Guild Progression: What It Is and How It’s Done

A little while ago now, I had to give my guild some news. Althura is moving to a more supervisory role; taking something of a ‘hands off’ approach, as it were. Moving up and out (though not ‘out’ of the guild); taking a step back; taking a ‘wait and see’ position.

Resigning as a core raider.

This isn’t a choice I wanted to make, but unfortunately, due to those nasty IRL things that pop up from time to time, Dissent’s HoTNelf is going part-time for a while. I’m going to miss out on a ton of progression content, which really sucks. Progression is why I play. Lack of it is why I ditched my last guild (In spite of them being a great bunch of people! Hi FFJ!). Fortunately, Dissent has social and backup-raider ranks, and so moving out of full-time raiding doesn’t mean they’re gonna ditch me. Probably, anyway.

I’m slowly creeping towards the point of this post, but if you read oneHoTNelf often you’re used to that. Don’t worry, I’ll get there.

Anyway, the start of the month saw my first night sitting out of raid in … A Very Long Time. I even sat in the raid vent channel for a while. I sat outside Naxx. I already miss raiding; but most of all, I miss being directly responsible for guild progression.

“Hang on Alth, you weren’t responsible for guild progression, just involved. Right? Not an officer, not a class leader… Not Responsible.”

Wrong.

In a guild, every raider is responsible for guild progression. Every backup raider who comes in once in a while. Even some of the socials. But particularly the core raiders. Responsible. Directly.

But what IS progression? How does it work? If I’m responsible for it, what do I have to do?

Read on.

Progression: What Is It?

Progression is the thing that moved you on from kara to ZA, or expanded you out into the 25-mans. Progression is that shiny purple you saved your badges for, or that new elixir recipe you picked up which will let guildies get cheaper access to consumables. Progression is farming mats or gold for a new craftable or enchantment. Recruiting a new raider; learning a new strategy; reading a fantastic blog on healing tips (or even just this one).

Some people think that progression is boring, or tedious. Some people think it means wiping over and over on a raid boss for weeks on end. Some people even think it’s something the guild master or officers do; everyone else is just along to hit stuff.

As far as boring tedium: You missed the point. Wiping is not progression. Wiping is just dying and copping a repair bill; it can even be regression (going backwards). If you wipe over and over, people get discouraged. Their gold reserves run lower, as they pay repairs and use up consumables. Wiping over and over simply is not progression. Progression can involve wiping over and over, though, but even this shouldn’t be boring or tedious. Raid bosses are meant to be tough; they’re meant to wipe groups. Some of them are famous for wiping groups; think Shade of Aran in karazhan. I’ve walked in there with 10 people who all sported plenty of T6 and equivalent gear, and wiped from flame wreath. Kael’thas in The Eye (TK). High Astromancer Solarian. Ugh.

I think my favourite progression boss of all time was Illidan. We wiped on phase one, while the mages failed on the shadow-thingys. We wiped on phase two, when the tanks failed on eyebeams. We wiped on phase two when the raid failed the stacking boss. We wiped on phase three, probably for no good reason at all. We went back to wiping on phase two. We saw phase four, and wiped. Phase 5? You guessed it. Wipe. Wipe after wipe after wipe. Shadowfiends in the raid. Healers failing Dark Barrage. Our MT failing the shield-wall boss. Pallies failing the “click on the FR aura button” boss. Flames of Azzinoth leashed. SR tank dead from Shadow Demons. Agonizing Flames. People standing in front of Illidan and healing him way back up. Healer aggro as the encounter started due to an early crit. Ranged pulling aggro from Flames of Azzinoth and running them through the raid. Demons on every single healer who was in range of the SR tank. OMG.

All of this is mechanic wiping; it’s quite aside from wiping because the healing assignments weren’t quite right. FR tanks wearing the wrong gear-set. The SR tank lagging out (goodbye raid!), or … I’ve temporarily run out. The point is, there was a lot of wiping, and it was a lot of fun. It was an intense fight. Run here, stack there, stay behind the boss. Heal that guy, spread out there. Twenty minutes or so of really tough boss-fighting. And then you wiped, and worked out why. Maybe an officer yelled at someone who did something dumb. It was absolutely nuts, and it was SO much fun.

Of course, what would not have been fun is if we wiped, over and over and over, from the mages letting shadowfiends get into the raid. Or if we struggled through phase one over and over, only to have a tank fail on eyebeams every time. That’s not fun, and it’s not progression. It’s just failing.

Progression is about getting somewhere. Sticking with the Illidan example, we were stoked when we made it to phase two. Not much of a challenge, really, but those stupid shadowfiends did get us a couple of times. Phase two was really tough back then, and our FR tanks weren’t exactly over-geared for it: we lost them just to pure damage plenty of times. We had a string of eyebeam failures here and there, which were frustrating, but then we hit phase three, and it was all worth it.

See, this is it. Wiping isn’t fun. Farming for consumables isn’t fun. Having to skip a night of raiding because key players are burned out and just didn’t show isn’t fun. But you know what? You kill that bastard, and it was all worth it. Even just seeing a new phase is great, but the kill is the real accomplishment. There’s that tense moment when Akama runs up to finish him off, and you’re thinking: We did it. Two weeks of wipes, for more reasons than you can count, and this arsehole is finally dead. And there’s no glaive; or the helm you were after didn’t drop. Or maybe it did. But suddenly, you don’t care: Illidan is down. I just saw, and beat, content that most people never will. Well, not before the nerf anyway, but we didn’t know it was coming.

