How EPGP works

This is a guest post by Valen who has graciously offered to clarify the EPGP loot system and the process behind the usage.

Hello! I am Valen, Guild Leader of Temerity, an efficiency-focused progression guild on the Windrunner server. I also happen to be helping maintain EPGP while its author, Disht of EU-Sunstrider, takes a well-deserved break. My hope is to provide an introduction to EPGP and demonstrate why many people believe it to be a superior loot system.

What is EPGP?

The EPGP loot system, nicknamed “dkp reloaded,” is a mature, established loot system that has been in active use by many guilds for a number of years. Sometimes known for being somewhat “mathy,” EPGP tries to provide a fair, transparent, configurable, deterministic, and reasonable loot distribution system. EPGP is somewhat more complicated than most loot systems, but thanks to addons that simplify calculations and management, both the master looter and all members of a guild will find EPGP to be a fluid and effective loot system.

The word “fair” is somewhat ambiguous when it comes to handling loot, and is highly subjective. Can loot systems be fair to every member of a guild, and to the guild itself? Probably not, but when people think about fair loot systems, often words like “unbiased” are used, with sentiments of objective, even distribution. EPGP provides such features.

Many familiar loot systems, such as DKP and its variants, use a single point pool, whereas EPGP uses two. Those two kinds of points in EPGP are in the name — EP and GP. EP, which stands for Effort Points, encapsulates the contributions of a raider to the raid (primarily attendance). GP, which stands for Gear Points, encapsulates the loot a raider has received from the raid.

How does it work?

Dividing a raider’s EP by their GP determines a raider’s Priority. When a piece of loot drops, the player who is interested in it with the highest Priority gets the loot along with the Gear Points the loot is valued at — there is no randomness or rolling in EPGP. This therefore increases the player’s GP, which lowers their priority once the division takes place, putting them below many other players (depending, of course, on the other players’ EP and GP values).

Left unchecked, EP, which grows as raids are attended, and GP, which grows as loot is received, would increase unbounded since neither are reduced inherently in the loot process. Instead of spending points, both simply accumulate. To prevent infinite growth, EPGP uses the concept of decay — at the start of every raid, or every raid week, or any other interval, everyone’s EP and GP are reduced by a fixed percentage. This results in EP climbing quickly at first, but then eventually sloping off towards a natural cap. GP, on the other hand, tends towards zero as it accumulates only when loot is rewarded rather than every raid.

The above is intentionally vague and lacking in specific numbers. This is one of the areas where EPGP is configurable to meet a given guild’s needs, but also where it tends to intimidate users.

  • How much EP does a raider get?
  • What earns EP?
  • How much GP does a piece of loot cost?

The latter question is the easiest to answer; by default, every piece of loot has a fixed cost across all guilds and servers, based on the slot it is used in and the item’s level (aka, ilvl). Deep inside the game, there are formulas used to determine how much of a each stat such as Haste Rating or Intelligence a piece of gear has; this formula is based on the ilvl and slot, so, for instance, an ilvl 359 two handed sword has more strength than an ilvl 359 one handed sword or ilvl 359 ring. EPGP uses this formulation to derive a price for each piece of loot, normalizing around a chest piece with an arbitrary cost of 1,000 GP. Weapons cost more than 1,000 GP since they have a bigger impact than a new chest, whereas rings, carrying smaller item budget, cost less.

EP is more fluid; typically guilds award EP based on attendance, both who is present at the beginning of raid and who is present throughout its duration. Even players on the bench receive EP and thereby loot opportunities when next they are in raid.

EPGP in action

Each guild decides themselves how much EP to award and what to award for, so rather than a complicated explanation, I will use a concrete example and explain how my guild uses it.

Fifteen minutes before raid starts, a decay of 7% occurs. Then an on-time bonus of 1,250 EP is awarded to each member in the raid. Every fifteen minutes thereafter until the end of raid, 300 EP is awarded to anyone in the raid and on standby. Finally, at the end of raid, another 1,250 EP bonus is awarded. The net result is a typical, 3.5 hour night of raiding results in 7,000 EP.Some guilds opt to also award EP when bosses die (with different amounts of EP depending on the farm status of the boss) but we choose to not award the kills themselves.

