Thursday, May 30, 2013

3.6. The Hardest Job

Kurst tanks a Death Talon Wyrmguard,
Blackwing Lair

A Difficult Flight

The flight back home to Denver from Dallas was unfriendly and rough. The glow of my laptop screen illuminated just enough of an area to catch a glimpse of my boss waving the flight attendant over, gesturing for another beverage. I looked at the words on my screen, half distracted by him paying for the drink and sending her away with a nod. The words were not coming out of me like I'd hoped. Dave glanced over at me, my elbows tucked in awkwardly to avoid annoying the passengers beside me.

"Whaddya got going there? Still workin'?" I'd come to develop a bit of a perfectionist reputation in the year I had been at my new job.

"Not quite," I smiled back, easing my tension for a moment, "I'm writing a 'termination' letter." As both my boss, and a manager intimately familiar with HR practices, perhaps he'd see the comedy terminating an employee that didn't actually work for me.

"Oh yeah?" he said with a chuckle, picking up on the brevity. I worked for him. I owned no business and ran no company. Having these facts in hand, he pushed a bit further, "Who ya firin'?"

I sat back in the confined airline seat and took a deep breath.

"A friend. And it's gonna suck."


Six months earlier, I was in real bind. Ater -- the player that acted as my mentor while helping lead the guild -- had finished his tenure in World of Warcraft. One of his many roles was that of acting Warrior officer, following the raid retirement of Annihilation. With Ater gone and Anni fully committed to PvP, I had to look elsewhere for Warrior leadership. Only months remained in The Burning Crusade and we had yet to defeat Illidan. In desperation, I invoked Occam's Razor and went with simplest choice. That choice was Kurst.

Kurst was an old veteran of Descendants of Draenor, obtained during the Dirty Horde assimilation in July of '05. He was a family man, like myself, and had recently become a father. He tenaciously fought by side in the 40-Man raid team, present for numerous boss kills and countless nights of progression work. Quantifying Kurst's contribution was easy: you counted the chalk ticks on the walls of DoD's raid history.

A quick test of a warrior's longevity in Descendants of Draenor was to ask them which position they rotated through during the Vaelastrasz "sacrifice chain," and many warriors selflessly joined Kurst to furthering our conquest in Blackwing Lair. Ater. Annihilation. Darange. Demus. Thangrave. Burburbur. Their names were now but a list marked "offline" when viewing the guild roster. Kurst remained.

Kurst's reliability and trustworthiness continued into The Burning Crusade. His willingness to help new recruits get accustomed to DoD was a godsend, and his conversational nature put awkward newcomers at ease. Kurst would outlast me in Vent many nights, chatting with both old and new alike. In real life, he'd be the kind of guy anyone could sit down and have a drink with. Culture, especially in a game known to be volatile, was just as important as raiding rules.

Conveniently, his job in IT Security kept him online during the day. He and I conversed about the game over IM, an ongoing communication that strengthened our friendship. It was Kurst who reviewed my initial "wake the hell up" manifesto. Over time, I shared more thoughts with him about the guild, management and officership. As my vision narrowed on the goals for Wrath, I too shared these with Kurst, and he was always ready to offer support and feedback.

Promoting Kurst seemed like the right thing to do. He had plenty of tenure, was a dedicated player, held good rapport with the rest of the guild, and agreed with my leadership direction. When I had to make a quick decision to keep the Illidan train on the tracks, these points painted Kurst in a very positive light. When I reflected on the cons, the "certain habits" which might be to the detriment of a guild member in an authority role, I played them down. They were trivial adjustments -- things he could improve and refine with practice. After all, we're human; we all make mistakes. As long as we identify those mistakes and learn, ensuring they are never repeated...well, anyone has the potential to grow. Right?

I wished it were that easy.

Demonstrated Expertise

Keyboard turning is a stigma in the World of Warcraft community. You know it when you see it: the telltale signs of player rotating in a slow, robot-like motion. It occurs when a player presses the left or right arrow keys on the keyboard, which are default key mappings to any player that installs World of Warcraft. But ask a dedicated raider -- typically one that uses a keyboard and mouse in tandem -- and they'll tell you that the first change they make to their setup is to rebind movement/strafe keys, permanently using the mouse to spin both the camera and their player as needed. 

You can instantly size up a player if you catch them keyboard turning; no self-respecting hardcore player would be caught dead using keys to rotate their player, navigating their way through the Suppression Room like it was a game of Snake. In raid situations, boss mechanics demand you change directions and move quickly -- a split-second too long facing the wrong direction often meant instant death. Seasoned WoW players can sniff out a keyboard turner a mile away; when I see it, I want to point and scream.

When Kurst was famously caught doing it one night during a raid, everybody in the roster instantly knew...and judged him for it. My initial thoughts were of shock and disappointment. How could you? Kurst laughed this off as playful ribbing between online gamers, but as the guild doubled-down on personal responsibility, Kurst's own performance continued to be called into question. It didn't matter where the real deficiency lay, keyboard turning marked him for life. It was difficult to see past that.

In a raid, the role of the tank is to repeatedly strike a boss, building up an invisible meter known as threat. Monsters aggress toward a player when that player's threat surpasses all other players' -- an action known as "getting aggro." Tanks are responsible for producing the most threat of the raid; it was their job to keep a boss focused or "aggro'd" onto them. If another player produced enough threat to surpass the tank, the boss would turn to that new player and proceed to smash their face in. Only tanks were equipped to withstand boss attacks; a warlock or a mage would never survive more than a single blow. 

This give-and-take defined a core fundamental of early WoW raiding: Tanks produced threat and kept control of the boss, and DPS unleashed hell while keeping their own threat well below that of the tank's. And unlike the WoW of today, threat generated by tanks and DPS were not as dissimilar as you might think. A poorly played DPS could pull off a reasonable tank.

And...a reasonably played DPS could pull off a poor tank.

Kurst's #1 job in our raids was to take a hold of a boss and keep it there. Kurst's threat, however, was an ongoing issue. He had a history of not being able to keep bosses off of DoDers with the highest damage output, and I urged him to refine his technique. He practiced. He researched. He came prepared each night to demonstrate growth. Whatever improvement he made in the threat production department was minimal, if any at all. Against better judgement, I continued to encourage him and watched my best players continued to pull mobs off him. My reward for backing Kurst was having to listen to the dead DPS complain to me after the raid. They felt it was "stupid having to hold back" from unleashing their full power in fear of pulling a boss off of Kurst.

They were right.

Born Not Made

As we transitioned from TBC to WotLK and more warriors joined the fray, the critique of Kurst increased. When opportunity arose, I discreetly pinged the other warriors in an attempt to determine how they felt leadership stood. Are you getting your needs met? Is Kurst a valuable source of information and insight? Is he providing you with education, mentorship, new tricks and insights that might improve your own play? Their responses were disheartening. 

