Let me see if I can describe a scenario, and you see if it sounds at all familiar to you.
You’re playing a DPS class and join a PuG or group of folks that you don’t normally run with.
You have Recount installed, Omen is updated, you have ammo/reagents, pots, food and are repaired. You’ve played your class for a while, and gotten a feel for things, even if it’s an alt.
You’ve even read up on your class on a few blogs, or visited the official WoW forums class page and read some tips on ability cooldowns and the efficient use of your skills, although you have never taken the time to actually sit there and do any math, or visit Dr. Boom, to try and determine the perfect optimized shot rotation or ability sequence.
In short, you feel reasonably certain you won’t look like a complete idiot in front of these strangers as you play.
You know that, compared to some of the things you’ve read, you’re not nearly at the point that it seems serious raiders are at, where they discuss the perfect optimized point to Rip to gain maximum benefits from Energy regen ticks and Combo Points without wasting them, and you still occasionally flub a moment or two when you try and position yourself behind the target, or you get flustered sometimes repositioning yourself when an Ice Trap breaks early, so you know you aren’t doing the best possible DPS a player could. You feel a little bad about that, but you do the best you can to play well.
So there you are, you are feeling pretty confident that you’re about to have fun and kick some butt, and you are naturally curious as to the kind of gear the other players are rolling with, so you inspect them.
Oh… My…. God… they are decked out in all purples! And some of those are drops from 25 man raids! Ohmigod, the Rogue has the Dragonspine Trophy, that drops off Gruul! The Shaman has some Tier 5 and 6!
Oh holy heck, they are all serious raiders… I’m going to look like an idiot!
But you relax, and put your game face on. You go on your run, but you’re nervous, and you’re trying your best to play well and not look like an idiot… and above all else, you do not want to make a bone head move that wipes the group.
Just thinking about the possibility of being the one to wipe the group makes you feel dizzy.
You move along in the isntance, and you’re trying your best. You’ve got mostly blues and maybe a badge reward or rep reward Epic or two, but you figure, hey, they probably inspected you and knew that going in, so they obviously are willing to put up with your lack of DPS. Just please, oh please, don’t let me screw up.
The run goes smoothly, everything was mostly okay. You had a good time, bosses were killed, loot was handed out or sharded, some badges were earned. All good. You feel like you contributed well, and that you learned a thing or two by how the group handled the encounters.
There were a few times you feel like you messed up, there was lots of ‘bang-bang-bang’, but a few times your Trap cooldown wasn’t ready for a second Trap in case your first was resisted after the pull so you ran around kiting while waiting for those last few seconds of cooldown to get over with, and there were a few times when, in the heat of the moment, you weren’t right on top of sending your pet back into battle on another target after your first died, so you lost time that coulda been spent having your pet get some Claws into some butts.
But overall, you’re pretty happy. You watched your threat, used your threat reduction abilities when necessary, kept up your DPS and also used your utility spells, and feel pretty solid.
And there is always room to improve, right? It’s a great learning experience to run with an experienced team.
The other players thank you for coming, and say how much they enjoyed having you run with them. You thank them for having you along, and wish them all well.
Then you decide to check your Recount stats, to see how badly you fared against someone who played your same class on the run (or another class you play a lot). It doesn’t really matter to you one way or the other, but you can hope to look at what their most commonly used abilities were on the Recount individual charts, and see what abilities you might not be using enough, or see where you need to stack more Crit or Hit Rating so you can do better next time.
That’s when you stop dead and stare in disbelief.
Your actual damage done during the run was higher than some of the other DPS classes.
Well, that ain’t right.
Their spike DPS shown was certainly higher than yours… but as you look at individual fights in Recount, even on single boss fights where it was straight ‘do massive damage to burn down the boss’, your amount of actual damage done was higher than the others.
How the heck is that possible? Hmmm… is my Recount wrong?
Does that scenario sound familiar to anybody?
I’ve done quite a few PuGs here and there, and I know I’ve seen this happen before.
Most of the time, in my experience, what it comes down to, is that you can have some great gear and Epics, know what stats best benefit your class and spec, and even have the most recommended spec for your class to do what you want to do, but it all breaks down if you don’t use your abilities to their best advantage.
