Raiding

The Benefit of Being a Hybrid

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I have a thing for hybrids. My first character and long time main was a druid. And my primary BC alt was my shaman. And then, of course, there's my shadow priests. I guess I like to be able to pinch hit in the middle of a fight, and to have the day-to-day variety that being a hybrid allows.

I was reminded of this fact in our alt ICC this week. I got to bring my poor neglected shaman. We ran about 4 such alt runs this week since the weekly raid quest was Lord Marrowgar and thus we had a ton of interest. In our run, we ran into a few bumps along the way -- the bulk of them being in fighting the ice giant for the weekly ICC quest.

In true hybrid fashion, I started pumping out the chains of healy goodness whenever I saw things get hairy for our healers (or when we lost a healer.) Yes, this meant my DPS numbers, which had been great along the way as we cleared through lower spire, went into the toilet. But it also meant we were able in several cases to keep pushing forward instead of wiping.

I love having that utility -- to seamlessly swap between roles mid-fight to keep things rolling. But it is interesting that with few exceptions (such as a druid in our raid team who has dropped into bear on more than one occasion when a tank went down, saving us squishies from insta death) I don't see a lot of that. I see shamans insisting on putting down fire DPS totems when a totem of wrath would help the raid as a whole. Or standing and dying, DPSing, when they could easily toss a heal on themselves instead.

Yes, I feel the pain of the shadowformed priest or the Boomkin form druid who lose time and mana by popping out of their forms (I know I hate to do so except when necessary.) But it seems like for too many folks, the meter humping necessitates their never feeling there *is* a moment that warrants making an on-the-fly decision to swap their role for even a moment or two in the spirit of helping the team deal with an unexpected hurdle.

Whyfore all the meter humping? You don't do any DPS when you're dead. And no one cares how much DPS you pumped out on the boss attempts that failed. It's about the attempts where the teamwork was there, and the boss goes down. Not about how much DPS any one of us individually did. It's about how we played our role in the team as a whole. That MM part of the MMORPG.


Gathering That Primordial Saronite

My SO was honored to be announced as the raid member who would get to complete the Shadowmourne quest line. After the shiny happy feeling wore off, we had to turn our attention to the obvious: where the heck would we get all that primordial saronite?

There are three primary places to obtain your saronite:

  • From your guild, who obtains them through random boss drops in ICC 25 (random as in some night every other boss drops them another night you get zero)
  • Buying them with 23 frost emblems a piece from the frost emblem vendor
  • Purchasing them in the auction house

We'd already been in the thinking about our saronite acquisition strategies due to the many shiny crafted pieces that 3.3 brought with it. I made myself the boots a few weeks ago, in fact. Our strategy has been as follows:

  • Purchasing them in the auction house when they are up for 2k or less (i.e. there goes the SO's mechanohog fund)
  • Pimping out the alts and making them gather emblems for us:
    • (3 for me and 3 for him) they can make 2 frost emblems per day doing a random daily heroic, plus 5 per week doing the weekly raid quest
    • Pushing those close to 80 alts to 80 to make them badge farm for us as well
It will take a little bit of time, but we don't need them all until we get our upper spire 25-man kills, so we're doing pretty well already. I've personally cranked up my crafting a bit to make some cash as well. Bringing in the saronite takes some time, but it's not nearly s horrible as you might imagine. Wish us luck!

What's Easier to Overcome -- a DPS Check or Complex Execution?

The answer, of course, depends on your raiding team.

The DPS Check

If you take a look around (via WoW Heroes for instance) and the bulk of your raiding team shows that they can still grab upgrades from ToC 10 and ToC 25 and you are knocking your heads against ICC 25, then spending some time on gearing up in those instances, while regularly doing the weekly raid quest and daily RDH for Frost Emblems may be all you need to get over the DPS hump.

On the other hand, if all your team's upgrades are to be had in ICC, and you're having healing and DPS troubles, your answer may not be so simple. There may need to be some fine tuning of specs and rotations to get you past the Upper Spire bosses. Or the issue may be strategy execution more than it is the DPS per se.

Complex Execution

Alas, complex execution can't be purchased from a vendor. It is 100% dependent upon the time and effort your team is willing to put in.

There may need to be some dry runs of tricky strategies to work out good positioning, and allow folks to practice what they should do when they get marked with a spore for instance. (Hint: standing still where you are is not the right response.)There definitely needs to be no watching or talking on the phone while practicing. And to get the most bang for your buck, everyone needs to run back and rebuff and get ready to go for the next attempt quickly. This means no random AFKs, and being aware of what you need to do (buff the team, eat your food, renew a flask) before hitting YES on your ready check button.

Raiders need to keep your Vent channel clear and pay attention to the strategy and their role in it. If your raid leader asks you to do (or not do) something, you must be willing to act on it, not second guess it or worse yet, flat out do whatever you want instead without telling them. Basically, we're talking about trust here. The raid team needs to trust in their leaders and made a great team effort every time. This doesn't mean not speaking up if you have an idea for how to improve, but it does mean executing a strategy before deciding it doesn't work.

Working it Out

Trying to treat the illness before diagnosing the patient can only lead to frayed nerves and team tensions. It is on everyone on the team to understand their role, what's happening in the attempts, and if they die early, why.

  • What's My Role? If you don't quite understand what it is you are being asked to do, it is always a good thing to ask clarifying questions. This is definitely a case of there are no dumb questions.
  • What Strategy are We Using? Your group is going to be on the left -- does that mean the left as you run in or the left of the boss after he is spun around? Where are the healers standing exactly? Having a strategy that's spelled out (in words/pictures on your forums and read before the raid is preferable) can help decrease strategy execution mixups.
  • Why'd I die? Sometimes it's a whoops! (uh-oh DPSer taunted a tank and died) -- own that and your team mates will respect you for it. Other times it takes some discussion to figure things out (Oh, the tank's healer got a spore and we didn't notice and pick up the slack on healing the tank -- whoops!)
The thing to remember is whether it's a DPS hurdle or a complex execution, it's always a team effort to make a go of it. Don't be afraid to ask for help from your teammates. Answer that raid leader when they ask "OK, what went wrong there?" And answer it honestly. And that will put you on the road to progression.