Some warriors, like Abrinis and Jungard, were kind-hearted by nature, keeping them from responding negatively. They pointed out how much they liked Kurst and "thought he was a good guy," which did nothing to address my specific questions on Kurst's leadership. Others, like Omaric, were more acclimated to being honest about the sad truth -- truth that's often hard to admit. In exquisite detail, they would paint a picture of Kurst's fundamental failings in baseline knowledge, whether it be in his choice of gems, enchants, attack rotations, or other raid-related warrior mechanics.

"He's not still keyboard turning is he?" Omaric asked, a question I could only sigh in response to.

One of the expectations I made clear for the officers in Wrath was for each of them to keep their specific class forum thread updated, particularly where spreadsheets were involved. The raiding community often had theorycrafters building complex spreadsheets, and players used these to plug in their own stats, crunch the numbers, and maximize their play. While other officers actively engaged in these discussions with their respective guild members, Kurst required continual harassment to stay on top of his. Whether he was distracted by work or his new baby was unclear. What was clear was that the effort I was investing into an officer was increasing my load, not lightening it.

Nevertheless, I remained optimistic about Kurst and hoped he would turn things around. In retrospect, I consider many of these to be rote -- things that could be practiced and improved upon. Kurst seemed passionate about the class; surely, logic dictated that diving in to the warrior with greater gusto would lead to more knowledge, more sharing, and in turn, more forum updates. 

I hoped leadership would eventually emerge. What emerged instead, were social missteps.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

3.5. The Changed Landscape

Sep 10, 2006: The original 40-Man team
 defeats Instructor Razuvious,

School in Session

We returned to Naxxramas on the second raid night, December 14th, drunk with ego and testosterone. Much of the success of the previous night had gone to the raiders' heads; it seemed as though the students had become the teachers as we began to tear the Military Quarter's trash apart. We were driven by the excitement and anticipation, not of simply cleaning up the remaining part of the instance, but by the realization this was now possible. For the few original Vanilla team members that remained, Naxxramas (40) defined "brick wall"; to be able to conquer anything in that raid was a significant achievement. But as we worked our way through the Death Knight Cavaliers, Captains, Deathchargers and Dark Touched Warriors, the greater mystery still loomed: why had raids become so much easier? The progression team wasn't talking...yet. Maybe they were too focused on getting through Naxx, and moving on to Malygos. Maybe they were fearful of the answer.

Next on the docket: Instructor Razuvious. Raz was the first boss Descendants of Draenor defeated in the original Naxxramas (40) during Vanilla. It was a gimmick fight: the original encounter called for two Priests to mind-control Raz's understudies, turning his students back upon the teacher. Not only did it pull two healers out of the pool, but it forced them into a role they didn't play.

Some might say the original Razuvious was a test of a true raider in WoW. I know you've healed for for the past year and a half, but tonight, you're going to be tanking. Back in September of '06, we put our two best priests on that duty: the officer Haribo and his protege Volitar, a player who would go on to assist with raid leadership (albeit for a short time) during The Burning Crusade. It was through precision timing, and calm, clear communication that Haribo and Volitar were able to pull off the unconventional roles imposed upon them, securing us a kill.

As Neps and Arterea positioned themselves to mind-control the understudies, someone in raid casually mentioned in Vent, "Did you hear how they nerfed this encounter in the 10-Man version?" Wrath of the Lich King had introduced a new concept to the raid-game: Each raid would be doable in a both a 10-Man and a 25-Man version. 

It was hard enough to wrap our heads around a brutal, 40-Man instance being watered down to this new 25-Man walk-in-the-park, but to liquefy its remains into a fine 10-Man paste seemed sacrilegious. How would you even accomplish the Razuvious encounter with only 10 players? Forcibly bring two priests every time? Of course not. The new deal for WoW was "bring the player, not the class", so the Razuvious encounter had been simplified for 10s: two giant cylinders called "Obedience Crystals" stood outside the 10-Man Razuvious pit. The priest's mind-control mechanic was baked into the 10-Man encounter itself. 

The progression team laughed when they heard this; the kind of laugh you make when you find out your childhood hero is back in court for drugs and alcohol abuse. How typical.

We schooled the instructor with little effort, then proceeded to Gothik the Harvester, whom we pushed aside like a nerd in the hallway. Shortly thereafter, we found ourselves face-to-face with Thane Korth'azz, Lady Blaumeux, Sir Zeliek, and their leader, Baron Rivendare: The Four Horsemen. 

Many moons past, this was a test few guilds could complete. A bewildering mixture of debuffs placed on the raid demanded that Vanilla guilds bring nothing less than eight fully geared Warrior tanks. I remember watching videos of guilds performing the chaotic criss-cross "expand and collapse" maneuver that was needed to mitigate the debuff. The strategy alone was intimidating, never mind the unheard of tanking requirements. This was eight tanks we were talking about! I considered it an accomplishment just to have six Warriors in the roster! 

For tonight's diluted Naxxramas, we had but half of the original required tanks, one of whom was me. And, as we would discover, the daunting expand-and-collapse maneuver was no longer a requirement. Instead of the mind-boggling weeks and weeks of attempts that only the very best guilds in the world defeated the original Four Horsemen within, our execution took but a single pull.

"Sapphiron - Naxxramas",
Artwork by Patrik Hjelm

Wyrm and the Lich

After 4H, all that remained were the giant Frost Wyrm Sapphiron, and the ultimate bad boy of Naxxramas, Kel'Thuzad

Sapphiron was tricky: the raid had to allow him to freeze players by purposefully eating an Icebolt, then use those blocks of ice as human shields, a line-of-sight protection against Frost Breath. I say tricky not due to difficulty, but due instead to the encounter being very buggy. 

Players in our raid would die from the Icebolt, giving us nothing to shield us from the intensity of Frost Breath. I distinctly recall certain key spots along Sapphiron's outer ring that you did not want to be caught on when eating an Ice Bolt; these glitchy spots meant almost certain death. Other times, players positioned themselves perfectly behind an ice block...and died anyway.

Bugs aside, Sapphiron ended up only taking two or three attempts, and we left his bones in a pile as we headed down the final hallway, where we came face to face with Kel'Thuzad himself.

We had our hands full with the lich. Wave upon wave of undead scourge attacked us. Shadow fissures erupted under our feet, forcing us to be perpetually mobile. Kel'Thuzad would, at times, detonate the mana our casters relied on to power their pyroblasts, frostfire bolts, renews and rejuvs. Those mana-fueled bombs wrecked players standing too close to one another; we had to be mindful of where we positioned ourselves. 

