Tuesday, July 8, 2008

RL'ing My Second 25-Person Raid

Until it becomes boring, or repetitive, or both, I'll keep on publishing my reflections on being a new 25-person Raid Leader. For my second time now, I served in the role of RL for progression runs in Gruul's Lair, and the experience is both personally taxing and at the same time hugely rewarding.

I hope that this ongoing series serves to help other new raid leaders adjust to their new role, as well as helping raid members understand a bit of what the RL is going through.

If you're finding these posts long and skip'able, please drop me an email or comment letting me know what sections you like or what sections you skip. This is part "Amava's Vent Session" and part "Help the Raiding Community", so I value your feedback.

Start Time

We started nearly an hour late in our first week of 25-person stuff. This is unacceptable and cannot be sustained. Seems like a quick way to burn your folks out.

For this second week, I put a great deal of energy into fixing the start time.

Starting 45 minutes before the scheduled raid start time, I began my planning. I made a cheat sheet that has positions for 5 tanks, 7 healers, and 13 DPS. Thinking it over, I ultimately decided to go with 4 tanks and 14 DPS, since our HKM strategy really only requires 4 tanks, and on the Gruul fight last week, our DPS was low.

On this sheet, I also included blank lines for Hunter misdirection assignments, since I'm also the Hunter officer in addition to my job as raid lead.

Once the blank sheet was done, I went to the Group Calendar sign-up sheet. I used pencil to write all the names down in the blank slots. This gave me a rough idea of what roles or specific classes we were short on.

30 minutes prior to scheduled start time, I began invites. As people joined, I went over their pencil name with a pen. This left me with a crystal clear idea of what we needed.

Happily, this left me with 21 players from our Guild. Our partner guild supplied one additional player. We located 3 more players off of our friends lists.

We were ready at the gates 28 minutes after scheduled start time. I told everyone to take a few minutes for bio, drinks, smokes, dogs, whatever, and be ready for about an hour and a half of uninterrupted time.

This represents a 25-ish minute improvement over last week. I'm am stoked about that, but continue to view our 28 minute late start as the single biggest area for improvement across the whole raid.

My attainable goal is to have the first pull happening no more than 15 minutes later than scheduled start time, and my stretch goal is 5 minutes.

Assembling the groups

Funny how on the same day I write up my struggles with assembling parties out of 25 people, BRK also posts his little exercise in the same concept. I'm actually glad he did, because reading over the discussion there gave me some insight for the setup this night.

Group 1: I started with tanking group. 2 Prot Warriors, 2 Prot Paladins, and 1 Tree of Life Druid.

Group 2: Next, a healing group. 1 Shadow Priest (Mana Battery), 3 Holy Priests, 1 Holy Paladin (Concentration Aura to reduce interrupted heals).

Group 3: Next, a DPS group. 1 BM Hunter (me, lol, for Ferocious Inspiration and Drums), 1 Survival Hunter (Expose Weakness), 1 Marksman Hunter (Trueshot Aura), 1 Warlock (generally #1 or #2 DPS, wanted him to benefit from FI and Drums), and 1 Resto Shaman (Grace of Air and Mana Tide, among others).

Group 4: Another DPS group. 1 BM Hunter, 1 Marksman Hunter (Drummer), 2 Rogues, 1 Mage

Group 5: Magical DPS. 3 Mages, 1 Shadow Priest, 1 Tree of Life Druid

I'm sure there would be a better way to position the Resto Shammy, but here's my thinking. First and foremost, our raid had 5 Hunters, 2 Rogues, plus the 4 Tanks swinging their swords. With that many people doing physical damage, I wanted Expose Weakness to be maximized, so I wanted the Survival Hunter and Shammy together for Grace of Air. This group had the four toons who generally hit the top 4 DPS positions, so I felt ok lumping the Shammy in my own group without feeling greedy.

I did not specifically group the Drummers together this week completely by accident because I wanted to spread the DPS around, and felt that Group 3 was OP enough already.

For Group 5, I was a bit at a loss for what to do. I opted to group a ToL Druid in there because I was unsure of how our first-time Mage tank thing would go, so I wanted any heals on the Mage to be maximized.

All in all, I'm sure there are better ways to optimize the party interactions for better raid performance, but we were all pretty happy with the results :-P


Strategizing

This is a 2-part thing. First HKM, then Gruul.

For HKM, honestly, I took too long setting up the strategy and communicating out the roles. When I looked at my notes from last week's HKM kill, I messed up and kinda had the wrong concept for tanking. I asked the Tank Lead to assign 2 tanks on HKM and only one on Kiggler. Kiggler seems to either requires a polymorph-immune Druid tank, or two tanks. We had no bears with us.

