Can Progression Raiding and Alts Productively Coexist?

Don't mind me Atramedes, I'm just sightseeing, said the shadow priest as she crept closer...

We’re at a point in this tier of content wherein serious raiding guilds are well on their way into defeating the heroic modes, but many more casual raiding guilds are finding themselves stuck at 9/12 or 10/12 on regular mode. So you know what that means — folks are starting to want to bring their alts. Worse yet, the people who want to bring their alts are typically the folks who’ve geared themselves out thanks to having attended all or most of the runs (yes, I’m looking at you MT/Raid Leader/Core Raid team members.)

A guild leader’s first impulse is probably to say “OK…” when their raid leader comes to them and says “I don’t want to bring my geared out toon to raids any more; I really want to play Character X.” But there are a number of reasons you should think twice before sealing that deal:

  1. Often this is not the first– or the last– time this player has pulled the old switcheroo. Are you prepared for them gearing up this character then cycling in their next alt?
  2. You’ve just set a precedent. Now that you’ve let them swap out to their alt, why can’t player X do the same?
  3. So, player Z who has stayed on their main and lost a lot of loot to the swapping player, and is now losing more gear to their alt is starting to hate them.
  4. A raid team wants to feel like a team, not a loot delivery system for the raid leader. It can be hard to respect a leader who is continually fine tuning a situation to their advantage– raid synergy be damned.
  5. Typically, no matter how much we love our alts, they will not perform nearly as well, or have the same utility as our mains on whom we’ve spent months raiding.

In my raiding history, once the alts started coming in, progression ground to a stand-still. Tempers flared. And frequently, good players left my raid teams.In many of the cases, this behavior was tolerated because it was done by the raid leader– and everyone was afraid of losing the raid leader to the extent that no one spoke up about it. But there was a lot of discussion going on in the background amongst the raiders it affected. And none of it sunshine and kittens related.

To be clear, I’m not saying a raid leader shouldn’t grab someone’s healer alt if a raid won’t go without that happening. But allowing players, at their request, to swap characters at this stage in the game, after gearing themselves up? That has a real possibility of derailing your progression momentum.

So, What Can You Do to Avoid a Blowout?

If this issue comes up in your guild, you can’t just ignore it. It won’t go away. But there are a few ways you can diffuse the situation.

  • Start up an alt raid.
    You probably have enough experienced raiders with moderately geared up alts who want to raid on them. Put them all together, and let them start re-clearing the raids. Bonus points for this approach making folks work for it, versus coasting off mains’ hard work.
  • Put it to a vote.
    If someone is truly adamant about wanting to make a switch, put up an anonymous vote on your forums and let the raid team decide. And do the same for if EP/DKP is allowed to roll over or if there will be a penalty spend or freeze for a specific timeframe to discourage the loot and run syndrome.

How has your guild dealt with these situations?

13 thoughts on “Can Progression Raiding and Alts Productively Coexist?”

  1. I’ve seen quite a few alt-swappers, people who just cycle through them. They don’t actually tend to last very long in a raid group because they aren’t often reliable, and eventually their alts are too undergeared to contribute to the raid you’re currently in.
    There are people whose switch to an alt turned out to be for the better, though. I think a lot of it comes down to knowing the person–is this someone who has played their main for a very long time? If so, they’re not likely to alt switch on a whim. My husband got extremely burned out on his mage as we grinded our way through ICC Heroic, but he’d been raiding the character exclusively for 5 years. When he explained to our GM that if he continued to play his mage in raids, he would end up quitting from burn out, the GM agreed to let him bring his shaman. It kept him around through the end of our raiding time with them.

  2. I’ve been guilded with a number of alt-swappers. The worst part has been that none of them have ever been honest about it. I recall one person who always made up fabulous tales of why we really needed them to bring undergeared alt Y instead of uber geared main they would so much rather play, except that we really need them on their alt…
    😉
    I do agree an alt switch can be the only thing that keeps someone interested in the game. And especially in a tight knit team, it can be worth it to allow it. So far tho, I have seen a lot more of the gratuitous loothoovering more than anything else.

  3. My feeling on alts is that they have to be useful to the raid, not useful to the alt-owner. If the alt is a different ROLE than the main, having an alt geared up can be good because it provides flexibility. If someone who usually plays a mage wants to bring a healing druid, that’s going to be useful when we’re down a healer. On the other hand if the mage wants to bring his rogue, no way.
    I also think there’s an upper limit. One alt is ok and can be useful to the raid. 2 alts starts to dilute gear too much. Trying to gear 3 alts will get you in the bee pit.
    And there’s a huge difference between an alt and main-switching, provided the person is serious about the main switch. Main switching means that the person is tired of the same old and has made a decision, and that’s OK! But gearing up alt after alt is just selfish to everyone.

  4. I think many folks are also not especially transparent about their true intentions, unfortunately. So it can be hard to know if they really want to make the switch to this new toon, or if the motivation might be that the guild has hit a progression plateau and their toon, which is one of the best geared in their class on the server, can’t obtain any more loot at the moment. So many different factors and potential motivations!

  5. In my 25-man raids, we actually have enough flexibility now to bring in alts IF they are geared enough for our “farming” days. However, with our 10-man runs on the weekends, we really have to be more selective about only bringing geared characters to the raid since that is where we’re trying to down those last 3 bosses. When downsizing from a 25-man to a single 10-man on real progression nights, alt swapping in the 25-man doesn’t effect our 10-man progression nights. I could see a bigger problem for 10-man (only) guilds with having alt swappers slowing down their progress overall.

