An interesting topic was posted over at Blog Azeroth this week: What makes an encounter click? In other words, how does something go from head-beating frustration to farm status, excepting the addition of gear.
While there is a certain level of familiarity required on an individual level, there is much more learning on a group level, particularly in raids, required. Let’s consider the individual level for a moment. It is one thing to watch a tankspot video, or read a strat, then to be in the encounter and find yourself thinking a thousand different things. “Don’t stand in the purple poo, stand in the green goo; he’s gonna rage for 15 seconds, stand back.” In WotLK, Lord Marrowgar alone spikes random players (ranged to DPS spike immediately, healers to keep em alive), sends blue fire to a ranged member (dodge), and drops into bonestorm, targeting different players without indication, striking them and releasing a spread of blue fire ribbons into the room. Even with macros to target the spikes quickly, there was still a thought process for quite a while. And moving away and dodging the blue flame without becoming trapped was a bit of an art form – but after a while, everyone did it virtually without thinking. The key here is, however, that everyone has to complete Step 1 and have their individual survival and assignments become automatic.
After individuals have figured out what to do, then the group dynamic becomes the key. What are everyone’s assignments, and can they do them automatically. Interrupt assignment, who’s got which ones? Tanks taunting off, when do we do it? Who has priority on battle rezzes? Who handles which adds, and in what order? This may not seem as important in 5 mans, but in a raid this step is key – the members of the raid have to be comfortable with their ability to hold up their portion of the encounter, but also in every other member’s ability as well. It can get to the point where things like tank taunts go “zip lip” on vent, with each tank knowing the other is keeping an eye on their debuff stacks and will taunt when appropriate. When everyone has each other’s back, the encounter gets easy.
How to get there? Practice, practice, practice. To quote the movie Miracle, “I can’t promise you we’ll be the best team at Lake Placid next February. But we will be the best conditioned. That I can promise you.” The team that makes it look easy may not be the most talented, but they are the best conditioned, to both the encounter and each other.