Being a Raid Leader is serious business.
I think it takes a special kind of person to actually want to be a raid leader.
I’ve been doing it for a while for Sidhe Devils, and I think things have gone okay.
Now, it’s time for a brief break.
Last week, I begged and pleaded for Blusummers to lead a raid into Karazhan, and everyone I talked to said he did a great job and everyone had a lot of fun.
So this week I am sitting back and relaxing on a beach in Jamaica, while he slaves away doing the thankless task of leading another Karazhan on Friday.
Well, I am metaphorically on a beach in Jamaica. Drinking one of those beach-type drinks with lots of spiced rum.
No umbrella in it, though. I do have standards.
Come back to Jamaica, mon.
Seriously though, being a Raid Leader is a job that someone has to perform if things are going to run smoothly.
There has to be someone that is the final decider of who is going to do what, who decides which classes he needs, and who tries to get those positions filled prior to start time.
Someone who sets start times, objectives, moderates the rules, and researches and lays out the fights and sets forth the plan of battle.
Yes, every player should do their own research on each boss in a raid so they are prepared to do their best, paying special attention to things their class can do.
But it is the Raid Leaders job to know it all.
Maybe you’ll have things in your group broken up, where a guild officer will handle stuff like loot and timeliness, and moderates issues between players, and another person is the official Raid Leader, handling organizing, balancing and leading the battles.
It doesn’t really matter. In the end, someone has to lead the thing.
I don’t know how other folks do things, or prepare for raids. I think seeing the thoughts on preparation and execution from the point of view of a successful Raid Leader in a progression guild would be a very awesome ‘tutorial’ on setting one up yourself.
I ain’t one of those. All I can do is give you my thoughts on how I do things.
I’ll take Karazhan as my example. Go with what you know, right?
When I sat down and decided to start opening up Karazhan for our guild as a scheduled event, I knew that meant I was going to need to be prepared to lead the raid. Something I had never, ever done before.
And I knew that, when I watched Joppers lead raids in Legatum Ignavis, what I saw him do was know what every classes strengths and weaknesses on each boss were, who he wanted to task to do what, and what balance of classes he wanted to handle each fight.
He made decisions as to who was going to be going in for which boss, and frequently he would decide that one person would have to sit out for one fight in order to bring in someone else to perform a special task. He would balance a players’ need for upgrades against having the classes necessary to get the job done.
One example is having one person sit out on Illhoof in order to bring a Warlock to handle the imps, if a Warlock is not normally scheduled for the run.
It always impressed me how much Joppers knew about the capabilities of every class out there, and every race’s special abilities, and the details of every fight.
I myself have only ever played three classes to 70, a Hunter, a Druid and a Priest. So that’s what I know. I have no idea how most of the other classes play at 70, except for what I see in instances and raids.
It’s daunting thinking I’m expected to know everything everyone can do. /wince
So I used his example, how prepared he always was, as my goal for being the Raid Leader.
I did not worry about the trash fights. I have seen them before plenty of times, and I was confident that I knew how to handle them. This proved to be untrue, as we have learned along the way that there are some things that work better than others on various trash fights.
Cassie and I started with the first boss, Attumen, and started taking notes.
We looked him up on both sites, we read the descriptions, we studied the suggested tactics, and compared that with what we both knew from personal experience.
Then I wrote down what he did at each phase, and what tips the sites gave us for each class to counter those abilities.
We wrote down such no-brainers as ‘Attumen and Midnight are untauntable, so you cannot go over the tanks aggro and have him pull it back. You must watch Omen, and when Attumen mounts in Phase 3, everyone must back off and let the tank re-establish aggro’.
When we made our notes, we broke each fight down onto one page. And that became my briefing page for that fight.
We did the same for each boss after that. We even broke down each fight from Opera.
But I did not write down a dedicated tactic to follow.
I tried to keep in mind that every attempt will be as different as the group that’s doing the raiding, and trying new things is a ton of fun, so why not be open to improvising?
So what we did was make key points about class strengths against various boss abilities, and special things to keep in mind.
