Strict Stalemate

As Shaen would say, Gigantic Tirion approves.

If you’ve been reading here, you may or may not know that I’m the guild leader for an awesome group of people. (They’re awesome, it just so happens that I’m the guild leader). I’ve written about our commitment to tens raiding previously, and I’ve also written about why I’m so happy to be raiding with them all.

What I have to write at the moment is a bit more difficult, and I’ve held off doing it because the matter was still under discussion. The discussion has stalled, because I think we’re all at a loss as to what more we can say. A post that Traxy made about strict tens recently has prompted me to think about it even further.

For those unfamiliar, the “strict ten” designation was invented by Guild Ox as a method for people whose primary guild focus was tens to measure progress against one another. Business Time has adhered to it for as long as I’ve been a member. It’s a bit arbitrary, because it has to be. They have to draw the line somewhere to separate between “guilds who only do tens” and guilds who do tens but primarily twenty-fives. I’m sure there are many guilds out there who focus exclusively on tens, but haven’t worried about meeting the criteria. We’d always said that if we no longer had reason to adhere to the restrictions, we’d let them go.

In the past, we have had reasons for wanting to stick to them.

  • Recruitment: Because the role we fill is so specialized, almost all of our recruitment is cross-server and in some cases, even cross-faction. The idea of strict tens draws any combination of confusion, curiosity, straight through to outright scorn. The Guild Ox rank enabled us to advertise as a strict ten guild, and demonstrate to prospective applicants that we were serious about what we were doing. I’ve spoken to many of our current members who admitted that the ranking did help to attract them to the guild. It’s a way of saying, “This is what we do, and we do it well.”
  • Pride: What progression raid guild isn’t proud of their achievements? In the small pond of people focusing on and restricting themselves to tens, we do pretty well. We achieved our 11/12 hard-mode status along with the first pack of strict tens to do it. We’re currently ranked tenth for progression in the US, and 16th in the world. It’s pretty neat to be able to say that, nice to have the “badge” to put on the guild’s front page and feel that all those hours you’ve spent wiping to this boss or learning that ability “mean” something, at least in this limited sphere.
  • Identity: “Strict tens” forms the backbone of what we do, and why. We focus on ten mans because we like them best and we like raiding as a smaller group. We’ve kept the Guild Ox ranking because we like to be able to say, this is what we do, this is why we do it, and we think we do it pretty well. Perhaps the ranking itself isn’t essential to that; it does help to solidify it.

But lately, those reasons have been warring with some other reasons, equally compelling, to let the “strict ten” designation go, or else reasons why the first reasons don’t seem to matter as much.

  • Recruitment: We have a really stable player-base, and extremely low turnover. We also seldom have to turn to the forums for recruitment any more, because lately the trend has been for applicants to come via word of mouth. They are friends of friends or similar, and so we don’t have to wow them as much with “Look at how awesome we are!” The stability and appeal of the guild speaks for itself because it’s more usual that we can’t find a raid spot for someone than that we have empty raid slots, summer vacations aside.
  • Limitations: Whenever someone joins BT, they’re aware that running 25-mans is verboten unless we’re consciously bringing them in with the understanding that they already have the twenty-five man achievements, and so continuing to run the content doesn’t really matter. This had the potential to create a real culture of the “haves” and “have-nots,” but fortunately it never materialized that way. People who still enjoy a twenty-five man pug on occasion do so, and those of us who have never done them – we haven’t done them because we don’t want to, so there’s no loss on either side. The problem is that there are people who have alts at 80 that had raided before they joined up with us. We have a few members who belonged to tens guilds before, but the majority of us came from twenty-fives. Because of the restrictions, they can’t have their alts in the guild, so they sit either guildless, or in alt guilds. Frankly, I think that stinks. We have a channel for connecting with people on out-of-guild alts, but it’s cumbersome. If you’re in the guild, you’re in it, you shouldn’t have to sit outside just because you’re playing another character.
  • Obsolescence: “Strict ten” isn’t going to mean anything once Cataclysm comes out. Because of the changes to raid lockouts and to loot, there’s not going to be any functional difference between guilds that run twenty-fives sometimes and tens sometimes, or only tens, or only twenty-fives. There’s going to be equality with regards to the loot, and no need for restrictions of any kind. We’ll just be raiding tens together, and not feel as though we have to run twenty-fives to fill certain gear slots or to manage to compete at the top level of content.

