Pros and Cons of Recruiting the Raid Leader

Pros and Cons of Recruiting the Raid Leader

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This is the most important position you’ll ever fill throughout the entirety of your guild’s existence. In fact, it is so important, guilds will often disband if there isn’t a competent nor capable one. If working on farm content, raids can typically get by with zero to minimal guidance. Everyone runs by the same playbook and routine strategies are done without any problems (usually).

But once you hit progression content, you’re going to be stuck. If your raid is leaderless, it’s going to be painful and you need a plan.

So, do people really recruit raid leaders? In many cases, the guild leader and raid leader are one and the same. There are some exceptions (such as in Conquest where the positions are separated). But back to the original question: Do people recruit raid leaders?

Typically, most raiding guilds do not. Raid leaders are usually promoted from within. There are two basic things I look for when deciding on a raid leader. Without these two qualities, I skip and move on entirely.

  • Competency: Now this encompasses a wide range of leadership skills. I just lump them all together in here for the sake of simplicity. These are things including but not necessarily limited to skills, charisma, vision, tactics, and so forth. Basically, does this player have what it takes to lead and deliver the necessary results?
  • Desire: Do they actually want to do it?

And that second point is a super important question. That raid leading wannabe you want to quarterback your raids might be the perfect person to do it. But if she has no interest or desire, it’s not going to work.

Where do I go to get raid leaders from?

In a nutshell, either you have a sleeper raid leader within the guild who emerges to take the flag when things look grim or you look outward and see if you can fish up one.

Option 1: Promoting from within the guild

These are usually the players that have stood by you for a long time. The existing raid leader left a void to fill. There could be people from inside who are looking for a chance to step up and take a larger role within the guild. Or it could be that they sense the guild is on the road to failure unless someone takes over and that person wants to be the one to do it.

Again, your group may run into the problem of not having the right person who can do the job. A skilled player who is familiar with the game and their class might not have the appropriate leadership qualities. Or maybe they work in a management type job and doesn’t want to deal with that level of responsibility on their off time. If your search for a raid leader comes up short, you’ll need to come up with options. Try to figure out why that person isn’t a good candidate. You can’t change their desire. However, you might be able to help improve their competency.

Ultimately though, hope for the best. Be prepared for the worst.

Pros

Familiarity with guild culture

Players used to the leader’s personality

Intimately familiar with players and capabilities

Cons

Might not be anyone qualified from within to take the job

Potential prejudice or favoritism to specific players

Option 2: Recruiting outward

This isn’t exactly the most common approach. You don’t see many guilds advertising for a powerful position like this one either. I suspect the main reason would be on trust. Everyone in the guild has had time to get familiar with each other. Not only would you be introducing an outside player, your guild is being asked to follow their commands. That bond between raid and raid leader just isn’t there yet.

It’s like a new manager being brought in. No one really knows who she is. Is she lenient? A hard ass? Accommodating? By the book? No idea!

Don’t forget that having a new player calling the shots from outside the guild means they’re largely unaffected by any guild politics and will have a fresh perspective on raids. Of course, you never know what you’re getting. If you truly plan on going this route, raid leading applicants need to be screened a lot more carefully.

Pros

Fresh perspective and new ideas

Unaffected by any guild influences

Cons

Players have no idea how to react

Lack of initial guild chemistry

When my raid leader hung up his claymore months ago, I was in a tight spot. The short list in my mind for replacement raid leaders had no desire to do so simply due to other responsibilities. There were other players I had considered asking, but I didn’t know if they had the skills to pull it off. The only way to know for certain is to assemble a raid, pass them lead and say “Here ya go!” and one of the senior raiding guys who had been with us for a long time wanted to give it a shot.

It was a leap of faith. Either he would sink or swim. To my delight, he did a pretty darn good job after he shook off a few raid leading jitters during the first few days at the helm. But it was to be expected.

Had he not spoken to me beforehand, I would have had no choice but to turn outwards and look off guild for someone to help coach the raid. I can’t honestly think of any moment in my experience in the game where I’ve read about guilds specifically recruiting raid leaders that were outside their organization. What commonly happens is a player either gets the nod up from management to take over or the guild implodes due to lack of interest and focus. The latter is not an option for me. I’ll admit, it would have been a remarkably interesting process (and experiment) to start off raid leaderless and end up with a fully situated quarterback acquired outside the guild.

It’s like hiring a new coach for a team. Players are so used to certain plays and systems. The new coach comes in and throws things out the window.

Book Review: The Guild Leader’s Handbook

Book Review: The Guild Leader’s Handbook

There is a book for everything it seems. Some will tell you how to hack an iPhone, others will tell you how to cook rare and exotic treats. In the gaming world there has been everything from strategy and content guides to art books and everything in between.

A few weeks ago a new book hit the stands, The Guild Leader’s Handbook by Scott F. Andrews. Scott is not only an accomplished and long time  guild leader in World of Warcraft, but also the author of “Officers’ Quarters” on wow.com. His book takes a look at what it is to run a guild in today’s modern MMOs and offers readers both looking to start a guild and those who have been at it a while, a cornucopia of information from his collected experiences. Today I’d like to share my thoughts on the book with you.

Before we begin I’d like to make a few things clear. Firstly, Yes I do write for wow.com as one of the class columnists. This does not mean however that I will be unfairly biased towards the book. I have had little to no interaction with Scott and anyone who knows me or has listened to my podcast knows that I do not temper my criticism and critiques based on acquaintances or tangential relations. In short, friend or foe I try to tell it exactly as it is and as unbiased as possible. In mathematical terms we would call this “Correlation does not imply causation”. Secondly, while I myself am not currently a Guild Leader in WoW, I have lead numerous successful guilds, super-groups, and various other groupings in many other games. I am however still the Healing Lead and one of the raid officers for the guild I call home, and thus in a leadership position within the structure.

The first thing I noticed when opening this book, is the level of accessibility. It was very well written and very easy not only to read but digest. The concepts and ideas in the book are thoughtfully laid out and the way the topics are grouped not only make sense logically, but allow the material to be more easily digested. Potentially confusing concepts are quickly explained, often times with a real life scenario that the author has experienced himself. The second thing I noticed while reading this book is the confirmation of the author’s depth of experience. The familiarity he writes about the topics is comforting and also conveys a sense of certainty that is easily lost when writing something of this nature.

