Topping Meters vs Assigned Role

Ask the healing community what they think about healing meters and you’ll get a varied response. Some people swear by them and attempt to dominate the healing charts or rank on fights through World of Logs (usually recent converts from DPS roles to healing). Other folks see them as a tool to measure spell usage and the overall feel of healing for a fight, not really caring what the overall numbers say.

Recently there has been a resurgence in the camp of people that evaluate healing based on nothing more than the number on meters and logs. While normally this is relegated to what I like to call “outsiders looking in”, or rather non-healers attempting to evaluate healing, it has become an increasing point of measurement amongst healers in Cataclysm. It is with that in mind that I bring up the age old question once again; what is more important,  topping meters or performing well in your assigned task?

Top O’the charts to ye

There are a group of players that care only about the numbers, and only care about how they rank in relation to one another. They have an inherit need to be the top dog, the big boss, the head honcho of the meters. This is because they equate larger numbers with success. For DPS there is some merit there, and having that competition between DPSers can help push your raid’s DPS to rather insane numbers. Sadly though, this doesn’t work for healers or tanks quite as well. Being concerned with topping the charts can lead to some unfortunate happenings.

The most notable effect is that people who tend to heal with the sole intent of hitting the top of the charts tend to run on E longer than other healers, and sooner. They waste more consumables and waste more raid resources like Innervates, or force earlier Mana Tides just to keep going. The wasting of resources can lead to trouble for other healers down the line, and can jeopardize the raid as a whole. A second effect is that you tend to snipe heals from other healers. This means an increase in over-healing and a waste of mana. Every time a healer snipes a heal from another healer, you’re basically denying them the effective healing for mana spent on whatever spell was about to land. Lastly, you have the potential to spread yourself too thin, which can result in a dead raid. Topping the meters on a wipe, well it’s still a wipe.

…narrow of purpose and wide of vision

Another group of players follows their assignments with slavish devotion. They latch on to their healing assignment, and even when they can see other people in need of help do not deviate. They put on healing blinders as it were. This can cause just as many problems as people who try to hog the healing glory. A tank healer may keep the tank alive, but may end the fight with a full mana bar, where other healers may have struggled and ended the fight with no mana and a list of dead that shouldn’t have been dead. The raid healer who focuses on nothing but the raid, but ignores the tanks could see a dead tank.

Locking yourself into one tiny aspect can turn you into a dead weight that brings the raid down with you. If you and your assignment are the last ones standing, and everyone else in the group is dead because you couldn’t deviate from the plan slightly or adjust, well you just doomed them all.

The Question, the answer, and the in-between

Would you rather 1. Follow your healing assignment or 2.  Show up at the top of the healing meters ?

I posed this very question on twitter to see what type of response I would get from the healing community. Seems like both sides of the coin are tainted so to speak doesn’t it? The question is in and of itself a trick. Both answers are wrong. Adhering to a narrow view of the raid can be as bad as trying to garner meter glory. I was pleased that almost everyone responded with the correct answer, adapt.

While healers shouldn’t be concerned with their placement on the meters so much as making sure they are putting out the healing relevant to their current raid content, they shouldn’t abandon their assignments and just do whatever they want. Raid leaders and healing leads assign people to certain tasks for reasons. Whether it is to coordinate defensive cooldowns on a fight or to make sure the healing load is even, they (hopefully) have the best intent for the group and know what they are talking about. That said,they expect you to adapt to the situation around you and help out as you can. Don’t try to be the hero, trust your teammates, but keep an eye out on what’s going on.

If your healing assignment is stable and you see a problem area that needs a little TLC, help. If you are in need of a little help in your task, ask for it. If you don’t agree with your assignment don’t ignore it outright, talk with the heal / raid lead about it and see if you can make a better plan. Our job as healers is to deal with some of the most difficult things the game has to offer. We have to adjust to fluctuating damage, mix ups, mistakes all while dodging fires, void zones, raid bosses, and rabid hockey fans. You have to stay on your toes and be aware, and be prepared to adapt.

Screw the meters, our job is to make sure that we worked as a team to keep the raid alive through the encounter as best we can. You do the task assigned to you, and once your stable and comfortable you branch out if you can and help sure up the sides. To give you a perfect example, we had an encounter where a raid cooldown went off early due to a miss-click. One of the other healers immediately stepped in and filled in out of his normal sequence for cooldowns to cover the miss-click, without being asked to. The healing team was able to adjust and it literally saved the encounter. It’s all about balance in the end. You do what you can to help out the raid without trying to be a hero. I encourage you to throw meters out the window and focus on survival, survival of the raid, of your assignment and of yourself. THAT is what you should be worried about. You show me a parse where you pulled 32k HPS on a H- Chimaeron wipe, and I’ll still show you a wipe. If people try to evaluate you purely on your meter rankings rather than looking at everything you do, ignore them.

Out with the Bads and in with the… Who?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friends and Raiders: How Far is Too Far?

Friends and Raiders: How Far is Too Far?

frustration-12956

I’m back after my vacation and feeling very recharged, with that said I bring you today’s post!

This is a question every raid leader has to ask themselves at one point or another. How far can you push your raid before it’s too far? If you push your raiders too far, they drop like flies. Burn out increases at exponential rates and you find yourself actually losing ground. The problem is how does one gauge it? How does a raid leader find the line before they cross it? It’s not easy I can tell you that much. Most people I’ve talked to about this on twitter as well as just passing conversation all have different ideas on how you can find the line.

