So You Think You Can Raid


I caught the Vegas auditions last week for So You Think You Can Dance (and the results the next day). The judges can be so brutally honest sometimes. They possess a level of blunt truthfulness. Sometimes I wish I could be like that. As a guild master and a player, interaction and feedback is a daily occurrence.

Watching this weeks performance show (Bollywood was amazing, cha cha was really good and samba was just wow) and witnessing the judge comments reminded me that negative feedback does not always have to be harsh. It’s how you respond to it that matters.

Making the cut

This isn’t a post about getting through and making the guild (or raid). This is about the leadership perspective. We’re like judges. We evaluate and assess new recruits based on what we see. Sometimes we have to cut people. What sucks for us is that in a game that is dynamic and long lasting as this is the fact that evaluation is a constant.

When a guild recruits a player even as a trial, we do so hoping that the player meets or surpasses our expectations. When the challenges that a raid instance offers goes up (such as the gap from Naxxramas to Ulduar), there is an expectation that the player evolves and grows up in the same direction. Some players are able to do it admirably. Others just can’t. For whatever reason, they are not able to fulfill the level of technical skill that the encounter demands.

I especially want to direct this to struggling players who have been talked to by their leadership or fellow guildmates.

  • We’re not calling you dicks.
  • We’re not calling you morons.
  • We’re not calling you dipshits.
  • We’re not calling you assholes.
  • We’re not calling you humanity’s failures.

But we do recognize that you’re struggling. It would be disrespectful if that was simply swept under the rug and ignored. When you’re cut, it’s for a reason.

Why is it so difficult?

Cutting people from raids isn’t a feeling I take satisfaction from. It’s one of the worse things about this GM role. There’s something heartbreaking about telling a prepared raider that they’re not going to get the call up today. And at this point, I expect the whole this is just a game, stop taking it so seriously argument to crop up. Yeah, I understand it’s a game. But you’re still dealing with real people on the other end of it. It’s amazing how many people can lose sight of that. They’re not simple chess pieces on a board to be sacrificed on a whim.

It gets way harder when a person continues to be benched.

Is it the fact that the guild’s invested time and energy into getting them some gear to help out? No.

Is it because no one likes telling people they don’t get to go today? No.

Then what is it?

I’ve acted as a recruiter in no less than four different guilds. We watch new recruits and prospects. We try and carefully screen them as best we can.

What sucks for me personally is knowing that I spotted talent and potential in a player only to realize days or weeks later when they’re in our raids that I was completely wrong about them and their ability. No one likes to be wrong.

All the upper management types are scoffing. Understandable. They’re seasoned at the whole letting go thing. I’d probably be terrible as a manager or as HR. Heh, I’m still in my early 20s and you know that rule where everyone under 25 doesn’t know what they’re doing. I sure as heck don’t.

There is a limit

I hate to say it, but there’s a ceiling to the amount of effort that will be invested to help a player. Gear can only do so much.

Usually when a player is told that they need improvement and a strategy is devised to help them in that path, one of two things will happen.

Improvement: Player reads strategies, watches videos, talks with other players of that same class. Undergoes a noticeable level of change. Actually gets better and is able to respond to the challenges of raiding.

No improvement: Player reads strategies, watches videos, talks with other players. Does not improve at all. Level of skill stays stagnant. No signs of growth. Nothing happens. Doesn’t seem to care.

If a player improves, great! GM’s job or class officer or whoever’s it is is now complete! Mission accomplished! Congratulations! You helped Joe Mage get better!

But what about the alternative? What if they don’t?

You see, no amount of video watching, strat reading, image diagramming, peer discussion, or gearing up can make a player better. A player has to not only learn from what they’re absorbing but they have to act on it. I can watch any number of healing videos or read all the stuff on EJ’s. But if I don’t noticeably improve somehow, then there is no amount of anything in the world that can help. You have to find the way to battle through and prove that you can raid. If you can’t meet that threshold even with all the resources at your disposal, then there is nothing more that can be done. The onus is always going to be on the player to get better.

Not everyone can. Not every player is fit to raid. Hard mode is hard. Not every guild can successfully do it. I can’t arena for crap.

The next step after that is entirely up to you and your guild. Either they find a new role for you or you start shopping for a new guild or accept being permanently benched. I’ve had to reassign players before. They weren’t meeting the expectations that were set for them. Sometimes a change of scenery or position works wonders and they just so happen to fit in.

Negative feedback is hard to give. But it’s even harder to receive.

20 thoughts on “So You Think You Can Raid”

  1. Being benched, or just not quite ready… I feel the anguish you have making sure your raid is at it’s fullest potential. It really is a position that requires tact and structure.