Such as noting that Priests can Dispel Holy Fire and Paladins can Cleanse it on Maiden. And that Mages can Ice Block out of it. And that having a Mage cast Dampen Magic on the melee fighting Maiden (but not on the tank, naturally) means they will take less damage from the AOE, without being overly hurt by the reduced healing effect.
Things like that.
And we made specific notes on what each member of Moroes’ dinner party can do, so that no matter what the makeup of the dinner party or our group, I have good suggestions on how to arrange what CC we might have.
Last weekend, we took down Moroes without a single Priest in the group. And since we had no Priests, I looked at our tank and healers, and said to heck with it. We didn’t even use Ice Trap.
We just identified the kill order, and let the Paladin go nuts.
It worked freakishly well, and was incredibly fun.
So I’m not saying, when researching and preparing, to get a set strategy in place and refuse to deviate from it.
I’m just saying, know ahead of time what the boss will really do in each phase, and what each class can contribute as counters. Be prepared to brief the players, remind them of what to expect, and then ask each class to pay special attention to what your notes say they can do in a situation so everyone is ready.
Know going into the run what strategies have been successful in the past, but look forward to improvising and trying your own style of doing things, and having some fun.
So much for the fun. Now we come to the bad part of the job.
Part of being a Raid Leader is determining what you feel you need for a successful run, in terms of various classes, and their gear/stat levels.
And it sucks, if you are in a social guild of friends. You want everybody to go.
But I will see people in chat asking, “How do I know if I am ready to heal in Kara”, and getting a reply (from a non-raid leader or healer), that “+800 healing is fine to heal in Kara.”
Well, is it? Do you know? If you don’t play that class, how the heck do YOU know? And is it good to start for lower Kara, but will end up being too little the further you go?
It’s a trick question, of course. The true answer is, you have to know many things before answering; is he going to be one of only two healers, or three? How is the tank geared? Are we talking only lower Kara, or all the way through Prince, Nightbane and Netherspite?
The person that just says “oh yah, +800 is fine” should be beat about the head and shoulders with a cold, slimy fish. Context, people. Context.
But if that is said in guild chat, and you are the Raid Leader, and you do not say anything in response to “sure, +800 is great, you betcha”, then what is your prospective healer going to think?
He’d probably think that if you don’t have anything to say about it, then the guy must be right, +800 Healing is fine.
And maybe it is. Remember? How many healers? How well geared is the tank? Full Kara clear or just the first half?
Now, before I get off on a tangent, let me say that there are general guidelines to help someone figure out on their own whether they are ‘ready’ for a raid or not, and to help give them a target to shoot for.
Nobody has said ‘thou shalt have 20k armor as bear tank, or thou shalt not run’, but I know that every single character I play, the first thing I want to know if I’m part of a group is, “Will I be strong enough to pull my own weight? Or will I drag the run down?”
And so I want to know what to shoot for as a goal, so that when I evaluate gear upgrades from quest rewards, crafted gear, drops from instances, and reputation rewards I have some idea what to look for.
Ten Ton Hammer has published two articles I like;
- Minimum recommended stats for raiding in Zul’Aman.
- Minimum recommended stats for raiding in Karazhan.
As starting places, the minimums, these are pretty good. The Karazhan list is talking about minimums for going up to but not including Curator, and the Zul’Aman list is for minimum stats for the first four bosses only. We’re just talking about setting foot in the instance for the first time.
This is where we come to the judgment part of the job.
Who can go on a run, and in which class, isn’t dependant on just one persons’ gear.
It all depends on the actual challenge of the fight you are facing, the skill and the gear level of ALL of your tanks, healers and DPS.
All three need to be at a certain level, in order to succeed.
I know that when planning ahead, Cassie and I both spend a great deal of time on WoW Armory and on WoW Heroes, checking out gear lists of the people who sign up, if I don’t already know where they are at. I have to so I know if it’s cool that we have three brand new 70’s on the run.
If you have overpowered tanks or heals, you can expect that you can get by with a lot more beginning DPS players.
