Tuesday, June 4, 2013

How to Break Into Raiding: A Beginners Guide

I often see posts on the forums with people asking how to get into heroic raiding but I never see any about how to get into raiding.  Those heroic raiders have to come from somewhere and that where is from raiders.  Normal mode raiders that is.  I don't recall seeing a guide on how to get into raiding so I thought I would use my years of experience as a raid leader for a casual guild to give some tips to those people that want to get into raiding a leg up.

Step #1: Know your limits.

Everyone that wants to get into raiding needs to understand you have to start somewhere.  For every success story you hear about some guy that had never raided before and somehow managed to get into a heroic mode guild there are thousands and thousands just like him that are still looking for a spot on a normal mode team.  Do not hope for the miracle.

First off.  See your gear and judge from there.  If the current raid drops 522 gear think 20 item levels lower.  If you are a 502 item level you might be ready for a normal mode team.  You need to know your limits.  If you just hit 90 and did some dungeons and maybe a few LFRs and see yourself sitting a 473 you are not about to get much attention off the bat. 

If you work your butt off and get some gear and get over 490 looking for a guild starting normal modes is usually a good bet.  If you really put some effort into it and get to 510, which takes time but can be done without raiding, then you could consider looking at a guild half way through current content because your gear could, not will but could, compensate for some of your lack of experience.

While some guilds, even more so now with the lack of people waiting to raid, will take anyone that has a pulse, if you want to get some solid experience I would suggest gear being part one of knowing your limits.  Your gear shows your potential.  Not matter how good you are, if your potential can not match the requirement, you are of no help to the team.  So know your limits.  Don't aim above yourself.

Step #2: Practice your craft.

Players today have tools that never existed before and they should use them.  The random dungeon is a good place to start.  Even more so for tanks and healers.  While the place can be a nightmare it can also teach you valuable lessons in mastering your craft.

You will have super groups that will blow through content.  This will teach a tank to hold aggro better as a new one will have problems in a group like this.  It will also teach a healer how to keep moving and even possibly in low mana mode because these people will not stop.  A stressful experience no doubt, but a good learning one.

If you have a really bad group things will take forever to go down teaching tanks how to use their cooldowns effectively and healers how to manage their mana and keep a main target and multiple other targets alive and well.  Some of the worst dungeons I have ever been in as a healer were also my best learning experiences.

The looking for raid however I believe is the best place for the role of the damage dealer to master their craft.  Things in dungeons just go down way to fast to get an accurate assessment of how you can do.  For the damage dealer there is one thing to keep in mind.  The top DPS in the LFR is usually close to the bottom DPS in a normal raid.  So that is what you need to aim for.  Top DPS.  But you also need to do it while following mechanics.  I know that a lot of the mechanics do not matter in the LFR but it is best to get into the habit of doing things correctly because no matter how great you get at dealing damage if you keep dying to the fire you won't even make it in a normal mode group.  At least not mine.

Use the tools in the game to master your craft.  You do not even need to be in a guild or have friends in game to do this.  Both tools are created for the random groups.  So saying, I can't get better because I have no one to play with, is nothing but an excuse and trust me, raid leaders don't like hearing excuses.  Even normal mode ones.

Step 3: Find your home.

The first part of this is finding a guild that fits you.  Don't just jump at the first invitation you get.  If you are the type of person that plays with your spouse, kids, parents, whatever and are the only one with raiding ambitions a friends and family type raiding guild might fit you best.  They will take in all the others even if they know only you want to raid.  They might also be willing to let some of them tag along on older content so they can play in a raid environment too. 

If you are a chatty type of person a social guild might be good for you.  Usually lots of people coming and going but if they have a raid team and are active in a lot of ways maybe they are a fit for you.  If you are young and prone to cursing a lot, some guilds might not fit you while others would be right up your alley.  You need to find what community you would fit in and try to go there.  The last thing you want is to invest time in a guild only to realize that you really do not fit there.

The second part before joining a guild is to know when they raid.  Now that you know the type of guild you might best fit in you need to make sure you can actually raid if you join it.  If they raid one night a week make sure you are always free that one night.  If they raid two, make sure you are always free those two.  If they raid three, well you get the idea.  Even casual guilds don't often like people saying I might be able to make it.  They want people that say, sure I can make it every tuesday and thursday.  Don't even bother joining a guild with intentions of raiding when you won't be able to raid at their set times.

The last part is do your homework.  Know what they are looking for and if they can use you.  While my guild will take any hunter that wishes to join, any hunter that does join knows they will most likely be a bench warmer.  I will gladly teach you as I have all the other hunters I have in my guild but we have three amazing hunters on our main team that rotate and breaking in there will be harder.

Once you find the type of guild that would best fit you and can make the times they raid and you see there is a chance they can use you in the role you want to play and are capable of filling you can accept an invitation and hope to get into a team.

Step 4: Make yourself known.

With 30-40 people on at any given time and many of them not even raiders when someone new joins I might never even notice them.  Having the raid leader never even notice you is not exactly the best idea if you want to join a raid now is it?

