Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The New Guild Interface

Patch 4.0.1 brought about many interface changes. Among the most notable, the guild window has had a complete revamp and now integrates some useful tools to the framework that can be easily overlooked.

Reorganization

The old two tab guild window has been reorganized with a drop down menu containing four separate categories. The old format of player location and guild rank have been placed into each of their respective drop down items: Player Status and Guild Status; both of which remain largely unchanged.

Though this new dropdown approach is not quite as fast as tabbing between the two panels in the old guild window, it's a necessary evil as a couple new features have been added to the guild window that allow for more information at a glance.

If you're looking for the old "show offline" option, it's moved to the bottom of the frame, and works with each of the four tabs.

Achievements

One of the two new tabs in the guild window is the achievements tab, which lists each player's total achievement points and their rank in the guild. Every wonder who plays the game way too much? You can probably find out in this tab!

Any Jewelcrafters Online???

Without a doubt the most useful tab in the new guild window is the tradeskill tab, a tool that has largely flown under the radar with the release of 4.0.1.

The new tab allows you to view not only a list of all guild members and their tradeskills, but clicking on a player will bring up that player's tradeskill window complete with all recipes that player knows.

This tool will take much of the hassle out of finding a crafter in the guild for whatever reason. Instead of asking constantly in guild who can craft the new belt or leggings recipe, or who can cut a strength/hit gem, players can simply head to the tradeskill tab in the guild window and find a crafter themselves.

Guild Information

The Guild Information box has been upgraded from it's own button, to it's own page on the guild window. Located on the bottom of the window, this tab now contains much more than a simple text box for random guild information.

The guild message of the day and guild information box (where ventrillo or teamspeak information is often stored) now reside here alongside a dedicated box for guild events set up through the calendar. This will allow players in guild that use the in game event calendar to see a quick list of upcoming events without clicking through all the dates in the calendar, giving a handy birds-eye view of upcoming activities.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Grouping 101: Target Priority

The coming Cataclysm is a time for many things. While many will only be concerned with making sure their AddOns get updated, the impending expansion is also a great time to reassess your goals for the game. It's also a great time to get back to basics and reaffirm many of the in-game skills that separate the pro players from the noobs.

In the process or bringing a Mage character to maximum level before Deathwing bursts forth from the deep places of Azeroth, I've become acutely aware of just how lazy the end game can make some players. In light of these experiences I'm taking things back to basics with a review of target priority.

Skull, Then X....

Burn that into your brain, because it's been the go-to kill order for players across servers since the targeting icons were added to the game.

Raid and group leaders mark targets for a reason. That reason being that focusing fire on priority targets is often crucial to success. If it's not crucial to success it's usually helpful in optimizing kill order to minimize the drain on group resources.

Wrath of the Lich King has made players lazy in the resource management department. While DPS casters will likely not have too many issues, healers will need to pay much closer attention to their mana pools to be effective. This is where efficiency will become important. Put less strain on the healers pull by pull, and the instance will run much smoother overall.

Target Priority

Unfortunately, pulls aren't always marked. A group mate may accidentally pull the next group or adds may intervene mid fight. Even though a pull may not be marked, it is still good practice to have a clearly defined kill order in order to focus DPS on priority targets.

A decent rule of thumb is to kill any caster mobs first, as they tend to be the healers and spell damage casters, often bringing other disastrous abilities to the mix that must be dealt with to ensure your party survives. In addition, tanks are built primarily to take physical hits and typically must pop cooldowns or rely on high health levels to effectively mitigate caster damage, so hunter, rogue and warrior enemies traditionally can be left for last.

Crowd Control

With Cataclysm instances will put a greater emphasis on crowd control spells, boasting more dangerous enemies that must be pacified during a fight to avoid destroying a group outright.

It's important for classes to know what crowd control spells they can use as many of these abilities only affect certain types of creatures. This means that a groups composition may radically change the list of enemies that can be controlled.

Here is a list of all the primary (easily renewable) crowd control types:

Humanoids: Mage (Polymorph), Shaman (Hex), Paladin (Repentance), Warlock (Succubus' Seduction)
Beasts: Mage (Polymorph), Shaman (Hex), Druid (Hibernate)
Elementals: Warlock (Banish), Shaman (Bind Elemental)
Demons: Warlock (Banish, Enslave Demon), Paladin (Repentance)
Undead: Priest (Shackle Undead), Paladin (Repentance)
Dragonkin: Druid (Hibernate), Paladin (Repentance)
Giant: Paladin (Repentance)
All types: Hunter (Freezing Trap)

There are also some secondary crowd control effects. I list them as secondary for multiple reasons. Some are not renewable due to long cooldowns or DoTs applied after their duration applied. Others are not truly crowd control as they leave the target free to cast or, in the case of fears, send the creature careening away in a random direction potentially pulling other groups by proximity aggro.

Here is a list of secondary crowd control effects:

Mage: Frost Nova
Priest: Mind Control (Humanoids), Psychic Scream
Rogue: Sap (Humanoids, Beasts, Demons and Dragonkin), Blind
Druid: Cyclone, Entangling Roots
Paladin: Turn Evil (Undead and Demons)
Hunter: Wyvern Sting (Survival only)
Warlock: Fear
Death Knight: Chains of Ice

It can be helpful for players using crowd control abilities to focus their crowd control target or use an AddOn to monitor the duration left on the crowd controlled target. Since many targets are crowd controlled because they pose a particular danger to the group, monitoring the duration left on a crowd control apell can mean the difference between keeping a target under control or letting it massacre a healer.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Indianapolis MMORPG Examiner

I know this blog continues to be somewhat barren, but I fully intend to continue posting just as soon as there is something worth posting about. I tend to want to make posts of substance that inform players about aspects or systems of gameplay that may not be obvious like my raiding 101 entries and AddOn tutorials.

Being that this is the end of an expansion and everyone is in something of a holding pattern there really isn't a whole lot to post about as many topics could potentially fall flat when the new expansion releases and gameplay is turned on it's head.

In the meantime, if you enjoy my writing head on over to the Examiner.com where I've been recently handed to title of MMORPG examiner for the city of Indianapolis. And please do send me feedback on the kinds of postings you'd like to see on this blog and my Examiner page.

You can reach me for feedback at the following e-mail address: scottstadt@yahoo.com.

I look forward to hearing from you!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Cataclysm and Elemental: Part 1

First of all no, I'm not dead. As tends to happen from time to time life circumstances made things hectic for a while and posting to the blog took a back seat. Hopefully things will continue to settle and I'll continue to be able to post.

