Dispelling the myth: DPS ain’t easy

I’m sick of hearing tanks and healers talk like they’ve got the hardest jobs in the game and generally behaving as though DPS are a bunch of slack-jawed yokels who don’t do anything except mindlessly press the same handful of buttons over and over again, probably while drooling.

Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely respect that healing and tanking can be difficult and a lot of pressure. But someone needs to stand up and point out that DPS is not so easy that you could set your cat free to frolic across the keyboard and expect to see stellar results.

I’ve done some tanking and healing and I have a fair idea of how much work goes into being good at either role. Neither of them are roles I prefer though, so I have never bothered to try to be any better than what is needed to tank or heal a random heroic or (before this expansion anyway) the occasional raid.

In fact, in all my years of playing WoW, I’ve never stopped loving my mage – even when people laughed and said, “Oh, you’re an arcane mage? Doesn’t seem like it would be very fun to push the same button over and over.”

It wouldn’t be very fun if that’s all there was to it. Fortunately for me, there’s quite a lot more to keep track of than just my mana bar.

Utility: I has it

For those who aren’t aware, mages are utility machines. We have solid CC without any rotten lengthy cooldowns or inability to use out of combat. We have an interrupt (which does have a rotten lengthy cooldown). We can de-curse the accursed among us. And we can steal things and turn them against the mobs we stole them from.

Take into account our additional extra CC of Ring of Frost, the way we gently float people down from high places and our bags of tricks that can be employed to increase our own survivability, increase DPS and even heal ourselves in a pinch, and you might begin to understand that we are very, very far indeed from spamming one button over and over.

But here’s the thing: I’ve been sheeping and silencing and stealing for years now and, until recently, even I never fully realized just how often I am interrupting my own DPS rotation in order to bring that utility to the group.

The thing that did make me realize how often I am doing things beyond DPS is that I finally stopped relying on my own internal timer to know when to re-sheep a mob (though that was pretty damn accurate, I sometimes missed an early break or wouldn’t be immediately aware some idiot had broken it) and downloaded DoTimer and RSA.

I’ve never taken the trouble to go through and tweak the settings in RSA and have instead just let the thing announce whatever it was set to announce by default. That’s when I started spamming the hell out of party chat in heroics.

That’s the sort of thing that renders me a bit embarrassed – not enough to actually change the settings, but enough to cringe when someone replies to “Alastriona: Stole [Remedy]!” with some comment about how that’s nice, as if they think I actually took the trouble to not only steal the spell, but also to write out an announcement that I had done so.

Bad DPS versus good DPS

And that, of course, is when I started paying enough attention to party chat in pugs to notice when other people were also running RSA, and what it said they were doing. And despite there being lots of other classes out there with a lot of utility, it’s not altogether very common to see DPS actually using all their tricks and abilities. (This sweeping statement is brought to you by Recount, which seemed to bear out these observations in a by-and-large fashion.)

So, yes, there are certainly DPS out there who do just sit and go through their rotation and can’t be arsed to get out of the bad, let alone get in a timely interrupt or help with cleansing something. Those are bad DPS, just like we all have seen bad tanks (who overpull or won’t taunt or….) and bad healers (who use inappropriate spells or spend 95% of their time in bear or kitty form [like the druid healer we had in ZG the other day] or…)

The point is, good DPS do not just stand in one place and do nothing more than go through a memorized damage rotation, relying on muscle memory and the efforts of others to compensate for their not bringing that ranged spellcaster in with a well-timed silence or for their standing in the bad.

There is a world of difference between a good DPSer’s job and a bad DPSer’s job. Anyone who wants to ignore that has obviously never made an honest attempt at being skilled in every facet of their DPS alt or offspec.

Now get off my lawn and go pwn the meters while also bringing all manner of utility to the table.




Dispelling the myth: DPS ain’t easy — 27 Comments

  1. I think the real issue is that tanks and heals have a very binary fail condition – you win or you die. DPS have a lot more options in between. It can be harder to see that they’ve done their all – did they get every interrupt? sheep that caster? Sometimes all we can tell is that they did 17k dps and stuff died. Or they did 19k and we wiped.

    I suck at raid dps. I admire my dpsers immensely, because they have to do all the moving I do and still keep their numbers up. Heck, I’m amazed that the other healers can do it – if I weren’t a druid, I’d be total fail on keeping people alive in high movement fights.

    I dps just enough to know how hard their job is, and I appreciate it.

    • It could be partly that and partly go back to the fact that every class COULD dps, but not everyone can choose to tank or heal. I feel that puts a sort of “exclusive” slant on the role of tanking or healing, whereas there’s an implication that they’ll let anyone try their hand at DPS.

      It’s nice when it’s recognized that DPS do have a difficult job, too!

  2. I didn’t realize how much utility my mage has until I started raiding on my resto druid (at the beginning of ICC). I remember remarking to my husband “On my mage I have X Y and Z jobs, but on my druid my only job is to heal!”

