Friday, December 18, 2009

Raiding 101: The Duty of a DPS


A starship captain's life is filled with solemn duty. I have commanded men in battle. I have negotiated peace treaties between implacable enemies. I have represented the Federation in first contact with twenty-seven alien species. But none of this compares to my solemn duty as... Best man."

But enough from Captain Picard. The duty of a DPS is quite unlike the duty of a starship captain. While Jean-Luc here was tasked with diplomatic exploration and peaceful contact with alien life forms... a DPS just has to beat the shit out of anything with a red health bar over their head.

That's right, I went there.

So the life of a DPS may seem simple, but I promise you that it's not. Take away all the baseline expectations of a DPS like: learning your spell rotation, optimizing your spec and gemming and enchanting properly; What you're left with are all the combat decisions that could mean life or death for you and possibly the raid group. While much of the time these decisions are based around survival that's not always the case.

Rule #1: Don't Die

This is really the only hard and fast rule of a DPS. There are times when damage taken is out of your control and beyond a certain point you need to be healed, but a vast majority of the time understanding the mechanics of an encounter and properly avoiding damage can mean a world of difference in your DPS output: You can't DPS if you're dead. Period.

There are plenty of types of attacks, many of which are detailed in my previous post, Don't Stand in the Fire. It is imperative that these types of attacks are avoided at all costs. There is a reasonable expectation of attention from the healers but in return DPS must avoid as much collateral damage as possible to minimize the stress on healing and allow them to focus on more important targets.

Keep in mind that running away isn't always the only way of getting away from dangerous enemy attacks. Many classes and professions have ways of traversing distances quickly to escape areas where damaging attacks are destroying anyone in the area so keep those abilities in mind. Some examples are the Mage Blink, Engineer's Rocket Boots and Hunter's Disengage. Additionally there are tricks to avoid damage altogether like Ice Block or Divine Shield.

The final measure of survival is the most important...

Threat Management

Do not pull threat from the tank.

It's easy to pass the buck and claim the tank is shitty, but that excuse won't prevent a DPS from being dead, especially one wearing cloth armor. There are tanks whose skill level are not quite at par, but in the vast majority of cases I feel like there is a fundamental misunderstanding between the tank and the DPS. That misunderstanding relates to the fact that all tanks... are melee.

There are few things more annoying to a tank than to tag a mob and watch as a flurry of spells pulls aggro from the lone shot fired and the tank now has to taunt the mob back or chase it down. All tanks have some method of tagging a creature from a distance, but that doesn't solid aggro make. Since all tanks are melee it isn't until they come toe to toe with something that solid threat can be established and it's imperative that DPS allows the two to connect in melee before engaging.

There are all manner of mods that help to monitor threat and a DPSer should have on installed and visible at all times. If you find it's hard to remember to check it than Omen would likely be the best choice, as you can configure it to play a customizable audio warning and/or shake and flash the screen to warn you of high threat. SimpleThreatMeter and TidyThreat are also great threat meters, but lack threat warnings so require a bit more attention. Where they excel is at saving screen space as they provide a single bar representing your threat relative to the tank instead of an expansive overview of the entire group.

Do not pull threat from the tank. They say the best method of embedding something in memory is to repeat it three times. Do not pull threat from the tank. =)

DPS Target Priority

Efficiency is the key word here. The best of the best DPS teams will work in a coordinated fashion to burn down targets as efficiently as possible. That usually means following a kill order. It's important that a DPS knows what kill order they should follow, and keep in mind that it may not always be the same, or even the same as another DPSer's kill order.

With the new raid instance open for business it's even more important to know, at the very least, which targets need to be killed first and work in tandem with your other DPSers to focus fire targets down. This is especially true when targets can regenerate health or get heals from other enemies. Focus Firing targets down will also lead to less strain from multiple damage sources on the healers and allow them more breathing room to perhaps throw DPS some more incidental healing.


Always remember that, especially in 25 man raids, it's not the individual that accomplishes the goal, it's the team. When other DPSers are encumbered be having to move out of fire or being crowd controlled by the enemy it lifts your spirits a bit to get that much more of an edge on the damage meters.

When these incidents lower one person's DPS it lowers the DPS of the group and stretches out the encounter closer to the enrage timer. There's not always anything that can be done to get that person back in the game, but on occasions where help can be rendered it's important to do so in order to get your team back at it's peak operating capacity.

The most obvious form of help would be from decursing effects that impede the ability to DPS like silence and slowing effects. One of the increasingly more common instances is when a raid member is disabled by a killable aspect of the encounter. During the Northrend Beasts encounter Gormok throws Snobold Vassal's at players that sit on their back and kick players, interrupting spell casting. Also, in the new Lord Marrowgar fight he periodically impales players on bone spikes, immobilizing them. It is important that DPS switch to these targets as soon as they can be DPSed and free trapped players. If immobilization is allowed to stack up at all the raid force will be less and less effective until the entire group is disabled, and slow breaking of these effects can drag out an encounter with DPS unable to contribute to the fight.

Most of these effects are important enough to get down immediately that it's advisable to use a macro for targeting them. You could either set up a separate macro that would need to be clicked independently or make a macro for one of your main rotation spells and you'll automatically target them, alerting you to their presence. Whichever way you choose you can enter these lines into a macro to automatically target the above mentioned mobs:

/target Snobold Vassal
/target Bone Spike

Enter as many of these lines for priority targets as you like. If any two or more targets could be available at the same time in the same encounter make sure you put the highest priority target as the last targeting line in the macro. The downside of this is that dead mobs will still be targeted, so if you are using this as a macro for one of your main rotation spells (which I recommend) you'll end up spamming your spell on a corpse. To prevent this add the following line to your macro after all the targeting lines, but before /cast spell name:

/targetlasttarget [dead]


The proper handling of encounter dynamics and damage enhancing buffs and debuffs can ramp up raid DPS by up to 30-40% of the bosses health if the proper optimization isn't already taken into account.

Some weeks ago my group had been working on the Northrend Beasts encounter in Trial of the Grand Crusader, and through one issue or another we slowly lost and replaced many members of the raid group throughout the night. As we did so we slowly became further and further behind on Gormok to the point where the worms were coming out the gates with Gormok still at 40%, following an early showing of clean transitions just an hour or two prior.

