aka Leigh and Bloom versus the Solo Wonders

One truth of World of Warcraft, especially in these days of increased experience gain, heirlooms, and easier access to gear, is that every spec of every class can safely solo to 80, with some specs having a faster time of it than others. Playing solo is pretty simple — you take aim at something, you kill it, you run if there are too many of them.

But being a good solo player and being a good group player are two very different things. In a group you have to take into account the abilities and roles of everyone in the party, think about how they can work together, and do things properly so that everyone survives and progresses smoothly and efficiently. At least, that’s the theory. If you are like far too many of the dps we’ve encountered, you can also simply play like you’re by yourself, ignore all the helpful things you can do for a group, roll on your gear and go home. But then you get mean blog posts made about you.

The other night we were in Lower Blackrock Spire for the first time, and one of our group members was a retribution paladin (Leigh, you’ll have to put in his name if you can, I think you ignored him for us). He did pretty decent dps, so he obviously knew the straight up damage-causing mechanics of his class and spec, but the more we played with him, the more we realized he was secretly a bad dps player.  You know, his dps wasn’t even that good, so he must have been doing SOMETHING wrong.  Besides the obvious, of course.

For starters, he would constantly go after the targets Leigh had the least aggro on, the one that her Avenger’s Shield didn’t hit, the one she wasn’t targeting. Perhaps he just loved the sight of aggro going to him for a moment and forcing Leigh to taunt off him. Maybe that made him feel like a big boy, I don’t know. At one point I watched him jump into a group of un-pulled spiders and consecrate them when the rest of us were still looting the last group of spiders. I know you’re a paladin and super-tough and all, but saving your ass from spiders starts to feel like a waste of my mana after awhile.

He also had no concept of debuffs and cleansing. The trolls in LBRS can use a magic attack to turn the tank into a frog, which clears aggro and turns the trolls loose on the rest of the group for a fair chunk of time. This is a fairly bad thing to have happen, because there are trolls running everywhere, other trolls can be pulled by accident, the healer takes a lot of the heat, and everyone is losing health at the same time. If only there were someone else in the group who could cleanse magical effects! Like another paladin. Oh, that’s right, there was.

We specifically asked him to cleanse the tank when she was turned into a frog, but he ignored us. Maybe he didn’t even know he had such an ability, and wasn’t about to take our word for it.

(A funny side effect is that every time Leigh chewed him out for something, be it taking aggro or not cleansing, the boomkin in our group thought she was talking to him, and this led to the oddest disassociated conversations. He also thought her taunt macro yell was directed at him, and had to be reassured several times that this was not the case.)

This all got me thinking about the many cases I’ve seen where people just don’t seem to understand how their class/spec fits into a group. So it’s Lesson Time with Lifebloom.

Buffs: If you have a helpful buff, give it to people. This is so simple a concept I shouldn’t even have to say it, but anyone who’s been in a pre-80 random group probably knows what I’m talking about. Mages who don’t give Arcane Intellect, paladins who don’t give blessings, shamans who don’t drop totems, we’ve seen it all. I really shouldn’t have to ask you for a buff.

Cleansing: I understand that this one is trickier. If you play with the default UI, chances are you have no idea when anyone other than yourself is debuffed, and chances are even better that you can’t be arsed to search through your quickbars to find your debuff-removal ability. But there are some nasty debuffs out there, and the faster we get them off the group, the faster we’ll progress and the better we’ll do. Personally I recommend grabbing Decursive, a simple and excellent cleansing tool.

A sound will play when anyone in your group gets a debuff that you can cleanse, and then all you have to do is click their coloured box in the Decursive frame and wham, you’ve cured them, and you don’t even have to physically switch targets to do it. It’s really that simple. The most complicated it gets is when you have two decursing abilities, such as a druid and a priest have, and then you have to know whether to right-click the box or left-click it. Your party will thank you. Well, okay, that’s a lie. Your party probably won’t even notice. But you’ll all do better, trust me.

Crowd Control: I know this isn’t half as important as it used to be, back in the mists of time, but you should still know how to do it just in case. Tanks these days can hold aggro against legions of enemies, but crowd control can be the difference between victory and a wipe during hard pulls or when shit just plain goes wrong.

Mages, you can polymorph things, this is an incredibly useful and powerful ability that can save your ass. I know, the dps or the tank will probably break your cc, but that’s their fault.  You can always yell at them if they were the ones who told you to CC. :) Druids, you can root your enemies for a short period of time (I had to do this the other day when I was the only person still alive and a mob interrupted my rezzing, so that I could stand clear and get a battle rez off on Leigh). The list goes on and on — just about every class can do something. Learn what it is, and practice it for when things go bad.

