I feel like it's been a while since I wrote a column about casual raiding. I posted a four-part guide to making it work back in April 2008. Since then, I've pointed most people who write me about this topic in that direction without writing a full column on their questions. A lot has changed in WoW since then! It feels like the right time to revisit the topic.
First, here is this week's e-mail:
First, let me thank you for publishing such a wonderful column. I read it religiously and find the topics and information extremely helpful. I am writing to you with a problem in the hopes you may have some advice.
Let me start from the beginning to give you a more clear picture. Pre-Wrath Currahee had a solid core group of players and we were progressing forward with heroics and beginning to enter Kara. About this time the guild began to crumble as the core players left for raiding guilds that were progressing into further content. Wrath comes out and most of our core players are gone, those that remained leave within a few months after Wrath is released. This summer, the guild leader handed over the reigns to me and left the guild to focus on school as he was returning to college. There was a drop in membership as he left (from about 100 to around 50), though the ranks have held pretty steady, increasing by a few players under my leadership.
Today I am facing unrest in the guild as folks are unhappy that there is "never anyone online". I do my best to recruit, I have posted on the official forums, setup an account on WoWHeadhunter, I have joined forces with a small guild <Punisher> on my server to run ToC 5-Man on a near nightly basis. As we typically only have 4 members online, we usually have to find our 5th. If they are any good, I ask if they are interested in joining Currahee (no new recruits from this method yet).
So my question is this... I see our ranks diminishing, I see unrest within the ranks, and I care that my members are unhappy but don't see an immediate solution. There are 57 members for 26 accounts, with differing schedules and such it is entirely possible that someone may be the only member online. I can proceed as I am, knowing that Currahee is a social guild and that it will build at it's own pace, or I can try other means to recruit new players. Please help me understand the best path...
Myself and the other main player have pretty strict schedules with regards to availability, this schedule doesn't really lend its hand to hard core raiding. I am very content with running 5-man Heroics and helping others where I can. I do not want to dedicate 3+ days a week at 3-4 hours a sitting to get the highest end gear available in the game. I am not opposed to doing raids, it just has to be very casual raiding!
Hi, Miraposa. I have good news and bad news for you. The good news is that there has never been a better time to raid casually in WoW than right now.
First of all, with all content available for only 10 people, you don't need a big team in order to raid. If you have 26 people in your guild as you state, you need less than 50% attendance on a given night (assuming you can cover tanking and healing requirements) in order to make a raid happen. That isn't asking too much.
You should, of course, schedule these raids ahead of time and ask people to sign up for them using the in-game calendar or an add-on like Group Calendar. That way you can make sure you'll have a decent amount of people.
Even if you're short, you should be able to find players to fill your remaining slots, as you do for the ToC dungeon currently. Players are much more willing to PUG raids than ever in WoW's history. On my server, I've seen PUGs for every raid dungeon there is, including hard modes, with the single exception of Heroic ToC25.
Another change that has been a big help for casual raiding guilds is the lockout switch. You can now choose not to reset your raid on Tuesday morning. That way, if you get stuck or you don't have time to finish, you can continue your run next week without having to start over.
ToC (and Onyxia) can easily be finished in a single night if you've learned the encounters. While you're still learning, however, you have the option now to skip the reset. When Icecrown Citadel is released, you can choose to farm early bosses or progress through the instance from week to week as you see fit. So even if you're on a very limited schedule of raiding one or two nights per week, you can still eventually clear every available raid, no matter how large.
Finally, there is the gear factor. Again, you have it much easier these days than in prior years. The emblem system allows you to save up for meaningful upgrades by running any Heroic dungeon or raid. And if you've been gearing up in the Champion dungeon, you already have quite a few Ulduar-level pieces. You should already have a solid foundation of gear in order to beat ToC10. The gear requirements in there, at least on the normal setting, are fairly forgiving.
All in all, you have the tools and means at your disposal to raid on your own terms and to do so successfully. Take advantage of it!
I mentioned earlier that there was also bad news. The bad news for your guild is that raiding has become so accessible that it is practically essential, even for a mostly social PvE guild, to raid something at some level. So if you choose not to raid, you will continue to bleed players and your recruiting efforts will fall short more often than not.
The vast majority of players just aren't content to run dungeons anymore. I don't want to say that all guilds must "raid or die." There are alternatives, such as PvP and roleplaying. But if you're leading a PvE guild and you aren't raiding, you will attract only the players who aren't interested in raiding at all -- and in my experience those players are very hard to find these days. Maybe I'm just out of touch with that demographic, but I don't encounter or even hear about very many anywhere in the WoW community.
Now, before you jump into it, I would highly recommend reading through the casual raiding guide I mentioned above. The nine points that I list there are still very applicable today.
My mantra is that casual raiding does not equal lazy raiding. Your members still need to put an effort into learning and equipping their characters in order to succeed. As the guild leader, it will be your responsibility to impress on your players that they can't just waltz into a raid completely unprepared and expect to one-shot every boss. It just doesn't work that way, even with raid bosses generally being much easier than they have been in the past.
Fortunately, it doesn't take all that much effort to get ready, either. Gem and enchant your gear in a way that makes sense, use your talent points wisely for a PvE setting, understand what your class is expected to do, and you're pretty much there. These are all things most players do anyway. Bring consumables, watch some videos of the fights and/or read up on the encounters, and you're golden.
If your players are more focused on the social aspects of WoW than player performance, they may need some help from you, as the guild leader, to figure out where to get critical information about their class. When you're asking your players to be prepared, it's important to be willing to lend a hand in preparing them.
Your goal should be to have fun while you raid, without letting lazy or clueless individuals drag the group down. All it takes to ruin a 10-player group is one or two people who didn't put in the same effort as others and who didn't seek out any help. Stay on top of your raiders. Make sure they are putting in the minimum effort and you will do well.
Not everyone in your guild will be willing to put in that minimum effort. And that's OK. They just shouldn't expect to raid with you. Set a low-bar standard, like having your gear gemmed and enchanted, and enforce it. That will send a message that you don't want to waste your raiders' time by carrying zero-effort players.
Over the Thanksgiving holiday, I spoke with a friend's father who was complaining about his former guild. The officers gradually transformed the organization from a very casual raiding guild to a very strict raiding guild. Eventually the officers were asking players to submit monthly updates about their character's progress to make sure everyone was keeping pace.
You don't have to take it nearly that far! You don't have to put massive pressure on anyone to put out 7000 DPS or be benched. You don't have to stick anyone's character under a microscope. All it takes to beat the normal endgame bosses today is a little bit of work and knowledge on everyone's part.
I suggest, for the long-term survival of your guild, that you at least give raiding a try. Your players will have a reason to log in, you'll have brand new experiences to share with your guildmates, and you'll have a much easier time adding players to the roster.