Mages, ten-man raiding, and other things that are awesome.

Archive for the ‘Guild Management’ Category

Odds and Sods

I have just a few odds and ends for you this Monday afternoon. First of all, Business Time is recruiting! We’re looking for a dedicated and awesome healer to fill out our roster. You can check out our recruitment thread here for more info. The one class we’re missing is a resto shaman but we wouldn’t discount any other type of healer. All exceptional applicants will be considered. I’d like to note that even though recruitment in this expansion has been crazy and we’ve had to bring more new people on board than ever before, that I’m proud we haven’t had to resort to bringing people “just to make the numbers” that really aren’t a good fit personality-wise. We are a group of friends that loves to get things done and clear heroic content, but people have to fit in with our small posse first. We’ve never compromised on that account, and so BT continues to be a great place to play. You should check us out! The sooner we can find the right person, the sooner we can get ready to hit Firelands together.

Now, for some link love! I’ve read some really great posts over the past few days. First up, check out When The Healer Says “Pull Bigger” over at Heavy Wool Bandage. Glorwynn has summarized everything that makes me irate when I’m on either a tank or a DPS character (naturally, as a healer I never tell my tank to do much of anything besides let me drink and don’t break line of sight). I’m not even going to try to express it, because she’s already said it so well.

Zinn at Jinxed Thoughts has some interesting insights into the difficulties that 10s and 25s have faced so far in Cataclysm. Speaking as someone who has been focused on tens for as long as I’ve been raiding, I think these things are always interesting to analyze and think about. Well worth a read!

Finally, The Daily Blink writes a blog post to follow up the comic Lament Of An Ex-Mage. Remember the private hell of tanks and healers, my DPS friends, lest they forget where their taunt button is located!

Cataclysm Recruitment

I’ve been the ‘recruitment officer’ in some capacity for my guild for almost as long as I’ve been in the guild. To be fair, this means something different in a ten-man group than it does for a big twenty-fives guild. We don’t need to recruit constantly or usually more than one person at a time. Because of our niche, recruitment has always been interesting. In some ways, it was harder because the vast majority of folks were looking for a “real” raiding guild (i.e. not tens). In other ways it was easier because there were very few tens-only guilds to serve the needs of those who were seeking them specifically.

More often than not a year ago I would have to approach people who hadn’t indicated a preference for twenty-fives, on the off chance that they were open to either raid size. Sometimes this worked and we gained an excellent guild-member because of it. Other times the person would scramble to specify, “I meant twenty-fives!”

The balance of power has shifted in the recruitment forums. An explosion of ten-man guilds scramble alongside twenty-fives to try and fill their rosters at all levels of progression. The way that guilds snap at the heels of any prospective applicant is a pretty strong indicator that it’s a buyer’s market out there. Happily, the number of people looking for a tens guild is about evenly matched with those seeking a twenty-fives guild. This is good for us. Unhappily, hardly anyone is viewing my ads.

Forum Organization

Since Battle.net was integrated with the official Warcraft site, the forums have also changed. A change I’m really not happy about is the way that the guild recruitment forum was rolled into one biiiiig forum. It used to be that there was some division between Horde and Alliance forum. I can see why they did away with this – after all, since faction transfers exist there are many people willing to switch sides for their guild of choice. It’s okay to me that Alliance and Horde posts are mixed together, but I still think this forum needs vast improvement.

Despite there being many other sites that have tried to fill the recruitment niche, none of them have ever really been as useful as the official forums. It’s a simple numbers game – if 80% of the population doesn’t know about or use your tool, then it’s not even worth the time it takes to register on the site. People ARE using the recruitment forums, but they’re a big mess.

I propose that the forums ought to be divided into at least two sections – one for people seeking a guild, and one for guilds seeking people. I wonder if they haven’t done this because it would reduce visibility for guilds advertising? I’d accept that sacrifice in exchange for an easy way to browse through the ads of individuals rather than the hundreds of other guilds I don’t care about. There are external sites that work to alleviate this problem, which is kind of telling. If you need another website to navigate your forums, it’s possible your forums could use some tweaking. They could even sub-divide the forums: one subforum for 25s raiding and one for 10s, and maybe one for PvP/Other (although I’m pretty sure most RP folks aren’t using the official forums for the majority of their recruitment. An RP guild would have better luck on the ‘realm’ forums).

The Many and The Few

The other obstacle facing recruiting guilds right now is a simple matter of supply and demand. So many new guilds sprang up for Cataclysm that competition for available players is fierce. I’ll be honest with you, I’ve been browsing the recruitment forums for over a year and I’ve never seen it quite like this. If you aren’t one of the first people to reply to someone’s ad, chances are that your interest will simply get buried in the deluge of ad spam that follows.

It’s great for the people looking for a guild! There’s never been a better time to locate a guild that matches every criteria you have – server type, raid type, size and attitude. The flip-side of that is that it’s a difficult time to be a guild seeking personnel. As a guild leader or recruitment officer, you need to think about what makes your guild so different than the others also trying to attract a person’s attention. Are you more progressed, do you have better times for them? You know your guild is awesome, but you have to convince this person of that enough that they will apply. This also brings up the issue of quality. I’ve seen applicants advertising themselves that have, let’s say, 9/12 experience (with normal mode encounters). Which is fine! I’m not judging. But this same applicant will advertise that their guild of choice must have “at least” 6/13 hard-modes down. I can understand wanting to find a guild a bit more progressed than you are, especially if you are at a progression block in your current guild. You want to know that the guild you’re joining is pushing the content you want. But I can tell you now, if you personally have only done 9/12, there’s no way you are geared enough for doing the later hard-modes, at least in a ten-man guild. You would be a liability to that team until they were able to gear you further, and also until you actually learned the encounters. But these people will inevitably find a guild with that kind of progression, because that’s the way recruitment is right now. This is still a bit of a red flag for me, though – I wouldn’t want someone making those kinds of demands to join my guild. I’m pretty sure our attitudes towards perseverance and progression wouldn’t match up. It’s not that I wouldn’t recruit someone who hasn’t done any hard-modes, I might consider it if the personality and attitude were a match. Encounters can be learned. But in that case you are the one that has to impress me, not the other way around!

Something Wicked This Way

I can’t write a post about recruitment without mentioning another trend that’s really been disturbing me. It seems to be completely acceptable now as someone seeking a guild to post your Real ID e-mail address in your recruitment ad. I’ve seen folks casually say more often than not, “Here’s my Real ID contact information, so message me this way.”

