HoTs and DoTs: A Restoration Druid and Shadow Priest

DPS Isn’t as Easy as You Might Think

Mistake #1: Using an AoE spell when there's only 1 mob left to kill.

Mistake #1: Using an AoE spell when there's only 1 or 2 mobs left to kill.

Lathere is a healer. I am a damage dealer. But we both have alts at level 80. And we’ve both tried to swap roles, with little success. And watching Lath fail in her new role… is actually pretty satisfying. That’s sisterly love for you.

I do a lot of 5 man healing as my Priest. I’m okay at it. Not great, but okay. I believe that’s because I spend so much time playing the Priest that I’m “comfortable”. I’m not a good healer. I don’t know exactly what the difference between me and a good healer is, other than years of experience, but I know whatever I’m doing wrong, I’m not a great healer.

In the last couple months I’ve also been healing as my newish Resto Shaman. I’m okay at it, just. The only thing I’m good at with the Shaman is totems because I know the dungeons pretty well.

On rare occasions I’ve been given the opportunity to play as Elemental as the Shaman. And not only is it pretty easy, I’ve impressed people with my DPS based on my gear. A friend of mine once advised me: the difference between mediocre and great Elemental Shaman is the ability to factor Chain Lightning (on a cooldown) into a single target fight.

Is that it?

Forgive me, I’m not being very kind to Elemental Shamans. Of course there is some further mastery involved. If I were taking it seriously I’d be looking into whether or not it’s preferable to reapply Flame Shock early so that it doesn’t cause Lava Burst to be on cooldown even 0.5 seconds longer than necessary. It would also be a good idea to find out whether it’s worth sacrificing Totem of Wrath to put down a Fire Elemental in a 5, 10 and 25 man raid setting.

Actually the most interesting part of Elemental DPS, in my opinion, is when you need to AoE. Most classes that I’ve played get incredibly boring when you AoE. But an Ele Shaman’s AoE is on cooldown. And it’s kind of fun to try and spread the DPS all around.

Sorry – how did I get so off topic?! Self evaluation so far:

Shadow Priest: Awesome!
Discipline Priest: Good
Resto Shaman: Crap
Elemental Shaman: Good

And now I’m playing a baby Mage (level 46 as I write this) and receiving quite a lot of compliments. I figure, for every compliment typed in party chat during a cross-server pug there are probably about 5 compliments that never actually “said”. Of course I have a heck of a lot to learn about the Mage and I’m really ignoring a lot of the Arcane and Fire damage spells in my spell book as I’m leveling as Frost. So let’s add:

Mage: Good

Meanwhile Lathere has been swiftly moving up the ranks on her level 80 alt, Alexria: a Discipline Priest. I’d say that my Resto Shaman and her Discipline Priest are pretty evenly geared. There’s one major difference: Lath is actually pretty damn good at the Disc Priest. And I’m still total crap at the Resto Shaman. She can hold her own in a ToC or ICC10… and I highly doubt I could do the same.

But the tables have turned!

Before Alexria was a Discipline Priest, she was a Shadow Priest. That was mid 2009. And she was awful.

Mistake Number 1: AoEing when there are only one or two targets.

I’m pretty confident that it holds true for all damage dealing specs across all classes. Except perhaps Ele Shamans when Chain Lightning hits the initial target so hard it doesn’t really matter if it doesn’t hit much else.

Mind Searing 1 target when it only has 1 other target nearby actually taking damage from Mind Sear? Mistake!

Tip: If you play with enemy nameplates turned on (hit your “v” button when you’re in range to toggle them on) it’s very easy to see just how many mobs there are in a pull. You should mentally count the number in the pull as the tank is pulling them – every pull.

Mistake Number 2: Not knowing the kill order.

I think only a healer could ask repeatedly “so do we kill these adds or not?”. After a while I just got into the habit of actually explaining all fights and situations to Lath as if she was a new player and had never been to Obsidian Sanctum, Naxx or the Nexus before.

If you’re really not sure, watch the melee in the group. If they’re willing to move a few steps over and kill something, you probably should too. Or, if you count more than 3 debuffs applied to your target someone else is probably killing it already.

Tip: In instances either assist the tank (click on the tank and hit “f”) or kill anything with a mana bar first. Anything called a Disciple, Acolyte, Priest or anything that waves its hands around with a golden glow should be your first kill.

Back to the Story

I won’t even go into the other, specific, things Lath did wrong as a Shadow Priest. That would have come good (I hope) with a heck of a lot of practise.

Around the time she was giving up on Shadow damage dealing, she also had the opportunity to switch to Moonkin when we dropped to a 2 healer set up for ToGC Anubarak on 10 man. She’d had the opportunity to DPS a few times during Ulduar, but this 10 man fight was the time we really needed to see some numbers.

