Monday, May 7, 2012

Two's Company: Raiding as a Pair

Roses among thorny skeletons.
There were quite a few posts circulating a while back on WoW couples and how to 'deal' with them. I had mixed feelings because I am part of a WoW couple - I met my boyfriend through this game and we have almost always raided together. Some of these posts were negative in tone, while others were positive and even discussed the types of people you might see.

Matticus wrote a post about WoW couples called "Handling Raiding Couples" which came across as extremely negative. 

At the end, Matticus goes on to say that,

"After a while, [he] realized then that some couples just aren’t worth having around especially not with such an overprotective attitude like that. GMs need to be able to deliver that honest feedback without a vulture jumping in and protecting every chance they get." (Emphasis mine) 

I get that perspective and I'd like to note quickly that it isn't just dating or married couples who are overprotective either. Pairs of friends will do this as well. But I was disappointed in the tone of the article at the beginning. There are mostly negative references to couples (I would hate to be referred to as a vulture) and a quick mention of 'mellow couples' in his guild at the time. I was angry, and then a new series came out on another blog.

Sheep the Diamond wrote a five (FIVE) part series on "Couples and WoW"
  1. Part 1
  2. Part 2
  3. Part 3 
  4. Part 4 "The Finalé"
  5. Part 5 "Surprise Feedback Follow-up"

I really enjoyed this series. I thought it came across as informative and welcomed discussion from many folks in the comments. Stubborn talks about different animal pairings and how you might be able to apply them to couples in your guild.

I'd like to think that Chronis and I are "Penguins":

Penguins are really easy to deal with.  Penguins by nature don’t mind being separated in their tasks, so the best way to approach penguins is honestly and directly.  If you’ve only got one spot, just tell them that; don’t come up with excuses or stories to alleviate your guilt; they don’t mind parting for a few hours.

Then I found a post on the official WoW forums titled "Catering to Couples and Groups". Which is basically from someone who has had a hard time with couples or package deals and needed advice. Some people say that you have to treat everyone as a separate entity and others simply say that it isn't worth it.

This post "My perspective" by Askevar over on You Yank It, You Tank It is a good read and sounds very similar to my own experiences in WoW while playing as part of a pair.

All of these posts got me thinking; Am I part of that stereotypical feared/hated WoW raiding couple? Do I defend my partner if someone critiques him? Does he do the same for me?

No, I don't think so. Not to the extent that people believe WoW couples do or to the extent that some people have seen couples do.

The "Raiding Couple"

The couple that raids together, gets the same gear together!
Chronis (the other half of this "WoW" Couple) and I stand independently of one another in our roles, and in our skill and ability in this game. For example, when we first applied to Apotheosis (our current guild) we applied separately, and were told that package deals might not work and that we should be prepared to not raid together all of the time. That was fine, we're seasoned raiders and we know the score. 

We had separate Initiate threads - this is where raider ranked members can comment on your performance during your trial (but you don't see it). I kept my nose out of his and I let the guild's comments and concerns or approval go by without saying a word to him. It is my firm belief that your performance and play for a new guild must speak for itself without being pushed too heavily by someone else. If I were to be judged on Chronis' performance (or he on my play) that would be the biggest insult I could think of. We carry our own weight in raids and always have.

We've raided separately before, as well. In BC, he raided Sunwell with a different guild (on the same server) and in Wrath, Chronis applied to <Fierce> on Onyxia and left me on Windrunner for a little while before coming back on a different character.

Part of being able to raid on our own, I think, comes from starting our relationship as long-distance. We met when I applied to <Resurgence> on Bronzebeard, he lived in Alberta and I lived in Ontario. We raided together, but not physically together. 

The other part comes from the fact that I do not need him around to be able to do my job. I cannot emphasize enough that we do not need each other to raid. It's a nice perk, to get a first kill down together and be able to share that joy with someone beside you but it is not a necessary one. If either of us is benched for some time I can watch his screen or he mine, to keep track of the raid's progress. 

I believe that we have a huge advantage over other healer/tank combinations in our guild. The advantage we have while raiding together is that we raid side by side. We sit together during raids, talk to each other about cooldowns, positioning, strategies without having to clutter up Mumble. It's extremely helpful to both of us, since he's one of our main tanks, and I am a main tank healer.

For example, he can let me know when he's using one of his own cooldowns so that I don't waste mine and I can ask him if he needs the cooldown from me at a certain point and we coordinate that way. Unlike with other tanks in our guild, I will often overlap their cooldowns but not Chronis'.

