I haven't posted in a while. Did you miss me? No? Well, straight to the text then.
Recently, I feel that I've fallen into a common pitfall...common in World of Warcraft and common in the Real World. Reaching a point of comfortably adequate performance and settling into cruise control. I think I'm a competent healer. Better than competent; a good healer. It's notoriously difficult to rate healing proficiency and notoriously difficult to self-evaluate (what with competing dynamics of seeing yourself in a sympathetic light--after all, you know what you meant--and wanting to be tough on yourself), so I couldn't say with great certainty how successful a healer I am, but I'm secure that I'm somewhere in the top half and not the bottom half. Hopefully, anyway.
The main thing, though, is I feel relatively sure that I'm not holding my raid team back. If we struggle on a boss, it's probably not due to me. Now, I mean this in general...on any specific wipe, it could certainly have been due to me. I'm far from mistake-free. But if we're hitting a temporary wall on a boss, I am probably not the bottleneck. Hopefully, anyway.
I think this has led me to (at a subconscious level) feel comfortable doing what I do, as far as decision-making and awareness. That's a big mistake, but an easy one to make. I think most people are prone to end the evaluation at "Am I playing well enough to help my team? Am I a problem or an asset?" If the answer is "asset," all is well.
All is not well, though. Playing well enough to help the team or playing well enough not to be the reason for team failure isn't the correct goal and, put explicitly in that fashion, I think most people would agree. But at a subconscious level, "I do enough" is a tempting evaluation cul-de-sac.
The aim should be to find ways to be more of an asset. You may not be the reason for failure (whenever failure crops up) but perhaps you could be the factor that averts some failure. Maybe you can do your job and help with another job. Or, find a job that isn't being done but would be useful and do it. Often, the "job" can be something as vague as "knowing mechanics that you, specifically, aren't responsible for carrying out and making sure they're not being lost in the shuffle."
An Example...My Kingdom For An Example
Let's take the Shannox fight. Let's take my role in the Shannox fight. I, as long-time readers will remember, am a discipline priest in terms of my main character. My explicit role in the Shannox fight changes over the encounter; I start out healing the Face Rage targets of Rageface (instant shields are a nice quick buffer). When Rageface dies (as we choose to focus him down right away), I become the tank healer for the Riplimb tank. When Riplimb dies, I join my fellow healers in keeping the Shannox tank, and the raid in general, alive until loot time.
I make mistakes (especially at first, before I made sure Grid was showing the Face Rage target /facepalm), but by and large I think I do a good job keeping the people alive that I'm responsible for. I mostly do a good job of avoiding traps (except for a night last week where I got hit by two of them, after never having been hit before... /facepalm). That's essentially the extent of what I'm supposed to do. Keep my targets alive, don't die or get entombed. And if I do those things, I'm an asset, clearly.
But could I be more of one? There are always more things to do. When healing the Riplimb tank, it's not that stressful...there are times when the dog is playing fetch with a spear and I have time to do something else. One thing I could do is obvious: heal someone else. And if someone else is in range and below maximum health, I do that. A less obvious thing I could do is remember that if Riplimb is pulled too far away from Shannox, they enrage--an eventuality to be avoided.
So tonight when we were doing the encounter, even though it's a farm encounter, I decided to expand my role a little. The tanks have their own things to keep track of; in particular, the Riplimb tank is generally looking for crystal traps to freeze the dog, which can take away his attention. So I watched where Shannox was being pulled and tried to suggest to the tank when he may want to move the dog a little closer.
Of course, the first time I did this, my warning came a few seconds before they enraged. The second time, mindful of what happened the time before, the tank was already moving the dog. So all in all, I don't think I added value in that way. But I could have, had I been a little quicker to decide I was going to try to help. The important thing was not really whether I successfully averted something that time but rather that I was making the effort to push beyond the bounds of my role that I had become comfortable in.
Examples Aren't Sufficient
So what is it we should be doing, more generally? I think this is what we should be striving for: keep track of as many things about the current fight that you can before it starts degrading your performance on your main tasks. It doesn't matter what value you add at the margins if you're failing to do what you're paid for--whether that's keeping people alive, keeping the boss faced the right way as it pounds your face or putting magical bullets in the boss. Nothing matters until you have that locked down.
However, once you realize that you're doing your job and starting to put it in cruise, it's time to add more to your plate. Think like a raid leader...orchestrate the fight in your head and watch what's happening. If you see something headed in the wrong direction, be prepared to either warn the person who can act on the warning or else take steps yourself that will avert the crisis before it happens (while not lapsing on your assignment).
To some extent, this advice is dependent on how your guild operates raids. If there's a clear cut raid leader who is the only one allowed to call things out or issue warnings, then that option is off the table for you. Despite that, if you act as raid leader in your mind, you will undoubtedly see opportunities to add a little bonus value.
Whether your official role is healer, tank or DPS, we all unofficially have the same role: find the gaps in the clean route from pull to kill and fill them.