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!
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
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!
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
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?
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.