Before all, this is guide for raid leading static raids, not pugs. Leading pugs is a whole different story, so we won’t bother with it. It should be noted that every raid leader has a unique style, but this guide will be helpful for everyone that decided to take on the heavy burden of leadership. No matter if you’ve led raids into molten core or just leveled your character to the max level, this guide can give anyone a few helpful tips. So, sit back and enjoy.
Table of Contents.
1. Raid size.
2. Raid Composition.
3.1. Before the raid.
3.2. During the raid.
3.3. After the raid.
4. Other important things.
5. In conclusion.
First of all, a raid leader must decide if he/she prefers to lead 10-mans or 25-mans. With the recent changes to the loot system both modes provide the same loot, so the question of raid size is more of a choice today. But what are the differences?
• Easier to control. No matter what anyone tells you, controlling 9 people is much easier than controlling 24 people. It’s easier to position your raiders around the room, easier to give someone a quick command during the fight (because you will most likely know who is who and where they are standing). It is generally less chaotic.
• Easier to figure out the mistakes. It’s much easier to notice what went wrong during a boss attempt and correct it. The faster your raid’s mistakes are corrected – the faster you will master the encounter.
• Easier to assemble. It’s easier to find 9 skilled reliable players besides yourself than to find 24. It’s almost impossible to assemble an identical 25-man raid each week, while 10-mans generally are always composed of the same people each lockout. This means that people in 10-man raids are usually on the same page in terms of experience on different encounters, while in 25-mans there’s always one or two substitutes to whom you have to explain your raid’s strategy before every boss.
• Less lag. Not everyone’s computer/internet connection is perfect, so the performance of many raiders suffers in 25-mans because of lower dps or higher ping. D/C are also less likely to occur in 10-mans.
• Less loot per person. Self explanatory. Less loot per person and less Valor points, which means that the raid is gearing up slower.
• Raid setup is more restricted. Even though this became less of a problem with Cataclysm, this still exists. You are more restricted in the classes you can take if you want to provide all the necessary buffs and debuffs (and you do want that!). This means that you may not be able to raid with your friends (or at least your raid’s performance will be lower) simply because their classes don’t provide all the buffs you need for your raid setup.
• Each player’s burden is higher. In a 25-man raid each person contributes about 4% to the raid’s overall performance. If a couple of DPS or one healer dies, you might still down the boss. In a 10-man raid each player’s contribution is 10%, so just one death may lead to a wipe.
• Less epic. Pure and simple. 25 people battling a boss looks and feels more epic. And nothing can compare to 25 people screaming in excitement on vent after downing a boss they’ve been wiping for the last 4 weeks on.
• More loots. More loot per person means the raid will be gearing up faster.
• More freedom in creating the raid setup. In a 25-man raid all the required buffs are achieved almost automatically, so there is a lot of free space to take people that are good to raid with, but that you couldn’t take in a 10-man raid because you were restricted by buffs.
• Each player’s burden is lower. As stated above, in a 25-man raid each player contributes 4% to the raid’s performance. This means that a loss of a healer or a few DPS doesn’t necessarily mean a wipe, so there is some space for errors.
• More prestigious. Since the division of raids into 10-mans and 25-mans, 25-mans were regarded as more prestigious because of better rewards (loot and mounts) and a harder difficulty. With Cataclysm the difficulty and rewards differences were presumably eliminated, but the stereotype still lingers. In any way, leading 24 people feels cooler than leading 9.
• More epic. 25-mans feel more epic, nothing more to say here.
• Harder to control. It’s much harder to control 24 people than it is to control 9. It’s harder to single someone out during a fight to give a quick command to prevent a wipe (especially if more than one person is failing), harder to stop the flood on vent during boss attempts, and it’s generally more chaotic.
• More lag. Ping is higher, fps is lower, and D/C’s occur more often.
• Harder to figure out the mistakes. With all the unfolding chaos, it’s much harder to see what went wrong and caused the raid to wipe. So, the mistakes either take longer to figure out, or aren’t solved at all. This makes the 25-man encounters a bit harder to master.
