Reader Question: The Double Bind of Casual Raiding


Those of you who have kept track of my posts know that I love answering reader questions. This one was originally for Matticus, but I decided to take it on because it’s an issue that’s very close to my heart. Essentially, the question is the classic debate of the casual raider: do I stick it out with my guild, or do I move on? However, reader Adam is experiencing an interesting twist on the problem, as he’s a guild master who’s actively working to improve performance in his own guild. Let’s see the quandary in his words, shall we?

So, as a mixed minority I hate generalizing… but I seem to be having a problem in my guild concerning ::duhn duhn duhn:: DPS classes. Tank/Healers tend to enjoy their positions and willingly choose to do them. They read strategies, the seek out gear upgrades in their free time, they put effort into the game. As of late the DPS classes have been showing up expecting amazing loot without wanting to work for it.

Our guild is sizable enough to be running 25 mans every week, but the DPS classes aren’t pulling their weight. None of them will run Heroics to get their own gear, they expect as many drops as the people who have put effort in… none of them read boss strats so I’m forced to review every boss fight beforehand and we still wipe.

I KNOW things can be better because when our “best” do 10mans (just for the hell of it now, no one needs the gear) we can clear everything in one shot with 2 healers (myself and a Resto Druid). Hell, I’ve seen PUGs do better in 25mans than some of my guildmates.

The problem, then, is two-fold:

a) If I don’t let the sub-par DPS into the raids we won’t have enough for Naxx25. No matter how good the rest are you can’t clear it with 15 people. And in a lot of cases the bad DPSers actually hinder our performance (ie putting Grobbulus clouds in awful places, failing to make the jump on Thaddius and then rushing into the fray with an opposite charge, etc).

b) There are a lot of 2 or 3 friend groups within my guild. One is a good player, but he wanted his friends to come along too. They suck, and I can’t say no to them without the good player being hurt, etc. And when I say suck, I’m talking people in 50% Naxx10 or better epics doing 1,000 DPS. I’m not kidding. I did that at level 70 with my Priest in shadow and we currently have a few mages and warlocks consistently performing under the 1,500 mark with full raid buffs.

Recruiting isn’t helping much. I don’t get many people expressing interest in joining and the ones who do message me aren’t exactly cream of the crop. Am I screwed? Should I take my ten best players and start from scratch? Should those ten and I try to merge into another guild? I’ve led guilds since level 60 and I usually have a good idea how to proceed. Right now I’m at an absolute loss.

Such a thoughtful question deserves a somewhat lengthy answer. I’ll do my best to analyze what’s going on, and then I’ll make some suggestions for future actions. As you all might have guessed, there’s no easy fix for this one.

The Double Bind

What is this “double bind” I refer to, you might ask? The word refers to a situation in which a person receives conflicting and contradictory messages about how to behave, such that one behavior would negate the other. It’s similar to what’s referred to as a Catch-22, after the awesome Joseph Heller novel of the same name. Working mothers are often placed in a double bind; so are ethnic minorities, as they try to both stand out from and fit into majority culture. I’m going to put casual raiders right up there with these two put-upon social groups. A casual raiding guild typically tries to follow two conflicting sets of imperatives. I will note that Adam doesn’t refer to his guild as a casual-raiding organization. I mean no insult–I just inferred from the text of the question that the guild is, at present, casual-raiding. Perhaps Adam would like it to transition toward being more of a bona fide raiding guild, but I’ll address that prospect below.

Why is Casual Raiding So Hard?

Like the aforementioned working mothers, casual raiding guilds often try to do it all. They have two basic principles behind their organization, and those principles are mutually exclusive. Below, I’m going to try to generalize what most casual raiding guilds might say about themselves.

Principle #1: Our guild is about friendship and freedom. We value the relationships people have made with each other in-game and out. We try to keep friends and loved ones raiding together. We also let our members play as they like. They have the freedom to set their own schedule and play style.

Principle #2: Our guild is about successful raiding. Everyone has to play a certain way, and we can only do so at set times. Only people who meet certain benchmarks for performance can raid with us.

