Confidence is contagious. So is lack of confidence.–Vince Lombardi
Hidden Hard Modes (HHM) is a series dedicated to those bosses you see outside of the game. The bosses you need to kill just to make it into an instance and before you even kill one boss. This feature will be archived in its own page for easy access after it runs its course. Previous entries: Attendancegut, Recruitmentface
It’s been some time since my last entry on this topic due to a lot of progress, other interesting topics to write on, and the one first of two events this year that make this post actually possible to carve out. Also, this post is likely going to cover much of what I intended for Stratagosa, so we’ll count this as a “council boss” for Hidden Hard Modes ;).
Morale and confidence within a raid are strange animals. In one moment you can effortlessly defeat anything placed in front of you, and with one wipe at a low percent you’re struggling wipe after wipe, for seemingly no reason. There’s a reason that I’m constantly comparing what we do in game to those that skate and hoop in front of thousands: the mentality is similar
In PvP there are defined arena seasons, but those are relatively abstract compared to an actual sports season. Raiding actually follows a more stringent schedule and time frame when compared to the typical NHL or NBA season. In a typical week, they’ll play 3 to 4 games. For Raiders, we’re getting up and heading into an instance the same amount.
Now, let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves. The mental and physical toughness that it takes to be a professional athlete is so far above what a raider in WoW exerts it might as well be on Jupiter. That being said, in a typical raiding cycle (approximately 7 months) you’re suiting up to play 112 times with probably 70 of those nights being actual progression.
Handling that kind of grind is not easy. There will be off nights and weeks, times when you don’t really get anything done. Is the sky falling every time you wipe 10 times on a boss you’ve killed a half dozen times? Is it time to kick people or disband the guild if a bad raid night turns into a streak of bad nights? Of course not.
In hockey this phenomenon is referred to as “tilting the ice.” During a game or a season it might seem like one team is completely outmatched. No matter what they do or how many penalties the other team gets, they just can’t get anything going. It actually looks like someone picked up one end of the rink so that one team is playing downhill. When a game is in the balance, the tilt can go either way at any time. A quick streak of goals can send a team into a downward spiral, bleeding momentum.
Momentum when fighting through a raid instance is just as important. An easy one shot on a boss carries over to the next boss (and so far). Wipes happen just like goals agsinst happen. Expecting to go an entire season without being scored on is ridiculous. Especially on harder content, you need to expect that some bad things will happen or someone will make a mistake and you won’t be able to recover. That’s fine. You just recover, re-buff and pull again.
The wipes that really throw you off kilter are the “back breakers.” You just had a couple solid attempts where a tank DC’d or some dice rolls lined up the wrong way. Everyone is still pretty confident, but this time a melee loses his head and gets his group killed early in the fight. Ugh, killer. We played perfectly and wiped, we played poorly and wiped, how the hell are we going to beat this?
It’s time to bounce back.
When a wipe occurs you brush it aside. No big deal, let’s just get up and start again. A streak of wipes is something that needs to be addressed on a different level.
You just had your 7th wipe on Blood Prince Council. The last wipe started with a mage and a priest getting instantly killed. What was it? Looks like an empowered flame orb according to the logs. Group 3 ranged are assigned to the west side where the victims were, is everyone from that group actually on that side? Ask them.
Ranged DPS 1: ” I was over by the door helping with a kinetic bomb”
Ranged DPS2: “I accidentally grabbed a Dark Nucleus and was taking it over to the tank”
Ranged DPS3: “My shadow prison stacks were high and I didn’t want to keep moving.”
All three of these responses are valid and smart decisions, but all three are wrong for the current situation. It goes back to the fundamentals of the encounter. Prevention of death is a tenant of every strategy (dealing with the encounter mechanics). To keep people alive when targeted by an Empowered Flame Orb two things need to happen:
- The targeted raider runs away from Prince Taldaram
- People move in the path of the orb to reduce it’s size. This ensured by assigning players to specific sides of the room.
Because the other players near our poor mage in the above scenario were off doing other things, they were not in a position to soak. You let those other ranged DPS know that what they were doing was correct, but soaking the Flame Orbs takes priority. Top priority always goes to whatever is a guaranteed death.
For Raider 1, emphasize:
If the kinetic bomb isn’t near you and you need to cover it, ask someone closer to that region of the room to take over so that you can be in range in case someone on your side of the room is targeted by a flame orb. Communication and coordination between the ranged DPS is key during Blood Princes.
If you’re by yourself or you see someone standing alone, call it and cover it. Never stand by yourself, that’s an opening for Murphy to crash your party.
For Raider 2, emphasize:
Your stacks of shadow prison might be high, and you might die trying to soak, but if you don’t then that mage is going to die for sure. Instead what you should do is stand still and drop off your stacks as the raid target switches to Taldaram. The healers should be on the ball and ready to handle this kind of situation because it happens frequently.
For Raider 3:
Keleseth isn’t the current target so the tank isn’t going to die from being low on Nuclei. Instead of running to deliver to orb, call out that you made a mistake and the tank can find the orb on your side of the room. Also, pay attention and don’t tab target to the Nucleus. Set up a targeting macro for Kinetic Bomb and use the tank list or target-of-target to get the current active Blood Prince.