The topic came up a little over three weeks ago. Our main tank and guild leader (Death Knight) was in the middle of a horrible storm and was making sure his roof was still in tact, needless to say he wasn’t there for Vezax (and understandably so). This left us with our Second highest tank (Prot Paladin). In addition to this we were down a couple raiders due to vacations or family events. If you’ve read up on Vezax you’ll know he has an ability called Surge of Darkness. A Death Knight is able to blow cooldowns every time it’s being cast (part of the reason it’s DK tanking is getting a slight nerf) and makes the ability moot. The other tanks don’t have the luxury of having a cooldown available for every surge. One strategy is to kite him around for the 10 seconds the ability is active, but we like to reduce movement on boss fights as much as we possibly can. After a couple wipes we developed an idea for a cooldown rotation involving the Pally’s CDs, two Guardian Spirits and Pain Supression. The night was filled with all sorts of Murphy’s law. Everything that could go wrong did. After every attempt though I kept trying to push the raid forward. This is an easy fight all things considered, we’ve killed him before multiple times and 90% of what was going wrong was outside of control. No reason to quit right? After 12 attempts we finally kill him again.

After the raid I was talking to one of our warlocks, he commented that the number of attempts we made almost broke him. So I asked him if he though I was pushing the raid too far. He replied with “one more and probably”. The week after we had a similar issue with Thorim. Murphy came out and smacked us around just a little bit with random DC’s and bugged mobs, and after several attempts we were all feeling worn down and called it a night after we toppled him.

As a raid leader there is nothing more frustrating then wiping on farm content, be it through player error or laws of the universe conspiring against you. Those of you who follow me on Twitter probably remember many of my in between wipe comments like “I think I need to kick a puppy”. Being in charge, even just in part of a raid can be very frustrating. When the event fails it’s hard not to take it upon yourself and feel like you failed, or let the guild down. The burden of responsibility comes with a certain amount of guilt and most raid leaders will tell you as much. Sometimes we walk away in defeat and try again later, other times we push harder to meet the goal. Raid leaders have to know though, when it’s time to lick your wounds and come back later.

If they don’t learn when it’s time to call it they run the risk of increasing raider burn out and doing more harm then good to the raid overall. So what do we look for?

Performance

Watching your raids performance is one of the ways a raid leader can tell if they are pushing the raid too far. Are your top DPS getting lower on the charts? Is the raid missing easy interrupts? Are people who normally don’t fail at void zones failing at void zones? Is there an overall increase in the frequency of easily prevented deaths?

When you see your raid’s performance start to dip you have to stop and ask yourself, why. Is it because of bugs or lag? Bad luck with connections and addons? Is it just too late in the evening? If you find raid performance dipping with no good reason or outside cause, it might be time to call it a last attempt and then sleep it off.

Morale and Attitude

Another good indicator is the general mood of the raid. Is everyone still having a good time? Is everyone talkative on vent? Is everyone moping about or seemingly disinterested in the raid? People seem like they are ready to go to bed? If your morale in the raid is slipping, you bet performance is going down hill. Also when morale slips, tension between raiders can rise as well. Sometimes this can lead to confrontation if you’re not careful.

I have a raider who I adore, she’s one of my favorite people in the world. Every now and then I’ll get a tell from her with a statement something like “this isn’t going well is it?” , “grrrrrrr what are we doing different tonight?!?”, “I think I need to lay down =(“. It’s usually at this point I know it’s time to call it a night, or getting there very quickly. She’s usually very chipper and gives it her all. But when I get one of those tells I know we’re going to be winding down soon as morale is starting to take a turn south.

Raider input

This is a big one for me at least. I listen to my raiders. If a raider comes to me and says that it’s just too much, I listen. I expect my raiders to be vocal.  If there is a problem or concern I expect that they will tell me. I know my guild leader expects the same as well. As a raider you should be able to go to the raid officers and let them know when you feel yourself slipping for whatever reason. Your raid leaders aren’t psychic (even if we are using Big Brother) and sometimes the only way we know what’s going on is when you tell us. We are after all only human so help us out when you can.

That’s it for today.

Until next time, Happy Healing.

Sig

Image courtesy of  http://images.paraorkut.com

What Can Healing Meters Tell You?

What Can Healing Meters Tell You?

meters
The conflict over healing meters is an old topic, on this blog, the WoW healing forums, the PlusHeal forums, and, for many of you, within your own guilds. While it’s widely accepted that meters are one of the best tools dps players can use to analyze their performance, the usefulness of meters when it comes to healing or tanking has always been in doubt. The official line from Ghostcrawler is that meters can’t tell healers very much about their own effectiveness. The following story is a tidbit taken from a forum topic on Shaman PvE healing. I first read it, however, in a repost on my own guild’s site. It seems that whenever the developers comment on healing meters, people take notice. Ghostcrawler says:

We were talking about healing this very fight [XT hardmode] just yesterday. One of the designers had an interesting experience. Their first Holy priest had much larger healing (total and effective) on the fight than their second Holy priest, so they asked the second priest to go Shadow. They kept wiping. They then swapped them, and made the star Holy priest go Shadow. The second Holy priest’s healing was much lower, but they won on the first try. The second priest just had better timing and cast the right spell at the right moment, even though his total and effective healing was lower overall. The moral of the story is meters are very useful, but like any tool, their ability to measure what happens in reality has limitations. In my experience, players put too much emphasis on them, especially for healing.

I have to say that GC’s Tale of Two Priests seems apocryphal to me. As my guild members pointed out in our website discussion, this is an odd situation that we can’t really imagine in any of our raids. It seems–to us anyway–that there’s not enough information here to judge what really happened. One of my guildies suggested that maybe the “star” Holy Priest was also really good at Shadow, and that seems pretty reasonable to me. However, what’s clear is that Ghostcrawler–who, let’s face it, has more information than you or I do–thinks people put too much emphasis on meters.

