Tough Call: Time vs Talent

803068_47829639aWelcome back for another episode of Tough Call with me, Viktory.  Today I want to discuss roster evaluation, and specifically, two factors to look at when examining your depth charts.

You do have a depth chart for your raid positions right?

… Please tell me you have a depth chart for your various raid roles and you’re not just bringing whoever shows up first …

(For anyone who doesn’t get the sport analogy, a depth chart basically lists each position and ranks the players have that position in order. You have your go-to guy/gal, the back-up, the back-back-up, etc.)

Editor’s Note: Before we go any further, if you are of the steadfast opinion that nobody deserves to be benched, or that your best friends deserve a spot in every raid, you will likely want to stop now.

Okay, so let’s say you’ve got your full raid roster in front of you and you’re trying to figure out who’s going to make the cut and get a stable spot in your 25-man raid. Obviously you have certain roles you need to fill (tanks, healers, melee, ranged) and certain skills you need players to possess in those roles (AoE heals, interrupts, soak tank, kiting, etc).  You’ve got a lot of criteria to look at when deciding who is THE BEST player for you to bring to your raid. 

(Remember, “take the player, not the class” implies “take the best possible player”.

One of the more common downfalls I’ve seen leaders suffer, and one of the worst traps I’ve seen players try to spring on their Raid Leader, is the substitution of Time for Talent/Aptitude.

A few weeks ago I told you that “preparation is king”, and while that still holds true, by now you should be seeing who actually knows what’s expected of them, and who’s just reading a script.  In fact, if we think of raiding like a foreign language, we can come up with three archetypes.

Native Speakers

Some players have a lot of natural talent.  These players are the mage who always does crazy DPS and makes it look easy, the guy who plays a utility spec and still manages to do competitive DPS, the healer who can instinctively spot issues with the raid and react in a clutch moment (see Matticus in his prime*).  Everyone loves to have these guys around, especially when they don’t act entitled or get lazy because they think they’re too good to need to put in the grunt work.

*Note: I said “see”, not “listen to”.  He’s a horrible story-teller.

Fluent Professionals

Other players have to work hard to produce the output you’re looking for.  Think Rudy here, the guy with a lot of heart who does his homework and gives you the results you’re looking for.  As a leader you know that he’s always reading up on the relevant websites, maybe talking to other progression raiders who play his spec, and is constantly seeking ways to improve.  Through their effort, they are just as good, or nearly as good as your top tier guys.  The key here is that you DO see them improving, carrying their load, and not causing wipes.

I think a “perfect raid” is filled with a solid mix of these two personalities.  However, we need to minimize or weed-out the last group:


The personality to absolutely avoid is the “trained noob”, to borrow a term from Pure Pwnage.  These are players who bring sub-par skill, spend a lot of time logged on, but instead of learning and absorbing their class mechanics, they may have only learned the accepted boss strat.  These are the guys at the cafe with their French-to-English dictionary out, trying to look-up each word the waiter just said, because they were not expecting that response.

Players like this will present a liability to your raid anytime things deviate from the norm.  Get bad RNG on a boss, or timers that don’t line up with the abilities the boss is using, and you can bet that these players will be toast.  Customize the Tankspot strat to meet the capabilities of your raid, and you just may find these guys out of position and thoroughly confused.

Don’t be fooled by people who have a lot of time and very little aptitude.  It all comes down to who can get the job done. 

It is up to you, as part of raid management, to spot the player who may have raid knowledge, but not raid awareness, and figure out a solution.  Determining who’s a “fluent professional” and who’s just a “tourist” will help boost your raid output (and morale) immensely. 

If it’s my call, I’d put that person as far back on my depth chart as possible, only bringing them when I must class-stack, or when other players are missing, and I’d definitely keep recruitment open until I found a good core that was made up all “native speakers” and “fluent professionals”.

Please leave any questions or suggestions for future topics neatly stacked in the comments below.  Shoot, if you’re so inclined, leave details of your most epic knitting accomplishment, too. Those are always cool.

17 thoughts on “Tough Call: Time vs Talent”

  1. I think the most important question here is: do you TELL the people you consider ‘only-good-enough-as-warm-body’ that they are that? Or do is the suggestion to everybody that they are equally valuable?

    Because in the end, if you don’t, you are playing an unfair game. Those people are still there for you, the raidgroup and the guild, and you are abusing that. =)

    • That’s a good question, one that I plan to discuss in detail soon. Til then, suffice it to say your group should have some mechanism in place to let all raiders know how they are doing, and what they need to improve.

    • Pardon me in advance if you find this crass, but the column is called Tough Call, not “Let’s Make Friends”. Maximum efficiency doesn’t wear kid gloves

  2. I’m going on the assumption that your guilds rules and expectations are clearly spelled out in your raid recruitment threads and on your guild forum.
    Along with an application and a trial period it’s usually pretty easy to weed out the people that aren’t a good fit for your guild.
    But regardless of what the name of your column is maximum effiency does not require name calling. It’s just name calling and a real put off.

