Raid Flexibility: A Healthy Obsession

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“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.”
Antoine De Saint-Exupery

The show must go on. It’s a common rallying cry among drama and theatre productions. It means that no matter what, the audience expects a show and the performers have to deliver. I have the same mentality when it comes to my blog. I do my best to ensure that there is something daily here for you readers to consume!

Keep that drama catchphrase in the back of your mind for a moment. We’ll revisit it.

A story

First, a story. Team Conquest finished off Naxx, Malygos, and Obsidian Sanctum. We had a reduced raiding roster. As were slowly working our way throughout OS, I received an urgent message. It’s not very often that I miss raids. It becomes even rarer when an unexpected event comes up where I have to sit myself out during the middle of a pull.

The usual trash clearing chatter was going on. I explained to the raid that something came up which required my immediate attention. One of our Resto Druids were on standby. I quickly explained to him my situation and he agreed to come in. I immediately passed off raid lead and master looter to one of my officers and said “He’s in charge.”

I returned home 40 minutes later. A quick glance on vent showed players were slowly disconnecting and breaking off into their own channels.

This meant either the mission was accomplished or that the raid had been called prematurely due to lack of resources.

I popped in.

“Is it done?”

“Yes.”

“Good.”

I was relieved. I think I felt a slight twinge of pride in there somewhere. On second thought, it might have been that sore throat of mine acting up.

The Parts

Raid leader. No, not Red Leader. We’re not talking about Star Wars here. How many players are capable (and willing) to lead your raid? I have four players who are able to sit in the captain’s chair and direct everything. If your answer is one, then you may wish to re-examine your options. Not everyone is able to fulfill this role. Make sure your candidate has the will to do so and the undying respect of the guild or else it won’t work. You can’t make people respect leaders. They have to do so on their own.

Tanks. Brio does an excellent job flipping and rotating tanks around. It helps to keep the tanks fresh and interested in what they’re doing. I have about six players who have the ability and the gear to switch into tanking roles if it is necessary. We haven’t had that happen yet. But it’s comforting to know that the option is available.

Healing leads. Currently Syd directs the healers. I do step in if she needs a day off every so often or if she’s not as familiar with an encounter. That makes two who are capable of handling assignments. Handy in case one of them manages to inadvertently stab themselves in the eye. That hasn’t happened yet, thankfully.

Healers. This should go without saying. Either recruit extra healers or have players willing to switch from their main role to a healing role if the fight requires it. There are 7 of us on the starting lineup with another 3 on reserve.

Replenishments. Ret Paladins, Survival Hunters, and Shadow Priests. I believe this is getting further expanded in 3.1. Have alternative sources for Replenishment. The mana regen is going to be a must going into the next raiding tier. I’ve got a Shadow Priest, a Ret Paladin, and several Hunters who can supply it if necessary.

Heroism/Bloodlust. I refer to this as the raid leader’s personal shotgun. While not always a requirement in an encounter, it helps to have the extra damage available to push through a certain phase as quickly as possible.

Why?

We are all expendable. This stems from a core philosophy of this guild. We are all united in our desire to raid and clear content. I have a duty to minimize whatever obstacles or obstructions that could get in the way of that mandate. Not having players or not having the experienced is not an acceptable reason for me. The expendability thought is that no one person should be so important or required that the entire raid has to stop its operations in case a certain player is absent.

When Conquest was first conceived, I knew I wanted the flexibility there. I knew that I could not be there all the time. I knew Brio would not be there all the time. I knew certain key players would not be available. I recruited players into the guild who I felt had the potential to take over certain functions should the need arise.

Whatever happens, the raid must go on.

10 mans

This is where it gets tricky. I don’t know if that same philosophy above would apply here as the individual efforts of players becomes even more amplified. Several of roles above wouldn’t even apply here. You don’t necessarily need a healing lead among 3 healers. It wouldn’t be that difficult to divvy up the responsibilities.

I’m not as experienced when it comes to pure 10 man guilds.

What GMs Want to See on Your Guild App

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Every day, thousands of players are released from guilds. Thousands more leave them voluntarily. Some are looking to take things easier. Others want more out of their gaming experience. What do they all have in common? A desire for a change of scenery. Yeah, it’s the same old Azeroth. But the guild atmosphere is hardly similar.

