Thursday, July 30, 2009

Raid Survivability: A Rant

I don't know why but this has been bugging me lately. I'm sure most if not all of you have heard this quote:

If the tank dies, it's the healer's fault. If the healer dies, it's the tank's fault. If the DPS dies, it's their own damn fault.
I bet that this quote was first made in some form of jest, but some people now seem to take this quote as unquestionable truth. Most of the time when I hear this quote, it's from a tank or healer with a ton of superiority, but I have heard it from raid leaders and other DPSers in the past.

Well, I call BS.

In this post, I'm going to rant a little bit, but I would also like to take a look at some of the things I have done to try and improve my survivability.

This is not an Excuse:
I want to make one think clear. I am not trying to make any excuses for poor play. If a DPS stands in the fire and dies, its their own fault. If they pull aggro off the tank and die, its their fault. If they don't follow instructions and get separated from the group and die, its their fault.

But doesn't this hold true for tanks and healers also?

I realize that when you compare DPS to Healers to Tanks your not always comparing apples to apples. For instance, in some cases its better for the tank to sit there and take the damage. However, there are also times when the damage should be avoided. Take the flame wall in Sarth for example. Sure a tank can survive it with dedicated healers, but he is putting an unnecessary strain on his healers and forcing them to use Mana and Cooldowns that maybe important later.

Of course, healers also have to avoid obvious hazards, but it goes beyond that. Over my two years of raiding I've heard healers excuse their death because they pulled healing aggro like they couldn't do anything about it. They may be right, but at the same time I find it unlikely that there was nothing they could do any of those times. NE Druids have Shadowmeld. Priests fade and other long cooldowns. Paladin's have bubble. Obviously, I am not a healer and could be completely wrong here, but I have a hard time believing that there was nothing those healers could do to help themselves.

DPS Survivability:
We, as a whole, tend to give tanks and healers a little more of a break when it comes to their deaths, but for DPS the automatic question seems to be "why were you being stupid?"

In fact, I was in a raid a while back when after a wipe one of the healers said "You guys better have used your healthstones." I completely agree that DPS needs to try and stay alive as best they can, but it isn't always cut and dry on when you should use your survival buttons. DPS in general have limited options on what they can use when. Here are the options:

  • Heavy Frostweave Bandage: First off, If you don't have your First Aid leveled up so that you can use these, shame on you. Every raider, if not every player, should have their first aid skilled up. It is the one secondary profession that I have on all of my toons.

    There are several advantages when it comes to bandages. They heal 5800 damage. That is more then any other non spell form of healing. They are also available to every player, and you can use them multiple times in a fight. The down side is that it takes you out of the fight for 8 seconds and it is interrupted if you take any damage.

    Bandage are good, but they are unlikely to save you when your taking a lot of damage quickly.

  • Runic Healing Potion: There are several options here but this probably the most standard. The benefit to a healing pot is that it is a quick heal that can keep you alive when your taking a lot of little damage ticks. The down side is that you have only one pot per fight, and my guild is instructing us that we need to use DPS potions on DPS races. On top of that, the amount it heals for varies but on average it will only heal for 3600 damage and could be as low as 2700. When you have 23k health as I do, that isn't much.

  • Fel Healthstone: How you feel about healthstones depends a little bit on your class, but they are great for moonkin. The smallest version heals for 4280 and it is an instant heal. On top of that it doesn't share a cooldown with anything that moonkin us regularly. Mages have bigger issues because it shares a cooldown with Mana stones. The down side is that you have only one. So, the question when you should use it some times comes up.

  • Lifeblood: I list this only because I am an herbalist. Currently its not a very good heal since heals for 2000 health over 5 seconds, but it is getting buffed some in patch 3.2. Its nice if you have it, because it is an instant non mana heal. Also you can us it multiple times during most fights because the cooldown is only 3 minutes. That sad its got the down side of being a HoT and being fairly weak. Gift of the Naaru would fall into this category as well in my opinion if your a non-druid.

  • Barkskin: This is a great ability and has several advantages. The first is that it is on a relatively short cooldown of only a minute. The second is that you can use it while stunned or incapacitated in some way. The downside is that it is a damage preventer rather than a damage fixer and therefore very temporary. Its good for giving your healers a little bit of a break or giving them a little more time. However, if you get low and stay low, your likely going to die anyway.

  • Healing Spells: Moonkin always have the option to heal themselves. The great thing about healing spells is that most don't have cooldowns and are a little stronger than the other options. The down side is that we are not specced to use them efficiently and a majority of druid heals are DoTs. I think moonkin and other classes that have the ability to heal, should always be ready to heal themselves. However, if a DPSer is having to heal them self a lot then there is a problem going on some where.

The Balancing Act:
Lets assume that we are playing well by not standing in the void zones, pulling aggro, or being generally stupid. On the surface it looks like we have a lot of options to keep our selves alive, but if you look closer its not always cut and dry. Each of these abilities has a down side that you have to weight against the situation.

