Quick and Dirty Guide: FAILures and How to Become EPIC Instead

Don’t view skill as a talent–“you either have it or you don’t” mentality–but as a journey and a challenge.

How to Become EPIC Instead

Just as I break down the five major ways of FAILure, I’ll also break down the major ways of correcting these. Starting at the top of the run-down, we have…

EPIC at Mechanics

I don’t know if you’re like me, but I hate watching how-to videos for boss fights. I sit there, eyes glazed over, drool hanging off my chin, mouth dry from lack of water in the attentional desert I’ve been in for the past three…let’s say…minutes…and then quickly find something else to do while letting the video run in the background so I can at least say to my raid leader, “Oh yeah, I definitely watched it! …uh. For…a few seconds. No, I mean minutes!”

I’m not going to downplay the usefulness of videos for learning fights in World of Warcraft. Most boss mechanics come with very specific visual effects or voice-overs that, if you don’t run Deadly Boss Mods (DBM) or BigWigs to scream at you when you’re about to stand in the fire, are imperative to learn as cues for what mechanic to watch out for next. Personally, I learn these in just a few pulls, while the rest of the raid is still figuring out which buttons to push, but I’m weird like that.

In order of least to most troublesome (in my personal opinion: remember I hate videos), here are some ways to correct a mechanical FAILure.

Going In Skinny-Dipping

Sometimes, looking up a guide is just too bothersome; I get it. Though the game developers have been getting more sneaky as time goes on, making you stand in mechanics instead of outside of them to survive, most of World of Warcraft’s gameplay hasn’t changed in the 15+ years this game has been running. Hopefully you’ll know all the stuff in this section already, but if you don’t, here’s some basic “skinny-dipping” tips to mechanics:

  • As I said before, they’ve been getting sneaky about this, but for the most part, if something shows up on your screen that isn’t an attackable enemy, avoid it.
  • If something shows up on your screen that is attackable, kill it. Additional enemies (“adds”) die before the boss.
  • If someone marks something with a skull icon, kill it first.
  • And if a spell the boss or anything else is casting has a interruptable bar, interrupt it.

Some further specifics about the etiquette of the interrupt are probably worth mentioning here. Of course, you should probably coordinate with the rest of your group so you’re not all interrupting the first cast of a spell and letting the next six get through before any of you can do something about it again. And you’ll probably learn through trial and error, especially on trash mobs in Mythic dungeons, which spells to interrupt and which can slide on through without causing you extra headaches. It’s better to interrupt the wrong things than never interrupting anything, though. Just saying.

But if you’re still REALLY unsure, interrupt towards the very end of the spellcast timer. Frankly, you should be doing this anyway for all but channeled effects, as while the enemy is casting, they can’t do anything else. It’s like a free lunch, Warcraft style!

Your Adventure Guide

The next least painful method of learning mechanics is to open up your in-game Adventure Guide (Shift-J by default) and take a gander. They’ve gotten progressively nicer to raiders and dungeoneers in that most of the boss fight mechanics are outlined prettily for you based on what role you are. Just as a caution though, this Guide will still miss some bits of information that is important for you to know. Sometimes a group-wide mechanic is only detailed in the healer section but not the DPS section for instance, so it’s a good idea to glance at each role. Sometimes, too, special mechanics aren’t described very well in the overview, and you’ll have to click on the ability in question and read its text to get an idea of what it’s trying to tell you. (And even then, sometimes seeing is believing and you just have to fight the fight to understand what’s going on.)

One major thing the Adventure Guide misses, that I’ll mention specially here, is stacks. What do I mean by stacks? It depends. (Did you see what I did there?) Stacks usually involve a debuff that cannot be removed in any other way but doing the mechanics right (though there are a few only your healer can take care of). For instance, tanks may need to swap off, or DPS may need to stand (or not stand) in another mechanic to remove the debuff. Many of these stacks are either unavoidable or, at times, vital to take a few of during the fight. Finally, though a few bosses have a set number of stacks that, after you reach this number, you become black, crunchy toast, most of them are dependent on the gear level of the character(s) in question, so how many stacks you can take is something you’ll have to ask your group. So really. Ask them.

Otherwise, for tanks in raids, a good rule of thumb to go by is to take the amount of stacks that are given to you in a full cycle of the debuff, plus 1 (as in the numero uno). A debuff’s cycle is how long it takes for the debuff to run out on its own. Each stack given to you will restart this timer, and in most cases, you’ll receive another stack before the timer can run out if the boss is still smacking you. This is why tanks must switch off with each other! You want to hold the boss’s attention for as long as it takes for your other tank’s debuff to wear out, plus about a couple extra stacks to make room for mistakes. Unfortunately, besides asking another knowledgeable tank, the only way you’re going to figure out this cycle length is by smacking the boss around and probably dying a few times.

For DPS and healers, your task is much simpler. If health bars (yours or someone else’s) are dropping below a third of the maximum because of your stacks, you should probably get rid of it.

Other Guides

The Adventure Guide is admittedly my preferred method of learning mechanics. It’s simple, it’s quick, and it’s accessible right in-game without downloading any extra add-ons or going to third-party websites.

Sometimes the Adventure Guide doesn’t make a lot of sense, though, especially if the mechanics are dependent on where you stand in the room or if you’re learning to differentiate one ouchy mechanic for a less ouchy mechanic that both look and act in very similar ways. For these things, more in-depth guides can be found in various places on the internet, both in video and written form. Wowhead is a good collection of guides and tips, if you can stand their ads. Otherwise, I’m assuming you know how to find these if you know how to use a search engine, so I’ll leave it at that.


The final method to tidy up your mechanics is by installing an add-on like Deadly Boss Mods (DBM) or BigWigs Bossmods to yell at you when your bum is starting to get warm from that fire. For serious players, these shouldn’t take the place of one of the other methods, and BigWigs especially won’t tell you what you’re supposed to be doing with all those timers on your screen, so this is better geared to improving your reflexes and attention span instead of teaching you the fight.

Both DBM and BigWigs have ways to customize their various warnings, so if you find yourself failing at certain mechanics, you can crank up the volume for just these, record something really obnoxious, or even turn off all the other warnings you’ve mastered so that you can save your attention for the big one. Many serious raids will require the use of one of these add-ons; if you’re like me and don’t want or need a lot of extra guidance, BigWigs is geared towards being as unobtrusive as possible, while if you find yourself frequently needing the extra reminder to MOVE IT, DBM’s warnings are a lot more verbose and hard to ignore.

And that’s about all the mechanics tips I can give you, short of stealing your keyboard and doing it all for you. If even looking at a detailed guide and having DBM yell at you doesn’t help you, then I don’t know what to say, mon. Maybe find a gnome?

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