Is it time to stop raiding?

Lately a quiet but persistent thought has been rattling around in the back of my brain: What would this game be like for me if I quit raiding? If you had told me as recently as 6 months ago that I could ever harbor such a thought, I would have advised you to adjust your meds. But now? I’m not so sure.

As many of you may know, I am not a hard-core raider, never have been, never want to be. Until the first part of this year, I raided with teams that tended to be somewhere in my server’s top 20-40 range for progression, mainly social raiders who liked to excel, but who also had a good grip on life’s priorities. These teams tended to raid twice a week, about 2 hours a night, so progression was often slow, and it got slower after the introduction of flex style raiding but more about that in a minute.

What I always enjoyed most about this kind of raiding was the fun you could have when you really jelled as a core team. You knew each other’s strengths and weaknesses, you knew who you could depend on absolutely and who you might want to watch, you could gently rib each other without fear of starting drama, you had such well-known “in” jokes that even just a single word could generate gales of laughter. You could see individuals improving every week, and settling in to their class, spec, and role.  And if, in the process of this coming together, you also got some nice gear and very minor guild bragging rights, so much the better. You were a group of friends working smoothly and harmoniously towards a common goal, and really it doesn’t get any better than that. This is the reason I raid.

But somewhere near the end of Mists, at least for me, these kinds of teams started to disappear. It is true that some people just lost interest as that last raid tier dragged on and on, but I place most of the blame on the introduction of flex style raiding. Flex teams seemed at first to be a brilliant idea — and they have many advantages — but I think in hindsight they had a significantly bad effect on raiding as a whole.

Flex teams were a kind of social oil, because they meant that you no longer had to make those unpleasant decisions about which players that week were in spots 11, 12, 13, etc., and therefore had to ride the bench. This seemed like a great thing especially for social and casual raiding guilds, because benching someone frequently led to drama. If you had more than 10 raid-ready guildies but less than enough for a second team, flex raiding was a great solution. If you wanted to try someone out but didn’t want to bench a regular in order to do it, flex raiding was the answer.

Or so it seemed. One of my teams made the mistake of combining progression with flex, and it was a disaster. Having a team of unstable composition made progression slow to a crawl. There was always that one new person who would wipe us several times before they learned the mechanic — nothing that the core team had not also done at the beginning, but it was frustrating to have to suffer through someone learning it week after week. The difficulty changed as the flex numbers fluctuated — a good thing in principle, but hard to manage when it changes every time you raid. People still had to be turned away, because often we had several DPS who wanted to come along but we couldn’t find another healer to compensate for the added players. We had cherry-pickers who would wait until it seemed like we were set to down a major boss that night, and only then would they ask to come along. This was before personal loot, so inevitably it seemed that they then proceeded to win the gear, a real poke in the eye to those who had spent a lot of gold on repair bills over the weeks to get to the point of downing the boss. Worst of all, the core team started to drift away, thinking it was no big deal to be an unscheduled no-show, because there were enough for a team anyway.

Clearly, the Raid Leader could have prevented a lot of these problems with some policy changes, but the point is that many guild raid teams were unprepared for the negative consequences of flex, focusing solely on the benefits. By the time they realized the problem, it was almost too late to salvage a decent progression team. Other teams dealt with it better. For example, my other team designated one night a week progression night, and it was for an established core team. The other night was flex night, doing bosses we were comfortable with for new people and alts, with some core members picking up the slack as necessary. It slowed progression, but was a decent compromise.

When WoD went live, most guilds continued on with whatever methods they had established before the expansion. But WoD very quickly introduced a new wrinkle: disinterest. Three months into the xpac — by mid-February of this year — many teams were struggling to find even 10 players for a raid. Some routinely went to Raid Finder to augment the guild teams, some tried to merge teams with another guild, some tried other creative solutions. But with fewer and fewer people bothering to log on, or logging on only to do some quick garrison chores on each alt, many casual raid teams simply died on the vine.

Patch 6.2 brought some people back, but at least in my experience has not made a difference for raiding. My guild team has not scheduled a raid night since March. These days if I want to raid I have to try and join a pug alone — a frustrating experience in and of itself — or group up with one or two guildies to find a pug. Even if we were to start guild raiding again, the likelihood is that every raid night would see a different team composition. This is much better than a pug, because our RL is excellent and a known quantity, but it is not the sort of raiding that drew me to the activity in the first place.

So if the reason I love raiding has vanished, why do I keep doing it?

