, and give them very clearly-defined duties. If you’re not the raid leader, refer ALL questions regarding raiding to that officer. If you’re not the bank administrator, refer ALL bank questions to your bank officer. If you’re not the caster DPS lead, refer ALL questions concerning caster stuff to that officer. See the pattern?

Kurn, Apotheosis

Pace yourself

While some organization is important to have from the beginning, take a bit of time off and actually play the game. It’s not a bad idea to have a dry run of different policies to see how effective or received it’ll be by the crew.

Start slow. Don’t try and create the entire guild structure, loot system, various rules all at once. All guilds started as a group of friends just wanting to get together and play some World of Warcraft. If you have goals, lay them out and set out to accomplish them. However, if you spend all your time setting everything up, you’ll never get around to doing the fun part that keeps people coming back every week: killing bosses.

You won’t see all the bad (or good) situations that will come up through the course of your tenure as GM, so don’t try to look for them. Shoot from the hip and go with what feels right for you and your team.

Borsk

Manage Expectations

Lay down tangible goals. Set out deadlines. Anything that helps indicate progress is good because players want to feel like they’ve actually accomplished something.

Setting expectations is key to a solid leadership foundation. By managing guild member’s expectations, you can mitigate disappointment and set the stage for exceeding expectations. People enjoy a sense of accomplishment, needing it as a component of motivation. If you set expectations that cannot be achieved, there will never be a sense of accomplishment. On the other hand, setting expectations that can be successfully met will lead to people achieving the expectation, gaining a sensing of accomplishment, and providing them an opportunity to exceed expectations, further contributing to their self motivation for success.

Within my guild, the expectation was set that we would hope to start 25m raiding within 1 month, allowing plenty of time for people to get to level 85 at their own pace without the pressure of having to take time off work or sacrifice spending time with friends/family during the Christmas/New Years. The reality turned out to be 30 excited nerds hitting 85 within two weeks and two 25m bosses down in the 2nd week of release. This far exceeded all expectations that had been set, invigorating the guild with a massive sense of accomplishment and injecting an incredible amount of motivation.

_M

Invite with Caution

It’s entirely possible to fire off too many invites at a time. This can be counter-productive to your cause. While low barriers of entry are okay, at least some player standards should be maintained. I’m not referring to just gamesense or players skills. Being in your guild should be a privilege.

Back in the mid-BC days, I cycled through 5 raiding guilds in as many months simply because they fell apart. They got too big too fast, a group of 4 or 5 people quit in rapid succession, or the better raiders spread themselves into too many teams leading to progress stalling, the symptom could be any of the above (or something similar that I didn’t mention). If you want to start a successful raiding guild: guard your ginvites closely. After going through a new guild every month, I got sick of the transitions and, along with a few friends, founded a raiding guild that, at most, recruits 2 new players a week (though most weeks we didn’t recruit at all). I’m still a proud member of that guild today, 3 years later (and am now the guild leader).

If you guard your ginvites, your members begin to understand that while you might use the occasional pug, being a guildie is something special. This in turn fosters a sense of community that makes raids and 5-mans more enjoyable. It also makes for a nice reason for them to stick around when progress stalls (we all have hiccups in progression every so often). One team of ours bashed their heads against the Lich King fight for a solid month and not one person left the guild (this was before the guild rep system, so they could’ve jumped to another guild without any long term problems). In short, be selective about your ginvites. You can group with anyone, but guildies should be a step above the rabble.

Zet

Recruit like minded players

Heard of the phrase birds of a feather will flock together? It applies here just as well. Having similar interests with someone helps lower resistance and it ensures everyone is on the same page. Plus it cuts down on the drama. No one’s going to complain about hating PvP if all the players are into PvP.

Have your mission all laid out? Then you can focus on surrounding yourself those that help drive that mission forward. What sort of people would best fit and are like-minded to your mission? You wouldn’t recruit a bunch of casual players if you ultimately want to become a raiding guild in the top 10 guilds on your server, would you? Its nearly impossible to survive, recruit, and ultimately be a leader who others trust and respect without this defined

Our raiding guild has several officers who are all raid leaders, all equal, very flat organizational structure. We have a level 1 guild master as a placeholder only because we have to. We formed and lead the guild as a team and make decisions that way, period. Not all guilds follow a “cookie cutter” approach, it’s important to take the time to really define what fits with your guild’s mission. 

Bottom line? Start with a focus on defining your mission and build the guild around it with people just as passionate about it as you. 

Gina, Healbot, <Cold Fusion>

Establish your guild’s “identity”

Before selecting your leadership base, it’s a good idea to figure out what you want to do. Don’t try to be everything. At least, not right away.