He'd mind-control us at random, causing us to turn against each other, forcing us to apply crowd-control effects in order to stay focused and eliminate distractions. He'd even freeze people in blocks of ice, requiring healers to react quickly and heal them through the frosty damage. On top of all this, Kel'Thuzad sent two crypt lords after us, forcing us to off-tank, getting our players out of harm's way. 

Written out here in plain English, it seems like Kel'thuzad was a lot to digest. It wasn’t.

DPS blew up the waves of undead minions like pinatas at a child's party. The damage from Shadow fissures barely registered on the meters. Casters detonated by Kel'Thuzad struck each other with the ferocity of a light breeze on a warm summer day. Mind-controlled players were easily dispatched with Frost Novas and Polymorphs; even simple AoE fears did the job. 

And those crypt lords I spoke of? The ones that joined the fight late into Phase 3? Our off-tanks picked them up with a leisurely "don't mind me, just checking my email"-level of urgency. As for Kel'Thuzad himself, well, his attacks were insignificant, unmemorable, and sad; a kid having a meltdown for not getting enough birthday presents.

Who was the boss here?

The only real risk of the entire encounter ended up being the blocks of ice he froze players into, which spiked their health down sharply, as its damage was based on a percentage of their health. Even that risk was something our healers adjusted for with ease, another non-factor in a long list of potentials. Kel'Thuzad died in only a couple of pulls.

As we lined up for our traditional "Accomplishments" screenshot, the raiders were aghast in Vent. As they expressed their disgust, a slideshow of the last three years flashed through my mind. The many nights of attempts on Ragnaros, each week, gaining more of a foothold in adequate fire resistance. The weekends we poured into Nefarian, the struggles of Lady Vashj and Kael'Thas Sunstrider, months and months of work clearing Hyjal and eventually getting us to Illidan at the end of Black Temple. And now, this. After one weekend of raiding, I was lining up my progression team for a "full clear" screenshot.

I felt as though I was standing at a bus-stop, long after the bus had come and gone.


There had to be a valid explanation for this massive shift in difficulty. Sure, I wanted to believe I'd done a reasonably good job at getting the raid team prepared, but I had to be realistic about my limits and impact on the guild. Fundamental truths could not be ignored. 

This was our first raid weekend. Aside from a few pieces in Obsidian Sanctum, we had no previous raid gear; it was a fresh start. We'd had no opportunity to practice any of these bosses before hand. In fact, there were really only a few of us that remained from the 40-Man days. But even that was a moot argument, because many of the mechanics had been adjusted, rendering those old Vanilla strategies (and any experience gleaned from them) obsolete.

Some folks may have got their feet wet in the 10-Man versions prior to our 25-Man start, but surely that wasn't enough to reduce the 25-Man to the point of complete irrelevance...was it? One might argue that DoD possessed a healthy amount of raid experience under our belts thus far, which may have given us a bit of an edge in tackling this first tier of WotLK content.

...but, really? This much of an edge? An entire instance cleared in one weekend -- the first weekend --no less?
The 25-Man Progression team defeats Kel'thuzad,

Achievement Whoring

We were bewildered by these raid changes, at first. After having spent years in raids the likes of which players would never see again, fighting bosses requiring weeks and weeks of practice, it stunned us to consider that this drastic reduction in difficulty was the new normal. Only after careful examination of the achievement interface did we begin to put the pieces of the puzzle together.

Nestled among the silly achievements like kissing all the critters of Northrend and falling in a drunken haze without dying were strategic, skill-based accomplishments. Kill Thaddius without any player crossing the positive and negative charges. Defeat Sartharion with all three drakes still alive. Kill Malygos in six minutes or less. A requirement of skill was still very prescient in WoW raiding, the difference now was that the challenge was no longer front-loaded. You could, in theory, choose how hard to push yourselves, rather than have that forced upon you.

Giving players a choice, at last, was the brilliance of this design decision. Brilliant, and misunderstood.

The barrier of entry to raiding had long been an immense wall to overcome for many players. Even with the days of 40-Man raids well behind us, 25-Man raids still posed a mountain of complexity to recruit for and coordinate. Implementing a regular schedule where 25 people met virtually and dedicate their attention for a block of uninterrupted time was easier said than done. Interruptions from real-life issues constantly barge in, demanding our attention and causing us to cancel. Farming for raid materials ahead of time, whether they be flasks, food, or potions, is monotonous, and not fun. And you need to have a focused, dedicated leader who knows what they are doing: a person that can navigate virtual traffic, identifying and resolving failures in the raid quickly. Raid progression wasn't as simple as walking into a dungeon, killing a boss, collecting loot, and walking out.

...but maybe it needed to be.

Maybe players didn't want to have to deal with all the drama of a gigantic guild, chock full of inflated ego and teenage angst. Maybe some folks preferred a smaller, more tight-knit group to play WoW with, and large, overbearing guilds were too oppressive to their liking. Maybe their skills weren't necessarily up to the demands that Blizzard's typical high bar was set for. They still deserved a chance to see that content, didn't they? 

In the past, the masses were incapable of seeing that content; you couldn't just waltz into Black Temple by yourself and expect to see Illidan meet his fate at the hands of Maiev...unless 24 other players had your back. Forcing all players to overcome those insurmountable odds just to catch a glimpse of the villain around which the expansion was crafted seemed...well...over the top.

So, how then, could one re-design raiding to broaden its appeal?

Lowering the bar to raid entry widened the audience to the endgame content. Now, huge percentages of players, previously not having a chance in hell of seeing endgame content, would be able to. In order to do this without devaluing raiding, there had to be an appropriate risk/reward structure. If players were able to prove that they had the skills, the coordination, and the teamwork that was expected of them in the days of The Burning Crusade and Vanilla, what would be the incentive to keep them coming back, long after raids had been trivialized? Achievements. Prestige. Special rewards, mounts, titles -- visual indicators that made it easy to separate the casuals from the hardcores at a glance. You killed the Four Horsemen? Big deal! We killed The Four Horsemen within 10 seconds of each other.

Even after solving the puzzle, I suspected the masses would not see it as I did. Ever competitive, exclusionary by nature, and skeptical of changes that made what was once difficult now digestible, many long time core players would pay no attention to risk/reward structure re-implemented in Achievements, focusing their contempt back at the raids themselves, and how this change was a slippery slope to a host of hypothetical futures in which players paid for upgrades, raiding would no longer require any skilled players and devolve into a mass of mouthbreathers, all the while dogs and cats shacking up with one another.

For DoD, the path was clear: we would become a guild of raiding achievement whores. They would both define how we operated as a raiding guild and quantify our successes in doing so. They mapped our goals, a raiding to-do list we'd scratch off one item at a time -- an in-game manifestation of "baby steps". In turn, we would use this collection of accomplishments to separate us from the guilds unable, unwilling, or uninterested to compete at the 25-Man level, thereby funneling more traditional raiding recruits our way. 

