Archive for the ‘DPS’ Category

Dearest Pug,

To the heirloomed out warrior in the Dead Mines,
Thank you for your critical analysis of my tanking ability. For future reference a lvl 16 paladin does not have many tools to work with. Also note that if you are in the next room spamming thunder clap while the tank and heals are both drinking there is a chance the tank will not be able to ‘hold aggro for sh**’ as you so helpfully put it. You might also note that you did a lot better job tanking for us in the second half. I respectfully submit this had more to do with your party including the formerly tanking paladin that switched to backup healing you… a lot. On the other hand the party I had to work with included all the same characters except in place of the paladin (me) I had a warrior running ahead and pulling things the whole time (you). In light of this I am doubtful the difference in outcomes was related to your tanking ability (non-existent). My healer informs me she spent the second half of the instance healing herself, a lot.

To the gogogo hunter in SM graveyard,

I appreciate your eagerness to take a very short instance and turn it into a slightly shorter one by running ahead and soloing things. I was flattered by the request to run another instance after that one. I am sorry if you did not understand my response of ‘not with you’ followed by dropping group. Allow me to clarify. Yes I was talking to you and I would rather solo the place than run anything you ever again. Hope that clears up any confusion.

To the party in SM library who I ran with over lunch,
I know I directed my ‘you suck’ before I dropped at the druid who was pulling 9.7% of the overall damage. To be fair you all sucked. Yes, even the Lock who was ‘topping the meters’ at 25% of the damage done. You were all agroing things I was not on, running away from the tank, pulling things while the healer and I were drinking and generally playing like idiots. My Shaman I know it is very impressive that you can climb the bookshelves there near the end. I respectfully submit your chain lightnings work just as well from the ground floor and you have time to get more of them off if you don’t climb things. Mister Lock I would like to suggest that calling out ‘heal my pet’ when it is around the corner in the next room and the healer is out of mana is probably not going to get much of a response. I noticed you changed pets to a voidwalker after that and it stopped dying. I also noticed you continued to target your pet for things I was clearly not attacking. Nice try but you fail. I hope you all don’t think me arrogant to say that as a tank specced paladin with no heirlooms and being the second to lowest level in the party I probably should not have been doing 48% of the damage. No mister druid, the final boss sheeping you twice did not explain your 9.7% of the overall damage.

To the other 5 parties I played with in the last 24 hours,
Thanks. You killed things, mostly were not jerks, and generally played like you had a couple brain cells. Thanks.

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If you missed it before go check: Situational Awareness and You Part 1

I said at the end of part 1 that I would talk more about the issue of high mouse speed. It is not the speed itself that is the issue.

Your brain

You brain uses a vast number of clues to piece together the world around you. If you turn your head your brain has many things to work with in order to fit the view your eyes see before and after the head turn into one picture of the world around you. Your brain has inputs from your neck: muscles tension, skin stretch, twisting of the vertebra. Your brain also gets the inputs from your inner ear sensing motion and acceleration. Your ears also hear the ambient sounds change as the sources of those sounds ‘move’ around you. Even the air movement on your cheeks and in your hair is fed into your brain. All these things and others help your mind understand what it sees and fit the images it sees together with the images it saw a moment before or minutes before.

In a game world you have FAR fewer inputs to work with. Everything I described above and more is gone. You have very few things to work with to help your brain process where you are looking and what you are seeing. If you look rapidly around at action happening all around you your brain needs to blend all that into an ever changing picture of what is going on.

Your brain on WOW

The things that don’t change between in game and real word processing in your head are the image recognition side of things. Well some of it. You lose the depth perception clues. But you do have the normal image processing your brain is capable of.

You DO add a new input. In place of the sensor input from your neck turning you have the input of your mouse hand moving. But is that enough? Can you close your eyes, and move the mouse with a right or left click and know instantly how far your character turned? Without opening your eyes? Can you spin exactly 180 degrees around and in one try without over shooting? Many players can. A very many players can’t. With your eyes closed you only have the input of your hand moving on the table. That is not a lot to go on.

What else do you have? Well the screen of course. But two things are working against you. Frame rate and mouse speed. Anywhere from 10 times per second to upwards of 60 times per second the image on your screen is updating. Imagine your character is turning. Each moment as you turn the screen updates. Each update looks different than the last. If you are turning very slow most of the screen is showing the same thing as before. If you are turning left on the left side of your screen new material keeps appearing each moment and everything moves right. If you are turning fast much more of the screen is updated with new material. If you turn extremely fast nothing or almost nothing is the same as before. If you turn your character completely around between on screen update and the next (easy to do with a mouse twitch) then there is NOTHING on your screen that looks the same as before (not counting your character itself).

When you are turning slower your brain has all the stuff that did not change to give you instant input as to which way you turned and how far. If that tree on the screen moved half way across it then you know something useful about how far you turned. If you turn so fast that the tree simply vanishes then you lose that input. In that case your brain has to start from stretch and figure out where you are looking. Fortunately the human brain is an amazing creation and can figure it out very fast. But why force it to do extra work? If a lot is going on around you then your brain needs all the clues you can get.

Slow that mouse down!

A good rule of thumb is that you want to be able to turn 180 degrees with one mouse move. So do this. Set your hand on the mouse. Using the right click turn move your mouse as far as you can to the left or right. Only move it as far as you can without shifting your grip. How far did you turn? If you turned completely around twice then things are probably set way to fast. Tweak your speed and try again. Keep doing it. Only you can decide how fast is fast enough or too fast. Here are some suggested guidelines.

You should be able to turn 180 and face the opposite direction in one smooth move without shifting your grip or lifting up your grip.

If you have to grip very tight and try several times when you are navigating a tight room (like a human inn) then your speed is too high.

If you have to lift up your mouse to steer a tight corner then it is far too slow.

Try slowing things down until they are way too slow and then slowly creep it up until things seem smooth and steady but still reasonably fast.

Do NOT just leave mouse speed alone. It matters to situational awareness so you should mess with it and give thought to it. Find what speed is right for you.

The goal is that you can move the screen rapidly and have a reasonably good idea of how far you moved, even if you can’t see the screen. The goal is to be able to see the screen pan as you turn

Get your frame rate up

For all the reasons I was just talking about for mouse speed you need a good frame rate. Get in to your video settings and turn things down. When it comes to getting your disoriented frame rate does as much as mouse speed or more. Turn some video settings down until your frame rate is high. You can set almost everything to minimum and still play with no problems. Just don’t set the particles to the bottom or you will not be able to see the fire you are standing in.

More mouse tricks:

Strafing with the arrow keys: You can use right click and used A or D or to do the exact same thing as the Q and E keys. Try it! Maybe it will fit your play style better than Q and E. Or maybe you will want to do like me and use it situationally.

More practice activities

Go play in the Argent Tournament. It might be hard and annoying at first but the rewards are good, cash is solid and the skill up if your movement is great.

Buzz things on your flying mount. Don’t fly over the trees. Use keys and mouse steering to weave between them. This is great practice and does not slow your travel time much. No trees? Just flow low and try to skim the ground without actually landing on it.

Drive vehicles in battle grounds. Those things work differently for movement so try them out.

Ride around like those bored people in Dalaran. Only don’t do it there you are laggy. But ridding around town and like a drunk moron is actually really good hand mouse coordination practice and steering practice. Zig-zag, jump, dodge around people.

