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Three Perspectives

April 5, 2011

Dear Reader,

We hear frequently about the “holy trinity” of MMOs.  Also, we hear how the three different groups (dps, heals, and tanks) squabble and complain about one another’s behavior.   I thought, then, that today we’d do a thought experiment on seeing a boss from other perspectives, that is, looking at a single moment in the game from three directions to see how the other players’ shoes fit.

Let me be clear; this is not intended to be a boss guide, nor is this intended to promote one perspective over another.  I’ve occasionally suggested that people play all three roles so that they can see how each suffers differently at other players’ hands, and this is a verbal move in that direction.  While I will make many assumptions about different players’ behaviors, I want you to know now, dear reader, that I’m not saying those behaviors are right or wrong, just that they happen.

I thought for a while about which boss to use and finally decided to use Karsh Steelbender on Heroic mode.  I chose this boss because he provides a variety of dangers to inexperienced and experienced groups alike.  Additionally, he has uniquely difficult mechanics for each role to deal with.

First, fom the tank’s perspective, Karsh has to be moved a good deal.  He has to be dragged through his lava stream once every fifteen seconds, preferably only getting 1 stack of the molten armor debuff, but usually 2 or 3.  Additionally, the tank has to worry about defensive cooldowns for the lava ticks when the stacks get high as well as not letting the debuff fall off unless that’s the strategy the group’s going with.  Lastly, the tank has to worry about generating enough threat while moving to keep Karsh from noticing he’s being murdered by three other people.

This all adds up to an easily distracted tank.  Just focusing on moving him is hard enough; you can, of course, strafe tank. but sometimes it’s hard to get the angle you want him to clip the lava column with just right unless you flat-out back up, which takes more time and more set up, re-angling after every move.  Trying to angle and time his movement just right to get one tick takes a good amount of focus, so it’s easy to forget to blow those defensive cooldowns, which unintentionally strains the healer and, thus, endangers the dps. Lastly, keeping threat while moving has always been tough on tanks, and doing so here is no different, especially since the dps get to be basically stationary.  Each of these requires enough focus to wear a player out enough to make mistakes, which often occur.

I myself have tanked him often enough (I hate this boss), and I still accidentally get 3 ticks of molten armor sometimes and let the debuff fall off other times.  I’ve been chided, insulted, and otherwise mistreated for it, probably mostly by people who’ve never tanked him before (though of course they claim to have a raid-geared DK tank or somesuch on their server…).

From a healer’s perspective, a lot rides on the tank.  The amount of healing needed is directly proportional to the number of mistakes the tank makes.  Too many stacks of molten armor can guarantee a wipe even with the most elite healer.  The healer wants to see everyone using their defensive cooldowns as much as possible while trying to manage getting aoe heals (if he has any available) off fast enough to max people out every fifteen seconds.  This is easier for some classes than others.  In most cases, though, the healer wants the dps standing together so any floor or cone based heals will hit at least 4 people.

That, coupled with the decision as to when (or if) to call for letting the stacks fall off means the healer’s doing a lot of fast calculations about who to heal, how to heal them, how best to triage (if necessary), whether or not to call for the stacks dropping off, and, of course, making sure the tank stays up (though I don’t remember there being a lot of spike damage from the bosses direct attacks).  This, like tanking, can lead to mental exhaustion and mistakes very quickly.

I’ve healed this fight, too, on a paladin, which I absolutely hated.  Having only one aoe heal on a relatively long cooldown meant that it was quite hard to top everyone off in 15 seconds.  Many fights were determined halfway through when a tank took an extra tick or two that I didn’t get taken care of quickly enough.  Frequently, when I healed, it was with my friends, so I didn’t take as much abuse here, but it was still very frustrating, especially when I knew someone had a defensive cooldown they didn’t use.

From a DPS perspective, this fight is pretty much a race.  True, you can reset the stacks whenever you want, but each time you do so you create less space to maneuver the boss through, and invariably he ends up standing in fire and ticking over and over.  The ideal outcome, then, is to burn the absolute crap out of him as fast as possible with little regard to doing anything else.  The trick, though, is that for each stack of extra damage he takes (from molten armor), the more dire the need to blow defensive cooldowns.  That means that most dps will want to be blowing their offensive cooldowns at precisely the same time they need to be blowing their defensive ones, resulting in just bombing the boss.

Sure, it’s easy to say that they should blow their defensive ones, but in a hectic fight, I know, even with mana shield, iceblock, ice barrier, mage ward, etc, I’ve not done as much as I could have.  When I pop my big CDs, I want to maximize the damage I do, and wasting 4 global cooldowns to help out the healer isn’t the top priority; downing the boss as fast as possible is, because the healer can breathe then.

Similarly, DPS is reluctant to call out for adds spawning because they want to see the boss downed; each add spawn is less places for them to stand, more potential damage, and more wasted dps – both by having to kill the adds and by the debuff falling off the boss.  This puts them at direct odds to the healer’s wishes.  And neither is fully right or fully wrong.

And that’s the point I want to make in this correspondence, dear reader.  No one is fully right or fully wrong.  Every perspective differs and is at odds with the others, and everyone is right in their own way.  A lot of party in-fighting has occurred because people have failed to realize this, have failed to walk in another role’s shoes, and it’s wasted time and energy.

I hope this has given some people a chance to see through another’s eyes, even if in a very poorly written way.  I know my time DPSing has taught me a lot about why people are off target and other behaviors that used to irritate me as a tank or healer.  I encourage all of you to learn the same.


Stubborn (who rolled druid and paladin mains because he’s a glutton for punishment)

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