Doing this step by step analysis of what goes down during a wipe let’s everyone get re-acquainted with the fight and reestablishes some confidence. You’re letting everyone know that they are playing correctly, but their priorities need to be realigned. There are several combinations of events that can happen in a given encounter. The chances of everyone actually experiencing all of them are incredibly rare.
When I was playing hockey, we always wanted to play pickup games during practice, but our coaches rarely let us. The reason is that in an actual game you touch the puck very little. Practice is focused on going over specific plays and specific game scenarios over and over. Some of those may never come up in a pickup game, so when they happen in a real game you need to be prepared.
A shot total of 5 or 6 is fairly high for one player in regulation. Do you think that only taking 5 or 6 shots is going to make you a better goal scorer? If you do, you are mistaken. It takes countless hours with a bucket of 50 pucks just firing shots to refine and dial in your shot. When you get those two or three chances during a game you know what you’re doing because you spent the time practicing.
The same occurs in raiding. The difference between what we do in game and what hockey players do is that we don’t have practice and drills. You can’t go to the Military Ward in Ironforge and have Target Dummys fire Empowered Flame Orbs or spawn Blood Beasts. All of this has to happen in the moment during the boss fight. You might have killed the Blood Prince Council 6 times, but maybe you never had a Flame Orb target you while you were running from a shock vortex trying to deliver a dark nucleus. This will kill you, it might even wipe your raid. The more complicated a fight sthe more practice it requires. A fight like Deathwhisper or Putricide has a lot more things going on at any time than Marrowgar.
The Wipe Night
When you first start on a boss, every percent you get further into the fight is a victory. Every pull you’re learning and making progress. It’s relatively easy to keep morale up during these times since you can generally treat every pull as a learning experience to reinforce lessons learned. You can also point out where people made some really nice plays in the heat of the moment.
There will come a point when working on a new encounter where you have learned everything. Everyone in the raid has seen every part of the fight and is clear on the strategy. The problem is that you still haven’t beaten the encounter. To get over that last hump and really start nailing the execution, you need to establish benchmarks.
I place benchmarks into two separate categories:
- Time Based
- Turning Points
Time based benchmarks are easy to explain. For where we are in the fight, is the boss’ hp where we want it? Fights are time limited by either hard berserks (Festergut, Blood Queen) or with soft enrage mechanics (Saurfang, Dreamwalker). For the hard berserk fights you need to look at DPS pace for the landmarks in a fight.
As an example,On Blood Queen you can establish these at each Air Phase:
“Getting her under 70% at the first Air Phase and under 37% after the second Air Phase should put us on target for a win” (Numbers pulled from memory and likely off).
There isn’t much you can do about these kinds of marks. Your raid composition is set and these are hard and fast requirements; you must be this tall to ride. On the morale front, it does give you something to give feedback on. “Hey, we got to the first Air Phase 3% ahead of where we normally are, nice work!” Compartmentalize the fight, make it approachable.
The second category (Turning Points) is another micro-progression tool. Turning Points are identifiable events within a boss fight that are special and need to be executed well in order to keep moving through a fight. Some examples from hard modes:
- Deathwhisper: Transition to phase 2 including boss pickup and add cleanup. This also involves moving Deathwhisper to the other side of the room and getting everyone spread out.
- Festergut: Healing the raid right after the first and fourth spore explosions. The blighted spore debuff ticks rather hard and no one has any stacks of Inoculated yet.
- Rotface: With an average DPS pace, the timing of the Mutated Infection casts will ramp up quickly after the second ooze explosion. Get ready for crazy
- Blood Princes: Transition from Keleseth or Taladaram to Valanar (possible immediate cast of Empowered Shock Vortex). Transition from Keleseth to Taldaram (possible chance of melee getting targeted by a flame orb and not realizing it).
- Lich King: Second Defile/Second Val’lkyr spawn. Those timers line up almost perfectly. You need to be able to handle either without much warning.
Breaking down the fight into these small portions allows the raid to focus on a new, more manageable goal: “As long as we can handle this, we’ll win the fight.” Having confidence against a boss as daunting as the Lich King can be very difficult, so this sort of breakdown is very necessary during the latter stages of progression.
Momentum, Morale, Motivation
All 3 are inter-related. Breaking raiding momentum might not directly drop morale, but it will lead to some unnecessary wipes or lost time for no reason. Getting a lot of awesome kills then breaking that momentum by going after a raid weekly or leaving the instance for Vault of Archavon cuts off your raid from its adrenaline drip. After doing a few easy bosses and getting some confidence, going after a meta achievement would be the right thing to do. You got some confidence, and this next achievement is something everyone wants to get behind.
Going for that same achievement after you just struggled on a fight isn’t. It’s not the right time to get fancy and go for things that don’t count for all that much, you want to get back on your feet and move forward.
A positive, confident attitude in vent or raid chat is hard to maintain during tough nights. I’m certainly guilty of losing it more than a few times when things are going particularly bad. It’s no excuse, but we’re all human. Staying upbeat through a night of wipes on an easy farm mode boss is the stuff saints are made from. Showing that you care is important, but going overboard will hurt your raid’s confidence.
Ground everyone, re-establish the fundamentals of a fight, and if necessary remove repeat offenders and replace them with the patient folks on the bench.
The one thing that you must always remember and go back to is that you will have tough nights. They’ll happen and you’ll wonder why. Go skate some laps, grab a a cup of coffee, and come back twice as motivated the next day.
A motivated, confident raid can kill anything.