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Ready Check: Breaking up is hard to do

Ready Check is a column focusing on successful raiding for the serious raider. Hardcore or casual, Vault of Archavon or Ulduar, everyone can get in on the action and down some bosses.

It happens. It's a tale as old as Hogger. In the growth and progression of a raid group, there eventually comes a time where no amount of coaching or communication can possibly hold it together and keep it going. It's not even a matter of whether or not people are right or wrong, skilled or unskilled. It's just that when you put enough years behind a raid, the people who make up that raid can grow apart.

It sounds like a horrible break up letter doesn't it? "Look," the raid leader says. "It's not you. It's us. We want different things. I think it's best if we go and raid with different people. You know. As a trial. See how it goes." And then all of a sudden, half the existing raid group has suddenly swapped off to a different server, and the other half is left to wonder what the heck happened.



Why it happens.

If you scan Guildwatch or the Officer's Quarters, you'll see a few hundred reasons why raid groups split. There's almost always some kind of hurt feelings, and I would actually be surprised if those hurt feelings weren't in some way justified. We are talking about human beings on the other side of the computer screen, and those people get invested in the characters, the raid, and in progression. Having something shake that up kind of sucks.

Usually, raids split up because people want different things. (How's that for a vague statement?) Things that people may want (you know, differently) could include progression, raid styles, and even factions. Maybe I want a formal, well-organized raid that runs with military precision. Maybe you want a friendly, chillaxed raid where everyone's joking about politics and sports. Maybe I want raids where we bootstrap characters into PvP readiness, and then ignore progression in the face of upcoming Arena seasons.

So, you start off wanting different things, and someone's goal doesn't get met. This isn't a pejorative thing; people grow apart, people change. Not every goal can be logged into a spreadsheet, categorized, and obtained. Some goals are as simple as "casually have fun," and then happen or don't happen according to whim.

Stack enough of this kind of thing up between multiple people, and eventually a raid decides to split into two or more groups.

When it happens.

I have absolutely no proof, but I've heard it said that raid split-ups tend to be fast. Anecdotally, I feel like that's true. Someone says something off-hand on Monday, it builds a little steam on Tuesday, and by Tuesday night, the group has split apart. Sometimes it can happen even faster, if a specific, acute situation is driving the break. It could be slower, if an agitator or leader is trying to follow a new plan.

In the raid split ups that I've seen, one group of people feels like "this has been coming for a while." The other group of people feels like "this happened all at once." I think raid leaders should pay a lot of attention to the disparity in those statements, and ask themselves why such a problem went undiagnosed for so long. A significant raid split isn't going to be caused by something like loot rules.

Sure, a nice spot of drama will cause you to shed a few people. But a real, split down the middle raid break-up isn't going to happen because of a single Thunderfury drop. So, instead, something's been going on for a while, and somehow it managed to fly under the radar.

What now?

This is the single hardest part of a raid breakup. These massive splits are rarely equitable. Or, at least, they will almost never feel that way. One group or another will feel disadvantaged, like all the "best geared" folks, or all the good tanks, or all the available healers are now on the other side of the fence.

There's certainly a lot of fear, uncertainty, and doubt that can plague a raid group after seeing half its members sweep away. "What do we do now?" is going to be the question on everyone's minds. Here are my suggestions if you ever find yourself in this regrettable situation:

1. Take stock immediately.

You need to find out who's still around, what roles they can fill, and start talking to folks right away. Get communication happening right now. Everyone's going to have a certain amount of panic and fear, and if you don't communicate that "we've got this," you could end up bleeding even more raiders.

2. Set up a meeting, a round-table.

Again, try and get that fear everyone's feeling under control. Don't let communication between remaining raid members happen solely in whispers and private emails. Everyone's got to know that a new round of raiding is about to happen, and now is the time for you all to take control of your own destiny.

3. Check your roles.

This is nitty gritty time. If your new raid leaders (or same raid leaders with new people) are going to push forward with any raiding effort, you need to know your assets. Check out how many healers, tanks, and replenishments you have for your raid. Are all of these three basic roles sufficiently covered? If so, then you can begin diagnosing whether you have sufficient DPS.

It might surprise you who starts coming out of the woodwork when this kind of traumatic issue happens. People will step up in ways you never could have expected; they never had to worry about tanking or leading before. Now that everyone's personal initiative will be the make-or-break point for the raid, they're (hopefully) going to shine.

You need to make sure you have people interested in healing and tanking. Not to malign DPS, but they tend to be the easiest role to pick up and train. Getting heals and tanks tends to be the lion's share of the pleas in the LFG channel. Get on top of that right away, or you'll be dead in the water.

4. DPS is what kills the boss.

Now that you have heals and tanks under control, you're starting to get viable. But the best heals in the world aren't going to kill the boss; get your DPS into a competitive, high performance mode. I just bring this up because it can be an easy thing to overlook when you're trying to rebuild a raid from the ground up.

5. Keep the faith.

Stay strong, folks. I know this can be a very scary time for people who just lost a lot of comrades. But you're going to be able to pick up and move on. People are creating brand new raiding efforts every day, sometimes with nothing more than a tabard and a bank. If they can do it, so can you -- especially since you still have the benefit of an existing raid format.


Ready Check is here to provide you all the information and discussion you need to bring your raiding to the next level. Check us out weekly to learn the strategies, bosses, and encounters that make end-game raiding so much fun.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Ready Check (Raiding)

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