ProCo’s T11 Normal Report Card

Status Updates:

One reason for a lack of consistent updates is now publicly available here. I am in the process of trying to move some of my more generalized guild/raid management information over to the World of Matticus site.  It will get a much larger audience over there and will therefore hopefully be more helpful to more people.

Roksi has also had a whole lot going on in her non-WoW life recently and so she hasn’t had the time or energy to worry about blogging.  I am going to keep this blog up, but it is likely going to start drifting more toward guild specific updates that I will probably use to complement what I am writing at WoM with things like actual post below.

Evaluating ProCo’s Progress:

Production Company managed to kill Nefarion and finish off all of the normal modes a couple of weeks ago and actually managed our first Heroic Halfus Kill last night. I was a little disappointed we didn’t get him before all of the nerfs (we wiped at ~5% on our best attempt) but I’m happy with the kill none the less.

I have been thinking and writing a lot lately about what characteristics define a progression raiding guild.  What is the difference between a progression focused guild and a “casual raiding guild.” More importantly, what are the different ways that we might be able to measure, or evaluate, how successfully our guilds are progressing when there are no standards or conventions that any of us seem to agree on.

Being that I work with statistics and spreadsheets on a pretty regular basis, I naturally turned to trying to collect some preliminary data to at least see where our guild stands quantitatively.  The following is what I was able to put together, you can see it in spreadsheet format here.

Time Spent Raiding:

If you read my post on raiding efficiently, it should be no surprise that one of things I was interested in is how much time we have actually spent raiding and how much of *raid time* we actually spent “raiding” (defined here as time spent in combat)

To kill all normal mode bosses, Production Company spent roughly 45 and a half hours in a raid.  We spent 22 and a quarter hours actually combating bosses and trash. That means that we spent about ~49% of our raid time actually playing our characters and we spent the other ~51% of the time talking, passing out loot, buffing, running back from a wipe, or taking our nightly break.  From what I have seen looking through other guild’s logs, that actually puts us quite a bit ahead of most progression guild’s when it comes to efficiency.

Number of Attempts Required to Kill Bosses:

Here is the list of how many attempts it took us to complete each encounter the first time:
Boss                                      Number of Attempts
Omnotron                           28
Magmaw                              18
Conclave                                6
Chimaeron                         27
Atramedes                            5
Halfus                                      4
Valonia & Theralion          4
Ascendant Council          13
Cho’Gall                                16
Al’Akir                                  23
Maloriak                                 3
Nefarion                               91
Here is the list of how many times it took us to kill each boss the second time:
(Nefarion’s second kill wasn’t included in the linked spread sheet, but it took us 9 attempts to kill him)

Boss                                      Number of Attempts
Omnotron                              1
Magmaw                                 4
Conclave                                1
Chimaeron                            2
Atramedes                            2
Halfus                                      2
Valonia & Theralion          3
Ascendant Council            3
Cho’Gall                                  2
Al’Akir                                     1
Maloriak                                 5
Nefarion                                 9

Summary:

All told, it took us 245 boss “attempts” and 34 boss “kills” over the course of 45 1/2 hours to clear all of Tier 11 normal mode content.  For the most part, we usually average about ~9-10 wipes an hour when we are working on a new boss.  Sometimes that drops down to ~5-7 if there are a lot of things to work out or we seem to just be completely stuck.  The data shows that we average ~9.8 minutes per boss attempt/kill for whatever that is worth.

Al’Akir was the only real example where we would have benefited from taking a break mid-raid to look through the logs or do some research or have a discussion among the raid.  No one really picked up on the fact that you can see the clouds appear ~3-4 seconds before you start taking damage from them and so the whole raid was taking at least a tick or two before moving out of the cloud each time. After the raid, we were able to look through the logs, see that damage from the lightning clouds was what was killing us, and do some research on youtube to find some videos where we noticed that you can see the cloud appear in time to avoid taking any damage at all.  We went back in the next raid and killed the boss on the first pull.

Posted in Behind the Scenes, Evaluating Your Raid Team, Production Company, Raid Leading | 4 Comments

Update from the trenches

I wanted to post an update since it’s been two weeks.

