Reader Question: The Double Bind of Casual Raiding

Reader Question: The Double Bind of Casual Raiding

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Those of you who have kept track of my posts know that I love answering reader questions. This one was originally for Matticus, but I decided to take it on because it’s an issue that’s very close to my heart. Essentially, the question is the classic debate of the casual raider: do I stick it out with my guild, or do I move on? However, reader Adam is experiencing an interesting twist on the problem, as he’s a guild master who’s actively working to improve performance in his own guild. Let’s see the quandary in his words, shall we?

So, as a mixed minority I hate generalizing… but I seem to be having a problem in my guild concerning ::duhn duhn duhn:: DPS classes. Tank/Healers tend to enjoy their positions and willingly choose to do them. They read strategies, the seek out gear upgrades in their free time, they put effort into the game. As of late the DPS classes have been showing up expecting amazing loot without wanting to work for it.

Our guild is sizable enough to be running 25 mans every week, but the DPS classes aren’t pulling their weight. None of them will run Heroics to get their own gear, they expect as many drops as the people who have put effort in… none of them read boss strats so I’m forced to review every boss fight beforehand and we still wipe.

I KNOW things can be better because when our “best” do 10mans (just for the hell of it now, no one needs the gear) we can clear everything in one shot with 2 healers (myself and a Resto Druid). Hell, I’ve seen PUGs do better in 25mans than some of my guildmates.

The problem, then, is two-fold:

a) If I don’t let the sub-par DPS into the raids we won’t have enough for Naxx25. No matter how good the rest are you can’t clear it with 15 people. And in a lot of cases the bad DPSers actually hinder our performance (ie putting Grobbulus clouds in awful places, failing to make the jump on Thaddius and then rushing into the fray with an opposite charge, etc).

b) There are a lot of 2 or 3 friend groups within my guild. One is a good player, but he wanted his friends to come along too. They suck, and I can’t say no to them without the good player being hurt, etc. And when I say suck, I’m talking people in 50% Naxx10 or better epics doing 1,000 DPS. I’m not kidding. I did that at level 70 with my Priest in shadow and we currently have a few mages and warlocks consistently performing under the 1,500 mark with full raid buffs.

Recruiting isn’t helping much. I don’t get many people expressing interest in joining and the ones who do message me aren’t exactly cream of the crop. Am I screwed? Should I take my ten best players and start from scratch? Should those ten and I try to merge into another guild? I’ve led guilds since level 60 and I usually have a good idea how to proceed. Right now I’m at an absolute loss.

Such a thoughtful question deserves a somewhat lengthy answer. I’ll do my best to analyze what’s going on, and then I’ll make some suggestions for future actions. As you all might have guessed, there’s no easy fix for this one.

The Double Bind

What is this “double bind” I refer to, you might ask? The word refers to a situation in which a person receives conflicting and contradictory messages about how to behave, such that one behavior would negate the other. It’s similar to what’s referred to as a Catch-22, after the awesome Joseph Heller novel of the same name. Working mothers are often placed in a double bind; so are ethnic minorities, as they try to both stand out from and fit into majority culture. I’m going to put casual raiders right up there with these two put-upon social groups. A casual raiding guild typically tries to follow two conflicting sets of imperatives. I will note that Adam doesn’t refer to his guild as a casual-raiding organization. I mean no insult–I just inferred from the text of the question that the guild is, at present, casual-raiding. Perhaps Adam would like it to transition toward being more of a bona fide raiding guild, but I’ll address that prospect below.

Why is Casual Raiding So Hard?

Like the aforementioned working mothers, casual raiding guilds often try to do it all. They have two basic principles behind their organization, and those principles are mutually exclusive. Below, I’m going to try to generalize what most casual raiding guilds might say about themselves.

Principle #1: Our guild is about friendship and freedom. We value the relationships people have made with each other in-game and out. We try to keep friends and loved ones raiding together. We also let our members play as they like. They have the freedom to set their own schedule and play style.

Principle #2: Our guild is about successful raiding. Everyone has to play a certain way, and we can only do so at set times. Only people who meet certain benchmarks for performance can raid with us.

