Ready Check is a twice-weekly column focusing on successful raiding for the serious raider. Hardcore or casual, ZA or Sunwell Plateau, everyone can get in on the action and wonder where all the good resto shamans have gone. Seriously. We need you.
Many of us involved in raiding, endgame or otherwise, have been in a situation where a member of our raid force has quit, or we've decided to get a specific niche spec on board. Suddenly, a vacancy's open -- but how do you fill it? This article talks about the different approaches to endgame recruiting and other ways you can plan for contingencies such as your only enhancement shaman suddenly getting a girlfriend. This is from a guild's point of view, but for those interested in getting into raiding, this might give you some idea of the challenges you might face.
Why does this relate to endgame specifically? A lot of guilds recruit at various stages in their lifecycles, but the requirements for endgame are somewhat harsher; not only do you want someone who will perhaps fit in on a personal level, but more importantly you need someone reliable who will do their job, and come equipped to do it from day one. In general, although we'll get to this a bit later, you don't recruit someone in level 65 greens who's never been beyond a 5-man straight into a Sunwell guild. But what are the options when it comes to finding more suitable players?
Recruit on Par
The first option is to search for recruits who can literally jump right into your raids, i.e. their gear level matches your average gear level. Some classes and roles have a bit more flexibility with this, but a good example is our recent acquisition of a protection paladin with full tier 6 who spent his first raid with us in Sunwell. Had we recruited any lower down the gear ladder, we would have run into serious survivability and threat issues due to the lack of gear, and his experience raiding the same content as us certainly came in useful too.
Of course, this can seem like a dream situation, and it can also be fairly rare. Sitting around waiting for that perfect recruit to come along might mean you wait forever, passing up several people who could have been nearly as good. There's also all the awkward questions about exactly why someone at the same level of raiding as you is leaving their guild; we've all seen enough loot sponges and sub-par players to realise that a 'perfect' applicant could be one of them. A common way to get these applicants is to recruit cross-server, too, which means the player is usually an unknown (and might not like your guild, or your server, or your auction house...). We've found word of mouth amongst our good cross-server recruits has brought more, recruiting several people from the same disbanded guilds.
Corss-server recruitment can be achieved by a number of channels; the official guild recruitment forum is a surprisingly productive place to advertise, or you could try mmo-champion, worldofraids, WoW Insider or even craigslist. Poaching players by posting on realm forums (official or unofficial) might get you a bad rep, or it might get you results. Be honest about your progress and aims, provide a link to your guild website and make sure there are plenty of people able to answer recruits' questions; a level 1 in Teldrassil whispering you about DKP might be your new main tank.
Recruit Below, Throw Gear at the Problem
If you're still running farm instances for those last few drops, and tokens are mostly going to offspec or rotting, a logical recruitment step is to find players who are good, but undergeared, and get them up to speed during farm runs. This works if you have knowledge of the players (word of mouth recommendations are very valuable) and if you don't have a desperate need for them in your main raids just yet, but instead like to take on investment cases.
Sometimes there's simply no choice, based on your guild's position, but to recruit and gear someone up. During the gearing process you can evaluate their skill and ability to learn quickly -- it's terrifying for them to be thrown in at the deep end, after all. Given the demand for certain tokens, it's extremely easy for a recruit to walk away from a BT and Hyjal raid night with full or nearly-full tier 6, although shoring up the other holes in their gear might take longer.
The downside to this is that, when offered the chance to get decked out in epics and join one of the server's "big names", people rarely say no; it's hard to figure out if the player will even stick around once they have their tier gear, or simply sit in Ironforge inactive enjoying their guild tag. Finding the right players skill-wise is difficult too; someone might have been awesome in a heroic, but vastly inexperienced when it comes to raiding, and by the time you realise they're no good they've already gotten tier 6. Finally, if you're really progression-minded and have been farming an instance for months, going back when there's new content out can seem like a step in the wrong direction to some of the guild.
With both speed-geared recruits and alts (see below), you'll also run into a glass ceiling when it comes to gear. Healing and dps necks, rings, trinkets and weapons tend to be still sought-after by long-standing members; tank gear less so, as you generally take fewer tanks than healers or dps, but depending on your luck there's probably still a few items your tanks want too. This bars the recruit from getting top gear in many slots; sure, it might get any pieces of healing mail that drop, if they drop, but with blue or Karazhan items in contested slots it won't be on par with your other members. A keen recruit can farm badges and PvP to work on this, though.
When it comes to niche roles and specs, such as elemental shamans or retribution paladins, you might not really have room for one on your main raiding roster but appreciate the value one can bring to certain fights. Alternatively, it might just be a matter of class balance; you've got loads of druid, paladin and shaman healers, then suddenly you find yourselves up against a fight that requires masses of Mass Dispel. Recruiting new players to fill these niches might not be the only answer, if you've got plenty of farm time and some good all-round players already in the guild.
Role balance permitting, it's easy enough to take one or two alts to somewhere like Black Temple if they've already been coming to tier 5 instances, aren't stupid, and the token drops would rot otherwise. However, it's very easy for good intentions to come across the wrong way; conveniently, officers might suddenly be the ones taking alts along and leaving members behind, and it can seem pretty greedy to the rest of the guild.
A variation on this is simply to get your existing mains of the right class to pick up a good set of offspec gear, and be willing to respec as and when needed -- or, according to your needs, you could do both. Just remember that if you need someone who's only ever raided with one spec and role to suddenly respec and use that shiny set of offspec gear he's been hoarding, he might not actually be any good; you can overcome this by giving him some raid experience on farm content with a different spec, but some people have little interest in doing this and only take offspec gear for soloing. You also might end up in a situation where, for example, you don't have any spare healers -- so your holy paladin can't respec retribution -- but one of your prot warriors, who's not needed for the fight, has a ret alt.
Performance is obviously a problem either way round, and it might be costly if the guild bank has to fund respecs, different consumables and so forth. You'll need to assess your situation carefully and look at future fight requirements, who your better players are, who has experience with multiple roles in raids and who's going to have a clue about how to play, socket, enchant and buff their offspec or alt character. But if the tokens are rotting, and you don't want to recruit in an unknown, it's perfectly valid to just let your existing players have more flexibility ready for when you need it.
Premade Poaching (Keeping Gear in the Guild)
This approach to filling your raids is something that Blizzard wouldn't smile on at all, but that we've seen happening in several guilds. There are two sides to this; firstly, solve the problem of getting skilled players, and secondly solve the matter of gear. It works something like this: random warlock leaves your guild for RL, abandoning a raid-ready character with bucketloads of epics. Instead of recruiting an undergeared or inexperienced replacement, you find someone you know will be a decent player in their shoes -- say the top warlock from your server's other faction. Then you boldly break the TOS and risk getting that player banned.
Alternatives include simply getting the cross-faction character to 70 and in basic gear (say a PvP set) then gearing it up as you would any lower-geared player, or even buying the character illegally. We don't approve of this behaviour, not least because it's made serious dents into our guild's pool of decent players -- of course, the argument that they wouldn't have been tempted away by ready-made cross-faction characters if we'd been the right place for them holds some weight here. But account sharing is against the ToS, it can run the risk of the account and even colluding players in your guild getting banned, and it's looked down upon by others which can damage your guild's reputation.
Finally, if none of the above work for you, why not innovate? Use a different raid setup, reinvent your strategy and play to your guild's strengths. A lot of kills have come around from circumstance; too few healers online, and suddenly the DPS problem vanishes, leaving you with one dead boss. No shamans? Rearrange groups and take advantage of your five Circle of Healing priests. You never know, it just might work.