Meta Skills: The less obvious way to win!
Here is the original work: http://satorri.net/sociology/metaskills1/
You'll have to forgive me, in forum form, ok, in general, it is a bit dense. The first stage was to get it all down. I may spend some time in the coming months condensing it into more palatable nuggets.
In order to start this off properly, I want to explain my personal lingo to make sure we are all on the same page. I will generally refer to 3 sorts of skills:
Primary Skills/Spells = these are the buttons you press to do whatever your character's primary role or function is. This is determined by your class and specialization.With the advent of Cataclysm and the increased depth and team play required to successfully complete instances, it has become a powerful force for highlighting skill at playing the game. Even groups with people who appear to play their character's/class' abilities well suddenly struggle with an instance because they are not playing the *game* well.
Secondary/Utility Skills/Spells = these are the other spells you have, the other buttons you press to support your team in a less obvious way like crowd control, heals (if you are not a healer/tank), interrupts, etc.
"Meta-Skills" = these are the skills that fill in the cracks, the less obvious and often player-based skills. This would include timing your button presses, figuring out or adjusting *when* you hit your primary and secondary spells, adjusting your camera, movement in the game world, etc. This will be the focus of this article, though obviously it cannot be fully isolated from the primaries and secondaries as it will help inform how you use them.
For my first pass I want to break these meta skills down by role, in the 4 major roles: Tank, Healer, Melee Damage, and Ranged Damage (Hunters and Casters). I'll include some references to cross-over issues as well like Leadership (it often defers to tanks, but it can be done by anyone), Social Interaction, and Pet Management (most Pet classes are ranged, but Unholy Death Knights will still find this interesting).
Also, to help with common game lingo in case you aren't familiar, here are some common terms that I use, or that you will hear in the game:
Spec = Specialization, the talent tree you selected for your primary talent points.
Mob = developer short-hand for "movable obstruction" but more commonly used as a short-hand for monsters and computer controlled enemies (non-monstrous types may also be referred to as "NPCs").
Tank = a special role within the group dynamic that focuses on capturing the enemies attention and taking their attacks while the group kills them. Usually, the tank will focus on survival and "threat" over damage. The tanking specs currently are Protection Warriors and Paladins, Blood Death Knights, and Feral Druids who have taken the survivability and Bear Form-buffing talents. Other specs may be capable of tanking in a limited fashion, but this will be rare at higher levels.
Heals/Healer = a special role that focuses on keeping the party alive. They will sacrifice the ability to do as much damage in favor of being able to more efficiently heal their party, and principally keep the tank alive. The current healing specs are Holy and Discipline Priests, Restoration Druids and Shamans, and Holy Paladins. These classes and others will retain abilities to allow them to heal themselves and others without a healing spec, but these will be less effective without talents, and so at higher levels these healing abilities will often be considered secondary skills.
Damage Dealers/DPS = a special role focused on doing damage. DPS is short-hand for damage per second, but is used to denote both the rate of your damage *and* the special role or people filling it. This will make up the largest proportion of most of your group activities, with roughly 1 tank and healer per 3 dps, up to 1 tank per 2-3 healers and per 6-7 damage dealers at the largest group size.
Proc = short for "Programmable Random OCcurance," this is usually used to name a passive ability that can trigger from other actions you take. For example, if you had a chance when you used the Arcane Shot ability for the enemy to take increased damage, you would say that Arcane Shot "proc'd" the debuff on the target. Or, if you have a trinket that has a chance to give you a buff when you cast a spell, you would say the trinket proc'd when it triggered.
Threat = this is a system built into the game. Enemies will receive threat from each player's character when the character does damage to that opponent or heals one of their friends who are in combat with the enemy. Enemy creatures will use this threat to determine who they should be attacking.
Aggro = short for aggression or aggressive attention. This is usually used to refer to having or attaining the attention of an enemy. It may also be said as "pulling threat" on the target.
Pull = often used as either a verb or noun. As a verb it is used to describe the action of picking up a new target. As a noun, it is used to describe a group of opponents who will all engage together if you attack any one of them.
CC or Crowd Control = these are abilities that affect your enemies. They may include incapacitation, movement impairing effects, or other sorts of status effects, but the key concept is that the enemy is removed or reduced in effectiveness so your group does not have to worry about them for a time.
Adds = short for "additional enemies." This is used to refer to any opponents who join the fight later on, either from an accidental or additional group, or as spawned by one of your enemies.
