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.