Are You Ready To Raid?

Are You Ready To Raid?

This document has been updated as of Ny’alotha in Battle for Azeroth

Let’s start with some general questions, in no particular order.

  • Gear – Is my gear within a sensible range of the current raid tier (15-20ilvls is a good rule of thumb)?
  • Class – Do I know my class well enough to deal with mechanics as well as fulfill my role?
  • Addons – Are my addons working and setup?
  • Enchanting – Have I enchanted everything for my relevant stats and spec?
  • Gems – Are my gems relevant and maxed were possible?
  • Sundries – Do I have all the items I need e.g. buff food, flasks, repair gold, pots, trade upgrades (like speed belt for an Engineer), etc…?
  • Research – Have I watched videos, read strategies, and generally done research that applies to both my specs for the expected bosses?
  • Time – Will I be ready to start on time and do I have the time to go through to the finish?
  • Technical Concerns – Is my connection reliable? Is my latency okay? Can my computer handle the fight?
  • Self-Awareness – Am I prepared to go over my own performance and see if there is anything that can be improved?
  • Discord – And the setup of – specifically feedback. Can I hear and speak?

Experienced raiders do the above as part of their playing time. There is plenty of room for beginning raiders to adjust to the new environment – whether that means setting up Discord, installing and setting up new addons. It might sound like a list of chores but it is only delivered as a guide if you have inhibitions or uncertainty about whether you could possibly ever raid. When you down a new boss for the first time you will know the thrill and the hunger that drives wanting to do the above to get on with it again. What this this document aims to achieve is twofold. Firstly, to give experienced raiders an idea of priorities for War Machine so there is no confusion on expectations. And to give some of the newer raiders a tool to use as a yard stick for raid readiness. Bottom line, we want everyone to have a shot but we are also in no rush. If you don’t think you fit the bill or just don’t feel ready then don’t worry. Like the Army Rangers say ‘No one gets left behind’ and just because we move on to a new boss does not mean we won’t do older content. We are all here to help so don’t just chuck it in and give up because you are not ready at ground zero.

Now on to each area separately:

 Gear

There is plenty of knowledge available in the guild and through websites about what gear is better or worse for your class and spec. It is rewarding to improve your character in such a way that you feel like you are really having an impact and not a burden.

For raids, a good rule of thumb is to be at least within 15-20 item levels of the gear level that drops. Healers and Tanks should aim for 10-15 since they are roles that often play a bigger role (note below). Realistically your secondary spec(s) should only be a few points behind the main considering the dual use of many items. At the beginning of an expansion being of a reasonable gear level is more important because most of the other people around you will be of similar gear meaning a lower average across the raid so the impact of your item level is far more drastic. As time goes by, and people are geared for a tier, it is much more possible to be “carried” through a raid, meaning other raiders perform at a high enough level to compensate for someone with lower than normal gear levels. In general it is not a strenuous task to have your character geared to a decent level, with many avenues to obtain now available and many other guild members who are willing to help (or gear up along with you). Consider also your off-spec roles, as being available to switch under certain circumstances is a massive boon to your raid. Treat your class as a whole and not just a subset of itself. Having said that, nobody is going to force you to play a spec you are simply not comfortable with or ready for.

Another thing to note about gearing is that there is no real consistent source of truth on the best secondary stats and in some cases most of them are right on par. That being said itemization is still pretty important, this means a lower heroic item might still be better for your output than a higher world quest reward with the wrong secondary stats. If you are not sure about how to research and decide which stats are most important for your class ask your raid leaders to put you in touch with someone who can help.

iLvl

Here’s where to find your item level in game. The first number is your equipped item level and the second is the maximum item item level using all items in your bag or bank (which may not be suited to your spec!).

Note: If you are in a role like Tank or Heals your gear requirements may be a little higher. Talk to one of the Heals or Tanks we have currently raiding to get an idea of what they think an appropriate gear level or the priority itemization should be.

Summary: Gear makes a raider not… but even the best raider cannot function without reasonable and specific gear. Make sure you are at a reasonable minimum gear level and the rest of the group will thank you. There are some very talented players in War Machine so if you have any questions about gearing any class there will be someone to help. If you don’t know who to ask, ask an officer and we’ll find someone for you. Remember, WM is here to help.

Dak being photobombed
Hunters. Clearly the best class, even when being photobombed by their own pet.