The very conditions required by raid content impinge on the freedom of the casual raider. In addition, friendships cause trouble, as in Adam’s case, when guild members understand friendship as a means to a raid invite. These two conflicting principles cause some members of casual raiding guilds to work a lot harder than their raiding guild fellows for less results. It takes a lot more hours to clear content with a less-than-committed group. One of my previous guilds, Random Acts, could best be described as a casual raiding type. During the summer we started Karazhan, we raided for maybe 12 hours a week, but the wipes were such that it took us three months to clear the instance. In addition, because of a need to accommodate people’s schedules, we did crazy things like make attempts on Moroes at 6 am. He owned us, by the way. Both times I changed guilds, I went further in the direction of a progression raiding guild, and each time the number of hours in game reduced for me.

Do One Thing, and Do It Well

In my mind, these are words to live by. This is simply, what works for me, and why I appreciate being a member of a guild that focuses on a specific goal. I have, however, been in a guild, Collateral Damage, that offered some benefits for their more casual members while being very successful at raiding. They actively worked to treat all of their players as equals (even down to taking Kara-geared folks on Black Temple runs). Incredibly, they managed to do this fairly successfully. I know first-hand, however, that the officers and players worked really hard for that, and also that, as a result of mixed messages from the leadership, drama was high. “We can have whatever we want,” was the guild mantra. It’s admirable, I think, to try to be all things to all people. The leadership of that guild is extremely altruistic. However, in the end, it was too much pressure and conflict for me. It’s worth noting, though, that CD always did and continues to do very well in raid content. They just put in a lot more time in other stuff–what I call “casual time” and “administrative time”–than raiding guilds typically do. My current organization, Conquest, which defines itself very strictly as a raiding guild, has its flaws, to be sure, but the one thing it does do is focus on raiding success as it’s only goal.

What to Do With Adam’s Guild?

Short of renaming his organization Catch-22 and just trying to laugh about it, there are a few things this guild leader can do to improve his situation. He has to decide what is most important to him personally. I am guessing that what Adam values most will be one of these things.

1. Progression
2. Friendship
3. Power


#1 If progression is the most important, what’s needed is probably a change of guild. It seems like what Adam wants will be extremely difficult to achieve with the current group. He can try to take 10 friends with him and split off to form a new organization, but in my mind that is not the most certain way to better progression. Right now it’s a player’s market on guild recruitment. Almost all guilds are recruiting with Ulduar in mind, and players of all classes can pretty much pick and choose from the guilds at their skill level. It’s a great time to make a move. Sometimes you can do so with one or two friends, but mostly you have to go it alone if you make this choice.

#2 If friendship is most important, Adam should probably stay in the current guild and make the best of it. This means working one-on-one with low-performing dps and trying to encourage them into better behaviors. This means educating the guild about what raiding requires. I saw Collateral Damage take many players through this very education process, and in some cases casual players improved enough to become top-performing raiders. However, the success rate is not particularly high. Most players approach the game as they want to. What’s most important to Adam’s guildies might be things like the freedom to raid how and when they want to. Their personal goals might conflict with Adam’s, and there’s not much he can do about it. As I say repeatedly in my posts, we must all seek our bliss in this game. Sometimes you can turn a team of casuals into a team of raiders, but they have to want it. Even if Adam sits down with each underperforming dps and analyzes their gear choices, talents, and rotation, they still may not improve.

#3 If power is the most important, Adam actually has two choices. The idea is to remain guild master. Either he can work within the framework of the current guild, as in #2, or he can take his 10 best and form a new, smaller guild. I can see how it would feel very important to be in charge. Adam probably has a sense of responsibility for his guildies and wants to take care of them. A lot of guild masters are like this–and I used to be. However, I made myself miserable trying to fight every bad policy, as I saw it, in my previous guild. It didn’t win me any friends. In my current guild, I’m just an officer, not a GM. I speak my mind, but I can pick my battles now. I don’t have to fight them all. If Adam does split off from his current guild, he can expect a lot of work and drama incoming. The surprise factor will probably be that many of his coterie of good players will not want to move, even if they join with another similarly-progressed raiding guild. This always happens when guilds merge or reform. If you’re considering something like this, just be expecting to take a step back in progression for a few weeks as you recruit to fill the spaces in your team.