Looking is not seeing and seeing is not knowing

The everything I wrote in part 1 and above is focused on helping you look all around you at any time and to be able to fit what you see into a coherent picture. That helps you see what is around but next you have to know and understand what you are seeing. Being actually AWARE takes more.

Stay one step ahead

Knowing what is going to happen next is a critical part of awareness. Mainly it helps you sift through what you are seeing and spot the things that are important. You can see 8 packs around you but what is important to look at? You can’t know everything about everything but you can be picking out what are the next two groups you are going to fight and already thinking about what comes next.

Whether you are playing solo, healing, tanking, or DPSing in 5 mans or raids, anytime, anywhere, you can be thinking about what comes next and getting ready for it. Is the tanking going to go left or right? Maybe you can’t be sure, but if you know he is going to do ONE of those you can position yourself so that you react to either. And you can be ready for either. Almost nothing a tank does should take you by surprise. No really. There aren’t that many things a tank CAN do so it is not that hard to be ready for almost anything. If you assume the tank is NOT going to do something then you are already setting yourself up for a chance of failure. Rather you should position yourself and be ready for all the likely options and have a backup plan for the unlikely ones.


Predict what will happen with your best guess but don’t fixate on your theories. You should at any time have a vague idea of what comes next. But you should not have an iron clad prediction of it. If you get too invested in your expectations you are put off balance when they don’t come true. If you are absolutely sure the tank is going to pull that group on the left and you get set up for that and only that then you can caught unaware when he goes the other way. Don’t do that. Set yourself up to be able to react to several likely options. This is particularly key advice for a healer. Did you stop to far back and then get surprised when the tank ran around a corner? That was your mistake. There was not real reason to stop back there except that you assumed something about what the tank was going to do. Then you lost line of sight when he ran in the room. Oops. Should have been farther forward from the get-go.

React quickly

That statement ‘react quickly’ is a ‘what’ but not a ‘how’. The how is this: When things change throw out the old and change with them. Don’t stop and go ‘ohcropohcrapohcrap’. Instead simply forget everything you had planned and assumed and start over. Don’t try to resist that changing situation. Don’t try to force it to be what you wanted. Just toss the plan out the window and go. This applies to more than healers. This applies to everyone at all times. All the time I see DPS fail to react when the situation changes. Maybe some adds come and the tank shifts to engage those and there is that lone warrior over in the corner fighting that one guy. He tunnel-visioned right into that one target and will be aware of nothing until that one is dead. Or a tank that ignores the adds on the healer. Or the tank reacts to the adds but tries to fit them into the pull he had already made.

When the situation changes it is changed permanently. Don’t cling to the plan if what happened was not in the plan.

Expect the worst case

Or at the very least expect the most likely things. If you are fighting a group that fears EXPECT to get feared into one of the nearest packs. It is going to happen so you should already have an idea what you are going to do about it. After the fear goes off is not the time to hunt around for your Feign Death button or your Barkskin.

If you know there are other packs around EXPECT one to pat into you from behind. It is going to happen so have a plan for that. All the time when I am tanking I have my camera already turned around and I am looking right at that group behind us. So when the hunter back there fails to notice them and gets agro I am already ready for that. This goes for everything that is annoyingly inconvenient.

All those things that people do all the time that piss you off? EXPECT them, plan for them and react to them fluidly. Don’t spend time going ‘argue they did it again’. Just deal with it. This is a key part of being aware. And it is one of the easiest things to do. If you have a peeve about something then you know about it. And you also know that it is likely to happen. It would not be a peeve if it did not happen to you fairly often. So don’t act surprised when it happens again.

Tanks, see that 6.2k geared guy over there? Yeah, he is GOING to pull off you at some point. Probably all the freaking time. Don’t act shocked, roll with it. Expect it. Factor it into your plan. Use some taunt triage. You don’t have to fight the guy for agro if he can take a few hits. So work him pulling off you into your plan instead of fighting against it.

This goes for everyone. DPS, do you have a plan for when the adds jump you? For when the tank suddenly dies from a big hit? For if the healer DCs? You should and you should expect to need those plans at any time.

More to come

This is getting big so I will carve off some for part 3 and maybe even more. Next time I plan to talk about being more aware of what your party is doing and then maybe I will get into user interface issues and considerations.

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How to improve at WOW

WOW is a big game. Lots of people play. Some people can have their gear tweaked out to the fifth decimal place and some have Int on a rogue. It take all kinds… but how do you get to be  better at it? How can you, no matter what your personal skill or experience level, get better at playing your class?

There is a lot of good information out on the internet. The trick is figuring out how to use it. What do you search for, what do you do with what you find. How do you make sense of it all? That is what this post is all about.

You can

First off you can do it. Seriously. Chances are that if you even think you can get more out of your character, you can.

You don’t have to play more

You don’t have to be a ‘no lifer’ or a ‘min-maxer’ or any of that. Those are things people use as excuses for not getting better. You will (probably) not have to radically change how much you play. You will also not have to spend huge amounts of time doing it.

Admitting you have a problem

Admitting a problem is the first step. Let’s face it, we ALL can find a way to get a few more points of damage/threat/healing out of our character. The problem is many people get into a comfort zone and don’t want to break out. Or they imagine improving is some huge hard thing that will consume their life. When they think this they make excuses and stay at their current level. I know because I have been there.

It is an attitude

The thing to realize is that improvement is a never ending goal. It is not about some magical thing you do and then you are uber. It is about recognizing that you COULD be better and trying to get better. That ‘trying to get better’ does NOT have to consume your life or your play time. It can even be done as a onetime exercise in character improvement. But even if it is a onetime thing you need to approach it with the right attitude.

But I LIKE how I play the game

That is fine too… But even within your own personal ‘style’ there are probably small things you can change that would make a large difference. Just because you hear the best spec for your class is one you don’t like does NOT mean you should give up on ever being better. Just about every spec is capable of great things. Also what is ‘best’ changes all the time and even varies based on what level of gear you have. Don’t let the attitudes or suggestions of others affect your goal of getting better. You are doing this for YOU, not them.

Getting started

Identify the problem:

It might be that you suck at PVP. It might be that your DPS is just low all the time and people are starting to complain. Or maybe you stand in the fire too much. Or maybe your tanking is just not working out.

Try to focus in on the specific issue. Don’t be egotistical about it. Don’t be defensive with yourself. This is not the time to make yourself feel better. This is the time to rip off the bandaid of ego, stare at what you are doing wrong and say, ‘ok, I can make this better’.

The areas of improvement:

There are a lot. Here is my list: Gear level, Itemization, gems, enchants, Spec, Glyphs, ability rotation, tactics, strategies, Interface, control usage.

Wow, that is a big list isn’t it. Let’s run down them briefly.

Gear Level:

This one is a TRAP! It is an excuse and a red herring. Yes, getting higher level gear can improve your numbers, but it is the LAST thing to worry about. Gevlon’s Undergeared project proved that you can down the whole first wing of ICC and multiple bosses beyond that in BLUE gear. This is just one of many graphic examples of how your gear does not improve you. Yeah, if you give a high end race car to any driver they will go fast. But so what? That does not mean you can race. Give every NASCAR driver a YUGO and they could hold a pretty impressive race. Give the first few dozen people off the street a NASCAR and you will have a lot of death and destruction but not a race…. Ok maybe that is what people go to races for, but you see my point. People that do poorly point to gear level as an excuse. DON’T LET IT BE YOUR EXCUSE.

