DPS for Dummies

While I was on break, I had the unfortunate pleasure of grouping with a Rogue in a group that was, for lack of a better term, terribad.  My wife, a Hunter from our guild, and myself, joined forces with a Death Knight, and the Rogue to take down Heroic Utgarde Pinnacle. 

Things went relatively smoothly until we got to Goretok Palehoof.  That took a few attempts, but he was eventually downed.  Then there were a more than a few attempts on the gauntlet, before we downed Skadi the Ruthess.  The problems with both events were usually attributed to healer and/or DPS death, the cause usually being early or spread DPS.

We finally got to King Ymiron, wiping 3 times, when the rogue, who had been whining about my wife’s ability to heal the whole time, finally upset me enough to say “I’ve got a 2k damage Elemental Shaman that would love your spot.”  He didn’t utter another word and was the the first person to die (again).  He then left the group after rezzing, which happened to be just in time for trash to respawn at the beginning, ending our Heroic run.  Using Recount, and the WoW Armory, I was able to uncover that he used no health pots throughout the run, had a grand total of zero First Aid skill, and pulled an astonishing 1100 DPS.  Adding all of that up, and the attitude that this Rogue had that he was better than everyone else in our group, I got a fire lit in me to post about it.

Now, I’m not the best tank in the game, and I have my shortcomings, but with a competant group, I can clear any Heroic.  So today, I’ve got a few pointers to hand out to the DPSers of the world, to hopefully make life easier on the Tanks and Heals.

– PvE DPS for Dummies –

Disclaimer:  I have made all of the mistakes I’m about to discuss on more than one occasion.  I still make them sometimes, and there’s always room for improvement.  I’m not presenting this as an absolute guide, I just hope that it finds its way to some of the people that haven’t discovered that good DPS and a dead boss is way better than wiping because of DPS errors or poor DPS.

1.)  Dead DPS do Zero Damage

Something that many DPS fail to realize is they are just as responsible for their health bar as the healer is.  If a DPS player dies while taking preventable damage, the fault lies with them, not the healer.  The problem with many DPS is they get so involved with the numbers of the game, they forget to actually play the game.

An example of this behavior is when a person continues to stand in a AOE damage area (think void zones from Netherspite) and as a result die.  In our guild, we call this “standing in the soup.”  Other notable examples include failure to run away from a boss (Skadi the Ruthless, Loken, and Ingvar the Plunderer) to prevent or reduce incoming damage and standing in front of a boss that cleaves (Magtheridon anyone?).

Let’s say that you pull 2,500 DPS under normal circumstances.  When presented with the choice of playing it safe and avoiding damage of some kind, or risking it to fit in one more ability, you choose the ability.  If you’re lucky and you pull the ability off without taking damage, you avoid losing a minimal amount of DPS.  If you die though, you will miss out on the tens of thousands of DPS (or more) you could have done by doing the safe thing and avoiding the problem

2.) Use anything at your disposal to keep yourself alive

This is really an extension of my first point, but, if you have an ability that will prevent damage or heal yourself, use it when appropriate.  The healer should not be the only person that is watching your health bar, and very rarely should you die without knowing why.  If you are so engrossed in causing something damage that you aren’t paying attention to your own safety, you’re likely going to die at some point becuase of it.  However, if you are equally focused on what is going on around you and your DPS, you will live longer and deal more damage.

 If you are low on health, there is probably a good reason you haven’t received a heal.  This reason can be, but is not limited to:  damage to the tank, damage to the healer, or even healer death.  One of the easiest ways to keep yourself alive is to provide some of your own heals.  This can be done via Health Potions, First Aid, or even Abilities that your class has.  Even Herbalists have a HoT, which doesn’t heal for a lot, but does smooth out incoming damage on you.

