A few weeks ago I had a great chat with Mick from The Starting Zone podcast about casual raiding in Mists of Pandaria. We both agree that normal mode raids have become more difficult than in the last two expansions. The existence of LFR has emboldened Blizzard to tune normal more tightly than they have in recent years.
If you're in a casual raiding guild that is having trouble in normal mode, here are five tips on how to improve progression and morale without pushing your raiders to the breaking point.
1. Talk about your lack of progression. For an officer, silence is deadly to morale, both during raids and after. In that silence, you know that people are whispering to each other about what's going wrong, or griping about other players. Maybe they are just sitting there stunned and disappointed, unable to muster a coherent thought. In any case, it's bad.
It's up to the guild's leadership to break the silence. During the raid, talk about what's going wrong in a constructive way. Don't forget to talk about what's going right, too. Afterward, create a thread on your forums to debrief. Solicit suggestions and strategies. Encourage a dialogue. Let people vent a bit, if they have to. It helps relieve the pressure -- just be sure to moderate and make sure the discussion stays civil.
When people brainstorm ideas, even terrible ideas, it makes everyone feel a bit better. It gives them a reason to hope. It also encourages everyone, by implication, to look at what they can do personally to improve, without you having to say it.
2. Evaluate your raid leader. Bad raid leaders aren't all obviously bad. You have to look for warning signs.
The problem may not be your players at all, but the way the raid leader is using them. Maybe your tank healer is better suited to raid healing. Maybe the rogue assigned to interrupts tends to tunnel-vision his rotation and someone else could get the job done more consistently.
A raid leader can also have bad strategies. Do they watch the encounter videos ahead of time? Do they grasp how to tailor a strategy for your particular group makeup? Do they make good adjustments after wipes? If the answer to any of these is no, then your raid leader may not be the person in the guild who is best suited for that role.
I never recommend pulling rank or undermining a raid leader publicly. That will discourage anyone else from volunteering for the job. If the officers have concerns about raid leadership, they will have to talk to the raid leader about it in private and decide a course of action.
3. Stress mechanics first, performance second. The best players in the world -- the ones who rank on World of Logs every fight -- will still wipe to a boss if they fail to avoid damage or execute mechanics properly. Many players cause wipes because they are too worried about their place on the meters before they've really learned the fight.
As an officer or a raid leader, you can try to prevent some of these unnecessary wipes. Praise the players that survive fights more than the ones who top meters. Push your guild's raiding culture in a direction where awareness is the best quality, and raw output is secondary to that.
4. Encourage questions. Some players get too embarrassed to ask a question. They think they're already supposed to know. They're afraid they will reveal that they haven't really prepared for an encounter. They think everyone else will think they're dumb or lazy for asking. So they'll just keep quiet and hope they don't have to deal with that element of the fight. Then, when they inevitably have to, they die or get someone else killed.
Give everyone a chance to ask questions each time you decide on a strategy or change a strategy. Make it a friendly and honest request -- don't imply by your tone of voice that no one should have a question or that any question will be a nuisance. If your raiders don't feel comfortable enough to speak up when they're confused, then you'll never know for sure whether everyone is on the same page until the wipe happens.
5. Rally around a team dynamic. The right attitude for raiding at any level is this: "We're all in this together, so let's figure out what we have to do as a team to down that boss."
When a player feels like they are letting the team down, they should know that you or someone else on the roster can help them. If you push a team-first attitude, then players are more likely to seek ways to better themselves in order to help the team.
Great coaches don't point fingers at individual players, and neither should you. A team wins or loses as a team, and that should always be a leader's attitude.
Officers' Quarters keeps your guild leadership on track to cope with sticky situations such as members turned poachers or the return of an ex-guild leader and looking forward to what guilds need in Mists of Pandaria. Send your own guild-related questions and suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.