I'm not saying I understand how Bolvar feels or anything, but...

So with all of this in mind, first we discussed, then we discussed some more. Then we put it to a vote, very simply phrased – who was in favour of dropping the strict ten designation, and who was opposed and wanted to keep it?

The vote was split exactly down the middle. Admittedly, I abstained. Half of the guild wants to let the restrictions go. This won’t have a major functional difference for us, we think, because the people who want to run twenty-fives already can, and the people who don’t – still won’t. I’ll be honest with you, it leaves me feeling incredibly torn. To let the restrictions go won’t actually help us with our heroic Lich King attempts. Some people in fact were actively opposed to the idea that we might “game” the encounter. They really, really want to do it with the gear available to us. I can’t blame them.

The other half of people are in some cases people who never took to the idea of “restrictions” in any case. They don’t like anyone telling them what to do with their game time, or saying what they can and can’t do (whether they’d actually want to do it, or not). They’d be just as happy to see the strict designation go. It doesn’t change who we are, after all, only how we appear. I can’t blame them, either.

On both “sides,” if you can call them that, are people I care about and each is essential to the success and well-being of the guild. I want to do right by them, and I want them to be happy. My initial feeling was that in the result of a stalemate, we would maintain the status quo. After all, if we say, “We’re going to let the strict tens designation go,” we’re saying, “We’re going to take this away from you even though it’s important to you.” I thought that there was no actual loss on the part of the people who want it to go.

But the more I think about it, the more I start to wonder. The people who’d like to put their alts in the guild so as to hang out with their friends – aren’t we taking something from them, too? Rather, we are keeping it from them, and I don’t like that either. If we stop being strict ten and then go on to kill heroic Lich King, it might feel hollow compared to if we had maintained the designation; whether or not the reality of our gear bears out the fact that it was a big accomplishment. If we continue to stay “strict,” whether we kill the Lich King or not, are we choosing prestige and bragging rights over the happiness of our guild-mates?

I’m really not sure, and I’ll admit that I’ve puzzled over it, and thought about it, and I still don’t feel any closer to the “right” answer now than I did when the discussion began. Originally, this entry was going to end there, but then I received the following comment from a new reader, Archel, on my most recent entry. I want to share it with you. It eerily strikes to the core of what I’m trying to say:

I’m one of those people who had google haphazardly drop them onto your blog last week when searching for something like “Healing Deadmines Paladin” and have been reading happily ever since. I don’t think i’ve ever read a blog in my life, but this one drew me in. The game seems so cold now, so matter of fact. Badges per hour, gear score, gogogo. At first hearing your stories of having to deal with such people while you leveled and being happy just to find the occasional considerate person put me into even more of a funk.

There have been moments in wow over the years that I remember most fondly. Time periods when my RL friends and I happened to be on the same page, just having fun playing together. The time where I embarked on a new server and found new friends and we played together and had fun before the greed of raiding, the efficiency of progression, or the jealousy of human nature tore us apart. The time when a random Tauren Druid tossed me a heal as I got some adds in Hellfire, and we ended up talking and leveling together to 70 from there.

Oddly enough, during most of those periods I always thought it was progression I wanted; To be in the best guild of the server and to be the best in that guild. I accomplished it at times, and it wasn’t that great because the guild itself was run like a business and I was a mere resource. Looking back, getting server firsts really wasn’t as fun as just questing with that druid.

