So last night I was chit chatting with a friend who mentioned that their last guild was still struggling on Saphirron, wiping four times before finally downing him. The first thing I said after reading that sentence, without even thinking, was “They’re not ready for Ulduar”. But what exactly is “ready for Ulduar”? What makes a guild worthy of the purps that flow like honeyed wine from Ulduar’s vaulted chambers? The question is more complicated than it first appears.
I’ll admit that the first reason that I said that without even thinking was that I truly believe that any guild ready for Ulduar should simply not be wiping on any fight in Naxx. I’m not saying that only those with the immortal title are truly ready, but keep in mind that even the easiest fight in Ulduar is more complicated and difficult than anything you’ll see in Naxx. Even Kel’Thuzad is somewhat precious in comparison to what you’ll face in Blizzard’s newest raid instance, though he’s not exactly a cupcake or anything.
Beyond simply not wiping, the fact is that Naxx, as the introductory raid for Wrath, should be somewhat of a litmus test for your guild. You can’t declare yourself ready for the most difficult content before you are ready for the easiest, plain and simple. The mechanics you learn are the equivalent of placing a bunch of cut outs of feet on the ground in order to learn a complicated dance. They show you how to move and where to place yourself when the time comes for the real thing, making you better at what you do.
It’s also not just the average ilevel of your gear which will give you an indicator of whether or not you’re ready to face down the bosses of Ulduar. Good gear only makes your abilities stronger and more capable of handing damage, but it doesn’t improve you. Even if you’re wearing BiS in every gear slot, it won’t mean anything if you die within ten seconds of a boss pull. If you don’t know where to stand and when to move, you might as well sit the raid out because you’re worse than useless at that point, no matter how awesome your staff looks.
Your achievements and/or previous boss kills are also not a good barometer for whether or not you’re ready for the next tier of content. So what if you have A Poke in the Eye or Sarth 3D under your belt? If you got those achievements while lying on the floor because you couldn’t be bothered to learn where to stand during certain phases, then you’re not ready. Experience is a good thing, and any raider should want to experience all the end game content. But it’s not everything, it won’t make you into a better raider unless you’re willing to learn from it.
So what does make you ready? What is the benchmark? Well, there are certain signs to look out for, but for the most part it has to be done on an individual evaluation of each of your raiders. A guild where the top healer in Naxx can’t seem to stop casting when Ignis’ flame jets go off, wiping his raid because of a school lock, is not going to go very far at all. If a majority of your DPS can’t learn when to stop attacking one target and quickly move to another will also generally go down in flames. Your raiders have to know how to raid in Ulduar, you can’t just go through the motions.
Good leadership is also infinitely important during those first few forays into the new raid instance. Weak leadership who is unwilling to call out raiders for stupid, easily avoided mistakes will see those mistakes over and over again. They have to be willing to single people out, point out to the rest of the guild what is and is not acceptable and in extreme cases, even sit people. They can’t be concerned with whether or not the guild likes them or wants to be their buddy, especially not if the guild is looking to progress beyond 3.0 raids.
For example, the other night we had a player who came to raid without a flask, unable to min/max like we require from our raiders. When called out, he admitted it and was told that since he wasn’t ready to raid, he had to leave because we had others waiting who were ready. Now this guy is an OG, one of the guild originals and very good friends with the leadership. But still, rules are rules and he was punished just like any other member of our raiding team would be. He didn’t throw a fit or anything, simply said “ok” and left the raid.
So you see, it’s not about gear or experience or any of that, it’s about you, the player, and whether or not you are mentally prepared to be a raider. A person in all blues who’s never done a raid before in his life but survives through to the end of every boss fight is going to be ten times more useful than a player in full epics who dies halfway through those same fights. Naxx and OS with no drakes are very forgiving on those who don’t care about proper positioning and raiders can certainly play around in there. But when it comes time to put your serious face on, you better be serious and you better be for the reals and prepared to dance the dance of boss fights. If not, then you’re simply not ready for Ulduar.