First of all, are these people crazy? Posting up your Real ID in a public forum is just begging to be hacked. Hackers know it’s the same e-mail address you use to login to Battle.net in the first place, and you’ve just given them a key piece of information. So there’s the fact that it’s a security risk. Secondly, Real ID is intended to be a method of contact between real-life friends. It uses your actual name, unless you used a pseudonym when you first registered for Battle.net (You can’t change your name in the system without phoning a customer service rep, I looked into it). So you’re giving complete strangers access to your account e-mail and your real name without a second thought.

I’ve seen recruiters that also include their Real ID information along with, “Here’s how you can get in touch with me.” Well, this is a fine pickle. I’ve actually been frustrated to see that potential applicants are having conversations via Real ID before anyone has even posted a “reply” to their ad. The advent of Real ID being used this way might mean that I miss out on potential applicants to my guild – and so be it, because I am not going to be giving out my first and last name to a complete stranger just so that I can ask them some questions about their tanking spec.

In-Game Guild Finder

This is the newest development in the guild-seeking and finding scene: the in-game guild finder! Scott Andrews over at WoW Insider wrote an article for GLs about how to set your guild up to find applicants this way. This is what the interface looks like:

The description section has a harsh character limit. Hence, I could not put a period at the end of that last sentence, or use the entire word "apply."

That’s what ours looks like. Any requests your guild receives show up in the “Requests” tab where an applicant is also given space to send a message (although you can send a request without any message at all). So what do I think of the new tool? Well, any tool designed to bring a guild to the attention of prospective applicants is a good one. We’ve had a number of “requests” this way, but none of those people have actually joined the guild. There’s actually an “invite” button on the tab, and maybe some guilds would be happy to invite a member just on the basis of three sentences, but we’re not going to be changing our outlook on that anytime soon. People still have to go to our website to fill out a “real” application, and so this tool is an intermediary at best. Still, it increases visibility and might sometime gain us the right applicant so I don’t mind it. I hope they refine some things such as the “availability” section. Plenty of people are available on “weekdays,” but are those weekdays the days my guild is actually raiding?

Hanging In There

Having said all of the above, though, all of our recent recruitment has been quite successful. When we needed a new tank we had to look at an unprecedented five(!) quality applications, and it wasn’t an easy decision. We found our holy paladin healer back in February reasonably easily (and I don’t think it was my clever ad that attracted him either, more’s the pity). Recently we had our fury warrior swap to healing and subsequently recruited a friend of an existing guild member to fill the slot. This is naturally the ideal – never having to resort to “cold” methods of recruitment at all. If you can find quality people via word of mouth or existing contacts you are reasonably assured that the applicant will be a good fit for your guild at least in personality, and you also have someone to vouch ahead of time for their quality of play.

As it happens, BT is still recruiting for two members at the moment. We’re looking for ideally a moonkin and an excellent healer; either paladin, priest, or restoration shaman. If you want to read more about the specifics you can do so on our recruitment ad or our website. I’m also happy to answer any questions here. (Hey, it’s my blog, a little advertising never hurt anyone!)

On Leadership

I arrived at the guild leadership position pretty reluctantly. It wasn’t something I ever sought out or campaigned for. I didn’t start my own guild from the ground up. I took the position because – and I suspect this is more common than you’ll hear – nobody else wanted to do it. Nobody wanted it, and I wanted the guild to keep going and to do well. So I agreed. I don’t think I was the popular choice at the time, some people even going out of their way to let me know that xyz would have done it better.

I’ve made mistakes. Learning on the job will do that to you. One of the mistakes I made was not doing enough, thinking I could withdraw, stay everyone’s friend and let someone else do the dirty work. I’ve taken steps to rectify that since, and I like to think I’m succeeding. At the end of the day, the responsibility for the success and failure of the guild rests on my shoulders and I take that very seriously. I don’t consider my fellow guildies lightly. I’ve only been at this gig for a year and a bit now, but I’ve learned some things along the way. I’d like you to listen to these things, for just a moment.

I’ve spent countless hours worrying, talking, planning, and labouring for my guild. I’ve lost sleep. I’ve shed tears. When we’re in recruitment mode (and we are right now), I refresh forums every five minutes looking for suitable candidates. I try to write ads that will catch people’s eye, make us stand out in a sea of guilds with the same progression, with similar goals. More than anyone else, I have to believe in what we are doing because I have to convince others of that vision. I pay attention to who comes online, I get concerned when I haven’t seen someone for awhile, and I can tell when someone’s interest is waning. I can gauge the mood of a raid. I can tell you how many days it’s been since we last had a new boss kill, and I can sure tell you how I’m afraid that people will lose interest. I try to keep things upbeat. I make unpopular decisions. I know the ‘real’ names of every person in my guild and I genuinely care how things are going in their lives.

I think we have something truly great, and I don’t want to give the impression that it’s just due to me. I am terrible at vent interviews – I have a fantastic officer who  leads them. I don’t really like tweaking website code or colours – I have a savvy officer who handles that for me. I don’t have the best demeanor for raid leading – all the other officers take turns doing that. One handles sign-ups and scheduling, and we have a bevy of knowledgeable raiders who help to refine our strats and call things out mid-fight so that we can kill internet dragons. These things don’t run themselves.

What I’m skirting around saying but really want to say, is that there have been times when I really could have used a break. Times when my real-life was crazy, or sad, and people have stepped in to help keep things running. There have been times when I wanted to throw up my hands and take up a WoW career of pet-collecting. (The course of a true guild never did run smooth). I never did those things because ultimately the value of what I had – and the trust, and the expectations – were worth more than a brief break, even if I needed it. You may have stopped logging in for a week or two because you’ve grown bored of the game – the guild leader can’t do that. You may decide you don’t want to raid anymore  – the guild leader can’t do that. You may have a conflict with another member – the guild leader definitely can’t do that. Or if they do, they have to remain completely professional because it’s not just about you and them, it’s about what they want their guild to be and the respect they have for the people in it.

I don’t tend to lose my cool in pugs because I want the world at large to think well of my guild, and I am a representative of it. I don’t get in trade chat disputes, I try to establish contacts with other guilds on the realm. I do all of this because of how damned much I care.

You might wonder where I am going with this. I’ve read some things lately that have made me sad. Keeva is frustrated because she can’t find raiders who care the way she does and ultimately it may drive her to quit. Beru wrote something today that was subtle and poignant to me. The job we do is time-consuming, heart-wrenching, and often thankless. No, I’m not playing the martyr, it’s just a fact. There is no single person in your guild who cares as much as the guild leader cares, and if that’s not true – then it’s time to find another guild. I’ve been asked to expand on this statement because it could be vague and a bit misleading. I don’t mean that people in the guild don’t care. Of course they do! That’s what makes a guild great. I just mean that the extent of it comes with the position. Any guild conflict that arises is considered appropriate dinner conversation in our household. There’ve been times when one or the other of us will say, “Hey, let’s talk about something that doesn’t involve WoW.” I’m not even necessarily complaining there, either. It’s a volunteer job and a hobby and a passion that we share, and when things go right I am so proud. If a guild leader begins to care less than their members, they should seriously consider whether they do need to take a break or pass on the torch, because you have to care that much. Voss and I once had a discussion about what we’d do if any of our guildies were in trouble somehow, in real-life, and we could help. Would we help? I would help, every single one, because these are my people.