The book itself covers many topics such as;

  • Forming a guild and making it successful
  • Choosing a guild size and focus
  • Dealing with guild drama
  • Differences between leading a guild and leading a raid
  • Loot distribution
  • Alternate styles of guilds (PvP, RP)
  • Choosing officers
  • Guild Morale
  • Planning for the long term
  • Dealing with Real Life

Seems like a lot to cover in such a small book doesn’t it? It is, but the author cuts out most of the unnecessary and leaves in the most relevant information to the topic. Each topic is subdivided and dives into specifics and does so with the perfect amount of detail.

There were a few pieces that really stood out to me while reading this. First was the section on forming a guild. Beyond setting a size and focus for your guild, the author talked about a topic that I think deserves some attention. Forming a guild identity and presence. For any established guild or group, their name and longevity carry a certain weight to them. If you think about any guilds, corps or fellowships you may have come across, I’m certain you can find at least one where their name is well known. For a new guild starting out it can be hard to forge an identity and establish a presence. The author offers some solid advice for creating a server presence. This ranges from specializing and becoming rock solid at a particular goal, having a history of cooperation with other people and guilds to having fun contests and events. One example that I found particularly enjoyable was the idea of taking a completely meaningless piece of land in the game and claiming it as your own, while challenging anyone to take it from you and doing anything you can to hold on to it. That would certain generate some notice, and could be a particularly fun event.

Next was explaining the differences between leading a guild, and leading a raid. The distinction is one that sometimes goes unnoticed. A lot of players seem to feel the two are always synonymous. The author explains the characteristics of a guild leader very well and talks about the shift in personae needed to lead a raid. The two can often times be polar opposites of each other. A guild leader is at the end of the night the ultimate authority of a guild. They can control who becomes officers, who is kicked or invited and tend to be looked upon as the arbiters for any guild disputes. Compassion, openness, friendliness and approachability all play very well to a guild leaders station. A raid leader has to evaluate performances constantly while keeping the group focused. They have to play the role of team captain, coach and player all at the same time. Leading by example, but also calling out problems and fixing issues as quickly as possible. This can sometimes involve not being very nice and squishy in your assessments. I was quite pleased to read this section here and it would be something I encourage not only people in leadership roles to read, but also those in a raider position. It is very much like being friends with your boss outside of work. When you’re at work you still need to work, and it’s your bosses job to keep you focused.

Another part that particularly stuck out to me was the section detailing real life interactions and issues. Even though this is a game, it is a social network. You are interacting with other players regularly, and you are devoting time out of real life to play this game with other people. As a result real life will always impact a gamers life and a game may affect the life of those that play it. This section of the book covers topics like dealing with addictions (both substance and potential video game addiction), Depression and mental illness, sexual predators, relationship problems, family problems, burnout and criminal confessions. These are real life topics that can and do affect people who play MMOs. This section offers advice to deal with these situations as they arise. Let’s not forget it wasn’t so long ago that a criminal was tracked down through WoW by law enforcement.

This section also talks about planning real life meet-ups. Investing as much time as you do in a guild there may come a time where you want to meet the people behind the avatars face to face. It sometimes requires a lot of planning, but can indeed be exceptionally rewarding.

So in the end what does this book really have to offer?

For the new guild leader or leadership role

A plethora of information that is neatly gathered in one place for you. There is a lot that goes into forming and running a guild. This book takes the information and neatly bundles it for you for easy consumption. The information contained in the book is very accurate, and is very universal in it’s approach. The advice offered is solid, well thought out and has been tried and tested by the author himself. The book may have items you never thought to consider, or just did not occur to you. It offers a new officer or guild leader a chance to be prepared and also educates you on exactly what you can expect. Everything from personalities in the guild and group dynamics to planning for the future and longevity of your guild. All the basics you could possibly need to know are detailed here for you.

For the old-hand

Even if you have been playing MMOs for a long time and are quite experienced at leading groups, running guilds and leading raids, this book will offer something that can often times be lost over time. Perspective. We fill these rolls for so long that things become second nature to us. Like everything sometimes it’s nice to have a refresher. No one is perfect 100% of the time, we all make mistakes or forget things. The way I view it is like this. Next to my computer I have a series of books for programming, APA style and formatting guides, marketing and business books and a variety of other reference material. No matter how long I’ve been doing something, there will be things that I will forget. Having these books handy gives me a reference. somewhere I can go to clarify questions and vague points or remind myself of things I may have forgotten. This book now has a permanent place on that shelf. For us old hands this book is a perfect reference to when we need to get back down to basics.

For the non leader

Even if you are not in a leadership role this book can offer you a great insight you might not have otherwise. Ever wonder why your guild leader made a particular decision but don’t really want to ask them? How about when a raid leader does something that you’re not quite sure of? This book will give you a basic understanding of what it is your guild’s leadership has to go through and constantly juggle to make sure the group remains stable and that you have a place you can unwind and have fun.

I applaud the author for this book. I found it easily accessible, accurate and a fantastic read. I was able to identify with the examples he presented right away and could have compared them to any number of stories from my own past in gaming. This book is a great starting point for anyone looking for form a guild, new to an officer position or for those who just want to understand what happens behind the scenes of their groups. On a personal level, reading this book allowed me to catch something happening in my very own guild that I almost missed simply by reading about it and being reminded of it.

The only criticism of it I have is that I feel it could have been longer.  Some of the sections could have been more fully explored and may have benefited from having a little more room to breathe. The book ends at a surprisingly short186 pages.

I feel it is well written, logically put together and is a must read for anyone seriously involved in MMOs and guild structure. Even with consideration of the length I feel that is well worth the money, and even more worth the time you would invest reading it.

The book retails for $24.95 us ($31.95 CDN) and can be purchased directly through the publisher’s website.

If you’ve read it and would like to share your thoughts on it we’d love to hear your opinion on it.

 

A Change of Recruiting Strategy: World of Raids Tool

This raid cycle is about to end soon and I know there are many guilds who are gradually bleeding members to life and other obligations outside of the game. It’s becoming a tough stretch to even field a full competent crew for ToGC 25.

Right now, even though we’re recruiting for ToGC 25, I personally don’t know if anyone’s going to bite. What I did decide to include is an extra note that says we’re also recruiting for Icecrown.