Pat = short for "patrol." Used to describe enemies who walk around a pre-determined route.
Cooldown = some spells and abilities have a blackout period after use where they cannot be used again. This is called a "cooldown" period. Some abilities are actually referred to as "cooldowns" if they have a short active window and a long blackout period afterwards.
Trash = a common short-hand for the non-boss enemies you find between boss encounters in instances. These fights are usually less strenuous than boss fights, and are considered by some to just be filler.
Table of Contents:
1.) Leadership Meta Skills
2.) Universal Meta Skills
3.) Tanking Meta Skills
4.) Healer Meta Skills
5.) Damage Dealer Meta Skills
6.) Group and Social Meta Skills
7.) TL;DR Digest
Damage Dealing Meta Skills
While the Tank and Healer are very specialized and central roles to the group dynamic it is the bulk of the group, the damage dealers (DPS in colloquial usage) that will set the pace and requirements of the Tank and Healing dynamic. Damage dealers do the work. While damage dealers may not carry as obvious a make-or-break value as the Tank or Healer, there can be a very big difference between just doing damage and being a high-functioning member of the group.
Just because you were brought to kill things, does not mean that is all you can or should do!
Yes, you are here to blow stuff away. You will get your chance to do so, but in the mean time you need to remember that you are a part of a group. As a group you have to work together to succeed in the instance. Victory does not care if you did the most damage but left the Healer to struggle and carry your sloppy performance, but the Healer will definitely care. As a member of a team you are offering the best value by making the activities as easy on the group as you can. Here are some key secondary skills that you can and should offer to ease the performance of the group:
1.) Tanks are taking your beating, love them in equal measure!
The tanks job is to make herself more juicy a target than you (threat) while simultaneously taking a righteous beating on your behalf. You would wilt and die under the damage they take, that is why they are in the group. Respect that job and help them do it. This can be divided into two parts, matching the two chief goals of being a tank: Threat and Survival.
Threat: It is a 2-way street!
Threat is a simple, linear scale. Each person adds threat to their total proportional to the damage or healing they do, and tanks get an advantage by making their damage more threatening (by way of a multiplier). Every group member starts at zero threat and builds from there, the tank included. This has a simple, practical implication: the hardest moment for a tank to hold threat is *always* the first few moments of the fight. How can you help? Wait. Take a moment positioning, take a breath, count to 3, wait to see the tank's diseases, 2-stack of Sunder Armor/Faerie Fire, 2-stack of Seal of Truth, etc. before you start attacking. There is no award for trying to jump the gun and getting yourself killed other than a resentful tank and healer, and group if you cause a wipe (everyone dead). If you have an ability that transfers threat (Rogue or Hunter), the best time you can use it is at the beginning of the fight, but it won't hurt anything to use it more down the road.
Tanks get threat from damage. Whatever you can do to increase your tank's damage will increase her threat as well, and that will make it easier for you to dole out your hurt without risking the attention of your enemies.
No matter how great your tank may be, never lose sight of your threat state. Fully pulling attention off the tank is a doubled pain. Tanks will be less effective at generating threat when they aren't being attacked, and will be significantly handicapped if they are not in swinging range of their target. If you are running the risk of pulling threat on a target, change targets or stop attacking altogether. Losing a little damage is far better in most situations than causing chaos, stressing your tank, stressing your healer, and/or getting yourself killed.
Remember, it is the tank's job to protect you, but it is your job to help them do it.
Survival: A dead tank cannot protect you!
Survival is the bread and butter of a tank, but there are many obvious tools that can help, and non-obvious tricks that can play as profound an effect. First and foremost use your debuffs! If you can apply a damage reduction or attack/cast speed reduction debuff, you can familiarize yourself with the equivalent abilities applied by the tank and make sure that they are always covered. Even the best tanks can forget or get distracted and let the debuff fall off. If you cover them you increase the group's survivability and your chances at success.
One tricky but powerful thing you can do to help is know what you can actually purposefully pull the attention of. Hunters, Plate-wearing damage dealers, and Druids have tools that can allow them to actually taunt enemies. In general, this is not a tool to be used often as you are still not a tank and will take noticeably more damage, *but* if used at the right time you can buy the tank time to pick the target up, keep damage off of your healer or other squishy members, or possibly keep them from attacking for a while by kiting the enemy away from the squishies and towards the tank. If you do this, it is best to communicate to your tank what you are doing, and whenever possible do your best to not be taking damage from the target. Taunts all have a long enough range that you never should need to do this while in melee range. This can be used by most anyone to pull casters into the tank as well. If you take threat on a stubborn caster who is standing apart from the group, then run out of line-of-sight, you can pull the caster over to the tank without the tank having to reposition. Always be ready to use what tools you can to drop threat back off onto the tank, however.