What was unfortunately neglected in the confusion of the night was that those key players who lost power, were called away on an emergency or otherwise hadn't been able to attend brought key buffs and debuffs that were, up till then, taken for granted. By restacking and reshuffling duties we pushed ourselves right back into a clean transition.

With that in mind, keep an eye on all the necessary debuffs that you, yourself can provide and consider using PowerAuras to monitor them. Be aware of when a key member leaves the raid an whether or not you need to fill in for the buffs or debuffs he was providing. Keep Curse of Elements up when an Unholy Death Knight is unavailable, or Expose Armor up when a Warrior is not in attendance, etc. If you're not sure who might cover the same buffs/debuffs as you, there is a handy raid composition tool at MMO-Champion. You can mouse over the effects you provide and it will class color abilities other classes provide with identical effect and highlight the particular spec, if applicable, on the other side of the page.

Where totems are concerned, try to lay them in a central location to those who need the buffs. Placing melee totems near the boss or melee target, and the caster totems near the healers and ranged for instance.

Crowd Control

I'm sure there are many DPS who have a special place in hell for being delegated to crowd control duty, but if it's important enough to be assigned then it needs to be a priority. Preventing a healer from topping off a burn target or a caster or other deadly enemy from demolishing the raid en masse are just as important as the damage meters. Allowing those mobs to kill players damages the effort of the raid as a whole and in some extremely nasty cases can result in a wipe.

Moreover, it's important to take initiative and use crowd control during encounters where players can become mind controlled. Having one of your own heal the enemy, slaughter another member of the raid or even pop Heroism or Bloodlust for the boss can seriously impact the performance of the raid as a whole. Make sure you get these people under control with sheep, traps, fear, stuns or whatever it takes. When another player is mind controled take them out of the fight if you have it within your power to do so.

Just don't kill them. That doesn't count!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Raiding 101: Research and Development

It's commonly known in the real world that knowledge is power and it is no different in the virtual world.

If you remember back to my first Raiding 101 guide last month I went over a group of standardized attacks that bosses use across the board. These are excellent things to know because they help you to classify a wide array of boss encounters in similar ways and that can help you to make a quick, informed decision during an encounter you may not be familiar with.

This, however, is only a small piece of the pie.

Back in my Everquest days boss encounters were simple. In fact the most dynamic encounters really only amounted to breaking line of site or dealing with waves of adds spawning, and the vast majority of raid encounters were simple tank and spank fights. During my brief stint in Everquest 2 I found, disappointingly, that this narrow vision of a boss fight had carried over to many of the raid encounters there as well.

WoW does a tremendous job with it's raid encounters making each one different from the last. There are practically no boss fights that are simply tank and spank fights. Nearly every encounter has some elements that prevent brute force tactics from being effective. Simply put: you have to do more than just mindlessly outgun your opponent!

The attack response strategies outlined in the aforementioned blog entry Raiding 101: Don't stand in the Fire! are only one piece of the puzzle. While they do help immensely in dealing with a wide array of attack forms they don't cover any number of endless boss mechanics presented in WoW raid encounters. To fill in the gaps what we need to do is research boss encounters.

Game resources are another area where WoW far exceeds other MMOs, and this is in no small part due to the immense community of 10.5 million subscribers. This allows for tremendous diversity in community projects, and with diversity comes strength.

But don't adopt just one source for boss strategies - bookmark them all! While the following are all great resources for boss strategies, often one site will go into more detail than another about a certain type of attack or a particular site's strategy might be less suited to your guild's play style than another. For this reason it's good to get as much exposure from as many different sources as possible to boost your understanding of an encounter.

Boss Killers

Boss killers is not particularly my favorite as I've read several strategies where tactics seemed counter-intuitive or sloppy. However, this site does host a vast number of boss strategies that are rated for accuracy by the community.

This is a good place to go and find strategies that have worked for a wide array of guilds. The strategies may have to be tweaked slightly to suit the play style of your group, but the strategies found here can be a good starting point for working on a new encounter.

One of the major strengths to this site is in detailed diagrams. This site does the best job in my opinion of showing detailed images that help to understand safe zones, positioning and spacing.


Tankspot is by far my favorite resource for boss fights. On this site a host of authors come together and post videos along with voiceover tutorials for various boss fights. You could always search YouTube for a boss kill video, but most are simply showcases of a particular guild being successful at the encounter and don't include explanations of what is happening in the fight.

TankSpot excels in this in that the videos all include full explanations of the tactics used to complete a boss encounter. This is exceptionally invaluable as often simply reading about an encounter isn't enough. You may read about every ability a boss has but still not be clear on exactly how the fight happens. Having a visual reference can significantly boost your understanding of the boss fight.


StratFu is a site similar to TankSpot, in that it acts as a community portal for authors to come together and post their own strategic video tutorials of boss encounters. This site, at times, takes things above and beyond the level of TankSpot with video effects that highlight certain tactics much like the video I posted in my blog entry Power Auras, The Best AddOn You've Never Used!


Wait a minute, this isn't a strategy site... it's a database site! What gives?

Well, yes, this site isn't dedicated to raid strategies and guides but that doesn't mean there isn't a wealth of information to be had here!

Where this site can be helpful is in the comments for various bosses and achievements. Hard mode encounters, especially when they're new to the game, can be hard to find information about. Often video tutorials won't be posted yet on StratFu or TankSpot, but if you search for the achievement associated with a certain hard mode encounter you can generally find some pointers and raid composition examples lurking in the comment boxes.


This is perhaps not the best site for overarching boss fight strategies, however it does generally have very excellent and specific descriptions of boss abilities.

Not sure the area of effect for a PBAoE?
Want to know how a boss decided on a target for a raid-breaking ability?
Curious what kind of debuff that DoT that keeps killing you is and whether or not it can be cleansed?

All these questions and more can usually be found within the pages of WoWWiki.

All of the links presented here now have a permanent residence on the side of this blog.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Everybody was Kung Fu Fighting! ... For Charity!

A little while back I posted this video in my recap of the WoW patch 3.2.2. It showcases a new vanity pet called the Panderan Monk and aside from being totally friggin' awesome is now being used to support the Make a Wish foundation!

Blizzard has released what they're calling a new 'feature': the pet store.

In the pet store you can buy vanity pets that can be redeemed in game. Vanity pets don't really affect the gameplay so they're strictly a matter of personal preference. But seriously... who can resist that Panderan??