    As encounters get more complex, I think more demands are placed on the dps to use their utility. It seems in the past you could get by with just one good utility dps on your team (kiting adds on Gluth), but now everyone has to pitch in (interrupts on Alysrazor, steering on Rhyolith, etc). Of course there were exceptions (MAGES you need to decurse! in MC), but those were specific fights.

    • Haha. I got more stressed out when I would tank or heal in ICC than when I could come in and blow things up on the mage. I think a lot of that comes down to my mage being second nature, but I really have to think about anything else. Which is to say I’ve never been able to make a direct comparison like that, so I do find it interesting you would say a mage had the more complex job in ICC.

      No idea what role you do now, but I do wonder how the changes to healing in Cataclysm have felt, if you are still doing that. The few times I have trotted out an alt to heal, I can’t seem to get used to the idea that I don’t heal all the things all the way up all the time and am perpetually oom.

      • Oh, sorry if it wasn’t clear! I raided consistently on my mage in Naxx-10, then sporadically until switching to my druid early in ICC (my guild was terribad; we got our OS1D kill during 3.2). So I wasn’t raiding the same content on the mage and druid, but was being tapped for utility roles in Naxx (Gluth was the one that caused me the most stress). During the same period, Husband was learning to tank, so I helped with interrupts and such while he learned to position mobs in heroics (3.1/3.2, before they were REALLY faceroll in 3.3).

        I healed pretty consistently (T11 – druid, T12 – paladin) until about a month or so ago. Out of game stuff has caused me to be more of a transient player, so I’m working on pvp on my mage.

        I like the Cata healing model – I still feel like I need to heal things all the way up, but I don’t need to do it instantly. I just thrive healing on a stable team, and since I don’t have that I’d rather work on my achievement toon.

  3. Oooh, you almost made me want to level my mage past 30 but I snapped out of it just in time.

    Seriously though, good post. I myself am very guilty of sometimes belittling dps and thinking it’s an easy job. While there are plenty examples of dps who do think that way and deserve to be belittled, I appreciate you reminding us that it’s not an absolute truth. I’ve followed you into many fights, you kick some serious ass. Thanks for the insight.

    • On the one hand… give your mage a shot, woman!

      On the other hand, we really don’t need no more stinking mages, so carry on.

      Glad the post got you thinking. I now expect gushing compliments every time I interrupt or spellsteal. kthx

  4. The fastest way for people to get to know and experience mage utility and also versatility would be PvP of course. It’s rather hard to ignore and forget once you’ve done some BGs…
    But then I have been making this point for years – nobody listens to a broken record lol..

    • I very much dislike PvP but it is an excellent way to learn utility! Couldn’t agree more… not something I care to actually practice much myself. (And I flatter myself that I’m pretty apt at mage utility by now anyway)

  5. “… DPS are a bunch of slack-jawed yokels who don’t do anything except mindlessly press the same handful of buttons over and over again, probably while drooling.”

    /wipes drool from chin

    Wait, what?

    • Well, I am pretty amazing, aren’t I?

      Oh… you mean you liked the post. Well, I guess that’s acceptable.

  6. Don’t forget the obvious benefit of good DPS. Stuff dies faster, less heals required, faster and easier runs.

    If you’ve ever tanked in heroic dungeons, you know what the difference is between having 3 sub 10k dps and a few that can pull over 20k.

    • It’s funny, though, how being in a heroic with a bunch of OP dps can also make the run fairly boring for the DPS.

      Aw man, everything is dead and I was just getting warmed up!

  7. Having spent spells (pun intended) as Shadow I agree with you whole-heartedly on this. I’d never claim that playing DPS well is easy. In fact I think that from a technical standpoint doing good DPS is every bit as demanding as healing or tanking well, especially in smaller group formats where most people have a utility job as well as their usual role.

    The difference is in where you place the non-technical demands, because I think those are different, which is why people tend to settle out into one dominant role or another.

    Picking up Analogue’s point, tanks and healers can have more obvious and binary pass/fail moments, which means your mistakes are immediately obvious. The stereotype that comes from this is that DPS like to “hide” (sometimes with implications of laziness or not caring) while healers and tanks are more willing stick their neck out for the group. Then again, DPS missing interrupts these days, or failing to kill their Son of Flame in time, can be just as binary so I’m not sure that’s the whole story any more.

    One of the hardest things for me when I DPS is dealing with competition; I find it immensely stressful, to the point where I find it difficult even to play DPS in casual group content. I might do it in a guild run with people I know. Maybe. But a well-played DPS might well relish that competition, that feeling that there’s always room for better performance.

    On the other hand, I really like the communication within the healing team, or between me and my tank, while others might prefer to be a little more self-reliant.

    That’s sort of what I mean about non-technical demands. Hopefully that made some sort of sense!

