Friday, July 20, 2012

Anxieties of the Casual Raid Leader

There are many types of raid leaders out there from the ultra hard core world first type raid leaders to the occasionally raiding social raid leader by comity.  Every raid leader faces their own problems but the problems of the casual raid leader are unique in a way that only a casual raid leader can understand the full scale of all the different pressures involved.

There of course are also various levels of casual raiding.  Many pure social groups like to call themselves casual raiders due to their lack of progression but that is just not the case.  Those are social raiders, not casual raiders.  That is one of the issues a casual raid leader has to deal with, they are not a social guild.  While it is true there are social casual raiders as well as basic casual raiders and serious casual raiders, there is a huge difference between the social raiders and the social casual raid raiders.

Point being, a social guild takes whoever is there.  A social casual guild will at the minimum make sure you are at least raid ready in spec, gear, enchants, gems and reforging even if they might question your skill or ability whereas a social raid team looks to see if you have a pulse and if you do you get an invite to the raid.

See, the thing, and what makes casual raid leading a horse of a different color, is that casual raid leaders are expected to offer a reasonable chance of success, some semblance of progression, and still allow people to have fun and not be the all work and no play types.

It is that balance that makes being a casual raid leader the hardest job in the game.  You have to find the perfect line where there is both success and no pressure at the same time.  Which, to anyone that raids will know, it is hard to get results without some sort of oversight or pressure applied where needed.  The serious raid guild can pull the yelling card, can play the hard line of missing a gem or enchant you don't go, or just flat out deny someone entry into the raid because of whatever reason they see fit.

Not to mention, when you are a casual raid leader you go with what you have.  There is no such thing as class stacking.  No such thing as switching people in and out to maximize what is best for the fight.  No taking someone along just for the hell of it.  There will also be that balance in the back of your head where you have to try and lead a team that can both succeed and give off no pressure to do so.

So enter the anxieties of the casual raid leader.

1) Group Make Up:

For the casual raid leader your group make up is not always what is the best class make up for the raid but who are the best players that can be dependable and capable players.  If you get stuck with three shaman healers, or too many hunters, or only paladin tanks, you make due.

The casual raid leader is not going to head out and recruit just for progression because that is not want casual is about.  If you have 10 people that are decent players and they all show up on time for raid night, you have a casual raid team that is ready to roll regardless of what the class make up is.

Sometimes this can make for some odd strategies, ones you do not read on guides, ones you do not see videos of, ones that if you heard them you would think that can't be done that way.

Enter the group make up anxiety of the casual raid leader.  You have to make it work.

2) Group Switching:

Most casual raid leaders deal with multiple teams because they have to if they want any chance of success.  You need to have a second or even third team to keep those back up players happy, and raiding, so if you need fill ins for your main team due to someone being gone because they are on vacation or have some real life things to attend to there are geared and capable people ready to go.

Bringing someone to the main group to fill in can be a tricky subject in a casual raiding guild.  A hell of a lot more so than it would be in a hard core raid guild or a social guild.  In a hard core guild the raid leader will just tell you to deal with it, this person is what we need and is better so this is the one we are taking.  A social guild will just say the same thing as the hardcore raid leader would, they would say, if you don't like it, quit.

The casual guild needs to keep that balance.  They need to take someone that can keep group one moving on the pace it is used to.  They need to make sure that person understands they are only there to help.  They need to make sure the group they are taking them from will not be screwed without them for the week.  They need to make sure everyone from that group knows why that one person was taken and not them.  And they need to do so with tact and respect to everyone involved.

Enter the group switching anxiety of the casual raid leader.  You have to balance things.

3) Group Morale:

With all that group switching and different groups going it is easy for people to start feeling left out, or as if they are not progressing enough for their personal preference.   There will be people in the main group that think others do not deserve to be there.  There will be people in the second group that think they deserve to be in the main group.  There will be people in the third off hours team that thinks you should concentrate more on that group so it gets better.

There will be people with alts that want to have one on each team and effectively keep someone else from raiding even if they only raid with one character.  There will be people that have a few alts and are always willing to fill any role but if you keep throwing them in as tank or healer when they really want to DPS it can start to become stressful for them.

You need to get everyone some play time.  For the main group that is not as much of an issue, but for the other groups it can become an issue.  You have to figure out a way to make everyone happy without bending over backwards for them.  The last thing any raid leader ever wants to do is give in to every demand someone makes, even if you are just a casual raid leader.

Enter the group morale anxiety of the casual raid leader.  You have to keep people happy.

4) Progression:

How do you handle progression when you only raid two hours?  Do you kill the same bosses over and over or do you extend lock outs?  Do you go to group switching and give up on your group makeup or do you find a way to make it work as part one here suggested?

Just because you are a casual raid leader does not mean you don't have to have a fair amount of progression.  My guild has gotten spoiled this expansion and so have I.  We have seen every last boss and even managed to get the last before debuffs.  If anything, this presented a major problem for the casual raid leader.

See, casual raid leaders never count on heroic content as content.  If they never make it there, no problem.  Heroics are bonus content.  When you finish normal, you are done.  You are waiting for the next patch and the next raid.

So sometimes, like now, progression becomes an issue when you do better than expected.  Quite honestly my guild should just be getting to downing deathchin now, we should not have two raid groups that have had it on farm for the better part of six or seven months.

Progression can be a huge issue for the casual raid leader.  Do too good and everyone expects more.  Do too little and everyone looks elsewhere, even if they are not into hard core progression, because it does not seem like enough for them.

If you push heroics too soon you can run into a morale problem with a group that is used to only normals.  If you push heroics with one team and not with another you can create a divide.  If you are on heroics on one or two teams what does team three and four think when they still have not finished it yet.