The pet store account fortunately, isn't tied to a specific WoW account so you can buy these pets and gift them to someone you know who plays the game, and half the price of every Panderan Monk bought before the new year will be donated to the Make a Wish Foundation!

So if you're a WoW player, buy one! If you're not... buy one for a WoW player you know! And yes, I myself am proud to be a supporter of the foundation!

Friday, October 30, 2009

5 Awesome Uses for Thunderstorm

Yes, this is in fact an Elemental Shaman's blog and I'm pleased to finally bring some content specifically tailored to this niche spec. The problem is that I don't want to just regurgitate all the baseline mechanics of the spec because, well, that stuff is posted everywhere. I will instead be bringing quirks, tips and tricks that you may not have learned by simply researching a spell rotation or stat priority.

The highlight of the first entry in the spirit of the Elemental Shaman revolves around the gimmicky (and often glyphed into mediocrity) PBAoE spell, Thunderstorm.

Any raiding Elemental will know that the spell is typically used as a mana regeneration mechanic, cast out in the middle of nowhere where the knockback won't confuse and irritate the raid or glyphed to remove the knockback altogether. The knockback, of which thunderstorm boasts the farthest pushing in the game, does have it's uses. And though most of them take place on the PvP side of the game it can be a very useful utility in PvE as well - if you know how to use it.

So here are the first 5 awesome uses for thunderstorm in both PvP and PvE venues...

1. Auriaya

The Crazy Cat Lady as she's called to hard mode raiders, Auriaya starts out with a host of feline sentinels that will usually be DPSed down very quickly at the start of the fight. Shortly after, however, she'll raise another cat called the Feral Defender. This cat has nine lives, so killing it the first eight times won't be the end of it.

The real pain the Defender brings is twofold. Firstly, it randomly resets aggro every few seconds so it can't be tanked reliably. This tends to force groups to clump up to prevent the cat from bouncing all over the place. Secondly, it will leave a void zone that does significant damage over time to anyone standing in it on the place it was killed so it's preferable to move the Defender out of the raid group just before it dies. However, coupled with it's rapid aggro resets this doesn't always go as planned.

Try watching the Defender's health and once it drops below 10% thunderstorm it away. Often enough residual DoTs and ranged DPS is enough to kill the cat as it's traveling through the air. This isn't a foolproof strategy, as often the void zone can be left where the cat was before the knockback instead of where the corpse actually falls if it was killed in mid air, but in addition to other methods of controlling the Defender's positioning a well timed thunderstorm can mean the difference between a well placed void zone and a raid group forced to scatter.

2. Deconstructor

Have you ever been asked to handle the Deconstructor's adds during a heart phase? If not, then you should volunteer!

When the Deconstructor shows his heart at 75%, 50% and 25% health repair bots that heal the boss and bomb bots that explode need to be handle before reaching the boss. It's well known that blowing up a bomb bot near a group of repair bots is a fast an efficient way to handle adds, but often you'll need to stall for time.

Using a combination of earthbind totem and thunderstorm knockbacks can help significantly in putting more distance between the adds and the Deconstructor.

3. Defending the Flag in Warsong Gulch

Everyone is familiar with the lumber mill in Arathi Basin. This place is the Elemental Shaman's claim to PvP fame - especially since we're at such a horrible disadvantage the rest of the time we PvP.

It's also commonly known that the flag spawn point in Eye of the Storm is another thunderstorm hot spot, but there's a great place for thunderstorm high jinks in Warsong Gulch too.

In each faction's base there are three levels: the ground floor, balcony and rooftop. Generally speaking when your team picks up the enemy flag they'll take it back to your base and wait for the opportunity to capture it. Most teams will keep the flag on the ground floor for a quick capture but this is quite dangerous as the ground floor is quickly accessible to enemy players approaching the base on mounts.

If you can get the flag carrier to bring the flag up to the rooftop you can single-handedly fend off multiple attackers at one time for an extended period with properly placed thunderstorms.

Position yourself near the roof entrance and watch for approaching players. The occasional rogue may be able to slip past you but the vast majority of enemies will be seen coming from a mile away. Once they pass onto the roof make sure you're positioned so that they are between you and the ground floor and knock em right outta there!

Be wary of groups of players and time your thunderstorm to knock off all but one of the attackers if possible. You and the flag carrier can then mop that last attacker up and thunderstorm should be back off cooldown by the time those you sent to the mat can get back up to the roof.

4. Survival

What's the number one rule of DPS?

Don't die.

Granted, most DPSers don't enjoy the ability to heal like Elemental Shaman, but aside from healing thunderstorm is one of our tricks for getting out of a tight spot. The best example of this is the Faction Champions in the coliseum raid instance.

If you find yourself running from a host of mobs and there's no way out, drop a thunderstorm and give yourself some much needed breathing room.

5. Aggro Ping-Pong

I don't generally recommend specifically going out for this as it may irritate your tank if done excessively but you can easily "bat" a mob you've pulled aggro on back to the tank so he can more easily pick it back up.

Once the spell's been cast make sure to wind shock to lower your aggro and make the mob that much easier for the tank to pick back up.

As always, however, you should always pay attention to your threat. Set up an audio warning in your threat meter to alert you that you may be pulling aggro as a preventative measure. This is a great trick, but if you ever have to use it it may mean that you should pay more attention to your threat.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

What's in a name.... plate?

Have you heard the term nameplates in WoW before? I hope so, because nameplates are one of the truly indispensable tools available to a WoW player - and they're part of the default UI!

If you don't know what nameplates are just head into the game, find some neutral or hostile NPCs or critters and hit your 'V' key. Assuming you haven't remapped 'V' to anything else, health bars should be popping up on your screen over the heads of NPCs and critters around you. These are the tools of which I speak.

There is an incredible amount of crucial data displayed on screen while you have nameplates active and they don't just work for enemies. The 'shift+v' binding will display friendly nameplates so if you are a healer you can use the nameplates to heal friendly players or NPCs nearby that may not be in your raid window. This is especially helpful in places like Wintergrasp, or for healing pets if you feel so inclined and don't include pets in your raid window setup.

The main function of nameplates, in this blogger's opinion, is to give you an easy visual reference during combat without having to constantly switch targets to check health values. This is especially helpful during the Freya encounter - and I'll refer back to this fight throughout this article.

