2.18.2011

Guide to getting started as a raider

Little compares to the rush of victory that accompanies your first successful raid boss kill. Suddenly, those pixels on a screen morph into a true challenge of wits, dexterity and teamwork that one can not truly grasp unless they have been through it. For much of World of Warcraft's history though, these incredible challenges have been out of the reach of most players.

This guide was crafted in order to bring that incredible feeling to a larger audience of casual players. While it is designed with the individual player in mind, it can also serve a casual guild that is looking to offer or manage raiding while maintaining their original charter. 

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Contents:
Terminology
How to prepare for your first raid
Addons
What will be expected of you?
PvP
Resources
Customs and courtesies
Judging your skill level
After the raid… how do I get better? 
Finding the right guild

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Terminology:

While there far more expressions than I can list here (and many new ones created every week), I will attempt to offer the most common phrases and short forms that you are likely to encounter on your first raid.

RLer
 - Raid Leader - the person who makes the final decision on the rules and conduct of the raid. May also act as the Master Looter, Strat Reader and Organizer. 
Strat - Strategy of the encounter. Unless you are on the cutting edge of raid progression, there will be guides and videos available on the internet to view before your raid begins. Any details acquired before the encounter that give advice or instruction count as 'strat'
Strat Reader/Leader - the person relied upon to give a quick, but detailed overview of the encounter to anyone who has yet to attempt it. This person may also communicate ability timers, cool downs, boss abilities, player dangers, etc., during the fight in order to keep the raid focused and safe. 
Organizer - The person who forms the raid and manages invites or removals. RLers are most often a raid's Organizer, but in larger groups, these jobs can be beyond the reasonable scope of just one person and thus, will be shared. 
Master Looter - In larger groups, and those comprised of PUG players, the RLer will often set loot distribution to "Master" meaning that only he/she has the ability to assign to whom the item will go. The Master Looter task can be assigned to a trusted member other than the RLer in order to share the burden of managing the raid. 
Roll - When items drop from a successful boss kill, all members who can benefit from the type of armor or weaponry will be asked to 'roll' for the item. By using the command: /roll you will be given a random number against anyone else who desires the piece. 
BoP - Bind on Pickup - This item will become soulbound to whomever loots it and will not be tradeable with anyone outside the raid. After 2 hours, the item will become permanently bound to the owner. 
BoE - Bind on Equip - This item is tradeable with any player. Once it has been equiped, however, it becomes soulbound and untradeable. 
NPC - Non-player character. NPCs can be quest givers, aids in a battle, offer unique buffs, change the mechanics or difficulty of an encounter, and much more. NPCs are usually friendly forces unless part of a lore event.
Mob - a general term used to describe any hostile force within the game. All mobs are NPCs, but not all NPCs are mobs. 
LoS - Line of Sight - A technique used in order to force casters and ranged attacking mobs to run towards the party by using solid barriers such as walls, corners, pillars, stairways, etc. to prevent them from using their abilities. Any mob that can not use ranged attacks will run forward in order the use melee abilities. 
Pat – Patrol – a roaming group of mobs that greatly influences the kill order of hostile targets and guild placement outside of boss fights. Attention to pats is the responsibility of every raid member.
CC - Crowd Control - This term encompasses any player ability that will temporarily cause a mob to halt their attack. Every class now has some form of CC, though some are more reliable than others. 
RDPS - Ranged dps - any damage dealing player that does not stand within melee range of the boss. 
PUG – Pick up group – any party or raid that is comprised of either strangers or non- guild members. This term can also refer to a single member that is not usually a participant of an established raid. 
Nub, Noob, Scrub - what you will be negatively referred to as when you do not follow directions or appear to have inadequate knowledge of the encounter, your class, or basic game mechanics. 

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How to prepare for your first raid:

When at all possible, your first task is to know as much about the encounter as possible before you arrive. Please refer to the 'resources' section for helpful websites in order to accomplish this. While many people see their first raid thanks to a sudden invite from a guildy or a PUG, you should still take the time before hand to know the encounter if you are at all serious about trying to raid. 

Things you will be expected to have with you:
-at least 20 health (and mana) pots.
-bandages and your First Aid skill high enough to use the best bandage available. 
-flasks
-ample regular food/water in case a mage is not in attendance
-ample buff food of the highest level possible
-come fully repaired and with enough gold to fully repair at least one additional time
-have all gear sets on or in your bag for your main and off spec

If you can not afford to meet every requirement on this list then you should not be raiding, even casually. These items are the bare minimum you will need in order to participate to your fullest potential. 