And it can be very difficult to know if what you have worked out as a shot rotation, or sequence of attacks, is really the best one to use as a starting point… and when is the right time to improvise around it.
Even if you haven’t taken the time (and effort) to maximize your shot rotation efficiency, or break down the timing to the nanosecond on your abilities to nest cooldowns within each other, or set up a macro to pop ‘on use’ Trinkets whenever off cooldown to boost DPS, the fact remains that for most classes, what order you use your abilities, and which ones you use, and when you choose to trigger them can make a far more massive difference to your DPS than your gear.
For DPS, it’s not about survivability, like it is for us big bears, after all.
For da bear, you gotta be able to take a few punches, as I told Shrinn last night. As a bear, you have certain goals you have to meet to feel confident that you are bringing enough gear to do your part to survive. The challenge for a bear is all about applying enough threat to the right mobs to keep them using you as a punching bag. When people check out your gear, they are typically looking to see if you’re gonna be able to live when Prince enters Phase 2.
But for bears, it can be hard to quantify where exactly you can improve in terms of skill. Yes, you show up on Recount as DPS, but the final measure of success is, “Did you establish and hold aggro?”
With that as a guideline, it can be hard to see where you can improve if you are already holding threat, even on multiple mobs.
I’ve already talked about using Omen as a live TPS threat meter to work on your threat generation by heading out to Blades Edge Mountains with a healie friend and picking on trees that take a long time to kill, so you can try different rotations and methods to find the one that spikes threat the highest for you, and get a solid feel in a safe environment on how your threat generation works. And since tree adds spawn, you get to work on holding aggro on multiple mobs, too.
And of course, bears should be using Recount as an after-action report to see how many Parries or Misses you generated with various levels of Hit Rating or Expertise as well.
But for DPS… it’s all about generating the most damage you can without exceeding a target’s threat, and while conserving your mana at the levels you need to in order to last for the duration of the fight. Right?
Where am I going with this?
Well, for me personally, I know that the only emails I generally get from folks about posts on my sidebar that they found useful are; the bear tanking gear list, the consumables list… and the Cat DPS breakdown.
And of the three, Cat DPS comes surprisingly close to edging out the bear gear list, simply because it’s rare to see someone post a suggested combat sequence for a spec, and then link to it so new readers can easily find it.
I know that I do what I feel is great DPS on my Shadow Priest, not because of any great skill or knowledge on my part, but because of the hard work that the folks in the Shadowpriest forums did FOR me, and how easy they made it for me to find their info.
And I contrast that with how incredibly hard it was to find a suggested Retribution Paladin combat rotation or sequence when we tried to optimize what Cassie is doing so she is pounding the bad guys as hard as she can.
So what I am doing here, is simply reminding my readers of how easy it can be to get caught up in the chase for better gear, and that in many ways HOW you fight contributes more to your success than what you are fighting with (and that what you may have gotten into the habit of doing is not necessarily the best way), so make sure you periodically take the time as you level to try out different things.
And also to encourage my fellow class bloggers to take a look at your website, and if you have already written awesome guides or posts that provide helpful suggestions, strategies or techniques, to please take the time to add links to those articles on your sidebar, so that we can find them, learn from them, and thank you properly.
And if you haven’t offered your suggestions or tips on how to set up your combat sequence to get the most bang for your buck, then why not go for it? Even if yours isn’t the absolute best first time out, I’m sure that you have some great readers that will be glad to also offer their suggestions that you can use to improve it into a long lasting and helpful guide.
The new Patch will be bringing new Talent trees… and I think it’s a good time now to put your current thoughts and suggestions in place, and when the Patch does roll out, you’ll be able to take what we had before, and test out the new changes, and play around until we get a good feel for what new suggestions can be made.
Oh, and the post title?
I worked with an efficiency expert contractor who liked to say his job was to get called in to help a production line figure out how to build the most product in the least amount of time, with the fewest defects… and that working with managers was a lot like trying to improve productivity on a dairy farm… all the farmer wants to know is, is how to get the most milk out of the cow, with the least amount of moo.