This is going be a slightly different guide - it's going be a guide on how to kick in high-end raiding.
However, I'm NOT going discuss in detail things like raid strategy or addons. These have been done to death. You can look for these almost anywhere. Wowwiki usually does a good job at keeping the strategies, and Tankspot releases very decent videos.
No, this guide is about the more humane issues. After playing MMOs for 7 years I've realized what everything boils down to - politics. While most of this guide can be seen as "common sense", I am sure there are things in it that can be useful to you. In this guide I'll teach you the most psychological aspects.
I'm a "casual hardcore" type of player. The things I learned over the years while writing this guide were aimed at one goal - I wanted to do some "high-end raiding", but I wanted to have free time too. I've been playing WoW since the beta, and I always felt very frustrated at how I could never kick in the top guilds back then.
I was also an avid EVE player, and, for a long time, my guild in EVE was the top guild of the game. Now, EVE is a game entirely about politics. During that time I considered trying to apply the things I learned from EVE in WoW and, to my surprised, they started working.
I then found out my main fun in this game was starting from zero, and going all the way up to the top again, being completely unknown in a new server. From then on I played on multiple top 100 guilds until finally realizing with WOTLK it was no longer worth it (no time to do that anymore) and sitting on my druid.
I'll share the things I learned and the tricks I used.
For the sake of simplifying things, let's consider high-end raiding guilds the top 400 World guilds. That may seem a lot but it's actually slightly less than one guild per server.
The first thing is - high-end raiding guilds want good players.
The main idea you have to understand to be a good player is that WoW can be a game that requires skill. Now, I never said that it requires >a lot< of skill. However, every game can be a game pushed to the extreme. While almost everyone can beat Sonic 2, almost no one can do the crazy speed run stunts that some hardcore players have tried to. The majority of the players of WoW like to bash the very game they play because this makes them feel comfortable. When you're in a server first guild you'll see a lot of comments like "lol u guys suk" from people in considerably worse guilds. It's because they expect you to be better than you are because "dis game is easy lol" even though they can't do these things themselves. Calling the game easy makes them feel comfortable because it makes it seem like they could if they wanted, they're just not even trying. Furthermore you, the player who is trying and not killing Lich King Heroic on 25-man is clearly inferior.
They also hide behind the fact that being in a high-end guild is for "people without a life". In my experience, you can spend more time raiding in a bad guild than in a good guild, simply because the bad guild will take a long time in every boss, while a good guild will clear everything very fast, giving you time to do whatever else you want. Exactly because of this reason that their guilds don't succeed. Because it's always "someone else" who is screwing up. Because they can't take the fight seriously enough or else they'll be like the no-lifers.
You see, the main difference here is the attitude. The attitude that distinguishes a good player from a bad player. The attitude that you can be the one who could be doing better, and that you're not skill-capped. To be a good player you must accept first that you're not the best, and you're probably far away from it. Second, is to understand skill doesn't refer exclusively to twitch reflex.
This seem to be the main issue with a lot of people - they assume you don't need skill in WoW because the game isn't fast enough to require skill. Second, is that none of that can be necessarily true. You see, there are different types of skillsets - Twitch reflex, Strategy development, Theorycrafting, Politics, Leadership, and even being good at economy can be a relevant skillset in WoW. Like I said, top raiding guilds want good players. However, the only relevant thing when it comes down to that is not that you're a good player yourself - but that they see you as a good player. I call this "the bullshit factor", because while it may be true, it might not. People are easily influenced by a lot of different things that can cloud their judgement. To read more on this, I recommend the book "Influence" by Robert Cialdini.
So the point is - not all of the skills you develop are made to be put to use inside the game, but outside it. And this is again something a lot of players don't even realize - the metagame. Anything you can use to increase your chances of getting up to a good guild should be used and, if you master enough of these skills, you'll be able to join any guild in the world, as long as they're not overly full on your class and, even then, I'm pretty sure there are skills to fix that issue. So, with this overly verbose introduction, let's get to the beginning, shall we?
So let's assume you've quit WoW, sold your account, and now decided to get back. Aside from the obvious fact you'll have to level up a new character, you'll also have to pick a role. So which role should you pick up?
Well, the one you like. Choose the class you want, the race you want, and the role you want. Even the race is not relevant, although if you want to start with the attitude of a min-maxer, choosing the best PVE race would be good.
