Leadership interview: Wrath

The raid leadership interviews

I’m pleased to present the first in a series of detailed interviews with guild leaders on the management of progression guilds, which will be jointly published on wowraid and here at pwnwear.com. I’ll interview guilds you can relate to, in the top 250 worldwide.

Today I’ve interviewed Saha, an Officer and Raid Leader from the guild Wrath. Saha has been playing WoW since the European launch, and been in the guild Wrath since summer 2007.

You’ll hear:

  • how they learn new fights before anyone has published strategies
  • how recruit availability is in predictable waves
  • about the preferred guild size to balance burnout and benching
  • the culture it takes to have only lost two players to other guilds
  • why WWS isn’t enough.

Guild snapshot:

  • Wrath (EU-Shadowsong, H) armory | website
  • Ranked 58 in EU, 99 in the world
  • Achievements include: two lights in the darkness
  • Recruitment status on wowraid.com

Learning – as a way of assessing people

“I personally believe that dropping new person into fight with minimum info is very effective way to see how he adapts to fights”

Saha continued to say it wasn’t an official testing routine he uses but is a good way to check how much research a new recruit has done, and their ability to respond under fire.

“We had several recruits who hasn’t done Sarth+3d back when it was still a good fight. Taking them and giving minimal briefing and then seeing if person adapts properly, really shows the best of the player, or the worst.”

Wrath, General, hard-mode

Learning new bosses

I was curious to hear how they approach the problem-solving of a new boss. “When there are ‘fresh’ bosses which don’t have much documentation available on net, we usually go in and try various things to find out damage output, timers on abilities and so on. Open discussion. After several wipes we form a strategy”. Saha also said they didn’t assign problem-solvers or structure their analysis formally, but to take the wipes to gather info on how the boss works.

“Overall, that’s one of my favourite parts of the game, going into a boss fight knowing only his abilities from wowhead and such.

When info spreads, it becomes execution of the fight, not creativity.”

When Ulduar was on PTR, Wrath wanted to test but “the last PTR was run extremely poorly”. The guild had copied its mains to more than one PTR realm, which helped them pick the server with least load. Saha continued, “Our first problem was getting ready one hour earlier than our usual raid time. Considering a large portion of the guild has jobs/studies it was pain to gather a proper raid set ups for 25 man testing”.

With hundreds of players zoning into the same instance for a two hour test, the PTR stability was another problem.

Wrath found it quite frustrating to have people running home from their job or taking the day off just to stare at a log in screen for 2-3 hours and then to get a precious one-hour peek at the boss, half of which was wasted because of disconnects, falling through the world or bugged trash.

Remembering how it was done

At work, I’d call this knowledge management. I ask if Wrath document their particular strat in any way.

“Very rarely so. We usually have forum discussion going on after the raid until the next one, checking combat logs, finding new things, suggestions and so on until next raid time. That is, until the boss drops dead.

“After that those threads remain, but to be completely honest, I prefer to brief a new person on vent since that gives him an opportunity to directly ask any questions which arise”.

Clearly, an attendance minimum helps; Saha doesn’t have to give too many verbal briefs.

Wrath, Thorim hard mode

Roster

Managing the guild roster is a balance between having enough raiders to progress, yet not so many that you have people benched every night. How does Wrath handle this? Saha says his prefered raiding core is 30 to 32 players, which gives optimal flexibility for class balancing in raids and a decent buffer when people start to burnout.

Saha says that because recruit availability comes in waves.You need a buffer of players to make up for any losses from burnout, so you can continue raiding until the next wave comes.

“The first wave being a month or so before new instance release, second being when guilds start collapsing due to not meeting the expectations of players”

Managing the bench

Having players on the bench whilst their guildies are raiding creates potential discontent, but is necessary. How does Wrath make the decisions on who zones in on any given night? Saha is practical: “on easier nights you can take  a ‘not best balanced’ group, letting in some people who were benched, then take the best setup available on hard fights the next night”.

This means Wrath finds a natural rotation, “it’s not forced really”.

Then Saha qualifies what he’s just said, and it strikes me.

“Normally this happens during early progression, later on when people get burned the squad naturally decreases to 28-30 people and the rotation amount lessens quite noticeably”.

If a guild leaders job is to keep raids happening, then to prevent guild collapse you have to oversize to accommodate the inevitable loss from burnout. You need to have people in reserve.

Wrath, Council hard

Burnout

So how predictable is burnout? Can you do anything about it?

“Mostly I can predict, since I try to keep in touch with all the players, so shifting moods are noticeable. You can delay burn outs by allowing such people a bit lighter attendance, giving some days off.” Saha says getting grumpy on wipe nights is one early indicator, and reiterates that talking to a lot of people helps stay on the pulse. He prefers people to tell him they’re getting tired than going non-stop until they start to hate the game and quit.

Saha rates long-term effectiveness more highly than short-term, so would rather go to some raids with a weaker setup than have a good player quit from burnout.

Player retention

One of Wrath’s impressive achievements is their retention of players. They have only lost two members to other guilds over two and a half years… and that was to Ensidia. Everyone else has stayed, got burned out, didn’t blend in well, gone casual or got booted for poor performance. That means people want to stay in the guild. How?

Through the interview we identified a few factors:

  • recruits are evaluated for guild culture fit, not just playing skill “You can easily see when player will blend into team well or not.”
  • being approachable enough to have guildies raise concerns.
  • out-of-game interests, “some guildies do play shooters like L4D or CS during non-raid times together; it’s some silly easy gameswhere you can shoot someone in the face, scream over vent and have a good laugh”. This lets out stress.
  • focus on what is best for the guild, not personal gain.

The team-first spirit isn’t just held by the leaders. During the interview, Saha related a short conversation with a lock who had come to ask why a different warlock had been chosen for 10-man Algalon that night. Saha simply replied ‘I recall you asked to have a day off last weekend, so figured it wouldn’t hurt to have another one tonight’. The lock then explained that his weekend sit-out had more to do with his willingness to give others a chance to get some loot and experience with Mimiron hard mode.

Saha summarises it, “Since if you want to be good, you have to move as a group.”

Wrath, XT hard

On stats and analysis

Being a geek, I wanted to know how much stats and analysis Wrath use for performance management. They use both WWS and WOL. He says you can’t evaluate players as much using those anymore like in swp, since the general fight style has changed a lot. More mobile, I ask?

“Not only mobile, but for example Hodir where everything depends on buffs, Thorim with movement, General is good for melee evaluation but you have two rogues on kick duty, so they’re out, caster dps there depends on crashes, and so on for almost any fight.”

However Saha says these stats sites have two strong uses:

  • when recruiting, you can analyse a lot about a player
  • when you wipe on a boss, to check before the next night and do adjustments

“Other than that, the boss is either dead or not, nagging some player doing 200 less dps than another one of his class is not gonna kill it”.

Thanks

My thanks to Saha of Wrath for his generous time to talk with me, and to Teza and Csulok (wowraid) for supporting research in guild leadership.

Next weekend, we will have an interview with another world top guild.

You can subscribe to pwnwear articles with RSS here. Read more interviews here.

Wrath guild photo

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