2.) One of the greatest gifts you can give your healer is being responsible for your own damage!
The healer's job is to keep the group alive, but that does not mean that you should add to their workload or make it harder than it has to be. The game is designed to offer plenty of hurt for them to heal from unavoidable sources, if you can avoid taking damage, you are helping your group succeed.
Unless there is a good reason to do otherwise, prioritize *not* taking damage
The most common elements for a damage dealer to take damage from are as follows, including easy ways to avoid that damage:
These things are always your responsibility. Do not assume that the tank can or will turn the enemy away from you (ideally they should, but "should" will not save your life). Do not assume that the healer can or will just heal you through anything, even if they can that does not mean that they should have to.
- Falling, exploding, and locational hazards = if the ground is glowing, or you see a shadow, or the boss turns around suddenly and looks at you, MOVE! Getting out of the way is the best way to ensure you take as little damage as possible. The faster you respond the better, as you may not get long warning most of the time; This means stop casting, channeling, or doing whatever you're doing, and hightail it.
- Damage Zones aka "The Fire" = don't stand in the fire! The fire may be green, purple, frost, or sharp rocks, but do not stand in it. If you see a patch on the ground, it is always safest to not stand on it unless you specifically establish that it is safe or beneficial (learn to tell the difference between good green glowy patches and the burny sorts). This is an exceedingly common element of fights you will face, the better you get at this the better a team member you will become.
- Breath/Cleave/Lash = many big Bruiser and Boss type enemies will have attacks that hit any target standing in front of them. When in doubt, always stand behind your target unless you have a very specific reason not to. Key things to look for: Is your enemy using a single large weapon (still possible with dual wielders, less common with sword & shield types)? Is your enemy a dragon? Does your enemy look like it would breathe fire/frost/acid/etc? Did the tank immediately turn the enemy so its back was towards the group? If any of these are true, and even if they aren't, assume that you do not want to face your enemy's pointy end.
- Random-targeted Chaining, Breath, or Column Attacks = the boss/enemy will face a random player and either fire a column in a straight (or squiggly) line, or will fire a spell that can chain to your friends. To minimize this hurt as best you can, spread out from your friends. 15 yards is usually a safe measure. Chaining attacks will only require that you stagger, but column attacks will also require that you stagger around the perimeter (if you can draw a straight line through two players and the boss, two players can be hit by the line attack or breath).
- Debuffs, DoTs, and Auras = Some enemies will radiate damage, others will place debuffs on your entire group or one person at a time. Whatever you can do to help mitigate this can help your group succeed. Many classes have their own ability to dispel debuffs, and this should not only always fall to the healer (sometimes the healer cannot remove diseases, poisons, and/or curses). Figure out what you can dispel and whether or not it is worth your time to do so. When in doubt, assume it is better to remove the debuff quickly. Auras cannot usually be avoided, but that constant source of damage can wear on your group. Use what abilities you can to ease the damage taken, particularly using short-duration damage reduction self-buffs when it looks like the healer may need support to catch up.
Special Case: Dragons!
We fight internet dragons! Dragons have certain special and predictable rules to follow and respect. First, stay away from the pointy front end, there will invariably be breaths and cleaves that will be mean. With dragons, though, the tail is also a hazard. If you need to be close to it, stand between the front and rear leg on its side (favor the rear leg if you favor either). Use the "hit box," meaning stand as far as you can from it while still being able to hit it. Why? Most dragons will also have a "Bellowing Roar" that will fear you in a random direction. Giving as much space as you can ensures that you do not get feared into the cleave/breath or the tail swipe.
Just because healing is the Healer's primary job does not mean you should avoid healing yourself
There is plenty of damage to go around. Every bit that you prevent and every bit that you *heal* is that much less that the healer has to do. There are an assortment of tools that you can use to help with this, learning when to use these tools is very case-specific, but always remember that you have them and encourage yourself to *choose* to use them. Being ready to use them can be the biggest value whether or not you actually need to.
Dead is dead. If you have the ability to save your life, or prolong it an extra couple of moments, that could make the difference between living and dying. A dead character deals no damage. Take responsibility for giving the healers the best chance you can, and prioritize the longevity of your damage dealing, rather than trying to squeeze off shots even if it means you die shortly afterward.
