I may not be as experienced of a raider as many others but I can tell you one thing I learned very early on raiding. Each fight has a few mechanics and once you understand them the fight is simple.
It goes even deeper then that however. The more you do something the easier it gets. How exactly is that you ask. Well, I am glad you asked because I feel like babbling about it.
There are only a few simple mechanics in the game. Not even one of them requires any skill what so ever to handle. Being able to handle them does not make you a good player. They are all rather simple.
Stay out of the...
Get into the...
Stack up when...
Spread out when...
Get out of the group when...
Switch to adds when...
Get into LoS when...
Get out of LoS when...
Run away when...
Stand still when...
There you go, that is basically most of the mechanics you will run into. There are others that are unique. Those are the ones that usually take people a while to get used to.
All of those require people responding to things. None of them require skill to do. Responding to something is a reflex and not a skill.
When learning a fight you have to learn to respond to something new. It is not quite reflex yet. "Blackout Coming" being said over vent means for everyone to group up.
When you first start to do the fight you might be slow to respond when it pops up on DBM or when the raid leader says it. The more you do the fight the more comfortable with it you will get.
The more comfortable you are with it the less likely you will need the DBM or a raid leader telling you. You will just do it. It has now become reflex. Without even thinking you know to move in when blackout comes.
The actions, or reactions if you will, are not skill. Anyone in game is capable of doing it. Learning when to respond is where the skill starts to come in it you even want to call that skill. Some people will just naturally learn faster then others.
All fights, yes all, are just patterns. It is a matter of remembering the patterns and reacting to the things in the order they are presented. Even fights with the element of randomness are still completely reaction based because the random action, such as targeting a player, might target someone different each time but it is still always there. That is not exactly random when you know it is coming even if you do not know to whom it might be coming.
I had a guild member saying that he could never seem to get No Static At All. I told him the first jump is the only issue. Once you get that one he will always cast it right after chain lightning. Wait 1.5 seconds after chain ends and press the space bar, achievement will follow. He did it, it got it, he thanked me.
Is that skill? Absolutely not. There is no skill in memorizing a pattern and reacting to it. A freaking monkey can do that. It is just learning to react to the pattern. The more you do something the better you will get at reacting to it.
It will get to the point where you start doing it without even thinking about it. It is now reflex. Now you are ready for raiding.
So if all of this is not skill and is only reaction based on the memory of a pattern then where would you place skill?
I put skill firmly into performance. Believe it or not this actually comes down to DPS, Damage taken, healing (without overheals) done, threat generated and other such numbers that most might seem to ignore saying DPS does not equal skill. While that is true it is also false.
Anyone that has ever raided the same content with the same buffs in the same gear over and over again like I have can tell you that DPS can indeed be a factor in determining skill.
Once you have mastered a fight and all the mechanics it is now time to concentrate more on how much you can put out. Now you know all the patterns, you know what will happen, when it will happen, how you need to react to it.
Now comes the skill which is in playing your character. Knowing when to blow cooldowns where you will get the most usage out of them. Knowing when you will need to save those instant attacks because a movement phase is coming. Things like that.
That is the difference between pulling 15K and 18K. Not just knowing the fight but using that knowledge to the best of your ability. If you are still doing all the mechanics as they should be, each fight your DPS will continue to rise as you start changing your reactions to your abilities based on the patterns and knowing what will come.
It all still comes down to reflex and reacting to things.
Maybe the true skill is memory. The better your memory is the more you will get out of each encounter because you will always know what is coming, when it is coming and how you are going to react before you even do it.
Can memory be called a skill?
If so, there should be a memory test that we need to give prospective raiders. If they can recognize and remember patterns, they have the ability to become excellent raiders.
Now, lets see how we can test that and use that to decide who has the potential to be the best raiders.