Sometimes, just sometimes, you will hit a limit of what you can do with your gear. But the vast majority of the time if you have a performance issue it is not your gear. Using gear as your excuse paralyzes you and blinds you do all the things you can change and improve that are FAR more easy to fix.

(Yes, I know many raids might not let you in without a certain GS. Ignore them, they suck anyway.)


This is a biggy. If you just throw on a bunch of gear you will not have a good set, maybe even if you pick pieces that seem to be right. Heck even if you pick the pieces you read in a gear guide somewhere. Itemization is not as simple as that. I will get back to this later. Just don’t assume your itemization is right. Don’t assume anything when it comes to improvement. DO know your rule of thumbs: if you’re a healer, spellpower is good, if you’re a rogue, don’t stack intellect! But it gets tricky beyond that and you need to know your class. A gifted priest healer who just rolled a holy pally for the first time might not know that spirit is useless to her.  A new bear might not know that the defense on tanky trinkets doesn’t do that much for him. Learn your rules of thumb so you don’t waste time on evaluating a piece of gear that just isn’t right.

Gems and enchants:

Same with Itemization. Don’t assume. Have you ever put an expensive enchant on only to find out later that it was totally wrong for your class and play style? Yeah I have. Most of us probably have, though maybe not all of us have realized it. Some people simply don’t care. If you want to improve don’t be that guy. Make sure the enchants work the way you think they do! Mongoose might look appealing to a hunter – but since it procs off of melee swings, a good hunter won’t get much use out of it.


Your spec can probably be improved. Almost certainly there is a point in there somewhere that could be someplace else. It might be of little importance or it could very well be the thing that makes or breaks you. Even if you had your spec right when you respecced last chances are your play style has drifted and there are changes you could make.


Research your glyphs, major and minor. If they seem confusing, look for a guide to what glyphs are best for your spec. There might just be three that stand out as “must haves”, or five that have situational uses. Don’t be afraid to experiment and get the best set for your playstyle.

Ability Rotation:

This one can be huge. And it can be subtle and tricky. It can be as simple as finding out your are missing some skill you should be using or as tiny as using them in a different order. It can make a very large difference in your damage/threat/healing. Very large. For most players there is improvement they can make here. For many players there is a LOT of improvement they can make here.


Tactics are the small choices you make during combat. This covers all the buttons you press that are not simply doing your ‘rotation’. Target selection is tactics. Pulling tricks? Tactics. Healer Triage? That is tactics too. This area is pretty broad and it can be a lot harder to pin down your mistakes. Unfortunately there is a good chance that your mistakes are here. Most people could use an upgrade in their tactics.


Strategies are the bigger picture things. Stuff that over-arches everything. It is more vague than tactics and touches on a wider variety of ways you approach your character. There is not much I can say about this area because it is so big. Just remember there are larger things that can be areas of improvement too.

A final note before we get started…

Many of these actually work together. If you make a change to your tactics you might start using a new ability in your rotation. That might cause you to want to change a glyph and that decision effects what your spec should be. Don’t focus on one area of improvement and ignore the others. Try to remember what else can be effected.


I have had many times where I realized mistakes I was making, things I over looked or stuff I totally did not know. If you think I am writing this because I am elitist, you’re wrong. Unless seeking to get better at the game makes me an elitist…But heck, everyone can be that kind of elitist.


Before you wade out in the internet, keep in mind that much of the advice out there is aimed at a specific sector or area. For example almost all Talent builds are aimed at someone with max level. There is a good chance that you actually want some other build while leveling and want to respec several times on the way up to move points around. The same goes for stats on gear, glyphs, lots of things. How you play the game is not the same as how others play the game.

And, to make things worse, it is not always obvious. For example a guild to tanking might fail to mention it is totally focused on raid main tanking and that if you are tanking heroics only you might want things a lot different. A PVP guide won’t be much good for doing PVE, and vice versa.

I am going to start with gear, go through them categories of improvement. Keep in mind that if you change something later it might affect things in you already looked at. Never assume you are done tweaking things.


Leveling gear

The gear choices you make while leveling are different then what you look for near max level.

Don’t waste a lot of time on it.

The first thing to say about leveling gear is ‘don’t worry about it much’. While leveling almost anything will do. But, sometimes it is a trouble area so here is how you take a look.

Find your worst items and look for a replacement. This is pretty straightforward. It is just what is says. You go down your list and look for the slot that is lagging the most and find something new for that. Let’s say you are 23 and looking over your gear you see you still have grey or white boots. That is a pretty good candidate for an upgrade.

Avoid the auction house. But if you do hit the AH, don’t buy the bestest thing you can find. That is a waste of money. Like with most things in life you can usually find something 80% as good for 20% the cost. Buy the Toyota, not the Lexus. You are going to replace it in a few levels soon anyway so don’t waste much on it.

Quest drops

You can avoid the AH by looking for a quest drop. Use site like Thottbot or WOWhead to find a quest reward that replaces your item and go run that quest. Another way to upgrade gear is to grind instances for a while. Go check the information on what drops there though. Thottbot, Wowhead, even WOWwikki all have boss drop information. Don’t forget to get the quests for that instance. Those often reward gear.

If you are above level 60 your best bet is quest drops. Bliz did a much better job from 60 to 80 of providing a steady flow of gear upgrades for people leveling. This is extra true for someone who just hit Outlands level of Northrend level. Do your research on what quests rewards you need and go find them.

Craft your own.

Do you have an higher level crafter alt or a friend who can? Heck you can even spam trade for someone and get them to make you a cheap green replacement for any slot you have that is really lagging.

Max level gearing up

There are four stages to max level gearing up.

Gearing up Stage 1: 200-219

Stage one of gearing up a lvl 80 character is to replace your quest greens and instance blues with item level 200 or 219 blues and purples. This involves running NON-heroic versions of all the level 80 instances. All of them except TOC, FOS, POS, and HOR drop item level 200 blues from each boss and Item level 200 purple from the final boss. This is decent stuff. TOC drops 200 purples from each encounter including trinkets but not including any weapons. FOS, POS and HOR drop 219 purples from all bosses and some random packs including trinkets and weapons. I recommend making a list of all the 200 and 219 gear you want from those top 4 places and running them all until you have most of that list.

Gearing up Stage 2: 232-245+

Badge gear and heroic ICC 5 man drops are what you are going for next. Start by grinding random heroics until you have a few pieces of badge gear (232). Once you have a few of those you can add some focused runs of the top 3, FOS, POS, and HOR. As you are working on ‘stage 2’ you can start also working stage 3. As you run out of things that drop on instances or from triumph badges you will have moved fully into stage 3.

Gearing up Stage 3 is ‘Best in Slot’

This is the stage where you start paying attention to gear guides and finding that one piece of gear that will be best in that slot until and unless you get a raid drop or a zillion frost badges.

Find a guide. There are a lot of great gearing up guides out there. But make sure your guide is up to date. If you find one that looks good but is actually from patch 3.1.2 you will waste a lot of effort and not have the best gear. Many blogs and other sites have made gear guides specifically tailored for showing you the best non-raid gear you can get. Find one for your class and keep it handy. Check off each slot as you get it.

