Tuesday, December 16, 2008

When is the right time for change?

Immediately following our first Malygos-25 kill, the Officers made two separate but related announcements:

  1. We've proven we have sufficient gear to clear all Heroic content currently available (except for improving for achievements, and doing Sartharion with more than zero drakes up). Loot Council will now push towards rewarding raider behavior over gearing up underperformers.

  2. Shoulder Inscription and Head Arcanum will be inspected and are expected.

To summarize my initial reaction, a quote from the absolutely fabulous Mr. Wolf of Pulp Fiction fame...

Let's not start [blanking] each other's [blanks] just yet.

The content of the message is spot on. Addressing under-performance and rewarding attention to detail is the right thing for a raiding guild.

The timing of the message is premature. Fresh off of our first kill is not the time to alter our approach, strategy, or policy.

Not premature by too much, perhaps only 2 or 3 weeks, but untimely nonetheless.

The Right Message, The Wrong Time

Celebrating success is one thing. Becoming complacent is another thing. Resting on laurels is yet another.

Making changes to continue future success is the right move.

Sure, we cleared all available Heroic raid content in three nights, totaling roughly 7.5 hours of actual raiding. Naxxramas, Obsidian Sanctum, Archavon, and Malygos. Good job by us!

That said, there is considerable room for improvement. We can do it faster. We can have fewer incidental deaths. We can eliminate the occasional wipe. We can hone our team cohesion in preparation for new raid content, whenever that gets released.

Improvement is good. But is a few hours following the first full clear it the right time to announce changes?

[disclaimer] Although its impossible to be 100% objective in these matters, the following analysis comes out of consideration for the overall raid, and not my own personal situation. Strangely enough, I think the new concepts actually have my toon come out a little better than before the announcements, so the position I present here is from the perspective of the Guild, not the raider formerly called Amava. [/disclaimer]

Let's Explore: Changing Loot Policy

So we now know that the raid has the collective stats to get the job done. At the 80,000 foot level, we could never get another loot drop again, and we'd continue to clear the dungeons. And through increased familiarity with the encounter and our teammates, we'd actually clear the dungeons faster and with fewer deaths, etc. Without a single piece of additional gear to the team.

Until new content is released, gear will only widen our margin for error, allowing sloppier play to result in the same number of boss kills.

That said, we all know that loot will continue to be important. Nobody is fully kitted out in "best-in-slot" gear. Only a few players even have a single "best-in-slot" item right now. Even if not "best-in-slot" there's tons of upgrades out there to be had.

Moving the looting policy towards rewarding raider behavior over leveling the gear playing field is premature. We need more time to determine what is causing a differential in the contributions of each individual player.

Confronting under-performance is tricky. Lets look at DPS only, because that's my comfort zone and its also relatively straight forward to measure.

  • Are your numbers low because your gear is inadequate?

  • Are your numbers low because you are slow at targeting (spam /assist [MA], ftw)?

  • Are your numbers low because you remember how threat capped we were in TBC and so you throttle your output?

  • Is your spec wacky?

  • Are your glyphs good choices?

  • Attack rotation sloppy with lots of wasted global cooldowns?

  • Is your gear A+ but your enchants C-?

  • Is your DPS low because you're dead 80% of the time?

On the flip side, maybe your DPS is high simply because you play a totally OP class/spec and you just drink beer and roll your face on the keyboard to top the meters? We don't know anybody like that, do we?

The players need a few more weeks of farming Naxx/OS/Archavon, and hopefully repeating the Malygos kill and then farming his @ss.

Let's Explore: Inscription and Arcanum

When improving your toon, there is a massive spectrum of details to consider. That's a big part of the first M in MMO.

Followers of this blog get an inside view to the improvement plan I've been following. Hopefully every level-capped toon has some sort of plan, regardless of how formal or how detailed. Might be as simple as "I like PVP, I want [item X], so I'll run 10 AV's for honor and 30 WSG's for marks to get it" or "I like fishing and want to get the Dalaran coins achievement", or might be like my plan, or maybe even more detailed and thorough. Takes all kinds.

For my plan, I've got a specific goal in mind (improve my DPS in a 25-person raid environment) and I've narrowed down the massive spectrum of options out there to a specific 5 steps that I focus on, and continuously update as my situation changes.

The items that make it to the short list are chosen based upon a variety of criteria: Benefit vs. Effort, Dependence on the Random Number Generator, Availability of Adequate Substitutes, etc.

The top five items provide the most efficient upgrades to my toon given the time I have to put in.

When leading a guild or raid, you want to have raiders who proactively and independently manage their own performance.

Do you want to micro manage?

Lets take a look at one item in my improvement plan....

Argent Crusade offers an outstanding Hunter DPS chest piece at Exalted. I have not been fortunate enough to get a chest piece out of any of our raids. So I wear the AC tabard in all Heroics I run, leaving me 1.5 heroic runs away from Exalted as of Sunday evening.

When the officers announced they are looking for Arcanum, its mentioned that a handful of Heroic 5-man dungeons serving as Champion for your Arcanum faction can get you to Revered.


Again, as of Sunday evening, I am also 1.5 heroic runs away from Revered with Knights of the Ebon Blade who offer Arcanum of Torrent.

AC Chest offers me a bigger upgrade than the Arcanum.

To provide maximum improvement value to my toon and my raid, assuming I only have time for 2 heroics between now and when the Officers check raiders for the Arcanum, I will be wearing the Exalted chest, and still be sporting the Cenarion Expedition helm Arcanum.

So, in a black and white report spit out of some addon, I will have failed in the eyes of whoever is running the check.

Did I spend my time wisely in pursuing my personal improvement plan? Or should I halt my personal plan and pursue the Officers' plan which will result in less of a benefit to the raid given equal time put in?

As an aside, for me personally, it may be moot, because perhaps by thursday's raid, and definitely by saturday's, I will have both the chest and the arcanum, due to AC Heroics and Ebon Blade daily quests, but its the overall guild and not just me as an individual we're considering here. Additionally, I dinged Revered with Sons of Hodir this weekend, so am well on the way to getting the fully fancy Shoulder Inscription.

Bottom Line

When is the right time for change?

I'm a big fan of tweaking things when you're on top, and not wait for things to degrade before implementing new policies.

But there is more to consider than simply a first boss kill or a specific micro-managed gear enhancement viewed in a vacuum without looking at an entire toon.

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