Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Beginners Guide: How to be Better Without Doing Better.

Most people look at the basics of playing and doing your role correctly.  To most that is usually a very simple break down.  For a tank, keep aggro and use your cooldowns to make the healers life easier.  For a healer, know which heals to use when to keep everyone alive without blowing through mana and creating a soft enrage timer based on when you run out.  For damage dealers, keep up the pressure with as much DPS as possible without making any aggro issues for the tank or taking damage that is unnecessary.

Quite honestly if each one of the roles can do those things most encounters will be simple enough but there are other little things that separate a good player from a bad one.  To nobody's surprise, the only people that notice those little things are the good players to begin with.  They notice it because they know those are the things that are the mark of a good player and they do them because they strive to be that good player.

So while you do the best at what your role is, tanking, healing or dealing damage, there are ways to play better without actually getting better at your role.  Yes, doing what you do better is always a good thing, but those little things, those are what separates the players that "do good" and the players that "are good" apart.

So if you are new to the game, or have been playing and would like some tips to help you get better, I offer up some little tips on how you can go from just "doing good" to "being good".

1) Positioning

Many people believe this is a tank thing only but it is not.  Every role can do their job better if they pay attention to their positioning.

From a tank standpoint it is always a good idea to turn the mob away from the group.  While some might say that it does not matter if the boss does not cleave or have any frontal cone effect it does make a difference.  It actually makes a lot more of a difference than you might think.

If the tank turns the boss, the trip for the melee to get in there is shorter.  This means more DPS up time.  There are other benefits as well.  If everyone is positioned well then something like a shamans healing rain could get to all DPS, ranged and melee alike, which is usually impossible if the tank does not turn the mob around.

But wait, there is more, if the mob has a mechanic that requires the melee to run out they will be running out and still be in range of the healer.  If the mob was not turned and the melee were behind the mob and ran out it is quite possible that they would get out of the healers range.  Or even worse, that they might run into some other mobs without even noticing it.  There are 101 reasons for the tank to turn the boss but there are only three in game I could think of where they shouldn't and when those times come, you will know it, so always turn the mob away.

The positioning of tanking is not only where you tank the mob but what direction you tank it in.

From a healers standpoint you should always try to think of three things when positioning yourself.  Positioning rule one for a healer is find a nice place to see everyone, this is actually one of the reasons I like healing.  I like to see the whole scope of all events going on but while I do it because I like doing it, it does serve a practical purpose.

If you can see everything you can react quicker.  You will know if a mob is headed off from the tank toward the mage and you can get ready to heal the mage, or if you have a mitigation ability like power word shield you can stop the damage before it comes.  This positioning does a few things.

One being, if you where in front of the mage you might think it was coming for you and run and unless you are really quick and notice it fast enough you could lose the mage or the tank because you are too busy running out of fear for your life.  Also, even if you do not think it is coming for you and there are two or three ranged behind you, you will not know which one to protect because you can not see it clearly as they are behind you out of your view.

Positioning rule two is a straight line, meaning if there are adds coming, make them run through the tank to get to you.  Everyone know the run to the tank rule if you get aggro even if most seem to forget that one in randoms but the really good players will make sure the mob never even comes after them.  A healer that "does good" will get the mob on them and run to the tank.  A healer that "is good" will know where the mobs will be coming from and make them run a straight line through the tank to get to them.  The tank can pick them up before they ever get to you.

Positioning rule three is one of my favorites because of how it was explained to me when I started healing.  A healer that had been playing since vanilla said to always stand near the hunter.  Being a hunter I immediately knew what this meant.  I could trap it, concussive it, sic my pet on it to growl, wing clip it, misdirect it, distracting shot it and disengage to the tank then feign so the tanks AoE grabs it again, hunters have a million and one ways to protect the healer and any hunter worth a hill of beans has done them all.  Not sure why I did it, maybe because it felt right, but from the first time I was ever in a group on my hunter I always took it as my own personal job to protect the healer and as my friend told me, it seems most hunters are like that.  So stand near the hunter.  But it is not just the hunter.

