Reflections of a raid leader… (random musings really)

When Cataclysm and it’s raiding hit us I was absolutely excited in the difficulty setting of the raids. They were exciting and challenging and fresh and all the older players (you know, those who were so disappointed by ToGC and onwards raiding) were excited about it. I guess what we haven’t realized back then (or didn’t want to admit to ourselves) that although we were very much excited, we weren’t the majority of the Warcraft population and even many of those we raided with from the old days weren’t ready and prepared for this step up. And many, many people around were dropping like flies, burning out left and right. Looking back at it and summing it up altogether now, after half a year in Cataclysm it’s time to reflect on things that were and things that might be.

The difficulty

The step up in difficulty the one we sought for so much – although it’s hard to say if Wrath raiding was really any easy, strict 10M hardmode raiding was challenging for the most part and well, PUGing ICC with the big bad buff can’t be really taken seriously. Although it’s exactly this big bad buff raiding that got stuck in most raiders minds as far too easy content and the public cry for more difficult raiding was around here. And the difficulty came and it took most folks by surprise.

The mistake, from how I see it, is that even normal modes in entry gear were far too punishing. Instead of having fights with more clever or simply more mechanics, we got bosses with more deadly mechanics. Nothing wrong about that in essence, stuff just hit harder and had to be healed back. However, while touching the subject of healing, it was very hard transition on most raiding teams due to the new and improved healing system. That alone raised the difficulty some more, pushing it into impossible for many and many guilds. But still, that’s not the problem.

I do think that the true problem lies within the fact that you simply cannot make mistakes to complete encounter (talking raiders with average skill here). One person goes down and it’s a wipe. Moreso, it’s often not even a “okay, let’s see how far we can go before we go again” try, you simply won’t have enough power to get the boss down. I think that having this much difficulty on normal modes, pretty much killed the “casual” and “low progression” raiding (no offence meant nor implied) and in turn effectively killed player market.

Anyways, that’s just random thought to introduce the wide frame this post is trying to fill. A post about second guessing myself.

The evolution of  my Cataclysm raiding

We started Cataclysm with broad smiles on our faces, looking forward to the bright future and expecting things good and better. Then we dipped into the raiding and although the difficulty surprised us at first – that it indeed was as difficult as promised we had a go at it and we were, more or less successful. I would say, we were fairly successful since from the Day 1 of our raiding endeavours, we had so high turnover that we effectively replaced ten to fifteen people, maybe more.

Now, I am not going to complain about that. It’s most likely our fault anyways when it comes to the true essence of the problem, since we were the ones responsible for the recruitment and judging people. We haven’t left more than two or three people to more progressed guilds, all our war casualties simply ceased playing over burning out (or rerolled a new alt without telling). We had to kick two people because they just weren’t good fit. But we rangered on, anyways, trying to do the best with the guild and provide the people with us, those relying on us to guide them through the content and provide them with nice and steady raiding atmosphere. And I take great pride in the fact that since 1st February this year, with all the trouble our roster went through, we cancelled one, ONE raid in total and that was on day when five raiders just had to take break due to various real life stuff.

The core of the force

Even with this huge turnover, we were blessed with collecting great core of players. We have great tank, we had 2 awesome healers (now we have 3) and we had awesome band of dpsers who always strive to do better and improve. I have raiders who put much time into tactics research – our Magmaw heroic tactics thread inflated from 2 pages to 6 since Thursday raid till Sunday evening with people discussing various tweaks, posting tips and whatnot. A true raid leader’s dream. I didn’t even dare to intervene into the discussion, I was just sitting quietly at the back, taking notes and thinking about what they suggested, trying to fit it somehow to the people I raid with and in the end, all it took was a short post by me consolidating the suggested changes and outlining the tactics for Monday. And, there was noticeable improvement on Monday. No, we haven’t get him down since we didn’t really go with the best possible setup, but we got to P2 and practiced the transition few times so well that I have no doubts the worm is going down next reset when our third healer comes back from his exam period.