Gearing up Stage 4

This is all about raid gear and frost badges. There are actually various levels of gear from raid drops and badges so you have to do your own research as to which you want. Also which you are working on will depend on what sort of raids you are getting into. You might be 12/12 in 25 man hard modes or you might only get the occasional weekly runs. Or it could be anywhere in between. If you are regularly in 10 man pugs that get 5-6 bosses down then you can easily compile a list of gear you are likely to see drop off of those bosses. If you check this list against what you can get with frost badges you will be able to have a master wish list of what you are working toward.


These depend on your spec. First off never leave anything ungemmed or enchanted. If you are not sure what is best min-max slap a cheap enchant or gem in there until you go find out what is best. Don’t waste Epic gems on less than phase 3 gear. Put those high gold cost ones on gear that you expect to wear a while. Also keep in mind what gemming and enchanting you want will vary based on other factors.

Step By Step Powering Up

Step 1: Rotation, Talents, Glyphs

The biggest areas of ‘problem’ you can have in your character revolve around your Ability Rotation, your Talent Build and your Glyphs. These three end up being a LOT to cover. But since they are tied tightly together it is hard to fully separate them. Chances are if you make a change to one you will want to change the others… but since it is impossible to talk about them in a lump lets break them down.


What might you be doing wrong with your ability rotation? There are two big ways to screw this up. There are other ones but these to cover most of it.

Using the wrong abilities.

There are a lot of abilities out there. Even in one spec there are a lot to pick from. BUT they are NOT all appropriate for you to use. As you level up you end up with abilities that are intended to replace other abilities in your main rotation. Also as you apply talent points you increase some abilities and decrease others. In a given fight there is a limit to your mana/rage/energy and also to the number of global cooldowns and seconds you have to use abilities. You can’t use them all. You have to pick which to cast and which to not cast. If you pick one over another you might be picking wrong. No, don’t tell me that you prefer to play that way and don’t want to change. That is nonsense. Some abilities are flat wrong. For example if you are a Prot warrior you should not be using Sunder Armor. For Prot warriors the Devastate ability completely replaces Sunder Armor. If you did not notice this you might go on using the wrong one. This is just one example and there are a LOT of others. Another example is that for a Survival hunter Explosive Shot replaces Arcane shot. There is pretty much no reason for a survival hunter to ever use Arcane shot once he gets Explosive Shot. That is just how the game is made.

It is critical that you find out what abilities make sense for your spec and which do not. It is also important you understand which abilities are interchangeable depending on situation. For example a warrior can use Heroic Strike or Cleave. They both (pre Cata) go off on the next strike so you get one or the other in a given swing but not both. So you pick which you want depending on the situation. It is not just spamming buttons. One is good for certain situations and the other is good for others. If you are just randomly hitting whichever you feel like or if you just use one because it is your favorite then there is a VERY good chance you are often using one that is not the best choice.

The scope of this article is not to tell you which is best. There are FAR to many choices to cover all that. The point is to get you to go look.

DO – Find out what abilities people are recommending for your class and spec and find out WHY they are recommending them. Don’t just find one guide and do what it says. It could be wrong or it could be out of date. Read several, check for counter arguments and debate. Check the dates on what you are reading.

Using abilities at the wrong time or in the wrong order.

There are efficient rotations out there. People with a head for numbers and a lot of time on their hands have worked out what rotations of abilities make sense for particular specs. If you trigger abilities in the wrong order, or prioritize one ability over another you can see very large changes in your damage/threat/healing. Even if you are using all the ‘right’ moves but are not using them in the right proportions you may be wasting a lot of your potential. I had the experience of realizing I was not using Maul enough on my bear. I was using it. I thought I was using it a lot. But when I studied up I realized I needed to be using it EVERY SWING. So I went and made macros so it triggered every time I pressed any of my other hot keyed attacks. My DPS/TPS shot way up. I knew Maul was important, and I was using it a fair bit. But I did not realize just how important it was or just how often I needed to be using it. Had someone told me ‘maul more’ I might have scoffed and said “I do that”. It was only when realizing I had a serious PROBLEM with my DPS/TPS and that I needed to make a serious change that I finally did the reading I needed to really see what I needed to change. VERY often small tweaks like this can make a large difference in damage/healing output. Don’t assume you have to make big changes to see big differences.

DO – Read up on proposed rotations. Make sure you check if they are intended for bosses, or trash or what. Rotations vary based on the fight. Read more than one version and look up enough to understand WHY they suggest those rotations. Compare that to what you do. I mean REALLY compare. Find a target dummy and practice. What you think you do for a rotation and what you actually do may be different in subtle and important ways. If the rotations you read about have a ‘priority system’ make certain you understand what they prioritize when and why.

Analogue inserts – this is even more important for certain class/specs. For instance, the paladin tanking rotation is a very tight rotation of abilities we call the “969 rotation”: you use an ability with a 9 second cooldown, then one with a 6 second cooldown, then 9, then 6,  repeat til things are dead. If you do, you have insane amounts of aggro, control the fight, everything’s beautiful. If you don’t, you flail around, don’t have a good pattern, and your healer dies.  Not every class plays like this – for instance my healing druid might cast any spell at any time depending on what needs doing.


There are a lot of ways to screw your talents up. Some are small and some are large. Sometimes when you vary from the conventional ‘wisdom’ in your talent build it does not matter and sometimes a few misplaced or missing points can completely hamstring your build. Let’s look what what you can do wrong.

Mistaking PVP and PVE talents

Are you a PVE DPSer? Then you don’t want to be wasting many points on things that up your HP or give you more dodge. There are a LOT of talents that are aimed squarely at PVP. If you are a PVPer and you don’t have some of those you will find you are squishy and get owned a lot. If you are a PVEer and put points into many of those talents you will find your dps/heals/threat is seriously lagging.

Points you forgot about

Play styles change. You might find you are never using a certain spell but you put 3 points into making it crit more often. Oops. Don’t let your Talents sit around forgotten. Check up on them and compare what you see to how you currently play the game. If you are 80 and are still using your leveling spec to run heroics and raids then you probably have some really poorly spent points.

Key Missing Points

Many trees have some points that really make or break it. It is not always obvious what those are. For example as a bear there are 3 points you HAVE to take or you can’t be a serious tank. I was ‘bearing’ at max level for a couple weeks before I went back and did my homework and realized what I had missed.

Here is a key point: Sometimes those critical talents are not in your main tree. In fact every decent build I have ever heard of has points in other trees that are important. I have never heard of good build with 71 points in one tree. But you see this mistake a LOT. The only way for that to happen is if people do not read all the available talents and weigh what things will and will not matter for how they play. Don’t be that person! 71 points in one tree is a sure sign of a noob. Fix it before people start to point and laugh.

Listening to ‘conventional wisdom’ in place of thinking

This can really hurt you. Don’t listen and turn off your brain. I lost track of how many level 60ish DKs I ran into that had all their points in frost and were trying to tank. Why? Because you use frost presence to tank. Clearly that means you must need to put all your points there, right? Wrong. If you don’t know why (and you are a DK) you either have not read what your talents say on them or you have not read anything on the internet about DK tank builds. Probably both. There are plenty of examples of this. Like putting all your points in to BM on a hunter because someone said it was good for leveling. Well it is good for leveling but don’t put your points there just because someone said something. Read up for yourself and do your own thinking.