In my defense, we were also adjusting down from 5 tanks to 4, but I'd rather produce results than make excuses. Moving into next week, I'll have my notes on strategy squared away before we even enter the dungeon.

For Gruul, there really is not too much strategy other than making sure people understand the mechanics of Shatter and the importance of looking at Deadly Boss Mods or BigWigs information about close players. I laid out some general guidelines for ranged people to move along outside of room at max range, and melee/healers to utilize the space between the tanks and the ranged folks.

Some question and answer before the fight. Some conflicting suggestions that I was unable to resolve via facilitating the people to an agreement. I was ultimately forced to decide and then dictate which option we would be following. I hope the process felt reasonable to all involved, as I really dislike dictating and would prefer a "grassroots" agreement whenever possible.

Learning and Adjusting

Post-wipe analysis is vital to progression. HKM took 4 attempts. After each wipe, I went around the room asking for input from key players about what went well and what went poorly for each boss mob.

One time I started from right-to-left across the boss mobs in the room, asking first the Mage Tank for her thoughts, followed by the enslaving Warlock, Main Tank, Blindeye tank, and lastly, Kiggler tank(s). In each case, the Healer assigned was also part of the conversation.

After another wipe, I asked for analysis by kill order, ie, Blindeye, Kiggler, Olm/Warlock, Krosh/Mage Tank, HKM/Main Tank.

After one wipe where the MT went down nearly instantly, the primary healer openly admitted that she messed something up and used a massively down-ranked heal, resulting in dead tank syndrome. I thanked her for her honesty, and asked her to explain her plan to prevent it from happening again. Her explanation was suitable to me, and to the Healing Officer, and to the raid.

It might sound corny, but I like to think that this process of discussing things out helps build up the team. I hope to foster an atmosphere of critical thinking, challenging under performance, in a non-confrontational environment. Being open and honest and not hammering people allows someone to wipe the raid, come clean and admit it, and then we can continue on to success.

If she felt threatened, she'd hide the fact that she wiped us, and we would continue down a new strategy unnecessarily confusing people and wasting time.

Combat Rez

This one made me quite happy. We had 2 Druids in the raid. On a 20 minute cooldown, they can rez someone during combat.

In the past, all combat resurrections have been ad hoc, at the whim of the Druid with the spare cooldown.

I had been meaning to request that our Druids follow my instruction on this to ensure best raid utility, but never mentioned it to them.

On our second Gruul attempt, things were moving nicely, however, two of our healers were dead. Our tanks looked ok and our top DPS producers all looked ok.

I called out for a specific Druid to res a specific healer (in this case, the other Druid, who was dead at the time). She asked where the Druid was located. I ping'ed the map to indicate where. A few moments later, we had another healer back in the fight.

After the newly-resurrected Druid was settled in and had some mana, I asked him to rez the dead Shaman. Ding, Shammy's back in the fight, and Expose Weakness is boosted by an additional +77 agi once again.

I was very pleased to discover that both Druids had saved their combat rez, and did an excellent job of playing for the team rather than being individuals surrounded by other individuals. I don't know if either of you read this, but thank you.

Looting

Loot distribution remained a bit more chaotic than I'd like. I have no idea how other guilds do this, but it is honestly the one area where I want to be a total hardass. We have a pretty simple policy. Might not be the best, but I think it is simple to understand. We've been using it since the beginning of time. I announce it before we enter the dungeon, and after we kill each boss, prior to executing the policy.

Boss drops multiple items.

After the initial round of cheering over a dead boss subsides, Loot Master says "quiet"

Everybody stay quiet, both on voice and on text.

Loot Master links a single item into raid chat.

If its applicable to your primary spec, and you want it, link in your current item in that slot via raid chat. (This is not for comparison purposes, but rather to illustrate that you don't already have that exact item equipped, which happened to us before).

If its applicable to your primary spec, and you DO NOT want it, type "pass" in raid chat.

If all primary specs pass on it, it becomes available to off-spec. This will be announced by the Loot Master.

Armor downgrading is allowed (ie, Hunter taking Leather, Druid taking Cloth) if statistics are appropriate.

Once all players have indicated their choice, Loot Master will announce who can roll. The purpose is not really to block people from rolling, but rather to reserve the right for the officers to use judgment if there is a perception of unfair distribution over a period of time.

Highest roll wins the item. If multiple of the same item drop (ie, 3 Hunter/Mage/Warlock tokens), a single roll will settle it (ie, everybody roll once, highest 3 rolls get tokens).

If you get epic loot earlier in the night, you pass later in the night unless nobody wants the gear.


