i needed to read that. thank you =) a great article.
Would it surprise you if I told you that Nihilum, Death & Taxes, and many of the top guilds raid less than most raiding guilds?
For most people, thinking of the top tier of raiding guilds conjures thoughts of people who do nothing but play a computer game in a dark room somewhere. In fact, this is often not the case -- time for career, family, and friends are still very much a part of their lives.
The key is in time management.
Let's start with two basic premises for top tier raiding guilds.
First, these are people who are very invested in their goal; they are disciplined in this pursuit. The top tier of raiders are not raiding for loot.
Second, they are extremely coordinated and understand their strengths and weaknesses. They work with each other to improve each other's play. This group of players is relentlessly social.
Accepting that these are generally good players who work together and have a goal to be successful, not grumpy hobbits, is a given. Any other group of people will not succeed no matter how much time they are given.
Finally, let's note that what is fun to one group of people is considered either too serious or too casual to another group. What some players enjoy is certainly not what others enjoy, just as I may enjoy fishing while another may enjoy snowboarding. Or, perhaps a better example, one person may strive for the Superbowl while another may be sponsoring the High School football team.
What Is Normal?
There's a broad range of what is considered normal and what is considered "over-doing it." This is almost always determined by your server and the top guilds there; on some servers, guilds raiding more than 12 hours a week are considered hardcore players who are throwing their lives away; on others, those same guilds would be considered very casual guilds.
In the following examples, I'm going to use 16 hours as the basis for a "normal" raiding guild. From my experience, 20 hours is more common for very solid raiding guilds who are not "top tier" but, in time, complete most of the same content.
Shifting Balance in Schedules for Raiding Guilds
There is a constant upwards shift for raiding guilds as they begin new content and new raid zones. This shift is between how much time is spent on old content, or "farm" content, and new content, or "progression."
After a few weeks into new content, the raid usually expects to have downed at least one or two of the very early bosses. At this point, their schedule begins looking like this:
They are still spending most of their time on new content, and once the raid week is over they have plenty of time off. After all, these aren't the hardcore raiding guilds! They have a strict schedule they do not deviate from, making it easy to adjust to work and family schedules.
As 1-2 months progresses, much of the easier content in the raid zones have been completed. In the instance of the Burning Crusade, this would be the point when much of Serpentshrine, Void Reaver, and perhaps Al'ar have been defeated. The schedule begins to look like this:
Suddenly the days are split. Two raid nights are invariably taken corralling the guild to two separate raid zones and completing known content. The additional two nights (in a four night schedule) are spent trying to learn the later bosses of an instance.
As new bosses such as Solarian and Morogrim are taken down, old bosses become faster and quicker. Even so, the sheer number of encounters the guild must complete in time to keep people motivated and keep gear flowing is taking it's toll on the schedule. By the time the guild is focusing on Vashj, Kael'thas, or beginning Black Temple and Hyjal, the schedule starts looking like this:
It's at this point that things become frustrating. Not only is the guild faced against very difficult, very specific encounters, they are only finding one day -- very occasionally two, if the raid week is great -- to work on the content.
This causes several issues. First, content that is nearly ready to be completed often gets held off another week or, depending on the complexity, two or more weeks before it's finished. Some nights when the class balance in the raid is ideal are followed up by a week with raider vacations or other holiday-related shortages.
Worse, this becomes taxing on the guild leadership. New players to the guild feel they only have opportunities to get gear in the older content and do not want to see it dropped; veteran players who are still looking for gear feel they have a right to push for older content in hopes of finishing off sets.
More often than not, this is the stage when players start rationalizing progress with their personal motives. Have you ever heard someone say, "We should keep going back to these older instances to gear up for the new content," or "progress doesn't matter, this game isn't a competition!" I'd wager most of you have, or will soon.
What players do not understand is how real a factor time is on the guild welfare as well as their own. Spending time gearing up for new content is almost never as well spent as time actually working on that content. This is especially true in the Burning Crusade, where stat differences and gear progression between Karazhan and Black Temple is relatively small; keep in mind that Nihilum cleared through Black Temple just 3 months after raiding began. Gear is good, but it is not key.
The key, as said earlier, is time.
Burst Management for Top Tier Guilds
At the beginning I noted that top tier raiding guilds often spend less time raiding than other guilds. How is this possible? I know they spend 35+ hours a week inside a raid zone! Yes, that's partly right. Many of these guilds do spend 35 hours a week inside a raid zone.
Let's consider the same scenario as above. In our first example, these guilds have spent a week in a new raiding zone with their incredible schedule. Their time would look like this:
Pretty crazy, right? Of course, that's how they get this incredible progress. They spend as much time as they possibly can inside a raid zone on new content. Doing so allows them to knock down boss after boss in rapid succession, and allows continuity of progress -- after all, they aren't taking week-long breaks to work on the same content, but are instead showing up the next night to finish the job.
