Ready Check is a weekly column focusing on successful raiding for the serious raider. Hardcore or casual, Kara or BT, everyone can get in on the action and down them some bosses. Sometimes I forget that WoW is set in a Medieval time period, so here's a little of that flavor...
So it's about 5 minutes until raid invites shoot out to the masses. You're sitting there, stacks of flasks and food in-bag, durability at 100%, waiting by the meeting stone until you have raid buddies to summon. You worked all day yesterday to gather the enchanting mats for your new weapon and are itching to try it out on something more than dailies. You're amped. You're stoked. You're ready to roll.
The clock ticks to raid invite time. You wait for the invite window to pop up. The guildie next to you starts firing up a summoning portal. People start populating the area around you. Still nothing. Over your class channel, the call goes out to see if anyone needs anything from the first 3 bosses. Well, crap. You don't. Things aren't looking good, and your status is confirmed when the radi leader puts out the notice to whisper so-and-so to get on the standby list.
What did you do wrong? How can you ensure a raid spot in the future? You may not like the answers.
Granted, the above story may not as dramatic to everyone since many guilds use a raid sign-up system. No surprise there if you'll be warming the bench. Today my goal is to cover the logic behind deciding who stays at the meeting stone and who gets to go mono y viente cinco against the biggest bad guys around.
Thine enemy be revealed!
The first step in building a raid is knowing what you're up against. How many mobs need tanked tonight (and this includes trash, kk)? Is the fight a DPS race or is it a hardcore tank 'n spank? Are there any special boss tricks on the roster for the evening that makes a class the one you can't live without? These are the types of questions that have to be answered before the first player can be invited. Really size up the kind of environment you're going to be facing.
And sure, it's easy peasy when you're farming content for the millionth time. The true test is on progression (aka new) bosses. Did you know the way you stack your raid can make the difference between winning that first time and dragging the wipage out over a series of raids? Yep, I've seen it. And let's be honest, after you get the boss down the first time, the whole guild's mindset becomes "We can!" instead of "Maybe we can..." So in a lot of cases, making the ultimate sacrifice one time means a whole future of farming.
A good (and notorious example) would be Kael'thas. Could I talk about him more? The nightmares, they haunt me... Anyways, back when we were banging our heads against him, we had a really hard time with Phase 2 and getting the weapons down fast enough. The raid leader decided to stack the raid with AoE to get the job done. My friend and guild videographer ret pally was asked nicely to hit the bricks. That was all kinds of miserable right there, but we all understood it was the best thing for our team at that time. Sometimes you are a key to your guild's success by being the star, and sometimes you are a key to your guild's success by being willing to sit out. We went on to beat Kael that night and not since then have we gone in there without the ret pally.
Giveth me balance and thou gets the shaft
Every class brings something to the raiding table, and you'll want each class represented in your raid group to make it the strongest it can be. Have "BC Raiding = Variety" tattooed somewhere on your body - that's how important it is (and picts or it didn't happen!). However, math says 25/9 doesn't equal a whole number. Some classes will have to be under-represented. Them's the breaks. So which classes get the shaft? That answer will vary from guild-to-guild, but generally it's Hunters and Rogues. /duck
"Now wait a darn minute" says the stabby-stabbies and pew-pews, "We can srsly bring the pain so what's the deal?!?" The problem is almost any class, when played well, can do phenomenal individual DPS. These two particular classes also bring great utility, but dare I say that it doesn't stack extremely well? Yep, I dare. Take hunters for example. Misdirection is awesome for keeping the raid rolling through content. And honestly, who really waits for the 3 Sunders anymore? The problem is once you've packed 1-2 hunters, you have all the Misdirects you need.
Likewise, a Rogue's Kick, Distract, and Sap only have so much mileage after you've got a couple pounding on a boss. In fact, when we have the occasional 3rd Rogue on RoS, we tell them not to interrupt. It's just too many cooks in the kitchen, and the Deadens suffer. And sadly, the design of a lot of boss fights isn't even that melee friendly to begin with. A Fury Warrior can off-tank, or an Enhancement Shaman can bring totems and Bloodlust/Heroism. It's the same with the additive abilities of Mages (AoE/Decursing), Druid (Innervates/BRezes/tanking), etc. etc.
That's not to say some of these stackable classes aren't going to get kicked to the curb sometimes. The glass cannon clothies are usually the first to go on Gertie Bloodboil and I already told you my pally story. Figure out what your weaknesses are against the bosses you're up against and that will guide you to who gets el shafto.
Doth proclaim your invite policy/rules/beliefs
The way raid invites are handled can be a major drama source, only second to lewt QQ'ing. It's important to have a clear policy and apply it consistently. Generally this means that all of your dedicated raiders should get an equal amount of raiding time, with equal standby rotations. It also may mean that guy with 30% attendance who shows up with no consumables should not get an invite over someone with 90% attendance and Blackened Basilisk coming out their ears.
