Running a Raid: 10 Golden Rules (part 1)


So you want to be a raid leader? Well, you gotta ask yourself one question. Do I feel…


I don’t know everything about raid leading by a long shot but I thought I’d share some of my musings on the hows and whys of this arcane practice.

Many players are shouting out on trade but it’s not to bawl their profession at passing trade watchers or haggle over the price of Poached Sunscale Salmon. Much of the cacophony in the traders’ market seems to be about recruiting to groups; quite often to PUGs, so much so that the LFG channel is making a permanent return. That means there are a lot of groups, and many players wearing the raid leader sash these days. So, this post is for everyone – people who raid lead and people who are led in raids.

1) Introduce the raid at the beginning. I call it ‘housekeeping’. You should work out your own style. This approach is fair on the players in the group and particularly important in PUGs – it puts everyone on level ground. They know what is expected of them. You’re also introducing yourself and presenting as a bit more than a shadowy stranger wearing the master looter crown.

Personally there are a few things I like to talk about here. In Herding Cats we have a strict zero tolerance policy against griefing and bad manners – or as my guild leader puts it, ‘That Guy’. I make it clear to the group members that we expect them to be polite and friendly. This gives everyone a fair warning in advance and introduces the raid as a safe place. I then also assure the group that they don’t need 10k DPS, we don’t expect everyone to know all the tactics and that we’ll explain them, but remind them that fun is the main aim of the game. Then we get onto less exciting things such as hush in the librar- sorry, raid spam, and loot rules.

Several times I’ve had players whisper me during the housekeeping saying that they feel they’ve joined a mature raid and they appreciate knowing there are boundaries and safety nets applicable to the whole group.

2) Interaction. Remember that your group will get much further if they trust and respect you – and you them. Talk in full sentences. Keep your tone polite at all times. Join in on banter and jokes. Keep the chatter going – ask people what their favourite chocolate bar is, if you like. Answer questions, particularly as the raid is forming – that’s one of the most likely times for a raid to fold. Above all: pay attention to your group. They will feel like you know what you’re doing and just maybe you’ll feel that too.

People judge on first impressions in real life – they do in instances, too. Make a good first impression and then keep it up throughout. I’ve joined several PUGs recently being led by strangers who have ignored my questions about tanking or healing assignments. Just the other day a random raid leader decided that our PUG didn’t need two shadow priests for Naxx25. These things do not inspire confidence in me as a raider; put yourself in your raiders’ shoes and think about what would make them feel comfortable.

3) Be approachable. Let the group know that they can whisper you or another group member you trust with questions, comments or suggestions. Also let the group know that they can offer suggestions for tactics in raid chat at an allotted time, such as after tactic spam – and that you will listen to the suggestions and decide on the final tactics. This can be a useful group to keep a group interested if it’s a new encounter for the group or even you, or something is proving very difficult for whatever reason.

In Herding Cats we usually make it clear at the beginning that players can whisper myself or Ekatrina if they need something cleared up. If a player has a specific role in a fight – such as dealing with brittle adds during the Ignis encounter – we whisper them to check they’re ok with the role. We also try to get a general idea, group size permitting, how experienced each raider is so that we can keep an eye out for anyone who might need support or to be whispered to check they’re clear before starting the encounter. Some might say this is extra work or babysitting but there’s nothing wrong with it – it can make a new or less confident player feel supported and can avert a wipe for the whole group. Indeed, we’ve acquired several extremely loyal and friendly raiders because we took the time to care for them when they first raided with us.

4) Tactics: don’t assume. Don’t assume for a moment that everyone knows the tactics if you’re in a group with one or more PUGger or new guild member. This is relevant for any encounter. Remember that new players are getting to 80 every day. Some veteran players are coming anew to raiding from other styles of play or have their own idea of tactics. Some players will have suggestions – some of them will be good. Make time for those and take them into account for the final decision on How It Will Go. Explain your tactics for the encounter, even if it’s just the bare essentials of what a player needs to know to not kill the raid.

