Like most organizations, guilds go through their shares of highs and lows. When the sun is shining and the birds are singing, bosses get crushed beneath your raid’s boots. There exists that feeling of unstoppability. By that same token, the opposite is just as likely to occur. Your players start dying to the easiest of abilities, the situation feels all doom and gloom, and no headway is being made on any bosses at all. It’s important to keep everyone’s spirits upbeat.

In this episode we discuss…

  • Spotting negativity
  • Morale
  • Player management
  • Reminding the group why they’re raiding

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The Show Notes

The Transcript

Matt: Welcome to the Guildmasters Podcast, the companion show to the Guildmasters blog for both players new to leadership and veterans who want to brush up on their skills. My name is Matt Low, but everyone knows me as Matticus. So here’s the premise: every week, we tackle one problem or one challenge related to in-game leadership. We’ll offer you points of consideration and possible solutions. Now before we get started, I’d like to take a moment to thank you all for listening and subscribing to the podcast!

Matt: So for tonight’s hosts…host rather, not hosts, because that would imply more than one…two… he believes that science rules. And that inertia is a property of matter.

Oh, no wait. Wait, wait, hang on! We don’t have Bill Nye on the show…

Will: I AM a science guy.  The science of lov…..I mean science of fixing your raid’s problems!

Matt: Yes it is indeed Will! Yes, indeed. He is a true, fanatical lover of….raid problem fixing. Nothing wrong with that. Will, Blackrock has been an admittedly challenging instance for many guilds and the content here isn’t as easy as first expected. I think maybe everyone’s expectations at it’s simplicity are too high. And now I’ve got players second guessing themselves and wondering if the guild and raid group are even capable of getting through this tier at all..

Will: For real. And a bit of humbling is great to allow people to reflect on how they are playing and what they could be doing better.  But it can go too far sometimes which is the theme of our question today so lets check it out:

“Yo Masters,

My guild is making decent progress in the Highmaul and Blackrock Foundry. It’s not the greatest but it isn’t the worst. Yet during the raid, I can tell people are negative and demoralized when we get to progression bosses. They say things like “Oh, we’re never going to get it with what we have.” Or “I don’t want to want to be here and wipe for the next 2 hours of the night.” I’m worried about the attitude spreading and making us worse. I know we’ll never be a contender of server first titles but I don’t care about that and I’ve continually emphasized that our main goals are to just have fun and see the content we can while it’s new. What can I say or do to cut down on that stuff?”


Negative Gnome

Matt: Alright, not going to lie. Even I’m not impervious to having doubts about ability to progress in a raid. I try to keep them to myself or at least put on a facade to minimize the effect I might have on everyone else in the raid. Because if the guild leader loses heart and faith in a raid’s ability to kill a boss that day, then it’s going to be a waste of time. That being said though, sometimes it’s best to reframe that negativity into smaller bite sized chunks. If a boss looks too monumental in scope, I stress about finding smaller victories like if we can surpass a specific phase or knock out a set chunk of a boss’s health or surviving until a certain point in the encounter.

Will – Even back in the Siege of Orgrimmar days people talked about, “Oh, have you gotten to Garrosh phase 4?” That was a big goal for people. “It’s named progression for a reason.  It’s extremely easy to compare yourself to all the guilds in the world and somehow you can decide that you are so terrible for not having down such and such fight.  Even having some perspective on your own guild’s progression and limitations should be first and foremost in being able to deal with possible defeatist attitudes in your group.  You have to consider the number of hours your guild raids, their current ilvl, and the overall approach you take to raiding.  For example, we have a guild on our realm that many of our raiders know of and have had a friend or two in.  They are currently a boss or two ahead of us.  They raid the same number of hours that we do, but take a harder approach to dealing with wipes and underperforming players.  I should’ve kicked at least 2 healers and a few dps on Twin Ogron mythic progression last month, but we, as a guild, give people more chances to fix their play and improve.  That other guild on my realm doesn’t.  You screw up a mechanic a few times, you are sat, end of story.

Matt: And I think this is because we’re averse to kicking people like that. We brush off the single screw ups or the periodic ones. Maybe we as leaders don’t recognize it as often when someone is consistently screwing up. I mean all I see are health bars. I don’t often have my head up looking at mechanical play. I don’t see where they’re standing sometimes. I can’t tell if they’re in a fire or a void zone, unless they die within a matter of seconds and I can’t outheal the damage coming in, and that’s a problem.  But that’s on me, and that should be on officers to help keep an eye on that stuff too. The more eyes you have looking at the raid, the better it is to help troubleshoot any difficulties that people might have.

