The two sides of self-improvement

Not all that terribly long ago -just last week in fact – I asked the general populace of Twitter whether anyone who played a mage could please tell me what sort of dps they generally got in a 10-man raid and what spec they were. It was a simple enough question and I was soon getting answers that pretty well staggered me, mainly because I was performing so poorly compared to players with the same basic spec as me. I mean, sure, I get the sort of numbers they got on single target dps, but the problem was that I was getting those on the AoE trash pulls.

I try not to take myself too seriously, so I sent out a plea for help. I must be doing something terribly wrong, I said. Boy, was I.

I received so much help from several different sources that I simply had to post the whole of what I learned here in one semi-concise area.

The advice

The Pugging Pally kindly and gently checked to make sure that I could take some criticism before sending me a very thorough email mainly regarding gemming. Seems that although some mages do stack haste as I was doing, she found that stacking spell power had better results. Also, I was going for socket bonuses too much (for which I blame my OCD) and needed to ignore those in favor of MOAR spellpower.

She also advised me to switch up my trinkets, ditching some hit from Shard of the Crystal Heart for the Abyssal Rune if I could get it. I still need to convince some friendly people to run ToC with me. Maybe I can get the same ones who are kindly running H PoS with my fail tank to get a weapon upgrade to help with that?

Psynister gave lots of helpful advice via Twitter regarding rotation and addon advice. On his advice, I mostly dropped Slow and Arcane Barrage out of my rotation. I haven’t quite gotten out of the habit of not using Slow and I want to keep it handy for soloing. Arcane Barrage is only used when I am moving from point A to B or just need some instant bursty damage (think freeing healers from web wraps). I’ve also moved away from the school of thought where Missile Barrage should be used whenever it’s up and am making more of an effort to always wait for four stacks of Arcane Blast, barring cases where a single mob is almost dead. I found Power Auras to be enough of a pain in the ass to set up that I ditched it in favor of keeping a better eye on my buff bar and so far that’s been an easy and smooth enough way to do it that I likely won’t bother with the addon. (I think I need a nice picture-heavy tutorial from Murloc Parliament since Zelmaru always does such a great job of talking about addons and, unlike that video tutorial I watched, there won’t be a sexy accent to distract me… Or I could stop being a lazy whore and figure it out since it looks like it should be useful other classes that I am not so good at managing things on.)

My last big chunk of advice came from Arcane Tinker Tank of Murloc Parliament fame. He also advised me to lose the hit trinket and suggested the Talisman of Resurgence as a possible stand-in until I could get something better. It was difficult to bid more haste farewell, but I did have that trinket kicking about so I swapped it in. He also suggested a different boot enchant, so I went from Icewalker to Tuskarr’s Vitality. The last bit of advice I got that hadn’t already been touched on by either of the other two was a tweak to my spec. I dropped two points out of Magic Attunement and placed them in  Student of the Mind. The loss of range still gets me (what do you mean I’m too far away?) from time to time.

A few things I decided to change on my own were getting the Black Magic enchant on my weapon and I swapped out to get Glyph of Arcane Missiles rather than keep Glyph of Arcane Power.

The results

It was a lot of changes made over the course of a few days but surprisingly little cost. The biggest challenge I could have seen was that I was going to be replacing 13 gems overall. Fortunately, between my jewelcrafting alt and At’s jewelcrafting alt, we had all the cuts I needed and since I have no other use for any badgers that aren’t frosty, I was able to easily obtain the gems I didn’t have in stock from my transmuting activities.

My dps went up by about 1000 the first night after swapping out gems. I made more changes Wednesday and Thursday and spent a good chunk of Friday standing in front of a target dummy. I was concerned about mana regen and wondered how much throughput I would actually get on a real boss fight where I would have to switch targets and move, but when raid night came around, I effortlessly topped the Recount meters and only had slight problems with mana on chain pulls, inadvertent or otherwise, on the trash leading up to Marrowgar, and then a few more problems on Saurfang but mana gems and evoc got me through in both cases. My damage and dps both pretty much doubled from my usual spot down in 4th place, so I was leading by a decent margin for most of the night.

Saturday night was more of the same, only I demanded a lot more single target focus from the raid in general and so of course did the same on my end. When I noticed that I was over 9000 dps on a single target pull, my jaw about hit the floor. I’m still not sure I’ve scooped it up, to be honest.

A tangential bit

I think that something that came out of this attempt to better myself was an increased sense of competition among the other dps in the raid. For most of them, the competition has been strictly offline when it comes to raids. Just because I am noting my numbers here and just because I noted them aloud to At, doesn’t mean that I spent the whole raid night spamming recount or excitedly sharing my numbers over Vent. I already know everyone has Recount and most of them know the greater focus is about getting things done right.