Leveling without respeccing

There are some great builds out there for when you are max level. You can look one up and use to assign each point as you go. But that is almost certainly a bad idea. Because what you need while leveling is not the same. It works better to assign them as you go based on what you are currently using, and everyone so often, respec completely to move some points around that you don’t need anymore.

Always be ready to respec. Any change to your play style can change what points make the best sense for you.

Using a cookie cutter build

This can work… or it can be suboptimal. If you don’t know WHY they chose those talents then you will not know if they are actually best for your play style.

Reading the text for yourself and deciding based on just that

Wait… what? That is right. If you just go off what the text of the talent (or ability) says then you can get really screwed up. Why? Because Blizzard is BAD at percentages and uses the English language ambiguously. I am an engineer who deals a lot in contracts and requirements. Those contain specific language that is intended to be completely unambiguous. If two people read one thing and come up with a different idea of what it means then that text is BAD. Blizzard, in their descriptions of what talents and abilities do, makes this mistake a lot. A WHOLE LOT. Some of the text can be very misleading. A good example of this is taunts. If you read the text of ‘mocking blow’, ‘growl’ (bear), ‘growl’ (hunter pet), and Distracting Shot and tried to explain how each was different, without doing some extra research, you would be almost certainly completely and totally wrong. And the ways you would be wrong could be life or death in a party.

I am not saying you are too dumb to figure it out. I am saying those ability tool tips can be VERY misleading. I had to explain to a warrior one time that Mocking Blow was not a taunt. But it says right there in the text that it taunts. Except it doesn’t. It is a forced attack and not an ‘attack’. This is a subtle but very critical distinction and can lead to all sorts of headaches while tanking if you are depending on that ability. When your own judgement contradicts what is out there on the internet do NOT assume you have it right. Don’t assume the internet has it right either. Keep researching until you are SURE. If you find yourself saying ‘this has to be wrong because the ability says…’ stop right there and go research more. (And if you are totally lost about those taunt descriptions then go read my posts on tanking)

I have run into this first hand. For a long time I read the text of aimed shot as applying a debuff that makes other shots hit harder. Does it say that? Well not really, but it could be argued that it does. When I figured out how wrong I was I felt pretty stupid. This leads me to another point…

Since this post has gotten too long I will make it my last point.

Don’t let ‘feeling stupid’ get in the way of getting powered up

We all hate to feel like a buffoon. There are a lot of things about powering up that can make us feel that way. If someone gives us some criticism we mentally reject it. That sort of thing make us feel bad. Don’t look at it that way. Find a way to see their point. This means EVEN if they were a total asshat about it there might STILL be a point in there. In fact even if they way they worded it was WRONG there still might be a point in there somewhere if you look at things from all angles. If you are serious about getting better you need to start treating all criticism as a chance to improve your game.

Changing your rotation? Makes you feel awkward and clumsy.

Changing spec? Makes you feel totally lost and confused.

Reading that some other ability (that you ignore) is important. Makes you feel defensive, and annoyed with yourself and others.

Finding some advice that counters your thinking on gems or enchants? Makes you want to defend your side of things, or to call ‘sour grapes’ on their thinking.

There are many ways that trying to power up can get us defensive, or feeling stupid. Do NOT let that get in the way. You are in control of your own mind and emotions. Don’t let them control you and do NOT let them send you pack to your old less effective way of playing. It is easy to convince yourself that you are good enough. This is a crutch we lean on when getting better seems to hard. Most of that ‘hardness’ is mental and not real. Don’t let your natural reactions get in the way.

They are natural reactions. I am not saying feeling stupid is stupid. We ALL feel dumb when we realize we have been making a mistake. That is normal and perfectly ok. It does not mean you are dumb. It is only dumb to let that feeling rule you. Harness that annoyance and make it motivate you to get better.

It is VERY easy to let this sort of thing get in the way. Many times I have seen an issue with something and resisted actually doing something about it. I would slog forward for a while until the problem blew up in my face or the slog got so annoying I had to fix what was wrong. Have you ever done that? Ever realized your spec was bad but did not bother to fix it for a while? I think we have all been there at one time or another. Just learn to recognize when you are trying to avoid fixing something. It is usually a good indicator when you find yourself thinking up an excuse for something.

 I had intended this post to give a case study of one character I did some ‘powering up’ to. But it has turned into such a huge wall of text I will save the practical examples for other posts. In the future I will try to document an actual ‘power up’ session and post what resources I use.

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The other half of dual boxing…

This post is the flip side of Analogue’s post.

As she said we have been doing RAF. We started things off a month or so back with her doing the ‘new’ and disposable account and power-leveling alts for me. The plan had been to pair that way and then when I had a few up near 58 or so we would swap roles and power level a bunch of alts for her with a different disposable RAF account. This worked well for a while but we finally thought hey, why not just multi-box and do it all at once.

Multi boxing

As many of you know people use this term for one player running several characters. Most people seem to do this with one computer and various mods and macros to synchronize their characters. I personally prefer using multiple computers. I have had a multi computer desk setup for a long time… er… probably 12 or 14 years. Some time in an old game called ShadowBane I started regularly running two accounts. In that game aggro was just a ‘whoever hit it first’ thing so it was super easy to have a meat shield and a healer/nuker. I just put the meat shield on a pack of mobs and then played the other computer until the fight was over. It was easy, effective, and fun.

Later I did a lot of multi accounting on EVE online. In that game, if you have things set right you can be pretty effective with a pair. There were no mods to help but there are various ways to have one ship follow another of fly in formation. Also if I was doing asteroid mining running two machines made a boring task into something slightly less boring and twice as profitable.

With my setups I always use dual keyboards and mice. I never tried a KVM and can’t see how it could possibly help. Nothing beats being able to have one hand on each set of hot keys. Having to flip a switch would suck.

The center piece of a multi computer setup is the desk. I have this sweet one I found at a used office furniture place many years back. It has two halves, front and back. Each is about 1 foot deep and each is independently height adjustable. The whole thing is about 5 feet long. So there is room for a row of monitors in the back and a row of key boards in the front. I added an extra keyboard try on the upper deck so I can pull it out when I am using a third keyboard. Right now my main machine is a mac laptop. I have that mounted on a movable sing arm clamped to the desk’s upper deck. It’s monitor is directly in front of me and the laptop on the arm is off to the right. My second machine is one of our older gaming rigs, mostly build out of a machine Analogue had before we were married. Its monitor is on the left. Its keyboard is on that side too and the main keyboard is in front of me.

I have both mice on the right side of the keyboards. The left computer’s mouse is ‘above’ the other (i.e. slightly farther toward the back of the desk) This means if I am switching my attention to the left side machine I simply turn my head left while moving my left hand left and my right hand ‘up’ and left. Now I am on the other mouse and keyboard. For this multi boxing I actually have a USB gaming keypad between the keyboards so it is a short move from WASD on the main keyboard to the pad just to the left of it. And it is a similarly short distance to hop between the mice. This makes switching back and forth far faster and more intuitive than having to flip some KVM would be. I don’t have to check what a switch is set for, I know based on where my hands are.

WOW dual boxing, my style

I have dual boxed wow a fair bit before. Mostly on lowby characters. It was not all that easy or fun. It was not BAD, but it just was not as fun as playing only one. For one thing your efficiency goes down. So you can either be playing one character and only using the other to loot quest stuff, or you are trying to use two and not being 100% effective with either. This can be annoying. Looting on an offside is triple annoying. So this sucked enough fun away to make me not do it often.

