Friday, February 11, 2011

Raid Building 101: Chances of success? 33.33%, repeating of course

Should we wipe it?
Raid Building 101 is a weekly article detailing the finer (and sometimes the not so finer) points of building and leading a successful raid group. Be it a world first or super casual, Raid Building 101 has something for you.

The next installment of Raid 101 talks about failures. Failures are not always bad; wipes can teach you a lot about what kind if leaders/raiders you have. They also can point out strengths and weaknesses in your team, and sometime’s it is just dumb luck that gets you killed. As a raid leader you are expected to quickly analyze the way the wipe happened and then adjust the raid strategy if needed.

I will start with a story of ye olde Ulduar. We were doing 25-man Thorim and kept getting him down to about 18% to 20% before hitting the enrage timer. We were following the tankspot strategy to a T and still coming up short. This is where I learned how valuable the forums under kill strategies on sites are. I looked for something, anything, which would work better for us. I noticed one post that simply said "stop trying to avoid the lightning until he gets like 6 stacks, it barely hurts and you can bloodlust and just stand there and pew pew". Sounded great to me so we tried it and one shot with the new strategy because our ranged were having a tough time keeping up high levels of DPS while moving and we tended to have a lot of ranged in our groups. Sometimes things don’t go like this and the group will continue to wipe. How you react and interpret can make a good raid leader great.

There are a few types of wipes. I like to call the main types Clean, Dirty, and Fail.
  • A Clean wipe is where everyone did everything they were asked to do, yet the boss still hit enrage timer or the healers ran out of mana from the fight lasting so long.
  • A Dirty wipe is also known as a called wipe. Things just didn’t go your way and a couple of people died and eventually you realize the fight can’t be won with who is left alive. The raid leader has to make the call to wipe it up so you can try again.
  • A fail wipe is just that, a fail. Someone fell off a platform in The Throne of the Winds, people didn’t jump on the back of magmaw, no one interrupted Maliorak, etc. These are the results of sometimes a single person; other times an entire group of people.
I’d like to also add something I’d call a learning wipe. After I explain bosses for a really long time the first time we meet them I just say screw it, let’s start the fight and figure it out from there. We start the fight and note the names of abilities, what they do, where people are positioned, what can and can’t be interrupted and what type of damage/debuffs we all receive.

The most important thing you can do as a raid leader is to figure out why you wiped and fix the issue. I have a thought process on wipes. First I look for what might have caused the wipe, then what may have caused that to happen, and take advice from whoever is doing that job as to if there is an issue with how the strategy is setup for them.

The Fail Wipe
Let’s look at the easiest type of wipe. I say easiest because there is usually a reason for it.

Tank dies
When the Tank dies a lot of people blame the healer, but that is not always the case.
  • First take a look at the Tank, ask them what happened.
    • Check recount or combat log to see what killed the tank.
    • Did the Tank not avoid an instant kill mechanic?
    • Did the Tank not use a cooldown for a large burst damage mechanic?
    • Did the tank die a slow death with no healing?
  • Time to look at the Healer, ask the healers what happened?
    • Did the healer go OOM?
    • Did the healer get silenced?
    • Did the healer get knocked out of ranged or lose Line of sight?
    • Could the healer not keep up with the damage?
    • Did the healer not cast any spells during that time for other reasons?
  • Then address the issue.
    • Assign a new healer if the healer is having issues.
    • Assign a second healer to help when large damage area hits.
    • Make sure the Tank knows when to use cooldowns.
    • Make sure the Tank doesn’t Line of sight or run out of range of the healers.
    • Make sure the fight doesn’t take so long that all the healers go OOM.
    • Have DPS classes with mana regeneration abilities use them during the fight to help.
DPS or Healer dies.
  • Ask how they died.
    • Cleaved by the boss?
    • Stood in the fire?
    • Got aggro?
    • Adds killed them?
    • Mechanic of the fight responsible?
  • Then ask the healers if it was too much damage.
    • DPS not avoiding damage?
    • DPS running out of range?
    • DPS line of sighting healers?
    • Healers can’t keep up with damage?
    • Healers went OOM?
    • Healers were healing Tanks at the time?
  • Then address the issue.
    • Re-Explain any abilities that killed the DPS.
    • Make sure they know if they can avoid damage.
      • Spread out, don’t stand in the fire, stack up, etc.
    • Make sure they know where the healers are so they don’t run out of range.
    • Make sure the Tanks aren’t pointing the boss at people.
    • Make sure the Tanks are keeping aggro on the boss.
    • Make sure Tanks know when to pick up adds.
    • Make sure DPS aren’t blowing everything before the tank even gets to hit the boss.
    • Make sure healers know their roles.
    • Adjust healers if needed between raid and tank healing.
    • If they can heal themselves make sure they are doing it!
      • Warlock stones are there to be used!
That is the easy part, find out what is wrong by going down the line. Make sure you ask people how and why they died, but do not yell at them for it. This will stop them from providing information in the future to why things happened. Say a DPS dies and he said he stood in the fire. Ask all the DPS what happened, not just the single player. Then remind the ENTIRE RAID what they need to do to avoid dying to the mechanic. This usually makes the raider not feel like they are being called out for making a mistake. Always try to talk in terms of groups, Healers, DPS, and Tanks.

