Alts and the Raider: An Officer’s Perspective


Who are all these unsavory characters, you might ask? Well, all WoW players–particularly raiders–have a closet full of skeletons, or, to be more specific, absolutely terrible alts. These just happen to be mine, and not a one of them is as good as my main. There are the few exceptional players who play their holy priest as well as their frost mage, but those are few and far between. For the most of us, we have one character to raid with, whose mechanics we know inside and out, and a motley crew of has-beens, might-have-beens, and never-will-bes to tool around with outside of raid time. Usually, alts are harmless, though my paladin’s mailbox macarenas HAVE been known to cause temporary insanity. However, especially when burnout or boredom threatens, alts start to look pretty attractive. I’ve just taken Isidora the Fail Warlock on a little tour of Borean Tundra. Sure, level 68 mages can kill me one-on-one because I can’t find my fear button. But I can pick Goldclover!

This post explores what happens when raiders get attached to their alts. The fascination can go far beyond leveling a convenient profession or two. It is a truth universally acknowledged that when a guild starts spending a significant amount of time every week on farm content, at least one raider will want to bring in an alt.

Change is Good, Right?

From the perspective of the player, a change of main, or even a few trips to a dungeon on an alt, can help refresh interest in the game. On rare occasions, this can work out well for the guild as well. Sometimes a player is even more successful at raiding on a rerolled character than they were on their original main. I saw this happen in Collateral Damage with Allagash, a wonderful shaman who rerolled from priest in mid-T5 when she saw the potential of the shaman class. Those kinds of Cinderella stories can happen, but what I’m really interested in talking about are the rotten pumpkins that can result from an excessive love of alts.

Speaking Hypothetically

What if I were to decide tomorrow that Sydera has plenty of gear and experience, and that I’d like to start raiding on one of my alts? Maybe, since my guild has only one raiding shaman, I’ll powerlevel Zoraida (now at a stout level 7) and work my butt off to help my guild stack Chain Heal. Or, I’ll decide that even though I’ve become pretty decent at healing, it’s my destiny to hit things in the ankle with an axe. So, I’ll level my retribution paladin from 70 to 80 and add myself to an already bloated melee team. But I’m a good player, right, so my guild will work me in just to keep me. In either case, I’d ding 80 in little more than my underwear (yes, those are healing boots on the ret pally) and I’d want some runthroughs of heroics and Naxx 10 to get up to the minimum standard for raid gear. I’m sure, though, that the whole project would be engaging. Some players seek out just such a long slog so that they have enough in-game struggles to hold their interest. However, at the end of the line, when a new alt is at level 80 and in a basic raid kit, has it been worth the sacrifice?

Giving your Guild Leader a Giant Headache

Nothing causes Guild and Raid Leaders to lose more sleep than the prospect of changing the raid lineup. Anyone who makes a raid roster wants to be able to count on a consistent team, and alts ad chaos to the mixture. Most guilds don’t min/max every situation, so they will do what they can to keep a player they like, even if it means letting a healer come to raids on a ret paladin. However, that player has probably cost their guild a good bit of time and effort for a very uncertain return. Often, the end result is that the new main contributes less to the raid than the old one did.

Didn’t Ghostcrawler tell us to Take the Player, Not the Class?

syd-states-clearly-noYes, he sure did. However, when we’re talking about a rerolled character or an alt, there are a lot of reasons for guild leaders to say no. For example, let’s take Sydera. She’s been all the way through TBC and the current Wrath content, and somewhere along the way, her operator learned a thing or two about healing on a druid. When I take my warlock out for questing, I’m less quick to react than I am on Syd. It’s like playing a stranger. I might be able to learn another healer, but I don’t think I’d ever post great numbers as a raiding warlock. For high-end raiding, the absolute optimum scenario is for everyone to play one class of their choice and to build the team based on those choices. Changing things up mid-stream is uncomfortable both for the leadership and for other players.

But What if My Main is Already Geared?