RAF provides the opportunity to fix some of that. For one thing old world leveling is so nerfed that you can be effective even if you are not 100% focused on one character. With RAF the triple makes things SO fast that it is worth it to have an efficiency decrease in your play. The blinding leveling speed adds a ‘sweet!’ element that offsets the annoyance of swapping back and forth. Also the leveling bonus means you can skip most gather quests and avoid a lot of the headache of looting on your offside account.

My goal when we started this most recent dual boxing experiment was to do everything I could to make it simple and fun. More simple and more fun than my previous WOW dual boxing. I use two ways to go about this. One was selecting characters I was very familiar with. This gives me the edge of not having to learn my class at the same time. It works because SAN is on a new server to us and I don’t have a max level hunter there. Plus I had not leveled a hunter in a while. Ages ago I did several of them and the leveling got stale. Now it is all fresh but still familiar.

Let me tell you, for dual boxing hunters are a GREAT choice. Between auto shot and a good dps pet they can do 50-70 percent of their max damage potential just by pressing one key. In retrospect this would have been great for an offside character. The next pair we make I will make an offside hunter. With this pair I had my hunter decked out in the full set of heirlooms, chest, shoulders, trinkets, 2h axe and bow, everything except the ring. This gave me insane damage. Through the whole session the hunter was consistently 65+ percent of our damage for the whole party of 4. I wanted an nice AOE debuff pet so the first thing we did when I hit 10 was have Analogue’s max lvl pally run me to Northrend for a nice hawk (vultures are ugly). (There are level 7 hawks hanging out near Utgarde Keep, the lowest level hawks in the game.)

That covers my main account/computer but what about the offside? Druid ended up being an ok but not super choice. With Analogue healing on both of hers the healing aspects of the druid were not used. However, the druid’s durability compared to other caster classes was nice. I tried two different ways of setting it up first I will cover the one I liked best.

Offside Character Control

First off I used a follow macro like Analogue explained in her post. Super handy, fast, one button and the character is on follow. No targeting and right clicking. The auto targeting is what made that macro great and made it better than our older dual boxing experience.

First way

Of course I did not stop there. Next up I made some nice attack macros. This are the ones I use more than anything else and I LOVED how effective they were. Here it is.

/cast [target=focustarget] wrath

That is it. “target=focustarget” means the spell will be fired at whatever my ‘focus’ has selected. So the first thing I do when logging in and partying up is to set my druid’s focus on my hunter. Now, with that macro, my hunter has full control over who my druid targets and I never have to select targets manually on the other computer. That saves a lot of clicking and means I almost never need to touch the ‘offside’ mouse. I made a macro like that for Starfire, Wrath and, Moonfire. I made them the 1, 2, and 3 keys respectively. So now all I had to do, was target something on my hunter and then pick the 1,2, or 3 depending on how long I wanted the cast time to be.

Setting up a pull was easy. I targeted with the hunter, pressed ‘1’ on the offside keypad to start a nice long Starfire cast and then went to the hunter and selected pet attack (macroed to my #1 using “/petattack”). Then I waited a heartbeat or two (Starfire is a looong cast) and then pressed arcane shot or multishot, depending on the situation. WHAM! That target took a ton of damage. If I wanted to hit it hard some more I just pressed any of the 1-3 on the druid while hitting arcane shot or multi shot again (Mostly alternating them. They both hit hard even on single targets). Doing attacks this way meant that by threat was spread out over two characters so often my bird was able to hold agro even though the target had just had most of its HP blown away. Also it meant even if the pet did not hold agro most targets were dead before they even reached me(us).

In heavier combat it was easy to tab target on my hunter and then start a new attack on the druid, just one button press on the offside. With the hunter in full control of the targeting I was able to get a lot out of the offside account with minimal button pressing. Because I was in command of 3/4 of our TOTAL party damage meant that no marks or anything were needed. Whoever the hunter was targeting was automatically the primary target and it died rather fast. This made fights easy and fast. Being short a player (party of 4) did not hurt us in part because of tightly focused damage dealing.

I also made some macros that auto targeted my focus target for some healing. One button press to hit the focus target for some rejuv or healing touch. I found once things got into heavy fighting I did not bother with that. I let Analogue handle healing while I kept up the focused damage. Sometimes I did use my offside druid’s Vudo setup. That was as easy as grabbing that mouse and right clicking a few frames to spread damage around.

The trickiest thing was positioning. The druid was on follow on the hunter. So if we got over run with mobs she was not always facing the target. One way we dealt with that was for Analogue’s pair to move to the front of the pack as the fight started and throw some tanking moves. This kept things in front of the druid. The other problem there was that the hunter could not back up to get into minimum arrow range. That would face the druid away from the fight. Fortunately with the 2 hand heirloom axe Raptor Strike does a pile of damage. Between that and the ability of the druid to keep nuking without the fuss of maneuvering two characters, I did a lot of melee huntering.

For boss fights and a few others I would move the druid off ‘follow’ and pre position it somewhere. I would pick a spot with her back to a wall and a good 180 degree view of the battle. This way the hunter could do all the running, jumping, weaving, and shooting she wanted to do and the druid still had sight of her target. Any time I hit the offside keys the druid would deliver its nature-y destruction on target. :D

Second way

I also made some macros just for targeting various targets, the only three needed were the focus (partner), the target of focus, and self (/cleartarget). I found that I actually did not use them for the druid. What I did use them for was a short session where I was controlling both of another RAF pair we have. Using those three target macros, bound to some handy keys (F10, F11, F12) I was able to use all the ability bars that character had already set up for single account play. Those three macros and the previously mentioned follow macro were all it took to make an offside computer account, previously set up for one player use into a decent ‘offside’ character. This assumes a properly setup hot button bar (1-10) and easy access to the other keyboard (or a USB pad with 1-10 and F10-F12).

So those were the two distinct ways I have been messing with to control my dual setup. When the druid gets more abilities I might change things around. I need to find a fast and effective way to target Hurricane and Volley at the same time. I also need to respec the druid to full balance. I also plan to mess with using the hunter as the ‘offside’. On our next pair I am sure to use a hunter offside but I am still trying to decide what the ‘main’ will be. Since the main is the ‘keeper’ character I have to decide what I want to have leveled as well as what will work well in this sort of pairing.

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Only made four levels on the noobs yesterday, even with triple XP. I thought I’d take a post and explain a few points about Recruit-a-Friend leveling with regards to established paired players, but first, our story:

Over lunch we made two levels in Darkshire killing some skeletons. Reversion works really close to the house so we can get forty minutes of playtime in if I’ve got lunch ready to go when he gets home. Usually we run an instance; right now, it’s easy to get a level or two on our RAF noobies. Run around, nom some food, ding. It’s that easy.

About four o’clock in the afternoon the power went out for a second. It does that around here kind of a lot. One of the many reasons that the power company may be my most despised utility. They have to beat out the internet provider and that’s a daily competition. Whose commercials do I hear more on the radio that day? Do I have to call up and yell at the internet guys that no, we don’t have cable tv, we don’t want cable tv, I don’t care if it’s only $5 more, go away and die. Or… do we get stupid unexplained power outages.

