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

Posts tagged ‘raiding members’

Mage Revival

I don’t know if anyone else’s guild works like this, but ours seems to go in phases of popularity. I swear, for awhile there all I saw when I logged in was druids. Or paladins, druids, and warriors, which actually gave rise to the phrase “warrior warrior,” later adapted into “mage mage.” Anyway, I think it starts when someone has a lot of fun playing a class. Other people see the fun happening and think, “Wow, look at the fun they are having! I’ve never tried that class/I haven’t played my character of that class in awhile,” and suddenly the guild roster is positively awash in blue mage names.

I love it. People talk about leveling specs on the forums, gear levels, pugs giving us a hard time about when to use Time Warp (seriously, what IS it with this? When I am in a pug I’m just happy if all my fellow group members generally know where their keyboard is and are pressing buttons. I don’t ever give people crap about when they are going to use something like Time Warp, I’m just happy they know where that key is located and opted to press it. These people who get all bent out of shape because I used TW at the start of Jin’do must spend their lives angry because their expectations are pretty high. P.S. You don’t usually get TW at all on that fight because I’ll use it on Zanzil but absentmindedly forgot. WAY TO GO, MAGE). Anyway, I digressed a bit there, because my original point was:

1) Mages are awesome

2) Mages are contagious.

I’ve now been raiding as a mage again for several weeks, an endeavour that has not been without its minor mishaps but by and large has been awesome. Last night we beat our Baleroc record by a whopping one second so I feel that I contributed positively to that. Groups being held back don’t beat records, do they now?! There has definitely been a learning curve as I realized that I know very little about what DPSers are doing in most of these fights after healing them for months. It’s a good thing I’m not giving the fight explanations.

“So, um, on this one you’ve got to… I’ll be – Look, I’ll level with you, all I do is take a feather. I know that’s very important. And then I chase Voss around in circles. I look at the fire and make sure not to get hit by it. But mostly I see this green bar. It looks pretty much the same as it does on the other fights. So why don’t you just – I’ll be over here. The green bar and I.”

No, I’m not slighting healers. It’s just that I had to re-learn my role for DPSing, while at the same time growing accustomed to a new spec. Initially, gear was definitely holding me back because I was unwilling to relinquish my T11 4-set until I was able to get 4-set T12. Well, last night I got it, and raided for the first time! It was awesome. I’m almost at the same gear level now with Millya as I was with Vid; actually better because I got both a weapon and an off-hand last night. Three piece heroic tier gear in the amount of time I’ve been raiding is a bit ridiculous. Vid had one piece of heroic tier! I’m actually glad she didn’t have more and that I kept passing on stuff in favour of the other healer (I knew I’d be DPSing for H Rag anyway) so that when I switched it hardly mattered or affected anyone else’s gear level at all. But yea, verily did the loot gods look down upon Millya and smile, beam and begin to throw mage gear in her general direction. I know that doesn’t necessarily matter, but it is pretty nice. I’ve been fortunate.

Another story from the mage front; actually it requires some backstory first: One of our former raiders invited a work friend of his to play WoW, and so he joined our guild a few months back. He was completely new to the game, I think he’d played LoTRO or something but had never played WoW before. I seriously love him. He will ask questions like “I’m dueling this guy and he disappeared, how do I kill a guy like that?” (Freaking rogues, right?) Or he’ll say, “Hey, this Argent Tournament thing is pretty fun! Have you guys ever tried this?” (Oh, if only he knew). There’s something pretty awesome about knowing a person as they experience this game for the first time. We’re all so embroiled in the nuances, or jaded by the long grinds and hours we’ve poured into it, that sometimes I think it’s easy to lose sight of that magic – these “worlds we inhabit together,” as Metzen put it.

This guildie is level 84. It’s taken him a good long while to get there, and there’s no “end” in sight soon because he got distracted doing Loremaster (first of Outland, now I think he’s going back to do Kalimdor/Eastern Kingdoms). He’s not in any rush to “finish.” He’s just enjoying the journey and seeing what the world has to offer. He’s also the only one who laughed when I got the “My Sack is Gigantique” achievement the other day, so I love him for that too. (Come on, I spent 1000 G on that joke!) Anyway, so that’s to introduce you to my guildie, that’s the back story. The actual story is that I logged in yesterday and was running a dungeon as Millya (needed to get the last VP for those tier gloves!)

