Returning to Raiding

Our first N Gul'dan kill!

Our first Normal Gul’dan kill!

Last Wednesday, I ended an almost 2 month long hiatus and entered my first raid.  While it certainly wasn’t the triumphant return I had hoped for, I am glad that I chose to jump back in.

Nearing the end of November and beginning of December, I made the difficult decision to stop raiding.  Anyone who’s read this blog or knows me in Azeroth has probably figured out that raiding is my favorite WoW activity.  I like dungeons and I like transmog, but I really love raiding.  But back two months ago, my most favorite activity was rapidly become my least favorite and so I decided it was best to (potentially permanently) step away.

The first reason for this came down to something as simple as timing.  I was just so gosh darn busy that I could only make it to a handful of raids.  In some situations, this might not have been the end of the world but in this case, I found that I was actively gimping the team.  We were progressing through Heroic, maybe looking into venturing into Mythic, and I was one of the core healers.  Me being gone or late every other night was severely impacting progression.  So as much as I might have loved raiding with the team, the reality was, I was bad for the team.

The second reason was a lot more personal.  I’m not going to go into the details for the sake of those involved, but I did not feel welcome at raid.  Beginning even before my attendance started dropping off (so the issue wasn’t created by it), I truly felt as if some members of the team, mainly one person, just did not want me around.  I made a few attempts to talk to the person but it wasn’t getting anywhere.  Slowly but surely, the sense of vague animosity changed raiding from something I loved into something I dreaded.  So once my attendance got spotty, it was a lot simpler to say goodbye to raiding because the experience was already soured.

So there I was.  Maining a holy paladin and yet, not healing a thing.  As my hiatus dragged on, I found myself playing less and less Warcraft.  Not because of lack of time, but rather due to lack of interest.  And what’s worse, the friends I had made on my former raid team began to drift away.  I was still in the guild and still relatively active but because I wasn’t raiding anymore, I was no longer people’s first choice to talk to.  To be clear, I was never ignored or shunted.  I doubt anyone did it purposefully; it’s just when you don’t hang out with someone on a bi-weekly occasion anymore, they can slip out of sight, out of mind.  I don’t blame anyone one bit, but I was feeling incredibly lonely.

This dragged on and on.  It got to the point where I was logging in maybe twice a week, and only for a few hours at most.  Eventually, I sat back and took a good long look at the way things were.  Evaluated the problem and evaluated my part in it.  My schedule had pretty much cleared out at this point, so the only thing keeping me from re-engaging with my guild was my own reservations.  And instead of tackling the issue head on, I had decided to run away from it.

I decided then and there that enough was enough.  I loved raiding, it was my thing! And taking a break from it, while it had been necessary at the time, was not something I needed to do permanently.

And there was never a better time than right now to jump back in.  I started logging in again, gearing back up.  There was most undoubtedly a few bumps in the road but eventually I mustered the courage to approach the raid leader about the issue head on.  And then, I was back on the team, just in time for Nighthold.

The animosity from before was still there, but the guilt about bringing my team down was gone.  I had checked my schedule and found it surprisingly clear for months to come, meaning that attendance would not be an issue.  What’s more, my healing was better than it had ever been.  And, the majority of the team was super friendly in welcoming me back.

Still, I needed to talk to the person.  I delayed it for a few nights, thinking that maybe I was just being irrational and I should let it go.  But as one of my friends astutely pointed out, if it bothers me, it’s a legitimate problem.  And if it’s a legitimate problem, it’s going to need to be addressed.

Finally, I sat down and had the talk that had been months in the coming. I’m not sure how it impacted them (I hope positively as well) but I know it really, really helped me.  By no means is everything solved but I’ve taken a step in the right direction.  After nearly three months, I’m finally back home.

I had no idea how much of an impact raiding had on my life.  It’s kind of a silly thing to admit, “yeah, playing World of Warcraft every Wednesday and Saturday really helps me get through the week, y’know?”.  But it is honestly, so very true.  Raiding is my zen place.  Never do I feel more relaxed, more engaged, and more focused than when I am raiding. I truly do look forward to that two hour block at the end of the night.  And what’s more, I absolutely love my raid team.  I’ve come to realize that they are my family.  We may not always agree but at the end of the day, we’re all in it for each other.

And I’ll be all in it for them.

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Apparently, I’m a Raid Leader

ArchiHello my name is Fussypants and apparently I’ve been a raid leader for several months now.

Well ok, I wasn’t completely in the dark about this.  Actually, I knew exactly what was going on when I stepped up and offered to lead one of my guild’s raid teams.  But it just boggles my mind that I’ve been doing it for several months now.  Like whaaaaa?  Are we sure this isn’t just a hallucination?

Ok ok, let me explain how this all happened.

So as many of my readers know, I am one of the core officers in a rather large guild.  Well, I guess rather large guilds because we actually have two of them now.  Long story short, we’ve grown explosively over the course of the expansion and are now sitting at somewhere around 1200 characters? Hence the two guilds.