Either way you choose, Adam, you can’t have everything. My best advice is to think about it during this next raid week and really weigh the things you value against each other. Then, make the best choice that you can. It’s hard to get out of the double bind, but you will be happier if you have some clarity about what it is that you really want.

25 thoughts on “Reader Question: The Double Bind of Casual Raiding”

  1. Quote from :

    The prototypical Catch-22, as formulated by Heller, involves the case of John Yossarian, a U.S. Army Air Forces bombardier, who wishes to be excused from combat flight duty. In order to be excused, he must submit an official medical diagnosis from his squadron’s flight surgeon, demonstrating that he is unfit to fly because he is insane. In order to get the diagnosis, he must approach the surgeon to ask for one.

    However, “catch 22” — the twenty-second of the guidelines used by military surgeons to “catch” those falsely claiming to be insane — is that an insane person should not believe or suspect that they are insane. Thus, to be recognised as insane, a person must not ask for an evaluation, because doing so implicitly shows that they suspect themselves to be insane. But, if a person does not ask for an evaluation, they cannot be recognised as insane because the evaluation is the method by which such recognition would occur. Thus, nobody can ever classify themselves as insane (even if they genuinely are), and thus nobody may ever use an insanity diagnosis to escape flying combat missions, ignoring the possibility of someone else recommending an evaluation for a peer.

  2. In Heller’s book, Catch 22 is the one clause that lets a soldier leave the army. The book takes place in the context of an endless and pointless war. It works like this:

    1. You can only leave the service if you are insane. If you’re insane, just ask to leave, and they’ll let you.
    2. If you ask leave the service, by definition, you are not insane, because any rational person would want out–so you can’t leave.

    So, it’s an impossible situation created by conflicting messages.

    I’m using a quote here I found on Wikipedia to get you the original context from Heller’s novel.

    “There was only one catch and that was Catch-22, which specified that a concern for one’s safety in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was the process of a rational mind. Orr was crazy and could be grounded. All he had to do was ask; and as soon as he did, he would no longer be crazy and would have to fly more missions. Orr would be crazy to fly more missions and sane if he didn’t, but if he was sane he had to fly them. If he flew them he was crazy and didn’t have to; but if he didn’t want to he was sane and had to. Yossarian was moved very deeply by the absolute simplicity of this clause of Catch-22 and let out a respectful whistle.
    “That’s some catch, that Catch-22,” Yossarian observed.
    “It’s the best there is,” Doc Daneeka agreed.”

  3. This was such an excellent post! I’ve been a lurker on your blog for a long time, and I don’t think I’ve posted before now – but I can totally relate to the question Adam was posing and to the answer you provided as a Guild Officer. Thank you for taking the time to post such a thought-out response. I gained a lot from both the question and the answer regarding how I view my own casual raiding guild. 😀 Cheers!

    AllianceGirls last blog post..Icecrown Daily Quest Guide

  4. This is exactly something that I’m wrestling with at the moment, not in the GM sense, but as a raider in a casual guild. Where the guild leadership says they want to take the guild to more progression oriented, but fail to do anything about it because they don’t want to alienate their casual players. It ends up with a great deal of conflict between the player base because they’re getting mixed messages. Everyone thinks the leadership is on their side because of what’s been said, or because of what’s been done, so its impossible to really see an outcome. If like me, a raider wants to progress but has friends they want to stay with, its either move as a group to another raid group (an uncertain idea at best, especially if the number of the group is large enough that no guild could take them on) or make their own, which as outlined above is just as damaging to any attempted progression.

    Either way, if you can’t change the current guild, you have to go backwards in order to try to go forwards.

  5. A publically posted WWS might help with underperforming players. People who do poor dps often improve very rapidly once that fact is made plain for all to see.

    What he really needs though is more members. The more members you have the more freedom you have to bench underperforming players, sending out a strong message while not compromising your ability to run 25 mans. I’d say right now you’re effectively held hostage by bad players because you can’t do without them, that is something which you need to change as soon as possible. And yes, recruiting is hard. but market your guild very aggressively and unless your server has no population at all you will attract people that want to break into raiding. That means you’ll have to do a lot of educating, but it will be worth it in the end.