We wrapped up our second full raid lockout on Monday with 9/12 bosses dead.  We really should have been able to finish up at 11/12 but I misunderstood some key things about Phase 3 of the Al’Akir fight and so we spent 3/4ths of the raid on Monday on him without a kill.  We also haven’t killed Maloriak yet but I am pretty sure that is simply because we haven’t attempted him yet and I expect him to die without much of a fuss.

Overall, I have been happy with all of the fights so far and I am looking forward to starting hardmodes in a couple of weeks.  I am especially looking forward to the Nefarion fight, it looks like a lot of fun.  Hopefully we will get our first look at him this week.

Our raid team has just been outstanding so far and I am enjoying raids as much, or more so, than I ever have.  All of our dps are performing at or above any expectation I may have had and our healing team seems to be bonding well and adjusting to the new paradigm that Cataclysm has introduced.   Tanking has been a lot of fun and I have even gotten the chance to do a bit of feral dps’ing on the few fights we can get away with a single tank on.

Finally, I should probably mention the fact that we are recruiting again.  Both of our raiding priests have had shifts in their work schedule and will be afk from raids for at least 5-6 months.  While it has been awesome that we haven’t had to sit more than ~1 person a week almost at this point, we should really add another body to the rotation just to be safe.  Recruiting sucks though, especially for a group like ours where we only have an opening like twice a year and so all of the normal revolving door recruitment strategies just don’t make any sense. That means that we have to ramp up the whole recruiting machine from its state of hibernation every six months or so and it just feels like we are starting over from scratch. I know that not having to deal with it on a weekly basis is much nicer in the long run but it just makes the brief periods where we have to deal with it seem that much worse…  WTB Shadow Priest with some healing experience/willingness with the right mindset for hardmode progression raiding.  Gearscore must be greater than zero, must have weapon equipped, and must be able to avoid stabbing yourself in the eye  during combat. PST!

Posted in Gaia's Personal Posts, Production Company, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Minimum Expectations for Raiding

Production Company took most of the last few weeks off from raiding as we customarily do for the holidays.  Due to the timing of the expansion, the break ended up being a little longer than it has been in the past.

Although we had a couple of mostly informal raids over the break to take a peek at a couple of the bosses, we had our first official raid this last Monday (January 3rd) and I was pleased to see us get 3 bosses down and a couple of looks at a 4th.  I will probably have more to say about that soon but wanted to make some sort of post today since I just joined the twitterverse for the first time and the blog will probably have some new visitors.

Here is the post I made last week in our forum outlining our expectations for everyone on the raid team.  Hopefully it will be of some help to someone somewhere. (I’m not sure how much editing something like this should really go through to make it more interesting for the general public to read but I figure if my raid team can wade through it, most of you should be able to as well.)

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Our first official raid of the new expansion is a little less than a week away and so I wanted to post some more explicit guidelines for what we are looking for from everyone as far as gear, gems, enchants, and etc… goes.

Log Review:
I am putting this in its own section just to hopefully highlight it for everyone within this giant wall of text. The World Of Log reports have gotten pretty darned amazing at what they can show. I would expect that everyone is going back and spending some time checking through the logs each week. At the very least, you should be checking through your own performance and trying to identify some areas that you can personally improve on for next week’s attempts on those attempts/kills. I’m not going to list all of the things that you should be tracking because it is different from person to person and role to role but there are definitely “things” that everyone should be trying to check up on. If you need any help at all figuring out how to find what you are looking for, please ask for help.

Performance Benchmarks:
The following are just over generalized examples to provide some guidance and will vary from fight to fight and attempt to attempt based on a wide variety of circumstances. However they should, when averaged out over a night or two of raiding, be generally indicative of our minimum expectations.

DPS:
In general, one of the following should probably be true when we look at the logs for a given fight/raid/week.

DPS should be putting out something above ~10,000 dps on average. This is generally the worst indicator to use. That being said, I suspect that 10k dps is very low however and should not be and unreasonable benchmark at all

Assuming we have 2 tanks, 3 healers, and 5 dps for a given fight, each dps is generally responsible for 1/6th of the damage done during the encounter (16.66%) and the two tanks combined are responsible for the remaining 16%

DPS should all be within ~5% of total damage done from each other. This is a better indicator as it scales/adjusts from fight to fight. It means that if the top DPS in the raid did ~18% of the total damage during a boss fight, you should have done at least ~13% (Again, this is on average and barring any really screwy assignments for a given fight.)

