Progressing Backwards – Teaching Your Raiders How to Learn

I’ve seen it twice now.

The first incidence went largely unnoticed by me. It happened right when I was joining the guild, getting insta-geared from Kara, Mag & Gruul’s, and just learning how to tank. Every new encounter was a new experience to me, everything was fresh. I had no concept of ‘on farm’.

A wipe on Al’Ar was just a learning experience to me. Struggles with Leo were just kinks to be worked out. For the rest of the guild though, they were painful slaps to the face. This was content many of them had already seen and conquered and suddenly, through attrition and replacement, they were fights with which they were struggling.

I knew all this, but I didn’t know how they felt. I couldn’t understand why they were having trouble filling out the raids, why people didn’t want to sign up. Surely if we push a little harder these bosses will be conquered again right? It’s just a little hiccup, just trying to get the newbies (like me) up to speed, right?

I guess some didn’t see it that way and were quickly becoming disenfranchised. And so fewer people signed up to raid and more were recruited and needed to be brought up to speed until I’m sure it felt, to some of the old hands, that they were running with an entirely new group of people.

And so, progression went backwards.

As for the second time I’ve seen it? Why, that was last night. Three hours of raiding, plague down, Saph down, Kael down, Malygos still lives.

We really were having a pretty good night up until Saph, then things started turning pear-shaped. There wasn’t particularly anything I could point to specifically though, just a lot of little mistakes that kept adding up. Kael was even worse and while we did eventually kill him (along with doing Just Can’t get Enough) it certainly took us long enough and was a sloppy kill on almost all fronts.

Then, as we are wont to do, we headed over to Malygos. I can’t remember if we took two or three stabs at him. We’d all ressed and were buffing when someone mentioned that unless we could kill the dragon in 2 minutes the raid was over (It was 9:58, we usually call raids at 10). This was answered by a few immediate disconnects.

Without a word.

I think that upset me the most. It wasn’t the fact that the dragon is still alive, it’s that we had raiders who left without a word. Traditionally, when it’s time to call the raid and the boss is not yet dead we take a vote of who wants to continue and who wants to stay.

We could have done A Poke In The Eye if some people weren’t so hot to light out at the first signs of trouble.

Now, I can even understand why some people are feeling discouraged, but I’m starting to get mad. I combed through the WWS report and made a spreadsheet of who died to what and when and who dropped before the tanks. I know who’s not pulling their weight.

There’s also nothing I hate more than calling people out for their own incompetence. When I mess up I like to know it, but I don’t want to be screamed at. If there’s something I’m having trouble with I try to fix it. If I can’t fix it I try to find out why. I’m always looking for the roots of problems. If a leaf is sick but the stem is healthy is there something wrong with the trunk?

With that mentality I hate pointing at someone and saying “You are screwing this up, fix it!” That’s not the right way to fix a problem. I can’t stand in front of my car and stare at the dented hood and scream “You are dented! You are fail!” Nor can my neighbor stare at me and say, “Your hood is dented, it offends me greatly, fix it!”. I have not the money to pay for fixing my hood, his ridicule does nothing to help me magically find the werewhithal within my budget to fix my hood.

Same with guildies who are performing sub-par. Just like I know very well my hood is dented and that it doesn’t look very nice, there’s a good chance that under-performing guildies know they’re underperforming. The trick is making sure they know there’s a problem and being able to offer help in finding a solution.

I’m not advocating fixing the problem for them, but helping them learn how to troubleshoot their own shortcomings.

I noticed night before last that sometimes Swipe was insufficient to pick up the second landing drake. Someone mentioned a targeting macro and my thought process flowed something like this:

Swipe is on the GCD -> Sometimes the dragon aggros a healer and gets out of swipe before it can land -> The dragon needs to be targeted and Faerie Fired at

What followed was an attempt where I first tried to right-click between dragons. I kept grabbing guildies and other ancillary mobs. Then I tried tab-targeting. Ancillary mobs were still targeted and it was taking too long to cycle through from dragon to dragon and I was getting confused about what I had targeted. It was taking too long. After that wipe more thinking was done:

Manual targeting takes too long -> I need one button that does this -> make a macro -> will the GCD be a problem? -> /target mobname aspects of a macro have nothing to do with the GCD -> Can I have more than one /target mobname aspec to a macro? -> I don’t know, but I’ll sure as hell try it out.