Progression in a hard core guild is easy.  You keep pushing forward.  Progression in a social guild is easy.  You do whatever you can.  Progression in a casual guild is a bitch, there is no other word for it.  It is a complete and total bitch.  You have to keep moving forward, without pressing people too hard but enough to keep them logging on to raid.

Once you move into heroic content the casual raid leader becomes a man with no country.  They are no longer casual in the eyes of many because they do heroics and they are no where near hard core which heroics are usually considered for.  Doing heroic content on a normal basis really clouds up the view.

Enter the progression anxiety of the casual raid leader.  When to make progress is almost as important as making it to begin with.

5) Recruitment:

Recruitment for a casual raid guild is extremely hard.  Harder than any other type of recruitment.  If you run a hard core guild you have minimum standards.  If people can not hack it, they do not get in.  For socials they have no standards except people be ready and willing, so they will invite anyone that is.

For the casual raid leader it becomes a constant effort into reading the minds of other players because apparently everyone has a different definition of casual.

I've had people join the guild expecting 8/8 heroic clears in 2 hours because we do heroics and we are casual so they would not need to have the pressure of a raging raid leader or unreasonable demands of their abilities.  Which makes me think, if they want 8/8 heroic in 2 hours and do not want to do the best they can, they are looking to be carried to begin with and I don't want them on my raid team or even in my guild.

I had to break it to them, we are not 8/8 heroic because we reset each week.  We are a casual guild and would rather down 2 or 4 or 6 bosses every night instead of pushing on one.  When the time comes, we will do 8 in one night, but we will get there in time.  We will not press it.  That is what casual means.

That is how we did normal and that is how we plan to do heroic.  We reset each week, and when we got good enough to do all 8 in one night, we did all 8 in one night.  That simple.  No extended locks and we were still realm 20th.  If we extended lock outs we could have been realm 4th but that is not what we are about.  See, that is what casual is.  We do not care if we are realm 4th or 20th, we just want to do it at our own pace.

I've had people join the guild in all PvP gear, no gems, no enchants, and expect to raid because with the debuff we could easily carry them and being we are a casual raid group it should not matter.

I had to break it to them that casual does not mean bad.  It just means we take our time, have some fun, and work as a team without yelling at each other to do better.  We get better as a team.  If it takes one week longer for someone to understand the fight, it takes us as a team one week longer to beat it.  But everyone in our raids is expected to be raid ready.  That means gems, enchants, reforged, speced correctly, food and flasks, even if there will be a cauldron and feast there.  Be ready to raid as if it wasn't.  Once you are raid ready, you can join our raids.  If you are too lazy to be raid ready, I am too lazy to carry you through the raid.  Fair?

A casual guild gets all types.  We get the great players that are on and attend every raid and are always ready and at the top of their game.  For two months.  Then they disappear for another two months.  We get people that log on once in a blue moon and want to raid.  We get people that are always on, but never on time and get upset they did not get an invite.

We have bad players that are always raid ready but are just not good.  We have people that join and say, you guys don't take this seriously, and leave.  We have people that are good and leave for more progression (love when they leave and end up joining a group we blow by in progression, but that is just me being spiteful enjoying that I guess).  We get people that join in the third group, move up to the second group and then play fill in two weeks for the main group and then leave because they want to move further.  We get all types of people and all those types of people can reasonably be considered casuals by some definition.

Enter the recruitment anxiety of the casual raid leader.  We have to deal with all types.

6) Teaching:

The hard core raid leader expects the people that joins them to already know what they are doing.  The social raid leader does not care.  The casual raid leader has to play teacher.  Not like teaching is hard, if you have the right student but part of the casual raid leaders job is to assess the students that are worth their time.

This patch alone I've seen many ambitious new players come to our casual guild and want to raid.  The warrior that seemed to always talk more then he DPSed and couldn't learn a rotation if you tattooed it on his forehead.  The DK that thinks PvP gear is fine because he is only DPSing and even refused to gear up for PvE when we offered to run him through HoTs all day long and gem and enchant him for free.

The boomkin that never gemmed or enchanted his gear but you could tell he had some skills, if only we would lend him a hand and it paid off big time later on.  The priest that saw we needed healers and rushed her way to 85 for her first max level character and then not only spammed dungeons for two straight days but showed up for the raid all gemmed and enchanted and ready to roll if we needed her but not demanding or even expecting a spot, which we didn't.  She had just gotten to LFR item level, but I switched some things around just to get her in a run.  She did amazing and cleared DS her first time in with exceptional healing numbers.

As a casual raid leader you need to learn, from their actions outside of raids, who is worth giving the chances too.  Who is worth spending the time and energy running through dungeons.  Who is worth enchanting and gemming up.

Some people can learn, some people can't.  It is just human nature and I swear to be a successful casual raid leader you have to know more about human nature and reading people than you do about the fights or the classes.  Player assessment is a hugely important thing for the casual raid leader.

A casual raid leader not only needs to know their own class in and out, they need to know every class in and out.  They need to know every spec in and out.  And if they don't, they need to be able to fake it.  I know most classes and specs because I play them, but the reason I play them is so I can help others do it.

I spend nearly as much time helping others sometimes as I do playing the game for my own purposes.  I have a slew of links at the ready so if I do not know the answer I can pull it up instantly.  I check them to see if they are up to date all the time and I am always looking for new links.  I can effectively teach anyone any class or spec if they are willing to learn.  I guide them along the way holding their hand until I think they have enough of a grasp of things to understand their class and then I pass the links to them and tell them they can get even better reading them and to come to me with any questions.

I teach people tricks they can do on certain fights,  how to effectively key bind for their class, about mods that could help them, how to make macros.  So many players in the game and so few even know the half of it and some of them are pretty damn awesome even before hand I have noticed.  They just needed someone to mention these things to them.