As for roles, the only role that will give you trouble is, surprisingly, tank. This is because most solid guilds already have tanks, and tanks don't guild-hop as much - they're called "career roles".
Otherwise, you can be any combination of class and race as healer or dps and it will not influence the final result as much. Very few guilds on the 100-400 range are really anal about these things and, if they are, you should avoid them like the plague.
The reason I'm assuming you'll be rerolling (I know you won't) is because I want you to comprehend the entire process as if you had zero assets.
The best moment to reroll and start your crusade to join a top guild is slightly before a new expansion come out. That's because by then a major reset will happen, and you should have time to be max. level, so now would be a good time Similarly, the very first months of an expansion are good. During the mid-end good guilds tend to already have their core, so it's harder.
Ideally you'll want to start with friends. WoW is a social game. You need to have social skills to succeed or, in lieu of that, to be an excellent player. You should treat your group of friends in the game as a network, as the bullshit factor can be elevated much more this way. For example, assume the following - you just meet someone and say:
"I'm a very good player." while wearing greens and blues or not even at level 80.
They'll not be amused.
Now, if someone elseAttitude
Attitude can be a deciding factor. The first rule is - Don't be a prima donna. People don't like prima donnas. So, in the example given above, you'd have to be careful to sound humble.
You: Hey uhm... do you do ICC?
You: Damn, that's cool. You know, I had to stop some months ago so I didn't get to see it. How's it?
Him: Good, we just killed Saurfang, neat fight.
You: I really enjoyed Ulduar, reminded me of a lot of old-school Naxx.
You: We got to down Yogg but I had to quit right after so I never got to see Algalon.
Him: Ooh that sucks
You can probably sound less assholish than that, the point is trying to include everything casually as part of your conversations. Never go with the "Did you know I ......?" route. EVER.
Similarly don't ever talk or be smug about your achievements. Specially if they involve numbers. No one wants to hear about your exploits in your OMG TOP 100 GUILD. That's why networking is good - it allows you to give people the necessary information without sounding like an *******. Plus the more humble your friends are, the more people will be compelled to listen to them. That's why you need to be humble too.
Being humble is essential. Being nice is essential. Guild Leaders don't like *******s. Your guildies don't like *******s. Most people don't like *******s. When you're being smug no one will stop and think "Damn he's good", they'll think "Damn he's an *******". On the other hand, when you're nice, humble, and outplays them (or have them think you outplay them) they'll admire you, and that's what you need to get higher.
Good guilds will ALWAYS pick up people with good attitude first, unless their guild master is also someone with bad attitude. In this case, you'll want to avoid the guild like the plague. I'll talk more about this later.
Ultimately, this is not just about wearing a mask. Try to be genuinely nice to people. The best players I've seen in this game are always calm, polite, nice. They have this soothing aura of confidence. People want to play with them simply because they inspire confidence. The moment you argue with someone on ventrilo over something stupid, this aura fades. Being a "diplomat" is the best thing you can do - making people feel like they're playing a game, not working.
Jungian psychology works great here. Try to be a figure others will look up to. This can be either a father or a mother figure in a smaller guild even if you're not an officer for example, but it will obviously not work when you're looking for a top guild (because they already have it in the guild leader). In other words, try to be the living representation of an archetype. As such an entity, you're above their mundane needs - So no loot-whoring, avoid whining. You'll want to use your influence to change things the way you want, but never complain about anything as this may reduce your aura of confidence.
About any quality you have can be used to build a great archetype.
For example, if you're a model in real life, try to combine it with extreme humbleness, and others will see you as someone who combines both physical and mental perfection - mens sana in corpore sano. They'll see you as "that person who show us you can be great inside and outside the game" and, through your image (that's what guild forum picture threads are for), think of you as something above. And the line that divides that from calling you a "faggot" if you're a man or an "attention whore" if you're a woman is EXTREMELY thin, so you need to time it correctly. Rushing to the forum to post your picture on the first day would do you no good in this case, for example. Ultimately it all boils down to being nice and always agree on disagree.
Last but NOT least here - writing correctly will do you wonders. It shows maturity and seriousness. Always try to spell the best you can. Know the difference between their, there and they're. Know the difference between lose and loose, then and than. Our is not are. Guild leaders are usually people a bit more mature than the common player, and chances are they pay attention at those things.