• Difficulties on certain encounters. Some encounters are harder in 25-man raids simply because of the mechanics involved. Specifically, encounters where positioning matters. It’s pretty easy to maintain a distance between raid members in a 10-man raid, but it can be fairly hard to do the same in the 25-man version.
After deciding your raid’s size, the next thing you need to concentrate on is raid composition. The standard composition for 10-mans is 2 tanks, 2-3 healers, and 5-6 dps. The standard composition for 25-mans is 2-3 tanks (one has to have a dps spec), 5-6 healers, and 16-18 dps.
You also have to keep in mind the raid buffs. In 25-mans all the buffs are achieved almost automatically, the only things you have to keep in mind are relatively rare buffs, such as +10% spell power (ele shamans and demonology locks), +5% spell crit chance debuff on target, +4% melee damage taken debuff (combat rogues, frost DK’s, arms warriors, and, recently, hunter pets), +30% bleed damage debuff (feral druids, arms warriors, subtlety rogues, and, again, hunter pets), and +3% damage dealt buff (arcane mages, retribution paladins, and BM hunters).
In 10-mans it’s virtually impossible to get all the possible buffs, so you have to make decisions. There are 3 basic compositions: all melee, all caster, and the most common one – combined. The first two usually have a higher raid dps because they can enjoy all the buffs they need, but they tend to have a problem with gearing due to high competition on gear with melee stats. In a combined raid composition the gearing is faster, but the raid dps is lower because some buffs/debuffs will have to be given up. The only advise I can give is try to get as many buffs/debuffs as possible, and try to get at least 3 ranged dps – this will be good on fights that require a minimum of 3 people to be in the range zone (like Festergut or Professor Putricide).
You have assembled the raid. Your 9/24 subordinates are rushing into battle to conquer the fearsome bosses under your superior command. The only question is… are you prepared?
There is a number of things that you should (and shouldn’t) do as a good raid leader.
Before the raid Create the events. Plain and simple, yet many forget to do such a simple thing. Create the events, or your raiders may forget or simply not know when to show up. Make sure you have substitutes. Life can often disrupt our plans, and even if everyone agreed to show up, one or more of your raiders can fail to make without warning. Make sure there is someone to cover for them, or your raid may be at risk of not happening because of one person’s troubles. Read the strategies and be able to explain them. If you plan on killing bosses, you should at least know the strategy. In a perfect world, everyone in your raid will know, but in real life there will always be someone who hasn’t read it. It’s not necessarily a problem, if they can understand and memorize it after a quick explanation (there is a few of these people in my raid as well) because you’ll have to explain the strategy any way due to the fact that there are always different versions of each tactic and you have to decide which one your raid will be doing. So, know the tactics and be able to explain them. Be prepared and require others to be prepared as well. Have all the addons installed, all your gear gemmed and enchanted, and have enough flasks and potions for the raid. You should demand this of all your raiders, and you shouldn’t be an exemption. Also, don’t forget to designate a person that will be responsible for feasts. You can do it yourself, but it’s ok if some other responsible person that shows up for every raid will volunteer for this.
During the raid
Be calm and patient. If you’ve decided to be a raid leader, the first thing you have to develop is nerves of steel. Your raid will be wiping. A lot. Don’t stress over it, don’t take it too seriously. Even if everything is going horribly wrong, even if your healers and tanks are taking turns on D/C’ing on every pull, even if you haven’t made any progress in the last two hours – you have to remain an incarnation of tranquility. If you will panic – your raid will panic, and this will only lead to wiping. Be positive and polite. No matter how many times your raid wipes on a boss, you should never lose faith or insult anyone. As a raid leader, you should believe that your raid can succeed, and you should spread this confidence among your raiders. And no matter how horribly someone is failing, never lower yourself to insults. This will only decrease the performance of the person you’ve insulted even further, create a negative atmosphere in your raid that will decrease everyone’s performance, and may even cause drama that will result in one or more person leaving your raid for good. Help and support your raiders, and you will quickly see improvements. Lead. Being a raid leader is more that doing a ready-check, saying “pull!” and dividing loot. You have to tell people what to do. Tell the tanks who is tanking what, tell the healers who is healing the raid and who is healing the tanks (and which healer is healing which tank), designate kiters on fights where they are needed, command who should battle rez whom, and so on. You are personally responsible for everything that happens in the raid until you divide and distribute this responsibility among your raiders. Make sure that everyone knows what they should be doing, or every wipe will be your personal failure. Articulate yourself clearly. Pretty obvious, but many people I know have problems with this. Listen to your own words and make sure that people can understand what you’re trying to convey. React. No matter how well you will plan everything out, unexpected things will still be occurring. Your tank may suddenly disconnect, your tank healer may get distracted and die, or your kiter may lag and get eaten by adds; if something like this happens (and these thing will happen) – you should be able to react to this. Always be prepared to quickly re-designate one of your raid healers on the tank until the tank healer logs on, or to command your feral druid to switch from kitty to bear and activate all the cooldowns until the tank gets rezed and buffed. Your behavior in force majeure situations may be the difference between a kill and a wipe.