I admit feeling a pang of jealousy when seeing you describe a guild rerolling horde and leveling together. Actually wanting to play together for fun. Actually wanting to talk to one another and not just logging in five minutes before raid time and logging off five minutes after. I felt the same pang when I saw the post about Lara coming over to level with you, or when I saw you describe what makes you love 10 man raiding by taking the time to draw your guildies and describe what they meant to you.

I don’t really know what point i’m trying to make here and probably sound mostly like a sap… I just think it’s cool to see that somewhere, on some server, people are still having fun together and being good to each other.

The crux of the matter is, I think that the guild has evolved into something truly worth belonging to. We take the time to talk about these things because we care how our guild-mates feel about them. We’re taking so long to have the discussion because it’s worth considering carefully. And no matter what we decide, if we stay true to the heart of what the guild is about, we shouldn’t go too far wrong.

Getting everyone to fly into a circle for this picture actually took amazingly little time.


20 responses to “Strict Stalemate

  1. Sounds like a tough decision. I’m sure you all will get through it, though. Maybe just hold out until that H-LK is taken care of?

    If you do stay ‘strict’ and want to chat with alts, my guild uses an addon called guild2guild. We have an alt guild (too many alts, though really most of the toons in that guild are mine. haha), and we want them to communicate with the rest of the guild. As long as one person in each guild has this addon (and it’s setup properly), the guild chats are connected.

    It only really works well with 2 guilds (you can add a third, but performance goes down when you add more), so if all the other folks alts are spread across different guilds, this won’t work. But if their guildless, it might. However, with the changes to guilds in Cataclysm, it may seem like a waste to make a whole new guild.

    Plus this doesn’t address the underlying issue! But I thought I’d throw it out there. :3

    ( guild2guild on curse: )

  2. This is an interesting post, and if my post prompted some of these thoughts then I’m glad you put them here where more people will see them. I’m not sure how valuable my advice will be, given that I’m not in the same circumstance as you and never have been, but I’ll give it to you anyway.

    When I first heard about strict tens, I had a great deal of admiration for the people who did it. It was something special, not just as a challenge but almost as a form of political protest. Blizzard did not design the ten-man encounters with the ten-man loot in mind; I think it was almost understood that you’d use the 25-man loot to help with the ten mans as well. I’ll note here that no strict ten guild has ever downed the Lich King on heroic mode, even though everyone now has a 30% buff.

    That you have collectively chosen to take on this challenge is one of the things that has made your guild special. As a form of political protest, it has been undeniably successful—the changes in Cataclysm have elevated ten-mans to be equal to twenty-fives, and are recognized as such.

    That form of political protest is now moot. It’s akin to someone continuing to call for the repeal of a given tax, after that tax has been repealed. In that sense, the people who have played strict tens have won.

    But strict tens, as I see it, have far more meaning than just as a form of protest to Blizzard. To play in a strict ten guild requires you to proclaim your love for ten man raiding, and your disdain of the larger groups, to the extent you are denying yourself the ability to partake in the latter. Coming from someone who enjoys tens and dislikes twenty-fives, I wish I had the courage to make that determination — to say to my raid lead, “No, I don’t want to run in the 25s despite the extra loot that will give me.” Alas, I did not, and have not — the loot was too tempting for me. That says something about me, and that also says something about you that you did not give into that temptation.

    Were I in your shoes I would be loathe to give up the strict ten designation. You are one of only 44 sets of people in the entire world to have downed heroic Sindragosa while maintaining that designation. That’s quite an achievement, something worthy of a plaque on the wall.

    But it is far more than just that, at least from what I can tell.

    Long ago, you made a decision to stick to a more enjoyable form of raiding. A commitment. You’ve honored that commitment thus far and reaped just rewards from it.

    I guess what I’m saying is that I don’t think a 50% vote ought to be sufficient to abandon a strict ten designation. I’d think you’d want to be darned sure. Because it’s very much like going into the military: you can never go back.

