Way back in the day, I used to participate in a community centered around Quake and Quake II speed clears, among other several other FPS oriented pursuits (Netmech, Descent, and then the Tribes Franchise with a little CS and TFC here and there) Then the military and college kidnapped me away from the gaming world for a few years and by the time I got back online my reflexes had dulled a little and MMO’s were more attractive than shooters to me but I still missed the speed and adrenaline of my earlier “career” in FPS’s
A few months after I started getting serious about raiding in WoW, an old friend shared a video with me of a group who had cleared all of Gruul’s lair in under 6 minutes. Yes, that includes all of the trash, High King and his cronies, and Gruul, start to finish in under 6 minutes. I don’t have the ability to download it any more (would love it if someone could direct me to a link that doesn’t require a premium account) but here is the video: <click here> Here is a blog article on speed runs in general from WoW insider: <click here> this got me interested in the idea and after some reading around, I finally ran across a guide from Fusion on raiding efficiency and their general philosophy for speeding up their raids. (click on the link in the sidebar)
Needless to say, this inspired me to get back to my roots, and every raid that I have led since has followed the basic principles outlined in that guide. I have run into resistance before from past guild leaders and fellow raiders that we didn’t have good enough gear, or we weren’t awesome enough, and a handful of other lame excuses as to why we weren’t going to be capable of raiding like this, and when given the opportunity, I have proven them wrong every single time. Raiding efficiently doesn’t require any certain level of gear or skill amongst your raiders, the bulk of the difference is in the mindset of the raid.
Here are my personal suggestions for the best ways anyone can speed up their raids, regardless of how hardcore you and your group may consider yourselves:
1) Spend less time on loot. ICC has 12 bosses in it, every minute you spend passing out loot per boss is 12 minutes of your raid. If you spend 5minutes per boss that is 60 MINUTES! For us, that would 1/3rd of our raid. I’ve covered it elsewhere, but in ProCo our “loot system” is me linking everything into a raid warning while the raid starts clearing to the next boss. I give everyone about ~20-25 seconds to /roll and then I either give the item to someone or loot it to myself to DE. I generally don’t DE anything until the tail end of our first Bio break in case someone changes their mind. that is ~6minutes spent on loot rather than a full 60min!!! <click here for my post on loot>
2) Don’t spend time during the raid “working on your strat.” That is why you should have a guild message board. Come up with the plan ahead of time and don’t make any major changes to the plan during a raid. The only thing that should cause you to make a significant change to your strategy during a raid is something like a mistaken assumption about a core mechanic (you thought something could be interrupted/dispelled/covered with a cooldown and it turns out it doesn’t work that way) When leading raids, I use the ~4-5 minutes between wipes to make any minor adjustments and give out any suggestions or reminders that I think may help. I also use the ~3-5 minutes of trash between bosses to offer any reminders or special instructions about the next boss. If people complain that they can’t hear me while fighting trash I tell them to disable their sound during trash. 90% of the time I have ever been in a raid where the raid leader changed the strategy, there was nothing wrong with the strategy being used, there were just issues with the ability of the group to execute the strategy. That just means you should be choosing a strategy based on the strengths and weaknesses of your group, and then resist the temptation to lower your expectations and either have the patience for people to work through their own issues or replace them (incidentally, we have never “replaced” someone due to lack of ability and we seem to have done ok so far) Until you have everyone in the raid actually executing the planned strategy as intended, you are going to do more harm then good if you keep making core changes to your strategy. I think I probably need to split this topic out into a future post…
3) Eliminate time spent standing around. Plan for scheduled breaks in your raid. For each of our 3 hour raids, we have a planned bio break half way through at around ~1hr 20min – 1hr 35min that lasts around ~3-4min. If someone absolutely has to afk for something then we continue without them. If someone shows up late to the raid then we either grab a different guildie or we start clearing without them (we generally try and avoid bringing PuG’s to raids if there is any hope of a guild member logging in) We have 8 and 9 manned everything in lower ICC while waiting for people who are running late (on hard mode) You never know what you are capable of until you give it an honest try.
4) Miscellaneous other items: Don’t ask if everyone is ready before pulling, instill into your raid the expectation that you will continue pulling until someone asks for a break. The only ready check I ever use in a raid is to see if everyone is back from our bio break. The only warning my raid gets before I pull a boss is me saying “Moving in to position, any questions?” followed directly by “Here we go, pulling” They have all just grown accustomed to getting ready quickly and speaking up if they have a question or need a second to deal with something. I would guess that in a world of LFD gogogoGOGOGO!!!!! tanks/groups that all of this probably sounds less crazy than it did when people were talking about it a couple of years ago, but once you get everyone in your group on board with it, it is amazing how much it changes your perception of raiding. I have browsed through the logs from other raiding guilds on WoL and compared our downtime to theirs. I have found “progression” guild’s that raid ~16-20 hours a week that spend less time actually *raiding* than we do during our 9 hours a week.
How to evaluate how efficiently your guild is raiding:
The introduction of tools like WMO and WoL have revolutionized the ability to evaluate everything you could ever want to examine about a raid and/or individuals in a raid. This is also true when it comes time to evaluating how efficiently your raid is performing during your raid time.
Here is a partial screenshot of a section of our WoL from our last ICC clear: <click for link that will expire in a month>
For the skeptics and conspiracy theorists out there, I did cut off the 14minutes of pre-raid time (I usually start the log right before I start invites so that I don’t forget) and I cut off the alt-weekly raid quest Malygos kill at the end of the night after we broke a little early. I also cut of the hour or so I hung out in Dalaran chatting with guild members while letting the log run, the portion I used to calculate the time and activity level is indicated by the blue shaded region in the timeline graph of the above image.
This shows that we were raiding for 2hr, 49min, and 20sec. During the raid, we spent 01:37:33 of our time actually in combat. (57.6% of our raid was spent *raiding*) which means that despite everything discussed above, we still spent 1 hour, 11minutes, and 41seconds “standing around” (running back from wipes, rebuffing, bio break, etc…)
The “Included fights” section has a detailed breakdown of when we were in combat. you can see which bosses we killed, how often we wiped, and even a breakdown of how much time we spent with each trash pack.
As a general rule of thumb, I am happy when we keep our “Active Time” above 50% and I like to shoot for 60% each raid.
Here is another example from last night when we spent the whole raid wiping to Heroic Arthas. If you go back to our earlier attempts when we were still stuck in phase 1 we were probably averaging ~27 attempts in a 3 hour period. This time it shows the full report
Again, gear and skill level play a relatively small role in how efficiently your team is going to be able to raid. Going back to my softball analogy, inefficient raiding is like playing a softball game where you only pitch the ball once every 30 minutes, as opposed to pitching it once ever 2-3 minutes. The only thing better gear or skill will do is speed up how fast the boss dies and reduce how often your group wipes. If you are able to increase the amount of time you spend actually fighting bosses during your raid though, you will inevitably end up with better loot and more skilled players anyway. Happy raiding!