This is going to be a guide by all intents and purposes for those of you that are curious about what I, or any raid leader worth their salt, look for in a raider and you'd be lying to yourself if you thought for one second that anyone cared about your DPS. Raid awareness is a developed skill and everyone can do it if you practice. I had a fair amount of awareness on my rogue and I knew it would be one of my limiting factors when I switched to healing, but I worked on it and it'll only get better with practice. This is how you do it.
#1 - Deaths per raid
Have you ever wondered why you aren't getting that Brez? Have you ever wondered why so much time is spent on positioning? Have you ever heard of the addon GTFO? Some of my favorite raiders are players that don't ever die. Those players prioritize avoidance of damage and properly run mechanics over damage dealt or healing done. Limiting the number of times that you die over the course of a raid night will drastically improve the amount of damage that you do and the success of the raid. Imagine if there was a single mechanic that everyone had trouble with and it was completely avoidable. The raiders that prioritize death avoidance will immediately look for that mechanic and prevent it from happening again. The few that don't notice continue to wipe the raid until the mechanic is pointed out and then have to make the conscious effort to learn how to avoid it while the rest of the raid has already made the adjustment. This takes time and limits our progress. By reducing the number of errors you make, you reduce the number of times that you die, and the less you die, the more successful the raid will be.
Your death was more than likely your own fault and not due to bad strategy or some accident. If you make the claim that your death was due to random factors, then you learn nothing. You make no progress and you will more than likely die to the same "random" mechanic over and over again. There are few cases where RNG play a major role and those roles are ironically well known and adjustments can be made to mitigate deaths that come from it. If you're standing in a clump and a ring appears around one of you (it may not be you or it may be you), move. If you don't then you hit everyone else around you and you die or some people die, you get yelled at, the raid wipes, and you've single handedly caused the raid to come to a screeching halt. Clearly there's a good choice and a bad choice here. I'm not going to say which is which but if you can't figure it out, then maybe raiding isn't for you.
#2 - Reaction vs Action
Do you know where to stand on every pull? Do you know where to move every pull? Is it the same place every time? Knowing the encounter and knowing what to do are only a small part of raiding. You also need to know what the important elements are in the fight and how to avoid them or how to prevent yourself from dying to them. Your addons tell you a lot but they need to enhance your ability to raid and not hinder it. Your UI is there to tell you all sorts of useful things and it is up to you to prioritize what is important and what is not. Your damage meters are not important. The area around you in a 10 yard radius is. Chances are likely that your priority list is either a little dysfunctional or non existent. If you've ever asked what to do if a set of circumstances comes up, chances are likely you didn't take the time to understand the mechanics or take the time to set priorities.
E.g. - On the Nythendra fight, what do you do if you get rot and breath happens? I just about flipped my lid when I heard someone ask that question. First, what kills you faster? Second, what do you do to avoid that? Third, will that cause problems? Fourth, what can you do to avoid that? It's really simple. It's a basic problem solving issue and nobody should ever ask a question like this unless they've taken the time to try a couple of things and have come up empty. The correct question is, "is there a designated area for us to drop rot if we get breath at the same time, or is there a designated area where we are NOT allowed to drop rot?"
#3 - How much you improve over time
There are players that come into the raid knowing what to do, when to do it, and have enough experience to put anyone to shame, but chances are likely that if you are playing a different class from what you played last expansion or have only been playing since WoD, you probably don't have the chops. Lucky for you, we're not shooting for world first. What we are shooting for is improvement and progression. If you died a few times last week, you should know why. If your numbers aren't as good as they should be, you should find out why. If you didn't know something last time, learn something new for next time. If your DPS went up only because you got better gear, then you're probably still doing it wrong. If your DPS went up because you figured out a hole in your rotation, then your DPS will improve dramatically.
How to Improve
So what do you do? Your attention is a resource and it's limited. Imagine your attention as a mana pool. The more you attention you spend, the more mana you use. Once you're out of mana, you're done. Most people are able to transfer attention between 4-5 things during an encounter, but most people only switch between 2-3. The amount of focus that you put into any particular task is determined by your priorities. If your priorities are improperly weighted, then you're likely to make mistakes and die. Your top priority should be to avoid damage. That's generally what kills you. There are mechanics that cause you to die by dealing a killing blow to you. That should be a top priority as well. Here's how you do it:
- Scan your screen often and pick points of interest. As a DPS, before I started raid leading, my scanning points were my feet, DBM timers, debuffs, and my resources (energy and combo points). Other scan points that may be of interest are your CDs, target debuffs, position in relation to the boss or adds and your raid mates, trinket procs, damage meters, and tank. Those things should be kept on constant rotation and you should spend no more than about a second glancing at each one. The first set of scanning points are always on constant rotation and should never be skipped, but the second set of scanning points can be rotated in when there's a bit of down time. Get used to scanning back and forth between your resources and your feet and then add the other elements and don't get distracted. Catch yourself and get back on track. Your ability to track more elements will grow as you improve and learn to prioritize.