DPS should, individually, be putting out damage reasonably comparable to Roksi and I. Depending on the fight, special gimmicks like Festergut, and number of bosses/adds, this can range from a pretty good indicator to a terrible one.

DPS should be showing regular improvement from attempt to attempt and week to week on boss fights.

Healing:
Healing is, as a rule, harder to evaluate than dps and as such much more difficult to try and pin down generalizations that make any sense in a post like this. I’ll try and give it a shot though.

Mana management. If you’ve been reading anything at all about the way raiding works right now, one of the biggest things being discussed is that the new bottleneck to most encounters seems to be killing the boss before your healers run out of mana. When looking at the logs for healers, I would expect to see you all using your mana reclamation talents/skills/abilities early and often and during a given fight I would expect to NOT see any of you *consistently* running out of mana before the other two.

Coordination. I am hoping to leave most of the coordination up to you to work out as far as healing assignments and coordinating cooldowns and AoE heals and such. I’m happy to help or offer a decisive voice anytime you feel like you need/want it but I generally believe you are all capable of doing it on your own and the results will probably be better if the people actually seeing and monitoring the fights from the healer perspective are the ones making the decisions.

I have no numbers or figures or anything like that for this but I would encourage all of you to watch the logs and start monitoring your overhealing from fight to fight and week to week. Overhealing was completely irrelevant during wrath but that has clearly changed. until I really get a chance to do some healing myself and see more numbers though I have no real idea what sort of numbers should be considered “good.” What it ultimately comes down to though is whether or not you ran out of mana before the boss dies and whether you kept everyone who didn’t outright commit suicide somehow alive.

Tanks:
In order to try and be fair, I suppose I should try and outline some of what Roksi and I are generally evaluating ourselves on.

Boss positioning and mechanical issues. Tanks generally are required to position bosses in some special way to maximize or minimize given mechanics from encounter to encounter. When we screw up it is generally a wipe and so we need to do whatever we can to minimize screwups. Lots of advanced research is a good way to help with this. General expectations are that we collectively get 1-2 failures before we should both be learning from each others mistakes and after that point we shouldn’t be letting the issue be an issue again.

Cooldown usage. Tanks should be using their damage reducing abilities intelligently and as often as possible. This includes not only periods of high tank damage but also anytime large parts of the raid take heavy damage (planned or due to people screwing up) As the primary drain on the healer’s mana, anything we can do to require less healing should be aggressively pursued.

DPS/Threat. Probably not nearly as important during the first tier, but we need to make sure that we are meeting or surpassing our dps contribution and putting out enough threat to allow the DPS to meet theirs.

General Expectations:
Things that everyone need to be striving for and that I/we will be checking up on in the logs from week to week.

Potion Usage: Carry them and use them. At the very least, every DPS in the raid should be using a potion every time we kill a raid boss. Most attempts that get below ~30-50% should probably show a potion having been used as well. Please note that I didn’t say “progression bosses” but it says “every time we kill a raid boss.” For those of you who are extra stingy with the potions, you can opt out for pre-cataclysm bosses if you want. As far as healers go, I would expect to see potions being used “most of the time” (~75%+) and I would think that a variety of potions will probably make the most sense from fight to fight. Some kind of balance between mana/rejuv potions and throughput boosting potions of some sort. Tanks should be similar to healers and we should either be seeing armor pots on fights where we are worried about dying or DPS potions where we are less worried about dying and have settled into the process of shaving time off our kills.

Bandages, healthstones, and personal/group damage reducing cooldowns: Again, with healer mana being our newest bottleneck, it is more important than ever for people to be taking whatever opportunity that they can to help the healers out. This is another of those instances why it is so important for everyone in the raid to be able to monitor what is going on with the rest of the raid. Everyone should be able to see when the healers are starting to get low on mana or when a large chunk of the raid takes some kind of damage and balance that information against a minor hit to your own dps to pop a healthstone or bandage or use a personal damage reduction cooldown. These probably won’t show up in all or even most fights, but everyone needs to get used to using them more often.