If you are in a guild that is struggling in any way – progression, conflicts, stagnation, lack of interest – before you complain (to the world at large, or to other guild members, the guild leader, or the officers) – first ask yourself: What have I done for the guild lately? Have I been logging in and chatting? Have I organized an event? Did I volunteer to take on some onerous task, run a guild five-man, write out a boss strat on the forums, or even just ask the guild leader or officers, “Is there anything I can do to help you?” or god forbid, “How are you doing?” There is no guild leader that can keep a guild steamrolling forward in the face of apathy and unrealistic expectations. The people in a guild are its lifeblood. If you aren’t part of the solution, there’s a good chance you are part of the problem.

Be part of the solution instead. And hug your guild leader (metaphorically) or just tell him or her what a great job they are doing and how much you appreciate them. I guarantee you it’ll make their day, and they don’t hear it nearly often enough.

Hello, Paladins.

Hello, Paladins.
Look at your guild tag,
Now back to me.
Now back at your guild tag,
Now back to me.
Sadly, it isn’t the same as mine.

<Business Time>

But it could be if you were ready to put on business socks and apply to mine.
Look down, back up!
Where are you? You’re in a raid instance with the guild your guild could be.
What’s in your hand? Back at me. I have it!
It’s a calendar with an invite to the raid you love.
Look again, the invite is now spellpower plate we’ve been disenchanting.

Anything is possible when your guild wears business socks. (I’m on a pally horse).

Sadly, I forgot to take a better horse screenshot before my horse became an Elekk. (See how easily things become other things around here?)

More plainly, you’ve all heard about my guild. We’re a guild that’s been strict ten since ages ago (April 2009). We’re almost two years old now! We finished out Wrath by achieving Bane of the Fallen King after getting our Frostbrood drakes back on June 1st. We’re currently 10/12 with available content (Al’akir, Nefarian remaining) and will be heading into heroic modes over the coming weeks. We are based on Moonrunner US (PvE, PST) and we raid Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 6-9 PM PST.

In a nutshell, we are a tight-knit, small group of adults dedicated to progression raiding on a schedule that actually works with people’s lives. Our members have jobs and other things they are doing, so we pull at start time and not a moment later (or else Voss’ head explodes). When we raid we’re serious about it (I’m really trying hard to avoid making another Flight of the Conchords joke here, so just bear with me). Thanks to incredible stability and very low member turnover, our roster is almost the same now as it was a year ago – no mean feat, I think! The commitment of our members is itself a testamony – BT folks tend to stick around, and we like it that way. We don’t have roster openings very often.

Unfortunately, real life stuff (happy real life stuff such as getting engaged and moving!) is going to be claiming our holy priest in the next while and we’re going to need another dedicated healer (a solid off-spec wouldn’t hurt, either, but we’re primarily looking for a holy paladin.) I’m hoping that since my original blog seemed to attract many awesome holy paladins interested in watching the noob flounder cheering me on, that perhaps some of you still read and might be looking for a great guild. Our current healing roster has two restoration druids, a restoration shaman and a holy priest – so we’ve got no paladin in this role at all. We think a paladin would be just perfect (although if we don’t have luck finding one we might consider a different healing class).

If you have any questions feel free to ask them here, on our website, or you could drop me a line via Twitter or my e-mail (puggingpally AT gmail DOT com). And if you aren’t looking for a guild but you have a friend who might be, please consider spreading the word! I appreciate any mentions or links immensely.

Social Members, Raiding Guilds

Occasionally as a guild leader or “management” member of any group of WoW-folks, you’re faced with some tough decisions. Sometime last year our guild had to grapple with the question of social members – would we have them, and under what circumstances? Should we have them?

Historically, the guild had a few social members. These were invariably people who had once been raiders that were unable to raid for one reason or another. When I first joined there was an assorted group of these, some of them that no one in the guild could remember raiding, but they were still “around.” Some guilds might have almost nothing but social members, or just “members,” but when you’re a focused raiding guild there is usually going to be a necessary division.

Almost all the screenshots I have with guildies are from raids! This one happens to feature our nifty battle standard.

For us, social members have always been a bit of a grey area, sometimes presenting a conundrum. The social members we’ve had have come in three different flavours: 

Social With A Side of Raiding (Someday)

Our first two members like this wanted to join although we had no raiding spots. This is one of the biggest difficulties of being a small, “exclusive” kind of guild. Since we focus on ten mans and don’t want to run two simultaneous groups, we have to be very careful of roster bloat. Too many raiders means people are benched too frequently. Not enough will lead to burn-out. I actually famously (and regrettably) turned down a resto druid and her hunter friend because our roster simply didn’t have the room for them. The druid was so determined that our guild was the best fit for her that she farmed up the copper to send me an in-game message asking me to reconsider and reassuring me that they would be happy to just be social until such time as a need arose for them on the roster. Note – this kind of tenacity does have the potential to make a guild reconsider your application. She impressed me – we let them in.

Less than a week later, in a strange twist of fate, we had roster turnover and suddenly needed a healer and a DPS. Because we’d considered the two of them including the merits of their skills as raiders, this was fine. They stepped in seamlessly and are still valuable members to this day. I’m happy it worked out the way it did.

It’s a rare person that’s going to want to join a guild just to warm the bench, though – most people applying to a raiding guild are going to want to raid. If you admit people as socials with intent to raid, you still have to evaluate their personality, gear, logs, experience and knowledge. Recruiting is work, interviewing takes time, and this could be time wasted if the people don’t actually raid with you – or if you decide not to admit them after all the time spent reviewing their application.

Raiders Gone Social

This is liable to be a common category in most guilds, no matter the size. Life has a way of sneaking up on people and bludgeoning them – life changes like children, a move, or a new job can make a formerly convenient raiding schedule impossible. I’ve never seen any need to not keep and value these people – you usually know them from raiding so they are friends, and having more people in the guild keeps things lively. They can still run five-mans with other guildies when they have time, or just chat.

In some cases, these folks may want to raid again at some later date. Once a raider has “stepped down” from the roster we require that they re-apply to join raids. This is for us the only fair way because roster needs may have completely changed. There may not be room for that person, or they may have a different schedule. Re-applying proves that they are serious about raiding again, it can help to answer scheduling questions, and it acts as a tangible sign of commitment. We might even interview if the situation called for it – say, for example, if many guildies didn’t know the person from previously, or if they intended to play a different character.