The values chosen are largely arbitrary; we settled on a 7% decay as it is a decent rate to prevent hoarding as well as to encourage taking loot (since GP will decay at a decent rate). We chose 7,000 EP per raid because it has the mathematical property that, a player with perfect attendance across an infinite number of raids, would cap out at 100,000 EP — the point where a 7% decay equals the EP awarded for the evening (7% of 100,000 is 7,000, of course).

We also choose to award a small, fixed weekly amount of EP for consumables — specifically, raw herbs and fish. This was a new experiment for us as early Cataclysm consumables were extremely expensive until supply grew and guild perks kicked in, this helped us supply flasks and feasts — a significant competitive advantage.

The EPGP system itself is managed via the EPGP addon. Earlier I mentioned that EPGP is transparent; this means, thanks to the addon, any player can see any other player’s standing and priority from within the game. In fact, this addon keeps all EPGP state in-game rather than on an external website. Therefore, it is never a surprise when someone receives loot as any player can, at any time, see other players’ EP, GP, and Priority. Likewise, the addon places the GP cost to every item in its tooltip, so you know the exact price an item would cost by simply mousing over it.

In addition to the EPGP addon itself, there is a third party addon named EPGP Lootmaster. This addon handles the loot process itself, providing very simple push-button distribution and vastly reducing the time it takes to handle the many drops off of the typical 25 man heroic boss. I highly recommend using both addons together for a tremendously smooth and simplified loot process.

Hopefully this has provided a relatively math-free explanation of EPGP. I’ve personally used it for over four years, and while certainly imperfect, it is an excellent combination of transparency, fairness, and efficiency that is suitable for guilds at all levels of progression. Once the initial setup is done, there is very little maintenance and the distribution of loot itself is very quick — important attributes for efficient raiding!

Further resources

EPGP’s website, mailing list, and bug forum
The addon itself
The Lootmaster Addon

3 Questions to Ask After a Recruit’s Trial Period Ends

3 Questions to Ask After a Recruit’s Trial Period Ends

In a recent episode of the Matticast, one of the topics we discussed was what guilds look for in applications. Once a player gets accepted, they typically undergo a trial process. The period could range anywhere from days to weeks. An application is a start, but it’s during this evaluation period where the recruit’s skill and attitude are truly scrutinized.

The questions vary from guild to guild, but there are 3 big ones that cross my mind.

can-they

We’re looking for the technical players. Can we count on recruits to execute? In Cataclysm raids, we want players who can easily understand and respond to the different challenges with minimal hand holding. For Conquest, things like DPS rotations are foundations that are expected before applying. If I give a Rogue a spell or an ability, I expect them to shut it down when paired up with another player. If I give tank healers their assignment, I expect tanks to survive through the worst. It shouldn’t take more than an attempt or two to stay out of fires, dodge discs or deal with any easily avoidable mechanics.

Because if a recruit can’t handle that, then we’re not the guild for them.

will-they

The nature of boss fights means there will be players who have to do the crappy job. No one really wants take on these responsibilities because they’re either:

  • Boring
  • Crappy
  • High stress

These are the roles that won’t get you the girl, but it is a necessity all the same.

Taking one for the team and volunteering for these will amplify your value. The guy who says yes to doing the hard stuff looks better. It’s one thing if you can’t actually do your job because your class or setup prevents you  from doing so. But not doing interrupts or dispels because you don’t want to and making the raid jump through hoops is a frustrating experience for leaders because we need to come up with a functional setup that might not be optimal for what we’re doing.

That’s just selfish. It might end up being the reason you get passed over for future raid invites.

Normally, I’m the guy that tackles the dispels . But it’s reassuring to know that another player or two in the raid is both able and willing to tackle the high stress jobs in the event I’m not around.

Especially with playoffs starting today. Go Canucks go!

they-fit

This is actually something more along the lines of what Kat would say. Although she is the more warm and fuzzy hosts on the Matticast, I would have to back her sentiments on this one (but don’t tell her I said that, I have an image to maintain). While the aforementioned skills and willingness to do the dirty work are important, at the end of the day if recruits aren’t fitting in with the guild, then they need to get cut loose. Not every guild is right for every player. It’s easy for guilds to say yes, you’re in. It is much harder for guilds to say no, you didn’t make the cut especially after a breakout performance. Being able to recognize players who don’t fit in and acting on it swiftly will save you grief in the long run.