However, there were a few cases during trash pulls and even on the boss fights that had me fuming as a raid leader and I think it was over Recount numbers more than anything else.

One major difference about this weekend from any other night, though, was that due to other events and other conversations I’ve had recently, I went into the raid with my big girl panties on and ready to completely own the fact that I am the raid leader. I kicked things off by reminding everyone that this was progression and I didn’t want to see a bunch of random AFK’s or have people joking around to the point that all focus was completely destroyed. We rolled into the first Val’kyr and nearly right away I noticed someone AoEing.

I called for single target focus, got it and we downed it, no problem. Pulled the second one and again, AoE damage. I called for single target focus but we simply weren’t burning through faster than the adds were healing. So I asked for heavy AoE, we wiped out the adds and went back to single target. I was annoyed at having to already call for single target dps twice in a row on the same damn trash, so before we even pulled the uglies that throw the blight bombs, I reminded everyone to single target them and wait to AoE the rest of the trash until after they were dead. So I was highly unamused to catch AoE going out and barked for single target dps on the marked target and put up a skull.

The rest of the trash was a breeze and we all hit Putricide’s room for the first time as a guild.

Splat. Splat. Splat.

Each splat came a little later than the first one, but our first wipes happened so quickly it was difficult to tell what exactly had gone wrong. In fairly short order, we had established a good rhythm on dealing with the adds and tank positioning and were getting through to the second phase consistently and without problems. Then came an attempt where I got chased by an orange add for a really. Long. Time. It simply wasn’t going down very quickly and all the other dps were still up.

I died and took advantage of my spot on the floor to eyeball the room and call out instructions that made a little more sense than my normal hurried, “Green, gray, brown, FUCK, I mean orange add is up!” (Colors apparently are too difficult for me to think of or call accurately.) We wiped again and I perused Recount. My suspicions were confirmed. Taking a deep breath, I hit my PTT button:

“Guys, I’m looking at Recount for that last attempt and there was at least one DPS who did not switch off to the orange ooze at all. Those adds should be your top priority whenever they are up. I don’t care what your numbers are like; if you can’t do your job correctly, you don’t get to be here.”

Remember, I’m usually about as forceful as a drifting snowflake, so even that, mildly worded as it was, brought a full and complete silence to vent.

In game, a healer gave me a hug. I’m still not sure if that was meant to be a “Woah, calm down, here’s a hug,” sort of thing or a “I love you for giving them what for!” sort of thing. Either way, I didn’t notice any further problems with dps not being on the adds when they were supposed to be and when we had to fight through trash again, there was no AoE until the single targets were down.

And you know what? I know I did well from various standpoints that night, as far as positioning, most of my calling, keeping things moving briskly, granting short breaks once an hour and, yes, my overall damage done. What I don’t know is who ended up topping the Recount meters because, really, it doesn’t even matter that much.

So I’m left wondering why people who say they want to progress focus on such a tiny sliver of being an overall good and skilled player and don’t seem to understand that raiding is about working together as a team over “omg, look at my leet dps.” No one cares about your numbers more than you do, I promise.

It looks like I’m going to be reinstating after-raid critiques at the forums, though. If that and direct statements during the raid fails to create changes, I’ll be thinking very seriously about removing people from their core positions to give people who have a teamwork mentality pride of place. Yes, that’s a good way to make people quit the guild, but you know, if you can’t work together as a team, you should be fired.


The two sides of self-improvement — 16 Comments

  1. If you find Power Auras hard to set up (it kinda is) why don't you try "TellMeWhen."… It is being updated again (finally) and basically it creates 8 bars of 4 icons (you don't have to use all 4) anywhere on your screen. These can be used to show: When something procs, when a spell is off cooldown, when a spell is ON cooldown, when you have a buff, when you don't have a buff, etc.

    It can be configured to work with both specs (different bars visible depending on spec). So I would have the "hey, moron, refresh Inner Fire" reminder on both specs, but the "healing bar" which kept track of my penance, POM, Pain Suppression, and D Hymn availability was only in disc spec.

    Here's an old screenie of my UI. I have used Tellmewhen to show me which healing spells are available (in that shot, all of them were).

  2. If you haven't noticed, I am hyper-competitive about my dps and damage-done. While I don't usually post Recount or do other things to annoy people, you can bet that it is on the top of my mind 95% of the time. The only time its not is when trying to figure out new challenges in progression. Even then, it creeps in ("how do I keep dps'ing while I kite this slime," "maybe disengage would be good when I have to get away from Alas after a spore pops").

    • I guess my first comment was too long. You really hit on something near and dear to my heart.