Because nothing says "friend" like getting your buddy stuck on a Sandbox Tiger, laughing at his distress, and then posting screenshots for all the people on the internet to see.

Just Social, Please

We’ve had poor luck with purely social members who applied that way. After some discussion about this last summer, we did have a few folks (friends of mine) join briefly, but often alts on other servers are played infrequently, and so although they were awesome people (hey guys!) most of the guildies didn’t know who they were. This is a bit awkward for everyone involved, sort of like giving a friend a key to your shared home but not being home when they drop by and let themselves in. With such a small group of people, it can be jarring to have new folks joining and if personalities don’t gel, someone has to go. (Hint: It can’t be one of the raiding members we depend on, and this leads to awkwardness all around). We did decide that we’d take social members on the good recommendation of a current member – so if your good friend wants to join and you’ll vouch for him, then sure, but again it’s provisional. Just as we have a trial period for all raiders, we consider any new member in the same light.

Another really bizarre example of a “just social” member came after a disgruntled former member created an alias for himself, played a different character, and re-applied to the guild…as if he were a completely different person. Honestly, I can’t make this stuff up. I don’t know if we’re too trusting or just plain gullible, but he put on a convincing enough voice for the vent interview that we actually let him in. It wasn’t an easy decision, as several members rightly asked, “If he doesn’t want to raid, I don’t see what he’s really bringing to the guild?” I argued to give him a chance since he seemed nice enough.

Not everyone is going to have the same point of view on this. Personally, I like people. I like to chat with them, and I like the feeling of having a few folks online with the green chat. Others are more practical: we’re a raiding guild. We’re here for raiding, so why would we take people who aren’t going to be raiding? It’s a fair question, and it worked out tremendously badly in this fellow’s case. Eventually the suspicious things he’d said and done added up, and an officer thought to check his IP address on the forums before coming to the realization that he was the same member who had left. He was the last person to apply as a social that we accepted.

Since then, we’ve all been pretty wary about social applications. I actually got an e-mail from a reader (perhaps a former reader) who was going through some difficult times and looking for a guild to be in. I felt terrible to have to tell him that I really wasn’t certain if we were the place for him. As a blogger, if I were running a different sort of guild – I wouldn’t have hesitated, absolutely. As GL of a raiding guild (taking into consideration all of the above) I had to give him a pretty ambivalent answer. I still feel bad about it on a personal level, but as far as my responsibility to my fellow guildies goes – I did what I had to do. I can only hope that he understood, although I never heard back from him and probably lost a reader because of it.

Let’s All Be Friends (And Kill Internet Dragons)

It’s unfortunate, but social applications and members can present a number of problems for a raiding guild. We’re lucky because the social members we do have are great people, very friendly and affable. I feel an obligation towards all of my guildies and I want them to have fun and feel comfortable in the guild, but our primary focus is raiding. We’re a raiding guild, it’s what we do – so it’s easy for social members to feel a bit on the outskirts, and there isn’t very much I can do about it.

Fortunately, with Cataclysm some fairly drastic changes have led to a much better system in this regard. Prior to release, one of our social members took me aside to tell me that he’d been feeling pretty disconnected with the guild. He still liked the people, just that since he wasn’t raiding he naturally felt as if he wasn’t contributing anything to the guild. Since guild experience and guild leveling were implemented, it doesn’t matter whether you’re raiding with a guild or just questing on an alt – everyone’s contributions are equally visible and valuable! This same member went out of his way to kill specific classes/races in PvP so we could earn an achievement and the right to buy the Guild Page, and he reaps the benefits of our leveling just as everyone does. I think it’s pretty great that we can all share in that, and I’ll be writing in greater length soon about guild leveling, guild XP, and how happy I am about them.

Meantime, I still don’t think these changes to the way that guilds work are compelling enough for us to start entertaining social applications apart from close friends of guildies. I’d still like to make sure that all our guild members are happy and feel valued. What is your guild’s policy about social members (if you have one)? Have you ever been a social member in a raiding guild? Did you regret it, or were you happy with the way it worked out?

The Tortoise and the Hare: It’s Okay If You Aren’t Raiding Yet

The other day I read this post by Oestrus over at World of Matticus called Keeping Up With The Paragons. It touched on something that I’ve been thinking about pretty much since launch. It’s easy at this point in the expansion’s life to feel as if you are getting left behind, will never accomplish what you want to accomplish – or if you do, it’ll be so long after the fact that it’s irrelevant. It’s not true. The expansion just came out – approximately yesterday! Really. You have to dive in at your own pace, not the pace of everyone around you. Not everyone is going to have server firsts, or world firsts – in fact, I think the majority of us are comfortably someplace in the middle. The guilds that are blowing through content like tissue paper are impressive, but they make sacrifices and commitments to be there. That’s not a criticism, it’s a fact. Finally, the content isn’t going to go anywhere. You still have time.

It’s okay if you aren’t raiding yet, honest.

Time Well Spent: Always Includes Cookies

The expansion has been out for twenty-eight days, or exactly four weeks. Of those days, depending on your beliefs – at least three were likely holidays. (The twenty-fourth, fifth, and first of January, for anyone keeping track). That leaves you with exactly twenty-five days that you could have been playing WoW, but I’m probably being generous there. In my case, my brother was here from out of town for Christmas. I don’t see him more than once a year – and the once is if I’m lucky – so I sure wasn’t going to be playing WoW in the evenings when he was here. Several of our guild members had other obligations; travel, family, holiday. One of them moved across the country in the middle of December, a few more went home to another state to celebrate the holidays with their families.

I’m not here making excuses. (“Oh, we absolutely would have been server-first at xyx if only we’d had the time!“) But the fact is, the expansion is still quite young. Presumably most folks had to attend to that pesky work-thing for a good chunk of December. I know that being behind the leveling curve can be frustrating. I started playing WoW pretty late in Burning Crusade, and it felt like an eternity before I could catch up to play with the “big people.” When Wrath came out, I was bound and determined not to be left behind, and I wasn’t. This time around I’ve been much more relaxed. I leveled at what I consider a reasonable pace, and my reasonable pace is probably different from yours. At least two guildies were 85 quite literally overnight. I wasn’t among them, but that’s okay. We’re all going to be raiding at the same time.

In my world, Gingerbread Draenei Cookies > Blackwing Descent, if only for the month of December.

Expectations and Priorities: We can’t all be first.

Only you can know when you’re ready to raid. You should raid when you’re ready, and not a moment before. If you aren’t raiding right now, it doesn’t mean you’re lazy, or bad, or slow. It means that you made different choices. You chose (or had no choice) but to use your time in a different way. Now you’re hearing reports of all these first-kills rolling in via Twitter, or other blogs, or whispers from friends, and you start to feel panicky. “Why isn’t that me? Did I wait too long?”