Boss Mechanics: In general, we have some level of expectation that everyone adapts to new boss mechanics and changes to our approach as quickly as possible. That can mean anything from doing some advanced prep for upcoming fights (all fights in the current tier should be considered as potentially upcoming) getting any special “stuff” for your UI setup like keeping your bossmods addon current, setting up and configuring your power auras for anything you need or will need for a particular fight, and most importantly… We need to get better at learning from each other’s mistakes. It shouldn’t take 12 attempts for each new encounter mechanic for everyone to take turns personally making the same mistake over and over. We all need to get better at seeing and recognizing when other’s in the raid screw something up and then understanding what happened and how to avoid making the same mistake ourselves.

Raid Awareness: Hopefully I am starting to sound like a broken record with this. I really want to make sure that everyone in our raid is trying their best to get better at monitoring what is going on with the raid outside of your own little tunnel-vision section. One of the biggest issues our raid generally needs to get better at is trying to pay attention to what everyone else in the raid is doing. Having adequate raid frames to track things like debuffs, health/mana, aggro, and other “specials” on the raid is something I am going to start cracking down on a lot more this expansion. As one example of what people need to start working on working into their awareness; ideally, when someone dies during a boss attempt (prior to a wipe being called), everyone in the raid should be able to explain why that person died.

Gearing Expectations:
Gear:
Everyone should be in nearly full ilvl346 gear, meaning 1-2 pieces below that level. With some possible exceptions, no one should have anything below ilvl333 by our first raid. If you think you’re one of the exceptions to this, and you won’t have it taken care of by the first raid, please drop me a note in your private forum with a comment about what the plan is for that item slot.

I would also hope that at this point most people should have 2-4 epics as well from crafted, rep items, and the world BoEs that seem to be selling for around 10-15k each on the AH. I do understand that in a lot of cases Blue quality ilvl346 items are better than the easily available epics due to things like gem slots and better itemization.

For anyone that has missed it, there are some pretty nice PvP gear options for pre-raid stuff that isn’t listed on most of the BiS lists I have seen for different classes.

Gems:
This should be no surprise, everyone needs to have full blue-quality gems in all sockets, and a current Cata-level meta in their helm. In general I would expect to see most people meeting most socket bonuses at this point and some sort of general intelligence shown in using hybrid gems appropriately to meet them.

Enchants:
Enchants are still a little crazy at the moment. A severe shortage of [Maelstrom Crystal] in particular is going to make top end enchants a little out of reach for some still until more guild’s start raiding. I am expecting to see everything enchanted with the best available enchant that doesn’t require a [Maelstrom Crystal] as a minimum. Everyone should be Exalted with Therazane for their shoulder enchants. Everyone should have access to their Cataclysm head enchant. Everyone should at least have a Blue Quality leg-armor/spellthread, I would rather everyone had one of the epic ones but they are still pretty pricey at the moment as well.

At some point this week, I will go through and figure out prices for enchants from the guild bank and post an initial price list. If you don’t see an enchant you need on the list, please speak up as early as possible. I will try and have the bank stocked with scrolls by the 1st or 2nd. Again, if you don’t see a scroll for an enchant you need, please speak up.

If you are waiting until the last possible moment to enchant your stuff before the raid, drop me a note so I won’t have to worry about you being completely clueless.

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Cataclysm Heroics

Because I am one of my guild’s main tanks, I am fortunate enough to have been isolated from the madness I am hearing about in the current LFD system. Other than the occasional wipe or two, I have had a really pleasant and enjoyable experience so far in the 5mans.  We finished up the guild achievement for all heroics completed with a guild group a couple of days ago and I had some thoughts that I might be helpful for others out there.

First up is the reason for running heroics.  I know that I will end up sounding like a broken record on this subject, but all I’ve been reading for the last few days is people whining that they think it is “unfair” or “mean” or whatever other excuse they generate that they are being forced to run these terrible 5man dungeons in order to get enough gear to start raiding.

I have a blanket response to the overwhelming majority of these people. If you are having trouble with the 5man heroics then you have larger problems to worry about than gear.  The reason for running heroics should be to enjoy the new content while it is still “fresh.” If the 5man heroics are still a little to rough for your taste, then start out in the normal versions until the LFD masses get past the initial learning curves.  ilvl 333 dungeon blues should be more than enough to start raiding with.

