Tough Call: Is Preparation Enough?

Tough Call: Is Preparation Enough?

683292_50743243Welcome to Tough Call with me, Viktory.  This column aims to answer some questions and start even more discussions about one of the trickier aspects of raiding, raid leadership.  Sometimes “raid leadership” will mean strictly talking about class composition, role management, benching policies and loot, and inevitably sometimes it will bleed over into overall guild leadership. 

Based on my own experiences and the conversations I have every week with current and past guild/raid leaders, I know that this is one area where there is almost no black and white, and everyone can use some help or constructive criticism at times. 

I can tell you now that my answers will not be the universally-applicable answer, nor will they be the happy/nice/”make everyone love me” solutions.  That simply is not effective; raid management isn’t a WordPress plug-in, it’s a graduate-level course in human relations and resource management and we’re all crazy for trying to do it. 

My aim is always to have the most efficient raid possible, so that we can get in, get the job done, then go have a beer and pat ourselves on the back afterwards. 
Bottom line, the intent of this column will be to discuss how to make the decisions that the 24 other people in your raid would hate to make.  After-all, “uneasy lies the head that wears the crown”; but hey, you get to wear a frickin’ crown!

Now let’s move on to this week’s topic.

Preparation is the bare minimum

This week, many of you will either be grouping together for your guild’s first serious raids this expansion, or will be seeing more of your guildies hitting the gear levels to be able to join your raiding ranks.  Either way, you should be in a position where you have to decide who you will take to raids and who will be coming in off the bench.

In order to field the best team possible as you roll into a brand new expansion, you cannot always rely on the players who were your all-stars in Wrath.  Some may have grown complacent.  Some may have life commitments that prevent them from gearing-up (or even leveling up) as the same pace as the rest of your guild.  Some may even be less interested in raiding than they were last go-round.  Regardless of the reason, you owe it to your group to take an honest look at every possible option and make the best decisions.

If your group is already 12/12, please accept this High-Five and check back with us next week.  If your group is exactly 10 people and you would never dream of raiding with anyone else regardless of how long you have to wait…  let’s agree to disagree

If you’re still with me, I assume you’re not in one of those first two groups, and you’re probably facing some of the same decisions I’ve had to make this week.

For the sake of argument, let’s presume you’re doing 25-man raiding and have a roster of 30-40 people to choose from.  Six months ago, you could have considered multiple factors: experience, achievements, badge-gear vs boss-drops, etc.

Today, preparation is king.

Preparation does not always mean gear.  Sometimes people can get lucky and every instance they run drops exactly what they need.  I’ve seen it.  That doesn’t mean that they are any more prepared to raid than they were the day before, it just means that they may have a larger margin for error.

  • Among your healers, who is most prepared to keep your team alive when you’re in those first raid encounters?  
  • Who has taken the time to watch the videos, read the boss breakdowns, and consider what parts of their class/spec are best suited for each fight mechanic?  
  • Which of your tanks knows what is expected of them on each fight and which one is just hoping you’ll point them towards a boss and let them button-mash?

It should be absolutely unacceptable for your raid members to expect you to give them boss breakdowns before each pull.  Efficient raids will already be slowed down by new class mechanics and everyone needing new loot, you absolutely cannot allow another 10-15 minutes per raid to explain the strat.  Certainly you may review how your implementation of the suggested strat may differ (where to group on Altramedes, which drake to focus first on Halfus, etc), but the concepts and fight mechanics should have been discussed on your guild forums well before raid day.  This includes making sure the vital roles (such as interrupts, counter-spells, DPS tranquilities, etc.) have been assigned, preferably including back-ups.  If someone cannot meet this minimum standard, then they are not prepared to meet the challenges of raiding in Cataclysm and have made your decision that much easier. 