He said, “What are you up to?” and I told him, “Killing some trolls, taking their stuff,” (he laughed, how can I not love this guy?) and then he said, “You know I didn’t know that was an alt of yours.”

“Oh no? Actually, she is my MAIN!” I replied with great glee.

“Oh yeah,” he said, “I thought you were different people when you were playing Vid and Millya.” (Pause) “I always thought Millya was friendlier.”

I laughed and said I was sorry if I’d been a jerk when playing Vid, and he said no, you were nice, just Millya was friendlier. He’d clued into the connection between my characters when I asked Voss to make Millya the guild leader again the other day (so annoying not being able to do guild leader things on the appropriate character). So he had gone to work to ask our mutual friend if I was the same person. I had a good laugh relating this story to Voss, who just shrugged.

“Playing Millya makes you happy, so you’re friendlier.”

I don’t want to harp on about this, but Shintar mentioned that I had been a bit negative about Millya before switching. I tried to think back and remember this and I couldn’t (I know I could read blog entries, but I didn’t). What’s interesting about keeping a blog like this is that it’s highly filtered information. You only know as much about me as I choose to tell you, and also, I only tell you what I believe to be true. In other words, it’s possible for me to hide things from myself, convince myself something is true, or try very hard to convince anyone reading that something is true. What’s funny is that I’d written about “how playing my alt was hurting my raiding” only a few short weeks before I switched, and I’d been playing Millya non-stop (and loving it, honestly). I tried to spin it around and say “Oh well, I guess I was playing my alt for a reason!” but I’m afraid I lied – mostly to me, but by extension, to you guys.

We had an interesting thread on our private guild forums the other day where we talked about /played time and tallied up our totals for all to see. I liked it because it was interesting to see how much people have played (and which characters), but also because the inevitable, “I don’t know how I should feel about this number,” came up and there was no shaming, only agreement that we enjoy this game and have enjoyed those hours, too. I don’t tally up the time I spend reading or doing other hobbies and I don’t feel any guilt about those – why should I? As with WoW. So what was interesting about my numbers was that they were completely skewed. I’ve played 141 days as a mage. My next closest character doesn’t even come close, clocking in at a mere 50 (my druid) and poor Vid way behind at only 39 days played. I have played more as a mage than my other characters combined! My next closest character is almost 1/3 the time. I think that’s eloquent in itself.

The truth is, when we needed another healer, I sincerely felt I could help in that regard. I didn’t dislike playing a mage at all. The other other truth is, though, that I have sometimes been frustrated as a mage because I always feel I’m not as good as our other Super Mage, and that everyone is always comparing me to him (to my detriment). It’s tough to be in the shadow of someone you truly respect and you know is an exceptional player. I think that I’m a pretty good player, but not like he is. So there’s that. At the time, we also had our ridiculously good warlock and I was having a hard time keeping up with the two of them. It stung. I guess it was an ego thing. And I’ll be completely honest with you – I wanted to avoid the issue of The Legendary.

Fortunately, Dramawrath didn’t really cause any in our guild. At the time, I felt like an argument could have been made for either myself or our awesome mage, (who is indisputably an amazing DPS and also does a lot for the guild). Our shaman is also stupendous and ended up being second-in-line by virtue of guild seniority and steadiness. I hope we’re able to make one for him, too. He’s almost done with the cinders portion of the chain. I think I am no slouch of a DPS and I also do a lot for the guild. But I think it meant more to our other mage. (And I know he’s going to read this and if he’s reading it I want him to know this has nothing to do with you and everything to do with me. I wanted you to have this, and I still do. You deserve it.) He said to me when we talked about it that he would rather not have it, if it was going to cause drama. I couldn’t agree more. I have the kind of personality that unfortunately can be avoidant. Especially as a leader I have to consciously push myself to confront issues sometimes when I’d rather pretend they don’t exist – or maybe, when I’d rather just duck out of the way altogether, as I did when I switched to my paladin for one very specific tier.

