HoTs and DoTs: A Restoration Druid and Shadow Priest

Raid Leading and Cues

Inside Icecrown Citadel with Varian and Tirion

7pm. Everyone's here. So what are we waiting for?

I don’t actually know what Raid Leading is. If I had to I think I would define it as:

Raid Leading: The silence that preceeds a ready check. When nothing is said on vent or in guild or raid chat.

Well, nothing is said that is related to the actual raid or game. I usually like to fill this silence with daydreams and commentary on my dinner, or even more likely, my plans for desert. But I’m pretty sure that in that silence your Raid Leader is frantically organizing players to change into their off spec, assigning tanks and checking that the healing team are prepared.

Others have defined Raid Leading as: more than just doing a quick boss strategy explanation. This definition seems to me to be extremely misleading. Yes, explaining the strategy is an important part of leading a PuG raid, or a very casual guild that has as many new raiders as regulars, but in a guild raid there really isn’t any need to go over the strategy or fight tactics at all.

I would imagine, although PuG raids aren’t my forte, that Raid Leading a PuG raid would mostly consist of filling the raid spots, choosing and explaining strategies for each boss, and dealing with disconnects and replacements. And maybe dealing with loot.

Presumably in a GDKP run Raid Leading is a similar job. With the collection and distribution of gold added in.

But in a guild run, I think a Raid Leader seems to have a slightly different job. They choose who is tanking, DPSing, healing for each encounter, who tanks what, perhaps even who heals whom. They set the pace of the run: deciding when breaks are taken, when players should be subbed in or out, when it’s time to try something hard, or relax and do something easy. They must identify, on wipes, what was at the root of the problem and solve it.

If they cover encounter strategy or tactics at all, it’s usually only to draw attention to something in the strategy that the raid isn’t executing properly.

Of course, having done none of them (PuG raiding leading, GDKP raid leading or guild raid leading) the job description of Raid Leader seems quite mysterious to me. It’s something that remains just out of the scope of my knowledge.

I’m not sure what the winning formula is for a Raid Leader. But I do agree, as I’ve read in countless blogs, forum topics and comments, that it’s best not to expect your Guild Master to also take on the job of Raid Leader. The success of the guild and the success of the raid can be intertwined, but the actual role description for each is completely separate.

Furthermore, I’m convinced that the best Raid Leaders are players who, Raid Leading aside, have the easiest job in the encounter.

Raid Leading, mid-combat, must require you to really play your own character with just half your brain. The other half, surely, is busy orchestrating the 24 people around you.

In the Burning Crusade our Raid Leaders (in our guild) were, depending on the night, a Hunter and Warlock. This is in the days when Hunters could bind their entire rotation onto their mouse scroll up or down function and when Warlocks spammed Shadow Bolt. And, damn it, they were proud of it. Hunters and Warlocks may not be as simple to play as they once were, but I still believe that ranged DPS make excellent Raid Leaders simply because they have the best view during combat. It makes troubleshooting after a wipe quite a bit easier, and improvisation mid-combat more informed.

In my experience tanks often take on the role of Raid Leader but I believe that this is because they are expected to lead parties from an early age, so to speak, not necessarily because they have the best view. I think some tanks would argue that they can devote their attention to Raid Leading mid-combat simply because, as the tank, most of the time they exist outside of the fight mechanics. Instead of running out of fire, poison and/or void zones often they get to stand still and mash buttons.

In Vitare, our Raid Leader is a tank. And (I think I must have mentioned this like 50 times on the blog – sorry!) he’s been away overseas on and off for the better part of six months. This means that, honestly, for the last six months, we’ve really mashed together our own way of doing things. While no single person currently holds the title of Raid Leader, I think about 5 or 6 people (and, no, not necessarily the officers) have sliced up the role description of Raid Leader and taken on small pieces of responsibility.

At points in time we’ve tried to appoint an “official” raid leader, and some plucky raider will step up to take the title. But, well, they tend to burn out really fast. Not having our own permanent Raid Leader has probably cost us at least three amazing raiders who have all quit the game or guild.

