Sit-outs, alternates, and 'core' raiders. This issue is by far my biggest headache, not even loot issues have been able to surpass this issue.
Thanks to the homogenization of buffs (thank goodness), and a greater Bring the Player mentality, raid stacking has fortunately slid off to the side a bit. Normal Ulduar is not Sunwell, and the micromanagement of buffs is no longer required. We even manage to raid without a shaman most nights, and are still progressing along nicely.
S-a-S runs a fairly stable roster of 32 raiders. We have a few more 'friends and family' in our guild, but they aren't folks who raid often (if ever). Recruiting is closed, and we wind up sitting some amazing players every night. Fortunately, part of what makes these players amazing is that they don't throw a fit every time they're asked to sit.
You know it's gonna hurt
This Saturday is lining up to be a perfect storm for us. A few DPS have RL issues, a couple of healers are out, and at least one tank. I imagine we're going to ask someone to swap roles for the evening, as our 'friends and family' members are pretty much just that. The upside is everyone will probably get in who wants to raid. The downside is we're so lean that one missed meal will make us starve.
So what's the balance?
With 2 extra tanks, 3 healers, and 2 DPS - we have to wonder what the fine line between too many and not enough is. Obviously if we have to cancel a radi due to missing people, we're too lean. The same goes if we start to suddenly hemmorage our alternate raiders. I really hate calling them bench players - it has a negitive connotation which probably stems from my football days. Basketball players sit the bench all the time, and some baseball players sit all game waiting for that one moment to pinch hit or run.
Personally, I wouldn't say no to one more full time person - but the problem I have is finding a spot for them. Our raiders are loyal and some of us have been together since our first raid days in Molten Core. We've eliminated the fire standers, and some days it feels like we're trying to squeeze blood from a stone when it comes to improving performance.
It's a shame we can't get everyone in every night. I really wish the instance would scale based upon the number of people you bring inside, though I'm sure this would open up a whole new level of drama and difficulty. Can you picture all the fire standing players who would be pressuring you to get in since there's no instance cap? Makes me shudder to think about it.
For right now we're going to ride this edge until we get cut. The other officers are watching the guild closely, looking for the cliques that might splinter off and leave a gaping hole that needs plugging in a hurry. I imagine that as long as we're progressing through the content however, we'll have plenty of raiders to choose from. The real test will be when we're breaking our faces on hard mode bosses.
Of course, we could always go back to Naxx....