"Raiding" in this article means "running instances with 20 or more people". Technically a group of 10 constitutes a raid too, but needs much less organization, devotion and discipline than the bigger raids. For this reason, 10 player raids can be mastered by pickup groups with "normal" gear, while pickup groups in larger instances usually need a few highly skilled and overgeared members.
A sample career
At start, new players usually spend a lot of time playing alone or questing in small groups of fewer than five players. Sooner or later, the next step is to run small instances with groups of five (the Instance grouping guide helps mastering this style of play). Upon reaching the maximum level, many choices are open. The world of PvP can be explored, it's possible to continue playing solo, and there are many options available for group PvE. For small groups there are the heroic five-man instances, and groups of 10 can enter the world of raids.
The culmination of the PvE endgame is the 25 player raids. Prior to WLK, only a few players got there; for example, only about half the number of players who killed a boss in Karazhan ever killed a 25 player boss, and less than 5% defeated the final boss of the expansion (Kil'Jaeden). In vanilla WoW, less than 2% of all players ever entered Naxxramas (the original version).
With the changes in WLK, hardmodes now are the pinnacle of raiding. All other content has become very accessible and is regularly cleared by pickup groups. Due to this development raiding has become much more commonplace, and the following rules have lost much of their exclusivity and some of their importance.
During vanilla and TBC, successful raiding depended on a dedicated player base, because progress was only possible with well-practised tactics and a good organized raid. Since WLK, raids rather face problems like gear elitism (" minimum gearscore xx, link achievement"), which basically amounts to beating the encounters by outgearing them, not by proper tactics.
The following text is about progress raiding, that is with a group which does not outgear the instance. In effect, this means 25 player hard modes, or 25 player normal modes for raids which really strive for progress.
Progress raiding is a long term team effort. Have patience, and be a good team player.
Very good gear can be obtained with comparative ease by completing the daily badge quest, farming the 10 player versions and the occasional 25 player run. Gear obtained this way is just one tier below the best stuff available, and (compared to vanilla/TBC) with rather low effort.
The remaining PvE challenge are the 25 player hardmodes. The motivation for trying this is not gear, but rather the wish to master something really difficult. It's about building and maintaining a team, a close-knit group of players who progress together. The most happy raid members are those who join a run because they like the challenge of the encounters, no matter whether it's a wipe night, a first kill or a farm run.
People with selfish goals, especially when it comes to loot, usually don't find much pleasure in raids. If some kind of formalized loot distribution system (like DKP) is not used, epic loot is normally distributed on the basis of what's best for the raid's future success, and not what's optimal for an individual player.
There is a fine line between personal goals ("I want to have fun") and group goals ("We want to kill that boss"), but (as in many real life group environments), these goals don't need to be at odds. If it's good for the group's success, even yielding some item (or another advantage) to somebody else can be fun. So be polite and don't put personal goals over those of the whole raid (see the golden rule above).
New players should ask themselves the following questions before joining a progress raid group:
- Can I regularly spend at least two evenings per week raiding?
- Do I want to regularly pay a repair bill of 60g plus 40–80g for consumables per night without receiving any compensation?
- Is it all right when somebody else gets the item I'd love to have, even if that decision comes down to politics?
- Can I balance my need for individuality with the need to conform to the expectations and dictates of a group?
- Do I truly love my chosen class and role, and am I willing to push it to the limit?
Only people willing to answer each of these questions with a loud and clear "yes" should seriously consider raiding. It takes a lot of effort, and the rewards are scarce.
Finding a raid
The most common and easiest method to start raiding is to find a raiding guild with an open spot. It's actually quite frequent that raiding guilds are looking for new members, because they lost some old hand. Blizzards realm forums are a very good starting point. If no guilds are currently recruiting, it can't hurt to write a general application there, and all guilds also consider serious applications even when they're not actively looking for new members. The alternative would be to try and start a new raiding guild.
In order to have a good chance to get an invite to a raiding guild, the following technical aspects can help:
- - Have decent gear. With the group finder, it's become rather easy to get at least a full set of epics. Try to gem and enchant everything at least minimally - nothing says 'lazy' like empty gem slots.
- - The Application should be well written and thought out
- - Try to find a matching guild
The last point is really important and works both ways. A dedicated, reliable and serious player should look for a serious raiding guild, while casual or fun oriented future raiders should look for a more casual guild. Matching player and guild character is actually not so much a question of gear, the more progressed guilds are usually aware that it's hard to gear up beyond a certain level without an opportunity to raid.
A somewhat related aspect is that of chosen role and spec. Progress oriented guilds used to have rather tight "job descriptions", when they wanted a healing druid, they were usually not interested in a holy paladin. Similarly, serious raid groups usually had only a limited number of "Off-spec" spots (like elemental shaman, retribution paladin), some spec might not have been accepted at all. These rules were rather strict in vanilla (where each class usually had exactly one raid-capable spec), became softer in TBC (when most classes had 2 or 3 raid specs), and have all but vanished with WLK. Since 3.0.1, it's even desirable to have many different combinations of class and spec in a raid, because nearly every such combination can contribute some unique ability to the raid.
