A few weeks ago in Nax25, Serene Echoes dropped off Heigan. It’s the sort of thing that turns an intelligent player into a drooling puddle of desire. Gimmegimmegimme. It also is arguably best in slot for a disc priest, especially if you’re not after the hasty boots that drop off Maly25.
One of the three GMs of the guild I was in, Qban, was running the raid. He invited all casters to roll, and in fact, I think every clothy was drooling about as much as I was. I protested rather loudly. As much as a warlock might enjoy all that crit, the mp5 is wasted itemization (wtb Lifetap), the same way +hit would be wasted on a healer. As far as I’m concerned, those are for healing priests and healing priests only. (They’re really itemized for disc, but I would have few qualms rolling against a holy for those boots. However, I might ever so gently point them to Forlorn Wishes that drop off Razuvious…far better for a holy priest.)
Qban was in his “let’s get this shit done” mode, which means any discussion was seen as stalling. Roll roll roll, and as luck would have it, Qban won the boots. (He’s a mage.) Grats.
Ten minutes later, Lof, one of the other GMs, got online. He saw me ranting in guild chat about the insanity of what just happened. He looked at the boots, did 10 seconds of research, then started yelling at Qban for taking them. Turns out the Wyrmrest boots Qban was wearing are far better for a mage than the Heigan boots. Qban withdrew into himself, and didn’t utter a single word for the next hour (which is kind of lame for a raid leader).
All three GMs quit WoW a couple of days later, so there wasn’t a chance to rectify the policy before the guild dissolved. Qban vendored the boots after the raid though. Truly a shame.
And lest you think this is just my outlet for QQing about loot that I should have gotten if justice had prevailed, it ain’t so. Another heal-priest outrolled me anyway. I’m more interested — much more interested — in loot policy than I am in loot.
Individual vs group perspective
Qban was a very good player, creative, alert, knowledgeable. So what went wrong? Well that’s easy: the loot policy was too soft and undefined, and relied on a priority scheme that works for individuals, not groups.
The existing loot policy was simple: roll if the item is an upgrade for your main spec. Armor class was taken into account, so holy pallies weren’t rolling on the cloth healing boots. This type of policy is probably the most common I’ve seen in raids that don’t use a “harder” system like DKP. It works for guild runs as wells as pugs.
In a system like this, it is left to the individual to recognize a main-spec upgrade. And how do individuals make that call? Most likely, they use a ranking site.
There are all sorts of loot ranking sites that people use to create wish lists (Maxdps, Wowhead, Lootrank, etc). And of course, many experts have created customized wish lists for us (Dwarfpriest, Matticus, Shadowpriest.com). The very significant problem is that every one of these sites looks at loot from the perspective of the individual, not the raid. Serene Echoes might show up very high on a warlock’s wish list in Lootrank. And with a soft system that allows the individual to determine their own loot upgrades, that warlock will surely roll. (Grr.) However, it’s the raid leader’s job to take the perspective of the raid, not the individual.
The real problem, as you can see, is that any item that qualifies as best-in-slot for one class will surely be an upgrade for other classes. Naturally, this doesn’t apply only to the absolute best gear, but any item. So we need a raid-oriented policy that takes into account the needs of the individual. Sounds complicated, but it’s actually not.
Defining a policy
There are three ways we can arrive at a solid policy here. One is easy, the other is nearly impossible, and one is riddled with problems.
The easy way is to rely on an outside authority to determine what spec each piece of gear is designed for. That way when something drops, the raid is not in danger of the sort of thing that happened to our group. Consult the “oracle” to determine who is eligible to roll on an item for their main spec, and if no one of that class/spec is in the raid (or wants the item), check to see what class can roll for offspec.
This frees the raid leader from having to be an expert on all the subtleties of class design. Is that a rogue item, hunter item, or enhancement shammy? Damn…all I know is that they like sharp sticks. But between the different stats and weapon speeds, forget about it. I could always ask the resident sharp-stick-users, but what if there were any disagreement? Who should resolve it, and how? We’d be back in deep water.
