Monday, May 24, 2010

Surviving as a Moonkin

Last month I wrote a post on the "General Rules of Raiding." After reviewing that post I realized I left something out. When it comes to raiding, a lot of players focus very heavily on their offensive performance. Through out the history of this blog, I've gotten tons of emails that say "my DPS is low, help!" Never once have I gotten an email that says "I'm dying a lot, help!" One could assume that all moonkin are pro at surviving but my experience says differently. While improving DPS is important, improving survivability is usually more significant and I think few players focus on it the way they should.

I have addressed this topic in the past, and I don't think that all DPS deaths are preventable or even the DPSers fault. However, just as some healers are quick to fault DPSers for not doing all they could to stay alive, I think a lot of DPSers are quick to blame healers for not getting enough heals. In reality it is not always one persons fault. Sure, you may not have gotten a heal for 8 seconds, but if you had a healthstone in your bag you are partially to blame. In this post I will go over some of the ways Moonkins can keep themselves alive and not take avoidable damage.


Any guide focusing on survivability should probably start with Awareness. Without awareness, a player is lost. The best DPSer in the world would sit on the bench without the proper level of Awareness.

Unfortunately there is very little I can tell you to to help you improve your awareness. You just have to pay more attention to what is going on around you. However, here are a few hints that will hopefully help you down that road.

Survive First, DPS Second: This is more then a simple "don't stand in the fire statement." I don't think anyone stands in the fire purposely, and few people wait to finish a cast after a void zone spawns underneath them. Of course you move in that situation.

My main point in this section is to avoid getting tunnel vision. It's quite easy to get tied up in what's going on with your rotation, and in those times it's quite easy to miss the void zone that just spawned underneath you. My point is, if you're going to make a mistake, make sure it's a mistake in which spell you cast and not where you stand. When I'm in raid I very rarely look at the mob I'm DPSing. I'm usually focused on my own feet or some other potential hazard. If I miss an Eclipse proc, so be it. I may not have done optimal DPS, but I am alive.

Set your UI for Success: Your UI is probably the best tool you have to help you survive and unfortunately the default UI does very little to help you. The health frames are up in the corner. The boss emotes are small and fairly hard to see.

There are plenty of people who play successfully without addons, but there is little reason not to augment your UI to help you perform better. Here are a couple of things you may want to consider.

  • Unit Frames/HUD: Your focus should be on the center of your screen most of the time to watch for void zones and other bad things coming your way. Therefore, you may miss that your health is getting low, or a hazard while looking at your health.

    I like IceHUD because it brings my health right to the center of my screen and it is very easy for me to see. However, I have also heard very good things about Shadowed Unit Frames since it is light weight and allows you to move the unit frames to a more usable spot.

  • Power Auras: There are other addons that do the same thing, but I've liked this one best. Power Aura's monitors the combat log and other game inputs and outputs and will alert you the events you specify in game. For example, I have a Power Aura to let me know when the Lich King is casting Defile, or when I am standing in the Ooze on Rotface. It can also tell you when you have buff or debuf. It can also alert you to when one of your cooldowns is available.

    The great thing about this addon is that you can set it up to tell you almost anything, and it eliminates a lot of the confusion I used to have in a fight. If there is any addon that can help you be more aware, then this is it. Since I started using it, I don't die as many stupid deaths. I've also set it up to let me know when I go below 40% health so that I know if I need to use my stone or cast a heal.
After awareness the only way to improve your survivability is through the proper use of abilities. There are two types of abilities we have available to us: Cooldowns and Heals.

Cooldowns: I think of cooldowns as oh sh!t buttons and are commonly only associated with tanks and healers, but most DPS classes have them as well. Cooldowns tend to be more about preventing damage.

  • Barkskin: Barkskin is the obvious cooldown for druids. It reduces the druids incoming damage by 20% for 12 seconds and can also be used while CCed.

    Barkskin works best with preventing predictable damage. If you know a high damage ability like Festergut's Pungent Blight is coming then popping Barkskin before hand can help out a lot. Barkskin is also good to use during periods of chaos. Take the Bone Storm phase of Marrowgar for example. When people are moving around and trying to avoid damage it is easy for healers to get separated from their targets or to have to delay casts due to movement. In these periods of chaos, reducing your damage intake can be very helpful because it gives the healers more time to heal you back up.

