How to: Maximize Your Raid’s Potential with Special Teams

WOW! What a way to end Thanksgiving Weekend. I managed the catch the Cowboys vs Bills game on TSN. I have a whole newfound respect for the sport. I’m amazed at all the plays by both teams. Five interceptions? I figure that’s a lot. That’s the best game of football I’ve seen since Remember the Titans. A wiseass would then remark “Well what football games have you seen since Remember the Titans?”. To which I would respond “None!”. But the literally down-to-the-wire win by Dallas is an attitude that should be adopted by everyone. Two seconds can be all it takes to from a humiliating wipe to a resounding boss kill (along with special teams play which we’ll get to in a moment).

Today’s piece is about organizing your raid. You’ve got your 25 members ready to go. You’re excited for Gruul’s because it’s the first time you’ve ever done a 25 man. You’re pumped and and the adrenaline rush hits you as you take down the first Ogre showing him whose the man: You. Then you come up against the High King and his goons and now you’re left gaping in awe because you’re not sure how to set up your groups, right? Face it. With the many different races and classes available, there are multiple auras and passive racials to take into account.

Enter Special Teams

Your raid consists of five separate parties. Special teams are important in Hockey and other sports. You want the Power Play units to generate and capitalize on scoring chances. You want your Penalty Killers to fend off the opposing team out numbered. I’m sure Football has numerous cases of special teams but I don’t know the names of them yet (That’s my goal for the end of the year). How you set up your parties in your raid can make the difference between a 1% wipe and a Guild first down.

What follows is a unit-by-unit break down of a hypothetical raid. This will be your standard, generic, default, 1st unit raid set up against trash and some bosses which assumes the following:

You’re using four tanks (Two Druids and Two Warriors)
7 healers (3 Paladins, 3 Priests, a Resto. Shaman)
14 DPS (3 mages, 3 warlocks, 2 hunters, 2 rogues, 1 warrior, 1 enhancement shaman, and 2 shadow priests)

Unit 1: Tanking Unit

This is the group your Main Tank (Henceforth known as MT) is in. What you are concerned here with isn’t damage dealing, nor mana regenerating, or the like. The main objective of this unit is to survive as best as possible which means loading up with Stamina, Armor, and whatever else the MT needs to do to stay alive.

Warrior (Prot)
Warrior (Hybrid with Commanding Shout)
Druid (Feral Tank)
Paladin (For Devotion Aura)
Warlock (Imp Health Increase)

Seems simple enough, right? Your MT here is bolstered by Devo. Aura (for the little armor it provides), the second warrior that has Commanding Shout (for temporary health increase), the Warlock’s Imp (health increase), and the Druid’s Leader of the Pack (What they hey, this bear’s tanking and should benefit from all this stuff too, plus he adds extra crit percent).

Unit 2: Secondary Tanking Unit

This is your second Tanking unit. It’ll mainly be deployed against trash pulls of 3+ or against certain bosses that have multiple parts (Fathom-Lord, High King are good examples).

Druid (Feral)
Paladin (Holy)
Warlock (Imp Buff)
Hunter (BM Hunter)

At first glance, this unit seems like a mish-mash of left overs combined together (which it is). It’s the same principle as above except this unit has one feral druid tanking. The Imp buff provided by the warlock is a staple, and the Ferocious Inspiration from the Hunter is an on crit effect by the hunter’s pet which increases damage done by everyone in the party by 3%. Two Paladins means two different auras (Retribution Aura and Devo. Aura). In a nutshell, this is a mishmash of left over classes combined together. As you read on about the final three units, you’ll find out why.

Unit 3: Healing and Mana Regeneration Unit

Shaman (Restoration)
Priest (Shadow)
Priest (Holy)
Priest (Holy)
Priest (Holy)

This unit is your next important group to set up. You want to maximize the return on mana to your healers so they can sustain the rest of the raid. With that objective in mind, we task the Restoration Shaman here (His spell crit racial is a plus along with mana spring AND mana tide on emergency). We’ll use one of our Shadow Priests here for the mana and health returns from VE/VT. The rest of the group is rounded out with 3 Holy Priests. Note that we still have a Paladin kicking around. I would throw him in this group, but Paladins hardly ever run out of gas anyway so he doesn’t need the mana regeneration.

