If you were to ask any player that’s raided to any significant degree, they’ll all have at least one each of the following stories to tell over a beer given the chance:
- The Glorious Last-Man-Standing Kill
- The “Everything Just Clicked” Kill
- The Tragic 1% Wipe
Based on how long they’ve been raiding, I’m sure they could name several examples of each without even thinking hard about it. The above three moments are what defines raiding. It’s these moments in WoW that keep you coming back. They make you log on for the next instance, they give you a rush (both good and bad).
Number 2 is the result of solid strategy. It can be memorable, but these are the kills you pat yourself on the back, take the kill shot, and move on. Lady Vashj comes to mind here for me. Most of the strategy revolved around a relatively lengthy phase 2 in which the raid had a choreographed dance of mechanics to handle. You didn’t progress from phase to phase, you learned it all at once.
Fights that fall under Number 2 might be the ones that you’ll recall quickly when you’re sitting in vent late at night reminiscing with old guildies about when you finally killed Archimonde or Professor Putricide. However, nothing represents a more marked turning point for a guild than the difference between a last-man-standing kill and a 1% wipe (with Blizzard’s inclusion of exact mob health you will even have stories of 0.2% wipes!).
Let’s flash back for just a moment.
It’s the last pull of the evening. Everyone is flasked, the buffs are rolling, the adrenaline is pumping from your last attempt that fell short at 5%. It’s just after your raid stop time, the early workers have agreed for one more attempt, sucking back one more coffee to keep going.
The tank counts down….5….4….3….2….1….Here we go.
First phase goes smoothly; the adds are picked up , DPS’d ahead of your benchmarks, and 25 people are still standing. Now for the more complicated Phase 2. Your mage with the shaky connection just got targeted with the bomb and he needs to move out, he does (and promptly DC’s just as he makes it out of the raid). DPS for the first time the entire night halts when you ask them to. The transition to phase 3 is pulled off perfectly.
And just as the boss’ HP begins to drop, the berserk timer gets ever lower.
Raid damage is rising. Healers panic. DPS starts looking around at the Healers.
Everyone’s eyes are fixated on the boss’ hp bar.
The tank goes down! A Druid quickly goes into bear form and grabs the boss, but only for a moment.
Your raid leader cries out: “BURN! Dump everything you have!”
And here is where the fate of the guild is decided. What will happen? Will a bubbled paladin miraculously throw one more hammer to finish off the boss? Will the 3 melee chasing the boss from one-shot victim to one-shot victim get those last few thousand hp off? Will a shaman reincarnate and throw just enough heals to keep those last few DPS alive? Or will it all end tragically.
So many things have led to this moment. The link dead mage that might have done just that little bit of extra damage. A healer that mis-clicked and didn’t get the saving heal off on another DPS. Three raider’s flasks wore off just 1 minute too early. The random number generator caused more movement than you’re used to. All of these things, though seemingly common and even silly mistakes, have brought you to 1%.
A boss at 1% drops the same amount of loot, gives the same amount of achievement points, and provides the same amount of wow-progress ranking as if you’ve never pulled. There is no progression tracker for near kills or “should have” attempts. It all seems so obvious, yet, it happens so often. There have been more raid nights that have gone from smooth clear to dreadful wipe fest simply because of a wipe at 1% than a lot of us would care to remember. The difference is one of the most psychologically challenging for a raid leader.
A kill purges the memories your raiders have of failure. Mistakes are forgiven, even laughed off as the master looter distributes the epics and folks sign off to have a good night sleep. You get that extra geek-pride hop in your step the next day at work. You might even hold the door open a little longer than you normally would for someone.
A wipe does the opposite. Everyone wonders why you keep letting the DC’ing mage into the raid. Why didn’t everyone refresh their flasks even for the last attempt? A wipe means reclearing the trash the next day or even a large portion of the instance after Tuesday maintenance (apologies to those on the EU side). How do you keep this from happening? Why do so many first kills come so close to that 1% barrier?
Unfortunately there is no one answer. Raid leaders find the answer in the midst of a chaos-stricken, scrambling raid. They remind everyone to focus on their own job as they scan the raid looking for those out of position. They remind them that they need to have confidence in their fellow raider to do the right thing. Keeping Vent clear, and making calm, succinct calls will go a long way to a good clean boss kill. Know ahead of time when the best time to battle-rez is and who should be taking care of it. Arrange for back-ups before the pull for situations that you know might happen. It does no good to formulate your strategy around what happens 95% of the time when that last 5% are events that will wipe your raid every time.
Cool, calm, and collected. A rock (not The Rock) is what your raiders need when things start going south.
Unless of course you’re fighting a pack of jabronies that don’t smell what you’re cookin’.