So one of the things that's been really exciting for us as a guild lately is that we've been able to get our 25-man raids going again. And by going I mean going. Typically when invites go out we have 32-35 people online. Some ready to go, some just waiting for standby slots. We've been able to enforce timeliness through the simple fact that, if you aren't ready to go when I hit the "Invite All" button on the calendar, the raid's going to fill up before you can get in.
(I've been trying to make sure I log in about 10 minutes before invites go and give everyone ample warning that they need to be on the character that got the invite, that they've "Accepted" on the calendar and that they're not in any other groups.)
We're filling up fast and within about 15 or 20 minutes, we're all there, buffed up and ready to start pulling. Seems good, right?
I've been leading raids for our guild (or, prior to that, our guild alliance) for the better part of 2 years now. And I have to say, it's never been as stressful for me as it has been these last 3 weeks.
Part of it might be carrying over from my current work situation, and so I'm trying not to blow things out of proportion. But...holy crap.
From the moment I log on, I start getting bombarded with whispers about what toon do I need people to bring, and what spec should they be in, and they're going to be afk but can I hold a spot, or can I promise a spot right then, or how late will we be going. I understand that these are legitimate issues for each individual and I don't want to trivialize them, but it's hard to juggle all those conversations while trying to also pull the raid together. On top of that I'm trying to make sure we have enough healers and tanks. If we over-invite (which has only happened once so far) I have to start trying to figure out how to convince some people to drop (I've figured out how the standby feature on EPGP works, so that's helped some). And there's also usually three or four different conversations happening in guild chat, raid chat, and officer chat that I'm trying to keep up on, because a lot of them require responses from me.
Raid leaders have a lot that's required of them, from planning to inception to execution. My strength as a raid lead is actually leading people through the encounters. Let's pull this trash pack before that one. Watch where you stand. Bone Spikes incoming. FaceMelter is MC'd. Mage is out, away team go. Beasts in 6. That's the kind of stuff I do well and have the mind for. It's logical. It has a very serial flow. Info in, info out. Typically no more than a couple things happening at a time. They may happen in very rapid succession, but still usually don't overlap much. And they have right and wrong responses.
All that other stuff that has to happen, it's more like chaos. It's variable and happens in parallel. I don't have time to deal with one issue before moving on to the next (assuming I even have a "right" answer for it, which I often don't) and my brain hates me for making it try to do so.
So all that's going on and I'm getting insanely stressed out.
Then we get going. And we have very distinct camps of people in our raid groups.
1) The serious raiders. These are people that enjoy raiding for the challenge. A lot of them are ex-hardcores who still enjoy challenging content but don't want to have to put with with a screaming raid leader or strict attendance requirements or constant pressure to perform. But they're still there and ready to go for almost every raid and they still push themselves to do the best they can. They're very capable and motivated.
2) The uber-casuals. They want to see the raids because, let's face it, they're epic and fun. But, for whatever reason, they're just not quite able to carry their weight. They may or may not have DBM or Vent or Omen (although this last is rarely an issue for them). Motivation is a little lacking and so is execution. But we don't want to deny them a chance to raid. Sometimes they just need a little experience to push them over that hump.
Now, in the Lower Spire, this isn't much of an issue. Worst case we end up waiting a while for Saurfang to drop his stacks of Battle Fury because we were over on the other ship too long the last time, or we end up needing to run down an extra 10% health from Jr. because too many people died to the Mark. But we've still pretty much never failed to one-shot the first four bosses.
Then we get up to the Upper Spire and it just falls apart.
For instance, this past Friday we cleared through all the Plagueworks trash and lined up outside Festergut's room for a first attempt with 90 minutes left in our raid night. (I should mention at this point that we've downed Festergut each of the previous two weeks and that our raid DPS this particular night should have been more than enough to handle it again.)
In that 90 minutes we got in 5 attempts, I think. Most of them wipes before the first exhale. It routinely took 10 or 15 minutes between pulls to get everyone back and rebuffed. There was one group of ranged people that, through sheer dumb luck and a little inattentiveness, almost never got a spore. I died almost every attempt before our other tank needed to taunt off of me. We have one Druid, who's one of our best, that would drop dead before the first inhale on every single attempt. And no one could explain why.
Our one "complete" attempt ended when Festergut enraged with his health bar still at 20%.
(There was one genuine moment of levity when one of our hunters pulled because her dog decided it was a good time to jump out of her lap and onto her keyboard.)
The single biggest frustration for me out of all this was the spore deal. It's really damn hard to see the spores spawn, assess whether or not the 3 key groups have a spore, which groups have more than one (if that's the case), figure out which character needs to run somewhere to cover the inequity, and instruct them to move, all before time runs out for them do actually do so. I need some attentiveness and initiative by individual players at that point and it wasn't happening.
I got chastised for beating a dead horse when I kept mentioning this shortcoming after every attempt and it was everything I could do to not snap at the individual that if it would just get corrected, I wouldn't need to keep saying it.
Then the raid ended the way many of them have lately...I hearth, give some words of encouragement (which I'm sure are sounding very deflated and half-assed) and then immediately log out of the night and finally start to breathe normally again for the first time in four hours.
I think the hardest part of all of it for me may just be in my head. The larger portion of our raid group is comprised of the very capable raiders. In my mind, I'm imagining them becoming frustrated and impatient with doing less than they know they can do because we're trying to carry extra people. Maybe I'm just projecting some of my own frustrations onto all of them as a collective and it's not as bad as I think it is, but I know at least a few of them have to feel similarly.
So now I'm waiting for a blowup much like the one that happened in the early days of Wrath where we had a large guild exodus when execution problems on Sarth +drakes finally wore down the thinning patience of some of our more motivated members. Will it come, or are the folks we have now more understanding and patient than I'm giving them credit for? I don't know.
I know a couple weeks ago I expressed my desire to continue doing 25-man raids in Cata because they were more fun than their 10-man counterparts. Now I'm starting to rethink that...
The Mythic Roadblock
4 weeks ago