The B Team

What do you do when you become aware (or find yourself a part) of “The B Team”?

The B Team in a guild is a separate raid team (usually for 10 man raids) that just doesn’t seem to progress as quickly or as cleanly as the first or primary raid team.

Having two raid teams in a guild isn’t a problem unto itself.  I suggested as much in a recent article on bridging the 10 to 25 gap.  My advice in that context was to organize two 10 person teams if you found yourself short of the 20 regular raiders to comfortably back fill a 25 person raid with pickups.  It was a means to an end, not a long-term solution.

I didn’t recommend running two 10 person teams long-term because of the balance and swapping issues it brings.  You may find your second team short by two people, but the only extra raiders online are locked to first team’s instance id.  If you can get around this, or if your guild runs two distinct schedules (e.g. a day and night raid), then you may find that one of the teams progresses faster than the other.  When that happens, players can find themselves discouraged if they’re not progressing as quickly, or in some cases turn into jerks if they’re on the “winning” team.

How then do you try to avoid these problems, or address them once they’ve cropped up?

Foreward

Just to be clear, I’m not referring here to the multiple 10 person raids that a functioning 25 person guild may run on the side.  Those are typically populated by alts or pickups, and often use a different loot system.  I don’t think that anyone judges a player by the progression made in an unofficial raid.  I’m referring to a guild whose multiple 10 person raids are the main path to progression.

Downplay Comparisons

While a bit of good-natured competition within a guild can spur people on, I’ve not found it to be a useful tool long-term.  Perhaps one night you race each other for a speed clear of a farm instance, but to compare progression speed when the teams may not be equally matched isn’t fair.  When learning fights, certain combinations of buffs and debuffs can make a major difference – just having heroism or bloodlust available can make or break an encounter.

Though I’ve used the term for this article’s title, never use the terms “Team A” and “Team B”.  No matter how you try, these names (or any names from a set which has a defined sorting order like numbers) is a bad idea.  The connotations of superiority are just too hard to overcome.  Instead, use completely unrelated terms, or even made up words.  I wouldn’t recommend going with pop culture references, in case they are polarizing (e.g. Team Spock vs Team Kirk).  Quick: which is better: “Team Mittens” or “Team Flügelhorn”?

Answer: Neither.  Team Pfaffendorf beats them both.  Bonus points if you know why.

You should also be on the watch for teams judging each other, especially if one team ends up being joked about in guild chat.  Once people start to think of themselves as part of an elite group within the guild (or outside of a perceived group of elites), you’re only a few steps from a clique.  The best way to avoid that (if you can) is to mix up the teams periodically.

Mix it up

If you have 20+ raiders who all raid at the same time, try to mix the teams up a bit.  For progression you probably don’t want to do this on a week-by-week basis, but at least once a month you should re-shuffle the teams.  Have both raid leaders pick people much as you would in school sports – back and forth until only one person remains.  Just don’t do this publicly – nobody liked being the last person chosen in school and it’s not going to boost morale in WoW either.

When mixing teams, try to keep the quality of the leadership experience the same for all members.  Don’t put two amazing raid leaders on one team and leave the other team to learn everything from wowwiki.  Also try to keep the strategies for each boss fight as close as possible.  If both raid leaders have different approaches, sit down and discuss which is best.  This will help members stay focused and effective when they move from one team to the other, and will continue to serve you if you merge into a 25 person team.

If you choose not to keep the strategies the same, then make sure that whoever “owns” the strategy (typically the raid leader) remains with one team long-term.  The people they bring to the raid may chance, but members should know that if they’re on Foo’s team, they are executing a particular boss fight in a given way.  It also helps to have the strategies documented on your guild forums, preferably with a descriptive mnemonic.  On Lady Deathwhisper you might refer to the “normal” tactic and the “AoE kill zone” tactic for example.

You will need to set an expectation among members that when teams are shuffled, performance and progression might not be perfect from the get-go.  It takes a few raids for everyone to get used to everyone else’s play style.  Over time, this period of readjustment will get shorter.  Be quick to shut down cries of “the other team is so much better at this” or “I don’t want to be on the sucky team”.

If you’ve let the raid leaders pick back and forth and they’ve paid some attention to balance, individual performance shouldn’t be a concern.  You are more likely to wipe because someone decides not to give it their all or refuses to alter their playstyle to match the members they’re paired with.

Examining and Fixing

If both teams are progressing at exactly the same pace, you won’t have most of the problems I describe above.  But that’s not likely to happen.  Class balance, buff and debuff synergy, and the unavoidable differences in player skill mean that one team is probably going to move ahead quicker than the other.

If you’re switching things up once a month, you may not need to jump on this right away.  If it continues even when people are changed around, then you might need to look more closely at how the raid is being lead.  Are the raid leader’s instructions clear?  When people fail to follow them, is action taken to make sure that it doesn’t happen again?  Are subtle but important details about the fights overlooked, or does the leader assume that everyone knows them?  Any of these things can be a thorn in the side of progression.

You may wish to have the leader (or just an experienced leader) from the other team “audit” the team that is behind on progression.  Have them join on an alt.  Don’t have them take over the raid – just observe how things are run, make note of things that are different, and see if anything jumps out as a causal factor.  After the raid is over, take the time to sit with the raid leader and discuss what you observed.

Leading a raid effectively is an art unto itself, and just like playing a given class a little mentoring may be very helpful.  You may find that the issue is one of occlusion – the raid leader doesn’t realize that something is going wrong because they don’t have a given addon or perhaps just don’t know where to look among the information they do have to determine the root cause of problems.

Recruiting

Make sure your recruiting efforts are tailored to the needs of each team.  If you know that the reason one team isn’t progressing as fast is that they only have two strong healers, make it a priority to find a strong dps/healing hybrid so that you can move between 2 and 3 healers based on the fight without rearranging the group.  If the end goal is to be a single 25 person team and you only have two teams as an interim measure, then make sure you’re out there looking for the bodies to bring you up to full strength.

When trying to merge two 10 person groups into a 25 person team, you have a little more flexibility in terms of who you bring in.  20 decently geared raiders can help carry 5 lesser geared people far easier than a 10 person team can balance even two undergeared members.

Different Schedules and Alts

If your guild runs two separate raid schedules, you may have some members who can make both times, and want to raid on two characters.  Unless all of your main raiders are getting spots in a raid regularly, I would recommend against this.  It can be quite a morale hit to be seated for a raid while your spot goes to someone whose main has already seen gear upgrades this week.

Unless you have a strong need for a particular members’ alt, I prefer a policy where the guild “owns” a given raid size lockout on your main, and all other lockouts are yours to do with as you please.  Some members may choose to join PUG raids, some may not raid on alts and be available to swap into guild runs as required.  But make sure that every individual gets a chance to raid before any one person gets to raid twice.  Not doing so only slows down progression in the long term.

How do you deal with multiple raid teams?  Have any of you maintained two or more long-running teams for more than a few months?  If so, how did you work to achieve balance and keep everyone focused despite different progression rates?

Image from Robot Chicken Season 4, Episode 5

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