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WoW: Calculated Risks

Posted Tue, May 25, 2010 by Mem

Deep in the heart of Naxxramas a brave group of adventures fight their way through the Plague Quarter. Noth the Plaguebringer falls easily before the group's might, his loot distributed among the conquers. The cleansing of this foul wing is nowhere close to done though. Heigan the Unclean, the evil mastermind that created the Plaguelands, stands before the group preventing them from reaching their ultimate goal; Loatheb.

After a short rest the group pushes forward wiping out all trash in their path. Ghouls, Slimes, and Gargoyles stand against the group’s advancement only to be obliterated one by one. A doorway appears ahead and the group cautiously ventures inside creeping into a corner to take in their surroundings. Glancing up the group sees that they have reached their goal, for on a raised platform stands Heigen in all his inhuman glory.

Food and drink are consumed, strategy is discussed and buffs are handed out as the group prepares to take on Heigen. The charge begins and the group faces off against Heigen’s dance of death. Many brave souls fall, unable to follow the rythum of the dance but Heigen takes much damage as well. More fall until finally all that remains standing are a tank, a healer, and one DPS. Failure seems certain, and the group waits for the remaining few to fall.

The end is upon you.

Something unexpected and surprising takes place instead. The remaining three do not fall, they stand and fight, and slowly but surely burn Heigen down. Their dance steps are perfection and when all is said and done Heigen comes out the loser in this fight. There was much cheering, much loot, and many retellings of the story afterwards.

The story above really happened on one of my (awesome) guilds raids inside of Naxxramas and is just one example of taking a calculated risk. The wipe could have been called by our raid leader and we could have run back and tried again. Instead we went on our gut feeling and sheer determination to eventually persevere over seemingly impossible odds. While pushing forward and refusing to give up sometimes provides remarkable results, it’s not always the best course of action. How then can you decide what course of action you should take? The answer to this question is not as cut and dried as you may think.

When faced with such a situation there are a few questions you should ask yourself before you make your ultimate decision to stay the course or retreat:
  • How much time do I have? - If you are short on time, especially in a raiding situation, it’s probably best to call a wipe instead of turning a fight into a lengthy battle.
  • Are the odds really that overwhelming? - Sometimes situations seem worse than they really are. Take a moment to reassess your situation and decide if things really are as bad as they seem.
  • Who can help me? - This factor can make or break an impossible situation. In my story above a DPS, Healer, and Tank were all left alive making for an ideal, albeit small, group able to defeat almost anything placed before them. If you find yourself in a less than idea group, such as all healers or alone surrounded by enemies in PvP resigning yourself to a certain death, or making a hasty retreat is advised.
  • Which gives me more of an advantage? - Sometimes pushing forward or retreating can give you a distinct advantage. For example if you hold off the mob of enemy players in PvP for long enough, your friend may have time to sneak the flag through. Or if your pet distracts the angry elite mob that wants to stomp your face for just a few seconds you may be able to loot the quest object you are after before you die.
Asking yourself these questions and being vividly aware of your situation regardless of if you are raiding, PvPing or going it solo, will give you a distinct advantage when deciding what course of action you should follow. If you have asked yourself these questions and answered them favorably push on to possibly win the day, or if you find yourself in a more negative situation don’t be afraid to admit defeat.

Using the story above once again as an example you can clearly see that the encounter we faced was quite favorable to us, which was why no wipe was called. It was early in the night, so our raid had no time constraints and Heigen was significantly low in health making him an easy target. An ideal group was left standing, and while there was no clear advantage to continuing the fight, it did make for one heck of a story.


Never hesitate to take a calculated risk, even in the face of seemingly impossible odds.
However the answer can not completely be obtained just from these questions alone. Instead a large portion of the answer you seek will come from an almost sixth sense that most gamers possess that they are not even aware of. It will take much trial and error to hone this sense, so don’t be afraid to plunge head first into risky situations. Failure is as much of, if not even more of a learning experience than success. Eventually though you will find that you will be able to enter situations and be able to easily decide if a situation is hopeless or not.

Learning when to push forward or when to retreat is not an exact science. Using the method above, and perfecting your gut feeling will help you make the right calls more often than not. However even the most seasoned players will find themselves making the wrong decisions from time to time. Take these failures in stride as they will become far an few between.

In my opinion taking a calculated risk is almost always worth it, and will usually pay off in the end just like in the example above. So I say if you are faced with a risk take it, the worst that can happen will be a repair bill and a long run back. Besides, losing usually makes for a better story than winning.

Do you have tips or personal stories on how to know when to push forward or retreat? Share them with us on our forums!

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