  3. As the GM of another 10-man strict guild, I occasionally think about at what point we might drop that designation. I don’t think anyone wants to at this point because our H Sindy kill is too fresh, but I know people have occasionally expressed disappointment that we’ve had to kick their alts out so they could do 25-mans.

    We want to keep the designation because it’s been so helpful with recruiting, and it’s a point of pride to show what we’ve done without 25-mans. Our server is not that progressed, but it’s still nice to be able to pat each other on back for getting the second H Sindy kill on Horde.

    I’m currently thinking once we stop raiding regularly and go into our pre-Cataclysm torpor is probably when we’ll call it. But honestly no one in my guild has asked about dropping it. I think most of us knew going in what we wanted, and the people who had 25-man experience before joining came to us with the intention of downsizing.

    Polar, who runs GuildOx, had thought of implementing a way to allow people to keep alts with 25-man experience in a 10-man strict guild, but canned the plans to implement it when the Cataclysm announcement came out that 10s and 25s would have the same gear and lockouts. I wish he hadn’t, but I guess he figured it wasn’t worth it since we’re already on the final tier of content.

  4. Wow, I’m famous! I’d like to thank my mom and uhm. WordPress? And bacon.

    You remind me a bit of the GM of one of the guilds I referred to (the fondly remembered guild, not the dastardly businesslike guild). She was just a kind soul who I called a friend and being in that guild really was the best period of my WoW life. She too was thrust into the GM position, not by choice, but by duty and by the nature of her personality.

    At one point she too came to an impasse, in her case it was on how to deal with an impending guild merger during the attrition of Sunwell progression. Suffice to say, she made her decision with the buzzing of a particular faction in her ear: She chose the good of the guild as a progression entity, not the good of the guild as a social entity. I know she did what she thought was the right thing at the time, what her “advisors” told her was right but I also know it wasn’t the choice she would make if she had to do it again. I know for certain it hurt her deeply when she saw the results of her decision.

    Hm. I feel like i’ve typed myself into some sort of awkward place here, where i’m comparing your decision to the results of her catostrophic one… i’m not! Did I mention I like to start typing without having any sort of point or conclusion worked out prior? I’d make a poor blogger. Anyhow, obviously you are not in such a dire position and I know you’ll make the right decision, whatever it may be, because you will do it together as a guild.

  5. I think you should keep to the strict 10s until there’s a clear voice for dropping it. 50/50 is not that mandate. Pride, identity and integrity are important. If you do give it up, let it be in recognition of a change that’s already happened — for example, if the majority of people in the guild are already raiding 25s on their alts and not doing so on their mains has become silly.

    When Cataclysm changes the raid structure, you’ll have been a strict-10s guild and will most likely continue to raid 10s. My guess is that the continuity in group composition might be a welcome bit of stability as so many other things change. That’s not something that 25m guilds can look forward to.

  6. I hate conundrums like this.


    At times like this, perhaps a compromise can be reached. You could maintain your designation while you work on H-LK, but create a chat channel to allow your guildies to hang with people not currently in the guild. Then, when Arthas bites it on Heroic mode, you can then announce that you’re forsaking the strict designation.

    (Heh heh heh… You’d be forsaking something, and you’re an Alliance guild.)

  7. I don’t envy you all having to make this kind of a decision. I can’t imagine there is any easy answer; if there were, you’d have found it and settled on it already.

    All the raiding guilds I’m personally familiar with—strict and otherwise—seem to be having trouble with recruitment lately. More and more, I’m seeing recruitment ads for casual and just-for-fun type guilds. I don’t know how much luck those guilds are having, but it kind of suggests maybe the general mood among the wider player base is to step back from the rat race of progression and try other things. On our server, the starting areas are swarming with alts. So I have to wonder—since you’ve already accomplished so much—how much additional “added value” of happiness, cohesion, and fun will you get from what’s left?