    • That does make sense and I find it interesting that you brought up communication. Our healing team communicates all the time about everything, so far as I can tell. In our DPS channel, we sometimes make snarky remarks or someone will venture they might switch specs for a particular fight, but otherwise we don’t often get thrown into a situation where we have to coordinate and work really closely together. And I do like that about DPS – that we are working together, but also that we’re all trying to beat the pants off each other in damage done while still doing our jobs in utility. (At least, everyone ought to be paying attention to their utility but sometimes we see someone forget and start meter-humping instead. The shame.)

      It’s really interesting to hear from those who prefer another role!

  8. I’ve always said the same thing and the best way to explain the fact that DPS is indeed hard is to point out the numbers.

    If DPS is so easy then why are more people bad at it than at tanking or healing? (percentage wise of course)

    Join some random 25 man raid pugs and see how many people are not even doing the bare minimum DPS you would expect in a current raid. Last rep run for firelands I went that was 25 man there were only three people in the group over 12K DPS. 3 out of 18 people did over 12K? Those three all over 20K and the rest where between 8K-11K.

    If DPS was easy don’t you think that the 15 other people would at least be pulling 15K?

    If DPS was easy why is there such a huge gap there between all like geared people?

    If DPS was easy it would not even be possible to pull less then 15K with 25 man buffs.

    There is a lot more to being a damage dealer then just putting up numbers too.

    I can’t tell you the number of times I need to interrupt spells while healing on my shaman because no one in the group ever thinks to do it. All tanks have interrupts, all melee have good ones and ranged have them if they are speced for it.

    Playing as a healer or a tank I notice bad DPS a lot more and let me tell you, there are some DPS that can throw up constantly huge numbers and they still suck.

    Quite honestly whenever I see a group that fails at doing a heroic it is usually because of the DPS. It is not the tank. It is not the healer. It is the DPS.

    If all that failure always comes from the same place, the DPS slot, then how exactly is it easy? If it was easy the failure rate would not be so huge.

    • Now that is an interesting take. One might say that having so many people who are ‘bad at it’ is proof that it is easy. You could even say that tank and heals is harder because the fail criteria is pass/fail. BUT from the angle you stated things look different. Tanking is ‘easier’ because as long as you pass the minimum what else is there right? Or to put it another way we see very few REALLY good dps so it must be harder.

      But I think it is all in the metrics and feedback. How do you know you saw a really good tank? I CC stuff as I tank (roots, hibernate, etc. I also interrupt, cleanse (yeah, I have to get out of bear form, but sometimes it I have to), kite, use cooldowns to heal other people (Making youself stop taking damage at a critical moment frees up the healer to same other people), Battle Rez and deal with the harder fight mechanics (I have to get out of the bad AND position the boss in the right spot near it). That is a lot! I am not saying that is harder than doing really really good DPS (plus utility). It isn’t. But how do other people KNOW I am doing all that? Who would run with me and be able to tell the difference between me and a tank that does nothing but stand there and throw out just barely good enough threat? Most of what a really good tank does is only noticeable to another tank or the healer. And many tanks don’t even have enough feedback to know they could get better. They don’t even know what they should be getting better at. For example did you know that prot warriors have EIGHT ways of interrupting casts (from non immune mobs)? Yeah, most warriors don’t know that either. A lot of tanks also macro all their cooldowns into one big ‘stay alive’ button. They don’t know that is a terrible idea because there is no clear system of feedback for them to fine tune cooldown use. DPS can SEE when they get better. Tanks can’t even use a target dummy. They don’t hit back so they are almost useless for us.

      It is not easier to be a GOOD dps. It is easier to be a bad DPS. It is a lot harder to ‘carry’ bad tanks or bad heals.

      • For tanks we tend to see a small number of ‘terribad’ tanks, a medium number of ‘good enough’ tanks, and a small number of uber tanks that are pretty much impossible to tell a part from a well geared or over geared ‘good enough’ tank.

        For DPS we see plenty of mediocre ones and a full range all the way up to a very small number of crazy good ones. But with those it is very hard to tell the difference between a really good DPS that knows their ‘utility’ and a meter whore with good gear that is only so-so with their rotation.

  9. Let it be said that I have MAD respect for good DPSers. I am utter SUCK at DPS – with some vendor T9 and a bit of ToC gear and an EJ-approved spec and rotation, I could barely top 2k in Heroics on my DK in Wrath. I love some kinds of DPS (my fire mage, my kitty), but I am absolute SHIT at it. Don’t know why. But a good DPSer (good beyond just “high numbers”, but good like YOU) is probably the most under-appreciated player in WoW. More than a good tank, more than a good healer.

    Keep rockin’ those meters, cap.

  10. A bad dps, however, will also exclusively focus on utility at the expense of too much damage. In several guilds I’ve come across lovely people who seem to use utility as an excuse for shoddy DPS.

    Yes it’s important certain things get done, but raw numbers are important too. I remember bitching about MDing on heroic anub back in TOTGC. After some research it turned out I was being unreasonable and actually there were better ways to perform it. I improved.