Good question. Unfortunately, I think the answer is “Out of habit,” which I have never thought is a good answer to any question.

Think of all the annoying things I could stop doing — and the fun things I could start doing — if I quit raiding. No more need to pursue the legendary ring, which means no need to deal with LFR or with that ridiculous shipyard or whatever other hoops we will be forced to jump through for it. No more need to equip alts so that I can provide backup roles for the team. No more hopping hunter specs because Blizz can’t figure out how to construct a decent Survival spec. No more “hafta’s” at all, only “wanta’s.” No more mats chase to provide myself and the raid with flasks, gems, enchants, crafted gear — I can make those things as I want to for sale or for giving away or for myself, on my schedule. If I want to spend a month trying out new classes and new servers, even new guilds, even new games (!), no problem, I will not be shirking my duty to be well prepared for raid.

The more I think about it, the more I think this might be the way for me to deal with this entire horrible xpac — just ignore it, pretend it never happened, skip the endgame part of it and hold out for the next expansion.

I haven’t made the decision yet, but I think I am getting closer.

About Fiannor
I have a day job but escape by playing WoW. I love playing a hunter, and my Lake Wobegonian goal is to become "above average" at it.

10 Responses to Is it time to stop raiding?

  1. TheGrumpyElf says:

    I could swear when I started reading this it was as if I had written it. It wasn’t until a few paragraphs down that I realized it was not me talking.

    I too have been thinking of quitting raiding and wondering if there would be anything left for me if I did. I’ve not been into raiding for a while now and I really do not want to be raid leader anymore, been doing it since wrath, and you can tell this expansion I do not have my heart in it any more. Flex raiding killed me. I thought it would be a boon, but it sucks. Add that to the fact that I will never again be able to raid at the difficulty level I was raiding which is now mythic, because I would rather small groups and tack on the fact small groups in flex are being penalized for not being big groups and I wonder, what is left for me in raiding? Nothing.

    Honestly, I think if I ever stopped raiding I would eventually quit. There is not enough in game outside of it to warrant a subscription fee. Heck, outside of raiding I do not think there is enough in game to warrant the box fee. Add that up with I do not feel any of the social connection I used to, at least not any new ones, and there is little keeping me in game except raiding.

    • Fiannor says:

      Yeah, the thought that maybe there would be nothing left for me in the game if I quit raiding is what has kept me from doing it so far. Like you, I fear it would be the end of the game for me.

      But I wonder how much of my fear is an ego thing induced by Blizz, because with each expansion they send stronger and stronger messages to the player base that WoW=Raiding, and if you are not a raider you really don’t count. And it is undeniably true that over the last couple of expansions the game has become less welcoming to individual play styles. But I think there may yet be some fun left for me without raiding in spite of all that.

      I know I never lost interest in Mists, even at the end when everyone else was bored, because I found I had the freedom to set my own goals and pursue them in my own way and in my own time. It was very liberating for me. I don’t usually go after achievements when content is current, it seems too confining for me. But I like doing many of them if I can take my time, if I don’t have to squeeze them in between “mandatory” weekly LFR runs for this or that token. That is just one example of what I might find to do.

      I think if I do quit raiding, it would only be for the rest of this expansion. If I am still playing the game next expansion — if there is one — I will probably try to go back to it. But like I said, still deciding.

  2. Grumsta says:

    I only started playing and raiding in MoP and I missed out on the Curve by a few days: our progression team was almost there, but not quite. I tried other more active “hardcore” raid teams but I’m just not good enough to pick mechanics up quickly, got benched, didn’t learn mechanics, never improved.

    So I’m probably the ideal player type to benefit from flex raiding. Sadly my first experience with WoD raiding was disappointment. I love the first boss in Highmaul, it’s fun. The Butcher I thought was “meh”, just dps while line-dancing. Brankerspore stopped me raiding and I cancelled my subscription for 2 months, I hated it so much. It wasn’t just that one boss: the whole 6.0 “immersive” experience of Garrisonville, no flying, professions being trashed, I just ended up feeling like the whole thing was a chore, a second job that I “had” to do when I got home. [My plan was to play Elite:Dangerous but it never came out for the Mac when it should have. In hindsght I’m glad.]

