Casual Raiding and Deliberate Learning
Note: I wrote this in 2015 when I was raiding with a casual guild in WoW.
done consciously and intentionally: a deliberate attempt to provoke conflict.
fully considered; not impulsive: a deliberate decision.
synonyms: intentional, calculated, conscious, intended, purposeful
Every raiding guild has a progression, whether they self-identify as casual, hardcore, or whatever else. After all, nobody has fun downing the same bosses week after week or spending weeks wiping on a single boss.
If a casual raiding guild wants to progress, they must learn more from each individual pull than a hardcore guild must.
This might seem counterintuitive, but there are two main reasons:
- Compared to a hardcore guild, it takes a casual guild much longer to get in the same number of pulls on any given boss (weeks instead of days days, months instead of weeks weeks).
- Player's think in terms of "raiding sessions", not pulls. Spread across three weeks, 100 failed attempts before a kill is demoralizing. Spread across one or two days, it feels like a well-deserved payoff for hard work.
The easiest way for a casual guild to ensure that every pull counts and maintain momentum is to build a culture of deliberate learning and continuous feedback.
Princinples of Deliberate Learning
Raiders committed to building a culture of deliberate learning should...
- Proactively and regularly seek feedback on their gameplay from other players and publicly-available resources — no matter how good, bad, amazing, or embarrassing they consider their gameplay.
- Receive all feedback from other raiders with gratitude and grace.
- Give specific, actionable, and encouraging feedback.
- Use tools that make all of the above take less effort.
Proactively and Regularly Seeking Feedback
Nobody knows what they don't know, but that doesn't mean they can't find out! To do this, a raider has to proactively and regularly seeking feedback, which means starting with low-effort/high-yield practices like...
- Noticing when other players of the same class/spec are outperforming and ask them what they're doing differently.
Q: I saw that you're doing way more damage with Arcane Missiles. Do you know what I'm missing? Did you ever have the same problem?"
A: Are you generating procs when you're at 3 stacks, resulting in a lost proc? Are you cutting the spell's channel short, resulting in fewer hits per cast? Are you casting it when you're low on mana, resulting low damage per hit?
- Seeking out class/spec-specific advice when encountering a new boss for the first time.
Q: This is my first time on Beastlord as a Monk. Is there anything Monk-specific I should know?
A: Each animal has its own health pool, so you can use Touch of Death at least four times throughout the fight (once for each animal and then finally on Beastlord himself). You can also use Touch of Death on the spears in an emergency (e.g., if someone is trapped).
- Establishing fight-specific indicators of success before each boss pull, assess how they performed after the pull, and come up with small, concrete changes in their approach aimed at improving their performance for the next pull.
Q: On Blackhand, I should never get hit by Impaling Throw, but I got hit 3 times in Phase 2. What did I do last pull that contributed to that and what will I change to make it less likely next pull? What are other people doing differently that helps them avoid this problem?"
A: Plan on getting targeted. Make sure to save your movement-enhancing cooldowns in case that happens and stay between Blackhand and the Siegemaker to minimize the distance you'll have to run.
- Developing a picture of the "typical" way their class spec should approach a fight, especially any fight-specific glyphs and talents.
This list isn't meant to be exhaustive, only illustrative of what "proactively and regularly seeking feedback" means.
Receiving feedback gracefully is a learned skill, so let's learn! To do this, raiders should...
Assume the person giving feedback is well-intentioned even if their feedback feels like an attack.
Hold off responding to any feedback until it's been given, even if you're feeling attacked.
If you feel attacked, it's worth acknowledging, but never in a way that assumes bad intent.
I can tell my performance is frustrating you, but it's hard for me to take what you're saying to heart when I feel attacked.
Well, he's not wrong, but boy he could've been less of a jerk about it!
Take any feedback they receive seriously. Feedback is always coming from somewhere and shouldn't be put aside until you understand where. Something stood out to the person giving it, even if they packaged the feedback poorly.
- "Oh, so-and-so doesn't know what he's talking about. I've played this class/spec for ages."
- "So-and-so is just a grump; don't worry about what they say."
Again, not exhaustive.
Giving feedback effectively is also a learned skill, so let's learn that, too! To do this, raiders should...
- Resist the temptation to give unsolicited feedback. When in doubt, fist ask, "Hey, Cufflink, I have some feedback for you. Are you open to it?"
The moment when you have an irresistible urge to give feedback is usually the worst time to give it — your impatience and frustration will be obvious, causing your feedback to fall on deaf ears. 2. Give feedback frequently and in small amounts. Too much feedback at once can be overwhelming, hard to digest, and easy to misunderstand. 3. Be specific with their feedback.
- Bad: "DPS seems low."
- Good: "DPS on Kromog's Grasping Earth seems low. Ideally everyone should be out of the hands within 20 seconds, but half the raid is taking 30 seconds or longer."
Be actionable with their feedback.
- Bad: "We need to break out of Grasping Earth more quickly."
- Good: "Are we sure everyone is positioned optimally during grasping Earth? Is everyone using the best abilities for their class/spec?"
The first response is unproductive — obviously that needs to happen. But how? What actions should we take?
Spending 5 minutes to answer the questions in the second response will point everyone at concrete changes they can make to their gameplay and improve every subsequent attempt. This will do 100x more for raid momentum and morale than repeating essentially the same attempt over and over throughout the night.
Again, not exhaustive.
There are plenty of tools that make the above take significantly less effort and I won't go into detail here and now. However, there are two easy things everyone can and should do:
Use AskMrRobot's "Talents / Glyphs" feature to ensure their choice of talents and glyphs aren't toally off the mark. This takes virtually no effort and reveals any fundamental or fight-specific mistakes with talent/glyph choice.
Take a look at the typical talent/glyph choices for Arcane Mages on Heroic Gruul, for example.
Players can use WarcraftLog's "Comparison" feature to check for fundamental problems with their rotation. Players at the 40th percentile or lower are almost always missing one or more major things that are both easy to address (once noticed) and will substantially improve their performance (once fixed).
For those players, there are almost always obvious differences in the list of spells cast relative to higher-performing players (e.g., failing to use a certain ability that a higher-performing player uses throughout the fight).