A while back, Kiluia asked for some of the more interesting things I've been asked on this blog. And it wasn't even about math:
Kiluia's absolutely right. This isn't something anyone ever brings up regularly on tanking forums or EJ, but it's something you see more on your realm forums and guild comments so I think it's pretty widespread. Ultimately, how successful or bad you'll be is very much dependent on the people playing the game with you. Part of it is how good they are at playing, but another part is who it actually is. And even more than that, a lot of it is how well they're doing at that moment.
Thanks for a great writeup of a great set of comments from a great post!
I loved the spirit of your piece - it was clear you were having a good time, and having fun with the post, and your friends in game.
One thing I would love to see even more than math and hard facts. Whats the role of the player in the game?
Recently, our guild struggled to complete the last 2 bosses in 10-man naxx for the first time. Many many wipes on each, then the kill. Well, last night I was able to lead my own raid. So I hand picked a bunch of people I trusted, and we one-shotted these 2 bosses, to our own amazement & joy. Most of us, myself included, had never seen those bosses. I was well prepared and suprememly confident we'd succeed. Some felt burned from the guild's previous experiences... Then we tried eye of eternity: same experience of prior burn. People were saying "its really hard, we're gonna wipe a lot" Didnt really want to try it. Again, I put out the same attitude. We did 60% on our very first attempt. (previously they managed 95% after many wipes)
So our gear was very similar to the other group's. The only real difference was that I hand picked people I trusted, and I did everything I could to inspire them. And everyone player played really well. In an evening, the guild's perception of naxx & malygos flipped right over.
Those uber-guilds that steamroll content in a couple of days? No one ever discusses their experiences. Clearly, its not about their gear, nor their specs, or whether their classes are broken or not. It HAS to be about the players. They blatantly have no interest in the issues the rest of us noobs spend long lunch-hours discussing.
So tell me more about your experiences of how important the players are. The players who are broken. The players who are OP. The players who learn an encounter as it unfolds for the very first time. The players who cant follow a simple direction no matter how big the deadly boss mods letters are flashing. How do you choose who to bring to a raid based upon the players, assuming you have the luxury to do so? For example, I didnt invite our top guild DPSer, even though he's top every time, better geared than most, and he knows all the content much better from a previous guild. Why? Because he's an arrogant fool who creates a chaotic, fragmented vibe every time he speaks.
Please please please! I'm convinced these issues are the core of success in wow. Tell us more about them from your own experiences. Change names to protect the (not very) innocent! It's the core of the game; we all know it, but we never discuss it.
I'm sure most of you have been there, but I'll give an example. My wife and I tried to do a 10-man Ulduar the other night. Our raid leader was really nice, knew that I couldn't do it early, scheduled a later-night one so that we could both do it. It'd be the first time since we had our son that we had really raided together for more than an hour. It'd also be our first time seeing Ulduar on 10 man and for most of it, at all.
I was asked to lead it over the raid leader.
And it was not a good time. We wiped on Flame Leviathan as we ended up pulling before we were in position and FL would target people who wouldn't run away. My wife and I had an inkling of what to do, but knowing the path and walking the path are two very different things. There was yelling on vent. There was frustration - isn't this the easiest encounter in an ezmode raid? But we got it together and did it again, and succeeded...and I couldn't even loot the boss.
Then we did Razorscale, and once again - people dying, standing in fires, wipe. This was a fight that I had actually done before, and it was much easier than 25-man - but we still failed due to me being killed when Razorscale officially landed and getting no heals. Bah.
XT went amusingly; we didn't realize that he had trash packs, so when we got him to 75%, his trash comes out with the bots he summons and proceeds to obliterate us. Oops. We killed him after that on a messy kill with only 5 people left alive.
Then Kologarn. Kologarn isn't a hard fight at all, and on 10-man the damage isn't huge. Yet we wiped over and over again. A tank would die, a person with the laser beam would get stuck on the door, the rubble would pwn someone, someone would die in the grip, healers would die or be too slow, etc, etc. Just people weren't getting it together.
We finally ended on Iron Council, and we did better than Kologarn - only a few wipes. Wipes mostly because of interrupts just not working out. A wipe because the person who was supposed to decurse me was stunning another mob and didn't say. A couple wipes from other tank death. Etc, etc.
Afterwards I was stressed and demoralized, but not because of the raid. During the raid the baby would be upset or crying on and off, and while I was playing in another part of the house I could hear him. Even when I couldn't, I knew that my wife was playing with him in her arm, trying to do her best to pay attention to the raid and him simultaneously. Then I was trying to tell people what to do on fights I had never, ever seen before while other people are telling me what I'm doing wrong but not wanting to lead. I'm making mistakes left and right.
The people that came are usually pretty solid raiders. They've been through a lot of raiding in their WoW lives, they know what they're doing. But this night? We were off.
And we were off almost entirely because of me.
Another story, similar outcome. The night before the 3.1 patch came out, my wife had exactly one achievement left before getting her Glory of the Raider achievement: the 6-minute Malygos. This is one that she should already have had, but she died during the success and then released, which meant she didn't get credit for the achievement even though other people in the raid did. It sucked. But it was the last one she needed, and it was one others wanted as well. We had done it fairly easily before, with a melee-heavy group who all wanted it. Before that, another group had stacked the raid with ranged and done it with over a minute to spare. So I figured if I stacked the group with ranged, we'd have no problem. We brought a couple of people doing DPS in offspec too - they're good players, so I figured again, no problem.
That day, we had to put our dog to sleep. I took the day off to take her to the vet. I had to make the decision to put her down.