    (I wouldn’t ever presume to know what your answer should be—but that’s the question I was asking myself, as we came down to the final few achievements for our drakes)

    I guess what I’m saying is, if you don’t think it would cause a schism within your guild, maybe letting go the strict designation isn’t such a bad idea. You’ve already done so much to be proud of, and making the switch can’t take that away from you. It certainly won’t make recruitment any worse! 🙂 More importantly, if loosening the reins a bit helps keep all you wonderful people together and having fun, as we all count down toward the wonders of a new expansion, how could that be a bad thing in the long run?

    Anyway, no matter what you decide, I wish you all the very best—and I hope that it will all work out to everyone’s satisfaction!

  8. In my own non-guild leader non-hardcore raider point of view, I think 2 things are important to remember:

    1 – you are 11/12 HM. I would think getting 12/12 HM would be a reasonable goal, before making any changes. Once you let folks go 25, there’s no going back.

    2 – As someone else said, 50/50 is not a mandate, and to me, such a big change is kind of tough to justify with such a vote.

    B – (yes, I know, I switched “numbering” 🙂 ) Another thing to look at, if you can, is *who* is asking for the change. Is it a mix of old and new blood? If that’s the case, it’s no help, but if the long term members have a preference, I think that needs to be honored.

    Maybe have a re-vote, but each person gets 0.1 votes per month of membership?

    Anyhow, sorry you’re in such a pickle, but I think you and your guild will do fine, regardless.


  9. I came across a Strictly 10 guild last year. The idea appealed to me quite a lot, but at the same time, their refusal to let anyone join who had got even a single 25 man achievement seemed a bit excessive, as it meant I was disqualified before I could even apply.
    Now, I still do 10 mans, and I find those Achievements more satisfying generally than my 25s. Maybe it’s because even one person dying in a fire hurts in 10 a lot more than 2 or 3 people dying in a fire in 25. Everyone needs to be on top of their game, if you want to crack the hard content.
    From that perspective, I totally understand the desire to raid Strictly 10. I never managed it, but I admire those that have.

    It does seem that achieving parity with 25s regarding loot will do Strictly 10 guilds no favours at all. In fact it is very likely to kill most of them off.
    It may also kill off a lot of 25s too, because let’s face it, getting 25 people to turn up week in week out takes more effort than getting 10 together, and the percieved reward of better loot will no longer be a plus point.
    I bet there are very few guilds, whatever their preference, that are not worrying about how Cataclysm is going to affect them.

    As for your current problem, I would keep it as it is until the end of Wrath. Strictly 10 until Blizzard calls time. Then you can look back with pride on what you have accomplished, and cherish the good times.

  10. What is the reason to drop the strict designation? If its just about alts why can’t they just join their alts anyways? And if its to allow more people to raid by doing 25 mans why not just create a second 10 man group?

    There are so many ways around this problem without having to drop what defines your guild as they are now. But I think I am mentioning ideas without understanding the full problem.

    • The issue is if at least 8 players in any one guild have any 25 man kills in the current tier, this disqualifies the entire guild as being 10 man strict. (The guild’s total 10 man progression rank through all tiers of the current expansion must also be higher than their 25 man progression rank)

      So, this means that if alts or social members are to stay in the main guild, none of them can do ICC 25 whatsoever for risk of ruining the guild’s strict classification. As Vid mentioned, that means alts and friends might have to go into an alt guild if they wish to do those activities in game, but her fear is that this ruins communication. I tend to agree with her, myself being in a guild that splits out into an alt guild. It’s annoying and it definitely promotes that “log in 5min before raid, log out 5min after raid” issue I mentioned. In this case though, it seems like the lesser of two evils to do so.

