When Do You Throw in the Towel with Guildies?

A reader posed this question to me recently:

How long do you keep trying an encounter with guild members (in a non-raid environment) before you throw in the towel?  I recently spent two hours and eight wipes with an all-guild group trying to complete Heroic Halls of Reflection.  The group should have been able to complete the instance easily, but they refused to listen to any of my suggestions.  They fought the spirit waves in the middle of Frostmourne’s room, ignoring my requests to use the alcoves.  When we finally completed that, someone attempted to use the ledge to escape the Lich King (this was the day of patch 3.3.2), wiping the group.  We then tried the escape four more times, always dying on the third or fourth wall.

After that wipe I couldn’t take it any more, and I left the group, as did another member.  I hate abandoning guild members, but when they’re performing far below the standards of even the worst dungeon finder group, what do you do?

I like this question because it touches on a few different aspects of being a guild member and a guild leader.

I think it’s safe to assume that nobody’s going to ditch on a guild raid due to wipes.  That’s part and parcel of being in a raiding guild, and if you can’t take the pain of wiping, you should find another route to progress along.  The raid leader decides what encounters to tackle, when to move on to a different fight if things don’t gel.

I Shouldn’t Be Stressing Over This!

Running non-raid content with guild members is supposed to be a fun, rewarding and relatively stress-free experience.  The gear disparity be smaller than you might see in a dungeon finder group.  You probably know the people you’re playing with, and know how to work together as a group better.  You may have some kind of voice comms set up, so you can react to changing conditions faster.  And when things do go pear-shaped you should be able to laugh it off as dumb luck and move on to a clean kill next time.

So what do you do when your guild mates perform worse than a group of random people?  With a PUG, you’re probably not going to survive three wipes, and many groups will fall apart after two (or even one, but I think those people are overreacting).  You don’t want to leave your guildmates in the lurch, but at some point you just have to accept that things aren’t clicking.

There’s a few reasons why things might not gel for a heroic group:

  • someone’s having an off night.  It happens to everyone from time to time
  • unintentional complacency.  It’s easy to get into the “this will be easy with all guildies, I don’t have to pay as close attention” mindset.
  • underperformers.  Every guild has them, and in a 25 person setting, it’s easy for your shortcomings to blend into the background.  Get too many such players together, and failure can be the result.
  • too many undergeared alts in the group.  A raid-geared tank and healer can’t carry three DPS in iLevel 200 blues through Heroic HoR – mobs just won’t die fast enough.

Regardless of how you find yourself in the situation, you’re now in a state where your guildmates aren’t living up to your expectations.  You have two choices: convince the group to give up, or figure out what’s going wrong and suggest ways to correct it.

Figuring Out What’s Wrong

Let’s talk about analysis first.  Think of it as a form of mini-mentoring.  If you don’t have experience doing this in a raid settings, this may be unfamiliar territory.  Perhaps it’s an officer or class lead who does this for the guild normally.  Don’t worry – it’s not that hard to do, and knowing how will pay dividends when you are raiding.  You’ll be able to look in detail at the specific problems that you can address, answering questions like “Why did the tank you were healing die?” and “Why did my partner DPS on that add take so much damage?”.

Meters and Death Tracker

Two addons that make analysis much easier are a damage meter that tracks more than damage done.  You want to be able to look at things like damage taken (including a breakdown of which attack), enemy damage done, dispels, interrupts and debuff uptime.  I use Skada for this, but any decent meter including Recount will do the same.

You also want a death tracker addon.  I believe Recount has one built in.  If your meter doesn’t, I recommend Acheron.

Reasons for Failure

Wipes tend to start one of several ways: a DPS dies, the tank loses agro, the healer runs out of mana, or the group falls behind the instance spawn rate (portals or waves forming before the previous one has been dealt with).

If people are dying, you need to know why.  Find out how quickly someone went down, and to what boss abilities (the damage taken breakdown of your meter will help with this).  If someone is taking a large proportion of magic damage, find out if anyone in the group can dispel that type of debuff.  I’ve seen groups fail in Trial of the Champion because we only had a Shaman healer and the Ret paladin didn’t realize how much damage he could prevent by cleansing Holy Fire and Shadows of the Past.