In my mind, this is the worst reason to bring an alt to a raid, unless it’s a raid specifically designated for alts. In guilds with DKP lists, alts can sometimes bid on loot, often sharing a DKP pool with the main. Let’s imagine that a well-established guild has many long-time members with lots of DKP and a few new members with very little. One of these new members loses an item for their main spec to someone’s alt. How are they going to feel? And what will the effect on team morale be? This can be a hard lesson, because we all love our alts and get bored of farm content, but a guild has to think about the good of the whole. As painful as it might be, and as much as I’d like to go to Naxx someday on my alts, it’s best to keep alts out of raiding entirely. The exception, as I said, are raids designed to carry alts. If the guild is revisiting old content for giggles, then why not let everyone take their alts? But if the raid’s purpose is to gear up the players for the next level, you’re much better off with a full group of mains, even if some loot gets sharded as a consequence.

What if I Want to Switch Mains?

Sometimes a change in mains is the only thing that will make a player happy. In my mind, players should seek their bliss–but they should so so while being aware of other people’s needs. I can imagine two possible scenarios that allow a player to switch and keep his or her integrity intact.

1. The player who wants to switch is able to do so in a way that supports the guild.

If one of Conquest’s four resto druids really, truly wanted to switch to another healing class, and was willing to let that class be paladin or shaman, I would support them. Sure, I’d be skeptical until the alt in question reached 80, but I would be willing to do a little extra personal work to support the new character. However, once the person switched, I’d hold them to it. There would be no going back to the former main once the new main had an acceptable gear set. That essentially causes the guild to have to re-make its plans twice. I’ve been burned in the past by asking people to switch to an alt either temporarily or permanently in order to ensure better class balance for a raid. I’ll never do that again–and I’ll keep people from switching themselves to a character they don’t really like if at all possible. I’d only support a change of main if it was permanent and favorable for both the individual and the team.

2. The player switches mains and respectfully leaves for a guild that needs a player in that role.

One of the hard lessons I’ve learned this year is that sometimes you have to say goodbye to your guild–for the good of both that guild and the raider involved. I believe in everyone’s right to find happiness, and if that sense of in-game satisfaction is only available with a new class and role that your current raiding group doesn’t need, well, it makes sense to say good luck and goodbye. There are respectful ways to g-quit. It’s better, in fact, to quit if staying would mean that the guild has to radically change itself in order to accommodate you. My earlier example of healer-to-melee would probably require a wholesale shakeup of Conquest to accomplish. So, have a heart-to-heart with the Guild Master or Raid Leader. Find out if your new main will be able to contribute something useful to your raiding team. If not, give a notice of a couple weeks if you can and then start looking for a new home.

Would I Ever Switch Mains?

Probably not. I’m rather attached to Syd, and I’ve found something I’m good at. Alts are nice for dreaming. I like to imagine what it would be like to Chain Heal with Zoraida in a 10-man, though I’m not likely to get there. I might someday pug a Naxx 10, or go on an all-alt run of old content. That sort of thing is fun. However, when it comes to progression raiding, I might daydream sometimes about switching, but then my better angel kicks in and tells me to get back to lifeblooming. Another question entirely is whether I’d reroll if Matticus asked me to. Yes, I would, because if the guild leader asks, that means it’s best for the team–but he’s not likely to do that. After all, I’m an incredibly slow leveler, and the guild would have to wait a long long time for their new team member.

33 thoughts on “Alts and the Raider: An Officer’s Perspective”

  1. I have to (as usual) agree with you here – allowing alts to participate in guild raids can cause major headaches. My old guild often allowed raiders to bring alts if we were doing ‘farm content’, or allowed people to ‘change mains’ (oddly enough, no one changed mains until they had exhausted loot possibilities on their first main!) I found that this actually led to more wipes on farm content, which inevitably led to greater dissatisfaction amongst the raiders. Some people resented not being able to take their undergeared alts because the raid was struggling after a few well geared players took poorly geared alts- it can lead to double standards.
    At the end of the day it all caused a great deal of confusion – not to mention the additional drama of loot distribution and what was considered ‘fair’!

    Saresas last blog post..Predicilictions

  2. Having decently geared alts is pretty nice some times. E.g my paladin tanked the small adds on Sartharion on our guild first 3-drake kill, the same pala hasn’t even cleared naxx yet. It’s especially good for smaller guilds for the fights that do need a specific minimum classes-specs to be present to make things viable.

