Let me preface this one with a few things.
I don’t claim to be the best raid leader that ever lived or breathed. As with my raiding posts, this is for people who have never herded cats led a raid before and are just some general ideas on how to deal with it all and some idea of what “it all’ even is.
So you think you want to lead a raid. The first thing you have to know is that raid leading is not glamorous, much like being an officer/GM is not glamorous. It’s work, and the difficulty of it will be directly affected by your organizational/leadership skills and the ability of your raiders to pay attention for more than two seconds at a time.
The very first thing I would suggest doing to see whether raid leading is something you really want to do is to lead a raid for either the For the Horde or For the Alliance achievements. You won’t need to pay special attention to having a certain number of tanks or healers (although you will want to have both) or achieving a good mix of melee and ranged dps and you’ll have an entire herd of cats to lead – many of them won’t be in your guild either, so you’ll get to experience all the joys of trying to direct people who have no motive to listen to you other than that you could kick them out of the raid if you were so inclined.
Having led a raid for this achievement two or three times, let me tell you up front that it is hellish from the leader’s perspective. You’ll have the people who want to charge ahead because “gogogo nownownow” is how they play. You’ll have the warlocks who will bitch about being asked to summon missing members in. You’ll have the Guy Who Knows Everything constantly trying to change your game plan, whether my arguing against everything you say or flat out countermanding you. The sheep people who will follow any command given will invariably do whatever the Guy Who Knows Everything says. Getting everyone into Vent, let alone the same zone to assault the same capitol, requires a mix of abusing raid warnings, yelling at people, having some faithful assistants to help you yell at people, and a liberal use of marking the few sensible people along for the trip with raid target icons and drilling it over and over into everyone’s heads to “FOLLOW THE GODDAMN STAR.”
You may also want to self-medicate with whatever drink it is that keeps you happy. I like wine.
Once you actually down a faction leader, you then have to deal with getting a mage to put up the appropriate portal to the next location and collecting the dead and starting everything all over. Only now the other faction knows you’re headed somewhere and will be able to come out in force to stop you.
Sounds fun, right?
Assembling the team
Hopefully, if you’re running a guild raid, you know your fellow guild mates well enough to know what they do, whether they have an off spec and how well they perform. If you don’t, then you need to step back and do some more research. Run heroics; see how they do. I never tell someone in my guild when I’ve maneuvered them into a heroic with me so I can watch them. It would put them on edge and leave me wondering whether this was how they always performed.
I’m going to assume that you’re using the in-game calendar to invite people to this raid. When you’re looking at who has signed up and getting ready to confirm those who are going, break it up into pieces. No matter what role you’re looking at, you’ll want to try to get a good mix of classes. For example, you don’t want your entire healing team to be all paladins. I always start with tanks, because you need the least of those. Then I move onto healers. Any extras I have of either are likely to end up on standby, unless I know they have a good off spec. Lastly, I look at DPS.
When assembling a raid team, it is handy to know what boss encounters you’re looking at attempting for the night. Will you be facing Lady Deathwhisper? You’re going to want a good mix of physical and magic damage for those adds. Will you be on the Lich King? You’re going to want a disc priest for bubbling goodness. Facing Rotface? Get a tank who can kite.
And most of all, take the team that is most likely to guarantee you success. If your best friend or your significant other plays, but is a new 80 or has never raided before or just plain sucks at raiding, don’t play favorites and take them. Being a good raid leader requires the ability to be objective.
Once you have your team assembled, you’ll want to be sure to set expectations for the raid. This can include any mix of the following and probably more things I am not thinking of:
- Overall raid goals
- We’re here to have a good time and if we get loot, great
- We’re here to kill the heck out of some bosses and progression is all that matters
- Appropriate use of Vent
- No one should say anything in Vent unless I ask a direct question
- Feel free to tell stories of your cute kid if we’re killing trash, but keep it focused for bosses
- Please, regale us with the same tired “I got boned by a dude!” jokes on Marrowgar
- How long this will go
- We’ll get down however many bosses we get done. And quit whenever we quit
- We’re getting through eight bosses even if it kills us!
- We’ll be here for three hours
- Open roll, who cares about main or off spec
- You can win one/more than one piece of gear
- We’re using [insert loot system here]
- Other people to listen to
- I will give all the assignments
- We will have a lead for each role
- So-and-so is my second in command
Dealing with specific types of people
We’ve identified a few of the types of people you’ll inevitably have to deal with in a raid situation. Assuming that first exercise didn’t break your spirit, how do you take that mass of 9 or 24 other people and forge them into a team that works together? A lot of it will come from clearly setting your expectations. The rest will come from enforcing those expectations. The worst thing to do is to have rules/guidelines/expectations/whatever and then sit by as they are violated.
