Rough Nights

From time to time everyone gets those nights, those raids. The nights that really test your team, and tell you who you are, not necessarily when the chips are down, but when all of the chips have fallen off the table, or perhaps someone made off with your chips and left you some less desirable objects, like angry monkeys. It doesn’t matter if you’re working on clearing the previous tier’s nerfed content or pushing mythic progression from week two, these rough nights are inevitable. Being both a raid leader and a little bit compulsive, I always find myself with a burning need to know WHY. Why are we having this much trouble? Is this the normal, this boss is hard and it should be hard kind of trouble, or is this the we have a dysfunction in the team, be it mechanical or social kind of trouble. So when this happens to me, I tend to go through a little bit of a checklist, post-raid, to try and determine what’s going wrong, and I figured I’d share this checklist. Maybe it will help others identify the issues in their raids, or maybe it will just help a little to get it down on paper, so to speak.

1. Is it a numbers problem?
This is usually the first thing I ask, maybe because I’m a bit of a numbers guy.This tends to make me pull up the WarcraftLogs pages for our nearest competition. How do our numbers look? Are they similar to other guilds with similar skill? Are both our dps and healing within a reasonable range of other guilds that have recently cleared this boss? If our numbers are different are they using a specific comp or healer/dps ratio that works more effectively for this boss?

2. Is it a mechanics problem?
Always when I check mechanics, I check dispels and interrupts. Are people’s dispel/interrupt numbers both consistent and reasonably distributed? After this I tend to analyze the damage taken by spell, and once again compare this to similar guilds. Are we taking vastly more damage from a particular spell or ability than similar teams are? Am I seeing an add cast far more spells than they should be because they aren’t being interrupted?

After this things tend to get a bit more nebulous, but there are still important questions that need to be asked.

3. Is it a problem with the strategy?
Are we using the proper strat for this boss, both in comparison to other similar guilds and with respect to our own raid team? Maybe other people are relying on a specific ability or comp that lets them ignore certain mechanics, and we are trying to copy a strategy that won’t work for our team. Never be afraid to go with the strategy that works for your team, rather than the one you’ve seen on a guide video. What matters is that the boss dies. There is no right way to kill a raid boss other than reducing their health to 0. That said, also consider have people had time to learn the strategy? Even skilled players still need a handful of pulls to understand their roles within a specific fight, especially with the complex nature of many raid bosses these days.

4. Is it a problem with our raid composition?
Are we missing anyone key today? Did our 4 top healers all come down with a sudden case of itis? Are we pugging anyone in? (Because sometimes we’ve had to do that) And if so was the pug pulling their weight? You can’t get mad at a pug, because they’re not on your team, but you can certainly not bring them again.

5. Is it a social problem?
These can be the most difficult problems to fix, but almost every raid team seems to run into them eventually. Are some of our members arguing? Did someone unintentionally (I hope) piss someone else off earlier in the week and now they lack focus? Is someone sick or dealing with some RL issues and therefore performing vastly under their normal skill levels? I know I’ve personally had pretty much every one of these issues come up at one time or another, up to and including finding out two of my raiders were dating and have since stopped speaking to each other.

What can you do?

The numbers problems can generally be solved by helping your raiders to get better, or if they are unwilling to get better sometimes just cutting them loose and finding a different raider, a hopefully rare but occasionally necessary solution. The mechanics and strategy problems are yours. You’re the raid leader, it’s your job to detect these problems and identify them to the raid team so that they can be fixed. The other problems can be a bit trickier.

What is comes down to as a raid leader is you need to know your team. You need to understand what their capabilities are, and where their strengths and weaknesses lie. Some of your raiders may be excellent at putting out raw numbers, but crumble when tasked with important mechanics. Similarly I’ve had raiders that were wonderful at executing mechanics, but just couldn’t seem to really maximize their raw output. Some of your raiders will be sensitive to criticism, and some of them will be quick to harass someone when they show weakness or get whiny. Your job is not to necessarily tolerate all of this, but to know who it will come from and to deal with it accordingly. Because if you don’t you’re going to get a lot more of ‘those’ nights, and you’re not going to understand why they are happening, or what you can do to stop them. But in the end such nights are inevitable. You can’t prevent them. You can only adapt as they occur and recover from them as best as you can. Always keep in mind, it’s supposed to be difficult. If raiding were easy, we’d all be playing Starcraft by now. :P

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