Are you a casual guild?

Hardcore raiding?

PvP?

Amazingly, once you’ve established what kind of community you want to build, the rest of the pieces will really begin to fall into place. Finding people who share this vision with you in the beginning will really shape how your guild grows. In a Cataclysmic-world, guilds are more than just tags floating above your head, they’re identities. Finding the right guild and sticking with it now has actual tangible benefits beyond just a great social hub and people are (as they should) not taking the decision as lightly. Attracting like-minded individuals who really care about the growth and development of your new guild is important and these people will become your officers at some point.

The Magette

Pick the right person for the right job

Personalities matter. It’s not enough for everyone to buy into the philosophy. Your leaders need to exude the right qualities to appropriately carry out their duties. Putting the really shy guy on the job of evaluations and feedback is not exactly the best combination.

Any guild should not need more than 1 officer per 5-8 players. Example: a 20 – 25 player roster (which should amount to 80-100 characters) should have no more than 3-5 officers). Be sure to pick the right person for the right job because your in game or RL friends may not be best fit. Just because someone is a nice person or great player doesn’t mean they are right. A great player could have a condescending tone and attitude, but would not be the right person for an officer whose tone can easily be misconstrued. On the flip side, a friendly sub-par player with the awesome personality may not have enough clout to provide the right constructive criticism.

In short, it’s never easy to pick the leadership core, but it is an first important step.

Quori

Check discipline

Be clear with the rules and watch the grey areas. While leaders do their best in enforcing policy, not everything gets caught. There’s all sorts of disciplinary action that can be taken. Be careful what you do and how you do it.

Depending on your guild set up and recruitment process, it should be made clear what the guilds rules are and what any disciplinary actions may be for breaking the rules. This way if anyone breaks the rules you have a clear course to follow without having to think too much about what to do and by doing so it adds some structure to the guild. No exceptions should be made to the rules or the whole thing will fall into disrepute. An example from my guild is that we have a “No Loot Ninja-ing either in our raids or any PuG you might run while in our guild” – on person ran a VoA pug and ninja’d some loot, which came back to me and I G/kicked him without remorse, as per the guilds rules – which went down well on our server.

Valilor, Aggro my Own Vegetables

Stop trying to do everything

There’s enough responsibility to go around. You know you have too many officers when there’s someone who is sitting around not really doing anything because anything that needs to be done is already done.

Don’t make the mistake of wearing too many hats – if you end up as the Recruitment officer, the website maintainer, the raiding coordinator, the PR officer, the guild bank organiser and especially the guild sounding board, burnout is inevitable. Little things, like making sure that multiple people can update the guild website, will ease daily pressure on you. Logging on to a dozen small issues every day will whittle away at your patience and free time, and make you feel tense at the idea of logging on or checking the forums. Ask yourself if there are tasks that you can delegate, share, or roster – partly to avoid burnout, but also so that if you have to go away, your guild isn’t left with a gaping hole in its management team.

Keeva

Listen

Disagreements are going to happen. Having a group of all yes-men isn’t the best idea. Use them as a sounding board and take into heart what your players have to say before carrying through. Every risk has a possible reward. Every action has a consequence. It’s up to you to decide if it’s worth it.

Who will these yes-men be? Sometimes it may be obvious as your RL BFF, spouse, that dude you have run with since Vanilla, or maybe someone you’ve met fairly recently. Start with a small officer core and take time to work through at least the main start-up issues with these people. You may even want to get the guild up and running a bit before expanding the leadership.

Be aware that not everyone – even your BFF – is cut out for guild leadership – and that may not be apparent until you are in the thick of things. Be sure that the officers are people that can work through disagreements. If you and your spouse have conflicts with both of you running in the same raid, leading a guild together may magnify that. Real life relationships are more important than a game – don’t forget it. Oh, you thought this would be all peaches & cream? Only if your dictatorship is structured well.

Zaralin, Force of Impact

Thanks to everyone who took a moment out of their day to add their thoughts. I would have added more but some of the responses I received would have constituted a post in itself.

That’s what happens when you ask raiding and GMing bloggers to add one response. They give you a novel.

Our community can be crazy sometimes!

Out with the Bads and in with the… Who?

As a long time avid follower of as many guild/raid leadership blogs and forums as I can fit into my schedule each week, there is one discussion topic that almost invariably makes me wince. Actually, that isn’t exactly accurate. There is one particular response to this particular topic that makes me want to punch something.

“How do I push my current guild to a higher or more serious level of progression?”