- Lightwell = If you do not have full health, click the Lightwell. Lightwell looks like a small fountain of light placed by Holy Priests. You can click it without facing it or changing targets and without interrupting anything else you do, and it will place a short duration HoT on you that is extremely efficient and very effective. The Lightwell will not take the initiative and heal you on its own, click it, love it.
- Healthstone = Warlocks can summon a Soulwell that looks like a stone cauldron with something green and glowy inside. Click it and receive a Healthstone. This stone can be used once and will restore a chunk of health, not unlike a Health Potion. Should your health drop low, you can use this stone to help extend your life long enough to be saved by the healer in a more sustainable way.
- Health Potion = these can be made by Alchemists, but also drop off of random creatures you kill. Keep some in your bags when you find them and use them the same way as Healthstones. Sometimes you just need another moment of life for the healer to pick you back up. Minutes more of life can allow you to do more damage than firing off that one shot and dying while the healer is busy.
- Bandages = the First Aid secondary skill (can be taken by anyone without losing any other professions) allows you to craft bandages that can be used to heal yourself and your friends. You can only be bandaged once every minute, and using the bandage channels healing at one tick per second for 8 seconds, which will be interrupted by any damage you take. Bandages are not the most ideal way to regain health in the middle of a fight, but again, taking 8 seconds to save your own life can allow minutes of damage, where otherwise you could just die to fire off that last shot.
- Class Healing Spells = Several classes have abilities that can heal themselves or others, and sometimes can even heal their entire party. While generally you will not want to stand around just casting heals (though there may be situations where that would help), this could make the difference between someone living and dying. Healers frequently have to prioritize who receives their healing, you however can throw a quick heal or two to save someone's life long enough for the healer to catch up. Remember, it may not be remotely the same scale as the healer is capable of, but it is no worse than the single-use items like Health Potions and Healthstones, and can be done more than once. Certain abilities, particularly Word of Glory for Paladins, Holy Radiance for Paladins, Tranquility for Druids, Divine Hymn for Priests, and Healing Rain for Shamans can all be *very* powerful abilities when used in times of need, even when used by a damage dealer.
At the end of the day, applying your central job *does* help the group directly and indirectly
They brought you along to kill things, and kill things you shall! While you're doing it, there are little tricks to increase your effectiveness. Some of them will improve your damage dealt, while others will increase you helpfulness to the group in a less obvious way.
8 tricks to increasing your damage done
1.) Use over-head health bars
In the keybind menu you can set a key to display health bars for each enemy over their head. Turn this on and get used to reading and recognizing these bars (I recommend turning *off* bar stacking that will cause them to overlap). This has a two-fold effect: You can always see the health state of everything you are fighting, and it encourages you to be looking at the physical setting of your fight and your character, rather than staring at your action bars or unit frames (health bars in the UI).
Tidy Plates has become a very popular addon, and the Threat Plates plugin for it offers spectacular value. This will not just present health bars with customizable dimensions (the default UI has a bit more frills than are necessary which can interfere with your vision more than necessary), but also can color, fade, and highlight bars to indicate what the enemy is marked with and your personal threat state (safe, close, and aggro with both tank and dps modes).
Overhead health bars, default or modified, can also be configured to show when an enemy is casting to enable quick interrupts.
2.) Time target switching strategically
If you find yourself surprised when your target dies, you will lose potential damage while you try to flip to your next target. This is most pronounced for casters who can complete an entire cast on a dead target. There are 2 principle styles here based on your class and damage dealing type:
Melee/Hunters = You can attack an opponent to the last moment without losing anything, but with two particular concerns. First, always be ready to switch targets the moment your target dies, auto-attacks will account for a pretty heavy fraction of your damage and if you do not have a target (and face them) you cannot auto-attack. Second, If you have a super-heavy hitting ability with a longer cooldown (more than 3-4 sec) you should pay attention to how much health the target has left and how much of that hit would be wasted. You can potentially get a better margin if you finish the enemy off with your softer abilities and get the full hit on the new target who has more health. Note: Execute-style moves are the opposite of this rationale, you can only use them on targets with low health and they can be used to do substantially more damage on nearly dead targets.
