Ready Check is a weekly column focusing on successful raiding for the serious raider. Hardcore or casual, ZA or Sunwell Plateau, everyone can get in on the action and down some bosses. Or wipe to them. Again. And again. And again... This week, we look at progression and what it means to you.
This week, we were going to present a column on Brutallus, in similar vein to our Kalecgos and Zul'Aman timed run walkthroughs. However, we'll be leaving you in suspense for another week, as disheartening 1% wipes prevent us from actually having killed him yet. So, until we manage to eke out that final drop of DPS, we present WoW Insider's handy guide to Progress Raiding and You.
There are two main 'classes' of raid, progress and farm; progress raids involve conquering new content, such as facing (and killing) a boss for the first time, whereas farm raids are easy rides through familiar territory, with clean kills and quick epics. Obviously, there's some middle ground, when you kill something for the second or third time -- but at some point the fight becomes repeatable, easy, and unlikely to warrant a second trash clear, earning it the title 'farm'.
Farm raids aren't interesting, although they can be a terrifying ride to new recruits who might have to learn an entire instance in one night. Progress raids, on the other hand, often stretch your guild's skill, endurance and temperament to the limits -- the requirements are harsh, margin for error low and frustration high. However, the feeling of achievement and teamwork that comes around when all the hard work pays off more than makes up for the sweat and tears; further incentives such as faction, server or even world firsts drive people to push themselves to breaking point, making the victory all the sweeter when it comes.
Progress is hard. Sure, not every boss encounter is terribly complex, and an individual fight might require a lot more of certain classes or roles than another. That doesn't make progress as a whole easy. From motivating a raid to spend precious repair money, to researching strategies and preparing consumables, progress raids take a lot of work from everyone involved.
Progress is fun. The feeling of steadily approaching a goal is satisfying in itself, but nothing quite matches up to that moment when everything clicks, nothing goes wrong and the boss dies.
Progress is boring. This is also true, to a point. Wiping again and again on something, especially to the same people making the same mistakes, is boring and frustrating.
Progress is expensive. It sure is; flasks, potions, elixirs, food, oils, stones, scrolls and other consumables all add up, not to mention the repair bills that come about from wiping. With the number of dailies available at the moment, plus systems such as guild banks and Marks of the Illidari, money shouldn't really be a problem for any raider; if it is, guilds are usually happy to help out those in need to benefit the greater good.
Progress is impossible. Beating your head against a brick wall can feel counterproductive and insurmountable, but usually there are ways around it. Step back for a while and analyse your performance, raid something else to get confidence, skill and gear back up, take a five minute break, recruit new players, transfer guild -- nothing's making you wipe on the same boss every night for six months.
A much-bandied term when it comes to progress is 'min-maxing'. But what does that mean, and how does it affect you? Well, min-maxing from a raid point of view means making sure that the raid consists of the best people suited for the task at hand, having the right composition and focusing on what's needed. For example, Brutallus is a DPS-intensive encounter, so you want to make sure you take the classes that do the most DPS and benefit from or provide DPS synergy. No prot warriors DPSing here, oh no. On farm content, you can often get away with a healer more than usual, undergeared DPS or an extra tank -- but not for progress.
On a personal level, min-maxing is about you and your role. Many people claim raiding can be like a second job, and from this point of view at least, it is; you were hired to do something, so do everything in your power to do it well. Holy paladin? Don't respec ret and hope nobody notices. Feral druid? Enjoy grinding twice the number of consumables depending if you're DPS or tank today. Taking this to its limits, some casters in my guild levelled leatherworking solely to get Drums of Battle for extra haste (and thus more DPS) against Brutallus. I've seen healers level Jewelcrafting for a marginal boost in +heal, and others Enchanting for another 40 healing.
Don't forget your gear!
Assuming your spec and professions are shipshape, there's the question of gear. With the amazing new badge rewards available, not to mention craftables and new heroic drops, there's a lot you can do outside raids to maximise your performance within them. As a hybrid personally, this can royally suck due to needing a lot of runs and gear, but usually if you're focused on one boss you'll know which slots you can improve first. Is your gear the best it could possibly be barring random drops in raids and stuff you haven't killed yet? If not, why not? Before you start on excuses, just think honestly about what you could personally do to min-max before you even get into the raid.
Preparation is the final pre-raid checkbox. This covers two things: buffs and knowledge. Getting the right consumables can be a tedious task, but it pays off, and some guilds even fine if you don't turn up with enough to see you through the night. Coming repaired, with enough reagents and any extra things you'll need during the raid (such as resist gear) should go without saying, and flasks, food etc should be ready to be used. This article won't go into details on which buffs you should be using; if in doubt, ask someone else with your class, spec and/or role.
Depending how your guild does things, and what you're working on, coming with some knowledge of the encounter and what you'll personally have to do is a great asset. You might have strategy posts on guild forums or some other way of communicating that information before the encounter; if you missed out on a raid and you're coming in on the second night, talk to someone in your role for more on what you need to do. Find out more for yourself by checking strategy sites such as Bosskillers, WoWWiki or even good old WoW Insider. Download videos and watch the fight from multiple points of view, and it'll feel like you've done it before even on your first pull.
Being in charge of a progress raid can be a rollercoaster ride, from the hours of planning beforehand to dealing with new tactics and questions on the fly. Leaders also need to motivate a raid to keep going, and figure out what's going wrong, including making some tough decisions (nobody likes telling people they need to sit out). If you lead raids, you'll already know this, but a lot of raiders don't have much insight into what goes on behind the scenes -- and there are many ways a raider can make a leader's life a misery, or a joy.
Asking questions is fine, being afk while the fight and strategy are explained is not; suggesting things is great, and totally appreciated, but be aware the raid leader's going to have a lot of information flowing in and certain plans that mean your suggestion can't be implemented right away. Mostly, we just love it when you do what's asked and stay out of the fire.
Sometimes progress goes bad. Sometimes you realise you simply aren't enjoying it any more, or perhaps think your guild is over-stretching itself; perhaps it's the other way round and you lust for new kills but your guild insists on farm content. Either way, it's useful to step back sometimes and realise that there are other options.
The most common is transferring guilds, but from a personal point of view, it's really valuable to find out what members think of the guild's raid targets before they get to this stage. After all, there might be others in the guild with the same opinions as you who are just sitting quietly waiting for a vacancy to open in the next guild up the chain. Instead, why not get together, talk to your officers and raid leaders and see if there's anything you can change or get involved in.
We're still firmly of the belief that progress is fun and keeps the game interesting -- so whatever you're killing, good luck and have fun!