I have nothing but deep appreciation for the core people we raid with (this is sort of apology to the newbies – I promise I will like you in few months as much, it’s just that we haven’t been together for too long, yet) and the way they handle fights. From people willing to respec for encounters on the fly or willing to respec on encounter progress just to try a different approach, to people who do things I’d want them to do without me saying so – be it popping cooldowns, moving to spots I’d like them to move. I have people that I can rely 100% to do interrupts, gonging and any other ungrateful tasks, all the black work that never gets you the spotlight, but is needed to down bosses as much as high dps, hps or tps. I have people who are very skilled on executing encounters and as I said, I am proud to raid with these people, even though they can drive me up the wall sometimes. For the most part it was great and enjoyable ride, yet…

Second guessing yourself

I’ll say it out loud. We had not-so-good night yesterday. We started on Magmaw again to test some hardmode findings and it worked well, we have done some progress and then people (certain person) started dying to stuff they really shouldn’t be. I took a note, tried to talk to them and point out to them what is wrong, yet the improvement was not entirely coming. Anyways, we called Magmaw halfway through the raid, executed the worm on normal and decided to move on.

Chimaeron was fun moment, since we had no one to be the dps break tank so we had to resort to normal killing – trust me nothing beats raid leader asking over Mumble: “Okay guys, how many tanks we need for normal again? I have absolutely no idea how the normal works anymore.”; he went down easily, not loosing a person because the first tank lasted eternity in P2. Then we moved to Atramedes, switched to hard and happily started executing. We spent hour on him, we had 10 tries on him and we just weren’t able to down him. Atramedes. The easiest hard mode as far as I can say execution wise – or well maybe second easiest after Halfus.

Seriously, all you have to do on the encounter to execute it is to remember that we move to the back on the discs and to the door with the breath. Yet exactly this side distribution tended to be the greatest problem for many people. I had no idea what was going on – we were loosing people to full sound before first airphase, after first airphase, we were loosing people left and right. DPS figures on the meters checked out, I’d say they even exceeded our past kills, tanking was alright (except for few “rotate with us” for a new tank on the encounter). Healing was feeling a little sloppy since I don’t think we were all fully focused – but nothing so severe it would cause the wipefest we had.

I couldn’t wrap my head around it – the awesome people who can execute and dodge shit were making the basic mistakes like kiting the fire through raid, moving like headless chickens, not stacking properly as they should be – even after few prompts to do so. After 10 tries I was past furious, I was simply broken.

I tried asking people to improve and do better, I tried calling stuff out more, nothing seemed to be working. It’s moment like these that make me think I am too old for this game. It’s moments like these that make me reconsider my raiding future and make me always think whether it’s not time to quit. There is nothing worse for a raid leader than feeling helpless. You keep asking yourself – what more can I do? These are people who can do the encounter. These are people who definitely know way better than this. So where is the problem? Is it me? Am I so bad at motivating them they just don’t care? Or is it simply bad night tonight and should I let it go? Is it my problem that I take such thing so seriously, should I just take it easy?

You inevitably start to second guess yourself, your capabilities and your skills. No matter how many kills you lead before, no matter how many bosses you stomped over and thrusted your banner in, you start to second guess.

Anyways – it was probably just bad night, such things happen. I could’ve say some folks had their minds elsewhere, some just weren’t giving a damn at all as it seemed and in the end, I had an headache. I’ll leave it at that.

Meh, re-reading the post, I am not entirely sure what I wanted to say and I definitely didn’t want to sound all whiny and sorry-ass but hey, it’s out and it’s gonna get posted.

Let me ask you few questions to close with – how do you deal with bad raids? How much these raids get to you? And how much they affect your raid leader?

About Rahana

Long time player, former hardcore now casual raider. Talks into everything, does not pay attention to exact theorycraft numbers. View all posts by Rahana

7 responses to “Reflections of a raid leader… (random musings really)

  • Pad

    You always put things so eloquently :p

    As far as the last raid goes, Im scratching my head too, but I can say one thing with 100% certainty: It certainly wasnt the raid leaders fault. Personally I think that the Magmaw attempts had just drained everyones focus and as you say earlier in the post, one mistake causes a wipe.

    How do I deal with raid nights like these? Well, I usually have a little rant in /o, go to bed and the next day muse it over, usually coming to the conclusion that it was just “one of those nights”, dust off, and get ready for the next attempts.

    How much does it affect me? A bit if Im honest. As the GM, much like the RL, Im responsible for helping to provide this fun environment to take down monsters, and after nights like that I start to wonder whether people are still having fun with us, whether anyone is feeling burned out (especially my officer team!) but things like the ever increasing Magmaw thread bring it home that people are still as determined to kill stuff under our banner.

