Monday, January 21, 2013

Simplify Your Strategies

Big Bear Butt wrote a post last month, Some Folk You Just Can't Reach, that I meant to respond to. In the post, BBB asks,
So, do you blame someone else for being slower than others, if they’re trying like hell but just aren’t getting it?
Well, the first thing you do is simplify. I'm sure, as a former marine, BBB is very familiar with the KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid!) principle. And yet, when it comes to raid strategies, very often people ignore this principle.

The reason this happens is because raid strategies, videos, and guides are usually created by the elite, and to be frank, they are just better at handling complexity than the rest of us. As well, they are usually running at the edge of progression, and need to maximize performance, even at the cost of increased complexity.

When you drop down to lower raids, you generally see the same flaws. For example, take target switching. Elite guilds are good at target switching, and their strategies reflect that. In contrast, lower tier guilds are much worse at target switching than you would predict.  Ideally, to adapt a strategy for a lower tier guild, you want to minimize the amount of target switching required.

As well, you generally want to minimize your concerns during a fight.  One big mistake raid leaders often make is that they will recite the entire boss fight to the raid, bombarding people with extraneous information. In my opinion, the key to learning new fights is to ignore everything that is unimportant to you and only care about the things you personally need to care about.

This may result in some wipes that you could have prevented if you knew what the other roles were doing, but it will also result in you learning your own role much faster. Worry about yourself first before worrying about others.

As well, regular guilds often benefit a lot from practice and repetition, especially if you can practice a single element at a time. In a way, this is unfortunate, because regular guilds are also the ones which quit early after a few wipes.

One technique I am very fond of is practicing the movement of a fight before you actually pull the boss. Ideally this is done in the actual boss's room if possible, but otherwise any open space will do. This way you can focus on the movement, without having to worry about DPS or adds.

If you have a single person who is having trouble with movement, often having them just move, without doing dps or healing, for an attempt or two can help enormously. Sadly, you can't do this with tanks.

The final thing when adapting strategies for a regular guild is to avoid "being clever". I'm very suspicious of people being clever in raids in order to theoretically "make things easier". In my experience, it often ends badly. Don't worry about special tips and tricks. Focus on the basics, the bare minimum, and worry about tricks after those have been mastered.

Always remember that the default raid strategies are being created by the elite, and the elite often err on the side of complexity. Expecting your regular raid guild to flawlessly execute a complex elite strategy is foolish. Instead, you'd be better off simplifying as much as you can, minimizing movement and target switches, and ignoring "clever" tricks. Add complexity back into the strategy as you need to.


  1. Agreed 100%. Gara'jal in MSV is a great current example. An addon as well as common raid strategy has you optimize by rotating members of the raid into the spirit realm so you can keep the damage buff on as many raiders as possible. It is seriously far, far simpler and easier to have just the healers rotate and throw the same two DPS in the spirit realm over and over again instead. 1 job per person. The lowered complexity just makes the fight easier to deal with.

    Simplicity over efficiency. If you're not bleeding edge raiding, simplicity will pretty much get you your kills with fewer wipes, almost every time.

  2. Well said, Rohan. Sometimes the published strategies are just too complex.

    Talarian, I like your idea of keeping the same two DPS in the spirit realm. What do you do when one of them gets the turned into a voodoo doll and can't enter the spirit world? Perhaps spending so much time down there makes that unlikely to happen? Also, why do you bother rotating the healers? Is it for the mana regeneration? Could you stick to just one dedicated healer and put up with less regeneration for the others?

    In our raid, we rotate the healers as well. We have the chosen healer
    stand on the spirit totem, and then have all damage dealers move into the purple ring and start to kill the totem. The healer gets pulled in, and two of the DPS, more or less at random. Nobody has to remember if it's their turn or not, because it's always everyone's turn. Obviously it's less efficient because people are running when they could be DPSing, but it means there's never a time when not enough people are in the spirit world because somebody forgot it was their turn.

    Talarian, your idea seems great. I'll give it a go.

    Great article, Rohan, simplicity is the key to success.

  3. Yeah Dàchéng, usually two ranged classes with high burst potential (ie: arcane mages). They go in, and then when they come out they go in again pretty well immediately. Even with the buff they get to their DPS, my raid isn't skilled enough to clear out all of the adds without that DPS buff, hence part of the reason to send the same people in over and over. If one of them or both of them get voodoo dolled, then I have two folks on backup (usually myself or another ranged). I raid call manually, and am pretty good with on the fly assignments. The only time one of them ever gets voodoo dolled is when the timing is wonky and the tank is about to be banished. I wait for the next dolls to go out or you end up with some of the trio not going into the spirit realm by accident.

    We two heal the fight, so rotating the healers is strictly a mana regeneration tactic. Otherwise the healer that didn't go in would be OOM. Given that one healer is solo healing the raid when the other is in the spirit realm, you don't have a choice about rotating them.

  4. That reminds me of once in Wrath, I posted a trick I found to healing a boss fight. Some other blogger (whose blog died shortly after) countered with a post about how I was the worst healer ever and I should quit the game and go die in a fire. (Funny how my most controversial posts have always been boss strats.)

    I responded, asking him what he'd suggest instead. He came up with a bizarre, complex strat that required so much coordination that I doubt even some of the best guilds would consider it worth the hassle. I just had to laugh, shake my head and say "good luck with that".

