WoW Discussion

How To: Warcraft DPS 101

There are many blog posts out there on how to tank, what things to look for, even general healing guides.  However in scouring over the blogosphere and even talking to many friends on twitter, no one had any general DPS guides.  In fact the closest thing to a DPS guide some friends pointed out to me was an article called Rule #1 of DPS: ABC.

DPS is the highest populated role currently in World of Warcraft, yet so many times you run into people who just don’t know how to DPS, or don’t understand their role properly.  My hope is this article will help build the foundation for a solid DPS start, and maybe even a refresher for others.  Lets get started…

1. Know your Rotation

So many times I see DPS casting the wrong spells, some spells are triggered off of others.  Case in point, an Unholy DK who is hitting Scourge Strike without getting his other diseases up on a mob first is wasting his time and the group’s.  There are a few ways you can go about figuring out a rotation.  First read your spells, don’t just push them because the graphics look slick.  Understand what they do, what debuffs do they need to work, what buffs or debuffs do they add to the fight.  This is critical in understanding what your next or even previous spell cast should be.

Of course the tried and true resource for learning about your class’s rotations is on the Elitist Jerks class forums.  It is in each class forum where there is usually a stickied post describing what your spell rotation or priority should be when attacking a mob.  This is key to maximizing your output.  No one wants to run with a DPS who can’t out damage the tank they are with, so get your spell casting down.

2. Support a Healer – Save Yourself

Many times I have uttered the following phrase, “Dead DPS, do no DPS”.  Its a true statement, you can’t attack something if you are dead.  To that end pretty much every DPS class has one or more abilties that help keep them alive a bit longer or help mitigate the damage you take.  Death Knights have Anti Magic Shield, Rogues have Evasion & Cloak of Shadows, Mages have Blink & Ice Block, Warlock have Drain Life, Hunters have Feign Death & Disengage.  These are just a few quick examples, but every class has these types of spells.  Learn them, use them often.

These are designed to lessen the damage you take and help your healer have more time to heal you.  One of the biggest complaints by healers is that DPS takes too much damage, well here is your chance to hit some abilities and save yourself.  Hell get yourself out of harms way and bandage yourself, any raid leader worth their lick of salt who sees a dip in your DPS and sees that in that time you are bandaging yourself should be elated.

3. Don’t Stand in the Bad

Don’t Stand in the Fire!  I am sure you have heard this by now, hell its even a friendly tip on the Warcraft loading screen.  But its not just fire you need to worry about.  There are poison clouds, void zones, electrical storm clouds, pillars of flame, frontal blue flame attacks, falling rocks, and charges to name a few.  The thing is look at the fight, realize what types of attacks the enemy is doing, and don’t stand in the bad.  Thats right Don’t Stand in the Bad, that is anything that is doing damage to you that you can avoid.  Move it, you know your mouse, your keyboard?  Use them and get out of it.

When I tank  or heal and I see DPS just standing in the bad and dying, then saying “I don’t know what happened”.  It sets me off on a rage, well only if they do it over and over.  They say we learn from our mistakes so if you do happen to die because you stood in the bad, don’t do it again, and when you die during an encounter, keep your mouth shut and keep watching, look at whats going on, learn.  Especially for Cataclysm, its very important that DPS is self aware of their surroundings.

4. Do Stand in the Good

Now not everything on the ground is bad, there is a ton of beneficial area of effect spells in game.  Omnotron Defense System for example, Arcanotron drops down a blue puddle called Power Generator that increases damage done.  Healing Rain is an AoE healing spell by resto shaman which shows as a blue circle, Druids have Efflorescence which shows as a green circle and  Priests Holy Word: Sanctuary which place a white circle on the ground, all 3 are beneficial to stand in to help heal you.  These are times when you need to stand in the good.

How do you know when its good vs bad?  Well to quote a literacy commercial, reading is fundamental.  If you step in something you should notice a buff or debuff placed on you, hover over it with your cursor and read what the effects are, if you see the words increase, improve typically its a “good”, and you should stand in it.  Remember though if standing in “the good” compromises your survivability, don’t stand in it, see rule #2 above.

5. ABC – Always Be Clicking

You can’t be reaching your potential if you don’t hit buttons.  So even when you are following the other rules, you should always be pressing something.  If you are a caster and you have a spell you can cast on the run but it may not be on your rotation, if you are moving out of the bad, this is a good time to let this spell fly, while not optimal its something over nothing.  If you don’t have a damage dealing spell to cast, make sure you cast some kind of self buff, group buff, etc.  The idea is to constantly do something productive.  If you are just standing there moving around avoiding things all the time, then you are not doing your primary job and you might as well be dead.

Downtime is the same as unproductive time.  So make sure you are hitting something doing something productive, get debuffs up, get some engineering bombs to drop off as you run, whatever you want as long as you are hitting a button.

I wrote Rule #1 of DPS: ABC over a year ago and I still feel it is relevant especially for this article.

6. Timing is Everything

One of the key things in maximizing your DPS and playing this role effectively is knowing your timing.  You should take an inventory of all your self buffs and trinkets that have a long cooldown, defined as anything outside your normal rotation, so 30 seconds to 4 minutes, to maybe longer.  After you take inventory identify which ones should be used during what events.  For example if you have a trinket that would be optimally used  during a Bloodlust / Heroism note it.  Then ask the question when in the encounter do we cast Bloodlust / Heroism.  Why is this important?  Well simply put if you don’t cast Heroism until the boss is at 20% health and thats 4 minutes into the fight, and your self buff has a 3 minute cooldown, then you should use it in the first minute of the fight to have it available again.

Also in general if you know a boss fight will take 8 minutes, and you have 3 cooldowns, lets say cooldown A is 2 minutes, cooldown B is 3 minutes and cooldown C is 4 minutes, you could optimally use cooldown A 4 times, B potentially 3 times if used immediately, and C twice potentially.  This is key to maximizing your potential.  If you are not using all your tricks you are only playing with a half loaded gun.


Follow these 6 steps and you should see your DPS improve through better use of your abilities and better survivability.  Raids will want you, healers will prefer you in their group.  DPS is typically described as the “LOL” role, filled with noobs and fools.  Following these steps will separate you from the heap.

I hope this helped, and if you feel there are any other tips I would love to hear them!  Good luck in your DPS future, after reading this it should be very bright!