Matticast Episode 11: Tough Conversations: Kicking, Demoting, Replacing.

Welcome to Episode 11 of The Matticast. This week BorskMatt, Kat, and Brian, discuss:

– How To Have Tough Conversations

– Kicking Someone, Demoting Them, or Replacing Them In Raid

– Dealing with Couples and “Package Deals”

Don’t forget you can send us your questions or topics or tweet us with the hashtag #matticast

Subscribe to the show: iTunesRSS

 

Calling All Holy Paladins

Our goal with the new podcast is to constantly improve the show and tweak things based on listener feedback. The two most prominent suggestions we are receiving is for more 10 man content and more Holy Paladin content. So this is our attempt to deliver on that. Are you a Holy Paladin Blogger and/or a 10 Man Raid or Guild Leader? Then we may want you on the show.

Here is exactly what we are looking for:

  • An expert Holy Paladin
  • A 10 Man Raid/Guild Leader
  • A blogger looking to provide content for World Of Matticus
  • Someone interested in helping promote the show.

Meet all or most of these requirements? Shoot us an e-mail.

Out with the Bads and in with the… Who?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Matticast Episode 10 – Battle Rez, Scheduling, and Performance Raiding

Welcome to Episode 10 of The Matticast. This week BorskMattVik, and Brian, discuss:

– The Hows and Whys of the Battle Rez.

– Raid Scheduling

– The Performance Oriented Raid

Don’t forget you can send us your questions or topic or tweet us with the hashtag #matticast

Subscribe to the show: iTunesRSS

 

Handling the Guild Dirty Work

“Nothing so conclusively proves a man’s ability to lead others as what he does from day to day to lead himself.”

- Thomas J. Watson

And I don’t mean scrubbing the toilets.

As leaders, we have an obligation to the players within our guilds. Whenever a boss comes up where something needs to dispelled, I’m the first person to volunteer for it. Not necessarily because I want to, but to show that I can and am willing. The mantle of being an officer comes with a set of unique responsibilities. In order to have the right to ask people to do something, you must be willing to do it yourself.

This is why my raid leader is the first in line when he needs to eat a debuff, maintain constant crowd control or take care of some other craptacular job that no other player really wants to do.

  • Gong banging in Atramedes? He’s always there.
  • Dispelling Blackouts? Sure, I’ll take care of it.

So whether you are a class officer, a role officer or otherwise, it doesn’t hurt to show the troops that you still have it. Because if you keep hiding behind lame excuses and continue giving players assignments you’re unwilling to do, no one’s going to take you seriously anymore. In pickup raids where I’m raiding on my Shaman, I’ll volunteer to tackle any interrupts or purges that need to be done.

To be fair, that’s the only thing I’m really good for on an encounter like the Omnitron Defense System anyway.

Bob Sutton, author of Good Boss, Bad Boss, states that, “Being in a position of leadership is the most reliable way to become oblivious and emotionally insensitive. Fight this by remembering that you’re under a spotlight. You’ll be watched closely by the people you lead – even more so than how you’re observing them.”

Even though you’re an officer, by the nature of your position, you are placed on a much higher pedestal when compared to everyone else in the raid.

Let’s move on to another aspect of dirty work. Let’s go through the not-so-cool responsibilities that officers need to do.

Do not avoid the dirty work

A quality officer must do things that will upset players. As the guild leader, I have to reprimand, gkick and talk to players who need improvement. The last bit is a bit tricky because I don’t have enough knowledge of a class to offer effective feedback. This is where I need my officers to come in play and assist me in supplying that feedback. None of those are responsibilities we need to shoulder alone. Reprimands and giving critical feedback can be a difficult thing to do. If you can’t handle that aspect of it, you might not be the right guy for the job.

Alternatively, grab a guy willing to do the dirty work. I recommend hunters.

In that same book by Sutton, he quotes a study that “Bosses of the most productive work groups confronted problems directly and quickly, issued more warnings and formal punishments, and promptly fired employees when warnings failed.”

