Blog Azeroth Shared Topic: Surviving PVE as a Melee DPS
As a blogger who happens to play a rogue, it would be remiss of me to not contribute to this week’s Blog Azeroth Shared Topic: Surviving PVE as a Melee DPS. My rogue is my main, and always will be (unless Blizzard allows us to transfer over all our pets, mounts, achievements, etc to another toon). I’ve died horribly to fire, whirlwinds, poison, spikes, void zones, cleaves, and many many more nasty things – I know how difficult it is to stay alive.
Rogues and kitties are near the top of the “most likely to die list” in a typical encounter (unless that mage is pulling aggro or the tank forgot to grab an add that one-shots the healers). A lot of the damage we take is not preventable – we are right up there on the boss, stabbing away with our daggers or claws. When that boss does his nasty AOE abilities, we are going to feel the pain. For some reason we are crazy enough to think that wearing leather is sufficient enough to keep us alive. Everyone else around us is wearing thick plate or mail, which can withstand a lot more bad stuff hitting it.
I know a lot of people who tried to level a rogue, and gave up because they were tired of dying. Honestly, I’m not sure how I did it – I hate dying as much as the next person. I know that most fights for me after level 40 involved my pocket boomkin/tree Jardal. I was typically the ‘tank’, and he kept me up. This unfortunately made me feel like I was invincible, that I could just stand there and take the hits. I learned quickly in Heroics that this was not the case.
So how do you stay alive as a melee DPS, especially a squishy leather-wearing crazy rogue or kitty? It’s not easy, but there are some general things you can do that you probably already know (but I’m going to tell you anyway). First I will focus on strategies for instances, and then touch on some things that apply to leveling a melee DPS.
Stay out of the Fire
This should be obvious to you, but seriously… stuff on the floor is bad 99% of the time. Doesn’t matter if it’s orange, or blue, or green or whatever – unless you know that the encounter has a very specific mechanic like the blue runes in Iron Council that buff your DPS, get the hell away. If the tank isn’t moving the boss out of the bad stuff, move anyways, even if you have to stop DPS. Your #1 priority is to stay alive. The bad stuff might be hard to see, so keep an eye on debuffs and your own health pool as another check to make sure you’re not standing in something that will kill you. You have to stay alert, as some stuff on the floor, like void zones, will kill you in a second or two.
Even when you are expertise capped, standing in front of the boss is generally a bad idea. Not only can bosses still parry your attacks, but you might be taking unnecessary damage. Some bosses can even one-shot you if you stand in front of them, giving you a blow that was meant for a tank.
On some bosses, such as dragons, you can’t stand directly behind either. A nasty tail swipe could mean certain doom as it sends you flying across the room. Even if it doesn’t hurt you too badly, you’ll be far away from the boss and miss out on a few precious seconds of DPS. The worst scenario of all is that a tail swipe can actually wipe the whole raid – if you get launched into a whelp cave on Onyxia, the raid will have a bunch of adds to deal with that could have been avoided. In these cases you need to stand to the side. On dragons, stand slightly in front of their rear leg, and you should be safe from both the frontal attacks as well as the tail swipe. There are other fights where side-positioning is advantageous, such as on Grobbulus in Naxx (if you stand towards his outer edge, you will be out of the poison clouds, won’t spawn slimes, and will even be hit by less mutating injections as he is most likely to turn towards the healers/ranged in the center).
The caveat to this is that there are some fights where you shouldn’t worry so much about positioning. On Heigan, if you focus on staying behind the boss you will probably die to the bad stuff jetting out of the floor, as every second is precious to those of us susceptible to lag. Use your best judgment on those times that you should make an exception.
Know Your Abilities
Most classes have utility spells that can mitigate damage and ease the burden on the healers. Rilandune over at A Rogue’s Tale covered the rogue specific ones pretty well, while Skip Cocoa from More Bars Than You covered the kitty ones. I don’t know much about the other melee classes, other than that Paladins have abilities like Divine Protection. Be aware of these abilities, and keep track of when they are on cooldown.
Another one I want to mention that applies to both kitties and rogues is Sprint/Dash. If you need to get away from a whirlwind or poison-nova-like AOE fast, you can use this to flee the scene. Sometimes due to lag or poor reaction time your normal speed just isn’t enough to get away.
Vanish is also a nice one for rogues who happen to find themselves the target of a hungry add that the tank hasn’t picked up yet.