Every class benefits from the First Aid Profession, even healers.  The benefits aren’t always PvE in nature, but they are there.  If you are a DPS running an instance that is a Heroic five man or raid, you should have a stack of bandages in your bag.  Sometimes the healer(s) can’t afford to stop healing someone else to throw you a heal, so if you see your health dipping below 40%, back away and bandage yourself.  It may seem like a trivial amount of damage to heal, but it usually takes away the threat of you dying, giving the healer time to get to you.

3.)  Work with the tank, not against them

Over-eager DPS can cause total group wipes, regardless of the size of the party.  The most common problem is many people do not understand the difference between pulling threat and establishing threat.  Pulling threat refers to two specific situations.  The first, when initial threat is gained, is generally referred to as a “pull.”  The second happens during combat when someones threat exceeds the threat of the person on the top of a mob’s threat list by a certain percentage (110% melee or 130% ranged).  Establishing threat refers to the tank building enough additional threat beyond the initial threat, preventing the DPS and healer from pulling aggro.

With the buff that tanking threat received for Wrath, there are really only two ways cause an issue with threat.  The first, and most likely, is when a DPS begins to damage a boss after a tank has pulled initial threat, but before they can establish threat.  In most situations, the tank will use a ranged pull of some kind, and wait until the mob reaches them to begin establishing threat.  This only creates a moderate amount of threat, which is often not enough to keep a DPS class from pulling threat if they begin to attack at this point.  Worse yet, if a DPS pulls threat on a ranged mob while a tank is performing a Line of Sight pull, the next likely target for that mob is the healer; this usually forces the tank to quickly move to the ranged mob while still holding threat on the other mobs.

The second way to pull threat off of a tank is to attack the wrong target.  This problem generally occurs in larger groups of mobs (4+).  All DPS should under most circumstances be attacking the same target (a point that will be covered in detail later).  If a lone DPS is attacking a target that the tank is not or has not concentrated a lot of effort on, they run the risk of pulling the mob.

How then do we help our tanks with threat?  Give your tank at least 5 seconds after the pull to establish some threat before you go wild on the mobs.  If the tank indicates that they will gather the mobs using Line of Sight, wait until all of the mobs come to the tank before you attack.  If you have an ability that redirects threat to another target, use it on the tank while they are establishing threat.

4.)  Know your Class and Spec

If you walk around any major city, and inspect enough, you’ll find 4 kinds of people:

  1. People with the best gems and enchants for their class/spec
  2. People with ok or good gems and enchants for their class/spec
  3. People with little or no gems and enchants
  4. People with the wrong gems and enchants

The fourth one can give you a good laugh.  Seeing Priests with + Defense gems and Warriors with + MP5 truly is worth a chuckle.  All of that being said, walking around inspecting everyone and telling them they are wrong is not the intent of these comments.  If you want to be successful in the game, you should aim to be most like the first two people on the list.  You don’t have to spend a fortune, but making your gear better or the best it can be will improve your damage.

As for gear itself, anyone with a reasonable amount of knowledge about their class should know what to look for  in gear.  Knowing which stats contribute to their DPS is something that everyone should know.  Taking it a step further would be to research out of those stats what will best suit your needs, and where certain stats like hit and expertise cap out.

If you’re pulling less than 1500 DPS on bosses in a 5 man Heroic, something is amiss, and the other members of your party are picking up the slack.  The first possibility is that your gear isn’t yet good enough for 5 man Heroics.  If that is the case, and you’re running with guildmates or friends who understand that, then more power to you.   I wouldn’t recommend going into LFG though.

If your gear is good, and you are being out damaged by people in similar or lesser gear, the cause is likely your damage rotation.  If you spend 10 minutes on the Internet researching your class, you’ll find information about rotations.  Try some of them out, and find one you like that works.  You might be amazed at the DPS increase you can get by re-ordering the way you do things, or by adding or subtracting abilities.

–   –

DPSers of the World, please remember these two things:

  • Tanks need Healers, Healers need DPS, and DPS needs Tanks (this means you’re just as important as everyone else)
  • Yes it’s a game, and you’ve payed your $15 to play it, but if you’re not doing your job, you’re wasting the rest of your group’s $60.