Translating that into guilds, productive raid raid groups address any internal problems head on within a reasonable time frame. Denial doesn’t help anyone. You can talk the smack you want, but you better have the guts to confront players as well. Bad officers continue to conjure up some kind of excuse in order to put off what needs to be done. An example would be like me saying I can’t cast Dispel because I don’t have the mana to do it. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not the best bad cop type of personality. It’s not in my nature. However, I am driven by own desire to excel and succeed in what I do. If it’s a necessity, it needs to be done.

The first thing I’ll do is delegate it. The next thing I do is set an internal deadline for myself where if an officer doesn’t pull off the reprimand, I’ll take care of it personally.

Actually now that I think about it, setting deadlines tends to help in most aspects of life.

Heck, take the extra step and tell someone what deadline you’re setting and what it’s for.

Implementing the two man (or person) rule

I love he said, she said arguments.

It’s difficult to determine and sift through what’s true and what isn’t. Because of recent incidences, I’ve implemented the two person policy. When any type of feedback, reprimand or anything along those lines are being given, there needs to be another officer in the channel with them. They don’t have to be the same class or role. They just need to be players who the GM trusts and who are able to keep each other in check.

No whispers or tells either. Don’t underestimate the importance of tone. Sure there;s no facial contact unless you’re using a webcam. But listening to the tone of someone else is the next best thing you can do to subtly improve communication.

This was an oversight on my part, but I hope this is a step in the right direction.

Quick Guide to Dirty Work

  • No problem is just going to go away. So don’t delay too long in making the hard decisions.
  • Make the hard decisions to the best of your ability. You’re going to screw them up, but it’ll be a learning experience. If you can’t do it, delegate someone who is willing.
  • Tell players why this is necessary. Example:
    • “The stuff you’re saying in raids, whether you realize it or not, is having a negative impact on our morale.”
    • “You’re not nailing those interrupts. Looking at the same fight for the past 3 weeks, your interrupt success rate is 50%. If there’s something stopping you from doing your job, tell me. Otherwise, I’m going to have to pick up another Rogue”.
  • You do not humiliate, belittle, or bad-mouth people if they’re the ones that are under fire. Of course, you’re free to poke fun at the guy who’s at the top of the meters or if he’s the GM, apparently.
  • Don’t lie to your raid. It kills your own reputation.
  • If you’re not able to do say what needs to be said the correct way, don’t do it until you figure out the best approach.
  • Set an example to the rest of the team. Show them you can compete on meters. Show them you can dispel, purge and interrupt like the best of them.

I’m still learning this stuff. I also need to begin applying these principles.

Thinking about starting your own guild?

Tough Call: When to Recruit

The answer is TODAY. 

(Actually, “yesterday” would have been a better answer, but I’m sure you had a good reason to take yesterday off.  “Today” is also an acceptable answer if you have a sizable nerd-crush on Ann Curry…not that I do or anything…)

As a raid officer, at some point it will come to you to bolster your ranks.  The first step to doing this right is to properly assess what you need and when you need it.  Even if you’re accomplishing all your goals currently, you need to plan for the next round.
As I see it, there are two schools of recruiting:

  1. Gap-Prevention Recruiting
  2. Roster-Improvement Recruiting

Gap-Prevention Recruiting

A wise boss of mine once taught me, “If you don’t have a Plan B, you don’t have a Plan.”. 

This means, of course, that:

  1. Things will go wrong, and
  2. Rarely will they go wrong when it’s convenient to you. 

In raiding, this most frequently means a loss, or temporary depletion, of players.  I’d wager that we’ve all been there at one night or another. 
For me, this used to happen at least once a month during Naxx.  I’d log in, and people who had signed up for raid ended up not being online.  It was Naxx, we ALL were burned out before Ulduar came out, so I can understand the lack of motivation, but I still had the job of fielding a viable raid for everyone who wanted to get the job done.  From those times spent using Trade Chat to fill out a raid, I learned a valuable lesson:

Recruit BEFORE you have a spot you need to fill

Since everyone is already reading Thespius’s Raiding 101 column, I know we don’t have to go over the pros and cons of having back-ups/part-timers.  They’re good; keep them around, be honest with them, and keep them satisfied. 

