About the Author
So, who is this presumptuous jerk telling me how to "git gud"? In short, a former hardcore raider turned casual. I started playing WoW back in 2008, quickly earning a place in one of the top guilds on my server. In Wrath, I cleared 3 Drake Obsidian Sanctum, Algalon the Observer, and the ICC meta-achievement while it was all still current content. In Cataclysm I continued to raid the highest level content available until quitting in Dragon Soul. On a personal level, I secured numerous World Top 200 rankings for healing, including a best of World 7th overall. From there I moved on to SWTOR, achieving Nightmare Mode speed runs in the first 3 raids, and FFXIV getting a 2.0 Twintania kill before burning out. I returned to WoW for Legion on a more casual level and still managed to parse 95th+ percentile on almost every boss in Heroic Emerald Nightmare, Trail of Valor and Nighthold while playing a Resto Druid, Holy Priest and Holy Paladin.
With that out of the way, what I'm about to present to you is what I feel are the best things you can do to become both a better raider and a better player.
***Note: This section is mostly relevant to keyboard/mouse users. Though many players have found success playing on a controller, I have not and am wholly unqualified to give advice on that matter.***
The most important thing you can do is to never ever click your abilities with your mouse. You always want to be activating them with a press of your keyboard (or MMO mouse). Having a good setup that works for you is also key; the default bindings are awful. You want all of your abilities to be easily accessible. Personally, I bind my primary abilities to Q, 1, 2, 3, 4, E and use Shift or Alt as a modifier (A modifier is a key you press in combination with your main key to use a different ability. i.e. Q is Jolt while Alt+Q is Corps-a-corps and Shift+Q is Swiftcast) with A and D rebound to Strafe Left/Right and Turn completely removed. This way, I never have to move my left hand resulting in faster, more accurate keystrokes.
The above is a (bad) picture of my keyboard, color-coded to demonstrate what I'm talking about. Green keys are my abilities, Red are movement, and Purple are modifiers. This is far from the only way to go too. Many players like to bind Z, X, and C as well, thought I find them awkward. Another popular method is to shift everything to the right such that ESDF become your movement keys and ASQWERTG are left for abilities. This setup is particularly helpful if you don't have an MMO gaming mouse and its extra buttons. There is no one-size-fits-all solution. You need to experiment a bit within these guidelines to figure out what works best for you.
Like the default keybinds, their default UI is pretty garbage too. A good UI’s job is to prominently display relevant information while simultaneously hiding distractions. The center of your screen should be clear so that you can see what’s going on around you. The other half of the equation is putting your important information where you’ll see it without looking too far away from your feet. For this you want place your job gauge, enemy list, and a non-shared hotbar which contains all of your cooldowns and proc-based abilities near the center of your screen. For healers, you’ll also want the party list there as well. Turning titles off and setting party members’ names to display only initials can help reduce clutter.
This is the UI that I use. As you can see, extraneous stuff like bags and chat is pushed towards the corners of my screen while important combat information is displayed near the center around my character. Like with keybinds, you need to find a setup that works for you.
Learn Your Job
Now comes the hard and boring part. First, you’ll need to do a little research. Well maintained Job guides can be a bit difficult to find, but your best bet is to search the official forums or reddit. A good guide will contain single target and AoE rotations, stat weights (when available) and ideally tips and tricks for specific fights. Seek out and internalize as much information about your job as you can.
On that note, the boring part. Learn your rotation to the point that it becomes second nature and you no longer have to think about what abilities you’re pressing so you can concentrate on fight mechanics. This means hitting the training dummy, and hitting it often. You will also want to learn your defensive and utility abilities. Although it's always been a gray area in this game, getting a combat parser will help you get the most out of a training dummy session and help you analyze your performance in actual fights. (Author’s note: I’m suggesting this purely for personal improvement. DO NOT, under any circumstances, even mention that you are using one in game. That is clearly against the rules and you can get banned for it.)
Developing these skills is a long, arduous process for sure, but the rewards will be well worth it when bosses start dropping.
“Ask not what your raid group can do for you, but what you can do for your raid group.” Raiding is, in the eyes of many, the premier multiplayer aspect of MMOs and truly a team effort. Teamwork is, of course, a vague topic and includes a lot of different things, from being prepared, to listening to your raid leader, and volunteering to take on additional responsibilities.
Before the raid even begins, you’ll want to be prepared. Have some idea of what a boss does before even the first pull. Read a guide, watch a video, or better yet, both. Show up on time and ready to go with all the potions and food you’re going to need for a night. If you can’t make it on time or need help with consumables, tell someone. Most groups understand that real life happens and that stuff can get expensive. They’re more than happy to help, but need to know that you need it first.
Time is precious; don’t waste it. Any organized group will have scheduled breaks for you to use the bathroom, get a drink, stretch your legs or whatever. If you have an emergency mid-raid that’s one thing, but do not keep the rest of your team waiting for something that could be done before or afterwards. When a wipe is called, go find a fire to stand in or a cliff to jump off of. Die and get back quickly for the next attempt. Most groups have a limited amount of time every week. Maximizing it is essential to downing bosses in a timely manner.
Learn when to speak up on voice comms, and when to shut up. This should be kept clear during encounters for people to call out what’s happening. You can make strategy suggestions or tell everyone about the amazing burritos you had for dinner between pulls. At the same time, if you see something that you think everyone else is missing, say something. Once a boss is on farm, you can be a little more lax about this, but during progression you should be entirely focused on the task at hand.
Go the extra mile. Volunteer for interrupt duty, stun or kite dangerous adds, hit that defensive cooldown when you know you’ll be taking damage. Volunteer to handle mechanics your class is well suited for or to call out abilities over comms. Do this and you will be an invaluable member of your team even if you aren’t the strongest technical player.
It takes time, and a lot of it, to develop the skills needed to play this game at the highest levels, but the feeling of accomplishment from overcoming a difficult challenge with your friends or from beating your own personal bests is well worth the effort it takes. Nobody expects you to learn everything in a day, a week, or even a month. All any reasonable person can ask of you is to put forth the effort and make small improvements each week.
This guide is mostly aimed at those looking to get their feet wet in organized raiding. It contains tips on effective keybinds, user interface setup, improving technical gameplay, and working well in a team environment.