Guest Post by Aislinana
Hi, I’m not Ceraphus, but I’m here to instruct you fine DPSers who read DPS 101 on some of the fine points of us who stand way in the back: ranged DPS. There’s long been a division between us and people who like snuggling boss butt. Ranged DPS has some similarities to the rest of the DPS pack but there are quite a few things that set us apart. (and not just 20 yards.)
BUT WHO PLAYS AS A RANGED DPS?
Mages, priests (shadow), druids (boomkin), hunters, warlocks, shaman (elemental)
Ranged DPS Does It From Far Away
Knowing where to stand as a ranged is quite crucial and for several reasons. Many boss mechanics currently in the game require people at ranged to stand in particular places, rather than just somewhere that isn’t melee range. While this varies from fight to fight, a good ranged knows where is GOOD to stand and where is bad. It gets confusing when you have to try and squeeze 10-12 ranged DPS into a small space and still spread out 12 yards from each other. Integral to this is a good boss mod or range meter – it shows you where you should be standing in relation to everyone else in your raid and the boss and still do your stuff.
Make sure to bone up on strats or pay attention in fights so that you know where to stand to maximize heals, reduce damage taken (by you and the rest of the raid) but also avoid boss abilities that are thrown out at ranged. Any ability that gets you into your expected place faster is also a good idea – blink, ghost wolf, travel form and disengage are good things to know about!
Don’t Move! (Unless You Have To)
One of the largest hits to your DPS as a ranged tends to be movement. While melee can keep some contact time on a boss while moving short distances, ranged suffer DPS hits quite dramatically if there is a lot of running going on. Most rDPS have gotten some shoring up in terms of DoTs, instants or other abilities to aid DPS while having to move during a fight, but making sure you are standing still whenever possible is the best idea. This comes nipping on the heels of the “knowing where to stand” motto, in that an effective position that allows you to hit a boss from where you -should- be standing as much of the fight as possible means you move less, and only for crucial phases in a fight. A ranged DPS should remember their ABCs of course (Always Be Casting, as covered by DPS 101), but keeping your shuffling to a bare minimum and using mobility spells and instants when needed ensures your DPS stays high.
Managing All Of Your “Friends”
Ranged DPS do have a lot of additional side abilities such as pets, guardians or other AI-aided abilities that help you do extra DPS or give additional buffs to the raid. The two classes that this is most crucial for are warlocks and hunters (frost mages fall into this as well). They have static pets that need to be out at all times. Make sure you have a pet out that is appropriate for your spec, especially if they are talented to do additional damage or buff the caster. Some abilities should always be turned off when not soloing, as well; threat generating abilities from your pets will not be useful and possibly wipe a raid/group. This also goes for your pet’s status – “passive” is the way to go so your pet does not aggro other mobs when in a group and only ever attacks your DPS target. The way most pets behave in-game currently is helpful, but often times you can optimize their contact time or performance by using macros that tie their attacks into your spells/abilities. Check the ones for your class and see if there are any that boost your pet’s DPS.
If your ranged class doesn’t have a constant pet, you might still have abilities that work as temporary guardians or DPS boosts. These are things like Fire Elemental, Mirror Images, Flame Orb. They often have longer cooldowns, so ideal times tend to be during burn phases or Bloodlust/Heroism/Time Warp. Managing your class’ secondary abilities to their full extent often means the difference between a good ranged DPS and a GREAT ranged DPS.
What is kiting precisely? It is the ability to keep a mob (particularly one that might hit you very hard) at ranged by slowing, stunning, snaring or generally keeping at a distance with spells.
This is a skill I do not see stressed very much anymore, despite the fact that back in my day, it was the only way a ranged DPS was going to accomplish things like soloing elites or managing certain add phases on boss kills. While ranged tanking has certainly gone the way of the dodo, kiting is still a really crucial skill that I see lacking in so many of today’s rDPS. Considering that Blizzard even put in a boss that requires a kiter in Blackrock Caverns, it is a great time for every ranged to bone up on their kiting skills.
A good way for a newer or inexperienced ranged to practice kiting is to find a mob that is below your level but has a lot of health. In vanilla, I learned how to kite by using my frost spells on the elite demon mobs or frost giants in Winterspring. You want to try and open with a slow (if you have one), and keep them below their normal speed if possible. If they start to get too close, or your slow is on cooldown, use a snare or stun. These can be things like Roots, Frost Nova, Earthbind Totem, Frost Trap. Some classes also have melee range slows like Cone of Cold. Make sure to use your movement or defensive cooldowns to get away or stay alive but the trick is to not have the mob hit you at all.
Do Other Things Besides DPS, Occasionally
Not all abilities you should be using as an rDPS are solely for your personal DPS benefit, but rather are for the ease of your raid team or group. Sometimes the best thing you can do for a raid is to stop DPS and keep the group going as smoothly as possible. Topping charts is great but topping charts and using utility abilities is better.
While this isn’t just the domain of ranged DPS, an overwhelming amount of buffs do come from ranged. Standard group/raid buffs like Mark of the Wild and Arcane Intellect should always be thrown up, but situational/limited buffs like Focus Magic, Dark Intent need to placed on classes that benefit both the player casting and the player being buffed. Combat buffs like Misdirect need to be done quickly, on the right targets and at the raid/group’s discretion. Don’t be afraid to create macros or use add-ons for these sorts of things, especially since some things need to be done on the fly or alert the group to their use (such as Bloodlust.)
Ranged might not quite have the muscle in the interrupt department (being that most of our interrupts tend to either have a shorter spell lockout or have a longer cooldown), but we certainly can contribute to interrupts quite a lot in smaller settings such as 10man raids or 5-mans, and don’t hesitate to use non-traditional interrupts – dazes/disorients and stuns can all temporarily disrupt a spell-cast.
However, a lot of our offensive AND defensive strengths come from dispels. Whether is Spellstealing awesome buffs, or Dispel Magic or Purge, casters bring a lot of usefulness when it comes to getting buffs/debuffs off mobs or even our own party mates. Using an add-on or macro to alert you to certain spell effects, or to reduce reaction time to these events will only make you better. Many boss mechanics will require you to remove a harmful/fatal debuff from a party member.
Pure DPS need not to worry about this as much but a lot of caster hybrids have the ability to toss out heals or resurrect players. Don’t be afraid to have these macro’d or hot-keyed for ease of use. Sometimes you need to stop what you are pew-pewing and throw out some AOE heals or help out healers. Players who can self-rez or in-combat resurrection need to pay attention group calls or raid leader calls if this is your job. The fact that we are often at range might mean that you have to stop and run into melee to pick up a rogue, but if it is the difference between hitting an enrage timer or getting a crucial player back into the game, this is what you need to do.