The Freya encounter provides us with two specific examples of how nameplates can be used efficiently and both relate to how her adds are handled.

Detonating Lashers

To my knowledge this pack of adds has a unique mechanic in how they are presented during the encounter. A large group of them spawn at one time and as each lasher dies, they explode dealing a moderate amount of AoE damage to anyone nearby. Their aggro is also spotty which makes controlling them difficult.

There are other tactics that can be used to manage them, but my guild's strategy revolving around AoE damage until the lashers are at about 50% health, then single target burns following the tank. To keep the lashers all together we stay clumped up in one spot while killing them. This means that we need to exercise control over how quickly each one dies as too many detonating at one time can easily kill a substantial portion of the raid.

Using nameplates on this pack gives you a bird's eye view, showing the health value of all the lashers on screen. This visual reference is key to knowing when to stop the AoE, as you can easily keep track of the entire group at once through their nameplates.

Lasher Pack

Not to be confused with detonating lashers, the lasher pack consists of three different enemies that must die within a few seconds of each other. If all three of the lasher pack do not die within so much time of each other they will revive their fallen comrades to 50% health. This is not impossible to recover from, but it is often hard to throttle DPS sufficiently once the plan has gone awry so the initial killing of the mobs is the most important part.

Much like the detonating lashers, nameplates will give you a birds eye view of the entire encounter and add to that the fact that you can target the lasher through it's nameplate and you have an ultra efficient tool to not only make sure they are all three dieing at a similar pace, but target lashers (or other NPCs in similar encounters) who are at much higher health values in order to help them quickly "catch up".

Tanking With Nameplates

I generally think nameplates are indispensable, they are always on for all of my characters - but tanking is one situation where nameplates are exceptionally helpful.

If you have aggro coloring turned on nameplates will glow yellow, orange or red if you have high threat on them. If you don't have aggro coloring enabled you probably should - even if you aren't a tank. So head on into interface options and get that enabled!

Aggro Glow Coloring
  • Red: Solid threat; this mob is on you and not going anywhere else anytime soon.
  • Orange: Mostly solid threat; this mob is on you, but if you don't show it some love it may change targets soon.
  • Yellow: Nearly solid threat; you have high threat on this target, but someone else has more. If you're not tanking you're about to pull threat if you are tanking this mob is probably beating on someone else.
  • No coloring: Someone else has solid threat; this mob is interested in someone that's not you!
Nameplates are invaluable during tanking because of the coloring feature. Especially during 5-man heroics and raid instance trash it will help you to get a bird's eye view of who you have threat on and who you might be losing threat on.

I've personally almost stopped using Omen altogether on my tank because of nameplates. It makes aggro management almost trivial to be able to view this information so easily. The aggro coloring will allow you to make snap decisions faster; allowing you to notice which target you may be losing threat on and switch to them to quickly build threat before the healer or some stray DPSer gets an unhappy mob in their face!

Other Information

Aside from health values and aggro coloring nameplates also display the name and level of the mob and a castbar with spell icon just below the health bar.

Since mobs that aren't your target or focus don't have a referenceable UnitID they can't be targeted with a standard macro - unless they are your mouseover target. Coupled with the castbar on the nameplates you could, if you felt so inclined, make a macro to interrupt a mouseover target and simply mouse over the nameplate to target them with a mouseover macro.

Some examples of how this would be useful are interrupting the shadow damage attack the burrowers cast during Anub'arak in the coliseum or dispelling the shield from an evoker in Thorim's arena(this would be good for healers, but as DPSers should always burn down the evokers first in the arena it becomes a moot point for DPS since the evoker should already be targeted).

A macro set up this way would look like this:

/cast [target=mouseover] Wind Shear

All in all nameplates are a great tool. If you know how to read them they pack an incredible amount of highly useful information into a very small space. In fact, in patch 3.3 the usability of nameplates will be expanded further as they will no longer sort themselves by default (freeing up more viewing space as they'll no longer stack in a way that prevents them from overlapping) and extending the range and conditions under which they'll be visible over a target's head.

So to sum up in just a few words: If you're not using nameplates, you probably should be!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Raiding 101: Don't Stand in the Fire!

This is the first in a series of raiding guides that will not focus on any particular encounter or instance but on the very basics of what one needs to do to be a successful raider. The first will focus on the most important aspect of any boss kill you will ever complete in WoW: Survival.
Give a man a fish and he eats for a day. Teach a man to fish and he eats for a lifetime.
This quote rings true for so many things and raiding in WoW is definitely one of them.

The tried and true method of educating a raid group about a particular boss or raid instance is to post a handful of videos and a recap of the strategy for easy reference. This tried and true method has the distinct disadvantage of not teaching the raider how to fish, as it were. I'm here to tell you there's a better way.

What is this better way? Why, teaching the raider to fish, of course!

There are many raid encounters in WoW alone spanning across three different iterations of the game and 9 (soon to be 10) tiers of difficulty. Each boss has a different strategy and requires a different level of expertise and cooperation. However, everything you ever do in any boss fight outside of your standard class responsibilities boils down to a half dozen or so types of attacks. Learning how to recognize and deal with these types of attacks can make the difference between a pro and a noob.

Types of Attacks:
  • Point Blank Area of Effect (PBAoE): These are attacks that are targeted at the boss and do damage to more than one player in it's area of effect.
  • Targeted Area of Effect (AoE): The more common type of area damage, targeted AoE attacks do the same thing as PBAoE except they are not targeted on the boss. Targeting mechanics differ but most commonly are centered on a player or a key point of the room.
  • Conal Attacks: Conal attacks are attacks that originate at the boss and have an area of effect that widens as it gets further from the boss.
  • Debuffs: Debuffs can cover all sorts of things a boss does. Most commonly they are DoT type debuffs but they'll often have special traits attached to them that can complicate matters.
Location, Location, Location!

Most all of these attacks can be avoided by knowing where you need to stand and when you need to stand there. This is possibly one of the most important aspects to end game raiding a raider could learn.

Especially in Wrath of the Lich King, end game raiding in WoW is an incredibly mobile thing. There are almost no fights where you can just stand in place for the entire fight and sling lightning bolts at the boss - although as an elemental shaman I can't say I would be upset if this wasn't true!

