Whenever a person first steps into an instance. Be it 5, 10, 25 or even the old 40 mans there is one truth they MUST be aware of...The ground WILL kill you. We often talk about having "raid awareness" but what exactly does that MEAN?
Raid Awareness most simply is when an individual is able to focus not only on the task they are preforming (be it keeping the boss' or mob's attention, healing or causing large amounts of damage) while at the same time noticing what is going on around them. There are VERY few bosses you will encounter that allow you to just stand in one place and beat on them with out SOMETHING else interfering. We call those types of encounters "Tank and Spanks". More commonly you will be dealing with bosses and even trash mobs that have some sort of "gimmick", an added little bonus to make life and the fight more interesting.
So what are some common things to be aware of?
1. AoE or Area of Effect
Does the encounter have any mechanics that directly effects the area around them? These can be a variety of things such as moves which occasionally throw out large amounts of damage you must run away to avoid to DOT (Damage Over Time) effects which will impact you the entire event.
2. RTE or Random Target Effects
Does the encounter include mechanics in which the boss randomly targets a player OTHER than the intended one? Is there anything YOU as a player can do about it or SHOULD do if you become the target of the boss' attention? Sometimes it may be a DoT other times it could be something like having an damage inducing whirlwind chasing you.
3. Aggro Drops
Does the specific encounter include opportunities for the boss to look over the field for a NEW main target? When do these times occur? Are there specific things you as a player should either avoid doing OR do at those times?
4. Cleave or Cone Attacks
Does the encounter include large damage moves that only happen if you are IN FRONT of the boss? EVERY dragon you encounter will have these two moves so just be aware of that at the on set.
5. Tail Swipes or REAR only moves
With the exception of BLUE dragons, this is a move you should EXPECT when dealing with dragons especially. Knowing where to stand to be safe is a must.
6. Fear, Mind Control or Insanity
This is where the boss for a period of time removes control your character from your hands. Is there ANYTHING you can do to prevent it? Are there any SAFER areas you can attempt to be in case these types of things happen? Is there a specific time in the encounter when these particular moves take place?
7. Ground Effects
This will be the BIGGEST thing to watch out for and has the largest variety of options. Runes and sparks. Some that can kill you, some that will actually BENEFIT you. Ever expanding gas clouds, spikes, the ever popular fire, void zones, acid, even SNOW.
8. Enrage Timers
More commonly now encounters will have a SET amount of time in which you have to complete them before the boss will become "Empowered" to an even greater degree than they were to begin with. Usually when they reach THIS stage it is an INSTANT wipe.
How do you know before you go into a fight what to expect?
Well some of us LIKE to go into them blind and just figure it out. We don't MIND the wipes. We consider that part of the FUN, the Challenge, the LEARNING experience of the game...but the majority of players are not like that and for THEM there are a VARIETY of options available from those that DO.
TankSpot a website dedicated to helping tanks and guilds has "project Marmot" in which they are making Videos of EACH of the raid boss fights and explaining them. For those who are VISUAL learners this can be VERY helpful in giving a basic understanding of how the fights look.
There are also sites such as Thottbott. They have "Project Lore" in which they are attempting to make videos of each of the 5 man DUNGEONS. Again for those who are visual learners very helpful and these guys are rather funny too.
For those who don't necessarily have the TIME or the ability to sit down and watch a video there are other options available as well. Wowwiki, and Bosskillers for example. Of the two I personally prefer Bosskillers for all their detail.
Once you are aware of the mechanics of a fight then it just takes a little practice at learning to avoid the common hazards. Many raiding guilds demand the use of Addons to help in this. Omen for example allows you to know where everyone is on threat. Deadly Boss Mods on the other hand will keep you aware of common attacks from the boss encounters and is VERY helpful in dealing with many of the common hazards players fall prey to. Don't think of these things as "cheating" Blizzard DOES have an in game threat meter already. Addons like these are more like upgrading your computer or "pimping" out your car. Blizzard is VERY clear about WHAT they will allow in their game.
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