I will admit, privately on the internet in front of everyone, there’s a part of me that’s a bit sad about the Dragonwrath. Caster legendaries don’t come along all the time, it’s a pretty neat thing to have, etc. etc. I was watching at Blizzcon when they announced that they would do a legendary staff, and I cheered so loudly. I see other folks getting theirs or read about their progress on blogs and I feel a slight pang. But I don’t regret my decision because I think having me as a healing paladin did help us in this tier. Yes, I missed playing my mage, and I am happy to play her again. Perhaps sometime during the next expansion I’ll see if I can solo any of Firelands and get an outdated Dragonwrath. The more essential thing, to me, though, is not Dragonwrath itself, and I’d actually like to invite you to think about that for a moment.

There are many Dragonwraths. Yes, it’s an “orange” item, but every raid group is making one (or more). Some raid groups will have several. It’s not Dragonwrath that matters at all. That staff is a visual representation of the teamwork and devotion of ten to thirty people. They painstakingly gathered all of those cinders, those embers, those shards, to put that together. I’m deliberately leaving out the “and then gave it to you” part here. Because in a way, that almost doesn’t matter. It’s an achievement that everyone can be proud of. That team work, that drive, it’s humbling and awesome. Braving the challenges of the Firelands night after night, through tension and tedium, elation and success, that is what’s truly legendary. I’m proud of the guild for doing it (we’re about one week away from completing it) and I couldn’t think of a better wielder of that honour. I’m really glad he will have it, and I’m also really glad to be a mage again (although it’s not like playing a paladin was bad). After all, I’m friendlier, which is probably a good thing!

The Hybrid’s Dilemma: Part II

Way back when, in the ICC days, I wrote about the troubles I faced as a hybrid player. At the time, I was playing a moonkin with a side of resto. You can read that post first if you like, I think a lot of it is still relevant to the problems that hybrids continue to face. It’s not entirely comprehensive, this is more of a personal viewpoint thing.

After my experiences as a hybrid moonkin, I swore that it wouldn’t happen again. When I switched to my mage, I was very “mage for life,” and I poured my efforts into her achievements and her mount and pet collecting. Unfortunately for me, even over nine thousand achievement points isn’t an effective deterrent when it comes to character switching (and it was a big reason why I knew I should never be a contender for something like a legendary weapon – I am too fickle). That is why, at this point in time, I find myself coming back to the same issue – only it’s as a paladin.

Tens and the Hybrid Dependency

It must be tough to design encounters effectively for a ten-person raid. Any raid has a set number of “required” tanks for an encounter, although it can be flexible. Some encounters can be tanked with one less tank or one more tank depending – For instance, we did Heroic Halfus with two tanks and three healers, but I’ve heard of guilds that preferred to do it with three tanks and two healers. It all comes down to what you have available to you. A raid team can only be made stronger by having flexible people willing to change roles when need be, but at what cost? At what point does asking players to switch roles become unreasonable, untenable, or even counter-productive?

The biggest obstacle to this is roster size. The majority of ten-person guilds are smaller (deliberately so). Some guilds will maintain multiple tens teams and perhaps a bigger bench, but by and large we don’t have the luxury of world first guilds that could just bring x number of available moonkins because their abilities trivialize an encounter. Sometimes we can have recourse to people’s alts, but for the most part we just make do with what we have.

The design of encounters in this tier has not been friendly for juggling the number of tanks and healers. As a friend of mine has complained, very often the second tank was expected to switch to DPS because a fight simply didn’t require another. Rhyolith is like this, as is Majordomo. An ongoing issue for us after the heroic nerfs was how many healers does a fight need? Historically, we’ve switched between three and two healers at different times and for different content. ICC was largely two healed up until the point where that wasn’t possible, and the roster was adjusted for three healing. We’ve stayed with the three healing model up to and through Firelands, when especially in later Firelands it becomes evident that three healers aren’t necessary or even possible for quite a few of the fights.

That leaves us with a problem – four active, main-spec healers on our roster and only two spots for healers on most nights (with the exception of Beth’tilac, and perhaps it will become more two healable for us but at the moment it’s more of a three healer thing). What this means is that on any given night, we either have a healer going off-spec DPS, or we bench a healer. I don’t think our healers signed up to raid for just one night a week. The other option is for a healer to switch roles entirely. All of these solutions hang on one question – what is the Dragon Soul going to be requiring in terms of healer and tank balance? We’re trying to plan our roster for the new tier of content but we aren’t sure what we should be aiming for.