    Though I agree 100% that in raids that are used for gearing up majority of the members bringing an alt is not the smartest thing to do. They’ll just slow things down and might steal stuff others need for their mains. Not to mention what kind of problems can it make if an alt is given gear that is required by a main. E.g my pala didn’t get any loot from sartharion even though very nice upgrade dropped.

  3. This may be stating the obvious, but there is a also a big difference between changing classes and changing roles. Changing from a healer to another healer is not nearly so much a headache than changing from a healer to DPS. Gear and familiarity can be a factor in concerns about performance, but nothing will make your officers blood boil faster than trying to swap roles – particularly if you are one of the members of your raid whose position is in short supply (generally healers and often tanks as well).

  4. Haha, that’s awesome. I just put this down yesterday in my not quite ready for primetime work in progress blog as Alts and Raids 🙂 Good to see another perspective. I agree with a lot of this.

    Zelqs last blog post..Alts and Raids

  5. I am kind of strange myself… I have a really hard time playing a DPS that isn’t a hunter and a really hard time playing a healer that isn’t a druid. I can switch between the two with relative ease, after the initial couple seconds of “Oh right, I’m watching health bars/pewpewing stuff now”, but then I’m good to go.

    Still, my hunter is always and forever my main, especially considering that in my guild/friends circle it seems to be relatively easy for us to find healers, anyway.

    Pikes last blog post..You Know You Might Be Pike If…

  6. I tired of playing a healer in TBC, so when wrath came out, I leveled my 70 hunter to 80 and started naxx with him. Now I find myself missing healing, and considering finishing the grind with my old main. My guild has already stated that they would happily get me geared up for naxx because having a player who can reliably fill a DPS or healing slot means that we can afford more flexibility in our raid comp.

  7. I have an alt raiding in the same guild as my main, we were in need of a healer and my alt was the closest to the easiest. I’m actually enjoying it and so does the guild. I still bring my hunter when big DPS numbers are needed and healing spot are filled. Both of my toons are pretty much equally geared in their spec. Of course we are a small guild that is mainly on 10man at the moment with some half guild half pug 25 and just killed Malygos yesterday night, so we do have more flexibility than other bigger guilds.

    Douceurs last blog post..From DPS to Healer

  8. We do not allow alts to raid in our 25-man raids unless the need is truly dire; exceptions will be made when something truly unexpected happens, and the raid would be canceled otherwise.

    As for re-maining, to do that you need to talk to the officers, and then usually reapply to the guild….. and there is no guarantee that your new main would be accepted.

    Thankfully with the Naxx-10/Naxx-25 split in Wrath, it’s easy to get alts in on some raiding action outside of the guild’s main raiding calendar – just set up a run specifically for it on your own time. =) (That’s what I spent last night playing with, in fact.)

    Karthiss last blog post..Morning Nibbles

  9. Once upon a time, I switched mains. And I made the dreaded switch–I went from a holy paladin to a…hunter. Healer to DPS! A guild leader’s nightmare! But this was also in the days of transitioning fom 40 mans to 10 mans, when everyone was being rotated out anyway. I could be one of 5 paladins or one of 5 hunters, and I chose to be one of 5 hunters.

    I was a terribad hunter at the very start, but one of my guildmates took me under his wing and I quickly became damned good DPS. 😀 After my original guild coaxed me back to my healer, I raided on both toons in different guilds because I’m just that insane, apparently. For al ong time my guild was in a bad spot and we semi-relied on alts to keep ups going (alt healers especially).

    I’m thinking of switching mains again, but from holy paladin to disc priest this time. The GM, thankfully, won’t mind much. Whew! I figure I’ll gear her up in pugs first though.

    Ambrosines last blog post..DPS =/= Tank

  10. Hi from Vek 😀 Our guild has a strict no alts policy on 25 mans. However, my alt is almost as well geared as my main.We run 10 mans on alts for 2 days and mains on 25 for 2 days since the current content is so ..short? That helps maintain interest in raiding. I do believe that we are just fortunate enough to have people that can seamlessly play different classes with little to no loss in quality.

  11. In TBC, when BT had been on farm forever, my guild would allow 5 minus the number of gear buyers to be alts, decided by /roll and spec balance. Alts were never allowed in the guild, and still arn’t These days we don’t allow alts in any of our raids, but we do have an all alt guild that raids on its own time. The alt guild has cleared naxx 10/25, OS 10/25, and Maylgos 10, so they do ok. (My alts are all lvl 10, so no raiding for me.) This set up has been working well, allowing a totally seperate guild/environment to relax and goof off with alts. If your in a guild with 25+ raiders, chances are good you could field a 10 man alt guild group. Works for us anyway.

    As for rerolls/new mains, the only ones I have seen were DKs. We have 3 DKs, 2 of which were guild rerolls. Their former mains have long since been kicked from the guild and now occupy positions in the alt guild. Keeps things clean.

    Are there any others out there who really are one trick ponies like me? I have my raiding priest and that is it, no alt has ever made it past 30 (which was a stretch in itself). Just not into playing other characters, leveling through all the same content, and having to rebuild everything. Alt free as a life style! Am I alone?

  12. I’ve been in smaller, more casual raiding guilds (though we have already cleared all the 10 man content), and usually the alt issue is one of raid composition. Too many healers signed up? Bring your dps alt. Need an additional tank for a certain boss? Bring a tank alt. Etc.,.

    Especially in cases where we need a different toon for a single boss (which doesn’t happen much anymore) it’s not fair sometimes to bring in a new person and get them locked out just for one boss, so asking the same people to bring an alt seems more fair.

  13. We have TONS of alts, and even now (at the beginning of raiding) are working with a few people that are some nights bringing one character, other nights bringing another – for balance’s sake.

    That said, these are usually not “alts” in that sense – these are people that intentionally leveled two characters to 80, have done heroics and 10 man raids with both characters, and put in the grindstone time on both characters in order that both are available for the raid.

    Our loot system gives loot to the player, not the class (currently) and since we’re still working the bugs out of our roster, it works out. However, I fully expect once we’ve had three (ish) more raids under our belts, we’ll be able to pick one character as a raiding main.

  14. “Nothing causes Guild and Raid Leaders to lose more sleep than the prospect of changing the raid lineup.”

    Yup, there it is.

    The worst part is a lot of times it’s your truly amazing players, the ones that have literally mastered their class, that want to bring that alt b/c ultimately, they want to master another class.

    Would you trade the #1 dpser for a different #1 dpser 4 months from now?! Ya, I didn’t think so.

    Venereitos last blog post..Expertise is always better than Hit

  15. I don’t know if this is going to be able to last very long, but with the current raiding situation our guild doesn’t run 10 mans because of the lackluster loot and we can do all the raids in one day so really what does that leave? If Blizz is tuning the raids so that they can be farmed in one day of raiding then why not have 2 – 3 characters so you can get different perspectives and prevent boredom.

    As far as my alts go, I have my priest which has been turned into a farming alt (because i love tree healing more, sorry priestys), a paladin i use for tanking and now with all this extra time im leveling a rogue for dps (focusing mainly on pvp).

    But what I’m really getting at is that if you can complete a raid in one day, why not run 2 – 3 raids a week rotating toons? I love healing, but I also love competing on the dps meters too if given a chance.

  16. @Anna, and other guilds that use alts to fill holes in the roster:

    Collateral Damage had a really bad experience with this. The officers at the time–with me as a dissenting vote–didn’t want to recruit, so we balanced our roster by having people play more than one toon. However, DKP went with the player, not the toon, so over a lot of time (two tiers of content and several months), the players with more than one character ended up undergeared on both alt and main and permanently at the bottom of the DKP list.

    This was really bad for those individuals.

    It can get even worse if someone starts playing an alt “for the good of the guild,” but they’re never happy about it. The resentment can build, and suddenly one of your good players is really really unhappy. When they switch back to their main, because they just can’t take it anymore, there will either be no space for that main in the raids, or else that character will displace someone else who’s been filling a role adequately for months. This is terrible.

    It’s better to have one toon per player and to recruit when you have raid composition gaps. I’ve tried the alts-to-fill-holes solution. It’s just a lot of anguish for everybody over the long term.

  17. Back before the expansion, and I’m sure at some point in the future, it’ll surely be beneficial to let some of my guildies switch back and forth between raiding on their mains and alts as needed…heck, I even have my own boomkin druid who I raided with whenever we needed dps and had enough heals before, and am currently leveling to eventually raid.

