Do you ever find yourself second-guessing your second guess?
We knew it would happen.
Summer crit our raids. Between the usual attrition to Real Life™, pre-patch ennui and widespread disinterest in the watered-down endgame, attendance tanked. Suddenly, instead of attempting the hardmodes and the meta-achievement we desperately wanted to complete before the release of the new tier, we found ourselves 22-manning Ulduar, PuGing from our Friends & Family ranks and flooding the market with BoE epics and abyss crystals.
In a last ditch effort to save the guild from stagnantion, I threw recruitment wide open. I was determined not only to replace those fairweather raiders I just couldn’t count on, but also to seed a small bench to cover the inevitable weekly absences that are all part and parcel of running a Mostly Casual® guild.
Over the course of the last month, I’ve recruited two warlocks, three mages, a rogue, a Death Knight, a fury warrior, an arms warrior and an enhancement shaman. It sounds like a lot, but — summer attendance being what it is — it still wasn’t enough to reliably fill raids. And even when we could assemble 25 raiders in one place at one time, we didn’t have the cumulative DPS to tackle hard-modes because we were forced to invite undergeared players as an alternative to running two or three or ten raiders short.
… then 3.2 hit, and our long-MIA members came crawling out of the woodwork.
Last month, we had to PuG DPS — DPS! — from /trade to fill an Ulduar-25 raid.
Last night, we had 36 would-be raiders scattered throughout the Tournament grounds — including some players we hadn’t seen consistently (or at all!) for weeks.
Literally overnight, raid slotting became a nightmare.
Do I invite the rogue who raided throughout The Burning Crusade and still tops the damage meters, in spite of being a full tier behind in gear … but who disappears for months at a time with no warning at all?
Or do I invite the rogue who joined us halfway through Ulduar and suffered through the very worst of the summer slump with 100% attendance … but who can barely eke out more DPS than our feral druid (when he’s tanking)?
(For the record, I invited the consistent but subpar rogue to last night’s raid — our first real foray into T9 — but will make a point of talking to him about his performance before the weekend. If he can’t put out respectable numbers for his gear, then he’ll need to step aside in favor of someone who can. I also had a brief chat with the flakey rogue to get a handle on his intentions. He says he wants to raid again, so I’ll try to start slotting him in where I can and assess his commitment from there.)
I’ve been very open with my members about where we are as a guild, what my goals are for the new tier, and how I intend to prioritize raid spots (i.e., to those players who have been filling them — provided that they are also competent). Nonetheless, there was a bit of drama last night when I wait-listed one of the mages I recruited to fill summer raids in favor of a new and much better-geared recruit. In between add-on induced disconnects, I attempted to explain to the mage that his DPS was too low for Ulduar, let alone for a new tier of content. We were committed to helping him gear up in Uld so he could contribute to progression raids in the future … but until then, he would have to sit out.
… Of course, now that I’ve actually done the Beasts of Northrend, I realize it’s an easier and much more forgiving encounter than many of the fights in Ulduar. In hindsight, I’m sure we could have overcome the mage’s subpar DPS. But I had no way of knowing that going into the Colesium for the first time, and felt it was unfair to ask the rest of the raid to carry deadweight when there were better options.
I attempted to explain all of this — but the mage essentially accused us of using him, and then casting him aside in favor of “returning friends.” He /gquit before I even finished slotting the raid. (Ironically, one disconnect and a thoroughly hopeless Death Knight later, he could have subbed back in if he’d just stuck around.)
To be fair, we did “use” him: he was a warm body to fill our raids. But he was also someone we genuinely liked and were committed to helping succeed. He came to every Ulduar raid he signed up for and walked away with several pieces of T8.5. We invested in him, and had every intention of continuing to do so — just not in progression content.
And I absolutely did not cast him aside in favor of “returning friends.” In fact, I wait-listed all of our “returning friends” in order to trial new Initiates. It seemed like the right thing to do, since I recruited the Initiates to raid (not to ride the bench!) and the “returning friends” were the ones who made it necessary for me to open recruitment in the first place.
The idea was to invite the better-geared Initiates, and sub them out over the course of the raid for raiders on standby (such as the mage) if it turned out that their DPS wasn’t commensurate with their gear … but, obviously, that didn’t work out.
I’m sure that things will sort themselves out in the next few weeks, as we are better able to assess our new Initiates’ skill and determine who to invite to the guild as a raider and who to let go. The novelty of patch 3.2 will wear off, as will the newness of the Coliseum (which I can already see myself coming to loathe — given that one thoroughly uninviting and lackluster room tied to completely nonsensical lore is the setting for no less than six new instances).