After a meeting of the DoD minds, work immediately began on The Twilight Zone. Reaching it would be our first major raiding milestone in WotLK, and set the stage for our progress down this achievement whoring path throughout Wrath. Getting there, however, would not come without sacrifice, and a decision that haunts me to this day.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

3.4. Great Expectations

Mature completing "When the Cows Come Home",

(Almost) A False Start

One week before we were scheduled to begin raiding, I logged on and discovered Annihilation was accepting invites for Naxxramas. Immediately, I called him into Ventrilo. It was time for a quick come-to-Jesus.

"What's going on?"

"Ah hey, Kerulak, nuthin' much, just puttin' a bunch of people together here for Naxx, see if we can maybe get it off the ground."

"...No! You can't just throw a group together like this!"

"...Uh, why not?" He seemed a bit put out.

"Anni, haven't you read anything I've posted on the forums?" It was rhetorical; I knew Anni hated reading the forums. "Do you not know about all the rules I've painstakingly detailed out here for the launch of WotLK? We're doing things differently now. Everything has a purpose. We have a scheduled start date and the raid rotations are all ready to go for next week."

He pushed back, "Yeah, but why wouldn't you want to at least get a head-start in there?"

"Maybe because I don't want a repeat of the fiasco at the start of TBC!"

Silence greeted me.

"You do remember what happened, right?" He must have at least partially remembered.

After a moment's pause, he replied, "...mmm, no, what happened?"

"Well, we had a bunch of groups that decided to unofficially start running Karazhan because we hadn't taken the time to purposefully make it official. No signups, no raid rotations, no set groups, just first-come first-serve. That lasted for one week, and then we started losing people because nothing was clear about how it was handled. That was the week we lost Baite to Pretty Pink Pwnies...remember now?"

"...yeah, I guess so. I remember parts of that, but I never knew the specifics..."

"OK well, now you know. I'm not trying to bust your balls over this, Anni. I just want to make sure you understand where I'm coming from. I have the entire responsibility of the success of the raid team on my shoulders now, and I know what's failed in the past. I'm not repeating those mistakes. We're starting on the scheduled start date, with the scheduled rotations, and nobody's getting a head-start: everybody's treated equal on day one. I want this as fair and unbiased as it can be."

I must have sounded insane to Anni. What's the big deal? It's just a bunch of guys getting together to check out the new content, maybe kill a few bosses. The days of looking at situations like these through rose-colored goggles were over. Starting folks early on an unofficial raid had ramifications. Some players might be upset that they were left behind, or question the lack of authority surrounding impromptu groups ("How could you let this happen, Hanzo?"). Even if it managed to slip under the drama radar, the fairness of the loot system would skew as certain members of progression started out with less of a need to bid. Are you getting this, Annihilation? Am I conveying the urgency of the situation to you? Or was I coming across like some sort of dictator.

"OK, Kerulak, we'll hold off. I never really knew this was that big a deal, but now that you explain it in this way, yeah...I can see why you want to stick to your guns. No biggy! We'll drop this invite."

He got it. Thank God. I wasn't just raving lunatic. There was a method to my madness and I needed everyone's support in making it happen. Luckily, there were folks like Anni in the guild I could count on that would understand my reasons, however unorthodox they appeared to be.

Mature (and other Horde) is spit on by an
infamous Dwarf Paladin from Deathwing-US,

The Wake Up Call

I struck a deal with Anni; we'd keep things by-the-book, and in return, I'd commit to getting the raiders into Obsidian Sanctum one week early. The original plan was to start with Naxxramas on December the 12th, but due to this compromise, we were able to pull off a full signup on Sunday, Dec. 8th. The design of the Obsidian Sanctum invoked memories of our early days slaying Onyxia; a relatively small instance, only a few trash packs to deal with, and a single black dragon: Sartharion. What made this instance unique were Sartharion's three twilight drake guards: Tenebron, Shadron, and Vesperon

The Twilight Dragonflight maintained an awkward alliance with the Black. Twilights loathed the Black, but at the same time, owed their existence to them, due in part to Deathwing's failed experiments in Blackwing Lair. Deathwing's consort Sinestra eventually succeeded in this endeavor, deep in the hidden chambers of Grim Batol. Politically, the Twilight had no choice but to act in the best interests of the Black: without their cunning and lust for power, the remaining Twilight faced eradication -- which was exactly what we were here to do. The strategy was simple: execute each Twilight guard, then pull Sartharion, avoid flame walls which would rise up out of the lava and sweep across the raid, and kill any Fire Elementals that assisted in Sartharion's defense.

He was killed in three pulls.


Naxxramas proceeded as planned the following Friday the 12th of December. I zoned into the instance alongside the raid team, and prepared to resume my role as off-tank. We began by weaving through the Arachnid Quarter, the easiest wing during its 40-Man days...and the only wing DoD cleared. We'd spent a good number of weekends working through the mechanics of the first boss, Anub'Rekhan, tossing us into the air, forcing us to run around the outside of the circular ring, avoiding his Locust Swarm...

We killed Anub'Rekhan in one pull.

Grand Widow Faerlina followed Anub'Rekhan, and in the old days, she required us to mind control her followers, which allowed us to prevent her enrage from one-shotting the tank. No such requirement existed today. We were free to kill her followers, or leave them up; whatever worked. Whatever we were in the mood for. She posed absolutely no risk whatsoever, and was executed. As the wake up call continued, we moved on to Maexxna, a boss I would forever remember as a glowing triumph for our guild back in the day. Maexxna's constant webbing of the entire raid team put the main tank at risk of dying without being able to receive heals, and we had to coordinate a "Nature's Swiftness" healing rotation among the druids and shamans. This, of course, was vital to the success of the 40-Man version of Maexxna.

She required no such rotation this Sunday. She was slaughtered in a single attempt.

The 25-Man Progression team defeats Sartharion,
Obsidian Sanctum


After exterminating the arachnid infestation, we moved to the Plague Quarter, cleansing it of Noth the Plaguebringer, Heigan the Unclean, and wrapping it up with the defeat of Loatheb. In a distant past, Naxxramas (40-Man)'s Loatheb was a brutal, heal-intensive encounter requiring rapid reflexes and diligent communication -- massive silences would apply to the raid, preventing players from receiving heals for 80% of the fight. It is no wonder that Loatheb's name itself is an anagram for HEALBOT.

One pull later, Loatheb was dead.

Onward, we turned to the Construct Quarter, putting us in the direct path of Patchwerk, Gluth, Grobbulus, and eventually, Thaddius. I distinctly remember hearing horror stories from ancient hardcore raiding guilds about the damage output of Patchwerk. Fully geared T2 (Blackwing Lair) warriors were often being popped like balloons, forcing raiders to supplement their equipment with drops from AQ40. Patchwerk was, without question, a gear check in Naxx 40, and a true test of the min/maxing capabilities a raiding guild possessed. 40-Man Patchwerk kills often showed screenshots of only a few members in the raid remaining alive at the time of the abomination's death, as Patchwerk would hit his enrage timer, and proceed to kill one player per second with every Hateful Strike he delivered.

