Tough Call: Fighting Progression Frustration

Image courtesy of leonardobc

This week the crew has been hitting our heads against a progression boss, and the talk around the campfire has a decided air of frustration to it. As a leader, you need to be aware of your team’s motivation levels when tackling new challenges. Encounters surpassing your raid team’s ability level can often turn frustration into futility.

But how do does a raid leader handle this precisely?

The same way we handle any problem – with planning and execution.  Sun Tzu, who probably would have been a Vodka/Paragon level raid leader, teaches us:

“The general who wins the battle makes many calculations in his temple before the battle is fought. The general who loses makes but few calculations beforehand.”

It sounds simple, and when you’re doing it well, it really is simple.  Knowing what needs to be done ahead of time and adjusting as you go along are the two key ingredients to successful raid progression no matter the size of the raid or the strategy being used.

Below are a few points I recommend keeping in mind when your raid team is approaching difficult content:

Planning For Raid Progression

  • Read, understand and analyze the intended boss strategies as dictated by your raid leaders well in advance of attempting the fight. This allows you to see mistakes as well as make changes easily.
  • Be honest with yourself about the capabilities of your team. Have an idea where your weaknesses and strengths lie. This could be include aspects ranging from movement, DPS, healer skill or people with high raid awareness.
  • Know when to call a wipe and when to extend an attempt to see the next phase. Part of your team being dead might still allow the rest of the raid to practice key mechanics of the fight.
  • Experimentation is good. Figure out what works and what doesn’t when you deviate from a typical boss strategy. It might just be easier for your team.
  • Ensure your team is on the same page. Present a united and focused front for your troops to follow.

Sometimes, though, even our best-laid plans… well, you know what happens.  So the question becomes, what next?  What do I do when my team is getting weary, my strategies are in question, and I need a win quickly?

First of all, do not ditch your plan just because it isn’t working.  A strategy can fall apart in a lot of places. It may be execution, it may be a certain raid composition due to attendance; it could be any number of factors.  Find out where the strategy is failing and decide which elements you can change.  Can you swap personnel?  Slight positioning adjustment?  Time your cooldowns better (this is often a fix in Cataclysm raiding)?
Whether your plan needs a complete overhaul or just some minor adjustments, it is still crucial to address the frustration of your raiders and regroup.

  • Do not avoid the tough conversations. When your members bring up their gripes, listen to them. Answer appropriately.
  • Know the difference between toxic negativity and someone just blowing off steam. Sometimes people just need to vent. However, there is line between getting out some frustration and poisoning the morale of your squad.
  • Give responses that are logical and concise. You need to lay out for your team exactly what you’re doing, why you’re doing it that way,  and why you don’t think it can be done in an alternative way.  The more details, the better.
  • Accept suggestions and give them their due consideration. After all, if the 9 or 24 other people in your raid aren’t intelligent enough to help you with their observations, then you probably shouldn’t be raiding. Applaud valuable and constructive criticism from your raid.
  • Kill the boss and go out for beer!

Remember, the future is brighter.  Your raid will down this boss and will continue downing bosses. Success breeds further success.  Get out there and prove you’re all winners.


Reader Question

Last week, regarding my post on Real Officer Set-Ups, Kalette asked:

“Do you have any comments on how to incorporate this into a 10 man guild with two separate 10 man teams?”

Recently I had a conversation with Matticus about different ways guilds could operate more than one progression-oriented raid team within the same guild. (See Matt’s post here for his thoughts.) My feeling on the idea is that when you’re setting up policies for your guild, (attendance, loot, recruiting, critique, etc) they should apply to everyone playing that portion of the game, not just your raid team.

Clearly each raid needs their own raid leader, both of whom will need to be equally trusted by the GM, and trusted to work alone, because at least one of them will likely be raiding in without you overseeing them.

Beyond that, I think you could pull off a two 10-man raid guild with the same positions mentioned before.  You may have to get creative about which officer raids with which team, but in theory your role officers could oversee recruiting, critique and mentoring for every raider under their domain.  Since we’re talking about smaller numbers, they would each be responsible for roughly the same amount of players as they would in a healthy 25-man team, they would probably just need to be better at analyzing WoL logs parses since they can’t see everyone first hand.