Friday Five: 5 Raiding Lessons to Remember in ICC

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  1. If a mob does a knockback, keep your back to a wall.
  2. If you forgot a mob does a knockback and you ass pull another group of mobs, let everyone know on vent immediately. Most importantly, don't keep quiet about it, and don't keep ass pulling.
  3. Don't stand in the red/green crap on the ground. If you can't see the crap on the ground, turn up your spell detail settings. 
  4. If you lag too much to do your job when your settings are high enough to show you the crap on the ground, consider not signing up for 25-mans until you can optimize your computer to do so. First try turning off add-ons or background applications while you raid (including the wireless connection on your XBox.)
  5. When a role or raid leader says everyone needs to focus on target X, this means you. I don't care who you think you are, mister hot shot DPS. You do realize recount shows us when you don't change to the Beasts o Saurfang, right? Or when you spent all your time DPSing Lady Deathwhisper? And when the raid that always 1-shots a boss wipes due to adds staying up too long thanks to a couple DPS who felt like they were too good to switch targets, folks will know why. Don't make me pull my THIS MEANS YOU %t  macro back out....

BONUS: No one wants to hear that you wiped the raid because you didn't see the 20-ft tall mob standing behind you. If you have spatial awareness issues, and this happens for you on a recurring basis, try putting your camera settings to max range to make it easier for you to survey your playing field and find yourself a safe spot:

/console CameraDistanceMaxFactor 4

/script SetCVar("cameraDistanceMax",30)

Today's screenshot is courtesy of our Saurfang buddy system. Last night I was Amber's Dark side, and she was my light. And we both had sleepy tree pets...


Countering a Misconception

On our Festergut 25 attempt this past Monday, I was blessed with being placed in the melee group. This meant I didn't get the barfs and could stand still and DPS the boss except when I was gifted with a spore I had to run to a ranged team. My DPS increased by 1300-1500 thanks to this placement And as expected, there was at least one public case of ruffled feathers over this placement.

Why did a shadow priest get this coveted placement over another DPS? Aren't shadow priests the class least affected by the having to run to and fro for Festergut? Alas, no, which should have been clear to the person asking me these questions if they had reviewed our raid logs. It takes a while for shadow priest DPS to ramp up. First, you have to get your 5 stacks of shadow weaving up. Next, you have to keep on refreshing that SW:P that you put up after those 5 stacks and during the use proc of your trinket, careful not to let it drop off. And finally, you want to keep your other DoTs up, without clipping them unnecessarily.

Yes, Devouring Plague is an instant cast. But Vampiric Touch isn't -- it has a cast time so I can't cast it on the run. Ditto for Mind Blast. And Mind Flay is a channeled spell. And my Muradin's Spyglass rocks as long as I keep up my10 stacks at all times. So, not sure how one would come to think that the running in and out for spores would somehow not affect my DPS. I'm not just going to fling out DP until I am out of mana to try to keep the DPS flowing. And since you asked, no, in a fight with the entire raid taking damage, I'm not inclined to Shadow Word: Death myself either.

Being put on the spot, by someone I don't really know, who was jonesing for the special placement I'd gotten (which had netted me our #2 damage done slot overall for the fight, #4 on DPS) made me pretty uncomfortable. Personally, I wouldn't have brought it up in guild chat, or proceeded to whisper a guildie, asking them to justify why they deserved the spot. I stood in the middle because that's what my raid leader asked me to do, just as the prior week I'd stood at range, gotten the pukes just about every go, and done significantly less DPS.

This brings up a larger issue for me though which is not presuming to tell others how to play their class. Telling a guildie who excels at their class that they should do XYZ instead of what they are doing is out of line. Period. Firstly, it's not your business; if they want suggestions from the team they'll ask. And secondly, you don't top the damage charts by doing it wrong. You really don't. I promise. Facerolling OPd class du jour excepted, of course.

When in doubt, keep your opinions to yourself. When my guildie confessed he was jealous of my placement, after the harangue about my playing, I said "yeah." Because that much was apparent already, or we wouldn't have been having the conversation. A conversation that, to be totally honest, really turned me off. So next time you get the urge to offer some unsolicited advice to someone, considering keeping it to yourself. Or go tweet your thought or write a blog post. Your raid will be the better for it.


ICC Lower Spire Cleared!

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Tonight, our first night ever taking a look at Saurfang, and we downed him our third try. We had 101k raid DPS which is one of the best I've seen from our team. A nice quick raid giving me plenty of time to keep nursing the flu and go to bed early. I believe we are the 6th horde guild on our server (per WoW Progress and our realm forums) to clear this wing.

Congratulations Pirates! And a whole new wing awaits us this week!


ICC by the Skin of Our Teeth

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Last night, after weeks of banging our heads against 25-man Lady RepairBill, as Moober affectionately nicknamed her, my guild finally took her down, and did a gunship 1-shot victory lap to celebrate. To say that we were pleased is an understatement. I think shocked was a little more like it.

In the first 45 minutes of our raid, we had wiped fully or partially on the trash 3 or 4 times before getting to Marrowgar. We had ass-pulling of mobs, face pulling of giants, AOE pulling of every mob in the room. Oh yes, we had fun times. And Marrowgar wasn't a cakewalk either. Although we'd previously 1-shot him on 25-man, it took us 4 goes, losing our MT multiple times, bone spikes staying up too long, switching around our tanks and adding in an off-spec healer so we could get him down on our fourth attempt.

Despite all that noobing it up, this week's raid was able to finally take down Lady Deathwhisper where previous raids with better execution could not. Why? Logs point to the fact that we went up 15k in overall DPS from our previous best attempt. A good deal of that seems to be from having had a raid that was stacked with melee, who completely kicked butt on the meters overall for the night. I don't think the difference was in gear, despite the fact that we clear three ICC 10s every week, because we've had 30+ raiders in ICC ready gear for over a month now.

