There’s always that raider that you look at in awe: that you admire for their seemingly flawless and polished technique. They never seem to stand in the bad. Their rotations flow from their fingers into perfectly executed strings of numbers that add up to a whole lot of pain. And you’re standing next to them feeling like the proverbial elephant in the raid.
I’m not sure I’ve mentioned it, but it’s been a long, long time since I’ve been a dps raider. I raided in vanilla as a rogue, and started a mage in BC; but for all intents and purposes I’ve spent 4 years of raiding as a tank or a healer. Benchmarks for these roles are a bit different, and while I always felt that I covered them exceptionally well, there’s just something very real and tangible about a dps meter. I’m not saying it’s the end and be all of the dps role, but you can bet your buns that it brings quantifying your effectiveness into very sharp focus.
I’ve been mulling over this more and more as I’ve truly become a hybrid role in my team. I’ve got two roles that I’m spending a significant time trying to master, whereas I’ve usually only had to worry about one. The other wasn’t bad per se, but just not as well polished. As I began to LFR, I made sure that some weeks I did the fights as restoration, and sometimes as balance, just so I had a general handle of the basic mechanics of the fight for both roles.
But it didn’t really come into focus for me, why I was so good on some fights and so bad on others until I had a friend come back to raiding. We were rolling through Firelands at the end of a raid week, getting folks mounts and working on our 3rd legendary, when he said something that made it all make sense:
I do so poorly in Firelands. I’m afraid to let the guild bring me in here because I look so bad. But I know the DS fights so much better, I’m just now figuring out how to maximize my dps on some of these fights.
When you’re learning a new encounter, you’re learning more than the dance steps and what not to do. You’re learning when your rotation will be interrupted, when the best time to line up your cooldowns is, and how to avoid huge gaping holes in your damage/healing up-time. Those fights that I’m really good at are always the ones where I learned the fight from the beginning.
While you can always pick up your game at a later date, you are going to be behind the curve. While those 100 wipes went into training you on a perfect response time for damage or healing, now that you have to switch, those same responses have to be retrained to some degree. Not drastically, not game-altering die-in the fire every attempt: but enough to make you look a little less polished, and not as effortlessly awesome as the guy standing next to you.
And that’s when my second bright idea occurred to me: players I want to raid with, players that I respect for their skill are those that utilize every tool in their toolbox. It doesn’t matter that you know every step in the dance of death if you don’t know whether you should be burning your incinerating cool-down now, or in 5 seconds when it’ll last through the next burn phase.
I’ve been running more PUGs than usual the last few weeks, partly in an effort to get more players kitted up for 85, and in part because I’ve been running more LFR. And while it might sound a bit snobbish, I’m always pleasantly surprised when I see someone using not only their huge raid cool-downs, but their cool-downs for personal protection. While it’s usually not necessary to use a Tranquility, pop into Tree, throw out some treants or pop a Barkskin, these are tools that make encounters easier, more efficient, and make me able to perform when I step into Heroics.
Learning an encounter isn’t so much about the dance. Every dance can be conquered (or at least fumbled through). The harder part, the challenging part, is fitting my skills, my little square blocks, into the round holes that appear through the encounter. When I’ve been most successful, when I’ve really made my mark in an encounter, it’s because I utilized every possible ability that it made sense to use to up my dps/healing, reduce my damage taken, and meet all the goals of the encounter.
Those flawless raiders that I respect and envy aren’t flawless. No one is, but what they do with grace and consummate skill is utilizing their class to its maximum potential. I may never be there, at least not 100% of the time, but that’s always my goal. Discovering how and why I perform differently on different fights was one step in helping me nudge me towards that ideal.