Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Don't Panic: It's All in The Execution of Your Tactics

Don't panic if you are up against a boss and hitting a wall and you are following the guides completely but just can not seem to get the job done.  I am here to try and convince you that sometimes following that world first video on youtube is not exactly your best course of action.  It is all in the execution of course, but perhaps you just need to execute your tactics, not someone elses.

Sometimes even experienced raiders need to be reminded to go back to the basics.  Over the years I have had many friends ask me for help with strategy for their raid teams and I have sought out help from others for my team. 

While it is completely true that sometimes you will meet a wall that stops you because of the ability of your team or the gear of your team the majority of the times you can fix whatever is holding you back with a little practice and better execution.

If you can get to a boss easy enough, then you are on the boss you should be doing, in theory anyway.  So it is not a wall, it is not too hard.  You just have not figured out how to do that boss yet.  So lets get to some progression time.  Lets develop your tactics and not some tactics you saw a video for or read a guide on.   Everyone hits walls from time to time when the strategy guide they were doing just doesn't seem to be getting them past it.  Don't panic.

This tends to be a problem for all teams and I have surely seen it in mine this expansion a few times.  Each team is different and each team needs to handle a task differently.  I believe that is the key to being a casual raid leader because you can not just watch a video and say, okay lets do it that way.  It might not work for you because that is not how your team works.  So the key is to realize, as soon as possible, that you can not follow some video guide and you need to figure out how to make it work for your team.

The key for any teams success is the find the appropriate strategy for their make up and to execute it correctly.  Sometimes it takes a long time to find what works for a casual raid team, other times you get it right away.  It is why I find it humorous sometimes that my guild has no problem with bosses that many guilds consider a wall, but we will wipe 50 or 60 times on bosses other guilds say are no problem.  It is a matter of playing to your strengths.  In the end our raid team is not the average raid team because there is no such thing as average because we are all different so we can not go about things the average way.  Every boss we need to figure out how to do it in a way that works for us.

I've heard this line at least a hundred times from a pug, "I've never seen it done this way".  Many times when the fight is done they say something like, I am surprised that worked or I can't believe how easy that was.

It does not mean we are a better group, hell no we are not, but we play to our strengths and work with what we are best at executing.  As I said, we are not the average group.  We have had some great luck over the years with finding some exceptional damage dealers but we rarely if ever have any really outstanding tanks or healers.  Capable, yes, more than capable, sure, but exceptional?  Nope.  There have been a few exceptional tanks or healers that passed through, but they either moved on to more progression, or they quit the game outright, so we make do with what we have.

Most guilds usually hang their hat on an amazingly over powered and exceptionally skilled healer or tank or if they are lucky both.  When they have that combo you can see them usually as a realm first or realm top three team.  We have sat realm number 4 at best since wrath and that is because we never had that one magic piece that could carry us through.  We needed to work our way there on the pure power of execution, and more so finding out how exactly we need to execute fights to make it work for the team we had.

I think I learn more each tier when it comes to being a raid leader.  I am still not a very good one in my opinion.  I get comfortable with my people and learn what they are capable of doing and I play to those strengths but whenever we get new people in the mix it takes me a while as I get a feel for them, what they can do, and how well I can trust them with a task.  But the key to nearly every boss we down for the first time is not my ability as a raid leader that gets it done but their ability as players to execute things in a way that perhaps the videos did not show.  Them following my sometimes insane tactics with excellence of execution is what downs the boss.  In the end, it was because with our make up, we could not do it the way the videos showed so we needed to do it a different way.

And this is what the post is about.  It is all about the execution of your own tactics.  They might not be the right way to do it but sometimes, based on your teams make up and ability, it is the only way to do it.  Remember what I said, usually if you can make it to a boss without issue, you can beat that boss with a little work once you find the tactics that work for you and execute them correctly.

Many guilds get caught watching a video, then another, and finally a third, and they see three guilds doing basically the same thing and think to themselves, this is how it is done.

Let me be the first to tell you that assumption is completely false.  That is how it could be done.  That is not how it should be done.  Just because it worked for them doesn't mean it would work for you.