I watched her in her final moments. Just me.
And we knew that this was our last chance to get that achievement, so we pushed on. The whole family was miserable and heartbroken. In retrospect, we shouldn't have. Not because we owed it to the dog or anything; just that we weren't in a good position to do well at anything. But it was the last shot, and it was something of closure for my wife with WoW and raiding; her last goal before basically retiring.
What should've been an easy kill took us 3 hours. It took multiple swaps of people, many tries, people buffing us outside the instance. I sucked on phase 3. I sucked getting Maly in position. We didn't get sparks, or we didn't do well on DPS, or we just failed on doing dps as dragons or healing. I yelled, I fought, I argued. Again, it didn't work out almost entirely because of me and where I was at. My guildies were patient and understanding, and we got it done largely because they were willing to persevere and cope with my frustration and anger. But it wasn't easy for them.
The thing is, I know this isn't normal for me. We've had runs when for whatever reason I was the leader at the time, and it went great. Where I pushed people faster than they were used to and we got stuff done in record time and more smoothly than ever. Where we tried new raid ideas and they worked and were damn fun. I've had people say that they really didn't like it when I wasn't around, because things just went more smoothly with me there. I know that people were overjoyed when I came back from vacation and did flame tanking on Illidan; it was something I had researched, seen movies on, and I did a great job almost immediately on it and we made significantly more progression just from my returning than we had before. So it's not always me sucking. :)
Smooth runs happen first and foremost because of leadership. Some times those leaders have a great attitude, are positive and upbeat, and it just percolates down to everyone. It makes people better. Then comes everyone else. Some times people are just on that night. Some times they're positive and eager and doing great, loose and focused. And when you're with those people, you know things are going to work. You know that it's going to happen that night - a new achievement, a new boss down, a big win, a clean win.
Those are the nights where you don't need everyone to have the most skill you've ever seen. Those are the nights where even the terribads do great and the better players shine. And that's one of the times when raiding is really a joy.
This is the real secret between good raiding guilds and bad ones: good leadership. Good guilds tend to have better players and a core of players that have been around for a while and share similar goals and values. This is probably as important as good leadership for a raid in general; it means that the feeling of the guild doesn't significantly change, the goals don't change, the value doesn't change, and consistency is important. But leadership is what makes individual raids shine. And it doesn't need to be the raid leader that does this leadership; it can be a calming voice, someone who makes good decisions, who makes jokes and light of bad situations. Who handles things well or thinks well, or has simply done their research and can defuse stupid questions.
The antithesis is that there are those who are just poisonous. They might be bad players, and those can't be brought to some things either. There are the bad players who don't listen to directions, who go out and wipe the raid because they fall off the ledge of Eredar Twins because they just couldn't be bothered to listen to someone. We've kicked people from the raid and from raiding for things like that. They're the ones that think that they can sit and eat food near the entrance while Kaz'Rogal marches up to them (and ignoring the raid leader), causing a wipe and 30 minutes wasted time. But they're not the real problems; they can just be replaced with less bad players. Heck, they're fun to talk about sometimes; we have many joys about laughing about dying to Walking Man (Thaladred from Kael'Thas).
No, the ones that cause problems are the ones that are always pessimistic about chances, the ones willing to point blame at others and directly insult them. The ones that get frustrated enough with those bad players to openly cause drama and divisiveness. The ones that will always argue with raid leaders and make suggestions regardless of whether it's asked for. The ones that will relish pointing out how much other players suck and keep harping on it. The ones who don't listen to directions no matter how many times their name is stated. Who don't have any problem holding up a raid for 30 minutes while they buy something from some guy in Orgrimmar for their own personal use.
The thing is, pretty much everyone at one point or another has done both things. You've been that voice of reason, made that awesome joke, or made that one suggestion that brought everything into place. Or you've been the one that couldn't stand that asshat who kept sucking, who kept mocking someone, who just couldn't follow directions to save your life. The difference is frequency. You know those who are on most of the time and those who aren't.
So how does FnB decide on who to bring? We try and get in as many people as is reasonable for a night. We try and emphasize whether or not someone needs an item or an achievement from a boss and whether or not they could reasonably win it via our loot system. We do a lot of swapping and juggling to keep people on backup in the game. And when we absolutely need to, we bring things primarily based on two aspects: how good the player is at execution of their job, and how much we like raiding with them.
But honestly? It's mostly the former. If we really need to work on something hard, we'll bring our 25 best players. Those aren't always the most positive ones, but they're still the best.
Is that right? I don't know, always. More often than not it works out, but sometimes I think sitting people because they're just not having a good night or are being real dicks would be warranted. And we've done that when we had to; putting the guild leader and the raid leader on ignore is not a good choice if you want to be in the raid, in case you're unclear of What Not To Do. It's a tough balance.
At the same time, I know of my old friends on the EU server who finally got tired of being forced to deal with 10 other asshats and just made a small guild of the people they get along with best. Are they as well-progressed as FnB? No. But they've done things that are incredible; they've 12-manned most Naxx-25 content. Are they the best players I've ever seen? Nope. But they get along so well and have such a good time together that it overcomes a lot.
So yeah, that's the big deal behind successful and unsuccessful raids. And we all know it. We just don't say anything, and we talk about tweaking our performance by 5% or maximizing our time to live, when in reality most of the time this isn't as crucial as whether or not you're a positive force in your raid.
I'm curious whether this'll create another shitstorm. Mostly, I'm curious about what other people's experiences are.
And tomorrow will be at least one post that's more mathy. I promise. :)