When I was 15, I landed my first job as a high school computer tech. In the weekends, the school was commandeered by an older generation of adults learning how to “make millions of dollars via Ebay and “how to use windows  (I still remember vividly the longest possible method to create a folder on the desktop).

The experiences during those times taught me the extraordinary value of patience. Because I tell you, nothing in this world prepares you for patience more than trying to teach a bunch of senior citizens where the any key is.

I was the first among my friends to have a real paying job. “Wow, they would say, “A real paying job with real money! 

You see, it’s around that time in a youth ‘s life where the desire to become independent from their parents begins to kick in. Of course, the inverse is also true. I ‘m almost positive parents want to spend less on their kids. My friends starting feeling the same way. They wanted their own CD players (that ‘s metallic discs that held around 18 songs). That‘s the stuff my generation was into as MP3 players didn’t kick in until the year later since they weren‘t affordable yet.

My advice and consult was frequently sought after. My friends all wanted jobs of their own. I was the only one among them that went through the entire stage from resume to interview. I tried to coach them with what little I knew from my own experience. I helped them prep for their interviews after proofreading their resumes.

Nothing makes mom and dad happier more than knowing that some sucker hired their son after all, right?

And now I speak to you as a raider, officer, and GM who has sifted through hundreds upon hundreds of guild applications over the past several years.

What Matticus likes

  1. Simplicity: Don ‘t use 7 words when 4 will work. I scan most of my apps unless something catches my eye. Be blunt and straight to the point.
  2. Formatting: I hate my room. It’s a mess. I don‘t want to see a reflection of my room in your guild app. Put some effort in your punctuation and capitalization.
  3. Goal: What you want to do. Make sure it ‘s something that you actually want. The successful applicants into Conquest were the ones who said “I want to raid.”
  4. Past tense: Raided Molten Core. Killed Illidan. Acquired Twilight Drake. Achieved “Gotta Go!” .
  5. Contributions: Organized sheeps. Set up main tank targets. Lit up Warlock summons without being asked. Made healing assignments. Took care of DKP.
  6. Essential stats without having to armory: 2240 spellpower. 950 MP5. Important information that‘s included without me having to click the armory right away. If I‘m really interested, I‘ll do it after the fact to make sure you‘re not giving me a plate full of bull-shiitake.
  7. Guildie endorsements: These can make or break your chances. Make sure the player actually knows you and has good things to say since it can backfire.
  8. Link to blog: Not everyone has one. Bonus points if you do. It made the difference for Amava since it lent him extra credibility (but he doesn‘t know that, so don‘t tell him ;))
  9. Hobbies: This is what gives your digital avatar a little extra personality. Whether you‘re big into sports or an avid poker player, it‘s something I ‘m curious to know. Still waiting for the day where I see “Modeled for this agency.
  10. Extra: Whatever else you did that shows your ability to think critically. I‘m not here to hold your hand. The GM isn‘t supposed to be the chessmaster that instructs where every piece is supposed to attack. They‘re the conductor who controls the rhythm, beat, and sound that an orchestra plays for a standing ovation.
  11. PM to the GM: Rarely happens. But it takes energy and ingenuity to go straight to the boss. Sometimes a private message adds a nice touch.
  12. Customize: I‘ve seen cut and paste application jobs. Sometimes applicants forget to change the name of the guild or player name.

I can‘t speak for all GM ‘s or recruiting officers. There‘s always someone out there who has more experience. I ‘m going to toss a shoutout to Kreeoni, Veneretio, and Siha as they‘re all well respected GMs in my book, and ask them what they like to see in an app (Ceruleagos, I know you‘re out there reading, too!)

As always, reader thoughts are always welcome.

6 Ways to Reject a Guild App Without Sounding Like an Angry Ex

In the spirit of the blogger’s challenge I laid out last Saturday, I felt it was only fair to come up with a post of a similar theme.

I issued a question to the Twitterati asking them this:

On what grounds have you had to turn away guild apps?

Of the multiple responses I received, I was able to consolidate the majority into 6 real reasons guilds reject players.

Some of these reasons sound eerily familiar. Probably because I’ve been on the receiving end of all of them at some point.

It’s not you. It’s me.

