Raid Awareness, Applied: Blackrock Foundry Edition

If you read this blog, you’ve hopefully seen my post on how I think about raid awareness.  I’ve always wondered exactly how to follow up on it, and while this post isn’t nearly so broad in scope, it’s way of trying to revisit that topic.  I’m not introducing any fundamentally new ideas, but rather, using Blackrock Foundry as an example of how those ideas can be applied.  This post tries to make it as easy as possible to implement some of the most important and universal UI techniques for yourself.

WeakAura Downloads

In some cases I included WeakAuras I built so that you can try them out with a minimum of effort.  I got Dayani (who researched the BRF fights in extreme detail in order to prepare her set of guides) to work on a list of boss abilities with me, and think about the best way to handle each one.

If you do nothing else upon reading this post, try installing these Auras–your raid leader will be happy with the outcome.  All you have to do is download the addon and import these two strings:

BRF – Debuff Alert and Standing In Fire (v 0.91) (for everyone): Link

BRF – Interrupt Bars (v 0.91) (for interrupters): Link

(These are substantially complete, but we’ve only been able to do limited testing on our own, and I expect to make some tweaks after people try them out and provide any suggestions or problems)

Thus far it includes Heroic difficulty Blackrock Foundry.  An added module for Mythic is something we hope to do after finalizing this one.

3/3: v.0.91:

  • Exported from newest WeakAuras (2.1)
  • Alert for standing in someone else’s Blazing Radiance disabled until I figure out a way to prevent it from firing erroneously
  • Some debuffs split into their own aura with manually-selected icon, since “Automatic Icon” didn’t seem to be picking them up correctly.  Please report more of these if you see them.
  • No changes to Interrupt Bars.

The Big Debuff Alert

This component is the one example of completely universal raid UI that I illustrated in the raid awareness article.  You should want everyone in your raid to have it, and in fact a big motivation of this project was simply to increase uptake by handing over a WeakAura, or at least a debuff list, that people could use.  I split it into two parts: 1) encounter-specific debuffs that require immediate movement and 2) the specific situation of “standing in fire”.  In both cases, the concept is as described in the article: if any of these is happening to you, a UI that makes it possible for you to miss or ignore that fact is inadequate.

Both parts are in the first Aura I linked above.  I’ll address the specific-debuff module first.

The Aura pops up a giant icon like this when you have any of the listed debuffs:

If someone in your raid didn’t move out with this debuff, they probably didn’t have this alert.

If you already use some addon to track your auras and simply want the list of debuffs for which we thought you should have a similar alert, here’s the one we used for the Aura:

(Yes, there are a lot of boss abilities in BRF).  In the ideal case, there would only be one such alert in any phase of a fight, so that a giant icon appearing meant only one thing only.  That’s not completely possible–for example at Ka’graz, you can get either Molten Torrent (run to a clump of people) or Blazing Radiance (avoid people).  The fact that you have to distinguish these can’t be avoided in any alert system.  The huge icon should make it easy regardless.

On the other side, we excluded certain things such as Pinned Down, because once you have it it’s too late to react.

If this aura pops up, you have something that you should move to handle appropriately before worrying about anything else.

The Standing in Fire Alert

This is such a ubiquitous scenario that we split it into its own warning.  You’re standing in something that, until you move out of it, will continue damaging you.  I kept this simple but effective: a skull and crossbones and a loud noise (loud noise not pictured):

You’ll never again have to say “I didn’t realize I was too close to the edge of the fire.”

Again, if you want to do your own alerts, here’s the list we came up with.  This is a little more complicated, because there are few types of alerts.

Debuffs that damage you as long as you’re in them:

Ground effects that damage you but don’t use a debuff.  The aura pops up the skull for 2 seconds after any damage event:

Effects that apply a debuff that persists after you move out (so you don’t want to alert based on debuff being on you) that is also a DoT (so you don’t want to alert based on damage events).  The aura triggers for 2 seconds after a debuff application only:

Finally, just to reiterate, this aura includes a sound out of the box.  As I said in the raid awareness post, I believe in using sounds sparingly (more on this below).  But hopefully you’ll understand that, on the short list of things that would make me feel justified in playing a noise in your ear, your standing in fire is at the top.

The Interrupt Bars

This is simple idea that far too few people seem to use: target/focus castbars that only show spells you’d like to interrupt.  This is exactly in line with my usual comments: something you want to want to react to in an important way (such as by interrupting) should be starkly visually distinguishable from anything else.  Having things you need to interrupt and things you don’t need to interrupt in the same castbar, so you have to read the spell each time to distinguish which is it, is kind of silly when you think about it.

For a long time I’ve used a castbar addon called Gnosis for this.  It’s similar to Quartz, but allows you to white- and blacklist spells from any bar.  My preferred way to do this is to leave my usual target and focus castbars as they are, and add a second set of target/focus castbars which are much larger and more prominent, and whitelist only a sort set of raid-interruptible spells.

