Raiding 101: the Spread Defense

I came back from vacation just in time to enjoy some long, long nights of wiping to Archimonde. While doing so, I noticed an issue some of our newer (and to be honest, even some of our more veteran) players were having when attempting to perfect the various spreading and stacking mechanics of the fight.

For anyone who's been raiding for even more than just a tier, you'll surely have noted that perhaps the most common mechanic in WoW raiding is spreading and stacking.  There's often a little twist on it; like only certain people spreading, or stacking on a spot on the ground vs stacking on a person, etc. When it comes to learning to raid, though, you'll find yourself repeating this same basic mechanic in most fights.

As I mentioned, several people were having a lot more trouble with this than I would have thought, so I thought it'd be fun to write down some of the unwritten rules of spreading.  Hopefully these are things you all already do without even thinking about it, but if you don't, now is as good of a time as any to start.

Delirium's Rules of Efficient Spreading:

  1. The Range Meter is your Friend
    When you're raiding, most boss mods (like DBM or BigWigs) will automatically show a Range Meter on fights where it is important.  If not, you can type "/range x" (with x being the number of yards you want to set the range meter for), and you'll see a lovely circle appear on your screen. This circle represents your range. If I type "/range 8" and there is no one within 8 yards of me, the circle will appear green; if there is someone within 8 yards of me, it will appear red (in addition it will show a player's dot if they are close, but not within range).

    This is your best friend when spreading.  It should be somewhere on your screen where you can easily see it. To make this perfectly clear, if you do not have a range meter showing, you are raiding wrong.
  2. Know When to Keep Moving: Creating the Spread
    Now that you have your range meter displayed, and it's time for you to spread, a basic rule of thumb is when you're moving, do not stop moving until your range meter turns green.

    If you run into someone else's range, your meter will be red.  Especially in larger raid groups, this is bound to happen when spreading from a single stack point, and that's ok.  What isn't ok, is once you've moved into someone else's range, stopping, and starting a cast. It is never ok to pursue higher DPS at the cost of raid mechanics, especially when that higher DPS you'll do will  be negated by lowering the DPS of the person whose range you're now standing in, because they'll then have to stop casting and move (the exception to this is if you have a boss on farm, and have cleared with your raid leaders and raid that you are going for rankings, but even in this case, you're not being a good raider, you're just playing the ranking meta-game).

    There are exceptions to this rule, which will be further spelled out in rule 4.  Primarily, if you're a healer and you need to stop moving and cast in order to keep someone alive, or you have an assignment to use a raid-wide CD.  This can almost always be mitigated by planning ahead, however.
  3. Know When to Stop Moving: Holding the Spread
    An odd rule, perhaps, as Spreading is about moving away from eachother, but one of the quickest ways to ruin another player's day, is when everyone has spread out and found a nice spot for themselves, you keep readjusting yourself, and getting within their range.  This applies even more so to hunters and druids, who may often enjoy jumping around.  Calm down, stay still.

    What I think happens, is Player A will be in between casts, perhaps they're now putting up a dot or some instant cast, and they feel like moving around a little bit, because they can. When that GCD is over, they stop moving to start their next cast. If, however, they landed in Player B's range, who is of course busy casting something, Player B must then break their cast, move out of range, and then start over.  So while your movement may not have hurt your own rotation at all, it's very likely it hurt someone else's.
  4. Priority in Spreading is: Healers, Casters, Hunters. 
    What this means, is when all ranged are standing on a stack point, and you all then have to spread, the people who move the least should be healers. If your group is spreading, and your healer needs to stop moving so they can start casting heals, you need to keep moving.

    Next come the casters.  Because, especially on progression when people are learning fights, their DPS will hurt the most from movement, warlocks and spriests will get slightly higher priority in stopping than mages or boomkins, but in general, all casters should move as far away as they need to in order to be out of the healer's ranged, and then get back to damage dealing.