So what if their negativity is justified? Their first avenue should be to air their grievance in private or to an officer. DO NOT blast it out publicly in guild chat, raid chat, or voice chat. They need to give you an opportunity to address and fix those problems. Look, we’re not psychic. We don’t know what players are thinking of every time. Concerns have to be brought to us and it may serve to either confirm or dispel notions that we already have, because maybe we did happen to catch someone on an off night, or playing poorly, or playing consistently bad on a certain boss. We might have an idea, but we can’t seem to figure out why that is. At least now we know there’s a problem there, and you bringing it to our attention serves to confirm that.

Will: For sure, and even some raiders might have suggestions that can give you ideas on how to fix that problem. Maybe people will come out straight up and say, “We need to be doing this, and that will solve it all.” Maybe it’s a good suggestion, but at the very least it points to an area of the raid for you to watch for next time on the wipe, and even just be able to say, “Ok man, I hear ya. We’ll look at that this next pull and see what’s going on.” Just saying that may diffuse their stress about having this difficult night of progression raiding. It’s on you, like Matt said, to carry that burden of finding that problem and fixing it.

Matt: Ok, so let’s proceed under the assumption that maybe the accusations and facts turn out to be true, now you’re placed in a difficult spot. If you want to get further, chances are you’ll have to sit them in order to move forward and see consistent progress. Don’t be afraid to do that if it’s what has to happen. In a typical progression guild, you have to be a GM and a raid leader first, even though we want to include everyone as friends. If you’re the kind of guild leader who wants to be more inclusive of everyone, you’re going to be in for a slightly tougher time. Not impossible, but it’s something to be aware of that “Hey, this player is struggling and they’re having difficulties here.” And try to find a solution that works for everyone involved, otherwise it might not turn out to be any kind of progress to begin with.

Will:  Right, and sometimes I’ve heard of guild leaders and raid leaders sitting someone out for a few pulls. They’ll just tell them “Go sit down, go get a drink real quick. We’re gonna leave you out of these next few pulls. Come back, and then we’ll see what’s going on.” That sometimes can work for a dps or a healer. Usually, you can’t swing that for a tank. Sometimes that can be something to do to fix the problem that’s happening within the raid right then.

Matt: Oh yeah, great anecdote. When we were working on Imperator back in December, it was getting to the point where the same people were dying to mines and I wanted to start seeing the next couple phases. I wanted to get to phase three and the second intermission. All that stuff. I said, right then and there, “Look guys. Enough is enough. You guys are better than this stuff. The next person who dies to mines…they’re going to sit out the next attempt. That’s it, you’re sitting out the next attempt.” If they were a healer or a tank, they were asked to pony up 1,000 gold or a day’s worth of garrison resources (herbs, mine, ore) into the bank. Something like that, but you’ve gotta hold them accountable somehow, and light a fire under their butt, because that kind of stuff is going to hold you back. People dying to mines is a very simple mechanic. Every fight has its own stupidly easy mechanic that’s annoying. It may not be lethal, but certainly annoying.

Moving on. Let’s remind the team that this boss is a challenge. It’s meant to be difficult. We would all quit the game and explore other activities if the game was too easy. [Will: Like Hello Kitty Adventures?”] Uhhh, yeah….I’ve heard that’s actually more harder(er?). Yes.

Will: Really? Interesting. It is a challenge, and it’s meant to be difficult. The important part to remember is, you signed up for at least some bit of cheerleading and pointing out little bits of progression.  There will be times to use the stick and point out that you wiped for the 14th time because someone stood in that mine on Imperator.  But there’s also always a need to point out that while you wiped to that bad stuff, you also got the boss to 30%, which is the best yet and the healer CDs were timed great and positioning was good.  You don’t have to be suzy sunshine about it all, but giving people a cookie every now and then will go miles towards battling that “we suck, we’ll never get this” feeling.

Matt: Exactly! Above all else, stick to the process, stick to the strategy. Remind everyone what they’ve been doing to get there. Remind and encourage everyone that they’re playing exactly as you need them to. If anyone isn’t, take corrective measures. Remind them where to stand. Remind them what phase we’re entering. It’s often called hand holding, but the first few attempts on a progression boss require a little hand holding until everyone is intimately familiar with all the mechanics and abilities that are going on. As a healing lead, during certain fights, I will not hesitate to signal for set cooldowns at set times. Eventually, the healers understand, they know when I want certain cooldowns and I don’t have to say it anymore. Focus on the tangibles, get the small victories out of the way

Will: And even if its not the first few attempts, people sometimes need a reminder of what’s supposed to happen in that particular fight and that particular time. Feel free to give a refresher every now and then if you feel like it’s necessary.  Looking at the question again, there is something to be said to going to the root of the problem.  If you have one or two people that seem to lead the negative train, its a bit easier to isolate them and talk about what they are doing and get it fixed.  They may not even realize that groaning about wiping on trash isn’t helping and, while they are free to feel that way about the raid group, they should keep it to themselves more often.  You can confront those few people directly and the problem starts to dissipate if they are willing to listen.

