Druid, Elemental, Opinion, Shaman, WoW

Why I DPS

There was an interesting post on Healing Way a while back called Why do you heal? in which Llyra explains how someone who started off with no interest in healing became a dedicated primary healer.  I’d like to share the opposite story: how someone with no interest in damage-dealing came to end up filling that role with considerable dedication.  Since it’s Saturday, I’ll indulge in the longer version of the story; you can just skip to the end if you want the short version!

The Beginning

Stuffed birds make perfect shoulder ornaments.

When I first started playing World of Warcraft, I was attracted to healing classes.  I was subscribing to play with a friend and figured it’d make sense to choose a powerful support class that’d be in-demand in the endgame.  Druids were not only listed as “primary healers” on the WoW website, but had an intriguing level of versatility which – while I didn’t think would be worth much in the endgame – I knew would probably be very useful while levelling.  So I levelled from 1 to 60 as a restoration druid.

This was back when respeccing was a serious investment, so I had about 11 points in feral and the remainder in restoration.  I did most levelling instances as a healer and a few as a tank.  While healing level 60 instances I picked up a lot of best-in-slot pre-raid leather tank gear… and soon I had become known as an excellent tank, successfully tanking every level 60 instance in my restoration spec.

We started raiding Zul’Gurub and later Ahn’qiraj; I main-healed until Jin’do the Hexxer required me to tank.  I never ever DPSed – I didn’t even have any DPS gear.  DPS just didn’t interest me.

I levelled a shadowpriest, but the interest was in his utility and the ability to switch to healing when needed; he raided as a healer (specced shadow) and I swapped my druid to permanent feral tank spec. I levelled a hunter and a warlock, not to DPS but because of the appeal of their astonishing array of control abilities – kiting, crowd-controlling, offtanking and so forth.  I did a couple of raids with my hunter and felt powerless not being able to save people from dying.  I learned how important the ability to kill stuff before your healers ran out of mana was.  A few months before The Burning Crusade was released, I started gathering some cat DPS gear for my druid to help him level through Outland – my experience levelling with damage classes/specs had made me loathe to ever level as a healer again.

The Burning Crusade

Which one shall I wear today

My druid remained my main character when TBC was released.  Feral had received a thrilling injection of power; I was astonished at how “overpowered” my bear seemed.  I went into Karazhan as a main tank.  I lamented the lack of proper feral tank itemisation.  I mourned the nerfs to our armor bonus.  I rejoiced when tier gear finally received bonus armor and I danced a happy little jig when the crit on our tier 4 gloves was changed to agility.  I was strong.  I was a main tank.  I was a protector of the raid!

I also ended up DPSing a lot when the mob I was tanking was dead, or when the encounter only called for one tank.  In TBC, feral tank specs and feral cat specs were pretty much identical.  I soon gathered an appropriate amount of “offspec” DPS gear.

Then came the watershed moment for my understanding of DPS: Our rogue DPS leader told us all we should be doing at least 600 DPS to kill Gruul before his tank damage became unhealable.  Now, I’d always known damage was important.  But I’d never seen damage-per-second metered that way, or linked so directly to an indisputable mathematical fact: the boss’s health, the time ’till he enrages, and the number of DPSers in the raid.  One day we were running with an extra offtank and I strapped on my DPS gear and did some damage on Gruul.  I did about 750 DPS.  I was thrilled!  I was contributing to the success of the raid!

Throughout the Burning Crusade I filled the role feral tanks became used to: tanking when multiple tanks were required, DPSing when they weren’t.  I exulted in doing 1600 DPS on Teron Gorefiend and then main-tanking Mother Shahraz in my overpowered best-in-slot tank gear.  In every role I felt I was important, crucial to the raid’s success!

Druid powah!

Meanwhile I was having a lot of fun levelling my new alt, an elemental shaman.  I was enamoured with her ability to seamlessly segue between DPS and healing, and excited by the large number of mutually-exclusive yet oh-so-powerful totem buffs.  I put a lot of effort into that alt; a party member in my first heroic with her informed me I’d done 1100 DPS on a boss and I was thrilled to bits.  I geared her up tirelessly from heroics and badges of justice.  I went on a few Karazhan raids.  She picked up some offspec healing gear while doing awesome damage – this was back when elemental started high and didn’t scale at all, so 5/10-mans really inflated our damage proportional to everyone else.

