So, you want to be a raider? Well, be prepared to put in some time. Raiding is fun, it has to be, it is the end-game for World of Warcraft. However, it is an expensive hobby that will require hours of preparation before one is even ready to raid and a continuing expenditure of hours to prep and prepare once one is actually raiding.
Just like preparing for any competitive activity, you begin by training and equipping. Simply because you've gotten a character to level 80 does not mean that character is ready to raid. You've probably done non-heroic dungeons as you leveled up. If you haven't done so already, now it is time to take on heroic dungeon content. The optimum situation is to have a balanced group that enjoys doing dungeons together on a regular basis. If your group is new to heroics, start with the lower level dungeons. In order by rank of difficulty the dungeons are: Utgarde Keep and The Nexus, Azjol-Nerub, Ahn'kahet: The Old Kingdom, Drak'Tharon Keep, Violet Hold, Gundrak and Halls of Stone.
The level 80 dungeons are: the Caverns of Time, Halls of Lightning, the Occulus and Utgarde Pinnacle. Get equipped in the lower level dungeons and work your way to the top dungeons, bettering you equipment along the way. Check out the Armory on the World of Warcraft site to see where needed upgrades are to be found. Many excellent pieces can even be crafted.
Heroic dungeons also drop Emblems of Heroism, which can be used to buy some very nice equipment. You will definitely want to work on your reputation standings with the various Northrend factions. The Sons of Hodir sell shoulder enchants, with the best enchants only available at exalted. Depending on your class, you will want to level up your reputation with the faction that sells the best head enchant for your spec. All of the factions sell nice pieces of gear as you rise in reputation. Don't overlook faction purchases as you gear up.
The Looking for Group channel has gotten a bad rap and certainly we've all experienced Pick-up-Groups from hell. Still, I've had some excellent PUGs. If you don't have a regular group to instance with, consider trying the Looking for Group channel in the game. Just be sure to aim for dungeons appropriate for your experience and equipment level.
Naxxaramas 10-man is the next step up from level 80 heroic dungeons. Sites like WoW-heroes.com or Be Imba can give you an idea of how well geared you are versus the requirements of the instance. Goals to aim for to raid 10-man Naxx, depending on your spec, are 1600 DPS (there are target dummies in capital cities to practice on); 1500 Spell Power, unbuffed; 540 defense (or uncritable) and 15-16% dodge or parry.
Once you're geared, if your guild has regular groups running Naxxaramas 10-man, let them know you're interested in joining the fun. There are usually Naxx groups forming up in trade, so check there if Naxx raids are not available through your guild. Don't try to jump in before you are ready, however. There's a reason these groups advertise "gear check." No one wants to bring an under-geared and inexperienced player who is likely to slow down or even wipe the raid. Wipes are part of raiding, but bringing more than one or two under-geared and inexperienced players can turn an evening from fun to a tedious mess..
Preparation is key to raiding success and it can be expensive. Don't show up for a raid with equipment that is lacking in enchants or isn't gemmed properly. Do your homework. Talk to people in your class whose abilities you admire. What sites do they turn to for advice on gems, enchants, glyphs and equipment? Look for advice on Best in Slot for pre-Naxx to help you prepare to raid 10-man Naxxaramas.
Check out forums and blogs specific to your class, many will have a list of desirable pre-Naxx armor and weapons and add-ons that can enhance your performance in a raid setting. Some recommended sites are: Tank Spot and Max DPS; great sites for information on tanking and damage dealing respectively. Plus Heal and World of Matticus have a wealth of information for the healing classes. For specific classes, deathknight.info is good for DKs, Maintankadin is excellent for the prot pally. Thedailydruid.com for guess who. Shadowpriest.com is for the priest who walks on the dark side. Rogues will want to look at shadowpanther.net. A recommended shaman blogger is to be found at www.shieldsup.ch and Petopia is the place for information on hunter pets. There are many excellent sites. Ask around. These are a few recommended by my friends.
Among the best places to look for information for all classes are the Elitist Jerks forums. There one will find intelligent discussion of the various classes and specs with lots of theorycrafting. They have information on gear, mods, strategies, enchants, gems, glyphs and more. When I asked for recommendations on good sites, this one was mentioned as great for almost all classes and specs.
Raiding isn't cheap. If you want to be a valued part of the team and get invited back, you should come fully prepared. You will need to gather and prepare stat food or buy it on the Auction House. You will need the proper alchemy flasks or elixirs. You will need money to pay for repairs, particularly if your group is taking on new content. Plan on farming goods to sell or doing daily quests on a regular basis to have the gold for raid preparation and repair. Remember, each new upgrade will require a new round of enchants and gems.
Now that you have adequate armor and consumables, you must have the proper addons for raiding. A threat meter, like Omen and Deadly Boss Mods or Big Wigs for encounter information are common mods used by many guilds. Ventrillo is a freeware program worth having. Most raiding guilds and many individuals will have Ventrillo channels that can be used to provide voice communication. While there is a voice communication system built into the game, it is marginally useful and I have never seen it utilized for raiding. While Ventrillo is the voice communication program of choice on my server, TeamSpeak is a similar program that may enjoy greater popularity on other servers.
Finally, know the encounter. Boss Killers or MMO Champion can provide strategy guides for most of the encounters in the game. Tankspot.com has many excellent videos of boss fights. Come prepared by studying the encounters for the raid instance you want to take on. Also, know what upgrades drop for your class there. Rolling for loot goes by quickly, so have an idea of the desirable loot each boss kill might drop so you won't hesitate to recognize an upgrade.
If you want to raid, expect to put in hours of time outside of raiding to repair, upgrade and replenish. Raiding is an expensive undertaking. It is also one of the most exciting and enjoyable aspects of World of Warcraft. If you have the time to prepare, it is well worth the effort.