The gear component is one that comes up a lot though, with lots of wishful thinking hoping that if only we do another legacy raid of 25-man ToC and get a last little pinch of gear, that will make a difference. But our guild at least has shown that isn't our block. We do have some folks in our raids doing well under 4k DPS. We're casual and inclusive, so this happens. But it is important to note that those folks are not at the bottom due to having poor gear. Their gear scores put them neck and neck with folks outperforming them. And our weekly raid quests, which usually end up being two 25s and a few 10s worth of mains and alts before the week is through, have shown many undergeared alts performing as well as - or even better than -- their well-geared counterparts.

It's hard to determine why one DPS pulls 2500 while another of their class pulls 4k+ when their gear is not disparate. Could be lag or low FPS on their computer. Could be they don't watch their threat meters and spend their time hugging the floor. Could be that they have Skype or IM open on their computer and are distracted. Or they could be like that former guildie of mine who was always watching a movie or television during our raids, interjecting Vent chat with commentary to that effect. Perhaps they're not doing the optimal DPS rotation, or their spec needs some work.

It's impossible to troubleshoot what's going on from the outside. But the fact remains that at this point, we're not able to carry folks through the content and succeed. The past three weeks of wiping on Lady Deathwhisper showed that pretty clearly. Folks need to bring their A game. Being casual doesn't mean it's OK to not be flasking up, or coming to a raid wearing gear that is unenchanted or poorly gemmed. Casual is not a bandaid to cover up not trying. Yes, casual is putting having a good time first. And it is about having a life outside of the game. We don't have minimum attendance, or spec requirements, or any of the standard rules a raiding guild has. But the fact that we are casual that way shouldn't absolve anyone who raids from having personal accountability for doing their best.

Next week, a new wing of ICC opens up. I know our 10-mans will be up for the challenge. As for our 25-man? We'll see. I am optimistic that last night's victory will push folks to give Saurfang their all on Monday. But putting your best foot forward in raids isn't a one-time event. It's something you need to do every time you head in the door to a raid instance. Here's hoping we continue to be up for the challenge.


What to Wear: A Shadow Priest's Guide to 25-man Icecrown Citadel Gear

As previously noted, I'm not a math geek so I am not going to argue BiS (best in Slot) with the maths here. Rather, I am going to discuss your gearing up opportunities by boss, to help you prep your wish list. If you want to see BiS across all available 10-man and 25-man raids, including ICC hard mode boss drops, shadowpriest.com has an excellent list. With more math than you can shake a stick at.

Words of Caution: As with ToC, you will want to be picking up some haste gear from ICC which means doing the hit-swapping dance, so don't be quick to shard or sell your existing gear when you receive an upgrade. You will likely have to swap gear around for raids to ensure you stay hit capped.

Your boss-by-boss gear guide, after the jump.

Continue reading "What to Wear: A Shadow Priest's Guide to 25-man Icecrown Citadel Gear" »


Handling the Primordial Saronite

If you haven't already made your way into Icecrown Citadel and checked out the quartermaster, you may not be aware that unlike ToC and Ulduar 25-mans, wherein many yummy crafting patterns fell from the bosses, you will be needing to purchase your 3.3 epic crafting patterns. Specifically, you will need to have appropriate reputation levels (honored for one pair, revered for another pair or patterns) plus a primordial saronite to purchase each pattern.

There are two ways to obtain the primordial saronite -- they drop at 50% or less off the bosses in Icecrown Citadel 25-man raids, or you can buy them for 23 emblems of frost. Personally, I don't see a lot of folks taking the latter route straight out of the gate since we'll all be needing to spend hundreds of those emblems on purchasing our tier 10 gear.

Our guild is still undecided about how to handle the saronites as they drop. We do have a guild crafter rank, Swashbuckler, already in place. For runed orbs, our guild sold them to guildies, from the gbank, at half the going auction house price. I've proposed that we either give them to the guild crafters, as they hit the appropriate rep levels,  or sell them to them at no more thank 1/4 the going auction house price. Even the latter would be a pricey proposition for crafters.

Personally, having acquired a substantial number of patterns both before and after being named a guild crafter, and so far having made about a dozen pieces for guildies and friends of the guild, and nothing for myself, find it a little hard to rationalized spending my gold on buying primal saronite for four patterns, when it's unlikely I will make the items for myself (at best, I could see myself crafting a pair of boots.)

One of the rules of being a guild crafter is that since you get priority on dropped patterns you don't charge guildies for crafting the items. Thus, if we don't give guild crafters the saronite, we are basically saying "oh hai please spend 3k per pattern in costs you will not be able to recoup unless you shop yourself out in trade chat for a few weeks." I doubt most of the folks would do so -- or would even have the cash reserves to do so even if they wanted to.

How's your guild handling the primal saronite? Or how would you like to see it go?


Lower Spire Cleared

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We had a rough start to the new content. We spent an entire evening in the 25-man wiping on Marrowgar due to folks 1) not keeping impaled folks healed and 2) many DPS not switching over to freeing the impaled folks. We split up into two 10-mans over the weekend to try again. The other team got off to a great start, clearing 3 bosses the first night.

My team? We kept losing the OT after the first whirlwind. Every go. And losing team members to unexplained/unannounced AFKs. We spent 3 hours and got nowhere. Except for fat repair bills.

It was especially frustrating because we had amazing DPS. Our impaled folks could barely announce on vent they'd been spiked before we got them out. My SO's DK had gone unholy, which, along with the haste change to affect DP and VT DoTs, meant I was rocking the DPS. So the fail was especially hard to swallow. Even in vanilla content, I was lucky to have raid teams that were good at identifying and fixing our strategy holes. It was discouraging to have not seen any sort of improvement over the course of the attempts.