    I loved levelling up to 100 in WoD, it was a genuine pleasure. I thought the quests were well thought-out, and there was less “run to A, back to B, run back to A, back to B, rinse & repeat”, most had a nice linear flow. My favourite character in MoP was my Fire mage (no sniggering at the back there) which went from OK in 5.4 to OP when 6.0 (my brief top-of-the-dps-charts moment of fame). At the start of WoD he was great fun to play, but as he levelled up he got weaker and weaker. By the time I hit 100 I was really struggling, and I couldn’t get him through the Silver Proving Grounds until in 6.1 I switched him to Arcane mage, learned the new rotation and got through easily. [So I feel your pain re Survival Hunters getting trashed]

    My Marksman Hunter Panda (that I rolled in 6.0 solely to get the Panda mounts but enjoyed playing so I stuck with him) was the next character I took to 100. It was so easy. I was one-shotting veitually everything, it was a joke after my struggle with my poor Fire mage. So he was the character I raided with. He does fair dps (held back by my poor raid awareness which usually sees me running around like a headless chicken and/or dying). But I got sick of playing him, I got all the crappy jobs which made it even harder for me to learn the raid, and it sucked any last shred of fun out of raiding because I put myself under pressure, especially when I know I should be doing better.

    I got back into the game by ignoring WoD completely (other than minimum dailies for mats) and doing old content I’d never had time to do when I was learnign the game and MoP. I loved it! I got Loremaster achievement, started to get a few reps and even took up pet battling and enjoyed it (up to a point – it was a change but it quickly got stale).

    By this time BRF had been released and my raid leader asked me to bring my hunter along as they were having issues getting 10 players to turn up, and she thought it was more my cup of tea. And I really enjoy BRF, the machanics aren’t as stupid as the early Highmaul bosses which put me off. We progressed to BRF heroic (we’re at 5 bosses down and trying to do one raid per week with well-geared alts to move it forward now HFC is out, so my Arcane Mage is back in action).

    Our guild has had a very patchy history, it was pretty much dead at the end of 5.4 because no-one wanted to raid and we had to join forces with another guild to even get 10 players. In 6.0 it really took off, but we suffered with player churn and burnout, losing our better players (sometime only in their eyes) to more hardcore raid teams. Sometimes the grass wasn’t greener and they came back, but it really hurt building a stable core team and learning ever more complex raid mechanics together.

    [Sorry, I appear to have a lot to get off my chest, this was only going to be a quick reply].

    I have mixed feelings about the impact of flex. Without it I would have been benched or even kicked before I learned new bosses and mechanics. But with it our guild has been able to keep a core of 7-8 players who you can rely on to turn up every raid, or at least let the RL know well in advance if they can’t make it). The rest we just try to accomodate on the night. We’re lucky to have 3 superb tanks in our guild, 2 or whom have good heal or dps off-specs, and 6 good healers or whom 2 have good dps off-specs. So as long as 10 – 20 players turn up (yes, it really varies by that much) we can form a raid team.

    We should start raiding at 1930, but we rarely actually start much before 2000 because people keep turning up as we’re forming the team, meaning players are swapping specs or even characters to balance things out. Then after a couple of pulls (successful or otherwise) someone will leave, or others who hadn’t even signed up will want to join in.

    I am not good enough to be a raid leader, I don’t envy those who do it, and I wonder at their patience most nights. Flex doesn’t give them a game-mechanic reason to turn anyone away (“you’re too late, you missed your slot”, they have to be hard-asses to say “no” to anyone. And we’re a friendly guild, and heck this is just a game, so why be like that?

    So without flex raiding we wouldn’t raid as often as we do, but conversely I get the feeling that because of it the raiding experience suffers: it’s frustrating as players flitter in and out of the raid, it makes it hard to get a proper team of players who know each others’ characters’ strengths and can work together to down bosses. I find the raid and boss mechanics extremely challenging in WoD and trying to overcome them whilst herding cats is not much fun.

    On Monday we dipped our toes into HFC normal. 25 players turned up. Hmmm. We got the first “boss” down on the first attempt, and then wiped on the second boss (I was awful, I just couldn’t seem to get out of the way of mechanics I knew were coming). Then players started to drop away, and at 2200 and big block all bailed. We were down to 16 players, and we breezed it. It was an odd moment, combined elation, relief, bafflement and suspicion. Were we carrying baggage, or did the raid machanics scale better for 16 players than for 25? Both are likely possibilities.

    Last night we had a fresh start. There was an “admin error” by a GM which meant some people thought the raid had been cancelled, but the regular raiders all turned up anyway to see if we could get something going and yes, the raid was going ahead as normal, sorry about that. So we had our core of 16 players and it allwent so much smoother. I was still alive at the end of each boss down (we got three: the first 2 plus the Council – a fight I adore).