But my raid group was trying to work on Illidan while getting annoyingly stuck on farming raids at Reliquary of Souls.  We had very few shamans, and yet Heroism was seen as crucial to being able to beat the DPS race portion of the fight.  Whenever our shamans couldn’t attend, we struggled.  I ended up bringing my alt shaman – specced resto – to spam chain heal and pop Heroism at the right time.  It was weird because I was filling a DPS gap by healing – keeping the DPS alive by spamming chain heal, while using Heroism to allow them to do enough damage in a short enough time.

The move to DPS

You can probably tell I like trees

I came to a gradual realisation over the course of my healing and tanking careers of just how vital damage-dealing was to the game.  My experience of end-game raiding in the Burning Crusade emphasised this more and more, with its increasing frequency of DPS race-style encounters and the vast size of raid instances requiring as much speed as possible even killing farm bosses to enable you to have time left for the later ones.

In my eyes as a raid leader, DPS had gone from being something that you filled non-healer spots with to something that was crucial to the success of a raid.

I knew I could heal, but that I wasn’t a great healer – just an OK one.  I knew I had been a great tank, but with WotLK making tanking so much easier and more accessible there didn’t seem any point anymore.  My shaman offered a powerful combination of ranged DPS (especially important as so many fights seemed to punish stacking melee after the “lol throw rogues at the boss ’till it dies” stuff in vanilla), versatility and unique raid buffs.

And I could make a difference if I did enough damage to prevent the boss enrage, or to stop the healers from going out of mana, or to prevent the RNG avoidance combination that killed the tank.  I could even improve the whole raid’s damage with my totems and buffs.  I could see the results of my efforts in the boss’s health bar and my healers’ mana bars.  I started to see DPS as even more important than tanking or healing, and I was good at it.

Since 3.1 and Ulduar hard modes, I’ve come to respect healing a lot more again, and to realise the need for excellence and dedication to healing.  I’ve also had the opportunity to vastly improve my own healing prowess and technique.  I’ve even been able to witness the importance of good tanking (though it’s still nowhere near what it was like in TBC).  I can enjoy all these roles, confident that I’m doing my best and helping the raid.

And yet all these same hard modes have put very stringent requirements on DPS performance too, to the point where I still feel I’m most useful in the DPS role.  It’s easier than healing (but I’ll rant about healing design another time), but the need to be excellent at it is just as great.

Why do I DPS?

Doing your best as a DPS to earn achievements is a great feeling.

So why do I DPS?

If you do not do enough damage quickly enough, your raid fails.

If you don’t deal this damage-per-second intelligently enough, your raid fails.

If you don’t put in the effort to get the gear and skill necessary to do the above, your raid fails.

DPS is freakin’ important, is what I’m sayin’.

Why do I DPS?  Because the designers of World of Warcraft have managed to make it a crucial and demanding part of the game, upon which the success of your whole raid depends just as surely as on healing and tanking.  And for me, that is what makes it fun.

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Discussion

10 thoughts on “Why I DPS

  1. Excellent piece. A couple times now I’ve made guild moves to higher end raid groups. What I keep seeing is that tanks and healers are strong everywhere you go, but the strength of the DPS defines how deep the raids will go. Sometimes I lament the current lack of “things” for the DPS to do, but the role definitely holds its own as one the 3 pillars of end game raiding.

    Posted by tensten | October 31, 2009, 5:47 pm
  2. I think this is, as you’ve indicated by sharing your personal raiding history, something that’s very much affected by our own personality and background. That is to say, part of the reason *I* dps is indeed because dpsing is crucial to (quick) progression, and that makes the role all the more fulfilling. But my raiding history as a dpser and nothing else means that it’s very hard for me to even think of ever switching to another role. It takes a large amount of effort to learn the necessary skills to play any of the three primary roles WELL, and that’s not even considering the importance of raiding experience, the time investment in levelling a character and gearing it up, etc.

    I’ve always played a hunter in raids, so I was also never really tempted to switch to another role on the fly just to see what it was like, because there WAS no other role to the class. And once you get used to playing a certain character, accumulate experience and gear, it’s not exactly easy to switch to another one. I’ve had the chances to do so at the expansions of course, but again my personality and background have pushed me towards always playing this same role.

    Another thing that I think is important to me personally, is that dps is the most quantifiable of all three roles. I’m not going to argue that dps meters are the second coming of Jesus or anything, but they help me measure my performance in a way that I think the other roles have trouble following. And measuring my performance in such a statistical way helps me identify problems in my own playstyle, see how I perform relative to other dps from fight to fight, etc. If I were to play a tank or healer I think I’d miss that quite a bit.