So after we lost our last Acting Raid Leader during last week’s raid lockout, apparently over a particularly nasty disagreement in Group 1, one of the Officers put it out there: we need a new volunteer. What really surprised me was that about three raiders put my name forth, not for an Officer position (something that I have simply refused to do for quite some time), but for the Raid Leader position. This was quite the most flattering comment I’ve received in game, and also the most confounding.

I don’t even know what Raid Leading is. Let alone how to do it!

In hindsight, I think I know why my name may have been put forth. When I finished university and started my first full time job I was surprised to learn, a year in at my performance review, that my manager wanted to pay to send me away to a course called the Young Manager’s Program. I, on the other hand, was campaigning quite hard to do an expensive ASP.net course. I wasn’t the slightest bit interested in pursing a career in management (I’m not now, either) even though clearly my boss thought I was perfect material for management.

After a time I changed positions, changed departments and somehow ended up as the Acting Manager of Marketing for a month when my new boss got married and went away on his honeymoon. I found this particularly disturbing. I had no knowledge, education or background in Marketing at all. Unfortunately, I learned the truth about middle management during this month. Most of the time your day is veered off course by employees and their petty complaints. Not surprisingly, my experience as an Officer in a World of Warcraft guild was pretty much the same: an endless stream of personal complaints from guild members that really had no relevance to anyone else but the parties involved.

My workmates and boss at work all thought I had done a pretty great job as Acting Manager of Marketing. But what it taught me was that I can and will lead, when necessary, but I don’t enjoy it or derive any personal satisfaction from it.

You know how I said above that, in the absence of a full time Raid Leader, the guild seemed to just soak up those responsibilities as a collective? Well I think I soaked up one of those responsibilities. I now no longer play my Shadow Priest with 100% of my functional brain, instead I play my Shadow Priest with about 30% of my brain and use the other 70% to become a live, spoken, Boss Encounters Add on.

Most likely it started way back when we were learning how to defeat the Blood Princes on normal mode. I tended to stand at the 11 yard mark sandwiched between our Discipline Priest and one of our Holy Priests. And us Priests, we like to stick together. Add to that my empathy for healer tunnel vision (I see green bars) and the fact that I really do very little in Blood Princes, that I ended up watching their backs more than my own.

“Flame orb, run Nys!”

This progressed into calling out other random things. I was always the one who marked up the Blazing Skeletons and announced their position over vent during Dreamwalker. And these days I think I must talk more than anyone else mid-combat while I call out all kinds of random things – usually the things that have tripped us up as a guild in previous attempts: from Lady Deathwhisper’s Ghosts to Rotface’s Slime Spray and Festergut’s Pungent Blight.

See:

2) I’m Helpful

This person is always ready to help. In fact, they will always try to help, whether or not the help is actually needed. Has sort of a soothing, neutral voice so that they can be understood on Ventrilo easier, but people wonder if they actually used to sound like that before they started calling out Snobolds in the first place. Most likely a Ret Paladin or a Hunter, I’m Helpful will be the person who calls out everything needing to be called out, whether it is wandering plague on Arthas, Snobolds on a character, the fact Steelbreaker just died, or that someone is standing in a fire.

This person is probably immensely helpful since even though everyone has DBM installed, no one is actually paying any attention to it, and this droning, sonorous voice is probably their wake up call. Deep inside, if people don’t hear this voice, they will be surprised when things actually happen.

As long as I’m not healing (a job that takes significantly more than just 30% of my brain) I’m quite happy to call out these things, tell people when to run away, to even scold players for standing in the wrong spot at the wrong time. I find it very easy to do: I simply hit my push-to-talk key and say exactly what what’s going through my own head. There’s almost nothing that I announce on Vent that I’m not reminding myself about mentally anyway.

But it’s not because I desire to take on the responsibility. I do it because I think it needs to be done. And as soon as someone else starts chanting “ghosts” over me on Vent I’m quite happy to check that off my to-do list and focus on other things.

Cassandri as Raid Leader? I don’t think I could do it. Raid Leading, whatever it is, is so much more than just calling out cues over vent mid-combat.

But knowing that people in my guild think I could do it makes me wonder if I should push myself a bit harder, expand my boundaries. Perhaps I should revisit my level 17 Paladin and queue as a Tank. Never-mind that I get lost in Ragefire Chasm and that I have never tanked or led a 5 man before.