It was a difficult lesson for me to learn during the first year of Conquest. I had to make several compromises. I either found a way to work with troubling recruits or we didn’t raid. It took every ounce of diplomacy to maintain an uneasy peace. The two week grace period we have going lets me check out players and see if they fit in both in the raid and outside the raid. I might even join up with them in PuGs or other activities and see how they react to the banter in guild chat. I actually booted a really creepy player a few months ago because he made several members in the guild uncomfortable. But that’s a story for another time.

If you happen to recruit a player who answers positively to all of the above questions, then the odds are in your favour that they’ll be an excellent addition to your guild.

Healing Heroic Magmaw

Healing Heroic Magmaw

h-magmaw-480

Note: That’s actually Lodur’s kill screenshot. How he heals with raid frames that small, I have no idea =).

Healing from World of Logs

Conquest is officially 2/13 in the hard mode 25 progression. It was nice getting the kill and getting the monkey off our backs. It had been weeks since our last progression kill and this was much needed.

Why Magmaw?

We had been struggling for a long time on heroic Chimaeron and it was felt that a change of pace was needed. Knowing it was nerfed, we detoured straight to him instead. I think it took us about ~20 wipes.

Setting up

The first 14 attempts of the night saw us using 7 healers and 4 tanks (1 Frost DK kiting). On the kill, we ended up with 7 healers and 5 tanks (2 Frost DKs kiting).

Healers

2 x Resto Shaman
1 x Resto Druid
1 x Holy Paladin
1 x Disc Priest (Shields)
1 x Disc Priest (Atonement)
1 x Holy Priest

magmaw-heroic

Every DPS player and healer stands on the star and DPS’s from close quarters. The two tanks on Magmaw positioned themselves on the shield depicted above. Our resident Holy Paladin and Resto Druid were assigned to both of them. The triangle, diamond and square marks served a purpose.

We had a group of players who would stand on the outside in order to draw fire from pillars and Nef’s fireballs. We had a Frost Deathknight pick up the parasites but I was having trouble keeping him alive towards the end. This was offset with a second Frost Deathknight who assisted on picking up additional parasites (and split the parasite damage accordingly).

Bro tip: Place all of your outside players together in a group to maximize group healing. In our case, both of the Frost Deathknights, myself and two Hunters were placed in that group. Prayer of Healing combined with Chain Heals and other spells were enough to keep us alive through the pillars.

Tank healing

You will want to use two dedicated players. One healer by themselves may not be enough (at least, when learning). If you’re tank healing, you can’t even deviate for a moment because that tank will die. It’s going to take everything you have to keep them alive. Configure your raid frames to show debuffs like Mangle. If necessary, get your tanks to call the switches so you can keep pace with them. 

Assign another healer to cover the tank grabbing the Constructs. They can switch between the tank and the raid if they choose.

Raid healing

Raid damage is going to continue slamming the players (the outside group especially). I wasn’t able to keep them and the kiters alive myself. You’re going to want to use 2-3 healers at least. It’s to counteract the damage from Magma Spit and Lava Spew. Be fast with any Ignitions. It’s up to the players to move, but if you’re standing at the right spot, it shouldn’t take more then a few steps to get clear.

Head phase

When Magmaw eats the spike, this is the time to regenerate and use mana cooldowns. With 3 Priests, we used our Hymn of Hopes separately. Our Resto Shamans used their Mana Tide totems earlier on. Telluric Currents for Resto Shamans helps immensely from what I understand.

Additionally, you may want to consider having 1 Atonement Priest. Smite during the head phase to heal up any residual damage from the transition.

Concentration Potions are awesome here.

Parasite kiting

For the kiting healer on the outside, I suggest using a Holy Priest. My main job was to heal our Frost DKs as they were weaving figure eights around the room. Body and Soul was enough to give them a little burst of speed if they needed it. The benefit of a Priest is that if the DKs get trapped with incoming parasites or encroaching fires, Life Grip gave them a way out. If the kiters were in no danger, I’d default to throwing Renews on the group while running around fire dodging.

This job sucked for me. I had to hog Innervates and use the expensive spells. There  were times when I had to swing through in front of the marked positions to get in range of Druids. With the amount of cooldowns we had and the DPS, we were able to afford to do that. The faster a fight goes, the higher the HPS since you’ll have more mana.

Hunters: Don’t use Ice Traps. Outside group may not be able to see Pillars or Nef’s Blazing Infernos

Final phase (sub-30% health)

Spread out immediately (Try 6 – 8 yards). This is the most stressful part of the encounter.