Another approach is to combine a few roles, and have those role leaders cooperate with each other.  Tanks and melee DPS can easily be combined, and you could put ranged DPS and healing in a group together.  Then each 10-man raid would have one officer over each of those pairs.  Outside of raid, you may naturally specialize and have one ranged/healing role leader who is more attuned to healing and another who is better at the pew-pew, but so long as they can learning from each other, you can benefit from both being specialized.

By the numbers:
1x GM
2x RL
1x each Role Leader

Alternative:
1x GM
2x RL
2x Tanks/Melee Leader
2x Ranged/Healing Leader

I think the key caveat I’d make is that recruiting should still be done on a scale of “does this person meet our guild’s standards”, not just will they meet the needs of Raid A or Raid B.  When you’re fielding two squads who are both responsible for pushing progression and increasing your guild’s standing, it’s important to make sure that every raider meets the criteria to deserve that guild’s name above their heads.
Kalette, great question; I hope this helps.  If not, call me dumb and I’ll give it another look.

As always, leave your questions/comments/paternity suits in the comments.  I’ll lovingly read them all.  Also, if you have a topic you’d like to see addressed in a future episode of Tough Call, just let me know.

14 Things that can go Wrong and will go Wrong on Sindragosa

14 Things that can go Wrong and will go Wrong on Sindragosa

sindy-hurts

She is the General Vezax to Yogg-Saron. Never has such an encounter led me to curl up in my chair and cry. The margin of error is so small and so minute (my-noot?). There are so many things that can cause failures. It contains of 6 minutes of sheer endurance before you get to the final phase. Anyone with a compromised computer or a laptop or a bad connection will not even do well. On other encounters, you can get away with a disconnect or a death. Here? Not so much. So here I’ve compiled the ultimate list of things that can go wrong when taking down Sindragosa.

  1. Guild leader’s WoW crashes during ground phase (True story, happened to me last night, and miraculously didn’t get pulled in)
  2. Raider inability to run out when Sindragosa chain pulls everyone (I specced into Body and Soul so I could hit the players who had the most difficulty)
  3. Raider inability to mouse turn when pulled into Sindragosa and go in the wrong direction.
  4. Raider runs out to the wrong side when pulled in and happens to be the target of a Frost Beacon in phase 3 thereby getting caught on the wrong side leading to insane stacks of Mystic Buffet resulting in a wipe.
  5. Inability to use own judgment to spread out on the bottom of the stairs when hit with frost beacons. We don’t need 4 guys on one side. It’s 2 left, 2 right, and 1 middle.
  6. People cheating too close to Frost Beacons before they hit resulting in more Frost Tombs.
  7. Melee building up too many debuffs and having to run out when pulled in and not getting a heal because the healers go one way and they go the other.
  8. Healers dying to Backlash because we’re too busy tunnel visioning the raid (I am guilty of this). Fixed it by setting Power Auras to show Instability in big flashing letters, 100% opacity, and 300% size. Manage to cut down the deaths some. It still happens.
  9. Mystic Buffet not clearing because we mis-time our ability to run behind a block and shake off the buff.
  10. Raiders cheating up the stairs instead of staying on the bottom as specifically instructed to before Frost Beacons are hit and then having to run back down and look for an open spot. God this pisses me off so much. I don’t know why people have to cheat up the stairs. I don’t know why waiting at the bottom of the stairs is so difficult to do.
  11. Thunderstorms knocking out internet connections.
  12. People who don’t have the Frost Beacon stand where people with Frost Beacons are supposed to run to resulting in a double tomb or a death on phase 3.
  13. People who are too slow and don’t get into position in time.
  14. Instability on half the healers leading to temporarily reduced healing on the raid, leading to more deaths due to insufficient heals. Like the Backlash problem I had earlier? It’s me getting people up to the survivability levels without realizing I have that stuff.

All I can say is, thank goodness we managed to take her down last week. It’s just unfortunate to have players who have computers or connections that just can’t seem to handle the stress of the encounter. The expansion is also winding down now even though we have Ruby Sanctum coming up and it’s getting a little harder to find raiders.

If we get her down again, I’m tempted to simply extend the lockout so we can focus exclusively on the Lich king.