    However, I think at this stage of the game, some people wanting to bring alts into raids could be a source of irritation for other guildies. Particularly, there is one player in my guild who has somewhat of a problem keeping one spec. Shaman who started as enhancement, went resto one night when asked when we were short a healer for a raid, decided he loved it, then got “sick of healing” after the xpac and went elemental, was a great elemental shammy…but decided he was going to go back to resto even though it was made clear we had plenty of healers and needed him as dps. So he leveled his boomkin druid to 80 and has brought it to a couple of raids now, even though it’s his alt. Not only is his alt taking up a raid spot that other more consistent raiders (on their mains) would love to have, but, I almost had a spaz attack when he tried to take the saltarello shoes from me (on my holy priest!) as an upgrade. #1, not his main, #2, not a consistent raider, #3 there is plenty of leather boomkin gear in the xpac and he tries to take cloth shoes with an excuse that he can use spirit too when they are best-in-slot for me until I can run 25-mans. And the funniest excuse? He has atlas loot but refuses to look at it to see where he can get upgrades because then he “won’t be disappointed” if it doesn’t drop. Gah. Sometimes alts can cause nothing but problems.

  18. @Sydera

    I agree with the fact that it’s better to recruit than using alts, our situation was in response to an “urgent need”: one of our healers could not connect for a period of time (we try as much as possible not to PuG for dedicated guild runs). I had to earn my wings (funny for a pally) and work for my gear, I was not carried all the way through Naxx picking up purples as they were dropping, I was healing my way!
    And today, I am raiding more with my healer than with my hunter, for two reasons, first I find myself liking healing a lot and second this leaves a DPS spot open always usefull when we are trying to get gear for some of our new members.
    This dual toon thing was made fairly early and smoothly, I was not forced to do it in any way.
    Now, we are mainly on 10man at the moment (we don’t have 25 geared players), my situation is probably gonna change once we switch to 25 (in a week or two depending on drops for this week mainly) I will probably have to definitively choose which one is my main, which one is my alt, I obviously can’t play two toons at the same time. Then I will join you on your point.

    Douceurs last blog post..From DPS to Healer

  19. Hey Sydera, I’m about to start levelling a druid to 80 on Ner’Zhul, as I only just got the xp.

    I’ve got into Strife, which consist of my old guild members from The Fallen Legion and some guys I raided with in Vanilla from Daywalker.

    How did you level your druid? Was it through restro? And if so what kind of spec were you using.

    Currently my druid is feral, but as I’ve been guaranteed a raid spot if I go restro, I wanted to level it as to get into the groove, so to speak.

    I’ll be levelling with a shadow priest, so dps won’t be too much of an issue for most quests.

  20. I leveled as balance, and I really liked it. Mind you, my main for raiding at the end of Classic was a holy paladin, so I had a head start on learning to heal.

    I don’t recommend resto leveling. If it’s anything like doing dailies, it’s not worth the frustration and the killing style is identical to balance, just less effective.

    I hear that feral is actually quickest.

  21. Thanks for the info.

    I’ve raided with a holy pally as well, so I’ve got the main gist for healing too.

    I think balance should be fine, that way I can help the guy I’m leveling with and get similar gear to what I’ll use when I spec restro at 80.

    Thought I should clarify too, Both our characters are lvl 70, is that going to change your suggestion at all?

  22. I had no idea that this was such a sensitive issue.

    I didn’t expect there to be a solid “no, never” answer to having alts in a raid. Most of you are quite adamant about it too.

    But I guess I can understand it. We brought on board a Warrior who was supposed to be one of our tanks but spec’d Fury so he could level. He rolled a dps class so he could farm and preferred the easier killing. We supported this until our main tank quit the guild and we needed him to step up. He totally failed. Then left the guild because we “weren’t progressing fast enough”.

  23. Excellent post, Sydera. There is very little quite as disheartening as seeing someone’s alt take a spot I wanted with my main. This is especially damaging to the more casual players (like myself), since I/we have so little playtime as it is.

    On content that is in heavy farm status, I can understand. I can also understand the use of alts to fill out a roster if you’re coming up short. But if someone’s main is getting benched to get someone else’s alt in, something is wrong. In that case, why even have the person in the guild? Why even let them get to first base? Just be up front: “We won’t take you except as an absolute last resort.” I wish more people were more honest with people in game, rather than not inviting them to groups, or whispering about what a bad player they are.