    The quantifiable aspect isn’t just linked to dps meters either, having a visual indication of how long it’ll take for a mob to die makes dpsing very attractive to me. If I were to play a tank or healer I think I’d feel like I was repeating the same action over and over, every fight feeling like a copy of the last. While as a dps you always have those health bars to keep an eye on: they start out at 100%, and you bring them down to 0% and then the fight ends, to put it simply. I know that sounds a bit silly but if I were just watching raid health go up and down in continuous cycles as a healer or doing my tank thing, hoping for the healers to keep me alive and the damage dealers to dps hard enough, I don’t think I’d feel.. as important, I suppose.

    I wonder if the quantifiable aspects of dpsing which seperate it from the other two roles contribute to why we believe it is so crucial. Or is that just me and my personal need to be able to analyse everything?

    Posted by Razz | October 31, 2009, 6:54 pm
  3. I was going to post a comment about my progression from having only one DPS character in Vanilla to having 4 level 80 characters in WotLK with 2 that healed, but it was getting far too long.

    Basically I’ve played a DPS for 5 years, and the way I always saw DPS was from an RPish point of view, in that there was no way Tanks or Healers were going to defeat this evil, they’d be there for MONTHS. It was down to US (us being the dps) to get the job done.

    In TBC I developed the healthy regard for DPS races, in that in general if dps sucked, the raid was going no-where. An incident in Sunwell Plateau involving unleashing hell comes to mind…

    Anyway! TBC and WotLK have brought the DPS race to the forefront of what raiding is. However, it has also now led to too many DPS thinking that’s all there is to raiding, and over-appreciate dps races in raids. Recently doing PuG raids I’ve seen so many dps just hit the boss as hard as they can with catastrophic effects, and I wonder how WoW can pull raids *away* from DPS races without causing an uprising from such people.

    Posted by Tran | October 31, 2009, 8:18 pm
  4. Good post C. Never thought of DPS that way… though I believe that’s because I’ve not put a lot of focus on endgame content since I rejoined WoW.

    Posted by Doucl | November 1, 2009, 12:05 am
  5. Too much wall of text, not enough frivolity:

    “Why do I DPS?”

    To HUG the DPS.

    (Also, I typed in “Planet of the Hats” to my web browser, as I do whenever I want to return here) but I accidentally clicked “Enter” instead of pressing the down key to select the correct URL first. I ended up being here:

    http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/PlanetOfHats

    Posted by Sinespe | November 1, 2009, 2:11 am
  6. Even though I play also an elemental shaman as my main (thus being the reason for me beig here… thank you so much, ZAP! is great!).

    I agree with you that DPS has become vital to raid success, which one can also see by the tendency to chose players simply according to their dps for pugs.

    However, I feel that the sometimes stringent dps-requirements (anub’arak25hm etc..) often also result in the raid stacking more dps’ers by reducing the number of healers and tanks (hello, block value gear..), thus making it primarily harder for the fewer healers and tanks to fulfill their role.

    Of course it can go the other way too if you happen to have an exceptional team of dps’ers. However, due to typical raid compositions with 2-3 tanks, 5-6 healers and 16-18 dps it is in my opinion most probable that the “worst” players end up as dps. If a tank sucks, you get nowhere and replace him. If healers suck, you wipe and replace them (e.g. due to too many tank deaths, which is immediately visible). If dps fails, it is not that obvious.

    Also, if one assumes that the chance that someone is good at his job is 80%, the probability of having a lackluster dps team (meaning at least one “bad” player) is 1-0.8^16 = 97% up to 1-.8^18 = 98%. The chance of having a bad tanking team is 1-.8^2 (or 3) = 36% (or 49%) which is probably also lowered due to above stated reasons.

    So I fear that the dps requirements are mainly resting on the shoulders of healers/tanks, such that in a typical non-hardcore raid, the dps team’s “inperfectness” is compensated by bringing more dps’ers instead of forcing the induviduals to become better.

    Posted by Zweihorn | November 9, 2009, 7:35 pm
  7. I wanted to thank you for this article. I read this article and this statement came to mind:

    “DPS is a Game, Healing a Job and Tanking a Responsibility.”

    Truthfully, you just squelched that for me. For a good DPSer anyway. I think bad tanks and bad healers are more of a problem for a raid where bad dpsers generally mean you just won’t be able to down the boss as fast.

    Now I see a slightly different aspect. That good/great DPSers actually are integral to a fight. Without them we don’t beat timers or our healers run out of mana.

    Posted by Jelia | December 5, 2009, 3:12 am

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  1. Pingback: Why I didn’t DPS « Planet of the Hats - November 25, 2009

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