16 ways to speed up your raid

We used to have a cartoon up in my old office that read ‘Meetings: the alternative to work!’ and it showed ten people sleeping around a big desk, compared to one person sleeping at a desk on their own. When a group activity drifts from the core reason people came along, you’re potentially wasting a lot of people’s time.

I notice this a lot recently because I’m running ten mans on a very limited schedule. Three hours per week. It isn’t much, but we all wanted to see what we could do anyway. People enjoy the ten man raids and didn’t want to give them up.

And even though I’m far from a hardcore raid leader, there’s nothing like a tight time constraint to really focus you on making the absolute best use of the raid time available. I mention hardcore here because one of the big differences between raiding hardcore and … err.. not… is the emphasis that raids leaders put on keeping things moving quickly. So it’s a little odd for me to be in that position.

These are tried and tested techniques that I use to make it work. Our progression certainly won’t set the world alight and I still don’t know if we’ll be able to get to the end of the instance. But as long as people are keen we’ll keep trying. The key to my mind is that you don’t need to choose between having fun or having progression. You can do both.

  1. Don’t panic, have fun. Whatever is going through your mind, try to at least sound calm and focussed.
  2. Keep things moving. Don’t let people dawdle, they can chat on TS while they’re running to the next boss or waiting for loot to be sorted. One of the factors that separates progression from casual raids is how quickly people get back into the instance, buffed up, and ready to pull again after a wipe. Train your raid to do this quickly.
  3. Go in with a plan. Before the raid, have a plan in mind for what you hope to accomplish. Tell the raid what it is. Have backup plans also (e.g. what will you do if for some reason you can’t achieve your main goal), but don’t tell the raid that. In a raid like Ulduar there are some optional bosses – skip them if you know your plan involves fighting something new.
  4. Keep talking on voice chat. It sounds silly but it really does help people focus, even if you’re just reading out what they can probably see on their screens anyway.
  5. Use /readycheck freely (but also wisely). As well as letting you know if people are ready it gives the raid a heads up that it’s time to stop chatting and start fighting. It’s also much faster than asking on voice chat ‘Is everyone ready?’ and waiting for 9 other people to say yes.
  6. Get people to give you feedback after a wipe. How was the tanking? How was the healing? How was dps managing? Ideally they’ll do this while you are running back so by the time you get back to the boss you’ll have been able to formulate a new plan for the next pull. Remember: time is limited so you absolutely need to learn as much as you can from each wipe.
  7. Train your raid to read up on bosses beforehand so that you don’t need to spend five minutes before each pull discussing strategy (again). But do quickly run through the basics if anyone isn’t familiar with either the fight or your tactics. Make sure you know if anyone is attempting an unfamiliar role in a fight so you can make sure that they are prepared (ie. know whatever they need to know).
  8. Learn to delegate. Tank assignments, healing assignments, and loot master can all be done by other people if you don’t want to do them yourself.
  9. Know when to call the raid or move on. Sometimes you’re making no progress on a boss. If you don’t know why (i,e. there’s nothing obvious that you can ‘fix’) then don’t waste everyone’s evening on the same pointless fight. With practice, you’ll get a good sense for whether a wipe was useful or not. Similarly, some nights the whole raid – self included – is just playing badly. Some people have a 3 wipe rule, after three wipes, they move on. It can be a good idea to save an easy boss for last (Razorscale works well for us) so that you can always end the night on a kill, it improves people’s moods.
  10. Don’t dither. If you aren’t sure what to do next (ie. which boss to try next, which tactic to try next) then go ahead and discuss it, but do come to a decision. Also, don’t be overly cautious. You’ll learn more by actually trying a fight than by standing around for ten minutes freaking out over strategy.
  11. Before a pull, check that everyone knows what they are supposed to be doing and that tanks and healers have their assignments. When you are running through at speed it’s easy to forget something, a quick check can save a lot of time.
  12. Practice pulling trash quickly. Not really an issue in Ulduar, since there isn’t much trash in there.
  13. Use a lightweight loot distribution strategy. You don’t want to be spending ages sorting out complex DKP after each fight. Need/ greed works fine in small raids. I just let anyone roll who can use the drop.
  14. If you aren’t 100% sure whether your current raid is viable against a boss (maybe because of odd raid composition, or having one or two people who aren’t as good) do not let anyone know your doubts in advance. When your raid pulls a boss, they should all believe that you are absolutely certain they can kill it. Sometimes they will surprise you. At least give them that chance. After a wipe, you can decide if the fight is doable or not.
  15. Allow one 5 min break in a 3 hour raid. Pick a natural break in the raid if possible (i.e. when you need more time to think about your plan or the strategy for the next boss). Don’t let people take random bio breaks or afk outside this unless there’s some emergency.
  16. Have a plan for what to do about disconnects. If someone doesn’t come back after 10 or 15 minutes, what are you going to do? Try to find a replacement? Get someone to ring them who knows their RL number? Whatever it is, try to avoid having your raid sitting around for half an hour getting bored.