The response that inevitably pops up that makes me /facepalm IRL is: “You need to start replacing the bads and attracting the pros” or even worse (because it sounds so much more friendly somehow) “You need to explain to everyone that raid spots are competitive and people will be replaced as soon as something ‘better’ becomes available”

The overwhelming message that gets passed along whenever this topic comes out is a very clear mercenary-like outline that clearly advocates using fear of being kicked or replaced to snap your raiders into line and light a fire under them to keep them moving forward under the imminent risk of being replaced.

This is my public response to all advocates of raid management that involves any sort of emphasis on kicking or replacing people as soon as something better comes along: Eff that, you would never find me in a guild that treats its members like that.  Unless you believe that you are seriously intent on competing for World or US progression rankings, using an approach that emphasizes the action of replacing/removing people is an inherently unstable strategy.

I once posted that I believe sports analogies are by far the best way to view leading a raid or guild, as opposed to trying to compare it to running a business or a leading a group of soldiers.  I bring this up because something that always pops into my mind when people start trying to describe their plans for assembling the “Dream Team” of WoW raiding, it makes me remember how well it has worked long term when the U.S. did the same thing with our national basketball team.

Sure, the U.S. national basketball team has been more or less successful in the long term, but the only reason for our success has been the overwhelming pool of talent that we have to pull from in the NBA.  If you watch the games, the level of coordination and teamsmanship just doesn’t ever really manifest itself on the court, especially in the first couple of incarnations of the team.  Essentially it is a collection of basketball gods steamrolling over the competition through the sheer force of individual talent. How much fun could that be on a long term basis to be part of?  The only hope someone like me would have of answering how fun that might be would be to look at what kind of turnover the team has had since the first “Dream Team” (for those that don’t want to go look, essentially the turnover is nearly 100% between each big game until very recently when they instituted rules to try and force players to commit to more time to the team).

On the other hand, we could look at virtually every Hollywood sports movie ever made for a good counterexample of an underdog team that overcomes enormous odds through hard work and awesome teamwork.  My personal favorite for this analogy is “Miracle” by Disney,<link:  a true story based coincidently on another U.S. Olympic team.  The 1980 U.S. hockey team and their “Miracle on Ice.” It is a great movie if you’re into feel-good sports films, especially if you appreciate the ones based on real life stories.  I remember watching the final game between this team and the Russians on TV and the swell of national pride during those final seconds of the game. It isn’t hard to imagine why this is described as one of the greatest moments in sports history.

So what is the point? I’ll make an effort here to explain what it is exactly that goes through my head when I see this discussion pop up and my reaction when someone proposes trying to go the mercenary route in their approach to building a “successful” raid group. It usually centers around two questions:

Does this person honestly ever see themselves trying to break into the world progression rankings with their team? (Hint: if you are asking on a public forum for directions or help on how to motivate your team to do better, the answer is no)  I know that at least for me, the only measure of success I have for my raid team is whether or not we meet our raid goals each tier. I could care less if we are the 3rd raid group to do so or the 30,000th in the world, as long as we meet our own goals I am going to feel like we succeeded.

Then my mind goes on a rambling tangent involving sports analogies and nostalgia and I come to my second question:

Which Olympic winning sports team do I honestly think I would rather be a member of? And perhaps more importantly, which team would the person asking the question rather pbe a part of?  The U.S. National basketball team a.k.a. the “Dream Team” that get together every 4 years to ROFLStomp the rest of the world in basketball (and no, you don’t get an NBA contract or salary for being on the team) or would I/they want to be part of that “rag-tag group of college kids” who pulled off one of the greatest moments in sports history? I suppose both options are going to appeal to people in different ways.

Another thing to consider: From everything I have ever read about really high end raiding guilds, one of the most prevalent traits that they share is that the bulk of their members have been playing together for -years-.  Not a single one of them is stressed out over whether or not the next new applicant is going to cause them to take their raid spot and the turnover these teams have is extremely low.  Turnover for them has been extremely low for -years-, and I would guess that what turnover they had had nothing to do with someone failing to perform up to the group’s expectations but instead likely had to do with real life obligations that had nothing to do with the game.

If you don’t have the raw talent to be ROFLStomping your way through the content, then employing a revolving door strategy where you are constantly trying to replace your “worst” raiders is going to result in a turnover rate that will rival your local fast food joint with the creepy shift manager.

If your stated goal is to replace the lowest performing members of your raid team on a regular basis, what kind of message does that send to your team about the long term security of their raid spots?  Even more importantly, what does that say about the possibility of being replaced by some raiding super-star who happens to apply to the guild?