Your healing lead is going to want to take a broader look at the health of the raid. Use Tranquility and Divine Hymn accordingly. Don’t forget about DPS Druids or Priests.

The DKs and I drop back further away to allow room for players. Shadowflame Barrages are going to hurt. You may wish to take a moment before the encounter to manually position your healers to maximize the area.

Continue to keep 2  tank healers for Magmaw, 1-2 on the Construct tank and the rest on the raid. Construct tank healing is going to be sketchy. Your raid leader might have to call a DPS burn on a Construct if there’s too many up when you transition. It’s going to be nearly impossible to keep a tank alive with 3 Constructs up. It’s doable if they have 2 Constructs. Watch their tank cooldowns and when theirs wear off, use yours. That should buy you about 30-50 seconds if healers have their single target cooldowns free.

Good luck!

The next question is heroic Maloriakk or heroic Atramedes next.

Also, Conquest healing corps is looking for another Holy Paladin, Boomkin/Resto Druid, Shaman (all specs) and Priest (all specs are welcome). DPS classes are also encouraged to apply.

Full list

Application page

Raiding Highlights from Cataclysm

Past few months have been nothing but good times for the guild and for me. There were obviously some lows but much more highs. I had gigs upon gigs of videos from learning attempts scattered on my hard drives. So I decided to put a little something together showcasing the good, the wipes, and the stuff that makes you go “What just happened?”.

Many of the clips do feature heavy usages of Leap of Faith. You can see instances where it is used as intended. There are other cases where it is used but… misfires. If you’re a new Priest, I strongly encourage you to practice learning Leap of Faith and when to use it. I’ll have a post coming in the near future with practical usage tips and things to keep in mind, but it’s an extremely reflexive type of spell. It’s not a spell that you intentionally plan ahead of time to use (at least, not usually). I know there are still Priests out there who do not believe in using it to get people out of fires and stuff. And I agree with that sentiment, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to give up on them. As players, we need to do all that we can to try to salvage attempts using whatever skills we have at our disposal even if it adds a bit of embarrassment to someone else who didn’t react quick enough. Besides, there are times such as the Atramedes clips where players are doing everything possible but are still going to get beat.

But that’s where we come in.

I guess it’s my mentality from being a goaltender in hockey for so long.

I will gladly bail out my team.

I got their back. And I know they got mine.

P.S. Ever wonders what happens when Priest A Life Grips Priest B who Life Grips a Pally? Watch the end. But if you want the spoiler:

Priest B gets pulled to Priest A while the Pally gets pulled to where Priest B was originally before the pull.

All in the name of science!

Tough Call: Fighting Progression Frustration

Image courtesy of leonardobc

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

But how do does a raid leader handle this precisely?

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

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

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

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

Planning For Raid Progression

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

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

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

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

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


Reader Question

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Question: When do you Call a Wipe?

Keeping the post really short today. Whether it’s in a 5 man, a 10 man, or a 25 man, I’m curious as to under what circumstances your raid leaders call a wipe.

Does it ever frustrate you when your raid leaders do?

Does it annoy you when they should and don’t?

For the raid leaders, does farm versus progression content impact the times you call wipes?

I’ve called snap wipes when we lose 2-3 people in the opening minute of a fight. I’ve called for a continual push even when we were down a half raid.

What’s your take?

Recovering From a Bad First Guild Date

Recovering From a Bad First Guild Date

I issued a Valentine’s day blogging challenge earlier on Twitter. It wouldn’t be fair of me to not participate. Any bloggers are welcome to join in. It’s a fun way for bloggers to throw a Valentine’s spin on their posts. If you do accept the challenge, feel free to e-mail or DM me a link to it and I’ll round them all up at the end of the week. I’m sure you can come up with some ideas if you think hard enough.

1327762_rosesPerformance anxiety.

Nervousness.

Fear.

Intimidation.

Those are just some of the few things any prospective raider will experience on their first “date” with the guild. As much as we love to hear a happy ending to a story, the reality is that it isn’t always the case. Here you are, a  player trying to court your new guild. You want them to love you. You want them to be attracted to you. Why? Because you want to be with them too.

But then you screw up.

You stand in the fire. You eat one too many Shadow Crashes. You accidentally dropped a totem in the wrong place.