    In summary: there is no substitute for a strong, stable raid team. When it works well flex will help you get there: you can invite someone along to try them out without having to bench a regular. When the unexpected happens it makes substituting much easier. But as you guys have said it does seem to encourage sloppy behaviour from non-commited players, and puts RLs in a position of being seen as a hard-ass if they try to clamp down on it. Ever more complex raid mechanics mean pug and loose flex groups are at a massive disadvantage, and when social progression teams struggle to learn and progress the better players leave which exacerbates the problem.

    But in the end, raiding isn’t the part of the game that I think is broken. Get rid of Garrisonville and its satanic off-spring Galleonville, let us play the game instead of having to do a second job for an hour every night when we get back from the one that pays us, and then I can focus all my energy into becoming a better raider which is how I remember MoP.

    • Fiannor says:

      Your experiences highlight the double edged sword that flex is. You got your start raiding because of it, and if handled correctly it can be a boon to raid teams that are already strong. Unfortunately, in my experience, you are an uncommon player because you actively seek improvement and also have a realistic grasp of your abilities and game goals. A player like you would have found a place on a raid team with or without flex, I think, although without flex it may have taken a bit longer.

      But I think you put your finger on the key to making flex work — a strong, stable core team with a RL unafraid to protect the viability of that team even if it means saying no to drop-ins. Very few teams and RL’s are in this position. There is a place for what I like to call guild pugs — they can be a lot of fun — but that place is not progression. Unfortunately, as Grumpy points out, the current raid tier is tuned in such a way as to penalize small groups, and if your core team is small there is no choice but to rotate in drop-ins every week.

  3. Anonymous says:

    in and of itself

  4. Lurking reader says:

    I think I’ve mentioned before that I was never a raider. Until LFR came along I think I had only ever been in 1 or 2 raids and that was well after they were current. Like 20-25 levels later. I’ve never done anything with Flex to my knowledge. Maybe I got in one when I was trying to get the Garrosh heirloom?

    It always bothered me that the main story was locked in raids. Now, don’t get me wrong, most of the time it does actually make sense. The BIG BAD should be dangerous and need multiple people to take down or else they aren’t much of a threat. But as someone that finds story to a game important, it drove me crazy that I never really got to see what the main plot of each expansion was, or at least not until the next expansion came out. LFR doesn’t help a lot with this because people steamroll through everything there is never anytime to stop and look at the scenery. The same is true of the dungeon finder.

    I’ve rambled away from my point..sorry

    You, Grumpy, and Grumsta all had interesting things to stay on raiding. I hope that if you do take a hiatus that you find something else fun to do in game. It seems like you know that and maybe this break will give you perspective on what you love about raiding and what you don’t, so that when you do go back to it you can get more of out of it?

    Most importantly, I wanted to say that I love someone else actually using “in and of itself” correctly. 🙂

    And that’s me above…I had a problem with my browser. What a day.

    • Fiannor says:

      Aha!! I knew it, you are a closet grammarian!

      I’m sure much of my current dissatisfaction with raiding has to do with just not having found the right fit yet for a team. I know there are guilds on my server actively raiding, I just happen to have gotten into guilds that have been unable to weather the WoD Storm. If the guild is on shaky ground, the raid team will be, too. If I do stop raiding, I will leave my current guild, and I will take my time about finding another.

  5. I’m loving Raiding. I am also really enjoying the Tanaan Jungle; I like exploring and discovering, especially stumbling on a legendary pet battler … just … right … there.
    The Shipyard is fun and challenging; they’ve given us plenty of tools to go as min/max as we want or to simply not worry about it.
    Our normal raid team is four bosses deep in HFC and we feel fairly proud.
    But: this is why I add — our group has several people who joined us from the Pug-finder who shared tags and want to come again. They are becoming comrades in arms. Our healers and tanks are interchangeable, so we mostly just want some extra DPS for company.

    • Meaning … you could do this too.

      • Fiannor says:

        Yes, I caught your meaning, but honestly the pain involved in the current pug finder is too great. From the side of the raid leader, it is a good tool and can often result in just the situation you describe. But from the side of the player looking for a group, you have to go through hours of rejections just to get into one group, and even then it is a long shot to it being a group looking for a more permanent arrangement.

        Try listing yourself — especially as a DPS — in the Group Finder for a heroic sometime and you will see what I mean.

%d bloggers like this: