The Absolute Beginner’s Guides are aimed at people who may or may not be new to WoW, but need a basic overview of a specific area that is new to them.
If you’ve decided you want to up your DPS, but you don’t know what to do – then you’ve come to the right place. This is not a class specific guide, so I won’t go into any details on exactly what YOU might need to do. What I will do is point you at the things you need to look into along with some suggestions on where to look for more information.
If you are aiming to mostly do your own thing, upping your DPS will help you as things will die faster. If you want to do top-level instances, heroics and raids – then there will be minimum DPS numbers for going. This isn’t people trying to be elitist, it is purely a matter of mathematics. A boss has a certain amount of health and there is only so much time available to kill it before it enrages or the healer/s run out of mana. This means that the DPS between them have to reach a certain output number in order to be able to kill that boss.
However, you should also be aware that your DPS numbers will vary depending on the type of fight and your assignment in it, so do keep that in mind if you see unusually low numbers. An example would be a fight like Maexxna in Naxxramas where some ranged DPS will be assigned to free people caught in spiderwebs. This is a really important task, but since you spend a lot of time doing that rather than killing the boss your DPS might be lower than normal.
Finding your DPS
To get started we need to get you a damage meter add-on. I would recommend Recount, but there are others out there (I think). Use the arrows in the top right corner to scroll through the different types of data it can show you until you get to DPS.
The easiest way to test your DPS is to head to an Old World Capital City and spend some quality time with the training dummies. If you are level 80, there are two that might be of interest to you. There’s one level 80 dummy and one raid boss dummy.
Make sure to reset your Recount (red X button), take a deep breath and then start whacking away at the dummy with whatever abilities you would normally use in a boss fight. Don’t pause and don’t stop until you are completely out of mana (for non-mana classes pick a length of time, say 5 minutes). Once you are done look at Recount, that number in front of the parenthesis is your DPS as it would be if you faced a boss. On the one hand in a real fight it might be a bit lower as you might have to watch your threat or have to move around a lot, but on the other hand in a group you would probably have buffs from other classes that improves your DPS – so this is a pretty good benchmark.
If you want to know details, you just click on your name and you will get another window with some graphs. Here you can see what abilities do the most of your damage and if you are missing some of the time.
Areas of improvement
Now that you know what DPS you’re doing currently, it’s time to think about what you can do to improve it. There are three main areas to look at:
- Your stats (stamina, agility, hit rating etc)
- Your talents
- Your abilities (frostbolt, steady shot, shadowbolt etc)
Just to make it a bit more confusing, they also affect each other.
The first thing to look at is your talents. For most classes there are so called cookie-cutter builds. If you look up a cookie-cutter raiding build for a DPS class, the aim of that build will be to give maximum DPS while also taking into account group utility. I’m not saying that you have to use those builds, but they are the most common ones for a reason. They have evolved from many people doing lots of boring testing and maths to come up with the best combination of talents. If you are going to make your own build – take the time to read up on the different talents. Talents that might seem useless when solo-ing could be key when in a group or vice versa, so it pays off to make sure you know why you are picking talent X over talent Y.
You don’t have to get involved in complicated calculations to do this research (unless you want to, of course), there are plenty of places on the internet that will present the outcome of other people’s work on this subject. There are lots of blogs out there covering all classes/specs and there are also a few class/spec/role-based forums. Have a look through them and you’ll quickly get a feel for the pros and cons of different talents. I can highly recommend the Elitist Jerks forums for this kind of research – they cover most classes/specs in detail, but are still easy to read and understand (just let your eyes slide past the numbers quickly).
Next step after going over your talents is taking a look at your stats. Different classes will need different stats, but when you were out there looking at talents you probably came across mentions of which stats are the key ones for you. Do remember that different specs of the same class can need slightly different stats, for instance one spec might need crit while another needs haste more.
The one stat that all DPS players need is hit rating. The more often you don’t hit the boss, the less damage you do = lower DPS. Hit rating is a stat that can be capped. This means that you want to reach a certain number as then you will hit a raid boss 100% of the time. It also means that once you reach that magic number there is no point in having any more hit rating as it is, in a sense, wasted. The magic number varies between classes/specs/races, so you are going to have to go and look up which number you have to aim for. Draenai has a racial ability that gives them an extra 1% hit, there are certain talents that give you hit and finally you get it from gear. You can also get it from buff foods and elixirs, so that might help while you are working your way to the cap.
Most other stats that you might need will need to be balanced. This is the reason why it can be difficult to tell whether an item is an upgrade or not. “I lose some crit, but I will gain expertise.” Again, if you’ve done a bit of research you will know whether the trade-off is worth it to you.
When it comes to stats you have to look at the big picture when you make decisions. You have to look at how the stats on a piece of equipment affect your overall stats, not just the stats on the piece it replaces. Gems and enchants can be changed out and you can change what buff food and elixirs you use, so don’t forget to take that into account as well. There are many sites that will suggest gear, enchants, gems for you – but don’t take their word for everything. They will purely look at what might be an upgrade for a specific slot and even then they could very well be weighting stats differently to what you would. They are great tools for getting an overview of where upgrades might be found, but you have to make the final call on which piece is best for you.
So you’ve done a bit of research and maybe changed your talents a bit or maybe changed your gear a bit, now it is time for the final part of the puzzle. The actual whacking of the boss upon the head. You have lots of different abilities, but there are usually some that will be your key ones to use to maximise your damage output. Out of all the abilities you have at your disposal some will just be better for the job – and it might not necessarily be the ones you think. That funny spell that you never get around to using might actually make a huge difference if you knew to use it together with another spell.
Some classes have quite rigid rotations – use ability 1, then 2, then 3 and start over. Others play the cooldown game – you use all your key abilities as soon as they are available. You will often also often have situational abilities that only become available or are of use if something else happens first. Have look to see if there are anything like that that you should be looking out for.
This might sound like a lot of work, but it doesn’t have to be. One visit to your class compendium on the Elitist Jerks forum will tell you all the key information you need in order to figure out all of the above. Looking in other places is a good idea to make sure there aren’t differing opinions, but usually Elitist Jerks are pretty spot on. Things like starting hitting the boss as soon as it is safe to do so (tank has threat), making sure to keep hitting the boss as hard as possible throughout the fight while keeping out of fire/voidzones, swapping to adds and then back again quickly are skills that will also improve your DPS. But that will come with practice, so go forth and smite stuff in the name of learning.