Sunday night, with one of our more geared and experienced pally tanks at the helm, we stepped back into ICC and smashed through 3 bosses. Last night we came back in to tackle Saurfang. And after only a couple tries, we stomped him.

Hooray!

I am thrilled to have challenging and fun content to raid again. This should keep me happy for a good while.

As a parting gift for this Tuesday, I leave you with this shot of my schmancy new mace, courtesy of the Quel'Delar quest chain.

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Guild Retention Strategies

This post was written in response to a recent Blog Azeroth Shared Topic.

With Patch 3.3 and the Icecrown Citadel raids and 5-man looming on the horizon, and Cataclysm still pre-BETA, guilds are likely to be in for some growing pains. Players leaving because they want to do hard modes or change mains or raid on all their characters. And then there's those folks who hadn't shown much interest in improving their playing or gearing their characters since Naxx was on the schedule who have suddenly reappeared and started to rattle their sabers about being included in ICC raids.

Although the competing agendas of your guildies may be enough to make an officer want to stick their head in the sand and wait for the Cataclysm to hit, that's not your best strategy if you want your guild to stay strong and active between now and then. The key to making that happen is:

  • make a concerted effort on the part of your leadership team to keep players engaged
  • keep guildies apprised of the road map for the content ahead
  • make an effort to reach out to guildies who might be on the fence as to their future with your guild

Keeping Players Engaged

It can feel daunting, especially if you have a large, active guild, to do a pulse check with all of your guildies to ensure they're still feeling like part of the team. But the bigger the guild, perhaps the more important that officers divide and conquer and do just that.

One way to hit up a number of guildies all at once is to put a poll up on your guild forums. Allow the guild at large to help make some decisions about how the guild will spend its time as a group once 3.3 hits.  Be sure to schedule time for low-impact fun runs and events to make sure even those who can't make as much time for raids can feel like they have a chance to participate with the guild.

Our guild fun runs through old raid content allows players not ready for prime time raids to get to know players they might not otherwise have much opportunity to play with, and gives friends of the guild an opportunity to see if they might want to jump aboard at some point.

Officers can also make a point of trying to informally check-in with one guildie per day (split them up according to class, who knows whom or whatever feels right for your guild.) Ask them what they're most looking forward to doing once 3.3 hits -- it's a topic most of us are more than happy to talk to you about.

Outlining Your 3.3 Road Map

Once you have a good idea as to what content -- and with what frequency -- your guildies want to see, define the requirements for participation then put up an activity schedule so they can plan for it, and stick with it. Spontaneously deciding to pull in your best 10 players for an extra night's shot on a new raid boss is a surefire way to lose friends and alienate guildies -- don't do it! Transparency is key if you want to keep your guildies excited about learning the new content and in your guild.

Consider planning an activity schedule that is a mix of weeknights post-work and weekend days, again, to allow for more participation. Many times you can lose good players who are highly engaged with the guild over an inability to make key raid nights. No raid schedule will make everyone happy, but it's good to do a check-in with your most engage players to see how your plans measure up to their expectations, and adjust accordingly when possible.

If you have more players interested in content than you can handle in your raids, decide how you plan to handle it. Options include cycling players in and out on a set schedule (i.e. rotating nights/weeks), recruiting to start an additional raid team, and coaching players not quite ready for prime time so they can fill out additional teams. Be sure you clearly state your sign-up policies in advance and again, stick with them, to ensure no hard feelings.

Reach Out to Players on the Fence

Much online ink has been spilled over guilds who have shockingly just lost their main tank/ lead healer/best DPS. It's typically seen as "coming out of nowhere" leaving everyone surprised and scrambling for a fix. Frankly, I don't buy it. I'm not in the first guild I joined. And when I think back to when/why I left prior guilds, not even one of them was an impulsive decision. Especially the raiding guilds.

As an officer, you should be paying attention to your assigned guild duties. You should notice if a formerly talkative player has gotten quiet. Or if you've received a number of concerned mails from a guildie who is unhappy over a change in policy or another member's behavior. A raid leader should notice if a player stops signing up (or showing up for) raids. Or if someone is fixated on loot, and complaining about other team members getting a drop they felt entitled to. These are all pretty common signs you have a player who's on the fence about their future in your guild.

It may be they're not feeling the guild is a good fit. Or they have RL issues that have come up and aren't comfortable bringing them up with an officer. Regardless, if you want to retain a member who is showing signs they may not be as engaged as they previously were, you are going to have to make the first move. Reach out and acknowledge you've seen/heard their issue, and ask them if they want to talk about it. This small bit of effort on your part is not a fix-all. But a failure to reach out to a player who has either directly or indirectly let you know tat something is bothering them will frequently lead to a /gquit, or perhaps worse yet, festering resentment and snippy /whisper commentary.

With a little extra care and feeding, patch 3.3 should be an opportunity for your guild to thrive. You've got multi-winged 5-man, 10-man and 25-man content to tear through, lore aplenty to soak up, and a shiny new expansion a ways off in the horizon. Safe travels.


Bronzebeard Horde-Side Guilds That Raid

While researching how other guilds on my server go about their application process, I made a point of checking out what the guilds above and below us on guildprogress asked of their applicants. As a result, I came up with a good list of guilds that raid, which I present for you here.

  • Sassafrass
    Consistently the most progressed guild horde-side. Their News page sports a screenshot of their heroic-25 Twin Valks kill.
  • Denied
    A solid #2 on the ToC-25 achievements. However, there has been lots of guild attrition lately, with a number of their members joining other casual raiding guilds on the server.
  • Ascendance
    Third on the ToC-25 progression list, but their homepage features a screenie of their Algalon kill, taken 3-weeks ago. Grats!
  • Ressurection
  • Relentless Few
  • More Chaos
  • Ominous
  • Inevitable
This list is a work in progress and will be added to as I find more guild website links. Interesting to note people talk a lot about how horde-side BB doesn't have a lot going on. But all of these guilds are ones ranked higher than our casual guild that raids. So it seems to me that although we don't have a bunch of guilds slugging it out for world firsts, folks are still keeping busy here.


Nothing Revives the Fun Like a Retro Raid

shadow priest in Al'ar's rom in Tempest Keep

If you had asked me a year ago if I'd like to go spend a few hours knocking back Lady Vashj and Kael, I would have told you to go die in a fire. Benn there. Done that. Never wanted to see it again on my druid.

But a year's absence makes the heart grow fonder for the BC instances. Somehow spurred on by our weekly For the Horde! runs momentum, we found ourselves itching for some retro raid action on a night when our 25-man composition wasn't right for working on the keepers in Ulduar. So, instead, we decided SSC and TK were due a visit.

It was fun to get to see these instances and soak up the ambiance. During all my at level forays to these raids, I healed on my druid, so my view of them was only the bits that peaked out from behind the 25 little health bars I fixated on. Who knew that TK actually had some nice music before those 4 packs of doom?

Now,  at 80, those trash packs that used to cause wipes were easily mind seared down as our paladin tanked them all. Lady Vashj was an easy one shot, while Lurker killed a good chunk of the raid since we didn't bother to clear all the trash and fought him with the nasty fish still in the water.

Kael, on the other hand, was a piece of funny business. You see, he's a loquacious fellow, and we tried to rush him along. And he didn't like it. He turned into a big ghosty stalker and followed raid members around in his room, taunting us with out inability to get past his bugged state. So, we had some folks kill themselves and summon us all outside so we could reset him and start over.

Our second time through, we took it easy on him, doing about half as much damage. We picked up those legendary weapons and marveled at how the stats for the ones we carry around now dwarf them. We killed him nice and slow, letting him give us his monologues. Big dress-up dork that I am, I was excited to get the tier chest token, which I turned in for the pretty Shroud of the Avatar robe. Now *that's* a pretty dress up outfit.

There's been talk of doing some more (guildies have recently done the AQs, Black Temple, and Mount Hyjal recently) and I'm in. It's nice to get to revisit some of this formerly challenging content in a fun and relaxed raid with many folks who've never gotten to see it before. A great way to spend a weekend day.


Care and Feeding of Your Guild Volunteers

Regardless if your guild calls them officers, council members, or suckers, all guilds have one special group of individuals in common -- volunteers. That's right. The guild leader? Volunteer. That officer you complain to after a rough night of raiding? Volunteer. Correctly identifying the folks who raise their hands to help make your guild a better place as volunteers is the first step towards keeping them -- and your guild -- happy.

To make sure we are starting from a common definition, Wikipedia defines Volunteering as the practice of people working on behalf of others without being motivated by financial or material gain. Volunteering generally considered an altruistic activity, intended to promote good or improve human quality of life.Yes, there are power-mad individuals whose quest for an O slot was more about wielding the power of the gkick, but hopefully those folks are few and far between. I still like to think that most guild volunteers are motivated by pride in their guild and wanting to give back.

With that in mind, how can you ensure your well of volunteer spirit doesn't dry up?

Role Definition

One of the biggest reasons that a volunteer -- in WoW or in a RL capacity-- walks away from a volunteer opportunity is that the reality of how they are spending their time doesn't match up with what they thought the role was going to be like. This is often due to the volunteer not having a clear idea of what the role is for which they are volunteering, or what your expectations are as to what they will specifically be doing. If you are onboarding a new volunteer for a role you previously filled, then you should already have a good idea of what the role entails, and should be able to share that with the person prior to their committing to taking it on.

If your guild is taking on new volunteer roles, you have two ways to proceed:

  1. Brainstorm with your officer team upfront and come up with a solid draft of what you are looking for someone to do prior to soliciting folks to take on the role or;
  2. Come up with the general category and recruit folks who are willing to work through the definition process.

Having been a volunteer in both such situations, option 1 is probably the least painful route to go. This way, it's clear what you need from them. If you decide you'd rather allow an enthusiastic guildie the opportunity to help define their role, make sure you and your officer team are ready for non-emotionally, objectively evaluating new ideas. Because bringing in a new person to the mix is bound to introduce new ideas. And if you shoot down all your new recruit's ideas in one fell swoop, you are left with a deflated balloon where your formerly psyched guildie was standing.

Volunteer Recognition

No one wants to think their volunteering has gone unnoticed or unappreciated. No, I don't mean  you should be handing out superlative praise every time a volunteer logs on to ensure they feel appreciated. But it can be easy and motivating to work recognition into your guild's every day activities. For instance, when setting down a feast for the raid, thanking the individual who donated it. This seems like such a small and obvious gesture, but as a long-time raider who has handed out a ton of buff food over the years, I have to say it's less common than you might think.

Another form of recognition comes in the form of guild ranks. My guild, for instance, has a rank reserved for guild crafters. To be considered, you must have maxed out your profession's level, and applied for the position after attaining a small tenure in the guild.Those folks receive priority on rare pattern drops from raids, and agree to craft all items for guildies (with guildies supplying mats) without charging a crafting fee. It makes it easy for guildies to know whom to go to for crafting, while also recognizing folks for maximizing a profession and making time to share it with the guild.

Ongoing Evaluation

Have you ever had a job that you really liked, but after a while (be it a few months or a few years) it lost its zing? And you no longer put in 100%? You started to show up late, leave early, spend all day on twitter... until eventually you either left or they informed you your services were no longer needed? That apathy happens with guild volunteers too, and just like in the workplace, it can demotivate everyone around them.

No I am not advocating an annual review with 360 degree feedback from the guild. However, someone -- be it the guild leader or another officer -- does need to be taking notice of when a volunteer is getting burnt out or not living up to their role's expectations. When that situation has been identified, you have a few options:

  • Talk to the volunteer to find out what's up. Are they bored with the role or is something IRL interfering with their ability to keep up?
  • If they're bored, is there another role they'd like to take on?
  • If RL is getting in the way, consider giving them a "Sabbatical" -- giving their role to another volunteer for a predefined amount of time to give them some breathing room.
  • If it's volunteering in general that they are tired of, thank them graciously for their time, and look to the guild for a new volunteer to take their place
Keeping on top of these three basic volunteer management and motivation activities won't ensure a lack of drama in your guild but it should help you keep your volunteer ranks full of happy, enthusiastic guildies, helping make your guild a great place to play.


