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. This week, we look to the future...
Raiding's in an interesting place at the moment. With the upcoming raid changes and dungeons we'll see in WotLK, a lot of people are looking forward and feeling less enthusiasm for the present. Some of those with bosses yet to kill in the game are becoming despondent at ever seeing the end of the tunnel, and people with everything on farm are finding excuses not to raid once they have their desired gear under their belts.
So what can raiders do now to prepare for the expansion, and how can raid guilds deal with the pre-expansion blues?
On an individual level, there are plenty of things to be getting on with ready for WotLK. As well as raiding to stave off boredom and keep the camaraderie flowing, there are those delicious epics to bear in mind. With levelling forefront in most people's minds, getting gear for one's preferred levelling spec is something many raiders are focusing on.
It helps to do your homework here. With changes such as spellpower and re-itemisation, the "best" gear you have at the moment (or are aiming for) might not actually be that good in the expansion. Is that caster weapon actually better than your healing weapon, after the spellpower changes? Should you pick up that item that nobody wants now, because it'll actually be good in WotLK?
If you haven't thought much about levelling or what spec you will be in the new endgame, now's a good opportunity to spend time mulling it over. With the changes to raidwide buffs and all those brand-spanking-new class abilities, maybe a new path appeals to you -- perhaps you ended up a specific spec in TBC for the good of the raid? Now's your chance to reassess that, and maybe move into a different spec or role.
Or perhaps it's time to reroll. Many guilds have already established who's going to powerlevel a Death Knight in the expansion, but in others the issue is still open for discussion -- and members rerolling leaves holes in their classes that can be filled in-house or externally. Expansions provide a chance for anyone to change class, to level up their favourite alt first instead of their jaded main, but from a raiding point of view you need to discuss this with your guild rather than simply do it. Forcing yourself on people as a different class rarely goes down well.
Finally, the first raiding challenge of the expansion -- Naxxramas -- is open now on the beta servers, so the ultimate method of preparation is to venture in there and learn it before it becomes live. Knowing the instance, planning your tactics and gear progression, learning the 5-man dungeons that you will need to farm -- all of that will help with WotLK raid progression.
There is something to be said for going in cold, without a clue what's going on, and attempting to clear it all, but the more hardcore amongst the raiding corps will have done the instance to death on beta before hitting 80 on live. There's also the chance for Naxxramas runs in TBC while the old level 60 dungeon is still available -- retro runs keep people occupied and are usually quite fun.
If your raid is stuck on progression at the moment and you're seeing raiders become jaded, it can be tough to figure out ways to motivate your raid force with WotLK on the horizons. You might also be unhappy about giving people levelling gear as you need everyone kitted out in the best mainspec gear possible to progress. Perhaps it's worth taking a little time out and running a lower tier instance to satisfy people's desire for relaxing raids and offspec gear; maybe you can propose extra rewards as motivation to get that last boss down. It depends a lot on what works for your raid, but throwing yourselves at a progress boss 5 nights a week is something many guilds are finding ineffective at the moment.
On the other hand, if you're on farm and finding raiding boring at the moment, diversions such as retro runs, alt runs and (of course) levelling and raiding on beta might provide the glue needed to keep your raid guild stuck into the game. It's this time of the development cycle when people simply leave, maybe coming back on the release date of the expansion, or maybe not at all. Keeping track of who's likely to level fast, who's going to come back from the dead, and who's rerolling to what is an administrative headache, and it's certainly possible to just wait and see what happens when people start hitting 80 -- but if you want to be prepared, a lot of this can be figured out now.
While raiding may be in a sort of limbo at the moment, there's a lot of planning and preparation to be done that can keep you busy (and has the wonderful side-effect of keeping you excited about the expansion). Who's levelling which professions? What will the first Naxx groups look like? How will we arrange raid groups in the future and which classes will we need for their raid buffs? Which instances will we need to grind? Which crafted gear will we want? What can we buy now that will sell well in WotLK to fund progress wipes?
There's an interesting time ahead, that's for sure, and learning how to raid with a new set of abilities and buffs (and a whole new class to fit in) will certainly be a fun challenge for the expansion. While some of us will be lucky enough to try it out on beta, the rest of us will simply have to sit tight and wait -- but racing to 80 for server firsts means many people won't enjoy most of the levelling content, and won't see all the little touches that make levelling in a new expansion fun. Mind you, that's what alts are for.