If the situation arises that you can not get to the tank for some reason the damage dealers can serve as a great buffer.  Lets face it, it is a lot easier for you as a healer to keep the mage up if he takes aggro from you than it would be to keep yourself up while getting a can of whoop ass opened on you.  Most players will use some sort of AoE if they see mobs in their wheel house.  So if you are being chased, run through a ranged and watch them peel aggro off you without even noticing they did it.  Hurray for human nature and how predictable people are most of the time.

So where you put yourself as healer really shows if you know what you are doing.  One of the things I find fun to test on new healers in my guild is the moon guard achievement.  Just take a healer in there and you can tell if the healer is the "do good" or "is good" type of healer instantly.

Bring an arcane mage and have them spam their bubble thing.  An "is good" healer will stand right on top of him knowing that any healing aggro will be lost as soon as they get into the AoE spamming mages range.  The "do good" healer might get you through the fight, but that part where you run through the water you will lose the achievement with the "do good" healer, you won't lose it with the "is good" healer.

From the damage dealers standpoint there are various times where your positioning matters almost as much as your DPS.  In most of those cases your positioning helps your DPS so I can't see why an damage dealer would not make positioning a priority.  Cleave classes moving a little to the left or right might hit another target.  Most just assume that if they are cleaving they are hitting more than one target and while many times they might be they aren't always.  So a little positioning is a good thing.

The way things are designed the damage dealers are the ones that have to deal with all the ground effects and if you position yourself correctly you can make life easy on everyone.  Many mobs and even more bosses have effects that target one person.  You should know who those mobs are and in those cases positioning yourself away from others can help the group.  You do not want to be the target and end up getting someone else hit with it because you were too close to them.

Another positioning booboo that I see over and over again with damage dealers is getting out of the healers range.  The damage dealers seem to take healers for granted sometimes and while they are moving from the bad they move away from the healers.  Worst case could be there is the healer on one side, you on the other side and this pool of bad between you when you start taking some unavoidable damage and die.  Where you position yourself is important but so is where you reposition yourself when forced to move.

Another damage dealer issue with healers is not standing in the good.  We have been programed to move from the bad so well sometimes that we avoid standing in all pretty ground effects even if they are good for us.

I can not even begin to tell you how often I have seen someone move out of my healing rain in randoms.  Kudos to them for moving from stuff but part of the positioning thing is knowing what to move away from and what to move into.  Positioning yourself so you can be a part of the people getting the AoE heals will make you live longer and make the whole encounter easier. 

If the healer does not need to pay special attention to you, their life is easier, if their life is easier they are not spending extra time healing you and possibly neglecting the tank.  If they are not neglecting the tank the tank will not have to enter panic mode and use cooldowns at a time they should not be needed.  See, just because you positioned yourself in the healing rain you made everyone's life easier.  Bet you never thought of it that way, that you standing outside of one simple healing rain can cause a wipe.  It can sometimes, rare sure, but it can.

Where you stand, what you stand in, and how you group up or spread out, even as a lowly damage dealer, can completely change the whole battle.  So even the damage dealers are not given a free pass to stand anywhere they please.  Where you position yourself matters.

2) Awareness

I can not stress this enough.  Knowing your surrounding and knowing how to handle abilities is a key ingredient in moving from the "do good" player to the "are good" player.

A "do good" player, for example, will move from the ring of fire on the first boss in well of eternity.  An "is good" player will move from the ring of fire before it even spawns.  That is awareness for you.  Not saying the "do good" player did badly, there is nothing wrong with moving as soon as you notice something.  It still means they are "doing good".  The difference is the "be good" player will have moved the second they noticed the area was being targeted, so they take no damage at all.

Keeping with that fight and the awareness factor from the tanks perspective now.  A "do good" tank will just move him when he needs to move him for his own reasons.  A "be good" tank will notice that the ring fell on one of the melee and move the boss so the melee can get behind him again because he was aware of what was going on around him and not just paying attention to his own job.

