Friday, February 25, 2011

WTF? Learning from death in raids

Causes of raid death are less obvious and more complex in this particular expansion.  Health pools are so large that it’s usually multiple things that kill us over a longer period of time.  Heals are so hyper conservative and small relative to health pools that it can sometimes be hard to say whether or not you asked too much of the healers.  Wrath’s spike damage often made causes of death obvious, we didn’t have to think much about what went wrong and what we could do instead.  How can we understand why we die and what we can do better in the future?  How can we figure out what went wrong so that we can learn from it?

You really only need three tools to figure out what went wrong and how to fix it: a standard UI with Recount, a helpful guild and basic raid awareness.  So there you are shooting, casting or poking at a boss with sticks and you die.  First thing to do is check your raid frames.  Why?  Well you may have been out of range of any healers, or the healers near you may have been out of mana  Did anyone else in your range die?  Checking the usual things first leads to the quick and easy answer as to why you are kissing the floor.

If you're still clueless as to cause of death check your Combat Log.   Filter the log to self to keep the details specific.  The log will tell you in chronological order what hit you, what healed you and what you resisted immediately preceding your demise. The problem with the combat log is that its straight forward data.  It doesn't really provide the big picture.  For that you'll need Recount.

Recount has more uses then just tracking your l33t dps.  It also records cc breakers, dispells, interupts, over healing, damage taken and by what.  Checking recount will provide you with some perspective on what happened over the course of the fight and from that you can usually see where things went wrong.  When used with simple observation (where) and your combat log (when), Recount can help fill in the who and how in cause of death.

Raw data without context lacks meaning.  You must know the fight not only from your perspective but that of the other 10 or 24 people in your raid.  Did the tanks swap aggro and in that same moment did you generate enough threat to have the boss spit fire at you?  Did you take avoidable damage? 

Death in a raid is not so much a matter of just damage but of the deficit between heals and damage.  Check your healing count.  It will show you how much healing you received and from who or what.  (Touch the $#%%$@# Lightwell).  If it appears you received no healing or sporadic healing its okay to ask why.  Just don't be an ass about it or you will not have to wonder why you received no healing in the future.  Asking others for insight can yield answers you may not have been able to come up with on your own.

Using careful and thoughtful elimination of possibilities to figure out why you died shoud help both you and possibly the raid avoid the problem again in the future by shedding light on it.  This sould be the goal of post-death analysis: not figuring out what went wrong to place blame, but to learn about how to avoid death in the future and increase the raid’s chances for success.  It’s important to make deaths instructive; it is important to not die in vain.

What have I personally learned from my many deaths and subsequent analysis? 
  • Take some healing into your own hands.  Optimized healing these days relies on all players using healthstones, lightwells, aoe ‘circle’ heals and, yes, even bandages to heal themselves. 
  • Watch your positioning relative to healers.  It’s not as simple as merely being in range of the raid healers.  Most multi-target heals spread relative to their target, not the caster.  You can be within range of a raid healer but if the central target of a multi-target heal is 40 yards to the other side of the healer, you’ll take no piece of it.  Because of this, it helps to be within 40 yards of as many ranged raid members as possible.  Also know that healers will put lightwells and healing circles where they’ll do the most good.
  • Avoiding damage is more important than doing damage. There aren’t many situations in Cata raids where it’s better stay in the fire one more second to finish a cast than step out of it.  Requirements for avoiding damage and not over stressing healers are not forgiving in Cata.  Healing is much different in and it’s hard to overstate how important avoiding damage is.  All that said, you of course still want to optimize dps given that you’re getting out of fire first
  • Mitigating damage is more important than doing damage.  Mitigation is no joke for the same reason that avoidance it is no joke.  Use the damage avoidance tools your class has.  Check talents, glyphs and what others in your class are doing to learn more.
Of course, these new emphases don’t change the old ones.  Know the fight inside and out.  Watch your threat levels. Keep your healers safe. Use CC and kiting when appropriate, etc.  Some things just don’t change.

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