The very conditions required by raid content impinge on the freedom of the casual raider. In addition, friendships cause trouble, as in Adam’s case, when guild members understand friendship as a means to a raid invite. These two conflicting principles cause some members of casual raiding guilds to work a lot harder than their raiding guild fellows for less results. It takes a lot more hours to clear content with a less-than-committed group. One of my previous guilds, Random Acts, could best be described as a casual raiding type. During the summer we started Karazhan, we raided for maybe 12 hours a week, but the wipes were such that it took us three months to clear the instance. In addition, because of a need to accommodate people’s schedules, we did crazy things like make attempts on Moroes at 6 am. He owned us, by the way. Both times I changed guilds, I went further in the direction of a progression raiding guild, and each time the number of hours in game reduced for me.

Do One Thing, and Do It Well

In my mind, these are words to live by. This is simply, what works for me, and why I appreciate being a member of a guild that focuses on a specific goal. I have, however, been in a guild, Collateral Damage, that offered some benefits for their more casual members while being very successful at raiding. They actively worked to treat all of their players as equals (even down to taking Kara-geared folks on Black Temple runs). Incredibly, they managed to do this fairly successfully. I know first-hand, however, that the officers and players worked really hard for that, and also that, as a result of mixed messages from the leadership, drama was high. “We can have whatever we want,” was the guild mantra. It’s admirable, I think, to try to be all things to all people. The leadership of that guild is extremely altruistic. However, in the end, it was too much pressure and conflict for me. It’s worth noting, though, that CD always did and continues to do very well in raid content. They just put in a lot more time in other stuff–what I call “casual time” and “administrative time”–than raiding guilds typically do. My current organization, Conquest, which defines itself very strictly as a raiding guild, has its flaws, to be sure, but the one thing it does do is focus on raiding success as it’s only goal.

What to Do With Adam’s Guild?

Short of renaming his organization Catch-22 and just trying to laugh about it, there are a few things this guild leader can do to improve his situation. He has to decide what is most important to him personally. I am guessing that what Adam values most will be one of these things.

1. Progression
2. Friendship
3. Power

Solutions

#1 If progression is the most important, what’s needed is probably a change of guild. It seems like what Adam wants will be extremely difficult to achieve with the current group. He can try to take 10 friends with him and split off to form a new organization, but in my mind that is not the most certain way to better progression. Right now it’s a player’s market on guild recruitment. Almost all guilds are recruiting with Ulduar in mind, and players of all classes can pretty much pick and choose from the guilds at their skill level. It’s a great time to make a move. Sometimes you can do so with one or two friends, but mostly you have to go it alone if you make this choice.

#2 If friendship is most important, Adam should probably stay in the current guild and make the best of it. This means working one-on-one with low-performing dps and trying to encourage them into better behaviors. This means educating the guild about what raiding requires. I saw Collateral Damage take many players through this very education process, and in some cases casual players improved enough to become top-performing raiders. However, the success rate is not particularly high. Most players approach the game as they want to. What’s most important to Adam’s guildies might be things like the freedom to raid how and when they want to. Their personal goals might conflict with Adam’s, and there’s not much he can do about it. As I say repeatedly in my posts, we must all seek our bliss in this game. Sometimes you can turn a team of casuals into a team of raiders, but they have to want it. Even if Adam sits down with each underperforming dps and analyzes their gear choices, talents, and rotation, they still may not improve.

#3 If power is the most important, Adam actually has two choices. The idea is to remain guild master. Either he can work within the framework of the current guild, as in #2, or he can take his 10 best and form a new, smaller guild. I can see how it would feel very important to be in charge. Adam probably has a sense of responsibility for his guildies and wants to take care of them. A lot of guild masters are like this–and I used to be. However, I made myself miserable trying to fight every bad policy, as I saw it, in my previous guild. It didn’t win me any friends. In my current guild, I’m just an officer, not a GM. I speak my mind, but I can pick my battles now. I don’t have to fight them all. If Adam does split off from his current guild, he can expect a lot of work and drama incoming. The surprise factor will probably be that many of his coterie of good players will not want to move, even if they join with another similarly-progressed raiding guild. This always happens when guilds merge or reform. If you’re considering something like this, just be expecting to take a step back in progression for a few weeks as you recruit to fill the spaces in your team.

Either way you choose, Adam, you can’t have everything. My best advice is to think about it during this next raid week and really weigh the things you value against each other. Then, make the best choice that you can. It’s hard to get out of the double bind, but you will be happier if you have some clarity about what it is that you really want.