I recently obtained an invite to the Cataclysm Beta from Wowinterface.com. Since I'm an author there I was able to register fora beta key tracking ID and was soon thereafter bequeathed an invite to the Cataclysm Beta. So I thought I'd take some time to go over the changes to date with Elemental.

Spells and Abilities

The primary rotation hasn't changed, we just have more tools to work with on the move.

This spell changes depending on what your weapon is imbued with. For elemental, this should (still) always be Flametongue Weapon. And for those purposes this spell is an instant cast small fire nuke that buffs your next fire spell's damage by 20%.

This is a great little on the move blast of fire that gives us a little more edge to our movement periods. Spiritwalker's Grace (which is not available yet as the level cap is currently 83) will help even more so, but given that it's slated for a long cooldown it can't be relied on heavily. This adds a wonderful little button to press while on the move to buff the next Lava Burst, which becomes a larger percentage of overall damage done during heavy movement fights.

Unleash Elements will also make a great round-off to a rotation where Lava Burst will come off too fast for another lightning bolt. It will probably be optimal to save this ability for a Lava Bust regardless since the extra 20% damage will definitely be best applied there.

This is a fairly dull ability in my opinion. I'm not saying we can't use more crowd control, but coming up with another keybinding for a situational ability gave me a headache. I'm just hoping that we'll have plenty of excuses to use it since this purports to be an elemental-heavy expansion.

Earthquake is fun and sexy. The graphic is pretty rough still, but the damage it does is not too shabby. The only downside is that it's physical but if you pair it up with a magma and earthbind totem you can wreck a group of enemies pretty well.

A cooldown prevents you from spamming it, but in the 5 second window you'll find a few GCDs to reapply totems and fire nova before earthquaking again. You have to make sure and ghost wolf a good distance away when employing this strategy as one or two mobs sometimes seep through and chunk down at your channeling if they aren't knocked down so proper placement of totems and earthquake are essential to pulling this off.

Speaking of chunking down on casting times, a new tool we have to combat this nefarious act is a new water totem. In the most recent beta build Blizzard decided we were the class that would get the previously Paladin only Concentration Aura buff.

The tooltip in game currently reads 0%, but this is probably a tooltip error only as deploying the totem does appear to significantly reduce pushback on casting time. I'd imagine the actual percentage is comparable to the Paladin version.

In keeping with Enhancement's 20% chance at concentrated coolness we now have a talented 20% chance to reset the cooldown on Lava Burst each time Flame Shock ticks periodic damage. This talent has led me to write my Lava Burst into a macro as such:

#showtooltip
/stopcasting
/cast Lava Burst

Before making this simple macro I suffered from jittery movement spikes and clunky keybindings in an attempt to stay on top of Lava Burst. As the proc is from the Flame Shock DoT component the proc can happen at any time during the rotation and often in the middle of a lightning bolt cast. The above macro helps to ease the quick transition from one spell to your refreshed Lava Burst.

One nice side effect that I hopefully won't get to used to before I start upgrading my gear after release is the interaction between Lava Surge and the tier 10 set bonus. With the DoT extension component I'm able to easily keep Flame Shock up indefinitely on a training dummy. In fact doing this is so effortless that I don't expect to be casting more than one Flame Shock per boss fight once 4.0 hits.

Though I suspect this will change once Cataclysm gear starts outstripping Icecrown loot. At my current gear level (about 50/50 split between 264 and 277 pieces) I've only upgraded a few off-set pieces like boots and bracers. I suspect level 85 dungeons and heroics will change that, stripping off the tier 10 anomaly quickly.

Though not an Elemental spell, this is trainable by all specs and as such it will probably be a good tool or Elemental as well to help with some spot healing.

It acts like a mobile, more powerful Healing Stream Totem, and the mana cost is manageable for Elemental, especially given how mana is even less of an issue than it has been in the past at this point in the beta.

The area of effect is actually quite large so for any fight where parts of the raid clump up in one area this will be a great tool to alleviate some pressure on overtaxed healers.

Rotation

There are two major things that will modify the rotation for Cataclysm: Unleash Elements and Lava Surge.

Lava Surge being the heaviest element of change, it will add a little bit of unpredictability to the rotation. Since it can pop at any time it will become paramount to maintain a Flame Shock debuff at all times, so when Lava Surge procs you won't have to spend an entire GCD sitting on an active Lava Burst while reapplying your DoT.

Unleash Elements can be looked at in two different ways; a good rotation round out or an on-cooldown nuke and Lava Burst buff. Finishing out a rotation smoothly to get out a Lava Burst on cooldown is important to maximizing Elemental DPS, but Lava Surge adds an element of unpredictability to Lava Burst's cooldown. The proc doesn't happen during every single Lava Burst cooldown, but often enough that rounding out the rotation may become less of an issue.

As I haven't tested the dungeons extensively yet it's hard to predict much more about how the gameplay will evolve during beta. At the moment the level cap is 83 so the full picture is still out of focus slightly.

Monday, June 21, 2010

PowerAuras: Linking Auras

So hopefully by now you, dear reader, have discovered the wonders of the AddOn PowerAuras. This wonderful little mod has an incredible array of usefulness from buff and debuff tracking to cooldown, health and mana monitoring. If you aren't familiar with the basic setup you can check out my other entry on the subject, PowerAuras: The Best AddOn You've Never Used! for a quick rundown.

As I mentioned above, this incredibly versatile mod can help you out with a lot of tedious or hard to monitor UI elements, but each aura can only track one thing in one way at one time. The mod works like binary, meaning an aura can only be on or off... there's no in between. But what if you want an aura to display under a slightly more complicated set of conditions?

For instance, you may hear from a member of the Hunter class from time to time how clunky Aspect of the Viper is as a mana regeneration mechanic. Often a player will go through several pulls or even entire boss fights not realizing Viper has been left on long past it's usefulness! Unfortunately the only thing PowerAuras will be able to tell you with a single aura is whether the buff is on or not on. It won't tell you when your mana is full and Viper is still on - at least not with one aura!

This kind of complexity can be achieved, however, by linking multiple auras together. Think of each aura as a single condition. In the case of the Hunter's example above there would be a single condition for Aspect of the Viper being on and another condition for your mana level being at or above a certain threshold. By linking these two conditions together you can effectively use a single texture to display only when both of these conditions are met i.e. "Display my aura when Aspect of the Viper is on and my mana is above 90%".

I recently started DPSing on my Death Knight whom I specced into unholy some time ago. One of the more unintuitive aspects of unholy DPS is Bone Shield. The spell provides an increase to DPS while it's up, but can fade with damage and has a cooldown. A single aura to track this spell is impractical as the buff may have dropped, but the spell may still be on cooldown. This is another situation where linked auras can come in handy.