    Of course, a lot of these problems are also caused by your insistence to run 25 mans before your guild is ready, consider shifting the focus of your guild to ten mans, either temporarily or permanently unti you’ve got the players you need. Lots of poorly executed 25 mans do more harm than they accomplish.

  6. While I agree with the public WWS, the biggest problem is that the people who want to do well will look at it and know who’s underperforming, but the people who don’t care, won’t look so they won’t know they’re underperforming. Then if a solid raider points out they’re underperforming, they take it as a blame game and recriminations start.

    The WWS will only work if a person who is in charge posts analysis of the results in a public way that doesn’t require people to go looking to find out they’re the one the finger is pointing at to work on stuff. Its also a possible way to lose those members which destroys your ability to form a 25-man group.

  7. As my answer might show, I tend not to lay the blame here on “underperforming” players. It’s less an issue of individual people not playing well than individual people making different choices.

    I’m living proof that people can improve their play if they want to. I’m 30 years old and was new to gaming–period–when I started WoW, and now I do very well for myself as a healer in a raiding guild. I’m also living proof that it takes research, work, a little money (for a better computer setup) and a real desire to perform well in progression raiding.

    I think Adam’s guildies are probably not “bad,” per se. It’s likely the case that they just play their own way, with their own values. This is OK–and if it’s happening often in Adam’s guild, it’s probably because at some point, the guild style/mission/recruitment strategy favored more casual play styles.

    I just don’t think this is a problem that the low-performing DPS have to solve. After all, they might be totally happy with the status quo. Rather, it’s up to Adam to solve the problem of his own dissatisfaction with where he is in the game. I think it’s helpful to realize that while he may be able to improve his DPS players somewhat, he won’t be able to get blood from a stone, so to speak.

  8. I think most of these additional comments are pretty spot on.. as is the original article. I disagree with the suggested notion that simply “more players” is somehow a solution to this problem. Regardless… under-performing players can occasionally take a lot away from a session on vent with someone who knows the game very well and can explain how they are coming up short…. and use WWS as semi-accurate facts.

    I had originally started to type a response here a few hours ago, which then turned into an extremely long comment (comparable, if not longer, than Sydera’s article). I did however end up posting a fully fleshed out version on our blog:
    .. and linked back to this accordingly.

    Cheers for the great topic and response.

    Weezziis last blog post..Blending "casual" with progression…

  9. I agree you play the style you want, but Adam appears to want to build his group up into a well performing raid group. Unfortunately, unless a person wants to perform, they generally don’t. Its not that they’re underperforming because they can’t do well but more because they choose not to push themselves, both in and out of the raid.

    Ultimately, I think that Adam as the GL has to decide if the guild as a whole should go where he wants to or whether its just him (or a select few) who want that. Perhaps taking that small subsection to their own guild would work in their favour.

  10. Idea to improve DPS: You know those class leaders/officers you probably have? Make them responsible for helping players to improve their DPS. Whether that is going over with people on how to improve their talent spec, their dps rotations, or where to get gear upgrades, that could be a nice way to reach out to the guild without having to do everything yourself.

    Idea to get people motivated/be able to progress with casuals still in the guild: Make a requirement to go on raids (ex. mostly ilvl 200 blues or ___ dps on a practice dummy). My guild leader used to have a policy that alts couldn’t go to kara unless they had no greens or enough epics to make up for their greens. That way they weren’t dead sacks that the rest of the raid was dragging through the instance. If you don’t have enough qualified people to run 25mans you could pug some that do. It’s tough, but if they don’t make the cut, they don’t make the cut and would probably be more of a hindrance than help. Plus, they can always improve themselves so they do make the cut (helping them achieve that always helps!).

  11. Thank you Adam for your concern and Sydera for excellent response. This post reminded me to refine our guild Charter to more precisely depict our current situation. The Guild is growing from the right direction, that is from low level players, and the people who join tend to bring their high level mains into the guild! So I have to make sure that we put our emphasis on one thing instead of trying to be everything at once.

    Thank you both for pointing me to the right direction!