The truth of the matter is that healing meters CAN tell you a good number of things about a healer’s overall effectiveness. The trick is learning to read them with a critical eye. In the interest of full disclosure, I’ll tell you that I probably like and use healing meters more than most healing bloggers I read, and certainly more than Ghostcrawler. However, in my own guild, I’m usually in the anti-meters faction. Ironically, our guild’s biggest advocate for healing meters is not himself a healer. There’s no guarantee that a guild’s leadership will be healing-savvy, and the points in this article should help raiding healers enter into an intelligent discussion with even the most determined meter-maid of a raid leader.

In this article, I’m going to go over a few things that healing meters CAN and CANNOT reveal about your guild’s healers. I would never, for example, promote or dismiss a healer from my raiding corps based on meters alone. However, if I were evaluating a new healer, I would expect the different logs to be able to tell me a certain amount of things. At certain points, I’m going to be referring to the combat log parsers I’ve personally used, including WWS, WoW Meter Online, World of Logs, and of course, the ubiquitous Recount. Each of these programs displays the information differently, and some are more nuanced in their presentation than others.

What Meters Reveal

Who won the meter?
Did you win the meters last night? If you can answer this question, as a healer anyway, you don’t know how to read the meters. In the above screenshot from WoWMeter Online, it might look like Kaldora “beat” Mallet on the meters…until you notice that Mallet is a discipline priest and, as such, his primary ability doesn’t even show. Essentially, when you are looking at any combat log statistics in any form (even scrolling through the log itself), what you are doing is reconstructing the raid from perspectives other than your own. It’s a bit odd, like watching a home movie of yourself. Just like the camera’s lens, the log parser has a limited view of your actions. It collects statistics, and these tend to be fairly accurate, but you have to do the evaluation yourself. I read a combat log parse critically, and the following are the questions that the statistics can help me answer.

1. What were the healing assignments?
As a rule, tank healers place lower on the meter than raid healers. That’s just how it is–unlike dps, who can do infinite damage, a healer can only put out the numbers in response to damage. The more targets, the higher the ceiling. When I look at a breakdown for a particular fight, I can reconstruct the healing leader’s instructions to the raid pretty easily. The “Breakdown” section of WWS or “Who Healed Whom” section of WoWmeteronline will tell you for certain where people spent their time. However, for the most part I can reconstruct who did what just based on percentage of healing done and spell choice. When I have a new recruit in the raid, I use the meters to check if she’s been following instructions.

2. What is a player’s rotation?
If you’re a longtime healer, you might think that you don’t have a rotation. You just do what seems “natural,” right? Healing might seem like a mysterious force that arises out of the aether, but in fact, every healer has a rotation, either explicit or implicit. It only seems that there’s no rotation because you’re not mashing 1-2-3-3-3-3-3-4-4-4-4-4 like a Moonkin would (and let me tell you, the rare times Matticus lets me play laser chicken I need serious help from Squawk and Awe to get the 3′s and 4′s at the right time). Healer rotations are not necessarily set; rather, they are a series of if-then statements. If X kind of damage occurs, the healer casts spell Y. Some healers have a more explicit rotation than others. Druids are the most like dps in that our healing spells set up combos. 3X Lifebloom is a component of a rotation, as is a HoT setup for Nourish. And that 6-second cooldown for Wild Growth or Circle of Healing? That little piece of timing contributes to the development of a rotation for Resto Druids and Holy Priests. I don’t know about the rest of you, but whenever I’m raid healing, I’m watching my Wild Growth cooldown like a hawk. I know the number of casts I can perform before it’s up again. Every single class has something they do pre-emptively. For Healadins, it’s Bacon of Light and Holy Shield. For the Resto Shaman, it’s Riptide.

After long practice, these routines become automatic. The muscles are quite literally faster than the brain, and before you know it, you’ve hit Rejuv-Rejuv-Rejuv-Swiftmend-Wild Growth without once stopping to think about it. My favorite section of the log parsers are the spell breakdowns. On WoWMeterOnline, I particularly appreciate the pie chart of my abilities. I love the fact that I can compare two sets of statistics–the proportion of spells I actually cast (the pie), versus how much effective healing those spells accomplished (the column). This feature lets me amend my rotation. If I’m casting something too much and not getting enough effective healing out of it, I can alter that pattern. I can also compare my spell choice and cast ratios to other Druids. I’m never the best one out there, and I know it. If I think someone put in a stellar performance on a fight, I try to learn from it. If I see a Druid do particularly well in a fight using 15% Nourish, I’ll make a conscious effort to use it the next time.

The following image is the breakdown of my own abilities during a Mimiron fight. From this chart, you can reconstruct my rotation. It appears to be very heavy on Rejuv and Wild Growth, probably during the raid healing portions of the fight, with Lifebloom and Nourish used much less (probably mostly on tank targets in P1 and P4).
spell choice

Here is the WoWMeterOnline pie chart for a different Mimiron fight. Even pre-4pc bonus, I’m still getting more than my money’s worth for Rejuvenation. It accounted for 23% of my casts but did 38% of my healing. Nourish, on the other hand, is a relative loser, being a fairly large portion of my casts but a fairly small portion of my healing done. To some extent, this is just the nature of the two spells, but on this particular fight, HoTs are king. Rejuv doesn’t look nearly as good on a fight with less predictable AoE damage.
healing pie chart

3. Did something go terribly wrong?
If you’re accustomed to reading log parses for your guild, you can start to separate the wipes from the successes. Particularly if a wipe was blamed on healing failure, I urge you to go through the parse for that attempt. For this purpose, I find the death log and the Who Healed Whom? sections to be most useful. If you have a healer who repeatedly dies to the same (avoidable) boss ability, that information may help you improve your healing corps. I find, however, that most healing fails have less to do with healers standing in the fire than with healers deviating from their responsibilities. If you lost a tank on an attempt, go look at what your tank healers were doing. In particular, a little statistic called the Focus is helpful for this. If a tank healer has a high focus, that means they are healing randomly in the raid–i.e. diverting attention from their assigned tank. There are many reasons healers do this, but I’ll tell you, most of them have to do with a desire to look better on the meters. I’ve done it myself–looked away from the tank for one moment because I thought I could–and boy does it feel bad afterwards when that little innocent raid heal causes a wipe.

