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An ex-raid leader, gamer extraordinaire.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Praying by Damage Meters

I think the name of the blog is biased enough to let you know what I think of Damage Meters. While the tagline is a tongue-in-cheek joke, I still base my analyses of my DPSers on how they perform on the Damage Meters. I got booed off the stage numerous times for defending Damage Meters, and even met some fellow DPSers who refused to install a Meter addon, just because they were opposed to the idea.

How more wrong can you get?

I've read a reader reply on Wow.com, that said "DPS is a science, Healing is an art." As much as the quote sounds biased on the "Healers & Tanks are the serious business har har har!" mentality, it's still true. Everything a DPSer needs to do, is shown on the Damage Meter. Let's refine our role for this matter, once again:

A DPSer's job is...

  1. To attack the right target and interrupt as needed
  2. To deal maximum amount of damage
  3. To receive minimum amount of avoidable damage
This is a science (While certain specs' rotations/priorities borderline the "art" scope, those are still rotations that could be better performed by a machine than a human if enough variables could be calculated). Everything we have to do, is calculated on the Damage Meter: Outgoing Damage, Damage dealt to whom, Damage received from what. This is why it's crucial for a DPSer to know how to handle the statistics gathered from Recount/Skada. 

Let's learn how to avoid the common pitfalls when using that data:
The Right Target:
Hodir is a fight of two priorities: After each freeze, rescue the silly DPSer NPCs (They fail horribly on the third bullet), and then unleash hell on Hodir. The fight's mechanics really help Mages with their DPSes, since NPCs give you a lot of crit and haste.

If you're good on the Damage Done meters, odds are some of your guildmates are going to grief about your constant performance, especially if you're a hybrid and they're a pure DPS class. This time, I was the Death Knight and the other suspect was a Mage. I heard the "Ha! I beat Nighthavk on DPS!!!11!" on Ventrilo. After the fight was over (as a wipe), I did what all the bad DPSers do after each fight: Linked the meter in raid chat. The one statistic I chose to show was Damage Dealt to Frost.

The top damage was an Arms Warrior (Who was usually Fury, but had changed to Arms for better movement during the fight for Hodir only. Talk about perfection!) and second was me. Our good old mage was nowhere to be seen.

It didn't help that we just had a wipe, especially because we were slow to rescue frozen NPCs.

This is where a lot of DPSers fail - they understand that they're performing a job with quantitative statistics, and want to "exploit" the system. The utter most important thing in a raid for a DPSer is to tag the right target and interrupt as needed. No excuses.

The old "Oh, but I lose precious DPS when I switch targets!" is a moot point. Rogues and feral druids even, one of the classes that benefit most to sticking to the target, just refresh their SnD/SR and switch their targets. Even better, some niche specs excel at AoE or Cleave damage. If you're so concerned with your performance that dropping a few slots from the Recount is important to you, why didn't you come with a better spec for this fight?

Any raid worth its salt will concern themselves with damage done to the right target first and foremost.
The Right Damage:
This one is simple: You should be constantly comparing yourself to your past performance and other members of your class. I've seen a lot of people who don't help others of their class just to show that they're valuable to the guild and do more DPS than the others of the same class. This is unacceptable. When I was DK Class Leader, I was the DPS/OT, and so my recruits were DPS alone. After a few discussion, me and the Guild Leader decided we needed three DK DPSers including me. So I had to find two other DKs who showcased insane damage.

It wasn't easy. I recruited around fifteen people, far more than any other class leaders did, and worked with them at Ebon Hold, burned literally thousands of golds to respec, reglyph. In the end, I found two other excellent members.

Those days were a blast, as the Recount's top three was painted in dark red at all times, and it made me more proud than just seeing my name on the top. It was a group effort, that my recruits volunteered to work with. In the end, we were constantly teasing ourselves for doing 23 more DPS than the other or silly stuff like that and generally having a blast. The guild leader congratulated me on my work, and my recruits were thanking me for the opportunity and for taking my time to work with them.

The work wasn't simply a matter of me teaching them either. I had dropped Unholy long after the nerf, only using it for gimmick fights with a lot of AoE requirements. I was Frost first after the buffs as it held the best single target damage, which was replaced by Blood in TotC gear. One of my members showed interest in going Unholy, and we went down to Ebon Hold, tested out several specs and in the end, he stuck with Blood with his overabundance of ArP, and I respecced to Unholy. Hadn't it been for him, I wouldn't have given Unholy another shot.