Not everyone is going to be first, even though the competitive WoW culture is a bit obsessed with it. It can be nice to compare yourself to other folks to see how you measure up, and can serve as a form of recognition for the effort you’ve put into your character and the game. But it’s important to recognize that those kinds of achievements require a sacrifice. To use myself as an example, we could have pushed the guild harder to be ready on time. I could have made sure to run more heroics over the holidays instead of going out for supper (and sushi lunch!) with my brother and my family. I could have done that, but I didn’t want to. I’m not passing judgment on people who would have made a different choice – I’m not in their shoes! Maybe they don’t celebrate the holidays, or their family was out of town. I can’t possibly know that. I do know that I’ve chosen to be in a guild of people who are adults. They have children, jobs, and other obligations. We’re also a small guild (by choice) and so we have to wait for our full roster to be ready before we can dive into ten mans. I know some twenty five-sized guilds have been able to work on tens. They have a “head start” on us, and that’s fine too.

We expected to start raiding in early January, and that’s what we’re doing – right on schedule! I know a few of our members would’ve preferred for us to start sooner, but the sacrifice didn’t seem worth it. We have a great group of excellent raiders with real-life obligations that prevented us from raiding sooner, but we know that when we do raid we’ll be ready. One ill-fated Blackwing Descent evening back in mid-December proved that. Gearing, gemming, and enchanting don’t happen overnight. The only possible problem is when your expectations and those of your guild don’t match up. In most cases, I think that if you wait a month you won’t be disappointed. Everything feels very urgent right now, but raid progression will settle as we all get a chance to get to it.

Inevitable End: This, too, shall be patched.

As Wrath proved, Blizzard is firmly committed to making sure that everyone who wants to see end-game content will be able to do so. Whether your guild raids once a week for kicks, or five nights a week, you’ll get there. Even the heroics that folks have alternately lauded and complained about will become easier as people acquire raid gear and are more willing to pug. There’s no knowing when the next content patch will be. Clearing what’s available at a reasonable pace is something everyone has to decide for themselves, much like leveling. You can have raid goals even if you haven’t started raiding yet. You can meet those goals. I’m confident in our particular group’s ability to learn quickly, and I think the time spent gearing while people rested and went on vacation is better spent than if we’d tried to rush into raiding too soon. The frustration would have outweighed any imaginary benefit to be achieved from “doing things first.”

Regardless of when you start, if you have the will and the people to make it happen, your raiding will be successful. What successful means is something only you can decide for yourself, and don’t let the accomplishments of others cast a shadow on your own. Congratulate your further progressed friends (sincerely!) and rest assured that your time is coming. That tortoise knew what he was talking about.

Hey, never understimate the benefits of fishing for your guild and raiding! That's something that has to be done slowly.

The Hybrid’s Dilemma

With Wrath winding down and Cataclysm just on the horizon, everyone’s mind is on the future – fresh new raids, leveling, and this strange broken Azeroth we all inhabit now. We’ve been focused on making sure our roster is “set,” and it pretty much is. We have some player shuffle; no one is leaving but several folks have switched characters. We have a druid migrating to a warrior, a hunter becoming a shaman, a paladin becoming a rogue, and a moonkin becoming a mage (that’s me).

What you might observe there is a distinct lessening of hybrid classes. We’ll lose a healer who could also DPS, and a DPS who could also heal. Especially in a ten-man setting, these hybrids can be crucial. Being able to off-heal for our group was the major motivating factor behind my switch to Moonkin – I’d actually planned to be more or less full-time resto, but it so happened that we recruited an awesome resto druid that week. Three resto druids isn’t exactly a stellar combination, so mostly I was an owlbear. And it was okay. (I did enjoy the “forest for the trees” jokes, though). But there were many things that were less fun about it, and I’ve been thinking about why I’m more or less okay with our group losing some hybrids.

"What, there's a dragon behind us? Never noticed."

Jack Of All Trades, Master of None…

For some people, not excelling at any one role wouldn’t really be a problem. They embrace their versatility (and it’s wonderful). Don’t get me wrong, I flatter myself to think I was a decent hybrid player. When I healed, I wasn’t standing in fire. I did the best I could. But I could never quite match our “regular” healers. Even though they didn’t think so, I always felt that I was a handicap and that we’d do better if we had a “real” healer for that night. I know, it’s a mental obstacle – but it was there.

Likewise, when you are a hybrid that plays both your hybrid specs, it can start to affect your play in either role. I felt that my DPS always lagged behind where it could be on many encounters. It was just never quite there. Keep in mind, I’m talking about raiding when it was actually still tough (before the thirty percent buff was finished rolling out, and while we were still working on heroic modes we hadn’t yet downed). Every point of DPS counted, every HPS could be crucial. I was actually healing for our guild’s first Sindragosa kill, and that was pretty fun. I healed it for a few weeks – and the first time I DPSed it I didn’t know exactly what I was doing.

Yes, I knew my rotation – but it’s the subtle nuances of a fight that are hard to remember when you aren’t in it that make the difference. Can I use my Treants at the very beginning and have them ready again by the time we use Heroism? Should I put a DoT on the iceblock while I’m dodging (the answer, by the way, is no… At least it was that time we narrowly avoided being blasted into oblivion by a block that broke a bit early). It turns out I was also meleeing it with my staff. Don’t judge me.

The Landscape of an Encounter

I was trying to explain this to Voss the other day and I hit upon a metaphor that really works for me. Imagine that each encounter is a landscape with specific challenges. Perhaps they are hurdles you have to jump over. As a DPS player, you approach that encounter from the perspective of: “Anything that causes me to stop casting at any moment is the enemy.” So movement is your hurdle, as well as other mechanics. Depending on the encounter, you might have specific tasks, and there are things that will force you to move. Let’s take heroic Blood Queen Lana’thel as an example.

DPS: We arrange ourselves in a loose circle, with the center area being reserved for folks who are linked. Don’t stand too close to someone else because of the proximity damage. Perform your rotation as hard and fast as you can because this is a DPS race. Your obstacles are:

  • Movement: Plan ahead for what you can cast while running to another player if you’re linked. Make sure you have an eye for where your shadow flames will go if you get the debuff for those (if you’re a druid, keep a cat-dash macro handy).
  • Planning: If you are the first DPS bitten, you’ll need to make sure you know where the next DPS is standing and not be too far from them. If you are to be bitten, try to get near (but not too near) to the bitten person.
  • Be ready to scatter when she flies up in the air and casts her fear. Don’t be near anyone else. Hit it like you mean it.

