Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Raid Icons

Pugging has brought my attention to the fact that a lot of players really have no idea what the real raid target icon order is, as listed in-game. When raid icons were released, a lot of party leaders defaulted to "skull" as the primary kill target as it symbolizes death, etc. Skull is the last mark in the list. Going BACKWARDS up the list from there is X, which became the common PuG 2nd-target. Strangely, many puggers have no concept that skull and X aren't actually the first two icons in the list, or that other marking systems are out there, and why.

The Icons

This skull -> x assignment is backwards from the actual listing of icons. The icons are listed as follows for left-to-right reading countries:

When listed top-to-bottom, they are read in the same pattern: Star, Circle, Diamond, Triangle, Moon, Square, X, Skull. They are also labeled in the system 1 through 8 in this fashion:

{Star} {rt1}{Circle} {Coin} {rt2}{Diamond} {rt3}{Triangle} {rt4}{Moon} {rt5}{Square} {rt6}{Cross} {X} {rt7}{Skull} {rt8}

Listed in {} are the chat commands for each icon, which will insert the icon into your chat window. The number labels 1-8 are used in the game's code and in macros when referring to raid icons. A very useful icon script the guilds I've been in have used for tanks marking their targets is:

/script SetRaidTarget("target",1)

You can change the 1 to be any of the numbers 1-8 of your choosing. The script, when created as a macro, will then quickly assign the chosen raid icon to your target. You can change "target" to be "self" or "mouseover" as well.

My own keybind for this is on mouse button 5 and ties other actions into the button using modifiers, in the following macro:

/cancelform [mod:alt]
/cast [mod:alt,target=mouseover,help] [mod:alt,help] [mod:alt,target=player] Regrowth
/stopmacro [mod:alt]
/script SetRaidTarget("target",1)
/clearfocus [form:1]
/focustarget [form:1]
/cast [form:1] Mangle (Bear)(); [form:3] Shred

Edit: I added in the /clearfocus and /focustarget lines at Celeritas' suggestion :)

Boss Mods

The problem with the Pugger -> marking system is that boss mods such as DBM and Bigwigs have long used both Skull and X for their own scripted boss warnings, which is reasonable considering Skull and X are the last two in the list. The mods will drop that icon on a player to bring attention to them for things such as life leech and slag pots. If a guild is using either of these marks for kill targets, things get chaotic as they try to remark mobs mid-combat, usually manually. You can easily get around this, however, if you break away from the Pugger skull/X mark mentality and use the other icons.

In all honesty, the Pugger Skull-for-Kill-Target is a "lowest common denominator" tradition, implemented for group members who don't know the actual icon order and for tanks that have to pre-mark all of their targets before combat. It shocks me how many players don't know the order, when it seems to me so basic a thing. If you don't know the order and plan to raid, I highly suggest you learn it, as you can't rely on skull/x in high end raids.

If you're really stuck on the use of skull/X for your kill targets, you can go into your boss mods' LUA files and change the SetIcon line to a different corresponding icon number. Each of your raid assistants will have to make the change as well, and every time your boss mods were updated, you'd all have to make the change again manually.

Tanks with Personal Marks

Ever since the implementation of target icons in the game, I have run with guilds that assign each tank their own, "permanent" icon for all guild runs. In the days of necessary CC, we assigned semi-permanent icon targets to mages and hunters as well! The MT is often Star, the first icon, but different tanks have had their own favorite marks and can certainly choose a different one!

Personally, mine has been in raids, though I moved it to for the purposes of pugging on Kae-bear.

In Vortex:
  • our warrior uses
  • our feral uses
  • our paladin uses
Our only rule in the icon claims has been to leave skull and X alone, as they belong to the bossmods!

The tanks each used the above /script SetRaidTarget("target",1) and tied it to an easy-access key or mouse button (I use Mousebutton 5 for it), so that they can quickly mark a target while attacking mid-combat. You can even add a /cast AttackName or a /startattack line to the macro to make your click more versatile.

DPS Discipline

Breaking further from the Pugger marking system, most of the raiding guilds I've been in have opted for a variable kill order rather than having a set "moon then triangle" or even "skull then x" order. Obviously, this is something for voice chat communication and thus not really feasible in a pug (unless you use that ingame voice chat, but I won't go there). As far as a guild's internal raids are concerned, however, having a shifting command of which icon to kill first is a great way to discipline and train your DPS: discipline and attentiveness that is helpful, or even necessary, for learning boss fights and difficult strategies. Raiders need to be alert and able to react quickly to the leaders' commands, and variable kill orders are a way to train it.

