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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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Pop Quiz!

Dear DPSers: This is your midterm exam. All topics are open-book and may be answered as short essays or interpretive dance, your choice. Signed, Your Healer.

Question One:

Your party comes equipped with a tank. His job is to get the skeletons and dragons to hit him. This is because he has a shield, or shiny armor, or… really thick fur.  You, however, are wearing tissue paper (wet tissue paper, if you’re a mage). Even if you think it’s plate, it’s not, it’s just really shiny tissue paper.

Your job is to shoot things and make them die. Sometimes this makes them mad at you. Then they will come and hit you. I will try to keep you alive but it won’t work very well. At this point, there are three things you can do.

1. Stop hitting the dragon and hope it loses interest in you. This strategy obviously doesn’t work because no one ever tries it.

2. Keep hitting it and hope it dies before you do. This is the preferred behavior for mages and other suicidal maniacs.

3. Run screaming away from the tank while it tries to eat you. For best effect, bring it right over to me! After all, I am there to heal you, probably I’ll be even more able to do that at close range. And if not, maybe the mob will decide I taste better than you do.

Question Two:

Ooops! Now I’m dead. Assuming you notice this, Mr. Shadow Priest, what are you going to do?

1. Continue doing what you’re doing and hope they all die before you do

2. Try some of those weird spells from the “Holy” side of your book?

3. Hmm, what’s this “Shadowmeld” button do?

Question Three:

We survived! But I have no mana. What is the proper course of action?

1. Write a couple jokes in party chat while you wait for me to drink and then stand around waiting for me to heal you?

2. Same as above, except, since you’re a warlock, Life Tap as soon as I stand up?

3. Ask me for an innervate after I have finished eating and drinking?

4. Get bored and pull the next group?

Question Four:

Who can remove curses?

1. Druids and Priests

2. Druids and Mages

3. Druids, Priests, Shaman, and Paladins. This does not take any time at all in fights and if you ever have a curse on you after a fight, it means your healer sucks and should be booted.

Question Five: Why is my queue 30 minutes long? I want to go now!

1: It’s long because there are lots and lots of dps out there, and a lot fewer healers, and even fewer tanks.

2: It’s long because Blizzard hates me

3: It’s long because I have been a bad person and gotten on the ignore list of too many tanks

4. It’s long because sometimes tanks and healers get burned out and want to mindlessly dps things, or decided to go watch reruns of “Star Trek” instead.

Final Question, For Bonus Credit:

As a dps’er, the most important thing I bring to this pug is:

Gear?

Skill?

Situational Awareness, ie, noticing when I have aggro, taking the aggro’d mob back to the tank, picking up healing or tanking if the real healer/tank drops, knowledge of basic instance courtesy, and an understanding of what other classes can and cannot do?

The first two items directly affect your performance on meters. The third is unmeasurable, yet far more important. Your healer and tank may never say they notice, but they do; they always do. And it helps prevent tank burnout more than anything else out there since dual spec.

Reversion’s Bonus questions.
For extra credit answer the following multiple choice. Which answer best describes each of the following abilities.

Feign Death:
A: A great tool for role players for their little charades. Of no use to actual game play.
B: Skill that lets you get some rest and take a break from combat. Good for mana regeneration.
C: Useless skill that does nothing but lower your dps.
D: Skill to dump agro or get stuff off you. Not ever to be used in parties. After all it is the tanks fault you pulled agro, right? I mean blizzard gave that skill to you for… well no reason really, so please don’t use it. Ever.

Invisibility:
(See above)

Fade:
(See above)

Vanish:
(See above)

Army of the dead:
A: Really funny movie.
B: Great way to up your dps numbers at any time and any place.
C: Something tanks whine about when you use it at the wrong time and place. They are stupid liars so ignore them.
D: A great skill to relieve loneliness.

Frost Nova:
A: Freezes things near you and keeps them from moving away from that blizzard you are casting. That way I can build up lots and lots of agro with mobs that the tank may not be able to reach. Very handy for when your ghost needs to get out and some exercise.
B: Ability for keeping monsters from being able to get to the tank. This is useful because it allows the poor misunderstood monsters to take out their aggressing on any rogues, healers or mages that happen to be standing near them when you cast it.
C: None of the above
D: How can a nova be made of ice? Blizzard is stupid.

Final double extra credit question. Essay.
Someone has suggested you need to use a different skill, or update your spell ranks, or that you should be able to get a lot more than 1200 dps with all T9 gear. In 1000 words or less explain how they are clearly dumb, annoying, spamming you, making no sense, or could not possibly know anything about your class or gear. (hint ‘Huh?’ is an acceptable answer). For triple extra credit macro your answer to the number 1 key.

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