Class

With 12 classes in the game now, and changes constantly being made to how each class works, it would be impossible for us to tell you how to play each individual class (and spec!) perfectly. In saying that, there’s a fairly wide range of classes in the guild and subsequently a lot of experience on how to play those classes. Ask in guild or in our forums if you need help with specifics for your class, someone will surely be able to help or direct you to someone who can. For more general information on particular classes, one of the best places to visit is the official class forums. At the top of each class’s forum you’ll find a number of “stickied” posts, usually one for each spec, which are excellent guides to help you get a working spec, gear, gem/enchant and rotation sorted.

For more higher end theorycrafting and technical discussion on classes, check out places like Elitist Jerks. If you feel like you know your class very well and think you could help out other guild members, please do! But make sure you’re diplomatic and constructive about it – nobody likes being told “you suck, you’re doing it wrong”. Let people know you’re happy to offer advice if they want it, don’t push your ideas onto others.

Sum of All Specialisations

Classes now have access to all their specialisations, all the time. It is very useful to keep this in mind, particularly if you play a class that can cover multiple roles, when building your experience and gear. You never know, you might enjoy one of your other roles! For multiple DPS classes, War Machine doesn’t pay any heed to the “meta” and as such won’t force anyone into a particular way of playing just because it worked for the top 1% or a website deemed it the best. A lot of information is circumstantial and dependent on various factors that may not apply to you. This extends to healing and tanking – often there are lists and rankings. Just because your class/spec is not at the top does not mean you have chosen incorrectly or will be frowned upon. There are always winners and losers in every content patch and the best advice anyone can give is: play the class and spec you are happiest with and are good at. The rest is just noise and only there if you want to buy into the meta-game of being the most optimal possible.

Addons 

These are personal and there are a lot of opinions out there about them, about UI setups in general and none of it matters. World of Warcraft’s default UI has come a long way and is at the point now where you can do almost everything without a single addon. They can improve certain things, provide efficiency and useful information so shouldn’t be completely ignored.

If you’re curious about what might be helpful, it is good to ask around. The choices available are varied and many. A good starting point is a raid boss encounter addon, such as Deadly Boss Mods or BigWigs. A second option would be a metering addon like Recount, Skada or Details!. It is highly recommended you modify whatever you install so it suits your playstyle and you don’t suffer from the bloat of default options.

Another excellent general-purpose add-on is WeakAuras.

Enchanting/Gemming

There is no chance to cover off all the possible requirements for each spec here but there are thousands of posts across hundreds of websites devoted to this. Having said that don’t always take everything you read as gospel. Often the people who are posting have yet to work everything out so avoid the blind leading the blind. Go with what works for you but definitely do the research. To help you there are a few places I would visit to get the most out of my character.

Elitist Jerks – http://www.elitistjerks.com/
Ask Mr Robot – http://www.askmrrobot.com/wow/

At the most basic level, sockets and enchants are designed to to either allow you to fill the gaps in your secondary stats or to stack your top secondary stat even further.

Sundries

Most of the time, the idea is for flasks and feasts to be provided by the guild. To allow this to happen reliably, it is important that as many people as possible contribute materials and consumables to the bank. It is not a mandatory rule but many hands make light work. Rather than rely on one busy guild member farming, it is a lot easier to have multiple guild members giving what they can, when they can.

As an aside it is entirely possible to provide your own foods and flasks and other consumables such as potions. The choice is yours, just consider that although they might seem inconvenient or unnecessary, that extra %  you do adds to the extra % of everyone else. For DPS, the difference could be a whole chunk of a boss’s health, for healing it could mean having that extra oomph to counter damage and for tanks it might mean you take more of a hit and scare the healers less.

Research

Being that we are a casual guild that just so happens to raid, we don’t expect you to be an expert on every fight. If you sign up for a raid with us however we do expect you to have done some research on the fights we’ll be encountering. For bosses, read up on popular strats on Wowhead (they’re the comments that are in green text, generally) and/or Icy Veins, watch videos (I recommend Fatboss Videos, please excuse the language), and talk to WMers that have been there before. The last step is especially useful as we may have some adjustments to strategies to suit our particular group (or raid leader’s whim).

As with all aspects of War Machine life, don’t be afraid to ask questions. Just don’t do so mid-fight!