Linking Auras

First you'll want to set up an aura like normal. Pick a texture and color, then place and scale it to preference. For this example our first aura will be for activated by the buff Bone Shield.

Since I want to know when the buff is not active the invert checkbox is ticked and this aura is for my second spec so I've unchecked spec 1 down at the bottom of the page.

Next we'll close this aura and return to the main window. Click the copy button and then the character specific page currently highlighted on the top left to paste this aura into the same area. Now that you've copied the aura shift click the original to disable it(More on why we do this later). It's also helpful at this point to make note of the number in brackets in the tooltip for this disabled aura. For my own setup this number is 8.

Now open the newly copied aura (the one that wasn't disabled) so we can change the settings to match up to our second condition. For this example the second condition will be activated by My Spell Cooldown with the activating spell being Bone Shield once again. Make sure to uncheck the Invert box for this aura.

Now comes the part where we link the two auras.

You'll notice in the image to the left there is a highlighted text box. This box is unlabeled in the aura configuration, however on mouseover the tooltip will explain that this box is used to link the aura for multiple conditions.

This is where we'll enter the number of the aura we wish to link it to, in my case the aura number is 8.

That's it!

Now, earlier on we disabled the original aura. We do this because otherwise both auras would be displayed simultaneously. Since we copied the aura in the first place they'd be identical and the aura would simply appear less transparent as it's been doubled up. Disabling the first aura will prevent this from happening. Since the second aura is linked to the first it will not be displayed unless the conditions for both auras have been met.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Oobie's AddOn Roundup

I thought I'd take a break from my typical rants and raves about raiding etiquette and strategy to toot my own horn for a bit.

If you recall far enough back in my blogging career you may remember a post entitled Hello World: Your First AddOn. I decided not to follow up on that particular topic because, well, programming is not or everyone and isn't near as widely useful as much of the raiding topics that I tend to post on this blog. For me personally, I do enjoy the occasional visitation to the land of computer logic!

I am by no means an expert programmer, but I do know my way around basic computer logic and I've found many ways to apply that knowledge to AddOn authoring in WoW. My mods tend to be very lightweight and simplistic... but they do the job and do it well. And they do it without all the overhead added by all the bells and whistles of many more popular mods that perform the same task.

ChannelManager

ChannelManager is my most recent AddOn, being published for the first time the same day as this blog entry... and takes care of a very simple yet, in my opinion, highly valuable task. I tend to write mods that automate certain things that slip by under the radar and this mod is a perfect example of such.

What it does, simply put, is ensure that you are always in the channels you designate you want to be in. I don't know how many times my channels have mysteriously disappeared silently and I've only found out halfway through a raid when I've already missed some important discussion in a healing or tanking channel. The aim of this mod is to make sure this situation never happens again by automatically rejoining any channels you've lost.

LDB_AnkhTimer

Formerly known as StatBlock_AnkhTimer, this is an LDB plugin that displays your Ankh count (if you aren't glyphed to remove the reagent cost) and the time left until Reincarnation finishes it's cooldown.

BlueButtons

Truth be told, BlueButtons is not even really an AddOn.

In point of fact BlueButtons is a skin for the default interface. Meaning instead of code being run in game the files in BlueButtons overwrite the files used by the default interface to change the appearance of the red interface buttons to a Wrath of the Lich King themed blue.

Readiness

Readiness was born in a time when the ready check sound was a very quiet drum sound effect. What it does is provide an interface for you to choose a custom sound file to play for ready checks.

The mod comes loaded with a host of custom sounds, more of which can be added by modifying the config section in the mods lua file.

WoWGate

WoWGate has no configuration and works right out of the box. What it does is play a sound effect when a mage in your group or raid opens a portal. The sound effect also plays when a Death Gate opens if you are a Death Knight.

OobieUI

Last, but certainly not least is my complete UI, ready for download by any interested party!

I can't claim each and every mod in this compilation is mind - not by a long shot - but many of them have been modified to work slightly differently than they do out of the box in keeping with how I've set my UI up to work.

Many of the mods come ready to use as much of my interface's configuration is done in the actual lua files, but most mods that aren't have a profile names Oobiedoo - Ysera that can be enabled to import my settings.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Healing Tools: Grid

The duty of a DPS is rather simple all things considered. Granted, there are some not-so-obvious hallmarks of a good DPS but the level of complexity that I went into in the blog entry linked above shows where the truly great players can really shine. Beyond these intricacies, all a DPS really has to do is repeat a spell rotation or skill priority to maximize damage done.

Now compare that baseline role to that of a healer and a very different schema comes to light. The baseline job of a healer is to keep the raid alive. Granted, there are many instances where folks not standing in fire or ignoring fight mechanics can make that expectation impossible to meet, but assuming your raid group is performing well, there is somewhat of a hidden level to "keeping the raid alive".

The classic game of whack-a-mole has evolved within Blizzard's encounter design over the years from Molten Core where often healers would either be assigned to heal their group or a tank to nowadays where pretty much everybody has to contribute to raid and tank healing to ensure success.

The Hidden Layer

So what is it that separates the true healers from the..... combat medics? I mean aside from using the venom from a single alien creature to take care of pretty much every virus, infection and tick infestation the far side of the universe can offer....

Damage comes in, and heals go out, we all know this. The truly skilled healers know when damage is about to come in and react accordingly with shield, HoTs or priming* their heals.

Much unlike DPS, healing is not an all or none game. When you want DPS on a target you want as much as possible as fast as possible. When you want healing you want it fast... but you don't want too much. Extra heals not only mean wasted mana, but they could potentially cause a death in the raid if a healer is focusing on the wrong target to heal at the wrong time.

I Give You... Grid!

Grid is by no means a new mod. Personally, I've been using it since back during The Burning Crusade when it was the mod for raid healing. Nowadays folks have Healbot and Vuhdo that come loaded with tons of extra features all rolled into one. For this raider, however, a combination of Grid and Clique are all you need.

It comes with all the normal bells and whistles that healers need: fading out of range targets, pre-configured cleansing indicators, aggro indicators, class coloring... and with the addition of Clique healing spells can be bound to your mouse clicks for ease of casting in combat.

Why Grid?

What I like about grid over other raid frame windows is the custom indicator setup. Each part of the raid frame has an indicator that can be loaded up with all kinds of buff and debuff indicators, which can be prioritized in the event two indicators are active at the same time.

Pair this up with the ability to add a custom buff or debuff and all of a sudden a wide array of boss encounter information is being displayed right on your raid frame and you know, for instance, which 3 people in your grid window have been linked by Pact of the Darkfallen during the Blood Queen encounter.