  3. A lot of guilds have a separate “casual/friends and family/etc” ranking for people who don’t have a regular spot. Ideally, I’d think you’d want to have people who all do well at their class. I’d think that if they have more than one spec or raid-geared alt, that gives you even more flexibility as raid leader. The top healer/dps position can change depending on the fight requirements or from one fight to the next. I agree it’s pointless to namecall *or* to guarantee raid spots to people who are incompetent. If you have a lot of people who are doing that badly, maybe drop down to 10’s until you can recruit or gear up more people or help them get better. If you don’t have enough to fill out a 10 man, then you probably aren’t making decisions about who to leave out on a regular basis.

  4. Who said anything about name calling? View the labels as just that. Could you classify such players in other ways? Probably, but I think some leaders out there are smart enough to have more tact and wouldn’t call a player a trained noob to the face. The names here are listed as different types of players.

    Dyanna: I don’t think you’ll find anyone here who’ll disagree with your assessment that maximum efficiency does not require name calling. And that’s not what the main point of the post is. The main point of the post is to identify the three types of players in any guild who contribute to its success or its downfall and how to handle them.

    Spinks: On the other hand, if those players continue to be a liability and do not show any signs of improvement, the guild wouldn’t want them anyway. Again, going to re-emphasize that what’s being advocated here is in NOT calling people names. You can offer up different labels if you like, but the point remains.

  5. Hmm…I think we’re talking about only very few guilds in the game who want to apply these tactics. Guilds that are Paragon wannabees so to say (just to stay in the whole comparing names scheme!)

    For most of the other guilds out there; Yes, you need to be well aware of what your raiders can do, and sometimes you might even have to (re)design a tactic around a specific player. Do you boot them? Of course not, they too spend their time to be there for you and be at your back and call. They too deserve your help.

    Now…I do agree that if it’s really just not going to work out with a player and you have tried everything it is the right call for the rest of the raid group to have a chat with this one player and remove this person from the raid. But I think this has more to do with discrepancy in player skill within one and the same raid, than it has to do with general judgement of players.

    If you have a full raid of ‘Tourists’ and there is one ‘Fluent Professional’ not happy with it, you’re probably better off asking the Professional to find a better suited raid, than removing all the tourists.

  6. the main obstacle to progression that I have seen in the past has not been lack of WOW skills it has been lack of social skills.

    For a raid to gel and progress you need to have people you can get along with. This rules out the petty and flaky ego maniacs that seem to come along more often than not.

  7. For me its not about name calling to make people feel bad but: reality IS what IT IS. Some people really do not bring enough to the team to get the job done – they maybe, and often are, really nice people and great to chat with but they don’t belong in your progression raid.
    But I do think the subdivision given is a bit too simplistic. I think in terms of evaluating raiders in a matrix with “Effectiveness” on the vertical, and “Care” or engagement on the horizontal.
    You get:
    high effect/low care – “native speakers”
    high effect/high care – “professionals”
    low effect/high care – “students”
    low effect/low care – these are the “tourists”

    The first two are great, the only worry is keeping the high effect/low care people challenged and engaged.

    The low effect, low care people just dont belong on a team. Its just not fair to the rest to pretend otherwise.

    The low effect/high care people are your future stars, they have potential to move up, they may just need some time, or a bit of coaching and direction. You can work with this.

  8. IRL, the coach is at the core of the team. This post makes no mention of guidance, tutelage or mentoring. It simply demands that all acceptable players must raise themselves to some arbitrary level that you have created so it can run under it’s own steam.

    Sounds like a typical heroic pug to me…

  9. I think the sentiments shared here are part of an overall successful approach not the one and only method of approach. If just this approach were employed then no guild would exist very long…or would have an incredibly high turn over rate and be in a constant flux of lots of new members. I like the metaphors of classification and don’t see it as name calling. A fair classification allows everyone to know exactly where they stand.

    To continue with the metaphors, not all tourists remain tourists. IRL, anyone who moves to a new country definitely feels like a tourist for several months. After a few years, they are practically native speakers of the country’s language. While WoW time lines aren’t so long, the same principle applies. My guild takes the time and effort (admittedly sometimes frustratingly) to invest in the individual where we feel there is potential for them to improve from ‘Tourist’. Some of our best members now started off with us thinking “WTF this guy sucks!” but a little investment in the person paid off.

    A good way to round off this topic would be that depth charts (whether you actually have them written out or just keep track of it in your head) can, do, and should be updated virtually every week as people improve…or don’t.

    • “Some of our best members now started off with us thinking “WTF this guy sucks!” but a little investment in the person paid off.”

      This was my main beef with the post. It wasn’t that mentoring was overlooked but flat out rejected in the final paragraph. The “Rudys” rely on resources that provide guidance in the first place but it is something that the GL in this case seems unprepared to offer themselves.

  10. Thank you for this. We have been discussing this very issue recently. Until about two years ago, I was a Tourist. Not cause I wanted to be, but because I didn’t know any better.

    A new guild helped me become a Fluent Speaker. I agree with the commenter above. There is a place for a Student. I think that is a perfect name for it. The bench was a really lonely place, but I never sit there any longer.

    I’m reposting this in our guild forums. TY! 😀


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