EPIC at Preparation
The next FAILure to screen for and correct is your level of preparedness. Illidan was right. For the most difficult content, you need to come prepared. There are five main categories of preparedness, though the last two are something of a personal preference as to whether or not you bother.
Most raids who are up to snuff will make feasts to share with the group. Being prepared is then remembering to click on this feast and sit for the 10 seconds needed for the buff to show up before engaging in battle. Simple, yes?
For most specs, this feast is enough, for it gives a large boost to your primary stat (Agility, Intelligence, Strength). For others, you may find you are better served by taking along your own food that has your best secondary stat on it instead. Which one this is is often listed in class guides like Icy Veins, though you can also gauge for yourself in trying both at different times and seeing what the logs and/or damage meters and/or sims tell you.
Another minor note for tanks only here: unless you are a druid, your best primary stat is not Stamina. It’s Strength (for the plate wearers: death knight, paladin or warrior) or Agility (for the leather wearers: demon hunter or monk). They’ve fixed this to be automatic now for feasts (and cauldrons, as seen below), but for a while, you would have to change your spec to a DPS spec, drink and eat your fill, and then change back to get the right primary stat.
These are even easier than food, for they only come in one flavor: primary stat. Just as with food, most raids will use cauldrons that will give you free flasks as a conjured item. These last for one hour, through deaths, if you’re a normie, or two hours if you’re an alchemist. Note if your raid is smaller than 16 people, it’s a good idea to “burn” the cauldron through: that is, drinking a flask and taking another to hold on to until your current one runs out.
Just as with food, note that all tanks except maybe the druids will not want Stamina flasks. They’ll want Agility or Strength, depending on their armor type.
As with food, the kind of potion that is best for you depends on your class and spec. For the most part, the potions that give you a flat increase to your primary stat will get you through most fights. Healers will also want to stack up on mana potions or, if you trust your timing, dreamless sleep potions. Then finally, since they disconnected the healing potion cooldown from the cooldowns for all other kinds of potions (and also from warlock healthstones), healing potions are a great addition to everyone’s tool set.
There are more specialized potions out there that give different effects for the different roles, AKA healer, tank, ranged DPS, and melee DPS. Whether one of these is better for you than a primary stat potion is all based on your class and spec, and the easiest way to learn this is to again refer to Icy Veins or to sim it yourself if you really want to know for sure.
I also can’t get through this section without talking about pre-potting! You see, you can only use one potion in a single fight. This is often then best used at the same time you use your other offensive cooldowns (if you’re DPS) or when you’re running low on mana (if you’re a healer). (As a further tip for healers: if you are using the dreamless potions instead of straight mana potions, you’ll want to time this for when the group is taking low damage so you aren’t forced into ending the effect early. It all adds up to be the same gain in the end, barring certain Azerite traits and talents, so it doesn’t matter if you use it during the beginning, middle, or end of the fight, so long as you don’t go over your maximum mana in doing so.) Tanks might choose to use their potion during a period of heavy damage for extra mitigation, but I’ve also known tanks to use potions as a light offensive cooldown: either way is valid.
There’s a way of getting past this one-potion-per-fight though, and no, it’s not considered an exploit. That way is to drink your first potion seconds before the first person starts combat. This is why countdowns on bosses are so important, particularly in raids where the fights can last up to 15 minutes. And yes, healers, obviously you don’t want to drink a mana potion as a pre-pot! Instead, drink a primary stat potion, or possibly a dps potion, then use those opening few seconds of the fight to DPS the boss. Every little bit counts.
Vantus Runes are a relatively new addition, and they come from the Inscription profession. Each raid (not dungeons, alas) has a chance to drop the recipe for a Vantus Rune tuned specifically to that raid. You can then use this Vantus Rune while targeting the boss of your choice (very important, don’t try using it way before or while targeting trash) to increase your Versatility while fighting that boss. Versatility works for all roles and all classes/specs, so it’s a helpful buff to have. The buff lasts a week, through deaths, so it’s important to choose wisely which boss you want the extra boost on. Most raids that bother using these have them for bosses they know they’re going to have trouble with: the one they’re progressing on or the one they wipe on a lot even if they’ve managed to kill it before. If in doubt, ask your raid leader.
Augment Runes are a new addition in the Legion expansion. Unlike the other consumables in this section, they aren’t made by players, but instead have a chance to drop in raids and some dungeons. They give a boost only to your primary stat, just like a flask does, but the buff also disappears when you die, just as a food buff does. They are relatively rare and often quite expensive, so some serious players forgo these altogether. If you decide to use them, either plan to have a lot of them with you, or make it count for when you do use them. Don’t use them on practice pulls for a new raid boss, in other words.
I have an extra little tip for getting more of these however: besides Looking-For-Raid (LFR) and the occasional mission from your mission table, these drop very reliably when a Call-to-Arms goes out for your role in either the Heroic dungeon auto-queues or the LFR queues. Unfortunately this means DPS will have a hard time farming them, but as they aren’t bind-on-pickup, you can level a tank character (as this role gets the most Call-to-Arms) and just run them through as much as you can stand for a good stack of these. The augment runes come out of the reward pack you get from the Call-to-Arms, usually three to four at a time.