Next week I will share my alternatives to the idea of motivating your raiders through fear of being replaced.  In the meantime I would like to leave everyone with a question to ponder.  You are welcome to share your answers below in the comments, but I would be just as happy if you just spend a few minutes thinking about what your answer would be.

Question: If one of the world’s best <insert class/role here> players applied to your guild, assuming that they met all of your other requirements for a new recruit, which of your current players would you replace with the new applicant?  What if the person being replaced was already one of your stronger players?  Would your answer be any different if there were 4 of the world’s top players turning in applications at the same time? How about 9 applications that are clearly head and shoulders better than anything you currently have in your raid? 

I can tell you that I at least would almost undoubtedly turn the applicant down.  Unless they happened to stumble into one of the few periods of the year where we have opened recruitment.  Though to be honest, even then I would have to seriously question whether someone like that would really fit in with our raid group.

Evaluating Your Raid Group by Time Spent on Boss

The idea of trying to come up with a working series of classifications for different types/levels of raiding guilds seems to be one of those subjects that everyone has an opinion on and most people love to discuss.

If you caught the Weekly Marmot a couple of weeks ago, Lore discussed some of the differences between the extremely hardcore, the super casual, and “everything in the middle” when it comes to raiding guilds. It is that “everything in the middle” group that I think seems to inspire so much discussion.

Bleeding edge world-first type guilds are just simply in a different league for the most part.  They are formed with people who push themselves beyond what most of us are able to in pursuit of being able to say that they are among the best in the world.  From what I was able to find, these guilds raid up to 30-40+ hours a week until they have cleared all of the available content, and then they quickly fall back to the 2-3 hours a week it takes them to clear all of the available content for a few months until a new tier of content comes out.

While I probably would have been able to pull that off while I was a student in college, it’s just not something I am personally able to commit to at this point in my life.  So instead I land firmly in the “everything in the middle” group.  Most of us in this group raid somewhere between 8 and 20 hours a week (2-5 days of raiding at 3-5 hours a raid) For the majority of the people in this group, there is one “shared” goal that I believe defines this group.  This one goal is simply to clear all of the available content, including hard modes, before the next tier comes out. There are also a lot of people interested in the competitive aspect of trying to clear the content ahead of as many other guild’s as possible in an effort to end up as high as possible in the various rankings as possible.

The issue that seems to cause such a surprising level of stress and consternation among people in this group though is based on the assumption that we should be evaluating ourselves in the same way that the guild’s chasing world first kills do.

New York Marathon

The whole discussion tends to remind me of the New York Marathon for some reason.  In the New York Marathon, the goal is simple; each participant needs to run 26 miles through the five boroughs of NYC in the fastest time possible.  Among the ~45,000 people running, there are only a small handful of ~10-20 people who have any real chance of actually winning the race.  For the past few years, the winner has usually clocked in at just over 2 hours. That is two freaking hours to run 26 freaking miles. The level of training and raw ability involved in accomplishing a feat like that is something that most of us are just never going to be able to experience first hand.  The average finish time for the marathon is four and a half hours. The longest record time for a finisher last year was nine hours and forty-five minutes, anything over 10 hours is not counted as having officially finished the race.

There is a lot of news coverage that goes on during the race every year and invariably you can find at least a couple of people whose journey seems particularly appropriate for this post.  The people I am talking about are the ones who will do something like stop partway through the race to join their families at brunch for an hour or so to catch their breath before continuing on with the race. There are also a lot of people who simply end up walking most of the course.  That being said, I think that there is something to be said for anyone who can cover 26 miles on foot in a single day.  It should count as an accomplishment.

My proposition for guilds and raid groups that are trying to evaluate how well they are progressing is to stop trying to compare your own performance to the rough equivalent of a professional athlete.  I would instead propose that one of the best ways to evaluate your team’s progress is instead to look at how many hours it takes you to progress through the content as well as how many attempts it takes you to kill each boss. I think that one of the most important lessons that we can learn from “the professionals” is that our time spent killing things should rapidly taper off once we have cleared them once or twice.  While I don’t think that any of us should be trying to claim that there are a lot of similarities between a guild who can clear a full tier of hardmode raid content in a manner of a few weeks and a guild that takes a few months to clear the same content, I think that one important similarity is simply looking at the amount of time both groups put in to accomplish the same task. 