In the example above I've set my Grid frame borders to display the three pact targets as a pink color. And whenever I see this during the encounter I know to start slinging chain heals on these three targets as they'll be running right up to each other, making my job much simpler.

Some other examples of excellent buffs/debuff monitoring in Icecrown Citadel are: "Frost Beacon" during Sindragosa, "Harvest Soul" during the Lich King and "Bone Spike" for heroic Lord Marrowgar (The Bone Spikes don't deal damage during the encounter on normal mode so it's not necessary to track them). In terms of buffs I've found it extremely helpful to add the buff "Essence of the Blood Queen" while I'm DPSing as it makes it much easier to identify raid members that can still be bitten during the fight.

Of course, there are other examples as these are just a few. When researching a new boss fight if you notice any debuffs that deal large amounts of damage to the target it may be a good idea to add an indicator to Grid to assist in healing the right target at the right time.

Configuration

"But Oobie," you say. "How do I set this up? The Grid menu is so confusing!"

Don't worry! I've taken care of everything...

First, open the Grid configuration window by clicking the minimap/Fubar/LDB button depending on which setup you use. Or if you're like me and prefer to keep all that crap off the screen the following command will open the menu:

/grid config

Once that's open scroll down and click on the Auras heading. You'll see a couple boxes where you can input a custom buff or debuff name. For this example, we'll add the Pact of the Darkfallen buff to the border of the health frame as depicted in the image earlier in this entry.

Type "Pact of the Darkfallen" into the debuff text box and hit enter.

Once this is done, expand the Auras heading and you should be able to find the new entry labeled Debuffs: Pact of the Darkfallen. Here you'll be able to set the color for the debuff and it's priority. Don't be concerned if the color is white regardless of what you choose with the color picker. The proper color will be reflected in the raid window when the indicator becomes active.


Once you've selected a color look up near the top of the config menu and expand the Frame heading and select Border just beneath it. Then scroll through the list of buffs and debuffs and place a check mark next to our new Pact of the Darkfallen debuff. NOTE: All of the items under the Frame heading behave similarly. I've found the best results using borders and corner indicators for debuff monitoring.


That's it! The new indicator is now set up, and this will work for all custom auras. Just make sure you add new items properly as buffs or debuffs as Blizzard tends to use both in their encounter design.

*"Priming" a heal is the practice of casting a healing spell before damage has actually been done to a target. This is done typically when damage is known to be incoming on that target so that the heal lands just after the damage comes in. Often when this is done a player will monitor the healing spell cast time and cancel it if it will be wasted.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Raiding 101: ZOMG Phat Lewt!

So you're fighting a new boss in ICC and wipe after wipe after wipe things seem to be getting nowhere. Then, from out of nowhere the fight comes together in a beautiful crescendo of fire avoidance, positioning and target priority... and with a thud the boss' grill hits the floor.

Congratulations, now it's time to loot! But does the boss drop anything you want? If he drops something you can use, will you need any other gear pieces to fit it into your set? Are there other players who will also be interested in this hypothetical item?

If you don't know the answers to these questions when the loot windows pop up, you probably should.

Best in Slot (BiS)

There is a lot of talk amongst the WoW community of items that are called best in slot. While it is typically beneficial for players to find a list of their BiS gear, what's BiS for one player may not be for another. This can be true even when comparing players of an identical class and spec in some situations.

True, there is a ceiling where items can be considered BiS for the entirety of a particular class and spec, but when you're talking about an individual person you have to be a little more flexible in your definition of BiS.

For the purposes of this blog entry, what we'll consider BiS is defined by the following parameters:
  • Class and Spec
  • Statistic Hard and Soft Caps
  • Guild Progressions Level
Class, spec and stat caps should be pretty self explanatory if you're at a raiding level already. Casters take caster gear, plate wearers strength gear, tanks defense and avoidance gear, etc.

Balancing stat caps properly while inflating other non-cappable stats to the maximum achievable should be the goal in assembling a BiS list. For those with multiple stats to cap it can be even more important to plan ahead to avoid situations where you pick up an spectacular piece of gear only to lug it around in your bags until you can make up the lost defense or expertise.

Here is a list of cappable stats and their caps:
Because the stats you need to cap these statistics are spread out over your gear set it's important to develop a full list of your BiS gear with properly balanced stat caps so that when an item drops you instantly know if it will be an upgrade for you over the long term.

This is important to the overall health of the raid because of how loot is dispersed to the raid. For instance, if a spellcasting neck drops and a caster with loot priority in the guild decides it's an upgrade over what they currently have they may take it. But in the grand scheme of things if there is a better item out there for that person that drops the next raid week that first item is going to be turned into a shard or vendored instead of being put to use by another raider.

Guild Progression Level

This is the factor that makes cookie cutter BiS lists less than optimal for those who are not yet fully progressed through a raid zone, or guilds who only run 10 main instances (although the 10-man 25-man distinction will vanish come Cataclysm).

The research necessary may seem daunting at first... I know I don't want to sift through all those wowhead pages! However, the folks over at mmo-champion.com have this nifty page that will show you an overview of gear from all of ICC that's easily referenced.

To assist in the compilation of a BiS list I recommend a spreadsheet. You can use the Microsoft Office suite if you have it available, but for broke folks like myself there are free alternatives, the easiest of which to set up is google docs. If you'd prefer software for your computer over a spreadsheet embedded in the browser Open Office is a free office suite that's compatible with Microsoft Office.

Setting up... The List!

Set up columns for slot name, item type (this will help later in organizing items), item name, each of your class and spec specific stats and each color of gem. You can see my full example spreadsheet here.

Under the slot name column you'll need 16 row names: Head, Neck, Shoulders, Back, Chest, Wrist, Gloves, Waist, Legs, Feet, Ring, Ring2, Trinket, Trinket2, Main-Hand, Off-Hand.

just below the Off-Hand row, beneath each stat column heading set the box to add up the sum of all the rows above it. to do this, click in the box and type the following (assuming the first column is column D): =sum(D2:D17)

For each column adjust the letter of what you type to the column you're typing in, so for instance, type the following into the box beneath the item rows for column J: =sum(J2:J16)

Once that's all done you're ready to start importing items. When I did my BiS list I simply imported every item off the 10-man heroic list and 25-man normal list because those are the items I would potentially have access to at my guild's current progression level. Use the Item Type column to list what kind of item it is, that was you can simply move this item's boxes up and line them up with the appropriate row.
Trinkets can be a difficult prospect for someone in a guild not fully progressed through 25 man content because often community discussion focuses solely on the best available from 25 man content. Thumbing through threads in your class forum on elitistjerks.com can often shed some light on which trinkets are best for your situation.