After a few weeks, they go onto the next stage, just as a normal raiding guild would:
They are spending more time working on old content just to get back to the level they need to be. They still need to clear through to Kael'thas and Vashj (or through Illidan and Archimonde, as it were) to get the time on these fights. However, when they get there, they still have an incredible amount of time to spend on progress.
This is because of the weekly reset. Consider this -- old content needs to be completed every instance reset. This guild realizes that raiding the amount of two weeks in one week does not just give you double the time: it also gives you all of the extra time you would have spent working on the old content. In other words, if you raid 16 hours two weeks in a row and spend 8 hours each week clearing old content, 16 of those 32 hours are spent on old content. However, if you raid 32 hours in one week, only 8 of those hours are spent on old content.
This guild also completes old content much quicker, even though they have more of it to do. The reason is loot progression -- even though they haven't been farming past gear, they are killing new bosses quick enough to receive items with much higher item levels and more potency. While the gear difference is not that dramatic, they are saturating their raid with every single encounter along the way, often seeing dozens of gear upgrades each week. Further, these items aren't rotting -- almost everything that drops is an upgrade.
By comparison to the first guild who only finds an average of 4 hours to work on new content, this guild can pull more than four times that each week on the same content. What would take a month to complete for the schedule-burdened first guild would be finished in a week for this guild.
Then the bosses die.
With many months to spare -- sometimes half a year -- these guilds move into a very small raid schedule. This is the hibernation phase of the guild, when they lead very relaxed (but still disciplined) raids.
This is where the guild succeeds. Not only were they a world-first guild, they have also become so quick and geared for the encounters that it just takes a couple solid nights of raiding to clear content each week. Their guild bank and their members are recuperating money at a quick clip -- one-shot-kill instance clears net over 60 gold after repairs each week and BOE epic plans are sold on behalf of the guild bank. Also, gems no longer stay a large expense of the guild members, as they are at a stage where the gems they need are found inside the raid zones.
While this guild only raids a few hours each week, most other raiding guilds are still pulling their full schedules -- 16-20 hours a week.
This is burst management. Not everyone can be a part of this guild, but many players can -- college students, financial advisors, self-employed players and those maintaining an online business. Also, anyone who is still young enough to be able to run on 4-5 hours sleep a night for 1-2 months usually fits well in these guilds.
How Can My Guild Use This?
There are a few ways you can take these principles and apply them to your guild while still maintaining a workable schedule. Let's assume that you can't necessarily build your guild on the principle of burst management. Here's a few things you can do:
Drop Old Instances
Be willing to drop old instances as soon as your gear progression can handle new instances! Do not continue official guild Karazhan on raid time when you are in Serpentshrine; do not continue Gruul and and Magtheridon on raid time when you are finishing Serpentshrine and Tempest Keep; do not continue running both Serpentshrine and Tempest Keep when you are learning Mount Hyjal and Black Temple.
You have to be keen on key processes when doing this. For instance, as a guild moves into Black Temple and Mount Hyjal, it will need to make sure that new members are able to be keyed as they join the guild. Doing this haphazardly can cost the guild valuable time.
There are two options. First, you can alternate Serpentshrine and Tempest Keep each week, ideally spending one night on the old content and doing half of the keying process. This can sap weekly progress on new content as it consistently reduces overall raid time; however, it remains consistent.
Second, you can choose to bite the bullet every few weeks and spend a raid week keying several new applicants at once. This can be very effective immediately after a major boss kill in Black Temple or Mount Hyjal; however, it can be frustrating when it interrupts the valuable continuity of learning in a new encounter. This is the most time-efficient option, but may not be the most guild-effective option, and leaves you open to the risk of being unable to raid if poor class balance shows up at an awkward time.
Temporarily Extend Raid Times
When things are down to the wire and you are in danger of not completing content, give people a few weeks warning and some inspiration -- ask them to accept extended raid times on a temporary basis for a guild goal. Be a leader. This worked incredibly well for my own guild as we approached Kel'Thuzad -- about a month prior, I let them know that we simply had to buckle down and finish the zone or we were in danger of not completing what we had set out to do. Since I had held strictly to our guild schedule for two years (albeit with growth), they were sympathetic to the need and trusted it wasn't permanent. We pulled 3 successive 8-hour raid nights, finally killing Kel'Thuzad well after Midnight.
Keep in mind that adding two hours to that schedule is increasing your time on new content by 50%.
In our guild we had two mottoes that drove us through content, "Progress is Priority" and "Speed and Efficiency!"