Matt: Exactly. You can take the hardline approach and say that you’re all better than this and that we’re not going to be stopped by some… mere trash mob that’s been killing us. You can take a softer approach, relax, and laugh it off some. Subtly mention that the next person that dies on trash gets loot locked or owes the bank some gold, or gets a unique title, like the dunce hat or something like that.. Whether you choose to enforce any kind of recompense to the guild is entirely up to you.

Will: We just put a title in our guild: Queen Butterfly.

Matt: The one I use is “YOLO Global Mute”. They can’t talk at all in guild chat.

Will: At some point, you’ll come up against a real Debbie Downer who can’t seem to be convinced that the world is ending after every wipe.  Or that attitude pointed out in the original question here of people who just don’t want to wipe for 2 hours, and they won’t get it.  For that, my own thought here is that its going to be time to part ways at some point soon.  You can’t convince these people otherwise and the longer it persists the more it drags down on your raid.  Even if you have mostly positive people in your raid, you’ll have a bad night at some point and that little voice in the corner talking about how this fight is just broke or blizzard hates mages (ha ha, yeah right!) or whatever, that voice in the corner  will grate on the rest of your raid and sow some discord.  You may be forced to make a tough decision quickly on replacing this person.  I mean, working hard and wiping for hours is much of what progression raiding is. If they aren’t prepared to do that, they probably need to find a different game or at least different raiding environment if it differs that much from your own raiding environment.

Matt: Oh my god, I hate dealing with people like this! It got to the point where I had to sit them down outside of raid and talk to them one on one. I said, “Look, what’s it going to take to make you happy?” They might respond with 4 piece bonus, or a weapon, or a trinket, or another item. Then you ask yourself how long is it going to be before that side of them erupts even though they’ve been placated. Give a mouse a cookie, right? Sometimes you might even have to cut them loose largely due to incompatibilities between them and the atmosphere of the guild. They might want more progression then what the guild is capable of doing right now. There’s no way to salvage it and it has to be done. So pull the trigger. Hopefully, ideally,  someone’s just having a bad day or going through a rough patch, but if the behavior starts being consistent, it’s time to do something. It could be temporary like telling them to take a seat for a night or sit for the next couple of attempts. Or, if it’s ongoing, they have to find a new home, because it’s obviously not working out in this one.

Will: Right, and that goes back to some of our earlier points about assessing what your guild is capable of, so that you know where you’re coming from, and what to expect out of your guild and raids.

Will: Ultimately, it sounds like this question matches some of my own philosophy and approach to raiding. The part about having some fun and getting down some bosses.  I believe, at the end of the night, it should be about having fun.  If there is something preventing you from having that fun, and maybe  affecting the fun of your raid group, you should do something about it.  Downing bosses is always fun and in some raid groups, there is nothing more important than those kills and attitudes like the one we’re talking about today are tolerated as long as the boss dies.  But I feel like there is still room to have a good time and, at the same time, be serious about progression and raiding.

Matt: Absolutely, there’s definitely room for both and let’s be serious here, no one likes playing with that guy who’s going to be a downer. Because if you’re playing all depressed without any kind of hope, it means you’re not trying. If you’ve already given up, then you’ve already lost. The fact that someone decides to just give up and phone it in and throw in the towel…you may as well just raid with one less person. It does hamper and affect everyone’s capacity to raid. Everyone’s gotta try hard. There’s a quote I’m reminded of: “No one can whistle a symphony.” It takes a whole orchestra to play it.


Okay, we’re about to reach the end of our show here so let’s recap!

  1. Have a sense of what should be expected from your guild in terms of progression and remind the group of it.
  2. Determine if the complaints are sound. If so, take action up to and including benching a player.
  3. Stick to the process and remind everyone of the small victories, whether it’s minor or major.
  4. Address the toxic and negative player directly, see if there’s anything that’ll make them happy at all.
  5. Further disciplinary action if needed and that’s not limited to benching either.
  6. Never lose sight of the fact that you’re here to have fun!