Most raid teams that get stalled on a boss get stalled there because they are trying to do something they are just not capable of doing, or they might be capable of doing but it will just take more wipes to learn to do it.  They would need to go back to basics and build a strategy that works for them or keep attempting to do it someone elses way that does not meld well with their teams strengths.

Horridon the guild killer was a boss like that for my guild.  My guild was good at numbers, we could burn things down with the best of them, but we were slightly lacking on tanks that were good at developing and maintaining AoE threat and we were at a huge disadvantage of having only shaman healers.

For weeks we went at the fight and wiped using the strategy that every video we could find, even different ones, we tried them all and for weeks we wiped.  We started to get a little further with practice, with some pieces off the first boss and some valor gear, but we needed to find a way that worked for us.  And, as a bad raid leader this time around, it took me way to long to make the decision to drop all the different strategies we were reading and watching and trying to find my own, one that would work for us.

Yes, it is mostly my fault as a raid leader.  It is my job to design the attack plan and I took way to long before deciding that following what everyone said is not what would work for us.  It was time to make a strategy that would be more suitable for our team instead of trying to do what everyone else was doing.  Sure, I could watch them, take ideas from them, learn from them, but none of those groups were my group and my group just had issues doing it their way.  I had to build a new way, a way we could do it.

We downed it shortly afterwards because we played to our strengths and built a strategy that worked and most importantly the group executed those new tactics designed just for our makeup perfectly.  We never wiped on horridon again.

When we would bring in a pug, or I would come into the second and third team and try to lead them past it, everyone would say, but that is not how it is supposed to be done.  And each and every one of them said, 10 minutes later while we were rolling on loot, I can't believe that worked.

Execution is key and it is not just for the heroic raiders dealing a lot more going on and many more abilities to watch out for.  Execution even matters for the casual raid team, at least if they want to down bosses.  Doing the right thing is the most important thing you can do.  If anything execution might be a bigger deal for the casual group than the heroic raiders because the casual group has to do the little things better because unlike the heroic raiders they are not getting near 100% of their potential otherwise.  So casual raiders need to be better at execution.  Execution wins battles.

Many bosses this expansion came down to that.  Tortos, find a kicker that is golden, the boss was an easy kill.  Tell them, do not worry about DPS, you have one job that you must execute correctly, kick the turtle.  Once done and you have managed to execute it perfectly, you can start worrying about your DPS.

It is often the little things that mean the most at the end of a fight.  The guy that kicked the turtle, the person that interrupted the venom volley bolt even if he was never assigned to interrupt duty before, the person that soaked an ability solo that never knew they could, the damage dealers taking bombs on jug because they could and it took pressure of the tanks, all little things, all executed correctly, all from people doing things they might not normally do.  It is all in the execution.

Lets take Jug being I just mentioned that.  A friend and I tanked a pug a bit ago, it was actually a guild run that just had no tanks so we both tanked, and one of the bombs was all the way in the middle of nowhere ville next to a hunter.  I was on bomb duty but if you ever tanked it you know after that is switch time and there was no way for me to make it there in time without using any speed and gap closing ability I had and to be able to get back to take the boss in time.  Not going to happen.  Plus, we have been killing it for months and whenever a bomb is way the hell out by me when I am on my hunter I pop deterrence and jump on.  I do not think, I do not hesitate, I just know that it makes the tanks life easier if they do not need to worry about it and losing a few seconds DPS is no big deal because Jug is not a DPS race anyway unless you have insanely low DPS.

The raid leader yelled at us after we wiped later, as tanks, because we missed the bomb.  I politely said in whisper, when a bomb is that far away it would be better for a damage dealer to use a cooldown and take it.  He responded that all the guides say that the tanks can handle them all and the damage dealers should not jump on them.

It is all about execution, if one bomb is taken by a damage dealer that can handle it then the fight becomes so much easier.  Like three tanking the shaman makes it so much easier.

Apparently I convinced him, perhaps it was the fact we had been downing it for months and his group never had, but either way he told his group that if one is far out like that to hit a cooldown and take the bomb.  We downed it the next attempt with no problems.

Just because you see a guide doesn't mean that guide will work for you.  You need to adapt, you need to execute correctly, and you need to work with what your team has.  If your team has damage dealers capable of taking a bomb that is far way, let them, it makes the fight easier.  If your team has someone that can switch to third tank on shaman, let them, it makes the fight easier.