The Unhappy Ret

We’re fortunate in that some of our players enjoy tanking and DPSing fairly equally. Our excellent druid is happy to boom it up with his laser beams for some fights, and our paladin tank plays ret without complaint. As a moonkin, I liked to heal (but I didn’t actually like to moonkin). Now I am a main spec healer, and I’ve been finding out that I don’t especially enjoy raiding as retribution. Actually, that’s an understatement. I’ve been doing it so much that I’m starting to loathe it. I’m not really great at it, so it’s stressful. I’ve chased heroic Rhyolith’s legs around for hours. Each week I’ve been Ret for Alysrazor – last week saw me dying to a fire sprinkler just before the fight ended. This week I didn’t die, but my DPS was the lowest by a great margin. When I’m DPSing as ret, I always have a niggling feeling in the back of my head that if I would step out for another (better) DPS, it would make fights easier, and I wouldn’t be holding the group back. I love DPSing. I don’t love ret DPSing. And as was my problem previously as a hybrid, I want to be the absolute best I can at what I’m doing. Off-speccing Ret and DPSing a fight doesn’t allow for that. The only solution would be to DPS even more as ret, which just pigeonholes me into a corner where last week I reached the breaking point and turned to Voss and said: I COULD get better at ret. But I really don’t WANT to.

I could practice art of warring until the cows come home, but ultimately it’s not why I’m playing a paladin. Now this is an entirely personal thing – nobody’s been “making” me play ret, but the fact is that we have all these nights with too many healers, and so somebody’s got to do it – or else healers sit to allow DPS to step in. I realized that I would rather sit than work on H Ragnaros as ret. It’s just that simple. I don’t learn the fight from a healing perspective as ret. I probably will hardly even see what’s going on in the fight itself, because I’m too busy hitting the buttons and hoping my Inquisition uptime is high enough and looking to see what’s procced and what hasn’t and what oh that’s fire it’s burning me ow.

I realize this probably sounds very “I’m taking my ball and going home,” and petulant, and I hope you’ll bear with me there (as I insist and reiterate that this isn’t a problem with my guild or anyone in it). I’ve come to the realization that doing most of the fights in a spec I don’t like instead of a spec I do like has been killing the fun for me. It’s not even, “Oh, I’m lukewarm about this,” I logged off last Wednesday and I was probably the closest I have ever been to saying: I am tired of raiding. It is the opposite of fun for me.

So nobody should have to play a spec or a class or a role they don’t like. I wouldn’t do that to someone else, why would I do it to myself? After taking the weekend while hardly logging into any of my main characters (and enjoying a lovely Thanksgiving, thank you) I realized that I had to make this known to both our other officers and my guild. They aren’t mind readers. It’s certainly not fair to them to stew quietly, getting frustrated with my position until one day I’ve just had enough and I don’t even want to raid any more.

The Hybrid Advantage

I still think that being a hybrid is awesome. Having them on a roster is even better! But you absolutely need to know that the people in the hybrid positions are willing and enjoy doing it. Some people are cut out to be hybrids in both aptitude and attitude. They genuinely have no spec preference. I guess, when it comes to my hybrid roles, I’m not really one of them. I’d rather be a holy paladin. But the way that encounters are designed, it leaves a great big question mark for ten person guilds in particular about each tier. Will their tanks be spending a lot of time DPSing? Will their healers be twiddling their thumbs, or will someone who is DPS need to swap to heals for a fight or two? We just don’t know, although the raid cooldown nature of the tank T13 bonuses seems to suggest that there will be a lot of damage going out. I will be happy to go into the next tier as either a healing paladin or a mage, but I don’t want to go as a ret paladin. Alts tend to slow raiding down so it’s not advantageous to swap from one alt to another depending on role needs. Our raid needs hybrids – the question is, who will they be? We never have been able to find an awesome moonkin; the biggest thing for us right now is that our roster is actually over-full. Only two of our healers are willing to DPS (out of four) and I know the others feel guilty about it. But really, why should they have to DPS? Is it a better model to just start sitting healers for a “real” DPS?