The guilds I've been in that didn't use this variable kill order had a lot of difficulty with getting DPS to listen to the raid leader when it came to important target switches or interrupts during boss fights.

For raids without that level of discipline (PuGs) or communication, a set kill order among the tank targets is optimal.


When dealing with Puggers, you never know what you're going to get. Some will adapt quickly to the personal tank-mark system, while others act like you've just shoved their head under water off the side of an iceberg while the frenzyfish are swarming up from the depths, gnashing their teeth in hunger.

Generally, it is good at the start of the PuG to announce "My target icon is (whatever), please kill it first." Those used to the Pugger mark style will just have to change from looking for Skull to looking for your mark. If they argue, just explain that you have it macroed, and they typically will not argue further: if they don't know about the game's raid mark order or are that unwilling to break Pugger tradition, then macros are probably a foreign continent for them as well.

From there, don't mark all of the adds. Having too many marks up will confuse the puggers and make them ask for the full kill order, and even after explaining it, inevitably some will forget and still dps the wrong target. Only mark the one that you are focusing on (aside from those rare CC), as a tank: the one you'd like the DPS to kill. Once your current target is dead, mark the next using your script. Think of your tank-mark as a "I'm putting threat into this one, so you're safe to dps it" icon.

In a way, this is easier than the skull->X strategy since the DPS only has one mark to look for, so they really have little room to complain about the break from pugger tradition.

  • If DPS is on the wrong target, call them out on it and remind them that they need to be on your marked target.
  • If there are multiple tanks, establish an order of precedence from the start of the instance: "Our MT is Soandso, their mark is , so kill the Star first. Our OT is Suchandsuch, so kill thesecond. Kill order: -> ."
  • Alternatively, if your raid needs further simplicity, have your MT pull mobs off of the OT and/or remark them with her own target mark so that the DPS is absolutely clear on what to kill next. Thus, there will only be one mark for your DPS to pay attention to, and they can ignore all others. Whether this is skull or the MT's own mark doesn't matter as long as the dps is warned ahead of time.


  • For one, be aware that Skull->X is actually backwards in the icon list order and that boss mods will automatically reassign them to important boss-specific alerts on players, so they are generally unsafe for use in raids as kill target markers.
  • For two, I highly suggest using a targeting script for tanking to apply a mark to your target. This will save time between pulls as the tanks/RL will not have to manually mark each target for kill order, and it will more easily establish which mobs are being actively tanked vs being an offtarget.
  • For three, if you go against the typical Pugger style of Skull->X kill order, be ready to let the DPS know what kill target they should be going after at the start of the instance. Many Puggers are easily confused.


Keeva said...

I remember in my old, old guild that we used the old "skull=kill" system.

Then when I started doing Kara with another guild, and I was tanking (lolllll), I found out (the hard way) that their system was "skull means do not touch me until last"


Why even mark something that you don't want DPSed - just leave it unmarked or something! I was pretty annoyed.

It makes sense NOW, after using boss mods for ages.. but back then it was a big "WTF, why would you use skull to say 'don't kill me'?"

The message and the visual don't really add up :P I guess they were thinking along the lines of "skull means poison".. I dunno.

Personally if it's going to be the last mob to die, I just wouldn't mark it.. and make sure the group knows that you DO NOT DPS UNMARKED until the (insert order here) icons are down. Skull is too much of a red flag, I think.

Kae said...

So you weren't supposed to attack the skull? LOL... that IS pretty confusing against the standard Pugger skull=kill assignment :) I, too, prefer to leave the "no touch!" mobs unmarked.

Maybe it was a "you attack this, you die!" mark?

Celeritas said...

I actually use the following Macro while tanking (which admittedly is pretty rarely these days):

/script SetRaidTarget("target",2)

I like to have the kill target set as my focus in case I have to target other stuff (that might be running off), take care of it and then quickly return to the right mob.

The clearfocus on the top lets me click on empty space in case I have a now-dead mob focused and will clear it.

Kae said...

Ooo I like the focus stuff. I usually have the MT focused when healing/dpsing, but if I'm tanking, that seems like a great idea :)

Charles said...

New reader here, great blog!