The primary reason you should be running 5mans, especially if you are having difficulty with them, is because they are little “mini training seminars” on what we will likely be seeing in raids for the rest of the expansion.  Learning to get better in 5mans (while they can still be classified as “interesting”) will make you a better player.  One of my favorite things to do as a healer at the beginning of WoTLK (within the first week or two) was taking a newly dinged level 80 in crap gear and healing him through a dungeon successfully.Times have changed a little and bars have been raised, but if your approach to running 5mans is some sort of DMZ-like shopping trip with a group of people you dislike to get yourself some phat new lewtz, then of course you’re going to have a miserable time.  If instead you enjoy five mans for what they are supposed to be, which is a fun new experience with some of the most creative and challenging 5man content Blizzard has ever produced, possible with a group of new, potential friends, and stop focusing on the darn loot then some of you might start enjoying the challenge of improving your game.

The dungeons have by no means been “faceroll” easy, but they haven’t been nearly worth /wrist emo ragequitting either.  I think we have been averaging somewhere just under an hour for most of the heroics for our first time through, and that time seems to slowly be dropping.  I would anticipate regular heroic runs to bottom out somewhere around ~40minutes during this tier, possibly as short as ~30min for a couple of the ones with less trash.

This is my list of things to keep in mind:

1) Be patient.

2) Practice your basic PVE skills as often as possible.  Interrupt, dispel, toss in an off heal to help the healer, CC or kite a troublesome mob the tank is having trouble picking up, just work on your awareness of what is going on in the fight not directly related to whacking your “rotation” into your keys while gleefully appreciating all of the giant numbers flowed across your screen.

3) Accept the challenge of leading your assigned group through the content successfully. Just like putting a raid team together you get to make decisions like whether or not an individual is worth helping develop, whether they should be voted off the island for a replacement, or whether its time to cut your losses and jump ship.  Leading your group does also not necessarily mean taking charge of your group.  If someone else is clearly trying to develop their own leadership skills you can always just do your best to help steer and reinforce their efforts to a successful conclusion as well.

4) Have fun. Raiding dungeons is supposed to be why we are paying to play this game.  It is what the entire “end game” concept is based around. If you don’t like the people you are with, either figure out how to get in a group with people you like or figure out how to like the people you are with.  If no one likes you or you don’t like anyone else, your problems are probably not wow specific and are outside the scope of this blog, sorry. Progression content means new mechanics which means new and hilarious ways for people to screw up.  If you don’t have fun watching your hunter buddy disengage/fall of the 5th ledge/cliff/platform of the evening then you always have the option of either switching to normal or leveling archeology for a couple weeks until everyone starts complaining how easy heroics are again

Posted in Gaia's Personal Posts | 3 Comments

Thoughts on Cataclysm so far

I managed to hit level 85 on the second day of the expansion.  I started in Hyjal, did about 2/3rd of the quests in deepholm, about 2/3rd of the quests in Uldum, and about 2/3rd of the quests in Twilight Highlands so far.  I have also gone back and done the first ~20 quests in Vash’ir to open up the zone and get my Earthen Ring tabard.

I have been really happy with the Two heroics I have run so far, SFK and DM x2.  The boss fights so far have been a lot of fun and hopefully the mechanics are designed in such a way that it will be a couple tiers at least before people will be blowing through the place and ignoring all of them.

Our first official raid is scheduled for January 3rd because we normally take a couple of weeks off for the holidays.  I think we will probably be squeezing in an informal “first look” raid next week though if we get a couple more bodies uo to the level cap and through at least a handful of heroics this weekend.

Our guild managed to get 6 realm firsts!  Five of the professions and the first shaman on the server.

The one thing I wanted to drop a comment about but don’t really feel like discussing in depth is to state that for the first time that I can remember, I am genuinely disappointed with how Blizzard handled something.  Usually I am a pretty die hard blizzard fanboy, have been for something like 25 years now since I got my first copy of the original warcraft.

Guild Achievements No Longer Give Guild XP:

I was really disappointed with how they handled the whole guild achievement giving guild XP deal though.  For them to claim that they somehow didn’t realize that there were guilds that would be hitting guild level 6 in the first 24 hours seems awfully silly to me.  I/we opted not to go too overboard and get all of the achievements out of the way too soon because we planned on using them for some fun off-time type events that we could pace out over the course of the leveling process.  I would have been shocked though if I would have heard that there weren’t guilds that went absolutely nuts with preparations and coordinating as many achievements as possible within the first day or two.