In most situations all of these attacks can be avoided. There are times when they can't and those times are all about testing the healing fortitude of the raid - which is beyond the scope of this particular posting. But knowing when the attacks are coming and knowing where they are coming to is one half of the equation. The other half of the equation is knowing what tools you have at your disposal - not just in your own character but in the encounter as well.

Point Blank Area of Effect

PBAoE effects can be avoided almost 100% of the time. They always start at the position the boss is and cover varying types of distance.

Some examples of PBAoE are cleave attacks that hit everyone standing in front of the boss to thunderstomp type effects that hit everyone in the immediate vicinity of the boss. Occasionally PBAoE can target players at a great distance, but these effects often have other ways of being avoided like interrupting General Vezax's Searing Flame or switching to the opposite color when one of the Twin Val'kyr starts casting their light or dark vortex.

Area of Effect

AoE attacks are possibly one of the easiest to avoid, even if you're targeted with one. Most targeted AoE will leave a splash of damage where the person being targeted is standing. This is where the term "don't stand in the fire" came from! The easy way to avoid these attacks is to spread out, because the more people are standing in one place the greater the chance that one of these targeted AoEs will be dropped in that spot.

And don't wait for other people to get out of your way either because odds are that the plot of land you've laid claim to has already been scoped out by another person in your raid. People are funny things when they don't communicate, they tend to assume another is going to pick up the slack and when they don't it's that person's fault. Never mind that any element in this equation could have easily avoided the situation; It's always somebody Else's fault.

Don't be that guy. Take it upon yourself to keep the distance between yourself and your fellow raid members when the threat of a targeted AoE is looming over your head.

Purely in terms of numbers on any boss with a targeted AoE the target of the AoE is likely selected randomly in the raid group. That generally gives you a 1 out of 25 chance to be targeted by the AoE. If you're standing on top of someone else the chances you'll be targeted have just doubled, so spreading out is really the best way to go in this scenario.

Conal Attacks

Conal attacks can partially be lumped in with AoE attacks in that the best way to avoid them is to spread out.

Conal attacks, like AoE attacks generally target a specific raid member. Unlike AoE, whose damage is concentrated on a specific piece of real estate, conal attacks start at the the boss and push forward directly away from the boss. The area of effect will also expand in a cone shape as it gets further from the boss.

Since these attacks will always issue forward from the boss this provides a danger zone that corresponds to whichever way the boss is facing at the time. This also provides for safe zone on the flank and rear of the boss and these are generally the spots you will want to stand in regardless of whether the boss does a conal attack or not. There are exceptions to this rule, for instance, Auriaya in Ulduar does a conal attack called Sonic Screech that does a high amount of damage split amongst everyone that was hit by the attack. In this scenario you will want to stand in front of the boss to split the damage into manageable numbers, but this is the exception and not the rule.

Most conal attacks will generally target the tank so as long as a raider is positioned to the side or rear of the boss they can generally be considered safe. There are exceptions to this rule as well. The best example of this is Icehowl, the third phase of the Northrend Beasts encounter in the coliseum raid instance. Icehowl will randomly target a raid member when he does his conal attack, a blast of icy breath that freezes everyone caught in it. Because it is randomly targeted you aren't necessarily safe standing behind or to the side of the boss - this is where spreading out comes in handy.

If a conal attack target is randomly selected odds are you won't get your chances of being hit down to 1 out of 25 but the chances can indeed be minimized. The way this is done is by spreading out around the boss. If the raid is evenly spaced out around the boss in a circle, only a minimal cross section of raid members will be hit by the attack. It is especially helpful to keep this in mind if your raid tends to stay clumped up on one side of the boss. If you find this is the case, try to gravitate towards the empty areas around the boss to lower your chances of being caught in the cone. This doesn't necessarily eliminate your chances to be targeted it, but it can exponentially lower your chances of being caught up in a conal attack targeted on somebody else.


Debuffs can have any type off effect under the sun and this is where having prior knowledge of the fight can come in handy. Know what debuffs the boss can leave on you, how they get applied and what, if anything, to do about them.

DoT attacks are one of the most insidious types of debuffs and very often the one you have the least control over.

Through some means, the boss applies a DoT debuff to a raid member and the debuff will start eating away at the raid member a little bit at a time. There are varying degrees of damage caused by DoTs from the fairly innocuous Biting Cold during the Hodir encounter to the devastating stacking DoT applied by the Fire Bomb AoE in Northrend Beasts heroic that can kill you in only a few seconds if you don't escape the fire quickly.

Stacking is another concept applied to debuffs. These special types of debuffs will reapply to your character every time you fail to avoid a certain attack. Sometimes debuff stacks will cap out at a certain point, but any stacking DoT debuffs will do more and more damage over time the more stacks you have.

Most debuffs can be cleansed by healers and casters but many you'll need to be familiar with the boss to fully understand. There are plenty of resources for researching the debuffs on a particular boss but there is no blanket solution for dealing with them. Resources for researching boss fights will be covered in a future post and will, at some point, be featured in a side bar on this blog.


It can be quite comfortable to fall into a pattern of stand in one place and do your thing, and it's easy to pass the buck to another player in terms of positioning than it is to accept responsibility and take the initiative, but if you take nothing else away from this blog entry please take this:

Don't stand in the fire!

Trust me, your raid group will love you for it!

Saturday, October 3, 2009


So I was in the middle of writing a review of the new Syfy show Stargate Universe when I decided I didn't want to keep cluttering up my WoW blog with things that didn't really relate to WoW. In light of this I've set up a second blog specifically for movie, game and television reviews: The Sci-Fi Slacker.

So from now on there should be a much more purist WoW flavor to this blog. If, however, you enjoyed my rants and reviews I invite you to my new blog which will eventually have a permanent link at the side of this page. And above and beyond that I invite you to watch the new Stargate show Stargate Universe on Hulu, as the premier has left me desperately thirsty for the next episode!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Hello World! - Your First AddOn

It's no secret that I'm a UI nut. I redesign my UI constantly, trying out new mods that will help me react faster, make the UI look more streamlined or just reduce the lag my UI imposes on my computer. One thing that may not be as well known is that I run my own personal AddOn that isn't published on it's own anywhere to help accomplish many trivial things that I don't want to download a bloated AddOn to do.

This AddOn is called OobieUtil and it does everything for me from automatically repairing my gear to rewriting my bandage macro to use the highest bandage available and automatically accepting invites from the guild leader during raid times.