5 Reasons Why the PTR Sucks

5 Reasons Why the PTR Sucks

ptr-woes

What is the PTR? There’s all sorts of curiosity and questions about this PTR thing. One of my guildies affectionately refer to it as the patience test realm. The PTR as we know it is actually known as the public test realm. It’s several servers that contain upcoming content for players to test such as new class changes, new in game events (like the Argent tournament) and a new raid instance like Ulduar.

But my experience with it has been incredibly frustrating. Of course, there are periods where things aren’t so bad and I can try out stuff. Today’s post is going to feature a list of annoyances and possible suggestions for Blizzard in upcoming content patches.

Instance instability

During the worst of times, the instances are unplayable. I’d have half my raid group inside Ulduar and another half would be waiting outside trying to get in. They’d receive errors like “Transfer Aborted: Instance not found” or “Too many instances. Please try again later.” It was incredibly frustrating. A typical PTR test day would involve 30 minutes of actual boss time and 90 minutes of waiting for people to resolve their technical issues.

I can’t even report any bugs and such or effectively test out stuff since it’s nigh impossible.

Solution: In BC, we’ve got this major traffic artery called the Port Mann bridge. It carries hundreds of thousands of cars daily and it’s still not enough. Right now, the city engineers in are in the process of twinning the Port Mann bridge by doubling the lanes to increase the load that the bridge can carry. I wonder if that same logic is possible to apply by launching more instance servers.

No Mcweaksauce

I know. Blizzard mentioned that players should be prepared to bring their own stash of buffs. I don’t know how realistic it is to have that kind of expectation that players have bags full of flasks, enchanting mats, glyphs and what not for the entire duration of the testing phase. It would just be incredibly convenient.

Solution: Have the entire McWeaksauce family at the staging area just before the instance portal that anyone can go to. Make them slightly larger than normal to prevent mammoths from sitting on top of them.

Overcrowding

Guildies and other players I’ve spoken to explained that previous PTRs were much easier to get in to. Why? Because there wasn’t a whole lot of interest in them. Why? Because people weren’t bored and they still had stuff to do.

Think about it.

A large number of guilds have completed all that the game presently has to offer. More than usual, even. So when word comes out that there’s new stuff to play around with, a lot of players will jump at the chance. I know if I was still working on OS drakes or Malygos, I wouldn’t be as dedicated with the PTR. Most of the traffic seems to occur right around the beginning of a boss being toggled on.

Solution: Not quite sure here. Would more servers do the trick?

Lack of servers

Again, this is similar to the population control. I have players disconnect from world servers. I have players who get network connection errors. I have players who continuously error out. There’s a lot more demand from players who want to get in on the action then there are boxes that can supply that desire. Europe’s got four servers, right? North America has two. But I guess all the European ones come in various languages. It’s at the point now where I routinely pray for other players to get frustrated enough to give up their attempts to get back in so that my group has a higher chance of getting in.

Solution: See above.

Inflated prices

This is just a product of every PTR phase. This is what some players are thinking:

“Gold doesn’t mean a thing so I can charge a crapload for it! I can make a fortune of gold that will be completely and utterly useless! It’s all going to disappear within a few weeks so I can charge obscenely high prices and not give a damn!”

And this ends up being a vicious cycle. One person charges overpriced stuff for enchanting mats or glyphs. This causes everyone else to match the price to come up with the funds to pay for other overpriced stuff. And on and on it continues. Who loses? Just about everybody since they can’t get access to the tools they need to test stuff effectively. And don’t even try to raise the garbage argument that “oh they should’ve gotten their stuff enchanted before coming”. Because we all know there’s new items coming and that stuff should get polished up, too.

Solution: A really savage beating.

So why do I keep going back? Why do I continue to subject myself to hours of teeth grinding annoyances?

Because I still firmly believe that knowledge is power. Sure you can read about strategy and watch live videos of guilds attempting to do it. But the experience and feeling of accomplishment after figuring a boss out on our own? That type of feeling can’t be reduplicated. There’s already strategies and videos out. But for the brief hours I was in there with friends and guildies, the experience of undergoing trial and error to figure out what works and what doesn’t is unmatched. And I have a new whole level of respect for the top tier guilds and raid leaders around the world who engage in this every time new content is available.

Props to those guys. And Stratfu.

Apparently word on the street is that linking to Stratfu brings good luck and many beautiful women. I’ll have to test this theory.