26 Mar 2009

Group Dynamics (Tank, Healer, Dps)

. 26 Mar 2009

This is the most complex point you will need to understand in WoW, but one that will make your life much easier and your grouping experience much more enjoyable.

Threat - in order to understand what each person does in a group, you need to understand 'threat'
Threat is a measure of how much a creature is 'threatened' by a player. Each creature, while engaged in combat has a list in its head with each player it is fighting and their corresponding threat level.

The creature computes the threat level of each player it is currently engaged with based on its own judgment of how dangerous to itself are various spells and abilities those players are using. Generally, the more damage a player does to a monster, the more threat that will translate into, because, by default 1 point of damage done to the monster equals one point added to the player's threat value for that monster.

The importance of threat comes from the fact that the monster pretty much always attack the player with the highest threat. Some players are more resistant to damage than others, so it is essential for a group to make sure that the most resistant player is at the top of the threat list and thus attacked. (This player is usually called the 'tank'.)

Classes who can tank are not only more resistant to damage, but have abilities to boost the threat they generate, so that one point of damage they do translates to more than one point of threat (such as 1.5 or 2 points of threat). This is to insure that those players can get to - and stay on the top of the threat list, as they are supposed to. The player at the top of the threat list is said to have or hold 'aggro'. It is crucial that the tank manages to hold aggro for the whole duration of the fight, otherwise members of the party that are much less resistant will be targeted by the engaged creature and possibly killed instantly.

Let's move on to analyse each of the party roles.

The tank is the person who should be holding aggro. They are usually warriors, paladins or druids with gear that enhances their resistance to damage. They should have the highest hp value of all members in the group.

The tank's roles it to

  • 'pull' - meaning to attack first a monster or group of monsters
  • to get sufficient aggro - establish sufficient threat so that other members of the group cannot accidentally get more threat than the tank
  • to hold aggro - by doing damage to the monster, as well as by using aggro-enhancing abilities they have (must do!) continuously
  • if other members of the group accidentally get aggro the tank must move immediately to re-gain aggro (either by using abilities that get aggro instantly - 'taunt' abilities' - or by damaging the monster)
Because the party may simultaneously engage several monster at the same time (this often is inevitable), the tank must also 'mark' these monsters before engagement and communicate in which order they will be killed. Killing monsters one by one (as opposed to just hitting them randomly) has the advantage that it reduces the time when all monsters are alive and all are dealing damage to the tank.

The healer's primary task it to heal the tank when he loses health from monsters' attacks and keep him alive. The secondary task is to keep himself and the rest of the group alive. Monsters sometimes do damage to other party members than the tank, even if the tank is on the top of the threat list. This is usually called group damage or aoe (area-of-effect) damage and cannot always be avoided: that's why the healers need to keep an eye on all party members, not just the tank.

DPS comes from damage per second. I know doesn't make much sense. DPS actually means those group members who are not a tank and not a healer. They are focused on dealing as much damage as possible to the current group target, while managing their threat.

Managing one's threat is an art form, but the simple version is this: do not get aggro by doing so much damage that you get to the top of the threat list, despite the tank's effort to stay there himself.

Sometimes you may be a higher level of better equipped than the tank and doing your maximum damage will certainly get you aggro no matter how much the tank is trying to hold it. Sometimes the tank is less skilled than you and doesn't know how to hold aggro. In all such situations you are better off if you do less damage, but do not get aggro.

Also, some dps, such as plate-armour-wearing paladins are more resistant to direct damage from monsters than other dps such as cloth-wearing mages. If you are such a paladin and you see the mage in your group getting aggro it is sometimes good to taunt the monster to yourself if the tank doesn't do it reasonably fast (1-5s tops). This way, there's a better chance that no party member will die as a result of the tank's or mage's error in managing their threat.

Knowing how to perform your role is much more than just the above, but that is the absolute basics you are expected to know if you want to not be considered a noob. Performing your role has a lot to do with your chosen class and talent-build and you will need to look into your specific class mechanics to learn how exactly you are supposed to play in group situations.


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