Don't bleach my chainmail, K THX
The Clean Wipe
Clean wipes are sometimes hard to figure out. A Clean wipe is when everything seems like it went right, but either the fight takes too long and the healers all run out of mana or the boss just hits his enrage timer.

Check the DPS meters
  • Look for any trends on the DPS meter.
    • Melee or Ranged doing less DPS than normal?
    • One player is way down the list?
    • One player is way up the list?
    • Tanks are doing more damage than everyone else?
  • Look at damage taken.
    • Tanks taking even damage?
    • Anyone in the raid taking way more damage than the rest?
    • Healers getting hurt a lot?
  • Look at Healing meter.
    • Just as a basis, not for pure numbers, just to see if DPS classes who can heal are healing themselves a little to help the healers.
    • Make sure the healers are okay with their roles.
    • Do NOT judge a healer by numbers. Raid healers usually have higher HPS than tank healers.
  • Address the issue.
DPS/Damage done
  • Melee doing lower DPS than normal.
    • Ask them if the boss is being moved around too much for them or if there is a mechanic in the strategy that really pulls down their DPS like waiting to interrupt certain abilities.
    • Does the boss resist a lot of their attacks?
    • Are they being stunned by a mechanic?
  • Ranged doing lower DPS than normal.
    • Do they have to move too much because of a mechanic?
      • A big indicator of this is if a hunter is doing way more DPS than the rest of the ranged, movement might be causing the loss in DPS.
    • Are they being interrupted or silenced by a mechanic?
    • Are they on add control so they do less dps because of target switching?
  • One player is way down the list for DPS/Damage done.
    • Make sure they are hit capped.
      • With recount you can look and see if they are missing the boss with attacks.
    • Make sure they are following the lead of the other players near them.
    • Make sure they are using any boss mechanic for increased damage.
    • Check if they are under geared compared to the rest of the DPS.
    • Are they doing a special job? Add kiting or interrupting? Those can take away a couple thousand DPS depending on how much they have to do it.
  • One player is way up the list for DPS/Damage done.
    • First of all make sure they are doing what is required and not just going pew pew on the boss.
      • Are they helping with interrupts?
      • Are they switching to adds if need be?
      • Are they helping with other mechanics everyone is supposed to be helping with?
      • High DPS/Damage while not helping the raid with adds is fail in my book.
    • Did they find out a particular place to stand that makes it so they have to move less?
    • Did they figure out a mechanic that lets them do more damage to the boss?
    • A lot of times one person just happened to find a sweet spot in the abilities and hopefully you can replicate it to other DPS.
  • Tanks doing more damage than everyone else?
    • This can happen on add fights.
    • Is it a single target fight?
    • Do the tanks get some kind of buff?
    • Should tanks be helping with something else to get DPS to improve?
  • Special Note: Single Tank Fights.
    • On single tank fights the best thing to do is if you have a feral druid to have them DPS in their tanking gear just in case.
    • If not use your judgment on which buffs/debuffs a class brings and how good of offspecs your tanks have.
Damage taken
  • Tanks taking even damage?
    • If it is a swap fight one tank may be taking a little more damage if they are the one with the initial pull, otherwise damage taken should be even.
    • One tank is taking way more damage?
      • Try to find out if it is a certain ability, maybe one tank always gets the bad timing of having the large damage attacks on them.
      • Maybe you WANT one of the tanks taking the large damage attacks.
      • Check to make sure if it isn’t one type of damage.
        • If it is a lot of spell damage use what tanks you have with their unique abilities.
          • DK with their anti-magic cooldowns.
          • Bears and Paladins with normal cooldowns.
        • A lot of physical damage? Use the tank with that as a strength.
