Raiding

The Raid Boss Doesn't Care if You're Not a Raiding Guild

Standing victorious where the Council of Elders previously held court

"But we're not a raiding guild."

That little phrase has been the spark for numerous arguments in the various guilds I've been a part of in my eight years of playing WoW.

Inevitably, it's uttered on the heels of a night of working on a progression boss. A night that has ended up in repair bills. Or even one with a boss kill on the last attempt of the night. It is tossed about with mentions of how raiding used to be fun. And people are taking things too seriously. And how could you have shushed me in the middle of that attempt when I was telling that funny story about what I did over the weekend?

But here's the cold hard truth: the raid boss doesn't care that you're "not a raiding guild." If you and your team want to be taking down new content, at level, while it's still the top-of-the-line tier of instance, you are going to have to take it seriously.

You WILL do better if you have a static team instead of switching players in and out each raid night. Players WILL have to use consumables and ensure they keep themselves gemmed and enchanted to the best items available to them. And your raid leader WILL need to decide upon and coach the team through a winning strategy.

Otherwise, you'll keep hitting your head against the same boss over and over without making progress.

If you want to faceroll content while doing tequila shots, set up a retro raiding night and hit up content from expansions past. Retro raids are a great opportunity to casually play while getting to know guildies and garnering a last few sought after achievements. But it's unrealistic to expect to have a voice chat free-for-all chat fest while taking down new to you content. It takes time and dedication to make progress. And that's not a bad thing.

And that's my 2 copper.


Throne of Thunder Raid Finder: Shadow Priest's Guide to Last Stand of the Zandalari LFR

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Last night, I spent a couple of hours in LFR, working through the first offering from the Throne of Thunder Raid.Normally, you'd see an awesome purpley screenshot up there. But given the concentrating on doing a new raid, and discussing tactics with the other raiders, I somehow didn't manage to take even one screenshot last night.  CRAZY! I know. But I digress.

The great thing about doing an instance and having a wipe or two on each boss is it gives you some time to figure out your strategy for maximum DPS and utility. And before it all leaves my mind, I thought I'd share it with you.

Jin'rokh the Breaker

What is it about the first boss being the hardest? In many ways he was the most difficult for all the newbies to adapt to (I think we had 3 wipes on him, and a number of people dropping in and out). Your key to do's here:

  • Watch for pools of water to be set down on the ground; when you see one, run for it ASAP and stand in it. You will see a serious DPS increase (40% is what I recall from last night)
  • Don't get too comfy in that pool of water -- when he casts lightning storm, you need to GTFO out of that pool as it is going to become electrified, and kill you. Run and stack with the group near the boss
  • As you are running out from the lightning storm cast, pop your Vampiric Embrace up on the boss. This will very likely save a life or two, perhaps even your own. Coordinate w/any other friendly shadow priests in raid to trade off on casting it.
  • If you are the focus of targeted lightning, make sure to run away from the group and DO NOT STAND IN OR RUN THROUGH THE WATER, lest you electrocute everyone.

TL&DR: Stand in the pools of water; run out of water in lightning storm; do not electrify the pools.


Horridon

This fight is somewhat akin to being at the 6 a.m. opening of a superstore on Black Friday. Angry mobs everywhere! Total chaos! Whch is why it is important to stay focused:

  • As the tank moves Horridon around the circle of the room, from door to door, avoid his head and tail.
  • Keep DoTs up on the boss but focus on the adds.
  • DoT all the ads then focus fire the add with the least health, unless there is a Dinomancer up in which case he's your priority.
  • Don't stand in bad.
  • If you happen to be close to it, click the Orb of Command when it appears.
  • After Horridon is done smacking his head against the wall, focus DPS on War-God Jalek,keeping your DoTs up on Horridon as well.
  • You are most likely to die by aggro'ing too many of the adds in Phase 1, so try not to be the first to DPS all out on them.

TL&DR: Focus on adds; prioritize DinoMancers. Kill War-God Jalek then finish off Horridon.


Council of Elders

Unlike other council fights, killing off one at a time doesn't seem to make the team more powerful. So try to get folks to pop Heroism/Bloodlust when Sul is empowered; getting rid of his quicksand will be a big help. Here's your to do's:

  • Prioritize the Loa Spirits and Living Sands adds.
  • When adds are dead, DPS the empowered boss a.k.a. the huge shadow priest.
  • Keep an eye on the ground -- quicksand and barrel rolling trolls can do some serious damage to you.

We had folks try to start in on the usual "you are all so fail" trash talking, but happily it was shot down quickly. Look folks: this is new content just now available to Raid Finder. Most everyone is learning the ropes. So chill out already! Let folks who haven't read the strats know the basics of what to do. Then everyone wins and we all go home happy and understanding how the fight works for next time.   MMMM'kkkk?

Speaking of going home happy, I took home a pretty new dress so that totally made my day.

I hope your first trip into this new LFR is rewarding!


Is that a Sha in Your Pocket...?

Are you TALKING TO ME!?!? Gnome shadow priest with scary Sha helm

...My gnomey shadow priest's looking more than a little Sha-touched these days. Between her strangely frightening visage, as you can see above, and the Shafiend that keeps following her around, even on her farm (see below), she's gotten a little bit more evil as the season has worn on.

I completely blame/credit LFR. While it certainly can never take the place of the feeling of exhileration that comes from being part of a successful collaborative raid team that's kicking booty, it has been a great way to keep a toe in raiding on my favorite class, despite not having a schedule that could accommodate regular raiding with a guild.

I'm crossing my fingers, however, that we'll be able to do some 10-mans with Friend or Foe soon. I had the pleasure of finally completing Terrace of Endless Spring last night, thanks to two FoF tanks (/waves at Manglehaft), and can tell it would be a great experience to casually raid with those folks.

I haven't made much progress on the alts, other than getting the shaman to 90 a few weeks ago. I mean to be leveling my boomkin, but I mostly want to play my shadow priest. No, my Alliance shadow priest. Not, you-know-who. She's still hoveringaround at 85, trying to figure out if there's anyone left to play with on Bronzebeard...

me and my Shafiend


Try, or Don't Try, but Don't Waste Our Time

Look Into the Moonkin Lights...You are Getiing Verrrry Sleepy...

I recently had a conversation with a buddy who hasn't been feeling the raiding urge this expansion, and felt bad for not turning up for raids. But I assured him I don't mind if folks don't feel like raiding and thus are not turning up for raid nights.

What drives me up the wall are those who DO turn up, unprepared, and unwilling to actually make a real effort, and proceed to waste the time of the 9 other people on the team who actually logged on and wanted to raid.That's right: people who show up out of obligation but make no real effort to be a productive member of the raid team are my pet peeve.

I do not mind a night plagued by unavoidable failures due to DCs or power outages or bugged bosses. It happens. I do not mind a night of attempts getting progressively closer to a boss kill without success. Learning the strat takes practice. But I DO mind raiding nights plagued by people ninja AFKing, or having no clue about the bosses we're fighting, or dying  due to continually standing in crap on the ground they can move out of, or having mysteriously changed their spec so they are no longer able to do their assigned job in the raid. This sort of thing makes me want to log off in a nerd rage.

World of Warcraft raids are not a spectator sport. They are a team effort. Perhaps with the latest nerfs, pro guilds can carry through more slackers and malcontents. But perhaps not. And regardless, I'm not your mommy so I don't WANT to carry you through content. There -- I've said it.

When did going to raids become an unbearable chore that one slogged through, seemingly trying to do as poor a job as possible so it would get called early and you could go back to picking herbs? What is it exactly about Cataclysm and its raid structure and guild changes that has made this seem like an all too common and prevalent issue?