Once you're all done and satisfied with your list you can be prepared for loot drops during a raid. With this information at hand you can identify whether a particular item is going to be very useful or simply a short term upgrade. This is especially true for classes with multiple caps to juggle like tanks as it can be helpful to hang onto a wide array of gear in case you need to make up for lost stats when you pick up an exceptional new upgrade that, as a side effect, drops you below the expertise, or worse yet... defense cap.

There's nothing wrong with taking an intermediary item if it's better than what you have, but for those pieces that are not in your BiS list consider passing to another player, especially one who is under geared. After all, items do more good for your raid as a whole on another player than they do collecting dust in your bank.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Anatomy of a Targeting Macro

If you remember back to my blog entry entitled Raiding 101: The Duty of a DPS, I mentioned briefly the concept of a targeting macro and how it can be useful in a raid environment. It can be helpful to know the quirks of the /target command as it doesn't necessarily behave the way you might expect it to. This post will detail some of the finer points of the /target command.

Not Necessarily the Target in Front of you...

The targeting command of the past could be somewhat confusing to understand. While it targeted the first mob with a given name, it wasn't always the closest one to you.

Thankfully we don't have to deal with that complication anymore and the targeting command has been brought in line with a much more intuitive system that targets the closest mob to you, regardless of it's position around you. This means that you may end up targeting a creature directly behind you depending on positioning and spawn locations, but a quick pan of the camera by holding the left mouse button can help to quickly find stray targets.

Multiple Target Priority

A typical targeting macro for a raider will tend to have multiple targeting lines in it that each target a creature with a different name. For the most part these will generally be mobs that are active in different encounters so target overlap is not an issue. There are situations, however, where a targeting macro can assist in general target priority for all of the various adds that spawn during the same fight.

NOTE: The latter scenario is not typically recommended. Target swapping manually is a very valuable skill for any DPS or tank raider to have. Targeting macros are very strict in the order they target mobs and it's not always the case that a stringent kill order is the best. Assessment of the current situation and sound combat decisions based on a solid understanding of the fight will trump a targeting macro every time.

In order to keep your target priority straight when your macro has multiple targeting lines that will be used during the same encounter you need to make sure to structure your macro so the the mob with priority will be targeted by the time the macro has run it's course. There are two ways to do this and neither is particularly better.

Using a ranged DPS target priority for Valithria Dreamwalker: Blazing Skeleton, Suppressor, Blistering Zombie, Glutinous Abomination

Method 1:

/target Blazing Skeleton
/target Suppressor [noexists] [dead]
/target Blistering Zombie [noexists] [dead]
/target Glutinous Abomination [noexists] [dead]

Method 2:

/target Glutinous Abomination
/target Blistering Zombie
/target Suppressor
/target Blazing Skeleton

In method 1 you can see that the target priority is done in the order of the kill priority. Each line after the first will check to see if the current target (presumably what the previous line targeted) exists or is dead. If it does exist (meaning you have a target) and that target is not dead then the next targeting line will not execute, leaving you with your original target.

Method 1 is a good method to use if you find that method 2 causes your computer to hang, if you have very few targets to include int he macro or you have a mod that allows you to make macros with more than 255 characters. The fact that each line after the first must include two conditionals to operate effectively make this a bad method to use if you have an extensive list of targets or other commands you would like to include in the macro as the conditionals on each line tend to push on the default 255 macro characters limit rather quickly.

As you've probably already realized method 2 uses a reverse targeting order in it's design. This method of placing the highest priority last effectively means that if any two targets are up at the same time you'll target both of them, but by the end of the macro you'll have your highest priority target in the cross hairs. For most PCs this should be completely transparent - you won't even see the intermediary targets, just your last one. However, if you find this causes you to hang for a moment because of a slow PC or laggy unit frames method 1 may be worth a look.

Automatic or Manual?

There are two options for integrating a targeting macro into the boss fight, and for the most part they both depend on play style.

For those like myself the automatic option is the best. This method works well if you tend to target a vast majority of things manually as you will be able to get by with a minimum number of target lines in your macro. The idea is to integrate all the ultra high priority targets from various encounters your guild runs into a single macro that will replace the main button in your DPS rotation.

This is what a macro of this sort might look like:

#showtooltip Lightning Bolt
/target Bone Spike
/target Blazing Skeleton
/targetlasttarget [dead]
/cast Lightning Bolt

As you can see there is a very limited number of targeting lines in this macro as placement here is strictly for high priority targets. Additionally, no targets both occur in the same encounter so the order of the targeting lines is irrelevant.

There is one additional line where the target last target command is invoked with the dead condition. This is included because of the nature of this type of targeting macro. When embedding a macro into your DPS rotation like this you'll want to use a frequently cast spell which will result in spamming the targeting functions. Often a mobs corpse will take a few moments to despawn but a targeting command will still target the corpse. After the targeting line switches to the corpse this line checks to see if the target is dead, in which case it targets your last target so you don't have to waste DPS uptime targeting a corpse.

This type of macro is beneficial because it allows you to move smoothly between encounters instead of remembering to prepare a macro for each fight. It would require (if not used in conjunction with other targeting macros) manual targeting for a good portion of adds throughout raid instances as this certainly is not a comprehensive list, but as raids are more and more dynamic with each instance released this is a very important skill to foster going forward.

For those who prefer an extra action bar with a bank of targeting macros specific to each fight there is a manual option. This would require you to either make several macros or use a mod that supports macros without character limits and make one long super macro. Either targeting method works so this is largely up to preference and your macro character limitations.

For a manual macro system there would be no integration with existing spells, you would simply make a separate macro (or macros) that you'll have to manually click or give it's own keybinding to. This is best for making a comprehensive list of all targets in a particular encounter, much like in the targeting method 1 and 2 examples above.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Raiding 101: Interface Setup

Disclaimer: This is not an article on making your interface look good, moreover it is a guide on how to optimize an interface for raiding. If you're interested in beautifying your interface the WoW Interface and Macros forum is a great place to go! There usually is a "Post your UI" thread where making an interface that is consistent and aesthetically pleasing is usually the focus.

I've put off this topic for quite some time due to the immense nature of the topic. After all, different roles within a raid require different types of interface setup and some of these roles are even split up between the same class or even spec. For instance, an elemental shaman who traditionally kites adds when needed may need a slightly different toolset than one that only needs to hammer away at the boss endlessly.

That being said, there can be a great deal of simplicity when it comes to setting up your interface and though it may seem daunting it really boils down to one simple question:

What information do you need to see in the heat of battle?