Time

Take your time, but be quick about it! War Machine is not overly strict to the minute, especially when it comes to the obstacles of real life. Out of respect to your fellow raider, it is good manners to be ready and show up at least 10 minutes before first pull (which is 8:30pm). During the break times, returning before it is over and being ready to go means more time to actually raid and kill things.

Technical Concerns

World of Warcraft has comparatively low system requirements – this comes from being a number of years old. However, over the expansions and patches Blizzard has improved the graphical engine considerably which has upped the strain the game can put on your system. Turning graphic detail settings down can help to improve matters but beware: turning certain settings down too low will make some spell effects harder to see or even invisible, which can hinder moving out of stuff in boss fights for example. Turning down your view distance is one of the best ways to improve your frame rate without affecting visual cues in boss fights. Be wary of messing with particle detail settings though. Additionally, if you are running a lot of addons you can find some severe slowdowns especially in boss fights – if in doubt unload anything you’re not going to need for the fight. For example, you don’t need to have Auctioneer loaded while you’re fighting Elegon!

Much harder to resolve than frame rate issues are lag problems. This can be anywhere from temporary to fairly permanent, from lag spikes to general slowness, and can dramatically affect your response times in raids. Figuring out the exact cause can be tricky – it could be your router, your ISP, your PC or even your network cable. Common causes that are relatively easy to rectify include making sure that there’s no heavy traffic going over your internet connection at the time (torrents, streaming video, etc), switching to a wired connection if you’re on wireless, and closing any applications you have running in the background. If none of those resolve the situation, you may have to talk to your internet provider to see if there’s any known issues on their network. There’s a number of technically minded people in the guild that are happy to try and help you through problems you might be having, so feel free to ask.

As this is a guild and as such is about the experience of the players as a whole, if you find you’re having computer performance or latency issues in a raid we expect you to speak up and volunteer to step out if need be. We don’t like having to ask that of you but the problems you’re having are affecting the enjoyment of the other 9+ raiders and we have to prioritize the group over the individual. If the situation were reversed I’m sure you wouldn’t want to be held up waiting for someone’s issues to come right either. Rest assured, we do notice when someone “takes one for the team”, and being a team player reflects well on you as an individual.

Self-Awareness

For a new raider the experience of raiding can be a huge learning curve, but it’s important that we do learn. Getting better in a raid environment is as much about experience as it is about research so no one expects you to be perfect from the get go. Most, however, will expect you to learn from your mistakes. The first step is understanding encounters and instructions.  From a performance perspective, the initiative lies with you, the raider. Yes, a lot of others can see on the meters what is happening and the raid leader will often analyse logs later on to find any glaring issues with mechanics or otherwise. However, ultimately, your performance is yours to command. A great starting point is checking the raid logs at www.warcraftlogs.com – some of our raid nights are posted there for us to review results. If you are not a fan of looking at data like this then ask someone who is. They can pick up trends in performance for you. Also, when a raid leader asks ‘what happened there?’ and you know it’s your fault, say something. Sometimes the raid leader will know very well what happened; they just want to make sure the characters responsible are aware also. This is not so they can yell at you, it’s just to be sure that it’s something a player is aware of and can work towards fixing. You’re not always going to see everything so being open to feedback is an important part of raiding. If you don’t know it’s broken you won’t fix it. Having said that it’s not always your job to adjust something…

e.g.

TANK DIES!!!

“Heals Fault!!!”

In most cases it could be any one, or multiple of the following impacts:

  • Tank is undergeared
  • Healer is undergeared
  • Someone not on right assignments or no assignments given
  • Healer is the wrong class for main tank healing in this fight (movement, speed, etc…)
  • Tank not cycling cooldowns effectively
  • Healer stood in a mechanic that oomed them
  • Tank stood in something that cause too much damage
  • A boss mechanic is being ignored by DPS
  • DPS too low to get adds down quickly
  • A boss mechanic (debuff, etc..) if being ignored by the raid as a whole.
  • DPS pulling threat or standing in stuff and using too much of the healers’ mana
  • Unlucky timing on damage (It happens)

We all need to be self aware and open enough to go through a list like this and honestly assess which applies to us and what we can do to fix it. War Machine is a great bunch of people and we are all here to have fun and learn. No one is going to eat your lunch for saying ‘I’m not sure I can do this, do we have any alternatives?’

