So I started giving advice to our friend and fill-in raider Bocat concerning getting her numbers up on Firelands boss fights. But I figured such advice was good post material so here goes. The thing with firelands bosses, at least the first 4, is that they are movement and target switching heavy. That is tough stuff and it is stuff you can’t just theory craft and optimize or practice on a target dummy… or can you? There are some things you can do to up your damage on fights with a lot of target switching and movement. These things mostly relate to…
Increasing your situational awareness can up your damage done in a few ways. It will let you move less so you have more time to hit stuff. It lets you not move when you don’t have to and not move excessively far when you do have to. It will let you acquire targets faster so you spend more time hitting them. Situational awareness will also keep you alive so you spend more time hitting. Finally it will help you plan your actions better.
Move early, move less, move smaller
On a movement heavy fight it is common to have bad stuff come at your or spawn under you. That is one of the main reasons you move. By being more situationally aware you will see ‘bad stuff’ coming earlier. You will also be able to judge if the ‘stuff’ is really a threat or if it going to miss you. If it is going to miss you don’t need to move. Taking the effort to really see what is going on around you will let you avoid moving when you don’t have to. It will also let you move just the minimum amount. The faster you stop moving and get back to the pewpew the better your damage will be.
Early movement also helps. If you can take one fast movement early you can focus on doing damage again. If you watch the stuff coming at you for a while and move at the last second, your focus is split. Also focusing on just one bit of the ‘the bad’ might mean you don’t see something else.
Look at the stuff, decide on your reaction, do it, get back to the task at hand. Once you have done the move you planned you can ignore that bit of ‘the bad’. Like a car you pass on the freeway. Once you decide to pass it, and complete your pass, it is gone, done, ignorable, no longer a factor in your planning. You should always be thinking ahead to the next step and not looking behind in your mental rearview mirror.
See the targets, know the targets
Before you make a target change you should already know where your target is, what it is doing, and have a plan for when you are going to switch to it. If you have to spend several seconds looking around for a target that is several seconds you are not DPSing.
The power curve
There is an expression called the ‘power curve’. It is a way of expressing if you are in control of a situation or if you are just reacting. It is well known that those who are only reacting are less efficiently. Pilots know this well. Sometimes when a poor pilot crashes they say he was, “So far behind the plane he did not die for an hour”. Morbid, yes, but it aptly describes being in a bad situation where you are reacting. Reacting to things that already happened… and probably reacting wrong because 3 other things have already happened AFTER the one you are reacting to. The pilot is so far behind the sequence of events the plane has been a smoking hole for several minutes before he catches up.
The more ‘aware’ you are the more you can get ahead of events’. Know what is coming next and have a plan for what you will do. When you get good at that practice knowing what is coming two moves ahead and have 3 plans for that. The farther ahead of events you are the easier it is to deal with the NOW. People that are behind events all the time can’t imagine having the mental ‘bandwidth’ to think that far ahead. But the truth is when you ARE thinking ahead then ‘now’ is a lot less distracting. You are stable and grounded because you know what is happening. You know what is happening because you expected it to happen.
How to be more aware
Look around. Yeah that is all there is to it… no that is not true. First you have to look and then you have to SEE.
Use your camera independently of your character facing. Don’t look around BETWEEN casts, look around DURRING casts. If you have a long cast started and you know what your next cast will be you have several seconds you can look all around. You can even fire your next ability off while looking. It is better to be slightly less focused on your rotation for a couple seconds, every now and then, instead of losing awareness and getting into trouble. Look around any time you can spare the time.
Know what you are looking at and understand it. This means paying extra attention to videos and the prefight briefing. It also means being more knowledgeable about parts of the fight that are not ‘your’ part. Seeing is understanding. Don’t neglect a glance at the DBM timers. Know what is coming up next and how soon. Memorize the sequence of the fight and never get taken by surprise.
Now what do you do with all this ‘seeing and knowing’ stuff?
