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Roster Riddles

I’ve tiptoed around how to post constructively about organizing raid rosters and haven’t quite come up with a solution. A step-by-step guide won’t work, because every guild operates differently. But there are some persistent obstacles that you’ll come across.

Basic assumptions:

casual/social guild
10 man raid group
2 nights a week
25 people in the guild with level 85 mains

Forget buffs and raid roles. From those assumptions, we can estimate several obstacles.

  • 2 of those people have severe technical/hardware issues
  • 3 of them have work or family issues that will complicate their schedules
  • 4 of those people are alt-obsessed and want to raid on multiple characters
  • 10 of them are undergeared to the point of being detrimental to the group
  • 5 of them are willing to run heroics and grind rep on their own to gear up
  • 3 of them will mysteriously disappear after you get them geared up
  • 2 of them previously dated and A refuses to raid with B, while B is oblivious
  • 5 people will adamantly refuse to raid with 1 player who causes problems
  • 1 player will refuse to raid with 6 players because they are “bad”
  • 1 player you have to be kind and supportive to even though they drive you insane
  • 2 players are routinely intoxicated on raid nights, and every other night
  • 3 players are consistently flaky and don’t respond to invites
  • 2 players are overworked in RL and are falling asleep halfway through the scheduled raid time

Once you’ve established all of these issues, good luck! Pretty much the only “solvable” issue is gear, and accept early on that there is only so much that you can do about gear. It’s the responsibility of the individual player to be ready and prepared. WoW, sometimes unfortunately, is an MMO, not a single-player RTS.

First, keep your roster organization secret until you have an idea of how it’s going to work. This will spare you bribery, tantrums, and behind-the-scenes bitchery.

Second, set parameters for yourself on what is and is not acceptable. Imagine a sliding scale of which issues are bearable and which issues are beyond what a raid or raid leader should have to tolerate.

Third, make sure that your goals are in-line with those of the guild. Collaborate with the guildleader, or, if you are GL, work with your officers to decide what your guild really wants out of raiding and what expectations are reasonable. If there’s ever a conflict, you need to have authority behind you and a consensus on what is right.

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For technical issues, the raid can get by if a player occasionally crit-errors. But a computer overheating every 20 minutes is going to cripple the raid night.

For relationship issues, try to separate the people who really don’t get along. The extra class buff isn’t worth the abuse that the person and the raid may have to endure. But if someone doesn’t want to play with half the raid because of perceived lack of skill, step on their ego and tell them to get over it. A-string and B-string teams are sources of insult and drama in small guilds. It’s better to balance the roster(s) and push through the fights together.

For gear, set your expectations and make the minimum requirements known. If they don’t meet the minimums, do not bring them. Latch onto the people who are self-motivated and let the lazy folks fall to the wayside unless you desperately need them to fill a particular role. The motivated folks are going to show up for raids. The others won’t. Be supportive, offer to help, but don’t waste your time.

^That said, sometimes including a player and showing interest is the boost they need. See how they respond to running group heroics and collaborating to farm crafting materials. I limit crafting epics to 1-2 per player, and only mains, until they’ve proven themselves reliable. But the encouragement and confidence they get from it goes a long way.

For attendance, establish fair but solid expectations for accepting calendar invites and attending raids. Build in flexibility, but make it clear that showing up late, leaving early, and missing every other week without notice is not acceptable. If it happens, drop them from the roster for a month and bring someone else in.

For behavior, decide what is too much and politely turn down players who are prone to behaving badly. I can handle mild intoxication, the occasional angry outburst, a rampant flirt, and a sometimes weepy player. I will not tolerate blatant drug use, severe drunkenness, abusive swearing, abusive sexual harassment, or public tantrums over the slightest complaint.

For scheduling, be patient. Take a few weeks to work out the kinks and be prepared to PuG now and then if needed. I used calendar surveys to figure out the best nights when my tanks and healers were available, then filled in the DPS. It will take time to balance the schedules and get people into a raiding mindset. Just hold onto your sanity until then.