I posted a report card for my own guild a couple of weeks ago outlining how much time and how many attempts it took us to clear all of the normal mode content (12/12 normal modes) and I was pretty pleased with the results considering that we only raid 9 hours a week.  It took us just over ~45 hours of raiding.  Had we had the time to devote to it, maybe we could have cleared everything before December?  We’ll never know but in the mean time I can be happy that we are well on pace to accomplish our goal; clearing all current content before the next tier hits the live servers.  WowProgress and GuildOx say that we are ranked ~500th in the US for 10man guilds, but that doesn’t account for our choice to take December off, or our choice to only raid for 9 hours a week (and it shouldn’t account for those either.)  There is no way to fairly evaluate yourself against another guild unless you either both agree to follow the same basic route the world first guild’s take (the clock is always ticking) or somehow devise a way to accurately measure how much time your group actually spends (something that isn’t really possible, and would be ridiculously easy to cheat at) and so in reality, unless you are competing for world or server firsts, the only people you are competing against is yourselves and Blizzard’s timeline for the next tier of content.

How is your guild or raid group doing so far? Do you keep track of any similar statistics for your own group, or do you measure your progress in some way other than the number of bosses you have killed?

When should you change your raid strategy?

I have been reading numerous posts lately about how to pick a strategy for an upcoming boss fight and even more discussion about how to go about tailoring a strategy to your particular group. While I have read many good suggestions and valuable tips, I still think I disagree with the the basic premise of “choosing which strategy is best for your group.” The portion related to tailoring your approach based on your specific group is good, but the vast majority of the time, boss fights have one basic strategy that they were intended to be completed with.  Everything else is a modification of the basic strategy. Each decision to make additional modifications should be for a specific and, more importantly, *intentional* reason.

Here are the basic reasons for modifying a boss strategy. Whether it be during the research stage, during an actual raid, or after a full night of raiding, once you get some logs, a little perspective will help with the decision making process.

Wait! I can think of examples of multiple strategies used for bosses!

No, I actually put a fair amount of consideration into that statement.  For the most part, all WoW raid bosses have one basic approach/strategy that everyone used to defeat them.  That being said, almost every group that originally “progressed” through the boss fight made certain modifications to this basic strategy in order to adopt it to the particulars of their own group and situation. Generally though, each boss encounter has a single strategy/approach that is dictated by the mechanics of the encounter. Far too often I see people confusing two different modifications to the one basic strategy as somehow being completely separate from each other.  Understanding where something comes from is an essential step in the road to gaining mastery over it.

For example: in the Yogg Saron fight, the basic strategy required to complete the encounter is to kill sarah by blowing up adds next to her, then you send people through the portals to damage the brain, finally you kill Yogg himself all while dealing with the various adds/abilities/”bad stuff.” Whether you tank the adds in phase1 in the center of the room next to Sarah, or tank them by the door and then kite them into the center is a difference in tactics, the strategy is the same. Who you send into the portals during phase 2 is a question of assignments, the fact of the matter is though, in order to get to phase3, you send some people into the portals and they have to damage the brain to push through the phase while everyone else does stuff to stay alive.  In phase 3 you can tank the adds over here, over there, all grouped up or separated out, the individual assignments and tactics used will vary from group to group and depend on a number of factors but the basic strategy used to complete the fight is always going to be the same.

Reasons for modifying your strategy

You overgear or “out-awesome” one or more of the basic mechanics of the fight.

I’m not going to spend much time on this one although I think it is the most prevalent reason for differences in strategies being discussed. 10 man Sartharion 3D is a great example of this as is Yogg+0. Both are highly technical fights with what were some very unforgivable mechanics when they were “current content.” With access to greater gear and higher performance numbers from your average raider, it became possible to ignore the majority of these encounters core mechanics and opened up access to “new strategies” (and again, I am arguing that it is the same basic strategy to kill the boss, you are just choosing to ignore/skip a portion of it)  It is important to be aware however if you have chosen to ignore one of the basic mechanics of the encounter.  This can often be especially important when you get to the point of switching the encounter to hard mode or try and work on one of the raid achievements.  If you have only learned how to do the fight using some kind of short cut or something that ignores a basic mechanic, then forcing yourselves to relearn the fight is often times a tough sell for the raid leader and a frustrating experience for your raiders.  My advice is to learn to do it “right” the first time through.

You are missing some sort of raid utility buff/skill integral to the fight.

A lot of fights require something to be purged, dispelled, stunned, interrupted, etc… Especially when you are doing 10man raiding, it isn’t impossible that you will find yourself without one of these things while standing in front of a boss who “requires” that skill. Thankfully Blizzard is aware of this possibility and usually provide some method to address the issue.  For one, they have spread around all of the basic raid utility skills so that the likelihood of finding yourself in this position has gotten MUCH less likely.  In the past, they have usually toned down the adverse effects of the ability in case you don’t have the ability to purge/interrupt/cleanse each one.