I don't have the answers. but I do have a request: if you are not feeling like raiding: please don't sign up or accept the raid invitation. Everyone is entitled to a night off. And if you're not willing to come in and give it your A game, you're doing the rest of the team (many of whom spent time farming food and flask materials and repair money) a disservice.

Try, or don't try, but please don't waste your raid team's time.

xo

Nexxi

 


Friday Five: Five Things I Look for in a Raiding Guild

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  1. You have set times to raid.
    Specifically, you raid at 6 p.m. pacific or a little bit after. This does not change based upon whimsy. Or enough people being on earlier. Or your raid leader not liking someone who can't get online until 6 Pacific and thus trying to get things started before they log on. 
  2. You confirm your raid slots in advance.
    No, not 30min in advance; a day or two in advance. Or better yet, you have a set raiding roster, and I'm on it. No one, including me, want to rush home form work to warm the bench.
  3. Your loot policies are clear, and not subject to change.
    Loot isn't handed out based on their personal relationships with the raid leader/guild leader. RL/GL don't get "dibs" on all the loot. Officers don't get special consideration for special drops. There aren't special requirements you've never heard about previously when a mount or a legendary drops.
  4. You have people on in your non-raid times.
    If your guild is a hot bed of activity during raid hours and a dead zone thereafter, that says to me there isn't much camaraderie or community other than your raiding. And even if that's very successful raiding, you're not gong to be a good fit for me.
  5. Your guild leader/raid leader/officers are experienced and well respected.
    I am sure that there are many children under the age of 18 and people who've only been playing 6 months who are excellent guild and raid leaders. but so far, I haven't encountered them. I'm a cranky 5 1/2 year veteran of WoW, and enjoy playing with people who are pretty experienced, mature, and with whom I have things in common in addition to playing this game.

What are the things you look for when shopping for a raiding guild?

 


Why I Prefer to be Part of a Set Raid Team

It's a bummer that Magni is now Crystal Clear; likewise it's a bummer when your raid seating priotiy is not.

One of the hardest things I've had to adjust to since leaving behind my more serious raiding guild days, and joining a series of casual guilds that raided, is the loss of being part of a set raid team.

There was the guild that seemed to have a core raiding group, of which I was apart, raiding every night for a year until I was unceremoniously sat for having reminded the tank's brother to turn off his Crusader Aura while we were on Kael. Or the raid group where the raid leader would never tell any of us standby folks if we were needed or not, then get huffy when asked if we were needed or could be released to go do something else.

What I Like About Set Teams

My first, and most serious, raiding guild helped shaped my expectations, and preference, that raid seating be transparent, and communicated in advance. And it also showed me the power of having a set raiding team, with designated backups, rather than having some sort of round robin seating. When we started up our raids each week, there was no need to spend excessive amounts of time re-explaining fight mechanics for farm bosses. Previously killed bosses were summarily handled, leaving us with maximum time to head in and work on our progression  boss or bosses of the evening.

Because we had the same base team each raid, and didn't constantly change up strat, folks had a chance to practice their role, learn how to optimize it during the fight, and set goals for exceeding the prior kill's perfection in execution. We knew which raid member would pull out all the stops if there was a mishap, whom was best suited for which special task, etc.

In the last 2 years especially, I've primarily raided in situations wherein the raid had an entirely different make-up week-to-week. Different healing classes, different distributions of DPS, entirely different players week-to-week. While I do understand how for guilds with too many raiders for a 10-man raid and not enough raiders (or desire) for a 25-man raid can see rotating people in and out of one 10-man to be the path of least resistance for raid seating, I also think it is a key contributor to slowed progression through the content.

From my personal perspective, I'm just not as sharp on a boss I am only seeing every few weeks as I am on content I've done on a regular basis. And it takes time to build raid synergy and relationships. If you are spending 30min of your 3-hour raid time explaining fights to people who have never seen them before, you're not left with much time to build camaraderie -- or to work on new content either.

And What I Hate Most About Unschedulers

In the case of the unschedulers, who can't confirm people When I've hurried home from work to make a 6 p.m. raid start, only to find the raid has started in my absence, or to be told I'm being sat for a new person, it's peeved me. I could have gone out for a drink with a colleague, or stopped by the Farmers' Market, or finished up one last task at my desk. If only the raid leader had changed my status to Out for that raid I signed up for 2 weeks ago.

We are all busy people. If you are working 40+ horus per week, it's hard enough to schedule your raid nights around everything else you need to get done. So when you do those scheduling feats, or spend $30 to catch a cab home to be there for your raid team, it truly sucks to be warming the bench for the night. Yes, it takes extra time for the raid leader to confirm people, and yes it requires those who sign up for raids to be committed to actually attending them, but I do believe having a set slate of raiders, confirmed in advance, is the best course of action to progress through raids.

How to Deal With Backups

Now, when I've gotten into heated discussions int he past with folks over this issue, it's often been due to the thought that a set slate of core raiders causes a team experience gap for the inevitably needed backups/fill-ins. But I disagree. My most successful raid team had several slots set aside in each raid to rotate backups in and out to ensure they learned the new fights and could keep up on the farm content. Yes, in a 10-man you have less leeway than in a 25-man, but it's still doable. You can set aside a healing slot and a DPS slot that rotates people each raid night. If you are in the envious position of being a guild with a surplus of tanks, you can also rotate your off tanks from DPS to Off-tank each raid.

In my opinion, having a more disciplined approach to your raid seating can strengthen the camaraderie of your raid team and be a solid base for progression success. What are your thoughts on raid seating?


It's Always Hard Being the New Kid in the Raid Team

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You may have noticed some shiny new locales in my screenshots as of late. That's because I'm in a new guild horde-side. They're 10/12, and I get to raid 3 nights per week. A nice upgrade in the raiding department over my prior situation.

That said, like any guild change, it's an adjustment. I've gone from being an officer in a guild that I was in for almost two years, to being the new kid in the progression raid team in a Cataclysm-birthed guild. Easing the transition is the fact that the guild leader is my SO's buddy from way back. So that helps. But it still takes time to get to know everyone and get a sense for the flavor of the guild. And it's easy for a new team member to feel left out of all the inside jokes that you just had to be there to understand. And if you are a highly competitive player, used to being recognized for doing a kick-ass job, it sucks to go back to unknown status.

All this got me thinking about how you as a new guild member can best get assimilated to a new guild.

 3 Ways a New Guild Member Can Get to Know the Guild

  1. Tag Along
    When a guildie asks in G for someone to come along for a heroic, raise your hand. Even if you don't need anything else from justice points. It's in the 5-mans you actually have time to chit chat and get to know your fellow guildies.
  2. Lurk on Vent
    Even if you're not the type to chit chat yourself, if you find that a number of your guildies stay logged in to Vent for hours, that may be a great way to get to know them a little better. And they don't have to know that you're surfing the Internet or reading blogs while you do it. ANd in fact, that may even give you some conversation fodder.
  3. Connect via Social Media
    No, I'm not talking about SPAMming folks with your get rich quick schemes. I'm talking about joining your guildies' conversations on twitter, in the guild forums, on blogs, or even on Facebook. Pick the venues you are most comfortable with, and go raed through the past month or so of activity. Then add guildies to your connections, and say hi. I've been amazed at how much you can learn about your guildies just from being active on twitter.

So, what are your tips for getting to know a new guild?

 


Friday Five: Five Signs That You Need to Give your Main Tank the Boot

Does your raid team wish they could put your main tank on a goblin rocket and send him off to a far away land?


