Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Trials of the Commander

Leading raids in a casual guild such as the one I'm in is a tough thing. We have a very strict policy about who can raid in our guild: If you want to raid, show up and you'll get a chance.

That's it.

We don't enforce DPS minimums. We don't require you to come with certain specs. Show up in quest blues? We'll ask you to DPS instead of tank or heal until you get geared up, but you can go. Only run with us once every two months? That's fine. There's probably room for you anyway. Just joined the guild yesterday? Same. Keep dying in the fire? We're not going to kick you. Show up late or have to go early? Life's more important. We understand.

Part of this is out of necessity. Our guild is continually hovering around that critical line of 25 active raiders. In fact, we spent most of this past year below it, focusing on 10 man content instead. Right now I think we're at 27. It doesn't take many people not showing up for us to have trouble filling runs.

A larger part, though, is that we truly believe that everybody should get a chance to see the inside of a raid. Now more than ever, perhaps. This is a game. It's supposed to be fun. Raids are a huge part of that fun for a lot of people, and we don't think anyone should arbitrarily be denied a chance at having that fun.

What this means, of course, is that our 25-man progression is usually a tier behind our 10-man progression. And right now, that's probably only due to the way that Emblems of Triumph rain down on us with wanton abandon. If we still had to run people through Naxx and Ulduar to get them ready for ToC, we wouldn't have a prayer.

The other thing this means is that our core raiders--the ones that are regularly included in our 10-man progression--have to significantly outgear encounters in order to make up for some of the carrying we have to do.

While the "everyone gets a chance" philosophy that I agree with and embrace (and one of the reasons I love my guild), it's also a really hard philosophy to plan and run a raid around.

There's no certainty and no balance. I don't know who's going to be in the raid and what role they're hoping to play until we've sent out all the invites. We had a run some time ago where we had 6 tanks, 8 healers, and 12 DPS, 4 of which were ranged. Some of these people we were able to switch to other specs or toons to fill some of the gaps and we managed. We still had 2 tanks DPSing in tank gear and spec because that's all they had, but they couldn't take the hits from bosses at that level.

Despite being the second easiest fight in ToC as far as execution is concerned (I believe), we still can't get Anub'Arak because we can't beat the enrage timer. I suppose it's less frustrating to hit the enrage timer with 21 of your 23 raid members still alive than to continually wipe on the first phase 2 or something like that. But it's still not easy. (Thaddius was a huge roadblock for us in 25-man for the same reason.)

Outside of vent, well...let's just say I'm thankful for PTT and wine. But while in Vent and typing in gchat I have to be supportive and encouraging and be very general when correcting mistakes. ("Alright guys, a pretty good attempt there. We made a lot of progress over the last one. Just remember that casters need to stay at range and that the fire will kill you in about 3 ticks if you don't get out of it.") Even if I see a lot of changes that need to be made, I can only throw out about two at a time. Wait until they're no longer problems and then start trying to correct others. Small steps.

At the end of a run that's not ultimately successful, I have to point out the obvious without pointing fingers. ("Good job tonight, guys. Four bosses down in a couple hours and we rocked Faction Champs this week. We're still hitting the enrage timer on Anub with most of our raid alive, though, which means our DPS is too low. I know we try to not to make a big deal about things like that in this guild, but if we want to down this boss, we have to collectively raise our DPS. We have Officers and Veterans who are knowledgeable about every class, so please don't hesitate to approach them and ask for advice on how to raise your numbers. And keep running heroics for badges and gear upgrades.")

Next week rolls around and...well...second verse, same as the first.

This may all sound like a huge QQ fest. And to some extent, I suppose it is. As I said above, this is a game and it's supposed to be fun. So why do I spend two nights a week stressing myself out for little personal gain? Because when it's all over I'll get whispers from people telling me how much fun they had and how awesome it is that they got a chance to roll into ToC and down some big, bad bosses. I'll get thanks for giving them a chance when a lot of guilds wouldn't. I get whispers from someone who was in the world-third AQ gate-opening guild back in the day letting me know that our laid-back, no-pressure style has made raiding enjoyable again. (Do you know how much I was stressing raid leading someone like that when I found out? And they complimented me. Blew my mind.)