    And that is where my struggle is. I know as a Holy Priestess that I am needed and valuable if I am on my top game. I was absent from the game for over 4 months right after WotLK released. I wasn’t even 80 yet. I had to do a crash course to get even remotely close to the my guild. Grant it I have some gear, but I also had to relearn the entire class changes and healing on a whole new level. I understand why I am benched, but I am not sure how successful I will be at getting 25 man ready. I don’t have as much time as I did before. So now my struggle is internal. I am sure I am not doing my guild any favors. The question is, do I stay in my guild, or drop down to one at a similar level as my own. Who gets the benefits? What if I get back at being spectacular and perform at a top level again. And my current guild has put in time and effort into me already. How can I repay that without damaging my need to raid? I feel I need more direction. Perhaps I can discuss this deeper with my officers or leads.

    Your point is valid, and it should be just as valid for the raider as well.

  2. This is the second season I’m watching SYTYCD. I don’t know if you’re a regular watcher, but this year’s Bollywood number was so-so when compared to Joshua and Katee’s incredible performance from last year (in fact, Joshua went on to become the season winner, and Katee the top female). If you search on YouTube for SYTYCD Season 4 Katee Joshua Bollywood you will be able to watch their amazing physical feats. The biggest letdown for me with last night’s Bollywood piece was the kiss at the end. In Indian films, it is strictly verbotem to kiss in public… and I don’t think Nikul instructed them not to kiss (because it seemed semi unplanned). Very big cultural no-no, that was. Too bad, too; otherwise their piece was pretty good.

  3. A lot of new recruits we’ve been getting simply haven’t made the cut lately. Their application looks great; their gear, stats, and specs also look good on paper. Once we trial them, their performance is far lower than expected for their gear level.

    Naxx introduced raiding to a new wave of players. These players were in lesser guilds clearing easy content, being the top performers in their guild. They leave their previous guild to try their chance at a more progressed guild. All of a sudden, they went from top DPS to the very bottom. On some occasions, they were barely beating tanks on DPS meters. It’s this sort of “culture shock” where new players haven’t learned how to maximize their gameplay and the standards were set pretty low in their previous guild.

    Ulduar is out and a lot of guilds are struggling further and further into the instance. Bosses have been nerfed to accomodate these new players who haven’t quite picked up the skill to be a top performing raider. I’ve had to consult with new recruits about their performances and have been swapping them out for better players of equal gear. There’s something clearly wrong when a new ranged DPS is doing 1 million damage less than another ranged DPS of the same gear level on Yogg.

    This article is pretty much right. I do what I can to help new recruits improve in the PVE environment, but not everyone has the capacity to raid.

  4. I disagree (what a surprise). There is only one negative thing in negatively evaluating a player: if you don’t have a replacement at hand so he may get into the raid to have 25.

    HE wasted our time. HE came to us LYING that he is prepared for the challenge, while he actually wanted a free ride for ilvl 226.

    He wasted our time and repair money. His presence required someone else to sit out. He was nothing but trouble for us. When finally he gets what he deserves, and told (hopefully publicly) that “you suck and get the hell out of our guild”, I’d only feel satisfaction. 1 less M&S polluting the progression scene.

  5. My old guild had a bad habit of not actually weeding out people through the trial runs. If someone sucked, then they would generally get into the guild so we could “teach” them and mold them into the kind of player we needed.

    It really didn’t work so well. We would occasionally get a great player from this policy, but in the end, it made me leave the guild because it was getting filled with too many people with pudding between their ears.

    As much as it sucks to be the bearer of bad news that a person just isn’t good enough to cut it, most of the time its in everyone’s best interest to give them the boot as quickly as possible.

    It takes a trained eye, which my old guild did not have, to differentiate between a player with skill who just needed refinement and a bad player who had no potential at all. The former can be a great asset even if they blow a trial run for whatever reason; the latter, however, needs to go back, run a few more entry-level raids, and try again when the nuances of playing with other people start showing up.

    Too often people straight off of heroics apply to guilds thinking they can raid because they’ve done half of a raid in a few PuGs. I don’t like to sound elitist, but it’s like you said: every part of this game is not for everyone. Some people 5 man, some people raid, and some people PvP. Some people gather and play the AH. It takes a well-trained guild leader and well-policied recruitment process to help wayward players find their niche.

    Beejs last blog post..SPOILER ALERT: Does a Statute of Limitations Exist on Spoilers?

  6. I am curious about what people feel is the responsibility of the guild, to tell the applicant that they appear to be struggling during their trial period. Many people have mentioned working with trial raiders to help them improve, while it is also possible to argue that it is the applicant’s responsibility to ‘sell themselves’ to the raid.

    Does a trial raider have the right to expect to be told there is a problem, during their trial period?

    • Tyben: Yes, I do expect there to be some feedback being provided at some level. It doesn’t matter what their status is. Veteran or trial, there should be some lines of communication going especially if there are problems.

