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Maximizing Your Effectiveness
3 Steps to high performance raiding/instancing
Last updated February 19, 2010 @ 8:49:50PM
Viewed 1644 times

This article is intended for anyone who wants to maximize their character’s effectiveness. Much of the information here applies in particular to raiding and grouping where the player will encounter relatively long fights but the solo player may find some useful tidbits as well

"What does it take to maximize my effectiveness?"

This question has a 3 part answer.

First, you need to specialize (spec) in the proper talents for what your role requires.

Second, you need to be familiar enough with your class and specialization to know how to play it properly and in particular, you need to know and use the proper spell rotation(s) for your class and role.

Third, you need to gear properly.

Now before we go any further you might be thinking," but Ava, I spec my character the way I want to and use the spells/attacks that I enjoy the most." Great! If you’re happy with your character the way you play it then you’ve accomplished something important without a doubt. However, we are talking about maximizing your effectiveness in a group setting and in that situation, you are not likely going to be as competitive or as effective as others in the same role as you if you do not "follow the math".

If you’re in a group where everyone is more or less at the same level gear wise and skill wise and everyone in the group is expected to give a 100% in order to get the boss down, it will make a difference. Trust me on this. If you’re not following the math, at best others in the group will have to carry you and at worst, the group will be unsuccessful in getting the boss down. Most people who have raided for any amount of time will have been in situations where they barely succeeded in getting a boss down and 1% less effort on one persons part would have resulted in a wipe.

Speccing for your role

In a group situation there are three primary roles. DPS, Healing, or Tanking. Some classes are really only suited for one role, whereas other classes can be effective in multiple roles. So the first question is to ask is, “what role am I capable of playing based upon my class?”

The next question to ask is, “what spec should I choose based upon the role I will play?” If you’re a pure DPS class, the question is a little more like, "how do I want to go about inflicting pew pew on the baddies?" Depending upon the class, you might be effective speccing in any of the three talent trees of your class but that’s not going to be true across the board so research is still required as some specs are more suited for PvP or even utility than PvE.

If however, you play a hybrid-type class such as a paladin or a shaman, then the choice of proper spec for your role becomes more obvious and thus limited. If, as a paladin, I decide I want to be an effective healer, I can’t spec protection and expect to keep my group alive.

The last and most important question to ask is, "what talents should I choose within my spec?" This is where the math really comes into play. Some talents are pretty straight forward but others maybe not so. It is complex enough for the average person that in order to really be effective, one needs to look to people much smarter than ourselves who have taken the time to do the math and who have come up with pretty solid data on which talents are the “must haves” to maximize your effectiveness. Many times, there will still be a handful of optional talents that will still allow you some flexibility in your choices.

To find out how to spec, start with Google and type paladin specs (substitute the name of your class) and research what others are coming up with. Sites like Elitist Jerks, TankSpot, WowPro, Wowwiki and the Wow forums can also be excellent sources of information to help you decide what to get though you may have to do some digging.

Another place to look is the armory. If you happen to be in a group with another player who is blowing the top off the damage meter or healing meter, or seems to be able to tank an entire room full of mobs without getting a scratch on their armor, look them up and see what talents they are using. They must be doing something right.

Spell Rotation

Spell rotation is the sequence in which you cast/attack/shoot with your spells/abilities. The premise being that you want to maximize your up time using your most potent or effective spells/abilities for a given situation.

Cool Down
The first step to understanding spell rotation is to have a good grasp of cool down. Cool down (CD) is simply a period of time that you can’t reuse an ability after activating it. For example, if I use my judgment spell, I have to wait 10 seconds (without improvements) before I cast it again therefore it has a 10 sec CD. The default WoW UI indicates the cool down by fading out the spell’s button and gradually re-illuminating it in a clockwise fashion. There are also some add ons available that make CD’s more obvious.

In addition to individual ability cool downs, there is also the global cool down (GCD) and shared cool downs. The global cool down is usually a 1.5 second period of time that nothing else can be used and is activated whenever you use any of your spells/abilities with a few exceptions. The GCD is relevant to classes that use a lot of instant cast abilities, generally melee classes.