I may be addicted to the readycheck

Any raid or group leader can enter a /readycheck command in WoW. When they do, a box will pop up on everyone else’s screen saying, “Are you ready?” with yes and no buttons. After 30s or so, the raid leader gets a report saying how many people picked yes or no and how many people did not respond.

It has a few different uses. I always run a readycheck before a raid boss fight to check whether everyone is *gasp* actually ready. Before the readycheck we had to just ask, see a few y or yesses and hope that meant everyone else was ready too. I also use it as a general “Are you awake?” check, or “Are you all back from making tea and washing your socks?” check after a break.

Sometimes we use it for general votes. For example: Vote yes to the readycheck if you want to stay past raid end for one more shot at the boss.

Sometimes I just run a readycheck because I can. I have that power!

It’s one of the few WoW UI features that I really miss in other games. Like most of the useful parts of the Blizzard UI, it was ‘inspired’ by addons. This is a smart move. It means that new features aren’t just random, “Hey y’all, look at THIS!” ideas that some developer had in the bath.

The first addon I remember with a readycheck was CTRA which was an incredibly popular raid UI back in the days of 40 man raiding. CTRA had proper support for custom polls too, and I do miss it.

Maybe I’ll dedicate next week’s 10 man raids to the memory of CTRA.

Blink and it’s on farm?

I ran another raid to 10 man Naxxramas this weekend. We had to swap a few people round because some of last week’s raiders couldn’t make it, including our fury warrior who regularly tops the damage meters. So we ended up more caster heavy this week, with two shadow priests.

We cleared the place in five hours. Also picked up the achievement on Faerlina along the way.

Every boss in lower Naxxramas was one shotted except for Gluth, including a good recovery from a slightly awkward “Arrgh, what’s he doing down that end of the platform?!” pull on Thaddius. I was most proud of the crew on the Four Horseman kill which was pretty much a model of calm and control, especially compared to last week’s semi-panicked chaos.

We had a couple of wipes each on Sapphiron and Kel’Thuzad but we did also have three people who hadn’t seen those fights before.

So, my raid continues to impress the heck out of me. Either we’re good or it’s easy, I don’t even know any more! I do also wonder about the Naxx loot tables. At least two thirds of the bosses dropped paladin plate this week. That’s loot that is only useful for one spec of one class. We had to shard most of it because our holy paladin already had it from last week.

My main goal now is to speed things up. Five hours is way too long to spend raiding in one stretch. We’ll probably also poke more of the achievements, but to be honest the only one I really want for my raid is for us all to get Undying (which you get if no one dies in any boss fight).

I opened next week’s raid up to an open guild thread, and hoping at least one extra tank signs up because I’m out at the theatre that night. I asked people to say if they might be free on Sunday instead if we have to change nights as a backup. But I hope they can go.

Oh, and I also picked up a shiny shiny two handed axe that our Retribution Paladin didn’t want. Shiny!!

It’s Big and it’s Blue and it wants to eat us!

Last night we took our first 10 man attempts at the Eye of Eternity. It’s an unusual raid instance and an unusual boss fight.

You zone in to find yourself standing on a platform with the universe revolving around you. In the middle of the platform is an orb with a label on it reading, “DO NOT TOUCH!”. And high above you, a big blue dragon is flying around and shouting intimidating phrases about being the master of this domain. I don’t know why he doesn’t do a strafing run, I would if I was a dragon and spotted a raid zoning in. Clearly this lack of judgement is a sign that he is off his rocker and needs us to kill him.

To be fair, there have been plenty of other quests leading to the conclusion that Malygos, Lord of Magic is crazy and needs to be put down. Draconic mental health care is apparently not very advanced.

OK, maybe the orb doesn’t actually have a sign on it.

In any case, someone with the raid key activates the orb and Malygos notices us properly  (even though he was shouting to us earlier) and decides to get in close and personal.

It’s a three phase fight which only needs one tank (thanks, Blizzard! As if it wasn’t hard enough to find tank spots these days). I’d done some homework by watching videos of the fight, which mostly intimidated me with Ciderhelm’s ability to tank the dragon, swivel the camera around, strafe, kite in a perfect circle, and instruct the raid ALL AT THE SAME TIME.

Fortunately, it is easier than it looks. I’m certainly not doing it as well as he does, but we got the gist fairly quickly. It also helped that we had a Death Knight along to capture sparks but I’m fairly confident now that we could manage without.

It was a fairly short raid. I called it after two hours because I thought we’d learned a lot and made good progress, and there’s a limit for how long you want to spend all trying the same boss (in my opinion). By that time, we’d gotten to phase three reliably on every attempt and were improving the speed of the first two phases.

Phase three is insane. The ground falls away below you and everyone drops through the sky … and lands on the backs of the flight of red drakes that have been sent to help you. So the third phase is a flying phase. Everyone is flying on their drake and circling the injured big blue dragon.

We will need more practice, but the coolness factor is incredible!