Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Setting A Gear Limit: The Easy Way Out?

One of my alliance-mates, commenter, and fellow Harry Potter enthusiast shot me a good writing prompt yesterday. Here's what she wrote:

Here is an interesting question you might want to address (Wow, look at me giving you prompts!). Should casual guilds/alliances have absolute gear requirements for raids? Such as Ulduar, or even Eye of Eternity? For example, should we require anyone who wants to raid Ulduar to have the "Superior" achievement, or all items item level 200+ (and make exceptions for things like trinkets maybe? hmm.) This is something I've been thinking about lately, as we get closer to Ulduar. Plus, a few of us tried to do EoE over the weekend, and it went very badly.

This is an interesting question, indeed. When is it okay or even expected to have "gear requirements"? I think traditionally this is seen as a "hardcore" approach to raiding, but with the increased accessibility of the WotLK raids, it is likely a question some "casual" guilds are asking themselves. I think the answer to this question is really two-fold.

The first question we'd need to answer is:

What does requiring a certain gear level really do for you?

If we're going to entertain the idea of introducing a gear requirement for our raids, it's only logical that you first identify the benefit of doing so. On the surface, this is simple: you need to have certain gear to be successful at a certain level of raiding. That is to say, you certainly can't walk into EoE with quest blues and greens and expect to do anything other than fall flat on your face. However, where would you draw the line?

You see, it's been my experience that there are players who "outperform" their gear. I think we've all been in a group with some guy who we inspect and see... ew, this guy's a noob. Then they proceed to beat the guy decked out in purples of the same class. Or you are getting your butt kicked on the charts by another guy and think, well he's obviously over geared. Then you inspect them and fell bad about yourself for a week before vowing to change your spec/class/playstyle. Whatever the case may be, these folks just surprise you with their ability to perform in low quality gear.

On the flip side, you have folks who are epic'ed out and can't beat the tanks on the DPS charts. We've all seen that guy too and just shake our heads in frustration. Especially when you point them to several very good resources and they appear to have the temperament of an angry mule (yes, that is a veiled way of calling them an 'asshat').

The problem here arises that if you were to draw a "line" based on success, you'd have to draw two different lines. How does one take skill into account here? For me, this is the first thing that sort of breaks gear requirements. You're going to really have to make a judgement call based on player skill anyways. So, what are you really gaining? I suppose in the case of our casual guild, it gives us a non-offensive way of denying people who don't belong in the raid. If someone tells you that you're not "good enough", well that sucks and can make for some drama. However, if you just say "your gear isn't good enough", well then, that seems to be a lot easier to accept and correct than "your skill isn't good enough". So basically, you're really just gaining an "out" as a raid leader or making the decision easier.

The second question we need to ask ourselves is:

Is such a rule helpful or even appropriate for a "casual" guild/alliance?

The reason that this is the second question is because you really have to be aware of what the rule means for you before you can decide if its helpful or not.

For our alliance, and I would imagine many other casual raiders, the roster is developed on a "first come, first served" basis. That is to say, we don't have a core team, it's just who's available. This isn't to say you can't have a core team and still be "casual", because I know several people who pull this off (Abi over at kungaloosh is a great example of this. I think he'd definitely tell you his folks are casual, but they had basically the same people every week and tried to keep a consistent "team". This worked really well for them, but certainly would not for my neck of the woods. We just can't get people to commit like he can). Long parenthetical remark aside, the FCFS-basis means that you can't really pick and choose who you want. Therefore, it may well mean that having an "out" is a very good thing for you. As long as your membership is okay with being told "no", it's certainly not going to hurt you a lot. After all, the better gear you have in general, the better your chances of success in any instance.

In my particular situation, however, I don't think we need to go so far as to define a specific limit. It's not that we can't or shouldn't tell people they need better gear to join a certain run, but more that we should avoid painting ourselves into that corner. You see, as soon as you define that line, then it is defined. I know, defined line is defined. Duh, right? But think about that for a moment and I think you'll get what I'm saying.

As long as you're semi-nebulous about the gear limits, you can gracefully reject those that may need more gear than others. There's even a good way to go about doing this by saying things like "you may struggle with your gear in here and it would probably be a good idea to gear up before trying this run." Our people would hear that and say: "Okay, cool, I'll work on that." The only way you may get in trouble is if you let one person in and then deny another who happens to inspect or go out of their way to examine the gear of the other person and try to "call you on it". I say, in that situation, you're well within your right to say: "Look, this person just puts out better numbers than you." Or something along those lines. After all, they asked for it by not just taking the hint.

