Failure for Winners

There is not a single player who can honestly state that they enjoy a night filled with wipes.  However a good failure can often times do more for your raid than an easy win.  When you steamroll content, much like players did in Naxxramas, there were little to no lessons learned.  However in the face of a hard fought battle, it presents the opportunity for players to truly evaluate their own role in the raid, and how best they can modify their actions to provide that elusive win.  Most raid groups see failure as a bad thing, but in the light of new content, I see how we fail as being far more important than how we succeed.

Fail Often, and Fail Well!

I present to you the concept of how to “fail” successfully.  My goal in this post is to outline some of the basic processes that a good raid should go through as they present content that is obviously kicking their butts.  Like anything in this game, or life in general, failure gives you the opportunity to fully understand why things are going wrong and as a result give you insight in how to fix the issues at hand. 

There is a concept called “deep practice”, quickly gaining popularity in the sporting world.  It revolves around the concept of understanding your mistakes, diagnosing them, and then adjusting them in small batches until the whole activity becomes easier.  This same basic approach can quickly turn a fight that your raid cannot seem to grasp into a farmed encounter.

Diagnose the Problem

Give the problem a careful eye The first step in fixing and issue is understanding what caused it in the first place.  You need to quickly deconstruct the issue at hand.  View the situation quickly from all angles.  Did the tank take an unexpected burst of damage?  Did adds not get handled correctly?  Did players die to environmental damage or were not in the right place at the right time?  You need to take a critical eye at the previous attempt, outline what mistakes were made, and address them openly.

So many times this can break down a read into a flurry of accusations, where each player is certain they did nothing wrong.  It is important for everyone to be willing to evaluate their own performance as it pertains to that of the whole.  If for some reason, a player is getting overwhelmed in their role there is no shame in asking for some assistance.  Last week on XT, our mages were being overwhelmed by adds and unable to pour out enough damage to keep them cleared.  As soon as this key fault was identified we adjusted and came back the next attempt and pulled out a victory.

A willingness to view your own actions with an introspective eye is crucial.  You must be willing to accept faults as you make them, and at the same time be willing to adjust accordingly.  There have been many fights where the issue sat on my shoulders.  I don’t believe anyone thinks I am a lesser player for having screwed up.  But instead respected me, for admitting it freely and in turn trying to decide how to effect a change.

Brainstorm the Solution

Throw out ideas Once the problem is understood, comes the hard phase of deciding how best to fix it.  One of the mistakes we made early in the process of Duranub, is to try and take all strategy discussion offline.  We have traditionally done this in channel separate from the raid, letting the strategists brainstorm a solution.  We are slowly trying to change this.  I believe now that it is key to involve as much of the raid as possible in the process.

The druid that rarely speaks up, might just have noticed something that the rest of the group has not.  Sometimes these little revelations provide the evidence that adds up to the answer.  Critical thinking is key in the process of crafting an alternate change.  Discuss the tanking, the dps, the add management, the healing, and the placement.  You can quickly determine which components were working well, and which need adjustments.

Be Flexible and Willing to Change

FlexibleWire It’s hard to think for yourself sometimes.  In a game like WoW we get to draw on the experience of the players who have come before us, but at the same time these experiences can often times pollute our own thought processes.  If a strategy is not working for you, then its important that you are willing to adjust to take into account the strengths and weaknesses of your group.  One of the biggest lessons I have learned is there is no one right way. Reading Tankspot, WoWWiki, and StratFu can give you a basic understanding of the working parts, but ultimate you need tailor your strategy to fit your own group.

In a previous raid group, we struggled with a certain fight for over a month, in part because of the inflexibility of our strategy.  With bullheaded certainty we kept attacking the encounter with fervent certainty that we were “doing it right”.  Benjamin Franklin said that "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result”.  The week our leadership finally accepted the concept that there might be an easier way, and adjusted to handling the adds in a different manner we got our first kill.  Don’t fall into the trap of thinking there is only one means to an end.

Never Give Up

Stay Stalwart.... no Pun Intended It’s easy to, as my father says, “Get your dobber in the dirt”, and stop trying as hard as you should be when things seem hopeless.  This is the natural response when presented with a task, that seems insurmountable.  Much like working a rubic’s cube, if you diagnose the problems, make adjustments and try again, sooner or later the pieces will slide together.  Many times when you fix one issue, it will lead to uncovering a problem that was somehow hidden.  The important part is your resolve to keep at the task at hand until all the issues are resolved.

As a programmer, I have never written a single piece of software that ran flawlessly the first time.  There are always little tweaks, changes, fixes, that come out through the process of debugging.  As a leader and member of your raid, you have to be willing to “debug” everything around you.  Start with yourself, and move outward, fixing each problem you see as you go. 

Often times you can spot an issue that you have already solved in the players around you.  As you give advice to your fellow players, its important that you do so in a gracious and non-judgmental fashion.  Many times players are “screwing up”, in the first place because they either do not understand the situation or their role in it.  Aggressively going after another player only causes them to close down to suggestions, and in the end leads to a disgruntled member who won’t be giving their all to the group.  As I have said before, raiding is a team sport, and its important that we all arrive together at the same place.

Always Remember

Elephants Never Forget! This is probably the most important part of the equation.  While things get a new coat of paint from time to time, there are very few truly new things.  Each encounter you see from this point on will have some connection to activates you have done in your past.  How many times have you heard a seasoned raider describe a current fight to working like an old world encounter with only a minor twist.  If you can reach a point where you can easily identify this connective tissue ahead of time, you will be able to adjust and more accurately build solutions.  Your experience counts, so its important for you to remember the problem as well as the solution.

2 thoughts on “Failure for Winners

  1. Great post. I find that although it’s frustrating (and expensive) to have a wipe night, people can tell if the raid learned useful things from it. I know we spent an evening wiping on one of the Ulduar bosses the other night, but everyone who was there feels a lot more confident about the next time we go in.

    Like you say, the key is to try to learn from every wipe. And also encourage people to give feedback, ie “OK, what went wrong with the healing there?”

  2. Great post, Bel, as usual. =)

    Wiping is apart of the learning curb. People who go into raids thinking they’re not going to be expected to do somethinking or wipe at some point shouldn’t really be raiding at all.

    It’s always important to understand as a player, you can ALWAYS improve. Saying that you’re giving your best isn’t ever the case. It just means that you haven’t taken into account another option, or that others aren’t giving their all into their rolls around you.

    And I don’t care what anyone says… Naxxramas does NOT = Ulduar. Even with the heavy nerfs they put through in today’s patches, Nax was laughable. Anyone who bases their skill off of Naxx isn’t getting an accurate reading.

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