This is the only area of the game where I want to have a zero tolerance approach to discipline. The reason is that loot is such a source of drama, I really don't want to mess it up. I want to make sure that everybody eligible for loot gets their fair roll for that gear.

Talking out of turn, linking items that have nothing to do with what we're doing, expressing interest in loot that's 3 items away from the current roll, excessive gratz'ing, w00t'ing, doh'ing, all just confuse the situation.

Loot Master asks for quiet, this means quiet. We allow time for celebration, I'm a big fan of w00t's and gratz's. But once its time for looting, lock it up, or lose your chance for loot.

Loot Master links the shield. Text'ing that you're interested in the shoulders is inappropriate. Do it, and lose your roll on the shoulders.

We do allow some reasonable leeway, but it all boils down to making my life and the Loot Master's life harder as we try to decipher 10 different requests for gear. I'm sure it'll cause drama, but I really want to make an example out of someone in this area to help enforce a little discipline, that will hopefully lead to more efficient, less chaotic gear distribution.

How do other guilds do it? NOT the looting policy, but rather, how do you handle the communication process? Did anybody read this far down?

Officers

Once again, the entire Officer corps was outstanding. I relied heavily upon the Tanking and Healing officers, and also the Guild Master/Master Looter and our Rogue Officer for overall strategy and wipe analysis.

I felt the officers did a good job of communicating with the raid and with eachother.

Same as last week, we held a 15 minute debriefing after the raid to discuss the good, the bad, and the ugly. This revealed several things we want to repeat and a few we want to improve.

Summary

Progression is beautiful, and takes on a life of its own.

This week, our raid handled a few wipes and rebounded with creative techniques. We walked in with a good attitude and reasonable expectations and hit a home run.

Good communication, a strong cohesive team of leaders, and a great bunch of raiders are all clicking to make the difficult transition to 25-person content go nicely.

For long-term success, I'm looking at improving our start time, as well as recruiting the right classes and right number of players to run the event entirely in-guild.

3 comments:

Nibuca said...

WRT HKM:

We have two ranged DPS "tank" Kiggler. If they stay at range they won't get knocked back and he won't run up to them. They do get changed into bunnies though :)

1 tank for HKM (though he takes a huge beating) 2 healers for this tank. Spam big heals and keep hots up.
1 tank for Olm (with warlocks to banish/enslave the fel hunters). 1 healer for this tank and warlocks/fel hunters. Though a second healer here would be welcome.
2 hunters (or other ranged) to "tank" Kiggler. 1 healer here (it's really the easiest healing assignment).
1 mage tank for Krosh. 2 healers here. Spam big heals and keep hots up. Mage -must- spell steal shield.

Kill order:
Ranged: Blindeye, Krosh, Kiggler, HKM
Melee: Blindeye, Olm, Kiggler, HKM

Nibuca
http://chicanery.fibergeek.com/

Anonymous said...

Hey Amava - love the blog. We are at almost the same level of progression as you guys (a little in front - end of T4). Its cool actually your role and mine are really similar newbie raid leader for 25 mans, 1k ranged dps (mage not hunter though). Grats on downing Gruul. You might find Mags to be easier (we did) since there is only one thing to remember (click the cubes when told - don't click off until told)

Definitely think you should stick with the raid leader thought dump (in the blog at least). Its probably as beneficial to you as it is others (plus I like reading it).

Our strat is similar to Nibuca but a couple of things you can think about

We have 2 tanks for Olm whenever we can (his deathcoil can be dangerous so if you have 4 tanks, 2 should go there) plus the fel hunters.

The ideal tank for Kiggler is a moonkin (ranged, barkskin, immune to poly). Better even than a bear (unfortunately we don't have one of either most of the time) but 2 hunters will work ok. Unlike Nibuca we always kill Kiggler second (frees up 2 ranged dps'ers for Krosh instead of one gimped dps'er for Kiggler plus your mage tank's threat generation will be gimped so a headstart is helpful).

Mage tank really only needs 1 healer (unless there is a spell steal resist in which case you are dead anyway) but if you have 7 heals then have a second one on the mage helping with HKM as well (h.o.t's ftw). Generally I prefer a priest healer if there is only one though cause there is (potentially) a 9 - 12k damage spike every 30 seconds.

When each target dies healers regen mana and peel off onto HKM.

wow wall of text! Ah been meaning to comment on your blog for a while so not that surprising.

Cheers

Nibuca said...

We tend to kill Krosh second because he has a tendancy to mush the mage tank. :) And once the mage tank is down Krosh starts to one-shot everyone else in the raid.

Our Hunters on Kiggler are 850-900 DPS.. so usually they can get Kiggler dead about the same time that Krosh goes down.