At the end of the night, when the wine glass is empty (for the second time) and Vent's closed down, those are the things that make it all worth it for me.


  1. This sounds (a lot) like our guild, except we might be a slice less casual than yours. And we just got down Anub-25 last night, so I feel ya.

    That said, it may decrease your frustration if you require a teensy bit more effort from your raiders, stuff that is totally doable for a casual player. Examples from our rulebook:

    1. Have all your gear enchanted & gemmed. Not necessarily the best enchants and gems, but enchants and gems nonetheless. Even cheapie gems and enchants are better than none.

    2. Have flasks.

    3. Read strats for the encounters.

    4. Look at the world of logs posted after the raid to see what you could do better.

    5. Be appropriately geared.

    #5 is kinda tricky... but now that you can get most everything out of 5's and badges, there's no reason that casual players can't get into mostly purples.

    Being casual doesn't mean you're off the hook in getting raid-ready. You can get raid-ready in a reasonable amount of time through non-raiding content that is accessible to you.

    If your "progression" members of the guild are carrying the load, they may burn out. It sounds like the burden is being placed on the few to ensure the enjoyment of the many.

    I think you'd be a little less frustrated if your guild required casual raiders to take minimal, reasonable steps to improve their raid-readiness. Make them take more responsibility for their own in-game experience. Help us help you, right?

  2. When Azucar and I first came over I had no real intention of raiding. I'd burned out and just couldn't see how it would be fun again. I listened to a Naxx raid you all did while I was still leveling and I was stunned. No one was yelling or pointing fingers or talking to each other like they were stupid. Did I mention no yelling? I decided I'd give the whole raiding thing a shot.

    I'm not sure if the AQ gates person was me or him but either way it holds true, this guild has made raiding fun for me again. If I don't say it enough then my bad, but thank you to you and the other Dragons powers that be.

    And yes I am blog stalking you. I need to start my own one of these days.


  3. @cranky

    We encourage all of those things. Strongly at times. But we don't require them.

    If we ever get to the point where we're reliably filling a 25-man raid and having to ask people to sit out (haven't had that "problem" since Gruul) then we can do more about enforcing some kind of baselines.

    As it is, pretty much everyone in our guild offers their tradeskills up for absolutely free, many times ponying up the mats as well if the guildie in question just can't obtain them for one reason or another. So we do what we can with what we have.

  4. That's very cool. I know I get frustrated at consistently being the 11th man in our raids. I get to run frequently as the first one off the bench, but it drives me nuts not knowing if I'm going to run or not most weeks. (Right now, not though, because our GL/RL is taking some down time.)

    I guess it makes me feel guilty about getting frustrated about it, given your guildies who are just happy to run.

  5. @Feral

    I was in your spot when I just started raiding back in BC. I was always that 11th guy that wanted to go to Kara and there just wasn't any immediate need for me.

    There's definitely nothing to feel guilty about in that respect.

    We have about 15 players that are good enough for our progression runs. There's about 4 or 5 of those that are almost always guaranteed to get first crack. We do our best to rotate the others through the remaining slots, but it's not hard to see some people feeling slighted.

    Trust me when I say this...we (your raid leaders) know it sucks for you to be asked to sit. It sucks for us because we hate having to ask you to do something that sucks for you. Plus we like you and we want to give you chances. But we have to balance the goals of the raid (are we running for the sake of running, or are we trying to achieve a specific goal) with the players available that we think can help achieve that goal. It's honestly the hardest part of the job.

  6. @Cheres

    It was Az, but I know you've expressed your thanks as well.

    The one with Az just sticks out in my mind because it was first, while he was on his DK and you were still leveling your Hunter.

  7. Don't know you--but love your guild policies. I think that you truly embrace the game as just that: a game. :D