I would have much preferred it if Blizzard would have simply cut the experience gain from guild achievements by some large percentage than simply do away with it completely.  The notion that everyone in a guild was going to be able to “contribute to the cause” was one that had me pretty excited. That isn’t even really excited for my guild, but just excited for all the guilds out there with large groups of friends and family, ex-raiders, old friends, etc… that would now have a way to feel like they were part of the team again.

ProCo did one level 80 Heroic before they made the change and the guild got 500,000 XP for the ~8min it took to clear Heroic AN…  I completely understand why a change was called for here.  But to toss the whole thing out and then try and claim that they had somehow failed to anticipate this just makes me feel really…  disappointed.

As it now stands, the “race” for the Guild Feat of Strength for the first level 25 guild on the realm will simply be one by the guild with the most people online and ready to hit their “Complete Quest” button when the clock ticks over on the ~137th day of Cataclysm.

That counts as a “Feat of Strength?”  For those who haven’t been paying attention, ProCo has hit the daily experience cap every day of the expansion so far within the first hour of each day.  On the 3rd day, we only had 6 people online questing for most of that hour and still managed to hit the cap.  The daily cap is really kind of a joke that will now compel me to try and make sure we have at least 4 people every day log into run a couple of heroics together to make sure that the guild gets maxxed out on XP.  Oh joy -.-

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Definition of Insanity

I absolutely hate the following quote, and I have been seeing it all over the place lately for some reason in relation to guild’s learning how to kill internet dragons:

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results

It regularly gets attributed to Albert Einstein, Benjamin Franklin, Mark Twain, Samuel Clemens (see wut I did there?), etc…  The most credible source according to my 3 minutes of internet research seems to be Rita Mae Brown Imagine what the world would be like if average people were to harness the power of the internet for verifying things before continuing to spread them…

I find it especially annoying when I see people using this quote when dispensing advice about leading raids and figuring out how to slay internet dragons as an organized group activity.

Wait... didn't Mario end up rescuing the Princess because he kept "doing the same thing?"

The obvious contradiction to the “wisdom” of this quote should reveal itself to anyone that tries to apply it to anything remotely challenging that requires some degree of practice to get any good at. I used to be a fairly avid golfer once upon a time, and I couldn’t possibly count how many golf balls I have hit at the driving range. Trying my damnedest to do the exact same thing over and over again trying to train my muscles to do what I wanted them to be doing and generally failing to meet my expectations every time.  Expectations which of course were the exact same hopeful outcome of a perfectly straight shot with just the right loft and spin that every golfer in the world is chasing. Now while we could debate whether or not every golfer is also insane… I promise you, their insanity has nothing to do with their repetition of the same action without any adjustment in their expected outcome.

I have a short analogy to describe what I have seen far too many raid leaders use to “figure out the proper strategy for their guild.”  Imagine if you will that you are your raid, and the task at hand (a.k.a. “the boss”) is to balance a pen/pencil on the end of your finger for 5 seconds. I am going to guess that the majority of us cannot do this. I just tried, not even close.

Let’s examine the basic strategy I used to attempt this task.  With the index finger of my right hand outstretched, I used my left hand to attempt to balance my pen before releasing it, hoping that it would stay balanced on the fingertip.

The fact that after 5 unsuccessful attempts MUST mean that I am doing something wrong right?  Perhaps I should try a different writing utensil, I have a whole jar of them here on my desk.  Should I try each one 5 times?  If after trying all 30 (pseudo-random number generated using my brain, which means it is not at all random) writing utensils 5 times, I still have yet to accomplish my task, something else MUST clearly be wrong with my approach right?

What if I try a different finger?  Should I try each of my writing utensils on each finger 5 times, just to make sure I don’t overlook the one perfect combination?1?1 sounds like a solid plan to me!

So after trying 30 pens, 5 times each on my index finger, 30 pens, 5 times each on my middle finger, 30 pens, 5 times each on my ring finger, and 30 pens 5 times each on my pinky finger without success I began to despair! I was an utter failure and MUST be using the wrong “strategy” to accomplish this task…  A HA!!  My THUMB!!!