Only the best of the top guilds, those competing for first kills, are still concerned about class and spec. The only challenge which remains when composing a raid is to find the appropriate numbers of tanks, healers and damage dealers (the "default" being 2-3 tanks, 5-6 healers and 16-18 damage dealers). Individual players' capabilities are nowadays much more important than class or spec. Knowledge of boss fights is paramount, as is the players' ability to get the maximum threat, healing, or DPS possible with their current equipment for tanks, healers, and DPS respectively. This is particularly important in fights where one player's ignorance can easily lead to a wipe - encounters such as Thaddius or Kel'Thuzad are particularly notable examples of this.
In 5- or 10-man groups, a single leader can do all the management necessary - one person can organize healing, tanking and target assignment without there being much danger that something is forgotten or out of sync. In a raid the tasks are much more complicated and specialized, and sometimes require detailed knowledge of class (or build) capabilities, so that actually quite a lot of the management tasks get delegated to "officers", and the raid leader himself mainly focuses on keeping things synchronized. As all hierarchies, this structure can either be maintained out of necessity, because it makes things easier and better organized, or it can be used as a means of suppression. For beginning raiders it's sometimes hard to distinguish these two forms.
Normally there are a few extra chat channels set up, for example one channel for healers, one for warlocks and mages, another for hunters, and one for all melee classes. Each of these channels should have one leader, and these leaders join the officer channel where they discuss (together with the raid leader) overall strategy and synchronization.
Unless the task at hand is totally routine (e.g., the 20th MC run before the lava packs), chat should be kept to a minimum. Raids are not a good place to get to know the other members. There are too many people, and there's too little time. When it comes to tactics, beginners should really be careful and first try to understand how this particular raid works. Although on many bosses there are widely accepted "standard" strategies, some raids may do things differently and still have success. It is not a good idea to try to teach things to long term raid members, justified as it may be. Discussions should not take place during a raid. If there are any issues they should be discussed later with the relevant officer in /w or in some forum, not during the raid.
Good methods to annoy other raid members (and the leader in particular) are to predict doom and failure before the pull even begins or to declare "wipe" when just a few people are dead. It is important for the success of the raid to stay positive, especially when learning new content. A good mantra is "Wiping is fun" (meditate about that - it really helps). So whenever anger about a bad run wells up, just think of how fun wiping is!
Raids are the only environment where damage dealers really need a lot of +hit gear. The raid bosses are 3 levels higher than the level cap, and thus in order to maximize damage output +hit rating is a viable stat. Until the hit cap is reached, hit is the most efficient way of increasing damage output; still, it's not infinitely more valuable than other stats (see Hit / Spell hit). For mana users, endurance may be important, particularly for healers. Every mana user must be able to sustain a 10 minute fight. Tanks (and to a lesser extent everybody else) may need many different sets of armor to adapt to different situations (e.g. high resistance, high avoidance or high threat).
Wiping and wipe recovery
A Wipe happens when all members of the raid are dead. Part of the challenge of raiding is to recover from this and get moving again quickly. Quick and efficient wipe recovery helps to increase the raids success. While learning a new encounter, wipes usually happen every 15–20 minutes, thus in a 3-hour raid (assuming 15 minutes) a raid that takes only 5 minutes to recover gets 9 tries at the encounter, whereas a raid that needs 15 minutes only gets 6 tries. For this reason, new members should quickly find out under which circumstances they are supposed to release, when they should self-rez, and when not. If capable of self or combat rez, new players should always ask the raid leader whether to use it.
The drops are usually distributed by a loot master during a raid. The loot rules are normally agreed on beforehand. Most raiding groups use some kind of formalized loot system (with varying degrees of freedom, politics and bureaucracy involved). Drops which are of no immediate use (like Crystals from disenchanted epics, other crafting materials or BOE items which nobody currently wants) usually go to the guild bank. Newbies need to be prudent once more, but there's no reason to despair - even if things look like it's impossible to ever get anything, it's actually quite common that there are many items which nobody else wants, so newbies usually gear up quite fast. Of course, getting the top of the line drops takes much more patience.
Following WotLK's release, raiding content has become far more accessible to pickup groups, and the most common strategy to distribute loot in PUGs is to set the loot rules to loot master, and have the leader call for rolls in a priority order. If no one is eligible or wants to roll in one priority order, next priority order is called. Rolls are done by typing "/roll 100" in the chat box. This is a slightly finer-grained variation of the need/greed system.
Typically, roll order is as follows:
-Main-spec roll: Only roll if the item is an upgrade over the currently equipped piece.
-Off-spec roll: If no one's main spec can use the item, then players with a secondary role can go ahead and roll.
-Disenchant/Greed: If, by some misfortune, no one can use the loot or the loot is bind on equip, everyone can roll on the item or, if at all possible, the result of disenchanting for BoP items. Some groups also stipulate that only people who have not won any loot in the current raid should roll by this point(particularly if a piece of loot is useful to every player or 25-man runs)