 Ah, the main tank. This is the raid quarterback role. All eyes are on them, all the time. Unfortunately, as a result, and due to how important and seemingly irreplaceable a good tank can be, some guilds bend over backwards to keep them happy. Often at the expense of the rest of the raid team.

My last serious progression raiding guild, circa Burning Crusade, had such a tank. He slowly but surely drove off many skilled raiders who were also great guildies (disclosure: I wsa one such member driven away), negatively impacting their ability to progress in raids. When last I checked in with them, in very late Wrath, the primadonna tank was gone for greener pastures, and they were nowhere near a Lich King kill. From progression raiding group, to a guild unable to get even one ten man kill of the Lich King. That was the cost to the guild for coddling a tank who was a bad fit for the guild-- but able to talk a good game about how the guild couldn't progress without him.

Don't become that guild. You really don't have to. There are always early warning signs that you have a toxic main tank that needs to be neutralized before he disolves your raiding team. Here are five:

  1. Disrespects the other raid members.
    This can manifest itself as talking over other people or shouting them down, fingerpointing at others whenever an issue or challenge pops up, and telling other people how to play their role. Often, this behavior is also related to not taking personal accountability for one's actions and their consequences. Don't chew out a melee for not knowing which add you wanted them to focus on when you 1) didn't tell anyone beforehand and 2) didn't mark a target.  Bonus points if the tank also tells other people how replaceable they are.
  2. You've told more than 1 raid member to just put him on mute on Vent.
    Guildies should not have to put other guildies on mute or ignore. This is not open to discussion for me. Guildies should not have to put other guildies on mute or ignore. Yes, people are people and will have disagreements and different -- sometimes clashing-- points of view. But I have an expectation that I am playing with people who can be mature enough to have a difference of opinion without being nasty and rude to each other. If your main tank is mouthing off and being disrespectful to guildies to the point folks are upset, maybe you should tell the MT to mute himself.
  3. Comes to raids...whenever he feels like it.
    Oh, he missed the raid tonight without telling anyone because he was tired. MMMM'kk. But he wasn't too tired to come online an hour and  a half later to go to another raid? Um, no. He's playing you. By not signing up for raids in advance, and then not always showing up, he's playing a game designed to keep you walking on eggshells, saying things like "don't upset the tank!" How much do you think it upset the 9 people who didn't get to raid when he blew them off to show them their place? And double minus points if he has transferred off the server to go play with a more progressed guild at some stall in your progression.
  4. Is an alt, with a main in a more progressed guild.
    I've seen a lot more of this in the past 2 years, likely because of the ease with which we can get our alts geared up through heroics and badge/points gear. My serious raiding guilds would give an auto gkick to people who were raiding (or applying to raid) elsewhere. Why? Because you don't want a raider who is only half committed to your raid. If you're super casual this may not be an issue. But if you are working on Al'akir, and finally making some headway, do yuo want to call it when your tank bails to go do something with their main's guild? Because that's what starts happening eventually. And again, that leaves your raid team in the lurch.
  5. Thinks (or even says out loud) you can't possibly carry on without them.
    It sucks to recruit a tank for your guild. But that doesn't mean your toxic tank is irreplaceable. None of your raid members are irreplaceable. And if someone on the team has this attitude-- this arrogance, it spills over into their interactions with the rest of the raid team. People don't like someone who wields their smug superiority over them. That's not how to build team camaraderie.

A raiding team full of frenemies may have some initial success, but once you hit the end of the tier bosses, you need true collaboration and teamwork to pull things off. If your main tank is exhibiting a few of these traits, sit him or her down and have a conversation about the importance of working as a team. Don't let a key player unravel the team.


How Not to Make a Good Impression in Your First Raid

shadow priest Anexxia stares down Cho'gall

On a recent raid night, we somehow ended up one DPS short of a full raid (hold the jokes, please ;p). Thus, we ended up taking with us a member who had just joined the prior evening.

As it turns out, the officer who had invited this person, must not have known them very well, if at all. I say this because if they had, they wouldn't have suggested bringing him in so far into the instance. Why do I say this? Because I'm pretty sure it was his first ever raid instance.

This player kept asking what color dot he needed to follow on the mini map and was clearly perplexed when asked to just visually look at his screen to see where folks were standing and moving towards. After partially wiping the raid group by running fire in the opposite edition (he literally ran me down), over Vent he asked repeatedly why the instance wouldn't let him back in. And when he finally was in and we were about to go for what was his third attempt, he asked us to wait when the ready check popped up, and proceeded to ask why we didn't all just spread out instead of moving around on the fight.

I believe we gave him three attempts before we cut him loose. And I don't foresee our taking him with us ever again. Why? A few key reasons:

  • He didn't say he was new to raiding before accepting the invitation
  • He demonstrated an inability to follow instructions
  • He talked over vent almost non-stop through the attempts, distracting the entire team from doing their jobs
  • Despite having no idea what he was doing, tried to tell the raid leader and team what we should be doing differently, on a boss we'd previously killed a number of times.

Start with Baby Steps

Now, I do understand why someone without any raiding experience would want to join a raiding  guild. And why they would be excited to be invited to a raid. And we do al have to start somewhere. But if you have no experience with grouping for raids, unless you are a WOW savant, a difficult boss towards the end of an instance is not the place to do that. You really need to start with an easier fight, and to have prepared for it.

Your best bet for getting your raiding feet wet is Baradin Hold. A slight bit of trash, only one boss, and a likelihood your guild can carry you through the content makes this a good starting point. You'll be able to start to get familiar with the dynamics of coordinating 10 or 25 players to achieve a common goal. And gain an understanding of the tasks your class and role may be asked to perform in a raid.

Once you start to feel like you are keeping up with the group, you can start thinking about hitting some of the entry level raid bosses. But you'll want to make sure you go watch a video of the encounter and read a description of what your role does in that fight, so that you are coming into the raid armed with enough knowledge to give it a good try. Be sure that your raid leader knows you are new to the instance, and ask clarifying questions if you are unsure of what you personally are being asked to do.

I understand it can seem scary to admit to being a newbie, but we were all newbies at one point or another. And a good team of folks will appreciate your 'fessing up, versus not understanding why you are having trouble with executing on something they consider to be on farm mode.

Further reading:


Friday Five: Five Keys to Raiding Success

shadow priest uses gnomish powers to narrowly escape the dreaded elevator boss

It's Friday, and we've got five keys to raiding success:

  1. Raid leaders must remember their raid members are not mind readers.
    If you need someone to do something, tell them -- in advance of pulling the boss. Yelling at someone for not doing something you didn't ask them to do, on a boss they've not seen, is not cool, and not effective.
  2. Select and confirm your raiding teams a few days in advance.
    If you have more people who want to raid than you have slots, this is imperative. It's no fun to log on, revved up to raid, then get kicked to the curb. Many of your raiders are fitting raiding into already very busy lives. If they aren't seated for a raid, and know that in advance, that gives them the opportunity to go do something else offline; it's a lot harder to pull plans together last minute, after not getting in.
  3. Let your raiders know your instance plan for the week.
    THis allows them to watch videos the day of working on a new boss, prep their action bars with any macros, or go out and poke around blogs for tips on how to maximize their performance on that boss your team inevitably struggles with.
  4. Make every attempt a serious attempt.
    Don't pull a boss while someone is AFK. Or before everyone is buffed and ready. Ask folks to get their food buff on and be running some sort of flask or elixir. Hand out -- and use -- healthstones if you are lucky enough to have a warlock on the team.
  5. Keep finger pointing and backseat driving to a minimum during the fight.
    Keep Vent clear! The raid doesn't need to know that the spatially unaware ranged DPS died unless they have a specific task that needs to be assigned to someone else. The know-it-all tank doesn't actually know that it was the melee's fault for whatever minor hiccup (that you just recovered from) happened. Mid-fight, when people start in with this stuff, or worse yet, rambling on about things completely non-related to the fight, it distracts the other raiders from doing their jobs, and can cause a wipe. Do your postmortem AFTER the fight, not as a play-by-play while the raid team is still working on it.

