With the expansion, tanking and healing have been made relatively easy. No tank has any problem whatsoever with threat, and AoE tanking abilities abound such that tanks aren’t frantically switching targets to keep sunders on every mob just to keep them off the healer, not to mention dps. Healers mostly have quite a few AoE healing tools and despite Blizzard’s stated aim to make mana actually something of a concern, people still tend to have almost unlimited mana in heroics and raids as long as there is a replenishment class around.
This puts the spotlight strongly on DPS classes now. The biggest cause of fail in heroics isn’t the tank or the healer (except for CoH spamming failures who are now probably whining about the nerf), but is often sub-par dps who are below tanks on damage.
Let’s look at what dps stands for… it’s Damage Per Second. A lot of dps players are afflicted with what I call the Big Number Syndrome: “WOW I CRIT FOR 12K I R LEET”. There is a massive focus among many players on the first part of that ratio, the Damage. This is why the first excuse given is gear i.e. not enough spellpower, attack power etc etc etc. Many people don’t realise that the second portion, DPS time, is by far the most important of the two.
Let’s examine a typical boss fight in a heroic. How long does it last? I would guess 2 minutes tops. That’s 120 seconds. What happens if you lose 2 seconds out of that? Maybe you find yourself silenced by Ingvar’s roar. Or a target dies and you take a while to re-select another. Or you’re watching some tv and just pressing frostbolt once in a while. 2 seconds may not sound like much, but in a 2-minute boss fight that’s already 1.7% less dps right off the bat. That is like giving up 1.7% hit rating on your gear. The relative benefit of dps time improves as your gear improves, and increases the shorter the fight gets.
The simplest way to increase your dps dramatically is to increase your dps time, not improve your raw damage. There are only 2 gear stats that do this… and this is hit rating (expertise is equivalent for dps) and haste. These are the only stats that directly affect the base damage of your abilities, by increasing the number of attacks that actually land. This is the reason why hit rating is the most efficient dps increaser on gear. Haste is still good, but less so, due to the amount that you have to stack to see a difference (benefits can be lost in lag, gaining 0.2 secs doesn’t necessarily mean you can cast 1 additional spell).
Some players claim that they are old and don’t have great reaction time. To be frank, I don’t have great reaction time either. But an intelligent player will come up with ways to overcome difficulties and increase the number of attacks they make.
1) Pay attention. This should be obvious, but it isn’t. If you stand in green fire and have to iceblock to get heals, you’re not doing damage. If you eat avoidable stuns, you’re not doing damage.
2) Get a castbar/swingtimer mod like Quartz. This mod basically tries to account for the transmission lag between your machine and the server, and can let you shave off a huge amount of casttime. E.g. your 2.5s shadow bolt actually takes something like 2.7-2.9s if you’re not staying in the US, Quartz will help you bring that down. Basically you can actually start casting another spell before your current spell looks like it ends and it will still go through.
3) For casters, be aware that you can change targets before a cast ends. Take advantage of your cast time, when you can’t do anything except stand there, to look around and select your next target. If a mob is almost dead, there’s no need to fire off a frostfire bolt and watch it fly gracefully to the target and drool in anticipation of BIG YELLOW NUMBERS. You can just start casting, look for your next target, click on it, and start casting your next spell the moment your previous spell ends and flies off to your previous target.
4) For melee, it’s worthwhile making macro’s for your main attacks that include the following as the first line: /startattack. This prevents those cases where the mob you are targetting dies and your character just stands around doing nothing since you haven’t selected the next target. Just spam your main attack and you will target and start auto-attacking the nearest mob. In this day of aoe tanking and no crowd control, there is no downside and no real need to follow the tank’s target. If a specific kill order is marked, you can always start attacking something else first until you find and target the next mob. It’s better than just standing there.
5) Take advantage of the fact that instants are… instant cast. Many instances now require some sort of movement during fights. When you are moving and not casting, you are doing 0 dps. Use that time to cast your instants so that you don’t have to do it when you are standing still, i.e. you can use that time to cast other spells. The best example I can think of is warlocks and life-tapping. Life-tap when you move, so that you can concentrate on dpsing when you’re standing still. Wasting 1.5 seconds lifetapping is 1.5 seconds not spent casting a nuke. Or if your ret pally’s Divine Plea is up, pop it while running so you don’t spend a gcd on it later while actually dpsing.
All these don’t require good reactions, and are simple things all dps should try to keep in mind. Getting a few extra attacks in here and there adds up very quickly and is a far bigger advantage than getting full epics and standing there doing nothing.