Speed and efficiency was built into our guild from our very first raid. Most of my raiders had been pulled from speed-UBRS runs, and they knew how I liked to raid before we entered Molten Core. I rarely gave our healers time to get full mana and I rarely let loot be finished before we were pulling trash mobs -- instead, we opted to leave a Master Looter behind to handle loot while the guild continued.
It may seem harsh and too-quick, but it had the benefit of raising morale. Everyone in the guild was aware of our speed and we were proud of it -- and our healers became so skilled at handling their mana that we knocked down encounter after encounter with their prowess. It wasn't until the very last months of pre-Burning Crusade Warcraft that we had the number of healers "normal" guilds did; our crew was so strong we never noticed it.
Pulling faster will often do more for your guild progress than giving you more time. People will be on their game. People will be engaged and they won't get bored waiting for loot decisions. Your raiders will perform better.
Frontload Your Content
Little in this article suggests which content to do when during a given raid week. To increase your ability to complete content, it can be very valuable to move all progression content to the period immediately following an instance reset -- in other words, on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday nights, or possibly Saturday, depending on your schedule.
This is an option that has only been seriously available since Naxxramas; that zone had four wings of varying difficulty with encounters that relied on somewhat different class makeups. This allowed you to pick and choose your destination each night. It has expanded in the design of The Burning Crusade -- multiple zones with very different structures and designs. At any given tier of content except 10-mans you are dealing with twin zones -- Gruul and Magtheridon, Serpentshrine and Tempest Keep, Black Temple and Hyjal. In the future, Karazhan will be coupled with Zul'aman.
When you choose to do the hardest content first as a matter of guild policy you give yourself more flexibility in two routes. First, if you are suffering on content before the weekend, you can motivate people prior to the next raid week by spending the Sunday and Monday before the next reset clearing easier content offering a lot of loot upgrades. Second, if you are very close to killing a boss, it gives the opportunity to push for that boss while spirits are high without disappointing too many people for skipping an earlier zone. Do you run the risk of not being able to kill an important boss such as Kael'thas or Lady Vashj? Yep. And it will hurt, too.
Most importantly, though, is being able to adapt your raid for progress. Planning and organizing consumables for the beginning of the week is a matter of preparation, not doctrine. The principle for progress here is that you are able to raid new content any time during the week as necessary; be prepared to have that incredible class makeup you need for Magtheridon or Mother immediately after an instance reset. Your goal is not rigid, but fluid -- if class balance is great on Tuesday then raid new content on Tuesday; if it is weak Wednesday, go to your old content; if it's good on Thursday, go back to new content and put the remainder of old content off until Monday. In other words, planning to raid early gives you and your raiders preparation to raid any time at all, since consumables, gear, strategies, and goals are in place at the instance reset.
Want an easy way to say this to your raid without settling into the mindset of a fixed schedule? Just say, "you show up, we'll make the decision based on who we have and what our class balance is." It's that simple. Even if you have planned where you are going and are going to keep content frontloaded 90% of the time, it's still truthful to say that your decision will be based on class balance.
Never push a great raid to old content at the beginning of the week. Wait for the rainy days to do that and, if there are none, take your great raid to clean house before the next reset.
i needed to read that. thank you =) a great article.
yep, agree great article.
We are hampered in our progression by the continous lamentations of players anxious to join the progression group, when they haven't spent the time in heroics or invested enough energy to get the second kara group deeply viable.
Unfortunately, we will need both of the group to tackle the 25 person instances.... arg.. progressions seems like such a dream.
I thoroughly enjoy raiding quickly and efficiently and really like the idea of assigning a master looter to stay behind and distribute loot. My question though is at what distance can loot no longer be distributed? Can you master loot to a person on the other side of an instance, or do they have to be within a certain radius to receive it?
Just one of those things I'm curious about.
Thanks for the help,
Wow, great article. It perfectly fits my own thoughts, although my GM and guild probably thinks ... differently.
I'm like an hardcore thinking gamer in a "normal/casual raiding guild" ...
In my old guild we did speed clears through farm content (BWL/AQ40) with loot set to FFA. Then when a couple people were bidding on loot they would stay by the corpse while the rest of us continued clearing. Whoever won looted their item and then ran to catch up. It made things way faster, in my prior guild we spent at least 15 minutes of combined time doing nothing but watching loot and then getting ready for more pulls per night.
What an awesome article. I stole it and reposted on our guilds forums. Mad Props.
Overall you make some good points, and it really shows how efficient time management can actually lead to a lot more fun raiding.