Focus Fire: AoE is king of the damage game right now, but not every class has it for every situation when levelling. Unless a kill order has been established or is generally recognized (ie. kill the healer first), you should start by attacking the same target the tank is. Tanks will target-switch (at least warriors will), but the first enemy they smash is the one they’re going to have the most threat on to start the fight. If everyone attacks that enemy first, it’ll be dead by the time the tank has good threat on everything, and everyone goes home happy. If you just pick a random target, or even worse if you go after the target the tank has the least threat on, then the fights last longer and sometimes you get a mob in your face. And if you ever complain about the tank’s threat when your target selection is moronic, expect the tank to hate your stupid ass.  A good way to achieve this is to press F-F, the default hotkey for Assist.  Generally speaking, everything will be looking at the tank initially–assisting once will target the tank, assisting again will target what the tank is targeting.  Problem solved!

Know Your Threat: I don’t mean that every dps should have Omen running. It’d be handy, but is not required. What I mean is that every class has abilities that do more or less threat than others, and you should not start out with your big guns. For classes with tanking abilities, such as warriors and death knights, don’t open with your high threat abilities. Feel free to sling some of them around once the tank has a comfortable lead, but don’t open with them, please. Mages, don’t start charging your pyroblast while the tank is still running in. AoE classes, let the tank get things in hand before you open up with your blizzard or your volley or your whatever. Unless the tank is completely incompetent, it’s your own fault for taking aggro, and a meaner healer than me would let you die for it just out of principle.

Some things to remember: Your portrait will have a yellow glow when you’re climbing a mob’s threat table.  It will proceed to orange, and eventually red–when it gets to red, you already have aggro.  At that point, I might throw you Righteous Defense, but if the healer also has a red portrait, Imma throw it on Bloom first, so you might be SOL.

Know Your Role: For the love of God, let the tank pull. I know hunters used to do it sometimes, but those days are over, except for some boss misdirects. Everything is so much better when the tank doesn’t have to taunt off you before they even have a chance to establish threat. If the healer is in trouble and the tank can’t get there, pull the mob to yourself, especially if you wear mail or plate. If you have a higher armor class than someone being attacked, try to pull the mob to yourself instead, you’re easier to heal. If you have a mob on you, go to the tank. Do not run away.  You know what, even on my mage, if something’s going after the healer, I usually do something to take it off.  Sure, I usually DIE in the process, but it’s better than something chewing on the healer and them having to try to heal themselves, and everyone else.

Also, hunters don’t get misdirection until 70, if I remember correctly.  I don’t want to see them frigging pulling things unless they have swirlies on their heads.  Kapish?

Line of Sight: If you ever get a caster on you, for whatever reason, find a way to break line of sight (or spell distance if all else fails) so that it has to run toward you and hopefully also toward your group. Bringing casters together is the key to destroying their squishy butts. Leaving them at range is the key to bringing too many adds into the battle.

Miscellaneous: Warlocks, soulstone the healer. Do you know how many warlocks I’ve seen soulstoning themselves in a five-man? What the goddamn hell is wrong with you? If you die, then either the healer and tank are already dead and it’s a wipe in which case your ability to pop back to life does no one any good, or else you pulled aggro and the party will do just fine without you until combat is over and they can rez you normally. Do not waste your soulstone on yourself in a group, please.

Hunters, death knights, put your pets on passive. Don’t even put them on defensive, go straight to passive, do not pass go, do not collect $200. A pet that goes after unpulled mobs or runs off after a caster that poked it is a pet that everyone hates. You must be in control of what your pet is doing. Hot-key his key abilities and his attack command, and keep him where you want him, doing what you want him to do.

Rogues:  Yes, you’re sneaky.  We get it.  That doesn’t mean that mobs can’t see you when you get too close, and it doesn’t mean people won’t follow you.  Also (though this hasn’t happened in a while), picking pockets is NOT, contrary to popular belief, more important than poking things with daggers.

Shamans: We love your totems.  We do not so much love when they snuggle up to other mobs.  But considering that we barely get shamans who use totems in the first place, we WILL forgive you. (Especially if you let Lifebloom snuggle up to the mana spring totem too. Oh, sweet mana spring.)

Moral: If you put some effort into playing your class better, logic dictates that you won’t be quite so bad at it.