Jov’s still on vacation but, fortunately for you, Mr. Seri has had something on his mind…
Hi, I’m Mr. Seri and I’m a tree.
I play WoW casually (far more casually than my wife and our friends) and since earlier this year I’ve been raiding with a progression raid guild as a resto druid.
A few months ago I started raiding with Seri and Jov’s raid team. From the outset I had some marks against me – my gear wasn’t super great, I didn’t have as much experience as others (although I did have some SSC/TK 25 man experience in Burning Crusade, and Karazhan experience with Seri/Jov/Tarsus) and I certainly didn’t have the WoW skills that others did. However, I had enthusiasm, I could type (without using ’1337 speak’) and I could take direction. (And Jov thought I was funny.)
In the last few months I’ve learned three things: the psychology of the raider, a firm hand is better than a gentle one, and trees have bark.
Psychology of the Raider
It’s fair to point out that in the overall hierarchy of gamer types I could easily be described as a ‘social’ gamer. I am here to play with friends, hang out, swap cool stories and have fun. The surroundings (raid) matter little to me, loot matters little to me, and achievements and other doodads really don’t float my boat. However, over the last few months I’ve found my mindset changing in the time I’ve been in the guild. In the beginning I was sort of wide-eyed, not really understanding what was going on or what ‘I think we’ve lost focus’ or ‘You just need to concentrate on executing’ meant. Now however, I’ve developed a better sense for raid psychology. I have learned that ‘focus’ isn’t some made up phrase, it actually has real meaning in terms of the morale of the team and how people are digging in to win no matter what. In one of our recent raids I found myself getting really frustrated because I felt like a good chunk of the raid wasn’t taking this particular progression fight seriously – there was a ton of joking, laughing, people trying to kill each other. I didn’t feel like the part of the fight we were working on was overly difficult, it just required near-perfection. But it seemed like with every attempt, people just cared less and less – they’d try for ten, twenty seconds and then just give up and run around trying to kill each other. I know that isn’t the reality, but that’s how it felt to me, at least.
I’ve learned that to excel in a progression guild you need to have that drive to win. You don’t necessarily need to be a ‘win at all costs’ type, or the sort that always wants to be the top of the healing/DPS charts. But you need to have that desire to know you’re one of a small subset of guilds that can do what you do. To be fair, I never thought I’d succeed in a guild like the one we’re currently in. My ex-guildmates in RHOT were positive that I’d last maybe 2 weeks, 4 weeks max before I’d be frustrated and taking off. And to be fair, learning to accept a called raid wipe was weird for me – I wasn’t used to it. You need to put yourself in a mindset where you accept that the raid leader is looking thirty, sixty, ninety seconds or minutes ahead and can see that this just isn’t going to happen and everyone just needs to die fast and get back in there. I accepted this far more easily than I thought I would. In fact, I’m so amused by the concept of the ‘Mandatory Wipe’ that when I won a 120 GB iPod at work I named it that exactly.
I’ve slowly found myself changing. I focus more on bettering my game now, I check our various stats in our saved logs to see how I did. Tweaking my rotations slightly, or my positioning, or learning how better to maneuver and shift around and keep my healing presence high. To be fair, I have two really good healing leads (one is Jov) and a great ‘senior druid’ (Hi Ling!) who has helped me along. I had healed 25 man raids before Wrath but not since the change-over, so it took some relearning to figure out the ‘new’ ways of doing stuff. And I even surprised myself when discussing my talent tree with Ling – as I saying things like, “Well, this particular talent accounts for sixteen percent of my overall healing, which means we’ll need to make sure that these changes exceed that in order to see any sort of positive change in my healing numbers…” Yeah, I never figured I’d be saying stuff like that.