Another stipulation that I’ve added is that quality of gear players have when applying won’t really matter to us. In other words, I’ve relaxed the gear standards.

Why?

Because I know Icecrown’s just on the horizon and will debut within 4-6 weeks. I projected a late November or early December release.

That’s 4 weeks for a new applicant to get themselves geared up so that they can be effective in Icecrown. Even if they’re a fresh 80, running a constant stream of heroics or getting carried in farm or alt raids is enough to build a supply of badges to purchase tier 9 gear.

So in other words, I’m enacting a two tier strategy. The first priority is to recruit players who can help fill our raids and contribute. Failing that, if they’re not at the level they need to be, we’ll still draft them for the future.

I’ve gotten some bites on trade chat, but they’re mostly inquiries for now. Twitter has again proven fruitful as I’ve had a few interested players from there apply. Unfortunately, I can’t seem to use the official realm forums as everytime I post it says “Invalid Option”.

I was actually tempted to include in the recruiting message that the leadership had Icecrown experience as I’ve participated in all of the PTR tests so far. When you’re competing against other guilds for players, every edge helps right? One would think that foresight and knowledge into the next tier of content might tip the scales in favor.

So let’s look at the World of Raids recruiting page.

What are you looking for?

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The first thing you’ll notice is that there are a variety of search filters at the top. Use those to narrow down the guilds that fit your criteria.

1. This is where you select the Realm. Obviously, since I’m a Dwarf Priest, I am going to select Alliance. Even though I live in Canada, the closest realms to me are in the US. I prefer PvP servers just because of the extra variable element they add to my day to day affairs even though I still hate Rogues.

2. If there’s a specific realm you’re looking for, you can enter it here and it will isolate only guilds that are from there.

3. You set your class and specs here. For me, I’ll put down Holy Priest as an example.

4. If you care about progression, you’ll want to look for a guild that’s in your area. This takes a bit of trial and error as there’s no absolute guideline on this. Just for the sake of it, I said narrow it down to guilds that are in the top 2000 around the world.

5. Raid times can be narrowed here. If you prefer to raid on certain days and times, simply choose the day where it matters and then use the buttons to select the start and end times. Setting a large range works best. It will display guilds that happen to raid on the days that you choose. Note that the guilds may raid days in addition to the ones you have selected.

Make sure you set the time zone appropriately.

The search results below will show guilds that best match your criteria. A green bar on the left signals how close they match your filters. The rest of the information is shown on the bar such as classes, progression rank, and times.

And hey, look at that. There’s a guild called Conquest that happens to be recruiting. I think I might give those guys a shot. Let’s click on that page and see what happens next.

What am I looking for?

Now that you’re on my World of Raids guild page, you can see all of the necessary information listed in one area and it’s very handy to applicants and recruiters alike.

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At the very top, it displays some basic information. The icon on the left signifies which faction, Horde or Alliance, the guild is. The server and battlegroup along with the guild’s website is shown beside it. On the right side, applicants can see where this guild ranks on the progression curve. The Apply button is in bright yellow box that’s difficult to miss.

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As you’ll see, the top part of the page displays what classes I’m looking for. At the moment, the classes that have a color background behind them signify that I will consider those classes. All we could use right now are bodies to help us in our raids and I won’t be too picky when it comes to class. If you can reach a certain threshold of DPS output and in game “smarts”, it’s good enough for me.

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Right below that, you can see a neat graphical representation of progress. It takes a while to update as the data is pulled from WoW Progress and is reflected here. Under Crusader’s Coliseum, note how there are two levels of progression. Half a bar represents the boss has been taken down on normal mode while a full bar means it’s been done on heroic.

Ulduar is below that and it also breaks down individual boss achievements into fractions. Freya, for example, is broken up into 4 parts which represent her and various amounts of elder kills.

Sadly, this isn’t up to date as we took down Heroic faction champs last week and killed Yogg with 3 keepers active.

You can also see a link to 10 man achievements in the top right corner of each raid instance.

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Below that you can see notable accomplishments and a simple mouse over will display what has been achieved. I like the fact that it also highlights when a certain achievement was achieved. For example, Kil’jaden on the far right was killed prior to the release of 3.0.2.

Unfortunately, as this tracks everyone’s achievement, even if one person has Immortal, it will still display it as a guild achievement. Such was the case here because we weren’t able to get Immortal together as a guild.

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Finally, the right side bar displays information that can’t easily be expressed or pulled from a third party source. This is where the administrator enters extra information about their guild. The raid times are shown at the top and is displayed in a 24 hour format to minimize confusion. The timezone that the guild operates on is also shown. These are settings that the administrator can control which ranges from MST, CST, EST, and so forth. I don’t recall what the European ones are.

The about section offers a brief description of the guild and what it’s about. It’s important to not go all out here. You want to sell your guild and garner interest, not scare them away with a giant wall of text. This is not the place to paste your guild’s core beliefs. You don’t have to enter in duplicate information. Remember, guild progression is already shown in the main area. Just tell potential applicants what you’re all about.

Some things include:

  • What you do? (Raid, PvP)
  • How you do it? (Push content within a narrow time frame)
  • What sets you apart from other guilds? (We hold players accountable)

Applicant expectations are where the guild administrators state what their expectations are. Again, be fairly brief here. Think of this as a brochure instead of an operations manual. This is the area where the qualities of the ideal applicant are listed.

One example would be something simple as must be mature and have thick skin so as to not take negative feedback personally.

Great I’m ready!

Once you’re ready and this looks like the perfect guild fit, it’s time for you to hit the apply button. There are 3 options that administrators can set.

  • Apply via World of Raids private message
  • Email
  • Website

For me, I selected the website because I like to keep all applicants in one area. Not every guild has such a luxury and you may wish to use email or PMs to handle that.

It’s certainly a well polished tool and I hope more players and guilds make use of it.

Two Applicant Paths Diverged in an Azerothian Wood

Two Applicant Paths Diverged in an Azerothian Wood

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Once you decide you’ve reached the raid-ready threshold, it’s time to find a place to do that.  Aside from the risky and unpredictable nature of PUGs, the most plausable option is a raiding guild.  Whether casual, progression, or hardcore elite, you’re bound to encounter some form of an application process.