As always, YMMV, these opinions are solely mine and do not reflect those of any specific raiding team, and no fluffy animals or raiders were harmed in the making of this Friday Five. What are some of YOUR tips for raiding success?


Warming the Bench...Mid-Raid

Cho'gall will have your heads!...all of you!

A close cousin to the raid leaders who get thte twitchy strategy changing finger every attempt, the raid leader who can't just make up his mind as to whom to bring to the raid each night poses similar challenges to the morale of the raid team.

Put yourself in this position:

You're in the middle of doing a 5-man, or your dailies, or whatever it was that you had planned to do with your WoW time tonight. Then out of the blue, your raid leader asks you to please come and help on Boss X. You agree, and are summoned in so fast you don't even have time to read a refresher strat. Which is fine since after one go at it, you've got a new role to play (i.e. you are now the OT or a healer -- whatever your OS is.) An attempt later, you hear over Vent "Sorry Bud, we are going to bring in X instead" and find yourself removed from the raid.

Do you...

    A. Log out of the game in full nerd rage.

    B. Sit in Org for an hour pondering what you did wrong

    C. Stick pins in your raid leader voodoo doll

    D. /gquit

I've seen all of the above (well except for the voodoo doll -- people tend to keep that quiet) happen in this totally avoidable situation. As a raid leader, you need to be well versed in the strategy you are using for a boss, and know, in advance, whom you need to make that happen. If you think you are going to want someone to come in with an offspec to facilitate that, you need to tell them in advance, give them a couple of minutes to prepare by watching a video or reading a strat from that perspective, and give them a couple of attempts to learn that new role.

It's incredibly insensitive to ask someone to drop what they are doing to come help you then not give them the respect of the ability to give it a good shot by not allowing them time to prep. Chances are your weary raid team could use a bio or make-an-adult-beverage break anyway.

When raid leaders make a habit of this behavior, they may find those last-minute calls to help out will go unheeded. Which makes sense. No one wants to help out someone who treats them as a disposable cog in the raid machine, versus as a person.

 It's a fine line to tread between being responsive to changing raid dynamics and asking folks to fill a variety of roles and being a jerk. How has your guild managed to achieve that balance?


Can Progression Raiding and Alts Productively Coexist?

Don't mind me Atramedes, I'm just sightseeing, said the shadow priest as she crept closer...

We're at a point in this tier of content wherein serious raiding guilds are well on their way into defeating the heroic modes, but many more casual raiding guilds are finding themselves stuck at 9/12 or 10/12 on regular mode. So you know what that means -- folks are starting to want to bring their alts. Worse yet, the people who want to bring their alts are typically the folks who've geared themselves out thanks to having attended all or most of the runs (yes, I'm looking at you MT/Raid Leader/Core Raid team members.)

A guild leader's first impulse is probably to say "OK..." when their raid leader comes to them and says "I don't want to bring my geared out toon to raids any more; I really want to play Character X." But there are a number of reasons you should think twice before sealing that deal:

  1. Often this is not the first-- or the last-- time this player has pulled the old switcheroo. Are you prepared for them gearing up this character then cycling in their next alt?
  2. You've just set a precedent. Now that you've let them swap out to their alt, why can't player X do the same?
  3. So, player Z who has stayed on their main and lost a lot of loot to the swapping player, and is now losing more gear to their alt is starting to hate them.
  4. A raid team wants to feel like a team, not a loot delivery system for the raid leader. It can be hard to respect a leader who is continually fine tuning a situation to their advantage-- raid synergy be damned.
  5. Typically, no matter how much we love our alts, they will not perform nearly as well, or have the same utility as our mains on whom we've spent months raiding.

In my raiding history, once the alts started coming in, progression ground to a stand-still. Tempers flared. And frequently, good players left my raid teams.In many of the cases, this behavior was tolerated because it was done by the raid leader-- and everyone was afraid of losing the raid leader to the extent that no one spoke up about it. But there was a lot of discussion going on in the background amongst the raiders it affected. And none of it sunshine and kittens related.

To be clear, I'm not saying a raid leader shouldn't grab someone's healer alt if a raid won't go without that happening. But allowing players, at their request, to swap characters at this stage in the game, after gearing themselves up? That has a real possibility of derailing your progression momentum.

So, What Can You Do to Avoid a Blowout?

If this issue comes up in your guild, you can't just ignore it. It won't go away. But there are a few ways you can diffuse the situation.

  • Start up an alt raid.
    You probably have enough experienced raiders with moderately geared up alts who want to raid on them. Put them all together, and let them start re-clearing the raids. Bonus points for this approach making folks work for it, versus coasting off mains' hard work.
  • Put it to a vote.
    If someone is truly adamant about wanting to make a switch, put up an anonymous vote on your forums and let the raid team decide. And do the same for if EP/DKP is allowed to roll over or if there will be a penalty spend or freeze for a specific timeframe to discourage the loot and run syndrome.

How has your guild dealt with these situations?


When is the Right Time to Change up Your Raid Strat?

If the shadow priest's gear is broken, it's probably time to change the strat.

This weekend, on twitter, @slowpoker said something that resonated with many of us:

STOP CHANGING THE MOTHERFUCKING STRAT. CAN'T PRACTICE WHEN YOU CHANGE IT EVERY FIVE ATTEMPTS

Amen.

When someone posts on twitter in all caps, and curses, you know it's serious business. So raid leaders, please stop and reflect for a moment, before the the next time you utter the phrase "Let's try a new strat..." and answer these questions honestly:

  1. Did you succinctly explain the strat?
    No, I am not asking if you droned on for 5 minutes about all of the boss abilities. I don't care about the boss abilities. I want to know what I am supposed to do, when I am supposed to do it, and where I should be. If you want an example of some well-written strategy descriptions, go check out Jaded Alt's blog.
  2. Did all of your raid members know their personal special role to be fulfilled, if any?
    "OK, someone needs to kite the adds, and I need two of you to click the chains" does not fulfill the above. Why? Because it doesn't assign a specific person to a specific task. Thus, no personal accountability. "Someone else will do it...." all your raiders think quietly to themselves. And then, no one actually does it.
  3. Did your raid team actually execute the strat?
    Now this is where things can get heated. But answer this honestly: did folks actually play out their roles as requested? Or did they do something sorta similar, but not quite the same? If the latter, then the strat hasn't actually been tried out and deemed unworkable for your team. I saw a lot of this in ICC. FOlks claiming we needed a new strat for Rotface and Festergut when in fact, multiple folks were not even coming close to executing the decided upon and communicated strat.
  4. Have you spent some time using the strat, and not gotten close?
    OK you're executing the strat perfectly, but you're not getting closer than 35% on the boss, ever. That's when it's time to take 5 and evaluate what your issue is. Are your healers overtaxed? Is someone standing in the fire? Is there a sub-10k DPSer in the raid? Is someone talking on the phone while raiding? Try to isolate the failure points. And NOW, you're ready to change up the strat. If you're getting down to less than 10% each time, however, you need to work on your close, not change up the strat.

