How to Beat Boss Fights

I’ve noticed that a lot of people seem to struggle with boss fights in World of Warcraft.  I’m sometimes one of them!  But you can improve your chances of successful boss fight encounters by realising a few basic facts.

  1. Once you are completely comfortable with how to play your class and role, you no longer have to think about it – and this is half the battle won already.
  2. The majority of boss fights are based on exactly the same mechanics .. once you know how to deal with those mechanics, fights are MUCH easier.

The first point may seem obvious – you wouldn’t go into a raid boss fight (I hope) healing for the first time.  But there are levels of being comfortable with your role.  You want to be at the stage where you can carry out most of your role without having to squint at a certain addon or pile of buttons on your screen, to the exclusion of all else.  If you’re not looking at the fight itself, you can’t react to it.

You also need to know when and how to use those “oh cr*p” buttons – the ones that you may not necessarily use regularly, but that will dig you out of a hole in a pinch.  EVERY class has them – learn them, get used to what they do and remember to actually USE them!  If you are a raging altaholic, I’d suggest having your “oh cr*p” buttons in the same place across toons – it makes it easier to remember – just do remember which character you are playing or you may end up using an unexpected spell!

DON’T blame others for your failures.  In fact – don’t blame others full stop (only the raid leader should be doing that, and then in private).  If everyone is honest with themselves, they KNOW when they’ve mucked something up and don’t need someone else pointing it out to them.  If someone is regularly failing and asks why they are failing then, if you regularly play that class and role and know what the problem is, feel free to speak up.  Most raid members who know their job should be fully aware of why a failure happened and will usually say so.

Compare your output – upload fights to a site such as World of Logs (or access your guilds logs, if they upload regularly).  Check to see if your output is similar to another of your class and role for the same fight, in other guilds.  Obviously take into account the level of the character you are comparing to – if the average dps of your group is 15,000, then you can’t expect to have the same output as a group with an average output double that – but you can check spell rotations, damage taken, up time, etc.  If there are major differences between your and theirs, ask yourself why.

Moving onto the second point – it may seem odd, but a lot of boss fights are based on exactly the same mechanics.  Once you no longer have to concentrate on one little part of your screen in order to carry out your role, you are able to concentrate on everything going on around you.  Some of the basic fight mechanics that you will regularly come across, and should get used to dealing with are:

  • Stuff on the ground.  In the majority of cases, stuff on the ground that is not cast by your team is BAD.  Get out of it .. move move!  Do not wait until you’ve finished casting that 2 second spell, don’t sit in it because “the healer can heal through it” – bloody well move!  It doesn’t matter if you’re the tank, a dps or a healer … you do no good to anyone dead, and even less good if you’re using up all that healing yourself, rather than someone who knows how to move.  This is the most basic requirement of a boss fight.  If you can’t manage to get yourself out of cr*p on the ground, you’re useless.  You’re either dead, or worse, you’re using unnecessary healing power that should be directed elsewhere.  There comes a point in a fight when, from a healers point of view, it is a relief when a non-vital raid member dies .. because it takes a huge amount of strain off them.  Please don’t be THAT person.
  • Airborne AoE.  Very similar to the point above, only in the form of a blizzard or fireballs or flying poison, etc – unlike a lot of “stuff on the ground”, you can often see it coming more easily – the boss will turn and aim or you will see something flying through the air towards its target, or there will even be a target painted on the ground where it is going to hit.  Again this requires you to be full aware of the indicators of the fight, and to move!
  • Fighting dragons.  A lot of dragons have special abilities such as flame breath and tail swipe – which means anyone other than the tank should avoid the front of the dragon, and everyone should avoid the tail.  There are exceptions, so you will need to learn which these are.
  • Stacking up.  A standard machanic regularly used is stacking.  Either because someone gains a buff or debuff that everyone needs to share, or because extra nasties are going to be targeting a random raid member and you want to try and guarantee where that nasty is going to arrive.  Learn the indicator for that mechanic (a buff or debuff icon, a raid marker or some other boss indicator).  Often a raid member will be assigned to shout up when stacking is required, but you should learn when to move without being told regardless.  You also need to learn where everyone will be stacking.  This could be on a specific person, or in a specific location in the room.  Be aware of where that target is at all times during the fight, and especially when the stacking-up phase is due.
  • Spreading out.  Similar to Stacking up, only in reverse!  The difference here being that everyone will need to be a certain distance apart.  Be aware of that distance and, if you can, pre-set it in your range finder (ie, type /range x, where “x” is the minimum distance you need to be from everyone else).  Ensure you stick to it!
  • Positioning.  Especially for melee, you need to be sure you position yourself well.  You should not be fighting side by side with the tank .. you should ideally be behind the boss (if there is a hunter or warlock, etc, in the group, stack with their pets as they automatically position themselves at the back of the boss).  The only exceptions to this are “stuff on the ground” that makes it impossible to stand there and dragons with their tail swipe ability.  Standing in front of the boss is inviting a quick death from various cleave abilities bosses tend to have and increases the damage the tank may take, as some bosses can have abilities that increase their attack power if they manage to dodge an attack – if you are melee and stood in front of the boss, you increase the chances he can dodge your attacks.  They cannot dodge attacks from behind.  Therefore, it not only benefits you because you take less damage and increase your dps, but it also reduces the damage the tank takes too.

Obviously these don’t cover every possible mechanic .. but these are the ones seen time and again, often together in one fight.  Once you know instinctively how to react when certain things happen, without having to be told that you’re stood in pixellated death, for example, you are much more likely to succeed (and be given the opportunity to do so!).

If you find that you are struggling to cope with a specific mechanic (for example moving out of puddles) go find something patrolling generally out in WoW that has the same mechanic – plenty of the higher level mobs around the Firelands area, for example, will put stuff on the ground, throw things at targets, create close range AoE, etc.  Instead of standing still and taking it, challenge yourself to avoid all incoming damage of that type.  As the old saying goes … “practice makes perfect” … and once you are used to dealing with all of these types of mechanics with no problems, everything else is just icing!

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