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Ready Check: Leading the fray

Jennie Lees

Ready Check is a weekly column focusing on successful raiding for the serious raider. Hardcore or casual, ZA or Sunwell Plateau, everyone can get in on the action and down some bosses. Or motivate 24 other people to do so!

For many guilds, raiding is in a bit of a lull at the moment, with far more focus on the future rather than the present. One of the things that can keep raiding life interesting is to try out different things; play an alt, try a weird setup, revisit old content...

How about a slightly different challenge? Something that will stretch your ability to multitask, to communicate, to deal with people; it'll try your patience but provide immeasurable rewards when that patience pays off.

No, I don't mean running for an election. I'm talking about raid leading.

Some of you might be a dab hand at leading raids already, but there are plenty of people who've never given it a try. Well, now's a great time. Why? People are looking for a bit of a change – something to make the dark days before WotLK more exciting. Sure, the incoming patch will shake things up a little, but the challenges presented to raid leaders by 3.0 are an excellent place to start learning the tricks of the trade on content that's familiar and (hopefully) easy.

The Good

Leading a raid can be a lot of fun when everything goes well. Sitting back and watching a boss die like clockwork -- knowing you helped make it happen -- is a great feeling. Working out and implementing a new strategy means a lot of sweat and tears, but when it all comes together and you get that first kill, the work truly pays off.

It can also be a good way to fix things you personally have issues with in raids. Of course it's not a platform for a personal vendetta, but if you feel your raids are too disorganised, too slow, too sloppy... by taking charge, you can do something about it!

Alternatively, you might be looking at leading raids simply because there's nobody else competent enough to do it. Sadly, this does happen; people leave, burn out, or you might just be planning on running PuG raids. If you're not keen on doing it and don't enjoy it, don't fall into the trap of becoming a martyr; raids led by someone who doesn't want to be there have an entirely different atmosphere from those led by someone who's actually enjoying their job.

The Bad

Sadly, everyone has bad days, and when you're leading a raid this can cascade into much larger proportions than when you're 'just' a member. One error by one person, another by the next... nothing's going right and you're the one who has to keep people's spirits up and stop their frustration causing even more mistakes. It's certainly not easy, and if there isn't a happy ending to that particular raid, it can put a shadow over your own evening.

Being the go-to person for raids can become quite a weight, also, as people start coming to you both during and outside raids for various reasons. Maybe they want you to run a retro raid at the weekend, or perhaps things are going wrong and they're bombarding you with suggestions. If there aren't many raid leaders, taking a day off for whatever reason becomes less of an option, too; this can also cause tension in the ranks as people complain that you're "always" in for bosses. (Solution: tell them to lead the raid themselves!)

There are also a few things you might do as a novice raid leader – we'll come to those a bit later – that can cast doubts over your own suitability or competence and knock your self-confidence. Don't worry. Everyone had to learn from scratch once, and if you start leading raids in a fairly safe environment (such as farm content) it's a lot easier. Some people don't like leading farm raids and prefer to lead progression raids – this might be you – but it's still easier to start out with content you know.

The Ugly

Being in charge and the power that comes with it can have their 'perks'. There are plenty of stories about raid leaders and master looters taking bribes for items, prioritising their favourite players, or simply using their leadership as an unfettered soapbox to scream obscenities at people. Obviously, this is down to your personal sense of morality and leadership style, but if you're only after the golden crown so your best friend can get a warglaive, be careful – you might not have it for long.

Top Skills for Raid Leaders

Multitasking, first and foremost. You need to be able to play your own class while being aware of what else is going on in the raid, and handle the masses of information coming at you from different channels, ventrilo, whispers and the game itself. If you're the sort of player whose idea of a fun fight is being told to stand in one spot and press 2 for five minutes, this might be a difficult adjustment to make.

Situational awareness. Related to multitasking, you'll need to assess the raid and make on-the-fly decisions at times, such as calling druid resses or even calling a wipe. A lot of roles lend themselves to this quite easily – DPS often have a lot of time to focus on the bigger picture, healers are generally watching the whole raid anyway, and tanks have to be clued-in to what's going on around them at all times.

Communication. Whether by voice, text or psychic brainwave broadcast, you need to communicate with your raid and with individual raiders to keep everything together. This leads on to..

Good people skills. Not an absolute requirement – some people with more abrasive styles can be excellent raid leaders – but depending on your particular approach and your raid, you might need to balance out a lot of 'people factors'.

Game knowledge. This should go without saying, but it's surprising how often raid leaders who seem clueless about some very basic mechanics pop up. Arranging raid groups means you need to be aware of class dependencies and buffs; knowing about threat mechanics can help when calling resses. Working out a new strategy or understanding an existing one also requires you to do your homework.

Patience. Again, not something that every raid leader possesses, but it can certainly help during the tougher raids.

Mistakes Novice Leaders Make

Stepping up to run a raid for the first time can be daunting, but don't worry if you screw up. Everyone has, at some point. It depends a lot on how your guild runs things as to how likely you are to run into the following pitfalls (and it's not just new leaders that make them, either).

Overlooking details. From not promoting the main tanks to leaving dungeons on Heroic Mode, someone will utter the WoW equivalent of a polite cough and gently remind you... usually before it's too late.

Being under- or over-hasty. Nerves and unfamiliarity can be contributing factors to this; you either call a pull without realising the healers don't know what to do, or you spend ten minutes sorting out everyone's exact position when 90% of them already know where to stand. Either way, getting the pace right can be hard, but try to keep abreast of people's mood – if they're getting annoyed at waiting, you might be taking too long!

Not having a clue. You're not a superhuman – it's quite normal to be leading a raid for the first time and realise you don't know everything about the setup for a specific fight. Usually someone else in the raid will, so don't be afraid to ask. If that's not the case, read up on the fight, watch videos from the perspectives you don't play, and ask people who do know the drill.

Trying to do everything yourself. Taking on the responsibility for raid leading, strategy, loot distribution, rotations, group setup, positioning as well as doing your own job can be a huge amount of work, and leading at this sort of level will burn you out eventually (trust me, I've been there). Share what responsibility you can. Perhaps another officer can sort out loot while you arrange who will be rotated in and out for the next boss? Maybe your classleaders or role leaders can tell you who needs what loot?


Raid leading can be difficult, but it can also be incredibly rewarding. A lot of people don't necessarily realise the amount of work raid leaders do put in, both during and outside of raids; hug your local RL today!

While leading has its good sides, there are downsides too, and having experienced overwork and burnout personally I can definitely vouch for the relief of being back in a relatively mundane 'raider' position. It isn't necessarily for life – but I wouldn't exchange the time I spent raid leading for anything else.

Give it a go – you might just like it! And for those of you in the raid leader's shoes, I'd love to hear your own raid leading tips and advice for any first-timers out there.

Further Reading

LF Raid Leader PST (WoW Insider)
How to Build Raid Groups (Fusion)
Raid Leading Mods and Addons (Elitist Jerks)
Wilgje's Raid Leading Guide (official forums)

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