Learn from each wipe. Wipes happen because your raid is doing something wrong. The only way to kill a boss is to find what your raid is doing wrong and to correct it. Don’t just release-rez-buff-ready check-pull, find what went wrong. If the reason isn’t too obvious, addons like Skada or Recount can help by detailing someone’s death or showing the damage done to specific targets (like adds for example). Step 1: find the problem, step 2: fix it, step 3: profit! Correct your raiders. Some raid leaders have problems with this very important part of their position – telling others that they’re doing something wrong. Some raid leaders are afraid to offend their raiders, others do it in such a way that raiders do get offended. The bottom line is that it is your responsibility to correct your raiders. However, you should do it calmly and without any aggression. But don’t apologize or ask, you’re not asking for a favor. It should be a statement of fact, like “don’t finish the cast if a void zone appeared under you – move immediately” or “maintain the distance between you and others – you’re straining the healers by creating a lot of unnecessary raid damage.”
Use penalties. If someone is failing – don’t hesitate to punish them. Most loot systems have penalties, like GP or –DKP. Use these. Again, don’t be afraid to offend anyone. It is your responsibility to make your raiders perform adequately, and penalties are one of the tools you have to do it. One hint I can give you is that it’s better to give small penalties for every failure than to give big ones for only serious failures. With this system your raiders will know what to expect if they do something wrong and there won’t be any drama caused by “unjust” punishments. Stop the flood on vent. Socializing is good, but it is very distracting during attempts. Don’t be shy to shut people up. You can even make a rule that allows only certain people to speak on bosses, or even mute everyone but tanks, tank healers, and your assistants; and give penalties for not abiding to it. It can get worse after several hours, as people get tired. In this case, it’s better to announce an AFK break. If not controlled, flood vent can really stand in the way of your raid, prevent it. Stop the RL-wannabes. Some people think they know better than anyone else what the raid needs to do down the boss, so they try to “help” by giving out commands during pulls. The only problem is that you didn’t give them this authority. Shut them up. It’s your raid, you are the raid leader, and only you can give out the commands. Mute these wannabes, talk to them in another channel, give penalties to them, or kick them – do anything you want with them, but stop them. Be able to kick people without drama. Sometimes raid leaders need to kick people. It can be for different reasons, but the bottom line is that it has to be done. Be able to do it calmly and without overdramatizing it. Make the decision, kick the person, kick/mute him in vent, invite someone else and move on. Leave all the talks about it until after the raid.
