Friday, February 13, 2015

Tips and Tricks of Successful DPS Pt. 3 - Focus

get dem numbers
Welcome to the third and final tips and tricks! Visit part one and part two where we talked about the importance of uptime and not dying.

I've written a guide before 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. 

I primarily play ranged, though I have had experience as melee DPS. If you're already a superstar, you probably won't need much of this advice, but 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.

To recap, there is one ultimate truth to successful DPS:

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

Uptime is the most important aspect of this truth, which is the subject of the first post. Following uptime is not dying - arguably the most important aspect, but more widely known and understood than uptime. To tie everything together today, we have our last overarching theme, focus.

this was the cutest google image search result for 'focus'


Focus is fairly obvious, but that's been a running theme. All of the important aspects of DPS are pretty obvious - do damage, don't die, pay attention. But these things are easier said than done - any run of the mill raider could tell you to do those things. It's the mantra of lazy raid leaders everywhere: "suck less, don't die to stupid crap," anyone could have guessed that - putting it into action is a different step altogether.


Being prepared is an important part of focus. You won't know what you're supposed to be paying attention to, be watching for, or react to if you don't know what you're getting into. This involves effort before the raid. If you depend entirely on your raid leader's quick explanation at the beginning of each fight, you probably won't do as well as you would if you read up about it or watched a video beforehand.

I typically use Icy Veins for written boss strategies, though many higher end guilds tend to helpfully write out their strategies on their websites or on WoW related forums and fan sites. I tend to watch Fatboss videos and another fantastic youtube channel with great boss hints and tricks, Line of Sight Gaming. There's endless amounts of information for bosses, even before they are released, so if you don't like any of these, there is always something.

Avoid tunnel vision:

Tunnel vision is the biggest problem that plagues progression. Tunnel vision is, if it's not self-descriptive enough, when you narrow your focus too much and begin ignoring certain mechanics, usually in favor of focusing on your rotation.

get it?

It affects everyone and I would be lying if I said I haven't succumbed to it before. The biggest challenge in working on your focus is remembering not to zone out and begin tunneling.

Tunnel vision is especially prevalent at exactly the absolute worst times - like during the kill attempts after you've already been practicing a boss for awhile or near the end of a fight when the boss is almost dead. Focus, here, means remembering not to lose focus on everything that's important on a fight. Just because the boss is at 20%, don't stop performing mechanics correctly or killing adds - which I'll expand on a bit later.

What to focus on:

Once you've got the basics down - be ready, pay attention - it's time to dissect what exactly your focus should be on. Well, frankly, there are only two things - your rotation, and the boss fight. Every nuance can be covered under one of these two. Even your barking raid leader and that one guy who keeps shouting unnecessary things into voice chat fall under the 'boss fight' category.

Your rotation:

This is where everything discussed in part 1 comes into play. Maintaining your uptime requires focus on your rotation. Not dying is your highest priority, always, and uptime usually takes a backseat to not dying, but in perfect practice, uptime and not dying would both hang out in the front seat together. This level of focus is your goal, and it can honestly be pretty tough. A good example is the pulverize phase on Hans and Franz.

nowhere is safe

While the belts are moving and deadly plates are constantly coming down to smush you, it's nearly impossible to maintain your rotation perfectly, even if you're melee or a hunter. Personally, as a spell caster, there is little for me to do but run around, sigh, and spam instant casts. However, it is in this situation that a unique option comes into play - as a balance druid, I don't want to sit at 3 charges of [Starsurge], and I also don't want to overwrite my empowerment buffs by wasting charges. However, realistically, I won't be able to cast many spells. I can instead use a charge on Starfall, which is not an ideal single target spell, but will grant me more damage than spamming moonfire or sunfire and keeps me from either overwriting my empowerments or idling at three stacks.

Focusing on your uptime means recognizing when something suboptimal may be a better choice due to the harsh hand of boss mechanics. It means not accidentally sitting at full charges of a spell or full energy or rage. It means doing this and maintaining your rotation while not dying.

Boss mechanics:

This is the big one. Rarely will someone tunnel on their rotation in favor of mechanics, it's usually the other way around. Our rotation and the spells and abilities we use don't change too frequently on a boss to boss basis, but the mechanics do (obviously).

moreso these days than they used to

If you know your rotation, you've prepared for the fights, you've honed your reaction time, and you're ready to succeed, being focused for the boss fight will require your excellent performance of the mechanics. Some fights have few mechanics, or simple mechanics, or a lot of mechanics that happen at different times, or mechanics that overwrite or overlap each other. There's really no end to the ways in which mechanics can mess with you.

You can go over the boss mechanics of a fight in a few moments, but all the little nuances will get overlooked until you experience them. Getting knocked into the air with [Petrifying Slam] into a [Cave In] isn't listed in the fight overview as a potential situation, but it happens. Can you prevent it? Can you recover from it? These are the things you have to focus on. Tons of little things like this will come up, and recognizing who, when, what and where they affect and what to do in those situations is crucial.

Focus on the mechanics until the very end - as mentioned earlier, tunnel vision strikes the most viciously after a long night of the same boss or right at the end of a fight. If something will kill you while the boss is at 70%, it will kill you when it's at 20% just as easily. The most widespread problem with tunneling on boss mechanics is the adds.

nothing but trains, tunnels, and adds - everywhere, all the time

Sometimes when the boss is almost dead, it can be reasonable to ignore adds and push the boss, but you have to remember, what do these adds do? If you're on a fight where the adds will freakin' murder you if they aren't killed, then you can't just ignore them! Now, there is a difference between 20% and 2% - if adds spawn at 2%, chances are, they can be ignored. Hopefully your raid leader makes a good call, but when in doubt, stick to the plan! Sometimes adds buff or heal the boss, or get increasingly more dangerous the longer they're alive, or the damage and havoc they create make that last 10% much harder than it has to be - potentially resulting in a wipe. In fact, if there's a fight with adds, it can be helpful to mention whether or not they can be ignored at the very end of the fight before you even start. It's a huge part of a boss that no one usually thinks about until it comes up.

Once you tie together uptime and staying alive with focus, all that's left is to bring theory to reality. Everything sounds pretty simple and straightforward until you apply it in real time - after all, if it all really was that simple, wouldn't everyone be a cutting edge progression raider? Even I falter on some fights or flub my rotation here and there - no one can be perfect. Knowing what to work on can help tighten up your performance and hopefully make you a more successful raider.

This concludes my series of Tips and Tricks of Successful DPS! Hopefully you've learned something you can bring into your raid, thanks for reading!

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

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