Is It Time to Level Up the Guild?

Serious time.

I should mention that everything you’re about to read is something I’ve been thinking about. I haven’t committed to any course of action yet. But it’s all been weighing deeply on my mind.

There’s a couple of things I’m mulling over right now with regards to the direction that my guild should be going come Warlords. I’ve been wrestling with the guild’s identity for weeks now going back and forth over what I want. By many standards, the guild could be considered solid, stable, and successful. Other than that short hiccup during Throne of Thunder and the past few months with regards to attendance, I’d consider it a job well done.

But I’m at the stage now where my ambition is slowly starting to take over. I had a conversation with my raid leader about our expectations. He believes we can clear out first tier Heroic level content within the first few weeks and challenge for Mythic within the same month. I had to admit, I’m a little more reserved in that judgment. I’m not sure if the current culture or schedule would allow that. Some of our players actually want to make a run at server first. A quick glance at our realm progress shows that we have a guild that’s at least US top 70 or something.

I could be content with where we’re at. We’ve floated around Top 500-600 for the past two expansions. During Wrath when 25 man guilds reigned supreme, we were hanging out at the Top 1000 mark. I earnestly think that with some of the players here, if sufficiently pushed and “encouraged”, we could maybe move up to the top 200 or 300 mark. Top 100’s a little out of our reach. Another goal would be to at least to contest faction firsts.

So I asked myself the following question:

“In order to challenge for faction first or Top 200 US rankings, what must be true?”

Simple answer:

  • More hours spent
  • More efficient use of time
  • Stronger caliber players
  • Raid composition flexibility

Rearranging the Schedule

What was it Allen Iverson once said? Something about practice? I’d love to be able to get to the point where we completely clear out content within a day or two. It’s odd that in order to spend less time raiding later, it’s common to invest more hours raiding and frontload the learning near the start of a tier. The fact is, we need to spend more time practicing pulls and trying new strategies. Granted, we could be more efficient in how we spend our time to begin with. I’m always looking for ways to cut corners. I’m looking to add anywhere from 1.5 hours to an additional 3 hours a week. That would mean an extra 30 minutes per day to an hour per day.

Seeing as we raid from 6-9 Pacific, I can add an hour in front or add an hour later. If I add the extra hour in front, it means many of our west coast players won’t be able to make it due to the time. An extra hour later would wreck the schedules of our east coast players because they’d be settling down and attempting to sleep at 1 AM Eastern. No matter which direction I go, I’m going to lose a segment of our players either due to scheduling or a difference in focus and personal objectives.

But if parting ways needs to happen to further guild goals, I’m prepared to do it.

Secondly, I’d want to go hard during the start of the week. Instead of raiding Tuesday, Thursday, and Monday, I’d drop the Monday and move it to Wednesday. That gives 3 consecutive days of raiding allowing raid strategies and repetition sink in. Practice makes perfect, after all!

Revisiting the Alt Policy

During certain progression nights, we were hampered because we were missing certain class compositions. As a result, we ended up shifting back to normal mode and clearing out the rest of the night. I don’t for a second believe that having 3 extra Paladins during Thok all those months ago would have resulted in us killing him then. But I do think it would have allowed us to get more practice and grow comfortable quicker.

For the longest time, we’ve had a strict no-alt policy unless it was under exceptional circumstances. I’ve started reconsidering this. A good player is a good player no matter what class they’re on as long as they put in the effort to learn it and gear it. Many players spend their off times pugging raids on their alts.

It would be too much to ask to make having raid worthy alts a requirement. But I’d definitely encourage those interested to do it.

There would be strict conditions to this, however.

  • Profiency: The alt must be able to perform at a level that’s satisfactory performance to other raiders who main the class.
  • Gear: No blues or greens. They need to be raid geared and ready to go. It’s up to the player to find ways to do it. Between crafted gear, raid finder, and other drops, it should be easy to pull it off.

One player brought up a good question.

“Would I be punished for not having an alt? What’s in it for me?”