Unit 4: Close Quarters Combat Unit

Enhancement Shaman (Windfury is a no brainer)
Warrior (Hybrid, capable of tanking and dishing out punishment)
Rogue (Kind of a given)
Hunter (BM Hunter)

This unit contains the Melee DPS of the group. The Enhancement shaman will rocket this unit’s DPS sky high with Windfury alone. In addition to WF, the Shaman should drop Strength of Earth and Healing Stream totems. Your Warrior is the last tank available in the event there’s an extra trash mob running around. At the very least, he’s a good OH $#%@ tank who can slap on a sword and a shield and taunt. Two rogues are in here, enough said. Our second Hunter is in here as well. I don’t know a lot about Hunters but I think the norm is BM hunters now? I’m not quite sure since I’ve been noticing more Hunter pets in raids. Ferocious Inspiration is an on crit by the hunter’s pet which increases damage done by everyone in the party by 3%. It’ll be up for the majority of the raid. [Thanks Melanne]

Unit 5: Caster Sustained Siege Unit

Priest (Shadow)

This is your nuking group. The extra Shadow Priest again is for the VE/VT combination to fuel the firepower of the Mage and the Warlocks. Extra mana return helps to further extend the length of time that your casters can use. Shadow Vulnerability from the Shadow Priest helps the Warlock add a bit more extra punch.

I know this hypothetical raid group did not cover all possible classes or races (Sorry Horde players, I don’t know what kind of benefits your racials get). Obviously moonkin druids get no love at all (Carnage does not utilize any). There’s multiple ways to establish your Special Teams and they will consist of a variety of players and skill sets. You as the Raid leader needs to decide what is best overall for your raid Group. It’s a never ending game of balancing the pros and cons of races and classes with one another. Today’s piece was just a minor example of how to pull it off. Different bosses will yield different looking Special Teams. Bosses like Hydross will scatter your Paladins in different groups for Frost Resistance aura. Sometimes there is a particularly hard 5 pull that has all of your warriors and druids tanking and you’ll need to substitute players from your Close Quarters Unit with your Secondary Tanking Unit. Just remember to always use your discretion. Your Guild and raid makeup will obviously be far different then the one used in my Guild. Use this guide as just that: a guide.

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About Matticus

Matticus is the founder of World of Matticus and Plus Heal. Read more of his columns at WoW Insider. League of Legends player. Caffeine enthusiast.


  1. Doc Holiday says:

    My optimal groups

    Prot Warrior
    Prot Warrior
    Prot Warrior
    Resto Shaman
    Warlock + improved imp

    Basic tank group with windfury via resto shammy and health buff via Warlock

    Melee DPS

    Fury Warrior
    Feral Druid
    Enhancement Shammy

    2 Rogues + 1 Warrior + 1 Battleshout +Windfury + 5 crit = ownage

    Melee casters

    Elemental shammy or BM hunter

    3 damage buff from BM hunter and both the mages and hunter get a mana battery which they both need. Could also sub in an Elemental Shammy for crit and damage totem buff

    Melee dps group 2

    BM hunter

    Locks get a mana/health battery and either 3 percent bonus damage from BM hunter


    Holy Pally
    Holy Pally
    Holy Pally
    Resto Druid
    Holy Pally/Resto druid/Resto Shammy/Holy Priest

    Standard healer group but pretty much need 3 pallys for Blessings

  2. Doc Holiday says:

    I dont why I put Melee groups when it should say Caster groups

  3. Where’s my RANT!? =O

  4. Doc Holiday says:

    Some changes that could be made are

    Subbing 1 Prot warrior for a healer
    Subbing 1 Hunter or Elemental shaman for Healer

  5. The 3% damage bonus mentioned is a BM hunter talent called “Ferocious Inspiration”, which procs every time the hunter scores a crit. It’s pretty much up full time if you have at least 4 out of 5 talent points in there.

