Tough Call: Is Preparation Enough?

683292_50743243Welcome to Tough Call with me, Viktory.  This column aims to answer some questions and start even more discussions about one of the trickier aspects of raiding, raid leadership.  Sometimes “raid leadership” will mean strictly talking about class composition, role management, benching policies and loot, and inevitably sometimes it will bleed over into overall guild leadership. 

Based on my own experiences and the conversations I have every week with current and past guild/raid leaders, I know that this is one area where there is almost no black and white, and everyone can use some help or constructive criticism at times. 

I can tell you now that my answers will not be the universally-applicable answer, nor will they be the happy/nice/”make everyone love me” solutions.  That simply is not effective; raid management isn’t a WordPress plug-in, it’s a graduate-level course in human relations and resource management and we’re all crazy for trying to do it. 

My aim is always to have the most efficient raid possible, so that we can get in, get the job done, then go have a beer and pat ourselves on the back afterwards. 
Bottom line, the intent of this column will be to discuss how to make the decisions that the 24 other people in your raid would hate to make.  After-all, “uneasy lies the head that wears the crown”; but hey, you get to wear a frickin’ crown!

Now let’s move on to this week’s topic.

Preparation is the bare minimum

This week, many of you will either be grouping together for your guild’s first serious raids this expansion, or will be seeing more of your guildies hitting the gear levels to be able to join your raiding ranks.  Either way, you should be in a position where you have to decide who you will take to raids and who will be coming in off the bench.

In order to field the best team possible as you roll into a brand new expansion, you cannot always rely on the players who were your all-stars in Wrath.  Some may have grown complacent.  Some may have life commitments that prevent them from gearing-up (or even leveling up) as the same pace as the rest of your guild.  Some may even be less interested in raiding than they were last go-round.  Regardless of the reason, you owe it to your group to take an honest look at every possible option and make the best decisions.

If your group is already 12/12, please accept this High-Five and check back with us next week.  If your group is exactly 10 people and you would never dream of raiding with anyone else regardless of how long you have to wait…  let’s agree to disagree

If you’re still with me, I assume you’re not in one of those first two groups, and you’re probably facing some of the same decisions I’ve had to make this week.

For the sake of argument, let’s presume you’re doing 25-man raiding and have a roster of 30-40 people to choose from.  Six months ago, you could have considered multiple factors: experience, achievements, badge-gear vs boss-drops, etc.

Today, preparation is king.

Preparation does not always mean gear.  Sometimes people can get lucky and every instance they run drops exactly what they need.  I’ve seen it.  That doesn’t mean that they are any more prepared to raid than they were the day before, it just means that they may have a larger margin for error.

  • Among your healers, who is most prepared to keep your team alive when you’re in those first raid encounters?  
  • Who has taken the time to watch the videos, read the boss breakdowns, and consider what parts of their class/spec are best suited for each fight mechanic?  
  • Which of your tanks knows what is expected of them on each fight and which one is just hoping you’ll point them towards a boss and let them button-mash?

It should be absolutely unacceptable for your raid members to expect you to give them boss breakdowns before each pull.  Efficient raids will already be slowed down by new class mechanics and everyone needing new loot, you absolutely cannot allow another 10-15 minutes per raid to explain the strat.  Certainly you may review how your implementation of the suggested strat may differ (where to group on Altramedes, which drake to focus first on Halfus, etc), but the concepts and fight mechanics should have been discussed on your guild forums well before raid day.  This includes making sure the vital roles (such as interrupts, counter-spells, DPS tranquilities, etc.) have been assigned, preferably including back-ups.  If someone cannot meet this minimum standard, then they are not prepared to meet the challenges of raiding in Cataclysm and have made your decision that much easier. 

Remember, your roster should be a living document, constantly changing to meet your needs, and hopefully constantly improving as time goes on.  If you bring in the player who is most prepared, the one who went through the beta, has cleared every heroic 20 times, did 10-man raids before your guild had 25 people ready and thinks they know exactly what to do on each fight; that player can still fail.  They might have learned all this to mask the fact that they suck as moving out of the fire.  Preparation doesn’t show skill, but it does show dedication to the ideal of efficient and knowledgeable raiding.

Preparation is king, but it is not a guarantee.  Pick the guys who know what is expected of them so that you stay alive longer and can get the best possible looks at the new content.  Then, after a few nights, go back and use this experience to help you pick out who your top performers are.

10 thoughts on “Tough Call: Is Preparation Enough?”

  1. Tough call indeed. This all seems very Utopian, though. Sure, top world wide guilds should definitely expect this. The majority of the population is a fair bit more casual, however. Even guilds who rank relatively well (let’s say top 2,000 in the ranked 20,000) have members who don’t play 7 days a week and have real life commitments that might make it difficult for them to prepare so much before hand. Yet explain the fight to them and they are top performers.

    On the whole you’re right, an entire raid full of people who are unprepared is terrible. But a raid is a team, and it is all a team effort. Those who can commit to raids and play well but need a little explanation shouldn’t be automatically written off.

    • I appreciate your comment, Lument, and I agree that what you say IS happening a lot right now. I understand people are busy, I know I am busy and even when I’m not busy, I like to diversify my leisure activities. However, I must assert that there is a difference between “casual” and “non-committed”. If they can be a Top Performer, why can’t they watch a 10 minute video before raid to learn what to expect and thus help your team get progression that much faster? I wouldn’t necessarily “write them off”, but I would have a one-on-one with them and tell them you’re looking for more preparation so that everyone’s raid time goes more efficiently. Then if they refuse, you’ve got a whole different situation.

    • Great points, Viktory, you’re absolutely right. When replying I was thinking of a guy in my guild that I’ve been playing with for 2 years who pumps performance that ranks him on WoL on most fights but in the past couple of months has been unable to fully prepare for boss fights because of real life stuff (primarily spouse getting cancer and having to pick up more responsibilities with the kids). We have accommodated him to help him out in a tough time.

