Raiding Efficiently: DoT Sniping and AoE

If you can't learn to do something well, learn to enjoy doing it poorly

On last weekend's Hunting Party Podcast, there were some really important points brought up by Solar and RogerBrown, so I wanted to see if I could flesh them out a bit here.  The basic gist of the discussion was in regards to how we handle AoE vs priority targets, and when it's appropriate to use AoE abilities.

This has, of course, been talked about many, many times before, but the part that I hadn't really thought about much is planning DoT efficiency around AoE targets.  I'll explain what I mean by that. Anyone who follows healers at all will have surely heard Resto Druids complain about people sniping heals. That is, the resto druid, who works with many HoT (heal over time) spells, will have a HoT ticking on a target, and then another classes, often a priest or pally, will heal up the target using a direct heal, cause the rest of the Resto Druid's HoT to all go into the "over-heal" category.  The issue being that, both healers have now wasted mana on a target that would have reached full health anyway.  This is the primary reason that a lot of resto druids, myself included (yes, I do in fact have an alt that isn't a hunter; just one) feel useless unless you're in an incredibly demanding, healing-intensive fight.

Something that seems kind of obvious, then, but I hadn't really spent much time thinking about, is that the same is true for damage dealers, to an extent.  I know a common reaction for myself, at least, is that a pack of adds will come out, and at least part of me wants to cast as many Multi-shots as possible, not because we need them to die really fast, but because I know if I don't get the damage from the adds, then someone else will.  That is to say, it's not so much a cooperative fight to kill the boss any more, but a competition among ourselves to see who can damage the adds first.

In a lot of fights, this really isn't going to matter at all, but in mythic progression, and heroic to some extent, this can be a considerable problem for a couple reasons.

Reason 1: Sniping DoTs

Just like the Resto Druid's HoTs I mentioned above, several DPS specs have AoE DoT effects which we essentially are wasting by spamming instant AoE/Cleave abilities.  SV hunters, of course, have a very obvious AoE DoT in Serpent Sting, so I'll use that as my primary example here.  

For the following numbers, I took an heroic geared (680 at the time of my righting this) SV hunter. The average tick (not including Multistrikes or Crits) of a serpent sting was be 5567.1, while the average crit was 10998.3.  Including MS, we get an average damage of 9073.4 per target.  Multi-shot, without the applied Serpent Sting tick, had a normal hit of about 2392.2, or a crit of 4736.1, bringing it's average, with multistrikes, to 3790.3 per cast per target.  

Our sample hunter here had 40% Multistrike without any procs.  I've already gone over several times how to calculate the expected value from extra serpent sting ticks based on MS percent, so I won't include an explanation here, but it should of course be included in our results. Our formula for calculating the expected damage of a multishot is:

 Multishot avg. dmg.*(1+MS%*.72)+(SS avg. dmg.*(1+MS%*.72))*2*MS%)*# of targets

In that formula, however, we're assuming you're going to use Multishot again before more ticks of serpent sting have had time to, well, tick. If instead, we only cast Multishot once, and let the Serpent Stings tick for fifteen seconds, we'll end up with at least an extra five ticks of Serpent Sting. And here's the important part: five extra ticks of Serpent Sting that don't cost us anything; don't cost us extra focus, and don't cost us GCDs, allowing us to do our full damage single target rotation to the priority target.  

So with the SS and MS numbers I used above, the difference between a Multishot with full ticks, and a Multishot where you hit Multishot again before it has a chance to tick again, our total damage done per cast looks like this:

Targetsfull ticksw/ one tick

What this shows, is you need to spam Multishot 3.2 times (that's 128 focus) to do the same damage as hitting it once and letting the dots tick for the full duration.

If we take a fight like Beastlord Darmac, where 6 adds come out ever 20ish seconds (if I recall correctly), we could have the entire raid cleave/AoE them down.  As SV hunters we might have time to spam 3 or 4 Multishots, if using Thrill of the Hunt.  Or, we could have all of our Multi-dot specs apply a dot to them and then go back to the hitting the boss. For us as we saw above, one multi-shot with full ticks of serpent sting is going to do the same amount of damage to the beast pack as about 3.2 Multishots when spammed, but in addition, we're going to have the extra damage of continuing our single target rotation on Beastlord (or whatever pet he's mounted at the time).  

That's the crux of this issue: we're sniping each other's damage by bursting down the adds.  If we let the DoTs tick, they'll die before the next pack comes out, and we'll all do more damage to the boss. We're not spamming so the raid can down the boss faster, we're spamming to make sure we personally get to do the available damage.  

In the words of RogerBrown, raid leader of World First Blackrock Foundry guild Method, (paraphrasing) "just put a DoTs on them, return to DPSing the boss, and trust your Boomkins finish them off with Starfall".  

