Every Monday Scott Andrews contributes Officers' Quarters, a column about the ins and outs of guild leadership.
Arriving with the upcoming 3.1 patch, Ulduar will be ground zero for hard mode raiding -- complex encounters rewarding the best loot in the game, presumably a hardcore raider's dream. There's only one problem: Hard mode is hard. Some people don't like hard. They like easy. Easy bosses, easy loot, and everybody wins, right? But other players enjoy a challenge. This week, one reader wonders how he can get his guild to dance the hard-mode mambo with Ulduar's finest.
With the release of Ulduar on the minds of most players, I thought this might be a timely question that ties in a current issue our guild's been having with what I see becoming a serious problem for us in the new 3.1 instance.
The current problem:
After clearing all available 25-man content and having it on farm for over a month, a line seems to have been drawn in the proverbial sand. Half of our raiders consider multiple drake Obsidian Sanctum the next step in guild progression. However, the other half seem to be content farming the content that is "easy" for us and are happy not logging on when we schedule attempts.
Furthermore, whenever we do get enough people for a "progression" raid, we run into the same problem. After a few attempts (I have seen as few as 2), we inevitably get the one or two raiders planting the seed of doubt.
"We don't have the DPS for this."
"Our healing is weak."
So, after no more than five attempts, most of the raid has jumped on the bandwagon . . . already fed up and looking to reduce the number of drakes to get the quick win.
The answer used to be to schedule your progression raids at the beginning of the week. Put a roadblock between a hungry raid and their easy loot, and you'd suddenly see motivated raiders. But now, when progression is seen as optional (or just for an achievement), how would you handle this?
Too many attempts at the beginning of the week, and suddenly the dedicated raider with 90% attendance when we're clearing Naxx has to go wash his dog or put out the tire fire on his front lawn.
If we go with our other option, to clear the easy content upfront . . . our guild tab filled with a plethora of eager raiders on Tuesday has all of a sudden turned into a desert wasteland on Thursday.
As an officer, I am desperately trying to figure out a solution to this problem before Ulduar. 11 out of 14 encounters will have optional hard modes, and I will not be happy clearing easy mode Ulduar every week for free loot.
Completely ignoring the fact that hard modes will hold the key to better loot (because it doesn't seem to be a factor now), how do I make hard modes part of progression instead of an unnecessary option?
Twilight Assist Forever
I have a similar problem, TAF. In fact, my raid leaders have all but stopped scheduling Sartharion attempts. My guild mostly runs Normal raids, and Sarth with drakes is pretty tough with 10 people. We've gotten him with one drake a number of times, but it has always been dicey. No one feels confident about trying it with two. So rather than having to answer the question, "How many drakes are we leaving up tonight?," my raid leaders have begun to sidestep the issue altogether.
A few people are pushing for it, and I'd like to see us keep trying. The problem is getting enough quality players on board to make it work.
TAF, you have a bit of an advantage in this situation. If half your raiders want to do the hard modes, and half don't, then you could just take the 10 people that want to make things difficult and run something with them. It's no secret that the 10-player versions are more difficult, so if it's a matter of pride then you're all set. If people are more interested in the loot that drops in the Heroic hard modes, you'll have to solve the problem another way.
Here are a few suggestions.
Mandatory Attempts: As a compromise, you could make a rule where players have to try a hard mode boss at least a certain number of times. It should be high enough that people will be motivated to avoid wasting time and gold, but not so much that people just don't participate. To me, six sounds like a good number. For Obsidian Sanctum, that's about one hour of attempts. After six solid attempts (meaning, the tank doesn't die in the first 10 seconds or similar goofs), you'll agree to reduce the challenge. Make sure that this is the only run you do that week. Don't separate the hard mode and easy mode runs if you want people to show up.
No Easy Mode: If you really want to rile people up, announce that you will never again defeat a boss on normal mode once it has been cleared that way a certain number of times. If your raiders don't have any other option to get loot, they'll either have to suck it up or quit completely. It's a risk, but you'll certainly separate the sheep from the goats with this policy.
Take a Vote: A more reasonable solution is to use a ready check vote at the start of each raid. Ask your members to click yes for hard mode and no for normal mode. Majority rules, with the raid leader's vote breaking the tie (which isn't likely to occur with 25 voters). Make it clear that, once a vote has been cast, you'll do it that way for a certain number of attempts. No one can argue with democracy.
Remove the Gold Factor: To the average raider, if you don't need the loot from a hard mode boss, you won't care how the fight is done -- you just want it over with quickly. You have nothing to gain from all the extra wipes and a lot of cash to lose. So make it less painful for everyone: Have officers and other motivated raiders farm herbs and meat for a few hours. Then give out free flasks and feasts to every member who shows up for a hard mode guild first. Let them repair from the guild bank's funds for one hour after the raid. Do this every week until you beat the encounter. When your members see your dedication to the cause, they will hopefully want to help. It's going to cost you, but hey, do you want that title or not?
No matter how you get your raids to do it, once you've cleared some hard mode bosses, there will be less resistance to the idea later. Just don't slam your raiders' faces into a brick wall. If you truly are undergeared for a hard-mode encounter, wait a few more weeks. Nothing will discourage your raiders more than wipe after wipe against an encounter that you are blatantly unprepared to face.
Ulduar is going to be an even bigger temptation to sleepwalk through on easy mode. The Obsidian Sanctum is only one boss, after all. If you wipe all night, you're still just a few minutes away from potentially clearing the place. With Ulduar, however, raiders are going to be more impatient about wiping on hard modes. The more of the instance that remains, the more people will stress about finishing on time or extending the raid to another night. The upside is that nearly all of the loot from that tier will come from Ulduar, so your raiders will be more likely to show up.
It may come down to a leadership decision about whether you ever try hard modes, always try them, or try them only when you have the right group composition. Make sure you talk to your raiders and get a sense of how they feel about it before you put a policy in place. If you alienate too many on either side of the fence, you may find yourself unable to raid at all.