One example of this for us in ICC were the occasions we found ourselves in front of Saurfang with 3 melee and no hunter to distracting shot kite one of the adds.  We have done this fight with just about every composition of range and melee possible at this point, and our raiders have pulled all of them off without any more struggle than we were having at the time with “optimal” setups.  Another example is when we were progressing through Naxx 25 and reached Instructor Razuvious without any priests in the raid, sorting out how to do that was an adventure all in itself.

The plan isn’t working

You outlined the plan on the guild forums ahead of time, you gave a brief synopsis over vent before you started, why isn’t the boss dead yet? Being able to accurately articulate the answer to “why isn’t this working” is a critical step that a surprising number of people get wrong in my experience. Here are some questions to ask yourself when trying to figure out the answer to this question:

How many times have you attempted the fight already this raid using this plan? If the answer is less than ~15-20, then unless you either clearly misunderstood some mechanic during your research, you probably need to collect more data.  Unless you feel that everyone in the raid is executing the plan exactly the way they were asked, keep trying.

At what point in the fight did the group diverge from “the plan?” Was it a milestone you failed to meet?  Unless everything went exactly as it was supposed to and your dps are putting out the same numbers they always do, you probably just need to let everyone work out their own kinks with some more practice.  Depending on the type of milestone involved, possibly consider things like switching between 2 and 3 healers.

Are people dying? Every raid leader should have some sort of death tracking addon installed so you can easily review what caused people to die and what happened to them in the ~15 seconds prior to death.

  • Tank death: did they use their defensive cooldowns appropriately? Were they where they were supposed to be? How much healing did they receive during their last ~10 seconds alive? If the healing received looks low, all appropriate cooldowns were used, and they were not out of healing range for some reason, it might be a “healing issue.”

If the healers weren’t healing the tanks, then what were they doing?

Were they all moving or unable to heal for some reason, maybe the positioning needs to be changed.

Were they healing someone else/themselves? Then those people need to get better at avoiding damage and your healers need to either have better healing assignments or different healing priorities.  This is one of the biggest mistakes I see raid leaders make in blaming the healers for people dying when in reality it is the healers being forced into a no-win decision in to try and compensate for other people’s mistakes. Find out why they weren’t keeping the tank alive.

  • Healer death: were they standing somewhere they weren’t supposed to be? Did someone fail to taunt/CC an add that killed the healer?  …there shouldn’t really be any other reason for the healer to have ever died.  Keeping themselves alive, followed closely by keeping the tank/their assignment alive is every healers only real responsibility in most fights.
  • DPS death: Were they standing where they weren’t supposed to be?  Did they pull aggro on something they weren’t supposed to?  If they weren’t killed via a one-shot, how much healing did they receive before they died?

If you can’t figure out why your plan is failing and the boss isn’t dying, then your biggest problem isn’t with the plan you are using. Thankfully there are a wealth of resources available to you as a raid leader and a truly amazing number of members in the various raid leading communities that are just waiting to help you figure it all out. All you have to do to find help is be able to do is follow two simple steps:

  1. Generate a combat log during your raid and upload it to one of the available *free* services that will parse the information into a useful format.  My personal preference is World of Logs.
  2. Ask someone for help.  Everyone starts out as a newbie at some point, none of us are born with the ability to play wow or lead raiders.  Some of us still remember what it was like starting out and we are more than happy to offer help.  Being able to provide a log of the your raid attempting the encounter in question will allow FAAARRR more useful feedback then trying to communicate all of the details through any other method.

Have you ever had a boss kill which came from a simple, yet overlooked strategy modification?

Question: When do you Call a Wipe?

Keeping the post really short today. Whether it’s in a 5 man, a 10 man, or a 25 man, I’m curious as to under what circumstances your raid leaders call a wipe.

Does it ever frustrate you when your raid leaders do?

Does it annoy you when they should and don’t?

For the raid leaders, does farm versus progression content impact the times you call wipes?

I’ve called snap wipes when we lose 2-3 people in the opening minute of a fight. I’ve called for a continual push even when we were down a half raid.

What’s your take?

Does Your Guild Use Set Interrupt Teams?

Have you ever been in a raid with less than stellar interrupts? I’ve seen it happen many times. A small number of players  seem to have that confidence where they feel they can conquer just about any spells or abilities thrown their way. That is, until the encounter decides to throw a wrench in their plans. It usually sounds a little something like this:

“I got next inter—No, I’m trapped! I can’t do anything!”

If you’re lucky, there’s another player with an interrupt who can bail that player out. If not, the group may have just suffered a large setback. Having dependable interrupters on your raid roster is one of those little things that grant peace of mind to everyone. Your raid leader can rest easy knowing that certain abilities will be shut out. There have been times when I cursed because a key melee player had to run out or died due to some random ability.