    • [edit] Oops, it also includes TotGC 25 currently, not just ICC. I’m going to go have my coffee now…

  11. Let me start by saying there is some very good advice from the above commenters. I too think any transition should wait until a HLK kill can be managed. However, since the question has been broached there is no putting the genie back in the bottle, some form of declarative answer must be given. The “lets wait and see” leaves people in an ambigious state that can lead to real anxiety. Discussion is good, but if it only leads to more discussion it accomplishes nada. It may be best, from an expectations management standpoint, to establishe a timeline for conversion, if that indeed is inevitable (ie. HLK kill or Cata release, whichever comes 1st or somesuch). That way people can start planning around that decision (ie. hold off on gearing up that alt in 25s until they can do so freely in the guild and leveling a different toon in the guild in the meantime vice not knowing if and when a change is coming and so spending time out of guild PuGing VoA25 to grab some quick gear). But, as I have never been in a strict 10man guild, what do I know.

    Whatever the outcome, your guildies should be comforted by the knowledge that full and considerate thought has been given to the decision and that their voices were heard. That would be enough for me, even if I didn’t “get my way”.

  12. Allow me to concur with the compromise of waiting til LK is dead before you toss off the “strict” designation. Seems like a good stopping point, at face.

    Nonetheless, sounds like you’re running a fantastic guild. In the end, the most important thing is that everyone accepts and has bought into guild policy. Putting it up for a vote is a great way to do that, assuming everyone is mature enough to deal with the majority winning. From what I’ve read, seem s you have such a group of people!

  13. The times we’ve had guild votes/discussions over this or that and ended up with an even or near-even split are chief among my nightmares-come-to-life. I don’t envy you your situation, truly.

    I guess you have to decide whether the pride that Traxy speaks of is worth it. You are special, but the question is, does that mean anything to you, at the moment? If you do relish being among the few, the proud, then I agree with some commenters here that 50% is not enough.

    I guess it depends on the motivations of those who wish to stay strict?

    Funny enough, my guild had a similar discussion a while back and decided to go with Guildox’ strict ten. This went to hell just as we were getting Good(tm) due to one person too many bringing their alts through 25’s, unaware of the danger. I think all of us who were for it, GM included, regret this sorely.

    I wish you luck, nevertheless!

  14. Several other commenters have made the interesting point that since you’re 11/12 anyway, why not just stick it out? On the surface, that’s a totally reasonable idea; but in truth I feel the increment is more like 11/24, and you have to get the remaining 13 in one go. 🙂

    As Traxy said, and as you know from experience, the Heroic Lich King fight is tuned WAY harder than anything else right now. Whether or not any guild can survive the stress of pushing through that is a very real question.

  15. Being a very small (12 member) very casual guild we could only do 10 mans, many times thoug we didnt have enough to do those so had to pug them. Any new people we were able to bring in would only stay around long enough until they got geared well enough they left to the 25 man guilds. I don’t have proof but I am sure that many 25 man quilds that couldn’t quite filled a raid were using the chance of getting better gear to fill in their guild ranks. With the new raiding set up for Cata and the same gear dropping I am sure that the fact that instead of rolling against 1 or 2 people for something is better that rolling against 5 or 6 will make being in a 10 man appealing to people. My personal opinion is that 10 mans are harder than 25 mainly because of the fact that if you loose one or two people it means a wipe for sure. I have been in 25 man raids where 15 people died and they still were able to finish off the boss.
    So Cata will be I am sure a win win situation for our guild.


  16. Off topic comment is off topic…

    You mentioned gigantic Tirion in a pic caption. That dude is jacked since he was in Eastern Plaguelands. It’s painfully obvious that the Ashen Verdict doesn’t have a steroid testing policy in place. Shame.

    • @Rabidwargamer:

      I swear I was going to post a comment on this but you beat me to it. My son watched me on a run through Halls of Lightning yesterday, and he asked me “Why are all the bad guys you fight bigger than you?”

      “I think it’s because it’s easier to see them,” I replied.

      “It looks really silly.”


  17. Pingback: Been Waiting A Long Time For This… « Manalicious

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