So you can either try Gnosis, or use the pair of castbars (target and focus) included in the second WeakAura above.  In either case, the spells we listed are:

Debuff Highlights for Healers

Sadly, this is the end of the portion where I can hand you a WeakAura.  This section is a tip for healers about setting up your raid frames.

Any healer should have a way of highlighting specific debuffs on their frames, to call your attention to immediately to targets who require it.  This is beyond the simple indicator you should have for any debuffs, but a specific, prominent highlight (I do it by recoloring their whole bar for the duration of the debuff).  It’s typically good for strong DoTs or delayed-damage effects.  Vuhdo makes this easy with their custom debuff list; I hope other raid frames do as well.  We generally don’t include ordinary dispellable debuffs, since it’s assumed you have a general method of always highlighting them.

Here’s the list we came up with for BRF:

Bossmod Config

Finally, a section that’s important, but has no clear way to give specific advice.  Even if I picked one specific bossmod addon, there are two many combinations of roles and difficulty levels that require paying attention to different abilities.  On the other hand, it’s really an important part of this.  I expressed in the raid awareness post the importance of cutting down on bossmod spam, especially given the overly-enthusiastic default settings that are common.  So most of what I can do is reiterate the importance of starting with everything off and then opting in to timers and alerts you need.  As one example of many, I happened to just recently run through this exercise for a fight my raid is working on, and this was the set of timers and countdowns I decided I needed:

Screen Shot 2015-02-16 at 1.55.02 AM

Yes, lots of those abilities are important.  None of them are things where I need the timer information to act on in any specific way, X seconds before they happen.  In many, many cases, an appropriate alert when something actually happens is simpler and more effective warning, and occupies less of your attention unnecessarily at other times, as a countdown.

One specific component of all this is sounds.  It’s important to have them when they’re needed, and to not have them when they’re not needed.  In the bossmod I use, DBM, here’s a handy tip.  Go to Special Warnings in the Options, and turn off the sounds for the first two types of special warnings, but leave it on for the third (the one labeled “very important special warnings”). Choose any sound you like for that one:

Screen Shot 2015-02-16 at 2.02.10 AM

This is a little confusingly set up, but DBM will assign any important to event to one of these three alerts (it calls them SW1, SW2, and SW3).  You can choose which you like for any warning in that boss’s menu.  If you don’t go into that much detail, having sounds off for SW1 and SW2 will cut down on your addon noise quite a bit, while SW3 is what’s usually set as the default for the most important alerts.  Maybe there similar one-time config fixes for other mods that affect their behavior generally.

Conclusion

If you already had a set of similar alerts (good for you) including other sets of WeakAuras people have made for similar purposes, I hope you can still benefit from the detailed suggestions here, and the research and thinking on fight mechanics.  If not, then this post provides a very easy starting point for implementing good raid awareness UI.  Try out the auras at least, and see if it helps you.

Quick Notes on Efficient use of Bloodlust

You probably hear this all the time for various encounters, especially from DPS: “Bloodlust at the start of the fight, because everyone’s standing still and [some mechanic] isn’t happening yet, so you get the best DPS value out of it.”  This post is slightly tricky because I want to talk about 1) a subtle fallacy here (that Bloodlust is inherently better at times when raid DPS is higher), while also noting that, 2) in the end, it often is correct to use it at the start of the encounter (because it will have the strongest intersection with everyone’s cooldowns and trinkets).

There are two reasons that (1) can be incorrect.  First, it can be more important to get through a hard phase of the fight faster than to end the whole fight more quickly.  This is important but I’m not going to get into it too much here.  It’s generally well-recognized and, when Bloodlust isn’t used at the start, this is typically the reason.  What’s more interesting and counterintuitive though is that using Bloodlust when the raid’s doing the most DPS isn’t even necessarily best for ending the fight quickly.

How is that possible?  It’s (roughly speaking) a uniform %-based DPS increase.  It’s most valuable when the underlying damage is the highest! (You might be saying).

Basic Example

Say you have a 2-phase encounter.  Phase 1 goes until 50%.  It does nothing–it’s a target dummy and the raid does its maximum DPS (our hypothetical encounter designer is very amenable to setting up weird examples for me).  Phase 2 has lots of abilities that interfere with DPS, movement and the like.  Say the raid does half of its maximum DPS here.  The boss has 20 million HP and the raid’s maximum DPS is 100,000.  And forget about potions and trinkets etc. for the moment (I’m keeping things very abstract and continuous for now, but will revisit some of these assumptions below).