      Dps should be competitive, as long as it's friendly and doesn't detract from the main goals. Most people strive to improve to meet competition. Your dps bump will only drive me (and Hisper and Hanse, and everyone else) to try to increase my own dps, and the cycle will continue until we are a beautiful engine of death. Heck, even though I don't like to pug much, I managed to get into groups for the weekly and ICC10 last night. Hoping for an ICC25 tonight. Seeing other people's high numbers just makes me want more of those juicy numbers for myself. My favorite thing to hear from a raid leader is: "Remember, this is not a dps race." My (internal) is always: "Like hell it isn't!" As a dps'er, everything is a dps race.

      • I've always thought that you've had some of the best balance to being a killing machine and keeping the larger goals of the raid in mind. Obviously, you want to perform to your best ability in your role, but I've never seen you do that at the expense of the rest of the raid by not switching targets or refusing to help burn something that needs burned. I could wish everyone had the same instincts for competition paired with a big picture view. :)

        • Thanks Alas. Target-switching is part of the job description. That doesn't mean that I won't cheat a little and throw a DoT on something that isn't the main target (instead of the fairly-weak Steady Shot). It's all about situational awareness and knowing when you can pull some shit without hurting the raid.

      • "Remember, this is not a dps race."

        You're totally right that it is ALWAYS a DPS race, that you always want to do the highest DPS you can in a given encounter.

        I think raid leaders say this because some DPS interpret the phrase "DPS race" as an all-out tunnelvision burn – and in so doing ignore things like crowd control and gtfo of the fire! Being top of the meters doesn't mean crap if you didn't help burn down the adds or crowd control the blood beasts. Hell, I get great numbers on Saurfang in cat form because all I have to do is stand there and shred his undies from the back.

  3. I can't even tell you how happy it makes me to read about how you're doing. Also a 1K DPS increase? That's jaw-dropping. I didn't get into actual play stuff but can second Zelmaru's Power Auras recommendation. As a mage, I have it tell me when Arcane Blast is at three stacks by having an image show up, and then the image changes to purple to let me know when it's at four stacks. I have a separate notifier for Missile Barrage procs. It can be a bit touchy to set up but once it's done, it's so invaluable.

    Also, after raid critiques, hmmm. I wonder if that's something I should consider doing with our group. Much food for thought!

    • I don't know that I made it terribly clear, but overall I gained about 2.5-3k dps. The gems alone counted for the 1k increase!

      After raid critiques can be a touchy subject. The people that are being critiqued have to be open to the idea that it's being done with an overall goal of betterment in mind. Also, the person who does the critiquing, while they might work on their performance privately, might end up with a target because some people will take their efforts to mean "I am better than you and even though I don't play your class, I know better."

  4. tl;dr. :)

    Being at the bottom of the dps chart…yes the bottom…unless it's AOE and a huge mob…I'm at the bottom. Of course it's not a dps race per se, but you want to feel that you put in something besides not standing in the bad stuff. And I pull one from Yngwe, sometimes, I drop starfall when we are on a single target…might as well make the most out of it – and still focus on the target.

    But I know where this point is going. My jaw hit the desk when you said what you did in raid…I sent a hug because someone said you felt bad about having to do that. You did the right thing. We progress as a team, or we wipe as one…I prefer to live and progress so not standing in the bad, moving from target to target, and LISTENing/Obeying the raid leader is tops. I'm not so much a 'follower' but in a team there is One leader and the rest of use are supposed to obey – within reason of course.

    And sometimes…just shaking things up is important too. Nothing like doing a new job to keep your focus. If being critiqued is delivered properly and received properly – then all is achieved…delivery of that possibly painful news can be a blow to the ego and cause issues. You have to make the right calls for the end result to shine in the end.

  5. “In game, a healer gave me a hug. I’m still not sure if that was meant to be a “Woah, calm down, here’s a hug,” sort of thing or a “I love you for giving them what for!” sort of thing”

    I think you know enough about my raiding history to know the reason behind my /hug.

    /agree and /love were both afterthoughts I was going to do but thought I’d let people recover.

    If progressing isn’t a good enough reason to follow instructions then not being in the raid is your next option, and you can’t top the meters from Dalaran. Just my opinion sorry if it’s harsh

  6. Heh, I quite agree. Honestly, I'm glad to have backing of people who have the same opinion as me! From what I've heard, most people were just surprised that I said anything the way I said. Overall, the response has been positive but the person who was under fire so to speak has not responded at all. I had hoped for an apology (to the raid, not me) somewhere along the way, but I'll settle for them doing better.

  7. Why would one apologize when they didn't think they did anything wrong? Doing better versus getting kicked from the raid…??? of course they did better…but how long will it last?

  8. I'm tweaking my arcane mage alt right now making sure if I need her she's viable and I used this post as a checklist to remind myself of my goals. Fortunately I don't have much to change but I did have two "oh yeah" moments.