This can be a tricky prospect, however, as a great deal of information can be perceived as necessary when it actually isn't. In this respect it can be helpful to take a good long look at your interface elements (Preferably not during an encounter that requires your undivided attention!) and ask yourself.. do I really need to see that?

Here are some common elements that can be eliminated from most interfaces when there is a lot of clutter:
  • Superfluous Action Buttons - Most of the time during a fight you won't need to bring out a Traveler's Tundra Mammoth or cast Water Breathing on someone. These extra non-combat utility and vanity spells can be placed on an action bar that hides itself when in combat or not moused over. OPie or Geist can also be used to give you a bank of action buttons that remains hidden until a keybinding is pressed.
  • Full Buff Lists - In the current iteration of the game there are an obscene amount of buffs flying around. So many, in fact, that Blizzard is changing many of the talented raid wide buffs to be auras to cut down on lag as a result of buffs constantly being reapplied. One handy little feature that was added recently was the ability to consolidate long term buffs into a single button. You can find this by opening the game menu, clicking the 'Interface' button and opening to the 'Buffs and Debuffs' category. If you're worried about missing a particular buff when the readycheck goes out because they're consolidated try a mod like BuffEnough, which will give you a clear indication on whether or not you are fully buffed based on your raid composition.
  • Scrolling Combat Text - OK, this isn't completely something to get rid of. However, it's not always strictly necessary to see all your uber crits rolling in as they happen. It wastes real estate and distracts from the goal at hand, which is to kill the boss. Try and keep scrolling combat text to important events like procs that you need to respond to, cleanses and buff and debuff application and removal. The goal here is to see the information you need to make an informed decision and nothing else.
  • Extra LDB/Fubar/Minimap Buttons - With minimap buttons coming in as the lesser of the three evils this is another thing that commonly chokes portions of an interface. Try and keep these down to the minimum information required. Hide as many individual AddOn menu buttons as you can stand and use slash commands or the Blizzard AddOn menu to configure them (Game Menu -> Interface -> AddOns tab).
  • Damage Meters - These are an intensely useful way to scrutinize your performance on demand, but embellishing the damage meter window by making it overly large or placing it in a place where it's distracting can detract from performance. Remember that the focus needs to be on the boss, the numbers should only gain focus in between attempts. Consider hiding the meters while your in combat to keep the largest part of your screen clear and prevent the meters from becoming a distraction.
  • Redundant Information - If you have debuffs displayed just below your own unit frame then they probably don't need to be shown in the top right corner. If you have a damage meter that comes packaged with a threat meter try configuring it to switch to threat mode during combat instead of loading a separate threat meter. The basic goal here should be that a piece of information you need to have on the screen should only be displayed once on the screen.
Field of View

If you recall my first ever Raiding 101 post, the first and most important rule of raiding is to... not stand in the fire! An unwritten prerequisite for this is that you need to see the fire in order to not stand in it.

To help with this make sure the center of the screen, where your character is, is free from nearly all clutter. Avoid placing raid frames, cooldown bars or anything else that will probably be up for more than a second or two over this section of the screen. If your interface is cluttered up in the middle you might not know it until you're dead!

Viewports can also assist with your field of view, especially if you aren't running without a wide screen monitor. What this does is push the sides of the screen out so you have a better peripheral view of the game. This can help you see threats approaching from the sides before it's too late, an add charging your way for instance. Make sure your viewport mod shrinks the actual rendered area of the game instead of just placing a background over a portion of your screen.

Shrinking the rendered area of the game in this way can also benefit the rest of your UI placement. Not only will this give you areas where interface elements can be placed completely out of the rendered game world, but if the viewport is only adjusted on the top or bottom it will push your character (and thus the spot where bosses drop fire for you to not stand in) up or down, giving you extra space to place UI elements without overlapping onto your character.

An example of how the viewport can increase the field of view taken from the oUF_Viv page, an oUF layout that includes a viewport:

Some view ports that do this are: Viewporter, Viewport

Prioritize!

Understanding what your role and responsibilities are can go a long way towards knowing how to properly set up your interface for maximum efficiency. Though the three roles in WoW have some very different information requirements there are some things that are shared over all three roles to some extent.
  • Interrupting - though there are some exceptions among the classes there are a good portion of specs that include at least one way of interrupting a spell - even if it has to be done via a stun or knockback. Make sure the enemy target cast bar (and focus cast bar if you're assigned to interrupt on a different target than you're assigned to target for another role) is highly visible and obvious. In this case the center of the screen is not a bad idea provided it's kept minimal to prevent obscuring environmental damage excessively.
  • Cleansing - Oftentimes those not fulfilling the healer role can forget they have a cleanse button, but this is an area where the healers would probably appreciate a reprieve. Remember a raid environment is all about supporting the group, and any burden that can easily be take off another should be. Use a mod like Decursive for an easy click option for cleansing or configure your raid frames to change health bar or border color for debuffs that can be removed so decurse target can clearly be identified.
  • Crowd Control - Moreover today than in raids of yesteryear it's not just DPS that has the ability to crowd control. The role of CC today is very different than the trash controlling techniques of the past. Generally speaking CC is a dynamic aspect of boss fights like Lady Deathwhisper. Decursive also has support for this type of response.
  • Movement - More and more raid encounters are highly movement oriented. You need to be able to perform your duties on the move a great deal of the time and this can be especially difficult for healers and caster DPS. Using keybindings for spells as much as possible can be helpful, but prioritizing instant cast spells on single keys can increase the efficiency of keybindings, the basic idea being: do you really want to try and hit ctrl+5 at the same time you're fanning out to avoid the next Defile from the Lich King?
  • Cooldown Management - Whether you're a tank, healer or DPS you have some type of cooldown you can use to help survive or eek out that much more DPS or healing. Having an appropriate mod like CooldownWatch or CoolLine placed in a central location can help manage these. The former is shown via a configurable list of bars and the latter places all cooldowns on a timeline. Personally I prefer bars over the line as I feel it's more accurate for my time sensitive DPS rotation but if it's not vitally important that a cooldown be used as soon as it's finished the cooldowns in line format are perfectly adequate.
DPSing

DPSing may seem like a no-brainer in terms of interface management but the job of a DPS is deceptively involving. Generally speaking it's a good idea to push out the hammer mentality as soon as possible when a DPS character is your main. Of all the roles in WoW this can be the easiest to pass the buck off to someone else, but a good DPSer will do more than just top the meters. Often a great deal of support and utility can be squeezed out of a DPSer.

