When I inherited leadership of a successful 25-man raid during The Burning Crusade, I had a steep learning curve. After the first year, I had mastered the fine arts of recruiting, juggling subs, managing raid time, resolving disputes and running a tight ship. Little did I know what awaited us when halfway through our Sunwell Plateau progression, Wrath of the Lich King was announced! Fortunately, my guild was able to weather the storm, and now that we are closing in on Cataclysm, I am much better prepared.
Guild masters who haven't experienced the pre-expansion blues may find themselves overwhelmed with the task of keeping their once tight-knit community from turning into a ghost town. Some players may choose the months before an expansion to take an extended vacation from the game. Others may choose to focus on a favorite alt, and still others are chomping at the bit to farm the highest tier of raid content in order to complete their ideal gear sets. No doubt all three types of players are in your guild. How are you expected to funnel everyone's pre-expansion desires and expectations into group-friendly activities that keep them logging on night after night?
Keeping a raiding guild together during the months before an expansion can be a daunting task for a first-timer. Here a few tips and tricks I learned from the last expansion:
- Find out what people's plans are. Does your MT want to take an extended break from the game? Are your top DPSers begging to switch to their alts for raid content? Is your best healer logging in less and less as BlizzCon draws closer? Is the guy you just recruited bitterly complaining that raids are more and more infrequent? Talk to your guild as a whole and ask them what they want to do with their time. Often, you'll find that there are ways to keep burned out players interested in the game while pleasing the more active ones.
- Set an end date for raiding activities. Players often burn out at the mere thought of running the last tier of content forever. An end date gives a clear-cut block of time for relaxation before the coming expansion, and you'll find that a lot of players will thank you.
- Start an alt program. Whether it be an alt raid or rotating alts in on farm nights for a chance at gear, you'll find many raiders will tackle content with renewed vigor if it's from a different perspective. Be sure to be fair about it, though -- alts must be reasonably geared for the tier of content, and they must not be allowed to take gear over the mains that are carrying them through.
- Give sponsored nights off to players who are extremely burned out, or let them play their off spec for the night. Can you 24-man the first wing of ICC? Great! Give that healer who's been begging for some extra sleep a night off with no penalty. Alternately, let him DPS for an evening. Be sure to extend the offer to other players who are feeling run down.
- Set up some fun activities to shake up the monotony. The achievement system is a great source of ideas for your raid. Never completed The Immortal in Naxx? Take an hour and a half and go for it! Take an evening to grab your protodrakes from Ulduar, or go get A Tribute to Mad Skill on Heroic Anub'Arak. The possibilities are endless, but be sure to keep it low-key so that it feels more like a fun vacation and less like extra work.
- Speed runs became a fad in The Burning Crusade, during the incredibly long span of time between the releases of Black Temple and Sunwell Plateau. A 25-man can compete against their own or others' best times for an instance, or several 10-man groups from the same guild can compete for prizes. Find ways to make it interesting!
- Use an incentive program. At the end of each expansion, I liquidate the guild bank and split the spoils among the players who are still active at my end date. It makes everyone very happy to get a payout for their time and effort, and can often sway people to stick around for a cut of the spoils.
- If you absolutely can't keep it together, grab your active players and offer your guild's services to another group on the server that's struggling for numbers. By helping others, you'll get your raid fix, and you can be sure that the other group's leader will thank you.
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