The process always varies from guild to guild.  Each one is slightly different, but I’ve always seen three common practices:

  1. (Trade Chat) “Lvl 80 LF Raiding Guild” -> “So-and-so has invited you to join the guild: Such-and-such”
  2. An application of varying length, seemingly focused on gear, skill, and experience.
  3. The Applicant Period -> Includes a formal application, and a “waiting period” or “trial period”.

The first of the three is relatively self-explanatory, and is usually frowned upon.  I don’t take raiders seriously that look for guilds that way, and I don’t instill a lot of confidence in raiding guilds that subscribe to that method.  This is all just from personal experience.

Just like I’d apply for a job to pay my bills, I’m applying to a guild to fulfill my raiding passion.  I want to know that the guild I’m vying to be a part of isn’t accepting just any ol’ package of pixels.  I’d be really worried about credibility if the guild just said “Yes!” without screening me or requiring any sort of “test drive.”

My personal preference is the 3rd option.  Every guild leader has their own preference, and that’s absolutely encouraged.  Each guild is obviously different.  My choice is based on permanence and personality.

I’m hugely averted to what are known as “guild hoppers”.  I’ve never been one, and I get a pit in my stomach anytime I come across someone that might be one.  I look at my guild as a family–people who work together to achieve a common goal because they enjoy that camaraderie and team work.  I invest in you, you invest in me.  Someone that sees guilds as stepping stones to higher echelons don’t interest me.  I feel it’s selfish and takes away from the “community” that I’m so fond of.

Secondly, if we are going to be spending large amounts of time together, I have to get along with you.  We have to be able to crack jokes, share stories, and simply enjoy each other’s company.  I’m not too keen on running with someone that is demeaning to other players or constantly fluffs their own ego at the expense of others.  Admittedly, if I don’t wanna hang out with you, I’m probably not going to jump up and down at the chance to raid with you.

As you know, I’m one of the Discipline Priests on Lodur’s healing team in Unpossible.  Their application process is a rather complex one, but its payoff is knowing they’re a great fit for me, and I’m a good fit for them.  It was because of their application process that I got excited, because it’s near identical to my casual guild, Team Sport.

To summarize, an interested Applicant must acquire a Sponsor.  This is done through gaming and socializing via a chat channel made specifically for the guild.  It is the Sponsor’s job to get the Applicant invited to off-night raids and bring them along on heroics or other guild activities.  This is designed to get the guild acquainted with the Applicant.

The Sponsor then solicits enough votes from the guild (along with the Applicant’s Class Lead) to invite the Applicant into the guild on a trial basis.  This begins a month period where the the guild and the Applicant get to know each other.  The Applicant can be invited into raids and has access to loot drops.  At the end of the month, the guild votes again whether the Applicant becomes a full member or not.

At any point, I can withdraw.  If I don’t feel like this guild is what I want, then I can move on.

What an application process like this does is allows me to know what I’m getting myself into before I’m fully in the mix.  It lets them sniff me out and make sure that I’m not a “guild hopper” or someone there to grab gear and run.  Like I said, I’m into the family-style guilds.  This, I feel, promotes that.

What about you?  What kind of guild process you feel best fits your style?  Are there certain styles that attract or deter you from joining a guild?

ThespiusSig

Is Applying to Multiple Guilds a Sin?

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Found this intriguing question on Twitter today that was directed to me. I’ll try to paraphrase it as best as I can.

”Is there anything wrong with players applying to multiple guilds?”

From my perspective, no. The way I see it, if I’m a guildless player who is looking to get involved with a raiding guild somewhere, I’d take the shotgun approach. I won’t get into why such a player should or shouldn’t apply to this type of guild. Let’s assume that I’ve done my homework and have answered the self-help questionnaire on the type or guild I want to be a part of. For example, I want to be in a raiding guild that’s just started Ulduar and is utilizing a DKP system that happens to only raid on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from a period between 6 PM – 12 AM.

Let’s say I hit the jackpot and there happens to be four guilds that fit the criteria.

From the applicant perspective

Why not? I want to raid. It doesn’t matter to me which guild I get into as they’re all pretty much the same. I’m flexible with my hours. I can raid from 7 – 11 PM for example. The time frame I listed above is the window that I am willing to commit myself to raiding. By applying to 4 different guilds, I get to maximize my chances. The odds are higher that at least one of them could use the role that I play.

From the guild perspective

It’s nice and flattering to hear from a player that they’ve looked only at your guild and want to be a part of it. They didn’t even consider any other option. What if the applicant doesn’t fit or if you don’t have room? It’s nice to know that the player has some other plans to fallback on. It kills me whenever I turn down a player sometimes. Some of them genuinely deserve good guilds to be a part of and wish to contribute to raids. Sometimes there’s just no space.

I’ve seen guilds who adopt this attitude that their guild is awesome. In fact, it is so damn awesome they can’t fathom why anyone who has applied to their guild also applied to other guilds. Clearly it’s an insult to such guilds. When a guild gets wind that an applicant also applied elsewhere, they just shoot them down. On one hand, it makes the process a little easier for the app as it does weed down the number of remaining guilds.

Cover your ass

When I applied to post secondary schools, I applied to no less than 3 institutions. Why? because I knew there was a very real chance that I would get rejected. It’s the same mentality when applying for jobs. Apply to many as you can and see who wants you. Then from there, you take the best possible offer.

There’s nothing wrong with the business sense. Don’t try and pull the loyalty card here either. The guild hasn’t accepted the applicant yet. There’s no incentive for them to be that loyal so early. When a player of outstanding calibre happens to apply (let’s say a player with Immortal or Champion of Ulduar or something), it’s up to the guild to change gears and sell themselves. The guild has to essentially put up a neon sign that says “JOIN US!” Ultimately, the decision is always going to belong to the applicant whether they accept or otherwise. If a guild truly wants that player, they’ll start talking and eventually extend an invite. If not, the guild will pass and one of the other guilds might consider the player.

It sure as heck saves a lot of time, too. Lots of guilds have response rates varying from hours to days to even weeks. If I were planning to raid, I’d apply to all the guilds at once. However, if there was one organization that I’d want to join, I’d make it known to them that they were my first pick. Would other guilds feel slighted? Well, probably. But if they needed the extra set of hands, they’d overlook that. If they didn’t, then the applicant would get turned down anyway regardless. It’s certainly faster than applying to one guild, waiting for a response, getting rejected, and then repeating it with a different guild over and over.

