Before I get into this, I want to note that this guide is for people who are new to raiding. By new, I mean they have never raided before or have only been yanked into a raid without the damndest idea what they were doing and carried through by everyone else. As a result of that, all of this will sound pretty elementary to more seasoned raiders. Still, if anyone wants to read and add anything I might have missed, I’d be happy to incorporate it into the guide. (And since I seem to get stray comments from people wanting to post my advice in their guild forums nearly every time I whip out a numbered list, I’ll go ahead and say up front that if you want to do so, please feel free. A link back would be awesome but I’m not going to demand it. And now I feel all vain.)
1. First things first
Here are some basics for a potential raider to pay attention to when starting down the raiding path. First and most obviously, you’ll need to be at the level cap. Despite all the posts on the official WoW forums begging for Vanilla and BC servers because those were the Golden Days of WoW, no one wants to go back to that content. Not really.
2. Know your class
Yeah, that character you’ve just leveled all the way from 1-80 and didn’t buy on ebay? You should hopefully have acquired some idea of what the basic play style is. I say this thinking it’s super obvious, but I’ve also encountered quite a few oddities along the way. Like a rogue who wanted to stand back and do all his damage through throwing axes or some damn thing. And a priest who thought she was meant to melee, happily swinging away with her mace. Don’t be those people.
In fact, your character is the most solid thing anyone else will have to judge about you to determine whether or not you should even be invited to raid. There are many tools out there for any person to look at how you gear and what you’ve achieved. The highlights to look for are:
a. Have the right spec
If you’re claiming to be a Prot Paladin and have half (or all) of your talents in Retribution, no one will take you seriously. Same thing if you have all your points in one tree! Read up on the “cookie cutter” specs at Elitist Jerks or wowpopular.
b. Use the right spells
I have seen a mage specced into deep frost casting nothing but fire spells. It hurt my head and their dps sucked.
c. Have the right glyphs
Just because you have glyphs that are appropriate for your class, doesn’t mean they are appropriate for your spec. Going back to the mage example, if you’re specced into Arcane, you’re going to get no use out of the glyph of living bomb.
d. Know the right stats to look for in gear
There are a few hard lines I look at when it comes to gearing and stats. If I don’t use mana, I never try to get anything that has intellect or spellpower on it. If I am not a tank, I don’t go for defense rating. MP5 is in the realm of healers and spirit mostly falls over there also, although it can be mildly helpful to many caster classes. Casters have no need for strength or agility.
Min/maxing might not be your thing. It certainly isn’t mine, but I dutifully slog through sites like Elitist Jerks and go out of my way to read up the lovely plain English blogs out there that give advice and tips on how to squeeze the most I can out of my spec and gear. There are also tools like Rawr that can help you easily compare a lot of things. Bottom line is that with all the tools and guides and programs readily available to you at the click of a Google search button, there is absolutely no excuse for being ignorant about any of this.
A few other places to start are: wowpopular, be.imba/wow-heroes, or wowwiki. wow.com can also turn up some helpful class advice.
3. Gearing up
I once pointed out to my guild that if gear had no bearing on our ability to perform in a raid, we would likely all raid naked. As it is, gear does matter. Yes, there are those gifted individuals who can pull off amazing feats in craptacular gear, but imagine how good they would be if they were geared.
The good news about gearing up is that it is stupid easy to do. Assuming you’ve run random dungeons as part of your leveling up grind, you’re going to hit 80 with badges and those badges can be used to buy tier 9 gear. That’s right. You can start earning your way to gear (that raiders would have killed for at the beginning of the expansion when they were raiding in Naxx) as soon as you start hitting up Northrend random dungeons.
If you are serious about wanting to raid and have recently hit 80, you should pretty much run random heroics until your eyes bleed. You’ll get two frost badges for the first heroic you do and will continue to gain triumph badges from every boss you kill, plus extras for every completed heroic after the first one. There are five pieces of tier 9 for every class, some with good set bonuses, some with mediocre ones. There are also other items to be had, like librams or wands or trinkets. There’s also the chance for loot off the bosses you are killing. In the newer 5-mans (ToC and the three ICC 5-mans), epics drop off every boss fight even on normal mode. Gear that makes characters of mine who have never stepped foot in a raid capable of walking in and roflstomping all the early xpac content.