DPS should be handled by people who genuinely enjoy excelling at this science. Is it completely necessary? It can be done without all 15 DPSers in the raid min-maxing to the balls, though certainly more people who take it seriously should do it. But the more important question is, admit it: You're DPSer because you enjoy dealing big damages. Why don't you work harder for this joy?
Avoiding the Damage:
"Nighthavk, get away from the boss."
"Dude, he's going to Overload!"
"Yeah, I know. Watch dis:"


Anti-Magic Shield says "Hi!".

I loved Overload. Stormcaller of Ulduar's Council was a bitch, and I was constantly on interrupt duty on him. Overload meant I had seven seconds of freedom to just whack at him, and also using Anti-Magic Shield as a way to refill my Runic Bar. In the end, the damage I would take from him was about ~2k. Which I'd promptly Death Strike to regain back, and unleash my Runic Power to the boss.

(The side effect to my exploit was, a feral friend stuck with me DPSing the boss on next Overload. When I told him to move away, he told me "Watch dis:" and promptly died. We all burst in laughter on Ventrilo. Good times...)

I come from the school of rogues of the vanilla content. Raiding was a lot primitive back then. A DPS getting healed was a DPSer who was lucky. Between health potions you could use multiple times in an encounter, bandages, health stones, a DPSer was meant to take care of himself. While I understand that there's a lot of unavoidable damage that DPSers take nowadays, I learned to thank for every Renew or Shield tossed on my way. We had to get... creative, with out class mechanics. A Warlock would life tap as usual, but would Drain Life to regain back the health lost. Warriors would stance dance to get survival countdowns. We exploited the best of our abilities.

I see very rarely that abilities like Anti-Magic Shield, Icebound Fortitude, Feint etc used to minimize the damage taken. They should be keybound and used as much as possible.

Some fights, like Mimiron, brain room at Yogg-Saron, these fights make me nervous with relying on healers to survive, despite anything I might do.  In these cases, I either try to take talents that reduce the AoE damage a la Rogue and Feral Druids, or else ignore these cooldowns unless a real emergency comes up. The reason is simple: Healers flow into a rotation of HoTs and heals in these cases. You don't want to illusion them that you take less damage than other DPSers. They might put you off their rotations, and believe me, you'll notice it once your CDs wear off. Your health will drop like you didn't know it, and you'll be topped off by several healers wasting mana on Greater Heal equivalents. For fights like this, trust that your healers are good, and if shit hits the fan and one your healers die, you'll hear "Alright ladies, you're on your own!" which means, blow off those survival cooldowns and pray, pray that feral aura will be enough to keep you alive.

In both cases, you have to make your healers job easier. Know beforehand the abilities of the boss and understand the mechanics, plan ahead when to use your survival cooldowns and minimize the avoidable damage. In some cases like XT, using Icebound Fortitude/Feint/Dispersion will only make your healers thank you, but in others, such cooldowns will mislead your healers and make several healers blow off big heals on you (That's a NO!). Your own survival is more dependant on your actions than the heals of your healers. Understand this.

...What do you mean, "What does this section have to do with DPS Meters?"

But why, silly: We keep track of the source of damage you took! This is yet another area where you have to be competitive among others and impress with your magic skills. Your job is to stay low, very low on this meter. And again, if you're melee, compare the damage you took with other melees (Preferably of the same armor class). Ask around for tips if you can. No one likes a big DPSer who constantly needs a pocket healer to keep him up.

Wrapping up, we can see that the science of DPS is very much mathematically calculable and your friendly Recount will give you all the data you'll need.

Nature of DPS is competitive, especially because of this simplistic design. While in a raid there's only so much healing can be done, and as the same for Tanks, whose role is that of a success-or-failure, DPSers show their importance by the quantitative data. The line of "Player A is better than Player B" is much more refined than compared to other roles. Thus as a DPSer, you have to constantly keep your A-Game up, constantly think of ways to make things work better, to do more damage, to take less, and such. The simplicity of our roles demands a dedication that burdens you to use the few tools you have to the maximum efficiency.


  1. It's nice to see that I'm not the only one who enjoys using the DPS meter for more than sheer epeen on numbers. It's such an easy way to see if people are doing what they need to be doing (such as killing adds etc.), or see what damage they're taking, or even making sure people are using silences/dispels and whatnot. I swear by DPS meters. It makes my life a lot easier.

