Tag Archives: leadership

The “I” in Raid Team

27 Mar

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.

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Getting to Raid: Best Practices for Raid Priority

30 Dec

In a guild like ours where raid priority will be competitive for 25s (and has been for 10s), its important to know how to act.  The officer team is constantly evaluating players, both on and off the field.  Some folks see this as intimidating, but its best viewed as exciting.  Here everyone has an opportunity to prove their value and maturity as a player every day.  Believe it or not, you can do more to secure or damage your chances at a raid spot while benched than while in a raid!

Why Does the Officer Team Take a Given Player?

This is a complicated question and with all complicated questions there are a variety of answers.  The one everyone knows is “because Player A is extremely good at their class/role.”  This is important, as the goal is to give the best players an opportunity to secure spots.

Some people think that officers will select a certain player because they’re more geared.  This is partly true, but less true than one might think.  According to aggregate logs, the gear difference from players running Ulduar and players entering ICC was roughly 15%.  By comparison, raid buffs contribute to a gain of as much as 50% more DPS when compared to soloing.  After a certain base level of gear, gear becomes a much less significant factor.

That said, those who’ve taken the effort to get geared outside of raids make life easier for everyone.  Coming in needing fewer upgrades, they’re less of a burden on the raid.  Players who make this effort will always be looked upon favorably.

Finally, the officer team might not know what a player can do.  If we haven’t seen someone in action, or want to give them a fair shot, its normal to bench another raider to make this a possibility. This does not mean you’ve been replaced.  If you want your guild to succeed, you should be excited for this opportunity to grow.

Why Does the Officer Team Bench a Particular Player?

Let’s cover the obvious ones first.  If you’re pulled from a raid because you kept dying, two things are true: first, it isn’t the healer’s fault; second, you need to review the encounter and reasons for your death and find out how to personally avoid them.  Being pulled out here is an opportunity for you to improve.

If you’re not taken to a raid it could also be because there were people in your role who fit the reasons listed above better.  This happens.  Take the opportunity to listen in on the raid, if you can.  Don’t fill the space with suggestions, but prove your dedication and availability.  This goes a long way.  Also, re-watch videos and re-read strategies.  In short, be ready to step up and impress!

Best Practices

Do not assume because you’re in a raid that you’re better than those benched.

Do not stew with feelings of resentment toward the officer team if you are not taken to a particular raid.  Talk to the officer in your role or your raid leader.  Do not get upset without clarifying the situation.

Do not bother an officer if you only want to complain.

Be critical of yourself.

Don’t just talk the talk, walk the walk.  If you’ve only watched the video once and are fuzzy on the details, watch another video.  Ask questions and listen to the answers.  Get a clear understanding of roles beyond your own.

Leadership and Raid Direction

17 Dec

I posted the sign up for our first 25 player raid over a month ago. I published a conservative date of January 11th. My hope was to be personally comfortable with my class, gear, and content knowledge by then.

We’re not on a big server, by any stretch of the imagination. Pugging raid content will be unimaginable for at least a few months. This means that my opportunities to explore content before that date are limited not only by work and busy winter hours, but also by the work and seasonal plans of guild members. This can be a challenge.

Additionally, guild members are aware of how well we’re doing compared to other players on the server. I’m feeling pressure to post a more ambitious schedule or coordinate some 10 player runs.

Here’s why that’s tricky:

First, ten player runs depend very heavily upon each player. During the season’s limited level of availability, having a main tank close shop one night amounts to a rescheduled raid.

Second, in a 25 player guild looking at progression content, running 10s leaves several folks waiting on the sidelines. Two 10s seems like an obvious solution, but a 25 requires 2.5 tanks (which can lead to some players falling into roles we’d have to later bench them for).

These sidelined folks can get frustrated, and rightfully so. When asked why I chose Bill over Tess (or whomever) my answers are inadequate and unfair. Usually I don’t have a good idea of how strong a player Tess is, or Bill and I ran a lot of heroics together so I know what he can handle.

This is the crux of it. We’re forced to make composition choices for progression that I’d rather make in an effort to evaluate. In the raiding I do manage over the next few weeks, I’d like to get more content on farm to use as a player testing ground.