From what I’ve seen, raid groups usually have a minimal amount of players for interrupts. This allows for maximum DPS time from other players because if don’t need to worry about catching key abilities, they can focus more on their DPS.

But the case I want to make here is for stability. Doubling up on interrupts can help cut down on the number of wipes due to unnecessary boss attacks going off.

Some examples include:

  • Wind Shear: 6 second CD, 2 second lock out
  • Shield Bash: 12 second CD, 6 second lock out
  • Pummel: 10 second CD, 4 second lock out
  • Kick: 10 second CD, 5 second lockout

This is just the start though. There’s a whackload of other classes with interrupt capabilities (Mages, Death Knights, etc).

How should you set teams?

Your interrupt teams will vary by encounter. A typical setup would involve two teams of 2. Preferably, the interrupters would share similar cooldowns and lockout times. Back in Burning Crusade, there was an encounter called Reliquary of Souls. You could find it in Black Temple. That encounter really brought out the necessity for skilled interrupters who could identify which skills to let go and which ones to shut down (like Deaden, Spirit Shock, etc).

A more recent example encounter would be Maloriak where Arcane Storms and Release Abberations need to be controlled.

Every interrupter should use macros to announce their interrupt skills. Actually, if you want to take it one step further, I highly recommend an addon called RSA. It’ll announce whether you were successful or unsuccessful with your interrupts. Or even if your kick got resisted or if the target is immune! Great to have!

If you have a skilled player who can carry interrupts on their own, then you can definitely disregard this post. I’ll raise my coffee cup to you on that. For the rest of us who sometimes struggle with blown interrupts, that safety net will do more in the long run.

Tough Call: Time vs Talent

Tough Call: Time vs Talent

803068_47829639aWelcome back for another episode of Tough Call with me, Viktory.  Today I want to discuss roster evaluation, and specifically, two factors to look at when examining your depth charts.

You do have a depth chart for your raid positions right?

… Please tell me you have a depth chart for your various raid roles and you’re not just bringing whoever shows up first …

(For anyone who doesn’t get the sport analogy, a depth chart basically lists each position and ranks the players have that position in order. You have your go-to guy/gal, the back-up, the back-back-up, etc.)

Editor’s Note: Before we go any further, if you are of the steadfast opinion that nobody deserves to be benched, or that your best friends deserve a spot in every raid, you will likely want to stop now.

Okay, so let’s say you’ve got your full raid roster in front of you and you’re trying to figure out who’s going to make the cut and get a stable spot in your 25-man raid. Obviously you have certain roles you need to fill (tanks, healers, melee, ranged) and certain skills you need players to possess in those roles (AoE heals, interrupts, soak tank, kiting, etc).  You’ve got a lot of criteria to look at when deciding who is THE BEST player for you to bring to your raid. 

(Remember, “take the player, not the class” implies “take the best possible player”.

One of the more common downfalls I’ve seen leaders suffer, and one of the worst traps I’ve seen players try to spring on their Raid Leader, is the substitution of Time for Talent/Aptitude.

A few weeks ago I told you that “preparation is king”, and while that still holds true, by now you should be seeing who actually knows what’s expected of them, and who’s just reading a script.  In fact, if we think of raiding like a foreign language, we can come up with three archetypes.

Native Speakers

Some players have a lot of natural talent.  These players are the mage who always does crazy DPS and makes it look easy, the guy who plays a utility spec and still manages to do competitive DPS, the healer who can instinctively spot issues with the raid and react in a clutch moment (see Matticus in his prime*).  Everyone loves to have these guys around, especially when they don’t act entitled or get lazy because they think they’re too good to need to put in the grunt work.

*Note: I said “see”, not “listen to”.  He’s a horrible story-teller.

Fluent Professionals

Other players have to work hard to produce the output you’re looking for.  Think Rudy here, the guy with a lot of heart who does his homework and gives you the results you’re looking for.  As a leader you know that he’s always reading up on the relevant websites, maybe talking to other progression raiders who play his spec, and is constantly seeking ways to improve.  Through their effort, they are just as good, or nearly as good as your top tier guys.  The key here is that you DO see them improving, carrying their load, and not causing wipes.

I think a “perfect raid” is filled with a solid mix of these two personalities.  However, we need to minimize or weed-out the last group:

Tourists

The personality to absolutely avoid is the “trained noob”, to borrow a term from Pure Pwnage.  These are players who bring sub-par skill, spend a lot of time logged on, but instead of learning and absorbing their class mechanics, they may have only learned the accepted boss strat.  These are the guys at the cafe with their French-to-English dictionary out, trying to look-up each word the waiter just said, because they were not expecting that response.

