Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The General Rules of Raiding

As you can imagine I get quite a few requests to help people improve their DPS. Unfortunately I am not very good at responding, I have no excuse except that I get busy and forget to respond. So if you have sent me a question and I have not responded I apologize.

That said, most of the requests fall into one of few distinct categories:

The Uninformed: These people have clearly not done a lot of research or don't know the right places to look for information. These are the people that do not have a Chaotic Skyflare Diamond equipped or have 5/5 of Genesis talented. They are easy to respond to because their issues are so obvious. I point out the obvious and then send them to the think tank and sticky.

The Poorly Geared: These people have all the right talents, gems and enchants, but their gear is just strange. They may be missing a set bonus or have a wide range of gear from the 200 ilevel to the 264 ilevel. The may have quite a bit of spirit gear or a strange trinket choice. Gear is obviously a problem, but the cause of the problem is not obvious. I have a hard time responding to these folks because this may be the only gear available to them. For example I once got a comment asking why I use the Illustration of the Dragon Soul instead of Muradin's Spyglass because the commenter thought the spyglass was better. I agree. The spyglass is better, but I've run ICC 10 over a dozen times and not seen it drop once. It's not that I'm gearing incorrectly its just that I'm using what is available to me.

The Fundamentally Flawed: These are the hardest to address. They have the right talents, gems and enchants. Their gear is very reasonable for the level of content they are doing. The rotation they say they use is in line with the recommendations. There is nothing obvious I can comment on. In the end I usually provide a list of general rules for them to think about and hopefully improve their performance.

In this post will go over some of what I consider to be the general rules of raiding for a ranged DPSer.

Fundamentally Flawed is not an insult:

Before anyone gets their feathers ruffled, when I say Fundamentally Flawed, I don't' mean you suck. I think most of us including myself are flawed to some extent. There is skill involved in this game, and skill related issues can't be fixed by changing a glyph or a piece of gear. When I say fundamentally flawed I mean that there is a problem with how you approach the game. It could be something as big as not casting spells quickly enough or as small as not pre-planning your positioning.


This may sound obvious or silly to some of you but I've become a firm believer that sleep is a key for successful raiding and high DPS. I also think more raiders have an issue with a lack of sleep then they are willing to admit. Many raiders raid 25mans for 10 to 15 hours a week, then they spend more time raiding 10mans, leveling alts, and other stuff in game. Then when you combine this with work, school, and family obligations it is quite easy to get to a point where you are only sleeping 5 or 6 hours a night.

Most of us can't operate and peak levels on such a limited sleep schedule and most of us that think we can are wrong. In my own play I've noticed some pretty dramatic swings in my performance that I mostly relate to sleep. When I'm well rested and I am much more focused. I notice hazards more quickly and I'm able to react more quickly. Ultimately I make fewer errors in casting and avoiding damage.

As a result I try and set priorities in my play and not over extend myself to often. For example, many months ago I had an opportunity to become a regular part of a regular 10man alt run. If I committed to it I would have gotten a drake for my warlock. Ultimately I chose not to because it would have added another late night my schedule. In addition to that I have a couple of alts that I want to level. I don't have a lot of time on weekend due to family time but my nights are generally free. It would be very easy for me to play until 2 in the morning but I have purposely limited my play on those nights to try and not over extend myself.

If you are having performance issues, think about how often you play and how often you sleep. The best choice might be to take a step back and focus on the activities that are most important to you.

Positioning and Limiting Movement:

As we all know movement is a DPS killer. If you are moving you can't cast your nukes and they make up 70%-80% of moonkin damage. Therefore it is important to think about ways to limit your movement so that you can maximize your casting time. A good example of this is the Beasts encounter in ToGC. My guild would focus down Acidmaw before we switch to Dreadscale in phase 2 of the fight, but Gormok tended to be positioned in the center of the room. In our first heroic kills on that encounter the worms were spawning right as Gormok was going down and making a quick switch was important to meet the DPS requirements of the fight. Therefore I tended to position myself as far left as I could. Therefore, I could switch targets without moving and allow my fellow raid members to move into to get range.