The point here is that we have wiggle room, and that's generally a good thing in a casual guild as long as you don't abuse it. I think most of our members realize that as a raid leader, my goal is to give us the best chance of success. This isn't some ninja-looting PuG team where you gotta watch your back. They're pretty confident that I'm not trying to play favorites about something when it's not in the best interests of success. It's sort of how we roll as a group.

In general and outside of my situation, I think that unless you're willing to go full "hardcore", it will serve your group better to have more wiggle room. This allows raid leaders to make decisions based on numerous inputs. Instead of setting a limit for each individual player, it's much better to look at the capability of the the group over all. Thus you have to take into account the gear and skill of your players, and make a decision for success. It also helps if you can explain and stick by your decision. Sometimes it may be very difficult to do, but if you're a respected leader, most folks will respect your decision and not get too bent out of shape, especially if you can explain to them what they can do to make themselves better.

For tanks, you really need a certain amount of gear to live. It's up to a RL to have a general idea of what this is. For DPS and healers, it's probably more indicative to look at the numbers they put out than the gear they wear. However, you have to take care to remember all the other factors as well. Like how mana-efficient a healer is or how good your DPS is at CC or whatever other skills might be needed for success. A decision based on all of the information will beat an arbitrary line any day of the week.

The Short Version

The wiggle room you gain by not setting hard limit can definitely work in your favor when you use it correctly, and will probably end up resulting in more long-term success. Setting a gear requirement is an easy way to help ensure a certain amount of success and selectivity. However, it is my opinion that it is most definitely not the best way to go about it. For my groups, I'd just prefer that we are honest with our members when we're putting together a raid and deal with it case-by-case based on what that night's needs are. I think in the long term, we'll see more content and have more fun, which are the goals our alliance was founded on.


  1. As a tank, I know that the better my gear is, the easier the healers will have to keep me up leaving them some room to do other things for the raid. It is my job to not only have the best gear avalible to me but to make sure that they are properly enchanted, gemmed, and have the proper stats to make me, as a tank, sucessful. I also make sure that I have flaskes & food for every raiding occasion. Yes, you might say that you arent a cook or that enchant is too expensive. Welp, then you are setting yourself up to stuggle to push the numbers, to stay a live longer, or generally have an easier time within the raiding experience. It really upsets me to know that I've put a ton of work into my gear & rotation to find out that we cant down that boss because our DPS is failing or our healer isnt paying attention.

    When I inspect you, I see empty gem slots, no enchants and you didnt even bother to bring reagents for your toon. Sorry bout cha buddy.

    I know that we arent hardcore but seriously, if you dont come prepared then be prepared to not come.

    /bitch off

  2. Fair enough but I think you're mixing issues here sweetheart. Coming prepared to a raid is a whole different ball of worms... can of wax... w/e from what I'm talking about.

    I'm just focusing on the pros/cons of a gear limit rule, not gauging the level of preparation needed for success. That's a whole 'nother post.

    In a way, that supports my point... you can't just rely on a "gear limit" to tell you all you need to know about someone. You can't tell by inspecting if they have food and flasks for instance. A "good" player is prepared, so as a RL, I try to pick "good" players when I'm given a choice and that's really only partially shown by gear. That's really my point.

  3. I do agree with you that you cannot weed out the good players from the bad players based soley (sp?) on their gear.

    I also agree with you that it would not be in our best interest to have a hard rule to what cuts a player from the raid.

    So, with this in mind, what WOULD cut someone from our raid?

    - You must beat the tank in DPS?
    - You must out heal the tank ( I kid you not, I've done this more than you could imagine)
    - You must have your talent points spent? (doesn't matter where but as long as you arent entering a raiding environment "Un-talented")
    - You must be wearing clothing? (I know... I take the fun out of it)
    - You must not heal in your fishing hat (love you jess)
    - Your awesomeness must be fleeting?

    As a raider, I should know when I step into a raiding enviornment, what is exceptible. If it's not, how long will I last? What's not to say that if I walk in, am dead most of the time (as in my own fault) will I continue to stay in the raid regardless of my behavior?

    Most people want to avoid as much drama as possible when it comes to dealing with raiding. I feel that after you know that their gear is subpar, they have no enchants, do you really wanna wait until they drop the Mutigen injection at the foot of the healers?

    I might be a mean cuss but I wanna enjoy raiding with my friends and if this noobie comes in & makes it frustrating for everyone bacause of his inablilty to learn, should we have to put up with him because we dont wanna be the "bad guys"?