Applying to multiple guilds allows players to gauge the level of interest a guild has in their services. There’s nothing ethically wrong with that.

Image courtesy of woodsy

The Summertime Woes

The Summertime Woes

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Summertime and the livin is easy
Fish are jumpin and the cotton is fine
Oh your daddys rich and your ma is good lookin
So hush little baby, don’t you cry

-Gershwin

So the weather outside is becoming nice once again for many of us. With the nice weather comes what I like to refer to as the “Raider’s Lull” . What is the Raider’s Lull you ask? It’s that time of year where people start to take a break from the game and venture forth into the outside world for a while. For some guilds in Warcraft it’s not a big deal, they simply replenish from within and keep trudging through content while waiting for the other players return. For others it becomes an exercise in recruitment methods. I’m sure you’ve seen them on the realm forums, various websites and services like Twitter all asking for recruits and potential applicants to head over to their site. For some guilds it’s the beginning of their death throes.

The first category, the guilds that don’t feel the bite, tend to be the more progression oriented. They normally have several raiders waiting in the wings or rotating just for the reason of filling gaps due to holidays and such. These more often then not are also the top guilds on your server in those terms as well, normally one of those “server first” type guilds. If you find yourself in one of these guilds, then you probably haven’t seen the Raider’s Lull

The second category is more common, and I freely admit my own guild recently falls into this category this year. These tend to be not less progression oriented guilds, but ones that are more laid back in their approach to getting there. Attendance issues pop up in the summer when weather is nice and kids are out of school. It’s understandable and more often then not the guild just has to bide it’s time until the raiders return, utilizing other members of the guild who maybe don’t normally raid.

The third group is a bit trickier. Usually this is a guild that has had ongoing attendance issues year round, or has been subject to some form of drama. Sometimes more progression oriented guildies have just left for another guild or even their members are looking for a guild that fits their ideals better. The summer time seems to bring these to a head and they wind up splintering and finding new homes, some players even quit the game as a result.

Breaking the Depression!

So how does one from the second and third category keep going into the summer time?

Recruitment!

recruitment2

Oddly enough recruitment can solve both the second and third groups problems. I’ll use my guild as an example again. Summer time hit and we saw the loss of a handful of raiders, the problem was these were people integral to our raid and raid strategy on some accounts. We have veterans we can pull for raids when they are on, but since they are veterans and not raiders their schedules tend to be a bit more erratic and pinning them down can be difficult, but pulling from our friends and family in the guild we have been able to keep raiding fairly consistently with good results. They may not be hard mode ready, but they can still kick like a mule when they need to.

The raiders we lost were well geared and performed well. It left us with several holes to fill. Our officers proactively hit recruitment hard utilizing various methods. As a result we have had an influx of  very solid recruits. The recruits are from a guild of the third option above. Their guild was not a comfortable fit for them anymore, and they happened to see a post of mine saying we were looking for geared intelligent raiders. I talked to one of them for almost a month answering questions as best I could. They were from another server so a certain leap of faith was required though this app process as my guild requires our apps be on server for the trial periods and such. After much communication, enter four applicants. They are currently going through our application process, but they have already been making friends and feel like a good fit. Recruitment has kept us going strong and has helped us keep raiding, and it helped four very awesome people find a potential new home with new friends. So thank you Kaylestera, Trull, Andorel and Lysah for taking a leap of faith and putting in those apps.

For recruiting there are several different ways to go about it. For my guild we utilized internet services such as

Twitter,

Realm Forums,

Guild Website,

We also utilized Word of Mouth along the server, with friends from other guilds letting people know we were recruiting. Members of our guild spread word among their real life friends as well as their friends on server letting them know we were hiring so to speak. So far it’s been working out very well. Unpossible is still going strong and we’ll survive our Raider’s Lull.

So, is your guild facing the Raider’s Lull? If so, how are you compensating for it? What category does your guild fall into?

Until next time, Happy Healing.

Sig

Images courtesy of akmg.com and electrotestservies.co.uk

So You Think You Can Raid

So You Think You Can Raid

header-think-you-can-raid

I caught the Vegas auditions last week for So You Think You Can Dance (and the results the next day). The judges can be so brutally honest sometimes. They possess a level of blunt truthfulness. Sometimes I wish I could be like that. As a guild master and a player, interaction and feedback is a daily occurrence.

Watching this weeks performance show (Bollywood was amazing, cha cha was really good and samba was just wow) and witnessing the judge comments reminded me that negative feedback does not always have to be harsh. It’s how you respond to it that matters.

Making the cut

This isn’t a post about getting through and making the guild (or raid). This is about the leadership perspective. We’re like judges. We evaluate and assess new recruits based on what we see. Sometimes we have to cut people. What sucks for us is that in a game that is dynamic and long lasting as this is the fact that evaluation is a constant.

When a guild recruits a player even as a trial, we do so hoping that the player meets or surpasses our expectations. When the challenges that a raid instance offers goes up (such as the gap from Naxxramas to Ulduar), there is an expectation that the player evolves and grows up in the same direction. Some players are able to do it admirably. Others just can’t. For whatever reason, they are not able to fulfill the level of technical skill that the encounter demands.

I especially want to direct this to struggling players who have been talked to by their leadership or fellow guildmates.

  • We’re not calling you dicks.
  • We’re not calling you morons.
  • We’re not calling you dipshits.
  • We’re not calling you assholes.
  • We’re not calling you humanity’s failures.

But we do recognize that you’re struggling. It would be disrespectful if that was simply swept under the rug and ignored. When you’re cut, it’s for a reason.

Why is it so difficult?

Cutting people from raids isn’t a feeling I take satisfaction from. It’s one of the worse things about this GM role. There’s something heartbreaking about telling a prepared raider that they’re not going to get the call up today. And at this point, I expect the whole this is just a game, stop taking it so seriously argument to crop up. Yeah, I understand it’s a game. But you’re still dealing with real people on the other end of it. It’s amazing how many people can lose sight of that. They’re not simple chess pieces on a board to be sacrificed on a whim.

