Some Musings on the Art of Pew Pew

The art of deep e-essing is one that has been passed down from generation to generation.  Masters of the deep e-ess hone their skills daily, perfecting techniques with the finesse of a hippopotamus diving into a river, and with the subtlety of a bull in a china shop.

Rest assured, folks, DPS is the easiest part of this game.  If you are reading this because you are a damage dealer, well, pat yourself on the back, it’s not that hard.  On the other side of the coin, however, it isn’t that easy either.  You have to have good situational awareness, know what’s going on around you, understand threat management, and pump out enough damage that the boss drops before he enrages and eats everyone in a heartbeat.

This post is not a guide.  It isn’t a set of instructions.  It’s really just a bunch of my observations and random thoughts about some aspects of DPS.

The Basics

Whether you are melee or ranged, your role as a damage dealer is always to hurt the enemy.  Stab it, punch it, jab it, slam it, smack it, shoot it, blast it, freeze it, bite it, slice it… whatever your preferred method of inducing pain.  Since we are dealing here with raiders, or at least 5-man dungeon dwellers, we are assuming you have a good spec, good understanding of your gear choices/enchants/gems/consumables, and a rotation to maximize your dps.  Any old player can DPS.  Even hitting the enemy as a caster in cloth will count as dps.  Horrid dps, but it will be dps nonetheless.

The Only Pure DPS Fight

Patchwerk in Naxxramas, the first boss of the Construct Quarter, is the only true and pure DPS fight.  Why is this?  Because Patchwerk doesn’t lose aggro on the person(s) who initially hit him.  Once the tank(s) have aggro, that’s it, all your damage dealers just stand there, blow every cooldown known to man and see their dps numbers increase like never before.  Or most of us do.

Every Other Fight

The encounter against Patchwerk is significant because it allows you to see just how high your can push your damage output.  You never have to move, you never have to watch your threat, you never have to divert to adds.  Furthermore, Patchwerk never goes into any sort of theatrics that force you to stop your damage.  He doesn’t poop his heart out a-la XT002, he doesn’t give a speech like Malganis in H Strat, he just wants to play until he dies.  Nothing more.

Every other time you will fight a boss, you will do those things.  Naxxramas was an easy raid encounter, but there were still plenty of fights to see your dps barely pass 50% of what you would expect it to be.  Live/Dead side of the encounter?  How about the Safety Dance?  Maybe you want to spend 5 minutes of a fight just killing skeletons that walk towards you?  Or how about running from frost nukes that kill everything?  Do you like running off to free people from webs and then end up webbed every 45 seconds yourself?  Maybe running to explode in a poison cloud is your idea of DPS fun, but it sure doesn’t increase your numbers.  Neither does chasing horsies around.

The point here is that most encounters will test your dps in ways that you will hate.  An encounter you find fun will not necessarily be good to you.  You might find yourself below the tank on dps and be the laughingstock of the raid.   The bad DPS will drop massively.  The good will adapt and excel anyways.  While I can personally hit around 6000+ on Patchwerk (haven’t done it in a looooong time to see if it goes past that at this point), I rarely, if ever, finish above 4000 on most fights.  Now that we’re in Ulduar, 10 man, I have found new ways to DPS, new ways to push my threat generation to the limit, and new ways to be useful to the fights.

DPS and Damage Done

You can identify a bad guild easily by asking them what matters more in a fight.  If they answer anything that isn’t some version of “neither matters more, they are both important” or perhaps “depends which fight”, they’re a bad guild.  This is because damage done, assuming all parties remains alive for the fight, is a direct reflection of one’s DPS.  In fights with no movement, Patchwerk, having low DPS will mean not hitting the enrage timer.  In fights with lots of movements, having low DPS should still translate into solid damage done.

A good example comes from my group’s 10man Yogg attempts.  Ainara, frost mage, was hitting very high dps.  Usually among the top (very closely followed by the others), her damage done was absurdly low.  Like, the healers almost did more damage than her.  Bad guilds [would not be attempting Yogg] would say “oh, good dps, keep going!”  We found out through checking the Recount information from the attempts that Ainara was simply not casting enough.  Variety of reason.  Less experience (she only started playing after Wrath came out) probably contributed the greatest amount.  All those silly tricks we know to spam and mash our buttons to beat all the lag and latency were still forming in her mind.  On top of that, slight gemming issue.  Her gems were switched over, and she gained about 100 haste in total.  Silly as it sounds, that was enough.  Some more practice, a little faster casting, and she suddenly found her groove.  In essence, I think the Yogg fight taught her, and all of us, more about squeezing out every last 1 dps out of our toons in a given fight than any amount of Naxx raiding every could have.

Nonetheless, analyzing both DPS and Damage Done are very important for any raid to have success.

The DPS Killer

Aggro.  Aggro.  Threat.  And then aggro.

I know a lot of off-spec DPS that gets excellent gear and sometimes puts it on on fights where one less tank or one less healer are needed.  If their gear is good, they will pull aggro.  Repeatedly.