For me, I prefer a whisper.  Something simple and straight forward.  Hi, I am new and looking to raid, I am this spec and have an off spec of that.  My gear is okay at xxx and xxx now.  Just wanted to let you know I am available if you need me.

Over the years I have had several people send me a simple whisper something like that.  In those years, many of them have made it into raids.  In those years, a few of them have become regular raiders.  Never once in my entire time being a raid leader has any person that never spoke to me become a raider.  If I do not know you exist I can not send you an invite.

Do not kiss up.  Some raid leaders might like that because they feel they need the ego boost but it actually turns me off and puts you on the bottom of the list.  Don't try to be my best friend.  I don't care if you are my friend or not when raiding.  I only care about your ability to raid.  I would sit someone I think is a friend in a heartbeat if they were not doing what they were supposed to do.  Just make yourself known.

If there are nights where there is an older raid running.  Jump in on it.  When running an ICC 25 heroic I can tell a lot more about a raider than you might think.  If you never raided before and avoid the shadow traps, I notice that.  If you do not get everyone killed with defile, I notice that.  If we are doing an achievement run and I say only kill the adds I mark and someone kills ones I said not to, I notice that.  If I say switch to an add and someone never attempts to because it will go down fast anyway, I notice that.  Little things, I notice them.  A raid leader has no off button.  Even when doing older content, trivial content if you will, we always look at how people raid.  Impress me.

If your new guild runs the LFR as a group, try to run with them if you are capable.  It might not be mandatory but it sure as hell is a way to make yourself stand out.  If your guild is doing stuff from last tier, don't say, I don't want 496 gear when it will still be an upgrade for you while you are catching up, say okay and do it.  Did a ToES with my newly formed 25 the other night, dragged in a whole slew of new members to do some assessment and gear a few of them up.  I learned something about the new people that came and the new people that didn't. 

It will also make you known and let you see what to expect of what we might want from you.  Just doing elite protectors for example, the five main damage dealers from the 10 man all did 9.5%-9.9% of the damage done, everyone else did 6.5% or less.  Look at that and think, if you want to impress me and really make yourself known, close the gap between the raiding teams 9.5% and better and the rest of the groups 6.5% and lower.  If someone had done even 8.5% that fight I might take them along tonight because I will be short one DPS tonight as someone needs to work.  See, making yourself known works.

Step 5: Be Prepared.

You know what the raid nights are.  Be on and be ready just in case you are needed.  A good idea is what I mentioned before, whisper the raid leader that you will be available at least half an hour before raid time.  Be gemmed, be enchanted, be reforged.  Make sure you have your coins before time and are not something you are scrambling to finish to get at the last moment.  Have a flask and food.  Even if we will give you one if you ask and we always have feasts ready, be prepared just in case.  You are also new on the block.  So asking for a flask shows you are not ready to raid, but when someone asks you if you need one and you say you already have it, it looks good.

Being prepared is not just about being ready on raid night.  Being prepared is a week long thing.  Valor cap every week so you can get valor gear or upgrade gear.  Run the LFRs for upgrades each week.  Even if you are capped, run the LFRs you have not run that have upgrades for you.  Do the best you can to get the gear you can outside of raid.  If you show you are trying on the outside I can better trust you will try on the inside.

Nothing shows me that someone is not trying then seeing they have not brought one valor piece in a month when they can still use a few and that they have not been doing all the LFRs even if there are plenty of upgrades for them.

Step 6: Normal mode raiding is real raiding.

This is the biggest thing I run into, now more than anytime before.  People don't take normal mode seriously.  Hence the reason normal modes are hard for casual guilds.  People getting frustrated over wipes.  People that do know better about mechanics snapping at others that keep ignoring them thinking they can.

Just the other night we had one of our 25 man players say they did not want to come any more because they were frustrated with all the wiping.  Their name has been added to my shit list.  They are not an exceptional player by any means and I will replace them as soon as I can find another warm body with a pulse that can follow mechanics.  Him saying, but you are showing some progress so maybe I will come, is what sold me.

When you are new, and not very good, keep your mouth shut.  Elitist bull shit from the elite players is bad enough, the last thing anyone wants to hear is elitist bull shit from bad player that can not even break the top 15 in DPS and can not show up on time for the raid.

You will wipe.  You are expected to have a certain level of performance.  You should show on time.  You are not special and you are easily replaceable.  Don't think that because a raid team is a causal raid team it means you can suck.  You can't.  You will be replaced as soon as someone else better comes along and in some cases someone else better could be a little as someone that is not you.

Step 7: Keep trying

Just because that first guild did not work for you, don't give up. There are a lot of guilds out there.  Just because you have been there two weeks and all you got into was an alt raid that didn't down anything, don't give up.  There will be chances if you continue to make your presence known.

If you see the guild is in need of a certain thing and you are capable of being that, try to be that.  They need a ranged and your bear/cat druid never seems to use its cat, start gearing for balance, let them know you are willing to do it, to help the team.  Work your way in there.