On protectors, earlier in that run, the raid leader called for the mark to be put on the hunter, which is a heroic tactic, on normal we just put it on the He tank.  Sure, a hunter can take it no problem and for heroic it is the common tactic, but it is not necessary really.  At least that I could understand why he was doing it that way even if I did not agree with the need to do it.

In the past I often used heroic strategy on a normal fight.  When we first made it to ultraxion in DS I had 2 people stay in, when asked why, I said, just in case someone makes a mistake we have a back up, and we rotated so everyone got to stay in at some point.  While the for our own protection thing was true, and did save us on more than one occasion, it was with the idea that it didn't hurt us to do that, and when we got there on heroic a little later we were already used to doing it that way and downed it easy because you did not need to teach people to stay in that never had to stay in before.

So sometimes it makes sense when first learning a fight to learn it with some heroic tactics in mind.  However, you always need to be mindful of the group you are with.  Each group is different and each group is capable of different things because of that.  So it is more important to do the fight based on what your group can do then it is to do the fight the way it is supposed to be done.

One time a pug with my group said, we did a fight wrong because that is not the way it is supposed to be done.  I said, we downed it, it was easy, so how exactly did we do it wrong?

That is the biggest issue with raid teams and when they hit walls.  They are trying to do something their team is not capable of doing.  If they just switch up their tactics some, find out what their groups strengths are, and use those strengths to develop a plan and then execute correctly, bosses will fall.

You can follow a guide, a video, or advice from a friend to the best of your ability and still not down a boss.  Maybe, just maybe, the next time you hit a wall you need to look at your team and think, we are not them, lets find what works for us.  Every fight comes down to execution, we all know that, but maybe it is not just execution that matters but the execution of the right tactics and the right tactics are the ones that work for you.  Who cares if someone tells you that you are doing it wrong.  Did the boss die?  Then you did it right.

Don't panic, start from the basics and use what you learned from the videos and guides to design a plan of attack that works for you because if you can make it to a boss with no problems, you can kill that boss with the right tactic.  Don't panic if the right tactic for your group isn't the same one as in the video.  You made it there, you can do it.  Just find the tactics that work for you and execute them.

Good luck.


  1. Great article! Now I'm really curious what your Horridon strat was?

    My main does 25 player raids, and I always love to occasionally pug into a 10 player group and see how it goes. It's really fun to see all the different strategies there are; I don't understand how someone could get mad about a different strategy--which worked--saying it's somehow wrong.

    1. We used our strength, which was high DPS, to push through the two doors we had no way of dispelling effects on and really put the screws to the people not normally in used to interrupting to prioritize interprets. I also tanked the dinomancer on my hunter instead of having the tank worry about him.

      We also switched to having a paladin tank horridon on the other side of the room completely so we never needed to worry about pools and he one tanked horridon.

      All that combined turned the fight into a super easy fight instead of one where we were always dropping like flies on the third door because of either the poison or disease debuff that the healers could not keep up with.

      Due to our high damage we were able to kill all venom guys at the second door without them ever casting a poison (which we had no way to deal with) and we used hero on the third door as soon as the two larger adds landed along with calling stampede, army and anything else we could pull out of our ass so we did not have to deal with the disease (another thing we had no way of dealing with).

      Once we went into the idea of using every trick in the book on door two and three, because that was the entire fight for us, and having me tank and interrupt the dinomancer as a hunter the fight was super easy.

      Oddly enough, even the other groups that had the ability to take care of the poison and disease using this approach of blowing everything on door 2 and 3 made for the entire fight being so much easier.

      I have had people call me wrong so many times I start to believe them, even if we down the boss. I do not use any traditional strategies usually because my team is not built that way. We usually have lesser tanks or lesser healers and that means we need to do things differently.

      It is also the only reason we do not do heroics. Could we? I am sure we would be at least 10 deep if we even attempted, but it is not worth it. I just want some better tanks and healers. Heck, with our DPS if we had good tanks and healers we would be 14/14 already.

      A friend did a heroic pug the other day and he said that our lowest DPS (in normal) was 80K more than their highest DPS on any fight and that group made it all the way to nazgrim with no wipes.