We're not in a BG, but you get the idea!
However, I can also see the problems. He and I can coordinate cooldowns, while the other people in the raid don't have the benefit of hearing us do so. For example, we participate in Rated Battlegrounds with our guild. When we're both healing, we'll coordinate cooldowns but the group won't hear us say it. But when Serrinne (my priest buddy) and I heal together, we'll call out our cooldowns to each other and the FC can hear us as well (PS, Barrier, etc).

It's not just the typical couple either...

In my time playing WoW, I've noticed my fair share of the stereotypical "couple" attributes not in folks that are dating, engaged or married but in pairs of people who are friends. As mentioned earlier, in Apotheosis we have applicant and initiate threads where any raider ranked member is allowed to post thoughts, observations and concerns about someone in those beginning stages.

I mentioned previously that I kept my nose (and my mouth) out of Chronis' thread. I wanted to avoid the thought of people thinking I was vouching for him (even though he's a great player) simply because I was dating him. The hurdle we have to jump is that everyone already has that thought in mind. We’ve been faced with the perception that “Oh, she got in because her boyfriend did”. Later in the tiers, after we were already in the guild he swapped raiding mains and I stayed out of that new thread as well. Of course I wanted him to do well, but it's not my job to take care of his application or trial. (Nor he, mine.)

We have had applicants who are friends of raiders and when it came time for their initiate thread, the raider ranked person came back at any criticism with paragraphs of text and links from WoL defending their friend. The raider-ranked person would jump all over anyone’s criticism of the applicant. We’ve had a raider’s friend apply and had the raider leap to his defense against everything from then on (and vice versa as well).

This is exactly the kind of behaviour dating couples have had to overcome and bust their butts to make people see beyond. If the ‘dating couple’ defends the other person’s application or trial as fervently as these people did, it would overshadow everything and put a sour note on the forum thread. 

Hell, we had a recent applicant who I chat with on Twitter and I stayed out of his thread (until I was asked to comment) because I was afraid of the bias it would infer.

I understand wanting to help your friend get into a raiding guild, but to me it looks like you're trying to cover for them. Trust me, I know what it's like to have to try and let go of that feeling where you think you have to stand up for your partner or friend during an app or trial. Let their performance speak for itself. If people have concerns about their play, they should be able to back themselves up - without your help. 

So how do you 'handle' a pair?

Make it very clear that you will be judging their performances separately. If you don't firmly stand by the fact that you will be treating them as two people, you're bound to have issues in the end.

Typically, pairs of applicants will app at the same time and make a note in their applications that they would like to raid together. If you are like my current guild, someone (usually our GM) will state that we do not accept package deals (groups or pairs) and that each applicant will be considered separately.

Take us all, or else! ... Just kidding. (not!)
If the applicants are not okay with that, then send them on their way - you don't want the potential hassle later. But if the people applying are okay with being treated as individuals, and understand that they or the person they are applying with may not make it into initiate or raider status, then the process can continue. Many people say that they are all right if one makes it but the other doesn't - don't back down - make them walk the walk. 

Pairs or groups of people who are truly accepting of the fact that your guild doesn't take the "package deals" will do their best to show you that each person can play well and deserve a spot in your raid.  

In the past, we had a group of three applicants who stated that they'd like to raid together but that it would be all right if they couldn't - we didn't have enough openings at the time to consider all of them. In the end, we were interested in trialing one of them and offered the others a spot in the guild as a casual member. They would be able to apply if openings came up and would have time to get to know people in the guild.

All three of them ended up canceling out and moving on saving them the time and money for transferring and trials and letting us move on to search for more interested parties. Picture this: what would have happened if we had bent the rules and trialed all three of them? Let's say one makes it in after a trial, and the other two do not. They all transferred to be here so that's $75 between them. Two decide to leave, unhappy with the arrangement they agreed to, and the other ends up miserable without their friends and decides to leave soon after. 

It is not a good set up for the people trialing and it's not a good set up for the guild trialing them. Treat the people coming in as pairs or groups as individuals throughout your entire recruiting process. It's fairer to them, and it's better for you and your guild in the end so that you can find the people who are the right fit.

Do you raid in a pair? Are you a GM who has couples and groups in your guild? Are your experiences similar to mine, or do you have a different story?


  1. Great post. Very interesting and leaves me jealous :) I wish my wife was interested in wow. I am glad you have a home that respects both of you as individuals and a couple.


  2. I admit Coolidge can be overprotective of me in the game but I appreciate it during the times when I have been upset by something. Being the GM of a small Guild, drama becomes even more apparent btwn couples so it can be hard at times when you always have to play mediator or go-btwn.