On this occasion, Patchwerk took two attempts for us. It would've been one, but a couple of healers locked-up...or maybe it was that they disconnected? In the second attempt, he fell over dead and everyone in the raid was still alive. You can probably guess how Gluth, Grobbulus and Thaddius turned out. They proved no more difficult than anything we had encountered, and we proceeded to make short work of them, signifying the end of the first raid night in Naxxramas-25.

I thanked the raiders as they headed out, and imported the DKP earnings and expenditures into our website. I glanced at all the loot that we acquired on our first night; the most we had ever seen in a single night of raiding...ever. And I remember quite distinctly the thought that entered my mind as I reviewed what could only be described as a "steamrolling" of this new raid content...

...what the hell was going on?

Thursday, May 9, 2013

3.3. Wrath of the Lich King

"Lich King"
Artwork by Justin Currie

Checks and Balances

On November 13th, 2008, nerds the world over were greeted to the sounds of Uilleann pipes as their zeppelins and ships brought them to the ice-touched continent of Northrend. Alliance and Horde rushed out of their respective transport crafts, weapons in-hand and guild-chat ablaze with new life, as they explored the frozen north. Howling Fjord, a forest playing home to the giant Vrykul, viking-themed humanoids that extended their occupation north into the Grizzly Hills. Borean Tundra, a barren and unexciting valley playing host to the Lich King's various minions, as well as the now-hostile blue dragonflight; many players would come to refer to this zone as boring tundra. Dragonblight, a glacier-thick icy boneyard that the dragonkind inhabit at the end of their lives. Zul'Drak, home to the drakkari ice trolls and which now bore the undead stench of the Lich King's grasp. Remnants of Night Elf history lay exposed in the sparse brush of Crystalsong Forest. Looking up from the forest revealed the floating city of Dalaran. The Storm Peaks, frigid mountains climbing higher than any peaks previous in WoW, were a mountain range hiding mysteries of the origins of life on Azeroth -- clues to the Titans influence on the creation of the world (further uncovered in the unusually temperate Sholazar Basin). The Storm Peaks were also home to a dark secret trapped deep below the dwarven city of Ulduar. And of course, Icecrown -- the final zone in which Arthas himself had amassed millions of undead scourge, now bent to his will, as he surveyed our arrival from atop Icecrown Citadel.

Northrend was nothing short of epic.

Descendants of Draenor once again became a flurry of activity. Day by day, we logged on, greeted each other, and continued to quest, explore, and level to 80. I was well behind most other players, since Death Knights began their life in WoW at 55; I was fine with playing catch-up. Besides, I wanted the extra time to learn my class, get comfortable with the new mechanics of runes and runic power, and hoped to eventually consider myself an expert in the class. Meanwhile, I harassed the officers on a daily basis. How are thing progressing? Are you pinging players to update the Raid Slot Template? Is there anything we need more or less of? The officers responded with equal enthusiasm. The Raid Slot Template continued to see activity as people decided what role was best for them. I kept tabs on what we needed, and tailored my recruitment accordingly. As per my new rules, all officers were directed to guide new recruitment to me. If people wanted to get a foot in the DoD door, I'd have them fill out an application. After receiving the application via email, if it passed an initial screen, I'd set up a time to meet in Ventrilo, to have a more personable interview. This process worked extremely well: 9 times out of 10, I was able to turn away people right at the app process from not paying attention to the application requirements; if they couldn't read a simple "how to apply" post, I reasoned, what chance would they have in paying attention during raids?

The new DoD public / private tags in effect
(phone numbers are blacked out),
Icecrown Citadel

The New Crew

The roster grew, both from old faces returning, and from new recruits passing the audit. Familiar names we welcomed back included Kragnl, one of my original earlocks from the 40-Man Vanilla days, who had taken time off during The Burning Crusade. He was back and ready to raid once again, this time on his druid, Beercow. The Shaman brothers Gunsmokeco and Deathonwing returned, ready to find their place in progression, as did Wematanye and Mcflurrie. Larada, one of our TBC progression Hunters, whom was now acting as hunter officer, was back for more, as well as the warriors Jungard and Abrinis. Even Ekasra returned, now as the warlock Nestonia, having taken my advice to switch out of healing. And, one of the longest running mages in the guild, the infamous Turtleman, also returned to our roster, his love of doing ridiculous amounts of damage was rivaled only by his love of pizza and tacos.

Joining these vets were new faces: Omaric, a warrior who snuck in at the tail end of TBC, yearning for a spot in progression, demonstrated spectacular expertise with his class, and had a knack for keeping the guild amused in Vent with his many vocal impressions. Also joining us near the end of TBC was Lix the resto druid, who came to us by way of my former officer Annihilation; they had PvP'd together extensively and Lix wished to contribute more to raiding. Lix's hubby, Vrykolakas the warlock, would join the guild three months later. I acquired Riskers the start of October, a friendly, well-played rogue who would soon earn the nickname "Seňor Riskers". Also new to the roster was Arterea the priest, who was welcomed into the DoD community and playfully referred to as "The Blind Healer", who managed to play exceptionally well, despite his tendency to run around in random directions. We also welcomed Robmelendez, a warlock who pushed out damage that rivaled even Eaca's, earning him the nickname "Aggromelendez". The list of new names grew and grew.

But it was the curious application from an ex-hardcore raider that got most of my attention. His experience surpassed our own: He'd had previous experience leading raids in other guilds, and was himself a part of a guild that had achieved the pièce de résistance of TBC raiding: Kil'jaeden the Deceiver, final boss of The Sunwell Plateau. Sunwell's extreme difficulty curve was comparable to that of Naxxramas 40; an instance we only carved a fraction out of. Anyone who had cleared that content had my instant respect. But I often wondered, why us? Wouldn't that be a step backwards? As it would turn out, he didn't care about our progression at all; it was the respectful professionalism demonstrated to him by a guildy during a random 5-man dungeon that impressed him enough to apply. We hit it off immediately in the interview process. He was Canadian, so was I. He had a passion for getting raid content cleared; I was of the same mindset. He bore the casualties and war stories from raids past, I had my own bruises and scars to brag about. It was clear in my mind I wanted him on-board. His only request was to bring along his RL friend; I obliged. Thusly, Descendants of Draenor became home to two additional players: Cheeseus the rogue and Sixfold the druid.