    As you all can tell this topic is a big pet peeve of mine :(

  4. Not sure that I would agree on an absolute gear limit for a raid that wasnt "harcore" but especially looking at EoE and Ulduar there ar some basic requirements that pretty much have to be met.

    Tanks: Hit Cap (obv)

    Others: Raid Buffed 19K HP (really 20K would be better)

    In both EoE and Ulduar there is a lot of unavoidable AoE and single target damage on raid members. So while it is possible to complete a lot of those fights with only 17 or 18K Health it will put a much higher strain on the healers and no matter how much above your gear you may play being dead = 0 dps/ 0hps.

    The second issue to consider for tanks is if they are relatively undergeared to the rest of the raid that can create a lot of aggro issues not matter how good a player they are.

    I guess my main point is that while we all know that gear does not equal skill it is hard to overcome more than 20-30 gear ilvls on skill alone. So I would say in general it is perfectly reasonable and frankly advisible to set a gear limit at ilvl200 average for Ulduar 25 man.

  5. @Chris - My arguement would be why don't you just set the limits to what you mean then? I.E. when you're talking about benchmarks like hit rating and health pool. Instead of saying avg ilvl, just say you need this much hit and this much health. Or make it even simpler and say: "You have to not die to this attack in one shot" if its something important like that for a specific fight or what have you. Either way, setting an "ilvl" limit is just an easier, simpler way of what an RL should be able to do in the first place: know what it takes to succeed.

    My main point of the article isn't that a gear limit is neccessarily bad or not useful... it just needs to be coupled with knowledge and understanding for those times when you may be able to "bend" the rules and be successful.

    @Fuu - I'll shorten the Tiger Woods analogy I emailed you for reproduction here to round out my thoughts on the matter.

    Basically, if you're forming a golf team and you have a choice btw Tiger with dollar general clubs and me with really expensive clubs, I'd hope you still choose Tiger because he'd kick my ass. However, if Tiger is sporting a putter without a head and I have a full set of clubs, it might be advisable to take me since playing golf with a short metal stick would probably hurt his game substantially to the point of being "dead weight". Not that I'm anywhere close to Tiger's skill, but just to illustrate a point. In both of those scenarios, a "dollar level limit" on clubs wouldn't work. You have to use your knowledge of the people and the game to judge.

    Now, if you have no idea who Tiger Woods is (or how well I play golf) and you have to choose between him and me, it'd be simple to use a "dollar level limit" since you have no idea what you're choosing between. It wouldn't neccessarily be bad, because I may still be decent with my good clubs, but you did just miss out on Tiger. Still, you may never know you missed out on a Tiger, so big deal, right?

    Like I said in the email, you're trying to tell me what brand name of clubs to use, which type of balls, and making sure you have the appropriate number of each before you play. That's certainly important to the game of golf, but it's really a whole different discussion.

    In short, I don't think its good set a "hard" rule to define who goes and who stays... you just have to use your brain. The only real reason would be to make the decision easier, certainly not "better".

  6. I look at someone's gear as an indication of how much work they've put into their character. This is not to say purples > all.

    A character with mostly level 78 quest greens and blues, a pvp trinket and 2 heroic naxx items will instantly make me think of a slacker who leeched off a group that went into Naxx.

    A character with a whole assortment of level 80 dungeon blue items, a couple crafted epics and a rep piece of two, on the other hand, instantly makes me think as someone willing to put work and effort into their character but who may not have had the chance to run in raids yet due to his lack of gear.

    In my guild (we're a 10man guild, 12/14 Uld), we definitely value work ethic over immediate gear. If someone comes to us with full tier 8, we'll probably ask them why they'd want to join us since we're barely on the edge of having 12 Ulduar bosses on farm. If someone comes with bad greens, we'll tell them to go prove they have the work ethic first. If someone like I just described came to us, we'd invite them to join us for a 10/25 Naxx run on an off night, and see how they do.

    Final point, if we were a hardcore progression guild, we would not accept anyone who was not geared out. While they may be wonderful players, it needs to be backed up by achievements and gear to get into our theoretical guild that is working on Yogg hard mode. We don't have time to test someone out in Naxx and to gear them up. They need to have shown that they've already experienced and worked through it all.

  7. @Iatus - Definitely. The key thing there is that you don't just tell someone in greens or what not to go fly a kite, but you reserve judgement until you see the player behind the gear. Sure you can make an initial judgement, but a "hard" rule of completely "in" or "out" means you may miss out on good players.

    Hardcore guilds do this sort of thing out of neccessity, not because they always make the best decisions. They just cut through the crap to a simple decision based on a concrete number. It's not ideal but it works for their goals.