When are you blowing cooldowns? Do you have time to blow one now on this target? Can you move your cooldown use around and get more of them in one fight? Can you stack them better? Can you wait for a proc and stack something with that?
When are you saving your resources? When can you blow them?
Where can you stand that will keep you from having to move so much? Where can you stand that will let you SEE more without LOOKING so much? Where can you stand that will anticipate where you need to be for the next phase? Which way do you have to look so you can see the next phase before it comes?
Practice and experience
The thing is… it is really hard to do all this without seeing the fight, a lot. There is a reason progression raiders are better than average. It is because they ‘put in the wipes’ necessary to know the fights inside and out. Two players of equal ‘skill’ one that knows the fights and one that doesn’t are going to have very different levels of play and the numbers will show it.
On a fight with heavy target changing I can tell by looking at the meter who is good at that and who isn’t. And this you CAN practice on dummies. There are three aspects to a target change: Reorienting, Acquiring and ‘Ramping up’.
This means turning and moving to get into position to attack the new target. This varies by class. Some have to run over to a new target and some can just spin and shoot. Some have ways of moving fast and some don’t. But there is a large element of player skill here. For example a keyboard turning pally will lag way way way behind a really pro hunter… but a really skilled pally using mouse turning and thinking in advance can keep up with dense hunter. Sure player class has a big effect but only your own skill can make the most of the class you are playing (of course it is also up to the raid leader to assign you a role that plays to your strengths and your classes strengths).
Planning ahead makes reorienting faster. This is how situational awareness and thinking ahead ups your performance. Can you move a little between casts and shave get closer to where you need to be on the next phase? If so you are likely to engage a new target several seconds sooner. That is tens or hundreds of K in damage. That really can add up!
Acquiring is the act of finding, and targeting the new target. This is done before, after, or at the same time as ‘reorienting’. Like reorienting your skill makes this faster or slower. Better reorienting also make this faster. If your camera was already lined up where the adds spawn, and you had already shifted to be in range of them, then you are likely to engage be able to get them targeted extremely fast. Situational awareness wins again.
Once you have a new targeting selected and you are in position to attack it you still have to get into your rotation. You have to apply debuffs, dots, start the right cast sequence, all that stuff that is needed to do good damage. There is a huge element of player skill in this. There is also focus and planning but those are skills too. For if you forget to apply an important debuff (or self buff) until you are the second time through your rotation you probably just wasted many thousands of points of damage. Ramping up is something you CAN practice. It is hard to get feedback though. You can sit on a target dummy and go through the first 10-30 second of your rotation over and over but it will be hard to know how improved you are. I would suggest timing yourself for s set period of time. Like go for exactly 15 seconds each time and then look at the overall damage done. Also read, study, and think. There is always some other tip or trick out there that can improve your opening rotation.
This stuff is not easy
Anyone that had raid healed, raid tanked, and really pushed themselves at raid DPS will probably agree that dps is not ‘easier’. In some ways it is harder. Healing and tanking get easier as your gear and skill improve but DPS, progression minded DPS, is always a challenge. There is always more to improve. If it gets easy you are slacking! Try harder… well that is not totally true. If you get really good at knowing fights and being situational aware then things will feel easier, less frantic, less disorienting. Your brain, fingers, and awareness will be freed up to work on the task of squeezing out those last few points of damage.
A couple final tips
When force to move here are a few things to try:
Move during the GCD: The global cooldown gives a caster enough time for a very short couple steps. The best time to do this is when you just fired an instant cast or you are about to fire one. Start moving before you fire. Fire while moving. And stop as soon as the GCD is up. If your rotation has a couple instant casts in it you can usually move a good few yards in just one rotation. So, if you have some place you want to move, but you don’t have to move their for a few seconds, you can use this trick to move in short steps without any lost DPS. This is great for things like slowly kited bosses.
Refreshing dots: Sure that dot might have a lot of time left on it but if you can refresh it with an instant cast while moving then that is two global cooldowns worth of movement time that are not completely wasted.