For whatever reason, your “date” just wasn’t impressed with you at all. Here you are trying to establish a solid foundation with them but you blew your chances because of some silly mistakes. The question they’re asking themselves: Can you be trusted to not screw up again in the future?

Meanwhile, the question you have running through your head is: Will they give me a second chance?

Probably not. At least, not right away. If you epicly messed up, you won’t have a shot. But you know, maybe that guild likes you just enough for another look. But you have to prove yourself.

Communicate

“Hey, I know I screwed up here, here and here. I’m just a little jittery because it’s my first time here. I’ve watched the movies and I know the abilities, but I guess I was just overwhelmed with anxiety. I know I’ll do a better job next time.”

Sometimes a little reassurance to the guild is all that’s needed. Everyone loves a person who recognizes and owns up to their own mistakes. It’s a sign of a truly mature individual who understands they’re not perfect. Now I can’t speak for everyone, but someone who can see where they screw up without having to be told about it is perfect in my eyes.

Listen

Hear out what the guild has to say. If you’re not sure, ask them what you did wrong so you can try to make amends for it. If you know your DPS rotation is messed up, why are you still following the same bad habits? This is especially true if someone is playing the same class as you. Listen to what they have to say, consider it, and see if its right for you. When they drop little hints about what you can do to be better, listen to it.

If that player isn’t you, then you might just need to take a hard look at yourself in the mirror and make the choice between walking away or dealing with it.

Don’t screw up

You were given a second chance. It’s extremely unlikely you’ll be given a third. Don’t mess it up again by choking. They’ve said yes to you again so you better show up and show them who the real you is. Polish up the armor and maybe shotgun a flask.

When they ask you where the nearest raid is, you can curl your muscular Dwarven arm and go “that way”.

Even though you didn’t make the best of first impressions, you might still have a chance to get into the guild of your dreams.

They want to like you

Last thing I want to impart is this:

No one is out to get you.

The guild that you’re going for, you have to remember that they want you to be the one. They don’t want to go back to the recruitment boards again searching for Mr. or Ms. Right. They’re looking for someone who will stick around for a long time.  You’re here because they think they found a potential match and they’re rooting for you to be with them! They want you to ace it so they can go back to drinks! It’s up to you to either validate or prove wrong that claim.

Speaking of which, we’re looking to shore up our roster with a Holy Paladin, an Elemental/Resto Shaman, Rogue and a Mage. But we’ll look at any other classes though. Come check us out.

Thespius’s State of the Dungeon/Raid

There’s been a lot of great conversation about how things are tuned in regards to Cataclysm Heroics and Raids (meaning normal Raids, I haven’t seen Hardmodes yet). This is starting to dip into the usual “Casual vs. Hardcore” debate, which I think is not what this entire argument is about. This game has made leaps and bounds toward making the game challenging for all. There are definite challenges for the people at the edge of blistering progression as well as for the family man/woman that can only log on once/twice a week, if that. I’d like everyone to take a look at a few different things, including adapting to change, the nature of challenge within the game, and the mindset of the “average” WoW player.

Know Where You’re Going, Know Where You’ve Been

Vanilla WoW – I was never a Vanilla WoW player. I understand that there was a very clear delineation between the casual player (questing and alts) and the hardcore player (40-man guild raiding). It’s very daunting to play a game when you know you have no chance of getting into any of the endgame content, stocked full of lore and goodies. This definitely took things too far in segregating the community. Casual players wanted to see the content, and Hardcore players loved feeling entitled to the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, the Holy Grail of the game.

Burning CrusadeThis is where I stepped into the ring. I started as a very casual player, barely being able to throw a Karazhan run together with friends. It was ridiculously hard to climb up the progression ladder to see higher content, but it was doable. Sadly, I had to leave some friends behind because of it. Guilds operated as “stepping stones” to the next level. There existed the “KZ” guilds, the Gruul/Magtheridon guilds, the “SSC/TK” guilds, and the “BT/Sunwell” guilds, meaning the highest those guilds could accomplish. With the release of Zul’Aman, we now had harder 10-man content that my ~9 friends and I could hammer through. Granted, I was single and working as an actor at the time, so I had lots of extra time to play. That would definitely change soon. Still, not being able to see Illidan really sucked.