Another part of this is to move purposely. One big movement is almost always better then several little movements. If you are moving to get in range of a target. Make sure you are in range of any adjustments that the target might make. If the target is constantly moving away from you then inching forward ever 15 seconds will result in more cancelled spells. Much better to move once for 5 seconds and to not have to cancel any spells.

ABC - Always Be Casting:

I've said this before, and I will say it again. The real key to high damage in a raid setting is to cast as much as possible. Casting the wrong thing is generally better then not casting because when you don't cast or cancel a cast you are not DPSing the target. Therefore, if you don't know what to cast, cast something. Put up your DoTs while moving. Even overwriting your existing DoTs while moving can be a DPS increase.

Also push the limits of when you can start casting. Remember we have a lot of low threat spells that we can start an encounter with. Your trents have their own threat tables, Fairie Fire and Insect Swarm have very little threat when they are first cast. Moonfire doesn't have much either if it is glyphed. The reason we lead with these spells isn't just because DoTs generally have a good DPET or to Debuff the boss. They also allow the tank a few seconds to build threat before we get into the heavy hitting part of our rotation.

Switching Targets and Macros:

ABC is really easy when you have only one target and don't have to move much. It gets more complicated when you have to change targets quite a bit and the positioning of your targets are not constant. It is easy to lose 5 or more seconds tab targeting through the available targets. There are two things I try to do to minimize the time it takes me to switch targets.

The first is the use of targeting macros. If you know you have to switch to a target quickly create a little targeting macro and add a spell to it. For example have two macro's for the Lich King encounter. One for the Val'kyr Shadowguard and one for the Raging Spirits. The macros are very simple. One is posted below.

/target Val'kyr Shadowguard
/cast Wrath

All it does is target the target and cast a nuke. What is great about it is that I can start spamming it even before a target spawns, because it doesn't cancel the cast if the target is not available yet. Instead the cast will just go to my current target.

The second thing I do is to click while casting. Clicking a target can be a problem especially if there are a lot of targets group up, but it can be helpful in some situations. The first thing to remember is that you can change targets while casting. Your spell will still hit he original target, but you don't have to delay your next spell to hit the new target. I use this a lot on trash, adds, and bosses that have pieces that have to be burned down all together. I also suggest that you use the overhead unit frames for enemy targets. It is much easier to target the name plate of the target then the actual target if you need to do a lot of click targeting.


A lot is said about keybindings in raiding circles, but newer players may be unfamiliar with them or how to improve them. A keybinding is when you've linked a class ability to a specific button on your keyboard or mouse. The default WoW UI comes with a lot of keybindings automatically. For example your 1 through = buttons are mapped to your main action bar. Other keys are mapped to game functions like B for opening your bag. I think most players use these default keybindings when they first pick up the game, but a lot of raiders expand on or modify these keybindings in an effort to improve their performance.

The standard keybindings are perfectly fine for a more casual player, but they are not set up will for someone trying to maximize there performance. A good keybinding is one that is easy to reach win a minimum of effort. The default keybindings are all in a single line. Moving from key 5 to key "-" is a pretty big movement and has a higher risk of error as a result. Moving from key 5 to key "T" is a much smaller movement and is less likely to be missed in my opinion.

The other problem with the standard keybindings is that there are only 12 default spots, but I have 15 abilities or macros that I use with decent regularity. Even if i was comfortable with having all my abilities on a single line, I still wouldn't be able to bind everything I needed.

Keybindings are fairly simple to create. Just hit the "ESC" key and click the Keybinding button from the menu that pops up. This will bring up the keybinding UI. From this window you can bind your keys to the other available action bars.

Here are my current keybindings.

