Friday, March 13, 2015

Raid Awareness is More Than Just Don't Stand in the Fire

Have you ever went to explain a fight to your group and there were a few new players there when most of the group already knew the fight?  You might just say sometimes simple along the lines of, this is your priority target unless this is out, healers save cooldowns for this moment and tanks make sure to switch on three and use cooldowns for this, oh, and don't stand in the fire.

When you are with people that have done a fight before a description like that could sum up nearly ever fight we do in any raid we have ever stepped foot into.  Breaking it down to the absolute basics raiding is simple, but really it is only simple once we know what we are doing.  Learning it still takes time, lots of time and effort for many.  There is a lot more to it, a hell of a lot more to it.

With new raids out and many people seeing bosses for the first time my prepull explanation is more a short story than crib notes.  Some fights, even more so the longer ones could even reach the lenght of a novel before the first pull.  But I am not going to go into basics of explaining an entire fight in this post, I am going to stick to the one simple basic rule that we probably all learned in our first raid, don't stand in the fire.

At face value don't stand in the fire seems like something simple enough.  If there is fire under your feet, move.  Jobs done.  Right?  Wrong.

I am going to start at the beginning of BRF for my first explanation of what I mean when I say there is a lot more to don't stand in the fire.  And basically it comes down to knowing when the fire is coming, were it is coming, and how long until it actually get there.

That first big brute carrying boxes from one end of the room to the other that you run into in BRF, the one that hits tanks for a metric ton of damage and requires them to tank switch and then turns and blows some fire breath because he hasn't brushed after eating some seriously spicy mexican food on the raid every so often.

I know you know exactly who I am talking about right?  I've seen him wipe raids, I've seen him wipe LFR, he can be one dangerous mofo.  But only if you are one of those people lacking in raid awareness really.  Otherwise he is a breeze.

Every time we pull him I give my group a gentle reminder.  "There is absolutely no reason for anyone to ever get hit with the fire debuff, it is completely avoidable."

Every pull I see half the raid get hit with the fire debuff from him.  It does not matter to me that the healers can handle it, nope, not at all.  But what does matter me is that the healers should not have to handle it.  It is a 100% completely avoidable bit of damage as simple as don't stand in the fire, or fire breath in his case.

If the tanks hold him left and right and all the damage dealers and healers are to his side he will always turn to the side to breath.  All you need to do is move, either to the left or the right, and his breath will go down an empty hall way and no one gets hit.

See, simple, avoidable, and still half the raid gets hit by it every single time even if I remind them before it is pulled ever week.  No one should ever get hit by the fire.

There is a second little tib bit that they should know.  He hits the tank, and anyone else in front of him, for a metric ton of damage, as I mentioned.  So when you side step the flame, step to the side of the tank that is not currently tanking.  That way when he turns back to the tank and does his move he does not one shot you.

There is so much more to raid awareness than just don't stand in the fire.  Part of that is how to avoid the fire being under your feet to begin with.  This first large trash mob in blackrock foundry works as the perfect example of what I am talking about.  It is a mob everyone of basically any skill level can get to and it has simple telegraphed moves.  Once you can do him without ever taking even one tick of fire damage from the breath you are well on your way to being one of those, elusive it seems, raid aware players.

Raid awareness is about that, reading those moves.  We all might know to move from the fire, but does everyone know that you could completely avoid being hit by roughly 80% of the fires in the game to begin with. 

Nearly every single boss will have some sort of emote when he is doing something and with deadly boss mods or big wigs or whatever addon you use, and you should be using it, it will announce the move the boss is telegraphing is coming your way.  In nearly all of those circumstances you can start to move before that fire, poison, void zones, or what have you ever makes it to you.  So basically when it lands you are already in the process of moving out of it.  You could be all the way out when it lands, half way out when it lands or only a little bit out when it lands but one thing for sure is that you will not be dead center of it when it lands meaning you have a shorter distance to run to get out of it and you take less damage.  This means less work on the healers and possibly a longer life for you.  Two very good results if you wish to kill things instead of them killing you.