That’s the fight from the perspective of a DPS player. If you’re following along with my simile, picture it as a tophographical map with mountains you have to jump over, and valleys you have to avoid stumbling in. You’re running over the ground and those mountains and valleys fall at fairly predictable places. You know them. You don’t have to look to keep your footing. Suddenly, the healer is unavailable for that night. Guess what, hybrid with the gear to do it? You’re healing! Here’s the fight from that perspective:

Healers: We still arrange ourselves in a loose circle and don’t stand too close to anyone. Depending on your assigned role (are you tank healing? raid healing? HoT spamming?) your focus will be different. Let’s assume you are a raid healer. AoE damage is crazy in this fight – something I really didn’t know until the first time I healed it. So you have your own topographical map… Let’s say the healing version has boulders being thrown at you from above, which is really what it feels like the first time you heal a fight you don’t know. I knew there would be boulders hurting the raid. Did I have any idea where they’d come from? Not a clue.

  • Movement. You still have to run to linked players, but you also have to heal yourself while you’re doing it, or hope another healer is covering you. Likewise, if you are tank healing and you get the shadow flame debuff… nobody is healing those tanks while you’re running unless the other healers know to do so (they’re dropping boulders on the taaanks!)
  • Planning: Like the DPS, you will always be casting, but you’ll be HoTing the heck out of the raid. Suddenly, you can’t just ignore the people who are linked if they aren’t you – they need healing now!
  • Still be ready to scatter when she flies, but also be ready to heal everyone because damage from this phase is heavy.

The first time I healed this fight to fill in for a missing healer was, to say the least, intense. I don’t know how the healers were doing it with just two at that gear level, and I understood why it was so hit-and-miss. We pulled it off, I’m not saying “I wiped the raid!” The learning curve was steep. That’s just one fight, and yet the mechanics affecting a DPS or healer are in some respects completely different. It’s a different mindset – a different landscape, if you don’t mind my tortured metaphor. You can learn to navigate both landscapes and even switch mindsets if need be, but it’s a rare player who can pull each one off seamlessly or as well as someone who knows that landscape intimately. I’ve caught myself bracing to throw HoTs in a heavy-damage phase only to remember “Duh, you’re DPSing right now,” or preparing for heroism only to think, “…You don’t do anything special for heroism, you’re healing. Keep healing.”

You will have players who thrive on this challenge – the multifaceted challenge of knowing an encounter from more than one perspective, but it’s not easy. Some fights present less of a challenge than others, but switching mental gears (at least for me) was the largest obstacle.

This was the second largest obstacle.

Can I Have That For Offspec?

In our raid, everyone is expected to have and gear a respectable offspec. Even the pure players have two viable PvE specs that might be better suited to different encounters. I know our other mage is itching to go Frost for Cataclysm, and that’s fine. He’ll probably keep another spec. There are some differences between spec gear priorities that can crop up for pures, but it’s nothing compared to what it used to be like for hybrids. We’ll have to wait and see how that shakes out for hybrid classes in the expansion, with spirit to hit conversions and etcetera. Even with that in mind, though, hybrids will still have a “main” spec, and it takes time and many drops to adequately gear up an offspec properly. I have teased Voss because the one night he had to possibly switch from tanking to DPS he was “not prepared.”

Later that night, he shamefacedly admit that he hadn’t gemmed his DPS gear for a pretty good reason. He needed nearly twenty cardinal rubies to do it! As someone who has kept two sets of gear “raid ready” I sympathize with this wholly. Having plenty of alchemists and jewelcrafters I could afford it, but it’s still a considerable expense that other folks might not incur to the same extent. By the end of Wrath, my moonkin’s two gear sets were equally awesome – more or less equivalent to other folks in either role – but of course I was never going to take gear from “main” spec healers in order to do that. (Our healers were very generous with me, though, and so this is no gear complaint. They’d say, “It’s a sidegrade for me, give it to Shae,” and the cooperative spirit was a big part of the reason I was able to be so well-geared for when we needed it.) Still, things like trinkets are rare enough for main specs – it takes a long time and great fortune for an off-spec to even sniff them, which is as it should be. But it’s part of the hybrid handicap that prevents us from being as good as main healers when we need to be. Your gear can be “the best you’re able to get,” but it will probably still fall a bit short in one spec or the other until the content has been on farm for quite a long time.

Neither Fish, Nor Flesh, Nor Good Red Herring

Ultimately, the burdens and rewards of being an excellent hybrid player depend on the individual. Some people might thrive on the challenge and not mind the confusion and gear lag. In my case, I loved being a resto druid, and I loved being able to help the raid when it was needed. Unfortunately, I just didn’t love being a moonkin. It was tough for me to admit that to myself (and my fellow raiders, who had put the time and effort into gearing a character I no longer wanted to play at the end of the expansion). I still regret that and worry that folks may have seen it as selfishness on my part or a desire to gear a character then move onto another. I had concern that two mages was less useful for the raid than a moonkin and a mage – and in a way, that’s true, but what is most useful for the raid is people playing what they love. I’d rather have ten people truly passionate about their class and role – with less raid flexibility – than a few hybrids who really don’t want to be where they are but will do it “for the good of the raid.”

So we’re going to be a bit less flexible when we start raiding in Cataclysm, and we’re going to have to lean more heavily on our full-time healers. I hope that it turns out fine – and if we’re coming up short, we’ll recruit, because I’m confident in my character choice. I could be a hybrid, but at the end of the day I just don’t want to – and I think that’s okay.

Whenever I'm tempted to be a hybrid "for the good of the raid" Voss yells, "NO. Now, we're short on healers, what do you do?" "Well, I have a paladin that..." "NO!"

Team Building Exercise ’99: Fostering A Sense of Teamwork For Tens

This is a post I’ve been working on off and on for the better part of a year – I’d always pick it up, poke at it a bit, and then set it back down. After a year of being in a dedicated ten man raiding guild, I feel finally qualified to post it. Especially with the changes to raid lockouts and item level in Cataclysm, I expect that the ten man scene is only going to grow and more people are going to be raiding in ten person groups! This expands on some of the philosophies we have that I think have set a solid foundation for our success in Wrath of the Lich King.

The opportunity to experience group play at the end-game of WoW is one of the strongest draws for many players. I believe this to be true, because otherwise – we’d be playing a game solo (and some people do!). We wouldn’t be trying to band together to kill internet dragons. There’s a particular rush that comes from being part of a group of people accomplishing something together. You can liken it to a sports team scoring that winning goal, or a group of professionals finally completing a project they’ve been working on. The truth may lie somewhere in the middle – we’re accomplishing things together, but we’re not physically together; in many cases we’ve never even met each other.

Many raiders who opt to focus exclusively on ten person content do so because they want an intimate atmosphere. When you have just nine other people counting on you, and you spend twelve or more hours with them every week – you get to know each other pretty well. You’re there for the high points and the low; you share that tough kill you finally pulled off and the Vent channel erupts in cheers, or the boss you can’t down and so people rally around the forums to talk strategy, and figure out a way to make it happen.