Lath had some Tier 9, 25 man, Moonkin gear and, factoring in some inexperience, you’d think she’d come in 500-1k DPS below the rest of us. Oh no. Lath was able to achieve a whopping 2.8k DPS. How is it possible that such a good healer could be so bad at DPSing?

Mistake Number 3: Pausing between casts

One of the things I’ve noticed while Lath and I have been playing DPS together is that she will wait until her cast is finished. Then start cast another one. I first noticed this during AoE packs because the cast/channel time of her AoE was so long, and I could see the 1.5 second gap between the animation ending and the next spell starting.

You need to queue up your next cast (click it) before the current one is finished. There should be no gaps.

Healers are encouraged to think carefully about what spell to cast and when to apply it. They are rewarded (extra mana regen) if they are conservative and take breaks when healing isn’t necessary. That’s not true of damage dealing. Cast all the time. Even if you’re not sure which spell is the right one to cast at any given moment, casting something is better than casting nothing.

Back to the Story

To be fair, I don’t know if chain casting was the missing element that caused Lath’s Moonkin debut to fall so flat. I doubt it was just that one thing. It also didn’t help that she wasn’t sure what targets to DPS when (I think I just told her to follow the Mind Flay beam when in doubt, so she wouldn’t have to fess up over Vent).

I think she was a bit flustered by Eclipses and frankly I know nothing about Moonkin damage dealing, so perhaps it’s a complicated topic. I do know that most main spec damage dealers use Addons to help them track the complicated parts of their rotation. Which leads me to:

Mistake Number 4: Using a healing or the default UI

How hard is it to heal using the default UI when you’ve been spoilt with healing addons like Grid or VuhDo or Healbot? Very hard.

The same holds true for DPS, too. DPS players use DPS addons. If you play a DoT heavy class like an Affliction Warlock or Shadow Priest use a DoT monitoring addon like ForteXorcist.

If you need to react differently when something procs and you gain a buff, (Fire Mages track Hot Streak, right?) consider using Power Auras or Elkano’s Buff Bars and great a custom visual effect, or at the very least, enlarge just that one buff so you’re not staring at a tiny icon in the corner of your screen that keeps moving around.

Back to the story

Now that Lath is quite successful as a Discipline Priest her dreams of pew pew-ing it up have been projected onto her level 80 Mage. According to Lath: “even a monkey could play Arcane” so either she’s finally come across the spec/class combination that she can excel at… or… she’s a monkey. I don’t know, but she’s doing quite well.

There’s just one final thing that she needs to master:

Mistake Number 5: Ignoring your Interupt key!

Spending most of my time on the Priest without an interupt to call my own has definitely made me appreciate having one as the Shaman and Mage.

When your tank pulls a pack of five and several seconds later there’s 1 who hasn’t moved towards the group and is merrily waving their shadowy/icy/firey hands in the air? Interupt the next cast.

Tanks can’t really tank stuff out of their melee range. And if they’re not tanking it, the healer is going to. So by interupting you force the enemy mob to stop casting and instead it will come and try to kill your tank from melee range using physical attacks. You then get one more mob to include in your AoE, so everyone wins.

And if a caster mob starts to cast anything with the word “heal” or “mend” in it? Interupt! Casting “Mind Control”? Interupt that too! Oh, and anything with the word “volley” in it should be interrupted.

12 Responses to “DPS Isn’t as Easy as You Might Think”

  1. VidyalaNo Gravatar says

    Aw, poor Lath. And I can’t decide how I feel about the monkey comment, considering my arcane mage main… but then, there’s a reason I’m contemplating making a switch to boomkin as my raiding character. It is complex and fidgety and does require a lot of buff management. (I use Power Auras, both as a mage to track stacks of AB/missile barrage procs and now for Balance DoT and Eclipse tracking!)

    Slightly off-topic, but in case Lath ever wants to boom it up again, I found this great page: http://powerauras.wikispaces.com/Balance+Druid+Exports
    It’s got pre-defined moonkin tracking things for power auras, and they’re great. It took me 5 mins to plug them in and tweak them, as opposed to the hour it would’ve taken me to figure them out on my own.
    .-= Vidyala’s last blog … Arise, my champion! Arise and fight once more! =-.

  2. CassandriNo Gravatar says

    I think in every guild there’s a few tanks and healers that you beg NOT to dps. We also used to have a previously prot Warrior, now DPS, that we begged NOT to tank. Because even when they’re doing an OK job, things just seem to go wrong overall.

    Lath is one of those. Yes, poor Lath.

  3. PapaNastyNo Gravatar says

    yeah some people just attract “bad luck” when they are doing something out of the norm. Others seem to be good at everything, I think a lot of it depends on what you’ve played previously, and what class you’re trying to dps as.