    Sometimes even the hardcore guilds do "off night" runs for the purpose of finding untapped talent too as well. That's just usually a small portion of their time, whereas casual guilds are constantly plugging roster holes.

  8. Also, healers who wear their fishing hats at raids are all FAIL.

    I could turn on my helm so that others could see it but seriously, who wants to miss out on seeing my gorgeous dwarven face and my sexy Sarah Palin hairstyle AMIRITE?


  9. Saying "you should really pay attention to the player skill, it is more important than the gear" is in and of itself a cop-out comment. Duh. That is, and should be, assumed. Of course the ability and skill of the player is the most important thing. Now that we've gotten all the feel-good group hugging out of the way, let's discuss some cold hard facts.

    Setting low minimum requirements (i.e. mostly iLvl 200+ or similar) of some form for the post-Naxx raiding world is in response to the actual basic requirements Blizzard has started implementing in their game development. They have designed Ulduar based on fundamental assumptions about the gear and raid makeup of someone coming in. First fight in Ulduar, your vehicle's health is based on the iLvl of your gear. The designers have stated that Ulduar is designed with the assumption raids will have "replenishment" buff. Thus they redesigned so many classes in the Ulduar patch. 10 man EoE vortex does 20k damage, and it is very tricky for certain classes to heal that damage.

    Naxx 25 man essentially requires 2 priests. Can you do it without 2 priests? You can, and people have done it. Is it a practical expectation to regularly go at Razuvious with no priests? Not really.

    Setting a rule of thumb for gear requirements, or heath pool requirements, whatever it may be, is not necessarily a cop out. It's realistic. Perhaps I have a different perspective as a healer. While all of you DPSers are out there pewpewing with cheeky little grins, and cackling wildly at your numbers on recount (this is totally what I picture you doing in Naxx, Ful), I'm over here trying to keep that dumbass "I don't need omen, that's stupid" mage alive. While I'm wasting my mana keeping super 12k health mage alive, Fuubaar drops dead. Generally I care a helluva lot more about Fuubaar staying alive than the stinky little gnome mage who is being stupid (and this is a fundamental job of healers, to prioritize), but i always love the vent comments that consist of "Oh, nice job healers. GAWD". pewpew Mage decided crit strike rating was way more important than any stamina because OMG DPS.

    As of late, we have more people bringing their less geared alts to Naxx. Our struggles with Naxx aren't related to gear so much as knowing the fight and speed, so this really hasn't been a problem, IMO. While it does suck that someone who has been grinding Naxx for three months loses a need roll to Mage alt dude who just hit 80 2 days ago, whatever. Others certainly care, and I don't blame them, but I don't care, because it's Naxx.

    However, when we hit Ulduar, it will matter when we're tearing our hair out trying to learn new fights, and really progress. If you don't have the gear, then you likely do not have the health. If you have the skill and experience, then you can avoid a lot of damage in the first place. But AoE raid damage that cannot be avoided? It doesn't matter if you are super-skilled. If you do not have the health, then I am wasting other people's lives trying to keep you alive. So fine - I prioritize differently, heal someone else, and you die. And whatever DPS you might have been able to bring to the table now = 0. You die, we don't have enough dps, the whole raid wipes, and we all add another 10g to our repair bill. This is more of an issue for 10 mans than 25 mans, IMO.

    While having some "basic minimum requirements" of your healers isnt a bad idea, some healers are built to mitigate damage, not to throw out big heals, so healing meters aren’t very helpful. I imagine tanks are similar: some are probably built to take big hits, while others are designed to avoid those hits altogether.

    I'm concerned about iLvl for the Flame Leviathon fight, but aside from that, i just want DPSers to have a decent amount of health and DPS. I want healers to have a large enough mana pool, and mana regen. And tanks should be... whatever Fuubaar says. I keep them alive, i don't pay attention to what they do. :X All I know is that Jbelle's comment is even bitchier than Fuub's. Poor Ful.


  10. lol i love strong women ;-).

    Two rebuttals. First of all, Flame Leviathon is the new Loot Reaver and a joke. You can easily hide sub-par geared folks in that fight. You need to have some good geared folks, but that's always the case.