Reader Question: How Do I Find a Quality Raiding Guild?

Reader Question: How Do I Find a Quality Raiding Guild?

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Recently, reader Solarius wrote in with a question that I found so insightful and thought-provoking that I felt it deserved a whole post in response. In his own words:

I was wondering if you had any advice for players who are looking for a decent raiding guild – I’ve read your post on “How do I break into raiding?”, but there are also considerations, like how to recognize a good guild or know when its recruiting and so on. I remember back during BC when Karazhan just had i’s entrance requirements relaxed, and I had the hardest time finding even a Karazhan guild that didn’t either try to run with greens, or have an established cliquish environment.

While I admit I didn’t improve my equipment to the upmost (enchantments and non-green gems being the cardinal sins), I tried my best to be a better raider: I ran PuG Heroics for equipment upgrades, made and offered potions and elixirs, learned how to maximize my DPS rotations, and read up on instance encounters. I still never really made it past PuGing Karazhan.

Since you were writing about guild management and recruitment, I hoped you could cover the other end of the spectrum. As you’ve mentioned before, not everyone advertises on Trade (and I’ve regretted the three times I took those blind offers), the Realm forums can be sketchy, and sites like WoWJutsu are impersonal and lack contact information.

Solarius is absolutely right in that the question of finding a guild has two sides. Yes, players need to do everything that they can to “sell” themselves to the organization they would like to join. There is plenty of information available in the blogosphere, both on this site and elsewhere, about how to apply to a guild. However, how does a player find a guild worth applying to?

I’ve recently changed guilds myself, and you might say that I had an insider’s tip as to where to go, as I’m now raiding with Matticus (who, as I’ve said, is every bit as great a GM as he is a boss). However, I am confident that, if I had to find a guild with no personal connection whatsoever to me, I think I could sort the good from the bad. What would be my plan of attack, and even more importantly, what decisions would I have to make?

If you’re looking for a new guild, consider following these ten steps to virtual health, happiness, and phat loots.

1. Decide whether you want to stay on your current server.

Personal circumstances will probably decide this one for you. If there will be a lot of drama involved when you leave your current guild, a server jump can be a good way to get a fresh start. However, if you have friends and relatives on your server, and they’re not willing to move with you, you may want to stay. In many cases, this decision will be impacted by the overall health of raiding guilds on your server. If there are many active guilds that you wouldn’t mind joining, it could be a good idea to stick around the neighborhood. If your server’s too quiet, or if your faction is outnumbered or always loses battlegrounds, you may be happier with a change of scene.

2. Place advertisements.

What you’re doing is fishing for responses from guilds who are actively looking. If you’re staying on your own realm, make a post about yourself on your realm forum. Be aware that these posts can draw the trolls, but they will get your name out there. However, for a fairly troll-free place to fish, go to the Alliance or Horde Guild Recruitment Forums and place a thoughtful ad about yourself. Quality guilds will search these almost daily when they’re looking for new blood. I found Trinia, an awesome warlock and one of my favorite people in Conquest, that way. Watch to see who responds to your ad, and then research their organization before you take the next step.

3. Observe how your prospective guild behaves.

If you’re staying on your own server, do watch that Trade Chat. Sometimes really good organizations will advertise that way. Write their names down, and whisper the recruiter for more information. If you’re thinking of a guild on another server, make an alt and stand in a major city for a while. Are they an active presence on the server? If so, do they contribute in a positive or negative way? This is far easier to do on your own server, where you are in effect listening all the time to how other guilds behave. If the guild recruits in trade, ask to talk to someone. That will be your best measure of what the guild is really like. I must admit, I judge guilds by their members, particularly their public interactions with others. Just one person spamming trade with obscenities will color my opinion of the whole group.

4. When a guild interviews you, interview them right back.

If you’re invited to chat or get on vent with a guild recruiter, ask questions. It’s not just about “auditioning” for this new person and proving how great you are. This is your chance to quiz them on the issues that are important to you. How do they distribute loot? How do longtime members treat new people? Is there any longstanding guild drama? What do they do when problems arise? These are tough questions, and you’ll be listening carefully to your recruiter’s responses. If she’s being evasive, take it as a warning sign. This interview is your opportunity to find out whatever you want to know–use it wisely.

