Monthly Archives: December 2014

Rough Nights

From time to time everyone gets those nights, those raids. The nights that really test your team, and tell you who you are, not necessarily when the chips are down, but when all of the chips have fallen off the table, or perhaps someone made off with your chips and left you some less desirable objects, like angry monkeys. It doesn’t matter if you’re working on clearing the previous tier’s nerfed content or pushing mythic progression from week two, these rough nights are inevitable. Being both a raid leader and a little bit compulsive, I always find myself with a burning need to know WHY. Why are we having this much trouble? Is this the normal, this boss is hard and it should be hard kind of trouble, or is this the we have a dysfunction in the team, be it mechanical or social kind of trouble. So when this happens to me, I tend to go through a little bit of a checklist, post-raid, to try and determine what’s going wrong, and I figured I’d share this checklist. Maybe it will help others identify the issues in their raids, or maybe it will just help a little to get it down on paper, so to speak.

1. Is it a numbers problem?
This is usually the first thing I ask, maybe because I’m a bit of a numbers guy.This tends to make me pull up the WarcraftLogs pages for our nearest competition. How do our numbers look? Are they similar to other guilds with similar skill? Are both our dps and healing within a reasonable range of other guilds that have recently cleared this boss? If our numbers are different are they using a specific comp or healer/dps ratio that works more effectively for this boss?

2. Is it a mechanics problem?
Always when I check mechanics, I check dispels and interrupts. Are people’s dispel/interrupt numbers both consistent and reasonably distributed? After this I tend to analyze the damage taken by spell, and once again compare this to similar guilds. Are we taking vastly more damage from a particular spell or ability than similar teams are? Am I seeing an add cast far more spells than they should be because they aren’t being interrupted?

After this things tend to get a bit more nebulous, but there are still important questions that need to be asked.

3. Is it a problem with the strategy?
Are we using the proper strat for this boss, both in comparison to other similar guilds and with respect to our own raid team? Maybe other people are relying on a specific ability or comp that lets them ignore certain mechanics, and we are trying to copy a strategy that won’t work for our team. Never be afraid to go with the strategy that works for your team, rather than the one you’ve seen on a guide video. What matters is that the boss dies. There is no right way to kill a raid boss other than reducing their health to 0. That said, also consider have people had time to learn the strategy? Even skilled players still need a handful of pulls to understand their roles within a specific fight, especially with the complex nature of many raid bosses these days.

4. Is it a problem with our raid composition?
Are we missing anyone key today? Did our 4 top healers all come down with a sudden case of itis? Are we pugging anyone in? (Because sometimes we’ve had to do that) And if so was the pug pulling their weight? You can’t get mad at a pug, because they’re not on your team, but you can certainly not bring them again.

5. Is it a social problem?
These can be the most difficult problems to fix, but almost every raid team seems to run into them eventually. Are some of our members arguing? Did someone unintentionally (I hope) piss someone else off earlier in the week and now they lack focus? Is someone sick or dealing with some RL issues and therefore performing vastly under their normal skill levels? I know I’ve personally had pretty much every one of these issues come up at one time or another, up to and including finding out two of my raiders were dating and have since stopped speaking to each other.

What can you do?

The numbers problems can generally be solved by helping your raiders to get better, or if they are unwilling to get better sometimes just cutting them loose and finding a different raider, a hopefully rare but occasionally necessary solution. The mechanics and strategy problems are yours. You’re the raid leader, it’s your job to detect these problems and identify them to the raid team so that they can be fixed. The other problems can be a bit trickier.

What is comes down to as a raid leader is you need to know your team. You need to understand what their capabilities are, and where their strengths and weaknesses lie. Some of your raiders may be excellent at putting out raw numbers, but crumble when tasked with important mechanics. Similarly I’ve had raiders that were wonderful at executing mechanics, but just couldn’t seem to really maximize their raw output. Some of your raiders will be sensitive to criticism, and some of them will be quick to harass someone when they show weakness or get whiny. Your job is not to necessarily tolerate all of this, but to know who it will come from and to deal with it accordingly. Because if you don’t you’re going to get a lot more of ‘those’ nights, and you’re not going to understand why they are happening, or what you can do to stop them. But in the end such nights are inevitable. You can’t prevent them. You can only adapt as they occur and recover from them as best as you can. Always keep in mind, it’s supposed to be difficult. If raiding were easy, we’d all be playing Starcraft by now. :P

Highmaul First Impressions

In order to keep putting out something here, and because I’m still nit-picking over my other developing posts, I’d like to give a quick first impressions for Highmaul. Not sure if this will be a regular thing, as I don’t know how much value there is in such posts. But for now it keeps me writing, which I view as nearly always a good thing.

So we took a short poke into normal modes the day Highmaul opened, and then went back and started on heroic Thursday night. So far it’s really hard to judge the quality of the tier, in the same way it’s hard to judge the quality of your bed after you’ve slept on a pile of rocks for a few weeks. Realistically at this point nearly anything would compare favorably to any further time in SoO.

That said, I’m enjoying myself massively so far, despite our struggles in heroic. We one-shot Kargath and 2-shot Butcher in normal, then called it a night 2 wipes into Tectus due to server issues pushing our raid much later than normal. Fresh off of that relative success, we leapt face-first into heroic mode on Thursday, and things did not go nearly as easily. Our average item level is 636 right now, which I figured would be sufficient for heroic bosses, and boy was I wrong. It took us 3 pulls to down Kargath, a mechanically trivial boss, and about a half dozen pulls to realize that we just flat don’t have the numbers for Butcher heroic yet.

I’m honestly a little surprised at the tuning of normal and heroic Highmaul so far. I’m sure it’s partially an artifact of this being the first tier of this expansion, but we had less trouble with early  SoO normal bosses, despite having what I would consider an overall less-skilled roster than we have at the moment. We’ve tuned up our healing roster considerably, but our heal team is clearly feeling the shock of trying to raid in blues for the most part. I can’t hardly recall the last time I died tanking when I was paying any attention whatsoever, and butcher managed to kill me 3 times out of 6 pulls on Thursday.

Despite those deaths, I can say I’m enjoying tanking immensely. While DPS get to have more fun as they get overgeared, pushing for rankings and generally watching their numbers continue to climb, tanking gets considerably more boring as you continue gearing up. For me at least tanking is lived at the margins, while content is still fresh enough to demand constant attention. So Highmaul has been a blast for me so far, having to watch my uptimes on everything roll my cooldowns appropriately. Paladins are also really well designed at the moment when it comes to talent choices, something I’m hoping to do a writeup on here shortly.

So struggles aside I like the bosses we’ve seen so far. Butcher seems to be an effective gear/number check, and our pulls on Tectus were a chaotic mess of fun. Tonight we’ll hopefully make enough progress in normal to give us the gear to continue pushing through heroics. In the meantime, I’m pretty sure it’s time to check my garrison again.