Here you can see the basic (though slightly outdated) DPS layout for my interface. In a column directly below my character I have everything I need to fulfill my basic role: target, target debuffs, cast bar (the enemy castbar is a couple inches above the target frame so it's blatantly obvious when an enemy is casting a spell), cooldown timers, my debuffs and my health and mana - both of which glow when I'm getting low to draw my attention.

This won't necessarily be the best arrangement for every single DPS, but in general you'll want to ask yourself what tools you need for your main role and then place them in a place where your eyes won't have to wander far.

It's not necessary in most cases to place everything front and center. This can lead to excess clutter that confuses the information you need. Anything that uses audio warnings can be placed in non-central locations. As you can see from the screenshot my threat meter is placed just above my mana bar as I largely don't have issues with threat. However, when I am creeping up on the tank a unique audio alert quickly draws my attention to the threat meter.

Boss mods generally work the same way, though it can be a good idea to place the large or imminent progress bars closer to the center of the screen so your eyes don't have to wander to a wayward corner of the screen to find out what tricks the boss has in store for you next and take your attention too far away from other important information.

Tanking

Tanking largely worries about many of the same things melee DPS worries about, but threat can be more of a priority for a tank, so it may be prudent to have a more detailed threat meter in a more central location. Skada and Omen are both very good detailed threat meter AddOns.

And yes, I'm going to harp on Nameplates... again!

Bosses aside, they're just a real handy way to see if an add that you don't have targeted is still aggroed to you. Unfortunately since the patch that allowed nameplates to overlap a bit of configuration is needed to optimize them:

Open Interface options in the game menu and under the 'Names' category uncheck the option to 'Allow overlapping nameplates'. With this option enabled nameplates would overlap with each other making it near impossible to single out each enemy. Without nameplates overlapping you should be able to easily identify and target anything you may be losing aggro on by the highlight fading to yellow or disappearing.

Of course, nameplates aren't exclusive to tanks. As they're an easy indication of aggro on mobs that aren't currently being targeted it can be a good indication for DPS that some stray enemy is about to become an unfortunate friend!

Healer... ing

The most obvious element to healers is the raid frame. A little bit of personal preference can dictate here, but your raid frames should be very close to the center of the screen. As a DPS/healer hybrid I put much more emphasis on my target frame which is placed just below my character, leaving the raid frames just to the right of my character. This leaves the space over my character clear while still providing me with the necessary elements in close proximity to the center of the screen.

For pure healers a more appropriate space may be right underneath the character as that area tends to garner a greater amount of attention. Once again, personal preference will dictate to some extent but you'll want this vital piece of information to be close at hand. Placing raid frames in a corner of the screen may not detract from healing and seem like an acceptable location as they tend to take up a large amount of real-estate especially in 25 man raids, but placing them too far away from your character can contribute to tunnel vision and deaths as a result of standing in fire!

Eliminating Common Redundancy

While Decursive is a great mod for folks who need to perform certain utility on the raid like cleansing and crowd control of mind controlled players, if you need to run with a raid frame for healing Decursive become completely redundant. In this situation using Clique can provide identical functionality to any raid frames you may already be using, cutting the real estate taken up by raid frames in half.

Damage meters like Recount can be resource hogs as they track and log just about every combat log event. If you think it may be slowing you down switch to a modular meter like Skada and only load the modules you want to track information for.

Optimization

Unfortunately not every mod put out is suitable for raiding. The main reason for this is performance. Some mods that are very popular are also very CPU intensive and can impact your frame rate on a computer that's not top of the line. Just to name a few CPU hogs:
  • Pitbull
  • SatrinaBuffFrames
  • ButtonFacade
  • Recount
Not that these are bad mods by any means. In fact all of these are incredibly robust and feature-full mods. This is partially their downfall, though as far as ButtonFacade is concerned any mods that are purely aesthetic are not the focus of this particular blog.

An important distinction to make, however, is that a mod that uses up a ton of memory is not necessarily impacting framerate. What impacts framerate is generally mods that eat up extra CPU cycles. a good way to determine what mod is eating up CPU cycles is to use... another mod!

AddOnProfiler is a mod that you can set to profile your AddOns and report back on how much memory and CPU cycles each one is using. A good indication of a bad mod is one whose CPU cycles grow and then shrink again repeatedly and substantially. What happens here is that the AddOn is creating a lot of "garbage" that is used briefly and then thrown away. WoW will automatically run the garbage collector when RAM usage gets too high, but if you see the described behavior above from a mod it means that mod is creating an excessive amount of garbage and the collector is being run more and more often. When the garbage collector is run excessively this can create a drag on performance.

Once you've identified a problem mod with AddOnProfiler take a peek at some alternative mods that perform the same task and try a few out until you find one that you prefer and that doesn't cause the garbage collector to start slowing you down!

The Best Interface... is Your Interface!

While all these things are important considerations for how you set up your interface for raiding there are many nuances to how the interface works together that are exclusive to the person using the interface, and the best interface is one that's been used extensively and tweaked to support the playstyle of the user.

It's important to realize that if you've made an adjustment mentioned here and it's just not working for you go ahead and switch back or try something different. If you move your debuffs down to midscreen and suddenly find you just can't adapt to the new location move them back... but consider migrating other related pieces of information into the same area to reduce the amount of time you have to spend searching your screen for various bits of information.

It's highly important to recognize elements of your interface that are holding you back and adjust to compensate for them. Much like adapting strategy to deal with a bosses mechanics, adjusting your interface to display the right information at the right time is crucial to success. If you died from a debuff because you didn't see that you had it you may need to look for a more robust warning system or move the debuffs to a more noticeable location. If you're constantly fumbling your DPS rotation because you didn't notice your debuffs drop off the target make them bigger, or set up a warning in PowerAuras to make the status of the debuff more clear.

In general a successful interface will display everything you need to know and nothing you don't. It may take a bit of experimentation over time but adjusting the flow of information properly can mean the difference between success and defeat!

Note: though other roles were included this article primarily focused on elements of a DPS UI as that is my primary role and the primary focus of the blog. If you have any additional comments or suggestions for the other roles please do leave them in the comments!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Clique: Not Just For Healers Anymore!

I occasionally like to showcase a mod on my blog that I feel is incredibly versatile and solves a serious problem for all the raiders out there like myself.

My last entry on this subject, PowerAuras: the Best AddOn You've Never Used!, showed off just a small portion of the robust warning system the mod PowerAuras brought to the table. Today, I'll be covering the finer points of the mod titled Clique.

Since I've been spending a bunch of time in the higher end 10 man encounters healing on my shaman I became intimately familiar with this life-saver of an AddOn. I hadn't actually healed full time in a raid since about halfway through the Burning Crusade expansion and Clique severely shortened the re-learning curve for me and, I feel, made me a better healer than I had been in the past relying on keypresses and raid member targeting.