Am I annoyed that just anyone can roll in and kill Illidan now? T6 tokens aren’t even worth DEing? The boss I worked on for so long, nerfed to the point we can skip phase four altogether? What about that I did all that work, and only ever got one bit of gear off him (my token), even though we ended up farming him for ages?

No. You know why? It’s not about the gear. It’s not about being one of the only people on the server to have downed him. It’s not even about being in a sunwell guild.

You know what? All those guilds that suddenly went from 2/5 MH to Illidan down with the nerf missed out on the single best part of the whole thing: The Progression.

The Illidan fight wasn’t about the phat epics. It wasn’t even about the kill. I’ve killed lots of bosses (and I DO mean LOTS), and I’ve picked up lots of epics. Epics are boring. If I want an epic, I’ll go do some solo farming for mats and make one. Or I’ll buy it off the AH. Loot isn’t the point. Killing bosses does nothing for me.

You know what all those guilds who didn’t even see Illidan pre-nerf missed out on? Not the kill, not the epics. Sure, they didn’t wipe over and over. They didn’t spend days on end farming consumables and enchanting mats. But you know what? I had a LOT more fun than they did. They missed out on the progression.

Making It Happen

So now you know what progression IS. You can (hopefully) see why it’s fun. Now you need to know the how.

There are two parts to progression. The leadership, and the participants. Without good leadership (and Dissent has some really excellent leadership), progression won’t happen; at least, not quickly. Further, without the active participation of a great bunch of raiders (again, something Dissent has in spades), you won’t get far either.

From the leadership view, you need organisation and planning. You need a tank leader; his job is not necessarily to do the MTing, but to organise the tanking. To assign jobs to tanks, to (probably) do most of the marking.  You also need a heal leader; somebody to know every healer, his gear level, his spec, and to assign each appropriately to the tanks. Somebody who takes two druids, for example, and assigns one to each tank, probably isn’t right for the job. Ditto to someone who puts the holy pallys on raid heals when there’s lots of splash damage going on.

And of course, you need the overall raid leader. The guy (or gal) who sets times, who picks the content, and unfortunately, the guy who shouts at people for doing dumb stuff in general. This person needs to have great raid awareness, and a good set of mods (to catch that damn mage who WON’T switch to the adds when it’s called). Perhaps the best asset for a raid leader, however, is a good sense of what’s going on in boss encounters. Dissent’s raid (and guild) leader is a self-confessed sub-par healer (although much less sub-par at healing than I am at dpsing), and yet I’ve seen him run up the back of a raid to work out what was going wrong in the healing. And then, not just run around, but find and fix the problem. I’ve seen him take a tough encounter (like Illidan), toss out the boss-killers script, and come up with Dissent’s strategy.

Aside from leadership, though, the other key part of the equation is the raid group itself. Whether you have a fixed group of raiders, a core with a bunch of socials subbing in, or something else, your raiders are the crucial second part of progression. This is why, whoever you are, if you’re in a raiding guild: progression is up to you.

Your job, as a core raider, as a reserve, even as a social, is to progress the guild, and everyone in it. Your contribution will depend on your commitment to the guild, and how much time you have, however here are a few things you can do:

  • Grab recipes for your crafting profession, and make sure guildies have access to them. Enchanters, jewelcrafters, and alchemists have a particular role here, but leatherworkers and blacksmiths can both create gear that can be useful, particularly early in your progression.
  • Farm mats and pop them in the guild bank. If you can create raid consumables, even better! If you have a recipe for something the guild goes through, but can’t farm mats for it, talk to the guild leader about having the guild bank provide mats or buy them from the AH.
  • Run heroics! Until you’ve been farming higher-end content for a while, there will be raiders who can find upgrades in heroics, or from badges. If you’re fully geared, go along on heroics to help out raiders who haven’t been so lucky with gear. If you’re a social, help fill in spots that aren’t full. Hey, take the socials along anyway! The social you leave out of a heroic today because he’s undergeared might be the one you need to come help heal through Patchwerk tomorrow.
  • Read (or write) a blog, or a guide on your guild forums. Help a less-experienced guildie pick the right gear, or enchants, or talents. Generally learn about your character, or help teach other people about theirs (only if you do really know though). Don’t be the guy who always has an opinion, even if it’s wrong: Wrong advice hurts progression. Telling a pally tank to to skip Judgements of the Just is bad.

There are all sorts of things you can do to help the guild in general. The other thing you need to focus on, though, is yourself. Your talent spec, your gear, your gems and enchants. Your glyphs. Your addons. YOUR playstyle. Directly responsible for raid progression, like I said.

Know your hit cap, defense cap, expertise cap, whatever’s relevant to your class and spec. Check out different addons, and learn to write macros. Look at every glyph for your class, work out what you want, and then get a second opinion. That Glyph of Healing Touch sounded cool for a minute, but have you wondered why they sell for next to nothing on the AH? Have you asked around, read different sites? Done your own analysis maybe?

I still think Replenish is a total waste of talent points. It would hardly be worth taking if it were free. Yet I still see druids with it, and missing some much more crucial talents.

Know what attributes benefit you. Boomkins stack crit and int, trees stack spirit and SP. Don’t just grab whatever gear; make sure it’s a real upgrade.

Remember: Guild Progression is up to YOU.

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