You should also spend all of your instance currency on the best gear you can get before the run. While it's possible that something may drop from a boss that could have filled that slot for free, you have to realize that being in a poorly geared group will, more likely than not, result in wiping rather than a successful kill. Think of it as an investment in your group in the hope that you defeat more bosses that will drop even better gear. 

You should also check ahead of time that you have the proper voice chat software loaded on your computer, such as Ventrilo. Nearly all raids require that their members have the capability to at least listen. 

Lastly, make sure that your class spec is functional for a raid environment. While casual raiding should not require you to spec into a tree that you do not enjoy, you should still maximize the tricks of your chosen spec in order to benefit the group. Options that improve survivability, CC, and offer cool downs that can save lives will be worth more than 100 extra dps on the meter in most cases. 

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Addons:

While you can manage to solo well enough without addons, raiding without them will become exceptionally challenging, especially to a newer player. While I do not have time to go into the topic of safe downloading practices in respect to addons, there are other guides out there that do. If you are completely new to using addons, seek out a guide or a kind guildy who can explain how to install them for the first time. 

When I lead a raid, my bare requirements for members are:
Deadly Boss Mods
Omen
Recount
Decursive (or some other mod that helps players to cleanse and dispel)

While I personally play with many more choice addons, these four are a must if you hope to keep up with the rest of the raid. Here is a brief description of what they do and why you need them:

Deadly Boss Mods (DBM) - This incredible repository of fight details will act as your visual and audible warning of incoming events and danger throughout the fight. Think of this as the Strat Reader, but with flashing warnings, timers and more. For the casual raider, this addon will give you an edge to overcome your lack of experience with the encounter. 

Omen - Threat meter - DPS can not afford to pull agro from a tank even once in an encounter. Bosses do many nasty frontal attacks and cleaves that can decimate the raid should it turn on the group and run after a damage hungry player. Omen provides a graph plus visual and audible warnings when you are approaching the threat ceiling of your tank so that you know when to back off.

Recount - Activity meter - In truth, Recount is known mostly as a DPS meter, but a casual raid should not be using this tool to monitor the output of dps alone. Through a simple interface, you can see not only damage, but also healing, dispels, CCs, damage taken and so much more. As a raid leader, I will often times link the meter in chat to highlight a star dispeller, but never will I care to show who topped the damage charts. 

Decursive - Cleansing - This addon is incredibly easy to use, as it displays small, clickable boxes to represent all of the members of your raid. When a debuff appears that you are capable of removing from a player, that person's box will light up. With a simple click, the effect is removed, and you can get back to doing your main job. 
Decursive is easy to setup, but for those with a healing addon already installed, you can set most popular healer mods to also highlight cleaning with relative ease. 

There are many other great addons, both for general and class use. Check out the 'resources' section to learn more about sites that can help you find tools that will benefit your class and spec.

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What will be expected of you?

Well, at this point you will hopefully have some understanding of the fights you will be facing, you'll have a bag full of potions, food and gear as well as some shiny new addons to keep you aware of the dynamics of the encounter. What more can be possibly required of you?

Plenty....

In my opinion, some of the best encounters are also the ones that make individuals do tasks that take them out of their comfort zone. I think back fondly to being a mage tank in Gruul's Lair back during Burning Crusade. Had I not known ahead of time how to use the Spellsteal and damage mitigation abilities of my class, I would have been the reason for repeated wipes. It was crazy, but incredibly fun. 

With luck, you may show up to your first raid and there will be others of your class with way more experience that will be asked to do these strange, odd jobs. No one is lucky in raids I lead though (/evil grin), so best to be prepared. 

CC has become the most heavily required, least honed skill in Cataclysm. If you don't even know where your Hunter trap launcher is, or whether or not your Druid Hibernation works on dragonkin, then you are unprepared. I make it a point to have new people crowd control if it seems as if they may become regular members of a group. In reality, no RLer wants dead weight, so it is best to set the bar high right off the bat, especially in a casual raid where you don't have a vast pool of willing raiders to choose from. 

Beyond CC, each class has several very unique and creative talents, many of which were just added, that will greatly help to problem solve a snag in your progression. Are one of your CCers getting focused fired when they run up to cast? Then try using a priest to grab them back to safety. Perhaps you just need to buy a little time for the healers on a hard, initial pull; then have a frost mage use Ring of Frost to buy you 10 seconds of control and damage mitigation. If you don't know how to use these abilities ahead of time though, you will be much too slow to be of aid to the raid. 