    I reacted extra to what you said about how people who played dps in vanilla (I too was a rogue back then) had to learn to stay alive on their own. These days people just expect to be healed through everything, sometimes it feels like they don't even TRY to not take so much damage. Sure, some fights you can't avoid it - but there are also a lot of fights where you can.

    But the caliber of players have changed a lot since vanilla. People are just learning the game in a completely new way and us "oldies" sometimes have a problem understanding why they can't do A and B. It's because they never learned how.

    I also find it more difficult to find hardcore raiders these days. Things are "too easy". You can PUG stuff - whereas you never really saw people run off and PUG MC back in vanilla days. A lot of people just don't seem interested in being in a guild these days. They don't want set raid times and raid days, they prefer running PUGs and doing their own thing.

    Maybe it's just me being too "old school" - but I liked it when you had to show up and do your best. Cause there were always another 3 rogues clamoring for your position in the raid ;)

  2. Well, back then we had more rogues than rest of the classes combined! Indeed I notice a trend of Rogue dpsers from Vanilla who's succesfully started MC and went forward are some of the finest theorycrafters and thinkers of today still.

    And silly me - I kept thinking about it as I was writing my post, but completely forgot: The interrupt calculation! I'll edit it in as well.

    I agree wholeheartedly on the guild -People whine about not getting in to pugs 'cause PuGs ask for GS... Get a guild first? Really, I love how people take raiding for granted and something that should be delivered to them, but alas where's the work required to keep yourself in top of your game?

    I kind of (or a lot) miss the Vanilla context, of raids and guilds, like supporting one person through tear and blood to get Thunderfury, stuff like that. This is why I want to have a hardcore raider guild in Cataclysm, but without the nonsense and childishness of the ones I've been unfortunately a part of. Might even take up guild leadership, we'll see.

  3. I think the only time I might whinge a little bit about the GS requirement or the achievement one is if I want to get into a PUG on an alt. But I generally raid very little (if at all) on my alts, and to be honest.. if I really really wanted to, I could probably just schedule an Alt raid with the guild where we can all bring alts. I guess in the end I'm just not that bothered. ;)

    If it's your main character however. Then I agree, get a guild. People NOT wanting to be in guilds is what's the problem to me (as an officer in a guild as well, recruiting is so hard.. if only people would be more interested in joining!)

    As for guilds, I miss it too. People just seeemed to put in more effort back in vanilla. You showed up 15 minutes before the raid start, you went to stand outside the raid instance.. if you didn't do this - you just didn't get invited; someone else would get your spot.

    These days so few people seem to be bothered about being in a guild at all, so it feels like now we end up accepting people saying stuff like "I just need to finish this BG first..."

    I don't think my guild has started a raid on time in ages. And it drives me crazy. Don't get me wrong, I really like a lot of the people in my guild - but their views on the game and raiding and being on time etc. are just not the same as mine. And it does grate on me.

    But what can I do? I have no one to replace them with, so I can't really say.. Get out of that BG or you're not coming! Cause really, I'm not going to PUG a random person just to make a point. (Hmm.. now that I think about it....)

    I hope that the new guild leveling and things that they're bringing into Cataclysm will help guilds to be more useful in the expansion. I want to be able to recruit people who are as dedicated as I am. And at the moment those seem scarce :(

    Sorry for writing so long. It's like an essay by now! I guess this is a subject close to heart *lol*

  4. Oh but don't worry please, only makes me glad that I hit someone with this. (:

    I know how difficult it is to recruit. And that 15 minutes thing! I didn't even know it was a Vanilla left-over, I was trying to practice it, but eventually, as I pissed hard enough, I managed to pierce the mountain and more and more people started leaving their business before raid and get their asses on the scene.

    I'm really unsure how it's going to be like in Wrath either... I really want a solid, hardcore-raiding guild, but that still is a sociable one. I want it all.

  5. Just want to say, I'm really happy I stumbled across your blog. As a DK DPSer returning from a 5 month stint of no WoW (I quit around Ulduar and came back 2 weeks before Ruby Sanctum), frantically trying to get geared and optimized for raiding, only to find out my GS isn't high enough to satisfy those GS = Skill folks even though, imo, I'm doing better than average dps. Long story short, it's really nice to know that there are a few people out there dedicated to being their best when it comes to DPSing. Keep it up.