Even better are many of those things that bosses will throw at you are so heavily telegraphed that the second you are notified it is coming your way you can move and it will land at the spot you were at when it was announced because it does not follow you. Those are my absolute favorite don't stand in the fire mechanics and you might be surprised how many of them there really are in game.  I love them because they are 100% completely avoidable.  When I look at logs I like to see who gets hit by those and have a nice little conversation with them.  Nothing mean, just telling them, as soon as you are targeted, that is where it will land, so move, and you will not get hit by it.  Simple really.  I love any mechanics where you can effectively take zero damage from it because it has a travel time, it will not follow you, and you have more than enough advanced notice to move before it gets to you.

Remember, the main objective of any damage dealer is to aim for tops on the damage done list and bottom on the damage taken list while following the appropriate fight mechanics.  Being raid aware is a lot more than moving from the fire "after" it hits but learning when and how the fire hits so you can move out of the fire "before" it hits.

Do you know the number one difference between a "good" player and someone that just plays?  The good player won't get hit by that fire from the brute at the beginning of BRF.  Not because he is trying to be uber or anything, but because he was trained correctly that you should never take avoidable damage unless absolutely necessary.

Raid awareness is more than just moving from something when it happens, it is moving from something before it happens.  It is the most basic of basic things you can learn to begin your journey to become a raider, or at least a decent one.  The game is in desperate need of new raiders.  I know my server is crying rivers for people that can even manage normal modes nevertheless heroic or mythic because most people fail in one of two places.  Raid awareness or execution.

Raid awareness needs to be learned first in my opinion.  You get no practice tanking the floor boss and with no practice you can't really get practice at execution.  You will never get better at doing your job, be it healing, damage dealing or tanking if you are dying to avoidable damage.  So I think learning how to avoid the avoidable is the first step on your journey to moving up the ranks.  Once you have mastered living, then you can master your role.

Some people like to use the excuse that "how can I learn if no one will let me into a raid".  I hate to say this but I must, you can learn, the power is in your own hands if you are willing to go through the sometimes hell it might take to learn.  There is this tool called the looking for raid and you can learn a lot in there.

I read all the time about people on the forums saying that the looking for raid is not a stepping stone into raiding.  They are right, it is not intended to be that, it is intended to be tourist mode, story mode, what ever you choose to call it.  But that does not mean you can not learn from it.  Any player that actively wants to become a raider, wants to move into normals and then up to heroics and maybe someday into mythic has to start somewhere and the LFR is a great learning tool, if you are willing to let it be so.

Right now you might be calling me crazy, but trust me I am not.  A little weird, a slight bit touched, but most definitely not crazy.

That big brute carrying the boxes with his mexican burrito fire breath is in LFR, you can learn to avoid that there.  The trains are being called by the operator in LFR and you can learn to avoid them there, even if the pattern is "slightly" different.  The iron maidens will still have turrets spitting fire balls all over the place you can avoid and bombs covering the entire ground that are also 100% completely avoidable.  Plates on hans and franz, stampers too, and they all work the same and can be used to learn to avoid them.  There are so many simple, albeit less damaging or less threatening, things that are in LFR and if you choose to use it as a learning experience instead of just saying, "screw it, it won't kill me here" it will help you become a better raider and increase your over all raid awareness.

Lets face it, there are only so many mechanics we can ever see.  New twists are added, new looks, new flashy graphics, and different presentations of it, but avoiding something coming through a room (trains) has been used before and will again, dodging a breath (brute) has been used before and will again, part of the floor lighting up showing danger (hans and franz) has been used before and will again, avoiding bombs and fire balls (maidens) has been used before and will be used again.  I think you get the idea.  Anyone that has been raiding a while has seen nearly everything we have had thrown at us before. 

That is why you see some guilds move along fast and others take longer.  It is not so much that one is actually better than the other, so to speak, but it is that one has experienced that fight already and they adapt quicker to it so they can beat it faster.  They beat it faster because they had the raid awareness to adapt the mechanics a lot faster so they did not need to spend as much time learning the fight and could go straight to beating the fight.

Our rotations are always changing.  With tier sets, nerfed abilities, buffed abilities, added abilities, removed abilities, changed abilities, special circumstances, and so forth our rotations are a living breathing entity that we always need to adapt and adjust to.  So doing our jobs as healers or damage dealers or tanks is a process which we are always learning and will always be learning. 

