Guide: PuG Herding Part 2

Continued from PuG Herding Part 1, as posted on Monday. Okay, most of this is probably pretty overkill unless you truly have a group of people who have no clue what to do and are deprived of all common sense. Most of the time, just outlining your general fight strategy so that people know which one you are using and telling the newbies not to stand in fires is good enough. I’m a fairly verbal person when I lead raids, but that’s just me and my love of gabbing over vent. Find a style that works for you. 

Getting Started
Unless you are doing something easy like Onyxia or VoA, use Ventrilo, Teamspeak or some other form of VOIP communication; It really does help. Someone will always need the long explanation and dictating an entire boss fight with your fingers gets old really fast. Besides, it’s fun placing a voice behind an avatar. I used to be pretty obstinate about Vent not being a hard requirement for guild raids way back in the day, but in retrospect, it’s a great tool and has brought people closer together.

If you do use a voice server, enforce general etiquette guidelines for the sake of raid sanity. Mainly, make sure that everyone shuts the hell up when fights are being explained, both in Ventrilo and in raid chat. Back seat drivers are a no-no. If someone is wasted, they probably shouldn’t have a microphone…

Always ask if someone needs an explanation before you pull. Don’t cry and ragequit when the raid wipes because you didn’t ask if anyone needed an explanation. And yes, you do have to ask most of the time. Many people won’t volunteer that information out of fear of being replaced, particularly in a 25-man raid where they can just follow people and generally do okay most of the time.

Even if everyone supposedly knows the encounter, always give a quick strategy rundown because every guild has their own way of doing things. It is better to spent a minute explaining something than to wipe. When you assign specific tasks to people, make sure that you get personal confirmation from them to make sure that they understand and were paying attention. It also helps to make sure everyone knows who the tanks are, who the CCers are and stuff like that.

Effectively Explaining Encounters
Don’t read off a wall of text when you are explaining strategies. It’s boring and hard to comprehend. I guarantee that people will zone out and not know what the hell to do. There are two important factors to learning: Repetition and Chunking. Generally, the average human brain is able to store 7 chunks of information into short-term memory. You can successfully explain long and complicated fights to new people within reason, if you break up the encounter by role and stage, repeatedly emphasizing important points.

Explain the encounter as well as you need to give the raid’s experience level (if you need to at all), but be concise. A 10 minute dissertation is beyond too long. Most people are either visual or tactile learners anyway, who just need to experience the fight before it clicks. I like giving top down explanations. That is, explaining the general picture and then drilling down to more specific bits. Everyone has their own way of explaining things, but this is typically what I usually do:

  1. Give a very general rundown of each step of the fight. I am mainly explaining positioning, what to watch out for and what abilities the boss will be using.
  2. Break the fight up by player roles. Let the healers know what they need to do, let the tanks know what they need to do, let the DPS know what they need to do. In a guild raid, this is where role channels and role leaders come in handy.
  3. I will usually close the explanation with a brief bullet point style summary of what I just covered as well as a reminder of the three most important points of the fight for emphasis (ie, DONT STAND IN THE FIRE, CLEANSE THE DEBUFFS, etc).

Use the raid icons to mark targets and important players. Skull is usually the universal symbol for “kill this first,” X usually means “kill this second” and the yellow star is usually primary CC or any other important role, since it is the easiest symbol to see (it doesn’t blend in with the background or spell effects). Everyone has their own marking system, just make sure that everyone knows the kill order and what each of the symbols mean. Make sure to be consistent about marking. It also helps to mark the tanks in movement heavy encounters.

Once the encounter is underway, dictate the fight and direct people to do things. Communication is key. Make sure that you have Deadly Boss Mods or Big Wigs working so that you can keep an eye on the timers and verbally warn the raid when an important event will occur a couple of seconds ahead of time.

It’s your job to gauge to and not to direct people. Experienced raiders will know how things go, but newbies won’t. Some people need you to tell them where to go next, what boss we’re doing next, when is okay to proceed to a new area and when it is okay to pull.

Other Tips
Provide enough structure for your raid to function smoothly, but be open to new options. Sometimes things don’t always go your way and sometimes PuGs have some pretty damn good ideas. The ability to listen to other people and remain open to advice is an important leadership skill. It always shows that you have confidence and respect for your raid members.

Balanced Personalities Make Good Raid Leaders. Be assertive about your role as raid leader without being a cock. People need to know that you’re the boss, but they don’t need an ego trip or verbal abuse. Be humble, respect is mutual. If someone is clearly not working out, don’t be afraid to boot them. It’s better to brave LFG for a replacement than to have one person drag the entire run down the crapper.

Handle consistent under performers privately before deciding to give them the boot. Making a public example of someone serves little purpose other than to cause drama. If you chastise someone over Vent, they will get defensive. Besides, if someone is bad to the point where they need a raid kick, it’s likely that most people have already noticed.

Learn to pace instances appropriately. Keep the raid rolling by minimizing downtime between trash pulls. It’s irritating when the raid constantly pauses for no good reason. Don’t rush the instance though: Your guild healers might be used to insane lolzerg pulls, but the PuGs might freak out. If it’s a long run, give people a small bio break every once in a while whenever there’s a natural break to reduce random AFK’s at odd moments.

Be patient about wiping, but know when it’s time to call it. No one likes a quitter, but no one likes spending two hours at a boss with little progress.

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