Every time anyone does something wrong in a raid that their class could have handled I blame myself and myself only because I did not tell them about it ahead of time.  On a new fight I let all classes know the tips and tricks that are specific for them.  If I forget one of those things and they did not notice it on their own, I did wrong by not teaching them to do it right.

Enter the teaching anxiety of the casual raid leader.  Any failures are my failures.

7) Juggling Act:

The husband / wife team where one is good and the other is not.  The mother / daughter team that only wants to run together.  The father / son team that refuses to run together.  There are so many people and so many things you have to deal with.  You can't use the "my way or the highway" approach a hard core raid leader gets away with.  You also can't use the "don't like it leave" approach the social raid leader uses.  Time to start juggling.

Whether it is your roster and managing the people that want to work together, don't want to work together, or deciding if one person is worth bringing if you are going to be forced to bring another is it always a daunting task.

Same goes for fitting the pieces together. You have one guy with a tank, a healer and damage dealer.   You have another with two tanks and a ranged.  You have another with two classes that can heal or DPS. You have many people with many different characters that can fill many different roles so it is not always about getting the people in that becomes the juggling act, it is what you are going to get them in as while taking into account which characters they would prefer to be on and still considering you need to have some success in the raid.

You have people that have professions and no mats, you have people that have mats and no professions.  Both are willing to help the team so you need to put them together so they can both help out.  You need to know every profession everyone has, and what patterns they have too, in the case of a jewelcrafter mostly.  Someone needs intellect cut, john is on, send them to john.  They need two pieces of heavy savage leather so they can trade in for a pristine hide they need, mary might have them, ask her.  You need to play middle man for everything and that in and of itself is a juggling act as much as playing with personalities and roles are.

Enter the juggling act anxiety of the casual raid leader.  You will have more people to work with, which means more people to juggle around.

8) The Commanding and Reassuring Voice:

Guilds at either end of the spectrum can go either way.  A heavy handed rule with an iron fist way or the everyone should know what to do lets just pull way.  There is no way the casual raid leader would get away with either of those.

If you do not explain and tell people what is happening, they might not know, they are not the type that spends time on the net looking up everything, even if they are good players.  They can follow your lead, but if you do not lead, they will fail.

If you start going off on someone because they did something wrong they could very well just leave the raid or the guild too.  They are here for the same reason you are.  To kill some internet dragons and have some fun.  If you get too serious on them they will bolt, or revolt.  Neither is good.

Not saying the casual raid leader can not call people out.  I do it from time to time myself.  Why didn't you move?  Sorry, I did not hear you call for us to move out.  That is no excuse, when you saw everyone else running you should have ran too.  What do you think is more likely, 6 people being wrong and you being right or you missing what I said?

See, I can be a total dick raid leader sometimes too.  But it is rare and you have to know who you can say stuff like that too and how far you can push it.

The casual raid leader needs to be reassuring.  They need to say stuff like, don't worry, we all make mistakes and the important thing is we learn from them.  They need to say it is no big deal you wiped three times in a row on a boss you have been doing in one shot for 20 weeks.  It happens.

You need to have the sound in your voice like it is no big deal because if you don't, they will start thinking it is a big deal.  If you let go of the reassuring voice for even once minute people can start to doubt you and the group can easily fall into a lull of failure instead of the hiccup it really was.

The casual raid leader needs to be commanding too.  The person that is on corruption duty knows they are on that duty, they have been forever.  Even if it is my own duty, I don't need to tell myself I have to do it.  I still always say... grip in 5.  It is just want a casual raid leader needs to do.

It doesn't make a difference if everyone had deadly boss mods.  It doesn't make a difference if everyone had done the fight 100 times.  A casual raid leader needs to call out every important  thing.  That commanding voice, as someone once told me, is just nice to hear sometimes because you know things are going to be okay as long as you listen to it.

A friend of mine was doing a run and was stuck on blackhorn a few months back.  I told him what to call out, told him to call it before it happens.  Like sapper in 5.  He said he group understood the fight, but they just could not get past it.  I told him understanding and doing are two different things.  They might understand it, but they might also be a second off on everything so call it out for them.  So he did what I said.  He called out everything.  Elites in 5.  Stack in 5.  Drake down.  Sapper in 5.  Etc.  He said they one shot it.

Enter the commanding and reassuring voice anxiety of the casual raid leader.  It makes a huge difference.

9) Do It All:

This can be said for any type of raid group but you usually see it to be more pronounced in a casual raid group. The raid leader needs to not only be the raid leader.  He needs to be the ranged damage dealer.  He needs to be the melee damage dealer.  He needs to be the healer.  He needs to be the tank.  A good casual raid leader should not only lead the raid but they should be able to fill any role.

A good casual raid leader needs to sometimes put their own desires aside and do what is needed instead of doing what they want to.  Not only that, they need to be able to do it well.  Well enough that they can at least match anyone in the raid at performing that role.

I am not saying you need to be the best player in the raid but you sure as hell better not be doing 10K when the lowest DPS is 28K, getting one shot by trash packs or have less healing done than the shadow priest.  You need to lead by example and you need to do well enough to at least exceed the content requirements of what you are doing.  If you can not do well enough to down the content with a group filled with people performing just like you then you can not expect people to do that well either.

No one more than the casual raid leader has to lead by example.  If I say, no biggie I am not gemmed I lose all rights to tell someone else they should be.  If I say, no biggie if I do not have my belt buckle, I am in no place to demand others have one.

I am also not saying that you can not bring one of your own characters through for a carry like many raid groups do when they have stuff on farm.  Casual raiders do it all the time when they have content on farm because, as I mentioned earlier, they do not press heroics hard.  So usually a casual raid leader will let someone bring in an alt so they can gear up and for that case they will let things slide.