– Sam

18 Responses to DPS for Dummies

  1. raivyne says:

    great post!

    i hate stupid rogues… they make us all look bad. ><

    rogue chick

  2. samueltempus says:

    Thanks 🙂

    There certainly isn’t a shortage of bad rogues (equally true of most classes), and it gives the whole class a bad name. Maybe a few of them will find their way here and get something out of this post. That would make my day. 🙂

    – Sam

  3. Boneleech says:

    I am a sub rogue on Stormscale and found this post to be quite informative. I also hate rogues or other classes that give the rest of us a bad name. If you pull nothing else out of this post it has to be this quote:

    “Tanks need Healers, Healers need DPS, and DPS needs Tanks (this means you’re just as important as everyone else) ”

    That line says it all.

  4. Just read this for the first time was pretty happy being mentioned as the “2k spell damage ele shaman”. I also remember that day. LOL

  5. Romz says:

    Thank you for all the rotations in here for rogues. I’ve had nothing but trouble with mine, and I’ve been asolutely disgusted in my DPS since having to ditch my gladiators gear to Lich gear and everyone keeps screaming, Get better gear!
    If I’d found your blog earlier and tested the rotations, probably would not have felt like stabbing my rogue with her own daggers.

    Thank you again, I hope practising your rotations and tips will make for a great dps rogue I’ve been trying to build by myself. 🙂

  6. Goobenix says:

    Thanks for writing this…I’m a 71 prot warrior…still feel fairly new to dungeons, and I’m constantly made to feel like a bad tank by “Cowabunga!!!!” attitude DPSers who never give me a chance to establish threat.
    This is how it went down in the nexus the other night:

    I pull -> they begin dpsing before i can get a single devastate in -> they pull threat -> healer focuses on healing them -> healer pulls threat -> we all fall down.

    After the 3rd wipe, I told the dpses to wait 5 seconds after I pull…and one replied “THIS AIN’T BC!”

    What the heck does that mean? Was there some level 71 talent called Aggro Magnet I missed? 😛

    Anyway, kudos.


    • samueltempus says:

      Tank threat is significantly easier to establish than it was in BC, but people still need lead time to develop initial threat. If a DPS is attacking before the tank, in this case you, has established threat, that’s their fault. If they’re blaming you for it, then it is they who don’t have a good grasp on the basic mechanics of the game.

      Btw, at 5 talent points, Aggro Magnet will put a raid warning up anytime someone would pull off of you: “Congratulations, you would have just pulled off the tank, but they took 5 points Aggro Magnet. It’s your lucky day!”
      – Sam

  7. Goobenix says:

    Haha! Thanks for clearing that up for me 🙂 I feel a lot better now. Good old pugs…

  8. Rom says:

    Excellent post. Great reading for anyone trying to better perform w/ thier team.

  9. amongdeath says:

    this is a really good post I’m a pretty new 80 rogue so any tips on increasing my dps is awsome 🙂 so thanks and keep up the good work …

  10. n00b rogue says:

    Ok, so I’m one of the bad rogues and Sam I’m a big fan, I sit here between runs and during fps learn more on how to play my class. My biggest goal is to become a useful dps, then to become a sought after dps. Ty for all the posts, tips, rotations, and builds.

  11. Gazeuse says:

    Just found this blog. This is a great post I wish all dps would read it. Another thing that would be good to mention is the value of interupting a rotation to get off an interupt.

    I’m looking forward to starting a rogue!

  12. Arencey says:

    Good God I’m so glad that someone in this world thinks like me, roughly 70% of my instance runs in my time on WoW have been filled with bad dps who attack while I’m pulling and don’t give me time to establish threat, I rolled a dk tank and most people aren’t even aware that spamming Death and Decay on a dk isn’t a valid tactic in the long run, sure it establishes threat quicker but not as much threat, and it puts alot of your runes on cd limiting your ability to establish any additional threat.

