I’ve had a lot of free time since my exams ended last month. Combine it with short raid weeks due to clearing content and the fact that Diablo III came out and, honestly, I haven’t spent a lot of time in-game.

This is vastly different from how things were for me back when I started playing. I was always trying to improve my character by getting things done, like getting all of my T0 set or working on my T0.5 questlines. Or farming for consumables and consumable-related stuff. Doing stuff that I genuinely needed to do to improve, not just because there was some achievement for it. (Because achievements did not exist back then.)

It dawned on me that I really don’t need to do that anymore.

Back in the old days, there weren’t these limits of “one flask or one guardian/one battle elixir”. You could have a flask and several elixirs active at once.

Early in Burning Crusade, the developers decided that was making it really difficult to balance the encounters. How do you balance an encounter for a raid group that is using 0 consumables and a raid group that is using every single consumable in the game? Simple, you cap the consumables and balance for a raid group at that cap.

Back in Burning Crusade, I will freely admit that Apotheosis was not a guild where most of its members used consumables of any kind. It was like pulling teeth to make people use elixirs or flasks. For myself, I always used the Elixir of Healing Power and the Elixir of Draenic Wisdom. This is primarily because, back then, Elixir of Healing Power was +healing (while Adept’s Elixir was +dmg/healing). I also used to eat the Golden Fish Sticks for the +healing.

I was, unfortunately, an exception in our raids back then. I had no idea addons existed to help verify/enforce consumable usage. On the night that we finally, finally killed Lady Vashj, my whole raid team was actually using max consumables and it was amazing. What was less amazing was clicking on 24 other people individually to see if they had their elixirs and food buffs…

That stuff, back then, was time consuming to get or expensive. And not remotely close to the way all of it was back pre-BC. In Vanilla, due to the lack of a cap on this stuff, you could farm for twice as long as you raided every week and still not have everything you needed. Hell, I never even used a flask in Vanilla, not on Kurn. The first time I actually used a flask in Vanilla WoW was when Tia and a warrior friend of hers and I decided to three-man Emp runs in BRD (me on Madrana). It was a Flask of Distilled Wisdom and it was glorious.

But I digress.

In Wrath, I fished up my own fish and cooked it myself. I made my own Flasks of Distilled Wisdom, yes, that same Vanilla-era flask, since they were SO good for holy paladins. It took a good deal of time and occasionally made me go farming in places where I could get Icecap and Dreamfoil and, of course, Black Lotuses.

It’s been different in Cataclysm.

Once all Valor Point stuff I want has been purchased, I feel that I only have to spend maybe an extra half an hour in-game per week. That extra time is all I need with regards to providing consumables for myself.

For me, consumables are not negotiable. I need to have a flask, I need to have food, I need to have various potions (I use Volanic sometimes, but mostly I use Potions of Concentration) and that’s all there is to it. I feel if you’re not buffed with flasks and food, you’re not going to be able to do your best.

This is something I’ve codified into our guild stuff. Raiders MUST be flasked with a food buff, or using two elixirs in lieu of a flask.

How is it, then, that I only need to spend a half an hour in-game per week on consumables? It’s easy. We’ve organized it so that the guild collectively takes responsibility for the major consumables.

For the majority of this expansion, every raiding member of the guild (Initiates, Raiders and Officers alike) was required to “donate” three flasks of a certain kind (pre-determined and they stuck with the same one) to the guild bank every week, due before Tuesday maintenance. This is a LOT less work than people needing 9 flasks of their own per week (or six in the case of Alchemists) and was made possible once we opened up the Big Cauldron of Battle after making 3000 flasks (gah) and then hitting Level 20 so we could have 30 flasks down per cauldron.

So we’ve been collecting flasks from people on a weekly basis since, uh, last April, maybe? We eventually brought that down to 2 flasks per person per week and now we’re about done with flask donations, period. It’s weird to be done sending in flasks, but definitely nice. So every raid night, I take six of each flask out and I drop a cauldron prior to the first boss pull and another one just after break. This worked out so well for us that I imagine the same sort of thing will be done in Mists. The guild bank has had to spend ridiculously little gold on flasks since we pushed a bit to get to 3000 flasks crafted.