If the tank is losing agro, then DPS just have to learn to reign things in.  I’ve talked about this before: your uber dps doesn’t matter one bit if you are exceeding the tank’s threat.  No matter what the tank’s threat level is, the DPS have to get as close as possible without going over.  If that means you need to hold off on all DPS for 10 or 15 seconds, so be it.

If the healer is running out of mana, you need to look at whether some of the damage they are healing could be avoided through dispels, or simple things like not standing in fire.  As with death analysis, look for things that can be dispelled by the DPS or tank but aren’t being removed.

If there’s no obvious avoidable damage, then look at healer rotation and synergy.  The spec, glyphs and spell choices that you make in a raid may not be as effective in a smaller group, especially with lesser geared players.

Finally, if things just aren’t dying fast enough you need to delve into damage meters.  Are there mobs that heal?  Are they being interrupted?  What about kill order?  Despite what you may have heard, marking mobs for a kill order isn’t dead.  Taking out the melee mobs when casters are pelting the group make the fights go longer, the healer use more mana, and the tank have to pop more cooldowns.

Suggesting Alternatives

Once you’ve figured out what’s going wrong, choose the way you suggest changes carefully.  Announcing to people what they’re doing wrong is likely to get them on the defensive, guild relationships notwithstanding.

Try to begin suggestions with “perhaps we can try this” or “do you think that _blank_ might have an effect”.  These may just be other ways of saying “hey you, do your job!”, but the difference in how each is received is massive.

If you get the feeling that people are hesistant to admit where they screwed up, try going first.  Saying something like “sorry, I should have interrupted that heal” or “sorry, I need to be faster on my dispels” may encourage people to look at their own shortcomings.

Setting Goals and Limits

Even in small group content, you need goals.  When everything is going swimmingly, these are completely unspoken.  Your goal is to complete the instance quickly and without anyone dying.  Once that fails to come true, it doesn’t hurt to give people specific things to focus on.  “This time we’re going to get wave seven down before wave eight spawns” is more effective than the plain “ok, let’s do this again”.

Ideally, the group leader does this, but as I’m sure we all know the person assigned the party leader role is often not qualified to lead.  In non-dungeon finder groups, the leader may just be the person who started the group, or leadership may get passed to the tank.  Still, someone needs to step up and guide the group through something they’re having trouble with.

If nobody steps up, then it falls to you to do so.

Setting limits is also the role of a leader.  Everyone may want to quit, but nobody wants to be called a quitter.  The leader can let everyone save face by stating what the group is willing to do.  “Ok, we’re going to give this one more shot, but if we lose someone before wave seven, then we’re going to call it”.

If the group seems hell-bent on finishing the instance but things just aren’t clicking, don’t be afraid to suggest going to another instance that you know you can complete easily.  The change of setting and quick success may turn things around.

Walking Away

Even with all of the above in your toolbox, you may not be able to get the group to come together.  If you’ve truly given it your all, don’t be afraid to say so and excuse yourself.  While this may be your go-to technique for dealing with dungeon finder groups, so long as it is the last ditch technique for guild groups, I don’t think you’re selling anyone short.

I would suggest not faking a reason to leave.  You shouldn’t need to make things up to justify legitimate actions to your guild mates.  If you really have reached your personal limit on small group content, then say so and hope to do better next time.

Applying this Elsewhere

The techniques I’ve described here scale to raid groups and to non-guild runs as well.  The next time your raid group wipes, rather than wondering “what the hell did we do wrong?”, you can start going over meters and get some insight into what went wrong.  If you notice something that nobody else has, you can share it with the group.

In Dungeon Finder groups, your response to people failing may be to get angry or frustrated.  But if you can do some quick analysis, you may be able to help the group succeed and the person become a better player.  Even if you do eventually choose to walk away, you can do so knowing that you did your best to make things better.

Thanks for the question.

Until Next Time

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