Use target dummies, duel guild mates, try downing elites by yourself or PvP and just really try to stay alive through whatever sneaky tricks you have in your spell book. It is really only by trying, failing and learning that you will gain the reflexes that your group expects of you.

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PvP:

"But I'm awful at PvP!" I hear this all the time when I suggest Player vs Player activities to new raiders who are looking to get better. The true reason for such reluctance is because they have not learned enough about their class and/or game mechanics to outsmart another player reliably. The same applies to raids in which new people have slow reaction times, can't use abilities fast enough, or just plain fall behind the curve. 

PvP allows you to train your reflexes and skills in your own time and without anyone else seeing your repeated failures. You will die over and over again, but eventually, you'll realize that certain abilities buy you time, slow your enemy, provide better dps on the move, etc. PvE encounters may be predictable for the most part, but they are short in duration. With the average boss encounter only lasting around 5-6 minutes (less if you wipe shortly into the fight), you do not get much time to learn. Battlegrounds and duels can supplement your learning throughout the week between raids. 

Once you feel confident running solo in battlegrounds, see if you can get some of your raid members to join you. You will find a sudden increase in teamwork, reliance and usually, commitment to the group as a whole. 

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Resources:

While I will briefly recommend some sites that have been of great help over the years, I do so with a standard safety warning. Please do not visit any site, no matter how trusted, without a properly secured and updated browser, as well as functioning virus software. Most sites rely on advertising revenue for income, and while they will always try to ensure the safety of those advertisements, it is simply not reasonable to assume any site as 100% safe. Also, while there are many wonderful resources out there, I will only cover the ones I have used with reliability over a long period of time. This, however, is not to say that one or more have not experienced some hacking issues in the past, so please take proper measures to be safe. 

Addons: Curse - WoWAce
Class: ElitistJerks 
Encounter videos: Tankspot - Youtube
Strat/loot: Wowhead - Wowpedia - Wowwiki
News & community forums: Mmo-champion 

and of course: us.battle.net for the Wow forums and also the Armory. If you have questions about what gear, stats, spec, etc that you should have to compete with others in your raid, checking them out on Armory can be incredibly valuable. 

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Customs and courtesies:

Voice chat:
Most raids are conducted with the use of a voice chat system, most commonly Ventrilo. Unless you have been tasked by the RLer with duties that require spoken directions, coordination or warnings, it is generally expected that the other raid members will not speak on vent with the exception of down time. It is of utmost importance that the RLer, Strat Reader and Class Leaders have complete freedom to direct the course of the raid without having to talk over other people.

Whether or not you have seen a particular fight, it is unwise to argue with the RLer on the strat he/she has decided to use. Some RLers welcome comments and questions via tells, but keying up over voice chat to contradict their decisions will generally result in a lack of invites for future raids. To put it bluntly: if you don’t like the strat, then run your own raid.

If you happen to miss vital instructions, do not key up over vent and ask for them to be repeated. Most RLers will have class leaders or assistants that can be contacted via tells in order to answer such questions. If you are unaware of who to ask, open up your social tab (O), go to raid and look for any member with a shaded crown icon next to their name. This signifies that the member has increased authority and control within the raid. 

In general, it is expected that you follow the lead of your RLer when it comes to profanity, vulgarity and other colorful forms of speech. While the occasional slip after a wipe is generally expected, continual foul language in a casual raid will generally get you a warning. Other raids have a very open speech policy, so if you have concern over the quality of chat, be sure to ask the RLer ahead of time. 

Loot:
While full PUG raids can foster an 'every man for themselves' attitude in regards to loot, it is still generally expected that you will not roll on items that are of minimal value to you, especially if you believe you may run with members of the group in the future. 

In guild runs, you will usually encounter either a loot distribution system (such as DKP or one of its many variants), a loot council or a general trust that items will only be rolled on by those it will benefit. In a casual guild, the later two are most commonly seen in order to foster a more social raid, rather than a focus on the acquisition of loot. Regardless of the loot system that is used, it is a generally accepted practice that veteran members have priority on choice items over first time attendees since their work has allowed for the level of progression that has already been achieved by that group.

Most raids will enforce a 'one purple per night' rule, unless an item is about to be disenchanted. Rolling on items after you have already received an upgrade will be seen as greedy. Additionally, not rolling on upgrades early in the run in the hopes that an even better item will drop later is a sure way to earn the ire of the regular members and thus, prevent the RLer from inviting you in the future. 