      Of course no advice can cover exceptions like this, I was noting that sometimes there may be a valid reason and leadership should be, in my opinion, sensitive to that. Otherwise the guy who doesn’t work or go to school damn well better be 100% prepared!

  2. On this topic, how would you handle the following issue. Our guild has decided to switch focus to 10man, due to numbers having dwindled a bit half through Wrath and it still not being nearly enough to venture into 25. We’re noticing that for 10man, we usually have just about enough people showing up & signing up. 10-14 people, give or take. Most of the times, it is dps we have to cut. Taking buffs & class balance into account as best as we can of course.

    Here’s the issue me and a fellow officer are discussing. It has happened these past weeks that we end up at 10 players. As a casual guild we have a rule, that is not enforced harshly, to be raidready. (enchanted, gemmed, food & flasks). We have added a request of watching the tactical vids & doing some research about the encounters. Lately a guildmember showed up not completely raidready. He fixed up some enchants but he had not watched the vid, nor did he do this the following raidnights. My fellow officer feels it is warranted to find a PuG player to fill his spot, when no other guildie is an option. I’m strongly against this, even though it leaves the guildie in a spot where he doesn’t really feel enforced to go out and do the research. Therefore he may be less inclined to do so, until probably we get more guildsignups that are raidready.

    Would you take a PuG over a guildie, if the difference is the guildie not having done the research?

    • Sinuviel: Personally, yes, if only to send a clear message. That is, assuming that guildie in question has already been spoken to about this. Talking to people and issuing warnings and pleas can only do so much. It’s up to players to actually do something about it. If its clear they don’t have the drive or desire to do it, well maybe its because t hey feel that your leads team doesn’t have the balls to carry out their desire.

      This is a question of progression for your team at this point. Clearly the individual doesn’t really care that much if they’re unwilling to do the research necessary. Your officer is frustrated as hell because 9 of the other players put in the time and effort and this one player isn’t.

    • Sinuviel, this is a great topic and I’m jotting it down right now to explore this in a future post. As a quick answer to your question, I’d always take the person with the most upside. There’s a difference between a guildie who’s unprepared once and a guy who’s never prepared. If a PUG represents a better chance of completing your raid goals, I’m not opposed to taking a PUG (potential future recruit) over a guildie who won’t tow the line. Remember, you have 9 other people in that raid who ARE doing what they need to do, so why hold them back?

    • I see your point Matt, in a progress minded guild. But we are a casual raiding guild. I joined a hardcore progress guild with my alt near the end of Wrath and I have to admit, I enjoy downing a boss more with the casual guild. It feels more like an accomplishment. Partially it is artificial because I know that our players aren’t all topnotch, but I am fine with this.

      Also, I have always felt my guild to be my ingame family. Getting in a pug to pressure a guildmember to shape up just feels wrong to me. I like this guy personally, I’ve never had any issue with him. He shares farmed mats without charging, he’s among the first to help out when someone needs a normal or heroic run, he’s just a good guy. I don’t know why he has been slacking on the raiding and prepping front, but I just have a hard time finding it in me to go for a random person over a guildmember. Also, he is a decent player. Explain the tactic and he’ll pick it up pretty fast. Knows his class, role.

      But yes, said officer would like us to approach the casual raiding we do, a bit more serious. Maybe cata raids warrant this behaviour. I’m not sure. Still doesn’t make me feel good about it.

    • Sinuviel, seems like you have a few items to consider.

      1.) Is your guild based around raiding or around being social, and raiding is just something you do? Can you still be “a family” in /gchat even if you’re more efficiency-oriented in /raid chat?

      2.) Your numbers have dwindled from 25 to 14 now down to exactly 10. Either recruitment hasn’t been a forte, people have grown complacent, or there’s an element at play that isn’t inviting/encouraging new members to join your raid squad. I’d find out what that is right away.

      I have friend who have been long-term guildies through multiple server or faction changes. Sometimes we raid together, sometimes I raid and they PvP, or even just level several alts and collect mounts. In most guilds, raiding is only a small part of your total /played time. I’d find out what the goals are for the rest of your raiders and see how serious they each feel about it. Otherwise, sounds like the two officers have different goals that need to be reconciled.

  3. 1) I would say we are social and raiding is something we do. There is no pressure to be the best on server or anything like that, but we try to, and succesfully have done so in the past, clear all raid content with the resources we have.

    Those resources are our guildies, where the raiders consist of excellent players that could easily run with top level guilds, and people that want to raid but not necessarily are at the top performance level. Be it an awareness issue, pinching every last ounce of dps from their specc & gear or grasping the new healing model. In that knowledge, we know we will take more wipes than high level guilds to get a boss down. But we will get a boss down in the end.

    2) We did active recruitment when Wrath launched to build up a solid 25man. It went pretty smoothly, but people loose interest, want faster progress and apply to new guilds, etcetera. We didn’t feel that by doing active recruitment we were finding people that fit our guild. We just found people that fit our raidroster. Some people sticked though, but in general the majority leaves, quits playing, loses interest …

    I think we reached a silent understanding that we didn’t want to ‘market’ our guild. People now join us through friends that are in the guild, or the occassional pug. 10man is more manageable for us in this mindset, we do have up to 30 people online on some nights, but they just have different interests in game, and we are fine with that. We’re not going to force those people to come to raids. It might be good to ask them if they could be persuaded to join though. As for recruiting, it will not be done through ye old realm forums or whatnot. We offer a rather unique environment, and people usually have clear goals: “I want a raidguild, I want a pvpguild …” We have a bit of everything and we aren’t bad at anything 😉


Leave a Comment