I don’t know. Maybe we shouldn’t have benched the mage. Maybe his loyalty throughout the summer slump should have been rewarded with an invitation to our first run at the Trial of the Crusader. But I feel we made the best choices we could in the limited amount of time we had to make them in, especially considering all of the variables we had to take into account (raid composition, prior attendance, order of sign-ups, rank, gear, skill… etc.).
I’ve tried very hard to create a supportive guild environment, with clear and transparent rules regarding raid invites and loot distribution. For the most part, I think I’ve done a good job, but situations like this lead me to start second-guessing myself.
And then I start second-guessing my second guess, and it’s all downhill from there.
* * *
There have been a couple of similar situations recently, now that I think about it.
Two weeks ago, one of my casual hunters threw a very public temper tantrum when I wait-listed her from a Tuesday raid. She lives in Australia and can only raid on Saturdays: not once in two years of raids has she showed up for a weeknight! I’ve bent over backwards to accomodate her schedule, recruiting players who can “timeshare” her spot (i.e., who can raid on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, but not Saturdays) and occasionally even wait-listing members who can make all three days in order to ensure that she never has to sit out on the one evening each week that she can raid with the guild.
She isn’t a strong player, to be honest — she will forever be known as the hunter who noticed that her bow was broken after we pulled Sarth 3D — but she had been with us from the beginning and I felt a strong commitment to her as a result. I consistently defended her, including to other officers and my own fiance, who were often tempted to bench her for her poor situational awareness and abyssmal reaction times … which, thanks to the Aussie bloggers I read, I know is due at least in part to latency.
The week before last, she decided to take some time off from work to see lower Ulduar — which, due to her schedule, she usually misses. By some miracle of timing, the raid was actually full. I couldn’t make room for her without sitting someone with better attendance, better raid performance and a stronger claim to the spot. But because he’s a sweetheart, Keaton (our main tank and raid leader) volunteered to step out for the bosses she needed … which turned out to be all of them.
We brought her in after Flame Leviathan, but she resented having been wait-listed from initial invites, and — after stewing quietly for several bosses — dropped /raid in the middle of a hardmode XT attempt. We were forced to wipe to reset the encounter. Keaton demanded an apology; she refused, and I kicked her and her host of alts from the guild.
Ironically, the new raider she lost her initial spot to was the same mage who /gquit last night.
We also had a small loot dispute yesterday, in which a few items were mistakenly looted out of order.
We make a point of looting tier pieces first, so winning a non-tier piece from a particular boss won’t cause a player to lose out on the tier piece she really wanted. However, in the excitement over new boss loot — not to mention some initial confusion as to how the new universal tier pieces work — our master looter accidentally awarded a pair of off-spec plate DPS bracers to our Death Knight tank before dealing with the tier token. This cost the Death Knight just enough Priority that it appeared, on our EPGP lists, that I should receive the guild’s first piece of T9. But there was no way I was going to let taking off-spec bracers cost our DK his hard-earned tier piece, so I passed the token … which prompted our paladin tank to ask if he could have the off-spec bracers the DK had won, since taking the tier piece first would have dropped the Death Knight’s off-spec bid to second place.
(And we thought tradeable BoP items would make life easier…)
This is where our loot rules failed us. “Legally,” the paladin was entitled to the bracers. But it would have been silly for him to take them over the Death Knight, since he attends one or two raids out of three — and almost always as a tank — whereas our Death Knight is a DPS/tank hybrid with 100% attendance. Personally, I have a hard time believing that our oh-so competitive tanks (who tend to be prickly about seniority), will let the Death Knight see much MT time. For those raids the paladin is present for, the Death Knight will most likely end up an OT on trash and DPS on any bosses that don’t require four tanks. For those raids the paladin misses, the Death Knight will be a full-fledged tank … but then, neither of them will be using DPS bracers then. >.<
I’ve never felt the need to build a “loot council”-type override into our rules, but I was very tempted to last night.
The paladin eventually passed to the Death Knight, for which I was grateful. (It’s a relief to know that my officers can make intelligent loot decisions for the good of the guild.) Unfortunately, the long, drawn-out discussion about loot rules that took place in /officer chat delayed the raid and caused no small amount of frustration to those who couldn’t see the conversation … and even more to those of us who did (and found the entire situation rather asinine).
* * *
None of these relatively minor incidents is insurmountable; in truth, we’ve already recovered from them. But, still … I find myself second-guessing the decisions I made, and secretly dreading next Saturday’s raid (when I get to make them all. over. again.) Things were never this difficult in TBC, when raiding was hard and those “barriers to entry” that we’ve debated into the ground nonetheless served to create an determined and dedicated raid, with members who were excited about the content and invested in each other’s success.
I hate the revolving door that endgame raiding has become, and occasionally find myself longing to step down — if not from raiding altogether (which I still enjoy, with all the passion of an addict), then at least from having to make the hard decisions and deal with their inevitable fallout.