Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The never-ending battle

A few months ago, through the latter half of the Ulduar days and most of the ToC era, we faced a problem in our guild. We were having issues getting 25 people on (at all, ever) for our guild raid nights. As a result we often ended up trying to run T7 content with a very much less-than-full group or just telling 7 or 8 people "Thanks for coming, but...sorry," and putting together a 10-man run of something. Obviously neither situation was very desirable and it was having a clear affect on guild morale (as well as that of the officers having to make these decisions).

We spent a couple weeks in the Officer section of our guild forums coming up with a plan on how to run a rotating 10-man schedule to get as many people into raids as possible, balancing between progression teams for current content and mixed teams for the rest and when to run each and how often and all that stuff.

The week we planned to put it all into play, it became moot point. We had 28 people show up on raid night.

For the next couple months we regularly ran ToC 25 with a few other raids thrown in from time-to-time for a break. Finally we cleared ToC 25 as a guild...and then it fell apart again. Since that week it's been a struggle (on the best of nights) to fill up a 25-man raid.

Lately it's hit a critical point where we can hardly get 17 or 18. This past weekend looked very hopeful. We had the largest number of signups on the calendar that we've seen in a long time. And several of our core people that could usually be counted on weren't among them.

It didn't matter. We still only got 22. After failing Sarth+3 a number of times we moved on to try Marrowgar. By the time we got the raid moved over to ICC and cleared the trash we'd been whittled down to 17. Not even worth the attempt. In order to make the night not a complete wash we did the weekly (Razorscale) and called it good. Saturday we opted to just put together a targeted-invite 10-man ICC.

(As an aside, this kind of thing makes me feel like a huge failure as a raid leader. I should know well and understand the capabilities of the raiders in my guild. All of them. And I need to schedule content that we can handle as a collective group. Challenges are fine, but when we go a whole night without downing a single boss, it hurts. I understand that's not an unusual thing for a progression guild/team, but casual guilds work differently. That's on my shoulders to get right.)

Since the start of the weekend the officers have been back in our section of the forums discussing a rotating 10-man schedule. This upcoming Friday is our last-ditch attempt at a 25-man raid (largely because we're planning on bringing in a couple new members this week via friends already in the guild). If we can't get it together we're going back to focusing on 10's.

In most regards, this is a huge bummer. Our stated goal as a guild is to be a 25-man raiding guild. We were largely successful in accomplishing that in Naxx. We held the momentum a little longer in Ulduar. Then it collapsed. We got it together again long enough to eventually clear ToC, but now...not so much.

There's a lot of contributing factors to this. Summer is approaching. Daylight savings kicked in. School is in the end-of-the-year rush for students and teachers alike (we have at least one of the latter in our guild). The expansion is 17 months old and the cycle is coming to an end. Naxx is a lot less demanding than ICC to the casual raider. So on and so forth.

I think that last point is one that I, as a raid leader, have forgotten to take into proper consideration. A lot of our raiders don't even run heroics regularly. They haven't accumulated the "charity" gear that is out there and available to ramp people up quickly. They're still wearing what they earned in Naxx and the front half of Uld. That's just not going to cut it in ICC.

That and the experience level and execution isn't quite there. Again, in Naxx, this can be compensated for with enough players that do have the experience and skill. Even in ToC we managed because we had enough people in ICC and Frost Emblem gear that we could pick up some of the slack. In ICC, not so much. If you're not on your A-game, you can't be propped up by others. The encounters just don't have room for that and there's not an extra tier of gear out there that the rest of us can suit up with to make up the difference.

Perhaps this was inevitable all along. Maybe it's my fault for not seeing it coming and planning according. In Cataclysm, I'll know.

On the other hand, this is a bit of a relief to me. Partly because it'll make scheduling easier. I won't have to deal with figuring out how to tell a handful of people who did show up ready to raid that we can't accommodate them because 7 other people didn't show the same enthusiasm.

But also partly because I know that I'm personally capable of pulling my weight in ICC 25, as a tank or a DPS. I've been passing on opportunities to do so's kinda my responsibility as a raid leader to not get saved to things we're trying to run as a guild.

If we do officially go to a 10-man focused schedule, this opens the door for me to finally flex my muscles with a group of equally-ready individuals. It's an opportunity I've been hungering for and I'm selfishly looking forward to being able to sate that hunger. I'll feel a little bad about it. Kinda guilty. Like I'm betraying my guild. Because that's the kind of person I am. But hey...WoW is game. I'm willing to make (reasonable) sacrifices to make it fun for my whole guild, but sometimes I have to be able to have fun the way I want to as well.

Then Cata will drop. We'll all be looking at fresh, shiny level 85's after a while. And we'll start the cycle all over again. :-)
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