Learn to Raid in Cataclysm in 3 Easy Steps, Part 1

Getting reacquainted with raiding in Cataclysm is one of the best things I’ve done in of World of Warcraft in a long time.  The game I used to love is gone, and I am having to learn a whole new game.  Downranking, healer rotations, resist gear, tank-and-spank fights, and automatic Decursive macros are long gone.  Gone, dead, and mostly forgotten.

The old raids I was used to were simple. If someone took damage, you healed it as quickly as possible.  Healers watched lifebars more than their avatars.  But this newfangled contraption Blizzard introduced in Cataclysm through is confusing.  It’s not even close to the last time I was a regular raider back in BWL/AQ.  Needless to say, I had to step up my game if I wanted to succeed at raiding in Cataclysm.Lesserheal and Ragnaros

I’m sure I’m not the only one in this position.  Cataclysm offered veterans a revamp of the game they had fallen in love with years ago, and despite Blizzard’s loss in subscribers, I know more than a couple of people who stuck their heads back in WoW’s door to see what was new.  Part of that investigation is invariably going to be checking out the raid environment.

I’m the kind of person who needed a process to get ready for Cataclysm raiding.  If you’re trying to get started with raiding, then I hope the three steps I came up with to raise my game help may help you out in some way, too.

In a nutshell, the steps go like this (I’ll go into much more detail below):

1.) figure out what your deficiencies are, 2.) read as much as you can about how to fix them, and 3.) tweak your addons and UI to cover any gaps you may have.

Step 1: Self-Evaluation

The first thing I did was sit down and think about my biggest weaknesses as a raider.  Note, that’s me, not my character.  Mana regen, throughput, and all those other wacky in-game things are easy to fix: get better gear.  That’ll happen.  No worries.

The things I needed to focus on were about the person behind the avatar, the one controlling the Dwarf.  Without knowing what deficiencies you have, you’ll never be able get that better gear.  All the shiny purples in the world won’t help you if you can’t move out of the fire or notice when one of your Hunters gets clipped by a Squall Line and needs a Leap of Faith back to the group.

So the first thing you need to do is give yourself a good, thorough once-over.  Think about what problems you’re having in raids, in 5-mans, in PvP, and really focus on what frustrates you and why you get frustrated.

Was it really the keyboard not responding?  Was that death really RNG?  Did that Orc’s Ashkandi straight up whoop your Zin’Rokh?   Are Warlocks OP and Rogue stunlocks unbeatable?

No, not at all.

When I did my evaluation, I came up with two main weaknesses as a player.  The first of which is that I despite playing my Priest from 80-85 and getting him 350+ geared before the end of December, I didn’t really have any idea what a Priest was about anymore.  My understanding what rooted firmly in BWL raiding days, not today.  And the second weakness was my situational awareness.  My buddy (and raid leader) consistently points this out to me, and has for a while, but it never really sank in.  I don’t see things as they happen around me.  I focus so intently on what I think I should be doing that I ignore and block out what I actually should be.

So think about where you are as a player, and once you have that knowledge in hand, you can set off to fix them.

Step 2: Study, Read, Talk

Once you realize what you need to work on, the next step is doing something about it.  For me, that involved making sure that I read every single word I could find about my class (Holy Priest) and the raids I’d be doing.

My first stop, as always, was Elitist Jerks’ Priest Forum.  I’m not a huge min/maxer, but I want to be the best I can be.  Unlike EJ’s community, I’m more about practical applications of healing rather than theorycrafted numbers.  The compendiums the EJ community has put together for each spec/class is astounding, though, and you’ll be missing a great deal of consolidated information if you don’t read through it.  Just remember, EJ is for high-end raiders by high-end raiders, and they will show you how to eke out an extra .5% off of spells and abilities through math and optimal conditions.  Listen to them, but also keep your own raiding situation/composition in mind, too.

In addition to EJ, I read quite a few MMO blogs.  I have always been a huge fan of World of Matticus and their sister forums PlusHeal.  There are few better Healing communities out there.  In addition to that, I’ve recently discovered Stories of O and Oestrus.  There’s a lot of good information there, as well as at Restokin, WTS Heals, and Life in Group 5.  You also might want to check out Murloc Parliament, The Bossy Pally, and the weekly class and raid columns at Wow Insider.

Also be sure to check out their blogrolls for more class-specific reading that can really help you out.

And if you’re really feeling frisky, get on Twitter and talk to the bloggers themselves.  They’re all generally nice folks and are always good for some conversation.  While certainly not comprehensive, Psynister has a really good list of WoW bloggers on Twitter compiled you can follow and start from there.Dwarf Priest in Merciless Gladiator's GearAfter you’ve had your fill and learned a few things about your class that you didn’t know already, it’s time to learn about what you’re getting yourself into—the raid environment.