  12. Excellent post! As a member of a casual raiding guild who, while meeting that definition, takes our raiding seriously, we solved that problem by setting standards for all 3 jobs, tanking, dps, and healing that anyone who wants to raid must meet before joining a raid team.

    We do have ‘progression team’ that goes in first and learns the content, then rotates in other players once we’ve mastered the content. So the first part of our raiding week is open sign-ups, anyone meeting standards can sign up, ideally we have half-half mix of casual raiders and progression team. Its not conflict free, of course, because not all deserving players get on the progression team, but so far, its the best way we’ve found to balance the needs of progression while maintaining our bonds of friendship. 🙂

  13. I’m in a casual raiding guild, and what we did before going into WotLK, was set a few rules for those who raid (not all our members raid). What we did was not have any requirements to how often you should raid, but when you DO raid, your expected to bring your best, have properly enchanted gear, prober gems and apropriate food and flasks/elixirs. It’s worked great, and let the occasional raider also see the content. We have a guild of about 100+ members tho (40-60 fairly active ones).

    The rules for raiding are set, and they are enforced. Little drama and a fairly solid EP/GP system allows everyone loot from time to time.

  14. I’m a little late to the party, but I figured I’d put my 2c in anyway.

    First, Syd – great article. Second, I think you really nailed it with your outlining principles. You either raid for fun, with family and friends, or you raid to progress – to win the interwebs. I feel like raiding for fun is more about enjoying the company you keep rather than enjoying the game. You play to be social and don’t care about wiping for 12 hours because you are kept busy by catching up with friends and talking about your day.

    Progression raiders should go in there, get the job done and go do whatever else they see fit with there time. Not saying you can’t have friendship in this environment, but when it comes to raiding – you do your job well, no excuses.

    People say that hardcore progression raiding guilds have no life – but after joining one I think that they are the exact opposite. We go in, we clear all the heroic raid content in one day and then we have 6 days to do whatever else we want. Normal raids, alts, farming, pvp… real life! /gasp

    And people just don’t realize how much information is out there for you. You can honestly save yourself hours and hours of wipes if you just had everyone watch a video. I’d much rather spend 2 hours watching videos and 3 hours in Naxx than 0 hours watching videos and 16 hours in Naxx.

    IMO, there is no reason, ever, for a level 80 DPS class to be below 1000DPS. Here’s an interesting story. I respec’d boomkin over the weekend just for a change of pace and to get some ‘off-spec’ gear. My little brother spent the weekend at my house and he also plays a druid and his main spec is balance, though he is the ultimate definition of casual. Has never read or saw a strategy in his life, and doesn’t want to. So, after I respec I’m interested to see how a casual and a “hardcore” match up. I told him I’d give him $20 if he could beat me in DPS (just a little incentive to stay focused). We go to the test dummy in town and he begins to happily spam keys as fast as his little fingers can go. And depending on what spell hes currently spamming running anywhere from 1100 to a top end of 1670 DPS. So I pop over to and look up the “Boomkin for Dummies” post. Spend probably less than 5 minutes reading the optimal DPS rotation and pop back in. I sit somewhere between 2400 and a top end of 2580 DPS. My numbers are in a much closer range and a lot higher, because I spent 5 minutes reading… If your “casuals” can’t do that – then maybe they deserve to be replaced. 😛

  15. I’m sure it’s a very good article. I stopped really reading is at the point where you say “I just inferred from the text of the question that the guild is, at present, casual-raiding. Perhaps Adam would like it to transition toward being more of a bona fide raiding guild” because I immediately fired up at the inference that a casual raiding guild is not a real/valid raiding guild via your use of the term ‘bona fide’.

    bona fide

    1. made, done, presented, etc., in good faith; without deception or fraud: a bona fide statement of intent to sell.
    2. authentic; true: a bona fide sample of Lincoln’s handwriting.

    Perhaps you could clarify what you mean by a casual raiding guild? To infer that only the hardcore raiding guild is authentic is kind of insulting. I guess I’m pretty passionate about this because my raid could be considered casual – we have one 25 man raid a week. Yet at the same time we require a high level of performance from our raiders.