Depending on the fight.
Enrage timers make sure you still have to beat the clock on a lot of bosses, and having awesome heals and tanks and no DPS just isn’t going to cut it.
But if you have some folks, or even the majority of folks off the scale on one end, they can usually make up for one or two people that are well skilled but below the listed minimums.
I know I’ve had success before in simply pretending that someone died from a bad infernal at the start of a run, and nine-manning Prince. If you can 9 man it, why not 9 man plus a newer player?
So while I think that every player that expects to go to Karazhan or Zul’Aman should make it their personal objective to do what they can to meet these minimums before they sign up for something, it’s also clear that if your group is strong enough, and it’s all for fun anyway, why not get them inside if there is an opening?
Have fun, go nuts, take it on and take pride in kicking somethings’ butt when it was a little more of a challenge than normal. But do your best to make the run a success, and stack the deck in your favor when you can.
You have to be careful, and you have to be flexible… and sometimes you have to be willing to look at your group, and say, “There just isn’t enough Healing on this run, at this time. We need one more mid-range Healer to make this happen.”
Or, you need a smart Raid Leader that knows how to be flexible. Unlike me.
You want an example of a situation where a group could have succeeded, and the Raid Leader made the difference in the wrong way?
Let’s take a look at the Karazhan run I mentioned from last Saturday.
We took down Attumen like a walk in the park. Attumen is a fight that requires a very strong tank to withstand damage, and a couple excellent healers. If you have those three people, you’ve pretty much got it handled.
Let’s look at Moroes. We had a Paladin tank the entire thing, with a strong feral Druid as the off-tank.
Again, we had extremely solid tanks, and a couple insanely good healers.
Then we went to Opera, and got Wizard of Oz (or The Crone, however you’d like to call it).
We failed. Three times in a row.
So what happened?
Well, what happened was very simple, in hindsight.
I set things up as though it were a standard run. But we had a few DPS players that were brand new to Karazhan, and still working on gearing up. My Hunter was there, and he’s still not up to where he should be for a full clear. So we were running short on DPS.
Instead of adapting the battle plan to take into account what we had, our strengths and our weaknesses, I went with ‘the norm’.
We had a very strong tank, but I only asked him to take on Tinhead, instead of having him also prepared to take Strawman and Roar.
I assigned the Warlock and my Hunter to keeping Roar feared throughout the fight, and the fire Mage to kite Strawman around.
I had a feral Druid beating up on Dorothee, but ready to pick up Tito as soon as it spawned.
And I warned everyone that we needed all the DPS we could to focus on burning Dorothee down as fast as possible.
So what happened?
Our DPS, which was underpowered to begin with, had our attention further diffused by kiting Strawman and fearing Roar. So Dorothee didn’t get burned down, and beat the hell out of the healers, and once the healers went down, so did the tank and everyone else.
The key problem wasn’t in who was in the group, the key problem was that the Raid Leader didn’t take the time to think about what we were facing, to adapt our battle plan to match, and to overcome the obstacle together.
The first wipe was excusable, but the next two? That was me being a dunbass.
I was too worried that people wouldn’t have fun because of wiping, and I stopped thinking about improvising.
In the end, we went on to Maiden instead of beating our head against Oz one more time, killed her (with a feral Druid tanking her), celebrated with one last victory and called it a night.
So, an important lesson learned on my part.
You need to be prepared to know what to expect from each boss, make notes on what each class can do against them, and have in mind what an average level of gear should be…
Carefully balance your team against your plans for the night, and once your critical positions are filled, don’t be afraid of taking a few undergeared folks to come in and have fun too, because they may just rock your socks off.
But be prepared to modify your plans for each battle based on what classes and strengths you really have along, who is there that is very strong and can handle more than normal, and who might just be starting out, and might need more time or support.
Be prepared to change your plan on the fly. Improvise, adapt and overcome.
Oh yeah, and have fun!
There, dropped the challenge for ya. Raid Leaders of real progressive guilds, what do you do to prepare?