Unnecessary to say but almost all of this session also applies to your job or to your job-hunting.
The Middle Road
Once you're at the maximum level of the current expansion, you'll need to gear yourself up.
Remember when I said to befriend people from common guilds? You'll have to find guilds who are relatively bad in progression and make a trade. In exchange for your presence and your help, you'll have gear. The idea here is to join a guild, be helpful to them, then move to higher grounds when you can no longer progress with them.
Now this guild-hopping might sound a bit assholish. The point is - you STILL have to keep a good image for yourself as you leave guilds, or else you'll burn your reputation before getting to the top. What this means is - you'll have to do it in a way that the guild understands your situation and don't find you an ******* for it.
This is where you put to practice what I told you to when it comes down to attitude, but not just that. This is where you start to make the difference - players from top guilds don't behave or play like players from bad guilds. You have to literally make the difference. How? Using the skills you have.
Strategy - Always show to be on top of your game when it comes down to bosses. Read about the bosses, know what other classes have to do. Say on Ventrilo things you know about this fight. Talk about the strategy with the officers, but NEVER correct them, just give "helpful suggestions". Know the fights. Post on the guild forum about the fights. Be active.
Theorycrafting - Always show to know your shit, no matter how irrelevant it is. Gem perfectly. The importance is not to gain a small edge on dps or heal, but to show you care. Talk about spreadsheets or - even better - talk about simulations such as SimCraft. Display excellent math knowledge of your class. There's no shortcut here. The importance, again, is not to actually gain an advantage on dps or heal, but to show others you know what you're doing.
Once you get these two done, people will be much more lenient on your actual gameplay skills, since they'll see your mistakes as "something that just happens". After all, you seem to be on top of your game all the time.
Diplomacy - All is for naught if you can't have the items. Remember, you're in the bad guild to gear up. Join a guild that you know will give you access to items. The best guilds for this are ones that do officer loot - there are much higher chances they'll want to gear you up if you know what you're doing AND you befriend the leadership, so this is where diplomacy is important. The more active you become, the more they'll trust the items to you.
Avoid like the plague guilds whose mindset is "if he's doing less dps than you, then he must be geared first.", unless it benefits you.
Also beware of loot officer guilds where they'll just try to explore you so you can carry them while not receiving anything. First you must be seen as a top asset of the guild. If you're not getting anything, leave and be open about your discontempt. If you were really important, they'll reconsider the situation and you'll get more loot.
Actual Raid Skills
All these tricks are very important and relevant, however in order to shine you need to do things others don't when it comes down to actual gameplay.
Topping damage and healing charts is always good, but it is NOT everything. As a matter of fact, if you're starting, you'll probably not be able to do anything remotely close to good damage or heal. If you have friends you can just chain-run heroics like mad with them to get at least Triumph-level gear, but even then you'll probably not be topping charts.
For a DPS Class, the best way to show complete mastery of your class is to do what everyone else doesn't, even if this costs you DPS. Do NOT TUNNEL-VISION.
This may seem common sense but it's clearly the biggest fault I see on bad or mediocre players.
YOUR DPS IS NOT AS IMPORTANT AS YOU THINK IT IS.
Odds are if you're caring about DPS you can top it or you're near the top. Odds also are if you're not in a good guild, you're farming mediocre content. So odds are your guild has more than enough DPS for it, or outgears it.
Which means, DON'T TUNNEL VISION YOUR DPS.
DO NOT TRY TO COMPETE WITH OTHER MEDIOCRE PLAYERS.
I can't say this enough times.
The reasoning is - If you're in top 5 it's pointless trying to compete. Everyone knows you're capable of doing good DPS. If you're not in top 5, then chances are no one cares. Jumping from 9 to 7 will not make much difference. You're still not doing good DPS.
So it's always better to focus on doing what others can't or don't.
For example, as a Druid, you have the power to save raids with your battle-rez. In many fights with more than one tank, a fast battle-rez can save the raid from a wipe, but you need to be fast. If you know the issues your guild are having in this fight are related to the tank dying, it's better to tunnel vision the tank health even as a dps, than tunnel vision your recount. Hell, make a macro to revive him.
Because the moment you throw that rez as soon as he dies he'll be impressed. If he's an officer, he'll notice it. You'll mind-boggle him.
