Thursday, October 8, 2009

Raiding 101: Don't Stand in the Fire!

This is the first in a series of raiding guides that will not focus on any particular encounter or instance but on the very basics of what one needs to do to be a successful raider. The first will focus on the most important aspect of any boss kill you will ever complete in WoW: Survival.
Give a man a fish and he eats for a day. Teach a man to fish and he eats for a lifetime.
This quote rings true for so many things and raiding in WoW is definitely one of them.

The tried and true method of educating a raid group about a particular boss or raid instance is to post a handful of videos and a recap of the strategy for easy reference. This tried and true method has the distinct disadvantage of not teaching the raider how to fish, as it were. I'm here to tell you there's a better way.

What is this better way? Why, teaching the raider to fish, of course!

There are many raid encounters in WoW alone spanning across three different iterations of the game and 9 (soon to be 10) tiers of difficulty. Each boss has a different strategy and requires a different level of expertise and cooperation. However, everything you ever do in any boss fight outside of your standard class responsibilities boils down to a half dozen or so types of attacks. Learning how to recognize and deal with these types of attacks can make the difference between a pro and a noob.

Types of Attacks:
  • Point Blank Area of Effect (PBAoE): These are attacks that are targeted at the boss and do damage to more than one player in it's area of effect.
  • Targeted Area of Effect (AoE): The more common type of area damage, targeted AoE attacks do the same thing as PBAoE except they are not targeted on the boss. Targeting mechanics differ but most commonly are centered on a player or a key point of the room.
  • Conal Attacks: Conal attacks are attacks that originate at the boss and have an area of effect that widens as it gets further from the boss.
  • Debuffs: Debuffs can cover all sorts of things a boss does. Most commonly they are DoT type debuffs but they'll often have special traits attached to them that can complicate matters.
Location, Location, Location!

Most all of these attacks can be avoided by knowing where you need to stand and when you need to stand there. This is possibly one of the most important aspects to end game raiding a raider could learn.

Especially in Wrath of the Lich King, end game raiding in WoW is an incredibly mobile thing. There are almost no fights where you can just stand in place for the entire fight and sling lightning bolts at the boss - although as an elemental shaman I can't say I would be upset if this wasn't true!

In most situations all of these attacks can be avoided. There are times when they can't and those times are all about testing the healing fortitude of the raid - which is beyond the scope of this particular posting. But knowing when the attacks are coming and knowing where they are coming to is one half of the equation. The other half of the equation is knowing what tools you have at your disposal - not just in your own character but in the encounter as well.

Point Blank Area of Effect

PBAoE effects can be avoided almost 100% of the time. They always start at the position the boss is and cover varying types of distance.

Some examples of PBAoE are cleave attacks that hit everyone standing in front of the boss to thunderstomp type effects that hit everyone in the immediate vicinity of the boss. Occasionally PBAoE can target players at a great distance, but these effects often have other ways of being avoided like interrupting General Vezax's Searing Flame or switching to the opposite color when one of the Twin Val'kyr starts casting their light or dark vortex.

Area of Effect

AoE attacks are possibly one of the easiest to avoid, even if you're targeted with one. Most targeted AoE will leave a splash of damage where the person being targeted is standing. This is where the term "don't stand in the fire" came from! The easy way to avoid these attacks is to spread out, because the more people are standing in one place the greater the chance that one of these targeted AoEs will be dropped in that spot.

And don't wait for other people to get out of your way either because odds are that the plot of land you've laid claim to has already been scoped out by another person in your raid. People are funny things when they don't communicate, they tend to assume another is going to pick up the slack and when they don't it's that person's fault. Never mind that any element in this equation could have easily avoided the situation; It's always somebody Else's fault.

Don't be that guy. Take it upon yourself to keep the distance between yourself and your fellow raid members when the threat of a targeted AoE is looming over your head.

Purely in terms of numbers on any boss with a targeted AoE the target of the AoE is likely selected randomly in the raid group. That generally gives you a 1 out of 25 chance to be targeted by the AoE. If you're standing on top of someone else the chances you'll be targeted have just doubled, so spreading out is really the best way to go in this scenario.

Conal Attacks

Conal attacks can partially be lumped in with AoE attacks in that the best way to avoid them is to spread out.

Conal attacks, like AoE attacks generally target a specific raid member. Unlike AoE, whose damage is concentrated on a specific piece of real estate, conal attacks start at the the boss and push forward directly away from the boss. The area of effect will also expand in a cone shape as it gets further from the boss.

Since these attacks will always issue forward from the boss this provides a danger zone that corresponds to whichever way the boss is facing at the time. This also provides for safe zone on the flank and rear of the boss and these are generally the spots you will want to stand in regardless of whether the boss does a conal attack or not. There are exceptions to this rule, for instance, Auriaya in Ulduar does a conal attack called Sonic Screech that does a high amount of damage split amongst everyone that was hit by the attack. In this scenario you will want to stand in front of the boss to split the damage into manageable numbers, but this is the exception and not the rule.

Most conal attacks will generally target the tank so as long as a raider is positioned to the side or rear of the boss they can generally be considered safe. There are exceptions to this rule as well. The best example of this is Icehowl, the third phase of the Northrend Beasts encounter in the coliseum raid instance. Icehowl will randomly target a raid member when he does his conal attack, a blast of icy breath that freezes everyone caught in it. Because it is randomly targeted you aren't necessarily safe standing behind or to the side of the boss - this is where spreading out comes in handy.

If a conal attack target is randomly selected odds are you won't get your chances of being hit down to 1 out of 25 but the chances can indeed be minimized. The way this is done is by spreading out around the boss. If the raid is evenly spaced out around the boss in a circle, only a minimal cross section of raid members will be hit by the attack. It is especially helpful to keep this in mind if your raid tends to stay clumped up on one side of the boss. If you find this is the case, try to gravitate towards the empty areas around the boss to lower your chances of being caught in the cone. This doesn't necessarily eliminate your chances to be targeted it, but it can exponentially lower your chances of being caught up in a conal attack targeted on somebody else.


Debuffs can have any type off effect under the sun and this is where having prior knowledge of the fight can come in handy. Know what debuffs the boss can leave on you, how they get applied and what, if anything, to do about them.

DoT attacks are one of the most insidious types of debuffs and very often the one you have the least control over.

Through some means, the boss applies a DoT debuff to a raid member and the debuff will start eating away at the raid member a little bit at a time. There are varying degrees of damage caused by DoTs from the fairly innocuous Biting Cold during the Hodir encounter to the devastating stacking DoT applied by the Fire Bomb AoE in Northrend Beasts heroic that can kill you in only a few seconds if you don't escape the fire quickly.

Stacking is another concept applied to debuffs. These special types of debuffs will reapply to your character every time you fail to avoid a certain attack. Sometimes debuff stacks will cap out at a certain point, but any stacking DoT debuffs will do more and more damage over time the more stacks you have.

Most debuffs can be cleansed by healers and casters but many you'll need to be familiar with the boss to fully understand. There are plenty of resources for researching the debuffs on a particular boss but there is no blanket solution for dealing with them. Resources for researching boss fights will be covered in a future post and will, at some point, be featured in a side bar on this blog.


It can be quite comfortable to fall into a pattern of stand in one place and do your thing, and it's easy to pass the buck to another player in terms of positioning than it is to accept responsibility and take the initiative, but if you take nothing else away from this blog entry please take this:

Don't stand in the fire!

Trust me, your raid group will love you for it!

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