    If any of you dps out there ever group with a pro dk tank give him time to spread his diseases in the same way you would give a warrior time to build rage and establish threat, once you see the diseases spread and the dk use blood boil it’s usually time to start attacking. It shouldn’t take any longer than 5 seconds after the dk gets all the mobs in range.

    I tell bad dps that they need to stop attacking so early when I group with them, sadly it usually results in me getting cussed out and me getting my skill as a tank insulted, it really gives the player base behind dpsers a bad rep with those of us who know how to play, most of my tank and healer friends on WoW have become fed up with dpsers and have addopted the attitude that all dpsers are less than a tank or healer, obviously this doesn’t go for good dpsers, but there is far more to being a good dps than being able to pull off high amounts of damage, I personally don’t care about my dpsers damage output I only look for ones that can manage their threat these days, on the rare occasion that I am able to find both qualitys in one dps that’s a bonus.

  13. samueltempus says:


    Thanks for the insightful comments. Hopefully any and all who read this will get a better understanding of the DK tank.

    I have an 80 DK, which I leveled with my wife’s Paladin from 58 on. She was the tank, so I’m not 100% how to tank on a DK. I do have a well geared Prot Paladin, but they’re two completely different playstyles.

    As far as rapid disease spreading, I would assume you’d get your two diseases up on a target and then Pestilence to spread them. Is that fairly accurate? I’ve no need for another tank, but I won’t lie, if the gear drops and no one else needs it, I’ve been taking it.

    – Sam

  14. Arencey says:

    Yeah that’s pretty much how it should go, death and decay is good in certain situations but it doesn’t establish as much threat as spreading diseases in the long run.

    However, I should be the one thanking you for making this wonderfull blog, I think many dps will learn to work with their tanks better thanks to this.

    Here is a quote taken from wow wiki on DK tanking:
    “Death Knights will tank very similar to warriors in that they will want a couple seconds to build threat before any attacks from DPS classes. Typically, a Death Knight will want to cast Icy Touch, then Blood Plague, then Pestilence or Death and Decay against multiple mobs. This rotation would mean that a Death Knight will need a minimum of 4.5 seconds to threat lock a group, but the benefit is by this time no DPS class should be able to top the tank’s threat. ”

    All the dk tanking guides I’ve read look pretty much like this, and they don’t reccomend you use death and decay unless you’re dealing with a very large pull or you need to gain the threat of multiple mobs quickly due to a misspull or someone else in the group pulling etc. The problem with DnD is it limits your ability to use other spells that establish far more threat, this is particularly true for frost tanks. A typical frost tanking rotation should go: Icy touch>Plague strike>Pestilence>Blood Boil>Howling Blast. If you can get that far into the rotation before the dps begin attacking you should have no problems holding threat. I typically follow up with blood strike, obliterate etc until my runic power is full then I use frost strike as a rune dump if my diseases are still up, if not I repeat the rotation up to howling blast then I dump my runic power into frost strike. It’s quiet fun tanking on a dk actually, I don’t understand how some people find it boring.

  15. Nimlothe says:

    Very nicely written, a really useful (and insightful) guide for all dps’ers out there. If more of them would read this, WoW would be a better place 🙂

    So, great post (as usual)! I really enjoy your posts, and I look forward to your next ones!

  16. squishy shadow kid says:

    as a rogue new to 80, leveling most of the way PvE on a PVP sever, and also new to running random’s, i really appreciate some one being straight with me and getting to the point. All these jerks talking numbers and yadda, referring me to spread sheets and what have you. I’m just looking how to easily make myself a more efficient player, not turn the funnest game ever into a job…

  17. Christy says:

    Thanks, I just got my first 80 and I DPS. I never really knew much about it besides DPS’s help the tank out, but this is really insightful. I don’t do random dungeons much because I’m afraid to screw something up. But it’s nice to now have some ground rules.

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