Periodically as a raid leader you have to step back and assess where you’re at. I’m very proud of my team for pushing the way they have. They’ve learned to do things that probably plenty of other guilds haven’t yet. But occassionally when you’re sitting down you have find out where your stress points are. To do that, you have to issue challenges to your raiders. Not the type of challenges where they’re purposefully trying to do stupid things, but the types of challenges where you force them to think in ways that they aren’t used to. To force them to find something a bit deeper and pull themselves up to the max they can be.
Walking the Line
For us initially we knew that our stress point was healers. The amount of damage in Ulduar is SOO much more that we were forced to add a third healer in our 10 man team. It was tangible. It was easy to spot. We had some of our best healers and they were constantly finding that with only two, they could barely squeek by on fights. They had no room for error and other fights like Ignis, they just couldn’t keep up. So we added a third healer. For some guilds, this is the way they run every day.
For us it was a totally new configuration. So we had to learn the new dynamic. The good news is.. that it removed the stress point. Healers didn’t feel like pulling their hair out. They didn’t feel like there was no place to go and that healing just absolutely sucked.
Shifting the Stress Point
There are advantages and disadvantages for running more and less healers. For us, if we ran three healers in Naxx, they were all bored off their asses. Personally with two healers at times in Naxx is really really boring. The advantage is that some of the harder fights like Four Horsemen become trivial, but the trade off is that your healers become really really complacent. They generally don’t need to pay attention 99% of the time so they begin to just kind of… drift.
So at times like that you can help out by shifting a healer slot to DPS. This has the advantage of bringing a LOT more DPS to the mix. Fights take less time. Trash dies considerably faster. And if you were DPS constrained before, suddenly you aren’t. The down side is of course that you’re suddenly overflowing with DPS. This can make the fights so easy that people begin to kind of “go through the motions” so to speak. They begin to not pay as close attention to their rotations. They begin to just kind of sleep walk through the instance. Victory is assured!!!
Issuance of Challenge
Ulduar is a totally different beast. I kind of liken it to shifting from Molten Core to Blackwing Lair, or shifting from Kara to Serpentshrine Caverns. The transition to new content comes with a hard road where you have to find that stress point. We started with relieving our stress on the healers to a manageable level. We’re still making good progress, but as a raid leader it is hard for me to tell at this point if our next stress point is a DPS limitation or a tanking limitation.
So the easiest way to determine where we’re at is issuance of a challenge. I did this once ages ago in Kara. Our resident warlock at the time looked at me like I was nuts. Basically at this point I put the DPS and tanks on notice. The challenge is for the DPS to find what I call the razor’s edge. Their goal is to push it as hard as they can. They shouldn’t be stupid and throwing DPS before the tank has agro, but once that tank is engaged, all bets are off. DPS should be pushing it as far as they can.
What that means for me is that if we use the hunters as an example, they nail their misdirect, hammer the boss till they are pushing the limits of threat and then feign death. Once they get up from their feign, they start hammering as hard as they conceivably can. The goal isn’t to just blow right by the tank, but we need to know if the DPS CAN blow right by the tank. So its all about finding out which group needs to augment. In many respects it becomes a healthy competition. The tanks sit there calmly waiting for the DPS to catch up. Once the DPS is nipping at their heels the tanks bust their butts to up their threat. Then the DPS chases them. It actually can be a fun competition to see how far the tanks and DPS can push their limits. Plus it forces them to think outside the box on how they can go above and beyond.