Sunday, January 12, 2014

Feckless Leader's Guide to Becoming a Good Normal-mode Raider


Our guild has experienced a steady influx of players interested in joining our flex raids, and it's been fascinating to see the different levels of skill mastery between players. Many of our current raiders are former serious/hardcore raiders who were looking for a much lighter schedule. As you can imagine, these are the folks who aren't just ensuring they're reaching caps for their respective class, they're tweaking all of their stats after acquiring one new piece of gear.

Then, we have players who come in not knowing that it's more advantageous for melee to stand behind their targets vs. in front of them, and players who've never heard of the hit cap. Players who have hundreds of hours logged in on their character but struggle to remain above the tanks on the damage charts. Of course, we see everything in between as well.

That made me think: wouldn't it be nice if we had a sort of a raiding 101 thread in our guild forums? The truly veteran players likely wouldn't need such a guide, but for semi-casual or new players, there's still enough nuance to the raid game that you can't just drop in and expect a victory. If LFR has told us one thing, it's that. On occasion, we've had to bench players who weren't prepared to pull their weight. Granted, we normally ask the player if they'd like pointers, but some people are too shy to request help and would rather work out the kinks on their own.

There is a base amount of performance that simply comes down to player ability: there are people who are naturally good at things, and this translates to video games. Still, accounting for that, my hope is that this information can be useful to players looking to first get into Flex/Normal modes, whether pugs or guild runs, as most of these suggestions are regularly expected of raiders in Normal modes, and required in Heroics.

Consumables

Gems and Enchants: You'll want to make sure that all of your armor and weaponry has been enhanced to its greatest potential. All gem slots should be full, including a [Living Steel Belt Buckle], which can be crafted by blacksmiths and is often sold on the auction house. 

Potions and Flasks: Flasks will boost your main stat for an hour and their effect persists through death. Plan accordingly depending on the length of your raid. Potions will boost a main stat for 25 seconds, and can be used twice during the course of a boss fight (see Pre-potting). Two stacks should be more than enough for a two-hour raid, unless things are going very badly. 

Pre-potting: Ever wonder why oftentimes there will be a visual and audible countdown prior to a boss pull? Obviously it's to make sure the raid knows when things are starting out. However, the countdown also allows players to use a potion before entering combat, where they essentially consume the potion with 1 second left on the timer. Because the potion was used before combat, it doesn't count against the one-consumable-per-instance-of-combat rule, meaning once the minute-long cooldown has expired, you can consume a second potion. More important for damage-dealers, doing this can still provide benefits for healers and tanks. 

Food: Yet another consumable that'll boost a stat of your choice for an hour, food comes in a few different sizes (though I predict this will change come WoD): single-serving, 10 servings, and 25-servings. The drawback to food is that its effect does not persist through death, meaning you'll have to eat after each wipe. The food with the best stats is made with cooking and can often be found on the auction house.

This can all get pretty expensive, and you'll have to take that into account as well. I'm an advocate for guilds, especially if players are looking to raid. You get to know and trust the people you're running with each week, which is a recipe for success in itself. As a bonus, many raiding guilds provide the consumables above to their active raiders for a significantly reduced cost, some for no cost at all.

Stat caps

I am pleased to say that most of the info in this section will be outdated soon™ with the release of Warlords (it is one of the few things I got right in my guesses about what we'd hear at Blizzcon '13). However, until then, it's super-relevant. A special message to melee: these caps are only effective if you attack from behind!

Hit: Damage dealers should get within a few thousandths of a percentage points of the spell hit cap, which is 15%. This is most-easily accomplished through basic reforging. Capping hit is considered optional for tanks based on playstyle options, and it is useless for healers. 

Expertise: Expertise really only concerns melee, including tanks. Straight damage-dealers should aim for the cap of 7.50%. Like with hit, expertise values for tanks will be chosen based on playstyle preference. Spellcasters can benefit from expertise in that it provides hit for them.