The raid signup sheet for Dec. 7, 2008.
DoD begins WotLK PvE

No More Excuses

With the roster exploding from both returning players and brand new faces, I worked to streamline the process of getting the guild to know one another. Our roots grew out of a family-based mindset, and I wanted that to continue. To encourage and facilitate communication between these old and new guildies, I instituted a simple change to the in-game guild listing. Previously, public and private tags maintained no consistency or held any function; officers would sometimes put random jokes in people's tags, and sometimes even make underhanded "inside" jokes for only the officers to see in the private tags. Effective at the start of WotLK, I wiped all the public and private tags clean, and filled them out using the following system:

Public Tag:
  • A player's main character would read "Main"
  • A player's alternate character or would read "Alt of XX", where XX had to map to an existing character in the guild list.
Private Tag:
  • If a player was invited as a social app, a friend of a friend, this would read "Social of XX", where XX was another Main in the guild listing. This tied responsibility back to the inviter; if the person you ended up bringing into DoD was a douchebag -- you would have to answer for it.
  • If a player was a Raider (or intending to be one), their phone number would be entered here. This allowed the officers to be able to contact a player in an emergency, thus preventing a raid from stalling. Additionally, it gave them direction on whom they should start with: players with verified working contact numbers in their private note had obviously given a shit about raiding in the past, and therefore, should be the most appropriate to go to when fires needed to be put out.
Once these updated guild notes were in place, I was able to point players to the roster in order to figure out the answers to questions like "Hey, is XX on?" Now, the guild was empowered to check on their own. Strike one thing off the administration list. When it came time to start raiding, what if we had a no-show? What if someone was stuck in traffic, or perhaps we lost connectivity with them mid-raid? Who would we call to replace them in a pinch? The officers had the tools they needed to pop open the roster, scan the list, find appropriate replacements, and phone or text them immediately. The admin load continued to lighten.

When the day finally arrived that we had a large enough roster to move forward with, I circled back with the officers, and started plugging a schedule into our signup sheet. Meanwhile, the officers assisted me in vetting these players. We would check their gear, run 5-Man heroics with them, get a feel for their eligibility into progression. Once comfortable, the Guildy was promoted to Raider, and directed to the signup sheet. I also began posting initial information regarding the new raids: Obsidian Sanctum, Eye of Eternity, and our old favorite, re-designed to favor a 25-Man sized raid. I kept the Raiders honest by invoking a new feature I plugged into our forums: raid strategy posts were flagged as required reading; the forums would physically prevent you from doing anything else until you read the topic. No longer would I have to listen to the excuse of "Oh, I didn't know I wasn't supposed to stand in the fire!" -- a Guildy wouldn't be able to sign up for raids unless their account had been promoted to Raider...and once they were a Raider, the forums would ensure they saw required reading posts.

In short, you wouldn't even be considered for a raid rotation unless you were a Raider, and by being a Raider, I knew definitively that you had seen our raid strategy posts. Excuses were no longer an option. It was time for the progression team to be accountable for themselves.

I surveyed the roster, full of excited (and vetted!) Raiders, and felt the adrenaline pumping. It was official: We had a start date etched in stone, had a verified, qualified team to field the raid, and the excitement of new PvE content awaiting us.

There was just one problem: we had no raid leader.

Monday, May 6, 2013

3.2b. Master of One

Mature, near the end of The Burning Crusade,
before being sacrificed to The Lich King

Kerulak of All Trades

"Just wanted to let you know I really like all of the changes I've read so far."

I glanced down at the IM window on my desktop, then drew the window's focus to the front just long enough to fire back a response.

"Thanks! Burned a lot of hours on it."

I dragged the IM window to the side and returned to my code. I had a suspicion the conversation wasn't quite over yet. Sure enough, a status bar left hints that more digital letters were en route.

Ekasra is typing…

"And I really want to be a part of that core team again. Whatever DoD needs, I want to help. Which is why I'm asking if there is anything you think I should do differently this time around."

I stopped typing a moment and began to process his request. Instincts buried deep in the recesses of my brain screamed out as muscle memory reached for the keys. Remember your new rules. Don't start flushing them down the toilet now. You haven't even given them a chance yet. I listened. I wanted to fire off the first impulsive answer that came to mind, the same thing I had told a hundred other players when asking for a spot in the guild: we need healers. There were never enough healers. And as much as I knew Ekasra struggled with the role, I knew we'd need them. And falter without them.


It went against the new guild order. Buried among the layers of documentation that read like an employee handbook sat my new declaration on changes to the Application Process.

We will no longer tell people what we need; we will ask them what they enjoy playing.

This was one of the most important fundamental changes I put into place for Descendants of Draenor at the start of Wrath; a methodology that erupted from my own volcanic experiences as a raider.


There was a time, near the beginning of the game, where the shaman filled me with a deep sense of importance and belonging. Out from behind the administrative desk of a guild leader, I played the role of healer. Every waking moment in-game was spent learning and re-learning the mechanics. Keyboard layouts were changed. Gear was min/maxxed. Mana management was a constant challenge, and I learned about the 5 second rule, as well as the difference between proactive and reactive heals. The biggest challenges came from learning to move and heal, a feat nearly impossible to do well as a shaman in Vanilla. In the early days, my attention was undivided -- Kerulak, or GTFO. Because of this focused attention, I emerged with enough healing expertise to act as a mentor to others.

When a crisis struck the guild halfway through The Burning Crusade, it became apparent that I was the only viable person in the roster to rely on for a shadow priest. I did exactly that and it never felt right. The raid had replenishment, but I experienced neither enjoyment nor fulfillment. I liked the class well enough, but the loss of control was palpable. Meanwhile, there were various strikes against Zanjina. Her race/class combo wasn't optimal for raiding; undead shadow priests dominated the meters with their additional dot Devouring Plague...and Berzerking simply didn't make up for the lost damage. Itemization was exceedingly poor. Shadow priests often waited until tier 6 before opting to slough off their crafted gear while their fellow raiders enjoyed tier 4 and 5 upgrades along the way. More than anything, I felt I lacked expertise as the result of being pulled in both the direction of the shaman and the priest. I was spread too thinly. It was difficult to act as a leader when I gave off all the tell-tale signs of a novice at the wheel. The sacrifice I made for the guild may have helped us get over the hurdles of TBC, but I wasn't having fun.

Thinking about those struggles with Zanjina reminded me of all the players who fought tooth and nail to get into the roster as a specific role I told them to adopt because 'the guild needed it'. And then watched them flounder, flopping around like some useless Magikarp out of water. They wanted to experience the end game, and I felt obligated to jam square pegs into round holes to make it happen. That misguided compassion produced a very mediocre group of raiders; a handful of players unenthusiastic about their role in the team. Unenthusiastic...and unskilled.