Wrath of the Lich King – Ahh, the release of 10- and 25-man raiding, but things got easy REALLY quick. So much so that I found multiple PuG 25-man ICC Hardmode Runs. Hardmodes were supposed to be the culmination of progression, really only reserved for the highest of raiders. I was fine with that. I wanted to give them a shot but didn’t have any grand visions of getting my HM Lich King kill. The gameplay was such that mechanics could be avoided. Phrases like “just heal through it” were peppered in boss explanations. DPS started to complain if they had to stop their rotation, tanks screamed at healers if they couldn’t/wouldn’t heal through a mechanic that wasn’t being interacted with properly. Entire mechanics were being glazed over, and the general WoW community got lazy (that’s right, I said it). Although PuG raiders were in Hardmodes, they really didn’t know what to do, and had forgotten entire pieces of their class/spec. Mages decursing? Druids CCing? Hunters trapping? Unheard of!! The bonus part: people got to see the content. My opinion, it became trivial too quickly.

Cataclysm – 10-man and 25-man raiding becomes equalized as much as it can be. 25’s only slightly hold the advantage of being the “truer form of raiding”. Blizzard realized that people were completely ignoring fight mechanics and made them less forgiving (if you let Dragha’s Invocation of Flame get to its target, you’re dead). Justice/Valor Points from your Daily Heroic are no longer things you’re “entitled to”. They must be earned and fought for. With changes to healing and fight mechanics, players are forced to actually look at their spellbooks once again (any Dwarves looking at Stoneform again?). Encounters now begin to feel like a group effort, rather than 5 individuals who wish they could just solo the content so they don’t have to be around other people. Raids feel more daunting for most of the player base, and guilds are back to trying to beef up their own team rather than PuG’ing from Trade Chat. It takes longer to gear up, but the gear is obtainable. Epic gear is actually epic again! Even without running Heroics, it’s possible to get 346 gear for your character. People don’t want to PuG, thus forcing the player base to look for guilds of people they get along with.

I look at all of these as good things. With my guild being called “Team Sport”, it’s no wonder that I long for a gaming world where it feels more team-oriented and not so individually cut throat. If I had the time to run things more, I’m sure I would be geared to the teeth at this point, but I’m not. It’s taking me a little while, but that’s always giving me something to strive for. A trinket I need from Archaeology, or the rep from Baradin’s Wardens, all of which give me something to shoot for that takes time and dedication. I don’t expect it to come easy.

Challenge Yourself

Ever work out? Ever have that great feeling when you finally get your jogging route under your target time? What about finally getting able to lift some weights heavier than the 5-lb ones you’d find in an aerobic class? It’s a good feeling, isn’t it? It’s a high, a rush of endorphins. Did it come easy? Probably not.

Think of any hobby the same way. If you start out knitting, don’t expect yourself to whip out a complicated Afghan in a day. You start out with ‘easy’, and when you’ve mastered ‘easy’, you move to the next level. Look at model building, sports, or anything you do for fun. You can’t expect to be the best at it before you even pick it up. Just about any hobby is worth putting the work in, because without the work the payoff isn’t as good.

Now look at dungeons and raids. If you can face-roll Heroic Stonecore, then that one piece of gear that drops off of Ozruk doesn’t mean as much. You don’t value it the same way you would if you had to work as a team to get it done. That piece you now wear has a story behind it. Working hard to defeat that Heroic Ozruk has brought you close to your gear, and to the 4 other people that help you beat him.

When you find yourself in a group that is struggling with a Heroic Dungeon, ask yourself if you’re using everything in your power to make it go smoothly. Do you have some ability that would make the rest of the team’s job easier? Maybe you can step out of your normal role to help someone that’s struggling. I’ve seen Hunters that have issue frost-trapping a mob. My DK friend Aaron loves to Death Grip that mob back to the frost trap. It’s something that in WotLK a DK wasn’t expected to do, but Aaron does it because it helps the group. Is it easy to do? No, but it’s certainly not back-breaking. However, it’s more rewarding when we down bosses after thinking outside the box. It becomes an accomplishment to finish the encounter, rather than the accomplishment being the addition of a few Justice/Valor Points to your pool. That should be the reward for the accomplishment, not the accomplishment itself. Again, you value the prize more when you worked for it.

The Average WoW Player

A lot of complaints have come from the community (especially on the Official Forums) about the quality of the average LFD group. Rogues get instantly kicked for “not having reliable CC”, a Tank gets kicked for “one pull going awry”. I’ve been kicked from a group as a Resto Shaman simply for suggesting CC be used in Grim Batol. The quote: “Only bads use CC.” The forums are cluttered with threads such as these, and it makes it a really bleak outlook.

