We pressed on, defeating The Illidari Council on July 27th, after a month of work. The path to Illidan was now clear. Time was of the essence. The next expansion, Wrath of the Lich King, was in beta, and I expected Blizzard to follow suit with applying the 3.0 patch to game prior to full retail release. This meant all existing encounters would be implicitly nerfed when our players gained all new talents and abilities. One of our proudest moments as a raiding guild was the defeat of 40-Man Maexxna prior to the 2.0 patch which trivialized the content. I insisted that the guild apply the same passion towards an Illidan kill, pre-3.0. Our original goal of defeating Illidan as a raiding guild was still doable, and would earn us a historic spot on the server, even when considering Blizzard bolted on an entirely new raid tier after Black Temple (Sunwell Plateau).
As The Burning Crusade waned, raiding guilds that were stalemating on progression began falling apart, and I picked up the pieces of these dismantled teams. I weeded through them, cherry picking the roles we needed, and gave them a shot. This was my strategy to deal with any possible burnout the raid team was feeling as we neared our goal, which I was adamant in reaching. Many of these guild breakups involved players who happened to be friends of Wyse. I found myself getting first-hand referrals on players she recommended, and before long, was simply deferring to her judgement when taking new players in, without performing the due diligence myself. The end result was a core of new players that were exceptionally well-geared and well-played, but were lacking in other social departments.
That summer was rough. The Blizzcon 2008 ticket fiasco didn't help. Blizzard, unprepared for the popularity of previous Blizzcons, had set up an online ticket purchasing website, which completely buckled under the demand of WoW nerds across the globe. One such nerd happened to be my very own Mage officer, Goldenrod. The sham of the ticket system failing, coupled with his growing disgust of Mage treatment in PvP, was the last straw. He announced that he would be quitting the game, which got back to me by way of one of my raiding priests, Neps. I shared this knowledge with Wyse, and hoped that she could assist me in holding things together through Illidan. She obliged, expressing that she would reach out to the existing Mages, folks like Turtleman, Dandrak, Barraged, and convince them to remain focused.
Unbeknownst to any of them, Blain had already privately shared with me that he, too, would be leaving at the end of the expansion.
It was at this point that I began giving serious consideration to Wyse for officership. She had the unique benefit of being on-hand every day via IM, so I could delegate the handling of situations immediately, without having to wait to get online hours later. It came from a feeling of desperation; I needed anyone available that demonstrated a sliver of leadership to help me plug holes in the dam. This desperation clouded my judgement while I considered promotions; it prevented me from seeing the warning signs. Signs such as Wyse expressing frustration at players who were tormenting her in guild chat, or worse, ignoring her outright. Signs in the form of her relaying to me how her friends in-guild were being “abused”; I would go on to find out later it was her same friends who incited arguments amongst players ill-equipped to raid. Soon, even laid-back members of the guild grew disgusted with her neediness, and inability to handle criticism.
In a moment of clarity, my gut spoke to me. If officership were eventually going to be extended to her, she would have to have some serious growth in both diplomacy and finesse when it came to her fellow guild mates. I listened to my gut, and made the decision to hold back an officership promotion.
Descendants of Draenor clawed its way through the hellish summer months of 2008. By September, we had put in a solid four weeks of work on Illidan. Blain and I clung to the A-Team / B-Team rotations, which allowed us to field the huge pool of players we now maintained. I drafted up a State of the Union forum post, hoping to encourage those suffering from burnout to stay strong, and remain involved in the rotations, so that we could claim an Illidan kill. Thankfully, the roster stayed full, and we continued our work on Illidan. Kurst continued his role of main tank and dealing with Illidan’s shear, while both he and Dalans worked together to perfect the Flames of Azzinoth tanking. Eventually, they were acting a single cooperative unit. Within a few more weeks of earnest effort, Illidan Stormrage met his fate by our hand, granting us an official Black Temple clear date of September 21, 2008. It was both triumphant and bittersweet, because although we had accomplished what we had set out to do at the start of The Burning Crusade, we had lost so many core folks from our original Vanilla raid team. Still, few guilds could claim an Illidan kill, and we now sat among those elite few. It was a proud moment for Descendants of Draenor, and the event remains permanently burned into my brain.
It was the week following our Illidan kill that would bestow upon me another everlasting memory.
Seven days later, we returned for our weekly clear. The rotations for that week were handled as fairly as possible; pull as many must-have roles that were necessary for the kill, and rotate in folks that did not get a chance to be present for the first clear. Many core raiders fell into this latter category, officers included. Even the Shaman Ekasra, whom I felt would be absolutely vital in every raid that I had stepped out of as a healer...hadn't been present for the first kill. These folks all needed a shot, and thus, were rotated in on week two. As we were getting situated for a pull of Illidan, drama exploded in guild chat. Two recently acquired guildies (who happened to be friends with Wyse) threw a fit when they discovered they had been left behind for that evening’s Black Temple raid. They were outraged that raiders who weren't involved in the initial kill were now getting priority over those who contributed to Illidan’s defeat. Without even bothering to take it up with me and attempt some sort of resolution, they quit the guild.