    Personally I consider the difference between hardcore and casual to be in the attitude the players bring. And that attitude is something that has to be delivered from the leadership down regardless of whether you raid four nights a week or one. Perhaps you agree, but I still think it’s pretty rough to categorise a casual guild as non legit. Especially when you seem to be arguing that different values/play styles for different players is fine. A Freudian slip perhaps?

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

  16. By “bona fide,” I meant a guild that is honest to goodness focused just on raiding. Not focused on raiding and other things, but just raiding. Only.

    I was trying to steer away from value judgments. I have a preference of guild type, but that’s just me.

    Everyone defines “casual guild,” “casual raiding,” or “raiding guild” as it best suits them.

    Here’s how I define these terms.

    To me, a guild is “casual” if it neither raids nor PvPs together. Casual guilds can be good (fun and friendly) or bad (have nothing going on).

    A guild is PvP if it does bgs or arenas as a group but doesn’t raid.

    A guild is a raiding guild if its goals all focus on raiding and it takes and maintains players based either exclusively or almost exclusively on performance.

    A guild is a hardcore raiding guild if it’s a server-first type place, with a 20h or so schedule during progression.

    A “casual raiding guild” tries to do everything a raiding guild does…plus. How much plus is up to the individual guild. They also tend to raid a lighter schedule than the hardcore guild, but probably the same hours as a raiding guild. In many cases it translates to lots of raiding hours and little progress, because raid invites are based on a lot of criteria that aren’t raid performance. What these criteria are can vary. “Casual” can also be an attitude toward raiding itself–but here we get into “better” and “worse” and I’m trying to avoid that. I think of “casual raiding guilds” not as bad places, but as guilds that are less ambitious about their raid goals than “raiding guilds” because other types of goals–friendship, fun, freedom–trump progression. Some people like a compromise between approaches to the game. My personal experience with guilds that try to “do it all” is a bit on the negative side, but that’s just me. I’d never try to lead one again, that’s for sure. But I might say that about any type of guild.

    Jezrael’s guild may be it’s own thing, none of the above. I’m just speaking from my own experiences. I can imagine, in fact, a guild good enough to clear all the current content in one really long Sunday afternoon raid. Usually, one raid a week isn’t enough to clear a tier, but right now? It could be.

  17. Personal definitions (the quotes are important)

    “Casual” Raiding Guild – A raiding guild where the attendance requirements are minimal or nil, but otherwise all the requirements like consumables, gear, performance etc are required. Progression is the goal, but the player base is wider than 25 to cover vacancies.

    “Casual Raiding” Guild – A guild of casual players who put together raids in a less serious fasion, and are willing to take people who are undergeared. Progression takes a back seat to having fun and helping lots of people get a little bit of gear.

    I’d like to think mine is the first, but at the moment they seem to be sliding into the second, so a guild transfer may be imminent. (Damnit Syd/Matt why aren’t you guys Oceanic timed :-p )

  18. @Perrin One of the reasons we only raid once a week is because we have an almost 50/50 split between US and Oceanic players so need a raid time friendly to all of us.

    You can raid once a week and progress. My raid is doing it now and did it in TBC. Inconceivable? Maybe only to some.

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

  19. @Jezrael – If you conduct yourself during the raid to maximise the time you choose to have, and make sure that everyone’s at their best performance for that one raid a week, I’d put you in the first category, not the second. The term “Casual” for me denotes that you’re not hammering instances 4+ times a week for hours. I totally agree that a guild with limited time, but who conducts themselves well during raids, and doesn’t muck around or spend inordinate amounts of time AFK etc., can progress quite well (especially in Tier A of Wrath).

  20. It seems I spend an awful lot of my free time trying to figure out how to successfully marry casual play and raiding. Really, though, it’s not the AMOUNT of time that I play that’s an issue, it’s WHEN I play. Nobody seems to want to raid from 11 pm to 2 am Friday nights!

    PTDs last blog post..Time Versus Skill: My WoW Jealousy

  21. Great post! I actually did a double take there because I’m in a Random Acts on Malygos, and had one of those creepy moments before I realized my RA had never raided at 6 AM. (Had I been smart I would have read the bio first, but alas.)

    Anyway, this has been an enlightening read and it’s helping me figure out some struggles that the Random Acts guild on Malygos had in the past.


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