Training Wheels for Raiders: Part 1 – Mechanics

Shamelessly stolen from Dark Legacy Comics without permission

Shamelessly stolen from Dark Legacy Comics without permission

This guide is written for the benefit of the beginning raider, not the raider who was iLvl226 geared before 3.1 went live and proceeded to 1-shot many Ulduar encounters before they got the nerf stick. The purpose of this guide is to teach new and inexperienced players (and any experienced players who may want to brush up) about the various fight mechanics that comprise raid boss fights and how to best prepare and practice for them in a relatively consequence and repair-bill-free environment

Almost every fight mechanic of each raid boss in Wrath of the Lich King is shared by at least one boss in heroic and regular Northrend dungeons. While raid bosses often have several of these fight mechanics in a single encounter, heroic bosses typically only have one so it is easy to focus on the task at hand, learn the mechanic and how to handle it with your role/class.

Heroic dungeon and boss difficulty in Wrath of the Lich King has been criticized as being too easy and forgiving, so in many cases you can completely ignore the intended mechanics of a fight and just kill the boss really really quickly if your gear is good enough. If your intent is to learn the mechanics of these fights and how to handle them in situations where bosses have 4 million heath and not 400 thousand health, it might be best for you to take your time, not just wipe out the dungeon in 15 minutes, get your loot and emblems and go home…, drag the fight out a bit, and focus less on doing 4000+ DPS and more on being aware of your situation, what skills your class/role has to decrease the damage you and others take, increase the damage you and others do, increase the healing you and others take/do and if you should not be standing in that fire looking at the pretty butterfly.

3.3 is on the horizon and the free-gear train is chugging right along, this time stopping at 5-piece-tier-9 station. The 3.2 Conquest Emblem reset let as many people as possible take part in Blizzard’s newest raid, the Crusader Coliseum. Blizzard wanted more people to run heroics to make them relevant again, except most people are going in there and overgearing the instances and the bosses and be able to ignore almost every fight mechanic and kill bosses in 30 seconds. PuGs now won’t let you run the heroic daily, nevermind the Trial of the Champion, with them unless you outgear ToC10 anyway. There are, however, be some people who are still fresh-80s with mostly greens and a few quest-blues who may never have been in a dungeon before in their life and not understand their role, their class, or what it means to be part of a group. These people might be your guild members, and you may in fact be doing them a disservice by carrying them through this content on your 6k dps deathknight or 60k health druid tank rather than giving them the opportunity to learn things they’re going to need to know so you won’t have to yell at them for ruining your Safety Dance achievement later, or god forbid, your Firefighter. Please, think of the noobs. Everyone was a noob once, with your help, they can become a valuable raider. Of course, if they don’t want to learn, screw ’em.

This will list some raid boss strategy but it is not intended to be comprehensive, only to illustrate the types of mechanics used in the fight and possible ways to prepare for them before your first encounter with the boss. As someone who never raided prior to Nax25, this list could very possibly be incomplete, so please feel free to comment with contributions so I can update it to be more relevant.

Types of Fight Mechanics

Tank Mobility: Mobility is a big focus in Wrath content, especially in Ulduar. Some bosses need to be kited outside of AoE damage they leave on the ground, sometimes you just have to run away to get out of an AoE cast radius. If you are an off-tank you have to chase-down and control all manner of adds in various situations.

Tank Cooldown: (And some Healer CDs) Multiple Enrages, Unavoidable Damage, boss special abilities or just didn’t get the healing you needed in time, tanks of each class have several options at their disposal for how to survive these situations. Remembering what cooldowns you have and when opportune times to use them are increibly important once you start going up against bosses who will hit you for 20k+ damage and special abilities which can hit for as much as 50k.

Tank Switching: While you won’t run into this in heroics because of the limited number of people in a group, many bosses in raids place debuffs on tanks that reduce their armor, the amount of healing they receive, their movement speed, and other such penalties. When these stacks get too high, the tank is no longer able to be effectively healed, another tank is necessary to take over the agro until the debuffs on the first tank expire.