Previously I've been in guilds that raided 16-20 hours a week, but generally moved slow in terms of progress and spent a lot of time farming old content. Currently the guild I am in raids 12 hours a week with no exception aside from an extra 90 minute raid once at the end of the week to get our first Kael kill. I didn't see it mentioned, but having raid sign-ups greatly increases efficiency too. All raiding members are required to sign up for raids on our website the week before, so officers are able to plan for our schedule at the beginning of the week, and everyone comes knowing what to expect. I believe the casual schedule also lends itself to creating a more solid core of raiders (I think we have 28 or so right now), which in itself leads to much, much more efficient raids on progress nights, as we can take the same group to a difficult boss every time with 1 to 2 people different at the very most.
In terms of time, farming old content generally is not something we prioritize. We just had our first Kael kill Monday (typical offnight), did a full clear of SSC Tuesday and TK Thursday just to get all of our raiders attuned, and last night went into Hyjal and killed Rage and Anetheron (sorry, it sounds like I'm bragging). We don't plan to ever go back to SSC or TK unless it's necessary to attune a new recruit, which again is not as necessary with the solid reliable core. I think the whole "gearing up for new content" thing is overrated. In general adjustments in individual efficiency, as well as raid strategy, far outweigh the slight improvements in gear. A couple full runs of a farm instance might increase overall dps, healing, or tanking efficiency by 2-3% at the most. Encounters are not tuned so specifically that this gear is necessary when players are performing with optimum efficiency and consistency. Having less gear also puts more pressure on players to buff properly for everything and perform well. I will say that main tank gear has a much larger impact on the raid than anyone else's.
Edit: The only place we might sometimes go back to for gear if we have a spare 20 minutes would probably be Gruul for a shot at getting a DST for a rogue, hunter or warrior.
very well written and comprehensive. the only thing it does not address that it could is the need to deny people the ability to bring alts to raids. this greatly slows down progress and just adds another dimension to loot systems that is nothing but cumbersome. it may be nice to have that dps with the pocket healer, but at the same time healers will want to reroll on dps classes.
if i were a gm you would join as one character, if you wanted to make another your main it would basically be a re-app.
other than that this article covers everything i have thought about my guild in a solid and organized manner. if you are in a new guild or are just starting up, read this now and learn early.
I'd like more on this topic. How do you decide which content is progression content?
For example, your guild is 5/5 Hyjal, 5/9 BT. You have just killed Archimonde & Bloodboil, for the first time this last week.
Assume you can clear first four in Hyjal or first 4 in BT on Tuesday, in 3 hours. What's your schedule for the upcoming week starting Tuesday? Is Archimonde still a "progression boss" or is Reliquary of Souls now your progression boss? Do you feel the need to get Archi and/or Bloodboil 1 or 2-shot before moving on to RoS?
Are they all progression bosses until you 1-shot them? Or is the boss you've never killed yet, your progression boss?
Would you allow gear to influence your decision in this case? Archi has the good stuff. Do you allow popular sentiment to influence your choice? For example, I think that getting better at speed-pulling BT will have a better long-term benefit for the guild, since there are so many bosses in there we haven't killed yet. But everyone seems to want loot from Archimonde, the more popular choice. I've never been good at placing much value on drops; I forget to roll myself... Could I be placing too little value on it?
Mostly though, a definition of what exactly you consider progression bosses would help.
I always found this article a bit strange, not because it was wrong but it applies to a "different beast" when talking about raiding guilds; also noting it doesn't talk about the challenge you need to put on the raid as a whole to be fast and efficient as possible in clearing/chain pulling and absolutely not wiping to anything in the instance. For a less hardcore (or average guild), it certainly takes a bit of time to put bosses on farm.
bludwork brings up a good point. as a more casual guild i use the concepts in the time management as my goal, and accept that we wont necessarily move to the next boss every time we raid and that because we have people who are new that things will go wrong. however because i have it and everyone in guild has (hopefully) read it they know why i am pushing things the way i do.
seems to me your not only a great tank but also a great strategist cider , i thank you for this well written article
Who should take control of a raid when the gm doesnt turn up?
well, honestly, a good GM should not ever HAVE to run a raid, a good GM should have people in place that can take over and run them and do so on a normal basis.
in my guild we have the GM and the other 3 founders living 20 mins from each other. if we all mysteriously disappeared, the Guild run would be taken over without question and others would fill out slots ( 2 tanks, a healer and a DPS no less)
Lethargic -Discipline priest, US-Velen
" I can heal Instances, I can heal Raids, but I Can't Heal Stupid."
totally wish i had read original post 3 months ago
would've prevented much fumbling and learning on my part pre-3.1. but the strategy of frontloading our raid schedule with as much new content as we can handle is one that my guild will be using to work through ulduar.
but do you have any suggestions as to where to draw the line? when do you decide to call it for the night? do you wipe 10 times on the same mechanic and then continue to wipe 10 more because you have the same irreplacable player dropping the ball? do you set a stop time in advance?