And with that fight once more is the healers awareness to know that everyone is going to be picked up and thrown back.  This could fall into positioning as well.  A healer should position themselves so that they are within range of the tank when they land to heal the tank first should they decide to run in and take the hit.  It is the awareness to notice where the tank is and which way he is going to be thrown back that is important.  The awareness to the situation is what makes you decide on your positioning.

There are so many cases in the game where being aware of what is going on around you is important.  As anyone that ran the old dungeons before the changes will tell you, awareness was the difference between clearing them or wiping until you cried yourself to sleep.

They toned them down a huge amount but you need to be aware of patrols.  You need to be aware of line of sight.  You need to be aware of where you are moving and move as a group.  Also being many packs are usually skipped you need to be aware of your own aggro range when walking around a pack you are skipping.  One step in the wrong direction and you are in a battle you might not have intended to be in.

Tanks need to be aware of their healers mana and where they are so they do not pull when the healer is still looting the last pack of mobs or is sitting and drinking.  Damage dealers need to be aware of what target the tank is focusing so they do not accidentally pull aggro.  Healers need to be aware that sometimes it is better to let people get a tiny bit of damage on the pull if it is not life threatening because a big heal on the pull could mean the healer is now the tank.

If a tank is waiting you need to be aware of what the reason might be instead of just yelling go, go go.  If he just dropped D&D a couple of seconds ago and the next pack is a large pack, maybe he is waiting.  Be aware that your cooldowns are not the only ones that have timers.

Same goes for a tank that just chain pulls and then blames the hunter for not using MD.  If you are pulling too fast you will get ahead of the 30 second cooldown and it will not be there for the pull to help you.  So be aware that one of two things will happen.  The hunter will get aggro, or the hunter will be waiting until you get some aggro or MD comes off cooldown.  No reason to complain about them getting aggro or not doing damage when the hunter is doing the right thing.  The "do good" hunter will just move with the tank, the "be good" hunter will do what is best for the group and if waiting five seconds is best, that is what he will do.  Be aware of what people are doing when they are not doing what you think they should be doing.  A tank not pulling could be a tank doing the right thing.  A damage dealer not doing damage could sometimes be them doing the right thing.

Awareness is not just about effects in game and patrols and knowledge and reaction to mechanics.  Awareness is knowing what the other classes can do and understanding why they are doing them.  Be aware of your surrounding, be aware of the abilities, be aware of patrols, be aware of the classes in your group and be aware of how each of those interact with each other.  It is the difference between "doing good" and "being good".

3) Timing

This was just touched on in part with awareness.  The tank waiting to pull.  The hunter waiting for MD to come off cooldown.  These are timing issues and the "do good" players just goes in and tries to over compensate when the timing is off whereas the "be good" player does things at the appropriate time.

Whether it be tanking cooldowns, healing cooldowns, DPS cooldowns, there is a time and a place for everything.  Using them at the wrong time because you misjudge a situation will rarely result in a wipe in random content but it could.  Using any cooldown at the wrong time is a key difference between the "do good" and "be good" players.

A "be good" damage dealer will never use a DPS cooldown 2 seconds before they know they will not be able to DPS.  A "be good" tank will never use a cooldown when he knows he won't really need it.  A "be good" healer will not hit tranquility just because it looks cool and everyone could have used a little heal anyway.  All these things have their time and their place and the "do good" crowd follows the mantra use them early and often whereas the "be good" crowd knows that there is an appropriate time to use them.

Timing isn't only about cooldowns.  It is about interrupts, cleansing, crowd control (although not as much as it used to be), you name it.  There is a time for everything you do and doing it when it is best to do it will always end with better results.

Interrupting that annoying shadow bolt that does 16K damage to one person might be nice but when it is on cooldown when the boss does the next spell that hits everyone for 20K means your timing was bad.  The "do good" player sees there is a spell they can interrupt and interrupts it and then pats themselves on the back for doing a bang up job.  A "be good" player lets the low damage ability by because they know if they use their interrupt now it will not be off cooldown for the big one.  It is all in the timing.

