Thursday, December 12, 2013

3.45. Decisions, Decisions

Artwork by Zeon-in-a-tree

The Warm-up

The screen was ablaze. Flames licked at my heels. I shifted bit by bit, pouring in as much damage to Mimiron as I could while Omaric and Bretthew dragged the enormous robot through fire. Flaming trails weaved toward the group, creeping up slowly, keeping us from holding any one position for very long.

"Careful, he's winding up..."

I glanced up at the robot's body. The dual Gatling guns in place of arms were coughing and sputtering to life as they prepared for a laser barrage. I rotated Mature around the edges of the tank's treads as he was being pulled along the circumference of the room. It was a nightmarish carnival ride. The spray of purple lasers backed by a deep chugging sound soon died down -- another barrage successfully dodged. No deaths. The tanks continued their slow death march, feeding crumbs of threat to Mimiron, and the giant robot continued to focus its attention on them, repeating its relentless attacks around the perimeter of the Spark of Imagination. A frost bomb -- new to the heroic version -- landed near us. Crasian announced its arrival.


I turned to look for an exit strategy, but was surrounded by a wall of flame. I popped Anti-Magic Shell, held my breath, and ran through the fire to get away from the explosion. The radius of the frosty explosion barely missed me. Safe. I raced back to the clockwork contraption and laced into it with whatever DPS I could muster. Bulwinkul added encouragement while the moonkin brought down a shower of stars onto Mimiron.

"Keep 'er goin'. Almost there."

Flames continued to dart around the bot, and for a brief moment, I had a flashback to Archimonde's Doomfire. Mimiron's flames weren't nearly as fatal, yet still exhibited the same tenacity. They closed in on us, and I braced for suffocation. Suddenly, the great clockwork machination sagged in defeat, and the flames that were inches from our heals had vanished, replaced with flashes of golden bars signifying achievement acquisition.

"Nice! Good job, all."

"Phew! That was pretty slick. I like that fight!"

I addressed Jungard in raid chat, "Well! That wasn't so bad now, was it?"

"No, not bad at all," he replied, "first time seeing these guys in action. I have to give 'em credit."

I agreed. "Yeah, you boys definitely made this look easy."

Bretthew acknowledged the praise. "Thanks, Hanzo."

"Now if we can just get this done in the 25-Man version, we'll be home free."

Jungard and I thanked The Eh Team for giving us a taste of Mimiron's hard mode mechanics first hand. One month would pass before we'd return to this room and commence with the real work.

Jungard and Mature assist The Eh Team in
completing "Firefighter (10 Player)",


"You do know that he has a pretty good track record in the guild with helping out people in 5-Man heroics, right?"

"Absolutely. I'm pretty sure he was first in the guild to get the red proto?"

"That's my understanding," I replied, "but doesn't seem to have slowed down helping anyone else do the same."

Jungard continued with praise, "He's also put out some incredible damage since joining the 25. Consistently top deeps."

I gave him my devilish detective voice, "Aha! So you've noticed?"

"Well, I notice when he beats me."

I laughed. "Oh, I see how it is. This is personal!"

This time, Jungard got the laugh, "Yeah, heh. Guess you could say that. But all around, melee is in a really good spot right now. It's easily the strongest part of the 25 at this point. Boney is going to do pretty well, and Riskers is already top notch."

Jungard began dropping names on players he'd been keeping an eye on. "Boney" was our nickname for Bonechatters, one of the newer faces clamoring for a spot in the 25-Man. With Cheeseus gone, Bonechatters enjoyed a heightened priority of rotations, seeing more consistent raids as a result. Jungard also made note of SeƱor Riskers, a rogue who had become a staple in progression; it was his stun-locks that helped give me breathing room on Storm Lasher during Knock Knock Knock on Wood. Since it was clear that Jungard had the capacity to observe and understand what was going on with melee, I pushed further to see what else I could glean.

"How do you stand up next to Abrinis?"

"Y'know, funny that you mention Abrinis. I notice he's been struggling lately. Which is weird. Because you know he pretty much took me under his wing when I first joined progression, back in Hyjal. He always kind of kept challenging me to do better. But lately, I'm not sure what's up...he's definitely fallen behind a bit."