One note about gear and upgrades is that something with a higher iLvl is not automatically an upgrade. You have to be able to compare a potential new item with what you already have and look at all the stats. Perhaps getting that trinket will put you under defense cap or that new bow actually has less agility than the one you have now. Make sure you’re looking at everything carefully, not just grabbing at something because it’s purple or the iLvl is higher.
4. Testing, testing
As you are gearing up, you’ll want to start testing your abilities. The best way to do this is to get into some of the more difficult 5-man heroics and see how to do in your chosen role. As a tank, are you surviving the hits and holding threat against well-geared dps? Healers – are you oom and panicking the entire time or are things comfortable? Do you have the ability to save a reckless dps from getting turned into a floor tank? DPS – are you comparable to the other DPS and you’re all beating the tank in DPS and damage done? (Note, dps throughput is part of your focus, so it’s good to have an addon like Recount or Skada so you can see how you’re doing. However, it is not the only focus and you should not spam the party with your numbers. No one cares.)
Do you watch for things in a five man that you’ll have to watch for in a raid? If you can decurse or cleanse poisons or magic, you should notice when someone else in the party could benefit from that ability and be able to get that debuff removed without missing a beat. You should also be aware of what is going on around you in the physical sense. One of Blizzard’s favorite mechanics this xpac has been to put all manner of nasty shit on the floor. If you can’t keep yourself out of it in a 5-man on a trash pull, even my casual self doesn’t want you in a raid.
Hopefully you’ll also understand that just because you have a certain role in a party, it doesn’t mean that you have that one focus and that’s it. DPS tend to be the worst about getting this tunnel-vision. It’s the tank’s job to gather up adds, they’ll think. I will just stand here and cast my spells. But a class that can interrupt and silence spell casters should take the tiny break from doing damage that can help bring in that add on the peripheral who is standing there casting shadow bolts with impunity. Or they’ll think that there’s no need to pay attention to their health bars because, after all, it’s the healer’s job to keep them alive. While that might be true to an extent, a healer can only do so much and might be engaged in trying to keep the tank alive – or even keep themselves alive from that ranged jerk throwing shadow bolts. Having a feel for what your health bar looks like will allow you to do one of several things to handle the problem yourself, whether that is popping a potion or using a threat-reducing ability to get a mob off you or using an ability that will keep you immune to damage long enough for a healer to have moment to attend to you. Sometimes you might even consider using a bandaid if you’re not in the midst of taking damage. Overall, the more each player is aware of the rest of the team’s roles and is committed to doing everything they can to make the team successful, the more successful everyone will be.
What does this have to do with raiding? Everything. Raiding is all about effective teamwork. Raiding is not anything like questing.
5. Enhance that gear
Okay, you’re getting close to having good gear in all your slots. Hopefully you’re not a lazy peon and have been working on getting at least cheap enchants put on your items as you’ve leveled. When it comes to having gear you will need to raid to replace though, you’re going to want to go for the best. Fortunately, much of this has become easier as well. Even if you don’t have an enchanter, it’s extremely easy to gain enchanting materials for free by running randoms with an enchanter in the group. You’ll come by a lot of what you need fairly naturally. With less of a stranglehold on the market, these materials can also be pretty inexpensive on the Auction House, although you may have to look for a deal every now and again.
Even if you have to buy some materials, you should be doing dailies anyway. The only way to get shoulder enchants, other than by being a scribe, is to gain reputation with the Sons of Hodir. Dailies are nice in that they take place in a concentrated area so it’s easy to go from one to another, they’re typically soloable, and they give you rep and gold at the same time. Aside from the Sons of Hodir, you’ll also need to check into which helm enchant you’ll want and grind rep with the appropriate faction.