But I LOVE My Keybindings!

I don't blame you. In fact, I wholeheartedly support you in mapping as much as possible to keybindings. Using a keybinding setup for spell casting is far superior to clicking. It increases reaction time, decreases the amount of miscast spells and allows you to focus more on what's happening around you and less on where the mouse pointer is.

However, when you're talking about raid frames and any interaction a player might have with those raid frames be it healing, buffing, decursing or ressurecting... you'll find yourself relying on raid frame mouse clicks one way or another.

This is where clique can help you out the most by not only freeing up keybindings for other spells that would otherwise be devoted to heals or buffs, but by eliminating the targeting step of raid window interaction. It does this by binding spells to mouse clicks instead of keyboard bindings. These mouse click bindings work with any unit frame unless otherwise specified and are independent of any keyboard bindings you may already have for the same spell.

The All-In-One Raid Window Assistant

You probably have, at the very least, a raid window mod if you ever have to mess with the raid windows.

Often pure DPS will have the window hidden or not run with a raid window mod to save on memory and CPU cycles, but most folks will need their raid windows out at one point or another for some reason and regardless of which baseline mod you go with Clique can probably help you perform certain tasks better.

The exception to this are mods like Vuhdo or HealBot, raid window mods that have built in Clique-like functionality that renders Clique itself redundant. The concept and configuration for this functionality between mods, however, is nearly identical.

Some folks also go with mods like Decursive that provide a secondary raid window specifically for purposes of cleansing and other non-healing raid utility like crowd control and buff management.

Keep in mind, though, that clique can bind any spell that is targetable to mouse clicks so all of these other things that redundant raid frame mods take care of can also be taken care of in Clique, streamlining your interface and saving screen real estate.

All of these things (and probably more) can be handled through Clique bindings:
  • Healing
  • Crowd control
  • Cleansing
  • Buffing
  • Intercept
  • Tricks/Misdirect
  • Resurrection
  • Divine Intervention
  • Macros
There is also a custom macro system where you can assign a macro version of a spell without using up one of the limited macro slots provided by the default interface.


Configuration


Clique has a very simple configuration, albeit a very important one. It is extremlely simple to set up, but getting your click-binding priority straight shouldn't be neglected.

Once the mod is installed simply open your spell book in game. You'll see an extra tab which, when clicked, will open up the Clique configuration menu.

Take a moment to notice the dropdown on the top right side of the Clique configuration window. This dropdown controls the conditions of the keybindings. Anything placed in the "default" page will take precedence only when another condition isn't active and/or isn't bound to anything.

To bind a spell to a mouse clock simply browse your spellbook with the Clique config window open and click the spell you want to bind with the mouse click combo you want to use for that spell. For instance, to bind Healing wave to Shift+LeftClick hold shift and left click Healing wave and it will be added to the Clique window.

For example, in the default section of my Clique bindings I have Ancestral Spirit bound to right click. In the "helpful" section of my bindings I have right click bound to Lesser Healing Wave. This means that while I'm clicking a friendly unit frame, right clicking will cast Lesser Healing Wave on the unit. While out of combat, however, the Ancestral Spirit binding will take precedence and will be cast instead of Lesser Healing Wave on right clicks when not in combat.

The Right Frame at the Right Time

It's a good idea to give a little thought to which frames you want to have the Clique bindings work for.

For instance, when I first set up my clique I had completely neglected this part and while clicks were enabled in the player frame I found I was unable to change the difficulty of an instance as right clicks on my player frame were attempting to cast Ancestral Spirit.

That being said, even showing the right click menu can be remapped to another click-binding through Clique.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Raiding 101: Dragons!

They've been a one of the most revered and feared mythological creatures throughout time with their portraits etched in stone from every corner of the world. Sometimes benevolent, sometimes cruel tyrants, and more often than not found perched atop a mound of treasure any adventurer would covet... they are Dragons!

And in this blogger's opinion they should come hand-in-hand with boobies more often!

WoW is no stranger to these beautiful and powerful creatures, and throughout the game you'll find these dragons exhibit similar attack patterns to those found in classic pen and paper games like Dungeons and Dragons.

There are several static dragon attacks that can almost always be counted on. This is not a comprehensive list of all dragon abilities throughout all of WoW raiding, but will provide a baseline understanding of the types of attacks that all dragons share. As with any encounter, it's ultimately necessary to have a good grasp of the mechanics that are specific to the fight you're currently working on, but knowing what kind of generic mechanics this awesome creature type exhibits can make learning a new encounter that much easier.

Cleave

Most dragons will use a frontal cleave that will hit anyone in front of them in a fairly large arc. This is generally a quite powerful hit that only the tank should be taking.

Breath Weapon

All dragons have a frontal cone breath weapon. Many have different mechanics associated with them, but this is another attack that really should only be hitting the tank. Just like all cone mechanics the area of effect gets wider the farther away from the boss you are. If you find yourself in front of a dragon book it to the left or right as soon as possible to get out of the area of effect, noting that you'll have to run farther to find a safe spot the further away from the boss you are.

Tail Swipe

Most dragons, with Malygos being the exception, have a tail swipe attack. This attack is, in effect, a rear cleave with a knock back.

Take special care not to be standing behind the dragon and eat one of these attacks as often there are environmental mechanics to avoid and getting knocked back by a tail swipe can put you face to face with a clutch of dragon eggs or drop you in a bath of hot lava!

Fear

Fear is a classic dragon mechanic back from the Dungeons and Dragons days, and not all dragons in WoW have a fear mechanic. It is, however, something to be aware of. Dropping a tremor totem or using trinkets and class abilities to break fear can help long term survivability.

Generally when a dragon fears it fears the entire raid, so take advantage of fear breaking mechanics whenever possible on these fights.

Safe Spot

Now that nearly the entire encounter area around a dragon boss has been cordoned off by various attacks it's a good to mention where the best place to stand is.

As you can see in this picture of the Sindragosa fight in Icecrown Citadel, the cleave, breath weapon and tail swipe are marked in orange around the boss. These attacks create a safe spot on each flank of the boss. The best and easiest way to identify these areas mid fight is to simply stand between the dragon's fore and hind legs.

You may also notice there are no orange areas directly overlapping the dragon. This creates a safe zone directly beneath the dragon that can be used to pass through to the other flank if environmental or grouping issues call for it. Don't be afraid to take advantage of this, just be aware of any other issues that may cause the boss to move like phase transitions or tank swapping and/or repositioning.

When in doubt, stay between the two legs on the dragon's flank.