Situational Awareness

Om nom nom... what's that sound?

It’s cooler today, so I can actually focus on something for more than three seconds. I am therefore pleased to present to you Certain Words.

I’ve been in quite a few raids recently, and it seems to me that a lot of raiders still suffer from terminal tunnel vision. I always knew that situational awareness was important for raiders – the dev team just love to find new and creative ways to kill us in raid encounters, and dead DPSers do no damage. Why is it, then that the main cause of all wipes is not people failing to understand the tactics, or insufficient DPS, or undergeared tanks or healers but raiders failing to pay attention or react to fight mechanics? Yeah, I got killed by Deathwhisper’s ghosts the first time but that’s because I was looking for something that wasn’t there – inexperience. I see raids wiped because people don’t move away from the target of Sindragosa’s iceblock or because people with mutated infections continue to stand in the melee completely failing to notice the green blob attacking them. People still die to standing in fires or void zones. People still run in front of or behind dragons. Everyone makes mistakes occasionally or loses focus, but this kind of thing shouldn’t be happening consistently!

Here, then is Durkon’s guide to situational awareness in raids. I’m not perfect but I’m almost always one of the last people to die on wipes because I don’t die to encounter mechanics. As always, these points are merely guidelines – you may find other things work better for you.

  • User Interface: If your UI is too cluttered, you may have trouble seeing what’s going on around you – behind that raid display or giant opaque chat frame. Questhelper can probably be collapsed in raids, and you most likely don’t need Recount up either during combat. If you’re paying too much attention to your DPS figures, it’s more likely that you’ll miss something happening around you. Yeah, DBM will warn you if you’re standing in something or about to be the target of something, but it will not warn you if you’re standing next to someone who’s about to be iceblocked. Similarly, the default UI has everything spread out across the screen which can cause its own problems especially for users of big widescreen monitors. You’ll look from the bottom left for your cooldowns, up to the top left for you and your pet’s unitframes and across to the top right for buffs and debuffs! Eyestrain aside, it’s pretty easy to miss what’s going on in the middle of your screen: The actual encounter. Bosses often telegraph important abilities with an animation or emote, but if you’re looking in the wrong place, you won’t see it.

Grab yourself some addons – for example bartender for action bars, x-perl or pitbull for unit frames – and cluster your information. Don’t make stuff too big or distracting, and leave enough space around UI elements to see what’s going on. I’ll run a post up about addons soon, because they can really help your situational awareness and general performance if used properly.

  • Know what to look for: It almost goes without saying, but if you’ve not done a raid encounter before, read up on it. Watch videos. Do both if you can! Know what things happen and what the different mechanics look like. Know what to look for. That last bit’s important – I knew that I had to run away from Lady Deathwhisper’s ghosts, but because I was speed reading I didn’t pick up on the fact that they had no name plates. Me = deads. On the other hand, I knew that her particular brand of Death and Decay was green, and that it didn’t mean ‘safe to stand in’. More ‘stereotypical radioactive death’, really…
  • MOOOOOOVE! Sometimes it’s safe to wait .5 seconds and finish your current cast or refresh your dots on the boss before running away. Sometimes you need every single second you have to get far enough away. Sometimes if you don’t react instantly you can get instagibbed or even blow the entire raid the hell up. Lich King’s defile? You need to already be moving. Rotface’s mutated infection? You can fire your instant casts as you run to the offtank. You do know where the offtank is, right? Don’t be the one caught finishing his steady shot cast when the Giant Rock of Instant Crushing lands on you…
  • Pay attention: You may notice a recurring theme here. I thought that this deserved its own personal bullet point though, as it leads quite neatly into…
  • Pay attention! Don’t be chatting to people or congratulating someone in /g for dinging level 2. Do not allow your vision to tunnel to recount and omen – running your threat at 125% to try and beat that warlock who’s 2 DPS ahead of you is bad practice anyway. Don’t focus only on the boss, look at what’s going on around you – if someone near you is about to be iceblocked or explode (or any other ability that chains), you need to move out of their way. If your raid designates a place for such people to run to, you need to make sure the targetted person’s path is clear. If it’s YOU that needs to run away from the raid, for Elune’s sake don’t run somewhere hazardous like into lava, flame or in front of a dragon. If you know that something circling the edge of the area is going to emit a beam of death soon, keep track of where it is.
  • Run DeadlyBossMods (or something similar): DBM won’t save you if you’re not paying attention, don’t know what to look for or don’t react but it’s a useful tool to help you out. It will alert you to boss ability cooldowns, it will tell you when something’s being cast, it will alert you if you stand in the fire, it will show you when you’re too close to other raid members. It’s efficient, resilient and powerful. You should get it! Hie thee to curse.com for commencing of the downloads.
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