It gets way harder when a person continues to be benched.

Is it the fact that the guild’s invested time and energy into getting them some gear to help out? No.

Is it because no one likes telling people they don’t get to go today? No.

Then what is it?

I’ve acted as a recruiter in no less than four different guilds. We watch new recruits and prospects. We try and carefully screen them as best we can.

What sucks for me personally is knowing that I spotted talent and potential in a player only to realize days or weeks later when they’re in our raids that I was completely wrong about them and their ability. No one likes to be wrong.

All the upper management types are scoffing. Understandable. They’re seasoned at the whole letting go thing. I’d probably be terrible as a manager or as HR. Heh, I’m still in my early 20s and you know that rule where everyone under 25 doesn’t know what they’re doing. I sure as heck don’t.

There is a limit

I hate to say it, but there’s a ceiling to the amount of effort that will be invested to help a player. Gear can only do so much.

Usually when a player is told that they need improvement and a strategy is devised to help them in that path, one of two things will happen.

Improvement: Player reads strategies, watches videos, talks with other players of that same class. Undergoes a noticeable level of change. Actually gets better and is able to respond to the challenges of raiding.

No improvement: Player reads strategies, watches videos, talks with other players. Does not improve at all. Level of skill stays stagnant. No signs of growth. Nothing happens. Doesn’t seem to care.

If a player improves, great! GM’s job or class officer or whoever’s it is is now complete! Mission accomplished! Congratulations! You helped Joe Mage get better!

But what about the alternative? What if they don’t?

You see, no amount of video watching, strat reading, image diagramming, peer discussion, or gearing up can make a player better. A player has to not only learn from what they’re absorbing but they have to act on it. I can watch any number of healing videos or read all the stuff on EJ’s. But if I don’t noticeably improve somehow, then there is no amount of anything in the world that can help. You have to find the way to battle through and prove that you can raid. If you can’t meet that threshold even with all the resources at your disposal, then there is nothing more that can be done. The onus is always going to be on the player to get better.

Not everyone can. Not every player is fit to raid. Hard mode is hard. Not every guild can successfully do it. I can’t arena for crap.

The next step after that is entirely up to you and your guild. Either they find a new role for you or you start shopping for a new guild or accept being permanently benched. I’ve had to reassign players before. They weren’t meeting the expectations that were set for them. Sometimes a change of scenery or position works wonders and they just so happen to fit in.

Negative feedback is hard to give. But it’s even harder to receive.

The Reality of Recruiting Part 1

Last week I sent out an open call on Twitter for players who are involved in the process of recruiting for their guilds. Either they’re an officer or a GM or some other person in a position of leadership. I was able to get in touch with a myriad of personalities and guild types. There are numerous post in the WoWosphere about recruiting do’s and don’ts along with various tidbits of advice. The aim of this post is to outline their mentality and thought process when considering applicants.

This is part 1 of 3.

When recruiting, what are common characteristics that you value in players who you consider?

Aggressiveness and enthusiasm are a huge factor in how I perceive an application. I immediately discard applications that offer the bare minimum of responses–yes/no and even the occasional "maybe" to our questions. Even if they’re undergeared or inexperienced, an applicant who goes the extra mile to show us that they can keep up with us via WWS reports, their level of preparedness, or their devotion to theorycrafting has an advantage over a decked-out applicant whose attitude is blasé. One mage we recruited came from a no-name guild on our server, but his DPS was impressive for his gear and he was extremely eager to prove himself to be in our caliber. His application even noted that he had 50 stacks of fish feasts banked for new content–that’s some preparedness and willingness to wipe right there!

- Cerinne, Impulse (Cenarius US)
Blog: Spectrecles

We are looking for people who will stick with us, so we want them to be interested in progression at our casual but serious pace. Personality is important to us, as we want to enjoy one another’s company.  We look to see that someone knows their class and can demonstrate this both through their answers to their application and through their armory.

- Sylly
Blog: Rolling Hots

I like it when people are up front and honest about why they are leaving their current guild and willing to share the name of their current or most recent guild. Completely anonymous applications make me instantly suspicious. I want to know that their guild officers are in the loop about their desire to leave, because that is a pretty clear indication of how they’ll handle things down the road if they want to leave OUR guild.

Other characteristics include: Experience, demonstrated knowledge of their class/spec/role and maturity.

- Seri
Blog: World of Snarkcraft

Being articulate, someone who seems to be a good fit with our raid personality wise, someone who isn’t afraid to research their class in order to improve their abilities. We also do trial runs  in five mans and sometimes bring them to 10/25 mans to see how they do, but in general it’s actual trial time that usually gives us the whole picture, regardless of what we test/try out prior to accepting a trial.

Knowing one’s class and being able to play their character properly (It seems obvious, but then again…).

- Fire

What are some of the expectations that you set for recruits right off the bat?

I expect that within 2 weeks of joining the guild, any player should be able to compete equally with any other member of the raid.  While we do often invite friends of people we have recruited, we don’t want to carry anyone, no matter who they are married to/dating/best-friends with or how hilarious they are in vent.  Other specific expectations include 75% raid attendance, fully gemmed & enchanted gear, being self-sufficient (flasks, food, repair costs without complaining) and DPS above a given threshold; for Ulduar this is 3.3k right now.

We expect that our recruits know more than our raiders.  We also expect good rotations, solid knowledge of all encounters, the gear that they would like in the future, and know how to be kind and courteous to all folks.

- Kitts, Lowered Expectations
Blog: Blood Elf Priestess

That they sign up to our progression raids, come to the raid with appropriate reagents / pots / flasks and 100% repaired. We’ll also try to let them know which bosses we’re going to take on, so ask that they will keep an eye on the guild’s forums for tactics and / or look up the tactics by themselves.  We also use teamspeak and expect them to at least be able to listen in.

- Eid, Dead Poets Society

Pull your weight. If you are a new 80 then we expect you to research your class, know what heroics to run to get geared, do dailies to get rep, get gear enchanted, etc.

OR

Take the initiative. If you don’t know where to find this information ask a senior guild member to help find it. I am a Warlock, but as an admitted forum troll in the guild I know where to send someone if they are looking for the hunter hit cap or where to send a druid looking to dual spec Resto.

- Finnugen, Legacy of the Elite

Do you conduct any sort of background checks on recruits? If so, via what methods?