The biggest question I have is when should I use my healthstone?Of all of the things that can help me stay alive its the best, but I can use it only once. When is the best time to use it? How long should I wait for a heal before I use it?

If your a really perceptive player, you may be able to identify when raid healing will be low because a healer is incapacitated for some reason. If that's not the case though, how long do you wait for a heal before popping the stone?

If you go from full to dead in less then 2 seconds there probably wasn't much you or anyone else could do about it. Above that it starts to be a question, and to be honest I don't know the answer. If I go from full to dead in 4 or 5 seconds it becomes a real question of why I didn't pop a healthstone or cast a heal. This goes against the grain a little bit, but I also think it is a fair question of why I didn't get a heal from a healer in those 4 or 5 seconds. I'm not saying they necessarily did anything wrong, but they are just as capable of an error as I am.

What I Do:
Don't take what I say here as gospel. I have struggled with raid survivability times and I am always looking for ways to preform better. To be completely honest some of the suggestions I am going to make here are good but I'm not 100% affective in implementing them. This is still a work in progress.

The best thing I ever did was to make macros. I have made multiple macros that will cast a heal or use a bandage on myself with out switching my DPS target. This can save a lot of time in those stressful situations where your trying to stay alive.

The next thing I try to do is to use my cooldown abilities early and often. I'm not always the best at this, and I am particularly bad at using bandages but the less stress you put on the healers the better.

With Barkskin, I tend to use it in more a reactive manner, but I'm trying to be proactive. Being reactive isn't necessarily bad, but being proactive can make the healers job much easier. There are several fights where you know when significant damage will be coming in. A couple of good examples of this is Tantrum during XT or Ground Tremor during Freya. Playing this way will mean that your health won't get so low at times and your less likely to die to bad RNG.

When it comes to Healthstones I've adopted a "better safe than sorry" philosophy. Unless there is a specific time when I know I'm going to need it, I tend to use my stone the first time I feel in danger of dying.

Finally, I'm try and think ahead, and frankly I'm not always good at it. Try and think about the fight and what damage you will be taking before hand. One of the great things about being a druid is that several of our HoTs are instant casts and can be used on the move. Since most of our damage spells can't be used while moving, it is a great idea to heal yourself while moving.

XT Hard Mode is a perfect example. When you get Gravity Bomb or Searing light you take quite a bit of damage and have to run away from the group. If she casts Tantrum at the same time it can be really difficult for the healers. So here I am, taking a lot of damage and not being able to DPS because I'm running. I should be putting a full stack of lifebloom on myself and maybe even a rejuv. I only recently thought of this and I feel like a little bit of an idiot for not having done it sooner.

In Conclusion:
It is important to look at premature deaths truthfully. I do think DPS get a bad rap when it comes to deaths, but that is not an excuse to be sloppy or to not improve. It is really important for us to find that balance between DPS and Survivability. Any good Raid Leader will be very willing to sacrifice a little DPS if it means you live.


Neirin said...

Recount completely fixed this sort of problem for my guild. Last week a bunch of dps died to Kologarn's shockwave and were getting accused of standing in eyebeams too much, then I brought out recount's death monitor and linked to the raid that they had not received any heals except VE and JoL for 34 seconds. 34! The healers assigned to their group got quite a talking to after that.

Anonymous said...

Having played a (paladin) tank, I hear and spout that quote a lot, a kitsch-y catchphrase that highlights sloppy gameplay. However, I think it's only accurate for deaths due to stupidity, of which we all know there is no shortage in our average PUG.

To quote a contemporary movie, it's "more what you'd call guidelines than actual rules."

Long time lurker, first time commentator, keep up the great work.

Druid Dude said...

I have to agree with your BS call, assuming the DPS player in question isn't taking avoidable damage.

Last night, working on Firefighter, I died more times in phase 2 than I want to remember to... rapid fire. This was on a 10 man, with 3 healers. THREE healers. In a TEN man. And that was while usually under Barskin, often after innervating a healer in phase 1.

Rant over.

Voltaaire (Moon Guard - US) said...

I began thinking the same thing last night after dying to a Napalm Blast that I probably could have healed myself through, but I had an Eclipse proc and was in tunnel vision to get those Starfires off.

However, what if it had been a mage or some other non-hybrid caster in that Napalm Blast? I sometimes think my healers even neglect healing some of the hybrids just because we have the option to heal ourselves. I really wish this dialogue came up more often, but a lot of healers have that arrogant sense of entitlement and can bully the hybrid DPS into taking the blame.

On the healthstone issue, there are some fights where you can put the well down in a convenient place right before the pull and if you use your stone early, just grab another. This saved me many times on Malygos after using mine while being tossed around in phase 1, would just grab another when I landed.

Auntie Cail said...

Barkskin - slap that bad boy on every single time your screen flashes red, you got agro, or any time you get within 10% agro of the tanks. As a moonkin, you know what I'm talking about - one silly string of crits and you got it, amirite?

