This post comes from the raid leader part of my brain.

A long time ago, when I was still in sports, I had a coach tell me that practice does not make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect. If you make mistakes in practice, you’re likely to make them come game time. Focus on executing perfectly in practice to really get the benefit of practice.

Recently I began coaching my son’s T-Ball team. As scary an endeavor as that is, I couldn’t help but rethink my old coaches’ advice, and then, as any good WoW addict would, relating it to WoW.

Currently when learning a new encounter we throw ourselves at the meat grinder until we learn what we need to do. This would be the equivalent of removing all practices from a professional sports team schedule and replacing them with games. Any discussion of game strategy would have to be done over the phone or in a brief rundown right before game time. If you don’t get them this time, oh well we’ll try again next time.

There has been a ton of discussion in the blog-o-sphere for a long time about how nothing really in the leveling process prepares a new player for hard end game content. I’ve seen it first hand, and it really is an issue. Of course with Blizzard being all about accessibility (which I strongly support) the leveling process can’t be a raider factory of sorts. It has to support people who want to play the game in a variety of manners. So how do you get new players up to speed without demanding they get experience before joining your group?

I’ve tried to bring new raiders in on existing tier content, and it generally takes a huge effort on my part and typically a dedicated assistant who knows the class better than I. It’s a big burden on the player, and if they’re not exceptionally welcome to criticism can be too much for them to take. Furthermore, their mistakes have actually consequences. With those actual consequences comes real embarrassment for the new player that I’d rather avoid. I want to foster an environment where people can learn.

All of that is a long way of saying, I think finding a way to practice raiding in WoW without actually raiding current content is important. Now we do all have times where we go back and run old content, but we’re so overpowered for that now, we can afford to ignore mechanics. At this point we’re practicing imperfectly and developing bad habits.

I haven’t worked out all the details, but I’m working on a system to actually practice raiding effectively to train new players and possibly help players who struggle with certain mechanics. Take six players into a WotLK 10 man raid on normal. Two tanks, Two healers, and Two DPS. The two tanks wouldn’t always be necessary, but it’s important to play the mechanics like you did back in WotLK days. The two healers might not be necessary either, but it gives you a buffer for when things go wrong so people can make mistakes in practice and not have to have caused a wipe. The two DPS can do their usual thing, and with a relatively small amount of DPS the boss should be alive long enough for the DPS to actually have to dance through mechanics.

Now if we go back to my previous post on Metrics, we can setup Metrics for a fight to judge the performance of our teams. For instance, you could go to the Saurfang encounter, and a tank metric would be how quickly you could taunted off of each other. You could judge how quickly interrupts come out, and how many of a certain ability are interrupted. You can setup healing assignments and see how well your healers stick to their healing targets. Judge over-healing by your healers. Of course there’s always the ability to judge how quickly someone moves out of the fire.

That kind of sandbox environment where you give your team specific things to work on and to improve could really help bring your new or struggling raiders up to speed before they get into something that really matters and wipes are a much more serious matter.