This is arguably the only thing that is even remotely important to watch out for.  We don’t have to watch health bars, we don’t have to watch who is alive, we don’t have to make sure to have 7 mobs on us.  We just have to watch not to pull aggro from the tank, who, ironically, is making sure he doesn’t lose aggro.  See what a wonderful relationship that is?

I write from the point of view of a destruction Warlock.  In some circles we are called Threat Generators.  I can LOOK at the boss and instantly be just behind the tank on the threat table.  But I will never* pull the mob off him.

*that is a lie, I have done so many times.  With a swift and sudden death as a result. Usually.

There are confusing elements here.  For instance, I’m used to Omen as an addon to watch my threat.  In there, I’ve been taught that I pull aggro at 110% of the tank’s threat if I’m in melee range, and at 130% if I’m at range.  Since going to my laptop to let Ainara raid on the desktop, I’ve used the default Blizzard raid frames and used the default threat meters.  This means I pull aggro at 100%.  Melee or ranged, 100% = aggro.  The percentage jumps if I move in to melee range suddenly.  This all took a while to learn.

The important thing for people is to practice, practice and practice some more.  The more you DPS with various tanks, the more you will instinctively know which ability generates threat and in precise amounts HOW MUCH OF IT will be generated.  If at all possible, run everything you can with your guild’s main tanks.  Run some 5s, run some VOA, run some 10 man Naxx, run anything and everything.  Let them get a feel for your dps and threat, let yourself understand how they handle their end of the threat meters.

To take my example, I ride the tank’s ass really hard on threat.  Every encounter, I’m within one or two mis-casts of pulling aggro.  I don’t do it to new tanks or to tanks when I pug because it would freak them out.  But my regular tanks know I do this and trust that I can control it, so they don’t freak out.  Occasionally someone will call it out and I’ll have to remind them “It’s fine, I’m watching it”.  This isn’t to say I like doing that.  I time my soulshatters and threat dumps to just before a big burst of damage… whether from temporary buffs, pots or bloodlust (heroism for you Goodies).  If I could, I would be nowhere on the threat meters… but I have to push my dps too!

Final Thoughts

DPS isn’t hard.  Get your rotation, mash your buttons, stay out of the fire. 

A few tricks I’ve learned to maximize my dps is to mash buttons.  Yes.  I know you can time your casts to make up for latency, but seriously, mash your buttons.  Say you know you have 0.5s latency.  Instead of just pressing your button once or twice 0.5s before the current cast ends, start mashing your next cast 1 secondbefore the current one ends.  Yes, you’ll break more keyboards, but you are guaranteed to get your next spell off as soon physically possible.  This is what I learned from Yogg.  In the past, I tried to be smooth and just hit each ability once, but that wastes precious milliseconds that separate the 3500 DPS from the 4000 DPS.  The 4000 from the 5000, etc…

Another trick I learned is to anticipate the fight.  I know every guide and every advice says the same thing: anticipate what is happening… but do you really know what this means?  I challenge you to find an old computer to play on.  Play with 1-3 FPS in a raid setting.  Maintain your DPS as you would on another good computer with 30-60 frames / second.

What playing on my laptop has taught me is to be extra careful about things.  My laptop doesn’t allow me to mess up and be a second late getting to a safe spot or getting out of the fire.  I have to do it right away to live.  I’ve improved my reflexes and my reaction time, and I also have learned to watch for signs and to anticipate what happens.  I’m hitting about 4000 dps now in our 25 man raids.  When I got on my desktop for one or two pulls of the same encounters, I was hitting over 5000 dps.  Why?  Because with the smooth frame rate and the smooth reaction times, I was way, way, wayahead of just about everything I had to do and could DPS to my heart’s content… all thanks to the experience of raiding Ulduar on a 5 year old laptop.


3 Responses to “Some Musings on the Art of Pew Pew”

  1. 1 Kelsey June 10, 2009 at 10:54 pm

    See? I’m good for you. Had I not failed at first on Yogg, maybe you wouldn’t have been inspired to make this post. Had I not stolen your nice desktop and made you be on the laptop, you wouldn’t be quite as badass.

    I did it all for you, of course! (lol)

  2. 2 Anthony June 13, 2009 at 7:08 am

    What classes are your tanks, and what kind of numbers are they getting in terms of TPS on boss fights? I’ve been finding that I’m getting a good 1500-2000 more threat per second in comparison to the warrior or death knight tanks I’ve been running with, which makes the lives of my DPS a lot easier when I MT because it’s that much harder (I’d say almost impossible) for them to pull aggro.

    You’ve reminded me of something I’ve been meaning to write about for a while, so I’m off back to my own blog.

  3. 3 Rimona June 17, 2009 at 2:09 pm

    I haven’t done a lot of tanking in Ulduar, but I tend to average 4k+ if I’m remembering right. It’s probably a bit low, but my tanking is rusty. (That’s on a warrior btw).

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s


  • 237,799 victims
June 2009
« May   Jul »

%d bloggers like this: