Some thoughts on leadership and raiding.

I haven’t been a raid leader since February.

I haven’t been a guild leader since March.

I haven’t been a healing lead (or an officer) since September.

Since March or so of 2006, I’ve always been a raid leader. Since May of 2007, I’ve always been a healing lead. I was the GM of Apotheosis from January of 2008 until March of 2009. (Actually, I’m still GM, but the guild is in a social phase at the moment and I basically never log in.)

Since I started trying to raid, which brings us back to 2006, the frustrations have often, on many, many nights, outweighed the rewards. By and large, the problem has always been the same: attendence. Not enough people. Not enough bodies. Not enough DPS. Not enough healers. Not enough tanks.

I’ve always taken my position as a leader, any kind of leader, seriously. I feel that a leader has to be not only good at their own job (healing, tanking, DPSing) but also able to tend to the administrative issues that arise.

Example: You have nine healers online. That’s probably 3 healers more than you need for the content you’re currently doing. How do you decide who sits? Is it fair to the others if you never sit out? Does your raid group need *you* specifically to heal the content you’re doing or do they just need you to do healing assignments? What kind of gear do people need? How strong are the healers available?

When I was healing lead of the guild I was in on Bronzebeard, we had the above-mentioned problem a lot. Most guilds do NOT have too many healers online and not enough DPS online, more often than not. Kind of ridiculous, no? I could chalk it up to the fact that I treated my healers with respect and dignity and joked around with them and gave them healing jobs that they could do, rather than impossible tasks. I liked to instill a sense of success in them, I liked to push them. I did call them out on things when needed, too, of course, which wasn’t fun.

But I offered gold to people to beat a certain shammy on dispells on Yogg-Saron. I offered them gold if a lack of healing was directly responsible for the death of our gnomish raid leader — on Archavon only. I think I balanced it out nicely and I think I earned their respect by virtue of knowing how their classes worked (I did SO much reading for that!!) and being good at my own job. I mean, if I popped Divine Plea on Thorim after the tunnel, the tanks DIED, back when we were getting it on farm. I was the go-to healer for the tanks. If I was dead or if I was oom, well, the tanks would die. And I don’t say that to give myself props or anything, I’m just actually stating the fact. It’s sort of like now, in my current guild, if my RL friend the resto druid dies, we are SCREWED.

Wednesday night, in my current guild, we didn’t have some key players online. The main tank/primary raid leader didn’t show up for some reason. The other holy pally couldn’t make it. I was late due to RL plans with a friend. The list went on. We still had 27 people online and we still cleared through Saurfang and then went and did XT for the weekly, but we called the raid early because we just didn’t have the raid comp/experience for the more challenging content.

Thursday night, most everyone was there. I think we had 28 people online, maybe 29. All of our tanks were there. So we clear over to Festergut.

And here is why I’m thinking about leadership… The MT/RL linked to us the Flu Shot Shortage (25) achievement. But it was abundantly clear that he didn’t know how to do it. Why?

The instructions were that if you got the spore on you, to run to the back wall, wait for it to go off, then rejoin the raid group.

What does this do? It means that no one in the actual raid gets any stacks of Inoculated. Which means that when Pungent Blight goes off… well, let’s look at the combat log for that, shall we?

[23:25:29.906] Festergut Pungent Blight Madrana 27549 (O: 1417, A: 7057)
[23:25:30.390] Madrana dies

So let’s see, that’s 27.5k health I have, with 7k worth of absorbs (I love you, disc priests) and 1.5k of overkill. 36k shadow damage.

It killed 19 people. Instantly. One-shotted.

I don’t have a problem with raid leaders trying out new things. God knows that I’ve killed my entire raid group a ton of times, including our early attempts at Maulgar. But at least I had an IDEA of how to do things and we worked around that idea to customize it for our raid group. Or, in the case of those early Maulgar attempts, we decided to push 25-man raiding back a bit until we had more people who were geared out of Kara.

They quickly refined things last night so that the first three people with the spores would run to the back wall, and that they’d run out for the second (or third) spore as well, so as not to get three stacks of Inoculated. Someone had actually read the strat and communicated it to their role leader, who had then communicated it to the MT/RL.

First set of spores, three people run out. Second set of spores, people are hanging out. Third set of spores, people who had previously had spores run out. Pungent Blight hits. A couple people die. It’s all good.

Fourth set of spores, I get a spore. I hesitate, because they hadn’t mentioned what to do with the second rotation of spores. Don’t we normally get him down before the second Pungent Blight? I don’t have a freaking clue.

So I ran to the back of the room, treating it as though it was like the first rotation. At the very worst, I reasoned, I had moved unnecessarily. I had my mouse hovering over LOH if needed, so my tank would be covered. The spore pops, I get an Inoculated buff, run my ass back to the group.