If you are in disagreement with a Loot Council, or RLer, then it is generally accepted practice to communicate through tells with them while the run continues. Items in instances can be traded for up to two hours, so there is no reason to hold up the other nine or twenty-four people in order to resolve the issue. For this reason, it is also advisable that you do not gem or enchant an item that you received for at least five minutes should you suspect that a disagreement may have occurred. 

When you join an established raid for the first time, it makes a great impression on the members when you are willing pass on items that a veteran has been after. Casual raids will seldom state that new members can not roll, but a bad impression is made nonetheless, resulting in less chance that you will be invited back in the future. 

If you join a raid that runs on general trust, it is in your best interest to know what items would be a proper upgrade for you, rather than just rolling because it matches your general armor type and stats. General trust raids will inspect new members who roll to ensure that they are not only rolling on loot that is a true upgrade, but also to make sure that they are not simply passing on all loot because they are afraid to mistakenly take something they shouldn't. This type of raid requires several experienced leaders who have knowledge of what benefits all of the current classes and specs, so it is best to know yourself what is best, or you may miss out on upgrades you deserve. 

In general, most RLers expect a new member to be satisfied just by the chance to go into a raid for the first time. If the first timer winds up with an upgrade, all the better, but not at the expense of those who have put in all of the hard work week after week. 

Attendance: 

If you have received an invite in advance to a raid, it is expected that you will be at the instance location, repaired and prepared, fifteen minutes before the start of the run unless prior notice is given to the RLer. The RLer is tasked to invite the right people and get the run moving on time. Repeated late logins will usually reduce you to sub status.

If you can not make a run, contacting the RLers either by tells, in game mail, or forums as soon as possible will ensure that a sub can be found to keep the raid full. Even if you suspect you might miss a run, letting someone know is generally appreciated. 

If you have been a sub in a group for a long time and would like to inquire about a full time spot, you should contact your class leader or RLer for feedback on your performance. Once a sub is found to be a good match for a group, both technically and personality wise, a RLer will usually offer an open spot as soon as possible. If you suspect you are being overlooked though, it is best to inquire what more you can do to improve your viability to the raid. 

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Judging your skill level:

Now that you decided that you still want to try raiding, despite all of the preparation, investment and fear, how do you know you're actually ready to contribute to the group?

Gear:
PvE progression is very linear, and thus, easy to measure. A max level character will first progress through regular instances, then heroics, and finally onto the first stage raid instance of the current expansion. While running 5 mans, you will also earn additional currency in order to build better gear sets to compliment the loot that has dropped during your runs. 
As of the writing of this guild (early cataclysm), there are only two currency values for purchasing PvE gear, Justice and Valor points. Before you set your eyes to raiding, you should already have all that you can acquire from the Justice point vendor. Valor points are given for your first random heroic dungeon each day, and then more frequently with raid boss kills. Ensuring that you have maxed out the gear available from all pre-raid sources will allow you to properly perform within a raid. 

Skill: 
The best way I have found to answer this question is again, through PvP. Can you hold your own at least 50% of the time or are you just fodder for the meat grinder? Can you heal yourself or others until you are simply overrun by the enemy? Tanks are the exception, but you'll know you are ready when you don't get one shot in heroics, and can handle threat from the various DPS classes out there. 

Financially:
Raiding is expensive, especially if you're one of the trail blazers. Even on cloth, repairs run over 100g once fully broken. If you're not prepared to devote a few hundred gold a week for repairs, pots, food, reagents, and more, then you are not ready to raid.

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After the raid… how do I get better?: 

If you are asking this question, then you are already in a prime spot to become a competent member of a raid. Learning never stops, and while the newer raider may see only an uphill battle to prove himself, even the veteran player sees potential to learn in every new encounter. 

While this will vary depending on your guild, there should always be members willing to help you to improve. Check your forums for a Class section, or just ask your GM for the names of those who historically tend to be helpful to new members. If you are already committed to a raid group, your RLer will usually point you to the top performers who will offer to assist you. But... you need to ask.

I can't stress enough the need to put in the effort to forge relationships with those who have the knowledge you seek. Ask questions in tells, chat on vent, ask to run some randoms with them in order to shadow their rotation. More often than not, you'll find some great new people to play with as a result. 

Lastly, there is so much information out there just waiting to be used. Fortunately, it will range from the very basic all the way into the math behind the scenes. If one resource is leaving you totally confused, find another one that is at your experience level. It does you no good to wade through formulas if you're still trying to understand which points should be in your talent tree. 

