The Substitute

May 24, 2011 at 2:49 am (Guild Relationships, Raiding)

With the onset of summer vacations and raid content in Cataclysm becoming stale in some players’ minds, some guilds have noticed a drop off in raid attendance, and some burn out has occurred.  One method of combating these issues is introducing substitutes into a raid group.  While the addition of new and sometimes untried players may be cause for concern, there are a number of positives as well.  Guild cohesion, raid viability, and planning for the future may all be addressed though relieving players, if handled correctly.  The decision cannot be made by a raid team’s leadership lightly, and much of the following should be considered to determine if switching players on a temporary basis might provide a positive result for a raid team.

The positives for substituting members in and out on a raid team are varied; some are well recognized, others not so.  First and foremost, it allows other members of a guild to gear up, particularly useful when someone is needed at the last minute to fill a hole in progression content.  In addition, guild retention as a whole appears to be better.  Giving a dedicated guild member who might not be able to raid full-time, yet performs services and benefits the guild, will keep them coming back for more.  Less often considered is using raider rotation to prevent or forestall burnout.  A dedicated tank or healer may well prefer to give up a slot on farm content, particularly when they have no loot dropping from the bosses at hand.  The result is less stress.

Conversely, there are a few negatives during the substitution of raiders.  Leading the pack are deficiencies in gear.  Raid members are then left with less health, mana, and DPS; virtually guaranteeing a longer fight and increased odds of wiping.  Along with this is the lack of “muscle memory” of a particular fight.  After a number of attempts at a particular encounter, an experienced raider understands not just the mechanics of the fight, but also the actions they need to take to insure success.  Finally, there is a limit to how much a particular raid group can “carry.”  With the ever increasing number of group-wiping abilities by bosses, expecting multiple new raiders to mitigate the mechanics of the fight each and every time has become even more difficult.  Lack of experience in tanking or healing often lead to shortages in 5-man groups, raids experience the lack of these positions even more.  Raid lockouts may limit the number of “farm” content available.

Once the decision to rotate new raiders into a group has been made, some key logistics need to be worked out.  It is usually best to begin by asking if anyone wishes to rotate out for a night or week.  However, one should probably either ask before raid time, or ask that folks whisper back.  I’ve seen instances where members were pressured into raiding, and their performance was visibly off.  Pressure by peers you’ve never really met can be just as exacting as anywhere else.  If you still need to remove players after the call for volunteers is met, be as fair as possible – try not to have someone ride the pines 2 weeks or nights in a row.  Consider finding innovative ways to help compensate – additional loot points for example.  However, getting into an argument on vent or in guild chat is to be avoided – raid drama never helps a guild and may cause resentment towards the person stepping in.  The persons that will be joining the raid should, in theory, be told in advance that they will probably be raiding, and given the homework necessary to prepare them – gems, enchants up to par, the fights researched and any strategies or guild discussion threads read and understood.  They may be a substitute, but there is no substituting for the preparation required. 

Once the switch has been made, remember that someone who isn’t normally a part of the raid team will be present.  Everyone in the raid has to reduce their expectations.  Allowances must be made, don’t forget that they may have never seen this fight outside of a video.  The raid leader should give a general description of the fight again, just as a refresher for the strategies.  Role or class leaders should also give reminders of what abilities are useful, and any particular threats they are going to have to avoid or mitigate.  Once the attempt is over, for good or bad, be sure to ask if the replacement has any questions.  If the result was a wipe caused by the player, gently instruct them how to prevent it from happening again.  In addition, raid leaders have to be quick to squash any comments or suggestions from other raid members over vent or in chat.  Any such information should be whispered to the raid or class leaders.  Save any in-depth discussion of performance and how to improve it until a break or after the raid.  It is best to do this on a separate vent channel, never in a general audio channel or on chat – it’s far too easy to misunderstand meaning.  It’s never easy being told of your faults and areas for improvement, it needs to be handled in a professional manner.  After the raid is complete, no matter what the outcome, be sure to thank publically not only those who were left out, but those who joined the group as well.

If done for the right reasons, and handled properly, substituting players can be a positive experience for the raid group as a whole.  Some time off benefits every raider, even if they don’t admit it.  So don’t be afraid of changing things up now and again.


  1. Torval said,

    I don’t know about others’ experience, but as a healer I feel stuck. Anytime I try and raid on my warrior, in an effort to improve my tank gear mind you, I am always asked to switch over to my priest to heal. It would really be nice if maybe one of those shadow priests or that enh or ele shaman would buck up and heal fir a change. My priest is to the point where I can only upgrade maybe one or two items. Overall, I could be more beneficial to a raid as a whole being able to fill multiple roles when needed. A little flexibilty among your core raiders would be nice.

    • Rustbeard said,

      Actually, that’s a topic for discussion in a later article.

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