Planning Raid Group Composition 101

Let’s be honest up front. For a lot of people, the group selection is done by someone who has been through the instance a lot of times as one of ‘the grunts’, and that person will base their decisions on what worked and what didn’t work — with some tweaks based on how well they know various players superceding their ‘perfect class organization’. And if it works, don’t break it.

But sometimes… sometimes you get the luxury of deciding between a veritable host of players — or worse, YOU are tagged as raid leader and even though you’ve done it a dozen times already the first time is SCARY – so any guide at all (even a bad one) is worth its weight in gold. Fortunately for you, electrons are light (grin).

OK, since this is 101 – the basics – we are going to toss a couple of important issues out the window. First and specifically, we’re going to toss “what is the instance”. It matters a lot. But it matters as a situational adjustment to the basics, so it can wait for a later presentation. Second, we’re going to toss player quality. That’s uncontrollable, really, so I’m going to assume everyone is competent and otherwise ignore the subject. Oh, except the nice thing about well-designed basics? They help you deal with working around outstanding and satisfactory (barely) players.

Let’s start with the core rule. Raids are just 5-mans on steroids. You will not be hurt if you begin by building a number of 5-mans to fill your raid. So Kara is two 5-man raids. MC is eight of them. If all else fails, use that basis. Several five-man teams, each with a tank, a healer, and three DPS/multitaskers. But if it were that easy, we wouldn’t need to talk about it, would we? Let’s expand.

With two (or four or eight) tanks, the concept and role of the off-tank comes into sharp focus. The Main Tank still has the same role as always — Selfishly trying to keep all the aggro. Unfortunately with the raid there’s always this tiny, tiny problem. Too many mobs, not enough tank. If it’s a boss fight, the tank’s prohibited from running over to grab the inevitable extra adds — doing so lets the boss wreak havoc where he or she or it will. (Inevitably, it’s the squishies who bear the brunt). Enter the hero of the day – the off-tank. The Off-tank’s primary job is to grab the aggro of all the extra mobs. The Off-Tank’s secondary job is to be prepared to take over as Main Tank (MT dies, gets tossed, the boss has a weird aggro drop, etc.) The tank team’s discussion is going to boil down to who gets which mobs, where they’ll be fighting them, and what way they’re going to face them. Everyone – EVERYONE – will be adjusting to this. And if necessary contributing — as in, “If you set up that way the only way the healer can heal the MT is by standing in next to one of you, which is bad because it’s harder not to steal aggro.” Callback to another post — COMMUNICATIONS for the win.

What classes do you choose for the tank? Whatever works. I’ll suggest, however, that at all the tanks be a spec that’s dedicated to tanking. And… do not make ANY plans for hybrids to be standby ‘something’. If you’ve got a pally tank in a raid, expect ZERO heals. Druid tank? No heals, no dps, no CC.

Heal Team. I’ve got a rule of thumb I’ll share: One and a half healer per 5-man team. See, in a raid the MT gets 100% of a healer’s attention. The off-tank gets most of a healer’s attention, but that healer can watch the rest of her group as well. The half is picking up the slack from the group the MT’s healer is in.

Since I’m a priest and this is a priest blog, a bit more detail than I gave tanks is inevitable.

All things being equal, I would make the MTs healer either a priest of a paladin, and only as third choice (if he chose talents to speed as well as improve the heals) the druid. Assuming they’re equally skilled players, I’d not put the Shaman on the MT. Now here’s where I get odd — I’d make the shaman or the druid the second team healer. The priest becomes Raid healer. Raid healer is providing a tiny little bit of healing to the ‘rest of’ the MT’s team. What Raid healer also should do is be watching the rest of the healing – the MT, and the OT Team – and jumping in if things are turning bad. The Raid healer gets primary responsibility for keeping the two team healers alive. (how often do you see the healer go down because they’re watching everyone ELSE’s health meters?)

The counterargument is that you put a hybrid in the raid-healer slot. And until needed, the hybrid does ‘other things’ — DPS, usually. This is a good use of the druid if available.

