Friday, January 23, 2015

Tips and Tricks of Successful DPS Pt. 1 - Uptime

It always feels weird to me to talk about how I perform well. Maybe I feel like I'll jinx myself, or maybe it's my low self esteem or just a desire to present myself with some level of humility. Well, I'm throwing all that out of the window because I'll be writing a few posts with some detailed tips on how to DPS like you know what you're doing.

I primarily play ranged, though I have had experience as melee DPS. If you're already a superstar, or a hunter, you probably won't need any of this advice, but in the wake of my recent guild merger, I feel like I've been asked "How did you pull off that much damage?" more often than usual lately.

I've written a guide before, it was actually my first, on how to learn how to learn how to play. If you aren't already doing well, you should start there. This is less 'how to play' and more advanced tactics on upping your game. 

If you don't already know your class' rotation, you might not get as much out of these as you could. I really can't go through and tell you on a class to class basis which abilities you should be using to accomplish these goals. You have to already know that. I've been a balance druid for six years - if, like most people, you are literally any of the other twenty two damage dealing specs, I won't have much detailed advice about your class to give you.

First, the most important secret to successful DPS:

Perform mechanics correctly while avoiding taking damage or dying and simultaneously continuing to perform your rotation efficiently and effectively.  

This is it - this is the most important thing. There is literally nothing else to do once you get to this point. The problem is it's pretty vague - it differs for each class and from boss to boss on what exactly you have to do to accomplish this. It can start to get pretty complicated, and, depending on your class, seem pretty impossible. There are a few main ideas to remember, the most important, in my opinion, being...


Melee and ranged differ in the areas where they need focus, as they have different weaknesses. Melee don't have to cast, so they can move as much as they want, except for away from the boss. Ranged can move forward and backward to their heart's content, but movement makes their DPS suffer.


As melee, improving your uptime means using your abilities to close gaps between you and your targets, using abilities to avoid or cheese mechanics (see: rogues), and remembering that you have to be close enough to hit the monsters.

results for "cheese mechanics" were weird

There are times where it's unavoidable to have to be out of range, like having to run something out of the group, but there are important things to remember about these situations. If abilities that will force you out of melee range are percentage or timer based, you should prepare for them - dump your energy, make sure a utility cooldown is available to get back in quickly, don't blow any damage cooldowns beforehand, make sure any dots you can control are refreshed before you're forced out of range, and anything else unique to your class that you can do. Some classes even have certain ranged abilities they can toss in, which may range from basically worthless to actually part of your rotation.

Before you take the hit of moving out of the group, double check that you don't have an ability that can immune you from the effects of the ability entirely - like cloak of shadows or divine shield. Make sure that using immunities doesn't blow up the raid, though!



High uptime as ranged focuses more on minimizing your movement and filling your periods of movement with effective instant casts. This can get tricky and requires some finesse - you don't want to use an instant that isn't very good when you only need to move a step to the right, as your GCD may cost you more uptime than just not casting during that step. If you're moving enough to warrant a full GCD, you'll want to use whatever's at your disposal to fill that movement gap, but ensure that once you get to a spot where you can start casting like normal, you haven't triggered another GCD with a low efficiency ability - i.e., don't just spam it, time it.


If your rotation includes instant cast abilities, see if you can actually hold onto them for a few moments without hurting your rotation. As an example, balance druids use an instant cast that has three charges with a 30 second recharge timer in our rotation. It doesn't harm my dps to hold onto a charge, assuming I don't have all three, and waiting a few seconds for some expected movement to occur. You shouldn't prepare for these things too far in advance, though - as with wasting GCDs, holding onto instants too long may actually cost you DPS. You have to evaluate your rotation to see if it's more costly to hold onto it than to just suffer the movement downtime.

Another "trick" ranged like to use to minimize movement is waiting as long as possible to move and moving as short a distance as possible. I can't stress enough that this is a dangerous practice. I also admit that I do it constantly. It's something that if your raid leader heard me tell you to do, he would call my house and have a talk with my parents.

If you try to cheat movement by waiting until your cast goes off to get out of something that's about to happen, like a mountain on Tectus or mine on Imperator, it goes without saying that you risk being hit with it. You can't start off learning an encounter by waiting to move out of these things - you have to learn how long they take to go off. There are a lot of things you cannot wait to move with, obviously abilities that immediately start hurting you or others and abilities that go off very quickly. You have to start off assuming that there is no grace period on any abilities, then, only after practicing, adjusting to the reality of whether you can finish that .02 seconds left on your cast or not.

don't tell me what to do

I didn't tell you this, but you have a very short grace period before mountains on Tectus and mines on Imperator will actually do anything to you. This of course also depends on how you are positioned on them. If your group is moving to the left, but someone wasn't stacked correctly and you're off toward the right side of the ground effect, waiting to move will hurt you. You have to be in tune with the timing of these things before you start trying to cheese them - if you are bad at reacting to and planning things within time frames of less than one second, you should not risk it.

In General:

Uptime is a very important focus, but the most important part to remember isn't ignoring mechanics or taking damage to do so, but how to maintain uptime without letting your performance suffer. A lot of times, taking a hit from a mechanic will cause more downtime than avoiding it - like Imperator mines. Learning how to perform the boss fight should be your first goal, then adapting your rotation to it should come next. Remember - you can't DPS while dead.

There are definitely more tricks of the trade to share, so stay tuned for part 2!

- Tips and Tricks Series -
Pt. 1    Pt. 2    Pt. 3

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