@greyseer Attitude does not align with core purpose or ideals

This is the one of the more often used rejection reasons. Sometimes a player just does not fit in with the rest of the guild for whatever reason. Player personality plays a strong role in the minds of most GMs. If a personality clashes, then the door is closed. Perhaps the applicant is simply too liberal in their use of language which makes players uncomfortable. Maybe they’re looking to do nothing but PvP in a progression raiding guild. Whatever it is, the applicant just doesn’t have a place in the guild’s grand scheme of things.

You’re not open with me enough.

@asara_dragon Poor command of language on application
@cuppy Didn’t follow app instructions
@misskeli Didn’t fill app at all

First impressions matter. When GM’s are exposed to you for the first time, your language use plays an integral part in how you virtually “look and sound”. Take the time to put in the periods and capitals. Run it through a spellcheck. Come across as professional and intelligent. The guild app is your way of “selling” and marketing yourself to the guild. Even if you’re the best player around on the server, a crappy application will stone your efforts. Prove yourself out of the game or else you might not get the chance to prove yourself in the game.

Even worse than leaving a bad first impression is not following the instructions. If an applicant can’t follow instructions on a simple post, who is to say they can follow instructions in raids?

I think we need to go on a break.

@sylus Reputation for guild hopping
@Nightravyn Known drama llama
@dadexter Known to rob guild banks

These types of players are lone wolves. They travel from guild to guild exhausting their resources until they are no longer welcome. Fortunately, the names of such players spread quickly and far via trade chat and forums. It’s advisable for guilds to maintain their own blacklist for players that their guild should stay away from.

I’m just not interested in you right now.

@Threon We’ve got 4 Resto Druids
@Narayu People that app that are classes we’re full on.

Even outstanding apps have to get rejected. There are only 25 positions available in a raid. Some players already have cemented positions and it is extremely difficult to dislodge such people. It all boils down to having no room. Barring some kind of emergency, full time players who raid are full time for a reason. Their attendance is virtually flawless. This reason for rejecting players becomes more apparent in progressed guilds. They just can’t fit any more players, classes or roles into their raids. I’ve had to release some people over the past few weeks because I knew they wanted to raid and it wasn’t fair for them to be kept on retainer. They deserved to raid. There is still time for them to look for other guilds to join.

I’m too busy focusing on life and my career to get involved.

@siha You can’t make our raid times
@crazeigh Attendance and availability

Players apply with intentions to raid. Some guilds are okay with a 50% attendance rate or what have you. Other guilds expect raiders to be able to go at it from start to finish. Obviously it is not possible to expect flawless attendance. From experience, I can say that guilds I’ve been in, there is an expectation that players show up to a set amount (as a minimum). Given the choice between two identically geared and skilled players, I will always start with the player that can go from start to finish as opposed to the one that has to leave every night right before Patchwerk. From a management perspective, it just makes sense. A player that can only be available for a small amount of time is not going to be able to serve the guild well in a raid capacity.

You can’t afford me.

@Kreeoni Gear is lacking

Older friends have told me that companies generally don’t care what type of degree I have. I was freaking out because I was second guessing my program choices for school. Kimbo, an officer, explained to me that companies only care that you have the piece of paper that says you’ve got your 4 years or 120 credits. Whether it’s Psychology, Criminology, Sociology or Business Administration isn’t as big of a factor (in most cases but I know someone’s going to say “but yes it plays a HUGE factor”.

Having the degree shows you have the discipline and perseverance to work your way through school.

That mentality has some merit here. I’ve always held the belief that gear and skill are equally important. I need the weapons and armor to do my job. But I need the knowledge and skills to use my gear effectively.

Having your Sons of Hodir enchants or your exalted Rep faction gear demonstrates that you put a lot of time and effort into your character. Having high end heroic blues or a smattering of epics shows that you’re willing to grind through to get what you want. Appropriate gems and enchants show that you know how to best augment your character (unlike that one Priest I saw with nothing but agility gems. Hmm!

Finally, with raiding instances set to go up in difficulty, it becomes clear that minimum throughput of DPS and healing are only going to go up. For example, the gear requirement for pre-nerf Sunwell was much higher than a fray into Gruul’s Lair of Magtheridon’s cavern. The entire raid has to reach a certain minimum baseline performance in order to kill a boss. Otherwise the enrage timer hits or healers run out of mana and it’s game over.

Why have you or your guild rejected applicants? Do you have any good (or sad) stories you like to share?