The one difference with the raid leader doing that and anyone else doing it is that the raid leader is expected to be good, as bad as that might sound.  Saying that you are going to bring bob's warlock along because we have more than enough DPS and he wants to get it a little more geared for group three is one thing.  Saying you want to bring your warlock along for the same reasons could be considered as if you are trying to take advantage of your group because you are the raid leader.

You have to do it all as a casual raid leader, but you have to be able to do it all before you even enter the raid.  You can't use your own raid as a way to gear up your alts and learn to play them and still expect people to respect you afterwards.  You are supposed to be better.  You might get away with it once in a while, but the raid will always go better when they think you are in there doing your best with your best and not looking for a free ride.  Free rides are most definitely not for the casual raid leader.

Enter the do it all anxiety of the casual raid leader.  You need to be able to do everything.

10) Confidence:

Just like people look to you as an example, they need to believe that you always have everything well in hand.  The day a new raid comes out and you walk into it with a casual raid group you need to give off the impression that you have done it already a million times.

It doesn't make a difference if they know you have never done it.  You can even say you have never done it.  It is all in the way you explain it.  You have to explain it as if it is no big deal.  Simple as do this, then that, then the other thing and we got this.  Lets rock it.

You can not go in there and let them hear the fear of not knowing in your voice.  You might know that your guild might have an issue with this fight, but you need to make it seem like you think it will be nothing special to deal with.

After a wipe you need to pick out the errors and make it like it was no big deal.  Like the boss was downed even if you wiped.  It was just one whoops moments.  In casual raiding more than any other type of raiding guilds the confidence of the leader goes a long way.

I've been in many pugs, as well as being a raid leader myself, and I have noticed that the success rate is a lot higher when the person explaining the fight makes it sound easy.  I remember some pugs back in wrath where 20 of the 25 people had never been in the content and they blew through it as if they had been there a million times all because the raid leader make it out to be simple, so it was.

Confidence is contagious.  It is also a nice little trick that casual raid leaders do.  They do not explain the whole fight sometimes when they know there will be problems somewhere.  They explain only as much as the group will need to know and if things get further they will lead on the fly.  This way the group can learn to handle one task at a time and that makes learning so much easier.

You don't only have to have the confidence of your voice ring out for them to hear, but they need to learn to trust in the confidence.  So that when you said it, and they do it, they see the results.  The only way that happens is with each little success.  So point them out and never stress over the mistakes, this will teach them to believe in you and it lets your confidence rub off on them.

That confidence is a great tool but you can not abuse it either.  While still saying stuff in a confident voice, you can't go around assuring people everything will be fine when it isn't after they do what you say.  You need to use the power given to you to lead at an appropriate time.

In no other type of raid team is so much faith given to their raid leader to lead than in a casual guild.  It is a lot of pressure to know when to be strong, when to be reassuring, when to be aggressive, when to be rational and when to be reasonable.  And every one of those things, needs to be said with confidence that what you are saying is right.  Even when you are not sure of yourself.

Enter the confidence anxiety of the casual raid leader.  If you are confident, your team will be, as long as you have earned that trust.

11) Understanding:

The in-laws are coming in for the week, I won't be able to play.  I was grounded for a week, sorry I did not make the raid.  I need five minutes, the horse got out.  Can I have a few minutes, I need to take my medication.  Wife aggro, husband aggro, parent aggro, kid aggro.

You name it, all raid leaders have heard it at least once and most likely a million times.  For a casual guild this means sometimes you need to be understanding.  For a social guild it means nothing, it is a whoever comes on to raid raids.  For a hard core guild it means nothing, you would not be in their progression team if you had issues like that more then once or twice a year anyway.  But for a casual guild, with real casual players, you need to work on being understanding when real life comes into play.

You can't get down on people because they have family to attend to.  You can't get down on people because they have medical issues that need to be addressed.  I even have a couple of members of my guild that are excellent raiders but they are also young and I know their parents.  When their parents say they do not raid because of their grades guess what I do?  I don't invite them to the raid.

Sure, my progression will suffer if two of my best players are gone for a couple of weeks, but no big deal.  This is what a casual guild is about.  We will get there in time.  We have had no problem this whole expansion with that.  While we might never be server first and while we might never defeat heroic completely before the next raid comes out, we got to the end boss of every raid before the next one and for us, that is fine.

A casual raid leader has to realize that while they might love raiding, while they might have a lot of good raiders, raiding is not the be all end all of the game.  They will get there with what they have in due time.  You just need to be understanding about it.

It can be amazingly frustrating sometimes.  Your big raiders are the team you want to make your run with but this one goes on vacation and then that one does and you can not get your A team together for weeks or even months on end when you know that if you had it you could easily one shot heroic even if you are not a heroic guild.

That is where my guild is at, it is frustrating.  We had one healer go on vacation for a month, then when she came back we had a rogue three weeks from finishing the daggers, so we figured we would quick full clear normals so he had the daggers for heroics, but when he finished it two more people went on vacation the next week, then your top DPS went to summer camp as soon as they came back.   AAAAHHHHHH!  Dear god we should have finished heroics 3 months ago but I can not field my A team for the life of me.  So we just do the early bosses and finish off on normal.  I am understanding.  It is exactly what a casual raid leader needs to be.

Enter the understanding anxiety of the casual raid leader.  It can really turn your hair gray.

12) Don't Take It Personal:

This is the bane of all casual raid leaders.  Good players moving on.  All casual raid leaders need to understand that there will always be people coming and going.  If you can field the same 10 / 25 man for two patches in a row, consider yourself lucky.  My team that did T11 is no where close to resembling the one that did T12 and that one is nothing like T13.  One expansion and I have easily went through 40 people in my main group and maybe even 200 raiders or more total.

