Out with the Bads and in with the… Who?

As a long time avid follower of as many guild/raid leadership blogs and forums as I can fit into my schedule each week, there is one discussion topic that almost invariably makes me wince. Actually, that isn’t exactly accurate. There is one particular response to this particular topic that makes me want to punch something.

“How do I push my current guild to a higher or more serious level of progression?”

The response that inevitably pops up that makes me /facepalm IRL is: “You need to start replacing the bads and attracting the pros” or even worse (because it sounds so much more friendly somehow) “You need to explain to everyone that raid spots are competitive and people will be replaced as soon as something ‘better’ becomes available”

The overwhelming message that gets passed along whenever this topic comes out is a very clear mercenary-like outline that clearly advocates using fear of being kicked or replaced to snap your raiders into line and light a fire under them to keep them moving forward under the imminent risk of being replaced.

This is my public response to all advocates of raid management that involves any sort of emphasis on kicking or replacing people as soon as something better comes along: Eff that, you would never find me in a guild that treats its members like that.  Unless you believe that you are seriously intent on competing for World or US progression rankings, using an approach that emphasizes the action of replacing/removing people is an inherently unstable strategy.

I once posted that I believe sports analogies are by far the best way to view leading a raid or guild, as opposed to trying to compare it to running a business or a leading a group of soldiers.  I bring this up because something that always pops into my mind when people start trying to describe their plans for assembling the “Dream Team” of WoW raiding, it makes me remember how well it has worked long term when the U.S. did the same thing with our national basketball team.

Sure, the U.S. national basketball team has been more or less successful in the long term, but the only reason for our success has been the overwhelming pool of talent that we have to pull from in the NBA.  If you watch the games, the level of coordination and teamsmanship just doesn’t ever really manifest itself on the court, especially in the first couple of incarnations of the team.  Essentially it is a collection of basketball gods steamrolling over the competition through the sheer force of individual talent. How much fun could that be on a long term basis to be part of?  The only hope someone like me would have of answering how fun that might be would be to look at what kind of turnover the team has had since the first “Dream Team” (for those that don’t want to go look, essentially the turnover is nearly 100% between each big game until very recently when they instituted rules to try and force players to commit to more time to the team).

On the other hand, we could look at virtually every Hollywood sports movie ever made for a good counterexample of an underdog team that overcomes enormous odds through hard work and awesome teamwork.  My personal favorite for this analogy is “Miracle” by Disney,<link:  a true story based coincidently on another U.S. Olympic team.  The 1980 U.S. hockey team and their “Miracle on Ice.” It is a great movie if you’re into feel-good sports films, especially if you appreciate the ones based on real life stories.  I remember watching the final game between this team and the Russians on TV and the swell of national pride during those final seconds of the game. It isn’t hard to imagine why this is described as one of the greatest moments in sports history.

So what is the point? I’ll make an effort here to explain what it is exactly that goes through my head when I see this discussion pop up and my reaction when someone proposes trying to go the mercenary route in their approach to building a “successful” raid group. It usually centers around two questions:

Does this person honestly ever see themselves trying to break into the world progression rankings with their team? (Hint: if you are asking on a public forum for directions or help on how to motivate your team to do better, the answer is no)  I know that at least for me, the only measure of success I have for my raid team is whether or not we meet our raid goals each tier. I could care less if we are the 3rd raid group to do so or the 30,000th in the world, as long as we meet our own goals I am going to feel like we succeeded.

Then my mind goes on a rambling tangent involving sports analogies and nostalgia and I come to my second question:

Which Olympic winning sports team do I honestly think I would rather be a member of? And perhaps more importantly, which team would the person asking the question rather pbe a part of?  The U.S. National basketball team a.k.a. the “Dream Team” that get together every 4 years to ROFLStomp the rest of the world in basketball (and no, you don’t get an NBA contract or salary for being on the team) or would I/they want to be part of that “rag-tag group of college kids” who pulled off one of the greatest moments in sports history? I suppose both options are going to appeal to people in different ways.

Another thing to consider: From everything I have ever read about really high end raiding guilds, one of the most prevalent traits that they share is that the bulk of their members have been playing together for -years-.  Not a single one of them is stressed out over whether or not the next new applicant is going to cause them to take their raid spot and the turnover these teams have is extremely low.  Turnover for them has been extremely low for -years-, and I would guess that what turnover they had had nothing to do with someone failing to perform up to the group’s expectations but instead likely had to do with real life obligations that had nothing to do with the game.