I pitched him a curveball, "Maybe his gear?"

"Y'know, I don't think so! Gear's never really an that degree, know what I mean? A little bit, OK sure, but for bigger discrepancies...I dunno, maybe he's just distracted or getting burnt out. I'll have a talk with him at some point."

Skill vs gear. Check. Empathy and insight into others. Check.

"Ranged still fluctuates a bit."

I could sense the dismay in his voice as the pitch turned downward. Jungard and I obviously saw eye-to-eye on this. I took a deep breath as I acknowledged his observation, "Yeah, it's been an ongoing struggle since as far back as when you joined. Well, probably earlier. Blain pointed it out to me on more than one occasion."

"If Ben would show up more frequently, that would definitely be an improvement."

I agreed, but was careful to point out Ben's improvements in the responsibility department, "Ben's been getting much better about it. Did you know he's actually texting if he's going to be late, now?"

"Wow, really? Ben is?"

"I know, I know. You may have to sit down in order to let that sink in."

Jungard continued to share his opinions, seeing if there was a way to shine some hope on the ranged situation.

"But I like Mangetsu a lot. He's really making a name for himself."

I chuckled. "Mang is definitely quite the character, and his DPS is nothing to laugh at. How about Omaric and Taba taking over as dual raid leaders? What's your opinion there?"

"I think it's fine. Both really talented guys, and they've been around a long while. I never expected to see two raid leaders at once, though."

I gave him my reasoning on the subject, "Well, it's really no different than how Ater and Blain did it, back in the day. Only difference now is that I have things a bit more formalized. Though I have yet to actually write that down. It's on my never ending to-do list. But, I think they're off to a good start."

"Ah, Blain. I bet he would love to hear that Bretthew is running the show now."

"Not exactly from the same schools of thought, now, are they?" I laughed. Jungard agreed, acknowledging the vast differences in Blain's by-the-book policies -- a stark contrast to Bretthew's laid-back, chatty raids.

The conversation between Jungard and I went well that day. I went in to the interview asking about Crasian, but the discussion soon turned to the raid as a whole. He reflected on many facets of progression, both good and bad, not just the stuff that was easy to talk about. Jungard saw the big picture. That was an important consideration when contemplating the possibility of his promotion. It's easy to focus on the small things like a fury rotation. But, to be able to step back and see the big picture -- that takes something else entirely. In many cases, the difference between a player and a leader is really just giving a shit. A leader can speak honestly about players, and know if they are doing well or languishing. They show compassion and empathy towards their fellow teammates. Jungard was hitting all the nails on their heads.


Jungard gave me his opinion on a good many things during that interview, but it was what he chose to keep to himself that would confirm I was leaning in the right direction. He had the perfect opportunity to rake Crasian across the coals that day, and instead said nothing about it. The fact in question: the day he and I had been invited to take part in a 10-Man Firefighter was the only time he'd ever been a part of an Eh Team run. It was a minor observation, but one that resonated as I weighed my options for promoting my next melee officer.

I walked down my fact sheet after concluding both interviews. Crasian had expressed little interest in Jungard, offering up only the most commonly-held knowledge about his warrior counterpart. By comparison, Jungard revealed insight into many of his fellow team members, focusing the conversation on them rather than himself. Additionally, a subtle inconsistency flowed over Ventrilo the night I interviewed Crasian. If our assist with 10-Man Firefighter was the first time Jungard had been present in an Eh Team run, why had Crasian stated otherwise? Was it simply an oversight on his part? Or was an attempt to massage the truth?

To be honest, it didn't matter. What mattered was my perception of his attention to details.

If it was an accidental oversight, that told me Crasian really couldn't care less about Jungard -- or anyone else in melee, for that matter. It meant his focus really truly was on himself by default. And that wasn't necessarily a bad thing...just not something I wanted in leadership. Of course, there was the other side of the coin to consider as well. If he was being purposefully deceptive...he had no business in officership, period. Confronted with these realizations, the decision to promote Jungard was the most sound, logical one.

...but I stopped short when it came time to decide on the legendary.