As stated above, we come from a Wrath mentality. The population both surged and got lazy in the last expansion. Mass pulling and AOE fests were more plentiful than senseless slander in American politics. Now we’re changing in Cataclysm, and change doesn’t come easy to most. It’s difficult for people to adapt to having to do more to get the same results.

Look at Trade Chat. Outside of gold and profession spammers, Trade Chat is pretty gross. I rarely am ever in it. Same goes for the official forums. Those that are the most unhappy or feel “scammed” talk the loudest. Anyone trying to be a voice of reason is usually shouted down, and good productive discussions are few and far between. This is no different than the LFD situation. There are a lot of people in that system that are bitter, jaded, and hate change. Rather than encouraging a nurturing environment, they’ll curse up a storm and belittle everyone else around them.

Where are all the nice players? They run with their guild, or have a friends list of people they’ve found that value a fun environment over the prospect of running a “boot camp dungeon”. They are out there, I promise. You just have to be patient and look.

I know the 45-minute queues are unbearable. It’s how I built up my Resto set–by queuing as Enhancement. It’s a total roll of the dice, and you may completely bottom out with your luck if you queue alone. Lodur posted a great article about being a teacher within the LFD. Strongly recommend checking it out, as it may give you a glimmer of hope.

The Light at the End of the Tunnel

If you’re one of the people who feels like you’ve been wronged by Blizzard, I ask you this: What is it you really want out of this game?

  • “I want to be able to log in, get my badges/epics, and log off.” I’m sorry, but those days are gone. People very quickly were behaving like drones. Those players in the game looked at dungeons and badges as “tasks” or “chores”, instead of events and rewards for those events.
  • “I want to see the lore and the content.” The normal dungeons provide all the same lore that the Heroics do, as far as I know. Heroic Deadmines and Heroic Shadowfang Keep offer their own lore but aren’t really in line with the Deathwing plot line. They’re great little side stories. As for raids, think of the storyline as Mt. Everest. I would love to see the top one day, however, I know that it will take work and dedication to get there. I don’t expect to just stroll up to the top.
  • “I want it to go faster! It takes too long!” You lose the journey this way. The struggle. Anything worth getting is worth the fight. Take Lord of the Rings for example. If Frodo just flew over the mountain and dropped the ring in from the start, it’d be a short movie, and not very gratifying.

If you want to find enjoyment in the game with people that are like-minded, you have to work for it. Blizzard stated before this expansion that they wanted to encourage more group- and community-oriented game play. It’s time for us as players to adjust to this shift in ideology.

Perhaps you’re in a guild that doesn’t really offer itself up to run dungeons with you. Maybe the group you’ve found yourself in isn’t really supportive when it comes to learning your class mechanics. Everyone starts somewhere, right? To me, both situations mean it’s time to start looking to surround yourself with people you share a mindset with. That’s what this particular MMO is built around, and that’s how Blizzard wants it. If you want to be solo and do your own thing, it’s going to be tougher and cause you more headaches. Start looking for a guild of people that you actually get along with. There are guilds out there that can get through the content and not belittle their members along the way. Whatever your schedule is, whatever your goals are, I promise there is a guild out there for you.

Focus on the journey and the challenge, rather than whining that you can’t have it all right here and right now.

I’m Thespius, and I approve this message.

3 Different Raiding Roster Setups

Since raid groups can’t do the same raid twice in a week on both 10 and 25, raid leaders have to try to get creative when it comes to roster setups in a bid to ensure players stay warm and can see all the encounters. Players need to sit out (or can’t show up) from time to time and it helps to have others who can step in. Preferably, raid leaders want players with the experience. In order to get the experience, they need to get pulled into the raid.

How can a raid pull that off while maximizing their gains?

Baradin Hold

Baradin Hold is the Vault of Archavon style raid where there is a chance for players to receive their tier leg or glove pieces. Traditionally, I would try to get at least one player of each class and spec in the raid so that no matter what would drop, we wouldn’t have to shard it. Alas, it seems that we’ve been striking out with pure PvP pieces.

Priest loot drops when I’m not there either.