I also have talked a lot about raiding and as you can probably guess, I do that through my guild.  With a guild of over 1000+ folks, we kind of ended up with a rather large raid team.  It started off innocently enough, about 20 or so people who logged on twice a week every week.  But as the expansion wore on and the doldrums began, the opposite of what was expected happened.  Instead of our raid team shrinking, it actually grew.  We went from 20 of us to 25 of us to 30 of us until finally there were more people wanting to raid than there were spots in a raid group.

We had to do something fast.  The absolute worst thing in the world (at least in my opinion) is to have to sit folks, so we needed to find another solution.  And after much, much deliberating, it was decided that two raid teams was the way to go.

A raid leader for each team was decided upon but before we could even pull the first boss in our respective teams, one of the raid leaders decided that he didn’t want to commit to that level of responsibility.  And suddenly, we were left with a team without a leader.

Like I’ve mentioned before, my absolute worst fear was that we would have to sit some of our raiders.  And now with one raid leader gone before the ink was even dry on the page, there was a legitimate risk of this happening to one of the teams.  I couldn’t stand by and watch that happen to a group of people I knew had worked so hard to be where they were at.  So I volunteered.

Now, I had raid lead some pug raids before, explained a couple of mechanics, organized some healer rotations, the like, but never had I done anything quite to this level.  As I was about to find out, there was a whole lot more to raid leading than just telling the DPS to get out of the fire.

Xhul
THE FIRST LESSON OF RAID LEADING: ATTITUDE IS EVERYTHING
I’ve always tried to maintain a positive and friendly attitude while online.  It just seems like the right thing to do- so many people use the internet as their escape from real life drudgery so who am I to bring negativity into their happy place?  But I will admit, this even tested me.

Wipe or kill, I found that I needed to remain positive and cheery the entire raid night.  If something was going well, fantastic!  Congratulate the group and particularly anyone who went above and beyond.  If stuff isn’t going quite so well, don’t get discouraged.  We all know something is going wrong, no need to harp on it.  A simple “what did we do wrong that time and how can we fix it?” goes so much farther than a “why are we so bad?”.

But with attitude, I found I also needed to accept that I wasn’t going to be able to cheer everyone up every raid.  Sometimes a night of wiping is going to get people down and there’s nothing you can do.  But this shouldn’t stop the raid leader from being positive, encouraging, and above all, focused on improvement.

THE SECOND LESSON OF RAID LEADING: YOU GOTTA KNOW YOUR STUFF OR KNOW SOMEONE WHO DOES
I thought that I knew mechanics when I stepped up and offered to raid lead that first time.  Boy, was I wrong.  You see, it’s not good enough to just know one aspect of the fight. I can’t just know how to heal Kilrogg, I need to know every single part of the fight.  The Heartseeker mechanic.  The interrupts.  The adds.  The visions groups.

I’ve probably spent the better part of 20 hours just reading up and practicing mechanics so I could better lead my group.  I watched videos, read strats, combed logs, you name it I did it.  And in the end, it all paid off.  I can lead a Heroic Hellfire Citadel Raid in my sleep, I know the mechanics so well (not saying I would do this though).

There are some mechanics however that I do not know all the intricacies of.  For example, I know that the tanks need to taunt off for Zakuun when one tank gets Soul Sliced but as to what happens inside that spirit world, I haven’t a clue.  I can’t possibly know every minute detail.  As a raid leader, I learned all the mechanics but I leave it up to my raiders to find the tips and tricks of their class best suited for handling the mechanics.

When there is someone in the raid who has a better strat or understanding of a specific mechanic, I let them take point on it.  Heroic raiders have to use every advantage they get; I would be silly to turn away helpful advice.  Raid leaders lead, not micromanage.  I have a responsibility to know the fight as a whole but if someone knows a specific part in better detail, then I am going to let them take charge of that specific item.

Mammoth
THE THIRD LESSON OF RAID LEADING: YOU NEED A SECOND IN COMMAND
There’s a reason ships have First Mates- the Captain doesn’t always catch everything.  This is the same for raid leading, I don’t always remember to call every mechanics or to change the loot before raid.  And sometimes, I can’t even make it to raid on time or at all.

I am so very lucky to have a responsible and observant second in my fellow blogger Bodhirana.  If I miss something or can’t do something, I know I can count on him to catch what I miss.  I trust him completely to lead raids when I cannot attend.  And I can bounce ideas off of him when changes need to be made.

Fast forward a few months and a few raid team shuffles and here I am, still raid leading, still in one piece. It’s been an incredible journey- from Heroic Assault all the way to Heroic Archimonde but I wouldn’t change it for the world.  I’ve learned so much about raiding, about leadership, about the people on my raid team that I don’t think I could have ever learned otherwise.  I’ve been trialed and tested, but in the end, every single one of us got our mooses and every single one of us can call ourselves ‘Heroic Raiders’.

So there you have it! How I accidentally on purpose became a raid leader!  I guess I can add this to my growing list of ‘Stuff I Never Thought I’d Do But I Ended Up Doing Anyway’.

Until next time, stay out of the fire!