I had to think about that one for a second. I suppose the gain would be a more flexible raid allowing the group to work it’s way around various obstacles. There’s always some flavor of the month or certain classes that are better than others before nerfs or new content drops. Another tangential benefit? I have a suspicion players wouldn’t be bored as much raiding on the same character doing the same content. I believe raid content becomes a lot more interesting on a variety of characters just due to being in a different role or perspective. Raid burnout often kicks in if players have been working on the same thing for months on end with seemingly zero to little signs of progress. Do it fast enough, and it won’t be a problem.

Warlords has given us an excellent opportunity to manage all of this. Mythic and heroic will no longer share lockouts. Early tier will be spent working hard through heroic content. An optional raid night on the weekend focused on normal (or flex) can provide a boost to the players who want to do it. The fact that it’ll be cross-realmable means I can pickup other players on other servers to help serve the needs of the group composition for that night. It won’t be a requirement, but there’s players like myself who actually want to raid more. When it gets to the point that normal raids no longer serve our purpose, we can shift normal clears to that night instead. Hopefully, by that time, we’ll be well into the mythic rotation.

This is all new to me. I’ve stayed the same course during my tenure as GM. Never really changed my values or my goals. I’ve never made a venture down a road like this before. Definite about-face for sure.

Remember that scene from the original Matrix?

The one where Neo’s in the car and Trinity and Morpheus are with him and speeding down the road? Morpheus offers Neo the red pill or the blue pill. He can get out and Trinity reminds him that it’s the same street with the same buildings and the same people. He’s been down that path before. He knows what’s waiting at the end. That’s kind of what going through my mind at the moment. Either this works and I manage to find that fulfillment I’m looking for, or it’ll ruin me. It’ll be a gamble.

Let’s ante up!

I haven’t written to “you” readers in a long time. Not really sure what I’m looking for.

Warnings?

Affirmation?

Disagreements?

Validation?

I just had to get my thoughts out somewhere on print so I can review it. If things get written down, it becomes a little more real. Everything in my head tends to just stay that way – An idea. My raid leader’s going to be in for a surprise when he’s back.

About Matticus

Matticus is the founder of World of Matticus and Plus Heal. Read more of his columns at WoW Insider. League of Legends player. Caffeine enthusiast.

7 comments
LedonLite
LedonLite

Anecdotal evidence being useful or not, but we were able to move up to us 69 -25 this tier without having to use alts. Maybe that's having to do with having 3 pally's for thok, but it is possible and we didn't run a massive roster, but the biggest thing we did this tier was not be afraid to have a large enough roster to keep progressing each week. 



Lifetotem
Lifetotem

Hey, here's the longer post I promised.

First, on your goals:

As Kurn might have said it's really important to have *clear* and reasonable expectations. As I mentioned elsewhere, the mentality difference between where you are currently at and server first (Incarnate) is going to be astounding. There is almost literally no chance you will make it to that level with the same players; if anything, you'll count on one hand the players that also made it to that level.

While Top X region wide might sound more reasonable, the mentality trap is simply "getting greedy." It's possible and very rewarding to make big leaps in progress, but then the "greed" can easily take over. Jump from #500 to #200? Why not go for #100? Why not #50? At some point I truly believe the best focus is on speed of progression, NOT ranking. If I clear Mythic in a 2 months, what does it matter that even 40 great guilds were able to do so before me? Unless you are going for literally World First (nobody, and I mean, nobody goes for World Second), the point is that your rank shouldn't matter - because you can't control how seriously others take the game and how many hours they try-hard it. Just focus on how fast you clear.

A prime goal to hit, and often a "glass ceiling" of sorts, is simply being able to secure the Cutting Edge titles. That said, few, if any tiers, will be as generous as this one currently is, and possibly even as Throne of Thunder was. To have it secured means potentially facing tiers as short as Tier 14 was, so it's not necessarily a very easy goal. However, while you can't always predict progression speed, it makes for a general position I feel is far easier to deal with than ranks.

Do you want to be a guild that clears most Heroic bosses? All of them? In 5 months, 4, even 2 months?