But what about scenarios where a back-up/part-timer just won’t do?  What about when your main tank has a baby, your invincible priest healer has to start taking night classes, or any of the other myriad reasons people can no longer raid?  Fact is, these situations can leave you in the lurch is you’re not prepared for them.  THAT is why a smart officer will never close recruiting, and will most certainly always look to improve their roster.

Consider this:  A business wouldn’t tolerate an inconsistent supplier, they would immediately find a supplier selling an identical product who can assure them of on-time delivery.  I’m pretty sure this is Fed-Ex’s bread-and-butter, actually.  The same should be true of your raid.  You may love the players you raid with.  I know I’m rather fond of a number of the people I’ve played with over the years.  That said, if one of them had to take off, stop playing, or just became overall unreliable, I would owe it to myself and the rest of the team to take actions to ensure the raid continued.  After all, the show must go on.\

TLDR Version: 

Have a plan in mind for who will take over your vital positions if someone has to depart/goes AWOL. 

Don’t turn away potential recruits just because you’re “full” today.  See what options you can provide them before you burn that bridge.

Roster-Improvement Recruiting

Parental Advisory: When I say “Roster-Improvement Recruiting”, I’m talking about doing what it takes (within your own best judgement) to see content and down some end bosses before they become passe.  This is the one that’s going to fill my inbox with hate mail, but it has to be said:

Not everyone you raid with today will be ready when your group wants/needs to move to the next level.

I would never call the environment I raid in hard-core, bleeding-edge, or anything like that.  What I would say is that we’re a results-driven team.  If you can do your job and do it well, and aren’t a complete dick, we’ll be glad to count you among our ranks.  Everyone competes for their spot and everyone has that much more faith in their team-mates because they know that every spot has been earned.

A team like this never “stops” recruiting.  There will certainly be times when you have a solid group and may not have a lot of NEED to recruit, but you should never flat-out deny someone on the basis that they would have to take a spot from someone you already have.

Example:  Let’s say you’re openly recruiting for a healer as gap-prevention recruiting, when along comes a deathknight asking about joining.  (Isn’t it always a DK when you don’t need DPS?) Assuming they are some-what as progressed as your current line-up, and understand that it’s a competitive environment they’re looking to join, take a moment to consider the opportunity in front of you.  Instead of turning them away, point them towards the logs for your current members and if they can beat that, encourage them to apply.

In an environment like this, a recruit should never be seen as a threat.  Your existing members should see recruits as a chance to improve the raid team in one way or another.

True Story: I intentionally recruit other priests to help push me and keep me competitive.  I know I can handle my assignments, but competition teaches me I can always do it better.  Also, the priest who comes in ready to beat me at my own game is surely a formidable ally to have.

Whether you establish rules that spur further recruitment, or simply keep a high profile for your guild and get applications that way, the key is to always ask yourself “will this player help us get through the next step”. 

Crossing the Finish Line

In the end, I say you should think of your raid team as a racecar.
A racecar can’t go anywhere without all four wheels.  That’s gap-prevention recruiting.
A racecar will go faster with performance parts.  That’s roster-improvement recruiting.
Now go finish the race.

Matticast Episode 8: Patch 4.0.6 and Listener E-mails

Welcome to Episode 8 of The Matticast. This week MattKat, Brian, and special guest Veronica from Ask Mr Robot discuss:

– How Patch 4.0.6 effects healers

– Listener e-mails about raid issues, gearing, and judging tank performance.

Don’t forget you can send us your questions or topic, and be sure to checkout and participate in the listener topic every Wednesday.

