Stages to Learning a New Boss Fight

I have seen a lot of guilds and pugs that have a hard time figuring out out how to approach a new boss fight.  The process people usually seem to fall back on is to go read bosskillers, stratfu, tankspot, or wowwiki (unfortunately this is sometimes done over vent) and then try their best to implement what they have just read/watched.  If it doesn’t work within a couple of attempts, they move on to the next guide/video/strategy hoping that they will eventually find “THE” strategy that will allow them to kill the boss.  Whether knowingly or not however, I would propose that there are certain stages that your group has to pass through in order to kill a new boss, and especially if you want your kills to be easily repeatable.

Stages of learning a new boss fight:

Research: As a group, you need to identify all of the mechanics involved with the fight, make sure that you have at least a basic understanding of how the fight is *supposed* to work. This is typically done prior to the raid, and with cataclysm a description of boss mechanics will actually be available through the default UI. As a group, you need to figure out which abilities have been recycled and combined to make up this new encounter. New or “Special” boss abilities need to be identified and tested to see which are counterable in some way, either through character abilities (interrupt, dispel, purge), or some sort of raid positioning (run the hell out of the fire/raid/cloud of choking death.) At this stage, DPS numbers should be “adequate” but shouldn’t be anyone’s focus until all of the mechanics have been identified and addressed.  The focus here is everyone learning the fight.  If you make it to the enrage with everyone alive, you are on the right path.

Practice: Once mechanics have been identified, and everyone understands what is going on with each stage/phase/mechanic and a basic strategy has been selected and agreed upon, the next stage is to simply get everyone caught up to speed and executing the fight properly. This is the stage where you see the most variability in time spent on an encounter from guild to guild.  As a raid leader you have two basic choices when it comes to people who are lagging behind in the learning curve for a given mechanic; you either patiently wait for them to figure their way through it or you replace them.  Only after each individual gets comfortable with the mechanical execution of the encounter under control, should you start pushing your dps/heal/tanking numbers back up to where they should be. Learn how to do stuff the right way the first time through before you worry about topping the meters. People who die in a fire or who blow up the raid while topping the meters are about as useful as an extra belly button.

Refinement: Once everyone has all of the mechanics of the fight down, and raid wiping mistakes are at a minimum, it is time to throw the gas onto the fire and start polishing your performance. This is the point where you need to start trying to squeeze everything out of your character that you can as far as dps and individual performance goes. Your individual performance, and your group performance should continue to get better and better every time you complete the encounter. As a group, you should continue getting better and faster at each boss fight as you repeat the kill from week to week so that you continue to have more and more time for newer content.

Common Mistakes:

One mistake that I have seen and heard about far too often is raid leaders who completely revise their strategy between every 1-3 boss attempts.  The only time you should be doing any sort of major revisions during a raid is one of the following reasons:

  • You were mistaken about how a boss ability worked and the reality of it invalidated your planned strategy.
  • Your raid composition changes somehow in such a way as to necessitate a change.  This means that you no longer have a needed interrupter, dispeller, kiter, or something along those lines.
  • You are ready to admit that one of the people in your raid is currently incapable of performing their assigned task[s], you are no longer willing to give them more time to learn how to do it, and you are ready to either replace them or adjust your whole group’s strategy to accommodate them.

Another mistake I see guilds and PuGs make far too often is adding an extra healer when things aren’t going well. This deserves its own entire blog post I think.  In short though, 10man encounters are designed to be healed with either 2 or 3 healers.  After progressing through a whole expansion where my personal focus, and for the second 3/4ths of my guild’s focus was 10man raiding, I would say that it is probably more accurate to say that ALL 10man encounters are designed to be healed by ~2.5 healers.  Everything should eventually be doable with 2, but 3 can sometimes give you a bit of leeway while learning a fight as long as the dps loss from the 3rd healer isn’t going to prevent a boss kill. There is no reason you should ever need more than 3 healers in a 10man encounter.

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