But raid awareness is different because once you learn to not get hit from the breath by the brute at the beginning of blackrock foundry it will always be the exact same ability, it will not chance, never, not in a million years and not when we see a boss doing in three tiers from now in a raid called Lady Azshara Hobo Barbeque where we need to retrieve the uneaten part of bobs left foot.

Raid awareness is more than just don't stand in the fire, it is learning how not to end up in the fire in the first place.  And it is a skill unlike any other in game.  Once you learn it that skill will stick with your forever and make you a better gamer and everything you do in this and other games like it just a little bit easier.  Because when learning new fights you will just say, oh yeah, this is like bonestorm, I got it, and know the mechanic instantly and how to handle it instantly so you can work on your rotation instead of learning a new mechanic.

Learn raid awareness first.  That is the most important part of being a raider.  At least as I see it.  Everything else comes after, because if you don't have raid awareness, you don't need to know your rotation to tank the floor boss.


  1. Amen. Raid awareness is always the LFR wipe monster. Stand in this, avoid that, STOP DPSING HIM DURING HIS DEFENSIVE STANCE! . LFR is the Normal training ground as Normal dungeons are to Heroic dungeons. You learn the basic mechanics so that you are ready when that new mechanic comes up.

    Unfortunately, LFR is also a good place to learn bad habits. Over geared Mythic raiders often (with low-geared guildies) come through and steamroll the bosses, leaving us casual (lfr geared players) to come along and think standing in the green goo is good, if not encouraged.

    1. It comes down to what you go in there wanting to learn. I believe if someone goes into it wanting to learn something from it, even if they ignore it, they can still learn from it.

      ""Want" is the operative word. Someone that wants to learn will learn. Someone that doesn't never will no matter how many opportunities you give them.

      Someone that wants to learn might suck, but they can get better. Someone that does not want to learn can be all mythic geared and they will still suck. It is all about what a person wants to do.

  2. I've had this idea for a post, though it hasn't really materialized yet, but I'd be curious for your thoughts, given the topic of this post it's kind of perfect timing.

    So, there's a couple things I noticed lately, the first was, when looking through my logs, I take significantly less avoidable damage in Mythics, and on brand new fights. My first thought was that that's kind of counter-intuitive, but the pattern is definitely there in my logs. The first time we kill a boss, and the attempts leading up to there, I'm incredibly unlikely to take any avoidable damage, but then once we get to around the third time we kill it, I start looking kind of terrible (well, relative to the first kill, at least). And the same thing applies to mythic. I did a mythic highmaul pug the other day, as my main's guild is focusing on heroic BRF at the moment, and in the mythic fights, I almost never take avoidable damage. I was a little confused when I noticed this, too, cause, well, mythic, there should be more going on, and it should be harder to avoid all the avoidable.

    So my theory is, that when a fight is challenging, it occupies all of my brain or all of my consciousness; I mean I don't think about anything else. But when I'm doing a humdrum heroic, especially one that I've already killed, I'm often thinking about something else, and I kind of go into auto-pilot mode.

    The second thing is that when I was doing the highmaul mythic pug, I noticed the guild did something that our guild definitely stays away from. Well, in our guild the best players tend to handle all the mechanics. The other hunter and I and one boomkin tend to take on all of our ranged mechanics, and one of each of our Monks and Warriors take on all the melee mechanics (sometimes the monk takes ranged mechanics too, cause we trust her and she can roll for days), there are others who sometimes take special mechanics, but it's always some of the better players. In this other guild, I don't know who was the "best" or anything, but for a lot of things, they asked their lowest DPSers to handle the mechanics (with the exception of their main hunter, who has to do tons cause hunter). Now, as I said, I don't really know these players, and it very well could be that those low DPSers are the best/most reliable for handling mechanics, but at least from my perspective as an outsider, it looked like they were giving the most responsibility to some of the lowest players. If that's actually true, I think it might be a brilliant idea. Throwing someone in the deep end, so to speak.

    So those two things together got me thinking, maybe we're actually hindering people's growth by having so many easier modes. I think for someone who's more perfectionist oriented like you seem to be, you can definitely learn while in LFR, but the vast majority of players don't get enough motivation from just seeing their log and noting that they didn't take avoidable damage. Being dead cause a mechanic one-shot you might be much better motivation; as in, you better not get hit by this or you're not raiding.

