It’s the lastest Blog Azeroth Topic of the Week – awareness of one’s surroundings in a raid, multitasking, etc. Obviously, it’s a particularly keen question for healers, but I’ll talk about it from my perspective. And, I suspect, go way off-topic in the process.
If there is a rule that any DPSer worth their salt has drilled into their head from the begining, as the dividing line between a DPSer and a noob, it’s Don’t Stand In The Fire. Now, the fire can be a void zone, a pancake, actual fire, whatever. Odds are pretty good that if a raid boss spawns it, you’re not supposed to stand in it (if there’s an exception, you’ll know.) After all, we’re told, we DPSers don’t actually have to do anything hard, you understand – not like tanking or healing. We’re just rolling our faces across the keyboard, so we have no excuse for failing to step out of the fire.
Okay, sarcasm notwithstanding, no doubt, DPS is an easier job than either tanking or healing. For starters, you can be a lousy DPS and still get dragged along successfully – that’s much harder to do as a lousy tank or a lousy healer. Nevertheless, how “hard” it is depends on a lot of things, and has changed over the course of the game (sometimes up, sometimes down).
I’ve played a Warlock for as long as I’ve been playing this game, and I’ve raided in different specs, across different patches. To shed a little light on the “DPS perspective” on multitasking and situational awareness, I’ll talk about how my awareness was shaped by three specs I’ve raided with – 0/21/40 (Demonic Sacrifice/Destro) in TBC, Wrath Deep Affliction (pre-3.1), and Wrath Deep Destro (post 3.1). Or, as one might call them, (a) too cold, (b) too hot, and (c) just right.
I raided T5 and early T6 (which is about as far as I got in TBC) as 0/21/40. This spec, for those who didn’t play it, relied upon Demonic Sacrifice (used on a Succubus) to buff your shadow damage. You would then apply a curse, and do nothing the entire fight but spam shadowbolt. Put it another way, my rotation was 122222222222……..22222…….22222…….I think you get the idea. I was always near the top of the DPS meters. I was also bored silly. Had I died to “standing in the fire” when I was specced that way, I would have justifiably been mocked within an inch of my life. It did, however, give me wonderful opportunities to appreciate the lovely scenery in SSC, TK, and Hyjal, and enjoy the pretty colors of all my guildmates’ spells and abilities.
Oddly, though, the boredom may have hampered my situational awareness in some respects, because it allowed me to get mentally lazy. So when I died to environmental hazards (it happened very occasionally, and was a major occasion for embarassment when it did) it was because I was so disengaged after an entire instance of pressing ‘2’ that I genuinely wasn’t paying attention.
Anyway, Wrath came around, and (having replaced my keyboard with one with a functioning ‘2’ key), I went back to affliction to level and do early raiding. Affliction was my early raid spec, and my leveling spec, and I loved it. And Haunt was such a neat addition – I was quite excited. Then I started raiding with it. I did okay (I was still generally quite high on the DPS charts, and sometimes at the top of them), my DOT uptime was good, but Affliction, the DOT spec, had finally become too damned complicated. Consider the rotation: Shadowbolt (to put up the first stack of Shadow Embrace), Haunt, Unstable Affliction, Immolate, Curse of Agony, Corruption, and Siphon Life. Many of these have 1.5 second cast times, others are instant cast. At this point, all your DOTs are up (and key to Affliction DPS was keeping DOTs up as much as possible, without letting them fall off or clipping them, as both hurt your DPS). Once all your DOTs are up, you can toss a shadowbolt. And then, whaddya know – Haunt’s about to fall off. So, you reup it (because if it falls off, you’re really screwed), and can toss another shadowbolt. Uh-oh – UA and Immolate are about to fall off – so, you redo both of them. And somewhere around this point is when all your DOTs, with all their different cooldowns and durations, cause you to stop having a “rotation”. You simply try, desperately, to keep up whichever’s about to go down, because if you screw one up, your whole rotation falls apart and all your DOTs are falling off. When you’re in “the zone”, mentally, it couldn’t be beat. If you’re not in the zone, you’re hosed. And to stay in the zone means to have your eyes glued to your DOT timer (it was an impossible spec to play without a DOT timer addon), and either have your spells bound to your keys, or have an almost intuitive sense of where to click. Given all that, in contrast to my 0/21/40 build, my situational awareness playing that spec was pretty limited – the nature of the spec was that it was unforgiving – you were either top of the charts, or it was such a mess you were at the bottom. I was proud that I generally played it well, and had some of the “don’t nerf my rotation!” feeling as a result. But keeping that level of complexity was not practical. I tended to die to environmental hazards a lot.
Post 3.1, I went deep Destro, and my sense is that this is the kind of balance I like to play with, in terms of juggling. Curse of Doom is worth casting (other shadow DOTs aren’t), but I only have to reup it once a minute. And otherwise, my spells are Immolate, Conflagrate, Chaos Bolt, and Incinerate. Don’t clip Immolate, and don’t let it fall off. Otherwise, it’s a question of priority – conflagrate if you can, if not, chaos bolt if you can, otherwise, incinerate. It’s not shadowbolt spam – I do actually have to pay some attention to my rotation, and I can’t play it with one of those little bobbing-birdy toys set up over my ‘2’ key – but I can also pay attention to things like where the gap in Sarth’s wall of fire is, whether I’m positively or negatively charged by Thaddius, when I have one of those “I’m-the-bomb” debuffs on me, or whatever. I can’t get lazy, like shadowbolt spam allowed, so I stay on my toes, but I’m not going crazy trying not to screw up my rotation, and that happy medium of just-enough-complexity-to-keep-me-interested saves me from too many embarassing deaths in the middle of a giant smoky black pancake of doom.