Ever since the marks were introduced my raid group used the Green Triangle as the "kill mark" because it looked like an arrow and we were used to using Hunter's Mark on kill targets!

I personally have all the raid marks keybound (through the game's own keybinding UI) to my NUMPAD 1 through 8 keys, and 9 clears any mark. It means when I'm tanking or RLing I can select any of the eight marks - or clear a mark - with a quick move of my right hand the short distance from my mouse.

I've often wanted to use marks in a macro but never knew the command to do so, good to know!

Kae said...

I've been using my numpad for item sets... originally Itemrack, but now just the built-in Blizzard sets :) For the quick-click raid icons, I was using CharmsFu, but switched recently to TargetCharms. Never did get into using that old Banana-bar-charms-thing.

Now that you mention it, though, I remember using the triangle as a hunter's-mark-replacement as well, shortly after the icons were released. Our RL was a hunter, so it came naturally! It just turned into a "hunter, please ice trap this" mark in TBC. :)

Partshark said...

Slow down, hun. WTF are raid targets and when did they add those?

O wait, I know what those things are, but you named them all wrong.

5-broken condom
6-not a circle, aka stop dpsing that one idiot.

and lastly


/sigh Progression Raiding is such a pleasant day in the park.

Honestly though, I don't DO raid icons for mobs. I have my own system. 40 yrds back and away from priests, rogues, hunters, and mages.

Nothing ruins Arbor Day like the sudden Aggro Dump to the tree.

Cassandri said...

See I think of the Raid Icon list quite differently. Sure {star} comes first and {skull} is last but if you are marking up a 5 or 6 mob pull - wouldn't you work down that list marking CC targets, and, by process of elimination, end up with a mob or two to tank/kill and mark them {cross} and {skull}?

Also I'm finding that DBM and Big Wigs use {square} a hell of a lot frequently to mark "pay attention!" abilities on players - like Shadow Crash in General Vezax. On my server {square} is usually a trap target - so it's pretty rarely used!

Also it doesn't bother me that these raid mods make use of {skull} and {cross} because I can't think of many bosses that require you to mark adds these days - the cats for Auriyana maybe?

Kae said...

LOL! Actually, Notabear, we refer to the triangle as "thong." :)

@Cassandri, that is certainly a viable system, too, though struggles with the standard skull/x bossmod use. I've noticed they use square as well when the other marks are busy (life leech, etc), but that is far rarer, and still moving up backwards through the list.

WotLK has all but removed the need for CC aside from some easily banishable elementals and a few mobs in Ulduar25 (or so I hear; I'm a strict 10 raider!). When we were learning the instance, we hunter-trapped a couple in Vezax's room, but they've nerfed it all since then. Does your guild still CC everything it can? WotLK's been more of a "round it up and AoE it down!" for my guild and the pugs I've been in.

As for the PuGs, I've found it's even more important to limit the number of icons up... a KISS strategy, and helps cut down on trash-time by limiting the explanations needed. Afterall, each of the puggers comes from a different guild with different raid icon assignments! Some are more flexible than others.

It is interesting to compare all the differing strategies.

Icedragon said...

Circle = nipple
Triangle = thong
Diamond = diamond of shame...people who have seriously screwed up (for a silly reason, not serious) get to wear this for the duration of the raid

"Grab my nipple and pick up the thong" isn't an uncommon announcement on my guild's Vent during Ulduar.

ChefWolfie said...

I hadn't actually given the raid icons that much thought. But reading through the comments, it's quite interesting and funny the different systems guilds have set up to use them for targeting and kill order.

Gone are the days of Diamonds for Locks, and Circles for Saps.

But we use circle triangle in our kill order... "gotta put on the condom before you remove the thong!"

People usually remember it quite well that way :D

Semi Permanent Make Up said...

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420 said...

I know this is an old thread, but you can keybind raid icons to keys without the need to have a macro. Just a thought if you're like me and have no macro spaces left! (Incidentally, you could do this at the time this article was written, as I've had my raid icons keybound for as long as I've played.)

Kae said...

Keybinding is actually a bit newer without mods, though the macro is still very useful if you wish to have your raid mark action do more than just a simple raid mark. Such as also acting as a dismount, self-regrowth (useful when bears can insta-cast it on a proc when unshifting), focus target, and/or other actions like sprint, faerie fire, misdirect, or blind.

I'm a pretty firm believer in making my macros multi-task where ever possible :)