First, if the thought of actually becoming a Raid Leader (RL) enters your mind, go and get your head checked. Seriously. Next to the MT and maybe the GM, it’s been my experience that Raid Leaders burn out faster than those nickel sparklers your old man bought you for New Year’s when you were five. It takes a special kind of stupid to volunteer for this task (yeah, I’m in my fourth year of doing it – so what), but if you’re dead set on this level of self-torture – here’s what you’ll need to know.
Are your goals aligned?
Before you even think about leading a raid, you need to sit down with your GM and the other officers and make sure that your raid goals, their raid goals, and more importantly – the goals of the guild, match up. Nothing will cause you to lose your sanity faster than thinking you’re about to lead the next Premonition into the future, only to discover you’ve got a group of casual RP’ers with families and kids. There’s certainly nothing wrong with that group of folks, but your goals probably aren’t going to mesh up well.
Get backing from the leadership
The raid leader has to be the one and only voice of direction in the middle of the raid. While it’s certainly acceptable, and even advisable, to get input from the raid (especially if you’re having difficulty with a boss), at the end – your voice has to be the final authority. In order to get this, you will need to ensure that the officers and GM are backing you, and not backstabbing you. Once your decisions are overridden, you will lose that command authority and are simply another voice on vent.
You also will want to ensure that your leadership style is in line with what the officers want. We used to joke that I could lead any guild (in BC) to success for four months (maybe six). During that time we’d down bosses that they’d never downed before, and clear content (for them) at a record pace. However at the end of that time, the guild would probably implode and die, largely due to my leadership style. Being the “Minus 50 DKP!” guy is funny on YouTube, but it isn’t always necessary.
Aim small, miss small
Before you try your hand at raid leading, get a group of mates together and try leading a five man heroic. If you can get your friends to agree, treat the heroic just like a raid, going through all the motions. While it may seem silly, it gets you used to providing boss strategies, directions, buff assignments, etc. You’ll feel a lot better when you go live in an actual raid, and you’ll have confidence in yourself (and your abilities).
Pay attention to your current Raid Leader, and try and get into as many PUG runs as you can to watch how others do it. Pick the styles and methods that work for you, and discard the ones that don’t. Not everyone has to lead the same to be effective, stick with what works for you.
Unless your guild is doing server firsts, or just relishes the blind attempts, read every scrap of information you can find on the internet. Tanking for Dummies, TankSpot, YouTube, Wowwiki, etc. There is a veritable fountain of information out there, and information is power in the world of raid leading.
The more you know before you walk in, the better prepared you will be to lead something. Even if you’ve seen the fight a hundred times from your fire-mage, coordinating 9/24 other people is tougher than it looks. This is doubly true if you’re a healer/dps that is trying to keep everyone alive and DPS numbers up. Keeping your UI free of clutter, and being situaltionally aware will help you get through this.
Add-ons that help
While it’s certainly possible to raid add-on free (I’ve done it a few times either to show I could, or because a patch broke my beautiful UI), leading becomes much more difficult without some handy tools. Fortunately add-ons have come a long way since I first used CT_RaidAssist, and it’s no longer necessary to have everyone in the raid get a specific add-on. With the implementation of portals and quick access to repair agents, keeping track of everyone’s repair status is also slightly less crucial. You will of course always have that one guy who needs a repair bot two pulls after one has been dropped.
· Big Brother – this handy add-on will do a quick buff/flask check. You can see who is missing priest/pally buffs, well fed, or is un-flasked. It will even check if someone is double elixired instead of flasked. You can report the information to a specific /say channel, or directly to the raid.
· Recount – While this will be a useful tool for looking at DPS (please, I’m begging you, look at more than the raw DPS output), it’s the GrimReaper/Death tab you’re most interested in. You need to know if that warlock just stood in the Giant Big (usually fire/poison/cleave), or if he pulled agro and got punched in the face. Recount is extremely powerful, and could use an article all of its own.
· Some kind of raid frames – I don’t care if you use the Blizzard standard frames, Grid, whatever. You need to keep an eye on who’s alive, who’s got a debuff, etc.
· Boss timers – Blizzard has done a lot to help relieve the need for boss timers, but using BigWigs/DBM will help you track boss abilities and time your raid events.
· Cooldown timer – instantly see what long cooldowns have been use (Battle Rez, DI, etc).
Remember addons are supposed to be helpful. Don’t get so wrapped up in the finer details that you lose picture of the whole raid.
Becoming a Raid Leader is a big step, and is a big responsibility with little tangible reward. Don’t be afraid to try it once or twice to see if it fits you. Some take to it like a duck to water, others – well not so much.