    But…I digress. Great post, Syd, I really enjoyed it.

    PTDs last blog post..The Philosophy of Loot Systems

  24. I’m the bad apple, then. I’m levelling and playing my two main toons as mains, both of them. One being protection warrior, another holy priest. While the warrior is currently at higher level, the healer is closer to my heart: however, switching from tank to heal is no problem to me. Knowing the both ends of the crap chute surely helps to understand the comments which I get from others, while in either end myself…

    Though I don’t see myself raiding anytime soon. Or late.


    PS. Yes, Feral is the fastest to level: feral heals all instances at least up to Sunken Temple with relative ease, as well as fills the spot of Tank and DPS, as long as you remember to carry proper gear with you. Feral is the most versatile levelling class you could think of.

    Copras last blog post..Addition to last post

  25. I agree. My guild’s Kara farms were slower when we were raiding T5 than our first Kara clear.
    Reason: green geared noob alts. Kara runs were becomming tougher progression runs than our true progression runs.
    Our solution: make alt-permitted and alt forbidden raids.

    The problem didn’t fade entirely though. For some reason all DPS made DPS alts to such a degree it can almost be classified as obstinate. As result the whole alting business was starting to wear on the group: nobody wanted to do content runs with their mains anymore and all critical roles were ‘surprisingly’ absent.

    Luckily we haven’t hit this problem in WotLK yet.

  26. I love candid, nitty-gritty articles on guild leadership and mechanics, and this article is one of the best I’ve read in a while. The hard-won lessons are especially good to read. It’s funny how a long, incorrect-and-likely-painful period with that guild’s previous system can be summed up so well in a paragraph or two. Anyway, this post is awesome, I’m bookmarking it.

    GoWs last blog post..Ghostcrawler is Awesome

  27. I usually pug raids for my druid tank alt. But I’ve gotten her geared enough now through my own hard work than I’m starting to get asked to tank ten mans for the guild. My priest still goes along for the 25 mans, of course, but it’s nice to be able to fill another role when the guild needs it.

  28. Sydera, thanks for a very nice and useful post.
    i met guilds where the alts were allowed and guild where there were not.
    imo it s about what the guild is aiming for.

    1) are you aiming for progress and raiding?
    then no alts pls, it ll only slow you down. what will you do with a cloth dps robe on an alt attending once a …(fill in a time unit:P)? would that very same robe not have a faaar more sense on a raider that attends regurarly? ofc it would – so… not an difficult deal imo:-))

    2) are you aiming for just fun and you dont care about progress and you don t care the amount of wiping and time spent on bosses?
    then wohoooo:-)!!! gief alts!!!!!

    the alt vs main is a hot and high potential drama topic, so – be caferul :-)). with ppl who has grabbed all the possible gear and now they, amagaad surprise surprise, want to switch to an alt in blues, this can lead to a big conflict. that some ppl may leave after they are not allowed to switch (especially when they currently play a role a guild cant afford to miss atm), can happen too.
    i experienced that myself, it was not pleasant and i hope i wont have to deal with that soonish:-).

    Lizarines last blog post..Capping with rating

  29. Well, my biggest competitor for hunter loot hit 80 on his paladin healer. He is now the only paladin healer in our guild. We needed to replace a healer who was unavailable for our raid night, and on his first night in Naxx, he soaked up no less than 6 pieces of excellent gear.

    He now has a very well geared hunter, and a much better geared healer… I’m not sure what this says about alts raiding, but I know we would have sharded those drops if he hadn’t been there.

    Maybe the lesson here is that alts can be OK if they won’t be competing with a main for gear…

  30. Alts in the raid can certainly cause tension. I know that I started feeling resentful back when we were raiding Gruuls and people started to bring in their alts to runs because they didn’t want any more gear on their mains. I couldn’t do the same having only one 70 at the time. These days we require players to pick one main who will be their raiding toon and only allow/request alts in extreme situations. I have my boomkin alt who has just dinged 79 and am looking forward to taking her through 10 man Naxx while my hunter main does the 25 man raiding.

    Jezraels last blog post..Epic flight – old skool style


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