|Zanjina and the 25-Man Progression team prepares|
to work on Illidan the Betrayer,
Contemplating PromotionWe pressed on and defeated The Illidari Council the night of July 27th, concluding 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 the game prior to its full retail release. This meant all existing encounters would be implicitly nerfed when our players gained all new talents and abilities. The defeat of 40-Man Maexxna was one of our proudest moments as a raiding guild, as we managed it prior to the 2.0 patch that trivialized said 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 that Blizzard bolted on an entirely new raid tier after Black Temple, the 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 giving them a shot. This was my strategy to deal with any possible burnout the raid team was suffering as we neared our goal. 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; as the volume increased, I simply deferred to her judgement when taking new players in, bypassing the due diligence. The end result was a core of new players that were exceptionally well-geared and well-played, but were lacking in other social graces.
That summer was rough on the roster, and the BlizzCon 2008 ticket fiasco didn't help. Blizzard, unprepared for the popularity of previous BlizzCons, set up an online ticket purchasing website that 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 straw that broke the camel's back. He announced that he was quitting the game, news that got back to me by way of one of my raiding priests, Neps. I shared this knowledge with Wyse in the hopes that she would assist me in holding things together through Illidan's completion. She obliged, expressing that she would reach out to the existing mages, folks like Turtleman, Dandrak, Barraged, and convince them to remain focused until the Betrayer met his fate.
Unbeknownst to any of them, Blain had already confided 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; I could delegate the handling of situations at a moment's notice, without having to wait to log in to the game. It came from a feeling of desperation. I needed anyone available that demonstrated a sliver of leadership to help 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 find out later that it was these 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 you are going to extend a position of authority to her, she is going to have to demonstrate serious growth in both diplomacy and finesse. I listened to my gut and made the decision to hold back on the promotion.
|Descendants of Draenor defeats Illidan the Betrayer,|
The BetrayerDescendants 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, allowing us to field the huge pool of players which now made up the roster. I drafted 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 as a single cohesive 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 on the evening of September 21, 2008. It was both triumphant and bittersweet, because although we accomplished what we set out to at the start of The Burning Crusade, we lost many core folks from our original Vanilla raid team along the way. Still, few guilds could claim an Illidan kill; 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; we brought as many must-have roles that were necessary for the kill, and rotated 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 was vital to every raid that Kerulak was absent for, 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.
Political IncongruityBy now, the raiders had grown into a unified, efficient team. They knew the 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. 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 could have pushed Illidan far enough out, causing us to miss the pre-3.0 kill. I was thankful for her efforts, yet 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 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.