I get up, check all the parts of our network, turn my computer back on (I know, I need a UPS. Bleah) and wait… there’s a blinking yellow light on the new Airport Express that runs the gaming rigs’ half of the network. Ugh. I find the tool I want on Reversion’s Mac (we’re a mixed marriage; Catholic Mac fan to Presbyterian Windows user) and try restoring settings. It doesn’t work, I decide I’ll leave it and just play with the Nomster. She’s cuter anyway.

Reversion gets home, we set the network back up. He logs into WoW as I try to figure out why my machine isn’t getting a connection. I plug some  cables back into the switch. The network goes down.

We spend the next hour or more trying to figure out why, now, we can’t see the devices we could see before. Finally in the midst of brainstorming, Reversion looks at the switch… where I’ve plugged both ends of one cable in. Making a loop. This is a Bad Thing. I know it’s a Bad Thing. I have a masters degree in Computer Science. In grad school, I was a systems admin for our department. Go ahead, point and laugh.

Evening’s pretty much shot but we log on for 45 minutes, get two levels, pick up some flight points, and chat a little with folks that are on in SAN. It’s really cool saying Hi to people you know from blogs. Way more fun leveling up over there.

Anyway. The actual content of this post is about RaF leveling in pairs. First, a warning. Please don’t get your girlfriend an RaF account and nag her into playing WoW with you. Leveling goes too darn fast. She’s likely to end up with a level 60 character she has no idea how to play, a whirlwind trip across half of Azeroth, and a bad taste in her mouth. Honestly the best approach there is to let her develop an interest in the game and then use RaF to power level a character she wants to play, if you’re determined to use RaF at all.

Ok, that out of the way, RaF is great for pairs who play together and want to power level some alts. Decide who gets the new account and who is the ‘veteran’ player. The Veteran will get the loot (sweet rocket ride) so you may have to do this twice to make sure nobody gets left out ;-) Anyway the Veteran emails an invitation to the other member of the pair, who clicks the link in the email to create a linked account.

You can have this linked account on the same Battle.net account as your real WoW account. You just have to be on a separate Battle.net account from the Veteran account.

Now, this new account is a trial account. It can’t level past 20, or trade, or join a guild, or whisper people, or invite to groups. Thank your friendly neighborhood gold sellers for this one. If you are doing this to get the mount, what you do next is buy two game time cards or time card codes – these you can buy from Blizzard’s online store – activate your account as a real account, and apply the time cards. Now you have an active account with three months of playtime on it. When you add the first month of playtime, the Veteran account receives one month free playtime. When you add the second month, the Veteran gets the rocket mount.

The rocket can only go to one character on the Veteran account. You select which from the RaF website showing what rewards you’ve received, and the character gets the rocket in in-game mail.

A note about upgrading from a trial account to a real one: the leveling restriction is removed right away but the other restrictions may take a while. I upgraded mine around noon Saturday and did not get an email saying that the upgrade was complete until late Sunday. Meanwhile, I’d dinged 25 and was seriously hurting for cash.

Thanks to triple XP leveling speed, you need to train all the darn time and you have to do so little questing, you just don’t have money.  For this reason you might want to make the new characters on a server where you have friends or other characters who can loan you cash. Don’t bother taking gather skills and trying to mine your way to gold; you level way too fast for that. Fortunately we had a hundred gold or so on Argent Dawn already thanks to our previous time in SAN.

More RAF details: you have to be grouped together to get the bonus XP, and fairly close . Watch carefully, you don’t want to miss any of that precious precious XP! Pick up the “Kill Ten X” quests and not so much the “Bring me 18 tongues” quests. Takes too long. Plan ahead and pick up quests for instances, then run the instance and do all the quests. You’ll probably only go once before it’s not worth it for XP.  We did Stockades with the full set of 6 quests. By the time we could even get the Wetlands quest, some of them were green. Between running Stocks and turning in, we got four levels.

Strategize: once per hour each of you can summon the other to where you are. Set your hearthstones in different locations and use it as a quick travel method. (One at the trainer, one at the quest hub works nicely). Train every fourth level, or you’ll be running back to the trainer all the time. And look for quests that reward gear…

The newbie character can grant levels to a character on the veteran account, one level per every two that the newbie has. So if the newbie runs a character up to 60, he can grant 30 levels to a veteran character. To do this you have to be in the same location so it’s same server only.

You also gain a little more reputation than otherwise, I think it’s 10% extra. Just FYI.

So why would you want to do this? There’s the mount, of course. There’s having some level 60 characters fast – nice for figuring out if you actually like a playstyle, since many characters don’t really handle like they will at endgame until at least 40 if not 60. If you want a stable of alts on another server, this works well.

Cost: $20 for the new account plus $30 game time if you’re doing the two months = $50. If you’re paying for the veteran account from the same budget, subtract the $15 of free time the veteran receives = $35.  Any characters you transfer off of the newbie account are $25. I’ll probably just abandon mine  and we’ll RaF again so I can get a mount and permanent characters.

So far: our characters are level 34 and our /played time is something like 16 hours, and that includes leaving WoW logged in and walking away.

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Instances are a dance. They are a dance of destruction and death and hopefully a dance of life and success.

The tank leads. Leading is not about going at your own pace, it is about setting a pace your partners can keep up with. You don’t set the pace too slow or your partners get bored and either leaves or tries to lead. If your partners are more accomplished dancers you may have to push yourself hard to keep up with them while still leading. The tank may even have to lean on them a bit or ask one of them to lead for short periods of time.

Leading in a dance does not mean you are in control. It means you make the first move and you signal as much as you can to your partner so she can keep up. Ignoring your partner almost totally only works when you know they for certain can keep up. When you do know they know the tune and the steps then you can cut loose. But if not, you will quickly find yourself dancing alone. A good tank is a good dance partner no matter who his partner is. Fast, slow, waltzing or break dancing a good tank knows them all. Leading also means finding out how NOT to step on the toes of your partner. It also means being polite when your partner steps on yours… but not too polite unless you like sore toes.

The DPS and heals all follow. Following means reading your partner’s moves and matching, echoing or merely complimenting them. It also means pusing yourself when they are challenging you to keep up. If the lead partner is good they will set a pace you can handle even if it is a whirlwind. You might surprise yourself as you stretch to keep up. You might get burned if they prove to be a poor lead, but you will never know unless you step out and allow them to toss you in the air every now and then. It might be a frightening at first but better to embrace the challenge than to refuse to be led.

This analogy shows how BOTH sides have to adapt. You might have to read their intentions and follow. The lead has to communicate those intentions and be sure all partners can keep up.

The dance is never more smooth than when you partner with someone that really knows you and your style. My best partner is my wife. I have run with some great healers that were able to keep up, but when it comes to knowing my rhythm she is best. It certainly helps that she has crazy uber healing gear. However, even uber gear will not keep me alive when I pop cat form and dash two groups ahead and start AOEing the crud out of 4 packs at once.

In some ways though, a very good and very familiar partner will make us complacent. We stop trying to read every move and just fall on familiar patterns. An unfamiliar partner forces us to read and learn as we go.

Most of all we cannot refuse to dance. If our partner for a swing-dance drops and starts spinning around on their head we must be at lead willing to shrug and follow along as best we can. If you refuse to dance to all except one sort of music you will find yourself unhappy and short of partners. But when it comes to pugs don’t assume you will know the tune, the song, or even get a flat dance floor.