Faerie Fire
Insect Swarm
Health Stone
Num Pad 1
Num Pad 2
Force of Nature
Num Pad 4
Cyclone Macro
Primary Targeting Macro
Secondary Targeting Macro
Primary Self Heal
Secondary Self Heal
Changes depending on fight.
Gift of the Wild
Self Innervate

You will notice that most of the buttons are easily accessible to my left hand. The Number Pad buttons are easily accessible because I have this mouse.

After you set up your keybindings it is important that you get used to them before you are expected to perform at a high level. How much practice you need depends on what spells you are binding and how many changes you are making. I highly recommend that you don't make any significant changes in your bindings until you have time to run a few low stress instances.


The DPS issues that most players face aren't caused by gear, spells, or talents. They are a result of more basic issues that are hard to teach or correct in a guide. The fundamentals of raiding have nothing to do with class, rotation, or gems. The fundamentals of raiding are about awareness, movement, and quick reactions.

When you look for ways to improve your DPS, think about more then just what spell I should cast. Think about where I should stand? What is the best way for me to change targets? Are the tools I need to use readily accessible? Thinking about these questions can have as big of an impact on your DPS as picking up a new piece of gear.


Anonymous said...

On the moving part, one good tip i have to to always move when reapplying dots.

As DoTs are instant you have 1 second of GCD u cannot cast. use this time to move if you must.

On PP i move every time i cast a dot even though i'm in an ok position and wont have to move for a while. this saves me time when it comes to running away/towards the slime.

Brad said...

With keybinds, 1 idea(the one I use) is to move your movement keys over to the right by 1 key. So you move from WSAD to ESDF(also unbind your strafe keys, you don't need them). This frees up QWA to be used to dps. My current setup is:

Q: GotW
A: Insect Swarm
W: Moonfire
R: Wrath
T: Starfire
C: Starfall
V: Trees
B: Barkskin

1: Cyclone
2: Hurricane
3: Target Macro
4: Innervate

F1: Rebirth
F2: Potion
F3: Rejuv
F4: Regrowth

Mousewheel-Up: HP Stone
Mousewheel-Down: HP Pot
Mousewheel-Click: Powershift
Shift+Mousewheel-Down: Moonkin Form
Shift+Mousewheel-Up: Nourish

Apologies for post size.

Anonymous said...

i just work with shift or control modifiers for my keybindings.

(in moonkinform)

Q:Typhoon shift Q:FF
E:wrath shift E: starfire control E: cat
R: IS shift R MF contol R:Moonkin/tree
F: rejuv shift F: nourish control F: depending
C: Cyclone shift C: Roots control C: travel
G:Starfall shift G: Treants control V: flight
T: Rebirth

<:upper trinket y: lower trinket
1: abolish poison shift 1:nature's grasp
2: remove cure shift 2: mount macro
3: barkskin shift 3: hurricane
4: health stone shift 4:wild magic pot
5:innervate (macro) shift 5:tranquillity

and i think strafe keys do have some use in pvp and pve. like when you have to move slightly to the left to dodge some goo you can still face your target and cast typhoon, refresh dots or whatever.

(i also use this keybindings for all my twinks)

Megami said...

A nice write-up for beginners and those looking to maximize their dps.

I feel your pain with the IotDS trinket. I was the first person in my guild to get it just as OS was released and I've had it ever since. No luck in Ulduar or ToC.

I've been focusing on my target-switching to help my dps. For instance, on Prof. Putricide, I'll refresh dots on him just as the ooze/gas appears, and I also save Starfall for that time since it will do more damage. On AoE trash packs I put up dots first to stack my trinkets and idol while I cast Hurricane. I also cast GotW on the move or Typhoon if I've just refreshed dots.

Our tank will do a countdown over vent or spam a macro so that we can pre-pot and I make sure to find out when Heroism is before dropping my treants.

There are so many little tips like this that when added up can be a nice damage boost.

Genaro said...

