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.

So You Think You Can Raid

So You Think You Can Raid

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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.

Evaluating Healer Performance

Evaluating Healer Performance

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This is a guest post from Derevka who has been actively blogging on his blog Tales of a Priest. This post is in reply to Healing Meters Suck and tries to tie in some qualitative and quantitative healing performance analysis.

Healing Meters suck? I tend to disagree. Healing meters and WWS Reports provide an insane amount of information and value to a well educated healer.  But now where does that leave us? You have 11 healers signed up for tonight’s raid and only 7 healing slots available — or you have a new recruit healer and you need to evaluate how they are performing. What do you do? How do you go about evaluating healers in a world where the DPSers are e-peening over their DPS and Total Damage Done?

Nearly a year and a half ago, Priestly Endeavors did a post about measuring healer performance. This is a great post, and I encourage everyone to read it.  Perhaps it is time to reflect on what methods are best to evaluate a healer?

Healing Meters:  Recount & WWS

Gasp! Hiss! Boo! There is a lot more to healing than just meters, yes, but don’t forget there is a lot of very valuable information here. The trick is finding the best way for you to harness this data to evaluate yourself and your healing team and learn where can you improve. 

The first thing you need to understand about deciphering healing meter data is knowing the encounter that the data is from.  Looking at a Recount data from Malygos is going to heavily favor the COH Priests and WG Druids, thanks just to Vortex. (While post-3.08 that may change; I don’t think it will skew it that much). You always need to ask yourself "Does this fight heavily favor a specific spec/class over another?". If the answer is yes, you have to both qualitatively and quantitatively account for that information.

Finding out how much effective healing was done by Priest X using COH over other spells can be done in Recount and WWS.  If it is a fight that doesn’t have a ton of AOE damage, and a priest has 20% of the effective healing of the 7 healers, of which 70% was COH, you might have a performance problem here. 
Discipline Priests typically are low on the healing meters since PW: Shield, Grace, and Divine Aegis have no impact on effective healing. How do you evaluate a Disc priest on a numbers game in which they are at a disadvantage? However, with a bit of poking around you should be able to find some good data in there.  On a conceptual level, PW:S is the only spell in the game that guarantees zero "overhealing".

So dive into WWS information. Find out how many times that player buffed the MTs with PW:S then you can gauge the total "effective healing" those shields provided. (I know, not an exact science since you need to weigh in SP coefficients, did the whole shield get eaten, etc. But it does provide additional data that WWS/Recount completely disregarded).

Since we are playing the numbers game using meter evaluation, does that mean it is okay for them to be dead last on the meters with 3% healing done on a fight? Maybe… however, likely not.

Healer Focus and Assignments

Plain and simple: are your healers focusing on the task at hand? Are they sticking to their assignments and trusting their guildmates? Trusting your fellow raiders to do their job is key. You cannot be all things to all people. This often can be easily discovered if you see the healer switching to other healing assignments and slacking on their primary target. Great example would be Patchwerk. You have a healer who was assigned to heal a Hateful Strike Tank, they shift focus to try to get a heal on the Main Tank — BOOM! Your resident Enhancement Shaman eats a hateful strike and dies.

Also data lives on WWS that can also provide good insight, but again keep the encounter and assignments in mind! This report can be found in the "Who Heals Whom" section. The smaller the number the fewer the people that person healed. A high focus number can generally mean the person healed "randomly" and may have deviated from their assignment. On fights that have AOE damage or multiple targets assigned to the same healer, focus numbers can increase for certain healers. A great example is my guild’s Sartharion 2-Drake strategy:  We let the Tenebron’s whelps pop, and AOE them down (and usually have some AOE damage to the raid as a result), and send in a DK , DPS, and 1 healer to heal the damage for Shadron’s Disciple. That healer, typically has a higher than average focus. Again, it is all about knowing which fight you are analyzing.

Ability to React to the Unforeseen

This measurement is very subjective, and not numerical so it is often very hard to guage. When you see it happen, it is usually quite apparent. Sometimes a healer disconnects or dies mid fight, and you need to react. Good healers are able adjust when this happens, take adjusted healing assignments. Great healers excel in these situations. They thrive.

An example would be the healers for Lady Blaumeux and Sir Zeliek on Four Horsemen. Lets pretend one of your ranged tanks DCs. This healer quickly adjusts, calls out on vent they are now tanking Blaumeux (along with the other ranged tank) and spams heals on themselves until a new ranged player comes to replace them from the front group. No one else dies, as you get your shiny epics from the chest minutes later.
This measurement encompasses the "don’t stand in the fire" rule:  Situational Awareness.

Are you in  Sartharion’s Void Zone? Are you standing in Sapphrion’s Blizzard? Now these points, are easily counted.

The Death Test

Probably the easiest to check, but perhaps the most subjective of all. If your assigned target not die, you win. Generally, yes – but not always. You need to look at the bigger picture. Did they go OOM and another healer have to step up and do double duty? Did they lose awareness and chain a KT Frost Blast to the melee?
Evaluating healers is not easy. I am typically the one to do healing assignments, and often the officer to pass final judgement on a recruit healer.  When I say /promote or /gkick, or when I chose one healer over another healer when making up the raid roster for the evening, I often have a lot of math and though behind those decisions. Using WWS and Recount, as well as many subjective methods.

Ultimately your healing roster and performance is something that should be constantly evaluated. Finding out your flaws, and taking steps to correct them is one of the best ways to improve; diving into the details really is the best way to do that.

Further reading:

Matt wrote a Spiritual Guidance column on WoW Insider several months ago titled: Measuring a Priest. Several of those points still ring true today.

Image courtesy of danzo08