Mimiron blankets the raid with a
Laser Barrage during phase four,

The Golden Ticket

In wrestling with the decision of who to promote next for melee officer, the decision surrounding Shadowmourne continued to follow me like Mimiron's flames, never letting up or allowing me to catch my breath. Whomever I promoted would most certainly be first on the weapon's list. Crasian was the best death knight in the guild -- possibly the entire Deathwing-US server -- so denying him the axe would surely be a waste. But there was Jungard as well, a trusted player, skilled warrior, and Crasian's only real competition in the guild from a melee perspective. I got so caught up in struggling with this decision that I lost sight of a possible third option: myself. I'd been too busy trying to figure out how to equitably distribute the golden ticket to some other bright-eyed kid. They dreamed of a chocolate factory tour, and here I was, able to partake of the candy at will.

Instantly, doubt lingered there.

The moment I gave the option even the slightest consideration, a wave of guilt washed over me. If I take this axe first, what will the guild think? Will I come across as some kind of ruthless dictator who just takes what he wants because he can? True, I had turned the guild around from its failures early in TBC. Yet when pondering the decision of taking Shadowmourne myself, I collapsed back into my old fears as the impostor syndrome wrapped its grip tightly around my neck. This is a joke, right? You don't know what you're doing. You're the laughing stock of the guild. The only reason people follow you is because Fraya isn't recruiting stupids for Enigma. Your competency with the death knight falls somewhere between pathetic and outright embarrassment. Why don't you go ahead and taunt some more? That'll make it look like you're contributing. It's amazing you can even log in without drooling all over yourself. Go ahead! Take the legendary first...and watch your guild walk away in disgust.

For shame. Is this how Ater would've behaved?

I snapped out of it.

At some point, you have to give yourself credit. I'd dedicated five years of myself to Descendants of Draenor, rejoicing our triumphs and suffering bitterly our losses. I had made mistakes and swallowed my pride repeatedly as a result. I built up the 40-Man raiding machine from a mere Popsicle stand, then watched it splinter, crumble, and collapse under its own mismanaged weight -- an embarrassment of uninvested players repeatedly wiping to trash. Then I rebuilt it, getting us back on the map; back on track. I mediated drama and painstakingly detailed out every new rule, wrote out every single bit of common-sense I felt players could use against me if they didn't see it for themselves...or couldn't see it. Wouldn't see it. And I pushed them. We could be a family-friendly guild but still hold ourselves to a higher standard, without a lot of excuses and whining. We stood on the precipice of glory, nearly able to reach out and feel the cold metal plating stamped along its cobalt purple wingspan.

Maybe after all I had driven us to accomplish, I could justify some small reward for myself. Now would be the most opportune time. I had two solid tanks as raid leaders, and my own interests drifted elsewhere: a return to the damage meters. Perhaps, at last, this would be my opportunity.

If you do this, you had better be prepared to stop at nothing to top the meters. A guild leader with a legendary that can't perform will be stripped of any and all credibility. A cliche. A joke. Other guild leaders will use you as an example to outline what happens when absolute power corrupts absolutely.

I understood the stakes. This wasn't going to be an excuse for me perform like a chump. I would have to hold myself to the same high standard I expected of every individual in progression. Failing that would not only reflect poorly on Descendants of Draenor, it would prove that I had no business wielding a legendary, or remaining in charge of the best damn guild on Deathwing-US.

So, rather than hiding the golden ticket inside a random candy bar, I tucked it in my pocket instead.


Cheeseus said...

"A leader can speak honestly about players, and know if they are doing well or languishing. They show compassion and empathy towards their fellow teammates. "

They don't need compassion or empathy, they need to stand in fire less.

As the all knowing kitty shows, you just need to be able to critically evaluate others skills, or lack there of :)

Shawn Holmes said...


I said "leader", not "raid leader".


Jungard said...

For the type of guild we were, having those traits and investing in the long-term with people had a tendency to inspire better results, strictly because we had far more players on the casual side of the spectrum than the hardcore side.

It was interesting to try to strike that balance between being a guild that kills shit on a short schedule because of good productivity, and being one that would give people more of a chance than a hardcore guild would. I can remember frustration with some of those players but our Elites didn't really grow on trees, unfortunately.