Whether it be changing spec, changing guilds, changing approach.  If you want to raid and are willing to put the effort into being the best you can be, there will be a place for you somewhere.  The one thing to remember is that even in a game with 8 million people it will not happen over night.

I might be a raid leader now, but I too started as a bench warmer in a casual guild and sat there for a while before I got my chance.  I know all to well the heartbreak of being ready to raid and having all my consumables ready to go sitting at the gates only to hear I was not needed that night.  It feels as if you have just been kicked to the curb. 

But it gets better, if you keep trying, so when you do get that chance you can impress.  My first run was on an alt run, the next week I got a shot at the real raid, a couple of weeks later I started to fill in while someone was away.  I never left the team from that point on.  Even became the raid leader some years later, the raid leader of the same team that left me feeling kicked to the curb just two years earlier.  Moving into raiding is not a sprint, it is a marathon.  You have to be in it for the long haul if you want to get anywhere.

Good luck to all those people that are trying to move from random LFR content into real raiding.  You can do it.

Just a funny anecdote to explain what I mean.

The ToES we ran this weekend we only had 20 people for, so I asked in guild if anyone wanted to come.  A new member, a brand new 90 from one hour earlier, said he would love to come but he did not have the gear.  I asked him can he follow mechanics, he said yes.  So I invited him. 

He did not do amazing numbers but I did not expect it.  It was a gear up run for new people.  In his 429 gear, ungemmed of course as there were no slots and unenchanted because why waste enchants on that, he consistently pulled 30K+ which I thought was decent.  He only died to avoidable mechanics a couple of time and he walked away with a few pieces of gear including an elite piece.  So maybe, just maybe, as he gets some gear and some experience in a real raid setting and I need a melee for one of the 10 mans, he is someone I will really take a close look at.  It is in his hands now.  If he caps each week and does what he can to gear himself up outside of raids he will have earned a spot as a fill in option at the very least.

Take your openings where you can get them.  Your chances might be limited but never waste the chance to impress.  That is how you can break into raiding for the first time.  It is almost all in your hands.


  1. Anon, Grumpy's former Guild Leader:

    Well written. I was there as a regular when you joined our guild. I can testify that you are being accurate in your description of how you got into raiding and eventually became the person I asked to be my raid leader for the guild.

    Selecting the right guild is perhaps the one key element that can never be stressed enough. I have seen so many folks come and go over the years. Some incompetent, some competent, some outstandingly good but in all cases, not all of them fit into our guild culture.

    That is not saying they were not good players for some of them were, some were as good as you could hope for. They just didn't fit with us as a guild. Both them and us were better off with their leaving.

    So for a want to be raider, try to make an honest effort into fitting into the guild culture and not just the raid portion of it. If the fit is wrong, then politely move on without rage quitting dramatics. If the fit is right, then stick to the guild like glue and your chance to raid will come.

    1. We have had some really great players pass through that just did not fit. Saw a few of them last expansion. They were really good but they did not meld well with us. It is bad for them and bad for us if we would have forced the relationship. Finding the right home does really matter.

  2. Know your limits, but be confident. It's important to know how good you are and what you can do.

    I've actually went back to reading the app I made for the guild I was in before my current one. If you take it out of context, you'd probably think I was really crass and frankly, I was half sure they'd reject it based on that, but it was a risk I was willing to take.

    So I also have to add: don't be afraid of applications. You can read about such a guild and understand their needs, their expectations and also lay out yours and see what you get from there. And treat apps seriously, one application is usually enough for people to know if you'd be a good fit.

    1. The problem I see with the confidence issue is most people over estimate how good they are. I find that all the time with damage dealers. They come to the guild thinking they are great, telling me they are always top in the LFR or near top. Then they finish 6th out of 6 in a 10 man by a huge margin in similar gear.

      Confidence is fine. Confidence is good. But confidence is a double edged sword. Do not be over confident.

      That is a good addition, the application thing. While I do have an application process for people that come to the guild with the intention to raid the people that come just to "maybe" raid I never make fill out an application.

      We get a lot of beginning players or limited experience players so most of the questions I have on my application they would not be able to answer anyway. I usually ask them a few verbal questions before I invite them along.

      Can you follow mechanics? Do you know your class? Will you listen to my lead and follow it?

      I am not very picky. As I think I mentioned more than a few times I am on a small server. My options are extremely limited.

      I can't remember the last raider I recruited. I recruit people that want to be raiders and turn them into raiders.

      That is what a casual guild is for.

    2. Well I guess things are rather different now than what they used to be. People don't really have anything to compare themselves to. Before, it used to be pugs and that was raid level. And you'd get to see if you enjoy it, see if you can cut it.

      Social atmosphere helped as well. The first raid/pug I did, some player asked me to come tank; he knew me from a dungeon, like people used to add tanks and healers they liked to their friend lists. I guess that doesn't really happen anymore. Or maybe it's just because of lower realm pop... wouldn't know...