I tend to use it right before we all take some unavoidable mass AoE, too, just to help out the healers when it comes to me. It's nice being the party member with the highest health after an aoe!

Anonymous said...

I remember when BC first came out...if your were a Nelf Druid you were kinda stuck. All you had was barkskin...Shadowmeld didin't work the same back then. It sucked, if your tank didint know how to tank...if you pulled you died :(

Shem said...

Voltaaire- I don't know about you in my experience raid leaders are stricter on mages dying because they have such an obvious out in the form of iceblock. Your mileage may vary on this point, though.

Azrune - Bloodhoof said...

Moonkins pulling threat? I don't even use Omen because I have never ever have threat issues. Though I do lean to the Lunar Rotation so, maybe the Solar Rotation being more crit heavy has threat issues.

I save my Barkskin for upcoming damage in fights, but I typically use it whever it's up. I'm quite anal about it actually. I use it in combination with Lifeblood on a regular basis and with Lifeblood being changed so that it doesn't trigger the gobal cooldown I wil be using them both more than ever, and I think I might have to macro them together as well.

Phil said...

I have been healing more and more now in Ul and I find that our issues are cause and affect. Something like event X requires Healer 1 to switch and Tank 1 to switch with Tank 2. When done properly, if everyone knows when to do what we are fine.

If there is one thing I can promote it would be communication.

If the tank is low on agro and has all their agro bombs on CD then the tank should speak up so that DPS can slow down,
If a healer is stuck, out of range, or just unable to heal their assignment then call it out so that the other healers can pick up the heals,
If a DPS is pulling threat all the time see why, ask the tank if they are targeting the correct boss or if they are using their agro pulls, sometimes a newer person doesn’t know the proper rotations for holding mass threat or the DPS just needs to slow down
If DPSers are constantly dying find out why, oh forgot to healthstone, oh forgot to barkskin, oh just stood in the fire and died, or oh received zero heals…

Communicate effectively and don't just blah blah, if you wipe, look at the recount look at your tabs and figure out what was the cause and how you need to fix it. Communicate with each other don’t let ppl say ‘clear vent’ for no reason.

When there is something important it needs to be said! RLs should know what the different classes can do and if they want a re-birth they should tell the druid to rebirth person X. RLs can’t be expected to know everything but they are the conductor of how the raid should go and any good RL can tell you when to do what such as rebirthing, heroism, innervating, army o the dead, or any general game play decisions with big cool downs

Know your role, and do it.
If you don’t know ur role ask, if your embarrassed about not knowing just whisper the RL or someone you trust to help you. Graylo has been awesome in helping me to better understand my role as a Moonkin.


~Gargen of Vek’nilash

Pawel said...

From a tank/raid leader perspective.

It's not BS.
It's simplification. A big one even. And usually applies more to poor groups then good groups. And it holds more truth then you actually want to admit. But of course once you are raiding, you can't fall back to such simplification each time something goes wrong. In my raidgroup (as probably in any other serious group) we look at each death separately. We try to find the reason, we call it and we learn from it. Because that's the only way to avoid it in future.

There are 2 more points I'd like to add.
When to use your healing cooldowns?
In my opinion as soon as you see first need for it. That's the simplest rule I learned from tanking. If you think you might not survive it, use cooldown. If you die later during the fight - no one will tell you, you didn't care about yourself. And you can actually be right with this first cooldown.
On the other hand DPS duty is to DPS. If you are not making any stupid mistakes (pulling aggro, running away from healers, standing in fire etc.) you ought to get a heal from people who's duty it is. And if it's not working as it should, then either assignment, strategy or healers themselves should be changed. What I want (as a RL) from my DPS is to DPS as hell and be aware of environment.

Boo said...

One thing I've found with group healing its not alway the idiot DPSer that dies. I have found occasions where some fool is standing in fire or has pulled agro, and I do everything to keep them up, leaving more solid DPS vulnerable to RNG deaths.

I know I should let them drop, but if I see red I heal

Anonymous said...

On the longer fights like Yogg, XT Hardmode, etc. I often make the conscious decision NOT to heal myself. The simple fact is I often have to innervate myself, and if I'm constantly having to switch out of form to heal, ill run out of mana even faster.

Gowron said...

As a former Tank, I have been known to forget to 'Taunt' Mobs of DPS that where targetting the wromg Mob. And now as Tree, I also sometimes forget to heal DPS standing in the green/red/whatever-stuff.

The line you mentioned is ofcourse not in use when DPS gets normal AoE-damage, or some random-targetted-damage. It's more towards the spoonheads who just ataack something, and don't watch where they are standing.

But in the end, all DPS should always watch their own health. Maybe the tank got an unlucky streak of non-avoided hits, maybe the healer was stunned. Just remember, if you are dead, your damage per second is zero.

Alonora said...

This post makes me think of something a great tank once said: "Aggro is the DPS's responsibility, but threat is the tank's."

Keep up the great work. :)