All the crafting professions do give special bonuses that can be used only by the crafter. Most of them will also give something that can be sold and used by someone who doesn’t have that profession. A few examples of these things are the leg enchants that come from tailors and leatherworkers. Casters want the ones from tailors and melee want the ones from leatherworkers. Blacksmiths can make an eternal belt buckle that allows anyone to add an extra gem socket to their belt. The non-armor-making professions (as I look at them) can be useful to anyone and you’ll be in great shape for raiding if you know an enchanter, jewelcrafter, alchemist and scribe.
One note about gemming is that for stat-stacking it may be worth it to ignore some of your socket bonuses. You’ll want to make sure the meta gem on your helm has the required number of differently colored gems for it to be active, but after that it’s more important to go for what will be most useful. For example, although I love me some haste, I get more use out of spellpower, so I will ignore a bonus that gives me +6 to haste if I waste stats on a blue socket and just put a +23 spellpower red gem in there instead.
6. Have or get a guild
I’ve talked before about how to go about finding a guild that will be a good fit for you, so I won’t even go into that here. Presumably, though, if you are in a guild that you like and that raids, you’ll just need to find out what the guild’s requirements are to be a raider and meet them. Chances are if this is the case you are in a casual guild. There’s an excellent post over here about how to app to a serious raiding guild, so I won’t reinvent that wheel either. I will say this – while it is possible to PUG your way through a raiding experience, a guild will be better in the long term. Especially if, like me, you value stability.
7. Be a boyscout
They’re supposed to always be prepared, or so I hear. In all seriousness, you have some homework to do before you head into an instance. Yeah, I’m talking about knowing the fights. Fortunately, there’s a TankSpot.com for that – great for more than just tanks! They have great videos and both audio and written explanations of fight mechanics and there is usually good discussion in the comments about other methods that other people have used successfully. If you want to be thorough, you might want to look at more than just TankSpot though. I usually do a Google search myself “[name of boss] strats” and then I’ll look at everything on the first page that looks interesting. It can be useful to add your class to that search in case you might be able to pick up helpful tips that will be specific to what you can contribute.
8. Get all the right peripherals
There aren’t a ton of specifics I can give here. Basically, you’ll want to make sure that you have all the addons you’ll need (many guilds require a threat meter, like Omen) to perform to your best ability. If you have difficulty knowing when something has procced an ability you need to use when it’s up, you might get something like Power Auras. If you’re a healer, you might find a healing addon like VuhDo or HealBot to be useful. I won’t raid without Quartz and Grid. Whatever you have, you’ll want to spend some time on your own (well before any raids) getting it configured and working how you need it to work. If you’re new to addons, go look here for getting started. Even though a lot of that is geared towards healers, I’ve found a lot of it useful for overall raid awareness.
In addition to addons, you’ll also likely need to download a VoIP client. Ventrilo (usually called Vent) is a common one. I’ve heard of others using Skype, Mumble and TeamSpeak. Having a headset and microphone is also a good idea. Even if you’re not planning on leading the raid, some people prefer to be able to have you reply instantly to a question during an encounter.
9. What? More preparedness? YES
When it comes to raiding, you typically want to have every last scrap of advantage you can. This means that you’ll want to make sure you have an adequate supply of consumables ready to go. This includes flasks (or both battle and guardian elixirs, although flasks are more practical), buff food (although guild runs may often be counted on to have fish feasts available you better have your own in case they don’t), any reagents you might need – and more than you think you might need in case you spend all night wiping (raid leaders will kill you for not being able to do something crucial at a critical moment, such as battle rezzing), and yes, have bandaids and healing and/or mana potions. If you can, bring items that will be useful to the whole raid. I always carry a full stack of all the ghetto buffs: drums of forgotten kings, drums of the wild and runescroll of fortitude.
10. Okay, I think we can let you in a raid now
But that doesn’t mean you’ve arrived. Hopefully you’ve picked up a lot of practical knowledge for how to behave as part of a team and how to be prepared as an individual, but raiding is just different than being in a 5 man. There’s a lot to delve into and I don’t want to completely overwhelm anyone with an even lengthier wall of text, so check back here later for part two of this guide, where I will talk more about some building blocks to effective teamwork.