You Can't Fix Everything, But It's Still Good of You to Try

Since the beginning of my WoW time, nearly 4 years ago now, I have recognized that I am never content to be a player who logs on, piddles around doing something for themselves for a half hour then logs off. I want to be part of the action. Part of contributing to making the guild a more fun and successful place. In short, I'm a player who gives a damn.

And sometimes, I wish I weren't that player.

Why? Because in my grass-is-always-greener scenario, I imagine how freeing it must be to selfishly evaluate every raiding opportunity from a "what's in it for me?" standpoint. To loot whatever you can equip (others needing an upgrade more than you do or having worked for it longer be damned.) How easy it is to never look at a process that's not going so well and think "I could help fix that." To be a happy grazing guild member, asking with faux innocence what the guild is going to do with the runed orbs in the gbank that you've noticed languishing there.

But try as I might, I am never that person.

Instead, I often raise my hand to help, usually with tasks raiding / recruitment/ profession related since that's where I have the most experience to offer. I've done class leading in multiple guilds, and framed recruitment strategies as well. The latter is a personal favorite since I did it IRL for a 5,000-member non profit for several years and understand what it takes to recruit and motivate volunteers to give their time and effort for the good of a greater whole. 

I don't volunteer IRL or in WoW to see my name in lights or to have folks toady to smooch my butt. I make these efforts because I find it to be very much personally rewarding to spend my time in a manner that creates something positive that is larger than myself -- be that an experience or an organization. I like to apply what I have learned from the game and IRL and help make a difference.

Sometimes, the passion I have around these topics has ruffled some feathers. But any organization that wants to do things they way they've always done them and that views a person raising their hand to help as them being pushy and not knowing their place is an organization in which I am a square peg being jammed into a round hole.

Good leaders are not afraid of change, and recognize the value of having passionate, enthusiastic helpers. I look for those types of organizations for my RL work and my WoW guilds. And I have successfully found them more times than not. But that hasn't been due to luck -- it's been to doing the self-reflection to recognize that is what I want in order to be happy, and being willing to take a leap of faith and to be willing, when necessary, to fold my cards and walk away.

Life is far too short to be unhappy. Or bored. Or wistfully dreaming about things working out differently.  And thus, I keep at it. Proposing new ideas, and trying to keep things moving in the right direction whenever I can. And not-so-secretly-hoping to see more folks get fired up and do the same.


More Pillaging from the Pirates

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After a very long work day, I came home to find the Pirates taking down the city leaders. We've become quite proficient at it, and count many war bears amongst our members. I had planned to do my dailies and sit it out, but then a new shiny carrot was dangled in front of me...

Why was everyone headed to Dustwallow Marsh?

To pay Jaina a visit?

Invite, please!

I'll admit, I felt a little bad about raiding Jaina in her ivory tower. After all, all she wanted to do was to study. But then, all of a sudden, she cast her eyes on me...and PORTED ME INTO THE OCEAN.

Oh wait, I remember why I don't like you, Jaina. You stopped me from giving Wrynn a good stomping in the Battle for Undercity. And you seem to be leading Thrall on while you still carry some sort of a torch for your lost Arthas. And whenever something doesn't go your way you port on out.

I made my way past the Alliance 80s that were camped in the ocean (surprisingly all 4 of them ran away from me, a poor little soggy shadow priest), back up the ramp, and helped finish Jaina off. She was a much tougher fight, with more casualties and difficulty than Tyrande.

Sorry my dear, you will have to study another day.

Grats to the Pirates for this additional pillaging!


Friday Five: Five Must-Dos When Starting to Recruit for Raids

  1. Set one or two raiders as the owners of the process. You don't want to have a sea of well-intended raid members spamming trade and every other general channel with a variety of messages about what your guild is looking for.
  2. Define what roles you are looking to fill. It's good to always include the clause that exceptional raiders of any spec are always welcome, but be clear as to what buffs/proficiencies your raid team actually needs to add.
  3. Communicate your requirements. Include your raiding times, the content you are clearing, and the minimum gear and player statistics you are looking for in your recruitment posts. Insert a question into your raider application that prompts applicants to show they understand those minimums and have evaluated themselves and do meet them.
  4. Create a plan and stick to it. Have your recruiters decide upon how often they will be posting recruitment listings, to where, and who is responsible. If the recruiter(s) can't keep the listing updated to reflect your guild's current needs and current progress, give the job to someone who can and will do so.
  5. Give the applicant the opportunity to shine. If you have a well constructed raid application, it should give the applicant the opportunity to show off some personality, while determining if they are a good fit for the guild and the raiding team. Avoid generic or too broad questions -- more often than not, applicants give stock non-answers if questions are not very specific.

These are all things I am keeping in mind on a personal level. Tryn and I have been given this assignment in support of our raid team, and are having a great time defining our recruitment goals and getting our plan together. Expect to hear more on this soon.

I love to learn through others' experiences as well, so if you have had particularly effective recruitment or evaluation strategies (or app'd to guilds who DIDN'T have this process down), please do share your stories in the comments.


Taking Attendance: Raid Signup Etiquette 101

Whenever a guild has a few raid instance on farm, it seems counter-intuitive, but inevitably happens-- raid attendance issues flair up. Raids that had folks offering up bribes to get into can't fill. Half a raid team no shows. Backups can't be spotted online by even the sharpest-eyed raid leader. But those fair-weather raiders should know that like an elephant, the raid leader never forgets the serial flakers or the altoholic naggers. So don't be one of them!

I'll give folks the benefit of the doubt. I've seen enough "it's only a game -- why so serious?" comments in forums over the years to realize some folks are just clueless as to how their behavior affects the other 9/24 people who sign up and show up for a raid ready to go. Thus, some food for thought.