I like to start out politely. Send a tell to the Guy Who Knows Everything and ask him to please not talk over you/argue with you/countermand you. Explain that you are in charge of the raid and he is confusing other people. Warn him if he doesn’t stop trying to take over, you will either mute him globally over vent or replace him. If he gets belligerent about it, just remove him. He’s not worth it.
The “gogogo” fellow is best dealt with through similar methods. You might need to explain pauses every now and again (“We’re just waiting for the healers to get their mana back up and then we’ll go). If they’re less verbal and more action-based, let them “gogogo.” When he dies because you don’t lift a hand to save him, you can calmly explain that he needs to wait for everyone to be ready.
As to the sheep, these can be a liability or an asset. One the plus side, they will only listen to you if you can have firm enough control of the rest of the raid to keep anyone else from giving orders you haven’t asked them to give. On the negative side, this type will often not do anything unless specifically ordered to – and I have seen that include not getting out of the bad or not switching targets. Honestly, your best bet is to not ever include the type who need to be told what to do every step of the way. You can’t have eyes on yourself and another person all the time and a good raider requires more awareness than that anyway.
As I have mentioned before, I once had the opportunity to spend a few months raiding with the top raiding guild on my server. It was an experience. The raid leader pretty much started out yelling and swearing over everything and didn’t quit until the last piece of loot had been distributed. The raiders from his guild did their jobs fine, but he abused them anyway. The raiders from my guild were new to the fights and didn’t perform as well. The yelling and swearing unnerved them, angered them, and even hurt them. It didn’t do anything for most of them, although there were a few who were able to roll with it. For myself, I grew up in an environment where yelling and swearing happened on a regular basis, so to me, that was normal – or at least familiar. It didn’t bother me much, even when I was taking the brunt of it for a bad pull on HKM.
When I run a raid, I like to start with politeness first. In this, I might be too forgiving of some of the more egregious mistakes that happen. However, when I do decide to call someone to task or make a broader statement about needing to focus, I tend to see my raiders shape up in a hurry. Just last week, wiping on the Lich King to some truly stupid mistakes, I casually mentioned that if I didn’t see improvements in focus I was going to start replacing people.
Good communication and staying on task magically increased from there.
From all I have observed, the raid leader who starts off as a jerk or who is constantly making sharp and rude statements tends to get ignored. I know I don’t respect that style of leadership myself. And most people won’t. I’ve run into a few who believe that one has to be tough or a prick to be in a raid that will progress. “Care bears,” I was told, “won’t ever get anywhere.”
I disagree. It’s true that less skilled players tend to gravitate to a place where they won’t get yelled at for being unskilled, but there are plenty of skilled people out there who don’t want to play in a hostile environment either.
I don’t know if you can teach this
To me, a major part of being a good raid leader is being able to keep track of everything going on. Hopefully it’s obvious that you’ll need to know the mechanics to every boss fight you encounter and be able to explain them well enough to anyone who has questions about them. It’s okay if you’re not 100% on this, too. I often defer questions from a new tank to be answered by the veteran tank. Since Zel came on board, I defer all healing assignments and aspects to her. I don’t bother much with memorizing the name of everything that happens, but just give a general idea of what to watch for – “You’ll have green crap on your feet and you’ll need to run to the edge of the room and keep running until it falls off.” People will remember “green crap” better than they will “Fel whatsitfire” that could be confused by “Fel this” or “Fel that” since boss abilities can often have similar names.
A boss mod is a great asset to a raid leader, as well. Make sure you’re practiced at being able to quickly assimilate the information you’re getting and translate that into action, whether it’s for yourself or for the rest of the raid. It’s true that any good raider will be able to do this for themselves, but sometimes you just end up with someone who is a Sheep (or semi-Sheep) and can barely keep track of their own two feet, let alone the fact that said two feet are needing to move now! In that direction! In such cases, it’s better to get someone else moving in the right direction than it is to risk a wipe to prove a point. If you’re looking to be hardcore for progression, again, just remove and then don’t reinvite that person because they are slow to change, if not downright resistant to it.
Ask me how I know. We’re pretty casual overall, so I tend to put up with a lot of this shit.
And to recap
- Bottom line – if you can’t keep track of yourself, let alone other people, you shouldn’t be a raid leader.
- If you can’t communicate effectively under pressure, you shouldn’t be a raid leader.
- If you can’t organize your way out of a wet paper sack with a flamethrower and a hand grenade, you shouldn’t be a raid leader.
- If you’re not willing to be forceful at times – and if you can’t tell when it’s appropriate or not – you shouldn’t be a raid leader.
- If you can’t remember and convey the details of a fight you’ve done several times, you shouldn’t be a raid leader.
- If you think being a raid leader is all about you and people listening to you because you are a special star, oh God, you should be shot.