I don’t really like using Shaman as a dedicated healer. Their talents – especially their totems – are ideally used to support the whole teams. That is, a boost to what’s already going on instead of being on the point. I love me some shammies, and they can do a good (even outstanding) job as a healer if that’s what you need. But their skills are much better used enhancing everyone. …I want to come back to the enhancing issue. But first, the other “normal” for the teams – dps. Or in my terms: kill team.

Which tells you exactly the job. But right now I’ve five – maybe six – people doing this. Which explains why… in 5mans I say you need a Kill Team Leader. In Raids, it’s as important as having a main tank. It’ll make the difference between wipes and not – and the difference between Interesting fights and clockwork battles.

The job of the KTL is to tell the KT who to kill next. Now an interesting thing in a lot of raids is that there may be so much firepower that it can often be split between a pair of targets. The decision in regard to doing that is, plain, pure and simple, up to the KTL. I recommend that the KTL designate an assistant who directs the split team and takes over if the KTL dies. But my personal choice is that except when the boss’s adds absolutely require it (more often than not, sadly), the Kill Team stays integrated. The reason is what I call additional tasks.

As I mentioned the times I’ve discussed roles of a party, in a 5-man other tasks are nice but not necessary. CC – be it on pulls, adds, or as safety – can be skipped with out too much grief. (Note – this ends when you do heroic instances in outland. On the other hand, I think of those as 5-man raids. shrug) On raids, CC quits being optional.

The tanks can’t CC. The healers probably shouldn’t CC (except, MAYBE, shackle). Which means the CC units are part of the kill team. Just a couple of paragraphs ago I mentioned that I don’t like the kill team splitting to multiple targets, and this is a big reason. If you’ve got a (or a few) dedicated CCer(s), that will make one (or both) split teams too weak to swiftly kill the target. And that means the team can’t do its job. This known, the KTL has to know who is doing the CC and so who he can and cannot rely upon for constant dps. Oh — the KTL should NOT be a CC or other supplemental duty person. My personal preference for this role is a rogue, with a close second being a DPS warrior or other “one kill at a time” player.

There are other support roles that can be applied, though they often mean picking the class then giving them the role. For example, I nominally include the shaman in the KillTeam, though their direct contribution to DPS may be… minor. There are “Killteam” shaman specs. But the main ability is enhancing everyone else. Oh, they may be kicking some stuff for the tanks or the healers. But usually that will not be their primary role.

To sum, you still have tank, Heal, and Kill teams. But a number of what used to be optional duties became critical — especially crowd control. Decide how much CC you need and other support duty slots you want, and fill from there. (My preference: one killers (DPS), one CC, and half a support [CC if no support, killer if no CC] slot per 5-man team. That’s 2 dps, 2 CC, 1 support in a generic 5-man.)

One more lesson before we do final summary and leave the class. There is a temptation to put all the healers on a team, all the killers on a team, and all the tanks on a team. Avoid this temptation. The support and heal spells are frequently built around “in party” use. By mixing you get a great deal of benefit from that fact. As a specific example – obvious to every. single. priest. – consider what happens if you’ve a shadowpriest in the raid. If you put this person with the MT and – say – a pair of casters (along with MT healer and Raid healer), then VE and VT do really good things for the raid team – VE helping keep the MT from death, and VT giving mana to everyone else in the party. Fully knowing what classes group for best synergy is a later subject of study, and will rely on multiple instructors. er… not just later posts on this site, but lots and lots of others elsewhere.

Final summary. When in doubt, build a series of 5-mans to make your raid. Split what ‘multiple duties’ you can so that they’re primary duties of someone. My general recommendation is:

Per 5-man, one tank, 1.5 healer, 2.5 Kill Team [1 dedicated kill, 1 CC, 0.5 support/multiple backup]. Class DOES NOT MATTER, but SPEC DOES.

This is not mandatory – your guild’s composition may dictate something else. And there are raid situations that demand slightly different mixes. But those are, again, advanced issues. This was just a review of the basics.

~ by Kirk on August 29, 2007.

2 Responses to “Planning Raid Group Composition 101”

  1. All I can say is bless you! My first Kara run is tonight and the info is very helpful!

  2. Good luck, and may Attumem give you his Horse and his Gloves. (grin).

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