Monday, March 16, 2009

10 Easy Tips for Setting Up Your Own Awesome Naxx 25 PuG: Part 1

Every weekend for the past month, my tight 10-man raiding guild (we literally have 12 members, by choice) has been hosting Naxx 25 pugs on our server on Saturdays and Sundays. We start with whoever we can get from our own guild (usually around 6-8 people), add in some from a friendly 10-man guild that shot off from the same big guild we came from, then pug the rest through friends lists, trade chat, and the LFG system.

We've been wildly successful. On our first night, we cleared 3 wings. On the 2nd and 3rd weeks we cleared the entire instance over 2 nights. On the 4th and 5th week we cleared the entire place in one night, without even wiping on Thaddius. We got Malygos down to about 15% in only 3 tries last week, and we downed him this weekend after 4 more tries (all Wrath bosses cleared!). All with at least half the people starting out as totally blind pugs.

After every pug, we hear on vent, in raid chat, and in whispers that this is the best raiding experience many of the puggers have ever had. At least 3 new people ask me if they can join our guild after every run (we are closed at the moment, but many join our allied guild).

I'm not saying this to brag, but to let you know how well things can go for you if you follow my 10 easy (well some aren't that easy) steps. I ended up with a lot of meat here, so I only managed to get to the first one today. But it's very important:

1. Loot: sadly, this is one of the first items you need to focus on. People care about loot. All of them do. That doesn't make them "loot whores". If you screw loot up, you could end up souring the whole thing. Let me give you a real-life example:

Back in the early weeks of Wrath raiding, when killing Sapph was still exciting and few had been able to down KT 25, my small guild joined a pug Naxx25 run by another, larger guild. They gave out their loot based on a random roll. But once you got an item, you could no longer win anything over someone who hadn't gotten anything yet.

They had the right idea: spread the loot out by giving priority to those who have not yet won. If you don't put in such a restriction, you will lose good players when they see the same person get lucky on rolls and win multiple items in a row over people who haven't gotten anything. But they made one simple, but key, mistake: when a new person was added to the raid (because someone left), that person automatically won an item over the people who had been there the entire run. In my case, I cleared 3 wings, winning boots in one of the early wings. Then we kill 4 horsemen, and a DK that was added just for that fight gets the tier chest token over me (even though I outrolled him) because he hadn't won anything yet. The loot system became a joke. Every time someone left, all of us groaned because we knew our chance at loot was going right out the window. And since this run was largely pugs, we tended to lose a few people every other fight that needed to be replaced with new loot sponges. The fun was sucked right out of the raid because everyone felt like they were getting screwed.

So I'd recommend modifying that system: have new people who join later in the raid roll against those who have won one thing already. That way, if you were there the entire run and didn't get anything, you automatically win even if someone else just joined the raid on this boss. If everyone who has put in the time already got something, then they all get to roll against the new person. So the new person still has a good chance of getting loot, but doesn't automatically win over people who put in the effort to clear previous bosses.

Offspecs: Once all main specs pass on an item, let anyone who couldn't use it for main spec roll on it for offspec. Give it to them for "free": i.e. it doesn't count as one of their epics on the loot list. Don't let anyone abuse this to get main spec upgrades, or you're done. I actually caught a DK doing it this weekend, because there was no competition on the item. So he claimed it was "offspec" and equipped it, then I went " is a dps neck 'offspec' for a dps DK?" He was replacing a blue. Don't let people in your raid confuse "competition" with "their one mainspec item". Just because you are the only healing paladin and get auto-looted plate spell power gear doesn't mean those pieces don't count toward your "main spec" total!

You can also minimize drama by announcing some things ahead of time:

Armor class priority: cloth gets first dibs on cloth, leather on leather, etc. For instance, Paladins and Shaman can only roll on healing leather after all the druids have passed.

Role priority: dps casters get priority on dps caster gear, tanks on tank gear, etc, based on your announced main spec. DPS gets first dibs on a caster item with +hit on it. Healers get first dibs on KT's healing mace while dps gets first dibs on the dps caster sword off KT. [Don't say this to your puggers this way but: mage/warlock, I don't care if that healer piece is an upgrade for you because you're still wearing a level 72 quest green and this has more spellpower. It's going to a healer.]. Don't go overboard with this, though: no need to categorize every single item. Just know what some of the more contentious items will be, such as KT's weapons. In fact, the only time this decisions is difficult is with weapons and trinkets. So do some research and know which naxx 25 weapons and trinkets are best-in-slot of each class and role. In fact, that would make a good follow-up post for me to do on this blog...

Another mistake I've seen is overdoing it with matching gear to roles. This weekend I brought my alt to a pug where the raid leader insisted that every single cloth piece without hit rating on it was a healer-only piece. Look at the loot list for Naxx 25: almost every caster item has some spirit or mp5 on it. I think there are only 11 possible drops in there total with hit rating on them. So caster dps were only allowed to roll on a tiny fraction of the drops, while great caster dps upgrades that happened to have mp5 on them were given only to healers. This got really egregious when one druid in the raid got 6 items with mp5 (mp5 sucks for resto druids!) while casters who had not won anything were not allowed to roll on these dps upgrades because they happened to have mp5 on them.

Under this rule, generally "main spec" is what role the player is performing in your raid. It's OK to make occasional exceptions for someone who respecced to help you with healing, but wants to roll on dps loot as main spec instead. But if you make it a habit, trust me: it will cause resentment amongst the poeple he/she is rolling against. Make it an exception, not the rule.

Announce loot rules at the beginning of the raid. It's best to set up a few easy macros that announce the entire thing as a raid warning (/rw). Announce in vent that "loot rules are going up". Give people a chance to object before you start, so they don't get saved to a run they don't want to stay on. Here's a sample of our macros:

Macro 1:

/rw Loot Rules: /roll if interested. One MAIN SPEC epic (including set tokens) per person, but you can win more pieces if no one wants it who hasn't won anything yet.

Macro 2:

/rw: Armor class gets priority, ie cloth goes to cloth first, etc. If no one wants for main spec, we'll roll for Off Spec, which does NOT count toward your total.

To simplify things, wait to announce the "new joiners are counted as having already won one thing" rule until you are about to replace someone. Also, we tend to wait to talk about the Maly key until after we kill Sapph. We say "we'd like to give the key to someone in our guild since we organized and led the run. If anybody has any strong objections to that, please say so, because we want to remain as fair as possible." Most people enthusiastically respond that they want us to have it, and think it's fair.

Track all of this in a spreadsheet. I make a simple Excel spreadsheet with 3 columns: character name, item slot, boss it dropped from. For instance, an entry might be: Hatch|belt|anub or Xxsefrothhxx|mace|Sapph. That way I can easily reference and sort it by name to make subsequent loot decisions. Make sure you are diligent and accurate about filling this out. I find it easier to have someone else master loot while I handle just recording it on the spreadsheet and referencing the spreadsheet for loot decisions.

I also find the spreadsheet very helpful for organizing future raids by tracking who we want to invite back and who we *don't*, and why. Trust me, it's well worth the extra work.

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