Tuesday, July 1, 2008

On Becoming a 25-person Raid Leader

The Guild ran our first real attempt at 25-person content this Sunday. Prior to the raid, the other Officers asked me to serve in the role of Raid Leader. I normally serve as an Assistant Raid Leader, mostly helping out with boss fight planning and strategy. The change was intended to off-load some of the weight from the Guild Master who is our 10-person Raid Leader, and allow him to focus on personnel issues during the event.

Hearing this news and then leading the raid for the next few hours left me with a variety of feelings and emotions that I'd like to share with you here. Hopefully these reflections will be useful to anybody aspiring to be a Raid Leader or anybody participating in a raid with a new Raid Leader at the helm. Or maybe I'm just setting myself up for you veteran raid leaders to say "L2Lead noob".

This post is long, but I truly think there is a big need in the community to improve the 10->25 person transition, even with WotLK allowing you to raid everything with 10 people. Here's a table of contents if you'd like to skip some sections:

My Initial Reaction

Log in. Insta-invite from the GM. Other officers already in party. They tell me that they'd like me to be RL. They explain that the move is to divide the responsibility of managing the raid and managing the various personnel issues that might crop up along the way.

This immediately filled me with mixed emotions. I completely understand the importance of dividing up the leadership role. The burdens placed upon the leader can be immense, and trying to shoulder it all alone is too much. The move from Assistant Raid Leader to Raid Leader, and the move from 10-person to 25-person environment became overwhelming. All of a sudden, I went from "Guy who chimes in on boss strategy, pace setting and wipe analysis" to "Guy in the driver's seat with the entire Guild depending upon his leadership". I was scared.

At the same time, I was flattered by the decision. I do know that in pressure situations, I can have a strong command presence, and it felt nice to have built up that level of respect with my friends. I wanted to live up to that respect and make sure I balanced between knowing when to listen to others for input and ideas, and when to take action.

Assembling the Team

Still nervous as all h3ll at my new role, I started sending out invites. I ended up making a chart on a piece of paper where I laid out lines for the WoW Wiki recommendation of 5 tanks, 7 healers, and 13 DPS. Starting off with the Group Calendar sign-up sheet, I began inviting and writing names down.

It became immediately clear that we had 6 Hunters sign up. Only one Mage and one Warlock. I like to have redundancy in roles, and the High King Maulgar fight has very specific requirements for a Warlock's enslavement/banishing abilities, and a Mage's spell steal ability. We had one of each and I wanted more redundancy in case of emergency.

We had one player who has a well geared Rogue and a Paladin, with both a solid Healing and Tanking set of gear. His preference was to play his Rogue. I approached him about using his Pally, in either healing or tanking, which ever he wanted. I hugely appreciated how accomodating he was in switching over to his other toon. That definitely helped the raid get moving.

I was reluctant to roll with 6 Hunters. That is too much concentration in one class, so I discussed with the officers. We decided to go with 5 Hunters, and we would arbitrate the outcome via a random roll. I was not participating in the roll since I was needed as RL. Another Hunter was not particiating in the roll because he is the Expose Weakness Hunter, and his utility to the raid is vital. It was akward trying to explain this to the group, that they would have to roll to see who is out, while I myself would not be rolling. I tried to lay it out as diplomatically as I could, but truely felt like garbage at asking the lowest roller to drop out.

Luckily, the person who lost the roll stayed online, and 30 minutes later we were unable to find sufficient other DPS so we opened the door back up for 6 Hunters and gave him a new invite. I have great admiration for the fact that he didn't become sour and log off or get angry earlier. I know that must not have been easy to do, so I'm impressed and very thankful.

I started assembling the team 20 minutes prior to the scheduled start time. We spent the next hour getting the right combination of players. This was very stressful, as I was bouncing back and forth between my Armory computer and my WoW computer, trying to maintain a positive atmosphere and hoped that nobody would become impatient at the waiting game.