OobieUtil does next to nothing graphically speaking, but it keeps my UI running smoothly - like engine oil as it were. I code into this mod many repetitive or convoluted procedures that clutter up the UI, distract me from the game or just plain annoy me.

To me, OobieUtil is as indispensable as DeadlyBossMods or a good action bar AddOn - I can't imagine playing without it. With a little inscturction anybody can accomplish much of what I do in my utility AddOn, it just takes a bit of copy/paste action and the right resources.

In this first tutorial I'll go over the basics of what you need for an AddOn... the basic infrastructure that you'll need to start coding modifications into your UI to streamline it. Here are some examples of things I do with this utility:

  • Provides notifications when my character is running low on ammunition i.e. Hunter ammo pouch or Warlock soul bag is below a certain percent full.
  • Rewrites a bandage macro to use the highest available bandage. All characters share the same macro and it's automatically rewritten on character changes and inventory updates.
  • Rewrites an assist macro via a slash command - more advanced version scans a party and automatically find the tank and rewrites the macro.
  • Automatically watches a faction you've recently gained reputation with.
  • Automatically repairs gear at a vendor using guild funds if the option is available.
  • Rewrites a macro that will equip a lance or the weapon equipped at the time the lance was picked up. Knows which lance you picked up and adjusts the macro accordingly.
My current iteration of the utility does more than the above, but these are examples of some repetitive tasks that can be accomplished with just a little knowledge. And without further adieu here is a step by step guide to creating your first AddOn...

Note: This tutorial is for Windows PCs, though AddOns for Mac follow the same format some specific instructions in terms of how you interact with your OS may not translate properly.


If you already know a bit about programming chances are that you've made a "Hello World" program before. It's generally the first program written when learning a new language - but don't let that intimidate you. There are a small handful of programming techniques that will help accomplishing certain tasks in an AddOn but for the most part the WoW API is very user friendly and a great deal of things can be accomplished without advanced programming techniques.

For this tutorial, however, I won't be talking about any techniques, just the framework needed for an AddOn.

The first step is to create a folder for your AddOn. Whatever name you use for the folder will be the name of the AddOn, but for this tutorial we'll stick with 'HelloWorld'.

Next you'll want to open Notepad or another text editor of your choice. Stay away from Office products when editing AddOn files, though. They tend to add unnecessary formatting tags that could cause your AddOn to not work properly. My own personal favorite is Notepad++.

Type or copy/paste the following into your text editor of choice:
## Interface: 30200
## Title: HelloWorld

Once you have this much typed in save the file with the name 'HelloWorld.toc' inside the folder we made earlier. Before you save make sure to change drop down menu below the file name box to say 'All Files' otherwise you may end up accidentally saving the file with an extra file extension, which WoW will not know what to do with.

Next, open a new text file and type in the following:
print("Hello World!")
Once that's done save the file in the same folder with the name 'HelloWorld.lua'.

That's it! Make sure the AddOn folder is nestled into your AddOns directory along with the other mods you use and log in to the game, the end result is that the words in quotes are printed to the chat window. Generally this is a technique used when a mod author wants to post a message to chat that the AddOn has been loaded.

For the AddOn to do anything really meaningful in the game world you need to get into registering and handling events but that, dear reader, is for another tutorial.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Everybody Was Kung Fu Fighting!

Patch 3.2.2 is grinding inexorably closer. And so far, it looks like it's going to be a great patch... but not this week. Here's a quick review of some of the highlights:

Many whelps, handle it!

Onyxia is back - and I hear she deep breaths more!

For those who don't know Onyxia is a classic WoW raid encounter that was a proving ground for guild looking to prove that they could not only down the first tier of content but were ready to dig into the next.

Of course, this was back in the day when a raid instance wasn't a completely self contained tier of gear. Although most of Molten Core was dropped tier 1 gear, the end boss Ragnaros dropped tier 2. Onyxia also dropped tier 2, and happened to be the boss most guild cut their tier 2 teeth on.

Of course, what mention of Onyxia would be complete without raging along with the legendary Onyxia video!

The original video was of the actual encounter, but somehow this animation makes it even funnier. Whoever can lay claim to the voiceover in the video has gone down in WoW history along with Leeroy Jenkins and his 'At least I got chicken!'. Members of Prime are still calling out 'More dots! More dots!' and 'That's a 50 fucking DKP minus!' years after the fact.

And not only is this classic encounter back but Blizzard has built in a shout out to that classic video with their list of achievements for the new Onyxia: MMO-Champion. Among these achievements are 'Many whelps! Handle it!' where you intentionally spawn 50 whelps during a kill and 'More dots!' for the simple speed kill achievement.

It's unknown how this encounter will be revamped specifically, but it's been said that there will be both new and old aspects to this encounter. So who know... maybe she will deep breath more!

Elemental Changes

To understand where they're going with this you kind of have to understand where we've been since the debut of the Wrath of the Lich King(WotLK) expansion.

Before the current expansion elemental shaman were lightning factories. At any given time while a shaman was DPSing with this spec you may or may not actually see the separation between lightning bolts they were slung so fast. But when the expansion went live a new couple new spells were thrust into our rotation: Flame Shock (a damage over time debuff) and Lava Burst (a large direct damage effect that would automatically crit if Flame Shock was in use, consuming the remainder of the Flame Shock debuff).

Another introduction to the expansion were glyphs, scrolls that could be scribed into the glyph interface to make certain spells more powerful. This feature was initially touted as being a fun and interesting way to change your spells. Well, for elemental shaman we were relegated to a specific set of glyphs for raiding in order to continue to put out compeditive DPS. None of these glyphs were fun, in fact one of them removed the knockback from Thunderstorm, one of my favorite and most fun spells - and they removed the fun from it!

So now, finally, they've brough forth the following spell changes:
  • Flame Shock: The duration of all ranks has been increased by 6 seconds.
  • Lava Burst: This ability no longer ever consumes a Flame Shock debuff off of the target.
Free at last! Free at Last! Thank.... nevermind. But anyway, this seems lackluster at first. I mean, they're just shuffling around our abilities for the same net effect. But in the end we end up with an extra glyph available. The word on these glyphs is already in as per what will be the best for DPS, but it feels a little freer in here, like a breeze up the kilt on a cool spring day... Ami, c'est l'amour!

