Posted by: Kro | January 19, 2011

Situational Awareness: Sating the Skinny White Dude from Pittsburgh

In Borsk’s most recent post he talks about coachability, applying a strategy and having situational awareness.

Gemming, enchanting, reforging, using consumables, practicing your rotation, reading strategies (beforehand)… these are all fabulous ways of contributing to your performance in a raid. Showing up prepared will already start to relax your raid leader.

You can, however, erase all of these bonus points you’ve earned by failing in the situational awareness department. The Penguin behind the glass is watching your sound stack, knows who was only 5 yards away (not 6), and he knows who is doing 2 million damage to the “must die NAO” adds, and who is only doing 200k.

World of Logs, damage meters, and many other addons offer a microscope to meticulously examine combat logs and discover who has been naughty or nice, who has been sleeping and who is still awake.

Fortunately, situational awareness is not 100% skill. You can improve your user interface to help you escalate your game several degrees.

We no longer live in a world where AVR draws beautiful circles of bad and good, but there are many tools you can still use to stay ahead of the curve and on your feet so your favorite Steeler fan doesn’t break another headset. (Any more mistakes and the pile of broken headsets thrown across the room may create a barrier, blocking Borsk in his bedroom, leaving him unable to eat. You may starve Borsk to death with your failure! Starvation, lack of sustenance, this is a fact)

Hopefully you have mods like oRa, Deadly Boss Mods, Grid, or other equivalents. These bare minimums provide essential information. The hurdle is knowing what to look for. For example you may say, “Kro, I’m not a healer, why do I need Grid?” Well my first broad answer is because I think you should have a healing alt and that toon will need it. Playing other roles will increase your situational awareness through osmosis. My more focused answer is because even dps and tanks should have a quick view of the entire raids health. Imagine a raid where all 17 dps notice that everyone in the raid is at 20% health. Every single dps says.. Interesting, I’m not the only person who needs healing so I’ll pop my healthstone and enraged regen/recuperate/death strike/ice block/ghoul sac/ or whatever instant, relatively accessible dps specd heal. Everyone in the raid pops back from imminent death and the healers hopefully have not blown all their mana and long cooldowns.

Another vital aspect of being situationally aware is knowing where your feet are. Standing in poo is not just a flaming bag prank. Void zones or standing in the fire are the most infamous examples of poor situational awareness. If you are tunnel visioning on your kicks, or only looking at health bars you may be standing in something very very bad. Recently I’ve been using a mod called GTFO. This mod plays an alarm sound any time I’m standing in something bad. This gives me a “gentle” reminder if I’m ever tunnel visioned on interrupting a certain spell, or if I’m trying to weave a difficult rotation around some other mechanic. I don’t always or even often need this mod, but on the off chance I do need it, I’m quite happy it is there.

It is also nice to learn how to fiddle with your mods. The “taunt switch” is a common mechanic when the tank gets a debuff that disallows him to tank, conversely the boss my gain a buff that makes him untankable by the main tank in favor of a specialized off tank. In these instances I will focus target either the boss or the opposite tank and I will turn either the buffs or the debuffs to their maximum size. This way I’m able to see when to taunt even if I miss the cue from DBM, or from the frantic off tank in vent yelling to taunt off him. Overlapping visual and auditory signals to act help me make sure I keep mistakes to a minimum. In many cases failure occurs because someone just does not have their UI set up properly to see when a mechanic is happening. How often have you wiped because one or more people did not know they had a certain debuff?

It is also important to look through options in Deadly Boss Mods. For each boss you can specify which abilities you want to track cooldowns for and which you want a visual warning when they happen or are about to happen. When I’m pummeling Molariak, I turn off most of the warnings and only leave the add spawning cast warning. This way I’m not desensitized by all the warnings for events that don’t effect my role as much, and I’m properly jolted when my kick should be activated.  This also allows me to kick the add spawning cast during an add burn phase because the warning is not ignored while I’m positioning and trying to furiously aoe. Though less situational awareness tip, and more preparation tip, I also use a focus kick macro to get that interrupt, if that’s helpful at all.

The real key to situational awareness improvement is more than just opening your eyes. The key is removing the self imposed blind fold by either using more useful mods or by removing the clutter of to many or non tinkered with mods.