Ultimately, we decided to roll with 24 players as it was approaching an hour past our start time.

Party Organization

Once we decided to begin, my first challenge was organizing the parties inside the raid. I have zero experience with a party this large, however I have helped our 10-man RL with party composition before.

Having no idea where to start, I just went with my gut.

First, a tank party. I want the tanks to get Tree of Life buff from Druid healers. We have 5 tanks and 2 Druid healers, so one party with 4 tanks and a Tree, and the beginning of another party with 1 tank and the other Tree.

Next up was healing. I wanted the Shadow Priest to be in a party with 4 healers for mana battery purposes, so I created a group for that. I also made sure the Holy Paladin was part of this group so his Concentration Aura would buff the healers.

Very heavy on physical DPS, specifically Hunters, I then went about creating DPS parties.

I know Trueshot Aura does not stack, so I separated the 3 Marksmen. One went to the party with the Druid tank to allow for extra threat generation from Trueshot Aura's increased attck power. I split up the Beast Masters into the two physical DPS parties. I decided to put the Rogues in with 1 BM and 1 Marksman. Then I took the remaining DPS and spread them out as evenly as possible.

Additionally, I tried to converge all Leatherworkers in with the maximum DPS output players to maximize the benefits of the Drums of Battle. I considered putting some in with the Healer group for Spell Haste on heals, but ended up going the DPS route. And we only had 3 drummers, so it wasn't all that hard to decide.

Pep Talk

I kept the dungeon on Heroic to keep people outside. I wanted folks to listen up to what the Officers and I had to say before we started. Not sure if it was a good idea or not, but I was running on instinct at this point.

I gave a brief pep talk.

First, I thanked everyone for coming out and shared some of my exitement with the group.

I tried to set the expectation that while we are striving for some dead bosses, we are so new to this that we might only walk away with a big repair bill and lots of expended consumables. This is exploratory work for us, and that requires patience and gold.

I shared that this is my first job as a Raid Leader and also in a 25-person raid, so I asked folks to be patient as I learned my job.

I reviewed the looting policy.

Finally, I said that Damage Meters were not to be reported out to the Raid, and it is also inappropriate to ask that DM data be reported out. The Guild's official analysis tool is WWS and the report will be made available shortly after the run. Damage Meter reviews during the raid lead to unhealthy competition and aggro-pulling. Careful analysis after the fact via WWS helps us improve.

I wished everybody good luck and opened the door.

Delegation of Leadership

Our guild is fortunate to have an excellent group of Officers.

To help reduce my stress during the raid, and to leverage the expertise of our leaders, I delegated duties to the others.

The GM was handling personnel duties, and I also assigned him as Loot Master.

Our tanking officer assigned all Tanking assignments during the evening, and our healing officer gave out the Healing responsibilities.

The remaining Officer was hugely helpful on morale and fight planning.

My only issue was that I felt I stepped on the Tank's toes too much. I talked to him afterwards and he says it was fine, but I plan to improve how I get out of his way and allow him to run the Tanks.

All in all, it was a fantastic job by the full Officer Corps, the team could not have done such a good job without the contribution of each of the Officers.

Strategy and Planning

This was overwhelming. We easy peasy cleared the 3 trash guys before HKM. Now wtf will we do? Everybody is looking to me for the strategy. I have no idea if it showed through my voice, but I was trembling, requiring a great deal of concentration to remain calm and prevent myself from freezing up under the pressure.

I had read the WoW Wiki page which is decent, but leaves me pretty confused as to specifically what course of action to follow.

I opened the floor to comment from the three people who had seen the fight before. There was much confusion about what to do.

I listened to what they had to say, and also had my eyes on my other computer screen open to the Wiki page.

Ultimately, there were a few conflicting options that people were in support of. Decision time! Which, I suppose, is what I'm here for.