  6. Unfortunately, this type of situation happens much too often, especially in guilds with a more relaxed raiding atmosphere. I will admit to even switching out between a main and an alt. However, usually it was for the same run; alt on farm bosses then main for progression content. In those cases it was a different class in the same role (healing) that I was switching out. Which begs the question, what facets of this issue become “loothoovering” versus providing more variety to a player that is likely to face burn out (especially in low popularity roles like tanking and healing)?

  7. I don’t remember why I brought Cynwulf into an ICC raid – Cynwise must have been on lockout? – but I did, and I remember feeling vaguely guilty about taking any gear, even though I was the only one who could use it. This was near the end of Wrath, so it probably didn’t matter, but still.
    Today’s LFD controversy (which will hopefully blow out to sea soon) brings up the problem of hybrids vs. pures when talking about alts. If someone’s main is a pure DPS class, there’s no other way for them to gear up for other roles while raiding – but if the main is a hybrid, their offspec can be geared up after other main spec considerations have been addressed. Tank gear drops but it’s not an upgrade for your tanks? Well, it might be for your DPS warrior. But that Rogue with a Druid alt that she’d like to bring in as a healer when needed? Well, that intellect leather is going to get sharded.
    I’m not complaining – this is just how it works.
    I’m seriously considering a raiding main switch at this point, which is kinda scary to say. There are so many DPS players available, and so few healers and tanks, that if I’m going to raid, I may as well do it on something that’s needed by the group. I don’t mind tanking at all (though I somewhat prefer warriors to DKs, I am probably ok on either.)
    It’s not a nice feeling when your main just isn’t needed, and yet your alts are.

  8. I love alt runs, and that would be my first inclination.
    If you’ve got enough raid members, you shouldn’t NEED to take someone’s alt as a fill-in (I do understand it happens–we’ve been playing musical chairs to see the content most of the expansion), but, but, but it always make me wonder–why do you raid?
    To me, gear is simply a means to an end so that I can keep tackling content. Having that super decked character can help ease the strain on encounters that you’re struggling with, and by replacing with a newly geared alt, you’re looking at a progression stall built in to the system.
    It’s also worth looking at the history of the player in question. If they’ve swapped alts mid-ship every raid since Ulduar, then you know you’ve got someone with a short attention span; however, sometimes you start a new expansion with the best of intentions and just… don’t… like… your character.

  9. “It’s not a nice feeling when your main just isn’t needed, and yet your alts are.”
    /signed.
    While I obviously don’t mind healing for my guild when we’re short (at all–boss kills are boss kills, even if I have to fumble through healing them!), the feeling you get when you start thinking no one remembers that you’re REALLY GOOD at this class/role because you’re passable enough at this other one is kinda miserable.

  10. /doublesigned
    Same goes for main spec and off spec. “We know your main spec is DPS, but we need a healer tonight..and tomorrow…and next week…and the month after that…”
    We have a lot of alt switching going on in our guild, most of which is actually the officers. I haven’t been raiding much this expansion so I’m not sure how big of an issue it is right now, but it definitely caused us some issues in ICC.

  11. When it comes down to it, the important thing to remember is that your raid is not just a collection of individual players but a team. No one should expect their friends to carry a new “lolgreen” DPS just because they are bored. Chances are, after a certain point in the cycle we all are.
    Though we may have different motivations for raiding, we all count on one another to make it a success. If switching midway through content will make the individual happy but hurt the raid–as in my experience is so often the case–then it probably needs to be a no.

  12. When we built the guild last summer, we asked ourselves the question. We were in the process of writing strong guild rules and felt it was important.
    Most people in the guild have one to more geared alt they can play well. We love playing alts. We spent a long time to decide whether we could have something like two “main” characters.
    But organizing raids is more complicated, and progression (we are very progression oriented) is slower if people gear two toons along. Add to this, people will learn a fight with one toon and will have to do it again with another, slowing progression again.
    In the end, we chose to stick with one main, and the rest are alts. And the conditions to change that main toon are very strict. If you want to change you main toon, you have to wait until the next tier, when there will be some kind of gear reset (we reset our DKP pool too), and will have to stick with it for two tiers in a row. That means you really want to play that toon. And you wont be able to change if there is no room for that class/spec in our roster either.
    We put a lot of efforts in our main toons, it needs to be geared quickly, needs expensive enchants, need to cap its reputations and so on. You also need to be on your top game with it.
    The only exception was when, after some departures, we were short on healers and had an extra tank who could play his priest. It was a common decision the guild took as a group, not just this individual decision. We geared him. He put the effort of buying expensive stuff on AH to gear a second toon quickly.
    We still play our alts, but only in alt raids. We bring on socials and pick-ups to that raid to fill the empty slots, and as we are well known on the server for the quality of our pug runs(we really put the effort on this reputation back at the end of WotLK and now we have raid-ready alts), we have no problem finding good players.
    Alts are not to be geared by the raid. In our guild, if you want to gear your alt, you need to put the effort and do it during non-raid nights. We might mix alts and mains once all the content will be cleared included all the hard modes, or if we go back doing previous tiers after 4.2 for example.

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