Second spores pop up. People stand around, which is fine.

Third spore pops and I can’t believe Festergut isn’t dead yet, so I haul my ass back to the back of the room to ENSURE I don’t get a third stack of Inoculated.

The spore pops, I run back in, Pungent Blight hits, most people live through it and Festergut drops shortly thereafter.

No achievement.

Instantly, I panicked that I was the one who had screwed it up. I didn’t have the firmest of the firm grasps on the mechanics of the encounter. But I did make sure I didn’t have 3 stacks at any point in time, so even though I’d been unsure about things, it couldn’t have been me, right?

I checked the logs after the raid. A ret pally had stayed in and gotten 3 stacks at the end. Way to go.

But is it really the ret paladin’s fault? I wondered. There had been no indication from the MT/RL that we were going to do this achievement until about a minute before we pulled Festergut. Nothing on the forums, no mention during previous raids to read up on the achievement.

Isn’t part of being a leader preparing your charges for out-of-the-ordinary things? Back in BC, when we prepared for the Mother Shahraz fight, I completely broke myself trying to make sure everyone had their BT necks and 290 Shadow Resist gear in order to reach the 365 SR (level 70) cap with Prayer of Shadow Protection up. By “I broke myself”, I mean to say that I posted regularly to our forums to ensure that people knew when we were doing Al’ar and Rage Winterchill kills for the quest. I ensured that we always had just enough Hearts of Darkness for the crafting of gear. I bought Primal Shadows from guildies to encourage them to sell them to the guild bank so we could provide some to the guildies who didn’t have time to farm for their resist gear.

As we stood there, in front of Mother, furiously crafting last minute gear, a fail rogue tells me she doesn’t have her BT neck because she hasn’t done the heroics necessary for it. (She was thinking Champion of the Naaru. I know. I don’t even have words.) She then insisted it was fine, just give her an extra Heart of Darkness for the bracers (which we weren’t crafting).

Trouble is, we had no extras. If we went ahead and crafted her guild-sanctioned gear (cloak, boots, belt, legs) then we wouldn’t have enough for her bracers, so it would be a waste of 7 Hearts of Darkness. I ordered her back to Shattrath and out of the raid for the Mother fight. :P

But that… that was being a leader. Following up on people, checking on people, then throwing someone out of the instance because she hadn’t done what she was supposed to do. Preparing the group, to the best of my abilities, though? That was being a leader.

Time and again, since Apotheosis quit raiding, I have been ASTOUNDED at the lack of preparation and leadership through progressive content in Ulduar, TOC, TOGC and ICC. Astounded. Could I do better? HELL YES.  With my eyes closed, in some cases.

But I don’t want to.

I have no desire to drag 24 other people, kicking and screaming, through progression content. Not 24 other people in my Bronzebeard guild and DEFINITELY not 24 other people in my current guild.

For my Apotheosis folks? For them, I would do it. For them, I likely WILL do it in Cataclysm. So long as my support group is there. Who’s that? My BC officers, for the most part. My buddy Majik. Our favourite huntard. Our Football. Our best tank, a pally, who joined us midway through SSC. Each of them were key in our most difficult times of progression.

I don’t have any delusions. Server AND faction transfers have only made it easier for people to jump ship and leave guilds, to the point where it basically doesn’t mean anything anymore to be in a guild. Hopefully, the guild reforms will make it more beneficial for people to stay in-guild in Cataclysm and guild achievements will make people WANT to join guilds.

I don’t envy any guild leaders or raid leaders these days. It has been a crappy expansion in terms of loyalty and attendence. I couldn’t even keep my own guild going at the start of Wrath. But the difference is that I TRIED to do what was right for my people. Too many “leaders” these days just don’t even understand what’s really needed to succeed. And maybe I’m overestimating it, maybe I hold people’s hands for too long and baby them a little too much and maybe that ISN’T necessary. But it’s what works for me and my style of leadership and it worked, mostly, for the people in my guild.

Some days, you couldn’t pay me to lead anything, not for a Battered Hilt or a mountain of gold or even real money.

And then some days, I think back fondly to Apotheosis. I remember the exultation of downing Gruul. I remember the joy at downing Magtheridon. I remember the pure elation from downing Vashj, the cries of happiness at downing Kael as we became Hands of A’dal. I remember the determination and dedication required for downing Archimonde. I remember the enhancement shammy slapping on a shield, popping Shamanistic Rage and TANKING the priest on the Illidari Council after the tank on that mob had gone down. I remember our tanking paladin HEALING and our DPS warrior TANKING on Illidan and how we nailed that fight.

Those are the days I miss. Those are the encounters I remember. Those are the raids I looked forward to and enjoyed being part of. Hand of A’dal means more to me than Twilight Vanquisher, more than Astral Walker. It was a title I got with people I considered my friends.

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