Subscribe to the show: iTunesRSS

[powerpress]

Does Your Guild Use Set Interrupt Teams?

Have you ever been in a raid with less than stellar interrupts? I’ve seen it happen many times. A small number of players  seem to have that confidence where they feel they can conquer just about any spells or abilities thrown their way. That is, until the encounter decides to throw a wrench in their plans. It usually sounds a little something like this:

“I got next inter—No, I’m trapped! I can’t do anything!”

If you’re lucky, there’s another player with an interrupt who can bail that player out. If not, the group may have just suffered a large setback. Having dependable interrupters on your raid roster is one of those little things that grant peace of mind to everyone. Your raid leader can rest easy knowing that certain abilities will be shut out. There have been times when I cursed because a key melee player had to run out or died due to some random ability.

From what I’ve seen, raid groups usually have a minimal amount of players for interrupts. This allows for maximum DPS time from other players because if don’t need to worry about catching key abilities, they can focus more on their DPS.

But the case I want to make here is for stability. Doubling up on interrupts can help cut down on the number of wipes due to unnecessary boss attacks going off.

Some examples include:

  • Wind Shear: 6 second CD, 2 second lock out
  • Shield Bash: 12 second CD, 6 second lock out
  • Pummel: 10 second CD, 4 second lock out
  • Kick: 10 second CD, 5 second lockout

This is just the start though. There’s a whackload of other classes with interrupt capabilities (Mages, Death Knights, etc).

How should you set teams?

Your interrupt teams will vary by encounter. A typical setup would involve two teams of 2. Preferably, the interrupters would share similar cooldowns and lockout times. Back in Burning Crusade, there was an encounter called Reliquary of Souls. You could find it in Black Temple. That encounter really brought out the necessity for skilled interrupters who could identify which skills to let go and which ones to shut down (like Deaden, Spirit Shock, etc).

A more recent example encounter would be Maloriak where Arcane Storms and Release Abberations need to be controlled.

Every interrupter should use macros to announce their interrupt skills. Actually, if you want to take it one step further, I highly recommend an addon called RSA. It’ll announce whether you were successful or unsuccessful with your interrupts. Or even if your kick got resisted or if the target is immune! Great to have!

If you have a skilled player who can carry interrupts on their own, then you can definitely disregard this post. I’ll raise my coffee cup to you on that. For the rest of us who sometimes struggle with blown interrupts, that safety net will do more in the long run.

Raid Leading 101: Starting your Roster

**Forgive the absence of last week’s post. I got “blessed” by a crazy work schedule that had me away from my desk a lot. Don’t forget that if there’s anything you’d like to discuss or see in a RL101 post, you can always email me**

So, you’ve made the choice between 10 and 25. You know which feels right for you and your friends. Now you need to look at your roster. Your roster is the list of players on your team that you can pull from to make your raid on any given night. Hopefully you’ve got a group of friends that you’ve started with, which will take some of the stress off of recruiting and assembling your team. We’ll start out with the basics of your raid (this is a 101 course, remember). You need tanks, healers, ranged DPS and melee DPS.

Tanks

Tanks are the classes that will take the brunt of the damage while protecting your raid. The classes that can fulfill this role are:

  • Protection Paladin (“Prot Pally”, “Tankadin”)
  • Feral Druid in Bear Form (“Bear”, “Meatshield”)
  • Protection Warrior (“Prot Warrior”)
  • Blood Death Knight (“Blood DK”, “BDK”)

It’s best in a 10-man raid to have ~3 Tanks on your roster (~4 for 25-man). Most raids encounters will require 2 tanks for encounters. Either your 2 tanks will have to alternate who is tanking the boss, one will tank the boss while the other tanks one or more mobs that join the fight, or you’re doing a Council-style fight.

Your Main Tank (or “MT”) should be your most talented tank and will seldom need a DPS off-spec. The other tanks on your roster (“Off-tanks” or “OTs”) should have a DPS off-spec so they don’t need to be totally swapped out mid-fight. Warriors can spec into Fury or Arms, Druids into Balance or Feral Cat, Paladins into Retribution, and Death Knights into Frost or Unholy.