That would come to an end in Wrath of the Lich King.
Snippet of the
Raid Slot Template

Don't Ask, Don't Tell

Along with the rest of the guildies now madly racing to level 80, I directed Ekasra's attention over to one of my newest forum posts. Titled "Raid Slot Template", it was a forum post tailored for a very specific mission. Down the left-hand column of the post were familiar names of both old and new guildies. Three headers sectioned each group of names off: Tanks, Healers, and DPS. Next to each player's name, a cryptic set of letters and numbers marked each entry:

Bretthew (T:212) (M) (H:198)

Contrary to popular belief, these were not chapters and verses of the King James Bible. They were, however, very carefully coded updates which would inform both the officers and the guild itself about our progress in becoming raid ready. In the above example, Bretthew, a paladin, had currently acquired tanking gear pushing his average ilvl up to 212. Meanwhile, he built an alternate set of healing gear which sat at ilvl 198. Bretthew had absolutely no interest in melee DPS, and therefore, wasn't pursuing it, didn't have any items that could fulfill it...and most importantly, I would not consider him for a role in it. He would never ask, nor would I ever have to tell.

Thanks to the raid slot template, all players focused on joining the 25-Man progression team could post what gear they had acquired, which in turn, allowed me to see what role they desired. That desire was reflected not by a thinly veiled statement like "YOU NEED HEALERS? I CAN HEAL!!!", but rather, as quantifiable progress that player was making in the acquisition of gear. As posts filled this forum thread, the officers and I continued to update the original post, keeping the channels of communication flowing at all times. Day or night, anyone could check where our deficiencies lay or surpluses overflowed. The raid slot template empowered players to make judgement calls about either switching gears, or treading the beaten path toward their original vision of end game raiding.

The beauty of the raid slot template is that it drove the raid team's balance by itself; it effectively removed me from the decision-making process. Guilt no longer hovered over me as it had when I compelled players to take on roles they didn't know nor enjoy. Likewise, if players couldn't find a spot in progression, they had nobody to blame but themselves. There wasn't some dark conspiracy at work, no evil villains named Sir Klocker or Dalans lurked in the shadows, twirling waxy mustaches in diabolical laughter as handfuls of guildies "who weren't their friends" were excised from raids.

Everything a player in DoD needed to know to join the 25-Man progression team was right there in front of them. No more excuses. Just the plain truth. Here's where we are; here's where we need to be. Choose wisely.


Ekasra, like many others, used the Raid Slot Template to help guide their own decision making process in finding a spot they could call their own.

"Based on what I'm seeing, looks like we're still a little light in the warlock department. Maybe I should try that."

Remember your new rules.

"Do you enjoy warlocks? It would be quite the shift from a shaman."

"I do, actually. I think I could bring a bit of DPS."

"Sounds like you have a plan, then. Let's see what you can bring to the table."

A few hours later, the raid slot template received yet another update.

Nestonia (T) (H) (M) (R:211)

Not bad, Ekasra. Not bad at all.

Mature the death knight, leveling at the
start of Wrath of the Lich King,

Eating My Own Dogfood

If I was going to recruit players based off of what they loved playing, I felt an obligation to treat myself the same way. Kerulak had been in retirement for far too long, and the call of the healer just wasn't ripe for the picking. It didn't matter; the Raid Slot Template was doing its job, informing me of a wealth of shamans mass leveling toward various roles in progression. For a short time, I contemplated the viability of bringing my red-headed troll priest back to raids, but apathy toward the class lingered. The shadow tree looked mediocre: Dispersion screamed PvP, and while Mind Sear looked good on paper, its lackluster first-hand experience in the beta was overshadowed by some unbelievable coolness dripping from other classes. It was hard to justify sticking with Zanny when warriors were dual wielding 2-Handers and warlocks were transforming into enormous winged demons.

Another wild possibility entered my thoughts.

I had yet to experience melee DPS or tanking. The newest addition to WoW, the death knight, could do both. Their history was deeply entrenched in Warcraft lore; I was a card-carrying nerd, famous for spouting off trivia references that went over most of the guild's head.

Circa vanilla, much of the guild didn't even know what a "Draenor" even was.

Everything about the death knight reeked of awesome. They raised undead minions from the cold earth and sent them into battle. They could dual-wield weapons, something I've always felt gave certain classes an additional edge. They even spoke with a creepy, echoing effect -- their faces pale and icy, glowing eyes devoid of emotion and soul. Tanking without a shield? Check! (no offense, Druids). Resurrect a fallen player as a Ghoul to squeeze out some emergency damage? Check! No question about it, Blizzard poured every last drop of concentrated coolness into the death knight they could summon.

Even factors outside of raiding made me ponder the class further. The potential to dominate PvP was a major factor; they absolutely demolished other players. Villainy that lurked in the shadows for four years had grown accustomed to the secrets of the other classes, becoming experts in their various vulnerabilities. Unsuspecting gankers were ill-prepared for this new class "death-gripping" them across the map, shackling them in position with freezing Chains of Ice, dicing them into a meaty pulp with glowing runeforged blades. The more I considered the death knight, the more it made sense.

Any doubt that lingered about focusing on this new class was flushed away during the beta. After gaining the opportunity to beta test the expansion, I rolled a death knight to get a feel for how the class played. Upon entering the starting area for the death knight, a floating fortress known as Ebon Hold, I was greeted with a familiar musical track. Booming through my speakers came bone-chilling horns blanketed by the death rattle of a snare. I instantly recognized it as music from the death knight wing in Naxxramas, many years previous, and the hairs on my arms stood on end. As I listened to the track, Kerulak and Zanjina fell away into the fog of a distant memory, a previous life on which I would no longer dwell. Now, all waking moments, all research, experience, practice, all of my focus would be here.

The decision was made. In Wrath of the Lich King, my main became a death knight.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

3.2. The Grand Reveal

Zanjina sees a bugged core houd pet at
the release of the 3.0 patch,
Shattrath City

Officers React

"So", I said, "any questions?"

Silence followed, as the new looting system began to sink in. What remained of my officer core at the end of TBC sat in a admin-only channel in Vent. The leadership roll-call consisted of:

Priest Officer Neps: Having been with us since the tail end of Vanilla, Neps rose to the rank of priest officer, taking over for Haribo. Humble and quiet, Neps spoke volumes with his healing ability in both raids and PvP; he was the type of person who would drop everything to help a complete stranger in need.

Warrior Officer Kurst: One of the older players, Kurst was a family man and recently became a father. He, too, dated back as far as Vanilla, acting as one of the most consistent warriors throughout our illustrious career. Kurst had recently taken the responsibility of officership at my request, after Ater's exit from DoD and WoW.

