Friday, January 21, 2011

How to Win at Raiding!

That's right, Catacylsm bosses! You're ON NOTICE!
It's time to dig into the raid, the funnest part of WoW, the "endgame."

I remember writing in a guild web site about raiding when I was a total noob and had only the broadest idea of what was going on, having not actually been in a raid at that point. I remember referring to "The end-all be all WoW experience: raiding Karazahn!" Gosh did I get that wrong.

Today, I'm not  a noob any more.  I think, if you were to make "hardcore" a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being "pretty casual" and 10 being "Paragon aspirant" I would say that I land around an 8. Maybe 8 and a half.

Here is the terribly sad part of this article: Last night, I messed up our raid start time and was writing this article at the same time that my raid was forming up for Blackwing Descent. Which is a MAJOR violation of the spirit of this article and The Golden Rule in particular. For which I loudly bleat "Mea Culpa!" and hang my head in shame.  What is The Golden Rule of which I speak?

The Golden Rule of Raiding: Don't Waste My Time.
There are 168 hours in a week, and realistically, we get to raid for about six to ten of these, which is really quite a small amount of time. If you can respect that people have goals they wish to accomplish that can only be done while raiding, you can see that these six to ten hours are really quite precious.

Don't Waste My Time: It's deceptively simple, and yet very comprehensive in it's scope.
  • If you are late for a raid, then you're wasting my time.
  • If you have to leave early and haven't prepared a replacement, then you're wasting my time.
  • If you come to the raid and then scrounge around for food and flasks, you're wasting my time.
  • If you think you'll come and "give it a few shots," then you're wasting my time. 
  • If you run AFK a lot, you're wasting my time.
  • If you lay there on the floor like a piece of meat instead of running in after a wipe, you're wasting my time.
  • If you haven't made an effort to learn the basic mechanics of a fight, you're wasting my time.
  • If you want to argue with raid leaders about something: strategy, loot, whatever, you're wasting my time.
  • If you are watching TV at the same time as the raid, you're wasting my time. (Nothing more asinine than somebody typing "GOAAAAAL!" in the middle of a fight with Arthas, like what happened during the World Cup this past summer.)
  • If your connection to the server is seriously scrotzy, then you're wasting my time (more on this later)

Basically, if you think you want to do something, stop and ask yourself "Is this a good way for 10/25 people to spend their time?"  If the answer is anything other than a resounding "yes," then don't do that.

Caveat: There are always emergencies that come up, and one must never confuse "pausing to consider tactics" with "wasting time."  Furthermore, a raid is not a race (well, except when the raid is a race, but that's a tactics problem), so I do not advocate for a slave-driving mentality. And um, Internet bloggers might get raid start times confused while loudly posturing about "Don't Waste My Time!" but we hope that you can forgive those types if they promise to never do it again.

Come Prepared
  • Enchant your gear
  • Gem your gear
  • Use shoulder enchants
  • Use an arcanum on your helm
  • Bring your buff food, preferrably the Tier 2 food that currently buffs 90 to a stat
  • Bring elixirs or flasks. And bring enough of them (See here for why I relent on the need for flasks. For now. This will be improved in patch 4.0.6 though and will be reevaluated then)
  • Learn all your glyphs and bring Dust of Disappearance so you can change those out as needed.

These things are "The Things You Have to Do If You Want to Raid." They look optional as you go about considering reputations and how to spend your gold, but they really aren't. These are the things raiders do to get ready to raid. We've had six weeks to work on them now, so there really is no excuse.

Become a Master of the Dual Specc
Dual-speccing creates a flexibility that has become one of the most powerful tools we can bring to a boss fight. Learn it, live it, use it. Dual speccing now costs a measly 10 gold, there is no reason not to have it. You should understand the strengths of all three of your class' speccs. And I'm not just talking about hybrid classes either. For example, if mages are going to shoot at a single target, then arcane specc is the way to go. But if the fight has adds that need to be dropped fast, then you need to switch over and bring the fire. I'm pretty sure that something similar could be said of almost each class and specc in the game.

And let me state once and for all for the record: I'm not going to entertain any discussions about which specc does MOAR DPS! Fight mechanics and raid utility needs are what dictate the need to switch in cases like this. I'd like to think that most of the time, you can play exactly what suits you best, but the raid's needs come first. I know this one player who insists only one of his three dps speccs isn't broken. I don't know enough about his class to specifically argue that point, but it seems to me that he is overlooking the finer points of mechanics if he can't conceive of some situations where a different specc might not serve the raid better.