5. E-stalk your new guild.

Before you accept a g-invite, take advantage of any and all public information about them. Go to their website, and, if you can, make an account there. Read the whole thing if they will let you. If they are well-organized, the site will have at least some content. Raiding guilds tend to have fairly active websites. Watch for too much activity however. All guilds have drama, but beware all-out insult fests.

It probably already occurred to you to check a guild’s progress on Wowjutsu. However, I want you to go with a critical eye. Go through all the listings and find out what their gear distribution is like. How many players are getting geared up? Is there a lot of competition for your class and role? Do the officers seem to be getting everything? Wowjutsu doesn’t track everything, but you can pretty much count on guilds queueing up their loot from first boss kills. If the loot distribution is fair, you will see a lot of different names. In addition, Wowjutsu lets you see the grayed out names of players who have recently left the organization. A high proportion of these can indicate that your prospective guild has lost many members and is trying to rebuild.

In addition to the guild’s own website and Wowjutsu, I urge you to go to the guild’s realm forum and see how other guilds respond to them there. They probably have a recruitment thread up, and there are probably responses from players with other guild tags. If they have a good rep on the server, most of this commentary will be positive. If your prospective guild is comprised of a bunch of ninja asshats, the server forums might just clue you in.

6. Go on a trial run if you can.

A really good organization will let you try out–and even take loot. They will be proud of what they have to offer. Particularly if you’re on the same server, pug a 10-man with some of their members. If you like the personalities of the people you run with, talk to them more in-depth about the guild. Most people will be honest with you, and you’ll get to see their perspective on the good and bad features of the guild.

Remember, accepting a g-invite is not a lifetime commitment. If you’re unhappy, you owe it to yourself to seek your bliss elsewhere. Even if you server hop, you can change guilds again in a month. I am all for loyalty to an organization, but be sure it is a guild that deserves your allegiance. Be fair to your guild, and don’t expect perfection, but don’t be a martyr either. Happy hunting!

10 Answers for the Clueless 2.4 Raiding Holy Priest

In order to become an effective Holy Priest, you have to understand the situation you are in. You have to be able to assess the threat to you, your raid, and your tanks. You have to be able to make sense of all the information that is coming in and prioritize it without even thinking about it. Any hesitation could kill your raid.

With that in mind, I wanted to prepare for you a list of questions that you might have as a new Priest looking to take their first step into the world of raiding. Remember that healers will always be scanning and checking to make sure that everyone is in tip top shape. I guess you could apply this to any healer, but it’s specifically meant for Priests.

How should I spec my Priest?

I believe that a raid should utilize a Priest with Improved Divine Spirit in their talents to help increase raid caster DPS. Subsequent Priests should then switch to Circle of Healing.

Circle of Healing is not as effective in Tier 4 instances (Karazhan, Gruul’s Lair, Magtheridon) as compared to certain Tier 5 encounters (Tempest Keep, Serpentshrine Cavern) but it is an absolute beast in Tier 6 and higher (Mount Hyjal, Black Temple).

Should I grab Lightwell?

Not really. I don’t. Sure it has it’s uses but I can think of better talents to spend points on.

Should I down rank my healing spells?

Yes. The 2 piece Tier 5 set bonus is absolutely perfect for this. A rank 1 Greater Heal for a Priest just finishing Tier 5 content will hit for about 2700+ which costs 214 mana (properly talented). Although the spell itself takes 314 mana, the set bonus returns a solid 100 mana back. I spend most of my raid doing nothing more than stopcast spamming Greater Heals. If it lands, it doesn’t adversely affect my mana pool. It’s definitely an affordable spell.

How do I handle main tank healing?

Maintain your Renew at all time. Keep Rank 1 and Rank 7 Greater Heals ready. In fact, they should always be in the casting bar. Feel free to light your tank with Prayer of Mending to boost their threat. Do your homework on the boss that you’re fighting. Know their abilities and what they will do. Eyeball the amount of health they lose in a typical swing. For example, Archimonde frequently strikes my MT for approximately 9000 health. My tank has 21000 health. It’s going to take about three solid hits without any heals before he dies. By being able to gauge the amount of incoming damage they take, you know how to react to it appropriately.

Do not be afraid to use your Flash Heal to get your players up in the event your other instant spells are on cooldown. Efficiency is always outweighed by keeping your team alive.

How do I handle raid healing?