If you don’t have the raw talent to be ROFLStomping your way through the content, then employing a revolving door strategy where you are constantly trying to replace your “worst” raiders is going to result in a turnover rate that will rival your local fast food joint with the creepy shift manager.

If your stated goal is to replace the lowest performing members of your raid team on a regular basis, what kind of message does that send to your team about the long term security of their raid spots?  Even more importantly, what does that say about the possibility of being replaced by some raiding super-star who happens to apply to the guild?

Next week I will share my alternatives to the idea of motivating your raiders through fear of being replaced.  In the meantime I would like to leave everyone with a question to ponder.  You are welcome to share your answers below in the comments, but I would be just as happy if you just spend a few minutes thinking about what your answer would be.

Question: If one of the world’s best <insert class/role here> players applied to your guild, assuming that they met all of your other requirements for a new recruit, which of your current players would you replace with the new applicant?  What if the person being replaced was already one of your stronger players?  Would your answer be any different if there were 4 of the world’s top players turning in applications at the same time? How about 9 applications that are clearly head and shoulders better than anything you currently have in your raid? 

I can tell you that I at least would almost undoubtedly turn the applicant down.  Unless they happened to stumble into one of the few periods of the year where we have opened recruitment.  Though to be honest, even then I would have to seriously question whether someone like that would really fit in with our raid group.

8 thoughts on “Out with the Bads and in with the… Who?”

  1. I do understand the premise and where you’re coming from. In standard raiding guilds, there is a big gap between 1st place and say… 16th place. Sometimes those margins are as large as 13%. As a GM, its my job to find a way to minimize those gaps. I figure if I can somehow cut the spread down to 5% from first to last, then I’ve done a fair enough job (encounter mechanics taken into account and all that).

    The next thing is that a blade can only be sharpened so much before it becomes brittle and broken. Even though I’ve implemented these performance philosophy in my guild, I do so knowing that we’ll eventually hit a plateau where we won’t be able to improve as much. Namely, everyone is playing at their best and we can’t exactly push that ceiling higher. What’s going to vary from gild to guild is hitting that minimum bar. I’ve set my bar and my expectations. The players I pick up understand that if that bar isn’t reached, they probably won’t be coming in. Now some players do improve. Some players don’t. Unless I pour hours and hours in to my Wrist shot, I’ll still have difficulty scoring. I just don’t have that type of time to put in and I’m not that kind of prodigy anyway.

    For me, what it boils down to is this: As a player, is your best good enough for what we need as a guild? If it is, great. If it isn’t, sorry man. You can invest h ours of time and loot into a player, but its ultimately up to them to get there.

    If the best priest in the world came in and was able to supplant me, I would have no problem stepping aside for them on progression while I try to learn more about what they’re doing and what I can to match their performance. If I received 9, my first question would be to ask what on earth they’re doing here ^^.

  2. I feel your choice of sports analogy is poor. Instead I think of it as a second tier team competing for promotion to the top tier. If some players decide that they don’t want want o make that extra effort or put in the work that other players are, why should they be carried?

    If a player is struggling, knows how to improve and yet DOES NOT improve, of course their raid spot should be on the line.

  3. As a casual raiding guild we often find that the best raiders for us are the ones that we grow ourselves. In this way I like the military analogy better then the sports one. You see I liken it to getting a new unqualified recruit who has just enlisted. Yes they meet the minimum requirements (physical fitness and medical – or in wow terms lvl 85) but they have no experience in what you are trying to teach them.

    We first start by having them apply in our guild class forum on our webpage and the class officer takes a look at their current status. For instance I just had a mage apply who was a new 85 and had no idea what raiding was about expect blowing up epic bosses. I was able to quickly look at his gear and help him outline a plan for getting the gear he needed to be raid ready as well as how to determine it for himself in the future. This includes using internet resources such as wow-heroes, ask mr robot, max-dps, and theory crafting forums. From there the class officer will try and get into a 5 man or two with them to watch their rotation, raid awareness, utility (cc, decurse, etc.) and offer suggestions if needed.