Some left for more progressed guilds, which happens a lot.  New players get some experience and they pass where you are now and want more.  Don't take it personal.  They just did not fit with your casual mode of raiding.  It is quite possible they might not fit the hard core guild either, they might even be a casual raider but they do not know it yet because they think they can do more.  It is not you, it is your casual raiding.

Not like there is anything wrong with casual raiding.  There are thousands of casual raid groups out there and there are probably hundreds of different definitions of a casual raid guild.  Many of them are very successful in what they do.  The key is to find people that fit your mold and they will stick with you.  People that leave, for whatever reason, are going to leave no matter what.  It is rarely about you so don't take it personal.

I've had people leave for other games, this also happens a lot.  I've even asked if they would come back and help until I found a replacement sometimes and they do on occasion.  But it was nothing personal, they just did not want to play any more and no matter how great of a raid leader they might think you are as both a leader and a person, they are leaving.  It is not personal so do not take it as such.

We have many members that gave up this expansion and are now just PvPers.  I don't even think to invite them to raid any more, they just don't want to.  Everyone has fun their own way and right now they are into another aspect of the game.  It is not personal.

I have an altaholic that manages to gear up all his characters and is an amazing raider.  But he rarely raids.  He will fill in if he is on but he will never ask for a spot or even expect one.  He raids on another server.  I've asked him if he could commit to one night for one of the groups and he said no.  It was not personal, that is just his raid group on another server and we are on an alt server.  Nothing wrong with that.  I still look at it as a nice thing to have a super sub once in a while.

There are many reasons you lose people and rarely it has anything to do with you personally but it is really hard to ignore it.  It does get to you, a lot.  I know it does bother me whenever I lose someone like I lost recently.  A 50K DPSer that was not even close to all DS gear and knew all fights and followed mechanics.  Ah, the beauty of a player like that.  Too bad I could not get him into group one, so he left.  I understand it, it was not personal and like I said, everyone has to do what is best for them.  Doesn't mean it doesn't really get to you.

The beauty of a casual guild is there will be someone else like him next week or the week after.  There will be someone like that boomkin or priest I mentioned that are gems just waiting to shine.  It is not personal, you are a causal raid leader, you have to try and not let it get to you because people will always come and go.  More than in any other type of guild.

Enter the don't take it personal anxiety of the casual raid leader.  It is the hardest part of the job.

I've made it no secret that I never wanted to be a raid leader, still don't.  I would love to join a hard core raid guild and just be one of the quiet guys in the background that knows his job and does it well.  In the end however, that is not where I am and that is not who I am.  I am in a casual raiding guild and I am the raid leader and like it or not, the job seems to fit me better than I like to admit.

Raid leading can be a taxing job and raid leading in a casual guild can be ten times worse.  In the end, it is all worth it when you can have a great time doing it.  Like last night when we took someone along that has never even stepped into DS and we just stomped out normals for a nice quick run.  Every kill was a first for her and in a way every kill was a first for me too.  Raid leading a casual guild is different, really different.  You are part of a team and the team is a part of you.

In the end, I am a casual raid leader and these are some of the anxieties of a casual raid leader I deal with every day I log in.

Makes you wonder why I still do it?


  1. Anon, Grumpy's GL:

    Originally you did it because I asked you to do so, but with the passing of time, despite whatever protests to the contrary you might muster, you do it because you are damn good at it. I know sometimes I have had to listen to you bitching about this or that and the stress of it all worried me that I might lose you to another game or reverting back to the go out drinking every night for entertainment instead of WoW, but I told you to take some time off anyway. Because I value you as a person beyond whatever role you may play in the guild structure, I would still say the same thing if I felt you were stressing out again, like you did during the days you were running way way to many Zuls.

    Your analysis of how a good casual raid leader operates struck me as true. My job as the guild leader is made ever so much better by having folks like you in charge of different aspects of the game for the guild. Our banker is another who exceeds all expectations, keeping the guild bank a useful function. The other raid officers do excellent work, but I know they look to you for leadership with regards to it should be as you are the primary raid leader. Our recruitment officer works her draenie tail off in getting us a good supply of "cannon" fodder. All in all, every aspect of PvE seems to be covered well. I still want our PvP aspect to improve, but our PvP officer has done a lot more to get us closer to a RBG team, than I had hoped, so I am still thinking that by MoP, we may be competent in that regards too.

    Overall, as the Guild Leader, I am very very happy with the leadership team I have in our guild. Your contribution is surely noted and appreciated for the value that it gives.

    1. I think with MoP being more PvP based and all our new abilities being mostly for PvP along with a few new recruits that seem interested we might have a chance to finally get some PvP going in mists.

      Thanks for the kind words. I do the best I can and that is all I ever ask of anyone else. It is more a tribute to the people we have to say things have went well this expansion than it is the people in charge I would say. A leader can not lead the unleadable. If not for them, nothing would get accomplished.

  2. Another thing I might include, having dealt with this in my previous guild, was being prepared to deal absences of things that you take for granted. Such as raiders without Vent, Mumble, or any voice chat program. Or without DBM, or for that matter, ANY ADDONS AT ALL, perhaps. Also things like being hit capped, knowing what spells should be in a rotation, how to tank swap, etc. Obviously, this depends on the skill level of your social/casual run, but it's easy to forget that not everyone knows these things.

    For example, I did a raid back in Wrath with a tank who had only done 5-mans. He was skilled at his class, knew what his stats/spells did, when to use CDs, etc - he was very good, properly geared for introductory raiding, and all that - but the concept of tank swapping just eluded him. He had a great deal of trouble remembering when to do it, or how to watch for the appearance of certain debuffs/stacks, and it ended up really stressing him out, because obviously his mistakes caused wipes/deaths. It's not that he was a bad player, it was just something he had never done before and learning how to do it with that much pressure really shook him and made him nervous.

