Leading your Raid into the Unknown

February 17, 2010 at 3:17 pm (Grouping, Icecrown Citadel, Patch 3.3, Patches, Raiding)

Icecrown Citadel is completely out now, and everybody is making their own way through it. My guild downed Blood Princes for the first time last week. That fight in particular has really got me thinking about the process of learning a new boss. This isn’t something we think about very often, and it’s not discussed a lot. I see other Priests play, and learn from them. I don’t often see other Raid Leaders raid lead, and so I pretty much make it up as I go. When it comes to learning a new fight you can’t really go inspect another guild to see how they do it. “Progression” is this mysterious thing which some guilds are better at, and we don’t really know why. We just watch a Tank Spot video and copy it as best we can.

So, in the spirit of sharing I want to talk about four simple things which I think every raid leader and raid group can keep in mind to learn new fights faster. If you have any strategies you employ I would genuinely appreciate hearing about them.

So, 4 ways to learn fights faster:

1.“The first couple don’t count”

You are probably going to wipe. Sometimes we one shot bosses the first time we see them, but usually only gear check bosses, not hard encounters. For these harder fights, you should go in knowing you are going to wipe.
That doesn’t mean take a negative attitude and give up. What it means is: Don’t take every death to heart. Keep going even when one tank is dead and the adds are out of control. You knew you were going to wipe anyway, the point of the first attempt it to see what happens. The first attempts are about learning where the mobs come from, what the Blazing Skeletons or the Gaseous Bloat look like, or finding out how hard the boss hits when the Tank has the debuff. Regardless of videos or strategy guides, until you’ve had a few “attempts” you never know quite how things play out, so your first attempt or two are about seeing these things in action. You probably don’t need potions or food because you aren’t really attempting the boss, you are scouting out the competition.

2.“Don’t explain everything”

Every fight has strategies, but some are much more complicated than others. For a fight like Patchwerk there are only really two things to say. So say them. For a fight like Putricide or Mimiron on the other hand, there is a lot to say. The more complicated the tactics, the less chance you’re going to make it all the way through first time. If you aren’t going to make it through, there is no point overburdening your raid by explaining every single tactic in detail for the first or second attempt. I don’t need to know that the Tanks have to start swapping once the boss reaches 35%, because at the moment we can’t make it past 85%. You are just filling my head with useless information. If by some magic we do get the boss down to 35% first try, then it only takes a quick “Tanks swap at three stacks” for a good raid group to get the idea.

So the point is: Don’t plan too far ahead. By not explaining all the tactics you make sure your raid is focusing on what is going on right now. They only have to think about a couple of things which means they can concentrate on getting those right. As you get further in, you can give a couple of quick pointers on what new things to expect.

3.“Set goals”

Set goals for your raid, and for individual players. In a fight like Blood Princes for example there are lots of things to think about. The fight doesn’t really have phases, so there are a lot of tactics that do need to be explained at the start, but that doesn’t mean you can’t put the emphasis on certain things. For example, positioning is very important on Blood Princes, because it makes things like Empowered Vortex, and Empowered Flame Sphere much more straight forward. On the other hand, there is so much going on (and so much knock back) in this fight, that standing in the right place is often not at front of a player’s mind. It is worth spending an attempt early on just focusing on where players are standing. That may mean you aren’t catching every Kinetic Bomb, and it may mean that your DPS is lower than it needs to be, and the Tank’s threat is poor. On the other hand, focusing completely on position will hopefully mean that in later attempts it will start to come more naturally when you are thinking about other things.

This doesn’t just go for positioning. You might set a goal for your Hunter of catching every single Kinetic Bomb, even if it means his DPS is zero. Nobody likes doing bad DPS, but it’s just one boss attempt, it’s just for now, just this try. Focusing completely on these mechanics cleans up your attempts and gives your raid as a whole the ability to do their individual jobs better. Your healers can heal better, your Tanks can Tank better, and that hunter can get their Kinetic Bomb catching down to a fine art. Without that 100% focus they’d still get their eventually, but it would take longer, and it would make everybody else’s job harder until they did. Clean mechanics come first, the DPS and Healing will take care of themselves once the fight is smooth.

For now all you need to do is stand in the right spot.

4.“Start out strict, and loosen up”

Guides and strategies are somewhat dependent on group make-up, player ability and gear. Your Warlock may not be as tough as the one in the Tank Spot Video, or your Death Knight might be much more capable than the warrior they are using. Whatever the differences, you need to give yourself an opportunity to see what demands are being made on your raid group. That’s much harder to see when you have players all over the place trying to do multiple things. As such, it is a good idea to give your players very strict roles at least until you can see what needs changing.

Take healers for example, it’s a good idea to have a dedicated Tank Healer, and a dedicated Raid Healer and encourage them to stick 100% to their assigned task. While this is unlikely to be the tactic you ultimately go with, it does let those players get a feeling for how tough their job is. With no heal overlap your Tank healer gets a good idea of how hard the boss hits for, and how much time he could safely spend helping your Raid Healer.

Similarly it gives your hunter a good idea of whether he can kill a Blood Beast on his own, or whether your Death Knight needs to throw some Chains of Ice.
It gives you a good idea of whether two players are enough to kill the Suppressors on Valithra Dreamwalker, or whether you need three.
It’s only by being initially strict about what people do that you get an idea of where you can afford to be flexible.

This is far from all there is to being a raid leader, and it’s not even the sole responsibility of the raid leader. A positive raid group is important, and requires the right attitude from a lot of people. It’s not up to the raid leaders to “make” the raid do things correctly, it’s up to the raid group as a whole. However, my feeling is that the Raid Leader can take responsibility for making the learning process as smooth as possible. Hopefully the points I’ve outlined give some idea of how I think that can be done. As I say, I don’t think “Raid Leading” strategy is talked about enough, which is a shame because every 1 in 15 or so players is a raid leader, and we could all use some help getting better at it.

If you have any Raid Leading strategies, or resources you use, I’d love to hear about them.

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