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Ready Check: 5 lessons learned from our readers


Ready Check helps you prepare yourself and your raid for the bosses that simply require killing. Check back with Ready Check each week for the latest pointers on killing adds, not standing in fire, and hoping for loot that won't drop.

It feels like time has flown by me. I suppose that's the way things go when you're having fun. I've been writing Ready Check for two years; I started when we were all staring in awe at the magnificent architecture of Ulduar. Since then, my time in this column has been fun, a struggle, elating, and depressing. It is now, however, simply time to move on.

I'm still raiding, and clearly I'm not leaving WoW Insider. But after two years, it's time to have someone else grab the steering wheel and help out the raids of Azeroth. Tyler Caraway will be laying down his DOT-laden wisdom in these hallowed halls, and I truly do believe he's going to do a great job.

If you do a half-decent job of writing, you'll find yourself learning from your readers. I think it's a requisite for this job ... Are you listening to what people are saying? In the time I've been at the helm of Ready Check, I've certainly learned from you folks. I will now share those lessons as my parting "thank you" to the people who've made it worthwhile.

1. We all miss Karazhan. How long has it been since we've heard the Flame Wreath catechism for the first time? I'm not going to look it up; I don't want to know. Since being turned into a little girl by the Big Bad Wolf, I've not felt so much fun from any raid. Don't get me wrong -- I love me some raids. But Karazhan was just that damned good.

And I'm not the only one. Karazhan was magic. The bosses were intriguing characters, the design was beautiful, and the balance was perfect. Of course, it's probably nostalgia throwing a rose-colored tint over the whole mess.

A small part of me is afraid Blizzard will try to update Karazhan. And I wish I could be excited about it. But revisiting Karazhan at level 85 would be like Miley Cyrus covering Smells Like Teen Spirit ... it's just feels wrong. (Apologies to Ms. Cyrus. Your music's fine; continue on. I'm just feeling old and grumpy and wanted to shout for the damned kids to get off my lawn.)

2. Mechanics are easy; people are hard. Two years working with all you beautiful people have convinced me that the mechanics are easy. Oh, sure, they test your reflexes, coordination, and willingness to farm gear. But that can be overcome with some videos, guides, and queries to Wowhead.

The stuff that makes raid leading hard is the people. Dealing with flagging enthusiasm, too-full rosters, inadequate attendance, belligerent know-it-alls, won't-watch-the-videos stoners, and all the other cast of characters that make up a raid ... That is the hard part.

Over time, I found myself focusing more and more on these HR issues. That's when readers came in and said "more of this." Sadly, I never did find an "easy" solution to that whole mess. There isn't an easy solution. People are people.

3. Content comes too quickly but not fast enough. Blizzard's really screwed in terms of how quickly it puts out content. If it lays out content too quickly, your average player will feel overwhelmed. As it is, playing WoW can turn into a job. If the raids are too hard, then it becomes even easier for your average player to feel that way ... Players barely clear the last obstacle course, and a new one gets put out.

Of course, on the other hand, if it's too easy, the content gets consumed too quickly. Hardcore raiders get bored and flood the forums to whine while simultaneously trolling normal players who are still working on the raids. Mike Morhaime addressed some of this in a call this week, although I do wonder if he meant "content in general" rather than raids specifically.

I feel for the folks at Blizzard in this regards. It's a big, hot mess, and I don't envy them trying to walk that tightrope.

4. We all want a report card but shouldn't have one. The three most common questions I've seen in the last two years are:

  • What are the stats required to enter a particular raid?
  • How is my DPS relative to others of my class and the population in general?
  • Where am I on the progression curve? Do I suck?
While there are plenty of websites out there that claim to answer these questions, I tend not to believe them unless the data comes from Blizzard. As a business metrics analyst in a former life, I know how complex business systems get. Raid data is certainly a business system. If you're not sitting at Blizzard HQ, I doubt you have the full context for the data to be fully dimensional.

I think the reason Blizzard doesn't provide this data is that we don't need it. Did the boss die? Then you're fine. Stop worrying about it.

Nobody wants to believe they suck. If Blizzard put out average metrics, the people well under the curve might give up. They'd stop tackling the content and stop having fun. So I'm pretty glad Blizzard doesn't provide any solid answers to these questions, even if that means we have to deal with every amateur statistician who wants to go off half-cocked on the official forums.

5. Nobody cares about your DPS. The final piece of knowledge I want to share with you all is this: Turn off your damage meter and focus on playing the game. Stop reading theorycrafting sites, especially once you have a grip on your class mechanics. Throw away your best-in-slot wishlist and just take the gear as it comes.

Perfect rotations only exist in the white tower of our imagination. Best in slot is ephemeral at best, masturbatory at worst. Dead rogues do no damage.

Focus on getting out of fire, staying alive, and having fun with friends. Focus on doing "well" and give up on "perfect." Play the game, not the spreadsheet.

As your reflexes and actual skills improve, your zen-like understanding of raid mechanics will bloom like a mushroom cloud in the dead center of your enemies.

Be good at the game, not at shuffling addons. Addons are a crutch, with the exception of a few boss mods. Addons hamper you, because you're missing out on the timing, reflexes, and ki of a fight. They help after you've mastered those things, I guess, but you have to walk before you can run.

Be true to yourself and focus on your skills. You'll get there. You're part of a team; embrace that, pick up the flow, and rock out. Play the game. That's the point.

Thank you for everyone who listened to me ramble in this column for two years. I'll be back around occasionally, I'm sure. This is Michael Gray, who hates his raid, signing off.

Ready Check shares all the strategies and inside information you need to take your raiding to the next level. Be sure to look up our strategy guides to Cataclysm's 5-man instances, and for more healer-centric advice, visit Raid Rx.

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