 In my five+ years of playing this game, and coming up on my five-year anniversary of the first time I set foot in Molten Core, I've found that the most important factor in raiding success has been practice. Having the same folks playing the same role, over time, is what makes raids go more smoothly and efficiently. The more practiced we become in our roles, the better we get at them. What once felt like a chaotic fight eventually feels like a well-orchestrated ballet, with every raid member playing her part.

So the next time you get the itch to change up the strat for a fight your team is just learning, please just pause for a moment and determine if that's really necessary, or if you are just unnecessarily stressing out your raiding team.

Resources

For my Alliance guild, I compiled a list of Jaded Alt's posts on Cataclysm Raid strats, because they really are that good. Here it is for your reference:

BoT


BWD


Throne of the Four Winds


If DPS is "So Easy" Why Are Folks Still Struggling?

Shadow priest basking in warmth from two-headed beast Chimaeron, recently slain

DPS is so easy. I know this because people tell me this, often.

Healing is so hard. And Tanking is so much more difficult. But DPS? DPS is so easy.

Bollocks I say!

If DPS were so easy, then everyone I know would be 12/12. I would never be in a fail 5-man PUG that couldn't get past Baron Ashbury in SFK. And this game would be so incredibly boring as I stood in one place and used a macro for my rotation.

The truth is, I am still in heroics with people who are doing 6k DPS. I've recently been in a 25-man with someone in my same spec, with better gear than me, with my same assignment, who did 50% of my damage. And on any given raid night, I see wide fluctuations in my own DPS, depending upon my assigned job in the raid.

That's right-- we DPS don't just stand around in one place and look pretty as we hurl shadowy death at mobs. We also stare at the middle of our screen waiting for the DBM warning to come up about the nastiness we need to offensively dispel off a boss, while also staying at range from everyone else, or stacking up, or running out of the group so as not to explode you.

DPS kite adds while folks focus on the boss. They click on vehicles to engage random mechanics at very specific times in your raids. DPS endure all means of crackpot schemes dreamt up by frustrated (or perhaps even just plain crazy) raid leaders. And most of all, DPS take being told, day after day, raid after raid, you are replaceable, interchangeable with any other DPS.

A good raid leader, however, knows the value of their best DPS. They understand that a raid is a team effort. The weight of the raid is not all on the shoulders of the healer, or the tank. It's on *everyone's shoulders*.

Success hinges upon the team working together seamlessly, one action flowing into another. Healers anticipating damage, as DPS damage the boss and execute their assigned tasks, and tanks maintain threat. A successful boss kill is a thing of beauty and it takes all of us, playing our best, to make it happen.

So the next time someone says "DPS has it so easy..." please consider telling them to knock it off. We're all in this together, folks.


Disappointed, But Not Surprised

these are the moments I raid for

This time last month, I wrote about waiting it out to see how our raiding schedule played out for my shadow priest horde-side. Here's how it shook out:

  • Second early start time raid night added, for a total of 4 EP earning nights per week*
  • No additional Pacific Time weeknight progression/EP earning raid night added (Note: Pacific Time was the raid time for all the Wrath raids, which was a key factor in my joining the guild circa Ulduar)
  • An incredible # of DPS signing up for every raid night, with half those signed up, on average, being sat
  • Early start time raiders also signing up for and being seated in Pacific Time raids
  • After I got sat from my only raid signup one week, the raid scheduler tweaked the signup spreadsheet in a way that will probably usually (but not always) mean that I will be seated for the 1 weeknight I can sign up for.

Over the course of the past month, I've gotten to attend 3 EP earning raids. That was my typical weekly raid count for BC and Wrath. And in Wrath, the other raid officer and I were neck and neck the entire time after EP was implemented for the most EP. i.e. if there was a raid, I was there. If there was a first kill screenshot to stand in, I was in it.

Now, I'm "a casual." And not at all by choice.What does this change for me? It means I go to raids and am killing content that other folks have already been working on for a few nights, or have killed. I have to play catch up-- learning how the raid is approaching the fight, and getting into the groove with a boss fight, well behind the learning curve. I like to lead the charge. To figure things out. To be ahead of the curve. And that's simply not what's possible for me with this schedule.

Yes, I could raid on Saturday night if the seating chart gods aligned. However, Saturday is the 1 weekend day my SO and I both have off, and we often *gasp* -- do things offline on Saturday date night. So I don't want to commit to spending my Saturday nights in a raid group. And more to the point, I don't want to not know until 24 hours beforehand if I am going to spend my Saturday night in a raid group. 24 hours notice is not enough advance time to make a dinner reservation, or buy advance movie tickets, or make plans to grab a City Carshare in this busy city of mine. It just doesn't work that way.

If it was Sunday night instead, I'd be there. And I'd totally be there for the raid nights that are early starts now -- but I have this thing called work that I do that pays the Internet and WoW subscription fees, and makes it impossible for me to be able to raid at the time I typically leave work each night.

And thus, I find myself without much of a reason to log in to my beloved shadow priest.

Because it's the raiding I love. The raiding that gets my adrenaline flowing. The raiding that I spent so much time planning for and prepping for and writing about. And now it's out of my grasp. And I am disappointed. So very disappointed.

 

*the significance here is if you receive points (EP) for time spent in raid and for killing bosses. Thus, if you are not able to attend raids, you are not earning points. If you are not earning points you will have no points to spend to buy any gear in raids. If you do not gear up in this tier of raids, you will be woefully unprepared for the next tier of raids. And so on.


Providing Constructive Criticism Without Being a Jerk

shadow priest versus the world

So you've decided you need to provide someone in your raid team with some constructive criticism. My first word of advice: put that thought on simmer on the back-burner for a while before doing so. Seriously. No matter how well-intentioned, "constructive feedback" given in the heat of the moment is rarely effective. Instead, take some time to think through what you have to say to the person, and how you're going to say it. Here are some thoughts to guide you through that process.

First, Evaluate if You are the Right Person to Give the Feedback, and If It is Warranted

Once upon a time, I was filling in on a ToC25, healing on my shaman. An elemental shaman in our guild, mid-Jaraxus fight, started telling me everything I should be doing differently. On my alt. In the middle of a boss fight I was healing. This person was just another teammate. Not the raid leader. And I wasn't failing either mind you-- my shaman was 3 out of 5 healers, which I was pretty proud of given her limited play time that expansion and her crappy gear. This unsolicited criticism was ill timed, came from someone who had no business telling me what to do, and was directed at an alt that was actually doing just fine. This was a great example of how NOT to give constructive criticism.

In general, if someone is playing an alt to fill in for a role your raid needs, you should consider carefully how you give feedback. The player is less comfortable with that role generally, and is doing it as a favor to the raid. If you did want to help them boost their future performance, it would be appropriate, after the raid, to say "hey if you think you are going to be healing on your shaman a lot moving forward, I read a great blog post on healing you might be interested in."

Make Sure You're Providing an Expert Opinion, Not Just Your Opinion

Yup, that's right. Holding the title of raid leader or guild leader does not, in fact, make you an expert in every class and spec. If you have a hunter who is struggling, have your guild's best hunter talk to them. No one wants to hear someone who doesn't play their class regurgitate a well-meaning blog post they read somewhere, and being told to "just do that." Likewise, no one wants to be told how to improve by someone who uses another class/spec as their example for what to do. Each class and spec is different, and takes different finessing. If you don't have an expert in your guild on that class, do some online homework: start with Elitist Jerks and from there fan out to class and spec-specific resources. If you're not sure where to start, WoW Insider has a nice big list of WoW resources, including bloggers by class.