Again, like main tank healing, if you know what’s hitting the raid then you can act on it accordingly. For example, if a boss has an AoE type spell that strikes every 20 seconds like clockwork, then you know that the players who get initially hit by them do not need your full and complete attention. Simply dropping renews or downranked Greater Heals on the affected players will get them to full strength before the next AoE hit. Circle of Healing is ultimately the best AoE healing spell in the game when you have enough of a bonus. Chain Heal is a close second but it is unfortunately not instant nor is it able to hit 5 players simultaneously.

What priority should I be healing my raid in?

If you’re tasked with healing a raid during a special gimmick encounter, it’s going to largely depend on the boss. I have noticed that there are two types of raid damage being dealt.

1: Lots of damage concentrated on a few players in the raid

Hydross is an excellent example of this situation. His tomb strikes a couple of players throughout the raid encasing them and dealing a hefty punch. It’s all about timing in this situation. Bosskillers and WoWWiki tell you the approximate damage being done. Use the appropriate sized heal for the response.

Let me use Rage Winterchill here. Like Hydross, he will encase one random player in a raid (Icebolt) which does ~5000 initial damage and locks them in place. That player takes 2500 damage per second for 4 seconds. So you’re looking at 15000 damage within a short amount of time. Slap a shield on the player if you like and then proceed with with the flash heal spamming. Keeping a player alive is the priority. It’s way more important than being efficient.

2: Damage that can be anticipated spread out over the raid

In these situations, your endurance will be tested. You do not want to be burning Flash Heals as quick as you can. Here it is all about mana management.

Najentus is one such boss who consistently hammers the raid with spines being thrown out. His needle spine targets 3 players in the raid and they take ~3700 damage along with an additional ~2500 damage to everyone that is nearby. When his shield goes up, he is immune to all damage. To break it, you have to hurl a spine back at him which shatters the shield which deals exactly 8500 damage to the entire raid. This happens every 60 seconds.

The biggest question that should always be asked is how long does this person have before they take too much damage and die?

  • Is everyone above 40% health?
    If there are a few players that are below, those players are your priority. Drop a downranked Greater or tap your Circle of Healing once or twice if you notice that group is low. Focus on these players first because a random spine could kill them. Feel free to use Flash Heal if you don’t think you have the time.
  • Is everyone above 70% heath?
    This is your next level. Get anyone below 70% back up to full strength. You have to be able to prioritize who needs heals now and who can wait 5 seconds.

Otherwise, you will have to experience a few wipes to get a general ‘feel’ for how the encounter goes.

How should I gem my gear?

The 2.4 patch revamped the way our Spirit worked. Here’s what I suggest:

Rare gems

  • Blue: Purified Shadow Pearl or Royal Nightseye
  • Yellow: Luminous Noble Topaz
  • Red: Teardrop Living Ruby or Royal Nightseye

Epic gems

I’m a true believer in Spirit now.

What consumables should I use?

Food: Golden Fish Sticks or Blackened Sporefish (But you know my thoughts on the subject).
Flask: Flask of Distilled Wisdom or the cheaper Flask of Mighty Restoration.
Oils: Superior Mana Oil (Brilliant Mana Oil is cool too).
Elixirs: If you want to skimp on flasks, try combining Elixir of Draenic Wisdom and Elixir of Healing Power

Is overhealing bad?

Let me put it this way. Would you rather overheal your target and waste 500 mana on a 6000 heal or underheal your target and risk his death? The fact of the matter is that any healer who is on a tank should always be casting a heal spell and then stopcasting it or letting it complete. It’s common to see tanks face crushing blows of over 9000+ damage. It’s better to have a heal on the way then wait your 2.5 seconds for the heal cast time and pray he avoids the next weapon swing from the boss.

What about haste?

You know, that’s a really good question. Honestly, I haven’t placed too much thought into it but here’s my logic. Our mana regeneration rates have improved a lot and there are various methods for us to get mana back. I noticed that a majority of the time, my mana is above 80% on trash. I can afford to bag a few pieces of regeneration gear in favour of haste gear. I figure lowering my global cooldown rate to 1 second could be a good thing. The faster my spells go off, the more heals I land. I can land more heals this way because mana regeneration is not a limiting factor.

And there you have it! You are now ready to face the perils of 25 man raiding. Good luck and good hunting! When in doubt, simply ask yourself: What would Matticus do?