Progression Raiding, 95% wiping to dumb stuff, 5% total awesomeness

After 23 different pens, 5 times each, I finally found the exact right “strategy” to complete this task.  The blue Bic pen that no longer writes and looks like someone tried to chew through balanced on my thumb will stay upright for an average of 5.5 seconds 3 out of every 5 attempts.  Forever after, I will carry this exact pen around because I have conclusively proven that in order to complete this task I must be using this exact pen, balanced upon my thumb!  Imagine how awesome it would have been if I had only tried this exact pen/finger combination right off the bat, it would have saved me a couple of hours sitting here failing to balance crap on my finger…

 

The Moral of the Story:

  • My eventual success had nothing to do with some magic combination of variables, it had to do with the fact that I spent 4 hours and 715 attempts to balance something on my finger.
  • Which do you think is likely easier to balance? An unsharpened pencil on your index finger, or an obscenely chewed pen on your thumb? Perhaps it would have only taken 500 attempts had I only stuck with the original setup and didn’t change pens/fingers every few attempts.

When your group is learning a boss fight for the first time, you need to exercise some patience and give everyone in your raid enough time to actually learn the strategy that you are attempting BEFORE you make any kind of significant changes.  Depending on the skill level of your weakest raider, this could easily be 50-200 attempts for some of the more complex encounters.

You need to decide as a leader, and your guild needs to decide as a group, whether you are going to invest the time and energy to help each other get better, or start replacing anyone who gets identified as the weakest link.  Changing the basic strategy every 2-5 attempts under the misguided impression that there must be some sort of perfect strategy tailored to your individual group and you just need to keep switching things up until you find it though is my definition of insanity.

Posted in Evaluating Your Raid Team, Raid Leading | Leave a comment

Getting your guild ready for Cataclysm

Mandatory post image

So this topic is probably a bit behind the power curve since most of this stuff should be well on its way to being finalized at this point for most established guilds.

Putting the final touches on everything has been taking most of Roksi’s and my time and administrative energy lately though.  We have been systematically going back through all of our policies and practices and making sure that they are all up to date and consistent with our current goals and objectives.

For the most part, we are changing very little, but it is really important to review this stuff on a fairly regular basis so that any changes you need to make can be minor and evolve organically over time with your group rather than having to tear stuff down and rebuild from scratch when everything falls apart.

Here is the list of topics that we started with and some brief comments of mine on them.  I will probably post a copy of our upgraded policies with some more discussion once we finalize everything and I find time between getting my druid leveled and ready for raids.

Bank:
As I discussed previously, this is one of the topics we opened up for our membership to provide feedback on.  The feedback we received reinforced our initial assumptions that what we were doing as a guild for most of the last expansion was working well, and highlighted the couple of areas that we knew we needed to work on.  Specifically we need to work on trying to update our prices more regularly (we are going to shoot for ~once or twice a tier cycle this time around) to make sure that they stay competitive and discounted.  I am personally excited to see how much income will be generated from the new “Cash Flow” guild perk and how much we will be able to use this to subsidize raid consumables for our raiders.  We also determined that we need to make our lesser used, higher ticket items more accessible to our members without compromising the security of our guild bank.

Loot:
Also discussed previously, we have a pretty minimalist loot system in production company. I think we will be making a couple of minor tweaks to help formalize the process or “system” that we are already using and hopefully streamline some of the “no, you take it!” discussions we occasionally see during raids. I’ll share the actual text here when we get it finalized.

Special Raid Drops (Orbs/Recipes/BoE’s):

Without a whole lot of discussion, we decided to continue our policy of trying to sell as much as possible that drops in our raids.  this was by far the greatest source of funds for the guild and will continue to be the default process for dealing with anything that isn’t BoP.  That being said, we will probably still make exceptions in the interest of the guild now and then like we did with the first few Primordial Saronites we were able to offer to our raiders to encourage everyone to get things crafted ASAP.

Legendaries:
Well over a year ago when we realized that it would be a likely eventuality for Blizzard to start dropping legendaries in 10mans Roksi and I started this discussion.  Now that they have confirmed that Legendaries will be dropping in 10man raids, I am glad that we have most of the details ironed out.  As cavalier as I describe our loot system to be and the general attitude of our raiders when it comes to prioritizing loot as an incentive over any of the other goals that we have as a team together, nothing can derail those ideals faster than a piece of orange colored loot that will take your whole guild a couple months to earn together and yet will ultimately end up with one person.