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I attempted two rosters so that I could include every person possible, but it simply wasn’t working. And that’s okay. I scaled back to one roster that raids two nights a week. But I alternate people for the different nights since not everyone is available for both times.

There will be people who are left out. They will feel hurt and upset. There is nothing that you can do at this time. Do not feel guilty. Do find ways to include them: Heroics, battlegrounds, dailies, etc. Do subtitute them in when someone else can’t make it.

If, after all of this, you’ve whittled yourself down to less than 10 people, look at your expectations and see where you can make modest exceptions. Don’t be afraid to draw people from other guilds, be they friends or strangers. A good player, and a good person, is worth your time regardless of whether they are in your guild. A bad player, and a bad person, isn’t. Even if they are in your guild.

Shield Follow-up

In another hotfix, Blizzard slapped Holy priests on the wrists and rescinded their mana reduction. In addition, they resolved some issues for Discipline priests by strengthening Rapture.

Body and Soul no longer reduces the mana cost of Power Word: Shield (the hotfix made on February 16 to provide this additional benefit has been reverted).

Rapture now returns 2/5/7% of maximum mana when Power Word: Shield is consumed, up from 2/4/6%.

It stills avoids some of the main problems with Discipline that Blizzard will have to resolve eventually. But it’s a more balanced band-aid. A slight boost in Rapture returns will help gearing Disc priests to overcome the larger mana cost of Power Word: Shield.

Even in entry-level raiding gear and 100k+ mana, I felt the pinch of the increased mana cost of Power Word: Shield while healing through Halfus and Valiona/Theralion in Bastion of Twilight. It usually wasn’t enough to drain my mana completely after using all my mana cooldowns, but it was enough to make me feel anxious during the fight. I think I’d be fine if I were healing with two equally strong partners. That isn’t the case in most circumstances. I tend to find myself simultaneously raid healing and tank healing, and hauling a heavier burden overall. (I expect this to improve once our roster is more solid and we aren’t having to PuG healers).

Power Word: Shield was still a strong part of my healing rotation, but rarely more 33% of my overall heals. I cast it at every opportunity on the tanks. For DPS, it’s reserved for when a player’s health drops below 45% or if they are in harm’s way from a debuff or AoE.

Divine Aegis is frequently my top heal or in the top three. I don’t use PoH to top players off; it’s exclusively used when I know damage will be coming in or to pull a group up to 70-80% and let the other healers finish the rest. The means that the majority of my Divine Aegis get used.

I’ll post more about my healing habits at a later date, but I’m very conscious of my cooldowns and try to heal efficiently. It’s my goal in every fight to be the last healer standing and to have enough mana to pull the group through if other healers die.

Power Word: Shield Hotfix Drama

Power Word: Shield has been hotfixed.

The cost of Power Word: Shield is being increased by 33%. While we wanted Discipline priests to be able to utilize this spell more often and with better results, we also did not want it to be the main spell (and often the only spell) used while in groups. We don’t find this to be a particularly compelling playstyle and have found that it encourages players to avoid using other spells such as Penance. We believe that using a shield in a tight moment is totally appropriate, but we don’t want it to be incredibly efficient to do so with more frequency than that.

We realize that by making Power Word: Shield slightly more expensive for Discipline priests to cast that it might cause Holy priests to avoid using it. To that end, we are adding mana savings into the Body and Soul talent. The tooltip will not reflect this change until a future patch, however. Ideally, Holy priests should not notice much of a change to the Power Word: Shield costs.

The community reaction is mixed, but there’s a general consensus that this “fix” doesn’t address the correct problem. PvP Disc priests are in an uproar. 10man Disc priests are feeling crushed. 25man Disc priests are indifferent. And Holy priests? Well, now they’re bubble spamming, just because they can. Overall, it feels like Blizzard is rushing changes and making calls that are ineffective at best, and bad at worst.