The more elegant and relevant you make your UI, the more sated your Raid Lead will become, and the more focus they can spend on correcting other mistakes.


  1. So do you play with game sounds on? I ask because I used to depend on audio cues from DBM/Bigwigs to alert me to something bad.

    Case and Point – the 5 – 4 -3 -2 -1 countdown on Bigwigs helped with the Shadow Traps on heroic LK.

    Ever since Blizzard ‘accidently’ tied addon sounds to game sounds, I’ve had to tweak my UI and adding another addon to my already slim addon list. (I try to run with minimal addons, less post patch heart break)

    As enjoyable as it is to hear the endless ‘Nyah’ ‘Huah’ and other spell sounds, it becomes a distraction.

  2. I do play with sound on. I always find it trouble to imagine playing without. I think it stems a little bit from PVP (which I enjoy but won’t say I’m any good at it). Being able to hear a kick go off (especially if it misses) is great to know you can cast freely for a bit. Mana burn and counterspell are also nice cues to hear, or dismounting coming from behind.

    As far as raiding sounds go, I find hearing boss emotes pretty helpful, there are other distinct noises, like lay on hands or other cooldowns. I find useful to know about as they are going on.

    Sometimes I’ll be watching something on netflix on my other monitor and in those instances I’ll have sound turned off. GTFO the addon actually has a setting to work while sound is turned off. I noticed on Pyremaw (or whatever the Firemaw clone outside Chimaeron is named) that it turned on my game sound for a fraction of a second to play the alert. I could catch one mace crit noise, or a ‘nyah’ behind the alert noise so I imagine that is how it works. I did like that feature, but I will probably still continue to leave my sound on in combat most of the time.

  3. The PvP aspect seems to be the common ground. Since I don’t really invest to much time into PvP (I had my share of it leveling on Detheroc…damm you STV) that those audible cues/clues never really mattered to me.

    In my mind Hearing Vent > Hearing Game Sounds

    I would agree that hearing a boss emote prior to an ability is pretty important, but now that it gets spammed across your screen as well as other places it seems like it’s now a matter of personal choice.

    I guess it’s worth a shot to try raiding with game sounds on – I will miss hearing people say “Navuzious, gtfo out of the fire” or”AFK reading Kro’s blog”

    Also it seems like your writing from 1 hour in the future – tell me what it’s like in the future? Is it as wonderful as the movies make it out to be?

    • I would like to use GTFO but I am concerned about the info overload with DBM and Gtfo running at once. I still need to see dbm timers – which I assume gtfo doesnt have. Suggestions?

      • The thing I like most about GTFO is that is is entirely auditory information. I still use dbm for timers and warnings because you are correct, GTFO doesn’t have timers.

        I sort of have GTFO as a backup. If for some reason I’m not paying attention to DBM warnings (looking for a new target, waiting for an interrupt, or if I just zone out of focus for a second) the jolt from GTFO prompts me to strafe away from people while I figure out what sort of nasty debuff im standing in or have on me. I ignore GTFO almost all of the time, it is just a safegaurd against that 1 in 50 attempts where you just make a boneheaded mistake.

        Another issue I have is I play multiple roles so I don’t always have DBM set up the way I would like. I generally have warnings and timers for every ability going on. Depending on role you probably only care about one or two abilities. I don’t get the urgency I want from seeing a DBM warning because I’m almost spammed with warnings on some fights. On Lich King for example, my priest healing would want infest warnings and timers to pre-sheild where as if I went on my paladin I would get desentisized by all the infest warnings going out that didn’t really matter to me and it would take me an extra second or two to realize I had a shadow trap. I guess I just like having the audio warning as well in case the other information doesn’t grab my attention.

        If you only play one role and you can turn off any timer or warning that doesn’t matter to you (or if you aren’t lazy and you modify your DBM settings when you swap toons/spec) I can see GTFO not being very appealing. Hopefully some of that helps.

  4. I may have to give GTFO a look at, I’ve always been addon heavy. I do like that it turns sound on for a brief moment to play the sound. I cant play Melee dps and listen to WoW sounds. Its obnoxious.

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