This is your team, and it’s an awesome feeling. When it’s going well, it’s amazing. Every guild has rockier parts, and those are tougher to deal with. But many issues that arise are best dealt with a long time before they even crop up, by making sure to nurture and tend to the team. If a team is solid and committed, they can shrug off difficulties easily. If there are already weak points – applying pressure will cause them to start to crack. So how can officers, raid leaders and guild leaders help their raid team to feel like a team?

I could pretend I chose this screenshot to be somehow metaphorical, but really I just think it's a cool screenshot. Also, do you see how straight a line we stand in? We're so DISCIPLINED.

1. Encourage Input.

I can’t stress this enough. When people feel like their ideas are not just heard, but listened to, they’ll know that they’re a valuable part of the group. This comes into play in several different ways.

  • A guild’s forums can be an excellent venue for contribution from all members. Keep in mind that not everyone has an equal amount of time to devote to these, so your mileage may vary. Some are heavily into strategies and might post all the time, others may prefer to hang back until they have something to say. It’s particularly important to listen up when someone who is usually quiet does say something. Try and encourage an atmosphere where people feel free to speak their minds, or at least contact an officer or raid leader privately.
  • Most raiders use some form of verbal contact during raids. This is where much of the ‘in-the-moment’ strategies occur, and it’s important to give people the opportunity to chime in. The freedom of a ten-man group is that there’s room for different folks to speak up. Within reason – it can be detrimental to have a flurry of voices always talking at the same time on the channel. Raid leaders and officers can help direct the flow a little bit by asking for clarification, or asking someone to repeat what they said if it was lost in the fray.
  • Don’t think this means you are obligated to always listen to every idea, or give everyone equal stage time – most people don’t want it. Again pay particular attention to contributions from those who don’t speak up often, listen when any member has an idea – and then make the final call. This only works if you are truly sincere and consider alternative ideas. Remember there’s a time and a place – it’s okay to say, “Let’s talk about this on the forums later,” rather than spending twenty minutes debating strats and eating up valuable raid time. This only works if you really will talk about it on the forums later!

2. Foster an environment where it’s okay to make mistakes.

In a ten-person raid, many times there isn’t much margin for error. When it comes to tough progression content, a single blunder could spell a wipe and mean everyone is corpse-running again. People are going to make mistakes, so try and foster an environment in which it’s okay to make them – at least once – and more importantly: people are encouraged to admit it.

  • This can be best accomplished leading by example. No one should ever be allowed to berate or belittle another raid member for making a mistake. Even if it was a dumb mistake, and even if they’ve done it before. Quickly and firmly call out anyone who does this, and let it be known that it isn’t acceptable behaviour, while shifting attention back to the task at hand.
    “Oh, come on, Squishy Healer, why can’t you get out of void zones fast enough?” can easily be met with,
    “Mistakes happen, Hunterly. Now, does everyone have their graphics settings high enough that they can easily see these void zones?”
  • Not making people feel like a heel for messing up will make the next step easier, and that is: when you make a mistake, be the first to admit it, don’t make excuses, and don’t shift blame. You aren’t saying, “I guess that was my fault, if only SO AND SO hadn’t dropped that shadow trap right underneath me.” Keep it simple and direct. “That was my mistake, guys. I was too slow to polymorph the person who was MCed. Sorry about that.” It never feels awesome to know that you wiped the raid, but it’s better than the ominous vent silence. Everyone usually knows who messed up anyway, trust me. They’ll respect you more, not less.
  • Soon, hopefully, a magical thing will happen. Everyone will own up to their own mistakes without hesitation! Rather than feeling like a group of individuals who has to defend their individual performance at all costs to protect and make themselves look best, hopefully everyone will be more forgiving of the mistakes of others, and unafraid to admit their own. It’s worth noting that sometimes mistakes might be more chronic and indicative of someone who just isn’t performing. If the same mistakes are happening over and over again, it’s another matter and should be dealt with privately.

"Look at this pretty totem here!... hey, you know, trolls aren't so bad! Maybe I should stay here in Zul'Gurub with them...This is a great idea!"

3. Make sure to relate outside of a raiding situation.

  • If you’re focused on ten-person raiding, chances are your guild will be small enough that the members will get to know each other pretty well. Help to make the guild a friendly place to be by chatting in the guild channel, asking people questions about themselves, and doing things with other members outside of raid times. I know this sounds hopelessly managerial – and I don’t mean “pretend to be friends with people.” It’s just that sometimes all of the tasks of an RL, officer, or GL can blind you to the reason you’re really here and why you are with these specific, awesome people.
  • The value of this is that when it’s raid time, when everyone knows the other people quite well they won’t feel that their only value to the guild is their DPS or healing numbers or how many hit-points they have. Stronger friendships make for stronger teams! This may not every one’s strong suit; some people are naturally more quiet than others. This leads directly into the fourth point, which can apply in both a high-stress raiding environment and otherwise.

4. Play to people’s strengths.

  • A team is only as strong as its weakest member, but weakest is subjective in this point. Learn to identify who excels at what in your group, let them contribute and then value their contributions. Does one person really enjoy fishing in their off-hours? Use their help to supply your raid with some consumables. Some people are natural leaders with tactical minds; these are the ones that you can lean on during raids, or talk strategy with in-between. Others may not have much to contribute tactically, but they can always pick others up when the mood starts to drop. Everyone has things that they are good at, and letting them show it will help keep everything rolling smoothly.
  • Raids would actually be pretty boring if everyone was focused on the same things. Some people can learn more quickly than others, especially when unique fight mechanics are involved. If your uber-DPS player is bored, give him or her a special task. Pull them off the boring, stand-alone boss and set them to add duty, or have them calling out timers if the fight requires it. Just because the raid has a raid leader doesn’t mean other people can’t be crucial to leading the group to success.
  • People will always excel at the role they most want to play. It sounds like a no-brainer, right? Don’t force your healers to DPS if they don’t want to – and if you have to do so, make sure it’s a responsibility shared among all the healers equally. If one person is constantly having to step outside their comfort zone while the others get off scot-free, they’re liable to grow resentful (and who could blame them)?