    Don't be afraid of "wasting" Barkskin. It is on a cooldown, but it is relatively short when compared to the cooldowns of other classes. If you think you might need the extra protection go ahead and use it, Barkskin will probably be back up the next time you need it.

  • Dash: Some of you may be surprised by me including this in the guide. It is not a traditional defensive cooldown, but in the right situation it can save your butt.

    I find that Dash works best when am trying to correct an error. If you move a little late, Dash can make up the difference. If you've drifted out of position and you need to get some where fast, Dash can help. Dash really shines in a fight like Sindragosa. I've used it to avoid Blistering Cold and to place Ice Tombs. If the fight is technically outside, don't forget that you can also use Travel form to get away quickly.

  • Shadowmeld: I realize that not all druids have Shadowmeld (sorry taurens), but many do. Shadowmeld isn't a traditional threat drop, because all the threat will come back after the affect is cancelled, and it can be broken by environmental damage. That said, it does give your tanks time to get aggro. Just be sure to give them the time. You may have to wait a few seconds for the tanks to come back and pass you on the threat meter.
Heals: As a general rule DPSers should not be healing. If so many healers have gone down that you need a moonkin to pick up some of the healing slack then it is probably a wipe anyway. That said, DPSers should not hesitate to heal themselves when necessary.

  • Healthstones/Health Pots: The availability of Healthstones and Health pots really depends on the fight and raid make up. Most 25man raids will have a Warlock for a healthstone, but it is less of a given in 10man raiding. That said, you should have your healthstone or pot bound to an easily accessible key. It's useless if you have to search your bags to use it, and binding it to a hard to reach key could mean the difference between surviving and dying.

    I tend to save my health stone for emergency's unless there is a specific time in a fight that I know I am going to need it. I also like to save mine for the end of fights because that's when the damage tends to be higher, and that is when you are also less likely to have a healer to top you off. However, if you think you are about to die don't hesitate to use a healthstone even if it is early in the fight.

    Health Potions are a little more tricky to gage since it prevents you from using a DPS pot during the fight. I like to have a couple on hand just in case, but tend not to use them.

  • Bandages: I am a firm believer that every raider should have is First Aid leveled to the max. However, bandages are a little problematic. They have a 1 minute cooldown, and there healing is interrupted my damage or movement. I keep a few in my bag in case of emergencies, but they need to be a last resort option.

  • Healing Spells: There is nothing that says moonkin can't use their resto spells. Yes, our heals are inefficient and shifting out to do so eats up even more mana, but it is better to be safe then sorry.

    I have most of my healing spells macroed to target myself and keybound to easily accessible keys. If I am in a tough spot and my health stone is gone. I cast Lifebloom or Rejuv on myself and let my health tick back up. If I am really low I will throw a Regrowth or Nourish on me for a bit of a direct heal. Avoid using Healing Touch. It's cast time is just to long to be affective. You will either be dead or healed all the way up before it finishes.


Survivability is a topic that doesn't get a lot of press on WoW blogs or on the forums, but is hugely important to most successful raiding guilds. As a DPSer make sure you have the right priorities: Survive first, DPS second. You can follow these priorities by trying to improve your raid awareness, and organize your UI to easily identify incoming threats. Also, have your cooldowns hand heals easily accessible so that you can use them in a moments notice.


Duskstorm said...

Thank you for this!

I find that the #1 problem most dpsers have is that they do not prioritize surviving above their rotation.

Neirin said...

Don't forget Tranquility for when things go really wrong. It only covers one group, but I once popped it when 2 healers got tombed on Sindragosa and since I was in the same group as the tank, we ended up surviving.

Oh, and Tuskar's Vitality deserves a mention. Most serious raiders either use it already or need that 12 hit from Icewalker to be hit capped, but Tuskar's isn't exactly the most obvious choice for a caster dps to use.

Kae said...

The tauren warstomp comes in handy enough on its own though, so no hard feelings :) Yay for an aoe stun as a healer!