If I move to a DPS role it means fewer available DPS positions. We may be doing some more shuffling, with having someone else move to tank and our current tank move to DPS, which would open up a position for me to do that. Overall, though, it’s frustrating. Speaking as someone who loves playing a “pure” DPS, it’s unfortunate that we have nothing to recommend us but our DPS, when the smaller raid size is so favourable for hybrids. Our raid would probably be perfect if we had an ele/resto shaman, a boomkin/resto druid, and plate DPS that was willing and able to tank. We have a fabulous elemental shaman, and he just doesn’t like healing. I can’t blame him! I don’t like melee DPS. I can’t expect him to do something he doesn’t like and probably wouldn’t be good at, and therein lies the problem. Finding 10-15 people with the appropriate specs, personalities, skills and willingness to swap roles is an almost indescribable juggling act. We shouldn’t be unduly penalized for having two mages, or two paladin healers, or whatever. Except that we are. One of the big reasons I am thinking of switching is because two paladin healers for one ten man team is often not just less than ideal, it’s nearly impossible. Neither of us has the raid healing strength to fill that niche. The upcoming changes are working to address that, but it remains that our holy paladin would be better off healing with any of the other three types of healers by his side – not another holy paladin. That’s frustrating, and it’s disappointing to me personally because I love paladin healing.

That’s not really what this is about, though. What it comes down to is that it’s usually better to have a hybrid, but when you’re a hybrid that hates your other spec you aren’t much use as a hybrid, and then what do you do?

I hope you’ll forgive the somewhat ranty nature of the above post. I have put off writing about this because I didn’t want to be too much of a whiner (hence the radio silence for the past two weeks while I quietly seethed). I want to do the best thing for my raid team, but I also want to do the best thing for myself, because if I’m not having fun then my priorities are severely skewed.

Edited to add: Beru over at Falling Leaves and Wings wrote an excellent post this morning about this very problem, from a broader overview and 25s perspective. It behooves you (har) to go check it out!

How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love The Nerfs

I tend to be a bit slower to comment publicly on news – especially contentious news. It’s not that I don’t have opinions. But especially when my reactions are strong ones, I usually want to sit on them for a bit, sift through why I am reacting so strongly, and only then can I express that reaction coherently.

When word of the upcoming T12 nerfs (to both normal and heroic modes) hit, I was spitting mad. I hit Twitter in a frenzy, posted on my guild forums, logged in to commiserate with my guildies. My nerd rage was at an all-time high. I thought it was unfair, I felt cheated – and didn’t understand why they would nerf content that is, to me, “mid-tier.”

Of course, I recognize that we’re missing some key pieces of info. We don’t know when T13 is coming out, how long it will be on the PTR and exactly when this tier will become obsolete. I was on vacation when T12 came out and so to me, it’s had a run from July to September. Two and a half months feels really short. I didn’t understand why they’d sweep the proverbial tier rug out from under our feet.

But do you want to know the real, naked and honest truth? I was upset because we were late, and I knew it, and I hated to admit it even to myself.

You’re seldom going to see a blog post where someone admits (especially a guild leader) that their progression just hasn’t been going the way they’d imagined. Granted, I don’t usually say much about my raid team anyhow; kill shots aren’t exciting for anyone but the people in them. When we achieve a particularly awesome kill I might write about and exult in it a bit (I was so proud when we downed Heroic Lich King, nothing could have prevented me from writing about that). This is the other side of that coin; the dirty, reluctant and secretive side. The uncertainty, the disappointment – yes, dare I say, even shame and guilt. I was the guild leader of a raiding guild that hadn’t killed a new boss in a month. That is the secret that I wouldn’t write about. It was eating away at me.

There are certain acknowledged risks that go along with pushing that big red button.

The Green-Eyed Monster

I could go into all the reasons (excuses) why BT was stuck in the mud, spinning its wheels, although it’s a timorous beast. Who can say exactly why a raid team may stall? It’s seldom any one reason. Was it the roster changes? Scheduling conflicts? Lack of interest? It’s almost impossible to pinpoint just one thing, and anyway, excuses are tedious and boring. But you start to doubt yourself, and you feel others’ doubt beginning to build, too. Please don’t mistake me. I am incredibly proud of my team and the people on it. The other reason I didn’t want to write this was because I never wanted to make them feel bad, or as if I had lost faith in them. Quite a few guildies read my blog. To write about how we’d been struggling felt like it would be a betrayal, and incredibly demoralizing. It could become a self-fulfilling prophecy. If your guild leader expresses doubt about you, wouldn’t you start to doubt yourself too?

Yet it’s been agonizing, and I know it’s been hard on all of us. It got to the point where I hated even opening Twitter, hated to hear about the successes of others, each new kill announcement feeling like it was aimed specifically at me, shouting, “We killed this and YOU DIDN’T.”

