This post has been last updated on July 14th 2011.
Raid awareness… it’s such a scary words. It’s the one talent that will break or make your raid and raid leaders have been having nightmares about it since the dawn of time. Why? Because it is probably the most important skill to master as a raider and it is also the hardest one to teach. Being raid aware is almost like achieving a zen state over the fight and it’s not something easily achieved.
I want to say right now that this post was not inspired by recent performances of Eff the ineffable but rather by the recent Cataclysm raid encounter design wich tests a lot raiders raid awareness. If anything the Effers have shown an above average level of raid awareness than what I’m used to see. Cataclysm just raised the bar higher than what we are used to seeing.
I’ve already written a guide to raid awareness before that covered topics related to reaction time. That guide is still relevant and I suggest reading it as a complement to this one.
1. What is being raid aware
Have you ever heard about “The dance”? That dance you have to learn so a boss drops his loot? Some bosses have predictable dances and others very chaotic dances but most of the time it all boils down to executing a set patterns of movement until the boss dies.
Being raid aware is being able to see the changes in the dance and from their wich steps you need to execute. It’s knowing why you dance a particular way. The opposite of raid awareness is to follow a dance blindly. You know the steps but as soon as something unexpected happens you are caught off guard and die, probably wiping the raid in the process.
Think about it for a moment. What is the number one cause of raid wipes. What do you hear most often after a wipe? You hear “Ooops, the boss did that and I didn’t see it coming”. You hear “I didn’t know he could do that” or “I didn’t know what do when that happens”. Raid wipes because something unexpected happened and people either were unaware of how to react or simply did not react at all.
2. Raid awareness cannot be taught, the path can only be shown.
This is why I had so much trouble writing this post. I was trying to teach about raid awareness like it was boss with a preset strategy. By it’s very definition Raid awareness is being able to see and react to what is going on around you during a raid. It’s being ready for the unexpected and thinking on your feet. It’s not a list of preset tasks that you can execute in a particular order.
Because of that being raid aware is very much a state of mind where you choose to improve yourself by relying on yourself and your own knowledge. Until you make the conscious choice to be raid aware it won’t happen and you will be stuck raiding on automatic, doing the dance.
3. Understanding is the first step
Like I said earlier, a lot of the time raid awareness is about know why you dance a particular way and how to react to the unexpected. A lot of raiders go to videos and strategy guides and try to learn the dance without really knowing why they do the things they do. Let me give you an example.
During the Valiona and Theralion fight, you have to deal with two mechanics during Valiona air phase.
-Shadow meteorite. Targets a player and deal a huge amount of damage split between everyone close by. The correct response according to strategy is to stack up during that phase.
-Engulfing magic. A debuff that reflects damage or healing done to those around you. Correct response is to move out of the raid pile. According to strategy, during Valiona air phase the ranged people in the raid should be stacked up with the person being targeted by engulfing magic moving out of the pile.
Now what happens if you are targeted by both Engulfing magic and shadow meteorite at the same time? How can you move out and stay stacked up at the same time? I will bet you that a lot of raids wiped due to that scenario.
However there’s a few options for those who understand the fight and have not simply learned the dance.
-If you have access to a cooldown that prevent damage (Ice block, paladin bubble) you can still move out and prevent the meteorite damage.
-If you don’t have those you could stay stacked up and simply stop doing anything. Engulfing magic only damages other based on the damage you do. If you do no damage, you don’t damage the raid either.
Understanding the fight as opposed to following a dance allows you to know these things or at least figure them out rapidly and avoid costly wipes. It also makes you less reliant on addons that can be bugged, off beat or simply wrong.
4. What are you looking at while you raid?
It sounds so simple but how often have you caught yourself mesmerized by your actions bars trying to get the perfect rotation down and missed the big fluorescent green patch under you? I know it happens to me sometimes…
Tunnel vision while we raid is probably the second biggest we face when raiding. We get so focused on whatever task we have to do (healing, dps, tanking) that we forget to actually look up and see what’s going on.
So how do we fight tunnel vision? By shifting priorities. We have been trained by theorycraft, guides and the general wow community that a good raider is first and foremost about numbers. How much dps you do, how much HPS you have or by how much you can reduce damage. We got drilled this notion that raiding is all about the numbers. Even though every raid leader worth his/her salt will tell you to first focus on getting the dance right, our actions are all about the numbers.
There’s no real magic to fighting this besides making a conscious choice about shifting priorities. You have to stop and tell yourself that you’re going to watch out for what happening during the fight and numbers be damned. Once you are familiar with the fight and know what to look for it becomes that much easier to think about getting those numbers up.
A note to all raid leaders out there. You are the ones with probably the most influence on the tunnel vision of your raiders. If you tell you’re raiders about numbers all the time, that’s what they will pay attention to first. If raid awareness is important (and it is), you need to remind them that first comes the fight and then the numbers.
5. The key is to be relaxed
And finally the big reveal! All of the above, the preparation, the knowledge, fighting tunnel vision are worthless if you raid stressed out. Have you ever noticed that once guilds down a boss it’s suddenly a lot easier to kill it in the following weeks? Knowledge and experience do play a part in this but the big difference is that people are a lot more confident and thus relaxed.
If you raid stressed out you are bound to miss on details or fail a simple tasks. Not because you’re dumb but simply because your mind was elsewhere. This goes back to tunnel vision in many ways but it goes beyond that. Stress will make you forget things, will make you miss critical information and a lot of other little problems. Plus it will kill your fun like nothing else can.
Again, no magic solution but to be aware of it and to be confident. Going in telling yourself that you can do it and you will succeed goes a very long way. Positive thinking does work!
I’m going to conclude by saying that raid awareness is not a magical skill that some people have and others don’t. It’s a combination of being prepared and a state of mind where you focus first on the fight and then performance. I hope this will help out some of you.
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