Learning to raid lead

One of my guild’s best healers (Diggie) asked once in officer chat, how do I learn to raid lead? He’s been doing it since, improving all the time, by running a Naxx 10 alts night. He also asked during a run ‘tell me if there is anything else I should do’.

So if you’d like to raid lead, here is some advice.

The first thing you need is a willingness to learn like Diggie. The fortitude to try leading and possibly fail. One reason some people do not even step up is the false belief that the raid leader needs to know everything and do everything.

Knowing the content

At a minimum: you want to know the raid content about as well as everyone else in the raid.

Ideally: you should know it much better. You want to understand what each role has to do, where they stand, what debuffs are priority to remove, what burst damage healers need to be aware of, and so on.

How to achieve:

  • read the strategy guides and watch the TankSpot videos. Key: try to correlate the visual effect with the special ability.
  • when raiding not as a leader, actually watch what everyone else is doing. Pan your camera around. Where do they stand? What is the raid leader saying about priorities? Why did you wipe, was it preventable?

Progression: if you’re all learning content together, the raid leaders role becomes more that of ‘problem solving leader’. You work out what to try, and when to persevere, and make the decision about whether the strategy is wrong or just the execution of the strategy is bad. This role is more archetypal leadership because you want to draw out insight from people, and also get noisy useless contributions shut down. You will probably have someone who knows the content a little better, so hear them out.


You can delegate a lot to other people. It’s a good idea. Let’s you focus on the strategy, marking up targets and fighting itself. Consider making others:

  • master looter
  • class or role leaders (to watch for and improve on raiders performance)
  • assign healers
  • handle raid admin (DKP, invites, standby-list, posting combat logs, zone checks/ summons).

Some raid leaders just do the lot, but you do not have to. If there was a hierarchy, the RL is at the top. Raids are not a democracy, “Everyone should feel free to express their opinion, but somebody has to make the tough final decisions and somebody has to be hard on people so the group will improve.”

You need to assert some authority, occasionally. If you are being undermined (which happens in PUGs and in guilds who are frustrated with progress), you need to refocus people on the raid content and not on finger-pointing.


Loot PUG: particularly in a PUG, be clear on loot policy when inviting. Re-state before you start. Servers have different loot cultures; be sure everyone in your party or raid is agreed. Work out if there’s a disenchanter and whether he should greed roll or not. For raids, typically it is one epic per person plus the right to roll on one tier token, unless you are the only possible user.

Guild loot system: In a guild, it should be sorted well in advance of your raid start. Loot is a big topic, I have mentioned EPGP and other systems before.

You need to understand loot systems cannot be fair. They’re incentive systems.

Ciderhelm summed it up perfectly when discussing loot systems “Any effective DKP system is built on incentivization. It’s not built on fairness, it’s not built on trust, it’s not built on any ethical or moral principles. Those things can be a part of it, but they aren’t core to what DKP is.”

I totally agree.

Loot systems for a guild need to be known in advance, and loot needs to be distributed quickly.

Looting fast: the master looter can stay behind whilst the rest move onto the next trash pull, if everyone expects that to happen. It has to be done right, but don’t all sit around waiting if you can avoid it. In Naxx-25, 4 minutes on loot per boss is an hour of looting for a full clear. Wasted time.


Strategy: ultimately, if there is indecision about what to do, you need to make the call. Just say “nobody is sure, let’s just try it now”. Remember many people need to see a fight before it makes sense. If anyone says, after a wipe, “oh that was a bad idea, blah” and attributes blame, you need to deflect it.

Your job is to be sure everyone knows the strat, knows their role, where to stand, the phase changes and how the raid handles each one. You decide, on Widow: do you burn the boss for achievement or not. You decide, on Gluth: who is best suited to kiting the zombie chows. You can also use voice comms to focus people on crucial events (like calling out polarity shift on Thaddius).

Authority: hopefully you won’t need to use authority or pull rank. If it becomes necessary, hopefully your guild culture allows it. (Many casual guilds fall down here because casual comes to mean friendly-at-all-costs).

The continuum from new leader to master

Raid leadership is a skill, so you become better at it with time.

Briefing: There is subtlety to even simple things like how you brief raiders on a fight, and knowing who has been there before or not. If 9/10 have done it, but one healer has not, just tell him about what a healer needs to know. Don’t blab on about the whole fight.

Awareness: tools help here both in-fight and post-mortem, which I have written about.

