Thursday, April 26, 2012

Role and Raid Leading

Does the role you play effect your ability to be a good raid leader?

It is very possible that it could.  Some roles people believe lead themselves to raid leading.  Most people you will ask will usually say that a tank is the best raid leader.  If most people come up with that answer there must be a reason for it right?

Having played all roles and been a raid leader in all three I have my personal perspectives on each role when it comes to raid leading and if I where pressed to give a short answer I too would say that the role of a tank is the best position to be in to raid lead.  However, if I where asked to give a long answer, my answer would be, well, longer.  As in, there is no best role to be.  It depends on many factors but there are five factors that can make or break you.

For the short version I will go over the basics of raid leading from each role and show why at the basic version of it that it seems like tanks are the most suitable for the role of raid leading.

Tanking:  Worries about keeping aggro, which is much easier in a raid setting.  Worries about defensive cooldowns, which all come down to watching raid timers.

Healing: Worries about health pools, in which who takes damage changes from fight to fight.  Worries about mechanics.  Worries about healing cooldowns, which sometimes requires watching raid timers.

Melee DPS: Worries about DPS, which usually is on an as needed basis because there is no such thing as a rotation because everything is all priority based.  Worries about mechanics, which once you know them will always be the same.  Worries about ground effects near the boss and cleaves, which many bosses have.  Worries about interrupts, which are usually few and far between.

Ranged DPS: Worries about DPS, which usually is on an as needed basis because there is no such thing as a rotation because everything is all priority based. Worries about mechanics, which once you know them will always be the same. Worries about stack up and spread out mechanics, which seem to be in many fights for ranged. Worries about dispels, spell steals, or encounter specific debuffs applied, which are usually few and far between.

I am not saying that is all those roles do, this is just the basic concept at it bare minimum.

If you look at the break down you will see that only tanks and healers will usually be required to watch raid timers as part of what they normally do.  For a tank or healer it is extremely important to know when those big damage moments are coming so they are more likely to be used to watching timers while doing their role as a normal part of what they do.

This immediately puts tanks and healers in a better position to be a raid leader.  They are used to watching timers which means they usually know what is happening and when it is happening even if it does not directly apply to them.

With that knowledge they can call it out for the raid, which is part of the raid leaders job.

So looking at those bare minimums we will look at the tanks and the healers only now because while the damage dealers are looking at what is next on their priority system and best manage their cooldowns to get the maximum damage out the tanks and healers are looking at the raid timers during the course of doing their jobs anyway. 

If you notice, the tank is going to be tanking the same every time he tanks a boss.  Once the tank knows what that boss does that boss will do the same thing every time.  For example his spell ability might have a 30 second cooldown and his big melee ability might have a 1 minute cooldown.  Once a tank knows how to handle them it is just a matter of rotating his defensive cooldowns to assist the healer in keeping his plated or furry butt alive while watching the timer for when it is coming.

You will notice that the healers do not have it as easy in that situation.  While they have the same information as the tank the fact that any of those things could be blocked or parried or dodged by the tank will change how they need to heal the tank.  The fact that raid damage is not a constant either, will change each time they do the fight. 

If the mage took a lot of unavoidable damage this fight it doesn't mean he will the next time you do it.  It might be the rogue or the hunter or the shaman next time.  A healer, while having the same information as the tank, does not have the same luxury the tank does when doing a fight multiple times.  The fight will always be different for them which will require more, for lack of a better word, work.

This puts tanks as the clear winner when it comes to being a raid leader even if both are looking at timers as part of their job.  Their job on any given fight will usually be the same each time they do that fight, unless something goes wrong.  The game is designed to make sure many mechanics do not hit the tanks.  The game is designed to make sure many debuffs do not go on the tanks.  The game is designed to let tanks tank.  This means, once they know the ins and outs of how to tank any given fight, there really is nothing left for them to do except push out more DPS.  So they are designed, by the game makers, to be the raid leaders.

This is why most people will usually say the tank is best for the job.  But is that really the truth?

Not really.  Any role can be an effective raid leader if they are willing to put the effort into it.  While it might seem that the game was designed to make tanks the raid leader and while it might seem like it is indeed easier on them it doesn't mean that other roles can not perform the task just as well.

There are five things to look at that will help you raid lead in any role.

Encounter experience: 
- The better you know and understand the encounter the easier it is to raid lead.  It is immeasurably harder to explain things to others when you do not fully understand them yourself.  Even your first time facing a boss it is important you are experienced.  That experience comes from reading about the encounter, watching videos, and getting whatever information you can muster up before you enter battle that will tell you what to expect.

As a raid leader myself when I walk into a fight, even if I have never done it before, I explain it as if I had done it a million times before.  This is important for a raid leader and perhaps even more important for a raid leader that is not a tank some might say.