Reason 2: Negating the Benefits of Gear

Something I've heard brought up a lot in the past couple weeks is as Blizzard's raid design becomes more focused on "mechanics checks" rather than "dps checks", it becomes less and less possible to simply farm the bosses you've already killed until you can simply overpower the boss you're working on.  While I do see that as true, there are still several ways we can take advantage of better gear (other than just having higher DPS) while progressing through a raid. 

While it may be the case, that during your first week of progression on a particular boss, your tank might not have enough survivability, and you'll need to burst down adds as quickly as possible to ensure the tanks aren't taking too much damage.  As we progress through a raid, and start farming bosses for gear, our tanks are going to have a lot more passive and active damage mitigation and much more powerful cooldowns, but not only that, our healers will be able to heal through a much greater amount of damage.  My point is, it's going to be less and less important to get the adds down as quickly as possible, so you can spend more time focusing on the boss, which will of course allow you to beat the boss faster.  

If we continue to treat fights the same when we're still using mostly the previous teir's gear, as we do when we're using mostly the current tier's gear, we're negating the benefit of having that gear.  

The Ever-swinging Raiding Pendulum

Even as I write this, I'm somewhat worried about some of the possible consequences.  I'm sure we can all remember countless times where we've been in raids and constantly failed because people are tunneling on the boss, and ignoring the add that is wiping the raid.  Just to be clear, that is not at all what I'm suggesting we do here.  To clarify, let's look at an example from Blackrock Foundry. 

Operator Thogar

During Operator Thogar we get large packs of adds.  I have no idea how many off the top of my head, but tons of Iron Crackshots, and Iron Raiders, which often come out at the same time as a Flamemender or Man-of-arms.  During these packs of adds, anyone with even the slightest amount of raiding experience should be able to tell you that simply tunneling the boss is the wrong thing to do, and will very shortly result in wiping the raid.  However, it is equally wrong to just start spamming AoE on the largest pack of adds you can find.

Everyone during this fight should have a priority target at all times.  For the us hunters it may be the Gunnery Sarge, the Grom'kar Men-at-Arms, the Grom-kar Firemenders, or Thogar himself, at any given time during the fight.  Whatever the priority, we can apply the our AoE DoT efficiency.  That is, throw a quick DoT on everything, then single-target down the appropriate priority target.  There is almost never a time when simply spamming as many AoE abilities as possible is going to result in downing the boss faster.  

Exceptions to the Rule & Getting to the Point

As with anything, pretty much ever, there are nearly always some exceptions.  One might be, in Beastlord Darmac, as mentioned above, if you don't have enough multi-dotters to kill the pack before the next one comes out.  Another exception might be for those classes/specs who have abilities who serve in both AoE and Single-target fights, like Barrage for us Hunters.  

The point of this isn't to say don't use AoE abilities at all, of course.  And I'm not trying to discourage people from padding the meters once they have a boss on farm (that can be a fun meta-game in and of itself).  The point is simply, when working on a progression boss, to look for the most efficient way to kill it. If that means you don't get to do as much DPS, who cares??  Your DPS doesn't rank if you don't kill the boss anyway.  


  1. Excellent post and I am going to think a little more on some of the add packs and how I handle them now. Loved Rogers comment, sometimes I'll just let the warrior finish them off. Our boomkin is not a regular.

    The ideas here will work wonders in the organized raid environment but in the pug world I would have to wonder if it would be the best idea to do the "right" thing instead of whoring the meters. Just asking that questions shows the sad state of pugs sometimes. But many raid leaders look at numbers and numbers only. They might not notice that you are doing your "fair share" on the adds but top damage on the man at arms because, just perhaps, your damage done over all on the fight is lower than the hunter that had a massive thrill proc and went multi shot crazy on a huge pack of adds.

    There really is a question hidden in that shot I took at pugs. Is multi shot spam really "that" much of a difference, or is it close enough that you can do the "right" thing and still keep up with the whores with all things being equal otherwise?

    Everything is situational. As you mentioned. If you have no boomkin (or warrior in my case) to finish off the adds, you might need to do it, and if you are in a "suspect" pug you might need to pad to stay in it. But this is really something I think I am going to play around with some. Maybe put a little deeper single target into my AoE. Thanks for the great post.

    1. Yeah, that kind of came up on twitter, too. If you don't have an enrage timer you're trying to beat, in normals or heroic, but you're with a less skilled or geared tank who maybe isn't mitigating as much as they could, then it might be better to just spam AoE to keep the tank alive, then deal with the boss in between add phases.

      As for how close it is, I don't think it's huge. I haven't looked at enough numbers to really say one way or the other, but my gut feeling is that this is a strategy for people who are progression raiding, with a set raid team. I would guess in most pugs, most people have already downed the content. And if that's not the case, they're doing an easy enough level of content that being this particular isn't too important.