15 Responses to “Raid Leading and Cues”

  1. KruntakNo Gravatar says

    Personally I think anyone who wants to raid lead should be someone who has at least dabbled in playing other classes. At least as a Priest you have some input on DPS and healing and I think that perhaps it would be good for you to do some tanking so that you can understand that aspect of the Holy Trinity of raid/dungeon groups.

    And go for it. I have never been a raid lead before, hell I haven’t ever raided much either, but my own guild has looked to me to “lead” them while we do Naxx for the first time simply because I am willing to invest the time and effort to read-up on and understand encounters and be able to instruct others in how to do things. Being the raid lead for my guild has been a ton of fun, and I think thats the key. Try to keep it fun, not a job and you should do well.
    Kruntak’s last post: Who are you Post and we will all find out

    • CassandriNo Gravatar says

      You’re right, I know the least about tanking. And more importantly, the least about how encounters are tanked in ICC. Give me a brand new tank who has no experience in tanking those encounters and I don’t think I could help them at all.

      Not to worry, I’m pretty sure I’m not going to take on the role of Raid Leader. Our Disc Priest has stepped up to do that. And man, she is strict! (which I love!)

  2. AndyNo Gravatar says

    I agree with Kruntak about knowing other classes – it makes it easier to organise buffs, assign roles and keep an eye on performance. Moreover, by having a broad knowledge of the classes and encounters, you’ll come across as an experienced player whose opinion carries more weight.

    If there’s one thing I’d say to potential raid leaders, and which based on what you’ve written here Cass, doesn’t apply to you, it’s this: COMMUNICATE. There’s nothing worse than a raid “leader” who hardly says anything, appears to be taking a back seat and doesn’t actually DO anything leader-like. I know it might feel like you’re bossing people around, but to the raiders it doesn’t seem that way. If you do it right, it just looks like you’re doing your job, and a raid with someone clearly in charge tends to work much more efficiently and quickly than a “democratically run” (i.e. headless and rudderless) one.
    Andy’s last post: Wherein I answer questions

    • CassandriNo Gravatar says

      I’ve never had any problem bossing people around :) Part of why I think my old workplace wanted to groom me for management is because I seem to have the knack of disagreeing with people, or telling them they’re doing something wrong, with diplomacy.

      Although I think I did kind of misstep one night… I was trying to say “if you get hit by malleable goo, or get targetted by the green slime standing not in melee range OR at max range then it means that you never really did normal mode Putricide correctly. Which means that you were carried”. People perked up when they heard me use the insult “carried” and got a bit defensive.

      I was still right damn it!

  3. PindleskinNo Gravatar says

    To me, raidleading is saying “Ok, I’m pulling” to make sure the healers are still awake seconds after the ready check, shouting at people to prepare for the chaos that ensues as the hunter’s (who just dc’d) pet goes ape and draws three extra packs of mobs, and telling the other tank that I’ve gone to light a smoke and he should pull so long.
    Pindleskin’s last post: Character Update

  4. RedbeardNo Gravatar says

    Excellent post, Cassandri!

    A raid leader’s job –like a guild leader’s– is a lot like herding cats. Unless you’ve got a very familiar and disciplined group, the RL has to monitor all sorts of things to make a raid successful. (I don’t even raid and I can see that.) The attention to detail and the ability to make adjustments on the fly are absolutely necessary, as well as detailed knowledge of classes, boss fights, and other miscellaneous junk. Make the raid a pug, and everything is multiplied by tenfold. Herding cats? More like herding lions at that point.

    In hindsight, I think I know why my name may have been put forth. When I finished university and started my first full time job I was surprised to learn, a year in at my performance review, that my manager wanted to pay to send me away to a course called the Young Manager’s Program. I, on the other hand, was campaigning quite hard to do an expensive ASP.net course. I wasn’t the slightest bit interested in pursing a career in management (I’m not now, either) even though clearly my boss thought I was perfect material for management.