4. Which healer–allowing for class, spec, and assignment–contributed the most on a particular fight?
This is the moment where you really get to compare. You won’t necessarily be able to do this on every fight. Healing corps tend to shift about a bit, as healer turnover is always pretty high. However, on the occasions where you have two holy priests, you can compare them if and only if they were given the same assignment. If you are a healing lead, and you have a new recruit, try to assign them to the same thing as one of your veterans. This is most useful if you can pair them with the same class, but if that isn’t possible, try to match their role as closely as possible. You won’t get anywhere comparing the numbers of a Resto Shaman and a Resto Druid, even if you assign them both to heal the tank. However, if you assign your Resto Shaman to tank healing, you can compare his or her numbers to a Holy Paladin. It might not tell you much, but at least you can see which one kept a tighter focus on their tank or did more healing on that one target. If you do get the magical situation where you can compare raid-healing Resto Druid to raid-healing Resto Druid, you can actually pick a winner. Try to use your knowledge for good and not evil. If you have a new recruit who has some learning to do, encourage them to adopt spell choices more like your veteran. I do urge you to have several parses before you make your recruit change things. What the parses can’t do on their own is tell WHY one player “won” the meters.

5. How much of a role did heal-sniping play in a particular fight?
Ah, sniping. Whenever someone “loses” the meters and others make a big deal about it, there will be talk of sniping. The rather ugly word “sniping” indicates the practice of sneaking around on one’s healing assignment by spot healing other players. To some extent, sniping is something that can’t be avoided. If players are assigned to raid healing, those assignments have to be loose in order to let healers react to the actual damage that goes on in the fight. Even with mods, it’s sometimes hard to tell which raid members are about to receive a needed heal. As a healing leader, just understand how raid heal sniping works against certain classes. Circle of Healing and Wild Growth, due to their “smart” nature, can’t be kept to a neat assignment. These spells will “steal” some heals from your Resto Shamans. If you know that, you know to calm your shamans down when they’re worried. It’s just something that happens–so don’t demote your Shamans or overly praise your Druids. That’s just how the mechanics work together. Believe me, you need every competent healer you have–a raid is not a game of Survivor. If you want to minimize raid heal sniping, I suggest giving your healers proximity-based assignments. Our Mimiron strategy is a good example–we assign healers to quadrants, and as we’re spread out in a ring for P1, P2, and P4 of the fight, healers can’t reach across the room to snipe from their fellows. However, when you’re all clumped up, snipe happens.

Raid heal sniping tends not to affect the outcome of a fight, but the same cannot be said of sniping while tank healing. Sometimes tank healers need a little support. While a HoT or two from a raid healer on a tank is technically sniping, it’s usually helpful. After all, if the tank dies, you’re done, and extra insurance is not a bad thing. However, when your tank healers sneak heals onto the raid, it’s not always so helpful and it sometimes gets the tank killed. However, in some sense we are set up to do just this. I know that in particular, Holy Priests and Resto Druids can (and sometimes should) sneak a few Circles of Healing or Wild Growths on the raid while they’re tank healing. The trick is to have a realistic sense of how often you can turn away from your focus and for how long. I know the couple of times in my healing career I’ve caused a tank death because I’ve been sniping have been moments of intense shame and regret. If you have weird tank deaths in your raid, go check out healers’ focuses. That should tell you if sniping is the cause.

6. How do the healing classes differ from each other?
Whenever I look through a log parse, I’m struck by just how different the four healing classes are. I especially like to look at players’ spell choice. Some, like Holy Pallies, will show a lot of casts of the same thing, while others, like Holy Priests, will show a variety of abilities. This helps me reconstruct what healing was like in a particular raid. When you’re reading those meters, particularly a simple meter like Recount, you should know that “winning” those meters is linked to class and spec. If I’m looking at Recount, especially one that hasn’t been reset for a certain fight but rather has been running all night, I’m probably going to see either a Resto Druid or Holy Priest on top. That’s just what happens–it doesn’t mean too much. The meter is not a perfect measure. It sees a limited amount of information. It can’t tell you, for example, just how important your Pally’s tank heals were. All it can tell you was that he put out less raw healing than your raid healers. Even on the same assignment, your Resto Shamans, Holy Pallies (unless you have no Ret Pally and your Healadin gets to cast Judgment of Light), and Disc Priests will almost always be lower down. This is just how our spells work together, and it doesn’t make Pallies or Shamans bad. Also, if your raid is melee heavy, you might sometimes see the Ret Pally sneak up the meter with just Judgment of Light. However, this doesn’t mean that you should make your Holy Pally go Ret because Ret’s healing is “better.” Believe me when I say that Judgment of Light alone won’t heal your tank.

Why Do Some Players Place Higher than Others on the Meter?