    Finally, we hunters, as always, get the most movement, as we are least affected by it.  Yes, this means Marks hunters also (remember to burn through your focus while sniper training is still up, then while it's down, rebuild focus with cobra shots or focusing shot, which don't benefit as much from the damage/crit buff of sniper training anyway).
  5. Be Predictable and Pay Attention to Those Around You:
    Everyone has a pattern; you might not notice it if you don't look for it, you might not even notice your own, but everyone does. If you see someone always moves in the same direction remember that. The time will come when you need to get away from them and knowing which way they move by default will help.
  6. The other side of this, is you also want to be as predictable as possible, so your fellow raiders can fairly accurately guess where you're going to be. You may not be able to go to the exact same place every pull (everyone hates the player who gets possessive over starting in the exact same place, or always having the exact same role), but you can try to move in the same general way each pull. (Thanks to the Grumpy Elf for this rule)

  7. Move in Y's, not in U's or Zigzags
  8. This one is really more of a tool than a rule, but I'm including it anyway, because I couldn't think of a better place to put this.  Everyone has, on occasion, run into an issue where they are trying to spread, and another person is running in the exact same direction as you.  Then you go to turn back, and they somehow turn back at the exact same time. In this situation, the trick is to move in a Y, instead of turning around or zigzagging. There will pretty much never be a time when two people are in the exact same place, especially when running; but it is fairly common that two people will be running in the same direction.  So which ever side you're on (even if you're just slightly right or left of the other player), you want to turn 30 - 45 degrees from them, and keep running.  If both players do this, they'll be out of range of each other very quickly, without risking getting in the way / in range of someone else behind you.   
These are of course very basic rules, and most players who have been paying attention to raiding for any amount of time should do these things unconsciously, but I'm sure we've all been in groups where normally smooth runs were ruined by someone not stacking or spreading properly. So here they are. Now get out of my gd range!


  1. Also, when spreading out from a stack Disengage is your friend!

    1. Oddly enough, I think the best part of the MM 4 pc is not having to plan on having instant shots when I need to disengage. #disengageonCD

  2. Minor rant on flex coming here, please forgive me.

    Your points are all great points but I have one I think is important. So can I add one to yours?

    5) Pay attention to those around you:

    Everyone has a pattern, you might not notice it if you don't look for it and you might not even see your own but everyone does. If you see someone always moves in the same direction remember that. The time will come when you need to get away from them and knowing which way they move by default will help.

    If you can make a mental note of where everyone is "most likely" to move to you can plan ahead to get to a place where no one will be and you will not step on any toes. This can be a lot harder in flex groups but even in those if you can pick out even a few people where you know where they are moving it will make it easier for you to find a place for yourself.

    If you are lucky enough to play with the same crew of people all the time, or in mythic, knowing where to spread before you even have to spread thanks to playing with the same people all the time and knowing their patterns makes this mechanic a non issue completely.

    Now back to my comment. :)

    When it was strictly 10 man and we had new content to do if there was a spread mechanic we never had any issue with it. People knew each others habits. I always seem to go left, someone else always seems to go right, one melee slides under the left arm, another under the right, one healer takes the front, the other the back. Etc.

    Now with flex those fights, which used to be the easiest fights, are only an effort in frustration as you lose that comfort zone you used to have. You never know where others are going to move, or if they are even going to move and you are always playing with different people to finding that comfort zone is harder. Not to mention it is always progression on fights like this with different people coming and going.

    And the worst is when you do the double step dance that kills you both, I am sure your have been there. You both move left so you see someone is moving with you so you go to take a step forward and they do too, so you go to take a step back and they do too, and by then it is too late and you are both dead. Ah, I hate flex because it turned this simple mechanic that I have not had issues with for years into a raid wiping nightmare. /end rant

    Your post should be required reading for these new people, or those that are new to a group in general. Even the best player in the world, even one that has known the spread and stack for 10 years, will screw it up while learning the ins and outs of a new team.

    We take it for granted as an easy mechanic, but with a group of all random people that do not know how the others move, it could most definitely be something that keeps you wiping for quite a while until everyone gets it right.

    1. RE: the double step you mentioned. That's a good idea, I actually had an idea about that, and was going to add a "how to" section. In my Aly guild at the moment, we switched from 10 to 25 players for ToT, but only maybe 13-15 of us have been consistently raiding together, the other 10 slots or so had a lot of turnover. So when raiding now, I can pretty accurately tell how much DPS I'll be able to do on heavy movement fights based on whom I standing beside/grouped with. If I'm with one of the people who we've been raiding together for a couple years, then no problem, we know how eachother move, as you said, and I can just simply move and then replant, never falling outside of my 3 second Sniper Training buffer. But there are other people in the group that if I'm grouped to stack (and then of course spread) with them, I know I'll have to constantly readjust.

      Archie, I think, really brings out how frustrating poor stacking/spreading can be. We'll be attempting to work on a later phase, but can't even get back to it if people start slacking in the first phase on very basic stack/spread mechanics.

      Now that I've started remembering how frustrating it is, I want to add a bunch of other things to this... :-P