There are a lot of considerations that 10man guilds need to be talking about when it comes to dealing with legendaries within your own guild and now is the time to start if you haven’t already. We have quite a bit of text on the subject that we will probably put into a post of its own once we get more details about what the first Cata legendary will look like.  For the most part though we will end up distributing it like we would any other piece of loot, with a simple /roll.  (the major challenges lie with deciding who gets to participate in that roll, and how do you deal with the delay between the time the person “wins” the item and the 2-3 months it might take for them to actually receive the item in their inventory)

Ranks:
We revisited our rank structure and made sure that it makes sense, that it is consistent with our guild’s goals, and that we have clear guidelines and written expectations for remaining and moving between ranks. We are still hammering out the actual text, I will also share this at a later date.  We *are* going to add in a special rank to work with our new “high value item tab” in the guild bank though which necessitated a little bit of restructuring.

Goals for Cataclysm:
You don’t have to go very far into the literature on building and maintaining any kind of organization before you run into the idea of setting goals for your group.  In one form or another, having some sort of statement of purpose and clear articulation of what direction your group is headed in can be one of the most helpful and important decisions you make as a leader.  There are a wealth of comics and jokes about committees formed in corporate america with the task of creating or reviewing a mission statement filled with corporate double speak and meaningless buzzwords, but when done correctly, a clearly articulated statement of purpose can help keep you on track even through the darkest of times as an organization.

I’d like to share an excerpt from the post Roksi posted to our guild forum on the eve of the WotLK expansion.  In the post, she laid out a short recap of the guild’s history through TBC and everything we had accomplished together, and then she posted a reminder of what she expected from all of us in the upcoming expansion. I am just posting the closing remarks because most of the details of the other stuff she discussed seems a bit dated at this point, two years later, but her closing remarks have really stuck with me over the course of this last expansion.  I’m looking forward to reading what she’s been putting together for us for this next expansion.

I will end on this note:

I want you to imagine it is the very last boss of Wrath and we are standing in front of him. I want you to look at each guildy standing beside you in this little imaginary skit.

In them you see someone who has helped you become a better raider. In them you see someone who has put in the effort to be the best they could outside of raid. Because they enchanted all of their gear and gemmed it with the best gems – they were able to survive that huge crit from the boss you just looted. Had they not put in that bit of effort, that raider would not have survived that hit, and the boss would not have died and you wouldn’t be standing in front of this end boss. Because they did their heroics, they got all their badge gear quickly, and because of that they were able to heal through a bad pull on the very first Wrath boss we ever downed, which ensured our victory and allowed us to get to the next boss that much faster. Had they not done that, we would have spent 3 raid days trying to get through just that 1 boss, instead of downing the next 2 bosses that week which put us even further through progression. Because that raider took 10 minutes to do a little review of their spec, they were able to increase their damage output by a good amount which enabled you to get that brand new weapon you’re wielding because they got the killing blow when only 5 raiders were left standing when the boss was at 1%.

When they turn and look at you – will they see the same in you? What will they see when they look at you? Someone who didn’t bother upgrading their gear when the upgrades outside raid were plentiful? Would they see someone who didn’t bother investing in proper enchants and gems to make themselves do that much better? Would they see someone who put their toon on follow because they had no idea where to stand for that boss fight because they didn’t do 2 minutes of reading? Our hope is that no, when each raider looks at the person next to them – they see exactly in that raider what they want to see in themselves.

So with that message, I say:

WATCH OUT ARTHAS, PROCO IS ON ITS WAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!

It also feels a little odd to quote myself, but I suppose that is sort of what a blog is for isn’t it? Here is something I posted a couple of years ago on our forums while trying to explain to someone what the difference was between traditionally “hardcore” guilds and our own:

Most end game, “hard-core”, progression-oriented guilds operate on a single principle: if someone isn’t doing what they’re supposed to be doing, you replace them with someone who will. Loyalty and camraderie are possible, but they are not often guiding principles. ProCo is different.

Attendance:
I think that we are most likely going to switch to an opt-out system for attendance rather than an opt-in. Which means that our raiders will no longer need to go sign up for each raid every week and will still simply be held responsible for alerting us to their absences in advance.  We have also been discussing some clarifications to our written guidelines about attendance expectations and we have redone/heavily tweaked the attendance spreadsheet that we were using for most of last year.

Posted in Behind the Scenes, Guild Management, Production Company | Leave a comment