Find creative uses for your other skills. Tranquility can save a raid. Feral Charges can sometimes produce impressive results. Look at your environment. Just don't tunnel vision your dps. Ever. And don't aggro either.
If you do something outstanding, brag about it, just don't be too smug. Do it just to make everyone aware. "Man, that was a good ____, can't believe I pulled it off" and never talk about it again.
If you're a melee class with tanking capabilities (Frost Presence, Bear, etc), you can also increase your bullshit factor by tanking a boss after the tank dies. Pay attention to it, and call on vent as soon as it happens. Remember, it's gonna be more important for you (and probably, for the raid) than increasing your DPS.
If you're a DPS class with healing capabilities, pay attention to the health bar of your mates. This works great as a Shadow Priest. Do 5-man runs with your guildies, and toss them heals if you're a shadow priest. People will notice these things and be impressed at your stunts.
In other words, do stuff you're not supposed to. A good player doesn't play like he's "doing what he has to". You also do what you don't have to. Because you can. That's how good you are.
It's vital that you develop your environmental awareness. Make a mental rule to pay less attention at your damage and timers than at what's happening in the fight. Take your sweet time to practice this while in a bad guild. What will happen if you fail? Get kicked? Hardly. Yes, you're trying to build a reputation and make a good network, but learning one or two things is worth it.
To look like a good player, it's more important to dodge the gimmicks from the fight than anything else. Remember, dead DPS is no DPS at all. Dead healer is probably a wipe.
Also, and this is very important - KEYBIND EVERYTHING.
Ending the Middle Road
You'll want to have gear good enough to be accepted in a good guild. Keep trying to get to guilds that run the newest content, even if they do just the first boss(es). Try to do it through contacts rather than formal applications, to that you don't get burned.
Being the "top player" of "bad guilds" will usually net you a lot of advantages if you chose the guild correctly. If the guild is not entirely bad you might even get to do the newest content. With the badges system you'll also be able to gear rather quickly but remember you don't have all the time of the world.
As soon as you reach a gear threshold where you can go to something better, do it. Make sure that "something better" will give you the chance of picking up good items but sometimes it's worth even if you can't. For example, if your guild is hopeless and can't do anything past the first wing of ICC, a guild that can do the first two wings will give you twice the emblems of frost, which in the long run might be better even if they won't give you the epic drops.
In fact, once you get to that point, you're probably ready to gear yourself to try something more serious.
The Application Process
The best moment to apply is when new content has just been released, because that's when you can gear yourself the fastest to the level the top players were, and the difference is cut considerably, albeit not entirely.
If you're in a moment like now, when the latest content has been out for a while, it might be worth to wait until something new, and keep gearing yourself up.
Once you think it's the time, you choose a guild. It might not be in your server. Avoid the following guilds:
1) Guilds with outrageous requirements, such as being a top 300 guild requiring experience as a top 100 player
2) Guilds famous for having poor leadership or being *******s
3) Guilds with DKP
And think for a while about what you are or, according to this guide, should be:
2) Nice, don't write like a retard.
3) Avoid fights or drama.
5) Can think outside the box and do things others don't.
That's what people are looking for. For everything else, you embelish however you want.
For one, there's NO ONE who will dispute your old-school claims. You don't need to say the truth about the dungeons you've done or not. Say this is your fourth character for what is worth. Although I always say the truth, no one ever asked for proof that I did vanilla or tbc. No one have the time for it, really. Just be sure you know about what you're talking about if people ask later.
Second, writing an application for a guild is a lot like a job interview. Treat it like so. I like to practice real-life skills in the games I play, so it's never really time wasted.
If you're denied do not lose your calm. Be polite. I often see people getting declined and then taking that time to show their "true selves" - calling people morons, and being jerks overall. Don't. If you show you have a great attitude even when you're declined and, SPECIALLY if they were rude to you or to your decisions, you're showing you don't lose your head even when facing these situations. The next time you apply again, they'll look at you with different eyes. This has once worked for me, and I got accepted on my second application because of the attitude I displayed in the first.
There's still much more that could be said, this is a synthesis of it. I'll write more in the days to come, with some other tips on how to actually play better, and how to deal with people.
And remember, do not treat the game like it's automatically easy. There's always room to improve. Know this, and show you know this.