Image courtesy of nyuszika

Case Study: How Conquest’s Healers Were Recruited

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On Saturday, I wrote a brief highlight on how not to recruit healers. The actual post was written by Ess. Reader Spinks posted a comment wondering how I recruited my healers.

In truth, recruiting healers involved higher standards and scrutiny. This was only because I’m way more critical with healing. It’s difficult to explain. Maybe it’s because I know what I want in a healer.

I’ll start with the longest serving healers and work my way up.

Sthirteen

I’ve served with S13 in my last guild. He was there when we worked on Illidan and onto Kil’Jaden. Even though he’s only played for a little over a year, he’s come a long way from the Druid who played all the way up to level 10 without realizing he could equip gear. His signing was a no brainer. I’ve known him for many years and Resto Druids aren’t exactly a common commodity on my server.

Sydera

Syd was a transfer. She was one of the founding mothers of Conquest. If she hadn’t come to me, Conquest might have still been just a dream. Her case is a unique one. She was on a different server. There was no way I could gauge her play without directly observing. A lot of it was based on inference. It certainly helped that she turned out to be a great Druid blogger. Reading her posts showed me that she knew what she was doing even though I had no way of seeing it for myself. Her previous guild managed to kill Illidan prepatch which added extra credibility.

Kaldora

I didn’t know Kaldora that well. I’ve played with him several times in other raids. One day he decided to leave his previous guild and sign with Conquest for a more focused raiding experience. I knew from the times I’ve played with him before that he knew what he was doing. He took advice and critique really well. Quick learners is a big must for my healers.

Epiks

I don’t know what it is about Resto Shamans. But they’re always hyped up on something. Epiks actually came to me in trade chat. I didn’t know about him before so I had very little to go on. Like Kaldora, he wanted a change of scenery. I had nothing to go by other than his present gear and the reputation of his old guild. I knew how progressed his old guild was and I could tell by some of the 70 gear he still had Epiks was a part of the team that helped his old guild get to where they were before Wrath. That was a testament to his perseverance and his abilities. Even though those were all good marks, I still didn’t know enough about him as a player. A Naxxramas and Obsidian Sanctum run later, his position was virtually cemented in the ranks.

Krinan

I took a chance on her and she took a chance on my guild. Krinan’s journey into the guild revolved around Twitter (and she has a post up on that very subject). Her pickup was a great risk moreso for her then myself. She was willing to take a chance on an unproven guild with an unproven GM. In most cases, that would have been a recipe for disaster. I’m proud to say she’s still in after 4 months. I think what did it for me was her willingness to give this organization a chance and her ability to learn quickly.

Notice that gear didn’t play a significant factor in the signings of these players. In Epiks’ case, his 70 epics from BT and the like demonstrated to me that he could hold his own. But not a single one of these players entered the guild and leveled to 80 with more then a handful of blues and greens.

These are players I know and count on to hold down the fort and they’ve done an admirable job of doing it.

photo © David Martín :: Suki_ :: for openphoto.net CC:Attribution-ShareAlike

5 Mistaken Beliefs of Raiding Guilds

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The comments from Wednesday’s post drew a consensus where everyone called for a Gkick. As some readers observed, it’s not exactly going to win the Emmy for Best Drama of the year.

On the other hand, the fact that a Paladin on break is the best I can offer in terms of drama should say something about myself and the organization.

Please understand that I wrote that post to inform and let readers know that no guild is impervious. I did this to inform. I didn’t mean for it to come out as a rant (because there’s far worse things in life then a Paladin leaving).

I’m not going to remove him. I’ll let him stick around in the guild. On the flip side, it doesn’t mean he’s going to get the start when the 2 raiding instances come out. He’ll have to earn his stripes.

Belief 1: Your GM Owns You

Wrong. I don’t own my players. They recognize that they’re all technically free agents. They didn’t sign a multi-year contract to raid. I’ll elaborate on this in the next point. But there is nothing to prevent people from walking away.

All I can say is this. If you don’t want to clear out Heroic Naxx, OS with 2 Drakes, Malygos, and Vault of Archavon within 6 hours, then you don’t want to be in this guild.

It’s all about incentives.

And if a player doesn’t want to do that, I’m damn sure I can find someone who’s willing. When a player’s goal differs from a guild’s goal, no amount of incentives will win them back.