This outburst of rage and immaturity would be the catalyst for Wyse’s undoing.
By now, the raiders had grown into a unified, efficient team. They knew goals we had set out to accomplish, and where our priorities lay. Clearing raids was the focus, being competitive and progressing so that the guild could experience the content was the endgame for us. We had burned into their brains that loot was not the reason we did what we did; we were not in this for individual gain or glory. The glory came from our accomplishments as an entire guild. Thus, any behavior demonstrating greed was immediately pounced on. The guild unanimously wrote the ex-guildies off as selfish and paid them no attention. Wyse, however, held a different opinion. She felt her friends had been mistreated and not given a fair opportunity at spots in the roster, reminding us that if it weren't for their contribution, Illidan would likely still remain undefeated. The result of this defiant public stance was an overwhelmingly negative response to Wyse.
Alienated, she became the focus of an entirely new round of personal attacks. Discussions she’d start in guild chat would cause officers like Dalans to instantly mute her. Any mention of the ex-guildies would cause my members to violently defend our morals and principles, further backing her into a corner--with nobody on her side to defend her own claims. She made multiple attempts to contact me via IM, relaying to me the treatment she was receiving, but I could provide no additional support or advice. She had dug her own grave, and nothing I could say or do would change the opinion of hundreds of guild members...including my own. It was not enough that she was a dedicated, experienced Mage with a passion for progression and high-caliber play. She needed to be aligned with our ideals, our values. Instead, she remained frustratingly loyal to her friends; ex-guildies that had demonstrated selfishness and deceit--not anything that I wanted us to stand for as a guild.
On November 11th, 2008, just six months after Wyse joined my guild, she posted a goodbye on our forums, and quietly left to join her friends. Various members of DoD made a concerted effort to be civil and wish her well; even Dalans left her a note: “Water under the bridge”. I was appreciative that, in the end, my guild had the decency to let her know that she had been a contributing member, and that, skewed alignments aside, she had helped the raid progression team perform incredible feats. Without her, I cannot guess as to what amount of time we would have spent on Illidari Council, which potentially would have pushed Illidan far enough out, causing us to miss the pre-3.0 kill. For her efforts, I was thankful, and saddened that I couldn't convince her to see my side of the story. She would forever remain faithful to her friends, which in her eyes, were more important than the good of the guild.
A week later, one of my guild members started sending tells. “Hanzo, you need to jump into Vent. It’s Wyse. She’s pretty upset.”
I popped on my headphones, turned on the mic, and jumped into Vent, finding her in a solitary channel. She was beside herself and in tears. I asked her what was wrong. Wyse proceeded to tell me how she had joined her friends’ guild (the very same ones that stormed out of mine in a tantrum), and that she had been busy contributing raiding materials and gold from her characters to their guild vault. Once she had given them everything she had to help get their guild started on the right foot, her friends had decided that they didn't need Wyse any longer, and kicked her to the curb.
It was an impressive demonstration of loyalty.
The very players Wyse had gone to extreme lengths to defend...had now turned around and cut her loose. She was distraught, not by the loss of trivial in-game goods, but by the betrayal of those she believed had her back, as she had theirs. I did my best to console her. I couldn't help but feel a certain sense of irony surrounding the events. Her “friends” had shown their true colors, something my gut had told me months earlier. It was unfortunate that she had to experience this first hand. As before, I wished that I could have found a way to convince her of this ahead of time. But, as with some people, the only way to truly convince them is for them to live through it themselves.
My experience with managing Wyse was profoundly enlightening. It was my first experience managing a player without the advice of a mentor, like Ater. I learned how to weigh my own needs in the middle of a crisis, but not jump to rash decisions like premature promotions. It was an exercise in keeping a level head. Dealing with Wyse reminded me that in leadership, I had a responsibility to not allow my emotional attachment to cloud my vision. The plucking of heartstrings is not a valid justification to sacrifice integrity, no matter how difficult it seems. And I won't lie to you...it is difficult to listen to someone pour their heart out, and hold yourself back from wanting to help--to make everything better. It also reaffirmed my beliefs about people: you can’t change them. All you can do is provide the necessary information to lead them down the right path. Whether they take that path or not is ultimately up to them.
I filed the Wyse experience into my stack of lessons learned, as I prepared to take Descendants of Draenor into the next expansion, Wrath of the Lich King.