Adds Management: Many bosses in raids have annoying little helpers whose sole job it is to ruin your day. Primarily a concern for off-tanks, keeping adds away from your main tank and healers is vital for the survival of the group.

Priority Targets: In many encounters, especially those with adds, there are certain monsters that just need to die first or they’ll cause far too much trouble, or potentially even explode, killing everyone nearby. Some minions even make their parent-boss invincible until they are killed.

Raid Composition: Mostly a raid-leader or party-leader consideration. Some fights are easier to complete with a certain class, and some fights are nearly impossible without them. As in all things, balance and variety make the whole stronger. That’s not to say 15 paladins in a 25m raid can’t win, but the other 10 slots can’t all be death knights too… This also applies when fighting bosses where the raid has to spread out. Make sure all people are in range of at least one healer, same with people who decurse/cleanse.

Raid Positioning: A corollary to the above; sometimes “knowing where to stand” is what makes all the difference in a fight. This isn’t quite as simple as “all the dps stand behind the boss while the tank stands in front of it.” Many bosses have environmental damage and other ways to hurt people who aren’t the tank. Many of these are avoidable if you are aware of what is going on, and standing in a place that allows for you to escape these hazards.

Raid coordination: Similar to the above two, there are times when the raid will have to move as one, attack as one, heal as one, or otherwise pull off a synchronized move to make sure no one dies. When in doubt, follow the guy in front of you, hopefully he knows what to do.

Avoidable Damage: Not all damage is guarenteed, not even to tanks. You can move out of the way, use a cooldown, interrupt the spellcast, or kill that which is attacking you before it finishes casting its nuke. Most of this avoidable damage is able to be run from, so know when it’s coming, and get the hell out of the way.

Unavoidable Damage: Most damage in the game falls into this catergory so it might seem like I’m stating the obvious, but what I mean by this is “large unavoidable burst damage” the kind of thing that does 50% or more damage to the tank in 1 hit, if not outright killing them in 1 shot. While this is not strictly of worry for the tanks to be ready for the cooldowns, it’s important for the dps to use any protective cooldowns they have or be ready with healing items to take some of the strain off the healers, but it’s mostly of concern for the healers who can see this damage coming and be ready to deal with it.

Raid Damage: Like above, this is mostly a concern for the healers. It’s nice when you only ever have to heal one person, it makes things simple. When you have to help heal 25, things can get hectic. You have to worry about who needs the heals the most, who is closest to death, who is likely to survive while you heal someone else, and other things. A healer’s work is never done in a fight with heavy raid-wide damage

Decursing/Cleansing: Bosses have lots of abilities at their disposal. Some of these abilities cause massive damage, block healing, decrease damage, reduce armor, and other unpleasant effects. Fortunately, most of these can be removed. Poisons, Diseases, Curses, Magical Effects; all can be removed by the proper class. As long as you’ve brought someone to the raid who can do this job, they should make sure that all debuffs that they’re capable of removing are gone so that the raid can survive.

Multiple Enrages: (See Tank Cooldowns) Most raid bosses have an “enrage timer” that says “if you don’t kill them in 10 minutes (or some other arbitrary number) they start doing double damage and kill you all very very quickly”. However, there are some bosses with a smaller version of this ability that they can use repeatedly. The enrage attacks won’t instantly hit the tanks for 50k and you for 100k, but they’re still alot more damage than you want to be taking. These enrages can either be healed through if you have enough healers or their gear is really good; tanks can use some of their cooldowns to reduce and avoid as much of the incoming damage as possible; some enrages can be dispelled by rogues with anesthetic poison or hunters with tranqilizing shot, and some bosses have other ways in which to remove their damage buff.