I also found some add-ons can provide a tremendous boost in the raiding environment:

1- A decent cast bar (I use Quartz) which fits in with the always casting philosophy

2- Cooldown timers for Eclipse etc (again I use Quartz) so as to optimise your Eclipse uptime for significant dps boost

3- Deadly Boss Mods - because you don't do much dps if you are dead!

Graylo said...


I disagree 1000% on unbinding your strafe keys. You may find them unnessecary, but I've found them to be some of the most important buttons on my keyboard.

In my opinion there is no better way for quick reaction movement for environmental hazards. Though it is a matter of personal preference.

The Gnome of Zurich said...

One big part of always be casting that a lot of people don't understand is that you can remove much of the lag gap between casts by casting your new nuke a bit before the last one is finished casting.

Especially for short nukes like wrath, this can be a huge dps increase. When I got my wife to install quartz and use its lag indicator for when to start mashing the next cast, her dps went up over 10% from that change alone.

Brad said...


Sorry mate, I wrote the wrong thing there, I meant the turn keys not the strafe keys. So I made S and F strafe and unbound turn.

pewter said...

This is a brilliant post, and well said.

Sam said...

I think I was the person who emailed Graylo about the Muradins Spyglass :-S. I was amazed he haddn't got it yet as i had seen it drop dozens of times and had it on multiple characters.

I totally agree with the DPS not being effected by solely by gear, spells, or talents. we have 2 other boomkins that raid one with a GS of 5960 and the other has only just broken the 5k mark but the latter ALWAYS does more dps. some people just have no idea and arent up for advice

Duskstorm said...

Regarding key bindings, I tend to use ` (the backtick to the left of the 1) through 5 and F1-F4 for everything. I then use shift modifiers to add additional abilities.

` = trinket proc
1 = IS
2 = MF
3 = Wrath
4 = SF
5 = FF

I also put my push-to-talk on my mouse, but I have a mouse button 5 to use for it.

Mouse button 4 - innervate myself
Shift mouse button 4 - mount up

Middle click - Autorun toggle
Shift+middle click - "Mouse look"

I don't bind mousewheel because it's too easy to "fatfinger" it.

(Sh = shift)
Sh+` = shift out of moonkin form
Sh+1 = treants
Sh+2 = Starfall
Sh+3 = Hurricane
Sh+4 = Typhoon
Sh+5 = Barkskin / healthstone macro

F1 = Nature's grasp
F2 = Entangling roots
F3 = Cyclone
F4 = Hibernate (not really used much)

The key is that it's all right there on my left hand.

Neirin said...

I have personal experience with the sleep issue. My dps can drop more than 1k if I'm wiped out. Being tired also drastically reduces peoples' ability to react promptly to changes in the fight (you don't want half your raid to be more concerned about their proximity to their bed than their proximity to defiles, trust me).

One thing I've noticed when new guildies ask me for help is that very frequently they know how to gem/chant/spec, but have no idea why. Clearly they've gone to most of the standard information sites, but only skimmed for the stat weights, etc. I'm still explaining to some people that glyphing Starfall actually makes sense nowadays

Nightedahs said...

I have to say that in the beginning I did not like keybindings at all. I prefered clicking everythinh except 1-5 with my mouse. But now I'm quite satisfied with my bindings.


1 = Wrath
2 = Starfire
3 = Moonfire
4 = Insect Swarm
F1 = Starfall
F2 = Treants/typhoon (depends on talents)
F3 = Hurricane
F4 = Faeri Fire
F5 = Moonkin Form

Mouse Bindings: (Logitech Performance Mouse MX with 3 Thumb Buttons)

M4 = Decurse ("Clique" on grid frame)
M5 = Abolish Poison ("Clique" on grid frame)
M4 = target next target
M5 = target focus target
Shift+M5 = set focus target
M6 = Barkskin
Shift+M6 = Fel Healthstone

Nightedahs @Khaz'Goroth(EU)

eleneyse said...

Excellent post!

I think some people forget that it is not all about having the right gear and rotation.

Xaktsaroth said...