Players like this will present a liability to your raid anytime things deviate from the norm.  Get bad RNG on a boss, or timers that don’t line up with the abilities the boss is using, and you can bet that these players will be toast.  Customize the Tankspot strat to meet the capabilities of your raid, and you just may find these guys out of position and thoroughly confused.

Don’t be fooled by people who have a lot of time and very little aptitude.  It all comes down to who can get the job done. 

It is up to you, as part of raid management, to spot the player who may have raid knowledge, but not raid awareness, and figure out a solution.  Determining who’s a “fluent professional” and who’s just a “tourist” will help boost your raid output (and morale) immensely. 

If it’s my call, I’d put that person as far back on my depth chart as possible, only bringing them when I must class-stack, or when other players are missing, and I’d definitely keep recruitment open until I found a good core that was made up all “native speakers” and “fluent professionals”.

Please leave any questions or suggestions for future topics neatly stacked in the comments below.  Shoot, if you’re so inclined, leave details of your most epic knitting accomplishment, too. Those are always cool.

7 + 1 Simple Ways to Pull Trash

Trash pulling can be a bane to players new to the game or new to the raiding scene. Its a basic coordination skill to learn which is employed from the 5 man level to the 25 man level. The act of pulling bosses are generally easy. There’s typically one boss to worry about.

But trash?

There’s a ton of trash. At this level, they can’t exactly be taken lightly! If your group isn’t properly focused or directed, trash packs can easily overwhelm your group.

Assuming you’re not taking on trash mobs with really specific mechanics, here’s a few general strategies your group can use to handle them.

Crowd Control Pull

This is the standard and textbook method that most groups use when grabbing trash. Let the players with crowd control skills open up. Remaining mobs which are either immune or designated as kill targets will automatically chase the raid allowing the tank to grab them.

Misdirect Pull

Have any Hunters around? Good as this is where they’ll come in handy! While a tank is building threat on one mob, a Hunter can send another mob their way. Just remember that the Misdirect mechanics have changed slightly. Best used against trash pulls with many mobs.

Misdirect
The current party or raid member targeted will receive the threat caused by your next damaging attack and all actions taken for 4 sec afterwards.  Transferred threat is not permanent, and will fade after 30 sec.

Charge Pull

No crowd control. The tank literally charges straight in and generates as much aggro as possible on all targets. Heavy reliance on the healer to keep them alive. DPS players are typically called upon to focus fire targets or to AoE mobs down. The side pulls in the first chamber of Bastion of Twilight are excellent examples of using a charge pull. The tanks jump in and it turns into a race between DPS and healer mana.

Line of Sight Pull

I would imagine Protection Paladins would be used to using this (for historical reasons). The line of sight pull involves the tank aggroing mobs and then running behind a pillar or a rock or some other object. This forces the mobs to chase after that player because they can’t actually see said player. Just make sure the rest of the group doesn’t start opening up on them until the mobs get into position. Use this if you’re worried about patrols.

Use the LOS pull if you’re up against ranged mobs or if you’re worried about patrols.

Distance Pull

Usually executed on trash packs consisting of all casters, your tank will want to run in and then back out as quick as possible. As the casters begin attempting to cast and chase you, they’ll eventually reach a point where they’ll stack up. This is when the tank then re-engages them in order to generate threat on all of the trash allowing group to open up. (Thanks Hi Ya).

Interrupt Pull

Reserved for any trash packs involving casters, this pull involves the use of an interrupt. I had to practice this one a few times on my Elemental Shaman. I’d manually break the Hex on the target with a few Lightning Bolts. Once the mob started casting, I’d hit it with a Wind Shear to get it to start running towards me thereby allowing the tank to snatch it up in place. This is especially useful if there are no immediate landscape features for the group to hide behind but you still need trash to move due to patrols.

Mind Control Pull

If you can’t line of sight pull, this is the next best thing. Naturally it requires a Priest. Your Priest Mind Controls a mob while the rest of the group stays back. The trash should then gang up and utterly destroy the Mind Controlled mob.* Just keep in mind that you may not get reputation or any loot from the death of the Mind Controlled mob.

Exception: If your Priest is named Matt, he will fat finger Mind Blast instead of Mind Control. Do not assign him to any Mind Control duties.

Bonus: The pet pull.

Yeah.

You know what the pet pull is. Everyone’s experienced the pet pull before. If you haven’t, well that can be easily arranged.