Farm content

I define farm content as anything that we’ve been able to consistently take down under 3 shots. For example, on a fight like Halfus which changes every week due to the different drake configurations is an encounter I would consider on farm. The raid leaders would bring in new recruits to assess their performance while the new players would see if the raid environment was a good fit for them. If things go sour and we’re not able to get a farm boss down, then we immediately make substitutions and transform into progression content mode. It’s also a great way to give veteran players a night off if they’re not feeling well or if they need to tackle a last minute paper (Guilty).

Progression content

This is where we activate the A-Team. We bring in the veteran players who have shown consistently high performance. In addition, we’ve started looking at the demands of the encounter and what is the best setup. If it’s extremely melee unfriendly, we’ll add a few extra ranged players. If we need a little extra healing, I’ll add an extra healer as necessary. We tailor the roster accordingly. The leadership is on the same page here. We want to get that initial kill as quick as possible. As our kills get smoother, we’ll start tuning the roster so that eventually everyone will get a crack at it.

Looking at it on a weekly basis

Right now, I’m debating the idea of combining both farm content and progression content bosses. For example, on day one of a raid week, I’d like to enter an instance and take out the farm bosses and then pushing straight for a progression boss. If necessary, I’ll make a substitution mid-raid to get the experienced players in. On day 2, I’ll do the same thing. I would want to enter a different instance and knock out the farm bosses there before making attempts on a progression boss. On the last raid day, I’d try to get down another farm boss before finishing off the week by working on a progression boss.

No matter what the case, no day is really wasted because there’s at least a boss that gets taken down. By spreading out the time in this manner, we have the capacity to get attempts in and then take a day to reflect or analyze an encounter.

I am curious. How do you determine which bosses to go after and what raid roster to bring?

Tough Call: Turning Down Epics

On this week’s issue of Tough Call, we’re going to discuss an idea that may seem counter-intuitive to some readers, especially at this point in the expansion;

Not taking epics!

Crazy, I know, but hear me out.

To be clear, I don’t mean that you should refuse to take epics, or that your gear doesn’t need to be upgraded.  Anyone who knows me knows that if the loot is on my must-have list, I will absolutely put in for it at the appropriate time.

No, what I’m talking about today is gear that is not BiS.  Your side-grades, your “better than what I have”, or that loot that’s a higher iLvl but not the ultimate piece you want.

Whether you’re running a Loot Council, a points-based system, or even some kind of Rochambeau craziness, you should still take into account the overall benefit that the loot is bringing to your guild. And that includes comparing it to the value gained by not equipping it.

My usual theory when it came to loot in Wrath and BC was “the loot will drop again”.  Nowadays I’m changing my outlook to “is this THE best loot”.  This is because, right now, most guilds should find themselves in a new position where there just aren’t enough epics being DE’d in order to get the maelstrom crystals needed for the best enchants available.

I know right now everyone should be hungry to preform better, and it’s easy to say “well, I’m under-geared” or “I need that upgrade and I can heal/tank/dps through this tough phase”.  Trust me, I really want to get rid of this 333 crap trinket I’ve been saddled with for a few weeks now.  That does not, however, mean that I will seek to equip any available epic tossed my way like a hungry hungry hippo.

Edit: Passed on 2x Jar of Ancient Remedies and used my Valor points on the Core of Ripeness instead.  Int rocks the body that rocks the party.

Let’s use a recent example, the other night we were in Bastion of Twilight and the boss dropped some cloth DPS pants.  Of course our warlocks were wearing iLvl 346 blue pants, yet none of them put in for the shiny new epic.  Their reasoning?  They were all within a few points of getting their tier pants and realized that the maelstrom crystal from disenchanting the pants would be worth more to the guild than giving them epic pants that they’d only wear for a week before they got their 2-piece.  Now that we’ve gotten the needed mats for Power Torrent, those warlocks are doing considerably more DPS than they would be with a pant upgrade that they were able to replace anyways.

Similarly we’ve had melee DPS players pass on their side-grades or off-spec gear in order to get the maelstrom crystals.  I’m certain that when they weighed the stats, the 1000 AP proc on a Landslide enchant that those crystals could get them looked a lot better than the marginal/temporary increase gotten though a non-BiS upgrade.

Of course, the exception to this rule is players with enchanting.  Toss them the non-BiS gear and they’ll reap the benefits of the stat increase while getting ready for the real loot, and you’ll still get your crystals when they’re done.

Please feel free to leave any questions or suggestions for future topics in the comments below.  Additionally, if you happen to know the answer to 10-down on the NY Times Crossword, that one’s been bugging me all day.