Also don’t assume players know YOUR tactics. There are several fights which can be done slightly differently. Plenty of times we’ve led a brave PUG to Thaddius and said +++++Thaddius—— only to have two or three people adamantly insist it’s the other way around. A lot of the time it doesn’t matter which way round you do the tactics; what does matter is that you make sure that there is one, clear set of tactics.

5) Know your stuff. Have a solid idea of the encounter’s tactics. You might know the tactics from a melee DPS point of view but you need to be able to advise *everyone* in the raid, whatever role they play. Read up on encounters on sites like WoWwiki or watch videos on TankSpot and Youtube. The trick then is to explain the tactics in a clear, concise way that players will listen to.

If you have time and think you will raid lead regularly then I recommend writing documents in advance with your own tactics spam for more complicated fights so that you can copy/paste or read it out during the raid. This is what i did when leading a group into Ulduar, many of us for the first time. There’s a lot going on and a lot of things that players need to keep in the back of their mind, so I split the spam up with an ‘everyone’ section first and then descriptions by group role. This lets ranged DPS, for example, know what will affect them directly and reduces the loss of focus during tactic spam; it also provides for those players who are curious about tactics for other roles. Writing it in advance also allows you to pare down irrelevant information rather than getting carried away during the raid.

In my opinion those are the first five of the widely applicable basics. They are very much my own opinion. i appreciate that everyone has their own style of raid leading and approaches it differently. Not only that, different situations need to be handled differently. Look out for the other five golden rules in the Book of Mimetir coming soon.

What do you think – do you find any of these helpful and plan to adopt them in your next run? How essential do you think careful raid leading is in a PUG and/or a guild group? Do you think I’m too much of a careowl and people should just “STFU u nub”? What’s *your* favourite bar of chocolate?

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  1. Well done. I am interested in that Housekeeping portion. I think I do it as part of my own raid leading pugs but I’m going to pay much more attention this weekend. I am curious just how you would communicate those safety nets. I operate with them but I’ve never communicated them before, and never run into the need to drop someone from the group for bad behavior.

    The only thing I would add: At the end of every successful pug, whether it’s 10 or 25 or even just a heroic, I thank everyone for coming along and helping to make it a successful raid. (I may abuse raid warnings at this time) If a raid falls apart without getting started, or fails to kill Onyxia /cough then I thank everyone for their time and apologize that we couldn’t accomplish the goal. Really, those little niceties go a long way.

    Very thought provoking! Great read!
    .-= @valkyrierisen´s last blog ..Nifty little meme =-.

  2. What are the other 5 Golden Rules?? 🙂

  3. This is definitely an article that anyone and everyone who has any intention of putting together a raid should know. Even if you are just trying to put together a one-time only 10-Man VoA run.

    It’s definitely better to over-communicate to the raid than under-communicate.

    As for “Knowing Your Stuff”, I believe it is paramount that a raid leader know the role of every class during each fight down to their rotation if need be. Yes it’s a lot of work for a raid leader, but being able to be a good coach is important to the success and morale of your raid.

    Great stuff as always Matt.

    -Jason from the WoWphiles podcast.

  4. It’s great help for anyone leading pugs, however if you lead guild group (especially in bigger guilds)

    Do housekeeping until you grow up to supreme raid leader. Let your deputies assign housekeeping later. Move on to 2nd level of housekeeping – keep your deputies in order.

    Be approachable until you find your deputies, after you see who’s most advising members assign them as assistants and tell everyone else to whisper you with advices, or make special channel for it with only 2-5 members in it.

    Be chatter but know your limits. Don’t be silent but don’t be too chatty – simple, people will respect more leader that have good joke once in a 2 hours then leader who speaks just for the chat purpose only or leader that is emphatic to someone who’ve just been dumped by GF. People like to be with them but 23 more people will lose bit of respect slowly if you show any weakness.

