Communication in Raids

October 20, 2009 at 3:37 pm (Grouping, Healing Mechanics, Raiding, User Interface)

I still owe a Holy FAQ and it will come towards the end of this week when I get a chance to do the math on Holy spells. In the mean time I want to talk about communication.

My guild is hardly the most progressed guild in the world. We’re not bleeding edge in the world or even on our server. Nevertheless we have our good days and our bad days and it doesn’t take a genius to spot that the difference is often to do with how well we communicate.

Irrelevent but pretty

When I’m raid leading I’m happy with everybody having the ability to talk in Ventrillo. I’m not at all interested in restricting talk privilages to only certain people. The main reason is because we’re very much a casual guild and raiding is fun, not work. Moreover, I simply don’t find it a problem to let everybody talk because most people don’t. In practice I find the raid tends to trust a few key players to say what needs to be said. Those key people are the ones you’d expect: The Raid Leader, the Tank, the Healers.

The Raid Leader

I see the raid leader’s job as calling out the abilities the boss is about to use to make sure everybody is prepared. In a fight like Mimiron for example, during phase 4 he’s throwing out a new ability every 10 seconds and often they overlap. The key to that fight is insuring people aren’t overwhelemed by several abilities. Having somebody calling out “Spinning up in 5 seconds” or “Shockwave coming up, Melee get ready” just keeps everybody calm. The fight stops being so frantic because people are ready for things. You’re relying less on people’s reflexes and more on their brain.

Sure, everybody has Deadly Boss Mobs, but those bars can easily get lost in the mess of your UI, or the various flashy lights and beepy noises that are a part of every fight.

A bad raid leader talks non-stop and distracts people, a good raid leader says just what needs to be said to keep people focused. I’m sometimes the bad kind, but I try not to be.

The Tanks

Tanks need to communicate about things like Tank switching, positioning the boss or calling out for DPS starting or stopping on particular targets.

Take for example Gormok the Impaler. It’s up to tanks to make sure they let each other know when to Taunt away from Impale stacks. Or that the raid know if the tank has to move a boss, or turn him and risk players being hit by breath attack.

In terms of using cooldowns I think that’s more of a healer thing. Tanks, use Last Stand or Icebound Fortitude when you need to. You don’t need to tell me about it every time. On the other hand, if I need you to use it at a specific time, I might ask you to. A good healer UI will let them know that the Tank used something like Divine Protection.

The Healers

This I want to go into quite a lot. I think the importance of healer communication depends a lot on the size of the raid. In a 25 man raid it’s not terribly practical to have six or seven healers talking over Vent to coordinate their healing. It’s just too many people talking. In 10 mans on the other hand when there are only two or three people talking, communication over Vent is practical and can make a big difference. The harder the fight, the more important the communication.

Heroic 10 man Lord Jaraxxus is a perfect example of a fight where it really helps to communicate, but to be honest I think what I’m about to say makes sense for any fight with a healing intensive part. Jaraxxus involves lots of movement, several tanks taking damage, lots of raid damage, several debuffs which need healing and sometimes dispelling. This makes it a good example I think.

Thunderbluff before the Cataclysm

In 10 man Jaraxxus you are probably using three healers. I would imagine it’s doable with two but three really makes more sense to me given the amount of raid damage that can occur. Given I’m trying to sell you on the need for good communication let me give a couple examples of the things healers in my guild are saying during this fight.

“Player X is out of range of me”
“Incinerate Flesh on Player Y”
“Cover the tank please, I’m running from Legion Flames”
“I’ve got Player Z/Group 2”

Line of Sight and Range are big issues for healers but are often difficult for other players to keep track of. If a player runs out of range when they need healing or, even worse, has something like Incinerate Flesh on themselves then you’re in a tricky position as a healer. It can mean you have to start running around the area trying to get that player back into range. When you’re running you’re not healing. It’s wasted time, and that’s if you can even find the player to run to in the first place. Nothing makes you feel sillier than running around a fight trying to work out where the guy is. Especially if you run into fire in the process.

A much more practical solution is to get another healer to cover for you. Something as simple as saying “Player X out of range” lets the other healers know to prioratize that person, and they can tell you right away if they can cover for you, or if they are out of range too. It also lets that player know they need to think about moving.

Incinerate Flesh is another good example. It’s a healing specific debuff which, particularly on Heroic mode, healers need to coordinate on. Calling out the target just makes sure the other healers know about it and are helping you out. It may be that you don’t need help. In which case calling out the debuff and saying “I’ve got it” frees up the other healers to focus on other things.

When you’re running your healing power drops right off. For some players it’s worse than others. For example Paladins do next to no healing when running, the same for Shaman. Druids on the other hand can do good healing on the move. If you’re a Paladin on tank healing duty then having to run can be a real danger. Let the other healers know, call out who you need them to heal while you run, tell them when you’re ready again. The solution might be as simple as them, or you, casting Pain Suppression or Hand of Sacrifice, or the Tank using Shield Wall, but unless you tell them they don’t know to do it.

Good communication also helps the other players in the raid. If xLegolazz is taking a lot of damage he benefits from knowing that you’re thinking about him. Not in a lying awake at night kind of way, more like that you’ve got his back. It can help relax people to know that you’re in control of the situation.

What not to talk about

Excuses and explanations. If you’ve died you’ve died. But unless the raid is wiping they don’t want to hear about what went wrong. There will be time for explanation after the fight is over. Don’t spam vent with how unfair it was that you go that lag spike just as you got hit with the Fire Bomb. They don’t need to know yet. Let them concentrate.

Anything other than the fight. Of course it’s up to your guild ethos. Some guilds like to talk during fights, or listen to music. If that’s your guild then great, otherwise try and stay focused. Fun chat for outside of fights, when the fight starts, put your game hat on. That’s the hat with all the spell power. Not your fishing hat.

I still owe a Holy FAQ and it will come towards the end of this week when I get a chance to do the math on Holy spells. In the mean time I want to talk about communication.

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