Praise Publicly, Coach Privately

This one should be obvious, but I have many times heard a raid leader berate a player and give them detailed instructions on how to improve in the middle of a raid, over vent. this is fail. How would you like it if your boss came up to you, in front of all your coworkers, to tell you you were doing a sucky job and should change X, Y and Z immediately? Yes, WoW is not a job, but the scenario still applies. No one wants to be taken to task in front of their peers. By doing that, it is unlikely that even good, well-intentioned advice will be heard by that player. Instead, they'll remember how they got chewed out by that jerk (YOU) in front of their raid team.

Make Your Feedback Specific and Actionable

Bad Feedback: Your DPS sucks, improve or we kick you from the raid team.

Good Feedback: Elitist Jerks is modeling a player with your spec and gear level at about 2k DPS higher than we're seeing you perform. I think we can do some fine tuning to your spec/gems/enchants/rotation to get you to where you need to be.

See what I did there? I gave specific feedback on what needs to be improved, and by how much, and laid out a possible check list to start with, and offered up a partnership with the person to help them improve.

Be Sure to Praise the Improvement

Once you give the feedback and support, and the person improves, you have one last constructive feedback task ahead of you: Praising the person for their improvement. This reinforces the change and shows the player that you are paying attention, and are aware of the efforts they made, and their progress. If you don't say anything, the player can feel as though they wasted their time and efforts trying to meet your standards. It's a small thing to do and doesn't take much time, so make sure to acknoledge your teammate's progress.


Friday Five: Five Reasons I Raid

oh hey Maloriak, your momma dresses you funny

Last night I went in and killed this guy, a guild first. I had that awesome heart-pounding adrenaline rush, and thought it would be fun to share the 5 primary reasons I raid.

  1. I love the adrenaline rush of a new boss kill. First you make steady progress. Then you get the wipe at 17%. Then you get the attempt where everyone is in the flow. No one has died. You are in phase 2. Everything's smooth. The raid leader says "BURN HIM!" and you do. You push your character, micromanaging every GCD, You find that volcanic potion you forgot you'd stashed in your bag. Push, push push...and he's dead!
  2. I love the teamwork. The world is full of plenty of ways to be an individual contributor. Raiding on the other hand is very much about the entire team doing the dance, ebbing and flowing together. And I love being part of a team accomplishing a goal together. I also love all the silly inside jokes you have after a year or more of raiding with the same folks. See also why I never let my horde guild's paladin tank Dreb off the hook without making at least 1 funny voice for me.
  3. I love seeing new places. And taking many many screenshots.
  4. I like to push myself to be a better player. And raids have endless room for fine tuning and experimentation. You can raid on the same character for an entire expansion and still have room to fiddle with things you do in the raids to keep it interesting. And of course raiding has the potential, RNG willing, of your getting new gear with which to improve your character, which feeds back into this reason.
  5. I like to have the opportunity to shadow priest tank. What, your raid doesn't have any shadow priest tanking? My raids *always* have some shadow priest tanking. Like when both tanks die at 3%, and someone needs to keep the boss engaged long enough to finish him off. Or when a nasty dragon trash mob kills the entire raid and I get to DoT and kite him down a long hallway until he keels over. Those are incredible moments of fun and joyfulness for me.

So why do you raid?


It's Too Soon for ICC to be a "Retro Raid" for me

wasn't this shadow priest just in this place?

Last night, the scheduled 10s ended up morphing into 25-man ICC. "Retro Raid!" was the call to battle. "No thank you!" was my atypical but firm reply.

There is just not enough distance between me and ICC for it to live in that rosy pink nostalgia haze in my brain where the other retro raids like kara and BWL live. I don't get the warm fuzzies at the idea of going in there.

I knocked my head against the ICC wall, in 10 and 25, for 9+ months, finally taking a break from it only a month or so prior to the Cataclysm. Anexxia alone had 30+ kills of Marrowgar in 25. I'm tired of the icy winds of Northwind consuming my soul. It's going to take ma at least a solid year -- if not two-- before a big smile will come across my face when someone suggests heading in there.

Right now, I want to do new content. See new instances, kill new bosses. ICC will still be there in the morning. And I need to give it some serious space for its absence to make my heart grow fonder.


Waiting it Out

shadow priest hiding in plain sight

Right now, I'm playing the waiting game on my undead shadow priest Anexxia. Specifically, I am waiting to see how our raiding schedule shakes out. And this is why I have had a sad as of late.

You see, I love raiding. I've been raiding ever since my first character hit 58 in vanilla WoW days and was goaded into coming along to a guild alliance's MC run. I've been hooked on it ever since. Fast Forward to WotLK. I finally found a good server and home for my shadow priest, in a guild for whom I am currently serving as an officer. I managed to complete all of the WotLK raid content, including getting my Starcaller title. Some pretty amazing and rewarding accomplishments.

I'm still wearing my Starcaller title but I don't feel much like a raider at the moment. My work schedule has been erratic and unpredictable, and we've done some changing up in our schedule.

One of the things that I really liked about our guild's raiding schedule was it offered up 4 or even 5 possible raiding nights per week, all of which started at 6:15 Pacific. Even if I got waylaid a bit at work, I could get home in time for the raid. But even before the expansion hit, we had some East Coasters lobby for an earlier start time. And thus, we now have a 5 Pacific start time raid night, soon to be 2 raid nights.

So, depending upon how things shake out, that leaves us with either 1 or 2 Pacific time raid nights during the week. And Saturday which starts at 6 Pacific. There aren't too many folks who work on the weekends, and for those who do, 6 Pacific on Saturday is no better or no worse than any other time on Saturday. Although I used to count Saturday as one of my raid nights, RL schedule changes on my SO's part mean I would be choosing raiding over the one weekend night we both have to go do something, so that's out.

This leaves me at 1 or 2 nights per week I could possibly raid. Which is usually about how much I want to raid. but here's the wrench: we're going back to our old seating system that seats you based upon how many times you sign up and seated versus other folks. So, back when I could sign up for 4 raids per week, I'd get seated once or even twice depending upon signups. Now, I could sign up for our 1 or 2 nights, and be sat half the time or more often depending on how the math works out. That could put me at raiding 4 times per month on Anexxia. unless of course, like my schedule for the next 2 weeks, I have work-related events that either spill over past 5 or mean I will be stuck working late to make up the time after 5 on those few possible raid nights.

That's just not going to work for me. I don't see that I can improve my character, learn the fights, and be a rel part of the team if i am seated in 4 raids per month. I get that could work for other folks but for me, it's like being a visitor, not being an active member of the team.

So for now, I wait and see what happens. I am signing up for raids when I know for sure I can attend, and I am crossing my fingers it will work out. I've spent the entire weekend stressing and bummed about this. And there's absolutely nothing I can do to influence the outcome one way or another.

Wish me luck.


What Does it Take to be a Great Raid Leader?

the fact that this shadow priest is sitting in the big chair doesn't mean she's the raid leader

Leading raids is not my favorite task. I like to focus on playing and having a good time, while when in the role of raid leader I have to focus on what everyone else is doing. But somebody has to lead the raids to keep us all marching in the right direction. Which got me to thinking about what it takes to be a great raid leader.