Casters = Learn to read the pace at which a thing is dying, particularly get used to fellow damage dealers who have Execute-style moves that will lead to things dying faster when they are low on health. Do not start a cast on a target unless you feel confident that it will live long enough *and* with enough health for your spell to hit at full strength. Instant cast spells are a key value here. They may not do better damage overall compared to your longer cast spells, but being instant cast you can deliver the damage at the front end of your global cooldown rather than at the end of a cast time. This can be used to squeeze damage in, stacking incidences. For example, if during your 2.0 second Lightning Bolt cast you see the target is getting very close to death, you can hit a quick Earth or Frost Shock and have the damage happen almost simultaneously with the Lightning Bolt hit and ideally stack in before the target dies. This can be a very handy way to bookend the fight. Alternately and additionally, if there are more enemies to kill after your current target you can swap targets when the current target is almost dead and immediately start in on the next target with your normal long cast times, and ensure that you do not waste time. Do not worry about reapplying damage-over-time effects on targets that are going to die in the next couple seconds as they will be substantially wasted.
You will always lose time if you wait until your target dies and is de-targeted to pick the next target.
3.) Pre-Seed your next target
Every class and spec has certain tools that improve their damage dealt to targets based on short-term personal buffs and applied debuffs that do damage or increase the damage of your abilities. If you wait until your current target is dead to start thinking about the next target, you may have to ramp up your buffs and debuffs again. Use the dying moments of your current target to refresh your self-buffs and when convenient you can pre-seed your damage increasing debuffs on the next target. For example, if you are a Hunter it can be very easy to drop a Serpent Sting on your next target without losing pace on your current target. Likewise an Elemental Shaman can apply Flame Shock to the next target to not waste any time with Lava Burst availability.
4.) Learn what abilities can scale well by being spread around
It is easy and obvious for Death Knights to spread diseases beyond their primary target, but it can be less obvious for a Rogue to maintain Deadly Poison on a second target, for a Retribution Paladin to stack Seal of Truth on additional targets, or for a Elemental Shaman to have Flame Shock ticking on multiple targets at once. All of these things (and many more) can be done without too much of a damage loss on your main target, and they can increase your overall damage/impact when focused damage isn't the highest priority. These DoTs may increase your threat slightly on secondary targets, but provided you do not need heavy duty focus on your main target, which *is* sometimes the case, you can accelerate your contributions. This is not universally true, as some abilities cannot be readily maintained on more than one enemy, so read your tooltips and consider the ramifications and requirements of trying to do so.
5.) Use your cooldowns more than you think you *need* to
Most damage dealing specs will have a self-buff (cooldown, colloquially) or several that will increase your damage dealt directly or indirectly. These abilities will have a cooldown ranging from 30 seconds to 10 minutes. A typical Boss fight will take between 5 and 8 minutes. That means that any ability with a cooldown longer than 6 minutes will only reasonably used once per boss fight, but an ability with a cooldown of 4-5 minutes could be used twice if you use it early and then again when it comes off cooldown. An ability with a 2-3 minute cooldown can follow a similar thought process and can be used several times if you use it early and at the earliest convenience. The only exception to this "on-cooldown" pacing is if a fight has periods where you want to push quickly through with higher damage dealt; Fights like this will dictate when you will want to save your cooldowns for, but make sure to look for places where you can use the ability early and have it off-cooldown and ready when you need it.
It is easy to forget that you have these abilities when you are facing trash and the in-between fights. Your cooldowns can be wasted by never being used during these periods, whereas if you use them you can improve the group's pace in earlier portions and improve your contribution to the group's damage. A typical trash fight will take between 45 seconds and 2-3 minutes, and you could spend as much as 30-60 seconds between pulls even at an aggressive pace. That means that you could use abilities with a 2-3 minute cooldown on most every trash fight, whereas you could use abilities with 5+ min cooldowns every other fight. Note: just because you cannot use it on every fight does *not* mean that you shouldn't use it, just be sure that you give it time to come off cooldown before the fights (such as boss fights) where you want to have the buff. If you have a 1.5 minute cooldown or shorter, you should be using the ability aggressively and often.