A Firm Hand Is Better Than A Gentle One
This one comes out of learning how this particular guild runs fights. When I started, the guildmaster lead almost every single raid. There was the often quoted ‘Vesht Mod’ – essentially a running verbal tally of everything that was going on. So for example, it might go something like this: “Alright, everyone’s here. Let’s go: five, four, three, two one, go go go….alright, spread out, spread out, good positioning. Group two, move to the left a bit good good … good. Shadow Crash on Ling, move, moving, good, good, boss is transitioning, on him, good, Mark on Bas, move Bas, there you go, great, boss is shifting, flame explosion in ten, Shadow Crash on Jov, move Jov, there you go, explosion in five … and out, move out, great, excellent movement, and …….back in, reposition…”
It was this never ending comforting litany of everything that was going on. Now, there’s a plus in this – you always know what’s going on, but there’s a negative as well. It requires your ‘boss mod’ to always be there – and people sometimes can neglect their own situational awareness capabilities in lieu of just waiting to be told to move. In the end as this particular guildmaster started raid leading less this changed – and the ‘new’ raid leaders didn’t keep that running tally in quite the same way. However, they’ve kept the second trait I saw that the GM had – the firm hand. By that I mean, if you die he/she wants to know why. Not in an insulting way, but more like: “Hey Bas, I know this is only your first time doing this fight, but look through your combat log and whisper me why you died.” And once you explain it, you get a simple, “Alright, cool. Lets avoid that in the future, try not to let it happen again.”
I think raid leading is just like managing any other group – one person has to be in charge, one person has to try to manage all the people that want to back-seat drive (and trust me, there’s a ton of that) and they have to both cajole and constructively criticize those folks that need it to help step up their performance. I’ve experience both the gentle-hand-no-real-firmness-not-calling people on stuff raid leading, and I’ve experienced the sort of raid leading where there’s no question who is in charge. I prefer the latter.
Trees Have Bark
By this, I mean that you need to have a thick skin to raid with a progression raiding guild, I’ve found. Tensions get high when you’ve been wiping on the same boss for 4 hrs, and before that last night you wiped for 3.5 hrs on the same darn guy – people blow off steam and you need to have a thick skin. You have to not take it personally when a raid leader says ‘Hey, you messed up there, don’t do that.’ You have to not take it personally when someone asks you to change your talent spec because they believe it’s wrong. You have to accept that a leader has to try to lift you up by your bootstraps and get you energized and excited about winning – and sometimes that means being frank enough to say, “We can do better, we know it, we need to not suck. We’re better than that.” It’s hard to hear in the beginning and there were definitely times when I was learning OS+3 or 6 minute Malygos that I wanted to throw my display out the window with frustration. But that frustration subtly shifted over time – I wasn’t ticked off because someone called me on dying to the lava eruptions, I was ticked off because I knew I was a half-second late on moving, and that was why I died. The focus shifted less from feeling bad because someone ‘called me out’ and more to being annoyed at myself because I knew I could be better.
You gotta be able to let that stuff slide off your back. Last week I had a healer call me out on the healing channel when I was (without realizing it) standing too close to her during one particular fight. I didn’t realize it (for other reasons that aren’t important to go into) and had to accept that hey, she was right. I shouldn’t stand so close to her during this fight.
The bark thing also applies internally. As a healer, there are many times that I have to watch us wipe because we’ve lost too many DPS, or we lost a tank because someone missed an interrupt or what have you. Many, many many times I’ve had to die just because someone else didn’t do something right. And that was pretty frustrating for me in the beginning, and I still struggle with it. It’s hard to keep ‘up’ when you know your seven other healers are all kicking butt and someone else just screwed up. (Conversely, I’m sure it’s just as frustrating to be a tank or DPS and have the reverse happen.)
I like being a progression raider. God help me, I never thought I would. But I do. I like the challenge, I like continuing to hone yourself by tiny little increments. I like the people, I like knowing I’m in a select subset of guilds worldwide that get to do this stuff. Granted, the guild I’m in isn’t the best in the world, but I’m darn proud of what we do. And much to my surprise, I find myself digging each time we step in to fight a new, largely unknown boss.
Many thanks to Kaylan e. of Drawing on Walls for the artwork!