Don’t Be Afraid to Heal Yourself
You should trust your healers, but sometimes there are situations in which they just can’t keep you up. Help them out – don’t be afraid to heal yourself. If you’re a herbalist, use that Lifeblood ability. If you’re an enhance shaman or ret pally, go ahead and cast off a heal. Even kitties can leave the fray, pop out of form and save themselves. Always carry bandages and health potions, and don’t forget that nice Felstone your friendly warlock gave you. If things get rough, its OK to step back and prevent your own death. Some healers might get annoyed and claim that you need to trust them, but staying alive is key and they should understand that. Again, this is a judgment call thing that will come from experience – you will learn when that tiny bit of healing can make a difference, when it’s unnecessary, and when it is futile.
Know the Fights
Knowing the abilities of a boss and the mechanics of a fight are absolutely important for everyone in the raid. As a melee DPS you should look at each fight and think about where you should stand, and when to run away. If you have damage-mitigating abilities on a long cooldown, know when to use them. Don’t waste your Cloak of Shadows getting out of a debuff that your healers can remove, for example.
Know when a boss has an ability like Whirlwind, or Poison Nova for which you are required to run away to prevent incredible damage. An overpowered healer can often heal through these things, but that doesn’t mean they should have to. If you think your healer is capable of this, then ask them first. Keep an eye on the cast bar of the boss to know when they are about to unleash hell on you. That second boss in Heroic Nexus has killed me more times than I care to admit with his Whirlwind.
I would be hopeless as a melee DPS without Deadly Boss Mods. It tells you when to run away, and usually even when you’re standing in the fire. If you know the fights flawlessly and have incredible situational awareness, then maybe you don’t need DBM or Big Wigs. For most people, a boss-fight addon is key to survival.
Have A Pocket Healer
If you have a healer buddy (or if you happen to be married or engaged to one) then you are less likely to die.
I’m sure that statement sparked some outrage, but just let me finish. They should still prioritize the tanks and healers, and other important people ahead of you, but a friendly healer will often instinctively play favorites with you against the other DPS. This is bad if you suck and continually take unnecessary damage, as it means that they are carrying you. Where this does have merit, is if they know that you are good at your class and have high DPS output. If that is true for you, then you are worth saving above someone who won’t contribute as much to the group.
This healer can also tell you if you are doing a good job – if you stand in bad stuff, they will surely notice.
The Bad Guys Should Hate the Tank the Most
It is your responsibility as a DPS to not out-threat the tank. This is DPSing 101, but apparently people have forgotten.
Know if you’re running with an under-geared tank – you are much more likely to out-threat them if you significantly out-gear them. Know a little bit about each tanking class’s strengths and weaknesses, and what their AOE threat abilities look like. Watch for a pretty yellow circle called consecrate on a paladin tank, a blue flash called Thunderclap on Warrior’s, and an a nasty red circle for Death Knights. A druid’s swipe is a bit harder to see, so just give them a few seconds. Don’t open fire with an AOE ability before the tank has aggro on all the mobs.
Watch your aggro, and try to target what the tank is targeting (macros are great here). Be aware of bosses that have aggro dumps, and fights that involve adds (don’t AOE adds that the tank hasn’t picked up yet).
Rogues should use Tricks of the Trade to help the tank out here whenever possible. You can use it on a single mob, or combine it with Fan of Knives for good AOE threat.
If you do pull aggro on an add, try pull it back to the tank so he can pick it up. Don’t try to run away – it will just chase you, and then the tank will have to waste time chasing after it after you die.
I’m sure I’ve missed something here, so feel free to chime in. What are your tips for staying alive in instances as a melee DPS? What abilities do you use use as a Ret Pally, Enhance Shaman, Warrior, or DK to mitigate damage?
Leveling as a Melee DPS
- Again, know your abilities (see above)
- Consider taking talents that you wouldn’t take at end game to add to your survivability, such as Endurance for rogues
- Healing is even more important, as no one will save you but yourself
- Don’t take on more than you can handle, even if it’s slow going
- Lock down mobs with stuns, CC, etc, so they don’t run away and pull more
- Know when to run away, and how to slow down the mobs so they can’t catch you, or how to speed up your escape
- Interrupt casters
- Beware of casters – get them within melee range
If none of that works for you, then I suggest playing with a friend. There are times when your survivability is just not good enough to tackle a group quest alone (ret pallys won’t ever run in to this, or so I am told).
I love my rogue, and the challenges that come from being a melee DPS. Being up close and personal with the big baddie, stabbing him in the back and filling his wounds with poison is a blast. I don’t even mind that it seems every encounter is designed to punish me. I know there are others out there who feel the same way, and I would love to hear from you.
Don’t forget to head back to Blog Azeroth to view what other bloggers have written on the subject.