It's easiest to start with a list of the qualities that do not make for a great leader:

  • Unwilling to listen to feedback from others
  • Unable to objectively evaluate if the issue at hand is the strategy or the execution of the strategy
  • Not a team player in groups where they are not a leader
  • Desire to be raid leader driven by wanting to be in charge
  • Use of bullying and shouting down others to banish opposing view points
  • Prone to yelling over Vent/TeamSpeak/Mumble
  • Impatient; unclear that learning new fights takes time
  • Uncomfortable with giving constructive criticism or assigning necessary but not glamorous tasks to friends/relatives/significant others

 7 Habits of Bad Raid Leaders

  1. Yell "WIPE IT" whenever a strategy is not absolutely perfectly executed.
  2. Kick out raiders for making even tiny mistakes.
  3. Kick out the lowest DPS every half hour if you are not making progress.
  4. Force the entire raid to compensate for any areas of weakness your BFF or significant other has.
  5. Come to raids without knowing the strategy backwards and forwards (or without having it printed out and in hand to read to the team.)
  6. Change loot rules after seeing what loot has dropped or who has won it.
  7. Arbitrarily add new raid nights and change what content people are raiding and when, based upon what you feel like doing.

Raid Leaders Need to be Someone the Team Wants to Follow

The success of any team, be it in World of Warcraft or in real life, hinges upon the leader of that team earning the respect of the team, and being someone the team chooses to follow. People do not choose to follow people who rule the raid with an iron fist, belittling others and shouting down anyone who dares question -- even privately-- their proposed strategies or decisions. Those people are called tyrants or dictators, not chosen leaders.

So what does it take to be the kind of raid leader whose members will happily follow them to the ends of Azeroth? For starters, a good leader will:

  • Communicate clearly with the team. This includes coming to raids prepared, and with a strategy in mind. Ideally you will have shared that strategy with the team for input a few days prior to the raid. This allows folks to read it, and to ask questions or make suggestions based upon their experience and your group's makeup. Be sure to assign specific people to specific tasks that need to be done, and ensure they are clear on what they are being asked to do.
  • Be ready to adjust strategies if they are not working as expected. That Tank Spot video you cribbed your strategy from probably doesn't have the same class make-up or skill sets as your actual raid team; be ready to adapt as needed. This can include having to ask your friends or SO to step out if they are not fulfilling their role. This is a delicate area, for sure, but your team expects you to apply the same standards across the board.
  • Listen to team members and try to understand their POV. The fact that it is sometimes not your POV does not make it wrong. Try to understand where others are coming from. And if you don't understand, ask questions that show you have been listening that will also help you better understand that person's perspective.
  • Be approachable. Your team needs to feel it is OK to come to you with an issue or concern or an idea, without fear of retribution or receiving a dressing down. 
  • Understand it's not all about them. Raiding is a team effort. Yes, the raid leader herded those cats, but the glory is not all upon the raid leader's shoulders -- and likewise, neither are the disappointing defeats. Also, don't take requests or comments personally. It's not all about you. As an example, if someone asks you to please give them an equal dose of progression raids and farm nights, respect their request. Not everyone wants to go full tilt at progression targets every night of the week after coming home from a demanding job. This doesn't make them a slacker. It is not a slap in your face. It is just someone else's POV. 
  • Discuss raid related issues and concerns, or strategy changes, in a professional, mature manner. On the Internet, all too often people take offense to -- and wage war against-- any opinion that is not in line with theirs. All I can say here is: GROW UP! In the course of your life, you are likely to meet many people who have different perspectives and opinions. They are entitled to them as you are entitled to yours. If you are incapable of being civil in discussions when you disagree with others, you are not cut out to be a leader.

I expect a lot from my raiding time. I expect to make progress against the goal of killing the boss upon whom we are working. I expect to have a good time, in a positive social atmosphere. I expect to have a sense of accomplishment and excitement when we kill a boss for the first time. I expect to feel like a valued and important member of a team. And if I don't feel this way, I eventually lose interest in raiding with that team. The raid leader sets the tone of the raid and the standard of behavior for the team. Having a positive raid leader, who strives to be the kind of leader others want to follow is key to making these expectations come true. You know how it's said that people don't quit their job, they quit their boss? That's frequently the case with raids too.

Food for thought. And this gives me a homework assignment: think through what a volunteer job description would be for an ideal raid leader.


Keep it Clear!

I'm torn.

You see, I really love having a good conversation amongst the raid group between pulls, or as we wait to get started. I love that. But it seems that conversational vibe often spills over into the boss fights, which truly aggravates me.

I want to hear the raid leader call out if someone needs to take action. I want to know if a healer is down and we need to battle rez them or someone needs to drop and heal.

I don't care if our lowest DPS died. I also don't want to hear that floor hugger start chit chatting about miscellany.

NEWS FLASH: the fact that you died does not mean this is a wipe or that you are now free to monopolize the vent channel.

KEEP VENT CLEAR!

Because I don't want to have to be the one who hits their push to talk to shush you.

That's all. Carry on.


Are You Ready to Raid?

before you step through that raid portal...

More and more folks are seeing raid signups on their calendars now, as even many casual guilds are starting to get the raiding itch. Chances are, you may be feeling like you want to get back into raiding and pronto. but that doesn't necessarily mean that you -- or your fellow guildies-- are actually ready to raid.

Once an expansion gets to be more mature, it gets a lot easier to set minimum requirements. With this one still shiny and new, and based upon my own experience with two level 85 shadowpriests and one level 85 boomkin, here's what I am seeing as being raid-ready.

Check Your Gear

Although the trade recruiters are specifying ilvl 345 minimum, that's not necessary, or in some cases attainable pre-raiding, for some casters. Wand-users have a tough time of it as compared to the relic equippers who can have a 346 item crafted. One of my shadow priests lucked out and got the wand from Grim Batol. The other is stuck with an ilvlv 318 green wand. That green brings down her ilvl (she's 340, wearing 2 epics) and keeps her from the Cataclysmically Superior achievement. It doesn't make me a bad player or her not raid ready. She's smoked people with higher ilvl gear in heroics. This is specifically why I would discourage raid leaders from having across the board hard-and-fast requirements at this point in the game. Better gear can help you eek out a little bit more damage, but it can't play for you.

Shooting for ilvl 339 and above is probably a better target goal for your shadow priest. This is reachable through running the max level dungeons, crafting some gear, buying some badge pieces, and having a few lucky heroic drops. Next, you'll want to make sure you gem your pieces with blue quality gems, enchant them, and reforge off any extra stats (such as mastery or extra spirit/hit.) If you are about to object and say "but why would I waste time enchanting gear I am just going to replace?" you might want to reconsider starting raiding at this point. Start of an expansion raiding is not a cakewalk. It needs everyone to give 110%. You will be wiping, and repairing, and rinsing and repeating. If you think you are being put out by spending $100g on a gem for your gear, you may want to wait til you can outgear the content.

Check Your Output

I have been grouped with folks in heroics through LFD who can only eek out about 4-5k. This doesn't cut it in most heroics, unless your other 2 DPS are rock stars, and your healer's mana pool can support a protracted boss kill. In a raid, no one can afford to carry you. If you are not able to hit 9-11k consistently in heroics, you are not ready to be thinking about raiding.

If you are close to the 9k, start looking at how you can fine tune. Try pulling back on some of that hit, shooting for closer to 10% hit than 14-17%. This means having to keep an eagle-eye watch on your debuffs to ensure you cast another Vampiric Touch if the first one doesn't land, but it can make a boost in your DPS in the long run. I swapped out my glyph of dispersion, which I loved for leveling, for the SW:D glyph. I also make sure I have my personal buff food on hand (Severed Sagefish Head) in case there isn't a feast or BBQ put out. I also come armed with a flask of the draconic mind or a stack of speed elixirs. Yes, these consumables cost a ton. But a raid is a team effort.