  5. I disagree with the comment about Gara'jal. I think what you have suggested is actually a complication and a deviation from the fight. And it is something you can do because you are using your best range DPS and they are burst based so you can get the most from their stacks. Switching to this from the normal rotational policy won't work for a lot of guilds, and will make the kill take longer (a lot of guilds push past enrage on Gara'jal before they finally get the kill).

    Note, there is no problem with variation, it works for you, but it is a change from how the encounter was designed to be tackled, and focuses the burden on a few players instead of spreading across all. Even with it, 4 of your 5-6 DPS still need to know what to be able to do in the void.

    That is the thing with variations, and if you know your raid group then you will know ahead of time which ones will work and which ones won't. Some variants put more burden on healers, some put more on a key DPS or two or on the tanks. You can take a strategy that does this right from the bat if you know your raid group and its strengths and weaknesses.

    Sometimes you need to vary from the optimum because of your group. Against Alysrazor we had the "best" classes to fly, but sent up one of the non-optimal ones, as it was the player with the best awareness in the raid. I doubt we would have got her down as quick following the optimal assignments.

    I agree with keep it simple, I moan every time someone suggests a shortcut or an "easy" way in a dungeon as it will most often be more work for me as a healer. But I would add to this, be honest and know your raid group when choosing your strategy, pick one to work to your group's strengths, or vary it to fit them.

    By the way, getting the movement right while ignoring healing or dps is great advice and something I have always adhered to. Once you have the dance right, the movement becomes second nature and you can start weaving in those buttons to heal or damage. It's very rare that the heavy movement phases where you need to dance require dps or healing (if everyone is moving correctly anyway).

  6. @Sol, The one thing about the Garajal strat presented is that it minimizes target switches. Out of six dps, four are on the boss the whole time, never switching targets at all. In my experience, that target switch will cost you more damage than you would expect, and avoiding it will (unexpectedly?) make the kill shorter, not longer.

    So in that way it does simplify the fight. Yes, it also distributes responsibility unevenly, but often that can make fights easier for a regular guild, where the skill of the individual members can vary greatly.

  7. Rohan is correct. It minimizes target switches and reduces the fight to quite literally a Patchwerk fight for the four DPS who are out, nobody has to perform buff tracking, and yes, the healers still have the same level of complexity regardless of the strat. Just because its different does not mean its more complex.

    And yes, as both Sol and Rohan point out, it means some people have more complicated jobs than others, but in a casual guild the gulf between our best players and worst are HUGE. Some people fall apart when given tasks the are moderately complicated and their throughput tanks. Others are great at adapting to the new situation. As a raid leader with minimal resources, it's my job to ensure that the strategy is tailored to my raid in such a way that it will be successful. Some fights there's no real deviation possible (ie: Elegon) and it will take tonnes of practice. Gara'jal was a fight where I identified a weakness (not killing adds in the spirit realm fast enough), and addressed it by changing and simplifying the strategy for 50% of the raid, and it didn't make it any more complicated for the DPS that were going in.

    But the kill taking longer, sure, we're not benefitting from the buff much outside. But the extra movement and target switching tanks their DPS anyways, not that it was that high to begin with. We're talking like 60k DPS in a Patchwerk scenario for most of them, so not like we have a lot of room to let DPS go down to do things the "proper" way. We're never going to manage heroic modes, so practicing the published strat to prepare for them is a non-starter anyway.

  8. You know, I realized the other day that the only times I get a really powerful urge to start playing WoW again is when I read your and Azuriel's posts about it.

    Anyway, totally agree with simplicity! When I was leading a new fight with many phases, I'd often just describe P1 and pull. What happens if we get to P2? We (probably) die, and then go over strategy for that.

    Also, I always advise new raid leaders that they don't worry about DPS until right near the end of learning a fight. If just about everyone can survive until you hit an enrage timer, then you've got the hard part down and can worry about overall output.

  9. Rohan & Tal, I agree with you about it potentially being a good strategy for a lot of raid groups and lowering the average difficulty level. It's not prepping my group for a heroic strat that made the other way the right choice for the raid group I am in,rather a function of the fact that we don't really have DPS suited to these sorts of roles in the group, so better for them all to learn what to do (I think in the end it was also valuable practice for the last boss in the instance). I was disagreeing with it being a good illustration of KISS principles as I feel that it is more an example of varying a strat to suit a raid group.

    I PUGged content until I found a raid group to run in (for me, I'd rather not raid, even though I enjoy it, than change guilds which understandably limits raiding options :-). That strat was tried and we didn't get through. Another group I was with got the addon and went through. But that is the groups more than the strat.

    I guess that is the question... if you had 9 complete strangers as a raid leader, which strategy is better? An equal group of DPS and swapping for stacks is best, a wide range and burdening a couple is better. That's why I view it as a variant strategy, I see it as analogous to my raid group where we have strong heals, but the DPS have no real standouts, so we two heal it all. It means we definitely get bosses down earlier sas we have one dps more than expected for most fights. Simpler for the dps? Yes. For the Healers? No, but we enjoy it, and we usually have the healing nutted out before all the other parts of the boss puzzle are worked out, so it's good. And some of the boss strats are two heal anyway. I'd never recommend it as the simplest strategy though, it just works with the raid team.

    Apart from capability, the other factor to consider with lopsided raid assignments is attendance. Nothing is worse than wiping on something that usually goes down and having to relearn a fight because someone with a key role in a fight isn't there.