Another issue they addressed a little more fully was the Shaman lack of scalability. I believe next to Shadow Priests, Elemental Shaman currently have the worst scaling in the game, and I'm incredibly happy with the fact that it's being addressed (much unlike the ghost Lava Burst bug of 3.2!).
"Put another way, if you and your friend start an instance at 5000 dps and then as you get gear she goes to 7000 dps while you go to 6000 dps, then that's a scaling problem."
From: MMO-Champion

And the following change was put into place:
  • Shamanism: Your Lightning Bolt and Chain Lightning spells gain an additional 3/6/9/12/15% and your Lava Burst gains an additional 4/8/12/16/20% of your bonus damage effects.
From: MMO-Champion

Did you catch it? The stealth buff in the text? Let me help you out by showing what Shamanism currently does:
  • Shamanism: Your Lightning Bolt spell gain an additional 2/4/6/8/10% and your Lava Burst gains an additional 4/8/12/16/20% of your bonus damage effects.
That's right bitches and bitchettes, it's the return of Chain Lightning! Back before WotLK I was a lean, mean, Chain Lightning slingin' machine! I can't say yet as to whether or not this will be a standard part of the rotation again, but one thing's for sure: If the goal was to make us start paying attention to our mana pool, this will do it!

I Bring Pandamonium!

Last - but certainly not least - is the introduction of the Panderan companion pet.

This song has been stuck in my head for days and I don't care! This pet is so awesome words cannot describe it and oh yes... it will be mine!

Of course, if you were into Warcraft 3: the Frozen Throne then you may remember the brewmaster. In order to unlock him you would have to play through the third Alliance mission where Kael'Thas and Vashj are escaping from the sewers beneath Dalaran. Towards the middle of the map you'll find a door leading to a room with three sheep in cages and a panel in front of each cage.

When you step on each panel it says either "Bah", "Ram" or "Ewe". And it you step on each panel in that specific order it will unlock a secret tower defense leve that, once beaten, unlocks the Paneran Brewmaster for the very next level!

In this level you've just escaped the dungeons of Dalaran and, along with all the innocent Blood Elves you saved during the tower defense level, departed for Outland through a portal. Taking up the search for Illidan in an effort to sate his peoples lust for magic, Kal'Thas finds him being carted off in a cage by Maiev. With the assistance of Lady Vashj and your new Pandaren Brewmaster this is actually one of the funner missions in the game.

The Panderan has been around ever since. He's popped his head for April fool's day on the Blizzard website, advertising for the phony Panderan Express. And before Dranei had been officially announced as the Alliance race for the Burning crusade expansion, fan-made pics and rumors of Panderan characters were circulating the web.

The community loves this guy, and this Shaman is no different. I just hope the companion pet is rare enough that not everyone has it, and reasonable enough to obtain that the only resort isn't to mindlessly buy booster packs for a card game I have no interest in ever playing!

Monday, August 24, 2009

PowerAuras, the Best AddOn You've Never Used!

Some time back I was doing research for the boss Prime has been stuck on (and is still stuck on) for the past couple months: Yogg-Saron. Now that the new raid is out we've been getting even less time with this old God and our attempts lately have been... well... see for yourself.

To be fair though, that was a wipe and we were running around purposefully tapping the clouds to see how many we could spawn at once! We are actually finally making solid progress on the boss, which makes me happy.

But I digress. In the video I watched, there was an AddOn that periodically flashed on screen that caught my eye. Here is the video in question, and the flash I'm talking about is the red swath that periodically frames the person filming at around 1:55.

Meghan helped me identify what was going on, since she also plays a mage named Fawynd. It turns out the mage in the video was proccing free pyroblasts and the indicator was meant to warn her so she could react without having to watch a buff list like a hawk.

The AddOn(mod) providing these warnings was called PowerAuras, and it can be found here.

So I went about setting these up on a couple of my characters. The menus weren't exactly user friendly but with a little exploration I was quickly able to figure them out. The end result is that I can focus more of my attention on what is going on in the game and less on my interface.

For my shaman, I set up a blue indicator midscreen to warn me when my mana regeneration buff, Water Shield, was inactive and a smaller fiery indicator on top of my screen when my weapon was no longer buffed with Flametongue weapon. I got even better results with my death knight tank, setting up a large indicator for when Rune Strike was usable, when a free Howling Blast procced and another to warn me about when Horn of Winter wasn't active much like the Flametongue warning for my shaman.

The uses are endless, really. You can configure them to warn you about anything from being stunned or silenced to when valuable procs are active like Clearcasting or a trinket buff. The most creative of uses I've seen was posted in the UI section of the official World of Warcraft forums.

If you've ever played Gears of War you'll recognize what he did with PowerAuras in the following image links:

Light Damage
Moderate Damage
Heavy Damage

The different indicators were displays of how much damage the player had taken. This would be an excellent means of tracking health without having to constantly glance back down at your unit frames. Odds are slim that a player would miss that giant red splotch midscreen on low health, but it can be quite a surprise when you get your face planted in the dirt after neglecting to check a player frame tucked away in a far corner of the screen.

I feel that the only real drawback to this mod is the configuration. It has an amazing number of options packed into a small space and it can be offputting in the beginning, but once you get it set up properly it can be one of the most unintrusive and informative mods at your fingertips. To that end, I've set up a short tutorial below.

Tracking a Buff With PowerAuras

Once PowerAuras is installed and you've loaded up the game, type in the slash command /powa to open the list of effects. You'll see that I've already set up a couple for my shaman but I'll be setting up another here to display when my Water Shield buff is not active. This is a simple and easy use for PowerAuras as Water Shield is a buff I like to have on myself as much as possible. The spell itself does have a visual cue in game in the form of an orb of water orbiting my character, but in the heat of combat when the spells are flyin' it's much easier to see a PowerAuras indicator than the in game orbs.

To create a new effect click the new button.

The options can be confusing at first, but I promise there isn't much here that isn't some other AddOn's configuration menu. Whenever you are at this window it will only affect a single effect, so you'll need to edit each one individually to your tastes.

Effects are also saved on a per-character basis so you won't see a warning you set up on your mage clogging your screen on your rogue.

Focusing on only the top half of the menu first, I'll pick a texture. You can adjust the highlighted slider to scroll through the available textures or, for more advanced users, set your own textures for use. The textures have the .tga extension and can be edited in GIMP.