  • Without Bloodlust: P1 takes 100 seconds, and P2 (at half DPS) takes 200 seconds.  Boss dies in 300 seconds.
  • With Bloodlust in P1: the raid does 130,000 DPS for 40 seconds, doing 5.2 million damage.  The remaining 4.8 million of P1 take 48 seconds.  P2 still takes 200 seconds.  Boss dies in 288 seconds.
  • With Bloodlust in P2: at the start of P2, the raid does 65,000 DPS for 40 seconds, doing 2.6 million damage.  The remaining 7.4 million damage of P2 takes 148 seconds.  P1 still took 100 seconds.  Boss dies in 288 seconds.

“Ok Hamlet,” you might say, “what kind of math voodoo is this?  Bloodlust to add 15000 DPS for the 40s duration is equally effective as Bloodlust to add 30,000 DPS for the 40s duration?”

Well, think about it this way.  Bloodlust adds 30% haste for 40 seconds.  In this uniform, continuous model, Bloodlust lets you do 52 seconds of work in 40 seconds.  So, yes, in all examples, it saved 12 seconds of encounter time, and you shouldn’t expect anything different.  The only important caveat to this is that it works out because I hypothesized an encounter where the phases are %-based (this is, of course, very common).  In a boss with time-based windows of different conditions, the result would be different.

In a moment I’ll get into some of the ways reality deviates from this basic model, but it still served an important purpose.  It shows that one intuitive reason to use Bloodlust in P1–that it’s better while the raid is doing more DPS because encounter mechanics are leaving you alone–isn’t true.

Practical Issues

So in a baseline abstract model, the two times to use Lust are “tied”.  When would you use it in a real encounter that worked like I described?  There are two important factors, that cut in opposite ways.

First, using it at the start is the easiest time to get it to overlap with all your trinkets and potions and cooldowns.  It’s not the only time–you can set up a full burst with everything except for proc trinkets anytime you want–but it’s a natural and convenient one.  This is real DPS value.  The Bloodlust is worth more when multiplied into cooldowns, and if I’d factored in an opening raid DPS burst in the example above, P1 would have come out ahead.

However, the point of using Bloodlust is to improve damage, and the point of doing more damage (unless you have a tight Berserk, which is rare these days) is to shorten the parts of the fight which are most dangerous and most likely to cause wipes.  In a fight that’s totally uniform, no phase changes or anything, that’s the same as optimizing for total damage.  But in a fight that’s not, you really want to separate optimizing for best chances of success from optimizing for shortest encounter/highest DPS.

In the example, Bloodlusting in your opening DPS stack will, as I just said, end the fight a few seconds earlier.  But P1 is trivial and has no chance of people dying (or similarly, of using excessive healer mana), and P2 is hard and might involve deaths.  Ending P2 faster is better for avoiding risk of a wipe, that is, for probability of winning.  Ending P1 faster is completely meaningless.  You could go make a sandwich during it if you wanted to and your raid’s chance of success wouldn’t be hurt.

So the example is still exaggerated of course, but it’s still an example of a hypothetical encounter where a good raid leader will Bloodlust in phase 2, even though that’s worse on Warcraftlogs.

Conclusion

And the example is not even quite as farfetched as it sounds.  The thought for this quick note came to me when I was thinking about a new encounter I saw this week, Hans’gar and Franzok (Heroic–I don’t know if Mythic mechanic will change this).  The first phase goes to 85% and has pretty close to nothing going on.  Two bosses stand there next to each other, there’s nothing to dodge, and you can plow into them full-throttle.  A Bloodlust there feels pretty satisfying for DPS.  And the final phase, with the stamping presses and moving conveyors, and the bosses apart more because Hans is Body Slamming more times, feels terrible.  It’s pretty much just like the P2 in my example.  And for the same reasons, I don’t see why you wouldn’t Lust there.

So the point is twofold.  Lust has more value than simply shortening the total fight length (rankings notwithstanding).  And second, that even to shorten fight length, there’s often no inherent advantage (surprisingly) in using it for a high-DPS phase.  Real encounters are more nuanced than the example, but I hope this all helps to analyze the tradeoff.

Addendum

Few things:

  • I presented a scenario that might be counterintuitive, because it’s interesting and really happens at times.  There are a lot of cases where things will still work just as they seem.  For example, at Mythic Twin Ogron, despite being a fight with a lot of internal variation and dangerous parts at the end, you probably want to lust at the start (and cleave into two bosses while standing still, just like I said you don’t want to do at Hans and Franz).  The main difference is that Twins doesn’t have any %-based triggers.
  • I should mention that Bloodlust can also be a powerful healing cooldown.  There are a few reasons this tends to wind up being the less important factor in using it (haste’s value for healers having some limitations is a big one).  However, you can look for nice alignments where Bloodlust during a hard phase both ends it faster and lets healers handle it more easily.
  • Similar logic to this post also applies to Execute-type mechanics.  Alignment with Bloodlust doesn’t in and of itself increase their effectiveness (the added damage you can do if you lust with them up is canceled out by the added time it takes to get to them).  The basic theme is here is things that depend on a boss’s % health not interacting with Bloodlust very much.