Last week our own Marcie Knox pointed out in her Ready Check column the daunting task that's given to raiders when they face Lady Vashj and Kael'Thas Sunstrider. These two bosses have earned their reputation as a guild killer, and are some of the hardest encounters in the game. While there is a plethora of information out there on how to defeat the technical aspects of the fights, very little is written on the social aspects these fights give us. Examining what can be done to keep a group of raiders together during this difficult time is critical to success.
Lets take a brief look at why these two encounters are so difficult. When it comes down to it, Blizzard is testing our ability to deal with two different skill sets. The first being immediate and unknown change, and that comes with Vashj during phase two and three: which side will the Naga spawn, where will the Tainted Element appear, how many times is your main tank going to get rooted and bat poison dropped on him, which way will the tanks need to drag the Naga around to avoid getting the melee cleaved, etc...
On the flip side to Vashj's unknown factors exists Kael'Thas. Kael is definitely a scripted encounter. We know what order the advisers are going to come up in, we know (sans gaze) where they'll go, we know what Kael will do when he reaches 50%, and we know what order we need to get the weapons down. This fight is all about repetition of a scripted encounter.So to get to Tier 6 content, a guild needs to be perfect at both random and non-random events. Okay, fair enough. A game like WoW is supposed to challenge our physical dexterity and our cognitive reaction times. However as Marcie points out, this is obviously a difficult and daunting task. What can be done to get over this hump and move into Tier 6 content? How can a guild survive this transition when it can take possibly months to work out the two encounters? How can these encounters not be guild killers?
While individual guild members can do a lot of the work by learning their roles and becoming masters of their class, getting a dynamic group of 25 people through a challenging scenario rests solely on the shoulders of the guild leader and his/her leadership team. Lets look at a few basic management principals that the guild leadership can use during this time to keep things together.
1. Stay Positive
Anyone in a position of leadership should always maintain a positive attitude. This is the number one point for a reason: nothing can make a group of people feel more hopeless then a negative leader. Granted, even if your group is having trouble with simple things, and even if people keep getting killed by the same thing over and over, stay positive no matter what. This doesn't mean that you can't gently drop them comments and suggestions on how to improve their game play (this is a prerogative of a raid leader), but doing it tactfully and not in front of the whole guild is key. This brings us to the second thing to do...
2. Keep Embarrassing Issues Private
Maybe your off tank doesn't know he needs to keep up shield block all the time on Sanguinar. Perhaps he just hasn't been in a situation yet where he needs to. Of course this needs to change, but don't call him out in the middle of a raid. It doesn't do anything for his self esteem, and he might just decided not to come back the next day. Private tells in these cases will work wonders. You can get a lot more out of people if you help them with their issues, rather then pointing them out and walking away.
Keep It Simple Stupid. There are a lot of complex things going on, but don't worry about everything all at once. Break it down into simpler parts, and keep working on one simple part at a time. Doing this will ensure that all issues are eventually figured out, and everyone gets a chance to participate in the strategy building and fine-tuning.
4. Know When To Pull The Plug
A break can do amazing things. It can rejuvenate people, give people a fresh perspective, let a few pieces of missing gear come into place, and generally let people relax a bit. Know when to take one of these breaks. While it might seem a bit fundamental, there are a few different types of breaks that should be considered:
A five minute break. This can do wonders. Let the raid go to the bathroom, get another drink, have a stretch, etc... Perhaps conjure up something that's been featured in our Well Fed Buff articles? No matter what people do, insist everyone goes away from their computer. Put yourself on /afk and follow your own words too. Amazing success can come after this.
A night off. Know when its time to take a night off. It might be that people are getting too bored with this repetitive content. Set a limit for yourself, or some other benchmark; when that limit is reached, take a night off and go kill something easy. (Hogger, of course.)
The rest of the evening. Nothing is going right, no progress is being made, and you seem to even be back tracking a bit... just stop. Some times people are just not focused enough to raid and there is nothing you can do about it. So just take the rest of the evening off. But remember to do so with a positive tone. Say something like, "Okay, while we really wanted to go on, it looks like the raid leaders need to get together and get our ducks in a row." Even if you don't need to do that... say it anyways. Don't say "Hey losers. If I could 25-box this raid by myself I'd have cleared the Black Temple already. Go take a night off and let me try that."
5. Allow Feedback
People are raiding with your guild by choice. With the induction of server transfers over a year ago, people are no longer forced to stay on a server, and thus with a guild, like they used to be. Let the raiders give you feedback, and take that feedback positively and proactively. By proactively I mean solicit it. Ask people questions, get their opinions. Asking your third string mage (or anyone) what he thinks of the fight and what everyone needs to do differently will do wonders. Not only will it give them a chance to sound off to you about their frustrations (which is another topic in and of itself), but it will also get them to think more critically of the fight. Only good things will come of this.
As you can see, there is a lot to do concerning this one-two-knockout punch Blizzard has provided us with. The very nature of the situation means that guilds need to step up in not only their playing abilities, but also their social management skills. Having a good understand of what needs to be done to keep people motivated, happy, and optimistic is just as important to these fights as any gear ever will be.
I'm quite interested to know what other suggestions our readers might have to keep the social side of things flowing during these difficult encounters. Ua 7 Give me your comments and answers. I'll post a follow up to this article in a couple weeks and I'll share them with the community.