If it is a fight you have done before of course you will have the actual experience and from that actual experience you need to learn how best to describe it.  At some point the more experience you get the easier it gets to explain the fight and that can carry over from fight to fight believe it or not.

Experienced players: 
- Raid leaders have to lead all types and we have to learn to know what everyone is capable of.  If you are in a casual guild you will always have people of all skill levels and knowing what each persons is capable of makes it easier to raid lead.  Tank or non tank does not make a difference in that matter when it comes to raid leading but whereas a tank can call changes out on the fly to recover from someone not doing something right it becomes harder for a non tank as they could very well have many other things going on.  So knowing the ability of your players so you can assign things ahead of time makes a huge difference.

Experienced players of course are a benefit for any raid leader and the better the players are the easier raid leading is.  If you are a first time raid leader I would suggest getting your feet wet in an easier raid or a raid that has been out a while.  One most people know already because the experience of the players make it easier on you which gives you a lot more time to ease yourself into the role of being a raid leader.

If you happen to be in a raiding guild that is more than just a casual guild then you can consider yourself lucky because you will usually always have experienced players.  You will usually always have people that know the fight before you ever even see it.  When surrounded by players that do research themselves, the real experienced players, it is a lot easier to raid lead from any role.

Multi tasking:
- Some people might never think of it as this but raid leading is like multi tasking.  You are tanking, or healing, or dealing damage and raid leading.  You are doing two tasks at once.  Raid leading is its own animal, which is why any role can do it.  Your personal ability to handle two completely different things at once is important.

But multi tasking goes much further then that.  You need to be able to do your job and basically do the job of everyone else as well as raid lead.  Often, as a raid leader, you will have to call out for the mage to spell steal, for the hunter to tranq shot, for only ranged to switch, etc.  Multi tasking is a huge part of being a raid leader.

Perhaps this is the reason why healers are often believed to be good raid leaders.  While they always have a million things going on it seems they are used to a million things going on, so adding one more usually is not as much of a big problem for someone that is used to watching a lot of stuff going on at once to begin with.

Encounter specifics:
- Some encounters lend themselves to certain roles being in the role of raid leader.  Personally as a hunter raid leader I loved the gatekeeper in firelands from my perspective.  I just did my priority based rotation and blew my cooldowns whenever they where needed because there where no mechanics I needed to worry about and I just got to stand there.  A fight like that lent itself to a hunter having an easy job as a raid leader.

While tanks are awesome raid leaders in many situations where they just stand in once place tanking the boss in others they could end up being the worst.  Kiting added on my warrior when doing Mal in BWD was sometimes enough of a task for me so it would have been easier for me to have someone else tell the mage to spell steal, the melee to interrupt and when to stack and when to spread.  Being I was not on the boss, and dealing with a fair deal of mobs myself, it might have been easy for me to completely mess it up calling important things out.

As I said, some encounters lend themselves to different classes having the easy job of being a raid leader when compared to others.  That does not mean you can not do it with other classes however.  The idea is that you need to recognize which encounters will require some extra work from you as the raid leader and plan out what you are doing before hand.  I've been add tank on mal and raid lead, I've healed on the gatekeeper and raid lead.  All it required was knowing the encounter specifics and making sure you knew exactly what you where going to call, when you where going to call it and how you where going to manage calling it.

So while some fights do make it harder on some classes, that does not mean that those classes can not do it.  It just means those classes might need to find a different way to notice things then they are used to.

Class knowledge:
- This is one of those amazingly important things that most people over look or completely forget about.  Knowing your own class is a raiding staple that it is considered a no brainer but some people do not value it as much as they should.

The better you are at doing what you do the easier your job as a raid leader becomes. it really is that simple.  If you have to look for abilities, or think before doing things, every second you do that is a second wasted or a second late you might be in saying what someone else should be doing.

Doing your own job is hard enough to do well but to try and do your job well and make sure everyone else is doing theirs well is a lot easier when you know what you are doing like the back of your hand.  The better you are at your class, the more knowledgeable you are about your ability, the better the raid leader you will be.

Raiding on a class you do not know well is a task in and of itself, leading while playing on a class you do not know well is just way too much for most players.  It is almost as if the raid leader should always be the best player in the group.  Not only to lead by example but because they will always being doing more because of their role at raid leader so they need to make sure they do not fail at their given role while trying to fill the role of raid leader.

So any role can be the raid leader effectively.  While some fights might favor one of the other, anyone can do it if the five factors I mentioned above are all in their favor.

So yes, it might be true that tanks have an easier job as the raid leader in many cases it does not mean that any role can not be the raid leader.  If you can follow the five factors you can raid lead effectively.

Being a good raid leader is just like being a good warrior or a good hunter or a good priest.  It takes practice.  The only difference in, you have to be a good two things when raid leading instead of a good one thing.

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