While there could be a bit on haste caps in this section, hit and expertise are most crucial for Normal raiding. If your DPS can't chew through the boss before the enrage timer, you'll never finish the encounter know matter how flawless your execution is.

Some might argue a tool like Ask Mr. Robot is mandatory in this regard. While I highly encourage the use of Mr. Robot, manually reaching the hit/expertise cap without rearranging stats on every single piece of gear each time you get an upgrade should suffice for Normal modes. However, players who are lazy like me or who would rather leave the math to someone else (and reach optimal stat points with ease), Mr. Robot is absolutely most-definitely the way to go.

Class Knowledge


Rotation: For damage dealers, this is all about making sure you're doing as much as you can. For tanks, it's about putting up threat while maintaining survivability. For healers, knowing priorities and procs at least ensures you're getting the most out of your casts. There are many different guides and blogs out there. Find one you can trust (I've been a fan of the Icy Veins class and raid guides since WotLK and they've never let me down). 

It's not just about knowing which buttons to press and when. It's being effective with that rotation, which is especially important for damage dealers and healers. Doing 400k damage on the last boss in the Temple of the Jade Serpent does not allow you to make the claim you'll do 400k damage in raids. Not only do damage-dealers need to be comfortable with their rotation, they need to be able to sustain the output. Likewise, healers need to be intelligent with their heals so they don't burn through mana too quickly.

Utility: Every class brings some sort of helpful utility to the raid environment. I'm talking buffs, the ability to battle res, interrupts, crowd control, raid-wide heals or damage reduction, bloodlust-type abilities and the like. Know which ones you bring to the group and be prepared to use them.  

Fight Knowledge

Research: There are multiple places players can go to review boss fights. Good raiders will have some familiarity with the fight. Maybe they've read through a guide, or watched a strategy video. Perhaps, they even ran LFR just to see what the abilities looked like (this is not to be taken as an endorsement of LFR). The point is, they're not going in blind. 

Ask Questions: Even though you know the fight, the raid's leader may favor a different strat and have other ideas on how the fight should be executed. If there's something you don't understand, it's better to say something prior to the pull. Taking thirty seconds to straighten things out is better than having to redo five minutes of the fight because your failing to understand a mechanic has wiped the raid. 

Be Present

In for the Haul: It's always best to make sure you have the time to raid before you enter a raid group. Might seem like a trivial thing to say, but I'm saying it. While it is completely within the player's prerogative to come and go when they choose, leaving after the second boss because the player would rather be doing x tends to inconvenience the other 9+ people in the raid. 

In other words, don't treat these organized raids like LFR. Granted, when run outside of guilds, these groups can often look at lot more like LFR, with people coming and going. Still, if you're running with a guild group, the leader will likely expect you to be there for the full raid time unless you've made other arrangements ahead of the event.

Attitude: Attitude can play a big part in the success of the raid. If you're not running the raid, plan on sitting back and doing your job to the best of your ability. If you notice something's not right, whisper the raid leader or chime in at the right time, and with tact. You might think you're a head above everyone else in the raid group---and you may even be right---but that doesn't mean you need to let everyone know about it. Play your part, be helpful and patient and people will remember you. 

And sometimes, things just aren't meshing, and you need to bow out. You'll want to be careful about cutting out early when in established guild groups. However, in pugs, sometimes it's clear that things just aren't going to happen for the group. In those instances, the time may come to end your involvement. You don't need to type, "lol this group sux, see ya noobs," before dropping group. Bow out gracefully. "Hey all, this isn't working and I've got some other things to take care of tonight. Good luck."

Conclusion

As awesome of a game as World of Warcraft is on its own, I'm a huge advocate for experiencing the game in a group setting, whether that's via PvP, RP, or PvE. This post is meant to be a guide for the raider who is looking to transition out of LFR and join a Normal/Flex group, and can also be used as a guide for the returning semi-serious raider to see what may have changed in the raid environment since they've last been around. 


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