Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Nervous Raider

To say I was nervous when I first started raiding would be an understatement.

I had always labored under the fear of disappointing people.  Leveling my Druid, I had never grouped with anyone who wasn't a relative, because I was afraid I would be inadequate and let the people of my group down.  (Why I worried so much about people I not only did not know in real life, but might possibly never meet again in-game is a bit of a mystery to me now, but there it is.)

So when I first started raiding in 20-man groups, I found myself facing the dilemma I had avoided for 60 levels: I was absolutely terrified that I would do something wrong and not be able to hold up my end.  I would be letting down 19 other players, wasting time, wasting repair gold, and generally making a fool of myself.

I suppose it isn't too unusual to be nervous at a new venture, but in my case, it went a little too far.  It got to the point where it was affecting me physically.  About a half hour before raid was to start, I would be clutching my stomach, willing the sharp cramping to go away.  Fortunately, it always managed to work its way out of my system before the actual start of raid.  I recognized that this was a disproportionate response to the situation, but I could do nothing about it.

Over a few months, as a Moonkin and then as a failed Feral tank, I continued to experience this physical phenomenon.  Why did I keep raiding, if it was causing me pain?  I liked raiding, as a general rule, and I wanted to do it.  It was as simple as that.

It took me a few months in my current guild as a healer to finally get to the point where I was confident enough in my abilities where the fear diminished.  I studied fights more closely and learned more about how to heal well, and as I saw success with my guild, I found the physical reaction going away.  I could face the challenge and relax, knowing that the entire responsibility of the raid's success was not on my shoulders, as long as I did what I could do.

I recognize this was my own personal problem, but this brings up a question:  what can a new raider do to increase her confidence in her raiding abilities?  I have a few ideas:

1.  Become familiar with your class and spec.  I know, you've already leveled your class through 79 levels; you know what abilities are in your toolbox.  However, do you know which of those abilities are the most effective in a raiding situation?  If you are a dps class, do you know the most efficient rotation or when to use cooldowns?  If you are a healer, what talents should you pick up to benefit you the most as a raider?  Raiding is not like questing or even like running 5-man Heroic instances.

You can start by reading up on your class forums at the World of Warcraft website.  Then, when you think you have the basics down, take a little trip to Elitist Jerks.

2.  Maximize your gear.  Read about and obtain the best enchants or gem combinations for your spec.  Again, a lot of good information on this subject can be found on the WoW forums or at Elitist Jerks.

3.  Study the fights.  Go hit Bosskillers, Tankspot, or even YouTube to get some information and a basic feel for the encounters you will be facing.  I have heard it said, "If you are prepared, you shall not fear."  This bit of preparation will not only calm your nerves, it may mean the difference for your entire raid between a wipe and a kill.  Whether you are a tank, whose positioning of the boss can make all the difference for an encounter, a dps, who needs to know when to run out of the fire, or a healer, who should be aware when the tank is about to get clobbered, this step helps to ensure your raid will be successful.

4.  Learn about addons.  You can get a lot of good information about these with a few inquiries on the World of Warcraft forum for your class.  One addon which many consider absolutely mandatory is Deadly Boss Mods or some such similar addon.  Getting Deadly Boss Mods helps notify you of boss abilities, so you can react quickly and correctly or even so you can be prepared to act, seconds before the ability is actually cast.  Another one necessary for a dps, at least, is some sort of threatmeter, such as Omen, which can be downloaded at Curse.  If you do not want the boss coming in your direction and pounding you into the dirt, instead of the tank, who is equipped to handle this sort of hit, you do not want to draw the boss' attention (or aggro) from the tank.

It is highly recommended that everyone have some sort of raid/unit frame addon.  One such is Grid, which can be downloaded at Curse, as well. Grid is highly customizable, which is an advantage, but which is also its disadvantage, because it means the initial set-up takes some love and care.  There are walkthroughs on YouTube which explain how to configure Grid.

5.  Practice, practice, practice.  When you are in a 5-man, practice your dps rotation, even though it may not be strictly necessary.  If you are a healer, go to a battleground, pick a plate-wearer, and practice healing.  (Then practice healing anyone within range . . .)  This will help you become more skilled using your toolset and addons, freeing your mind from the basics of operating your character, so you will be able to focus on the additional elements a boss fight brings.

6.  Learn to work as a team member.  This one is a little harder to practice before actually raiding.  With the implementation of random Heroics, a lot of overgeared players are running in 5-mans on a regular basis.  While I realize this makes it simpler for those who are gearing up to find groups, a rather unfortunate side effect is that people can frequently afford to be a bit more sloppy in their group play.  Healers can dps on the side (*ahem*) and dps can open up and throw their abilities without worrying whether or not they will be pulling aggro from the tank.  But in a raid, it is important that each member learn to trust the other members to do their roles and not think they have to be the hero all the time.

There may be an encounter where a particular dps is assigned to interrupt something.  This may affect the amount of dps he can record, but that interrupt may mean the difference between success and failure.  There may be an encounter where a healer is assigned a particular person to heal.  It can be tempting as a healer to step away from a healing assignment just a little, when it looks like something is going wrong, but that can spell disaster if the assigned person is not kept alive.  Be disciplined if you are given an assignment.  (Even experienced healers need to be reminded of this every so often . . .)

7.  Forgive yourself.  Remember that a raid wipe is not always because of you.  (It might be, sometimes.  It happens.)  Most raid encounters require a sort of balance, and if something becomes unbalanced, it can frequently be overcome.  It is usually through a series of events that the attempt becomes unrecoverable.  And it is most likely not all your fault.  Even if it was, pick yourself up, get over it, and try again.

The game is supposed to be fun.  So prepare, do not fear, and kill bosses.

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