Belief 2: It’s a One Way Street

The relationship between a guild and a member is a symbiotic relationship. It works both ways. The guild serves the individual by providing them with a home, discounted prices on materials, and a supply of other likeminded people to do 5 mans or heroics.

On the other hand, the individual serves the guild by being present for raids, investing their time and money into raids, and just being there.

Belief 3: Your Excuses Mean Something

Whether a player wants to leave because of burnout or they have exams or their wife is pregnant is irrelevant. I realize this sounds quite harsh. But the reality is, no matter what the reason, I’m still going to have an empty hole in my roster for a period of time that has to be filled. I can’t be expected to wait around for 4 months for a player to come back. I’m not going to raid short handed with 24.

Whether a hockey goalie injures his groin, breaks a leg, or has to deal with family issues is important. But the team’s general manager still has to go out and make a trade for a goalie or promote one from the minors because the team needs one.

No matter how you slice it, it all leads to the same result. In this case, it is a net loss of one player for a few months.

Belief 4: Your Spot is Guaranteed

Sorry, that’s not the case here. If a player doesn’t perform, they get replaced. If a player isn’t here to perform, they have to be replaced anyway.

The difference between a Paladin who leaves and one who stays with the rest of us?

It proves to me that they’re willing to stick around and dedicate themselves. Those are the type of troopers I want.

Readers, understand that we’re all expendable to an extent. It’s going to be easier to replace a healer because there are 4 different healer classes to choose from.

But it will be much more difficult to replace the guy who tirelessly draws out maps, sets up strategy and organizes the kill method on a weekly basis.

The hint here is to be be valuable as much as possible. In the end, the Paladin I lost is just one Paladin. They’re a dime a dozen.

My guild is in a good bargaining position right now since we’re ahead of the raiding curve (also coming soon). Finding people isn’t the problem especially when I’m not terribly concerned with a player’s gear level. When I started Conquest, I didn’t have a reputation. I’ll elaborate more on this later.

Belief 5: Gear Makes You Important

I can see this being true to an extent. But in my years of raiding, I’ve learned something. I’m going to refer to this concept as the 30% rule.

30% of loot will be wasted

This factors in upgrades, players leaving, and off spec items. Inversely, this means that 70% of loot awarded will actually be used for raiding and be effective for guild progression. It’s just the way of guilds.

While I may invest a large proportion of gear into players, I know that gear alone isn’t going to win me any favours. But progression will.

We say stuff all the time about guilds rewarding players or just gearing them up for whatever reason. But the reality is that every instance has a “minimum standard of gear” before it can be completed successfully. What the standard is will deviate from guild to guild.

I wrote my recommended requirements for Naxx last week. Note how the comments vary. Some agreeing and some disagreeing. Your guild’s “sweet spot” will differ from mine.

Another example would be Brutallus. A raid DPS of 20420 (post nerf) is required to kill him within enraged timers (another post entirely). Once you reach that threshold, you’re gold.

Reflections

If a player is going to burn out after only 6 hours of raiding a week, then this guild is not for them. What’s going to happen when the second tier of raiding instances are released? How will they handle the wear and tear of progression raiding where we commit ourselves to 12 hours a week?

To me, these early farm raids are a dress rehearsal. If we compare raiding to a season of sports, then Naxx, OS, and Malygos is just pre-season for me.

Remember that when I formed this guild, I had nothing to go on but my name, my reputation, and my promise. I could’ve lied and said that I was a proven guild leader. But I didn’t. I managed to convince around 25 players to buy into my vision and my goals. This was a combination of people that I had raided with for a long time, readers via my blog, people on twitter, and players in trade chat. I had no way of knowing whether or not it would work. I didn’t know whether they would gel together. There was so much uncertainty when I started out.

I’d by lying to you if I said I didn’t spend every waking moment second guessing myself.

A new guild does not have it’s fair share of pickings. There’s no reason for star players of other guilds to come play under your banner. I had to build from the bottom up with all sorts of people without knowing what their motives were.

Use these “easy” raids to learn more about your guild. Find out about their strengths and weaknesses. Figure out habits and tendencies. What makes them laugh and what makes them cry.

Oh, one more thing. I want to extend a thank you to all the Paladins and healers who emailed me and sent in applications. I believe that position’s been settled for now (unless they turn out be pure crap, in which case I’ll put the call out again).

Image courtesy of barunpatro