I used to go to TankSpot to watch videos and learn encounters.  I even started there this time around, too, but Aliena’s videos are not only obnoxious, they leave out important information, are very poorly structured, and (thanks to my raid leader for pointing this one out) consist of their first kill, not refined fights.  The strategies offered in the videos are often harder and more complicated than necessary.  I’d stay away from TankSpot if I were you.

The one I’ve had the best luck with lately came from a guildie who was pushing it.  If you’ve never visited LearnToRaid, then I suggest you go there.  The videos are a lot clearer than TankSpots, and I’ve not had a problem with any of the strategies.  In fact, it was a slightly altered L2R strat for Al’Akir that got us our first kill not long ago.  Just be aware that they focus mostly on 25-person encounters, not 10, so you’ll have to adapt any strategies accordingly.

The distinction between 10 and 25-person raiding is significant to note because most video guide sites work predominantly with 25s.  Don’t worry about it.  Some fights vary in difficulty depending on raid size, but the general strategy is the same.  Just watch and learn the basic mechanics, and then experience it for yourself.

Some sites like WoW Insider do guides for raids, but they’re few and far between, honestly.  I like to read them when they get posted, but they’re often too late to really be effective with the plethora of other guides out there.  Nonetheless, reading any guide can help you refine not only your strategy, but playstyle by seeing what others are doing.  So if you ever see one, give it a shot.

You can also find kill videos on all the major guild websites and by Googling for it, but kill videos are neat to watch, but don’t really help out until you know the basics of the fight.  Once you do, hit as many of them as you can, but if you’re just diving into Cataclysm raiding, you’ll want to make sure you hit one of the beginner’s guides first.

Step 3: Same Bat-Time, Same Bat-Channel

This got a little longer than I intended, so instead of critting you even harder with my epic Wall of Text, I’ve decided to break this intro to Cataclysm raiding into multiple parts and give Step 3 (Addons and User Interface) its own post.

Are you a raider, new or veteran?  Do you want to be?  Either way, leave a comment with your thoughts about getting into World of Warcraft’s endgame content.

By B.J. Keeton

B.J. KEETON is a writer, teacher, and runner. When he isn't trying to think of a way to trick Fox into putting Firefly back on the air, he is either writing science fiction, watching an obscene amount of genre television, or looking for new ways to integrate fitness into his geektastic lifestyle. He is also the author of BIRTHRIGHT and co-author of NIMBUS. Both books are available for Amazon Kindle.


  1. You got the Chelly’s finally! Good article – wish I had time to raid with you all but moving is moving.

    Look forward to getting back into the swing of things in a few weeks.

    1. I did. I got a fantastic deal (8k!) on it rather than it dropping, but it was worth it, though shortly after buying it, the friggin’ ZA mace and Hexblade dropped, as did an Incineratus and Twilight’s Hammer. Oh well. I think I even have a Blade of the Witching Hour now, too, for Shadow. I’m weapon poor it seems.

      I look forward to you getting back, Wes. I know how the moving thing can be, though.

      1. There’s a weapon called “Incineratus”? I guess Blizzard finally decided to honor that hard-working, experienced and jovial Death Knight tank on Darkspear-EU!

  2. I can’t agree with you about Aliena’s videos… I love that she draws all of the dragons in mspaint and they all look like My Little Ponies. I do sometimes get frustrated with “this was the first time we attempted this and we had a lot of deaths”, but it makes for a good jumping off point (I like her voice too; “Click on the lightwell OKAAAY”). We usually end up coming up with our own strategy loosely based on what we watch/read anyway.

    1. The drawings and such are fine. Goodness knows, I like a blogger who has a unique style. But it’s the roughness of the videos. If she even went back and edited the kill footage afterward, that’d be okay. But telling people the wrong strategy (Magmaw, for instance) or making it overly complicated (Cho’gall) is where I have the problem.

      I agree with you in that they’re good jumping off points. I just couldn’t recommend that TankSpot be the only kill video one watches.

  3. Holy crap! Thank you for the plug, sir.

    I agree that prepping oneself to be a raider really couldn’t be easier and your post pointed that out beautifully. I spend a *lot* of time just looking at my character sheet and my talents and always having that urge to change… something. I never know just what it is and often times I don’t change anything, but the feeling is there of never being satisfied or wondering if I should change specs for a particular fight. That willingness to know it needs to be done and that you’re really motivated to do it is another thing.

    I’m also not a fan of Aliena’s, but for some of the reasons you listed and for others of my own (which I’ll of course share if prodded). I also think that the videos are great for initial homework, but I’ve seen certain boss kills done so many ways and you really just need to find what works for you and your group. I think guilds should avoid being bound to how other people do it and shouldn’t be afraid to try new things or new comps, if that’s what it takes to get them a kill.

    Overall, another great post from you, sir. Keep them coming and congrats on the new epics!

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