It's up to each guild to determine what is "fair" and best within their guild culture. My guild keeps track of attendance and we give preference to those that sat out the raid before, for example. And if you're going to give the first invites to your best buds and the Guild Princess, at least give people a heads up so they know what to expect. As long as the policy is understood and applied consistently, there should be little resistance.
Another great tool for managing who gets in is Class Leads. Make it their problem... err... responsibility ensure everyone from their class gets their fair share of raiding time, and the right people are available for potential loot drops they need. Just be sure they're getting their fair share of bench warming, too.
Overlap, pray tell!
Every class in the game has at least 2 viable raiding specs, if not more. But most of the buffs and some abilities are the same whether you are 41/20/0 or 0/0/0. This starts to create overlap that has to be factored in when you're going for that perfect balance. Let's say you want 8 healers in your raid. A good starting point in your planning might be 2 of each of the four healing classes, Priest, Druid, Shaman, and Paladin. Now normally you want at least 3 total paladins in your raid for blessings (Kings, Light/Salv, Might/Wisdom). If you happen to use a Prot or Ret Paladin, then you've got your 3 blessings covered with just 2 holy paladins on your healing team.
But if you're all out of Judgment goodness, you need to bump the holy pally number up to 3. Now one other healing class has to be removed to maintain 8 healers. This is where you start negotiating. If there are 2 Feral Druids online, you could opt to go with only 1 Resto Druid and they will still have 3 battle rez's and innervates. Or if you're short on ferals, maybe a Resto Shaman won't get an invite. But don't forget that just like pallies, you probably still want a minimum of 3 shaman for bloodlust and totems. One of each shammy flavor could do the trick and cover all the buffage options. Or if there's several mana batt... err... Shadow Priests their raid, a single Holy Priest for Imp Spi could be the best option.
But you always fall back on the first rule: Know your enemy. If it's a fight like Bloodboil, having enough Chain Heal and Circle of Healing may trump other raid composition issues. Sometimes you can't have everything, and you have to prioritize. What's truly important for this encounter?
Common raid designs? I hath them!
Here's some typical invite lists for some general types of fights you may encounter. If you're short on some classes, you can make substitutes, but I would recommend you drum up some recruitment and fill those slots with better suited classes to make progression easier.
General Fight Requirements
Tanks for all of the bosses and trash mobs
Full Raid Buffs including multiple Health Stones
Caster Mana Regen
Default Design - with 6, 7, or 8 healers
Prot Warriors + Prot Pallies = 2
Feral Druid + DPS Warrior = 3
Rogue = 1 to 2
Hunter = 1 to 2
DPS + Resto Shaman = 3
Prot + Ret + Holy Paladin = 3
Resto Druid = 1
Shadow Priest = 2
Holy Priest = (6, 7, or 8) - Holy Paladin - Resto Shaman - Resto Druid
Warlock = 2 to 3
Mage = 2 to 3
What this means is you normally invite a certain number of default classes and then use healers, Hunters, and Rogues to create the flexibility to conform to your encounter. So if it's a serious dps race, you would cut back on healers and create openings for the ranged casters. A good example would be the Vashj fight since Locks and Mages are critical for downing Striders in a timely manner. So you'll want a minimum number of melee. Likewise, if you're facing a high raid damage battle, you'll want to bump up the Holy Priests and probably ask a dps to sit out.
And so sayeth the controversy
While Blizz has made great strides in making more spec's raid viable, there are still some that haven't gotten much PvE love. That doesn't mean you can never use them, just that they're not as ideal as other specs. Once example would be Balance Druid. Our officer group has gone around and around on the pro's and con's of bringing a Doom Chicken with us. While their Crit Aura and Insect Swarm are good buffs, are they better than a Mage, Lock, or Elemental Shammy in the same spot? Ret Paladins have faced the same scrutiny concerning their Judgments, buffs, and auras. These types of situations are something your guild will need to work out for themselves and then make it known what your stance is.
On the flip side, there are a number of PvP builds that just don't perform as well in raids. Arms Warriors and Discipline Priests are the first ones to come to mind. While they offer great utility, bosses tend not to care much about a healing decrease or whether you can Imp Mass Dispel.
No invite? You jest!
Just because you end up on standby one night doesn't mean you did anything wrong, nor does it mean the raid leader hates you. Beyond the class balance issues we've discussed, there are factors that you can control and increase your chances of raiding. These include researching the fights ahead of time, bringing consumables, maintaining good attendance, and performing well in raids. If you're a top quality player, then there will be no question inviting you when it's your turn.
Marcie Knox has been raiding for a coon's age. It's all she's ever wanted to do and would be lost without the now 3 nights a week where she can help put bosses in their place. You might know her from the Raid Rx column, but then again, you might not...