We don’t really go talk to their former or current guild masters, if that’s what you mean. But I do run a guild history check on the name at Warcraft Realms and WoWProgress to see if the person’s a guild hopper. I also sometimes do a search on the realm forums to see if the recruit is prone to trolling (a no-no). There’s also a question on the app asking if the recruit knows anyone or has played with anyone in the guild. I definitely make a point to ask the people named in those 2 questions. Amory, etc, but I think that’s pretty standard.

- Raesa
Blog: Violaceous Mana

Only if we suspect that there may have been issues in a former guild, or if someone mentions something to the officers about the person. Then we’ll talk to officers in the former guild. Usually, any issues will come to light very quickly, and we can gkick accordingly if necessary, or give them a chance to reform themselves.

- Trilynne, Dawn of Maelstrom

Since our guild has long had a "referral process" and requires vouches from other members and eventually from an officer, the background check usually comes from the people they associate with. If you’re in tight with a bunch of our members and they say you’re alright? Then you’re probably not going to be a bad match for us. However, complete unknowns usually never get in. Someone we’re on the fence about usually sits down and gets asked about what they are looking for in a guild, etc. We also ask prior guild members or ask around the community at large. We’re not a huge server, a history follows you most times.

- Aislinana, Northrend Commonwealth

Raid Flexibility: Preparing for the Inevitable.

Raid Flexibility: Preparing for the Inevitable.

 

“A pint of sweat, saves a gallon of blood. ”
George S. Patton

Matt had a great post about Raid Flexibility: A Healthy Obsession . If you haven’t had a chance to read it, please do so you’ll enjoy it. Matt broke down the pieces of a raid that need to be kept in working order.

I’d like to talk today about what goes into making that work when the unexpected comes up.

There are several events that may come up that can throw a monkey wrench into your raiding schedule. It is the job of guild leadership to make sure this does not happen. Lets look at some of the things that can become a speed bump.

1. Vacations and Real Life Events

Lets face it, real life happens. People need time to go and do things like visit family, and just get away from it all. My guild has a saying, “Real Life always comes before game”. No player should feel like they can’t take time off and enjoy having a life outside the game. If you find yourself in a position of wondering if you can skip the raid to go see johnny graduate, there may be a problem.

2. Burnout

Every guild I know has felt the burn of this one at one point or another. We play this game like a part time job sometimes. Spending hours grinding, running raids and heroics and prepping for the raids. It is fun and social but sometimes you hit a point where it just weighs on you. You see this when content becomes stale too, players get tired of seeing the same thing over and over again with little variety. I’ve been hearing tales about this from friends of mine along multiple servers with current content. When players hit the point of burnout they begin to resent the raid and the game and sometimes decide to take a step back and wait for themselves to become revitalized.

3. Acts of god

Things happen sometimes that are out of your control. Hurricanes, Fires, power outages, storms and what we affectionately refer to in guild as “shiv to the forehead” moments. Sometimes you lose people when natural disasters hit, people lose power in the middle of a raid. These things are out of a persons normal control and can never fully be prepared for, but you will have to be dealt with when they happen. My guild has many members who live in areas where they suffer from hurricanes, earthquakes and flooding, we know this and we have to be ready for it. Funny story for you guys on this one too. Shiv to the forehead is what my guild refers to people who go on extended AFK’s  “where’s johnny” “dunno I think he answered his door and got shived in the forehead”. We were in The Eye getting ready to bash up Loot Reaver when I got a knock on the door. I called out in vent “hey guys be right back, someone’s at my door”. I go to answer and  find one of my batty neighbors. I step outside to see what they want and I hear the door shut and click behind me. I immediately hang my head as I realize I’ve locked myself out of my apartment. After a good twenty minutes or so I manage to get back in the apartment and call the raid officer at the time to let him know what happened. Yeah, teasing ensued for a long time as everyone thought I went to the door and got “shived in the forehead”.

4. Drama

This is a big one. You’re spending a lot of time with a lot of different people. You cultivate different relationships with people over the course of your time together. Warcraft is very much a melting pot, you will have people from all walks of life around you. While you have a common goal, conflicting ideologies and life events can grate on people causing stress to a point of breaking. You’ve all hear the stories, maybe you’ve experienced it. Friends stop being friends in game over something and one stops coming to raids, two players who were in a relationship break up and try to put the guild at odds over it by choosing sides (this also covers two people pursuing the same love interest in game and coming to odds over that). Sometimes people “Ragequit”, often times over loot. This is where they abruptly /gquit and then log off. That seems silly but it does happen. Back in the days of Black Wing Lair my guild had a warrior who ragequit. A set of tank gloves dropped, and he put in for them. Problem was he was fury so tanking was considered offspec for him. A primary prot warrior put in for them, and even though he had less dkp then the fury warrior was given the items as it was prot priority. The fury warrior immediately flipped out and /gquit on the spot, taking his girlfriend (one of our healers) with him. The twist was that we continued to raid by pulling in a couple more raiders and the same set of gloves dropped off the next boss (gotta love shared loot tables). Go ahead laugh, it’s a funny story.

These things happen. It’s the leadership of the guilds job to be prepared for these things. So what can they do to make sure these things don’t keep the guild from moving forward and raids from happening? Well there are several things they can do.

Being Prepared!

1. Recruitment

This is pretty big solution to a lot of the problems. With raid size having been changed from 40 man to 25 man its a lot easier to keep a flexible roster of active raiders available. The leadership of the guild has to sit down and decide how many actives they need to keep around. Too many and you have too many people sitting out, too few and you run the risk of a large vacation or disaster of some nature taking too many out of the game to compensate for. For my guild the sweet spot is around 30 members at the rank of raider. In addition to raiders, we have a non raider rank of veteran. This consists of people that cannot meet the raid requirement but are still around and active, and friends and family. Friends and family are literally that, people who wanted to be in guild to play with close friends and family members, but never apped to be raiders. With veterans we tend to have alt runs to keep their gear level up, and this way we have a further pool of people to pull from if the number of raiders goes too far south.