Speaking of, your tips are all useful for the healers, too :) Survive first, heal second. Can't heal when you're dead (unless you're one of those holy-priesty types...)

Duskstorm said...

@Neirin Tuskarr's vitality (or Boar's speed if you're cheap) is the best DPS option too. I tell raiders who use icewalker to forget what the spreadsheet says, your dps sucks when you're moving.

Zomglazors said...

As a Boomkin, I use Nitro Boots to get from point A to point B fast.( Moving is key to improving our DPS. We are very VERY sensitive when it comes to movement.

Also, in ICC. I did not see you mention Travel Form. This can be used either on DBS or Sindragosa.

Good read non the less!

Hana said...

I like this post. I'm always quick with the Barkskin. Damage reduction for me is less work for the healers (and might save my feathered butt!).

I also use Power Auras and most of what I look at (Eclipse timers, cooldowns, DBM bars, etc.) are set beneath my feet so I'm looking right where those void zones are going to be spawning. I rarely look at the boss. It's always my UI and the space beneath my feet that I'm looking at.

Cathy said...

Great post. Especially love the part about healing yourself. It can be a significant help to the healers. Whether you are able to bandage, heal, pot ..anything you can do until healers have things under control are always appreciated.

Although I am highly allergic to the boomkin form:P, I appreciate the versatility of the class to be a great defensive player.

Voink said...

Excellent post. I despise DPSers with tunnel vision - not only do they stand in fire but they HIT THE WRONG TARGET. Gah.

I do everything I can to make life easier for my healers. In return, I kill stuff for them and protect them against dumb pug tanks with typhoon :)

SHAQ said...

Look at the top 10 guilds of the world. 9 out of 10 of them have one thing in common - they come from pvp realms. Want to build situational awareness while doing max dps in the shortest amount of time? Do some BGs or Arena. Pvp teaches you how to keep yourself alive. You also learn how to maximize your damage in a very fast-paced setting. When you can play well in pvp, pve will seem like cake.

razkathar said...

I think Taifun should be mentioned.
It saved my little chicken life more than once on Valithria, while I had aggro of some adds because of Starfall.

Gevlon said...

As Neirin said: Tranquility is a lifesaver. Even as moonkin you can easily outheal any healing class for 8 seconds. A tank group moonkin can prevent a wipe. With your gear you can get 20K HPS if everyone are damaging.

Anonymous said...

One thing I would add is that barkskin should be macro'd with stopcast.

If you just queued up a starfire and then start mashing barkskin, there is a decent chance the damaging event will occur before barkskin is executed.

Pahimar said...

Glad to see you mention Dash. I actually have a macro set up for Dash that shifts me to cat, casts Dash, and places a DBM timer to let me know when Dash is off CD again. This has been quite helpful when I need to make a fast getaway from something.

Varris said...

Also, cleansing can make a big difference. It saves the healer from having to blow a global cooldown when there's a lot of damage going out. You don't even have to break form to do it. A few spot heals when there's a lot of damage going out will save the healers a little mana and allow them to direct their heals where it matters.

Jennifer said...

I'd love to see some of your Power Aura scripts. Something we can export and modify would be awesome. I love seeing how other people set up their UIs.

Anonymous said...

awareness is the most important thing in WoW...surviving, dps and healing!

Celtus said...

Our raid boomkin was having a run of bad luck with the BQL fears, so we got her to shift bear and frenzy regen if she was par damaged already or bear barkskin prior to both fears.

Tulveli said...

A few extras to note:
As another poster mentioned, a dash macro that swaps you into cat form is incredibly helpful. I first made one for kiting Tenebron on OS+3D zergs, and now I use it for everything (including running around Dalaran).

Nature's Grasp - It might not seem that great, but if you have a few adds on you, don't forget this one. Saurfang's Bloodbeasts can be rooted, so if you stuff up on kiting them and they're about to melee you, pop NG.

Rejuv and Lifebloom are instant cast (Yes you mentioned healing spells, but I think this deserves a special mention). If you need to run from A to B, dash is on cd, and your dps doesn't matter as much as survival, shift forms and heal yourself. I do this if I have to run through slime on P3 of Putricide.