  7. We are experiencing the similar issue here.

    I am part of the officer council. Last night, we had to decide to remove a long time backup raider(excellent attitudes and excellent attendance) to non raider. Even though he is a backup, but he has actually been raiding with us from day one(2 month or so). There are many little mistakes he makes during a raid night. And he keeps making the old mistakes here and there. Especially when he is deaf. That means, he is on his own. How well he plays in a raid directly related to how well he understand the fights. he is a hunter also, so whatever he does is very very visible in our raid. From MD pull, to CC, to kiting to whatever left. He might be okay if not playing a hunter. Dealing with constant mishaps on his part, his lack of knowledge on progression bosses, his graphic lags and internet DC issues, finally our GM has had enough. He doesn’t want to type everything out for this guy anymore. Too much work.

    I feel very bad about removing him. But it’s totally unfair to us the officers, to RL who has to type the strats out and the raid members that perform just as good as him but can listen to our instructions well. He is also the 2nd best geared person in our guild too. Lucky hunter drops.

    Anyways, I think I feel the same as Matt in this situation. Removing a great guy from our raid due to a big handicap of his is just aweful.

  8. I think there are many levels in requirements, and thankfully there are enough different guilds out there that most people can find a match.

    The crazy guilds on the bleeding edge need to cut quickly, and often violently, to stay on the edge. But they also rarely have to worry about finding replacements. There is always a new player waiting to test themselves in the hard core.

    The more casual raiding guilds often do not have that luxury. Many of us have been in a guild that has a dedicated core that quite literally carries half the raid through content. Ulduar is just making it clear who could do it in T7 but only because of how easy T7 was. The GMs of these guilds have to walk a fine line. If they reprimand as is needed but dont have the replacements to cut, their reprimands seem weak. If they say nothing then the guild believes that mediocrity is accepted. Seems like a lose-lose. I am not sure how a GM is supposed to handle that.

  9. Pingback: whatisboom?
  10. We’ve taken to not even bringing the player into the guild to try them out. We got to like the trial raiders who were gosh darn nice people, but had inconsistant performance and didn’t seem to want to work through why. It was hard on the whole guild to remove the player from the guild.

    Ulduar is a whole new level of playing, but it wastes 24 other peoples’ times if one person isn’t up to that level of performance and focus.

    Handling comments is part of the deal. But the trail raider should be doing a lot of the analysis themselves and asking for advice.

  11. I don’t know if it’s just my browser of if there’s something wrong with this article, but all your apostrophes are “’” symbols instead and it’s really distracting.

  12. It’s a really cultural aspect, isn’t it. Back in 40-man raids, I was a hardass GM and would tell people bluntly to lift their game. I didn’t really mind about their feelings so much, because their poor performance was effecting 39 people who had brought their best efforts to the raid. I just gave the negative feedback, boom.

    I think most serious progression guilds tend to be militaristic / harsh /blunt (based on my experience but moreso from reading about them, including interviews at project daedalus).

    I then expect a casual guild will be on a continuum between totally laisez faire and harsh, depending on the GM/guild culture.

    The guild I’m in now as a tank (I’m not GM nor officer now) is really much more relaxed, and tends to be much softer, albeit occasionally it comes comes out as covert anger (indirectly) which isn’t very honest either. That’s cultural too, but it’s also a very long-lasting guild (5+ years old).

    Gravitys last blog post..PhD in WoW

  13. One thing I have seen to many times (and yes I have led raids and been a class leader) it’s often forgotten but behind every raider there is a real live human being.

    To many times I have seen the issue of informing someone they are being dropped done without registering that simple fact. Yes people need to be told (and sometimes no matter how you tell them they react badly). But often this task can lead to a guild or community implosion.

    So yes tell them, but please please do it with care and respect, as I hope you would like to be treated.

  14. Raiding in a casual/friendly guild, which has evolved into a raiding guild, I have many of these issues when differing between new recruits who are standard, and friends who have been here from the start. Cutting a sub-par friend to bring in a 2-week raider can hurt the guild as much as a bad player can hurt the raid…

  15. This is completely dependent on guild culture and standards. My 5/5 9/9 guild set performance standards and kicked recruits who couldn’t grasp BB’s focus or Teron’s constructs. However those are fights where it is perfectly clear who is at fault without even WWS or WoL analyzing.

    In early BC I was a class lead in a friends-family turned raiders (cause of a core of us who knew end-game) guild. Priority was given to the higher ups and their friends, even if they died to Lurker spout every time. With the culture and guild mentality I couldn’t act in my class lead role as playstyle criticism (resto shaman without earth shield, BM hunter without FI) of any of the old farts was suggesting I wanted to pay their 15 a month for them.

    So set the culture as one that sees the raid as a whole and not as individual interests. Our criticism doesn’t mean we want to play the game FOR you as the uber-casuals seemed to believe. Rather, we want them to stop wasting the other 360 a month the raid invests in the experience.


Leave a Comment