Now, all that said, I realize that dual-speccing mandates additional gearing problems. It's also early in the game, and it will be pretty common for raiders to not yet have acquired full offsets yet. What's more, I mean, Merinna is a healer. Healing is my main specc. I try hard to master elemental rotations, but I know that I'm not as good as the full time elemental shaman. This is true of just about every player, and I would not like to stain anybody's reputation for not having a second specc that isn't as purely awesome as their main specc.

But, I think it's pretty reasonable to expect each player to have an offset about 80% of the power of  their main set, and to have a clue about how to use it.  The dual-specc ability is not going to a perfect fix for every situation. It only offers possibilities. These are possibilities that are dashed against the cold, hard rocks if you tell us that you never dual-specced in the first place.

Thou Shalt Not Argue About Lewt
Getting snippy about loot during a raid is a major violation of The Golden Rule, for one. But there is nothing that spoils a raid faster and more thoroughly than a hotly debated loot situation. There are many loot rules but let me put forward an ever so brief Theory of Fair Lootness.

The Theory of Fair Lootness
  1. A player is only as strong as his teammates in a raid. If your teammate gets a good piece of loot, then you get stronger too. Be happy about that!
  2. There are loopholes to every single loot system, and inevitably there will be That Guy who tries to take advantage of them. Don't be That Guy. That Guy is kind of an asshole and we all know it, even if we sometimes dig around for a way to justify getting something over somebody else from time to time.
  3. You really only win a raid if you leave it with enough good feelings all around that people want to have you back again. Nobody ever really wants to see That Guy again. Thus, That Guy is also a loser.
  4. Basically, you are entitled to loot that matches your role in a particular fight. If you tanked a fight as a paladin, then you don't get to roll on spell gear, for example. There are limited exceptions to this that more communication, and fewer assumptions will bring out as necessary. If something is very important to you, talk about it, preferably before the loot ever shows up.
  5. The raid leaders and master looters will eventually make a mistake. Please don't hold that against them. They really are trying their best. The good ones will do their best to make good on the situation, and if they can't, then be the bigger, nicer person and let it go. 

I'm going to have to come back to this at another time for more thorough examination. For now, just remember that everybody wants to have fun, and it's really not the end of the world if you don't get what you want. We'll be back next week!

Fix Your Internet Connection
This is a big hazy, no-fun problem. But it's like this:
  • The internet and our computers are designed to not disconnect from servers on a regular basis.
  • If you regularly get disconnected, then there is something wrong.
  • You owe it to your raid team to make every effort to work out what is happening to your system and fix it. To not do this is to risk falling afoul of The Golden Rule.
  • If your computer cannot perform up to the hardware standards necessary to perform well in a raid, then it may be necessary for you to consider not raiding. This is terribly sad, and frustrating, and I never want to see this happen. But sometimes, it really is for the best.  You can also consider getting a better computer or different Internet service.

Caveat: There really are things beyond the control of the player. But they are very rare and note: I don't say "average" player. There is a bad attitude in cyberland that it's Ok for computers or internet connections to not function very well because the player doesn't know enough about how to go about fixing these things. Not true! Ask your friends, ask your guildmates. But, for example, Blizzard changed how data packets are delivered to our computers a few months ago and that resulted in problems between them and many ISPs, and there wasn't a single thing any player could do about that. You cannot just accept that something is messing up your connection and be OK with that. You wouldn't drive around if your car were leaking fuel, so don't play WoW with a system that is leaking memory because your brother is downloading porn at the same time you are raiding.

Further Caveat: there will always be accidents beyond any reasonable ability to predict. True story: I was raiding Tempest Keep in BC and my apartment building got struck by lightning. It threw every breaker in the place and we all hung around the front steps for a couple of hours waiting for the electric company to show up and ... do whatever they had to do to get things working again.  But there is a one in 8,000,000 chance of lightning strike, and now that I've claimed it, I'll not believe it if somebody else says the same thing happened to them!

Details Details Details!
It is my distinct wish that we should not overgear our new raids to the extent that we can just tank and spank every encounter that comes along. Pay attention to the fine points. Last week, in Black Wing Descent, we discovered that an irregular floor was ruining the effects of a boomkin's typhoon, that was necessary for controlling adds. The typhoon was extremely important, and thus, moving the range group about 8 yards to the right was extremely important. This is the sort of detail that escapes many people, and it really should not because it's the difference between winning and failing. Someday, we'll all be such bad-asses that we'll scrub the floor with the adds and our uber-DPS. But for now, we really really need that typhoon.

In a Nutshell
Joining in a raid is not a time for rampant individualism and grandstanding. Everybody has a part to play, and especially now, while it is all so challenging, your ability to mesh well with your teammates is as important as whatever throughput you can make while taking a boss apart.

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