    Don’t assume is prolly most important thing, no matter you will get 2-3 1337 (elite) raiders that will be in rush and will force “just pull ffs” always take your time for explanation. My rule is always “Minute lost on tactic is less then 5 minute lost on running back”.

    Know your stuff in order to ignore first 3 rules. When you know your stuff and don’t do mistakes, defeat bosses and reward people with purple pixels… they start to respect you and build legend in you. There is nothing that will destroy reputation you got by member you just awarded with “Imba weapon of imbaness” because you all defeated boss based on tactic and leadership you gave them.

    Commander says: GO!
    Leader says: Follow me!
    Legend have followers.

  5. @valkyrierisen – good luck, do let us know how you get on if you do alter your raid leading style! And yes, very good point – it’s good to thank others for the run and say it was a fun evening (if you thought it was!)

    @JasonZ – quite right on the communication front imo – many people I’ve grouped with have agreed, though occasionally some people ask for less talk and more ‘gooogoogog’, as it were.
    What do you think the effects of ‘knowing your stuff’ or not are on the raid leader him/her self, btw?

    @Mookey – correct me if I’m wrong but I think you’re coming from a 25 man-in guild perspective? That’s fine – in fact I think we agree on several points and you’re right – delegation is a very good idea for large or complicated situations.

    However I have to disagree slightly on persona. I think that you can and should consider yourself on an equal playing field with your guild or group mates while raid leading, whatever the size of your raid. Given that we’re playing a game to have fun I think it’s important to come across as a person and interact with other players as people – and it’ll still be possible to give them purple pixels.

    The other five rules are coming soon – this one is labelled as part 1. Expect part 2 coming in the next few days. Apologies for any confusion!

    Til then, keep up the discussion and letting us know your preferred style, whether it’s what you’re used to now or what you wish was the case!

  6. Angry Gamer says:

    Is it me or are we missing 5 more 🙂
    .-= Angry Gamer´s last blog ..angrygamer_blog: @Totalbiscuit See "the Box" then and let me know 🙂 Then Men Who Stare At Goats =-.

  7. Where do you draw the line between explaining tactics and overexplaining tactics? I’m one of those awful people that doesn’t do well with verbal explanations (as in I’ll tune out 90% of it), and that’s how the majority of raid strats are passed out for the raids I’ve been in. Two sentences are fine, two paragraphs and you’ll lose me entirely.

    My boyfriend used to lead semi-PuG 25s; these were usually fairly successful and essentially followed your five points, but with one unintended exception: I was the one people went to with questions, as people knew we were together and found me more approachable. My guess is that it’s because I was more of the calm, questioning side, whereas he comes across as more of a perfectionist and demands more out of people. Both have their places, both got results, but it left me as the go-to person when people were unhappy or confused, whether for good or for bad!
    .-= Cazenovia´s last blog ..Disc healing in Outlands, first impressions. =-.

  8. if they are too stupid to have understood and have watched one of many kill vids, that you are referrencing… = fail raid group.

    IF, you are explaining a new tactic…

    they best anti up and perform. your job is to keep it as clean as possible. “dipshit rightside, other dipshit left side, catch the orbs… because we suck too much to power through it in the first place and are relying on your skill. and strife button.

    really, if this shit is an issue there are bigger issues.

  9. Very nice guide, really. As someone who worked himself up from raider to raidleader and healer coordinator in bigger settings, I really appreciate someone taking the time stating those, for seasoned leaders obvious, but yet important points. Less people to deal with trial and error learning. I dunno if it will be mentioned in the next 5 points of article and if not, I reckon you could mention it:

    Get to know other people’s style – PuG raids as raider, not leader and just see what other leaders do well, or not. It does make a difference. I used to raid under a pedantic, shouting raid leader; while some of the shouting was necessary for our raid to succeeed in the long go, it became annnoying after some time. In the end, it was just not worth it to hurry home from work just to log in being shouted at for 3 hours for no reason what so ever. So I xrealmed away and met the opposite of this – a raidleader that had always great mood – every pull was initiated by readycheck and jolly “Hell, seems we are ready chaps! Let’s kill and remember, HAVE FUN!” as he charged in. Of course, to different people different approaches will suit, but for me, seeing the many “options” how to lead a raid made me ultimately better leader myself, a lot calmer, relaxed and trust me, people you lead will appreciate that.