    I've started to notice that on Beastlord a lot. The same people get hit by spears over and over, every week. And we, of course, turn and dps down the spears, so their only punishment for getting hit by a spear is losing a few GCDs while pinned (for me, losing even one GCD would be unacceptable, but for those who are less arrogant, I don't think they care). So I wonder, if we just stopped damaging the spears, and just said, "if you get hit by one, you die, and if we can't finish the fight then, we keep trying until you stop getting hit by spears" if maybe they would have more motivation to actually look at their feet and get out of the damn white circle.

    Anyhow, I'm kind of just rambling on. Just some thoughts I've been having...

    1. It does basically come down to that once we do something we become more relaxed about it and are not trying to be our best, because we know we can do it already.

      It is something I have noticed myself do as well. Try and cheat a little once you know you have it down. Maybe more a split second later, or stand in something you know a healer and heal you though, because you believe the kill is coming any way.

      It is human nature. I try to tell people that even when they do LFR, always abide by the mechanics, even if they do not hurt. It is a bad habit to just let it slide. Because sometimes turning it back on can be hard.

      Those people could have been on alts. They could be great at handling mechanics, they could be interrupting machines even if their DPS is low, there could be many reasons. But what you said I have seen before too. I usually send my best on duties because I know I can trust them. I think that is the way with many groups. But I have been in a great many pugs that put the worst damage dealers on flamethrowers. I guess there is some logic to that. Just not the way I always did it.

      I've always been very fond of saying this, and I will again. There is not right or wrong to downing a boss. Each group needs to find what works for them. Maybe they had better success that way and that is why they do it that way. Not all groups work the same.

      I don't think one shot mechanics would work well in LFR because people would die to them on purpose making it even harder on the ones that are alive. But I get what you mean. It is hard for many people to learn when they do not notice the ill effects of what should be considered failure.

      I would love to let them just die, but it would be easier to just not take them to begin with. With the flexible format bringing them means it makes the boss harder, if I let them die all I am doing it making the fight harder on myself and everyone around me. I have to get them out, or better yet, kick them out.

      I personally do not understand why people are so accepting of being hit by spears, as you mentioned, like it is no big deal. I got caught twice and only twice on all our attempts on normal and heroic (and now LFR) one was bad luck and the other was me suffering from a bit of tunnel vision. I apologized for getting caught because it was my own fault and I knew it made it harder on the group as a whole to have to cover for my mistake.

      Personally, anyone that can not be bothered to move, in my opinion, is not a raider and should not be allowed in a raid. Not even LFR.

      The ideas you mention would make fantastic posts. I think when you look deeper into it, you will see that the take less damage early on thing is universal with all decent players. It is part of what makes them decent players.

    2. Delerium, I think your analysis and Grumpy's reply below do account for some amount of the dynamic that is going on. Pointedly, when we've become familiar and know its farm content or at least approaching farm content, we have an understanding what is a kind of mistake that could result in a wipe. While at the beginning of a new fight, we do not know the margins of error so as good raiders we assume every error we make is a potential wipable offense and react accordingly. But I believe there is more to it.

      During the first pulls of a new boss, we have prepared ourselves via reading strategies, viewing videos, mentally going over the fight repeatedly. This process I believe does something special, in that it heightens our sensitivity to all the stimuli we are about to see for the first few times. We have a rough idea of what to expect, but not the kind of intimate understanding we get after a half dozen or dozen pulls on a boss. That heightened state of sensitivity where we are looking for all possible cues so we can recognize and train ourselves to execute naturally result in better response time and more consistent defensive responses to the fight's threats. We have devoted more of our mental RAM to the exercise of cataloging and categorizing our planned responses for the fight (often taking it away from rotation discipline and cd management). It only stands to reason that we would see benefits.

      As we hit that familiar stage with a fight, we have cataloged what cues require action and have programmed our reactions and start reassigning some of those mental resources. One consequence is slower reaction times and more incidences of missing these cues. Couple that natural consequence with the knowledge that the team will get through the fight, that this mechanic won't wipe the group, etc, I think this is a more full account of the dynamic you describe.

    3. It does make sense. It is the complete process and cycle of learning. From starting out fearing everything could kill you, to getting the avoidable, and the rotation working perfectly, to being a little less stressed about the avoidable because you have a fuller understanding about the fight. It is our peak, when we are doing the best we can do both with mechanics and DPS.