    Another nice thing to note is that it stacks; two BM hunters in group for example means 6% damage increase for melee, ranged and caster DPS.

  6. Correction; Ferocious Inspiration procs when pet scores critical hit. Confusing things with Frenzy.

  7. The thing that procs on hunter crits is called “Expose Weakness”. You need to be SV-spec to have it available, and it debuffs the target so that everyone gets 25% of the hunters agility credited as an AP bonus against this target. This may easily come to 250+ AP. Yes, SV hunters may have 1000+ agility under raid conditions 🙂

    The advantage of SV hunters shine if your raid is heavy on physical DPS (I count 12 physical players including Pets in your lineup) and you are fighting in a single target (at a time) environment.

  8. Replace the pala in the MTs group with a esto druid IMO.

    A small and crappy amount of amrour isnt much help, particularly for mitigation capped ferals.

    Put a resto druid in tree form (the one with the highest spirit if you have more than one) for the extra +healing. Raid-buffed I have about 550 spirit – 137 extra +heal on the tanks.

    Now thats better than ~1k extra armour imo, specially as it wont benefit the whole group anyway.

  9. Devo Aura actually mitigates a slight bit more than ToL aura does, when it comes to physical DPS bosses. Something in the realms of 2.8% mitigation or some strange number like that.

    The problem with ToL aura is the fact that often times the tank is being spam healed anyways, and in that case, you hit the point of diminishing returns after you have 2 Paladins and 1 Holy Priest healbombing an MT with 1700+ healing.

    That said, ToL aura is still good for those that can spare it on the MT, but just for the Druid himself, in that his HoTs gain an extra +100-+150 healing for a larger buffer.

    For your matrices, I’d actually consider a Feral Druid over the BM hunter in your group 4. LoTP gives back 4% of one’s total HP when they crit, and this effect is capable of occuring once every 6 seconds. Pretty excellent for efficiency of heals.

    And yes, Windfury Totems for the MT group tend to be pretty damned good. Your threat cap on all DPSers goes significantly higher when the tank is capable of proccing Windfurys. If you’re up against a boss where you have one significant MT the whole time (Hydross / Lurker / Morogrim / Leo if you’re MD spamming / Vashj from what I hear in some phases), you can create the ultimate mitigation / 1 tank team;

    Prot War
    Imp Warlock
    Resto Sham
    Tree of Life Druid with 400+ spirit
    Devo Aura Paladin

    Now that Resto Sham doesn’t get his Manatide Totem wasted on only himself and the Warlock; ToL Druids can choose to be mana sinks if they have things like Mana Spring / Mana Tide totems. A good Paladin rarely goes oom, but mana tide means he can be very free with spams.

    As you choose to take out individuals to put in more tanks, your order should go something like;

    1.) ToL Druid
    2.) Paladin
    3.) Shaman

    But that’s because I prefer Windfury as a method of increasing the threat cap. My guild tends to run without a Resto Sham in the MT group because we toss the Shamans over to the DPS groups in order to keep mana high. Our tanks are good enough as is with a ToL / Paladin / Warlock.

  10. Great post.

    But…ending Thanksgiving weekend? It’s only October!!

  11. I live in Canada, Ego =). Our Thanksgiving’s waaaaaay earlier than yours.

    Mera, Pwyff, you guys are probably bang on in the adjustments I SHOULD have made. Just goes to show you that I’m clearly not capable of heading a 25 man because I don’t have a clue of what buffs benefit the most, etc. Although, Pwyff, I do agree WF in the MT Unit would be awesome, our MT has no problems at all generating threat. Figured we throw the shaman somewhere else more useful (a la, 2 rogues and a warrior).

  12. Yeah that’s basically why we chucked our Shaman out of the group in the first place; but in fights where aggro is touchy and so on, Windfury helps a ton.

    And the only reason I know raid composition is by knowing PVP skills.

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  1. Disciple of the Light says:

    Matticus on Special Teams…

  2. […] I were leading the raid, I would screw over other classes completely. To hell with group optimization. We all have our dreams. Blori would probably tell me to wake up because he would never part with a […]

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