Too many World of Warcraft players rely on this:
as an indicator of how good a player one is. Or on the color of the names of one’s gear. Or on how fast they got from 0 to 80. None of these are good indicators. There’s also a vast difference in what it takes to be good at PvP versus being good at PvE. (Usually, people who are good at PvP are also good at PvE, though the reverse is far less common.) Since I personally suck at PvP, having little interest in it, I will focus here on what it takes to be a good PvE player.
PvE, Gear, and Talent Trees
Let me clarify what I mean by PvE, here. PvE is short for Player vs. Environment, and technically applies to anything that isn’t Player vs. Player. How one fares alone against a single enemy off in some isolated corner of, say, Storm Peaks, however, is of no real interest to anyone else. You can go whatever pace you want, use whatever strategy you want, do whatever floats your boat, and it doesn’t do any harm to the game experience of other players. By all means, have your fun. It’s when you get into groups for dungeons (of any size) that your playing quality matters.
Now, just to set things straight: having the best gear doesn’t make someone the best player, no… but it’s still important. Having good gear sets a limit on a player’s potential. The better one’s gear, the higher one’s potential abilities. A skillfully-played tank will still get crushed if he only has 15k health and gets hit for 17k damage. The only way to get around such limitations is to get better gear. But if you’ve ever tried playing with someone who bought their toon fully leveled and tricked out in epics but doesn’t have a clue what all his abilities are, you know that gear isn’t everything.
Likewise, I’m not going to get too much into talent specs. I believe you should choose the spec that you most enjoy and/or which best suits your playing style. Within that spec, however, you should know which talents are useful and which are not. Sometimes it’s as clear as a summer’s day — a talent may be a valuable addition to your repertoire regardless of what you plan to do with the character. Other talents you will never use. Most of the time, however, the talents available to you will have varying degrees of use depending on your play style and the situation. The “standard” specs commonly used by most people are not the only valid specs to use.
Know Your Class
Which brings me to my first tip for players: know your class’s abilities. You have a plethora of talents/abilities/spells. Each of these has advantages, disadvantages, and limits. Read the descriptions. Make sure you understand them. Know when it’s good to use an ability and when it isn’t. Here are a few examples of abilities and talents from the mages’ arsenal and their uses:
- The spell Amplify Magic is a buff which increases the effects of any and all spells cast on the buffed person. This includes both heals and harmful spells, making this spell great for when you’re fighting a boss that never uses magic, but not worth using in any other situation. (I almost never use it.)
- Its brother, Dampen Magic, does the opposite. This spell is horrible if you have a healer, but great for solo fighting.
- The mage fire talent Blazing Speed gives the mage a chance to run faster and break out of any traps holding them in place whenever they are hit by a phsyical attack. That’s great for PvP. Its only application in PvE will be for running away when the party wipes, so a PvE-specced mage would do much better placing the two points he’d invest to fully stock this talent elsewhere.
My second tip for players: understand that running dungeons is like any other team activity. If you don’t work together, you will fail. Any dungeon running group, regardless of size, is made up of people filling one of three roles. A tank’s role is to make the enemy (mob) hate him enough to attack him and only him, and have enough armor and health to survive whatever the mob can dish out. A healer’s role is to keep any players who are taking damage alive. A damage dealer’s role is to do as much damage as possible to the mobs without doing so much that the enemy will be diverted from the tank.
That last part is critical. Generically speaking, if a damage dealer does an average of 3000 damage per second (DPS) for the first half of a fight, then pulls the enemy from the tank and spends the rest of the fight dead, his overall DPS for the fight is 3000/2 = 1500. Getting oneself killed to show off how much damage you can do only proves that you’re not as good a player as you think you are.
A lot of DPS want to blame such situations on the tank for not being good enough or not having enough gear, but really… a good damage dealer can always hold back enough to keep from taking aggro away from the tank. There have been times I’ve run dungeons on normal difficulty with a tank whose gear was nowhere as good as mine and ended up taking off half my gear just to lower the number of critical hits I get so I wouldn’t pull mobs on accident.
Assuming all players have roughly equivalent gear and that this gear is appropriately match to the difficulty of the fight, the following guidelines can be used to determine who is at fault for a death/wipe:
- If the tank dies first, it’s the healer’s fault.
- If the healer dies first, it’s the tank’s fault.
- If a damage dealer dies first, it’s their own damn fault.
Assignment of blame, by the way, is not an excuse for being a dick to your fellow players. Acknowledging who was at fault for a death/wipe is, however, the first step toward improving one’s playing skillz. When someone is aware that it’s their fault the party wiped, they can examine what happened to look for ways to prevent it from happening again. And accidents happen even to the best of players. A tank can miss the healer say he’s going to the bathroom in chat and pull before he gets back, a tank might get critically hit a zillion times in a row only to have the healer’s Big Heal fall half a second too late, etc.
Know the Fights
My third tip for players: if possible, be familiar with the fights before going into them. Blizzard is doing its best to bring us new, interesting boss fights with new, interesting mechanics to keep the fighting fresh and keep us on our toes. For five-man dungeons, it’s not really important to be In The Know ahead of time (notable exception: The Occulous). For raids, where you have ten or twenty-five people to coordinate through sometimes complex boss encounters, it can be critical to success
There are many web sites out there which exist (in whole or in part) to help you with understanding the boss fights. My favorites are TankSpot (which makes excellent explanatory videos which are great for people who don’t like to read) and WoWwiki. People also put videos of the boss fights up on YouTube which you can watch to get a better feel for the fight before ever setting foot in the dungeon. Oftentimes, information is available before a dungeon is officially released in a patch because Blizzard opens them up for testing in the Public Test Realms.
- DPS charts lie. Do not trust them.
- Gear is not the end-all, be-all of a player’s skill. It is the limit on their potential.
- Learn what all your toon can and can’t do, and in which situations certain abilities should/should not be employed.
- Understand the balance of roles in your group, and remember there is no “i” in “team”.
- Know the bosses’ paces before they put you through them.
If you keep these things in mind, you’re on the path to being a great PvE player in World of World of Warcraft. Or, probably, for any MMORPG out there.