Don’t be lazy. It’s very easy to get tired after several hours of raiding, especially if you’ve been wiping on a boss, but you should never get lazy. Watch the raid, stay alert, give out commands, correct people, find the mistakes – continue doing your job from the first minute of the raid time to the last minute. If you notice that your attention is down – announce an AFK break to make a cup of coffee or eat a sandwich. There’s little point in wiping, if the raid leader is slaking. Be reasonable. There’s nothing bad in listening to suggestions. Sure, you may have read all the existing tactics on the web about this boss, but if one of your raiders has an idea – listen to him before you dismiss it. It may be a simple suggestion about the raid positioning, or something like marking a player so the raid can move after him, or something more complex, like a healer rotation or even raid setup. These can sometimes be very helpful, so listen to them. Stay concentrated. As a raid leader, you have a lot to do during the raid, but don’t forget that you also have to do your job as a player, be that healing, dpsing, or tanking. It doesn’t matter how good you are at commanding others if you die in void zones, do less damage than the tank as a dps, or can’t keep anyone alive as a healer. You should set an example for your raiders, so top the charts, die only after the tank, show insane skill in kiting, etc., etc. Just don’t forget to combine it with raid leading. Set goals and rewards. A good technique to motivate your raiders is to set goals and give people small rewards for them, like “if we kill at least 6 bosses today, everyone will get bonus dkp/ep.” You can get creative, just don’t exclude anyone in these challenges. Giving bonus points to the top DPS player excludes healers and tanks (and meters aren’t always the best way to determine the best player), and this can cause a drama in the future. Don’t forget AFK breaks. Don’t overwork your raiders. Hours of raiding can make people tired, nervous, and inattentive. To avoid this, make sure you have enough AFK breaks. This will help you to maintain a calm and healthy atmosphere during raiding, and significantly improve your raid’s boss-downing capabilities.
After the raid Evaluate the players. How did everyone perform? Who was good? Who was bad? Who whined a lot? Who’s good at reacting to unexpected changes during boss attempts? Evaluate each one of your raiders and make notes about them. You can do it mentally or physically with a piece of paper and a pen, but you have to do it, and it’s better if you do it soon after the raid, while the memories are bright. Pay close attention to new raiders, it may be better to never invite them if they fail horribly in your first raid together. Think about what should be improved. What tactics didn’t work for your raid? What can be done differently? Where could a different setup work better? Always think of how your raid can get better at killing bosses and pair it with research. Good ideas can come at unexpected times.
Other important things Good communication is key. Your raid needs a way to communicate, and typing in raid chat won’t work. Decide on a program, I recommend Ventrilo, Team Speak 3, or Mumble, and rent a server. Demand that everyone in your raid must use it. Find good assistants. Raid leading is a heavy burden, and good assistants can lessen it. In my 25-man raid I have three assistants, one of them a healer. The healer is responsible for telling the healers what to do and organizing cooldown rotations. The other two step in on different occasions, they can announce some part of a boss encounter, like the slimes on Professor Putricide; manage the damage dealers on encounters where the raid needs to split up and dps different ads; or can serve as people with marks on their heads that lead others after themselves on encounters where the raid needs to move at the same time. However, don’t let them run your raid. You should clearly define their responsibilities and tell them what to do. They should assist you, not go over your head. Moreover, the assistants need to show up to almost every raid, be reliable, and have a microphone. It’s better not to have any assistants than to have bad ones.
Use logs. Logging websites are very useful when trying to figure out what went wrong during an attempt. You can see how much damage each raider suffered from a particular boss ability, the details of someone’s death, how much damage did each dps do to an ad, etc., etc. A good addon to record the logs is LoggerHead, it simply ads a button to your interface that starts and stops the log recording. To process the logs I use http://www.worldoflogs.com, but there may be other good ones. The interface is pretty intuitive, so I won’t describe how to use the website, but if you want to become a better raid leader – you should learn to use logging websites. Establish and maintain control. Being a raid leader is not only writing in a different color in the raid chat, you have to have control over the raid. Very often there are people that think that they are above the raid. They don’t follow commands, do what they believe is better, etc., etc. You shouldn’t tolerate them. They hinder your authority and negatively affect the raid performance. They don’t understand that a good raid is team, not just 10/25 individual players zerging a boss. If somebody isn’t following your commands – punish them. If it doesn’t help – kick them. Make it clear that it’s either your way, or the high way. If you can’t control the raid – you shouldn’t be raid leading.
