You can’t bring everyone – roster decision time!

It’s been a loooong time since I’ve updated this, so apologies to all 3 of you that are reading it. In the vein of using this as a platform to write about the issues and concerns that we run into as we try to make our transition to a viable mythic guild, I’d like to talk about a recent issue we’ve had.

I would call this a personal problem, but when you’re the raid leader, honestly, your problems tend to be the team’s problems, so this is somewhat a mea culpa on my part. You see, one of the values insisted upon in my house growing up was inclusiveness. I was taught that you have to play with all of the kids, yes even that guy. While I’ve learned to moderate this a bit, as most adults do, this is a value that has been both boon and bane as I’ve worked to grow our raid team.

I say boon because it has helped us pick up a number of players that either never would’ve bothered to apply to a stricter guild or whose applications would’ve languished due to a lack of solid heroic experience in previous xpacs or a solid log history. And I’m not talking about a couple of people that manage to show up and sometimes not die. I’m talking about some of the best raiders our roster has. I also personally feel that our openness to newer players and willingness to help our team members has really helped make our team both an effective unit and a pleasant place to play.

However I say bane  as well because it can be difficult figuring out where to draw the line, and in many cases my natural inclusiveness has kept some raiders on our roster long past the point where I should have sat them while they developed or simply cut them and let them find another team where they fit in better.

The difficulty so far seems to lie in where to draw the line for who raids and who doesn’t on a given night. We are a fairly rare type of raiding guild, i.e. a weekend guild with casual hours (8-week) that tries to push as much progression as possible, so suitable raiders can be a challenge to find. In addition we’re just working our way up to more serious progression, and nobody likes joining a team with less progression than they’ve currently got. This has most often put us in the position of accepting a longer learning period for new raiders than most teams would allow.

When our standards were lower it was simple to filter people out, as they tended to be the raiders constantly dying to the same mechanics night in and night out, or the raiders whose raw output, be it DPS or HPS, was a significant margin below that of the rest of the group. Decisions like these are the easy ones to make. But lately we’ve been running into a finer-grained decision. How often does that raider die to mechanics? How reliable are they attendance-wise? Where do they sit for raw output? Can they be counted on the stick it out and stay positive when we’re having a rough night? All of these questions, in many cases more qualitative than quantitative, sum up, leaving us with a vague, review-score-esque aggregation of a raider. My job at that point is to sort out the maybes from the obvious yeses and emphatic noes, and I’m finding more and more raiders these days falling into the maybe category.

I didn’t really think this was as much of an issue until recently. We’re currently working on Heroic Blackrock Foundry progression, and we were having some trouble clearing a boss we had downed the previous week. Nobody was massively screwing anything up, but our pulls felt sloppy, and inevitably our machine would begin wobbling a few minutes into the pull and shortly the host of small errors would add up, sending us careening into yet another wipe. So, frustrated, I sat our bottom three people. Not people who happened to be lowest that pull but who were consistently lowest on the chart. They weren’t an obvious cause of our issues, but I thought it was worth a try.

We not only killed the boss the very next pull, but the entire operation was worlds smoother. Mechanics were handled cleanly. Adds died at least 25% faster, and we certainly didn’t have 25% more DPS. At this point I was struck by a quote from Hamlet that resonated with me from his Raid Awareness Post:

Raiding at any level, it is a virtual certainty that the limiting factor on the speed at which you learn and defeat bosses is the rate of avoidable mistakes made by individual group members.

At the time I interpreted this as a simple equation, less player deaths = greater chances of defeating the boss. But reflecting on the difference in those pulls I realized that it went much deeper than that. A mistake, in a progression raiding environment, is no longer defined as an avoidable action which results in your character’s, or another character’s, death. A mistake is kiting an add on a sub-optimal path. A mistake is choosing a sub-optimal ability for your next GCD. A mistake is taking that next healer-mana-draining chunk of avoidable damage. I enjoy likening a raid team to a machine, an engine. And like an engine a piece of the raid doesn’t have to break completely in order to doom the entire operation, it need only wobble. That errant movement causes the next connected part to move too far, or not far enough, and the next, and the next, and before you know it you’re in a cartoon-esque explosion of gears, belts, and bolts.

So as usual, I’m not sure what the answer is. In the short term I’m working on being more willing to sit people when we’re having trouble downing a boss. Not as a punitive measure, but in the interest of keeping our progression smooth. I can say that I’ve had no complaints so far. But I chalk that up to the fact that while we’re always happy to help people learn on our team, we also strive to give our raiders an accurate picture of their performance. The people that need more development know who they are, and by and large appear happy to have found a pleasant place in which to learn, even if it means they have to sit out some boss fights until we’ve downed it once or twice.

In the long term…well I’m not sure. Hopefully I will, over time, develop a keener insight into individual raiders’ skills and deficiencies. It remains a journey.

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