“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way - in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.”
Charles Dickens – A Tale of Two Cities
Lest I come off as too highfalutin, I don’t really think the tale of my two raids is really a matter of good and evil, darkness and light. But the fact that the two are constantly compared against each other for better or worse is definitely the cause of issues, both in myself and my raiders.
Let’s back up a little and dole out a little context, shall we? In the guild that I’m in, I am neither an officer nor a guild leader. We’re a social guild that just happens to have raid teams. It so happens that I’ve led or raid-called the Sunday night raid team for four and a half years now, since the tail-end of Ulduar, actually. Now, I don’t always run the raid per se, but I find myself doing the raid-calling because I seem to be able to pick up strategies and mechanics relatively quickly and usually (though not always) have the mental bandwidth to direct the raid and perform my role at the same time.
As an aside, push-to-talk is an evil that raid-callers cannot afford. If you’re raid calling, switch to talk-to-talk rather than push-to-talk. It’ll save you an immense amount of grief as far as performing your individual role. My DPS and Healing throughput went way up once I stopped using push-to-talk, and despite the copious fire sirens near my house that seem to transmit more easily than my voice, it was totally worth it.
Anyhow, at the tail-end of Cata I also got into our Wednesday raid as a raider, and naturally (perhaps because I am loud and insistent) I also picked up the responsibilities of raid-caller in that raid. So for all of Mists of Pandaria, I’ve been raid-calling two raids, but actively performing the leadership role in the Sunday raid only, which involves everything from attendance to kicking people for being jerk to helping folks get better at their class.
Wednesday has a core group of 10 raiders, and we have 1 or 2 people on bench who get called up if someone can’t make it, but it’s just those 10 folks otherwise. Sunday we have a rotating roster, so about 14 raiders, and it’s basically 2 weeks on, 1 week off. Both raids only raid 3 hours a week. On Wednesday we just got Thok the Bloodthirsty down (yay!); on Sunday we just got Galakras down a couple weeks ago (and last week barely managed to defeat Sha of Pride despite not having that much trouble on him before).
So this is where things get juicy, I suppose. We’re now in the tail-end of Mists, and I’m looking at the two raids and wondering what I did or could have done differently. The Wednesday group is self-driven and progression-minded, but moderately hardcore in attitude, whereas the Sunday group is split: we have a core of self-driven folks, but we also have a few folks who need to be constantly prodded and wheedled to get better. And they do get better when prodded, but I admit that I tire of micro-managing a handful of raiders. The Wednesday group, all someone—anyone, not just the raid leader or raid-caller—has to say is that DPS needs to get better, or we're not surviving this part of the fight, and everyone thinks about it and comes back the next week better prepared. There's no chasing that needs to be done, no digging for them, people just do it.
|This image got me through healing Thok as a Holy Paladin. It still makes me giggle.|
But here’s the kicker: the two teams never were supposed to be the A-Team B-Team of our guild, they were just to have different attendance philosophies. However, it’s apparent that many raiders in the Sunday group treat it like they’re in the B-Team, both by what they’ve said and how they behave. And it’s a little bit funny, because at the beginning of Mists the Sunday group was ahead of the Wednesday group for the first couple months. So what happened?
I think part of it can be blamed on the rotating roster itself. I implemented the roster because I was stressed to the max trying to find bodies at the end of each expansion that were capable of raiding. In Wrath, in Cata, and now in Mists, I always got burnt out by the final major patch. I hate dealing with the administration part. Attendance schedules, shuffling people because of personal emergencies, and wasting every Sunday afternoon desperately trying to find someone qualified enough to actually not be a burden to the raid (which is really difficult because most of the folks who are capable of raiding are already locked by Sunday or already in the Sunday raid).
So here we are at the end of the expansion, and I find myself stressed to the max dealing with 14 people instead of 10, but at least I’m not wasting every Sunday afternoon digging for people, so that was a success at least. But between those extra bodies, and the fact that many people only play during raid, the rotating roster seems to have backfired. Instead of raiding 12 – 15 hours a month (if they were to raid every week), folks are only playing 6 – 9 hours a month, and there’s no chance for people to solidify their skillset nor really put boss mechanics to muscle memory. The Sunday raid is completely inconsistent. One week we’ll smash through everything, down Galakras, and get Iron Juggernaut to half health in 3 pulls. The next week, we struggle to down Sha of Pride.
And not only are folks not playing as often, they’re also not gearing up as much, so that also ends up slowing us down. But that’s not even the most insidious thing about the rotating roster. I think what differentiates the Wednesday raid and the Sunday raid isn’t just the consistency, but the attitude. Like I said above, we’re primarily a social guild, which means that we’re aware that folks have other priorities, and real life happens.
With the rotating roster, it gave me a chance to be lenient with those folks. Can’t make it because you have to take the significant other out for their birthday? No big deal, we’ll just pull someone who’s off this week and let them raid the extra week. Car emergency? That’s fine, you’re covered.
But this “no big deal” attitude seems to have pervaded other aspects of the raid, as well. When you’re up to bat, you’re still expected to actually be up to bat. We’re “casual” in that we only raid 3 hours a week and we have the capability to deal with someone having to vamoose for real life, but we’re also technically billed as progression, which means that we have to, you know, progress eventually. And 1 boss every 3 – 4 weeks in a 14 boss raid (9 - 12 hours of raiding!) is really slow. It’d be one thing if we had to clear half the instance first—the Wednesday group locks every other week, sometimes we’ll lock two weeks in a row—but it only takes like 45 minutes to get to the boss we’re struggling on. But it feels like, at least on my side of the fence, that many people don’t look to get better at their class between raids unless I ask them specifically, or that they don’t look up strategies on their own. Granted, this is a bit of a generalization, not everyone falls under this, and different people suffer various gradients of this issue.
I admit that I am definitely part of the problem here. I created this rotating roster, and my behavior has allowed things to get a little out of hand. Or more accurately, my lack of putting a foot down. It was all a grandiose experiment to see if we could reconcile a casual mindset with a progression mindset, and while I’m not ready to say the two are impossible to put together, it’s definitely not as easy as just expanding your roster and rotating the bench. It’s not as if I haven’t approached people. And I dig through raid logs on a weekly basis to see if I can pull out information to help folks get better, and provide actionable feedback, but at the same time, if you can’t practice that, because you’re on the bench and not playing otherwise, it certainly won’t stick.
Next expansion, if I continue to lead the Sunday raid, I think I’ll be going back to a static 10 roster, even with the Flex capability. With only 3 hours a week, we lose too much ground having to switch people up: healers not being able to gel properly, and tanks not necessarily having the same roles each week.
But for today, what do I do? I put the Sunday raid on hiatus this week (today is our week off) while I think about it, but I haven’t come to a good answer yet. Either I cut 4 people so we’re down to 10 and move forward, except a lot of folks signed up under the premise they could have weeks off, and the fallout from such a shakeup could be extremely detrimental to the guild as a whole; or I shake my fist, tell people to shape-up or ship out, and start cutting underperformers, which I probably should regardless; or drop us down to Flex difficulty (which would come into direct conflict with the Monday Flex raid that our guild has); or just throw up my hands, say I’m not having fun anymore, and just pass on the leadership mantle like I do at the end of every expansion, which is kind of lame, but probably the only way I’ve managed to stay sane, but at the same time, feels a lot like running away from the issue.
I said I’d have an answer for people, and after a week of work being an absolute bear and consuming all of my waking hours, I really don’t yet. And I honestly don’t feel that motivated to get an answer either, which may be the answer itself. Perhaps I just need to step down and take a hiatus from raid leading the Sunday raid.