If we had an outside authority, it would minimize arguments in the moment. Any challenges would have to be taken up either before or after the raid. Because the raid leader is not making the call, the outside oracle is, so the challenge would be: “we should not be using that oracle!”
The second way to get a solid foolproof policy is to rely on all the individuals in the raid to have two qualities: first, to be high-level authorities on their classes, and second, to place the best interests of the group above their own. So everyone in raid would have to be an unassailable expert on their class, and they would be able to look at any item and determine if it was itemized for their spec. They would know if an item isn’t a bulls-eye (even if it’s an upgrade), and they would have the integrity and courage to pass to the person for whom it is a bulls-eye. They would probably also need to be knowledgeable on all classes and specs in order to know who the bulls-eye actually hits for any given piece of loot. In theory raid members could pool knowledge and discuss (rationally!) when an item dropped.
See why one is easy and one is nearly impossible? I thought so. I don’t mean to imply that it can’t happen ever. I’ve seen it happen, and it’s beautiful and exciting to participate in. But to rely on it as a policy? Are you serious?
In an excellent guild, you could certainly have some amount of those qualities: deep class knowledge, or team-oriented play. However, even in the best of all worlds, having both qualities firmly in place just does not happen. And to be honest, that’s not a problem: all we need is a little structure to hold it together.
The third way is to use a loot council. A loot council is excellent for answering the question “who deserves this gear most?” based on whatever factors you want to include. Typically a loot council would weigh things like: raid attendance, performance, the level of gear being replaced, overall benefit to the raid, etc. It is certainly a group-oriented loot policy, but addresses issues I don’t feel should be addressed during loot rolls. If someone is not participating in enough raids to further the guild’s progress, that should be addressed offline, not in the form of loot lockout. You are also relying on the integrity of the loot council, which is where power lies, and therefore where corruption is seeded. It could work, potentially, but is delicate beyond belief. Again, I’ve seen it in action when it’s working well, but as a policy, we’re in a danger zone.
Enter the Oracle
The Oracle’s name is Kaliban. All rise for the Great Kaliban!
Kaliban’s loot tables have been around since classic raids. They have been used by raid leaders for years. His page explaining the rationale behind his choices is extremely thorough. In other words, he is a well-respected authority.
Each item is ranked into three tiers: first rollers, second rollers, and third rollers. In some cases, the breakdown is simply by armor class. So Belt of False Dignity, for example, is offered first to clothies (mages, locks, and all priest specs), second to leather casters, and third to mail casters. Ruthlessness, as a more typical example, is rated based on which class/spec is most appropriate for those particular stats.
So now, when an item drops, all the raid leader needs to do is look it up on Kaliban and invite the primary classes to roll. A resto druid might have the Belt of False Dignity on their list of potential upgrades, but first roll goes to clothies. A prot warrior might see Ruthlessness as an upgrade, but first roll goes to other specs.
And as I mentioned above, if anyone has issues with Kaliban’s recommendations, the raid leader should say that the Oracle’s authority is final for now, and if it needs to be discussed whether or not we use Kaliban in the future, that can be addressed in a guild meeting.
The Oracle is INSIDE YOUR WOW
That’s right. There is a plugin that embeds all of the information on Kaliban’s site right into your game. So a raid leader doesn’t even need to leave their window to get Kaliban’s loot list. The addon is called ClassLoot.
As far as I’m concerned, it is an absolute must-have for any raid leader. I mean that. Absolute.
Here is how the item card looks for my beloved boots. Kaliban has not yet drawn any distinction between holy and discipline priests. Perhaps someday, but even without it, it’s a tremendous improvement over the “soft” systems most raid leaders use.
I currently know of no other authority that compares or competes with Kaliban. If you know of any, I’d love to hear!