And so I made my macros that I talked about yesterday.

I like to think that I’m a smart cookie who learns quickly and picks up things easily. But, believe it or not, learning is a learned skill. If someone is going to suss out their own issues and find solutions they need to know how to go about it.

This is where the raid leaders come in. What should follow are low-key, one-on-one meetings with a focus of finding the root of the problem (be it ping, a too-cluttered interface, a habit for (poor use of) key-turning, etc), and once the problem is found, an offer to help find a solution.

It won’t help anything if you find the problem and just tell them to fix it. If you know the solution don’t just shove it in someone’s face, ask questions. Nurture their innate sense of logic.

If you drop breadcrumbs of questions that your troubled raider can follow they will eventually arrive at the solution themselves, you will only have guided them.

This might sound like more trouble than it’s worth. You might think “I already know what the problem is, why can’t I just come out and tell them?” Because, if you do that you’re only giving them fish. A good raid leader teachis his (or her) raiders how to fish.

By helping them walk through a logical progression towards a solution you have shown them what that path of thinking looks like. You will have given them a new set of problem-solving skills and the next time they have problems they’ll be more likely to ask those questions for themselves and will eventually find themselves perfectly capable of diagnosing and fixing a problem on their own.

I am personally a wonderful example of this.

When I started playing I was always linking gear into guid chat and asking which was better. This continued for a VERY long time. I had a vague idea of what I wanted but I couldn’t tell you if I wanted that piece with more hit or that piece with more agility. I really didn’t know the difference.

Then someone told me I could hover over the numbers in my character panel and it was like a whole world of understanding opened up to me.

I used to get so frustrated looking for quest mobs and items then a friend took me by the hand and showed me Thottbot. Eventually I found my own way to WoWhead. A google search for feral tanking consummables for raiding kara led me to The Big Bear Butt. I noticed he wrote about a lot of other things to do with bears too, I noticed he had links. Clicking through led me to other bloggers and then the blogging world started to open up to me like a flower greeting the dawn.

I realised “Hey, I can do this too, maybe putting my thoughts to the keyboard will help, maybe others will come and help me”

And so I started the blog.

I didn’t start playing WoW knowing how to play, or even knowing how to learn how to play.

Tutorials get you up and moving enough to be functional, but to nurture true excellence and dedicated, knowledgeable, and quick-learning raiders, you must help teach them how to learn.

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  • Comments (5)
  1. Funny thing is, we went in with almost the exact same group on Tuesday as we did last night and everything went swimmingly then.

    The issue with KT was a lack of interrupts on the Frostbolts. The person who normally handles most of it wasn’t there, the other person who mostly handles it when the first one doesn’t was DC’d for a majority of the encounter, and everyone else that could interrupt had much longer cooldowns.

    After the mess with DC’s and crap on Sapph though, yeah, everything went downhill.

    • Tigerfeet
    • March 20th, 2009

    I’m thinking it probably had a lot to do with discouragement over Sarth 3D too. I know I at least was feeling a little lackluster.

  2. Have I mentioned I love you? 😉 This is absoloutely my way of thinking and, although it can be an uphill struggle, I think it works out best for all in the end.

    As for ‘those nights’ – people get discouraged easily and I have always found that a mix of mild cajoling with a lot of friendly consolation and enthusiasm can get a raid which is going downhill to end a lot better – even if you don’t get the boss down.


  3. It has actually seriously driven me bats that in WotLK I have encountered numerous raiders who expect 1) to be carried by the guild to be geared enough to raid 2) think we should 1 shot every new boss encountered every time and 3) throw tantrums or “DC” if there are a few wipes. It took my guild 3 weeks of every night work to kill Lady Vashj. I am not seeing that level of commitment and fortitude from folks currently.

  4. I fully agree with what you’re saying here. I think too many otherwise good raid leaders can fall into the trap of micromanaging their raiders, and then they’re not learning anything but how to listen to a finicky RL. Different players will naturally have different things that work for them. As a RL, you need to try to lay out the buffet and let your raiders fill their plates. One-on-one’s are often a great way of accomplishing this.

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