Try and Try Again, but Know When to Quit

So you are invited to your first raid -- awesome! Get in there and modify your rotation and work on adapting your playstyle for the on-the-move style of these new raids. It can take some time to get into the groove and to understand a new encounter. But you will also want to make sure you are able to ID when you are not up to the challenge.

For instance, if your team is repeatedly coming very close to killing the boss, but not quite making it, take a look at the damage meter. Are you hitting your target DPS? What about overall damage? In the event that you see there is a wide gulf between you and the DPS right above you -- or worse yet, there is a tank above you in the raid encounter -- you may need to give yourself a time out before your raid leader has to. It is important to understand the difference between needing some fine tuning or needing to focus a little harder, versus being in denial about not coming close to the requirements for an encounter, and having the expectation that someone else will pick up the slack.


Starcaller Anexxia

Face to Face with Algalon

My last major achievement of Wrath of the Lich King. I never really put it on my to hope for list. I was afraid of being disappointed. Especially after all the Sunday afternoons spent watching people run into fire on Mimiron Firefighter attempts...

:)

But tonight, I got to see Algalon for the first time. And after 40 minutes of working on him, we defeated him. And that makes me Starcaller Anexxia. And I am nearly teary eyed over it. Because it feels good to hit up that one last thing as the days tick down on this expansion.

Thank you Emtox for perservering on this, even in the face of flaking and no shows. This meant a lot.


Friday Five: Five Considerations for Cataclysm Raiding

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Despite recurring lack of interest across servers in WotLK raiding, I'm starting to see folks in guild forums and elsewhere starting to get ants in their Cataclysm pants about making decisions now about raiding teams in Cataclysm. If you're tempted to start drafting up your raiding policies now, you may want to stop drop and roll, and think about these key considerations prior to making sweeping changes:

  1. Mains today are not going to be mains in Cata.
    Don't assume your raid team is going to pick itself up and go into the expansion as status quo. There are going to be a whole slew of main changes. If you started playing in Wrath, or didn't raid prior to Wrath, you haven't lived through watching people who adored their class have nerd rage meltdowns regarding changed class proficiencies and game mechanics, and cycle through their alts until they land on one that feels right. So you'll just have to trust me -- THIS WILL HAPPEN A LOT. Until you have your first 10 folks ready and willing to raid, you can't start parsing out the groups. Will you have too many tanks? Not enough healers? All druids? It's really way too early to know. Or to start fighting about who gets what person on their team.
  2. Your star raiders may not be your star levelers.
    The first folks to make it to 85 are not necessarily going to be your best raiders. Or even be people with interest in raiding. Yes, hardcore guilds often give short timelines for leveling a character to get their raiding going as quickly as possible. But in a casual raiding situation, you may have folks level several toons to 85 prior to deciding whom they want to raid with, or even being ready to give up that alt leveling time in exchange for raiding. I know at least 1 person who has said outright that he intends to spend months leveling his alts prior to being ready to step into a raid.
  3. Heroics will be your first step as a fresh 85, not raids.
    That's right-- it's not intended for a fresh 85 to immediately ding then head into the raid instance. When these expansions unfurl, there is an expectation that folks will farm their way through regular instances and heroics to gear up and get ready (and to learn how to play their class at level cap in a team.) I've heard a number of incredulous newer players complaining about how the heroics are being implemented in Cata as a "C*** block. Newsflash: you just got spoiled by the Wrath heroics on a whole being easy. BC heroics were REALLY DARN HARD at the turn of the expansion.
  4. Guild churn is not over.
    As guilds that focused on 25-mans pare down to 10s, and as folks who have a small core group of friends they play with realize that 10-man raids are a viable pursuit as a focus in Cataclysm, there will continue to be guild churn. You'll also have some of the players who haven't played in over a year who come back, swear they live for raiding, come to a couple then drop out. This is all perfectly normal. Take all such declarations with a grain of salt, and see how things look at the end of December when the dust settles.
  5. Ideal raid makeups are still an unknown.
    Blizzard is still making significant tweaks to the classes. Until they lock and load, and we can see true group synergy in raids, with proper glyphs and itemized gear, it's a crapshoot. We know what has worked in the past, but what's worked for ideal group composition has changed over time, through each expansion, and with some raid instances. See also why my BC druid main never finished ZA, yet my mage alt went through there countless numbers of times (see also: cc makes a Cataclysm comeback.)

This list spurred from having gone through all the prior expansion's raiding "ZOMG we need to change everything up nao" bubbles, plus a great chat AF had a few weeks back to set raiders' expectations. If your guild is starting to have these discussions, it may behoove you to get out in front of it and have a chat about guild expectations in regards to expansion raiding.

Safe travels and Happy Friday!


Three Reasons Why Guilds That Raid Need Class Officers

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If only these guys had had class leader mentors, perhaps things would have turned out differently for them...

 In my vanilla WoW raiding days, our 40-man raids had specific numbers of raid spots designated for specific classes fulfilling specific roles. The class raid leaders (who were not always the same as the class officers) managed their invitee and standby lists, and kept tabs on how everyone was performing. My druids and I sat in our own Vent channel (only raid officers and the RL could talk to each other and over the whole raid), and had our own chat channel. We built comraderie while also having a solid sounding board for trouble shooting how our class and role should be handling any given encounter.

Fast Forward to Burning Crusade with its smaller raids. All of a sudden, many guilds, including mine, decided there really wasn't a need for class officers any more, since raid sizes were so much smaller, and we didn't always have multiples of each class/role. The emphasis moved to having raid leaders and then folks in charge of each functional area (tanking, healing, DPS) at the most. And thus, for many guilds, the class officer died out comleteely.

Given that Cataclysm may well sound the death knell for many guilds running 25-man raids, I can see how a call for a return to class officers may sound like craziness. But hear me out. There are some very solid reasons to consider having them -- even if they aren't max rank officers.

  1. No one is an expert on every class and role.
    That's right, mister hotshot raid leader, I am talking to you. It's infuriating when you are told to do something your class shouldn't (or worse yet can not) do. Or to watch the RL keep handing the dispells/decurses to the same class over and over again, while two or three more who could do it, stand by, not saying a peep. Class leaders know what their folks can (and should) be doing, and can feed the RL that information discretely. In a free-for-all situation, the raid leader doesn't always know whose advice to follow.
  2. Sometimes, players need tips on how to improve.
    I'm the type of person who goes out and finds great resources on the classes I'm playing and tries to maximize what I do and how I do it. Not everyone does this. And further, you can't expect them to. But you can ask your Officers to provide coaching and feedback in these cases. And feedback comes across as a lot more genune and useful when it's coming from someone who also excels in their class and role. No offense, but if a melee player starts telling me how to play my spellcasters, if they are lucky, I tune them out. If I've had it already, they'll get an earful.
  3. No one wants unsolicited advice.
    That's right, no one. Yeah, maybe you've gotten a helpful hint or two from someone that you didn't ask for that really helped, but most of the time, it's annoying. The unsolicited advice typically comes across as someone 1) thinking you suck and 2) trying to tell you they know better than you as to how to play. Having class leader officers tells the guild: these are our experts, and they are your go to resource for help, and are expected to know how to maximize their class in raids. This takes a lot of the sting out of the advice. 

If you are pursuing 25-man raids, and have several dozen active players, why not ask them if they'd like to have class leads or class officers? Those who are nominated by their peers will feel appreciated for being called out for excellence, and your quieter members of the guild will feel empowered to approach them for advice. Even if implemented in a more honorary than powerful role, class leaders have the ability to build a sense of community amongst players, while recognizing some of your best players for doing a great job, which may even help with guild retention.