I have tried making more advanced key bindings but for me its comfortable to have the original keybinds.
1 typhoon
2 wrath
3 starfire
4 moonfire
5 starfall
Only addition I have made is my 2 side buttons on mouse.
M1 moonkin, shift+m1 bear
M2 cat, shift+m2 travel

Instead I preplan and while casting starfire/wrath I have my mouse on Is/trees or IFF with the exception of IS is not so often casted spells.

Thats an addon I found that I really love for targeting on every boss in wotlk.

Andres said...

Great post. I have had the same issues when questioned by fellow moonkins on improving their dps. The "Fundamentally flawed", as you put it, are the hardest to address so I usually end up drowning them with information and hope something clicks. :x

Getafix said...

I don't know if anyone else is using one, but I picked up a Logitech G13 ( It's expensive but has turned out to be worth every penny - I wouldn't like to play without it.

Most of the keys I use as spells, but I bind tab to G8, Shift to G15, Ctrl to G20 and Alt to G22. That allows me to use tonnes of spells, and gives me the modifiers I need to click heal with grid.

It takes a while to get used to it, especially using your left thumb to move after so many years of wasd, but now it means I'm using one digit to move, rather than 3. If you set it up to work like an fps - left and right are strafe and you use your mouse to turn, it becomes very easy to be mobile.

It revolutionised my tanking, and boosted my dps by at least 25%.

It takes a bit to get it all set up and to get used to it, but once you have you won't want to go back to a keyboard. I also find it much more comfortable as well - no more wrist ache after 8 hours solid play :P

Twinmoon - Garrosh said...

Could you show us a UI picture of your raiding interface while raiding? Also with a Addon list of what you use for your interface enchantment.

Jharden said...

I'd just like to add that numbers aren't the most important thing. You can lose a lot of your effectiveness in the raid if you get caught up in your damage/dps. I recently caught myself blowing starfall on the ice blocks on Sindragosa to catch up on meters, when we were all easily able to break the blocks before she came down from air phase. The way starfall hits now, this was a fairly sizable waste of dps that could have gone to the boss. It was also giving me a false sense of confidence in my dps that eliminated a lot of the motivation to improve positioning etc. for that fight. I've since corrected myself. : )

Also my question is this: where can I go for perspective? I see where my dps stands in my guild, but how can I know what numbers I should be seeing. What should I be aiming for? I try to improve as much as I can, but I'm afraid I might miss something big just because I'm in my guild's top 3 on a fight and assume I'm fine.

Anonymous said...

A very nice post yet again Graylo. Keybindings are obviously so subjective. I am just about to transfer to a Nostromo to see if having the keys closer together helps my dps. If anyone feels they can share their set-up for a start for 10, then please feel free!

One thing I've always been awful at is using my healthstone, but now I'll start thinking more carefully about this.

Thanks for the post.


David said...

Good post, some things to think about.

I have a question, what is the cyclone macro mentioned in the key binding? Just paired with Natures Swiftness?

Do you use that in PVE at all, Graylo?

Thanks for the post

Grok said...

Oops sorry for anonymous post, the Nostromo one was me!

Caithness said...

Hello, first time poster, long time reader.

My bindings are a bit different from what I see here. I stole the basic principle from a post on a forum somewhere; probably EJ.

Mousewheel Up: Starfire
Mousewheel Down: Wrath
1: Treants
2: Treant /petattack macro
3. IS
4. Moonfire
5. FF
Q: Tranquility
E: Hurricane
Shift-E: Innervate
Shift-R: Starfall
F: Barkskin
G: /target focustarget macro
Shift-F: War Stomp
Shift-G: Bomb belt
Z: Nature's Grasp
X: Roots
C: Cyclone
Shift-Z: Parachute cloak
Shift-Q: Ground mount
Mousewheel up/down+shift/alt or shift+alt: All of the druid forms

I have my five basic heals on the bottom left actionbar- I don't bother binding them, clicking works well enough. Random pots, health stones, and mage food are on the bottom right actionbar, along with brez/rez and useless stuff like soothe animal and hibernate. The right actionbars have random junk like gear sets, mounts, and so forth.