Shared cool downs occur when the use of one spell/item causes another spell/item to go on CD for a time. This is probably most obvious with trinkets. If you use one, it also places the other on CD for a time. It is important to know which of your classes abilities have shared cool downs and prioritize their usage in a given situation. On a sort of related note, you may hear your raid leader say, "Wait till the end of the fight to use your cool downs." In that context, they are referring to both trinkets and spells/abilities that have a very long cool down of several minutes. These are the types of spells that may have shared cool downs so know your stuff.

Rotation
A “pure” spell rotation will have you cast spells/abilities in such a way that you never or seldom have all your spells/abilities on CD at once. Since my main character is a paladin, I will use his rotations as examples but the principle will apply to just about anyone.

As a tanking protection paladin, I have a pretty clearly defined rotation to use when tanking based upon the 696969 method. The numbers represent seconds so with the 696969 method, I first use a spell with a 6 second CD, then I use a second spell with 9 second CD, then a third spell with a 6 second CD, a fourth with a 9 sec CD, and so on… By using this rotation, I will always have a spell off of CD and never have any down time or at least that’s the theory.

So now that I have the method down, how do I prioritize which 6 second spell I use first and which 9 second spell I use next etc… This is where a little research on Elitist Jerks can help if I am not sure but in many cases, it’s common sense assuming I am familiar enough with my spec and abilities. My job as a tank is to hold threat so naturally, I want to use my highest threat producing spell with a 6 sec CD first and for me that’s my Shield of Righteousness (shield slam). Next I want to use my highest threat producing spell with a 9 sec CD and so on…

On the other hand, when I am DPSing as a ret pally, I use a First Come First Serve (FCFS) rotation which basically means to use whatever spell is off of CD and ready to cast. If I have two or more spells that are both ready, then I use a recommended conflict resolution (prioritization) based upon what the math says is the best spell for the situation I happen to be in such as attacking one mob vs. multiple mobs.

Ok so hopefully anyone reading this gets the basics of spell rotation. If you’re still confused, type paladin spell rotations (substitute the name of your class) into Google and start digging.

Improvising
Now things get a little more complex. The 696969 rotation is awesome if I am tanking a single mob or boss but what about a group of mobs? If I have to tank 3 or 4 mobs at once for for example? In that case I am going to have to change things up a little and swap my shield slam for Hammer of the Righteous (HotR) which will hit three mobs at once (or 4 with the glyph). Although HotR doesn’t generate as much threat on a single mob as my shield slam, it is more effective in generating threat on multiple mobs at once. What if I have 5 or more mobs? In that case I will start with a consecration which is considered a 9 second CD spell. Yes, that will screw up my nice 696969 rotation and I’ll have some down time but in this case, it’s worth the trade off as consecration will hit an unlimited number of mobs allowing me to establish enough threat on all of them at once to keep them from breaking away and running after DPS’rs who start in with their AOE a second after I aggro the group.

My point is, you have to improvise and change your rotation up some based upon the situation at hand.

Helpful Tips
"Ok Ava so how the hell do I remember which buttons to press at the right time?" There are a number of things you can do to make following your rotation easier. I am a habitual mouse clicker but even I realize that clicking is a two-step process (move the cursor to the right button, press click) and can slow me down when fast action is required so I have done two things to make my life easier.

First, I have created fight starter macros that will target, start auto attack, and then sequentially go through the first iteration of my 696969 rotation all by mashing one key on my keyboard. With this setup, I can focus more on getting into a good position and not worry about whether or not I started my rotation correctly. Once I’ve established threat and have good positioning, I then switch to activating my buttons manually so I can control the rotation and switch things up as needed.

Second, to make “manual mode” easier, I’ve arranged my buttons on my UI from left to right in order of priority so I still don’t have to think too hard about it. I simply always use the button that’s furthest to the left and off CD. This helps me easily handle conflict resolution. As long as I am not in a situation that requires improvising (such as when the healer dies and I have to tank and heal myself at the same time >.>), it’s really quite simple.