I actually learned a great deal from those times. As I find myself in a melee leadership position once again, I've changed to take a very analytical approach to keeping my team accountable to their mistakes, but at the same time kept a very approachable demeanor with those nice-guy traits I was always stuck with. I finally started applying some of the lessons taught by my no-bullshit raid leaders of the past.

In my DoD time, I think a lack of that was my major weak point but it's interesting to see the difference in how I manage players today after reflecting on those times.

Kali said...

I'd like to thank you for this weekly blog Shawn. I've been following it for a few months now, and have carefully read through all the archives as I went. I've been an officer in an RP guild for about a year now, and have found the lessons that are learned and shared here to be incredibly valuable to my job. The insights here have helped me to perform better, and I sincerely think this is the greatest tool I've ever found to being not just an officer of a guild, but a leader in general.

So once again, thank you for writing this, and I look forward to many more entries to come.

Fred said...

Quit fooling yourself Chris. You were only as good as I would let you be. I still hold hose puppet strings dammit. /dodgesicehowl /wutnowbitch

Jungard said...

Fred, I know you're in fantasy talk because you wouldn't have actually dodged Icehowl! Heyooo.

Shawn Holmes said...


Thanks for the feedback! It's nice to hear that some of our lessons translate into the real world -- I have also found it to be true more and more as my work responsibilities shifted into roles of team management.

Ryley Foshaug said...

Everyone's all "Mimi's not so bad" Because no one was every looking at the poor tree (read: flammable) running around, arms flailing, trying to kite all that damn fire away from the raid and heal at the same time.

Both that fight and Twin Valks were total hell for me.

Aekero said...

Love this blog, although I will admit my interest was mostly in vanilla raiding. Having had extremely similar experiences, I absolutely loved the narrative going from piecing together members, to that first horrible mc pull, to eventually becoming a well oiled machine. My nostalgia also lies in the relationships I had with fellow guildies, which, sad to say I never kept up after I left. I could go on and about my thoughts, but instead I'll just say, thanks. Sometimes it's just good to talk (or read) old shop. I'm ridiculously impressed you kept a raiding guild going through most of Cat, I came from one of the historically best raiding servers (KT) and I don't think there's a guild out there who can say the same. I only wish you had progressed further in vanilla, would have loved to have read more!

Shawn Holmes said...


Thanks for great feedback! I always felt like we lived in KT's shadow, as KT was the only other option of Mountain Standard Time servers on launch day (Boulderfist came shortly thereafter). I remember struggling to get the guys together to try to decide what server we'd roll on and KT was struggling to stay up on launch day. Then (I believe it was Gutrippa) we got someone successfully created on Deathwing-US and the rest is history.

I would've loved to have gone further in Naxx40 and AQ40 as well, some of those fights would've been insane. But! We did ok for ourselves under the circumstances.

Regarding keeping things together well into Cataclysm: that is a story yet to come...

Brett Easley said...


Stop whining and kite.


Fred still sucks.

Goldenrod said...

Good grief this blog makes me miss all you guys.

@Cheese, exemplary competence is necessary to command respect. Compassion and empathy are necessary to garner loyalty or even love. You can do the job with just competence, but if you're going to build a long-term relationship with followers who will eventually do ANYTHING you ask without question, you have to be approachable and caring. Jungard is right.

You also have to look at the motivation of raiders. The first type of leader (competent but not compassionate) gets the job done, and everyone logs off after successful raids, their own individual goals accomplished. A raider leader that is not only competent but also has compassion and empathy can inspire raiders not only to work hard so their own goals are accomplished, but inspires them to work hard for him as well as one another. Folks who love their leadership will improve themselves not only just to benefit themselves, but also the team as a whole.

Nice work on the blog lately, Shawn. The last couple months of posts are backfilling what I missed when I suspended my account for about a year.

Dalans said...

@Goldy: Agreed. I'm excited for when the blog gets to the time frame when I stopped playing. I made a comment to Shawn as well; it is great to see "behind the curtain" so to speak and get his personal perspective on the events that took place.

I love to read about the contrast of what I thought happened/should happen, what he thought happened/should happen and what actually took place from accounts of other guild members.

Mangetsu said...


Fred dying to Icehowl