Warlock Officer Eacavissi: Eaca (pronounced "ekka") was a university student, pursuing a PhD in physics. He'd been with us throughout The Burning Crusade, and was the only reliable warlock in progression to speak of. Eaca had built a reputation for doing extraordinary amounts of damage -- so much that he would often pull mobs off even the best of tanks. As his impending fate stomped towards him, Eaca would exclaim "DPS HARDER!", an in-joke demanding the boss die before it reached the warlock.
Hunter Officer Larada: Larada had become a major contributor to DoD's progression throughout TBC, and with my previous officer Skarg retiring (taking his radio-quality voice with him), Larada became the next best candidate.

Paladin Officer Klocker: A funny and extremely well-played healer, Klocker stood side-by-side with Kerulak throughout our 40-Man career. His time in DoD surpassed all the other officers, prompting the guild to knight him "Sir Klocker".

Rogue Officer Blain: I knew Blain was already on the way out, as we had previously discussed. Nevertheless, I made a special request that he be present for the discussion.

Druid Officer/Number Two Dalans: I trusted the hot-headed, take-no-prisoners guild member to rule DoD with an iron fist in my absence; he had essentially become the guild's new main tank (post Ater), and had little tolerance of incompetent players. His treatment of Wyse remained especially fresh in my memory.

Vacancies remained in both mage and shaman officership. Goldenrod the mage exited WoW in frustration at Blizzard's handling of PvP and BlizzCon '08 ticket sales. And as for the shamans, I'd not yet come to trust anyone as deeply as Kadrok since his departure for Elitist Jerks; the role of shaman officer remained unfulfilled. Until which time that a suitable replacement made him/herself known, I unofficially managed the shamans (which meant I managed Ekasra), and the other officers ran their own ship.

...until today. 

It was the proverbial come to Jesus meeting, where all hands were on deck to listen in on the changes, provide whatever feedback they needed to, and then make a judgement call as to whether or not they were aligned with our new direction. As predicted, the officers got directly to the point, addressing what they felt was the biggest question mark on the list: loot.

50 DKP Plus

"So...certain people will get to bid on an item before anyone else?" asked Dalans.

"Correct", I replied.

"What's going to keep people from cleaning up and preventing noobs from gearing out?"

"The point is not to use 1st-round bids on every item that drops", I answered, "The point is: we're giving players...the really good opportunity to bid first. If an exceptional item drops. Part of this is going to be educational. We're going to get the raiders into the habit of learning when the appropriate time to engage in a 1st-round bid is."

"When do we figure out who gets these Elite promotions?" asked Kurst.

"We're gonna have a trial period, the first tier of raiding in Wrath. At the start, everyone will be on the same playing field. We'll watch signups, rotations, run damage and healing reports, see who performs at the top of their game and is reliable. Those are the folks who'll receive the first round of Elite promotions."

"Ah, everybody gets a shot at loot out of the gate, then", said Dalans. They're starting to get it.

"Exactly. From our perspective it's business as usual when raiding starts. Because we won't know, right? It's going to take time for some players to ramp up and demonstrate ability. Find out who the rock stars are. By the time everyone's fully decked out from that first tier, and we transition to the next, then the Elite rank will demonstrate its effectiveness. We're going to lose people...I'm planning on it. The difference this time around is that I want to make sure to protect the players that are in this for the long haul."

Blain broke his silence, "Do the Elites have to pay any special prices?"

"Nope", I replied, "they follow the same rules as everyone else." 

Suddenly, a bunch of voices all chimed in once with groans of concern. Blain spoke for them, "You're gonna have an inflation problem."

"Yeah," Klocker added, "if these 'Elites' pay no penalty for first rounding, and they don't go up against anyone else, they're going to sit on huge pools of DKP."

"Massive!" laughed Blain, feeding Klocker.

" we need any more reason for folks like Blain to hoard DKP."

I pivoted. "OK, let's talk this out. What do you all think is a reasonable minimum bid to get into the 1st-round?" Various answers shot out as the group weighed the pros and cons of each numerical value. Eventually, they came to an agreement on 50 DKP.

"Alright", I said, "I'll amend the rule so that if an Elite wants to exercise his option to bid in the 1st round, he'll have to start the minimum bid at 50." The officers in Vent agreed this was a good move to make.

Blain added a final note, "It's still not going to solve the inflation problem...but it'll be better." A few folks remained quiet. "Eaca, Larada...thoughts?"

"It's good. The changes are good", Eaca answered, "I think people have an incentive now to actually show-up and perform." Larada concurred.

"Neps, what do you think?"

"I think they're horrible and I'm gonna go join Pretty Pink Pwnies!"

Everyone laughed.

I breathed a sigh of relief; the officers were on board. Next up: revealing our intentions to the rest of the guild.
Uld the Rogue,
Darkwhisper Gorge

Frequently Repeated Questions

I obsessed over revealing my intentions to Descendants of Draenor so much that I mapped out my entire 'reveal' schedule in a spreadsheet. The plan was to slowly dole out bite-sized chunks over the weeks leading up to Wrath. I didn't want to overwhelm them. The reveal began with a forum post entitled Who We Are, and Who We Are Not, the intent of which was to realign our goals as a guild. If there was ever any doubt as to what we were here to do, that doubt would be gone by the time the guild had completed reading that post. No more excuses. No more "I didn't know that's what you meant."

Next, I revealed the age restriction, limiting new recruits to 21 years of age. Soon after, out came the new hierarchy of ranks, listing out every specific requirement that needed to be met. I made an effort to draw attention to the matching reward structure for each accomplishment, easing anxiety that no particular rank was expected of you. Participate as much (or as little) in the guild as you want to -- and you will be treated appropriately. After that, I revealed the new application process, concluding with the changes to raiding rules and how the Elite rank would be affected by them. Now that the floodgates were wide open, I funneled the rush of questions toward a forum topic, encouraging one and all to engage.

Initially, the discussion was heated. Many players began to express concern around the rigid structure. The officers swarmed into the forum topic and began to defend the changes I proposed. They voiced opinions on how many of our rules were simply "written down versions of common sense" things, to which I clarified, "common sense is something we've noticed a lot of players lack." Better to be safe than sorry.

"Do we have to become an Elite?" -- Absolutely not, no rank will be enforced. You play as you like, and based on your level of commitment, and you'll earn the appropriate rank that matches said level of contribution.

"Are Elites going to bid 1st round on everything?' -- No, they'll save their 1st round bids for important items, so that brand new players can't come in and take away your hard work in one raid night.

"Do I have to be a Raider to earn Avatar?" -- Not at all, players of all shapes and sizes can be great contributors to this guild, and we'll recognize all of the players that do so.

One by one, the officers and I put their minds at ease.

Do you hear that sound? That's 'buy-in'. It's working.

Indeed, it seemed like my once biggest fear, the total collapse of my guild, had been averted. On the contrary, players were warming up to these new rules and this new structure. With the officers and the troops both won over, it was time to lead by example once again.

I had to start by applying our new rules and vision to myself.