Mains>Alts

You should be signing up for regular raids on your main. If your raid has a shortage of healers, for example, and have an alt who can comeptantly fill that role and who can meet the requirements, your raid leader may ask you to bring that character instead, in order to make the run happen.

Unless a run is flagged as an alt run, you should not be signing up your alt for it. Often, a raider whose main has gotten all the gear upgrades they wanted from the highest level raid currently on farm will start whining abut wanting to bring their alt. Or even pushing to have their alt be their new main. Please do not think your raid leaders and fellow raiders are idiots. This transparent behavior can turn even the mildest-mannered guildie into a seething flamebot.

If you really do want to switch raiding mains, keep these rules of thumb in mind:

  • Expansion time is an ideal time to make a main change. Often guilds have turnover around expansions which can leave specific classes and roles lacking.
  • If you do get permission to change your main, you should not expect they will be plugged into the raids you previously attended on the character you geared out if they do not fill the same roles or have the same level of gear.

Respect the Sanctity of the Signup

If you sign up for a raid and are slotted to attend, it is a reasonable expectation for your raid team to expect you to honor that signup. That said, if an emergency comes up, just let someone know (forum post, email, IM, twitter, carrier pigeon) so your raid team is not sitting around waiting 15-30 minutes wondering if/when you are going to show up. That's plain vanilla courtesy.

Things that do not constitute an emergency:

  • I need to go to the store to buy beer/cookies for the wife/new tires bb in 10 min
  • I went on a raid earlier today and got the piece of loot I wanted from tonight's raid so I am not going to bother to come
  • I got a better offer for another raid on a different toon so I am flaking
  • I am pouting about a comment someone made in the forums so I am taking my toys and going home

If your alt gets saved to a current raid the guild is running, that's fine. But if your main gets saved to one of the raids we are running, that you signed up for, people are going to be mad at you. Why? Because now your RL has to scramble to replace you. Once a roster is posted, those not included often make other plans, which can make it hard to fill that raid you signed up for.

When in Doubt, Sit it Out

When in doubt about whether or not you will be able to attend, don't sign up for a raid so folks won't plan on your helping to make it happen.This is the most basic DBAD rule there is in raiding. If you happen to be able to attend and a slot is still available -- great! If not, you don't have a raid team full of folks sticking pins into your avatar's voodoo doll. We call that a win-win.

Raid Start Time is not a Good AFK Time

At the raid start time, it is reasonably expected that you will be:

  • at the raid instance door waiting for an invitation
  • repaired and with repair money for the evening
  • prepared to stay until raid's end, or have notified a raid leader already that you need to leave at a specific time (bonus points for having a fill-in lined up for when you leave)
  • in possession of several hours worth of reagents for any buffs you may reasonably be expected to provide

Accepting a raid invitation then needing 10 min AFK to go eat dinner, or walk the dog, or go buy cigarettes is not usually met with enthusiasm. This may seem obvious, gentle reader, but these are true life examples from raids past.

No raid is a Herculean effort on the part of any one member. It is a true team effort. And to be successful, it requires everyone put forth their best efforts, understand your raid's expectations, and be aware of how their actions affect the rest of the team.

Happy raiding.


Addressing Growing Pains Before You Need a Splint

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With all the progress our casual guild has made over the past few months, it was inevitable we would have some growing pains. If you've ever been a part of a guild that was slowly but surely progressing into uncharted territory raiding-wise you've probably been through something similar:

  • Raid team has first half of raid on farm; previously disinterested guildies start signing up for farm night
  • A surge of new guild applicants all wanting to raid
  • As you near the final raid boss, the core raiding team members whom made the progress possible finds themselves losing rolls on major upgrades -- or on raid spots for that matter -- to folks who have attended one raid in three months
  • Forums drama ensues

A guild that lacks strong leadership or vision often crumbles in the midst of these sort of growing pains. Luckily for us, our thoughtful and inclusive officer team talked out these frustrations, and allowed us all as a guild to transform our vision of the guild's approach to end game raiding.

The officers, after taking in guild discussion, came back to the forums with proposals -- not mandates-- that they received additional feedback on. A primary issue they addressed was we were leaning heavily upon three guildies for all our raid leading and strategy. In addition to burning them ut, it gave some less frequent raiders a sense they could show up, go through the motions, loot, and profit. We needed more raiding team involvement in making the raids happen and to thus lead to better engagement (and ultimately, have a strong end game raid team ready for Icecrown Citadel, and to be fielding a strong 25 man raid of some sort in house.)

Not All Raiders Are Created Equal

The first major task that was undertaken was to evaluate the raiding performance of all our frequent raiders over the past few months. From that evaluation, we came up with 2 separate lists of raiders -- those ready for hard modes and the top tier of raiding instances, and those better suited for Ulduar and our "farm" raiding. These two lists also came with updated performance standards, which I am sharing here as I realize how much time it took to get a good SWAG going for them (and in some cases, we are still trying to nail down the numbers).

  • Trial of the Crusader/25
    Tanks: Uncrittable, Armor TBD, Health TBD
    Heals: 2400 Bonus Healing (unbuffed), 400 Mana Regen (while casting).
    DPS: 3000 dps
  • Trial of the Crusader/10
    Tanks: Uncrittable, Armor 24k, Health 31k (unbuffed)
    Heals: 2300 Bonus Healing (unbuffed), 400 Mana Regen (while casting).
    DPS: 2500 dps
  •  Ulduar
    Tanks: Uncrittable, Armor 23k, Health 28k (unbuffed)
    Heals: 2000 Bonus Healing (unbuffed), 250 Mana Regen (while casting).
    DPS: Day1: 2200 dps. Day 2: 2400 dps.

