Our guild has done well. Well, by the standards of The Underbog, amounts to 12/12 normal modes, a few arena teams over 2400, rated BGs that happen every week, and a player base free of homicidal tendencies (toward each other). It’s important to not forget what we do right.
But with a growing drive to seriously tackle Hardmodes (and the jump in challenge level) members—myself included—are looking at our raid team with a critical eye. What’s the answer when your team doesn’t make the dps check for a fight? Do you scroll down your World of Logs postings to see who’s at the bottom? The impulse to point a finger is a strong one.
There are a few important provisos. Some classes do better on certain fights. Players will have bad nights. A specific encounter may required dramatically different play, higher AoE, even offhealing; forcing a player out of their role may lower dps. Once you’re certain there is a consistent problem it is appropriate to talk to the player who isn’t pulling her weight. But now that we’ve identified a problem player, what’s the right tactic? It comes down to three choices: kick/bench the player, teach the player, or turn them into the kind of raider who teaches themselves.
Players like to suggest that kicking someone out is a simple choice. In a pick-up-group or a random heroic it is simple. A regular raid in a committed guild is a more complex environment. Players need to feel a measure of security to play best for an extended period. Teams familiar with each other’s play-style also do better. Every time we trial a new player or change up our raid composition for a night I explain to my raid team that we can expect the pace to slow down as the new player adjusts to our team and style. A healing team that plays well together knows when a druid HoT will take care of a low health player and when they’ll need to step in with a direct heal. Kicking a member of an established raid core should always be a last recourse for a serious team.
Teaching the player to do better seems the logical first thing to try. If changing a few gems or using CDs in a different place would improve performance, why not make this suggestion? Assuming the player is genuinely receptive and that one makes this approach diplomatically (a few major assumptions), this might be a great short-term solution. The problem comes when advice becomes a handout. If a player knows they have no danger of being kicked, they feel safe to explore their class and tactics fully. Conversely, if a player knows they will never have to think about their class because someone will always hand the latest theorycrafting right to them, we have an issue. A good raid team cannot thrive on the personal growth of one player alone, trickling down to the remaining 24. The best members will bring a little something more.
I’ve posted before about what makes a good raider, but a raider who teaches themselves might require a little more clarification. Learning to play well in World of Warcraft is a lot easier now than it has ever been. Countless blogs, forums, sites, and programs are available to the motivated players. Teaching yourself is a matter of setting aside the time. I spoke with a player not long ago who said “all that learning and research stuff is good, but I just want to play the game.” That’s not an uncommon philosophy. Imagine, however, how much more enjoyable it is to play extremely well. Is it not more thrilling to pull to the top of the dps charts? This style of play, the interest in constantly growing better as a player, is a commitment. It’s a few hours a week dedicated to becoming better at WoW. At the advanced level, this is what folks at elitistjerks.com and shadowpriest.com are doing. Programs like Simcraft and Rawr do help remove the RNG from Best in slot gear lists. At even the most basic level, sites like AskMrRobot.com and WoWReforge.com can optimize reforging and gemming choices.
Now how do you convince a player to make active and regular use of these tools? The first step is asking. After that, you have to let them see the value. I know a player who’s gone from “I don’t really like to read” to reading six blogs a day based only on how much it improved his personal performance. Some players never get to this point. Sadly, these players might not be a long term fit for your raid team if they continue to struggle.
A final note of caution:
A little learning is a dangerous thing;
drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring:
there shallow draughts intoxicate the brain,
and drinking largely sobers us again.
That’s Alexander Pope, and he brings up an excellent point. Players who read a few blogs or forum posts can quickly become “experts.” I have a priest healer friend who listened to every Circle of Healing podcast and promptly came back and told be priests should never cast Heal. Obviously, this isn’t exactly what was said in the podcast. Take everything with a grain of salt. Be receptive to new ideas, but don’t dismiss anything. Finally, don’t be a jerk just because you know a thing or two.