Void Zones: (and other “stuff on the floor”) These you won’t run into outside of raids except in Gundrak and Drak’tharon Keep. Any time you see something on the ground that looks like you shouldn’t be standing in it, you probably shouldn’t be. In heroics and 10man dungeons, the damage these do is somewhat forgiving, but in 25man raids, these typically kill you instantly if you don’t get out right away. Don’t die, you can’t do damage or heal when you’re dead. The 8,000 damage or so you do while standing in the void zone and dying is nothing compared to the 80,000 damage you’d do if you got out of the

way and lived.

Pre-emptive Healing: There are times in fights when you can prepare for big damage and be ready already casting a healing spell before the damage even hits, so by the time the damage is taken, the spell is 90% cast and the person is instantly healed as soon as they take damage. Some fights, tanks will take so much damage that the only way you can effectively heal them is if you just keep mashing your heal button and hope it all works out in the end. Other times, you can see the big incoming damage and pre-emptively cast your heal to be ready as soon as it lands. There will come a time when you, as a healer, have become so familiar with a fight (or at least reading your DBM warnings) that you will be able to start casting ALL your heals in a timespan so that they land immediately following incoming damage. This is different than spamming your heals, though it will have a similar effect).

Snipe-Healing: There are times when you just won’t have long enough to cast a spell before someone dies. Instant-cast heal spells are there for these occasions. Know when these occasions are and save your instant spells for them. You don’t want to have just used an instant cast heal when it wasn’t really necessary only to actually need it an instant later.

Range-Check: Some attacks will cause damage to a player and anyone within 10 to 30 yards of them. Don’t stand next to these people, they are not your friend, and you will get hurt if you try to play well with others. Whoever said “No man is an Island” was the first one to die in a chain-lightning spell. Don’t be that man. Always make sure that if the boss you’re fighting uses spells that hit nearby targets also, that you are far enough away not to get hurt.

Interrupts: Players love spells, especially those people with mana bars. Bosses have mana bars. Bosses love spells too; and they love to use them to hurt you. Fortunately, just like you can stop that mage from casting on you in PvP, you can sometimes ruin a boss’ day by interrupting his spell too. This can fall under the heading of “avoidable damage” except you can’t run away from it, you have to stop it before it’s cast. If you’re a class that can interrupt spells like a rogue, Death Knight or Shaman, make sure you’re paying attention and coordinating with other players with interrupt abilities so the boss never gets any spells off. Your tanks with thank you, your healers will thank you, and the spells will never kill you either, so bonus.

Resistance Gearing: Not really a requirement in 10man situations if your gear is otherwise pretty good, but back in the Burning Crusade raiding days, if you didn’t have 500+ shadows resist fighting some bosses, you might as well not have shown up, cause you were gonna die, and quickly. In 25man ulduar, Frost resistance can be a big help in places. Fortunately frost resistance is really easy to get as leatherworkers, blacksmiths, and tailors can all craft gear that has frost resistance on it. Even in 25man content it’s not absolutely necessary as Wrath raiding is more forgiving, though it is definitely recommended.

Multiple-Death Window: This confusingly-named mechanic boils down to this: You are fighting 2+ enemies and if they don’t die within 5-15 seconds of each other (depending on your particular encounter) the one that is still alive will bring his pal(s) back to life at full health, and no one wants that. Make sure your raid is aware that coordination is required to kill these 2 enemies in a very short timespan.

Mind Control: Some bosses just aren’t satisfied with killing you themselves, oh no, to qualify for their mail-order evil license they need to make you kill each other; enter the mind-control mechanic. One or several raid members will come under AI control and proceed to spam their most irritating pvp abilities on anyone nearby and generally make everyone scream “NERF <yourclasshere>!!”

Unique Fight Mechanics: Vehicle: Some bosses don’t let you fight the way you are used to fighting, they make you get in a motorcycle or tank or ride a dragon to kill them. You have to learn how to use these vechicles just like you learned how to play your class properly. It can be annoying, but Blizzard wanted to be innovative and give players something new to do, so this is how they chose to do it.

That should cover the mechanics portion. Tune in next time for “Baby’s First Raid Instance: Nax25”

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