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.

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