It is like damage dealers blowing their cooldowns on the pull.  It is not always the best idea.  The "do good" player will blow the damage dealing bonus abilities on the pull.  The "be good" player will know that there is a phase with increased damage and wait for that to use their damage dealing cooldowns.

It is not always what you do that counts but when you do it, and that is what timing is about.


So there you have it.  You can continue to play at your current ability level and just adjust some of the little thing, the things that might not show up on recount in many cases, like positioning, awareness and timing, and you will immediately become a better player without being any better.

All those things go unannounced, you have never heard someone say, hey nice positioning there Tim, the same way they would say, hey nice DPS there Tim, but trust me that the "be good" players notice.  Anyone that is worth listening to the opinion of will notice the difference if Tim did 40K in the wrong position or Tim did 40K in the right position.  The "do good" players will just see 40K in both circumstances and think it is all the same whereas the "be good" players will notice the player made things easier on healers and was not taking any incidental damage thanks to their positioning.

Yes, all those little things matter.  So you can be better without doing better.


  1. One of the best examples I can think of that demonstrates the need for ALL of the points you mentioned above (positioning, awareness, and timing) is Corla, Herald of Twilight, in Blackrock Caverns.

    That's a fight where everyone, all roles, must be positioned properly. They must all be aware of the stacks of Evolution on themselves or the adds, and they must time interrupts and actual movement perfectly to avoid any mishaps.

    And somehow, even this late in the expansion, I've found that in most groups, at least one Zealot will evolve during that fight, and it usually results in a wipe or three.

    Excellent article, Grumps. Well explained for all the little Azerothlings.

    1. Thanks. :)

      That is an excellent example. It needs all three to be done well. It is also the perfect case of you can be the best tank in the world, the best healer in the world and the best damage dealer in the world, but if you do not do those three little things... you are not a good player.

      The reason people still can't do it is because there are always new people coming in. If you get a group with new people, or for lack of a better word, bad people, it is a completely impossible fight to do.

      It is a design they should have NEVER used in a dungeon. Bad, bad design on their part in my opinion and without doubt the fight that has probably see more wipes than even rag heroic.

    2. I like the fight tbh. Since I tank I always take middle and do the boss interrupts. Now I only need two people to understand to move at 70 stacks and then back in when debuff falls off. I don't think it requires all that much awareness, you can even have dbm holler at you when you get dangerous level of stacks so you don't even have to bother looking at your debuff.
      The only thing that makes that fight really bad is people not capable of understanding basic English who hinder you, I usually assume they are non-English speakers or really young children.

    3. The problem is that 90% of the game play population does not use DBM. So you can't just tell people, listen to the DBM counter. It doesn't work that way.

      Only 7% of the game play population raids on at least a semi-serious level. Those people are the ones with DBM. Maybe some more have it because they heard it was good, hence the reason I guessed 90% did not have it instead of 93%.

      Not saying you need DBM to do the fight, it is easy enough without it because the debuff is easily noticeable and the sound effects in game give away when things are happening.

      What you need to remember is that the average player is not very good. The average player you could spend a half hour explaining that fight to. The average player you can have download DBM. The average player you can do a few attempts and wipe a few times so they can see it and understand. The average player will still never understand it and will continue to fail it.

      The average player is very bad. Hence the reason there should never be fights like that in random content.

      Mechanics are for personally assembled groups, not randoms.

    4. I was actually thinking, I have this hc Deadmines memory. On my main, on which I can usually handle the worst groups. We just couldn't get past Prototype, none of the group was able to understand to stay down and get the mobs. I explained and explained and explained and all of them tried but they were not doing what they had to and were going after the boss. It's the only dungeon I've ever dropped. I remember typing out that the satchel is simply not worth it... Is this really it, is this really your average player? I find it hard to believe people can't understand basic instructions...
      So what is it that makes it bad design? Is it that the mechanics are complicated enough to require an explanation? But we have a leader flag... or are people just not willing to explain?