As to food… Well, food is basically the Seafood Magnifique Feast, which is 90 of a useful stat to you and 90 stamina. We have the guild bank provide that, but I would say that we have spent… probably no more than 2500g over the last year and a half on various fish for the feast.

Every week, we have a specific donation for something we need in Apotheosis and if you give us what we’re looking for, we give you 200 EP. (We use the EPGP loot system, but you can easily adapt this for DKP or suicide kings or something else.) As such, we almost always have any sort of fish or anything we need. Every week, it’s just like “hey, do you want an extra 200 EP? Then donate (items here)” and people do it. Personally, I enjoy fishing, but sometimes I’m strapped for time, so I’ll occasionally buy the fish at the AH and donate them, but most of the time, I like to fish them up myself.

For enchants and gems and such, we introduced Raider and higher free enchants some time ago, including everything, basically, except for helm enchants and shoulder enchants. Again, we fund this primarily through EP drives from the raiders. Since we introduced this sort of thing, I don’t think we’ve had to spend any money on things like Greater Celestial Essences, Hypnotic Dust or Heavenly Shards. (Especially since shards can now be gotten from Maelstrom Crystals.)

The best part about EP drives is that they’re optional, but so many people decide to participate anyway. I have never missed a week and many others haven’t, either. It’s just a small amount of EP, but it’s a nice little token that may or may not make the difference in your EPGP priority versus someone else who might be after the same item you are. Over time, it certainly adds up.

This way, though, everyone becomes responsible for everyone. Small donations (20 fish here, 40 fish there, 3 Greater Celestial Essences here, 2 Heavenly Shards there) add up quickly, even if you only have 30% of your guild donating. Flasks are taken care of automatically because everyone’s donating every week. Fish and other stuff are taken care of as needed.

Even repairs are taken care of by the bank on a rank basis.

Alts: 100g/day
Friends: 100g/day
Initiates: 250g/day (people who raid but are in their trials)
Members: 250g/day (older members, retired raiders, no longer raiding with us regularly)
Raiders/Officer Alts/Officers: 500g/day

This is funded through the sale of BOEs, of crafted stuff, of crafting materials and patterns, plus the gold-to-bank guild perk, Cash Flow (2) and despite shelling out for epic gems to give out to raiders now and again, the Apotheosis guild bank has over 500k at the moment and has remained at about that level for a couple of months.

Making the whole guild responsible for consumables frees up a huge chunk of time for you and for everyone else. If everyone throws in just a little bit of effort on a regular basis, no one needs to do a ton of work. It’s great. In our system, there’s still individual potions to take care of, but I’ve always found that if you mix up one big batch at a time, you should be good for weeks on end.

So apart from potions, Raider-ranked folks are taken care of in the guild by the guild, with Initiates getting at least some of the benefits as well.

On the flip side, over on the baby pally, I basically pay 400g a month to Choice, which entitles me to flasks and fish feasts and repairs, but I take care of my enchanting myself and I often bring my own Fortune Cookies just because I’m a scribe there and I always have extras. They also have EP donations, but they’re on a grander scale and tend to be steady (whereas one week, Apotheosis will want fish, but the next week will want enchanting mats). Potions are taken care of by me as well, but being a potion master alchemist, that’s not remotely an issue, especially since my mage is an herbalist.

Back in the old days, being a “raider” meant endless farming before then wiping endlessly. Being a raider was a huge time sink. It’s not that it’s not a time sink these days as well, because it certainly can be, but as someone who has recently finished with school and is enjoying her free time, I really appreciate how everything is taken care of by everyone equally in my guild.

(If you want to start flask donations or EP drives, Google Docs’ spreadsheets are the most amazing thing in the entire universe ever, by the way.)