Manage your healers. To make healing more effective, you should define zones of responsibility and manage the cooldown rotation. Divide the raid into groups and tell each healer who is roughly responsible for what. This will make their job easier because they won’t have to watch for everyone and it will also minimize overhealing. Also, this will increase the speed at which the raid recovers after powerful boss AoEs. Managing the cooldown rotation is important for tank survival on certain fights. Tell your healers and tanks when to use their survival abilities, so that they don’t use at the same time. You do, however, need to know classes and their abilities to do it. A good way to manage the healers is to have a healer assistant do it, but if you don’t have one – do some research and do it yourself. Know classes. You should know classes, their specs and abilities. It’s important when you need to designate people to control, kite, slow, apply other debuffs, or do something that requires specific abilities. Do the research. Know your raiders. You should know each person in your raid, their abilities, capabilities, and limits. Who is good? Who is average? Who sucks? Who can do something outside of their dps rotation, and who can’t? Who can be your assistant? It’s important to know who you’re raiding with, so have a mental or physical profile of each of your players. No one is irreplaceable. Very many people tend to overestimate the value of each person in their raid. This often leads to situations when raid leaders act irrationally and disband raids because one or two people leave. It’s also a common occurrence when the raid leader holds on to some player because he or she is a good healer/tank and disregards the fact that raiding with this player makes everyone miserable. No matter how good your tanks/healers/dps are, there is no such thing as an irreplaceable person. Keep that in mind when composing your raid. Choose a loot system that fits your raid. There are various loot systems, from Group Loot to Loot Council and various EPGP and DKP systems. It is important to choose one that will fit your raid best. In general, casual raids tend to use group loot, top-end raiding guilds tend to use Loot Council, and raids in the middle of the spectrum tend to use EPGP and DKP systems. Group Loot causes minimal drama, but isn’t an effective way to gear the raid. Loot Council allows you to gear the key players with the best attendance and skill in short amounts of time, but can cause a lot of drama from those who don’t get the loot. EPGP is a good balance between the two, it allows to reward attendance, give penalties for failures and somewhat relieves the raid leader from responsibility when dividing loot. Decide which is best for your raid, but remember that it can be very hard to change the loot system in an existing raid if you make the wrong choice. Giving loot for off specs. When there is loot that no one needs for their main spec, people start rolling on in for off spec. Many raid leaders simply give the item to the person with the highest /roll, but it isn’t the best way to deal giving loot for off specs. It’s much more beneficial for your raid if you gear the off specs of people who a) have good attendance; b) use their off spec in your raids at least sometimes. It’s very good to gear a tank-off spec of some warrior that is with you every raid and have him as a capable substitute if your Main Tank will be absent.
Don’t be a nanny. Some raid leaders try everything they can for their raiders and simply overdo it. They tell the dps what spells to use in their rotation, tell the heals what gems and enchants to use, tell the tanks when to taunt, and announce the players that get a debuff. It’s wrong. Your raiders should think for themselves. If the tanks should change each time one gets 9 stacks of a debuff, you tell it to them before the pull and let them follow their debuffs themselves. You should lead your raiders, not change their diapers. Let them think and do research, and in time they will become better raiders. Accept criticism. If someone tells you you’re doing something wrong – you should listen to it. Don’t be a tyrant, be smart enough to know when you’re wrong and be strong enough to admit it. Just don’t let anyone criticize you during the raid, tell them to hold it until after the raid is over. You should kill bosses during raid time, not discuss what’s right and what’s wrong. Set the rules and stay true to them. Write the rules and penalties that you will enforce in your raid and have everyone that wants to raid with you to read and agree to them. However, don’t change the rules suddenly in the middle of a raid. If you stated that all the loot will be distributed by the EPGP system don’t suddenly state that you decided to give the healers priority on gear. Stability minimizes unnecessary drama. Always be fair. You are equal to your raiders. Don’t assume you deserve loot more than they do just because you are the raid leader. Nothing good will come of it. When you fail – give yourself the same penalties as you give to everyone else.
Raid leading may seem a hard and thankless thing to do, but in reality it is worth it. If you’re good – you earn respect and status, and you become somewhat independent when it comes to raiding. You can set the raid time and make the decisions where to go. And, of course, a good raid leader will never have trouble finding a guild. Good luck with your raids and may the titans be with you!
I thank Виолентра, our GM and my beautiful girlfriend. You were my inspiration in writing this.
I thank my guild <Мидгард> from Термоштепсель-EU for giving me my greatest experience in raid leading. We’re the best, guys!
P.S. English is not my native language, so no grammar nazis please .