5. Help your team grow its skills.

  • Nobody is perfect, and no team is ever perfect. You may have excellent players individually, but they may not do things as well together. This last point is broad for a reason – it could apply to so many things. I remember when we first started working on the heroic Lich King encounter – all of the ranged DPS and healers had to clump up as part of the phase one strategy. At first it was tough; we weren’t used to paying such close attention to where the other team members were. By the time we’d practiced it, we were like one living organism strafing to the right and left together. It was fabulous.
  • “Skills” in this sense doesn’t have to mean raiding skills. Running five-mans together, PvPing together – all of these hone the reflexes and group communication necessary for good raiding. Even playing a character I had no idea how to play, I’ve never felt so indestructible in PvP as I did when I was doing it with my guildies and we had instant Vent communication. PvP is good practice for movement, situational awareness, and quick communication. You don’t have to PvP to be a good raider, but anywhere you’re working with your guild is going to benefit you all in the long run.

"Tirion, why are you gigantic? And what are all these fish feasts doing here?"

Finally, but not unimportantly:

6. Stay positive no matter what.

  • I’m not writing this from the perspective of Ms. Perfect, believe me! Some of this I’ve observed from my own mistakes, and I don’t always do all of these things or remember them as often as I should. But the last (and possibly the most important thing) is to remember that if you are in a position of leadership in a guild, people look to you to set the tone.Your attitude can impact success more than you ever suspect, not necessarily because of things you say but things that you don’t say – or the way that you say them.
  • Look for solutions, remember that things aren’t up to you alone – you have built a team of great people for a reason. Don’t be afraid to seek solutions from them if you are stumped. Keeping in contact with how your guildies feel can help you know where to focus your energies and avert any problems before they begin.

Incidentally, I wrote this based on a ten-person environment because that’s what I know, but many of the same principles could apply equally to a larger group. If you feel moved to write something similar or more expansive for a twenty-five man team, or you have anything you’d like to add – feel free to contribute in the comments or send me a link!

I hope this is even remotely useful to read. Raiding with Business Time has been such a rewarding and humbling experience for me – I know that we owe all of our success to each and every guild-member. I’m just the one who likes to talk too much.

p.s. – Yes, it’s a Flight of the Conchords joke, and I’m not ashamed.

Been Waiting A Long Time For This…

I don’t often blow my horn about my guild. (I don’t think I do, anyhow, but feel free to correct me if I’m wrong). I do write about my guild’s experiences where they intersect with something I want to talk about. Every now and then, though, I just really want to go on about something significant.

Many thanks to Draos from my guild for a number of screenshots used in this post.

Six months ago we were finishing up our last heroic ICC kill. Things didn’t look promising from there – heroic Lich King is a fight that was highly tuned for a strict ten guild. That’s not to say that none have done it (I know of at least two and one is an awesome blogger)!

As the months went on, it began to look like an H LK kill would slip through our fingers. We were plagued by personnel issues as we flailed against the Summer Boss. There were vacations (including Voss and I going on vacation in October). We were demoralized. We actually decided to stop working on H LK, period.

Longtime readers will remember how we discussed and wavered about whether or not we would keep our strict ten ranking. Ultimately, we decided to drop it. It was more important to us to have all our guildies in one place. Many of us “stricters” went out and tried ICC 25 in the weeks that followed. Most of us didn’t get any loot, anyhow. We no longer “ranked.” We’d decided to let H LK go. It gnawed at me a little bit, but I wasn’t going to force the guild to do something that they didn’t want to do.

One night, I was flying around Icecrown with Voss doing Argent Tournament dailies. He told me he was whispering with one of our paladin tanks, Meraxis. Mer had gotten a whisper from a guy in a 25-man guild on our server. They’d been armory stalking us and wanted to know if Mer, Voss, and Pan (our discipline priest) would like to join their H LK attempts. I remember sitting silently for a few minutes and then turning to Voss.

We should be doing that fight,” I said to him. “We shouldn’t be doing it with some other people. We should be doing it together. Do you think anyone else still wants to do it? That is so wrong.”

“Let’s ask,” he said, and we asked in guildchat. My visceral reaction was one of simple wrongness – that our guildies should be working on such a tough achievement with some other random people, instead of their raiding guild. Everyone who was online at the time (some six or seven of us) wanted to do it. We made a forum post. Nine out of fourteen people responded with a resounding yes and two more told me later they didn’t realize they had to post for it to be understood that they wanted to do it. We wanted to do it. We started working on it again.

It was not easy to get the team together. Scheduling hated us. Vacations and timing hated us, but we kept at it, extending our lockout, re-clearing for more chances at gear that might make an infinitesimal difference on the fight. As the weeks ticked by we increasingly felt the crunch – there was a hard deadline for this achievement and we were staring it down. Last week’s attempts ended on a high note – we got him to thirty-eight percent, our best attempt yet.

This week, we got him to thirty-three percent. On our next best attempt…

I am not sure I breathed for the last five minutes of the encounter. It was all a blur of desperate, focused intensity. Our first Harvest Soul went without a hitch. We followed our paladin tank and danced the dance and our healers were incredible and we came through. Everything was going fine until the second Harvest Soul. Even that went fine – we came out, but our paladin tank dropped quickly.

“Can we get a battle rez on him?!” I blurted into Vent. Ulla got him up but then we went back into Shadowmourne and this time lost our holy priest. No one said anything in the tension but you could FEEL us all focusing. It was getting down to the crunch. As we came out, our poor unbuffed paladin ate another Soul Reaper and went down again.

“HANG IN THERE,” I yelped as Voss quickly picked up the big bad.

“Two percent left, come on guys,” our paladin said.

Living Bomb, Scorch, don’t get hit by Vile Spirits, yesss pyroblast, fireball, fireball, come on, come on…

Yes, you heard me. DEAD.

DEAD. The sound was deafening. We annoyed everyone by sitting and watching the cinematic again. No, there is no heroic version. But the incredible feeling of succeeding at this lent it extra emotion to me.

I have never been prouder of our guild. We didn’t get this kill earlier, and that’s OK. We didn’t even get it while we were “ranked” strict ten. But there is no one who has 277 gear (aside from our rings, naturally). We’re all dressed pretty much exactly as we were when we were still as strict as can be. In our hearts we’ve never been anything but a tens guild, and this is a great triumph. I’m immensely happy. I’m excited to go back and do it again since everyone was not there.

It also bears mentioning that this kill holds significant personal significance for me, for one very good reason:

I did it with my main. Not a single member ever complained to me that I swapped moonkin for mage post-4.0. Originally the intent was for people to “try out” new specs and classes, I’ll admit that I seized the opportunity to play the character I have missed since January. It was selfish of me. Millya’s gear isn’t quite as good as Shae’s was. But damn it, she is my Millya. She is Bane of the Fallen King, and I know who my true main always will be, and I couldn’t have done that without my generous and uncomplaining guildies. I don’t think I was holding us back in the final kill (for any WoL nerds, like me). But this story doesn’t have a star. Everyone tonight was awesome and essential to our success. I am so proud I could burst!

Congratulations, Business Time! Tonight you were all down to just your socks.

Oh, he's fallen all right.

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