      That is what separates the great players from the decent ones. I consider myself a decent player in that I do the cycle, but after killing a boss week after week I start to get bored with it and I start to slack off some even if not intentional, but I still do okay, because it is already in my brain, the patterns and mechanics, whereas a great player killing it that first or 50th time will continue to do great.

  3. I don't think awareness can be learned - it's the one thing that differentiates the good player from the bad, along knowledge and good reactions.

    You can learn mechanics and get more experience, you can get addons to help, but actual awareness?
    If you don't notice the healer getting eaten by some mob when you're tanking, then you're not aware. If you don't notice the damage you're taking by sitting in some stuff, then you're not aware. If you don't notice the dust the mob is making or him raising a mallet, then you're not aware. If you don't notice the white lines the bosses do on Emperors to go left / right / back / front and the only way you can do them is by using an addon that tells you the way, you don't have awareness.
    Awareness can't be really taught. It's like people sitting with their legs cross in public transport, not realizing people are really uncomfortable sitting around them because they have to be careful not to touch the foot that's up in the air. These people aren't necessarily pricks, they just aren't aware of other people around them and their reactions. If someone would point it out, maybe they would do something about it, but for them to notice themselves - not in a million years.

    Preventing stuff is more of an experience thing - you learn that something is coming when something. I don't think that's an awareness thing.

    1. I don't this is a fair analysis for a few reasons.

      First, we all have limited mental RAM and can only pay attention to so many things at one time. This is one of the reasons Weakauras and other similar addons (DBM etc) are so effective at improving gameplay. We preset the conditions on which they trigger alerting us that x, y, z conditions have been met and then our mental faculties take over and decide how to deal with that condition being met.

      Second, you'll see this in progression of a fight and your own performance. At first, one's dps can be low, as you are trying to understand the visual cues that are coming at you and categorizing the various visual and auditory inputs as relevant or actionable or irrelevant. Our focus is on picking up all the cues, and defining them to ourselves and our actions based on those cues. This could very well explain why we see such a high jump in performance vs avoidable damage as both Delerium and Grumpy have noted. We have sensitized ourselves to potential threats because we don't have 100% confidence in knowing what information will give us threat relevant information. As we get train ourselves in each fight, we begin to know what is relevant and what isn't and reassign some of that mental RAM back to our rotations, and suddenly see a significant uptick in our DPS.

      Third, awareness is a conscious choice. Sometimes we fail to be aware because we are tired, sometimes its because we are not interested, sometimes we fail because we do not care. This isn't a fundamental lack of ability, but limitations imposed on our awareness by our bodies or attitude towards being aware. Just because someone doesn't care and is not interested learning or employing awareness, does not mean that awareness cannot be taught. It means that individual isn't interested in learning it. Just because the vast majority of players aren't interested in executing mechanics in LFR doesn't mean that they can't be taught awareness. It means they aren't interested in being aware. They don't want to spend that energy, that effort.

      That sets apart real raiders from those who want to play a game casually. Raiders want to expend that effort (yes to varying degrees of success) and those that dont.

      That is what Grumpy is so animated about and why he is so critical of the people that show up to raid with him and don't expend that effort. Its not that they are incapable, its that they are not interested in trying.

    2. @James

      I do think it can be learned, if someone wants to. Sure, moving from fire is an ability that anyone with a brain does, but what about those fires we need to stay in? That is learned awareness isn't it? Knowing what you need to move from and what you don't.

      Also, you might have the natural ability to "know" to move, but it is a learning process on where you should move.

      Say you start raiding with me and notice I always move right when I have some tracking ability on me, you learn to be aware that as soon as it targets me I am going to move right so make sure you are not there. Or lets change it, say I like to move right, but I see there are a bunch of people there, I will move left even if my natural reaction is to move right.

      Moving when you need to might be something you either have or you do not have, knowing how to move is a learned skill on how quickly you are capable of processing the information around you so you move to the right place. In my opinion of course.


      I have noticed that so much of my self in the past. I always start out a little low on DPS but as I get some pulls in, and collect that data I need to, the numbers just keep climbing as I align things the right way. I am pretty sure that is a standard thing for many players. It is also why on that kill with the good numbers there is low avoidable damage taken, as del and I talked about. You have reached the peak.