Ventrilo Mumble Discord!

No real need to discuss this. No Discord no raid. You don’t need to talk (and some raid leaders even prefer that you don’t) but you do need to listen. The backbone of a good team is effective communication and the message ‘all run right!’ might be a little laborious to type during an encounter. Get it, install it, and use it. Go to https://discordapp.com/ … you will be given the discord invite at some point. Join in the banter!

Summary

Raiding is huge amounts of fun and for me it’s what I get the most pleasure doing. It’s not for everyone though and if it’s not for you that’s okay. If you just want to try it out that’s awesome too. But if it’s for you it will be a hugely rewarding experience getting the boss we’ve been working on for a month finally down. Do what you can to get ready for it and give it your all when you’re in. That’s how the others in the raid will be treating it… as a fun but challenging event, kind of like a B grade sports team consisting of mates who really want to win the game and have a beer at the pub afterwards. As always just get involved. You will find out pretty quickly if raiding is for you, or even if a less progressive focus raid might be the go. Either way I challenge you all to get in and give it a go if that’s what you want.

Just be prepared…

A quick breakdown of some UI elements and addons available:

  • Unit/raid frames: There are a metric tonne of unit and raid frames to choose from and some even overlap. For example an addon like Pitbull can be used for unit frames and raid frames but can also be coupled with a specific raid frame mod allowing you to use something like grid. Personal preference will dictate what you choose. I used a mixture of VuhDo and Pitbull for a really sharp look. As with anything, until you have used it for a bit you will probably have a hard time guessing which one is best so try them all! I do have some specific recommendations for new healers (like I was a few moons ago). If you are looking at healing then the big three is probably what you’re after (all three have a click to cast function)…
  • Healbot: Very easy to setup and pretty intuitive from the get go. It’s quite visual but personally not as clean and crisp as the others with a little bit of limitation on customisation. My experience is a little limited on this addon though so it might pay to ask a raid healer who uses it for their opinion.
  • VuhDo in a small group
    VuhDo in a small group
  • Vuhdo: VuhDo is currently my preference for healing (in my limited experience). It allows very dynamic customisation but is also fully functional ‘out of the box’. A interesting option is the ability to write your own proc checks then lay out a display prioritisation e.g. If you are targeting a player show a yellow box around them unless they have aggro in which case switch it to red and prioritise showing this over the targeted option. This is already setup as default but imagine the possibilities (Nerdness in overdrive).
  • Grid+Clique: This is probably the pre-eminent healing setup and way beyond my capabilities at this point. Grid is an awesome raid frame which I use for my mage often but to have the click to cast function that the others have preinstalled and localised you need to install Clique,which is game wide. This tool attaches itself to your spell book and allows you to assign key/click combinations for spells that can be cast over unit frames or raid frames. This function can also be used with the default Blizzard UI raid/unit frames which is a good option if your pc is dying a slow death. I really like the idea of this addon except for one small thing. The number of heals I have at the moment mean I need a lot of mouse clicks and combo clicks (e.g. shift + left mouse). As such I prefer to have my right button assigned to a spell like Holy Light which is my main spammable tank bomb. What this means is I need to choose a new combination for right clicking a portrait and inviting/trading/promoting/etc… This is too much of a learning curve for me and would likely not be a benefit. I still use Grid and Clique for my DPS classes because it’s just the best raid frame out there in my opinion. Time consuming to setup but once done correctly you could probably get it to fish for you… it’s that good.
  • Pitbull: Pretty customisable and very clean. Little bit resource hungry but it’s not a necessity anyway. If you play a class like a rogue or a paladin keeping track of your combo points is much easier if you can move and customise the players frame to where you want. This works with clique also so you can setup Pitbull up as your raid frames if you need consistency. I’ve never tried doing this so I have no idea what it would look like but I am sure there are plenty of tutorials out there. Having said that the general consensus is that it’s a bit of a resource pig for 5+ units so it might not pay to use it this way.
  • X-Perl: Mac versus PC is X-Perl to Pitbull. I am not sure there is much difference between them. X-Perl might be a little less customisable but unless you are Mr ‘close the door five times’ you probably won’t need that level of customisation anyway.
  • Get what you want, use it till it becomes second nature. That’s really all there is to a unit/raid frame addon. But based on my limited experience you might want to have a talk to some of the other raid healers and get their opinions.
  • More General Addons