Always make sure to read your tooltips on these abilities and pre-plan micro-strategies and tactics to maximize the value of the ability when you move it. As a starting template for that consideration, look at the duration. Most abilities will last either for a specified number of abilities or casts *or* for a duration of 10-20 seconds. If the ability lasts for a limited number of abilities, make sure that you use it on the specific abilities that will benefit from it most, *and* that you can use these abilities in the window provided by the buff if it has a window; If it does not have a window, it will usually not start its cooldown until you consume the charges it gives, in which case you'll want to find the quickest way to use the charges to maximum effect. If the ability has a time-based window only, identify how many abilities you can use in the window given. If you are using instant abilities (melee/shots or instant cast spells) they will take 1.5 seconds from the global cooldown, whereas if you are a caster you can divide the duration by the cast time of your spells. Always include a factor for latency. Depending on your internet connection and skill at using abilities you may add 0.05 to 0.3 seconds to each ability's time footprint. The game has a built-in system that allows you to preemptively queue abilities to minimize the drag of latency, but that requires you to press the button before you need it. Use this ability count to inform what spells you use and when. Note that most cooldown-type abilities will apply to a spell so long as you start the cast before the effect ends even if the spell actually fires and does damage after the effect ends; If the cooldown is presented as a debuff on your opponent it will only improve your effectiveness while the debuff is active. As described in #2, you can treat this window the same way as if the target is about to die, use instant casts to stack damage into the window, and save heavier hitting abilities with longer cooldowns up before you use your self-buff so that you can amplify them and get the most bang for your buck.
Creating small self-scripted routines can be useful for maximizing these buffs, and often times you can stack buffs to increase their effectiveness by multiplying them together. Figure out routines that will make the most of your particular set of tools.
6.) Always Always Always buff your group!
You may want to go quickly, and maybe you got it into your head that it wasn't worth taking the time to put buffs on your group when you can just GO GO GO, right? Wrong! The second it takes to give out buffs (and the seconds to recast them later) are pocket change next to the speed increases offered by the survival, damage increasing, and mana regen buffing values of the various class buffs you offer the group. Make it a part of your routine, and buff the whole group smartly. The time you gain will well outweigh the pause to setup.
7.) Learn how to Minimize your downtime
Almost every fight will require movement, whether it is smart positioning at the beginning of the fight, moving enemies that will require you to move to stay in range, or the typical locational hazards that you will have to avoid. Most non-melee classes have to stay still to carry out their standard moves, and melee classes need to be close to their target to keep hitting. That said, there are obvious moves that have been built in, as well as less obvious tools that will enable you to still do a good amount of damage while moving.
Once you are comfortable with moving to avoid the hazards of a given encounter, or moving to keep up with your targets, start figuring out ways to use your skills to do damage while you are moving so as to minimize the downtime. There are a few handy things to look for:
Remember: even though Spell B may not be as strong as Spell A (which you then use preferentially, normally), if you cannot use Spell A while moving, Spell B may be the best thing that you *can* do.
Instant Casts are king for casters = when you are moving you can always use your instant casts. Perhaps this just means you will refresh a DoT or debuff earlier than you would normally, but if it is one less thing you have to do while standing still that is one more thing you can do while standing still that can *only* be done then.
If nothing else, this may be a good time to refresh group buffs like Shouts, Totems, or other short-duration abilities, *or* to refresh long-duration abilities that may run out during combat. *Look* for things you can do to make the most out of what could otherwise just be you out of the action to move.
8.) Learn the Art of Self-Sacrifice
You are a killer, a ruthless monster at your keyboard and you will tear anything apart when the time comes. But this is a team sport, and you are part of a group. Sometimes the opportunity will present itself to give *other* people the ability to do more damage. Look for those moments and use them to their fullest. It will not be recorded in an obvious way on a damage meter like Recount or Skada, but it will increase the group's damage performance and it will be because of you. Exactly how to do this is tricky and highly case-specific, but I will illustrate some examples here:
Executions = Fury Warriors (Arms as well to a slightly lesser degree), Hunters, Shadow Priests, Retribution Paladins, and Affliction Warlocks have severely hard-hitting abilities with positive reinforcements for using them that can only be used when a target is below 20-25% health. Giving these classes the opportunity to use these abilities can have very positive feedback for the group. For example, Fury Warriors receive a stacking haste buff for using multiple Executes. If there are more targets to kill, leaving the last dregs of the opponents health to the Fury Warrior (situation permitting) can allow the Fury Warrior to start in on the next target with a significant benefit.
Extra Debuffs = you may not have abilities to spread around as described in #4, but perhaps you have a debuff that could enhance those damages. Recognize where you can plant debuffs ahead of time to augment other player's spreadable damage sources. It might not gain you anything, but it could increase the group's effectiveness.