Healers

Healers are the players that you pay to keep you alive long enough to see the boss take its last breath. Classes blessed with this ability:

  • Restoration Shaman (“Resto Shammy”)
  • Restoration Druid (“Resto Druid”, “Tree Druid”)
  • Holy Paladin (“Holy Pally”, “HPally”)
  • Holy Priest
  • Discipline Priest (“Disc”)

For your 10-man crew, count on having ~4 Healers on your roster (~9 for 25man). You’ll always need a minimum of 2 healers (5 in 25-man) for an encounter, depending on how healing intensive it is. It’s best to have the other healers in your roster work on a DPS offspec in case you need to convert to more DPS in an encounter. Priests can spec into Shadow, Druids into Balance or Feral Cat, Paladins into Retribution, and Shamans into Enhancement (Melee) or Elemental (Ranged).

Melee/Ranged DPS

DPS are the players that put the hurtin’ on the boss. They’re primarily responsible for dealing damage to the boss and any adds that may pop up, as well as crowd control, interrupt, off-heal, or help mitigate damage. Here’s the laundry list of DPS you’ll find:

Melee

  • Enhancement Shaman (“Enh Shammy”)
  • Rogue (Subtlety, Assassination, Combat)
  • Arms or Fury Warrior (“Arms War”, “Fury War”)
  • Retribution Paladin (“Ret Pally”, “lolret”)
  • Feral Druid in Cat Form (“Cat”, “Kitty DPS”)
  • Death Knight (Unholy, Frost)

Ranged

  • Elemental Shaman (“Ele Shammy”)
  • Hunter (Marksmanship, Beast Mastery, Survival)
  • Warlock (Affliction, Demonology, Destruction)
  • Mage (Arcane, Fire, Frost)
  • Balance Druid (“Moonkin”, “Boomkin”, “Boom Chicken”, “Lazer Turkey”)
  • Shadow Priest

In 10-man, you’ll want ~8 DPS’ers (~22 for 25-man) on your roster, with a mix of melee and ranged. There will be some fights that will be better for melee DPS or ranged DPS, so a mix will give you a good chance of success. Having any of your DPS players with a tank or heal off-spec is great, but more often than not, you’ll be better off if your tanks and healers are all main-spec.

Summing It Up

A standard 10-man raid will consist of: 2 Tanks, 3 Healers, 5 DPS.

A standard 25-man raid will consist of: 2-3 Tanks, 6-7 Healers, and the rest DPS.

Of course different raids will deviate from this basic model, but in my raiding experience, this is usually what you’ll find. To start out, aim for those numbers. Once you have your 10 or 25, add 1-2 more for each role to solidify your team. Your raiders will need nights off or have real-life commitments from time to time, and those extra people will help keep your raid going consistently.

Coming up, we’ll look at more advanced roster planning, as well as a couple recruitment tips!

Podcast Topic – 10s vs. 25s

Each week on Matticast we will be featuring a topic driven by our audience. You can submit your comments on this post, or e-mail us with your thoughts. You can even send us an audio clip (mp3 format please). This is your chance to have your say on what we discuss on World of Matticus. Also don’t forget, if you have general questions you’d like answered on the show, you can send them our way. Remember we record on Sunday nights, so get your thoughts in before then!

We’ve spent a lot of time talking about the unique challenges each size raid has. What are your opinions? What pro/cons does each have when it comes to raiding, recruiting, organizing, loot, attendance, etc? Also, are they really of equal difficulty in Cataclysm, or does Blizzard still have a ways to go to balance them? Is there a bigger discrepancy in heroics? We are leaving this one pretty open. We want to see how many different things the choice between the two is effecting for everyone and organize the discussion around those. So whether it is just letting us know your preference or some deep spreadsheet-laden analysis let us know what you think!