Even when class, spec, and assignment are the same, players’ numbers will vary. Many people would claim that “skill” determines placement, but it’s only part of the truth. That sort of answer contradicts GC’s anecdote and gives healers a sense that they can’t improve, no matter what they do. However, there are usually resolvable issues that determine effective healing. It’s not all reaction time or “innate” gaming ability! As a 30-year old woman who didn’t grow up playing video games, I wouldn’t stand a chance if it weren’t possible to learn better healing techniques. However, I find myself on the top of the meters from time to time (and also…on the bottom). This wouldn’t happen if it weren’t possible to change my performance through effort.

As a healing lead, I’ve read a lot of meters. In my mind, the following are the most common reasons for meter differences between players.

1. Casting speed. By “casting speed,” I mean the rate at which the player queues up a new spell once the old one casts. This is the magic of reaction time. It’s hard to learn, but faster casting is supported by Quartz, readable raid frames, a faster machine, gear (especially haste), talents, and little things like a Tuskarr’s Vitality enchant to boots. It seems silly but yes, faster running almost always means more time to cast.
2. Talent choices. Sometimes there are many correct builds, but there is usually one best one for certain raid functions. The “best” build can depend on what the person’s role in your raid is. If your recruit will primarily be a raid healer, she might want to adapt her talents to reflect that.
3. Spell choice. What you cast is just as important as how often. There’s no “right” answer, but there are better and worse choices. A heavy use of Nourish with no HoT support is an example of a poor choice. To make intelligent choices, read your blogs and Elitist Jerks and try out different things in raids. If you’re a healing lead trying to diagnose problems, try to find an “ideal” spell cast ratio to suggest to the healer in question from a reliable source. Usually, finding an “expert” in the class to talk to is quickest and easiest. When in doubt, email a blogger! You might just get a whole post in response.
4. Gear, gear, GEAR. I can’t overemphasize what a difference equipment makes. Sure, there are prodigies of healing out there that can outheal me in their Naxx gear. Don’t expect your recruits to be among these magical beings. Amazing reaction time is rare, and it can make up for gear deficits. However, for the rest of us, properly maintained equipment with the right stats, the right gems, and the right enchants is one of the major things we rely on to put in a good performance.

Wrong Ways to Use the Meters

If you’re in charge of a guild or healing corps, please do not indulge in the following meter-related Healing Destructions.

1. Looking exclusively at total healing done for the whole night
I hate it when people post their Recount for a four hour raid. Every fight is different, and many players respec to different roles throughout the night. Moreover, assignments differ from fight to fight. If you’re number 1, try to restrain the need to pat yourself on the back. If you’re number 7, you don’t really need that box of tissues.

2. Looking exclusively at HPS
HPS graph

HPS varies wildly by class, assignment, and fight. After all, you need damage to happen before you can heal. Here is a World of Logs chart showing my guild’s healers’ HPS for a whole night. What useful thing can you glean from that? Um, overall HPS is higher when heroism is cast? Big surprise there. If you’re in charge, don’t make your healers paranoid about HPS. They’ll be afraid to CC during trash, and they’ll snipe more during bosses.

3. Comparing apples to oranges
If you’re going to pick “winners” on the meters, make sure you’re looking at the same thing. The values for class, spec, and assignment need to match. Also, be really careful if you’re comparing your guild’s parse to another guild’s. You don’t know how they do things or how good they are. Judging your healers by an arbitrary external standard isn’t necessarily meaningful. For an example of this type, before we killed Vezax, our raid leader was outraged at the healers because we needed Saronite Vapors to stay in mana. He was looking at a parse where almost no one in the raid took damage and where healers used no vapors. It took me about ten minutes of staring at the report of a “better” guild with “better” healers before I realized that all these (failed) attempts were tries at HARD MODE. You have to walk before you can run, people–comparing your guild to the “best” guilds in the world is the Path of Anguish. The reports reconstruct the raid, but they are at best a distorted mirror. If you’re going to look outside the guild for comparisons, try to find a guild that’s similar to yours that’s working on the same goals.

4. Hiring and firing based on the meters
Everyone wants something concrete to rely on when they have to make a tough decision. Just don’t succumb to this pressure. If you have a borderline healer, watch her DURING the raid. I sometimes keep new healers as my focus so I can see what they’re doing. Give your newbie tough assignments and see if people die. These things will be more meaningful than saying: “You’re number 6 on Recount, so you’re out.”

5. Encouraging meter-based competition among your healers
The more the leadership emphasizes meters, the more your healers will respond. No one wants to be voted off the island. Instead of becoming better players, your healers will start ignoring their assignments, sniping, and whining. You really do not want this. Your healers are supposed to be a team.

Conclusions

Yes, healing meters can be useful. If you have access to log parses, you can certainly learn from them. As an individual, you may be able to tweak your performance. However, naive uses of the healing meters can cause mischief and pain. Reading a meter intelligently is a difficult skill to learn, and if you’re in a position of power, it would be in the best interest of your guild if you interpreted the meters as thoughtfully as possible. There’s no magic stat that you can read to tell if someone is good or not.
Sydsignature

2 PuG Raid Loot Systems: Performance Based vs Tichon System

I’ve had my heart broken again. You see, I was chasing after this cloak on my Elemental Shaman (yes I DPS too). It only drops from Sartharion with his 2 lackeys up. We were supposed to be together. After the buffs were set out and the strategy explained, we entered the fray. Sarth was pulled and positioned in the corner. Moments later, Tenebron landed. One of the tanks picked him up and corralled him in the back. It was like a synchronized swimming performance. Everyone moved in unison. Every fire wall was dodged. Every void zone, avoided.

Except for one player.

He fell to a void zone early on and swore he wasn’t standing in it. Obviously the results spoke for themselves.

It was a Paladin.