    The key to this approach is we define goals for them and outline how they get raid ready. In fact our guild loves to take that new raider and turn them into a full fledged intelligent raider. I was one of those newbs who hit max level and really had no clue about the “rest” of the game. They have worked wonders with me?

    The only downside to this approach is that we sometimes loose a newly trained raider to another guild because a progression position is not open at that time or they want a more hardcore raiding experience (more than 6 hours per week). The advantage to this system is rarely do we have to “recruit” raiders. Instead we tend to recruit low levels (they help us hit guild xp cap each day) and by the time they are 85 we already have a good idea on if they fit in our guild community and how reliable they are. The other advantage to this is it helps us avoid the whole guild rep grind that 85’s moving into our guild would have to go through.

    We also tend to be a guild that has a lot of alts. (Hence why I read this blog – my current raiding toon is stynus a preist although my mage is geared for the initial raids.) Some of our players who show a desire/talent for multiple classes may level and gear a second toon to help fill a guild need.

    Hope this adds some perspective and maybe even an entirely new way to think about recruiting for future raid members.


  4. I play a mage in Matt’s guild, Conquest. I joined around May of last year. Other than having a baby in September, I’ve never missed a raid with them.

    I have never felt like I had to look over my shoulder, wondering who was trying to take my spot. The thought has never crossed my mind. In fact, it’s the exact opposite of what you describe. The guy that I’m “competing with” for a raid spot, has become one of my closest friends in game. He also plays a mage, so we’re constantly giving each other heads up on new class changes. We talk about bugs we’ve noticed with the class, gear selection, rotation, everything. I’ve spent hours with him, trying to improve his damage.

    Besides, when we recruit, it’s not like we’re trying to get the best mage or rogue or whatever in the world. We’re looking for players that are on par with the guild in skill and commitment.

    Also, I have yet to see someone get replaced permanently. There’s always farm content to show your improvement. We get asked every week if we can sit out for farm bosses so others can get some gear and experience. It’s not like they tell you that you’re being sat and /gkick you.

  5. I would like to agree with a mixture of all of these things. It all comes down to what makes your group tick.

    I have always thought of my team as one of those “feeder” guilds. When we were a 25 man casual group we were the gateway between the pug-capable players and the light-progression guilds. As our team has grown and swapped to 10man, we noticed that we are a transition platform for another skill level now. Your average pug-raider would likely be able to join us for farm content, but as a team we are not top-100 intensity. Some players that join us will become top-100 players, and we will enjoy their company and hard work as long as they are with us.

    Our team is very close, even though we have had almost 60% turnover in the last 9 months. We look at personality, then performance; the rest is passion.

    Because my team is a 10man group, we have a certain number of extras we need to raid effectively (and consistently). There is no “set 10”, and no one is competing for another persons job. Most of our new recruits will come in at a similar type of progression, but not always the same level of performance.

    I love training up new raiders; it doesn’t happen very often (twice in the last year) but when it does, everyone feels great about it. A new raider is someone who maybe started the expansion a little late, got to max level, and immediately starting requesting to run heroics with members of the raid team. When he was in mostly 346 items, we needed a stand-in for a farm boss.

    This is where the passion comes in. The new raider has no previous knowledge of the fight, asks for a couple simple pointers, and will make a mistake or two – but when the fight is over you look at that player and see the passion they put into it, and you invite them to stay for the next farm boss. Before you know it that player is a trial on your roster and working on heroic progression with you. It’s hard to recruit a player like that off the forums.

    We only replace or remove players when there is drama. The times that performance has become an issue we let them know how we feel about it, and they get to sit for a couple progression raids.

    Wow that turned into a lot of text, just my 2 cents though.

  6. I think that the sporting analogy is spot on. The best reflection of this is in the current situation in European football (soccerball for you Gridiron people). The best team in the world at present, Barcelona, are made up of a majority of players who started playing in Barcelona’s youth setup at a very tender age (8 upwards) mixed with a couple of superstars and a couple of lesser individuals. They have been clearing up the trophies while their main challengers have gone out and signed star players for huge amounts of money and ended up with a great selection of individuals but not great teams. It takes time and the right mixture to produce a great team and a fantastic talent can fail to perform in unfamiliar surroundings.

  7. I would replace the player least willing to improve. After that, I’d replace the player showing the least ability to improve. If my guildies knew we turned down top talent, there’d be a mutiny.


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