    I know exactly what you mean. Been there, still fighting that battle. I’ve seen the boss’ job at work, and I don’t want it. When I fill in for the boss when there’s vacation time, I can almost feel my blood pressure rising before each meeting or IM or e-mail. Urg.
    Redbeard’s last post: Molten Giants

    • CassandriNo Gravatar says

      I think it’s the original “how can you be good at something and not enjoy it?” dilemma :D

  5. DomniNo Gravatar says

    Thoughtful post!

    Communication is important during an encounter. It can be stressful as well. If you don’t think that you want to be the full-time raid leader, never underestimate how important it can be to have a “raid-leading assistant.” A second person who calls out those cues during an encounter alleviates a lot of pressure on the raid leader–who is likely covering three other administrative tasks while performing their own role in the encounter.

    I divvy up cues during each encounter because I know I can’t handle every detail on my own. It also helps to have two distinct voices on, say, Rotface. We have one voice call out slimesprays and one voice call out the infection. It helps prevent people from tuning out and missing the cue (and keeps the person calling out from becoming overwhelmed).

    I think I’m going to write up a series on the basics of raid leading, particularly for PuGs. There are some very easy things that people don’t know to take care of if they’ve never led a raid before.
    Domni’s last post: Blizzard and Facebook

    • CassandriNo Gravatar says

      I didn’t really go into it in the article but we actually have 3 people calling out cues mid-combat. I tend not to watch melee timers and thinks like boss health (so important for phase transitions!) so we now have a Ret Pally, myself and a tank calling out different cues. I really believe that having 3 different voices to listen out to makes a big difference. Ranged DPS/DPS know to listen to my calls, Tank/Heals tend to listen to our Feral tank’s cues and melee know to pay attention when our Ret Pally speaks up.

  6. Dyre42No Gravatar says

    I’m both a GM and a Raid Leader. Although I pretty much got both positions by default. I find that delegating helps a lot. Fight explanations for example are given by a very concise/blunt ret pally. If we need to pug someone we have a warlock with an extremely extensive friends list. I take care of healing assignments, loot, announce pulls, and figure out the cause of wipes.

    We have a group that has zero tolerance for drama so it makes the job pretty easy.

    • CassandriNo Gravatar says

      At the moment one of our healers is Raid Leading … or doing most of the leading out of combat. Because they’re also doing healing assignments I feel that the healing team is sometimes not as focused/planned as they could be when we had one Officer *just* organising the healing team.

      I think you might be right that the key is delegating. And what jobs that fall under the “raid leading” header will vary based on who the raid leader is.

  7. PapaNastyNo Gravatar says

    imo your post a week or so ago, which refered to another blog which was talking about groupthink and fish was 100% on the button.

    People know what to do, and when to do it, they sometimes just need someone to help them be a bit more decisive (And to keep them out of the tunnel.)

    Raidleading is mainly about ensuring that all our ships are sailing in the same direction, so just ensuring that a good idea has the “official” go ahead, and that control is kept.

    That control is why, and I feel a bit stink sometimes when I do it, I sometimes squash ideas which are different to the strategy we’re trying (Even tho I might swap to their strat 2 or 3 wipes later lol). Since everyone needs to be 100% focused on one strat, not going off in different directions because they saw x video doing it differently.

    Keeping everyone together is about moral too, positive thinking can be infectious at times, but negative thinking is like cancer, if you don’t stop it early, it never really goes away.

    Most stuff is shared out to officers / senior raiders though, I know there’s not much (Other than mentioned above), which I actually do. Usually someone else comes up with the bright ideas, I’m just the one who announces them on vent lol.

    Assignments / Subbing off waitlist / dkp / loot are all the parts of leading which are the most work imo, and usually I don’t do any of them lol.

    (Grrr I had it soo sweet when Cubby always did dkp + loot + waitlist subs, somehow when I came back, I ended up sometimes doing all 3!!).

    • CassandriNo Gravatar says

      I’m sure that, when you come back, you can recruit someone to be your main assist Papa. Nobody can really do it all at once.

  8. TamNo Gravatar says

    This is a really great post – I think the problem with things like management positions and the like is that the people who *want* to do them because it gives them some sense of personal validation are the people least suited to them. I mean you can’t heathily derive validation from interacting with people in that kind of way, at least I would argue not. So the best people to take jobs like RL and GL and so on are people who don’t really want to, as such … which leads to its own set of problems.

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