    Once again sorry if I jumped to point you wanted to explain in future.
    .-= Rahana´s last blog ..Healer crowd, PlusHeal and why we are who we are… =-.

  10. @Cazenovia – I find that writing raid tactic “spam” is a technical authoriing challenge, and there’s lots of material on tech writing out there already, which you can easily apply to raid tactics.

    Most raid spam is very badly written from a tech authorship point of view. It’s written from the assumption that people will cheerfully read and digest huge amounts of text. It’s also usually unclear. I’d run with the following rules:

    – . If any of your points is over 15 words, it’s too long. Cut it down.
    – If you’re expecting any of your raid members to read more than 100 words on each boss, UR DOIN IT WRONG. Use less words.
    – People will read and remember things with jokes in them better.
    – Tie each point to the reason why people will want to remember it. “Don’t stand in the fire” is OK. “Don’t stand in the fire, or you’ll die” is better.
    – Try to think about things that could be misinterpreted or are unclear. Classic examples are not telling people how you get the Light or Dark essence in the Twin Valkyrs, or using the word “Right” in more than one context.
    – Remember your readers may not have huge vocabularies, may be young, or may have English as a second language. “Do this now” is better than “proceed immediately”. Short words good.

    There’s a language analyser out on the Web somewhere which will analyse your writing for overly-long words, but I can’t remember where it is.

    @smeedc – sure, you can assume that anyone who doesn’t already know the tactics is a noob. But I find that explaining tactics clearly and concisely, and then checking everyone knows what they’re doing, results in less wipes and lower repair bills. And, you know, I prefer to raid with less wipes and lower repair bills…

  11. Azrax-Firetree says:

    Very good post, I must inform you that Blizzard did in fact reduce the need for 2 shadow priest by removing the hit requirement to Mind Control the mobs for Razuveous. It can be done with 2 of any specc priest now.

  12. Good lord, really? That’s fantastic news.

  13. @Cazenovia – Yes, good cop/bad cop can work well as a leadership team, so long as it’s balanced right imo. Sounds like you guys got it right and had some fun times – were you using that set up in a guild group or in PUGs?

    Also, on the tactic writing front – Ekatrina has made all the salient points. When your group is looking at new content for the first time there can be a *lot* for them and you to take in, a lot of which will come naturally the more used they get to the fight. But at first, when you’re all going into the unknown, it’s important to prepare briefings which are short, informative and memorable – and relevant to each person’s job in that fight. Anyone interested in an example of how I do it, feel free to direct message me on twitter and I’ll send it over. Might be useful for comparisons for other raid leaders/ your own style.

    @smeedsc – your stlye is entirely up to you of course. In my experience, though, people may appear stupid if a tactic hasn’t been explained clearly enough to them. Clear tactics explanations mean that you’re imparting them the information they need to get on with their job, and that you’re trusting them to do it. They’ll return that trust by giving it their best because they’ll feel they’re being trusted with knowledge and being treated equally. It’s a meeting-halfway thing.

    Also, I don’t know whether you talk to your raiders as you referenced in your comment – but I find that addressing my raiders in a polite and friendly manner rather than a rwar-50-DKP-minus way gets the best out of them.

    @Rahana – no worries at all, thank you for bringing it up! I think you’ve got a good point there. Any raid leader, however experienced, can benefit from being a raider and learning what works and what doesn’t from examples set by other raid leaders. I know I’m still learning. Just wondering – turning it on its head – do you think that people who normally don’t raid lead *should* (if they feel comfortable with the concept), just to see what it’s like?