    Since shadow priests are pretty hard to dps as though, so I’m not surprised that Lath had trouble, since there’s soo many dots and cooldowns to monitor. On the other hand, Hunters and Ret Paladins are easy peasy to play, since they are just a priority system, thus you just hit each ability once it’s off cooldown :)

  4. CassandriNo Gravatar says

    I think Lath actually tried a Hunter once… got it to level 20 or so? Melee are definitely out for her – we both started on melee characters and we both hate em now :)

  5. UltraNo Gravatar says

    elemental shamans are fun to play! you can easily tell the difference between a good and great one! :) I usually let my flameshock tick for its last duration then re-apply and lavaburst.

    Sacrificing ToW for fire ele is ok if there isnt 5 mages/warlocks who are going to qq :P
    I usually run with a demo lock so keep searing down :D great dps boost hehe

  6. lissannaNo Gravatar says

    Sometimes, on trash mobs, I hurricane first and then do a head-count. Too bad that the big cloud is such a give-away when they only pull 1 or 2 things. I’ve started getting better at head-count first, then DPS.
    .-= lissanna’s last blog … It’s Recruit a Friend, NOT recruit a Stranger =-.

  7. ErclesNo Gravatar says

    Having played quite a lot of end game both as DPS and a healer (hurr-di-hurr, look at me) I still find healing more challenging.

    When I DPS it’s often about figuring out how to do the most DPS possibly, then perfecting it. It stops being as challenging and interesting when I’m past the figuring out part.

    Playing a healer feels a lot less static. I’m constantly making decisions on the fly and no fight is the same. Even though a fight goes smoothly it doesn’t feel the same as it did the last time I did it. As a DPS it feels almost identical when you’ve figured out the most efficent way of doing the fight. There’s a lot less improvisation involved.

    That said, I love doing both and I’m not trying to slag anyone. DPS just tends eventually grow old, while I’m constantly being challenged as a healer. For someone else, things might be the other way around. :)

    • CassandriNo Gravatar says

      See the first thing I think of reading your comment is how different every single situation is as DPS (or perhaps just as a Shadow Priest) – how I play is dependant on so many changing factors: how many targets, how much health each on has, how good is the DPS around me etc. The duration of the fight/target is so important as a DoT class, it just hasn’t gotten boring yet.

  8. 10 targets = AoE
    5 targets = AoE
    2 targets = AoE
    1 target = AoE

    Blizzard promised me I would be the king of AoE, so I am damn well going to use it.

    Don’t worry… the one with the mark on it’s head will be in there somewhere… while the other 9 run straight at me.

    Only pause between casts if you are coming back from the fridge with a new beer.

    Spell Queuing tip:
    Pre-press the key you know you are going to press to unleash havoc.

    A Pressed (and held) key does not set of the spell… releasing the key does.
    It is much faster to lift your finger off the key like you just got burnt than to find it and press it.

    Chain lightning should be used at every possible opportunity, even when Resto… it’s looks pretty (bloody awesome)!
    .-= Gnomeaggedon’s last blog … I don’t have time right now… =-.

  9. ClickityclopNo Gravatar says

    I know that the ele ‘rotation’ is easy (it’s not quite a rotation but lets just call it that for simplicity’s sake), but somehow I just don’t pull as much dps as what I’d expect of my gear. I suspect it maybe be due to my horrible and proc based trinkets. I’ve tried stacking of sp in my gemming, and i’ve tried stacking haste to 1020, but neither seemed to net any greater dps. Even on a dummy I get incredibly irregular levels of dps .

    Somehow even with my rotation perfect and on a fight with little movement I’m still below everyone else in the guild, I always feel like I’m at my limit of what I can pull in my gear, but then I see other ele shammies in similar or lower gearscore (yea i know it’s poor indication of actual gear level) pulling similar or better.

    As a healer on the other hand, I almost never feel inferior, even against healers that far outgear me, especially when compared with other resto shamans. Sometimes I get the feeling that there’s a lot more that I can personally do to push my healing above an average player’s: I can set up better raid frames, click-casting, hots/debuff monitor as well as knowing my spells and utilising more than just my Chain Heal. While as ele there’s really not much I can do to significantly push my dps.

    Btw as for clipping FS, from what I’ve read, it’s better to clip it early than to be late with a LvB. Can’t be bothered to dig it back up but I saw it either on EJ or MMO-Champs.

    • CassandriNo Gravatar says

      DPS can be incredibly frustrating when you feel you have hit the ceiling of what you can achieve. Unfortunately I’m still getting my head around itemisation for an Ele Shaman – so I can’t help you there.

      I, too, have read the EJ post that recommends clipping Flame Shock to Lava Burst ASAP.

      DPS is very competitive. Which is good when you think you have room to improve. Fortunately I can recognise all the little mistakes in my performance when they happen – so I’m always eager to try again (after a wipe) in the hopes that I’ll make less mistakes.

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