- Make sure your UI is clear so it doesn't block important information such as where adds are coming from, where damage is coming from, where the boss is facing, etc. Your damage meter can be tucked away on the side of your screen, your DBM can be adjusted so the timers don't block visibility, your other addons should be adjusted to maintain high levels of visibility.
- Use addons to give you clear direction. Aural queues are some of the most powerful tools that you can use and that's why, in my raid, I always talk about GTFO. It draws your attention to a very important thing that is about to kill you. I don't think I've ever had the issue where I reacted to GTFO and it caused issues for the raid and we all wiped. It has been nothing but good to me and if you aren't using it, then I suggest that you do. Set up your alerts to warn you in a way that is attention grabbing. DBM, despite the aural AND visual queues, gets ignored. Don't let that happen. If interrupts are important to you, make sure you can see when you need to do it. I have Quartz for one reason and it's so I can adjust my target's cast bar so that it covers a significant portion of the top of my screen so I never miss an interrupt. It's huge. The bar is about 1.5" x 6" on my screen. It immediately grabs my attention.
*Anecdote* - Haru (the GM) and I (the RL) were talking about a month after I switch to healing and he mentioned that I die about as much as everyone else now and it's weird. Yes, I make mistakes just like everyone else. He also mentioned that I am getting better. That's saying a lot. Not to toot my own horn, but I died so infrequently on my rogue that it was weird for me to die as much as the average raider.
- Take it upon yourself to act and don't wait for raid call outs all the time. We're all human and sometimes those call outs don't happen because something has drawn our attention away and that is now taking priority. Take the initiative and either call it out (not always recommended) and/or run the mechanic (always recommended).
- Raiding is a lot like juggling. Fundamentally, throwing a ball and catching it with the other hand is very simple and quite easy to do. Add a ball and it's a little more complicated. Add another and suddenly it's a task that requires consistency and concentration. Your rotation, movement, and scanning are fundamentally simple, but you try to do those things all together and you'll run into a bit of trouble if you haven't practiced.
- Good habits are developed by good raiders through consistency and practice. Know where you're going, where to stand, the timing of each phase and transition, where you'll be taking damage, what abilities you have that will help you in certain phases, and be consistent. Correct your mistakes and make adjustments, but make sure you keep doing the things that work. The way that I rate the difficulty of an encounter is in how predictable or unpredictable it is. The most difficult bosses that I ever encountered were the least predictable fights. I'll be honest, I didn't think that Siegecrafter was all that difficult of a fight for DPS. It was predictable and most of the damage was avoidable. The difficulty was in the number of things that you had to do and a few elements that were slightly unpredictable. Learn what is avoidable and what to do to limit difficulty and then make that a habit.
- Last but not least, what you do after you die or wipe is just as important as making adjustments during raid. If you die, you better know why. If you don't know why, there are ways to find out. Some people use the battle log, some people use addons, and sometimes it's just obvious. In any case, you need to know why you died so you can prevent it from happening again. When you are asked about what happened to you, you should know what happened to you and what you're going to do to prevent it from happening again. Don't let me or someone else look it up for you because by then, you're probably already on my shit list. You don't need to know more than that, but when you understand why you died, you'll have a better understanding as to how everyone else died. If I ask you how you died, just tell me. The information is valuable and it also tells me that you are paying attention. If I hear, "I don't know" or "it was RNG", I'm probably going to log that away under "'player X' has no idea what they're doing." The correct answer is to figure it out and then tell me how you died. The next step is to figure out how to prevent that.
The great thing about these skills is that it transfers to whatever other class you're playing quite easily. If you learned how to do it once, you can do it again. There are only 4 roles in this game and 2 of them are DPS. Once you've applied yourself, it's not difficult to rebuild that skill if you happen to switch roles like I did. I'm not looking for the perfect raider, but I am looking for a competent one and DPS does not show competency. Be the smarter player and start with raid awareness rather than staring at your numbers. Those will only matter when you can survive the mechanics.
Ptulgothgar / Minerb - Dragonmaw (Rogue / Druid)
Raid Leader of the SOS Brigade - Dragonmaw