Second, on getting there:

As I mentioned (again on Twitter) your main path to secure your progression goal will be higher caliber players. There's little that can really make up for it. Things such as Enchants, Gems, Valor Capping, all need to be an *absolute given* at this point. If you need to armory audit your raiders because they can't make sure, then the guild is nowhere near a Cutting Edge level or mentality.

On top of that, raiders should be prepared to experiment and try things. To push for things at a faster pace, guides will not be out, whether encounter or class. This means the initial weeks can often feel like "going in blind" - but for many, that's the most exciting part! In this tier alone, personally I sunk 1,000's of gold into gems... weekly.  That's a mentality which has to be learned over time.

So, two ways guilds can get there: Evolution, and Recruitment/Replacement.

1. Evolution's obviously the ideal way. People get better and evolve to the higher standards. This means that expectations (as Kurn suggests) have been well communicated and the raiders are on board. What would be really nice here is guidance. That includes getting raiders into communities, on Twitter. The best way to improve as a player, as I've found, is being *active* player versus a passive reader. Contributing meaningful thoughts as well as listening, reading, and being receptive to others. Things like what I mentioned above become second nature. People should also not be afraid to change things, and Beta and the inter-expansion lull are great for this. I've personally sunk multiple hours into my UI which has constantly evolved. As a healer, that element's extremely important (even if you avoid addons and use default!) Others can benefit from doing the same. Don't be content with what you have because you're used to it, look at how it can become better.

2. Unfortunately, though, the hard truth is that if you want to go from a non-clearing guild to a 3-month-clearing guild, people will drop by the wayside. Either they will quit, or they will not improve and be required to be replaced. That is where recruitment comes in. As I mentioned the first thing is that you need to be on a server that is not the "wrong" faction on a PvP server. That is an absolute deathblow to recruitment, as only the inexperienced or plain stupid will spend money to transfer *to* such as server. I would recommend being on a server where you can be in a unique position. If there are too many guilds like your own, recruitment can be difficult. Likewise, though, if there are too few guilds, people will be hesitant to join a small or inactive server. Having multiple guilds also means that people are more willing to spend money knowing that if they fail their trial (due to performance, personal, time-related, or any reason) they have potential "back-up" places to raid.

3. I can't say I know that much about how to recruit, not being really into that. However, I will say I've seen recruitment officers (some of the most dedicated people I've ever met, by the way), *constantly* following the state of guilds. If they know guilds are falling apart, they are the first magpies there. Recruitment forum browsing is also a must. Being in the know is pretty big. Also, following the state of events is important. Mythic will be a deathblow to many guilds due to the 10/25 being consolidated. Likewise, a deathblow is an opportunity - for recruitment! Many players, either those "laid off" as being one of "the 5" or those in 10 guilds that have fallen apart, are open to hopping. This also means, per above, that you should be in a prime place (active but not overcrowded server, etc.) to be attractive to these players!

Presentation is also important (I can't really help with *how* to do that though, maybe ask Kurn?). And I mean, really important. Let's say you transferred to a new server. Does that come off as "hey, this guild is really on the rise and building up, and I'd love to be a part of the founders" to players? Or does it come off as "oh look, a desperate guild that's dead but hasn't quite realized it yet" to them. Only you decide that!

Hopefully some of this helps. While I think going at least from 9 to 12 hours would be really nice, the biggest thing is getting quality players. At the end, the schedule is something, frankly, as a guild leader that you have the privilege of deciding, *not* your recruits. Just try to make them reasonable, of course, to what you are aiming for (prime time, morning, or late night). Again, biggest issues IMO I covered above, again good luck for the rest of this expansion and Warlords.

CthulhuDragon
CthulhuDragon

Playing devil's advocate:

You very clearly stated that this is your ambition, not necessarily your guilds.  Which makes the whole thing read that you are willing to use your guild members as tools towards your goals, perhaps even if those goals are in conflict with theirs.  