Debuff Coverage = it is easy now to account for where debuffs *could* come from, and simply act with self-righteous indignation when the person does not apply their buffs and debuffs. Indignation does not help the group though. Sometimes providing spot coverage of buffs and debuffs can help maximize your group's performance even though it may not be ideal for your own methods. For example, you have a Bear Druid tank who is maintaining Faerie Fire (for armor reduction like Sunder Armor), but the tank is focusing heavily on survival and lets Faerie Fire fall off. As a Rogue you don't usually drop Expose Armor as it is hard to fit into your combo point cycles, but if you can apply it quickly on the fly, even with a partial stack, you can support the group until the tank picks it up again.
The Power of Movement Speed = some fights require opponents to bounce around or be kited around, and sometimes they still need to be attacked. Melee damage dealers need to be within 8 yards of their target to use their attacks, even to auto-attack; Similarly casters and Hunters may need to adjust to make sure they are in range. Situation permitting, if you can slow the movement speed of the target or increase the movement speed of your teammates, you can increase their activity time by allowing them to stay on point. In addition, *any* fight where players need to reposition to avoid damage, if you can increase their run speed that lets them move to the new location faster and minimize time spent where they couldn't ply their full abilities. A small act from you like using a single global cooldown to use that ability can represent far more in gains from your teammates, and may still benefit you for similar reasons.
Do Not Run Away from your Tank and Healer!
Sometimes things go wrong, sometimes you pull threat or the tank is incapacitated, slowed, or is just not so spry at picking up your opponents. Should this happen and you have angry beasts bearing down on you, do *not* run away from your tank or your healer. If you out-range your healer they have no chance at keeping you alive for damage you take. If you run away from your tank you limit their ability to retrieve the errant enemies. When at all possible, run *towards* your tank. This will do one step better than just staying still as it will cut the distance between the tank and the mobs in half and shorten the dangerous window in which you could need healing. The healer will always be positioned in range of the tank so this path should never take you out of healing range.
Group, Social, Team Meta Skills
When it comes down to it, the highest levels of WoW are a social game. You cannot succeed without relying on the strengths and weaknesses of other players. No one solos an at-level raid, and even the MVP from a raid did not actually do it alone, they were enabled to their successes by all the other members in the group, even the ones that may not have appeared to contribute as much. Consider employing the following skills in every social setting whether it is in a common space such as General or Trade chat in a city, a random dungeon group, or a well-established guild raid.
It is Just a Game, but...
You may hear this a lot. You may think this a lot, but there are some important things to remember:
1.) It is a game. If you win or lose at the game, there will not be any real or lasting consequences. You may not get that piece of loot you wanted *today*, but there is always tomorrow, there is always another opportunity.
2.) You are playing with real people. You may just be playing a game, but that does not make the people on the other side of those avatars any less real. They are people like you with feelings, desires, plans, and passions. You wouldn't (I hope) reach over the table and slap your mother when you don't like the card she plays in Uno, don't do the same in digital equivalent to the people you run with in a random dungeon group.
3.) It is not a single-player game. In a single player game the whole world literally or figuratively revolves around you. WoW is a multiplayer game. WoW does not revolve around you any more than the real world does. Be respectful of other players, do not steal or take advantage of them. Respect the same etiquette you would in the real world. If you wouldn't cut in line at Starbucks, don't do the digital equivalent in WoW (like, say, taking an ore node when there is someone fighting something right next to it. Ask or wait to see if they will take it, swooping in is rude).
4.) Real people have real feelings. Mocking someone's avatar, as much as it may seem silly, is almost the exact same thing as mocking someone's clothing. Some players may have a healthier remove from their character the way some people wouldn't take an insult to their clothing personally, but that doesn't mean you should mock them for either.
5.) Be polite and respectful. Ask, don't command, and say please and thank you. If you are in a random group and want a buff, ask for it, don't instruct the appropriate party to give it to you, that is rude. They may be avatars, but they are the in-game representation of a real person. Do not address people by class or role, those are labeled, address people by their character name. You wouldn't go up to a person on the street and call them by their appearance, would you? In fact, in many situations that could get you in serious trouble.
6.) Be considerate. If there is something like a piece of loot or a resource node, or what have you, consider before you take it if it might suit someone else better. If you're in a random dungeon and you want to pick up a piece of gear for your occasional or even frequent off-set (that you aren't using), *ask* before you need the item against someone who needs it for their primary gear set and role. Even if an item may be of value to you in a slight way, consider passing it to someone who will get a much larger value out of it.