  • Skada showing DPS
    Skada showing DPS
  • Meters: In general there are really only two options (or combinations) people use. Before we get into them though a word on meters themselves…. They are a great way of seeing how much damage/heals you’re putting out but also how much damage you are taking. It’s awesome to have this as a tool to analyse performance but remember that meters are not the be all and end all. Comparing your damage output to someone else, especially a different class, is more likely going to be swayed by the different roles within that fight. For example, someone pulling low heals on a tank that survives a fight… did they do a poor job? Or where they simply managing mana efficiently and perhaps the tank was well geared anyway. Unless you are raid leading it’s a tool to manage your own performance. Get on the boss dummies and try out new things. This will also help to see things like a miss or how much you are really critting for. It’s an awesome tool, but it’s just an analytical tool. It will not help you get more DPS once you are in a raid but it will help you improve once you’re out of it.
  • The exception to this rule is threat meters. In a raid is the only place a tool like that will be useful so keep it close by your field of view and watch it like you would watch your child climbing onto a chair. There are only a few things a DPS needs to watch so pulling off the tank should never really happen. Make sure it doesn’t with a well setup threat meter.
  • Recount: Recount is a very good tool for all facets of data collection other than threat. This addon does seem a little heavy on the resource but that is mostly due to the ‘chatty’ nature of it. Recount will converse with others who have it and average out results. This means everyone running with Recount (assuming the setup is the same – like adding pets) will see the same thing. Also it provides some interesting graph information real time but that sort of thing does take up a fair amount of space so use it if you need it but I’d suggest sticking with the basics. Also, I’d suggest hiding it in combat. If you are looking at recount during the fight you are probably not focussing as much as you need to on the fight mechanics. The information will still be there at the end so stick with what is important now and keep your eyes on the mechanics.
  • Skada showing Threat
    Skada showing Threat
  • Skada: This tool is very light yet can often be out in terms of results from Recount and other people running Skada. The amount that it is out by is negligible so I wouldn’t worry about it too much. One of the great benefits of this tool is its ability to switch modes in and out of combat. You can have it swap to THREAT in combat and swap back to DPS once out. I personally use Skada to save resources and for its clean and crisp look.
  • Omen: This is purely a threat meter. If you don’t have Skada you must have Omen. I like Omen and it is very customisable but there is no need to have it with Skada really. If you like to have two separate windows for both threat and DPS/heals you can create a second window with Skada.
  • In this case use whichever combo you like… but do use them, especially as DPS. Those who pull aggro from a tank who is on your target really have no excuse. The line ‘he wasn’t holding enough aggro’ won’t fly at all. It’s your job to watch you’re meters so make sure you don’t go over the threat line. In comparison to tanking or healing you really only have a few things to watch out for so in my opinion it’s hugely fail to pull off a tank. DON’T DO IT. If a question comes up about your DPS and you were holding back for threat you can mention it then. Otherwise ‘WATCH YOUR THREAT’.
  • Boss Assist Mods: There are probably more but the main two are DBM (Deadly Boss Mods) and BigWigs. I personally use DBM but there was no real thought that went into selecting it. I’ve never used BigWigs so I can’t really discuss it intelligently. Regardless of what you choose these addons are a must for raiding. They will literally yell at you to move out, interrupt, or dispel stuff but they’ll also let you know about key actions happening and timers on new things coming up. Having a mod like this will dramatically increase your raid awareness. Remember to set it up for the best viewing as it applies to your UI. Do not raid without it. War Machine’s “official” assist mod of choice is DBM and we recommend you use it over BigWigs as DBM communicates with other users of DBM in the group allowing it to sync timers, warnings and whatnot between all players.

These are really the basic addons you will want. There are others out there that are specific to classes like CombustionHelper for fire mages and DotTimer for… well… just about anyone really. There are simply too many to even start on going through them all. On a side note though, if you are a caster and not using Quartz you are likely hurting your DPS by as much as 20%. Getting the next cast off during the latency of the first is a huge increase. Quartz FTW and remember though, Google is your friend. Watch YouTube videos on building User Interfaces and read forums dedicated to recommended addons. You can’t have them all but maybe something will strike your interest and in most cases, after shopping for addons, you’ll probably end up removing the superfluous ones one by one for performance and screen space.

Taking the world one boss at a time…