      We did a highmaul gear run for a couple of new players last night, so at the beginning of the night I told myself I was going to practice this, no matter where it put me on the meters, I'm going to let my dots do their work and focus on the priority. It is hard, for someone like me at least. When I start to see my name dropping down (because others are free to whore the meters, this being old farm content) it's so tempting to give up and just focus on meters. It's gonna take me a while to retrain my brain to not think of higher meters as a reward.

    2. I tried to do that last night as well and kept failing at it. "Its only trash, why not". But a few times I did focus on one target and let the DoTs work, it actually did not seem that bad. Of course doing it that way always worked better on smaller groups. I guess the idea is for us to find the number. The let the dots do the work thing seems better on smaller packs, up to even 4 maybe 5, but once you get that huge pull, I am thinking multi spam might be better. Even more so if there is not a center target to worry about.

      I've always, even before I read this, put black arrow on a priority target that I knew would last, and did the multi spam and used explosive procs and refresh of BA on the main target only. That seemed to work well for me when there are a lot or a little butof stuff to kill. Perhaps that is the appropriate way to go and I was just doing it by default to begin with because it "felt" right. Hey, sometimes feel is the best way to figure things out.

  2. This conversation came up in my guild several times during the last couple of weeks with regard to H-BRF progression (not to mention countless threads about thee BM bandwagon).

    I'm no stranger to holding opinions that seem to clash with what appears to be majority opinion (hello focusing shot MM) and this isn't an exception with regards to the pressure brought on by my fellow officers about switching specs to BM. Nevermind the opposing stat priorities between MM and BM, there's obvious value is having amazing single target DPS for the boss and/or priority targets.

    This is, of course, something that needs to be taken into context with the raid team one has, not the raid team one wishes for (my guild can't find a balance Druid, a competent warlock or combat rogue). That, I think, is key. Let the classes that can efficiently cleave do their job. Marks brings burst on 2 minute CD and a 35% execute, those two alone are valuable assets to a raid team.

    1. That's a great point. Maybe it needs an article of it's own: strategize for the raid team you have, not the raid team you wish you had.

      I don't know too many who are still playing MM, though. Isn't that Chim Shot just beautiful? I get a little bit giddy every time I see it crit. :-)

    2. I played around with some offset gear that I picked up as BM for last weeks raid (I do have the 2 piece bonus). The numbers were, somewhat to be expected I suppose. Did about 10k more overall damage on Thogar, slight increase on Flamebender and Darmac (bad positioning on the adds).

      That's probably more a result of mediocre BM play. That and the 180 of stat priority (going from next to no mastery to a few pieces with it made a huge, huge difference) means I would need almost two sets of gear.

      I believe I am going to continue to stick primarily with Marks spec. Perhaps BM would see more use on blast furnace but that's going to take a few pulls before I get to discover what my raids weaknesses are for that encounter.

    3. Well, got a few pulls in on H BF and it didn't go so well with my small raid team. 2 healing an 11-12 man raid with an ilevel average of 680 isn't doable even with myself as BM, 2 survival hunters and 2 ret paladins (did I mention we haven't found a competent demo/destro lock, combat rogue yet?).

      It looked like we'd stay ahead of adds, keeping heat low, for the first two waves, then it just seems to spiral out of control and neither healing or DPS can keep up with the adds that start to pile on. Eventually we'd push into phase 2 at a decent time and then a tank would die followed by a wipe shortly thereafter.

      I suspect it's a combination of strategy, needing at least one or two healers and more DPS, aka increasing the raid size to 15-20. A lot of guilds on my server are currently stuck at 8/10 H with BF and BH to go. This week we'll be teaming up with another guild for H BRF, guess we'll see how it goes.

  3. An excellent post and I'll reevaluate how I use my aoe abilities from now on. From my own experience, I've been so focused on doing as much aoe damage as possible to prove that I'm a good Hunter and worth my raid spot that I failed in doing damage to the targets that needed it most.

    1. Yeah, that's kind of the dangerous part, as The Grumpy Elf pointed out above, if you have a raid leader who's not too bright, they may just see high dps and think that's the best player, or even cut someone. Hopefully you have, or can find, a raid team where that's not the case, though.

  4. Very hard to get used to. And then you switch spec from Survival to BM and forget that there is no longer a DOT!! Or vice versa.
    I don't see any getting around the DOT clipping altogether. Unlike DPS, heals actually show up on the healthbar before you finish casting (so you have an idea how much it will move). Could you imagine the healthbar of the victim showing a theoretical damage amount or an add-on that could do this? No more wasting time, you dish out the DOTS and see if that is sufficient with the "theoretical damage" and move on. EFFICIENCY!!

    But alas, there is no efficiency in WoW. They want us to mindlessly grind. Why else would you have had to travel the old world to learn how to use a water totem (I know, that quest is gone, but I still remember it vividly. You turn level 20 and they send you around the world. Then you hit 30 and BOOM! 60 minutes of RED-SKINNED AWESOMENESS! But since you didn't know this, you didn't plan around it, it was wasted. Didn't I mention that they don't want us to be efficient?).