I wanted to toss this post out there as background before I get to my upcoming post about multi pulls and go-go-go tanking. It is important for a tank to keep in mind that even as he/she is setting a whirlwind pace their partners are still there and still being considered. How you consider them might be different but even the best geared tank can-not do things alone. (well maybe technically they can but that is a different topic)

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I was recently running a UK run on my 69 (now 70) warrior. We had a frost mage in the group. He was speced to make just about everything he cast do a ‘nova’ type effect and freeze things in place. I mentioned he should avoid using nova. In response I got called some names. He kept saying that if I could hold aggro it did not matter and that nova was ‘what mages DO’. He also insisted that on his tank and his 7 levels 80s (yeah right) he had NEVER heard a tank ask for a mage to not use frost nova. If that is true (i doubt it) there is a serious lack of communication going on out there. I decided my next installment needs to be targeted at this particular gap.

This post is aimed specifically at Ranged DPS, though other roles may benefit from it.

As you all know tanks do threat to keep aggro. The more threat they do the more likely they are to hold the attention (aggro) of the pack in question. Tanks do threat to the pack in several ways. Primarily they hit them and get a chunk of aggro equal to their damage done times some multiplier depending on their spec and class. This threat is applied only to the target they are hitting . They also have some abilities which do melee hits on more than one target, usually 2. This means some of the other critters in the pack get threat applied to them also. All classes of tank also have various things that do AOE threat. These moves are have 8 yard radius for Pally and Bear, 20 yard radius (but less threat per second) and 30 or so for things like death and decay. There are a few other moves tanks use for AOE threat but these are the main ones (DK do more other things that don’t have a strict radius (honestly I don’t know a lot about DK moves)). This means that anything within that range of a tank is probably getting some threat. Outside of strict melee (point blank) and this aoe radius, tanks have very few ways to generate threat. There are a few, but compared to the damage that a hit from a ranged DPS, the other tricks don’t amount to anything. So this leaves taunts.

A taunt works a very specific way. It takes the top person on the threat list and gives the tank that much threat. Taunts also force the target to attack the tank. What does this mean to you the RDPS?

Let’s get to some situations you are likely to see. When a creature is in the melee around the tank you have to do 130% of the tank’s threat to get that critter to attack you. Below 130% and it will stay on the tank. Above 130% and you are now that thing’s worst enemy and it will do anything to come and get you. Once the creature turns to come get you the tank has a very tiny window to use a melee ability before that creature is out of melee range. Even if the tank IS able to hit it with a melee move they would have to do 40% more threat instantly to grab aggro back. This is the 30% you beat them by and then the 10% melee range threat buffer.

You see, while you have to do 130% to pull off a tank from caster range, it only takes 110% to pull off a tank in melee range. That is melee range to the creature, not to the tank. That is the melee range threat buffer.

So it would take 130% more threat for the tank to catch up with you and then 10% more for him to out threat you and reclaim aggro… and that is just that first instant. A moment later the critter has passed out of the tank’s melee range and is headed your way. Now to ‘out threat’ you the tank will have to hit it with 30% more threat than you (160% of where he was when you pulled off ago). Which pretty much means he has to taunt it. Either that or he has to run after the critter, and hit it enough times to make up all that threat.

For discussion’s sake let us say the critter gets all the way to you and then the tank taunts. Now that this moment the tank has the exactly same aggro as you. He also has the creatures attention. The creature will turn and head toward the tank. If you continue to attack that creature you will only have to do 10% more threat to pull it off the tank. And is taunt is on cooldown. Hence this is a very critical window when you must do something difficult and complicated. That thing that you must do is this: STOP SHOOTTING THAT ONE!!!

Have I fully explained why that is? Is it completely clear that the tank can’t do much more after he taunts and must rely on that creature coming back into his melee range? Well there is one thing.. Lets see what that looks like, shall we? Let us say that you keep shooting that one. Now you blow past that 10% and you are once again getting beat on by that critter. What are the tanks options. Keep in mind he already had to rotate his camera around, find where that guy ran too, select the moving target, and fire his taunt. A good tank can do all that pretty fast, but that ‘pretty fast’ is still a distraction from what he had been doing. While he was doing all that he was NOT continuing to apply threat moves to the targets around him. Now maybe it only took one, or two global cooldowns, not a big amount of time, but it still was a distraction.

Back to his options after you agro through his taunt.. Some tanks might have death grip, charge or another taunt (pallys have two ranged taunts). If he has to taunt again he is still back where he was a moment ago, relying on you to change targets. Even worse if he charges or runs over to get them off you the hard way he/she is risking all the other creatures he was tanking pulling off and attacking other party members. Every moment you are distracting the tank is a moment where the healer or another DPS might pulls something off.

So you absolutely must change targets or that one you pulled had better be very very close to dead.

What else can you do during all this that would really annoy the tank? Frost nova. What did that do? Now you have a critter that is completely stuck and unable to run back to the tank. Even if the tank taunts the critter is stuck. Best case here is the tank taunts, and you change targets and the creature is safely back ‘on’ the tank even though it is stuck. But, the tank might not KNOW it is back on him. It is hard to tell when they are stuck over there. So it is still a source of distraction for your tank.

Here is the part that is worse. A creature stuck in place, able to hit things, but unable to reach the top target on its threat table, will attack anything it can reach. If you fail to move away from the nova the creature will still hit you, even after the tank taunts it ‘off’ you. Even if you DO move it can still hit anyone that was near you. Which might include a healer or another ranged DPS.

“Oh,” You say. “But they only have to move away too.” Sure. But do they notice? How many hits can a healer take? Is the healer too concerned with keeping the tank alive, or saving that rogue over there standing in the fire? She might not SEE the nova-ed thing next to her. A healer’s biggest enemy is tunnel vision on the health bars. It is quite often that a healer can see nothing else. The health bars are their whole world. Plus even if the healer DOES notice and moves away that movement might have interrupted a important cast that was going to save someone.

All of this about Frost Nova also goes for things like earth bind totem. It goes for any move that holds things in place but does not stop their attacks.  Those moves are only intended to keep things OFF you. In a party that is the tank’s job, not yours. And those moves interfere with the tank doing that job. It is not a wash or a nitpick to rail against that. Anything that you do to make the tanks job harder is endangering the whole party.

Just be cause you have a move does not mean it is a good idea to use it in instances.

One of the the tanks roles is to position the battle. They chose where the battle takes place and, if needed, they move the battle around (for example to avoid a patrol or to shift the boss off the fire). Anything that interferes with this must be used with caution or not at all. Typhoon and Thunderstorm are problems here too. They seriously disrupt the tanks ability to position and move the group and they blow things completely out of the tank’s AOE threat radius. While they are nifty and fun moves they have only a very VERY limited use in instances and should be avoided in most cases. THIS IS NOT TRIVIAL. The tank is not just whining and being a douche for complaining about it. These things make his/her job a lot harder. Just because a few tanks were overly nice and did not complain in the past does not mean most tanks are not annoyed by these moves. For example part of my warrior’s opening rotation is to align the pack into the cone in front of me and then use shockwave. It really hampers things, wastes a cooldown, and risks pulling stuff off me if someone typhoons at the start of a fight. This blows all of them out of my shockwave target area and ensures my next thunderclap will not hit them all.

Yes, most of the time using one of these will not wipe a group or even cause a big problem. That does not mean you should use them. And it does not meant a tank is being whiny to complain about you using them.

If all of this was too confusing click here.

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