I think that attitude has the potential to drive many many members away.  I know that I have left a guild when the GM's attitude became dictatorial.  I don't know you, and i don't know your guild, but I would be careful.  Your push for a higher ranking, if done incorrectly, could leave you with no guild at all.

Gruffertus
Gruffertus

Just from a life-play balance, moving Monday to Wednesday sets off enormous alarms for me - right now if something comes up on a raid night, your raiders have the option to put it off for a night - a lot of things can be flexible for 24 hours, but after the change, if it comes up on Tuesday then it can't be done until Friday. You might have enough problem without imposing that.

Kurn
Kurn

Here's my dime's worth on the various subjects! :)


"I’m not sure if the current culture or schedule would allow that."


You raid 9 hours a week and so does Apotheosis, for example. Lots of other guilds raid for 9 hours or less per week and are achieving higher ranks. In terms of 25-man progress (as per GuildOx), Apotheosis is 173 and Conquest is 352. Apotheosis just downed Garrosh last Sunday, you guys seem to have just gotten Thok down. Since both guilds have a similar schedule, I'd say that there's a difference within one of the following areas:


- Culture: Do your players cap Valor for upgrades until their gear is fully upgraded? Do they come to raids prepared and know what the strats are? Do they pre-pot? Are they optimized in terms of gear?

- Skill: What's the learning curve? Are troubled players helped out by their role leads? Do people who are struggling get personal attention?

- Efficiency: Do you stand around a lot doing nothing? In one of your recent WoL reports, it says "Active Time" was only 42.4%. Is this typical?

- Luck: How badly have holidays/internet outages/RL things affected your ability to raid? You never know when someone's going to quit for good or when someone just can't make that night. Either can be disastrous with a small roster. What's your roster size? What's your attendance requirement? Do you have consequences for not making the requirement?


I don't think you need to add more time, but if you do, if you're talking about an extra hour per night, that adds up to a fourth raid night. I'd just slot Wednesday (or another night that's acceptable to the majority of your raiders) in as a fourth night, so you're looking at Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Monday. If you find that Tues-Thurs has you clearing things quickly, Monday can be dropped going forward or kept as a "clean-up" day.


Regarding alts, I am totally opposed to alts unless the only other option is to not raid. There are all kinds of problems that come with alts raiding, not the least of which is loot. What if the alt gets the loot they're looking for and then decide they want to bring in another alt? What if they are always "required" to come in on that alt on a specific fight, like on Thok which needs more healers than most fights? What if a regular DPS offers to go heals for Thok and then never gets to go back in on their DPS class for that fight and never gets loot they need from Thok on their main? What if they get loot over main healers? What if they DON'T get loot over main healers? What's their incentive to come?


Lots of questions regarding alts, which is why I just flat-out didn't allow them except in the most dire of emergencies -- and even then, I would prefer not to raid. :)


Finally, shifting focus the way you want to may cause upset in your raid team. What's more important to you: raiding with people you like, whose presence you enjoy, or getting the realm firsts? You may not be able to have both. As someone who's raided more progressively and less progressively, I err on the side of playing with people I like. Faster kills isn't worth it to me if I don't have people I care about who did it with me.

mattuzzi
mattuzzi moderator

@CthulhuDragon You're absolutely right, it is my ambition now. That doesn't mean it isn't the ambition of some of them either. I don't always disclose everything here. One of my philosophies of guild building is to surround yourself with people who share the same goals as you do. We're at a stage where some players share that sentiment as well. Others may not want to. Some more conversations are going to be needed.


That attitude certainly does have the potential to drive many members away. But it also has the potential to attract like-minded players. You may have left your guild when your GM's attitude became dictatorial. I've received feedback that I don't take the reins enough and am not as decisive. I personally prefer raiding under one strong minded player. There are others who prefer the same. I was never a fan of democratic guilds where decisions were done by committee and consensus and compromise. Don't confuse that with disregarding or not considering outside opinion, however. 

mattuzzi
mattuzzi moderator

@Gruffertus Understandable. At that point, it's a matter of ensuring I have enough players for coverage. If a player can't make a raid, then I'll have others on standby who can come in and fill the role easily.