Most hopeful raiders don’t even imagine the subtlety of these choices. I’m optimistic that our best raiders will carefully consider the reasons for being taken or benched before getting upset or excited.

How to Build a Drama-free Guild

6 Sep

I was discussing at our weekly officer meeting the other night how happy some of our new recruits are in the guild. One of the major factors for a lot of them is the lack of drama. Our officers concluded that the guild has been almost completely drama free for most of the summer, and almost all of the expansion. How do we manage that? Well, it isn’t magic. The guild has been raiding for almost four and a half years, so we’ve learnt the right way to handle a number of situations.

Use a Fair and Upfront System for Loot Distribution

We use a system called EP / GP with aggressive decay and a fairly low threshold. If you’re not familiar with the system, I’d recommend checking it out. Our new members are quickly given the option of obtaining loot, but usually end up getting major upgrades and do not deny longstanding players the few upgrades they still need. EP/GP rewards attendance, and when we had challenges working on the LK we increased the EP awarded every 15 minutes. Attendance increases followed naturally.

In a big guild with some slight fluctuation in regular roster, this system works perfectly for us. I does not work nearly as well for some guilds, so the solution is to chose a loot system that aids in furthering the goals of the guild. Our goals are progression, so giving the best items to the highest attending players is important, as is a reasonable distribution of these upgrades. Beyond this, moral is a big deal. With EP/GP a night of progression where you win no items feels like an accomplishment.

Being completely upfront about a loot system is critical to avoiding drama. Selecting the right one for your guild is perhaps even more important. Loot matters to a player, and it should. It is both a measure of accomplishment, and a tool toward maximizing your character’s potential. Do not overlook something so important to so many of your team members.

Clear Direction from Officers

Drama is created when folks assume the worst. That’s human nature, and its hard to fault people for their fears. If a guild member needs to be kicks, explain why. If you’re taking X raider over Y, give folks the reason (and ideally, a reason that can be worked upon by the at-fault member).

“Okay, we have 28 attending raiders, so we’re going to need a few players to be on standby tonight. We’re taking Bill over Ted, because he has a viable off-healing set for The Excellent Adventure fight.”

“Srubbalicious recently got hacked and asked the Officer Team to remove him from the guild until its all sorted out. Just an FYI—we still like him.” /gkick

The name of the game is transparency. A good officer team makes changes for the good of the guild. If you make this obvious by being clear in your actions, you’ll garner respect, if not always consensus.

Guild Culture and Age Restriction

This has been a hot topic over the history of our guild. I originally disagreed with it, and slowly came to agree with the policy. We do not accept raiders to core raid positions who are under the age of 18. Let me explain.

The I am involved in has a mix of adult and middle aged players. As a 24-year-old, I’m one of the younger players (although many are close to my age). We behave a certain way in vent, guild chat is relatively uncensored, and raid attendance is an expectation.

Historically, younger players do not have enough control over their own lives to meet a tight raid shift. There are players in this age grouping that can, but they’re not the rule. Be it a mother insisting homework be done, a videocard needing replaced that is unaffordable, or the countless social obligations of high-school, folk under 18 are in a different life situation to those of us with control over our own lives.

Queue objections. I’m aware that some adults don’t have a lot of control over their lives. I know some kids do amazing dps and have 200% raid attendance. I am not (despite what it seems) advocating that the solution to drama is pruning yourselves of the kiddies (although it sure helps). I am saying, take a read of your guild.

Know what your guild members are all about. What sort of absence is “completely understandable.” One of our priest recently had emergency surgery, and everyone in the guild encouraged and thought nothing of her taking a few days (although she raided that week, on pain meds. Fucking hardcore). On the other hand, suddenly not showing up for weeks ’cause you got your first girlfriend makes everyone /sigh.

I don’t promise or even begin to suggest I know everything about coordinating and keeping happy a large group of people. I do know what has worked well for us in the past, and I’m beginning to explore the “why” of that success. Join me later in the week for a discussing of cultivating forums use, and the pitfalls associated with such a medium.