    1. I get a great deal of people like that in my guild and basically I would put that under teaching, most of what you said at least.

      The dealing with absences like vent and addons could be another topic all together. Sometimes you need to value what can be done without. We had a healer that was amazing but played on a super old machine. She couldn't run add ons, none of them, and still remained an amazing healer. So basically she did all the fights listening to me and doing what I said. As a matter of fact, when it was found out she had no add ons and healed old school, no one believed her. That is how good she was.

  3. What a nightmare! Why just dont be hardcore raid leader :)

    Really I am serious. Like someone said "hell is other people", the issue with most of the things with people is ultimately the performance(in many more than just one aspect though). By filtering out based on the specific criteria you want you are much more likely to reach your goal

    If you have people who are not really all too keen on raiding first place and are just there "because everyone does it". You get what you signed for -mediocrity or worse

    1. Anon, Grumpy's GL:

      A nightmare? Really? A challenge, yes, but a nightmare, no I don't think so. As far as "mediocrity or worse" goes, I would disagree totally on that. But then again I don't measure success on my part by counting heroic content boss kills or gear gathered, but instead measure it by having fun and seeing to it that as many of my guildmates have fun as possible also. Of course, and rather obviously so, your mileage varies...

    2. @Max

      It is not all that bad. Yes, it can be stressful at time but no, it does not really hinder my ability to enjoy the game any.

      If anything it has opened my eyes to a lot of other aspects of the game I might have never given any attention to.

      Like tragmog runs, pvp, just messing around doing stupid stuff like trying to see how many people we can get to stand on the top of the spike on the cathedral in stormwind, group fishing quests to org on alliance chars, not to fight but to fish. All fun stuff that if I played the game as seriously as I might naturally take it I would have never had the chance to experience.

  4. This put into words some things which I hadn't even realised had made our raid group fail. We're a casual raid team in a social guild. When we got to 3/8 hc the team just fell apart as the raid leader wanted to push heroic progression and half the group disliked banging their head against a brick wall. We should never have managed to get so far into heroics as it completely split the group.

    We're now trying to form two teams ready for Mists. One that will push heroic progression and the other which is casual, take it as it comes, like you've described. Having recruitment trouble but I'm hoping that's because of where the xpac is at right now.

    I'd love to raid with you as a raid leader. You seem to understand completely. Casual doesn't mean lack of effort it just means that you have fun, and include people, and don't blame people and publicly shame them (making them feel bad), and there's less pressure. You still be prepared and do your best, otherwise you let the rest of your team down.

    I don't know what my raiding future holds exactly. I have been asked to lead the new casual team but the responsibility is massive and I'd hate to let anyone down.

    Thanks for the very insightful post. It made for a good read and I've already shared the link with a few people.

    1. Sounds to me like you tried to push it faster than the group was ready for. As I mentioned in one of my thing there, that is an extremely hard place to be with a casual guild when you move progressed than you should have.

      This patch, the length of it and the ease of DS has really hurt a hell of a lot of casual guilds. More than anything else ever in game.

      Who would have thought an easier raid would be bad for casual guilds? Kind of took many people by surprise. Not me, I knew it would happen if we moved along too fast so I started planning early on what we were going to do. It is the only reason we are still doing okay and getting people to show up to raid. I acted preemptively.

  5. Reading through this post I thought to myself: is this person also guild leader and recruitment officer and everything inbetween? Once I read your guildmaster's reply I realized that wasn't the case, but... seriously, at least two points strike me:
    (5) Recruitment... your gm implies there's a damn good recruiting officer? From my experience a good recruiting officer is able to deal with people's expectations before they get to the raid, they make sure they understand and they are fit for raiding. How come you get to stress yourself over this as well?
    (6) Teaching... don't you have some class or at least role officers? Seems so off to expect from a RL to teach you how to play. Or a competent main tank to give pointers to tanks and so on... how come you take this upon yourself as well?

    What I don't really understand here is this casual guild concept. So it's a raiding guild, you say. Doesn't that imply that all of them are raiders? I thought that was the concept of raiding guild, be it casual or whatever. People who want to raid. People who are willing to raid per a given program and make it at least a number of raids out of the given ones. Otherwise, imo, you have a social-raiding guild. I'm having a hard time understanding where you draw the line from being a social raiding guild or from a semi-hardcore raiding guild.

    Still, it strikes me still how impersonal it all seems. I wouldn't be able to raid if I didn't get attached to my co-raiders and to my RL. As I read I thought meh, I'd hate to raid with random people and switch so much and so on. I was sort of poached for this group (long story) and what attracted me was the RL's speech that they don't want 'a tank', they want a tank 'of their own' whom they'll know will be there and become part of their group and be able to go out together camping, fishing whatever. So what I'm (genuinely) wondering / asking you is - what comes first for you? Is it the guild and the guild's mentality first? Is it your raiding group? What is your own purpose as a raid leader - meaning what do you seek to accomplish? Do you have a core group you get attached to or are you treating / seeing everyone the same / judge them only based on performance / skill?

    Also, don't you get tired? What keeps you there anyway, you must get some reward out of it, at least emotional but I don't really find anything in your post pointing me to an answer.

    (soz just seems an interesting topic to me, RLs always fascinate me for what tehy are sometimes willing to do, contrary to what I'd expect them to do)

    1. #5

      She talks to the people to see if they fit our guild and to see what they are interested in. Being we are a casual guild we accept people that are not there for raiding. Some come for PvP, some come just to level. Some come because we run old content for fun often. Some come just because they fit us personality wise. Her job to see to see they fit our "family values". My job to see see if they are raider.

