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Building a Successful Raid

October 9, 2008

Today I am delighted to present you with a guest post written by my talented husband and co-GM, Kneabiter.

As a raid Main Tank, a Mage Class Leader, and a Shaman Healing Coordinator, he knows the game intimately from a tank, dps, and healer perspective. As a veteran Raid Leader, he is well acquainted with the challenges of building a raid team from the ground up, growing the team from ten to twenty-five people, and leading them through the inevitable failures that pave the road to success.

As a dedicated leader with a passion for education (and a master’s degree to prove it!) you will rarely encounter an individual so committed to the growth, development, and education of his guild – and anyone else willing to learn.

It is my great pleasure to present the first in what will hopefully become a series of posts designed to guide the beginning raid leader through his initial forays into the challenging, demanding, exciting, and rewarding world of raid leading.

A Beginners Guide to Raid Leading
by Kneabiter

The day has finally arrived. Over the months your guild has slowly grown. Many people have come, a few have stayed, and there are a couple in whom you see the potential to become truly exceptional players. It has been slow going, but your dream finally seems about to come to fruition. You are ready for your first raid. You post a sign up list on the forum, promote the run, beg, plead, cajole, promise promotions for all who attend and threaten expulsion for all who do not. The day arrives and, lo and behold, you actually have ten people signed up. Woot! You are ready to take on Karazhan.

Flushed with excitement, you log on 30 minutes before the raid to make sure everything is ready. Your excitement dims just a bit when raid time rolls around and only five of your signups show. Twenty minutes past start time you finally have ten again. Three signups logged on late (Oh, was Kara tonight?) and two more joined because they felt sorry for you groveling in guild chat…or maybe it was because Aleathea offered cookies.

Some of the initial excitement has turned to frustration, but hey, you are ready to pull now — better late than never, right? At your command, the tank charges the first two horses … but wait where did this third horse come from? The angered undead pony beats down one healer and starts in on the second before the off tank manages to pick him up. You breathe a sigh of relief to have the pull over when, suddenly, you are assaulted by another horse and a humanoid. Overwhelmed, you wipe in short order. This starts a three hour wipe fest complete with random afk’s, brb’s, and bio’s from various raid members.

You finally call it a night. You attempt to keep things upbeat as you thank everyone for coming and promise things will be better next time, but inside there is a deep sense of frustration and discouragement. Not only did it not go well, but you are not even sure where to start to get things on track. If you dig even deeper, you’ll find a sense of hurt as well. Deep in your heart you had dreamed of leading a successful raid team. That dream just got chewed up and spit out by unfeeling undead.

Take heart! There is good news and bad news. The good news is there are some simple steps you can take to improve your raid success. The bad news is implementing these “simple” steps will take more time and effort on your part than you ever imagined.

Step One: Prepare for the Raid

Many beginning raid leaders underestimate the amount of preparation necessary for a successful raid. It requires much more than reading a couple boss strategies.

  • Know the Trash
  • Know the trash, understand the trash, be one with the trash…ok maybe a little overboard but not much. Too many people assume trash mobs are something they’ll just “get by” and focus on the boss. That trash has been set up by Blizzard to provide specific obstacles that must be overcome. While some are simply tank and spank, many have special moves that will create havoc for the unprepared raid. WoWWiki is an excellent source for info on trash. There is no reason to reinvent the wheel – use the resources at your disposal.

  • Know the bosses
  • This is the step most people think of when they think of raid preparation. This requires more than just skimming a boss guide 15 minutes before the raid. Read as many guides as you can. Check out Boss Killers, and MMO Champions but remember the author’s raid make-up, raiding philosophy, and personal experience all influence the accuracy of the guide. Go to YouTube and watch some videos of the encounter. The more you read and see, the better your chances of success.