    How does it affect my raid leader? Well… he’s a funny chap anyway, but he does take these things much more to heart than I would like. He does an excellent job but he does need to take it easy and not to try and pin blame for bad nights on himself :)

    Chin up Rah :*

    • Rahana

      @ Taking things much to heart – I simply can’t imagine I wouldn’t. Basically at the moment I won’t feel bad after such night and won’t try to see if I could do anything better leadership wise, at that moment I will be sure I am not fit to lead the raid anymore, because I simply won’t care.

  • alacranmex

    We had kind of a bad raid last night where we couldn’t get a H Chim kill. In the end I was frustrated but told myself to be happy we even got to raid because we were short and had to pug two people.

    We have had attempts the last two raid on H Chim but couldn’t quite execute the kill (mostly due to trying to train a dps to breaktank on their alt and a pug healer that couldn’t pull their weight).

    We have a solid Magmaw strat if you ever want to talk (we managed to down it with the 2 underperforming puggers). But like most fights, the “ungrateful tasks” people make it happen. In this case, that task is kite the parasites. Most of our wipes last night on H Magmaw were due to a new person learning how to chain, another ungrateful task.

    I think the most frustrating part is not having the key lineup people online and ready at raid start time. But as far as the 10-man goes, I guess I better get used to not having optimal roster because it’s Summer!

    (more annoying yet is the GM asking every couple wipes if we should just do it normal and move on.)

    • Rahana

      Thanks for the offer, got him down tonight fortunately. We had okay strategy I dare to say, even plenty of dps – stopping at 32% after 3rd head and just waiting it out to push it, but we had extreme issues with dodging fire. Or not falling down into the lava pit :)

      @ GM asking to do normals, luckily my GM never ask such things. Dunno if she just does not want to interfere, or is affraid I’d shout and gquit all butthurt, but as long as it works :)

  • Pad

    “@ GM asking to do normals, luckily my GM never ask such things. Dunno if she just does not want to interfere, or is affraid I’d shout and gquit all butthurt, but as long as it works”

    Your GM likes banging her head against HMs, she is sadistic that way. Also a little pinch of “not wanting to interfere”, of course she would be MUCH more vocal against a heroic Tot4W run, seriously, I frickin hate that place…

    Personally I see the GM role as more of the stick wielding keeper of the peace, its just not my job to decide who goes to which particular boss or what mode its in, thats why I have RL and a recruitment officer. They do a great job, so I keep my nose out :) I did giggle at the thought of being afraid of you shouting at me though…

    But yeah- Magmaw down- woot!!

  • Nefernet

    My guild is going through a bad raid period these days. On farm nights only.

    We cleaned heroic BWD for a while now, we are supposed to know the fights. We shouldn’t have spent 2 nights of our tight schedule each week in this dungeon when the last hardmodes of the tier were still in progress state.

    Because nights on Sinestra progress were awesome, people focused, playing well, and so on. Progress fights were great. Farm nights were nightmares.

    People are just bored, and nights like the one you had the other day burn out RLs and GMs quickly. It killed my leader mojo to have to carry everyone into BWD every week, seeing us wipe like we’d never been there for the last two months.

    A guildie even asked on the forum last week for the officers to be replaced because of bad leading (he was the only one asking, the rest of the guild disagreed). We nearly kicked him for nastyness. I can’t be behind every raider each night to remind them to be focused, do their job, be there instead of preparing their exams, and so on. It’s not possible, and not the spirit of the guild. I can tell you morale was not very high last week for me.

    You seem to have a supporting team/guild. Bad nights happen. A lot. Even to good raids, even with good leaders. We killed heroic Al’akir Tuesday night, we are at 12/13 heroics for tier 11 with only the ascendant council to go, and yet, we spent 1h30 on heroic Valiona… We ended up killing her normal mode, in order to make a few pulls on the Council, target of the week.

    How can a team be so good sometimes and so bad some other times ?

    I don’t have an answer. I know it’s hard. You ask yourself what you did wrong. You bang your head on walls to find solutions that don’t work. You might offend people by replacing them just to try something else. You question yourself as a leader, as a raider, as a guildie, even think of quitting.

    And yet, the team is there. Your leader still trust you and wouldn’t replace you. Your guildies too. Bad nights happen. Forget them.

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