          • Your Paladin Tank is block capped?
          • Your Feral tank has a ton of mastery?
  • Any one raider taking way more damage than the rest?
    • If you use recount look at what did damage to them.
      • Remind the whole raid of what to avoid and what to look for.
    • Are they kiting adds? Perhaps they need some help or someone to slow the adds once and a while?
    • They spamming Shadow word death? (It happens)
    • A normal mechanic?
  • Healers getting hurt a lot?
    • Same as above, figure out what’s doing it and address it.
    • Is there a mechanic that hurts people when healing?
    • Bad luck and getting the random attack on them constantly?
    • Too busy healing and standing in the fire?
Look at the healing meters
  • Is everyone showing up on the healing meters?
    • If someone is not on there it means they may not have used their warlock snack or an ability that can heal them.
      • Ignore if the issue with the fight if DPS not high enough.
    • Is the ret paladin higher on the chart than other DPS?
      • They should be because of the mechanics of their abilities.
    • Is the Elemental or Enhancement Shaman too high?
      • Check to make sure they weren’t actually casting healing wave or chain heals.
      • If they were ask them why?
  • Is one healer way above the rest?
    • Make sure the role of that healer is getting the support it needs.
      • Raid healer: Is the raid just taking too much damage?
      • Tank healer: Is the tank just taking too much damage?
  • Everything looks normal, but healers say raid is taking too much damage?
    • Consider using raid wide buffs to help.
      • Aura mastery for Resistance Aura on large spell damage AoE?
      • Divine Guardian by a Protection Paladin?
      • Any Feral/Boomkin Druid using Tranquility?
Dot the I and cross the T
  • Not hitting enrage timer, but healers keep going OOM after 8 to 10 minutes.
    • Consider having a DPS offspec heal and see if you can’t down the boss before the enrage timer.
    • This is actually how I got my first Omnitron Defense System kill. Four healers.
  • Hitting the Enrage timer, but healing was pretty easy.
    • Consider having a healer DPS and switch to healing during burst damage parts then going back to DPSing.
  • Make sure everyone is using extra damage mechanics and make sure the Tanks are getting them put in spots that can be used.
  • Make sure Bloodlust/Heroism/Time warp are being used at the best times.
    • Sometimes the beginning is the best time because no boss mechanics are making people move yet.
      • If DPS keeps dying before the end, consider using it earlier.
    • Sometimes the middle works best when a large add phase or burn phase appears.
    • Sometimes the end is the best if most people in the group have abilities they can use with the boss under a certain percentage of health.
    • Sometimes the boss enrages at a certain percentage and then the effect will also help the healers keep up with the damage easier.
  • Make sure there is optimum usage of buffs/debuffs.
    • Warlocks and Mages have their buffs on other players that are mutually beneficial?
      • Sometimes the Healer needs the extra haste or crit.
    • Are totems being put down the benefit the entire raid layout and not just the shaman?
      • Enhancement laying down totems for spell casters if you are spell caster heavy.
    • Is there multiple raiders doing the same debuff? Can they be changed?
      • Can a warlock change off of Curse of the elements if another class is putting up the same debuff?
      • Can someone change a spec to offer a missing debuff?
        • Even with a slight drop in DPS for one class it could well be worth it if it increases the DPS of everyone else.
Should we run?
The Dirty Wipe
I don’t like a Dirty wipe, but when your raid time is limited this is often the Raid Leaders call. The reason I do not like a dirty wipe is sometimes it can feel like as a Raid Leader you don’t think your raid is capable of recovering from a situation. Some raiders feel like they could have picked up the slack and gotten it done, but when a wipe is called you need to stand in the fire and start over.