It’s not a pleasant feeling. It’s even worse feeling like your own self-doubts and frustrations are making you act like the worst version of yourself. I’ve always been (or tried to be) the kind of person who is honestly happy for the successes of others. In order to do that, you need to come from a strong sense of self. You can’t let your confidence be shaken, nor start to feel like others’ successes are a reflection of you. They aren’t, unless you let them be.

But the fact is, we’d still only downed Heroic Shannox after a month of work on other heroic bosses. It eats away at a person, and it eats away at a guild, slowly eroding the confidence that lets you move on to other kills. The longer you’re there, the deeper you become mired.

When the nerfs were announced, I read “nerf” and what I heard was “failure.”

“These nerfs are for you, because you haven’t downed the content in the allotted time frame. You are the intended audience and you need them.” I’m sure I’m not alone in feeling this way. Whether you are working your way through normal or heroic mode raids, it’s hard not to feel as if nerfed content is a pronouncement on you. For me, I found myself wondering, what is a heroic raid guild that doesn’t kill heroic bosses? I had to think long and hard about this, and the answer I came up with is that it’s a heroic raiding guild that could, perhaps, at this time – benefit from some nerfs.

Whatever the reasons – and I don’t want to delve into them here, because our group is in the process of stabilizing once more – we’ve really struggled to move through this tier. We mowed over the normal modes for the most part and had great momentum going into heroics. It’s as if we were caught somewhere in the middle; quite strong for normals, but maybe not quite strong enough for all of the heroics. So, I was immediately angry, and then slowly started to drift towards acceptance. As I read some thoughts that other people had on the subject, I realized that I have to focus on what is important: the long-term strength and success of the team. We faltered somewhat in T11, not completing the heroic tier (something we’d not failed to do since Ulduar), and that was a blow to morale. We’d hoped to make a strong start in Firelands (and I think we did) but it’s tough to predict just what is going to happen – who is going to leave, who is going to be out of town, whatever. I’m not looking to point fingers at my people. The funny thing is, the guild has changed completely. It’s not the same guild it was even a year ago. Many of our long-term members stopped raiding, replaced by new people who – no matter how awesome – need time to click, and build a new team.

This whole process has helped me to realize some truths.

Sometimes it’s better to pick yourself up and build something for the future. So we weren’t on the bleeding edge of content for this tier. It’s a fact. But so what? Tons of guilds haven’t even made it this far – they’ve folded, collapsed, or exploded. We still have a full raid group. We’re still here. We’ve consistently cleared through Ragnaros for many weeks in a row, and our raid has been gearing up nicely as a result.

Success is all relative. A week ago, I was upset because we couldn’t move past 1/7 heroics. None of us joined this guild to only kill 1/7 heroics. The announcement of the nerfs and other changes we’ve been making really galvanized the team last night and we had a breakthrough of sorts – finally pushing through to kill Heroic Alysrazor. Nerfs or no nerfs, we’re going into next week with one more kill under our belts. That feels good, it feels like progress, which is why I play this game. Will I be puffed up and brag about our progress post-nerf? Probably not, because I will know that these kills will be much easier than kills made while the content was still at full-strength. But there’s a difference between not boasting and not being proud to complete things at all. These nerfs may be just what we need to continue pushing and have challenges to face leading up to T13 – and when T13 does come, we’ll have all the gear we can muster, and the experience of this tier, and we’ll be ready for it.

This time around, they nerfed the content when we were 28% of the way through heroics (or 42%, if Domo goes well this week). If next tier they pull the “to the ground, baby” move again, I’ll consider it a success if we are further through that tier than we were this one. Measurable, steady improvement is highly underrated. I’m still proud of my team and what we have accomplished, and what I know we will accomplish in the future. Besides that – we can’t be the only group that didn’t go extremely far. There has be a good reason for Blizzard to be nerfing the content before it’s truly through. Maybe guilds that only want to do normals couldn’t get as far in them as they would have liked. Maybe, with reduced raid schedules, not everyone is able to go through the whole thing. Obviously, Blizzard thinks so, and they’re taking this action as a result. It’s going to benefit my guild, and I’m okay with admitting that. It turns out that maybe – if you shed light on such a secret – it might not be so shameful after all.

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?

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