These numbers seem pretty readily attainable for anyone willing to put in the time. My newly faction-transferred elemental/resto shaman, who sat in some Naxx gear, unplayed, since January, is Ulduar ready after a few weeks of badges and ToC 5-man drops. And with her totems down she meets the ToC 10 healing minimums, which means that is within reach soon as well, were she to have been my raiding toon.

Get a Job

The second major component of our raiding revamp was to actively solicit more raid member involvement in planning and running the raids. Our initial list of proposed roles for the two tiers of raiding included:

  • Raid Scheduler
  • Raid Strategist
  • Raid Reporting
  • Raid Role Captain (i.e. Heal Lead, Tank Lead, DPS Lead)
  • Raid Recruiter
  • Loot Master
  • Raid Leaders

The final component of our changes is the introduction in the end game raids of EPGP points accrual and loot bidding. Taking into account compensating those heading into uncharted territory for a night of wiping, and making it less frequently possible that an occasional raider would attend a raid and scoop up the one item for which a core raider had been waiting.

Our approach isn't a cure-all for these issues, and won't work in a guild with officers whose sense of self-worth is tied to wielding their power over the raids. But for our passionate, engaged raiders, it's going to be a welcome change. I'll keep you posted on how it goes.


Creating a Guild Application With Some Oomph

In my almost 4 years of playing WoW, I’ve had occasion to read a number of applications that had widely varying degrees of success in providing folks with a picture of who I am and what I am looking for in a guild. Too few of the applications got to many of the core considerations that help a guild – an guild members—determine what makes a good fit. But all it takes is a little bit of reflection and a few minutes of editing to give your guild application a makeover to help it better present what the guild is looking for while helping screen for guildies who are a good fit.

The Basics

At a minimum, an application should always include:

  • What is your main character’s name, class, spec and level? Nip future drama in the bud by having a permanent record of what role the applicant said they wanted to fill as well as who their main character is.
  • What are your professions and their level? A max level character without any professions trained smells like eBay. If the professions are confusing (tailoring on a plat wearer) or far from completion, it merits a follow-up to determine why (i.e. do they lack follow-through, they are confused about armor proficiencies, etc.)
  • Please provide your armory link. Yes, you could go search for it yourself. This is one of those ease of the reviewer questions that also gets to the applicant’s ability and willingess to follow instructions and do a little something extra for the officers.
  • Why are you leaving/why did you leave your last guild? People almost always lie on this question, or at least soften up their reasons, but there is usually a kernel of truth to it. If you know anyone in their most recent guild, send a tell to inquire about this person.
  • Who do you know in the Guild? Follow-up with those named to see if they personally endorse the application.
  • If you don’t know anyone in the guild, what is prompting your application? This question goes beyond tracking whether your guild forum or Live Journal or WoW Insider recruitment posts are working. If someone noticed your nicely geared 80s hovering at Krasus’ Landing on your drakes and app’d because they want to get them some, you may want to consider that motive and how it fits in with your guild environment.
  • What is your RL age? Or, are you over the age of 18/21? I personally hate the "how old are you" question, but some variation of it is good to see if the applicant is in the same age bracket as your other players, or if your guild has an adults only policy, to see that they are (or at least are pretending) to be old enough to join.

Applicant’s Personal Play Style and Expectations

  • What level of content have you completed on your main character (i.e. highest level raid, heroics, etc.)? Always good to see how they describe their playing background, and to see how it stacks up to their armory. Ask me about the applicant who said they had done "all the raids" and "knew all the bosses."
  • What is your level of interest in running heroics? 10-man raids? 25-man raids? And which instances? You want to see an interest level in line with their experience, i.e. not a brand new 80 without heroics wanting in on ToC.
  • In general, describe your perfect day of playing WoW. How would you ideally spend 8 hours of playtime? A getting to know you question to ferret out if their interests lie in instancing, PvP, alts or what have you.
  • What are you looking for a guild to provide you with? If the answer is free repairs, free enchants, and T9 and that's not how your guild rolls, at least you found out now. Setting expectations on what the guild will do for its members is crucial at the applciation stage.
  • What skills, accomplishments or other assets would you bring to the guild if invited? This is their chance to strut their stuff and share their strengths and experience with the guild.

Your Guild’s Raiding and/or Grouping Expectations

  • For our raids, we have minimum requirements you must meet before being invited. Those minimums are here [link]. Do you meet our minimums for the content in which you are interested in participating? If not, how do you plan to gear up to meet them? If someone is a new 80, and wanting to raid ToC 10, unless they are a missing link you are motivated to gear up in Ulduar to fill that spot, you'd like to see a realistic gearing up plan, involving badges and a serious heroic grind to get them.
  • We require the following mods and tools for our raids [list]. Is there any reason you would not be able to use them? This question is to identify the stubborn, those who will never be on Vent, and the folks who have 2fps in a raid.
  • Our raiding days are YYYDAY StartTime-EndTime. How often do you think you would ideally be able to attend at those days/times? Don't hide away this information -- let folks evaluate at the application stage if your raid days and times will work for them or not.
  • We use the Suicide Kings/DKP/Loot Council/Roll distribution system for loot in our raids and 1 epic/1blue/Roll in groups. Would you agree to abide by that? You rarely see loot rules on the application but a lot of loot drama happens from new recruits who don't like the loot system and seem to have not known what they were getting into.

Guild Flavor

Most of the guild applications I've seen excel in the flavor questions. What I like about them is it makes it pretty easy for me to see if a guild is a place I'd fit in well. For instance, if the application asks about the weirdest pace I've had sex, and that is question #1 on the application, well, it's probably not the place for me.

Since I don't know your guild, I can't give you sample questions, but I can give you some ideas on where to start:

  • If most of your guildies share some other commonality or interest, ask about it
  • If there is a running joke in your guild that involves an either/or/would you rather, put it in the application
  • Have a question that has to do with your guild's name
  • Do you have any infamous current or past members? Have a question on them to

If you build a strong guild application, that reflects what you and your guild are looking for in new members, you greatly increase your chances of recruiting members who are a good fit -- and who stick.

Other Guild Management Entries in this Blog