Memory strategies for learning WOW boss mechanics

Some of the replies to my last post had a point about how you don’t necessarily have to remember every single boss mechanic. Instead, they suggested things like relying on DBM to remember things for you, only needing to remember the mechanics relevant to your role, ignoring mechanics that can be ignored (especially on LFR), and even just remembering one phase at a time. While these are all really great advice for people, they are all things that you largely have to figure out outside the game when you are reviewing strategies, before you step your foot in the door.

They are all at their core essentially suggestions for committing the boss mechanics to long term memory as quickly as possible. While my first post was really about the amount of information if you don’t study in advance or use addons, I think it is worth talking about what a time-effective way is for using these tools. In my definition of long term memory, I suggested that you could remember a likely seemingly infinite number of boss mechanics when storing that information in your long term memory. So, today I’m going to highlight more about how to maximize boss learning time in a shorter period of time.

Memory Aids: Using addons to your benefit

As I’m sure everyone is aware, there are addons such as Deadly Boss Mods and Bigwigs. These display visual alerts on your screen with timers for boss abilities letting you know when something is likely to occur. They will also sometimes put markers on people’s heads and put up visual alerts on boss effects that are targeting specific players (e.g., as an indication that you need to run out if you are the bomb, etc).

An important point here is that you need to memorize what the appropriate action is when the visual alerts come on the screen – does the alert on your screen require you to stack up on a marker your raid put out, spread out, run away from the boss, run towards the boss,  dispel, tank swap, or something else? The addons don’t eliminate the need to study in advance, but should make the fight easier once you have memorized what the visual cues mean. The best way to utilize these addons is to spend time studying the fight before you enter the raid dungeon (to know what alerts you need to attend to), and even to turn off alerts for the boss that aren’t relevant to you. You should look into ways to reduce the amount of spam on your screen if the addon starts to be too distracting, and make sure that it’s a help rather than a hindrance to your performance.

Another helpful tool is “GTFO” which blares loud alarms at you when you are standing in something that is doing damage to you. The minor problem with this is that some fight strategies will require you to stand in bad stuff on the ground and that can get annoying really fast. This means that you do need to know some in advance about the mechanics so you know how to properly respond to GTFO, and possibly disabling the addon on fights where the alert isn’t helpful. However, in general, the overwhelming likelihood is that if this is going off, you are standing in something that might kill you if you stay in it for too long.

In general, you should set up your interface using other helpful addons in the way that reduces how much spam you have on your screen, to make it easier to focus on things that really matter. You want to reduce the amount of irrelevant information on your screen in general when you are raiding, and instead make sure you can focus on watching the important things happening around you.

Should you study just for your role?

So, while the addons described above are really helpful for refreshing your long term memory, and reducing working memory burdens during the raid, they don’t replace actual time studying the boss mechanics before the raid. With the increasing number of things to learn and remember, one strategy is to find ways of identifying the mechanics most relevant to you and working specifically at remembering them. For example, Coveroth’s post about Dragonsoul vs Firelands emphasized the fact that people can spend time doing isolated roles, and thus only need to study for the things they’re required to do (so, only tanks and healers need to remember tank swap mechanics, for example).

One of the great things that Ponerya does for our guild’s boss strategies is to make role-specific TLDR lists at the bottom of the posts.  While it is really helpful that we know everyone’s role, especially in really complicated fights, it may help to focus attention first on making sure you can do your job correctly. For example, when the raid leader assigns groups to different tasks, it is important to know that you are killing orb #1 and not the rest of the orbs, but you don’t necessarily need to remember who is doing tasks you aren’t assigned to.

Similar to the point above, if you have a limited amount of time for studying bosses, it is helpful for you to figure out which mechanics are likely to kill you or what you can safely ignore. In this way, when you are watching a boss guide video, you can perhaps make a list along the way of things relevant to you and things not relevant to you (also, in this case, note taking is a potential helpful strategy for you to refresh your memory shortly before your “test”, I mean raid), and focus on making sure you know the things relevant to you for the first time you step into the raid/dungeon.

However, it is likely that healers, tanks, and raid leaders in particular will need to know everything. Thus, in some cases, everything is relevant to you. If pretty much all the fight mechanics are important for you, the next suggestion is much more helpful.

“Chunking”: Learn one phase of the encounter or one related set of abilities at a time.

In psychology studies, they found that one way of dealing with memorizing lists of information was grouping relevant things together in a strategy called “chunking”. For casual guilds, especially, it may be that you will spend several hours on one phase, then several hours on the next, etc. For bosses with more than one phase, when you review the boss mechanics at the start of the pull, it is in your best interest to only talk about one phase at a time on vent, rather than to laundry-list all the mechanics for the whole fight. No one is going to remember what

This applies to studying for bosses like Durumu when you are watching video guides or reading guides online. The easiest way to deal with the sea of information is to study small pieces of each fight at a time. If you start to feel overloaded with information, then figure out what smaller set of boss abilities you can focus on. This is true even for fights that are really single-phase fights. You can find ways of breaking things into groups of abilities that are related to each other (so, chunk add mechanics together, chunking ground effect mechanics together, learning the abilities of one of the two dragons in the fight before the other, etc). Master one phase or group of abilities, then move onto the next.

Conclusions: Do your homework!

While conquering new content may be challenging for most casual guilds, the current fights really require people to study fights in advance. If you spend enough time preparing in advance, you can really maximize your time spent practicing and killing bosses. Getting actual practice on the bosses is obviously important, but if your guild is really struggling and doesn’t require either addons or studying boss mechanics prior to the raid, then instituting more serious addon/studying guidelines may be to your advantage. FOR running LFR, one helpful thing is the “Bosses in 5 seconds” explanations, that can be used to copy/paste the most essential LFR strategy info into your instance chat. If all you have is 5 seconds, you should try to find and use those guides.

If the only raiding you do is LFR, it is still helpful to install an addon to help you track boss mechanics, and it is still helpful to read strategies that are designed for normal-modes, so that you have some idea of major mechanics. Going into a raid unprepared is just as bad as showing up at an exam without having studied or attended class at all. You may be able to guess your way through some of it, but you won’t be able to excel without doing your homework!

One Comment

  1. Posted May 3, 2013 at 10:24 pm | Permalink

    Probably one of the most common memory strategies for experienced raiders is a variation on a comparison strategy (among the strategies discussed at: http://www.muskingum.edu/~cal/database/general/memory3.html). A common comment heard as groups prepare to pull a new boss: ‘You’ll have to dance from the blue tiles to the red and back again, kinda like the Safety Dance on Heigen in Naxx.” Half the raid will nod sagely, and because that fight is in their long term storage, learning the dance on the new fight will be much easier by association.
    Nice series and comments on wow 5th edition!