      So while I do not do active recruiting. I do passive recruiting and try to fit everyone into the right places that she does recruit that come to me asking to raid.

      She is a filter for me so I only have to talk to a few new people that want to raid and not dozens of new players that want to join.


      Nope, no class or role leaders. We are not a hard core raiding guild so it is not required.

      We are a casual raiding guild so basically that means that is my job. As I said, a casual raid leader is different, WAY different from a hard core raid leader.

      I teach them or I will individually send them to the person I think can help them best. Just because someone is a DK does not mean each DK can teach them the same. I might send one person to bob to learn and might send another person to john to learn.

      Both might be blood/frost and both might be good. But I match people up so that they work well together. If I do not think any of our DKs would be able to teach this person I do it myself.

      As for the rest, read the first part I replied on recruitment.

      We look for people that fit us as a group first and foremost.

      The most important thing is getting to know the people. The most important thing is getting to be close to the people you raid with. The most important thing is being an "us" and not a me, me, me group.

      This is why we are not hardcore. If Jim is having an issue on a fight we do it again and Jim learns. So we might slow down a little and wipe a few more times, Jim is our team mate and he we are not some impersonal raid group that is just going to kick him because he has a problem understanding one fight. We all have issues sometimes, we deal with it, as a team.

      That is what makes us a casual group.

      We work as a team, a group, we move forward together.

      Most of us, even if we never met in real life, know each other in real life. We have each others phone numbers, we talk during the days. We can reach each other whenever we need to talk.

      That is a casual guild.

      Not sure what article you read, but I stressed the group aspect at least 10 times in the post. Seems like you were reading one thing and thinking something completely different.

      I urge you to read it again and you will see, you read everything completely wrong thinking a casual guild was impersonal. I am sure you missed a lot of what I wrote, like saying you do not see what I get out of it, read it again. I clearly state what I get out of it.

      Not trying to sound harsh, but you made a few statements that make it seem like you read the headers of each part and never read what was said in them.

      Please. Read all of it. Not just the headers.

    2. I read all of it, I probably didn't express myself clearly.

      It sounds impersonal because it looks like a balancing game more than anything. It doesn't look like you particularly get more attached to anyone rather than the other. Sure, you feel responsible, you are happy with them, sad etc. It feels more like 'people come and go' though. It doesn't feel like - these people right here, we've been through high and low together, we've wiped 206 times on Spine hc till we downed it and then we went out for a drink 20 minutes down the street. And then spent the nigh talking about failed relationships. And these people are important to me like any of my non gamer friends. That's what I meant by impersonal, seems like the whole purpose of it is not to get attached because nothing lasts. The whole section of 12 made me think that. 'The key is to find people that fit your mold and they will stick with you'
      I did ask if you have a group you get more attached to... I mean personal, not raiding-wise. You can have a perfect raiding team and never invest emotionally beyond gameplay.

      I asked you about what comes first to you even though you stated that you are part of the team and the team is part of you because I can't make out whether it's about being a casual raiding guild or a casual raiding group. Two of the guilds I've been in were very strict about their rules. One was excessively trying to balance out everyone that was able for (not necessarily good at) raiding and was hindering progress and another had a 'you raid with whom we tell you to raid' mentality.

      And no, it's not clear to me at all why you still raid lead. Because it fits you and you get satisfaction from time to time (maybe more often than not?) realizing that your raid leading made a difference is what I got form your post. Still, this doesn't seem like something to keep you going. And yeah I got the being part of a team thing, but it doesn't seem like a team to me if you always get in new people, change people, lose people.
      Maybe the difference of understanding is in what do you call 'a team'.

      I suppose it doesn't matter in the end. I was mostly trying to find an answer to a personal question I've put myself in regards to the four raid leaders up to now. Awesome people really, very understanding, protective but having put too much faith in me tbh. Sorry to have bothered you, my questions were too generic.

    3. Yes, there are people I get more attached to, there are people I enjoy doing things with more than others.

      Oddly enough, for in game purposes, I usually end up more attached to the better players. Mostly because I enjoy playing with people that learn faster and people that need less hand holding. It allows me more time to have fun myself instead of feeling as if I need to lead all the time.

      In the end though, we get to know each other, even those that come and go. Heck, even the people I never seem to content with I talk to and treat with respect. Just because they are not the same play style as me or not up to what I would like to see as a raider doesn't mean anything. Everyone moves at their own pace and I respect that.

      I think where there was a communication breakdown between us was on the groups. You thought of everything as the same. It is the group 2 and 3 and sometimes 4 that rarely if ever have the same people in them. The main team is mostly the same people and when it is filled in or rotated, it is with the 5 or 6 that are regulars in the second group.

      So perhaps maybe 16 raiders make up the main team and those 16 raiders have been together a long time now. With the rare exception where we had 6 people quit after T11 and two people guild hop after T12, everyone else has been the same.

      I loved T11, but in my opinion T11 killed the game. Sad how the only decent raid tier this whole expansion destroyed the game as a whole.

      As for what I get out of it.

      I genuinely like teaching people to raid. I like seeing them make progress. I like, sometimes, wiping on a boss that for me is easy, but for a new group it is a challenge and finally getting it down.

      I take my joy, at the start of a tier, out of the progression I make with the main group. Then, as time goes on, being we do not press heroics hard, I take the joy out of teaching others and leading them though the content for the first time.

      So many new players have come to the guild this expansion, started in cata, or never had a max level character or wanted to raid in previous expansions, and I lead them through the raids and taught them how to raid.

      Now that... is fun.

      Anyone can beat a boss they know they can beat. There is no excitement in that.