7.) Say "Hello." You don't have to carry on conversations, you don't have to get to know them, you don't have to see them ever again, but acknowledge that there are other human beings present and that you are about to cooperate to mutual benefit.
Communication is King
In any activity with more than one person, the only way to truly coordinate your actions is through communication. In the real world we have the benefit of body language and other less tangible forms of communication. In the game world this is rather more difficult. The nature of avatars and their natural limitations for conveying non-verbal language make it so you can only deliver the most simple of messages, and they're rarely conducive to the complexity demanded by an instance or raid. Suffice to say, you have to interact with your group members!
If you do not *tell* your group what you are doing, they have no way to anticipate or react immediately in a sympathetic fashion. Ideally, the group will form a leadership of sorts. This often defaults to the tank but does not have to, as discussed in the leadership section above. Ideally, the acting leader will set the group's action and the group will help inform that decision, and follow the plan the group settled on. That all sounds great, but we can be more specific, let's create a flexible guideline of what *should* happen in any group action that requires coordination:
1.) As above, identify your opponents, decide on the appropriate control measures and assign them, set a kill order, and make sure everyone has seen and can handle their assignment.
2.) When the group has finished the planning phase, the tank should ensure the group is ready prior to making the pull. This *might* be clear if the group is all standing by the tank, moving into position to start the pull, and has all the obvious preset conditions like buffs, active pets, etc. If there is any doubt that they are ready, ask. It is better safe than sorry.
3.) Once the pull is initiated, the only information that *needs* to be shared with the group is whether or not anything is going off the plan and needs to be handled. This could include a controlled target being unable to be controlled (meaning either someone else will have to take control, or the tank will have to pick it up), if the healer or tank dies (though it may be obvious in a 5-man, it may be less so in a raid) the group needs to know. If a damage dealer dies it is *not* necessary to inform the group unless that player was responsible for controlling something. It is *not* necessary to announce your health status to the healers (including if you are dead after the pull). It is their job, they know what your health state is. If you are not receiving healing it is because you are lower on the priority list for their heals than someone else, or they are unable to heal at the moment. If you are not getting resurrected yet, it is because the healer doesn't have mana, or is handling something else before doing so. Ideally, mid-combat, communication should be kept as minimalistic as possible to ensure that messages are clear and unambiguous. Mid-combat is *not* the time to start discussions, point out less pivotal details, or announce every minor event that happens.
4.) After combat has ended is the appropriate time to discuss anything you may have learned, highlight how well certain strategies worked, and to discuss how you would handle that fight differently in the future, even if you actually successfully completed it, there is always room for improvement. Discussing how things went and how you will handle them in the future helps reinforce the memory in your mind and helps your brain digest the information it took on so that you are more likely to recall it accurately in the future.
5.) Between fights the group should pay attention to the needs of the group, particularly the tank (who will usually set the pace) should pay attention to the needs of the group. The healer will most likely be the person to pay attention to and wait on to ensure they are prepared for the next fight, but damage dealers may need to rebuff, refill mana, or resurrect pets and the like. There is no sense in trying to rush ahead without your group unless you can actually solo the instance, and even then it is poor teamwork.
Common mistakes that can be made in this process usually involve the tank racing ahead while the group is recovering, or a damage dealer or healer being impatient and trying to pull the next group for the tank. If you want to go at a faster pace *talk* to your group about it, guerrilla tactics will only compromise the atmosphere of the group and make people hostile or stressed out, but will encourage mistrust and make people reluctant to trust in the group as well.
When in doubt, ask. There is no shame in not knowing what to do, everyone starts somewhere and every group will handle things differently as every group is different and has different tools. If you have read the rest of the above you can also recognize that just because two people play the same class does *not* mean they bring the same skills or tools to the table, let alone the same aptitudes.
Patience is a virtue
Patience is the trait of recognizing that not everything has to happen immediately. Timing is more important than speed. Patience is *not* waiting and tapping your fingers. Patience is being willing to wait without agenda or frustration. Nothing is improved by being hasty. If you want to increase your pace through an instance it needs to be a cooperative effort, not a forced march.
If you find yourself getting frustrated by waiting on someone, ask them why they have to pause as long as they are. If they are too slow for your group, or are terminally absent you can ask them to find another group. If you try to treat people with humanity, you can find people are far more willing to be considerate of *your* feelings. If you only plant seeds of distrust, impersonality, and impatience, you have no reason to expect any different from anyone else. Be the sort of person that you want to play with.