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Finding the right guild:

I've decided to save this section for last because I firmly believe that your play style heavily dictates which guild will ultimately serve your needs best. Now that you have gone through the process of determining just how much commitment you are willing to offer to the end game experience, finding the right guild will be paramount to your continued enjoyment. 

Why even bother joining a guild?

While you could pug raids, you lose a large portion of what it means to work as a team towards a challenging goal. While I have certainly been surprised by the ability for some PUGs to pull together and do a great job, this is sadly in the minority of experiences. Furthermore, it is difficult to place trust in the abilities of strangers, not to mention the very real chance that someone may roll on items that they didn't need. (I have seen people need on items just to disenchant them for a shard). 
So while you can PUG, it will be difficult, if not impossible, to feel at ease in a group of random members who will change week after week. 

If I want to raid, don't I need a raiding guild?

That all depends on your play style. If you need to be on the forefront of progression, have the best loot, coolest achievements, mounts and titles, then yes, you will probably need to be in a raiding guild. Rather than focus on the social aspects of the game and its members, raiding guilds are structured to allow the best members to push content, gear up and prepare the way for the less experienced members. It provides a place to really push and challenge yourself if you are very knowledgeable about the game and your class, but usually not a great option if you are just getting started with raiding. 

But isn’t casual…well, casual?

Yes. You can never expect to raid in a casual, social guild. At the heart of a casual guild, you find the focus is mainly on playing the game with other like minded people, not progression. Yet, raiding has transformed into an activity that even a casual guild can potentially participate with the right guidance.
First and foremost, you need to be prepared to lead your own raid, even if you’ve never raided before. I have found that those most willing to work in order to casually raid, are the ones who most often get to. As long as your casual guild allows raiding groups to form (check ahead of time, some do not), you should find not only those eager to join, but also those willing to help. Even if you find that your guild harbors no experienced raiders to assist you, don’t fret. As long as you have two tanks, at least two healers and enough dps to fill up the ten slots, you can all just learn together. It may mean more research and learning before you succeed, but it will be well worth the process. 

Guild... large or small?

I’ve found this relies far more on the individual’s social skills than anything else. Larger guilds will provide more chances for signups to your raid, or openings for you to join in. Smaller guilds though can provide a very close knit community that many love, and if you are very outgoing, can still provide enough members to staff a raid. Still, a small guild may limit your options for finding interested members, so a larger guild will tend to offer a higher chance of success. 

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While the choice to raid will confront every player given enough time, I hope that you now see that there are many ways to participate in end game content without altering the way you enjoy playing the game. With the right amount of preparation, research and understanding, not only can you discover the hardest instances, but you can truly enjoy the challenge and the people you explore them with.

22 comments:

  1. I kind of miss raiding, but it's just not as epic as it used to be. PVP is the only real challenge in wow now.

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  2. i think everybody should find their own way through the game.. but your guide is really good anyway

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  3. A lot of my friends used to be real big into WoW but no so much anymore. Takes a lot of time!

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  4. Well it looks like you've got it all figured out :D
    Nice info man!

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  5. Do you also post info on other MMORPGs? Would be more interesting for me^^

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  6. Great info man! keep it up :) Following and supporting!

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  7. Sweet post man - it seemed never ending, very informative and full of useful info. Thanks!

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  8. wow informative to say the least, but i'd get too addicted to this game and lose any free time i had.

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  9. My guild hardly ever did raids. We were more like a club to chat and relax.
    Your post kinda makes me wonder if I missed something? :&

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  10. Incredible guide man. Extremely helpful!

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  11. need more of a tank build myself but still good.

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  12. Hardcore raider since Classic. Good guide man.

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  13. That was one detailed post. Nice job.

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  14. i remember the days i used to play this. Great post man, following

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  15. Man I miss WoW! I got a lvl 80 rogue collecting dust over a year now. wonder if I can get back into the swing of things

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  16. Hello man !!!

    Nice post!!

    I wait on my blog $upporting!!

    nice weekend BRO!!

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  17. To be honest, I was never really a big WoW person. But I've read through a bit of this and it's interesting to get a bit of insight into the world of you guys. Well done, it's an impressive post.

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  18. this guide will help me alot during plays..

    when i see some scrub ill just link this post.

    tks for that

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  19. Man this details EVERYTHING you need to know. I wish I knew about it sooner.

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  20. Thanks for this post, it was really helpful.

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