    5. Yes, that is your average player. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news.

      Not exactly sure what is so hard about it. The only boss I ever had a problem with was Corla when I first did her. I screwed up twice. Once because I thought I could move out fast enough and did not realize that it stayed attached to you for a bit (this was before it was added to DBM) and another time when I moved out too early. Third time, I was fine and never messed up again.

      I don't find anything there particularly challenging but I can see some stuff having a learning curve. Like corla for me took a wipe to notice it, for others they can wipe a million times and for some they got it on their first try and got it right.

      I think what makes it hard, and bad design, is that the dungeons are meant as the part of the grind. The grind to get gear or valor for gear. Grinds are supposed to be repetitive tasks, not complicated ones. People just want to get in, get it done and get out.

      So anything that deviates from that desire is looked at as bad design. Having to explain everything is bad design. Having to use an outside mod like DBM is bad design. Everything someone needs should be in game so it stays nice and easy.

      Things that are with random people should never have challenge. If you want challenge, form a raid by hand and go into there and do hard modes. If you want a minor challenge, do normal raids that way with lesser skilled players while teaching them. If you just want your gear, that is what 5 mans are for. There is no place for any level of challenge in them.

      Saying you want 5 mans challenging is like saying you want your fishing daily in SW/Org to take 2 hours. Hell no, it should not take long or be hard, it is just part of the grind.

  2. I don't know Grumpyelf and Hyperious. I think it's good to have those sorts of things in a dungeon. I like a bit of skill in a dungeon. But I think the difference is I don't really do those things with random people. So you can TELL people if they're doing something wrong, standing somewhere wrong. Maybe to make it better for us all we should tell people HOW to do it, because they might want to learn and make it easier for us all.


    1. When you run it with people you know it is rarely if ever a problem. The only problem would be if someone lags out and misses a move.

      When doing stuff with random people it makes everything a thousand times harder. It makes stuff that is super easy a challenge.

      While it is true there are a fair deal of people out there that you can teach, from my experience is that if you try to help someone by explaining it to them you are more likely to get them to tell you to go F yourself, they know how to play. Of you will get my favorite, my main is x/x heroic so shut the hell up scrub. As if that matters if you are not capable of doing simple mechanics.

      That is why people rarely offer help in heroics. If someone asks, fine, but never offer help because most of the time you will get your head bitten off by someone that can't understand corla yet someone is a world first heroic player on their main.

  3. I liked this article a lot. I'm a decent player, but nowhere's near the best and could always be a little better. One thing I recently encountered was how accustomed I am to my own keyboard and touchpad (yes, I am one of those players who has never played with a mouse). Recently I've tried to make the move over to a mouse. I tried running some heroic randoms with my new mouse and went splat on my face. The group was good-natured and all of us were decent players who were all trying something new (new to tanking, new to melee and returning to game healer). There was little anger or resentment when we wiped for the fifth time on the first boss.
    Anyways - I realized that I've played for entirely too long on my tiny 13" MacBook Pro and making the stark change to a full keyboard, mouse and huge TV screen was more than my muscle-trained reflexes could handle! I couldn't see everything on the screen it was so spread out! The group parted on good terms (thankfully!) without being able to down a single boss, but all having learned a few things!
    Thanks for bringing all these little things up!

    1. I am glad you liked it and I hope it helps.

      Changing things up can be really hard. I've been using a trackball mouse for the better part of 20 years and not so long ago tried to use a normal laser mouse. I was crashing into walls, flying all over the place, not able to target anything, you named it, I screwed it up.

      Needless to say, I went back to the track ball. It was horrible.

      I could have done it, but as you said, my muscle memory was so set on how to do everything with near perfection with the trackball I could not get used to it. If I gave it more time I could have but I figured, might as well go back to what I liked. I really do not need a million buttons on my mouse, I do just fine with 1.

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