Remember, your roster should be a living document, constantly changing to meet your needs, and hopefully constantly improving as time goes on.  If you bring in the player who is most prepared, the one who went through the beta, has cleared every heroic 20 times, did 10-man raids before your guild had 25 people ready and thinks they know exactly what to do on each fight; that player can still fail.  They might have learned all this to mask the fact that they suck as moving out of the fire.  Preparation doesn’t show skill, but it does show dedication to the ideal of efficient and knowledgeable raiding.

Preparation is king, but it is not a guarantee.  Pick the guys who know what is expected of them so that you stay alive longer and can get the best possible looks at the new content.  Then, after a few nights, go back and use this experience to help you pick out who your top performers are.

4 Key Guild Related Tasks to do Before Wrath Hits

4 Key Guild Related Tasks to do Before Wrath Hits

Its Wrath Boarding time!

The Wrath plane has landed and passengers are boarding soon! Are you going to be taking it first class or taking the back seat in the economy section?

Veneretio wrote a hot post about dealing with the last few weeks before the new expansion hits and the game resets.

So what does Vene say is the most basic thing to keep in mind as time passes by? His number 1 is to continue to make goals for yourself. He admits that “a lot of what you get now [will be] replaced later”. I’m inclined to agree. Even the most equipped players will be hanging up their present armor and gear once they approach the upper level 70s.

For me, most of my hard work was done over the summer. My reputation has largely been grinded out. The last one was Sporregar (which I felt took forever, personally). I may not have enough gold to live and spend lavishly, it will be enough to function comfortably once raiding expeditions start up again. I’m not as invested in my alts as other players are. I level them and gear them to the point where I know I can switch healers if necessary for raids with different people. My Priest is my main and any fun stuff like Achievements and Titles go straight to him.

While Vene says to make goals, Matticus has another rule that’s more prominent:

Relax!

I’ve played this game hard for over 2 years with intermittent breaks. Realistically, the point at which we start raiding as a 25 man unit will not occur until the Christmas holiday arrives. This means that most raiders will be out of action due to Christmas and New Year parties. This pushes back our raiding until early January.

I don’t know about you, but I plan to take it easy as much as I can over the next few weeks. Outside of WoW, I have a few papers, several exams, and a presentation to deliver. The assignments are due within 3 weeks. The presentation is due 4 days after Wrath releases (and I want to finish constructing it first so I don’t have to over the weekend).

Now is the time to get all the real life stuff out of the way. Finish off your work projects. Get cracking on school essays. Bury yourself in the textbooks and take time away from the game where it doesn’t matter as much anyway. If you have goals to complete, then by all means, go ahead and try to get them done. But leave a bit of room for yourself if you’re a progression oriented player who wants to sky rocket to 80.

Revisit loot

Numerous guilds will be wiping their DKP systems and starting fresh. Take the time to examine your loot system. Find out what worked and what didn’t. What would you have changed differently? Try bringing it up as soon as you can. Work out any kinks or problems with the loot system so that you don’t have to do it later when it matters the most: In the middle of a raid.

Roster check

Examine your roster again. Try to ascertain who is likely to stay and who is likely to go. Find out if there’s any holes in there that need to be plugged. My guild has lost a Rogue already and we may lose a mage. We realize that we can always sift through and acquire replacements during the leveling process, its far better to find players now so that the guild can spend more time knowing about new players.

Promotions

Now is an excellent time for promotions. If anyone is stepping down or retiring from the game, its a good time to find players who have demonstrated veteran and leadership qualities to take their place. Raid leaders: Let others take over. See if anyone has expressed interest in doing so. Try to find alternative raid leaders to run your raids. It’s great to have alternate leaders in place in case your main guy needs to sit for a while. There are no less than 6 people in my guild who are qualified to run and lead raids.

