Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Let's party!

Let's have a word about groups, and the roles within a group.

Whether raiding or just running an instance, each encounter requires a group to employ certain roles for each member. These roles are universal, no matter what makeup you have individually.

If the people in your raid or party fill these roles properly, you will have a successful outing. If your group doesn't at least implicitly understand, however, it may be a long day.

The three roles in any group in WoW are as follows:
  • The Tank - This is the person that controls the fight so that everyone else can do what they do best.
  • The Healer - The healer's main task is to keep the tank up so that the fight remains under control.
  • DPS - The damage dealers of the party, they burn down the bad guys, the sooner the better.
The Tank

Let's start with the biggest punching bag of them all: the tank. This is the gal that stands up there letting the bad guys smack 'er in the face, deliberately taking abuse so that everyone else can kill things.

The tank's role can be best described as CONTROL. Control of the boss or mob or whatever; keeping that mob in a position that allows (a) healers to heal the whole party and (b) the DPS roles to kill the boss, fast.

What a tank generally uses to control a fight is "aggro". This mysterious force is a measure of the anger that the mob feels towards the tank. The more aggro, the better, because that means that the fight will go smoothly as long as the tank doesn't die.

You cannot have too much aggro on the designated tank. More aggro than is needed will not cause more damage to the tank. 1% aggro lead is as good as 1000% in this case.

The important thing for the tank to remember is that she has to generate more aggro than her healers, or rocks fall and everybody dies.

The important thing for DPS to remember is that generating more aggro than the tank is a bad thing.

Notice how I worded that. These are very important things to remember.
  1. A healer will generate aggro by healing. The less healing that is needed, the less aggro that the priest will generate. Since the priest has no control over how much damage the tank takes, it is up to the tank to (a) be tough and (b) be provocative (to the beasties) so that the healer can keep her health topped off without worrying about attracting the mob.
  2. On the other hand, DPS has complete control over the aggro that they are generating, and should be aware of it at all times. If edging to the top, you mitigate, or you die. Omen is your friend.
The Healer

The next leg of the triangle is the healer. The healer's main job is to keep the tank upright and healthy. DPS can be healed if the tank is healthy, but not before. Actually, see this post for more thoughts on who gets healed, and when, before I confuse things more.

The healer has very few aggro management tools at hand, and thus requires as much help as possible. He has to keep the tanks upright, and that means lots of healing. However, this generates aggro against the healer, so the less able that the tank is, the more likely that the healer will be wearing the mob.

Priests, especially, are squishy and have very few hit points. This is bad.


A tank and a healer can only do so much. While these two roles anchor and control the fight, everybody else more or less falls into the role of DPS, or damage.

DPS' primary mission is to damage the enemy until it is dead, and to do so without killing the group.

Everybody says that DPS is easy. That pointing a gun and going "pew pew" requires one button, or at best two.

Well, uh, not quite. Any idiot can do that.

But a well-schooled DPSer will have more than one or two things going on, and those things are vital.
  1. Damage the enemy. This is your raison d'etre in the game. You DPS, therefore you am. Your job is to provide massive amounts of sustained damage over time (Borrowing a bit from BRK).
  2. However, if your damage causes the mob to come for you instead of the tank, we have lost control. Therefore, your second job, which preempts #1, is to ensure that the tank retains aggro over you.
  3. And finally, you may be called upon to take one for the team. What if the priest starts to generate more aggro than the tank, then the mob breaks from the tank, and goes running right towards him? If you can, you get the mob's attention and proceed to lick the floor, possibly saving your teammates' certain death. How you do this is variable, of course. The equation is simple: dead healer < dead warlock.
The Compleat Triangle

So our triangle consists of: control, healing, and damage. If any of these fail, the raid dies.
  • If the tank loses aggro, the priest will most likely get it next. Wipe.
  • If the healer dies, or runs out of mana, the tank will die, then we lose control. Wipe.
  • If the DPS fails or falls, then eventually the healer will run out of mana, then the tank dies, then we lose control. Wipe.
As you may have noticed, "Control" is probably the key to the whole affair. Your party or raid can take a lot of abuse as long as the mob stays where it is supposed to. Things go According to Plan.

What is all boils down to is two things:
  • Knowing your role and how to fulfill it. For example, most DPS classes have aggro mitigation tools. Use them.
  • Maintain mental discipline. It is easy to get lazy and fall back to a formula. That will get you so far before it wipes the raid. For example, crowd control unexpectedly breaks, and the mob heads straight for the priest. Will the hunter have the wherewithal to put his pet on the mob for the few seconds needed to get the situation under control, or the mage use Frost Nova? A trained and disciplined mind will be able to react with skill and confidence.
The Fourth Leg

Speaking of CC, there is a fourth aspect to any fight that is an outgrowth of the "Control" let, and that is "crowd control". I don't really count it as separate since it is pretty much the control aspect that we're looking at here. The differences are that (a) the tank is not the one doing the controlling, and (b) there are many, unique ways for it to break. I will not go into each individually at this point, but I think that any person that knows his or her class, understands the role, and is vigilant will do as well as can be expected.

I will say, however, that the biggest risk here is unexpected breaks caused by your team mates. So be careful, learn your own side, and then train them how to work with it.