Reasons for calling a Dirty Wipe are the following;
  • Raiders Wipe right away at pull.
    • Don’t waste a battle res or your time, there is no way to completely rebuff the player(s) so it is better to just start over.
  • Too many DPS die during the fight.
    • If there are bodies on the floor and boss isn’t even half dead consider just calling it to regroup and look at what caused people to die.
  • A healer dies.
    • Chances are if a single healer dies you are out of luck on a two tank fight.
      • If the healers think they can do it, go ahead and try.
  • Coming up short of the enrage timer part way through the fight.
    • As Raid leader pay attention to when you hit 50% of boss health and 30% and 20%.
    • Note the time until enrage when you hit these marks.
    • If you’ve already done a clean wipe by enrage timer and your current time at 50% isn’t better, CALL IT OUT! Let the raid know they are behind and pick up the slack.
      • This actually works for some reason.
  • Missing a Mechanic even though everyone is still alive.
    • If a mechanic that in the long run is missed that will eventually cause a wipe simply because it can’t be helped then call the wipe.
    • Too many adds too early or not enough for a phase.
    • Like not getting a stack of something that will eventually cause you do die in about two minutes.
      • Make sure there isn’t a class who can protect people during the time they may die. Divine Shield, Guardian spirit, etc.
  • Someone disconnects who is important to the raid and they don’t come right back.
    • Consider just resetting the boss if possible, if not push everyone else to try and pick up the slack.
The Dirty wipe is hard on a raid leader, just remember, you are wasting people’s time taking it all the way to the enrage timer if you know the raid can’t do it and they know all the mechanics already.

The Learning Wipe
This is actually an inside joke in early raid that goes back to Ulduar and the crybaby known as XT. I had called a wipe because I knew we already screwed up and I believe in maximum reps so people get the fight ingrained in their heads, but Titleist told everyone not to wipe and he eventually yelled “We’re learning here!” over Ventrillo.

We now use slow death wipes as Learning Wipes.

The way a Learning Wipe works is when you know the boss won’t die, but enough people are alive to keep the fight going longer you just call that this will end in a wipe, but watch everyone who is still alive to see how to not get yourself killed.

This is also a good time to try new strategies on the fly, perhaps stack a healer on the melee and see if it’s easier for him there or have people try to avoid or resist things that the strategy says you can’t (things get hotfixed).

If the raid already knows all the mechanics and there are no new raiders who have not seen the entire boss fight avoid calling a Learning Wipe unless someone has some great mechanic they want to try.

Learning wipes have also helped us find ways to two heal fights or single tank them letting us kill the boss faster the next attempt.

Just calling it a night
Sometimes there is nothing that can be done to improve your attempts on the boss. Some nights DPS just can’t get high enough, other nights the Healers just can’t keep up. Sometime you just aren’t geared enough for a fight even though you have the mechanics down exactly. There is a time when you will have to either go to a different boss or just call it a night. Be careful when calling it a night because you can really discourage raiders from showing up the next night. Usually I say something like, “Alright guys we just don’t have the DPS for this tonight. Go get your new gear enchanted and check your specs, gemming, and enchants to make sure you are at the best you can be for tomorrow. We’ll go read some more strategies and make sure there isn’t something we are missing in the fight. I don’t want any more repair bills for something we may have overlooked. See you back here tomorrow night prepared to get this guy down.” Feel free to add in your more colorful wording, I’d rather not type that in this column though.

I'm praying for a power outage....
Final thoughts
Wiping is never fun and learning nothing from a wipe is worse. Always remember as a Raid Leader it is your responsibility to figure out what just happened and improve the next attempt for the entire raid. Some people may have no idea what to do and just say nothing because they want to be there for the boss to die. Calling on groups to do certain things will help those types of people. Often if I have just one new raider I just explain their part of the fight or I simply say, “Do everything X does and if you die just watch us kill the boss from the floor.” Usually that is after we have killed the boss on multiple occasions.

Always be open to ideas from your raiders, but don’t try every idea. They aren’t always good, but if they make sense use them. If they don’t make sense say why they don’t make sense, “This is how the guide says to do it,” is not a good answer. “Let’s try it one more time the way the guide says it and if it has the same result we will try that idea,” is a much better way to respond. That way if the guide has the better strategy usually it will work better on the next try.

Raid Leading is a two way street. You have to respect your raiders to get respect. Calling them out by name, embarrassing them, and not listening to their ideas will thin the ranks of your raid the next time you lead.

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Gordrin is the current raid leader of Guild Malice - Early Raid. He once went an entire month without showering and was escorted out of a Mall because of the smell. He can be reached at


eightpaws said...

Fantastic post!

This is going to be wonderfully helpful for me. While I'm not raid leading (ha! Far from it), the list of possible things that can cause a wipe has applications in so many situations. Thank you much :)

Gordrin said...

No problem, I'm just glad that people read them. This is all the stuff I write and work on for the guild so I might as well throw it out into the internet and see if anyone else can use it.