I let the team know that we've got all the information we need, and I laid out the high level plan we would be following. Then I turned it over to the Tank officer to fill in the tanking duties, followed by healing.

I opened the floor for question only. New ideas would have to wait, but questions about the details of the current strategy were allowed. A few good questions about specific duties were asked and answered.


Time for a little less talk and a lot more action.

Planning is done. Main Tank, please give your countdown and pull.

And ZOMG, how hard it was for me to concentrate on my job. I was very occupied with the overall strategy, and it made it tough for me to now be a Hunter.

Part of it was the chaos of the High King fight, as seen from a brand new set of eyes. Part of it was my own mental composure. I need to improve my ability to split my attention between Raid Leading during combat and my individual job as a DPS'er.

Each attempt was followed by my usual review of what I noticed and my asking if anybody has ideas of (A) what went wrong and (B) proposed solutions. The team as a whole learned very quickly from our two wipes on HKM, and showed tremendous execution in our killing attempt.


Although I was RL, I assigned the GM as the Loot Master. I wanted it to be clear to the team that you look to me to run the raid, but the GM gives you your pay check.

Looting Policy was explained at the beginning of the run. When the loot dropped, I re-explained it.

We will visit each piece one at a time. The GM will link an item. If you are interested in it, you link in your current item for that slot. If it is applicable to your class and you do not want it, type "pass" in text chat. Limited talking, please, because we want it to be organized so as to not leave anybody out. No saying "oohh, i want that" on voice, because with 25 ppl, I have no idea who just said what. Put it in text.

Once everyone has expressed interest, the GM will give the instruction for who is allowed to roll. Its a mini-loot council. We really don't intend on blocking anybody from rolling, but we want to reserve the right to specify the rollers in case we ever feel looting is becoming unfair, either due to random good rolling or perhaps questionable interest in a piece that might not be appropriate for a player or his role.

Ultimately the looting went well, although there was more confusion than I'd like. The GM did a great job filtering through it all. I rolled for and won the T4 shoulders, which I then felt crappy about, much rather see it go to a Guildie. But I suppose its the first piece of loot I've actually rolled on, basically ever, in a raid setting. In the past, I've passed to allow others to get the loot and spread out the damage output across the team. I think I might have rolled on Garona's Signet Ring the first time I saw it, not sure.

Overall Atmosphere

Throughout the whole night, the atmosphere remained positive.

We had two periods where I thought the climate might change. The first was during the excessive wait while we assembled the team. Luckily most folks entertained themselves with a /dance party, some dueling, and general conversation. The second was when we were planning out the first HKM pull, prior to my deciding to end conversation and pick a strategy.

In both potential situations, nobody complained, and there was only a small amount of angst or whispering to me.

We only wiped twice on HKM, and then twice on Gruul before we called it a night, so I don't think there was much opportunity for anybody to become disgruntled with excessive wiping or repair bills. This is an area that our team has yet to experience in 25-man content, so we'll see how that goes.

I really feel that our approach to ensuring Kara Team 2 was made up of raiders who did it the hard way paid off. Rather than expand into 2 Kara teams by splitting up the veterans and walking the new folks through farm content, we formed a fresh team and let them forge into a salty bunch of raiders who understand the challenges of new encounters, paying for and using consumables, paying repair bills, etc.


Walking into my first 25-person raid in my first job as a Raid Leader was the biggest challenge I've faced in WoW. As if being nervous and excited to be entering the Big Time raids as a participant wasn't enough :-)

I have the privilege of being part of an incredible team, filled with great people, and it is their support and performance that made the night a success.

An after-action-review with the officers confirmed that we have many things we liked about the night that we want to repeat, and the only major area for improvement is getting the team assembled on time, which I suppose is an issue for most guilds.

Through a variety of honest and direct communication, delegation to the other officers, and trying to remain open to ideas and then using judgement on when to take action, I take pride in the job that I did to help the team live up to our potential and have a great Raid.

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