    Second, I'm NOT rehashing the old "feel good" argument you claim I am. I'm trying to point out (perhaps poorly) that if you were to draw an "ilvl" line, it would be inherently different for players of different skill levels. Some mages can get by with 12k health without taxing you in the slightest as a healer (they'd have to be really good, but we've played with whiz kids like that...). Others would tax you even if they had 40k health. Setting an arbitrary level line is certainly an easy way to make sure "mage alt dude" doesn't gear up on your repair dime, but it's hardly the best way to choose your team memebers. My post was attempting to explain this. You just have to know the player, the class, the gear... the GAME. There is no substitution for knowledge, and any gear level rule would be like an "idiot's guide" to raiding IMO. Ideally, the RL should just know if the person is going to be dead weight or not by, get this, knowing what the hell he's doing... not following some line in the sand that changes everytime Blizz blows hard (which they do a lot).

    Personally, I lean a lot more hardcore than our group of friends and don't mind strict rules because I'll get myself above them come hell or high water if I want to raid. It's just not what the alliance is all about. I certainly wouldn't mind such a rule personally, but lets call it what it is: a Crutch for the RL (or whoever is forming groups... in our case the calendar, lol).

    Anyways, its not that you don't need a certain amount of gear. It's just that some can make more out of less without the rest of the group knowing a difference. In that way, any gear based rule is broken if it does not consider the player behind the gear.

    Oh, and I can totally understand the frustrations with "2-day old mage alt dude" because I'll probably lose gear to the bugger. But, again, that's probably because I'm a more hardcore leaning sort and would love to the run same people on the same toons every week. It's just not feasible with our alliance though, and the enjoyment I get from running with y'all outweighs the minor annoyments the casualness brings from time to time.

  11. Hey, its not may fault Blithor likes to play in the green goo & everyone fails at frogger....

    I can't tank everything!

    "Fuubaar tank Frogger"

    PS: This is why we have much love for you... put his cute ass in place :D

  12. This is fun!

    "Some mages can get by with 12k health without taxing you in the slightest as a healer (they'd have to be really good, but we've played with whiz kids like that...)"

    If you do not have enough health for a fight, period, you aren't taxing me as a healer at all. You're dead. You're a waste. 12k mage can be super awesome. It doesnt matter when the fight is designed around the assumption that everyone has 18k health, and there is random raid damage that will hit one person for 15k. If it cannot be avoided, if it cannot be mitigated, if it is not healable, then it should be used as a rough guide for minimum levels. It's how the raid was designed. This hasn't been an issue for Naxx. That's because there is one fundamental minimum requirement for Naxx that basically covers everything to start: Level 80. If that requirement weren't there, there would be level 70s trying to come in. And if the rest of the group were good enough, and that level 70 were skilled enough, he probably could survive just fine. Maybe he could even do some dps. But maybe instead he/she should spend that raid time elsewhere leveling up.

    I like the idea of posting minimum gear guidelines, and letting people mostly self-select, and decide for themselves whether they are geared enough to sign up. For all but a few in our alliance, looking at minimum gear guidelines would more than likely be an encouragement - seeing themselves above minimums would give them confidence. There are a few who would try to sneak by them. There are a few who will, have, and always do try to bring their 3 day old 80 into the 3d sarth or something like that.

    As someone who has in the past told someone they could NOT join us in a raid for various reasons, whether it be performance, gear, attitude, whatever, i will say straight up - it sucks, and you will not get support. This is part of the pain of being in a casual guild/alliance - when you do reject someone from a raid, you better have a VERY good reason, and it will go over about as well as Elizabeth Bathory in a vegan restaurant. I got my ass handed to me for refusing someone, and then there was drama and blah blah blah. I didn't refuse someone on principle alone, but because they were making others in a raid miserable. As a raid leader, it is your job to try and make your raid successful. As a raid leader on our team, it's also your unspoken duty to try and make it fun if you can. Wiping repeatedly because whiny brats all think they should be able to pewpew is not fun for people who have put it in the real effort.


    Summer heat makes me grouchy. Also, this whole topic was prompted by my fat repair bill after a disastrous EoE attempt last weekend. I'm STILL bitter.

    -jbelle, One Angry Dwarf (and 200 Solemn Faces?)

  13. Yeah, that's fine to say you have to have a certain amount of health because of an attack, but that doesn't equate item level as there are so many ways to get to a certain amount of health. It's just a bit different than what I was talking about but a good point all the same.

    As far as having to tell someone to sit out... yeah that sucked, but you're right in that it happens. You definitely have to know your shit as a RL.

    Winter snow makes me grouchy... *shrug* :-D

  14. IMO, item level shouldn't even be considered. There are plenty of items that are level 200 that are better than some of the higher iLVL stuff out there, especially for classes like Holy Paladins. The only people that need to shine are your tanks and healers as long as your DPS can put up the numbers to down bosses. If not, it's back to the drawing board.