One of my guild officers have stepped down and I’ve been promoted. If you do decide to promote someone, the most important thing you can do is outline their tasks. Tell them straight up front what they are expected to do. I signed a 2 month contract as an officer because I wasn’t sure if I was willing to do this long term. I’ve served in a leadership position before but I didn’t feel particularly effective at the time. In my case, I’m being asked to provide healer presence to officer chat and contribute to raid strategy. I also get a vote in what raid directions the guild should go in. I’ only agreed to do this on the interim. Between responsibilities with my blog, WoW Insider, and school I don’t know if this is a position where I can actually contribute to.

Wrap up loose ends! Get it done quick whether its real life related or in game related! Need a title? Hurry and join a group or form it on your own! Want to push reputation? Start soon before people stop running certain instances!

Quick leak: WoW Insider’s going to be doing a quick and comprehensive guide for the various classes when 3.0.2 becomes official. The brass wants us to outline major talents, and changes to the way we operate and other things of interest.

Help me out. I have to write something up by Sunday. I already wrote about healing at level 80. What would you like to know about Holy Priests at level 70 in regards to the new patch?

I plan on including stuff about:

  • Talent suggestions
  • Quick spell overviews
  • Game mechanics that affect us

Anything else you can think of?

Image credits: photos71

When OCD meets WotLK

When OCD meets WotLK

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Image courtesy of 78thelemen

I’ve read a lot of the posts on preparation for WotLK, and, probably because I’m a farm-a-holic, I still don’t think the topic has been overdone. For the casual player, an xpac is a time of new experiences. For the more hardcore, it’s an opportunity to Scattle out ahead… and experience them before anyone else.

First, you need to decide if you’re going to play the xpac. A whole new WoW opening could be the opportunity you’ve been waiting for to ease back into real life.

If you are going to play WotLK, you need to decide to what extent. Are you looking to make a mad-dash to 80 with your guild to shoot for server (or world?) firsts? Or are you going to take a slower pace, either solo or with a few friends and enjoy the lore and depth-of-content? Are you going to play the same character you play now, or pick up a new one? What class? What race is best for that class, and what you want to do with it? Will it be your new main? Will you roll a Death Knight?

Honestly, if you’re planning to enjoy the content at a laid-back pace on your current character, there’s not a lot of prep-work you need to do. The idea behind preparing is to make the process of leveling and gearing up more efficient, and if efficiency doesn’t matter, neither does prepping. Personally, I’ll grind Wynthea to 80 as quickly as possible to be ready for end-game raiding, then back track later, when it’s less crowded, to enjoy the quests and content that I skimmed through.

I’d also like to have as few headaches as possible so I can focus on learning the new game mechanics, so my prep is a bit more elaborate than stockpiling mats. (Although there’s a lot of that going on, too.) Here’s my EXTREME to-do list:

Professions

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Image courtesy of iwanbeijes

First of all, when I joined my current guild, I came as part of a package deal. We were a Prot Warrior, Holy Priest, and Rogue. My compadres have since leveled and geared up a Hunter and a Mage. (Yes, I’m the slacker without an alt. But I rolled the perfect class on my first try, so there’s really not much incentive…especially since I’ve done it twice.)

So we have 5 ‘toons to work with. Here’s how we’ve got it worked out:

Warrior: Mining and Jewelcrafting. (Has literally EVERY pattern.)
Rogue: Herbalism and Elixir-Alchemist.
Hunter: Skinning and Leather Work
Mage: Tailoring (Scryer) and Enchanting
Priest: Tailoring (Aldor) and Herbalism (Herb is going bye-bye in favor of Inscription.)

We decided that Blacksmithing and Engineering didn’t provide enough benefit to us all as a group to justify picking them up, since most of the best goodies are specific to the person with the profession. The idea is that no matter what we need to improve our raiding abilities, we can have it made among ourselves – Gems, Enchants, Spellthreads, Armor Kits, and Consumables. This way, too, if there’s a specific older pattern we need, we can just farm for it rather than counting on finding someone via trade. The Mage is the newest 70, and we’ll be starting his Kara grind this week. We did manage to get Death Frost for him during the Summer Festival, and have made good progress on the arduous task of getting him Exalted with all the outlands factions. Since Blizzard decided to update the better AQ enchants for TBC, we didn’t want to assume they’d be available for WotLK mats.

Although we all raid and contribute heavily to our actual guild, we also have a personal alt-guild and bank set up. (We probably house the wealthiest lvl 1’s on our server) This way, we have the storage space for the mats to get the first few notches up in each of our professions. This means taking a look at whatever patterns are orange or yellow in your profession-window, and getting a good idea of what mats they use. Sure, with the xpac will come new mats and probably entry-level patterns, but getting a few bumps in from “old” outland mats will put you ahead of the curve as far as what materials you need to farm, and what patterns you can access in Northrend. Think about holding enough materials to get 10-15 ticks for your professions, including primals and other odds-and-ends. A few examples:

  • I have set aside 100 Netherweave cloth for each of our characters. Enough to make 50 Heavy Netherweave Bandages – so we can save “frostcloth” or whatever for the massive task of leveling two tailors.
  • I have set aside quite a few stacks of bolts of Netherweave and Imbued Netherweave to ease the first 10 or so ticks into tailoring.
  • Raw gems to cut, herbs, stacks of leather, ore for smelting, and basic enchanting mats set aside to level each of those professions. Blacksmiths and engineers would probably want to stock some ore as well, but wait to smelt at least some of it.

Even if your set-up isn’t so elaborate, decide what professions you want on what characters, and level them up now. Designate your gatherers and your crafters, and get them ready to tackle Northrend. Also, finish grinding rep that is required for pertinent profession-related items. Even now, some of the best items require old-world rep (Brilliant Mana Oil requires Friendly with Zandalar, for example.), and for at least the first several patches, Northrend will probably be the same. JC’s will likely still want lots of scale of the sand and consortium rep, Enchanters will want exalted with outlands factions, etc. It gets harder to grind rep for these things in the “old zone” so do it now! Besides, even if you change your mind about your professions later, rep is something that stays with your ‘toon. It’s kind of like saving your place with some hard-to-get patterns and recipies.

Gear

The tank and I have both stashed some decent gear for DPS grinding – I’ve read about the changes to gear coming up, but without knowing anything for sure, it just seems more prudent to be prepared with a second, specialized gearset. It’s nothing fancy; gear from badge-runs and farm content that would otherwise have been sharded. One thing I noticed about vintage gear was that even with the dramatic stats swell moving into Outlands from Azeroth, some things kept their value. Trinkets, especially, can hold up particularly well since they often grant percentages of stats and scale with the rest of your gear. If there’s a trinket or two that you think you may want, farm for it now. It’ll be much harder to get the runs you want when everyone is focused on new content. Even if you don’t PvP regularly, contemplate getting some gear with some stamina and resil for those packed starting zones on PvP servers. It’ll save you time and frustration – and it’s easy, since you can buy blues from Outlands factions that will have enough resil to make you less tempting.

Gold

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Image courtesy of designkryt 

This may be so obvious that I could skip it, but the single most helpful resource you can stockpile is cold, hard cash. Whatever Northrend holds, you can bet your sweet bippy that being able to buy gear, patterns, skills, and materials without difficulty will be handy. I don’t know if we’ll manage it, but I’d like to have about 10k per character. That’s in addition to each one having their epic flyer already. (The mage is the only one left without his.)

Real Life

Finally, in order to give yourself plenty of distraction-free WoW, look into taking some time off work. If the xpac hits in November or December, as has been suggested, those silly people with families and holiday obligations instead of video game addictions may have requested all the available time. Let your boss know now that you may need to take a few personal days. :)

Luv,
Wyn

edit: I always ask Matt to look over my posts before they go live – he’s the one that finds the great stock illustrations. Of course, he also likes to randomly bold things….

Let’s all give him a hug!