Proper Gearing

"Ok Ava, what’s so complicated about this? I mean the goal is to obviously obtain the best gear I can, right?" Yup, you’re right. That’s the goal. What amazes me though is how many players don’t seem to know how to properly choose their gear and/or don’t know how to properly improve it with enchants and gems after they do have it so that’s what we’re going to focus on here.

Selecting the right gear
In the case of loot in raids and instances, Blizzard does a reasonably good job of balancing out the loot so chances are if you are a plate DPSr and a piece of DPS plate drops in Ice Crown Citadel it is worth rolling for however, with the new badge system and some really nice high-level epic crafted items on the auction house, there are still good and bad choices. So, it is very important that you do the research and know what caps you need to be achieving and what attributes/stats you need to be stacking for your class and role, and select the best gear for achieving those things. Exactly what each class/role should be obtaining is too detailed of a discussion for this article so what are you going to do? Repeat after me, "Google is mah bestest friend!"

That being said, here are some basic pointers…

Make sure you achieve your caps
• For tanks the very first cap to achieve is 540 defense unless you're a feral tank in which case you use Survival of the Fittest in place of the 540 def cap as I understand it.
• Tanks then need to be looking at achieving 102% total avoidance (dodge, parry, block, miss) after they reach def cap. Note that in WOtLK, it's considered OK to continue piling on defense above the cap as more defense continues to increase your avoidances and increasing defense is the only way to increase your miss chance (meaning the mob misses you on the attack table). Again, feral tanks play by a little bit different set of rules here so if you are a feral tank, make sure you research that role thoroughly understanding that you will not necessarily have the same requirements of other tanking classes.
• For nearly everyone (except healers), hit cap is very important for maximizing your effectiveness. "Hey Av, what's the hit cap for dual wielding rogues?" I dont play a rogue so I have no idea but I bet our friend Google knows (or you can ask Paladir).
• Melee needs to achieve expertise cap after hit is achieved.

Once you have achieved your caps, stack your top attributes and stats (note that I may not have listed these in the best order of priority)
• All plate melee DPS needs strength and warriors and DKs need ArmPen and crit. Ret pallys should focus secondarily on crit as ArmPen has limited usefulness for us.
• Hunters and light armor melee typically need agility, ArmPen, crit, AP, and haste
• Caster DPS needs intellect, spell power, crit, and haste
• Tanks need stamina and strength. Feral tanks need agility.
• Healers need intellect, spirit, spell power, crit, mp5, and haste

Gemming, Enchanting, Consumables
Once you know what you should be achieving, select gems and enchants that will help you hit your caps first and then gem and enchant to stack your top attributes and stats. Use consumables in the same manner. Every little bit helps and it is almost always expected that you will use a flask or elixirs in a raid as well as the best food buff for your role.

"Should I use epic-level gems?" My rule of thumb on that is based upon how long I think I am going to keep that piece of gear. If I dont expect to have it long I'll typically use a blue-level gem but if it's a piece of T10 or Frost Badge gear then I'll spring for the waaaaaay over priced epic gems.

Conclusion
So, there you have it. This article is not for everyone of course but if you are really seeking to maximize your character and want to be on top of your "A" game, hopefully the information here will help you get there. I also hope everyone picked up on a theme that I tried to convey throughout this article and that being, use the internet and do the research. It will take some effort but it will pay off if you do.

Ava’s Macros
Note: I move with the arrow keys so I've assigned these macros to my Delete, End, and Page Down keys for quick access.

Tanking- Shield Slams the nearest mob in melee range for quick pickup
#showtooltip Shield of Righteousness
/cast Shield of Righteousness


Tanking- Fast threat generation on a medium sized group of mobs
#showtooltip Consecration
/startattack
/castsequence reset=8 Hammer of the Righteous, Holy Shield, Consecration


Ret- Maximum DPS on a group of mobs
/startattack
/castrandom Mark of Supremacy
/castsequence reset=10 Consecration, Divine Storm, Judgement of Wisdom, Crusader Strike


Ret- Maximum DPS on a single mob
/startattack
/castrandom Mark of Supremacy
/castsequence reset=10 Judgement of Wisdom, Crusader Strike, Divine Storm, Consecration

 
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