I do not fully understand the change myself. Most people will agree that Discipline isn’t properly balanced and that bubble spam isn’t the ideal playstyle. But simply upping the mana cost doesn’t solve the problem. It stings a little extra because it hinders our Rapture mana regen. Those with large mana pools won’t feel it quite as much, but priests still gearing up will feel the pinch. I personally believe that Rapture should be a net mana gain, even if it’s a small one.

I’d rather Blizzard offer a better alternative instead of focusing on limiting the ability of Discipline priests to bubble spam. At least give us a statement of what you want. And don’t just say “use penance,” because there has to be more to it than that.

  • Targeting mana affects Discipline inequally. It barely touches those in 25man raids with multiple regen sources at their disposal and hits 10 man raiders hard, as well as PvP. This speaks to the fact that Blizzard wasn’t fully prepared for balancing 10 and 25 man raids.
  • Talents need to move. Allowing Holy priests to take the Disc shield talents clearly isn’t what Blizz intended. And if it is, I hope they drop the Body and Soul component of the hotfix. Granted, moving talents isn’t so easy. There is a Discipline “tree” that has to remain balanced and accessible, especially for lower level priests.
  • Talents need to change. As much as I love Soul Warding, restricting it to one talent point would force Discipline priests to cast another spell in between each Power Word: Shield cast. Currently, I only spec 1/2 Soulwarding, reducing my Shield CD to 2 seconds. It encourages me to stagger my shield casts while still allowing me to cast shields if needed (without hindering other abilities). And it frees up a talent point to use elsewhere.
  • *One of the best suggestions I’ve seen so far on the official WoW forums (and I’m still hunting for the link) was a change to Soul Warding that reduces the Power Word: Shield CD and increases the mana cost per point. Therefore priests who wanted to bubble spam could do it at the cost of more mana, while other priests (Holy and Shadow) could use shields normally without requiring modified talents in their own trees. This is, by far, the cleanest and most efficient suggestion I’ve seen.

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Lastly, why the handout to Holy? I don’t want to gimp them in any way, but I also don’t feel inclined to help. I’ve yet to see any effort to make Renew an effective ability for Discipline. I guess you attempted to keep things equal when you nerfed PoH across the board but allowed Discipline PoH crits to proc a stronger DA.

I’m still irked that you made Desperate Prayer a Holy talent AND made Body and Soul ridiculous. Really? A movement speed bonus that makes both their Power Word: Shield and Life Grip better utilities? (Note: utility, not heal). Don’t forget the ability to remove poisons from yourself. And now it also reduces the mana cost of their Power Word: Shield.

The sibling rivalry is getting a little heated here. I didn’t bubble spam, but I still got spanked. I’ll take my punishment and sulk in the corner, but you’d better at least slap Holy on the hand for misbehaving.

Flavor Fever

Unusual alternatives for food and drink in World of Warcraft intrigue me. Why drink water when there are so many alternatives and you don’t have to worry about the side-effects?

Cataclysm’s best drinks are Starfire Espresso and Invigorating Pineapple Punch.

Starfire Espresso is now made with Refreshing Spring Water (20 cents for 5) from the Innkeepers and Cocoa Beans (1 cooking reward for 40). Since the cocoa beans aren’t soulbound, you can do the cooking daily on alts and send the cocoa beans to your main character. It comes out to be considerably cheaper than purchasing the Highland Spring Water (1g 10c for 5). Meanwhile, your alts will slowly but steadily gain cooking skill.

Invigorating Pineapple Punch is my favorite and comes from the Mine Bunnies in Heroic Deadmines. When the NPC dies, they drop Goblin Cocktails on the ground which you can pick up to retrieve 5-10 drinks.

Another fun recipe is South Island Iced Tea, which will get you tipsy, and is made with Tropical Sunfruit (1g 28s for 5) sold by Twilight Highland Innkeepers and Refreshing Spring Water. It can be a bit pricey to make, but it’s a nice treat.

I only wish that instead of drinking from the ever-present tankard, Domni would drink from a ceramic coffee cup or a coconut with a straw.

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