2. Redundancy

Matt touched on this one a bit in his post. Redundancy saves the raid. My guild has two people ready to lead the raid at the drop of a hat. We’ve gone to lengths to make sure the raid can prevail under some odd circumstances. Let me give you an example. My guild leader normally runs the raids, and I take care of healers, we converse in officer to talk about strategies as needed and it works well. This also gives us two people to yell at folks to get out of the fire / void zones, and a check and balance in case we miss something. The other night we were running Heroic Naxx, and the guild leader DC’d due to some random Internet screw up. I made a phone call to find out what was going on, and then when he said he would probably be a while, got everyone moving to keep going till he could get back. I also sent out a couple tells to make sure we had a replacement ready in case he couldn’t get back on. Redundancy helps deal with burnout and real life events quite a bit. It allows players the safety of being able to go and take a vacation or enjoy real life without worrying about having to be there or else let the raid down. It also means people who are burning out can take their hiatus and get back to their normal frame of mind. I’m currently working on bringing up to speed a healer to take over healing assignments on the off chance I take a vacation or need to miss a raid.

3. Communication / Structure

This is another big fix. Making sure your guild can communicate with one another openly is a great (and important) thing. I have a very open door policy as an officer, something I have done throughout all my years of management as well. If someone has a problem, questions or concerns they can contact me. I’ve posted my email / aim / phone number on the guild forums multiple times, as have many of the other officers. This helps keep drama low as when someone has a gripe or complaint, they feel they can bring it to us openly and it doesn’t have to sit and fester. We also have a solid structure in the guild so there’s always someone they can go talk to:

Guild leader > Officers > Class leaders > Raiders > Veterans

We post any changes or pertinent information on the guild forums as well. Making sure information is flowing keeps a lot of things in check. It’s also important to have a set of rules in place to deal with complications. This helps cut down on drama and personal issues.

The officers do a lot on the back-end to make sure things go smoothly. Unpossible has been around for a very long time and is one of the longest lived guilds on Zul’jin, we’ve adapted to survive pretty much everything that can be thrown at us. We are able to do this because we have systems in place to deal with the obstacles you can’t control. Like Matt, my guild operates under the assumption that everyone is expendable. To quote Matt

The expendability thought is that no one person should be so important or required that the entire raid has to stop its operations in case a certain player is absent.

Thats it for todays post,

Until next time, Happy Healing!

As always feel free to follow me (@LodurZJ) on twitter And don’t be afraid to ask questions using direct message there or the contact form here on the site!

Raid Flexibility: A Healthy Obsession

Raid Flexibility: A Healthy Obsession

worried

“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.”
- Antoine De Saint-Exupery

The show must go on. It’s a common rallying cry among drama and theatre productions. It means that no matter what, the audience expects a show and the performers have to deliver. I have the same mentality when it comes to my blog. I do my best to ensure that there is something daily here for you readers to consume!

Keep that drama catchphrase in the back of your mind for a moment. We’ll revisit it.

A story

First, a story. Team Conquest finished off Naxx, Malygos, and Obsidian Sanctum. We had a reduced raiding roster. As were slowly working our way throughout OS, I received an urgent message. It’s not very often that I miss raids. It becomes even rarer when an unexpected event comes up where I have to sit myself out during the middle of a pull.

The usual trash clearing chatter was going on. I explained to the raid that something came up which required my immediate attention. One of our Resto Druids were on standby. I quickly explained to him my situation and he agreed to come in. I immediately passed off raid lead and master looter to one of my officers and said “He’s in charge.”

I returned home 40 minutes later. A quick glance on vent showed players were slowly disconnecting and breaking off into their own channels.

This meant either the mission was accomplished or that the raid had been called prematurely due to lack of resources.

I popped in.

“Is it done?”

“Yes.”

“Good.”

I was relieved. I think I felt a slight twinge of pride in there somewhere. On second thought, it might have been that sore throat of mine acting up.

The Parts

Raid leader. No, not Red Leader. We’re not talking about Star Wars here. How many players are capable (and willing) to lead your raid? I have four players who are able to sit in the captain’s chair and direct everything. If your answer is one, then you may wish to re-examine your options. Not everyone is able to fulfill this role. Make sure your candidate has the will to do so and the undying respect of the guild or else it won’t work. You can’t make people respect leaders. They have to do so on their own.

Tanks. Brio does an excellent job flipping and rotating tanks around. It helps to keep the tanks fresh and interested in what they’re doing. I have about six players who have the ability and the gear to switch into tanking roles if it is necessary. We haven’t had that happen yet. But it’s comforting to know that the option is available.

Healing leads. Currently Syd directs the healers. I do step in if she needs a day off every so often or if she’s not as familiar with an encounter. That makes two who are capable of handling assignments. Handy in case one of them manages to inadvertently stab themselves in the eye. That hasn’t happened yet, thankfully.

Healers. This should go without saying. Either recruit extra healers or have players willing to switch from their main role to a healing role if the fight requires it. There are 7 of us on the starting lineup with another 3 on reserve.

Replenishments. Ret Paladins, Survival Hunters, and Shadow Priests. I believe this is getting further expanded in 3.1. Have alternative sources for Replenishment. The mana regen is going to be a must going into the next raiding tier. I’ve got a Shadow Priest, a Ret Paladin, and several Hunters who can supply it if necessary.

Heroism/Bloodlust. I refer to this as the raid leader’s personal shotgun. While not always a requirement in an encounter, it helps to have the extra damage available to push through a certain phase as quickly as possible.

Why?

We are all expendable. This stems from a core philosophy of this guild. We are all united in our desire to raid and clear content. I have a duty to minimize whatever obstacles or obstructions that could get in the way of that mandate. Not having players or not having the experienced is not an acceptable reason for me. The expendability thought is that no one person should be so important or required that the entire raid has to stop its operations in case a certain player is absent.

When Conquest was first conceived, I knew I wanted the flexibility there. I knew that I could not be there all the time. I knew Brio would not be there all the time. I knew certain key players would not be available. I recruited players into the guild who I felt had the potential to take over certain functions should the need arise.

Whatever happens, the raid must go on.

10 mans

This is where it gets tricky. I don’t know if that same philosophy above would apply here as the individual efforts of players becomes even more amplified. Several of roles above wouldn’t even apply here. You don’t necessarily need a healing lead among 3 healers. It wouldn’t be that difficult to divvy up the responsibilities.

I’m not as experienced when it comes to pure 10 man guilds.