  • Know your Raid
  • It is vital that you understand the “soft skills” that each raid member brings to the team. Most new raiders know their dps cycle (hopefully) and not much more. It falls on you to understand which classes can dispell offensivly, dispell defensively, cleanse, decurse, interrupt, crowd control etc.

    Step Two: Map out the Instance

  • Map out the Trash
  • The key to moving through trash quickly is to have the sequence of pulls for each trash group memorized. To do this successfully, every patrol path and trash group needs to be memorized and/or written down. Never be caught by the same mistakes twice. If you are caught unprepared by a pat, watch how it moves next time so you know when to pull. Some casual raiders might think this is a little too detailed for a “fun” run but I disagree. Blizzard has designed raiding to be extremely detailed oriented. If you consider it fun to wipe repeatedly on the same patrol have at it. Otherwise, map it out and be prepared for next time.

    When Aleathea started her Kara training as a tank, we spent many romantic walks on balmy summer nights, rehearsing Kara trash pulls from memory. We would literally talk through every pull, every trash mob, every boss ability for the entire raid instance in preparation for that night’s raid. The result? Seamless transitions from one pull to the next with no wasted down time.

  • Map out the Bosses
  • For raid instances in which the bosses are sequential this is a non-issue. But for Karazhan and a few other raids, you can pick and choose which bosses you do. Based on your current guild progression and raid makeup determine in advance which bosses you wish to attempt. Speaking of raid makeup …

  • Map out your Raid’s Abilities
  • If you have the abilities of every class memorized, feel free to skip this section. Most beginning raid leaders do not. Make sure you at least know the abilities of those people in your raid. Familiarize yourself with tools such as MMO Champion’s new Raid Comp which helps you optimize buff coverage. Be aware which classes can interrupt, remove debuffs, and fill other crucial rolls. You can plan which bosses to attempt based on that knowledge. For example, if you have no priests or paladins in your group, I would strongly advise by passing Maiden.

    Step Three: Think like a Leader

    When you take on the roll of Raid Leader, you step into a leadership role and you need to act like it. You set the tone not only for the success or failure of the raid, but also for mood during the run. Remember that nine other people are looking to you.

  • Keep your Cool
  • There are few things more disturbing than seeing a leadership figure out of control. If that requires a couple minutes break after a particularly nasty wipe, so be it. After you wipe, determine what can be fixed. If you have no idea how to fix the problem and the raid is getting frustrated, move on. If you can move to a different boss do so, otherwise call it for the night. Do some research, find out what can be done differently, then try again next time.

  • Have a Plan
  • In my ed psych classes they told us, “If you (the teacher) don’t have a plan, they (the students) will.” This holds true in raids. It is amazing the amount of advice, suggestion, and criticism that flows in when you start to lead raids. Moderate the flow of incoming information as needed. Every raid leader has there own tolerance level for this sort of thing. You may want to ask your members to post suggestions on the guild forum, private message you, or discuss it with you after the run.

  • Communicate with Your Raid Members
  • Let your raid team know up front what your goals are for the run. The more specific you are the better. Stating, “My goal for this raid is to down Moroes” is clearer than simply stating your goal is to “have fun”, “do well” or some other general concept.

    After the raid, thank your members for coming and go over what has been accomplished. If you were able to conquer a boss or get through a set of trash without wiping for the first time, praise them for it. If someone was on top of their cc, cleanses, dispells, interrupts, etc. recognize them for their work. Raid members will be motivated to perform even better next time when they know the good job they do is recognized and appreciated.

    Serving as the GM of a casual raiding guild has been one of the most educational, exasperating, enlightening, and overall rewarding experiences of my life. During my two years of leadership, I have come through my share of guild splits, guild drama, raiding challenges and success. Through it all I have learned a few things, and I would like to offer my experiences as a stepping stone for others.

    Future posts will include how to be successful with less than optimal raid compositions, how to put together a core raid team without splitting your guild, training tips for improving tank, healer, and dps performance, and other random things as they occur to me.

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