    @Azrax-Firetree – Thanks! And yes, that is great news about the hit requirement – it had escaped me, so it’s great to know for the future.
    …Though thinking about it, I don’t think that the raid I talked about had one priest of any spec… ah well, perhaps they were being optimistic.
    .-= Mimetir´s last blog ..Juddr: Strange concept that spending time tanking PUGs can count as research for me. Bring on your worst, Ravenholdt! =-.

  14. Just wondering – turning it on its head – do you think that people who normally don’t raid lead *should* (if they feel comfortable with the concept), just to see what it’s like?

    To answer your question – yes and no. It would definitely help them see, understand and appreciate all the work raid (guild) coordinators are putting into dragging 20 other people through – just seeing how much logistic work is behind a single raid makes the more sensible raiders appreciate your work as leader and well, bitch less. Got two anecdotal evidence stories if you like…

    I know it was in TBC, Karazhan namely, when I was rather fresh RL and MT, some guild newbie had a go at me how am I doing things wrong and what a wrong leader I was – and he did it in public. So I offered him to lead next week Karazhan – from the general feedback it was a disaster. He thought he has what leader must have, but he didn’t (there was some blog about leading over here at WoM methinks… can’t find it atm). The main problem here was that he was “the absolutist”. ie, even back then, whenever I led, I talked to people about their assigments, strats and whether they are comfy with them. Although in raid I came out as single individual, the decisions were usualy long thought about before and tailored to fit the raid for the moment. His didn’t. And well, you can bend your raiders to your will and ideas – but only up to a point. Needles to say this newbie quit the guild very soon.

    My second story dates to BT farm run. One of our great raiders and guildies asked if he could maybe try and lead the raid next reset, cause he wanted to see how it was and he was already running “friends only” Karazhan. Officers gave him a green light on that. The raid had some hiccups as some of the strats he came up worked well for him from his dps perspective, but others had hard time to follow them sometimes 🙂 and well, I’d quite frankly took him as backup RL when me or the other officer doing it were occupied elsewhere. To my surprise, after the raid, he thanked me and told me he won’t lead a big raid ever again. The power was nice he said, but the responsibility and the chat traffic – cause I redirected all of that to him – was horrible. Tank assigments and requests, healers and other stuff, he was the main person to settle it (of course we helped him to distribute the final orders). He was as well surprised by the amount of random raider whispers he got dealing with this or that. He overcame that and last time I heard, he was progressing tank and co-leader of nice guild.

    So yeah – if you let others, especially unexperienced, to lead a raid once in a time, prepare for it being a disaster. The more if you are long-time leader of that raid force. Cause during that time, you got to know your people, you without thinking adjust strats a bit to suit them – new person in lead lacks this ability / skill that you naturalized. In the end, you may get a pissed raid and pissed raider thinking others did everythig to fail him, or you can get a normal raid and one more person understanding how much time it takes to lead three raids a week. In best scenario, you will get reserve leader and someone whom you can trust when hitting dead-end progressing.
    .-= Rahana´s last blog ..Twin Valkyrs heroic down… =-.

  15. Found the post I was mentioning before but too late to edit it in
    .-= Rahana´s last blog ..Twin Valkyrs heroic down… =-.

  16. I was in a guild that would take like 20 minutes between every boss fight in Naxx – it took forever to do loot, it took forever to clear trash, it took forever for the raid leader to talk about the next fight every week when we got to the boss. It was just really painful. Try not to over-explain fights that people are likely to know well, and get a feel for what people do/don’t know before the raid starts so that you can target the areas of knowledge that people are most likely lacking.
    .-= Lissanna´s last blog ..Toskk’s Maximized Wristguards =-.


  1. […] World of Matticus’s Mimetir has kicked off a two part series on his 10 golden rules of raid leading. […]

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  3. […] World of Matticus’s Mimetir has kicked off a two part series on his 10 golden rules of raid leading. […]

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