For this example I'm going to use a shield texture, since it will be the Water Shield Buff. I'll also adjust the color to blue to represent water.

On the bottom half of the options menu is where you link the texture to the correct conditions. For this example I'll set it to display when the buff called Water Shield is not active.

And the end result is that when the Water Shield buff is active nothing is displayed. But when the buff needs to be re-applied a blue shield centered on the screen will display. This will be an easy visual cue during a heated battle that my mana regeneration buff has faded and should be recast when I have a free second to do so.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Thank you, Microsoft. No really, thanks.

Humans are interesting animals. We lift ourselves above the animal kingdom like we're better than them. I recently saw an episode of That 70's Show where Eric got caught masturbating in Donna's bathroom. In a dazzling display of how completely unaware of our own nature people are, Red shouted out against this atrocity, asking Eric: "What are you, an animal?!"

As if human beings have climbed to such a high pedestal that our primal nature doesn't affect us. I disagree.

Have you ever seen a rat run through a maze to find the cheese? He (or she) was taught to do so. Because of the promise of reward he was able to learn which way he needed to go to reach the feeder bar for a reward. Humans work the same exact way, and Microsoft has perhaps unwittingly begun the destruction of common sense online.

If you run Windows Vista you probably know what this is. The prompt that rears it's ugly head on average every 3.7 seconds while you're tooling around on your computer. The point of it is to make sure the user intended to initiate some change to the computer that could affect the system in any significant way. It's a measure of security to make sure important system settings cannot be initiated without direct input from the user. And it's good on paper.

Unfortunately, the frequency with which these pop-ups occur causes the user to become complacent. We expect the window to pop up and we know that 'Continue' button is the feeder bar. We don't care what the window says, it could say 'Click continue to install a virus on your computer and send your social security number to a disreputable individual so he can buy a boat!' and hundreds of thousands of people would click continue.

One of the less disastrous examples of this behavior is in, you guessed it, World of Warcraft.

One of the best ways to get some small group play in is to run heroics. They are designed for only a small group and the loot is better than anywhere else you could go with only 5 people. The drawback is that you can only do each heroic once every 24 hours. When you kill a boss that yields loot you get 'saved' to the instance. If, however, you go into a heroic where the bosses have already been killed you will have the option of whether or not you want to get saved to the instance.

This helps because previously people would join a group not realizing that someone in the group was already saved and upon zoning in become saved themselves. And with the bosses killed there is nothing to be had other than a piddly few gold's worth of trash to clear. So Blizzard in their infinite wisdom came up with this!

  • Players first entering any dungeon that will result in a lock-out timer will be warned if they are going to be saved to the instance. This warning will include an option to port to the nearest graveyard before being saved.

It is a warning of sorts. If you enter an instance that has already been saved to a player (P.S. this always means a boss is dead) you are prompted with this window. You can then click accept to accept the save, zone out, or click the other button to be taken to the nearest graveyard outside the instance.

This morning I had decided to resume my emblem farming with my Death Knight Tank. I got an invite to the daily dungeon almost immediately, so I knew something was up. There's no way it could be that easy.

It turned out that one of the DPSers in the group had done that dungeon the night before, and as it was still before noon the instances had not reset yet. Of course, he didn't realize it until myself and another group member were zoning back out screaming 'WTF who's saved to HoL?!?!". He admitted he had forgotten about the save readily enough and offered to drop so we could pick up another. It happens, it's no big deal. In fact, that's the exact reason for the dialog. We, as animals, are not perfect and forget things.

Unfortunately the healer was apparently part of Microsoft's new culture of lemmings. So now that the healer was saved the rest of the group evaporated in a matter of seconds. This, also, is normal. It's not at all uncommon that the loss of one of the major roles will disband a group. People aren't interested in taking the role of leader or even taking over the role of leader so when things look like they might slow to a crawl most players will abandon the group and go in search of another when that group is 3-4 other strangers.

So now I sit and type, and wait for noon.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

As Superman goes around the world to reverse time, so goes Oobie! spoken by my guild's leader Keltos, known to the guild as Pete.

So for one reason or another we had decided to work on Flame Leviathan hard mode that night once we were relegated to 10s due to poor attendance. Since we'd already killed Yogg-Saron I personally had no problem with this so i was in good spirits at the time. With no immediate normal mode progression left, why not start with Flame Leviathan(FL)?

Now, in regards to FL I have a very specific role, one that I take on every week as I have the most practice with it. During the encounter one player is launched out of a catapult, landing on top of FL. Once there that person knocks out the turrets mounted on FL causing an overload and allowing the rest of the raid to do significantly more damage for a short time.

During this fight the entire raid is riding various types of vehicles and it's the vehicles that take all the damage for this particular encounter. Because of this mechanic it's not necessary to buff the raid as the vehicles are the workhorses. In my role, however, it is still my character doing the damage while riding FL, so I am usually buffed before I get in a vehicle.

One of our Paladins didn't get his buff on me before I got into the vehicle and loaded myself into the catapult, and the only way to get out of the catapult is to be launched out of it. Of course, if I don't have FL to land on I would die from fall damage after being launched out; this presented us with something of a conundrum and I was willing to just go without the buff, but Pete had an idea... what would happen if he drove up to a pillar and launched me into the side of it? As long as the initial launch didn't kill me I'd just clip on the pillar and fall a reasonable distance to the ground and survive, right?

I can only blame myself for what happened next. Pete asked the question and I enthusiastically answered, "Do it!"

He did. And I didn't clip on the pillar.

He launched me straight through the pillar, but I didn't die! I flew through the air directly at FL, who had been minding his own business waiting for us to engage, landing on his back in prime turret killing position starting the encounter!

Luckily for us, the rest of the raid had been milling around outside the encounter area, so when I engaged the walls around FL's area went up, locking out most of the raid. It was a wipe, called and executed fairly quickly. One of the great things about my guild though is that we were all able to laugh it off as we flew back into the instance, but wait....

We zoned in and the blue bubble over the entrance area was back up... that shuts off when you start clearing trash! WTF! It turns out that Pete had launched me so hard it tore a wormhole through the fabric of WoW, causing the entire raid to make a quantum leap into the past before we had cleared trash!

We ended up coming back and clearing hard mode after a few more attempts, ratcheting up Glory of the Ulduar raider one more achievement closer to a Rusted Proto-Drake, but I'll always remember being launched so hard it reset the instance!