I thought nothing of it. Slowly but surely, the synchronized swimming team started to lose focus. One by one, players drowned in the sea of mobs, walls or voids. The remaining few pressed on. The first drake died. Vesperon landed. He, too, fell at the cost of a healer and 2 hunters.

When the smoke cleared and the dust settled, there were 10 players remaining. The island was littered with corpses. Slowly but surely they were brought back into the land of the living.

The loot was linked. Sure enough, my beloved cloak had dropped.

As it was being rolled off, I rolled an 86. I held my breath. Would it hold?

A 73,
A 81,
A 26,
A 35

Until I saw a 95.

My heart stopped and I stared. The same Paladin who was our first casualty won the cloak.

I was crushed. I bowed my head, accepted my fate and hearthed.

Performance System

If I were to devise my own loot rules for an encounter with multiple difficulty levels, I’d impose a set of conditions.

Just because a player has the achievement doesn’t necessarily mean they’re a good player. While they are a useful tool in filtering out really standout players (who wouldn’t want to invite an Immortal?), achievements only say so much.

So let’s go back to our OS 2 drake example here.

When you link to me your 2 drake achievement, what does that tell me? It tells me that you’ve successfully done the fight. You’re aware of the fire walls. You know about the void zones. You know about the elementals and the mini-drakes. In theory, you should be to avoid those hazards.

What about a tiered reward system?

Let’s say we start out with a free roll system with main specs. If Pennant cloak drops, the casters can go after it. If Obsidian Greathelm drops, all the plate wearing DPS ground pounders can square off for it.

Here’s where we make it interesting and this is where its put up or shut up time.

If you die to a void zone, a firewall, or something else that’s easily avoidable, you forfeit the right to roll the bonus item. You can still take a crack at the tier tokens or whatever the base level items are.

In theory, this should be an incentive for experienced players to become even more extra careful. It emphasizes a lot more on player survivability then DPS since there are no DPS conditions attached.

It would be more challenging to model it into a Naxx pug. But you know, I do get tired of seeing “undeserving” players getting items they should have no business wearing. Is that elitist of me?

Yeah, it is. I’ve got no problems with players getting the best items in the game if they’ve proven that they deserve it. Dying in a fight, and AFKing only to come back and win a roll after every other player alive finished off the encounter does not prove to me that they deserve it. I find that insulting.

But that’s just my take on it. Obviously the downside to this system is that you might not get any players at all in your pickup raid when they find out the conditions attached to it.

Tichon System

This is a slight departure from above. It’s designed to be much quicker in the handling of loot and addresses the main spec/off spec delays. It’s got nothing to do with the performance aspect. In most raids I’ve been a part of, the loot master typically handles an item in a way similar to this:

MAIN SPEC ROLLS

5
4
3
2
1

OFF SPEC ROLLS

5
4
3
2
1

BEG ROLL (anyone)

5
4
*insert 25 different rolls here*
2
1

That usually lasts around 20 to 30 seconds.

So what’s the Tichon system?

I was introduced to this a while ago when I was messing around on the Tichondrius server. Basically the loot rules are even easier then above. It goes something like this:

LOOT RULES

Main spec rolls 1-1000
Off spec rolls 1-100

That’s it.

No questions. What’s done is done. Everything is settled quickly and efficiently. Loot drama only flares up if players allow it. Everyone gets a shot at loot. Off spec players have a 10% chance of winning (I think). The players who need it more (the main spec players) have a higher chance of getting it but for players who the items are off spec still have a shot at also getting it.

But here’s the thing about pug loot drama

I’m of the opinion that the raid leader explains what the loot rules are before players zone in. The moment a player zones in and gets saved to a raid (after a boss kill), then players forfeit their right to complain about the system. By joining the raid and getting saved, there’s an implied agreement somewhere that they will respect the rules and accept whatever the loot gods say without question. But once the loot rules have been explained, its up to the player to decide whether they should stay or to leave.

Obviously if the loot master loots an item to a different player then the winner, then all bets are off.

Anyway, this is just something to mull over the next time you lead a pickup raid. It’s simple, clean and easy to administer.

6 Ways to Reject a Guild App Without Sounding Like an Angry Ex

6 Ways to Reject a Guild App Without Sounding Like an Angry Ex

In the spirit of the blogger’s challenge I laid out last Saturday, I felt it was only fair to come up with a post of a similar theme.

I issued a question to the Twitterati asking them this:

On what grounds have you had to turn away guild apps?

Of the multiple responses I received, I was able to consolidate the majority into 6 real reasons guilds reject players.

Some of these reasons sound eerily familiar. Probably because I’ve been on the receiving end of all of them at some point.

It’s not you. It’s me.

@greyseer Attitude does not align with core purpose or ideals

This is the one of the more often used rejection reasons. Sometimes a player just does not fit in with the rest of the guild for whatever reason. Player personality plays a strong role in the minds of most GMs. If a personality clashes, then the door is closed. Perhaps the applicant is simply too liberal in their use of language which makes players uncomfortable. Maybe they’re looking to do nothing but PvP in a progression raiding guild. Whatever it is, the applicant just doesn’t have a place in the guild’s grand scheme of things.

You’re not open with me enough.

@asara_dragon Poor command of language on application
@cuppy Didn’t follow app instructions
@misskeli Didn’t fill app at all

First impressions matter. When GM’s are exposed to you for the first time, your language use plays an integral part in how you virtually “look and sound”. Take the time to put in the periods and capitals. Run it through a spellcheck. Come across as professional and intelligent. The guild app is your way of “selling” and marketing yourself to the guild. Even if you’re the best player around on the server, a crappy application will stone your efforts. Prove yourself out of the game or else you might not get the chance to prove yourself in the game.

Even worse than leaving a bad first impression is not following the instructions. If an applicant can’t follow instructions on a simple post, who is to say they can follow instructions in raids?

I think we need to go on a break.

@sylus Reputation for guild hopping
@Nightravyn Known drama llama
@dadexter Known to rob guild banks

These types of players are lone wolves. They travel from guild to guild exhausting their resources until they are no longer welcome. Fortunately, the names of such players spread quickly and far via trade chat and forums. It’s advisable for guilds to maintain their own blacklist for players that their guild should stay away from.

I’m just not interested in you right now.

@Threon We’ve got 4 Resto Druids
@Narayu People that app that are classes we’re full on.

Even outstanding apps have to get rejected. There are only 25 positions available in a raid. Some players already have cemented positions and it is extremely difficult to dislodge such people. It all boils down to having no room. Barring some kind of emergency, full time players who raid are full time for a reason. Their attendance is virtually flawless. This reason for rejecting players becomes more apparent in progressed guilds. They just can’t fit any more players, classes or roles into their raids. I’ve had to release some people over the past few weeks because I knew they wanted to raid and it wasn’t fair for them to be kept on retainer. They deserved to raid. There is still time for them to look for other guilds to join.

I’m too busy focusing on life and my career to get involved.

@siha You can’t make our raid times
@crazeigh Attendance and availability

Players apply with intentions to raid. Some guilds are okay with a 50% attendance rate or what have you. Other guilds expect raiders to be able to go at it from start to finish. Obviously it is not possible to expect flawless attendance. From experience, I can say that guilds I’ve been in, there is an expectation that players show up to a set amount (as a minimum). Given the choice between two identically geared and skilled players, I will always start with the player that can go from start to finish as opposed to the one that has to leave every night right before Patchwerk. From a management perspective, it just makes sense. A player that can only be available for a small amount of time is not going to be able to serve the guild well in a raid capacity.

You can’t afford me.

@Kreeoni Gear is lacking

Older friends have told me that companies generally don’t care what type of degree I have. I was freaking out because I was second guessing my program choices for school. Kimbo, an officer, explained to me that companies only care that you have the piece of paper that says you’ve got your 4 years or 120 credits. Whether it’s Psychology, Criminology, Sociology or Business Administration isn’t as big of a factor (in most cases but I know someone’s going to say “but yes it plays a HUGE factor”.

Having the degree shows you have the discipline and perseverance to work your way through school.

That mentality has some merit here. I’ve always held the belief that gear and skill are equally important. I need the weapons and armor to do my job. But I need the knowledge and skills to use my gear effectively.

Having your Sons of Hodir enchants or your exalted Rep faction gear demonstrates that you put a lot of time and effort into your character. Having high end heroic blues or a smattering of epics shows that you’re willing to grind through to get what you want. Appropriate gems and enchants show that you know how to best augment your character (unlike that one Priest I saw with nothing but agility gems. Hmm!

Finally, with raiding instances set to go up in difficulty, it becomes clear that minimum throughput of DPS and healing are only going to go up. For example, the gear requirement for pre-nerf Sunwell was much higher than a fray into Gruul’s Lair of Magtheridon’s cavern. The entire raid has to reach a certain minimum baseline performance in order to kill a boss. Otherwise the enrage timer hits or healers run out of mana and it’s game over.

Why have you or your guild rejected applicants? Do you have any good (or sad) stories you like to share?

Image courtesy of nyuszika

Does Your Raiding Guild Need Premium WWS?

Does Your Raiding Guild Need Premium WWS?

wws

Many raiding guilds are aware of what WWS (WoW Web Stats) is and what a tool it can be to troubleshoot and improve member performance. In a nut shell, it takes your combat log and translates it into meaningful data (if you know how to use it). The WWS client runs locally off your computer (it’s a small download) which parses the log that you’ve recorded. It’s accuracy increases with the more source combat logs you have. I try to get my officers to run a long in addition to my own so that we can have an accurate and reliable report.

What you might (or might not) be aware of is that WWS offers a premium service and Conquest picked up a subscription not too long ago.

What is WWS premium?

Simply put, it’s a subscription based service for certain WWS based features such as:

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Your eyes will no longer be assaulted with irrelevant ads.

Faster loading times

During peak hours, your reports are given priority in the queue and will be taken care of first. It seems the guys on the free side of things will have to take a number and stand in line (literally).

Longer hosting

The WWS website keeps an archive and history of all of your reports. A guild account will keep your information for 30 days and having an unlimited account keeps the log information for as long as your account is active.

Cool Matt! Did you get one?

Let me see if I can sound out my reasoning for acquiring one.

Most readers are aware of my devotion to maintaining a high level of performance. The advertising aspect is irrelevant to me. As a frequent web surfer, my eyes will automatically tune out ads. Don’t get me wrong, I believe in this service and I gladly support the guys behind it. But if I go to any site with ads, I typically zero in on the content. I suspect many of you are like that as well. Like it or not, ads are here to stay because they help support the people behind the site.

What about getting moved up in the queue? How important is that? Fellow Twitterati and blogger Santyn grumbled earlier that he was “moving backwards in the queue”. On some nights, you could be standing in the e-lineup with 100 people in front of you. Sometimes you’ll end up in the 400 range. After every raid, the players that are still around bug me into uploading the combat log so they can evaluate themselves and other players around them to see how they’re doing. Even though the raid ends at 9 PM sharp, the discussion can list for an hour after the raid about specific problems or player issues that WWS can shed some light on. I’ll often listen to the ground pounders compare themselves to other players from other guild reports or look at their own individual rotations and damage output.

I may not understand a word of it, but it sounds pretty important. For myself, I make it a habit to check out the healers and their rotations and see if there’s anything out of the ordinary. I have to say that I’m blessed to be surrounded by a group of people who aren’t only hell bent on trying to improve their play but trying to improve the play of others around them.

Having a historical archive of guild WWS may not be useful at first. I suspect it will become much more important later on. If a player wants to change certain parts of their gear or their spec to test for improvements, they can do so and then look back at a recent history of their performance to see if there’s a noticeable difference.

Patchwerk, because of the nature of the encounter, is our main DPS measuring instrument of choice. It’s a simple and straightforward encounter that involves little movement. All DPS players are capable of opening up to their hearts content with little worry of pulling aggro. Having a premium account allows you to store these records so that you can re-examine them later.

Does your guild need WWS premium?

This is going to depend on a number of factors. You’re essentially paying for the 3 services above. Depending on your guild and your needs, this will either be an asset or a waste.

Guilds that would benefit:

  • Are more into cutting edge content
  • Are performance oriented
  • Care about the information
  • Are committed to improvement
  • Have players who love analysis

If your guild that likes to take it easy and go through content at a casual pace (be it normal or heroic), then you might not be willing to fork over the 3 month subscription for a $15 guild account. If no one in the guild really cares about theorycrafting and analyzing their own DPS, then having a WWS paid account isn’t going to benefit you much since it won’t be used.

But if your guild wants to compete and be a top tier organization, having a WWS paid account would be an asset. You could start off with the $27 Unlimited account for 3 months to give it a try and see if it is of any use.

You can find out more information about WWS paid accounts here.

Don’t forget

You can not game the system. You can’t split costs with another guild and share it. It’s strictly for the personal use of your guild.

As a side note, I’m grateful to the people that have helped chipped in financially to help make the infrastructure of the guild a success. Want an idea of how much running a guild can cost?

50 slot Ventrilo: $210
Webhost: $119.40
WWS Premium: $81
VBulletin Software: An arm and a leg
Dropping toy trains before every boss encounter while the GM’s trying to explain something: Priceless

Okay, that was a bad Mastercard commercial. But those costs are on a yearly basis. Already these figures should tell you I’m a fairly devoted GM.

It’s an interesting cycle. I play WoW so that I can earn some money on the side from writing about my experiences and knowledge that’s WoW related. Some of the money I earn gets invested back into the blog and back into the guild so that I can continue playing for more experiences and knowledge within the game. Which I can then write about.

Not exactly the average college kid’s part time job.

Responding to the “I Play for Personal Advancement and Gear Argument”

I was going through my dailies this morning (a real life quest involving using all my reagents to create coffee, finding clothes, and reading 20 blogs before going to school) and I came across a post on the Raider’s Progress that was seemingly not happy with Warcrafter.

The reason for their unhappiness?

It has nothing to do with the features of Warcrafter.
It has nothing to do with the information on Warcrafter
It has nothing to do with the analysis and conclusions that comes out of Warcrafter.

It has to do with the attitude and mentality that these kind of services support. That is, emphasizing the person over the player.

The Question

This quote effectively echoes the sentiment of 95% of players in the game [citation needed]:

    the only reason I play is because of gear and my personal advancement. I know it sounds selfish but thats how it is.

That quote was also taken from Raider’s Progress.

That’s fair enough. Everyone likes to feel a sense of achievement. The best way to express that achievement is via the gear on your character. It proves that you’ve done certain things in the game and killed certain bosses. Raiding Guilds are composed of players that want to progress in WoW (Casual and hardcore).

Players that are in the game only for themselves can be detrimental to the Guild they are in. But sometimes, being selfish can be a good thing. If the attitude can be harnessed properly, you can easily turn a player from a loot maniac to a player who will do whatever it takes to get the loot he wants.

So how do you change the mentality of that player who is so intrinsically selfish that he doesn’t seem to care about the Guild?

The Answer

You, as the GM, officer, monkey, murloc or whatever title you may have in the Guild have to make them understand 1 thing only.

Change this:

    the only reason I play is because of gear and my personal advancement. I know it sounds selfish but thats how it is.

to this:

    the only reason I play is because of gear and my personal advancement and the only way I can do that is ensure my guild is also progressing which requires gear.

It’s a real obvious statement, there is no question about it. Make that person understand that it takes 25 people to move forward.In order to that, it needs hard work and effort. I don’t know how many times I can emphasize that.

There are always going to be players that have a “me first” mentality in a Guild. Make them understand that in order for them to get the best pieces of gear in the game, everyone else in the Guild also has to get it at the same rate as that player or else that Guild will not move forward.

Dangle the loot that’s relevant to them in front of their faces. Even they can understand that if they want that loot, they have to kill a boss in order to even get a shot at it. The “me first” attitude is fine if they understand that it comes with patience and effort.

Star Players

In every professional sports teams, there are star players. There are certain names who night after night just seem to deliver their best performances.

The Patriots have Tom Brady, who was able to deliver and lead his team to a Super Bowl choke appearance.
The Penguins have Sidney Crosby, the best overall hockey player in the world.
The Yankees have (had?) A-Rod, who… was probably important for other reasons.

Challenge your Guildmates to be the best they can be. Recount and other DPS meters, used in the right way, can help foster a little of competition. Warcrafter and WWS can be used to show whose slacking and who isn’t.

In my opinion, it’s not about the methods. It’s about the results. Eventually, players will realize that PvP Gear isn’t going to cut it on certain encounters because sites like Warcrafter and WWS will prove that your PvE geared players will eventually top them in damage.

Just remember. If everyone brings their A game to the table, then those end game bosses won’t even stand a chance.