Running a guild is more than just recruiting (oh god), leading raids and dealing with bullshit. One of the most important things that comes with running a progression raiding guild is making decisions on prioritizing content. Now, if you are in a cutting edge guild, it’s pretty easy, because you just have to push to the next thing available. However, not all guilds can be cutting edge, and not all decisions can be so black and white. For those of us still trucking along with Ulduar when ToC came along, we had a decision to make: Keep at what remains in Ulduar or can Ulduar and focus solely on ToC.
There are plenty of guilds that opted to never step foot in Ulduar again, and just focus on the ToC content, and that is fine, if that is what worked for them. We decided, however, to take Monolith in a different direction, and it’s this decision that I’m proud of, and think that we “got right”.
Entering WotLK, many of the members of Monolith, including myself, were still on a bit of Sunwell burnout. It was not a good zone for Monolith’s strengths, and we struggled horribly with it as a guild. So, the easy content that was provided to us was a welcome change. We raided just a couple nights a week, clearing everything out and were actually fairly casual in our approach. However, we made one very serious mistake that I regret to this day: we didn’t realize the importance of the meta achievements and that they were going to be limited in time for the rewards. As such, we didn’t focus on things like The Immortal nearly soon enough, and missed out on getting our guild their proto-drakes from that progression tier. Lacking only “The Immortal”.
As Ulduar came out, we stated that the ultimate goal would be to complete “Champion of the Ulduar Raider” for the guild. As we came upon our first hard modes, we were skeptical about our ability to meet that goal as a guild. But, we kept pushing along through hard mode after hard mode, hoping we would make it before they Iron-bound Drakes were removed. We were only part way through the hard modes when ToC hit the PTR, and then 3.2 went live. Ugh…we, like many guilds, were not ready for 3.2. We needed more time. But, we had to make a decision as we were now faced with two tiers of content and the rewards for the new tier being vastly superior to the previous.
The first part of this decision was simple. We had a fragment holder short ~10 shards. We were going to finish out his mace, and in doing so, we were going to continue working new hard modes, clearing through Yogg each week until we had completed his fragments. To keep this interesting for folks, we opened up the non-hard mode content to alts and paid repairs from the guild bank for the mains that didn’t wish to bring an alt.
Then entered ToC Hard Modes. Ok, now we needed to make another round of decisions. Where do we put our focus? ToC or Ulduar? We still very much wanted to complete our remaining Ulduar goals, but we now needed to put some effort into ToC. So, we split our time. We cleared our 25 man normal each week, and then spent time about half of our remaining raid time on Heroic ToC and the other half on Ulduar Hard Modes. The week after we finished our second mace, we had the flexibility to stop having full Ulduar clears and focus just on which Hard Mode boss we wanted to work.
Each week to date we have set goals for ourselves that have included clearing all of our current ToC/TotGC content, and one Ulduar Hard Mode to work. Now to be fair, some of the later Hard Modes in Ulduar are more challenging encounters than those in TotGC, and I challenge anyone who says otherwise. We have been extending our raid lockout for Ulduar and/or running an alt group on Friday nights that clears out up to our next hard mode target (our third shard holder is at 14 fragments).
Last week we not achieved our TotGC goal of defeating the Twins, but that same night we went into Ulduar and manage to snag a Freya hard mode kill. That alone was exciting enough to carry me a few weeks, but Monolith had more in store. This week we set our Ulduar target at Firefighter. Now, I set a reasonable expectation for this encounter, figuring that we would need to spend a number of nights with it to get everything worked out, and going in with an open mind. We were progressing one phase at a time, last Monday (because we had already met our Monday target of Freya on Sunday) having worked out phase 1, we went in with the idea that we would get through phase 2 and start working phase 3.
Little was I expecting to see phase 4 on our third of fourth pull…never having done phase 3 before this pull and winging directions on the fly for both phase 3 and 4. Wow. We might actually do this. Sure enough, about an hour and a half later we saw guild chat alight with “Firefighter” achievements. And it was only *checks watch* 9:00! Holy Shit.
Remember that Proto-drake that we had discussed earlier? The one we wanted to get the guild, but were uncertain if we would make it? Well, we are now missing three things: Yogg 1, Auriaya’s gimmick achievement, and Razorscale’s gimmick achievement (2 dwarfs toasted for me!). Blizzard has stated that we will have a one month notice before these drakes are removed from the game, so the way I see it, we have a minimum of one month to knock out the Yoggster. I think we can get it done.
So, with all of our now free time, we said “who wants to go check out Yogg”. The raid overwhelmingly indicated they did. We had already met the goal for the night, and firefighter is a taxing fight, even overgeared. So we did not have the intent to do more than introduce the encounter. So we took three pulls, people could see the huge differences, and then we went and pulled Algalon. What?!?! Wouldn’t you? We took about three pulls on him as well, to get folks a feel for the fight, and hopefully get them thinking about strategy and providing some discussion on the forums.
Everyone was very excited as the raid ended. It was amazing. I was very happy and a bit relieved.
Anytime you make a decision in a position of leadership, you always have the shadow of a doubt in your mind: “am I doing the right thing?”. We knew that just shoving everyone’s face into TotGC before we were ready, and just taking our 50 wipes would take its toll on the guild, and that isn’t something we wanted to do. But we also knew that progressing too slowing in TotGC would also be detrimental to the guild’s morale. We knew that we wanted to at least pull Algalon before 3.3, even if we didn’t kill him. And we knew we wanted to feel that we had “completed” Ulduar by finishing out the hard modes, and completing the meta and getting those drakes for folks.
I know that Yogg 1 is going to be a lot of hard work, but I have no doubts in my mind that we are going to get it done in time, because that is what everyone wants. I know that pushing to finish off Ulduar is going to slow our progression on HM Anub 25, but it’s ok. The big blue bug will be there when we are ready for him, and he will still present a challenge for us. But we will have the experience of everything else that we worked on under our belt, and the knowledge that we still took the challenges when so many others stopped.
When we finished last night’s raid I knew, deep down, that we had absolutely done the “right thing” in bifurcating our time. I knew that we had saved ourselves a lot of attrition and burnout by diversifying our raid content. I knew that we had set goals that the majority of the guild was in line with. It was probably one of the best feelings that I’ve had regarding the guild.
Are we “month’s behind”? Sure. Are we beating content that is challenging to us and having a good time doing it? Yes. Are we setting attainable goals for the guild that keep people coming back to play night after night? Absolutely. And in the end, that is enough for me.