The basic idea behind this setup is that you're chain casting the two nukes for 90 percent of the time, and pounding the keyboard over and over gets very tiring. It's very easy to simply scroll the mousewheel down for solar and up for lunar, perfectly chain-casting the nukes with no delay and minimal effort. I saw a decent jump in my DPS when I first started doing it this way and a sizable reduction in fatigue.

Starfall is a bit of a reach- I normally would bind a key ability like that to Q or something instead, but I use that like one of those fighter-pilot safety switches where you have to flip the cover up before hitting it. I absolutely do not want to hit that accidentally or without thinking about it first. I had a few bad experiences with it when I first went moonkin, if you can't tell ;).

Genaro said...

By the way Graylo, what is your mouse that you use?

It looks like in the body text you meant to link something but it doesn't work as a link for me :P

Josh said...

I find myself in the fundamentally flawed classification. We have other boomkins in my guild that can out dps me, despite my gear advantage. After running out of things to blame, I decided to take a throw back to highschool football and the game films. So i loaded up fraps and started recording all of the boss fights. I can then watch to make sure I'm casting as much as i think i am. Reacting well to eclipse procs and not running around like a chicken with my head cut of. Also you can uploaded it to youtube or something and share it with other people to see if they can help point out your mistakes. I'm still not living up to my potential but, but I'm getting better every fight.

voz said...

I didn't read through all the comments, but 2 things I dont think you have mentioned are your computer, and your natural lag.
My computer (laptop) gets 3-5fps in 25mans, and i do 7k+. But in 10mans, when I can get 30fps, I top the charts with 10k+ dps.
Also because I live in Hawaii, and I play on a server with a 5 hour time different, my normal MS ranges from 250-400. Most people Q.Q about anything over 50. The natural lag does take its tole againts my dps. =(

Doug said...

Practice learning new key binds in BGs.

Works like magic.

Julian said...

"Then when you combine this with work, school, and family obligations it is quite easy to get to a point where you are only sleeping 5 or 6 hours a night."

That's a good night for me.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for a wonderful thread, I just wanted to add some things Ive found extremly helpful to Moonkin raiding and by extention, raiding in general. First if all I use a Zboard for gaming on WoW, for anyone not familiar with the Z board it provides a directional keypad, 2 rows of numerical buttons (1-6) and (7-11) and various other keys all positioned to the left side of the keyboard giving you a mice, ergonomic gaming interface.

That being said I bind my most important combat functions to the numeric keypad in this order
1. Starfall 2 FF 3. MF 4. Starfire 5. Wrath 6. ISS 7. Hurricane 8. Barkskin 9. Is a lockstone when available 10 varies between haste or Crit pots. 10. Health Pot. 11. Treants.

I use Mouse 5 for Typhoon, Shift mouse 5 for Cyclone and alt Mouse 5 for Roots. I find that this setup works well for me, but really being successful depends more on being really familiar with your own keybinds then following anyone elses suggestion as to what keys you bind to.

One thing I saw in a previous post that i disagree with was the comment made to unbind your strafe keys. Strafe is a very effective way to move quickly and still be able to keep some kind of DPS up on the boss.You never want to be facing away from the boss or moving longer then is absolutely nessessary. If nothing else, strafing allows you to refresh Dots and FF on the boss where as turning and running may not.

And lastly since so much of our DPS is dependent on maximizing the bonus gained from Eclipse I storngly suggest a visdual proc warning addon, personally I use Power Auras classic,configured in a different color for both solar and lunar eclipse. it provides an excellent visual que for your eclipse procs and can be set up to show a duration timer to help you when deciding whether to refresh ISS during Solar eclipse etc.

Sorry for the wall of text.

Lonelder - Gnomeregan