With Wrath of the Lich King, Blizzard gave new raid guilds starting out an enormous leg up, in the form of a 10-man version of every raid. In The Burning Crusade, 10-man guilds were very limited in their raiding options (especially before the release of Zul’Aman). And starting a 25-man raiding guild from scratch was no easy task – it can take a significant amount of time to build up a stable core of 25 people and start clearing content.

When starting Ka Pai, my end goal was always going to be 25-man raiding. In fact, if Blizzard decided to bring back 40-man raids, I’d probably have aimed to be doing them, too. Of course, in the early days, cobbling together enough people to form a 10-person raid was challenge enough. The build-up process to 25-man raiding was only fully completed after about 4-5 months, and went something along the lines of the following:

  • The first few weeks of 10-man raids had a maximum of about 6 guildies in them. The rest of the numbers were made up through favors from friends and my previous casual guild. Their help was invaluable, and in truth I might have given up a long time ago without it. If you don’t have a pool of friends or a partner guild that you can politely draw from, then you should use PuGing at a last resort.
  • After some time, we managed to clear enough content that we were starting to get some attention, and a trickle of quality applicants. These were of course grabbed as quickly as we could get them. We didn’t make compromises, though; if someone wasn’t up to scratch we didn’t take them, plain and simple. I do not regret this for a moment. After a few weeks we were in the position of being able to do full-guild 10-man runs (no outsiders). In retrospect, this was probably our biggest milestone in terms of numbers. It’s a “proof-of-concept” – the ability to demonstrate that you can in fact function as a viable raid guild, that you’re not just a group of 5 people PuGing raids.
  • With a full guild run, we found that we were able to make better progress, as we spent less time waiting to fill the raid each night, and morale overall was improved. With this stronger progression, the apps kept on coming, and we kept on pushing recruitment. Before long we had standbys each night for our single 10-man run. Once we reached around 16 people with strong attendance, people started getting a little tetchy, so I once again reached out to friends and friendly guilds, in order to leap to two 10-man raid groups; with some success. This was a particularly testing time for the guild, and I needed to make a call about when the time was right to make the change. Too early and both groups would struggle, too late and people would start getting frustrated with being on standby so often.
  • In truth, two 10-man groups was far from ideal; people started becoming a little segregated into their groups. I endeavoured to mix things up each week and make sure that the groups were balanced, but constantly changin. Don’t give one group all the geared players, for example. This only breeds resent, as one group flies through content and the other languishes – and this resent will carry over when you do eventually start 25-man raiding.
  • Obviously the end goal was 25-man raiding, and so we recruited to move past two 10-man groups ASAP. Basically, as soon as we had about 20-21 raiders with strong attendance, we started doing 25-mans. This involved a rather painful period where for a while roughly the first half hour of each raid was spent in trade chat attempting to pug the remaining spots. Sometimes we got them all, other times we went and did easy bosses with an incomplete raid. However, in retrospect I believe this was a valuable time for the guild.
    • Firstly, it meant that when we did finally get the numbers to do 25-man raids without using outsiders, it was such a confidence boost not having to carry PuGs, that morale was very high at that point, and we made enormous progress in the following few weeks.
    • Secondly, as the weeks went on, we started reusing the same PuGs. I was actively adding to friends those PuGs that were performing well and had a good attitude, and whispering them later in the week when we were continuing the instance. In the end, we picked up around 4-5 quality players that we only knew through their performance when we PuGed them – they enjoyed our raid environment and atmosphere enough to want to join us (we generally didn’t push them, though, apart from the odd ribbing in raid chat). Most of them are valued raid members to this day.
    • Finally, it meant we were getting our name out there. Admittedly, it went a little against my mantra of “image is everything”, as we were quite spammy when picking up people, but most of those players that we did take went away from the raid with a good experience, and I don’t think there were ever any ill feelings about the guild – I was careful to make sure that we weren’t publicly disrespectful to anyone that joined us as a PuG. They were there because we needed them, after all.
    • There was at times a little tension in-guild about PuGs cleaning up gear, though – so we introduced rules such as “maximum of 2 non-tier and 1 tier piece per PuG per run” – and made these rules explicitly clear at the start of the run / at the time of invite. Guildie loot was handled internally using our DKP system, with rolls used to “compete” with the PuGs as a means of expressing interest in the loot. I.e. everyone (including guildies) rolls if they want an item of loot, if a guildie wins the roll then DKP is used to determine who receives the loot, out of the guildies who rolled.
  • Of course, after some time we finally reached sufficient numbers to start full-guild 25-man raids. At this point we continued recruiting to the point where we are today; we have a core of around 30-32 people, all with strong attendance. The extra numbers mean that we can still hold a successful raid if we have a few people away (which inevitably happens now and then – and I try not to be too hard on attendance).

In summary; don’t give up. Recruit, recruit, recruit. You will have ups and downs, be ready for the downs, and celebrate the ups. Have a goal in mind, and stick to it.