With the 15% buff in place and an instance of “farm” and “progression” content to clear, a number of guilds these days are facing a very real and very scary problem—raid regression. The opposite of solid progression, regression is a compounding effect, a slippery slope with disastrous consequences should you reach the bottom. I would venture every raider out there has been at a regression crossroads at some point, where attempts have been getting better and better with each wipe, until the stupid mistake happens (standing in a void, hitting a shadow trap, late dispel, a dps pulling agro right after the boss is engaged, etc.) and your team is left stumbling over themselves. Then another stupid mistake, and another, and after a while you can barely make it through the first 30 seconds of the fight. Raid leaders are fuming and/or venting, players are pointing fingers, someone invariably makes a “stop being baddies” comment, and all the while your raid team is getting farther and farther away from a kill. What’s to be done?
Don’t go for the sweeping overhaul
I can’t count the number of times that, faced with 20+ wipes on a boss, the decision gets made to drastically change the strat. And although this may seem to be a wise decision (read: we’re wiping because our strat is inherently flawed), the huge change made out of sheer frustration is rarely the wake-up call your group needs, and it winds up feeling awkward and disjointed. When our 10-man team was learning Yogg for the first time, and granted we were all working on 4 hours of sleep, after trying cloud dodging and having people routinely bump into one or several, we decided to try the tank delivery method (where tanks pull the adds to Sara when they’re about to die.) It was a strat that would later prove its worth in 25s, but that night it was disastrous. DPS wanted to gravitate towards Sara to assure adds exploded, tanks had to back into the middle, healer were in the middle of the fray, etc. So after one attempt, we went back to the clumped dodging, and thereafter refined our approach to include one very vocal master navigator and one dedicated explosion coordinator. It’s easy to forget that most strats for bosses are viable, and if it was working for you before, then minor adjustments are all that stand between you and the kill.
Address the issue, not a symptom or an incidental
Lich King Phase 1 is a great example of times where it’s easy to focus on symptoms or incidentals instead of the underlying root of the issue–late dispels, which end in player deaths, being a prime example. While it’s easy to jump on the dispeller as the source of the problem (and he very well might be), oftentimes the dispel was late for a reason other than complete obliviousness that a Plague had even been cast or the player’s inability to hit a designated key. As I mentioned in my post a couple months back about the 5 Whys of Wiping, getting to the root cause of an issue will assure that you can remedy the problem and not simply put off dealing with it for a couple more attempts. Moreover, keep the big picture in mind when identifying issues—one person dying to a Malleable Goo on one attempt, while completely avoidable an inexcusable, is likely not the reason that you’ve been wiping repeatedly.
Talk about what’s going right
Amid the fingerpointing and blame that goes out when a raid starts to regress, it’s oftentimes easy to forget that your raid team is likely doing some things right. For example, even though your raid might be struggling with ghosts in Deathwhisper, the fact that Curse of Torpor is never an issue bears some mentioning as well. Part of learning a fight and getting into a groove is reinforcement—both negative and positive. Focusing on just one type of reinforcement can mean that you narrow your teams’ focus down to the exclusion of all else. And then, low and behold, Curses might arise as a problem after all. So while you’re soliciting feedback on all the problems you’re encountering, take a moment to also acknowledge that there are some solutions already in place.
Set progress goals
By and large, one of the biggest mistakes that I’ve seen leaders and players alike make is setting time goals instead of progress ones. Ultimately, your goal in any boss fight is a kill, not the progressive exhaustion of Professor Putricide through hours of relentless attacks. So instead of saying “We’re gonna be here all night folks” and consciously or unconsciously setting your raiders’ eyes on their clocks, try “We’re here tonight to get to phase 3” to keep raiders’ focused on the progress goals you want to hit. And when you do get to phase 3, offer up the option of continuing or rewarding your team on a job well-done. Chances are, your team will be psyched enough to continue their efforts.
Cut out the slack
I don’t think I’ve ever watched a guild’s first kill where players chatted the entire time about the latest sports match or Cataclysm or gossiped about Joe-Bob-the-rogue-who-is-such-a-noob. In fact, most videos from top guilds contain little chatter at all, aside from rapid flurries of information, the general narration of a leader-type, and the inevitable nerdgasms of success. So just like career sites advise you to dress the part when interviewing for the job you want, I’d strongly suggest acting the part on bosses you want to kill. So kill the social chatter, cut down on the turnaround time between attempts, and use the run back to talk about what you’ll be doing similar or differently in the next attempt.
Fall back on your inner narrator
One of the techniques great sports players use to get back into a comfortable performance groove is to have a practiced preparation routine. Whether it’s the number of times they bounce the ball before a free throw, the shirt tugs before a windup, or a thunderous temper tantrum, these behaviors can go a long way to soothing a frazzled player after a bad play or mistake. For WoW players, routine often becomes the practice of doing what we’ve done one hundred times before. But when frazzled or disconnected after a series of wipes it’s easy to struggle with something that we would consider routine, even mundane. So to keep your own head in the game, or help your raid team in the event that you’re leading, it’s oftentimes helpful to provide those verbal cues that keep people alert and tuned into the next step. “Adds in 5”, “First block coming up”, “Wall coming down in 10”, “Ghosts are out”—are all good ways, with minimal chatter—to keep everyone’s mind in the game and get them (and yourself) back into a comfort zone.
Above all …
Lastly, and I cannot over-emphasize this enough, it’s important to remember that a kill is a team effort, and therefore any issues that crop up along the way, are TEAM issues. While fine-tuning will be requisite at the player level, the fact remains that raiding is a team sport. Starting a rant about “stupid people” or cataloguing the mistakes players are making or mentally tuning out does absolutely squat to help your team, and is a quick and easy way to up the raid’s level of tension by tenfold. (I imagine I’m preaching to the choir about this one). Regardless, it’s easy to start thinking you’re above reproach and that your silent fuming isn’t hurting anyone, or that other “people” are the source of the problems but the fact remains: a boss fight isn’t about you and your feelings and your issues; it’s about a collective that’s bigger than yourself.
In the end, yes, wipes will be frustrating. And regression wipes will be doubly so. It will be a struggle. Right now, FH is continuing to work closer and closer to a kill on LK25 Hardmode. Some nights a kill seems within our grasp, while other nights are mired in a host of social and execution problems, the likes of which would threaten to reduce even the most reserved of players into a state of sheer frustration. And believe you me, I am not above mention in that respect; right now, my motivation is hard to come by and my patience is in short supply. But even after last night’s spectacular display of Murphy’s Law and Finger Pointing, I’m reminded of one thing: I’m in this for the bloody challenge. And all of the stress and anguish associated with wipes is completely of my own making.
Like I once told a coach who once, after a day of abysmal play, handed me a plane ticket and told me to go home: “F- you. I’m here to win, and I’m staying until I do.” (He let me stay, even threw me in the lineup so I could fall flat on my face. I didn’t; we won that tournament.) So my final tip for raid regression: flip that cockblock raid boss the bird and think to yourself (or shout in vent, if you feel so inclined)–King Kong ain’t got shit on me.