This is a guest post by Blacksen of Blacksen’s End. Rumor has it this raid leader likes to play funky motivational music before every raid. Don’t forget to check out his blog!
Communication in raids has always been important. For most guilds, this means using some form of voice communication. Several fights require that all raiders are able to hear their raid leader and then make a tactical response. You need to hear about tank swaps on Festergut, Putricide, and Sindragosa. You need to hear requests for tanking cooldowns. You need to hear sudden tactic changes as the fight is moving. You need to hear your other healers when they’re debuffed on Sindragosa. The list goes on and on… Regardless of the fight, really, communication is a key element to successful end-game raiding.
I’ve struggled with communication at several points throughout my raiding career. A lot of guilds pitch that they "want someone who will talk on vent," but the reality is that communication can be intimidating for members, especially if they’re new. For raid leaders, it is essential to communicate effectively with your raid. I’ve found that effective communication made the difference between a wipe and a kill on several occasions.
What to Communicate
What to communicate can be a challenge for a lot of guilds. Whenever anyone says something on vent, be it the raid leader or some key members, the main goal is to have it invoke a significant and positive response. Simply put, you want things said during a boss encounter to evoke a response. Conversely, things that aren’t going to evoke much of a response shouldn’t be said on vent.
Bad example: Don’t call out inhales on Festergut. Very few people will respond (at most, 1-2).
Good example: Calling out tank changes on Festergut. Not only do your tank healers respond, but your hunters and rogues will also switch their misdirect targets.
Bad example: Don’t call out “run-out” after the pull-in on Sindragosa. By the time you say that and it’s both heard and processed by your raiders, the damage will have already been done – your raiders are either already running or already dead.
Good example: Calling out "pull-in soon, get ready to run out" on Sindragosa. Players who would have been tunnel-visioning are made more aware that they’re about to need to turn their camera and run.
Plan it out
Plan out what you’re going to communicate before the fight. One of my most common mistakes as a raid leader is not planning out communication before the pull. In the past, I’ve had an expectation that everyone will know what to communicate, and that’s all we need. With every new fight, however, I find something that’s not really obvious but probably should be communicated. Tell people before the pull exactly when they should talk on vent.
One thing that a lot of people can struggle with is balancing specific calls with general calls. Whenever you’re making a raid call, you need to know when to specify something and when to speak generally.
Bad example: Tanks asking "can I get a cooldown?" The term "cooldown" is too broad. Does intervene count as a cooldown? Raid-Wall? Guardian Spirit? Pain Suppression? Which cooldown do you actually want? The raid needs to specifically know. Asking for just a “cooldown” could result in getting multiple cooldowns wasted by stacking on top of each other.
Good example: Tank asking “can I get Guardian Spirit?” Now we know which cooldown you specifically want.
Bad example: On the Lich King’s Valk’yrs, it would be bad to say "I need a backup stun.” This risks random stuns getting thrown out on all the Valk’yrs by random people. We need to know which Valk’yr needs the stun, and who you want to execute it.
Good example: Saying “Thine, backup on Square.” Thine, a specific raid member, now knows that he needs to execute a backup stun on square.
Specific raid calls are another area in which raid leaders risk becoming unclear. In some cases, it’s better to speak generally rather being specific.
Bad example: Saying “Blistering Cold soon” on Sindragosa. This tells us nothing about the response or how most raiders conceptualize the pull-in.
Good example: Saying “Get ready to run out” on Sindragosa. This tells us what’s about to happen and the needed response.
Bad example: When an aura mastery is needed, it’s pretty cluttering to say “Warel, use aura mastery shadow.” Most of the time, it’s obvious which aura mastery is needed.
Good example: On phase 3 of Professor Putricide, all I need to say is “Warel, go” and he takes care of the rest.
Be consistent with raid calls. While a lot of my friends have joked about how I sounded like a broken record player, the fact is that consistent calls lead to a consistent response.
Bad example: On Heroic Lich King, saying "Shadow Trap Ranged" followed by "Trap on healers plus ranged." Each call requires processing – your raiders can’t build an association between the phrase and the response.
Good example: On the Lich King, saying “Necrotic Plague in 3” every single time necrotic plague is about to be cast. This instantly prompts your members to be aware and ready for the impending debuff.
Lastly, let’s talk about how raiders should communicate. Getting raiders to communicate the way you want can be very difficult, but once they get into the loop of things, most of them will execute everything great. The most important concept of raider communication is telling us what needs to happen, not what already happened.
Bad example: On the Lich King, a disc priest calling out “I’m picked up” generally doesn’t mean anything. It requires your raiders to connect “disc priest is picked up” to “oh, this infest is going to be bad.”
Good example: Saying “Watch Infest.” Now all of your raiders immediately know the consequences of you being in a Valk’yr.
Bad example: On Sindragosa, having a healer say "I’m Unchained" means nothing. This requires all other healers to know everyone else’s healer assignment.
Good example: Saying "Watch Group 4" gives us information. Now all healers know the consequence of you being unchained: group 4 needs more healing.
Bad example: Saying “Oh S***” on any fight. Random expletives don’t give us any information and just put people on edge. We need real responses with real information.
Note: Matt is extremely guilty of this. Don’t do it.
Your raiders will also thank you if you tell them exactly what you want said. Tell them the exact phrasing you want. This will lead to a more consistent environment and thus more consistent responses. It takes the burden off of individual raiders for coming up with what you want said, and will likely make them very happy.
Nearly every hardmode raiding guild has a vent atmosphere during fights. If you find yourself wiping due to seemingly random things, see if communication has an answer. Communication is generally an easy problem to address as it has very little to do with tactics or individual skill, but more preparation and consistency. You can sometimes beat the more challenging elements of a fight just by clearer and regular communication