      Only a few people have the power, the desire, the ability, to take a bunch of people others might say shouldn't even be raiding, and do it with them.

      That is fun, that is a lot of fun.

      Most of these people will never be hard core raiders. Most will never see heroics. Most will be the person that gets kicked out of randoms for being bad. But with me, they are all winners and world beaters.

      I don't know how anyone could not enjoy that type of success.

  6. I remember going through all of this back in Wrath as a raid leader and assistant GM. Granted it was much easier last expansion. I do wish there were more raiding guilds like yours that get things done, but aren't pushy about it.

    I hope you can at least take comfort in the fact that your teams success is largely based on you(stressful I know, but at least to me it was a very rewarding experience).

    1. I tend to believe that they could do it without me. There are some really great players there. But I like to believe I help it along some.

      I do enjoy doing what I do with them. It is nice to be able to clear stuff without feeling as if we have to. Many people do not understand what that feeling is or how good it feels. They usually press into heroics instantly, or take for granted what they are doing in normals.

  7. I also am the raid leader of a casual guild and our situation is similar. We might make this article mandatory reading for future recruits. Two slight twists that complicate our situation more:

    1) We have a smaller active membership. We have(had) a fairly active core group that has given us the ability to field a single 10 man group for the last two expansion packs. We don't have a second group lead so we have been hesitant to recruit for a second group. As it is the drama associated with having to bench 3-4 people a night when we only raid twice a week for 2.5 hours becomes quite significant.

    2) We raid blind. No pre-reading of strategies unless we get truly stumped by something. This has made recruiting very difficult as we need to find people that not only fit the definition of a casual raider but are also interested in struggling a bit more in the beginning than a raid guild otherwise would. As a result though when we down a hard boss that we have worked on and worked out(sometimes over months) is a quite satisfying.

    1. One other thing to note - the introduction of the Raid Finder has been a huge double edged sword for us(not just from the raiding blind standpoint). On the one hand it is a great way of gearing up faster - which is a huge gating factor for a casual raiding guild. On the other hand I think is has seriously increased the expectations of our raiders and new recruits as far as progression goes. Have you experienced similar?

    2. A second (or third) group can be both a blessing and a bane. It is nice to have something to keep those people that aren't raiding busy, but it starts to become a juggling act, as mentioned. A few of the issues I mentioned would not as much of a problem it if were not for the fact we run 3 and on rare occasions 4 groups.

      Raid finder has actually been good and bad like you said, but it will never really be more good than bad until they make a 10 man version of it.

      Going in with others kind of hurts the group I think. Having so we can not roll as a group and give the loot to someone that needs it will also hurt.

      It is however a nice way to show new people the fights. They get a basic concept from doing it there and then you tell them what they need to do additionally.

      In a way I think the reason we blew through DS normal faster than any other content we have ever done is because of LFR, everyone had a chance to see it and I only needed to teach the changes.

      I don't like it however because it give people the wrong idea. It makes non raiders think they are raiders. And it makes some of the, excuse the description, good but stupid players into useless players.

      I had one paladin healer that I had been running with since wrath. He did the LFR the day it came out and we did the raid later and I was explaining the third boss, ball guy, because the other two are basically the same, and he said, why are you making this harder then it needs to be, just have the offtank bounce the ball and we can all stack up. I said, that is not how the fight is done. He said, sure it is. I tried to explain to him, but he was just too stupid to understand this was not the same. He later quit the guild because "I was trying to make things harder then they needed to be by bouncing the ball".

      Yes, I am serious, a holy paladin, a great one at that, that I had been raiding with us since wrath, quit because I refused to do things the way they do them in raid finder because "that is the way they are supposed to be done".

  8. Don't know if you are still reading comments on old posts but I just happened across this as I was doing some research in preparation to WoD.

    I really enjoyed the post and felt it described my experience almost to a tee. I have been raid leading 10-mans since ICC, not because I chose to but because it fell on me due to certain guild drama (which I am sure you can imagine).

    Throughout Cata my raid team composition was never the same at the start of each new tier of raids. Though by the end of Firelands we actually were doing some heroics before DS dropped.

    To your point I don't know if Blizz changed the tuning in general but DS was the first tier of raiding that I ever killed the H boss before the new xpac - our progression was that good - but we only raiding 2x per week for 3 hours each.

    I have to say the biggest challenge for me has been raid membership. I have churned so many players who come and go mostly though for RL issues, college, job changes, moving, marriage, babies etc. I have only had one raider in that entire time leave because he was unhappy with progression (which was good the guy was a jerk anyway.)

    I am going to cut and paste (with attribution) this article for my fellow quildies because I think many can relate. More importantly however, in the face of upsizing our 10man to 20 to be able to do mythic content I think this article should give many pause, because the issues you identified are quite real, and to progress with the intent of heroic content adds extra pressure to a "casual" guild.

    I am really curious what your thoughts or approach will be for the WoD raiding scene.


    1. Yeap, I still read all comments.

      Sounds like your experience is much like mine. I too became raid leader in wrath due to some guild issues with the raid leader quitting. I never wanted to do it but someone had to so I did.

      Same goes for the rest you said, very similar in terms of progression and turn over. I've been lucky this expansion. My raid team in the final tier is basically the same as when it started save 2 people. As far as turn over goes, that is fantastic.

      I have multiple raid teams now but only run 2 of them, which has taken a bit off me. So the move to 20 should not be as much of an issue. I think we are still a good 3 or 4 solid players from 20 man when the time comes. Our 25 man team is more a patchwork thing and not much progression wise because of it.

      I am sure I will be touching on the 20 man raiding in a few posts here and there as time draws closer.

      I am glad you liked the post and are sharing it. Best of luck with mythic. We might all need it.