Pace: running a raid fast is a habit for both the raiders and the RL. The pace is often set by the tank, but an RL can urge it on if he’s another class. Loot can be done fast. Trash fights can be done without every single buff. So much time can be lost if people do not release/run and buff quickly. The speed here is something an RL can encourage. Knowing the content better will also help. Marking mobs in advance.

Disaster management: when something goes wrong, you want to be the voice who has the Plan B. Top guilds all have raiders with a plan b they execute without needing to be told. Guilds without this need their raid leader to call the shots when something goes wrong (which, generally, happens every night).

Talking and doing simultaneously: this is my biggest weakness. I have trouble keeping a flow of instructions going whilst I’m tanking, particularly for a high mobility fight like Hodir.

That however is why I like raid leading; there is always a learning edge, and it keeps the game fresh.

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12 comments to Learning to raid lead

  • Kadomi
    Twitter: Kadomi

    That’s an excellent article. It’s all about learning and the will to improve. I personally always feel I am not a great raid leader, but I am doing my best, and we’re not doing so badly at all, and that’s what matters. I always leave raids eager to go again, and spend a lot of time analysing mistakes, so that we kick ass the next time.

  • Veneretio
    Twitter: veneretio

    I really like this post, it’s a nice overview of things and I’m definitely going to start following your blog, I really enjoy your writing style.

    Here’s a few points I’d like to add:

    1) Loot should be done quickly, but not at the expense of accuracy. In other words, if you’re finding that loot is being distributed incorrectly, often then looting needs to be slowed down to ensure accuracy first and foremost.

    2) Never muck with Loot in the middle of a run nor manipulate your established system because you don’t like the outcome. Remind your teammates and yourself that anything that can drop will drop again and that issues with the system should be addressed after the raid. (If you’re going to delegate only 1 thing, make it loot distribution which includes letting that person make the call over any loot discrepancy)

    3) “Sure, after the raid” should be a phrase you use constantly. Pace is huge and getting into a disagreement or off-topic explanation in the middle of the run only unfocuses the other 8 or 23 people.

    4) Make sure that you aren’t just researching what the content is, but also learning what relevant abilities the different classes in the raid offer are. This is especially the case when leading 10 mans as you’ll often have access to one strategy one week, but then have to use something different the next if you forgot to invite Class/spec X or they don’t show up.

  • Gravity
    Twitter: gravitydk

    aww thanks you two fellow tanks!
    @Kadomi, I was motivated to get this Twitter geek-action going from your traffic, thanks. Looks like at the moment I have to manually update Twitter that I’ve blogged, though, must find automation somehow. :)
    @Veneretio: I was very tempted to embed some of your tips into the main article! Loot can be time-sink, eh. Accuracy, I agree, is important, plus you want people to know there is looting happening even if they’ve run on. Most people hate standing around waiting; one solution is the ML to handle it whilst the rest are on the next pull, and with some familiarity the bidders can just pay partial attention to the trash.

  • Id like to add that one of the most important things ive learnt to do since i started raid-leading is keeping everyone motivated and moving. Its amazing how much people can faff around without someone prompting them to move on. Keeping peoples spirits up is another, such as praising on boss kills even if they are fairly minor and keeping calm during wipes.

    A pet hate of mine which ive come across when we have had to pug spots is impatience. Yes everyone likes to move along quickly but im not going to rush if i feel someone needs a bit more time to figure something out. I had a pug in a EOE10 raid the other day who kept prompting us to start when i was still explaining the tactics to a guildy who needed clarification. I simply told him to either shut up or get out. He chose the former.

  • Oh your good. You just made me a subscriber!
    Thanks for the link Tanklikeagirl!

  • Gravity
    Twitter: gravitydk

    Glad you liked it, I’ll be sure to thank her too.

  • Pretzle

    Awesome article, and a lot of your points just make sense – often the obvious is the most easy thing to overlook.

    I also came from Tank Like a Girl, and am definitely a subscriber now :)

  • Gravity
    Twitter: gravitydk

    yay! I think the really hard bit is taking what you can read on a site into actions and words in-game, and that can sometimes be difficult even if the lesson was a simple one (particularly, eg. about dealing with conflict or making decisions, easy to say, harder to do).

  • Gravity
    Twitter: gravitydk

    Just found a related post by Veneretio here.

  • [...] These are really helpful, because they are the kind of one-liners you need to give as reminders to a raid team over voice comm, which I talked about yesterday. [...]

  • [...] found him to be very DK-centric. Great read all around. One of my favorite posts of his is Learning to Raid Lead and if you’re remotely interested in leading a raid sometime, you should definitely have a [...]

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