Monday, February 21, 2011

It's All in Yr Tactics

For all your raiding questions: Try this easy-to-follow flowchart! Thanks to I Like Bubbles
We are about ten weeks into the Cataclysm expansion. I suspect most of the merely-mortal guilds around are plugging away at the current raid tier, and...well, in a strictly unscientific poll, I hear some grumbling from people I know who are disturbed that they haven't gotten further.

In large part, I would like to suggest a hyperborean glaciating lozenge-- otherwise known as a "chill pill." Some things that need to be taken into consideration while taking that chill pill:

It's only been ten weeks:
I think I would characterize the content of this x-pac as kinda "thin," (I've really missed the five levels between 85 and 90 that we haven't leveled) but let's make sure we understand that nine weeks into Lich King, only a few players I knew had made more than some cursory looks into Naxxramas II at this point. There is not a perfect parallel here, but still most guilds are doing not significantly better and not significantly worse than that..

There is not even the slightest hint or tittle of the arrival of Patch 4.1:
Blizzard could do an unveil tomorrow and it would still be two to three months before the next content patch goes live. There is all the time in the world to work on this tier.

Tier 11 raiding is harder than Tier 7 was:
Ahem... Naxxramas II was politely considered a pushover. Don't forget that and then be happy we get a sweet challenge against the Twilight Hammer and assorted ilk. And remember, this wasn't a "pushover" to first time raiders. It was only a pushover to highly-experienced raiders. And on that note...

Stop the big expectations of being "hardcore."
A hardcore raiding team is the team that raids 5-7 nights a week. That is all. Any other expression of greatness is all in the hardcore team's hardcore heads. "Hardcore" does not mean "skillful" or "good." If your raid team is not pulling that kind of schedule, then no matter what other rules you bring to your team, you are not hardcore. Generally speaking, it takes any group relatively the same amount of time to learn a raid fight. The only difference is that hardcore groups put in all that time at the beginning of a content release and then talk bored for the last half of it. Such is the cost of bragging rights.

If you read these few points together, the main lessons one should learn are "Don't panic" and then "Stay the course."

So let's examine some possible problems in the raid:
(P.S: This assumes that your raid team is full of moderately competent people who did alright going through heroics to get decent gear, can enchant and gem it properly and understand basic principles like "fire is bad." )

Mechanics, Mechanics, Mechanics
There is no underestimating the absolute importance of mastering the mechanics of these fights. No one is going to bludgeon down these raid bosses with sheer force. Most problems simply come down to needing to do better with what makes a fight special. Mastering mechanics means movement, switching targets when needed, and avoiding danger. Mastering mechanics means going beyond the basics and really learning what makes a fight unique.

Need Moar DPS? No, you probably don't.
Here is an oft-overlooked truth: Is your raid wiping at the enrage timer? If so, then you need more DPS. Is your raid wiping before the enrage timer? Then it's yr mechanics. Players will always under-perform on their numbers while they are struggling to learn a fight. They are staring at their timers waiting for adds to arrive or an AoE to break. They are firing their major CDs at the wrong time. They are running slightly to the wrong place and compensating for that instead of smacking their dps keys. The better they get at the mechanics, the more the dps numbers will improve.

If you are not seeing the boss enrage, there does not need to be a dps discussion. If you pull your recount numbers on a team, it's only going to further distract them from the real problem: learning the fight. And dps numbers for adds is irrelevant. If adds don't die fast enough, then your people need to work on switching targets, which um... is really a tactics thing, not a dps thing.

It's probably your healers having this issue, but I've seen DPS casters hitting bottom as well. That last part surprises me: Developers have said over and over that dps casters mostly ought not have mana problems. And yet I see so many of our casters hanging out waiting for something to happen because they have no juice left.

Not to get repetitive, but dy'know what will help that? Better tactics. If people don't get caught in the fire, the healers won't have to use so much mana to keep them alive. And despite the devs protestations otherwise, I think that mana users may have to try harder to improve their mps and not just their dps.

But then, switching all the way to the other side of this problem: mana-users need to try tweaking their stats if they go OOM.

Everybody gets all crazy about intelligence for the mana pool and spell power it brings.This is a good thing for the most part. Reasonable-minded raiders will have already stacked intel as much as possible. But, finally, intelligence is finite within each tier. The throughput it represents really won't increase until a new ilevel of gear appears. Intelligence is like hit rating. You have to get to the hit cap, and you have to put every ounce of intelligence in your gear that gems and enchants will allow. The only difference is that there is no definable "cap."  But you'd be kinda crazy if you didn't think that developers didn't have a number in mind when they decide how much intelligence (and strength, and agility) they are putting into a tier's worth of raiding.

Tweaking stats will be reworking the balance between haste, crit and spirit. (and mastery, but more on that in a moment). If you are getting OOM on any level, just add spirit. If you just need more throughput, check with your class theorycrafters about the break between crit and haste.

Mastery is a wildcard though. Again you need to check with your theorycrafters about your specific class and specc when deciding on that. Results of mastery will vary case to case, but should not be ignored.

Big Other Things
The big other thing is raiders who just aren't paying attention to the right things, but this is a topic that demands a post all unto itself because really, this is all about Tactics too, and ways that you can get your people to improve on those. Stay tuned, true believers!

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