      So I play to those strengths. I also use myself and one of two other players for all the special stuff that might need to be done, as we are the most suited for it. Even if all the guides say "this class" is better for it, I do it on my hunter.

    2. wow. 80k higher? that's crazy. I assume this is your 10 player raid, not the 25 you used to do?

      Our average DPS has gone way down recently, as we lose players to the summer and have to try to replace them. I was just looking at our H Juggs logs from last week, as it's the only pure single target heroic fight; we've got a 152k difference between highest and lowest DPS(a). And there's only a few ilvls difference between me and the lowest damage dealer.

      However, we definitely couldn't make it through to nazgrim if everyone was doing what our lowest couple dps do. Which really makes it impressive that that guild did with what I imagine must have been pretty low dps.

    3. Oh, and we did the same thing with tanking horridon in a corner far away, at least for the first kill and a few kills after that.

      I generally find healing incredibly boring, but I got to heal H Horridon on my druid, and i have to say it was tons of fun. Maybe I'm weird, but the juggling the 2 dispells (mine plus pally symbiosis) along with normal healing and that pink elephant thing (was it an elephant, that can't be right) that chased you. It was my favorite fight that I've ever healed (i haven't actually healed that much, though).

    4. 25 died a horrible death. Had many players up and quit the game, a few take time off for personal or health reasons and then a few more quit the guild because we did not have enough to run the 25. It also put a hunting on the 10s when the 25 died. It is amazing because it all happened in one week, yes, that quickly, went from turning people away because there were too many one day to not having enough to filed a 10 the next.

      I healed heroic ToT on my priest, I liked it, but I did accidentally wipe the group once due to dispelling a little too fast on megara. Oops. lol

      I have not really enjoyed healing this expansion at all.

      If what he said was true about the 80K, I would guess their top was in the 270K or so range as the bottom on a fight like that is usually 350K when all the mains are there. When we have fill ins that drops of course. Longer fight means lower numbers as you spend less time in burst.

  2. It's not often that I agree with everything you write in a post (how boring would that be?) but this should be handed out to every player who ever leads, or wants to lead, a raid.
    Great post!

    Ironically, it also makes me want to disagree with one of your previous posts where you rant about Horridon the 'guild killer'.

    Maybe it was the apathy and lack of imagination of many RLs that killed those guilds rather than the difficulty of the boss itself?
    In reality, it was likely a combination of both. You showed though, that you could "bring the player", you just needed to be creative with it.

    We often have to 'get creative' with tactics. It is one of the aspects I enjoy most about raiding with my guild.

    I think too many guilds watch Fatboss et al and try to copy them exactly. Unfortunately, they can never match the ridiculous throughput of people like Fatboss and also miss out on the enjoyment and sense of achievement that comes with developing tactics for your own team.

    1. Thanks. Glad you liked it.

      Our guild almost got destroyed by it too and if it had it would have been my own fault for not trying something of my own design sooner. I keep looking for ideas from other people and they never worked. I am guessing that is what killed most guilds. They could not stick it out long enough to find what worked for them.

      That is the key, and I have heard it so many times, "that is not what fatboss said to do". I feel like a broken record sometimes saying, but we are not them.

      Things like "this fight can be two healed" might be true, but might not be true for a group with weaker healers. Just like I often hear people say some bosses were a hard DPS check and I wonder, how. Different groups have different strengths, the key is in finding them and developing a strategy that works for them.

  3. Funny you mention it, I'm a big fan, where it makes sense, of using heroic strats on normal fights. Even if you won't end up doing the fight on heroic it'll usually give you hints about a strategy that's more about execution than sheer numbers... once you figure out the execution the fight becomes trivial even if it takes a bit longer for the first kill.

    1. It also gives you a nice way to judge a player and how they might handle a heroic encounter without actually having to bring them too one.

      I can just imagine some of the people that joined my groups and when I told them, as a DPS, to stay in on ultraxion they were like "what, how the hell do I do that". I would use that as a judge. If I asked someone to stay in and they said okay and did it right, they are a decent player. If they said okay and died, or had to ask me how to do it, that means they do not really know the abilities of their class.