One of the most disappointing feelings in WoW raids is thinking that you did really well during a boss fight, and then looking at damage meters and realizing you did half as much damage as others or only parsed at 15%. This is often compounded by being in a raid with people of the same class and spec who perform better than you. It’s disheartening and can make you feel like you’re not adding anything – or even making things worse for the group.
One of the questions we raid leads get asked the most is “How can I improve my DPS?”. There are a lot of general tips we can give you, but it can be a bit overwhelming to try to walk through all at once, especially for those who are only dipping their toes into these resources for the first time. So I’m going to write up a long post detailing different resources that can help you pump those numbers up, and how to use them to your advantage.
Tanks and Healers; I suggest reading through this because some of it will apply to you. But, a lot of it won’t – so feel free to rest easy once again.
I suggest not reading through the post in its entirety at once. Break it into chunks and work on it bit by bit. Come back later for more. Or grab a cup of coffee and dive in, it’s your life.
- Streamline and Optimize
- Ability Clicking
- Keyboard Turning
- Enemy Targeting
- Camera Positioning
- Game Sounds
- Boss Mods
- Nameplate Auras, KUI Nameplates, etc
- Rotation and Opener
- Standard Rotation
- HeroDamage and Bloodmallet
- Class Discords and Websites
- Class Websites
- Generic Websites
Streamline and Optimize
Before we get into anything complicated, like external sites or addons, ask yourself: are you making the game harder than it needs to be?
If you click your abilities with your mouse button, you’re already setting yourself up at a disadvantage. Keeping your mouse (and eyes) glued to the bottom of your screen will make it harder to dodge mechanics or see when you need to take specific actions.
Clicking some abilities isn’t necessarily an awful thing. A lot of classes have abilities that get activated on 3 or 5 minute cooldowns. Tossing those at the end of an action bar and clicking on those isn’t going to affect your DPS in a significant way. However, your main rotation should never be click-activated.
Consider which spells are the most important spells in your rotation. Which do you cast the most*? Put those spells farthest to the left on your action bar, or wherever is most convenient for your hand. For example, I put my most “spam” ability on key number 4, since that’s closest to my pointer finger.
Also, consider grouping spells with similar purposes nearby one another. As a troll balance druid, I have two 3-minute cooldown damage buffs: Berserking and Celestial Alignment. I keep them right next to each other on my action bar so I remember to use them both at once for extra damage. (If I had an on-use trinket, I’d put it next to them as well.)
Remember that your other actions bars have keybindings available, but they’re not enabled by default. You can set your extra actions bars in the “Keybindings – MultiActionBar” setting. Consider “shift+1” or “ctrl+1” and onward for these other bars.
After you’re rearranged your action bars, find yourself a target dummy and just sit there. Take your hand off your mouse! Lean back and just get used to pressing your keyboard buttons for damage. Start small. Start by getting used to casting 2 spells using your hand, and then work your way up from there. Repetition is key to developing muscle memory, and you’re going to be relying a lot on that muscle memory during hectic boss fights!
Don’t look at your action bar. You want to commit this to muscle memory. If you have to, cover the bottom portion of your screen with a piece of paper or something. (Worried about cooldowns? Don’t be, we’ll cover that later in the Weakauras section.) The point is to keep your eyes up. It’s a bit like driving – you need to watch the road, not your speedometer. Eventually you became comfortable enough with driving that you only needed to glance down once in a while to reassure your speed. The same thing goes for your rotation. Keep your eyes in the middle and you’ll see incoming mechanics and boss spell casts!
It’s going to be weird and it’s going to take time. You won’t like it at first. In the short term, your DPS will drop, because it’s new and you’re fighting old habits. But it will help you in the long term, I promise!
(*Not sure which spells you should be casting the most? Scroll to the Opener & Rotation section to see what you should be prioritizing)
Keyboard turning is the term for when you turn your character using the A and D keys. If you have to turn your character model or run away from something, pressing forward and left or right is a painfully slow way to go about doing it. More often than not, you’ll fail the mechanic and potentially wipe the raid or dungeon in the process.
The proper way to dodge mechanics is either by sidestepping (Q and E by default), or by turning your camera and running (right-click your mouse and drag by default).
Go to Dazar’alor and go to the target dummies (yes, target dummies are in Dazar’alor! This video shows one path to get to them). Position yourself in the middle of the room, facing the Raider’s Training Dummy. Start casting spells. Then, right-click your screen and drag it to do a full 180* turn, so you’re facing the regular Training Dummy. Select the basic dummy, and continue casting. Repeat this often and you’ll see how much faster it is than pressing A or D to face a new target!
For a real-life application, think about G’huun. You have 2 seconds to turn away from his Gaze before you become feared. Keyboard Turning is not going to turn you fast enough. Right-click-dragging will save you in less than half a second!
Strafing is another easy way to dodge mechanics. Think about the MOTHER fight. We group up tightly and then move away once the fire circle appears on the ground. if you’re relying on keyboard turning, you’re taking too long to dodge mechanics and may take excessive damage. You also will have issues getting back to the spot we’re supposed to gether on.
In front of the dummy, get used to strafing during your rotation. Cast 5 or 8 spells, then press and hold Q or E. Cast a few more, then hold Q or E to get back to your normal position. Rinse and repeat.
If you’re REALLY struggling with the strafing habits, unbind A and D from left and right altogether (Key Bindings – Movement Keys). Rebind them as your left-strafe and right-strafe. Some people prefer this setup!
Generally speaking, clicking an enemy’s healthbar or model to try to cast spells is going to be a problem. Often they will be surrounded with allies, and unless you have a specific setup so that you can click through allied healthbars and bodies, you’re going to click on them from time to time. By default, press Tab to cycle through enemies in front of you. (There are other addons and setups that may be more accurate, but if you click enemies as a rule, this is a good base.) Especially in a fight where you have to cycle between a small number of targets, tab-targetting will help you immensely. It does lose its value when you have tons of add spawns (think Zek’vos with the little bugs).
Right-click-dragging and left-click-dragging will both reposition your camera. However, right-clicking also repositions your character model. Left-click-dragging only moves your camera. While casting spells at the dummy, left-click-drag your screen so you’re facing your character. You haven’t moved, but now you can see the angry face that your character makes when it attacks. Left-click-drag will give you a good vantage point for mechanics in some fights or dungeons. Consider the orb-maze in Temple of Sethraliss or the lasers in Heroic Taloc. Moving your camera without moving your character will help you successfully execute these mechanics.
I have no idea how, but some people play the game without sounds enabled. You people are a mystery. The game has constant buzzings, warnings, and other effects when things are going on around you. “But those are annoying!” Well…that’s kind of the purpose, isn’t it? Game sounds tell me when I need to dodge mechanics, when an enemy is powering up, when I’m out of range, when my spells are uncastable, and so much more. If you’re struggling and have your game sounds disabled, please turn them on. You don’t need music, but sound effects will make your life significantly easier.
I’ll be expanding this section as people send me addons that they can’t live without.
Here’s a fun fact: I don’t use either DBM or BigWigs. However, if you’re here, chances are you need them (and we require our raiders to use them, so…there you go). Make sure that these addons are up to date at all times or they’ll be a lot less useful, too.
Please treat these addons as a guideline, however. We’re finding that many boss mod addons are WAY out of sync on timers. These addons are great for telling you when you have a mechanic on you right now, but aren’t as good at telling you when something is coming up soon. Therefore, you need to remain vigilant. If you’re not clicking your abilities and have your eyes and ears open to the environment around you, chances are that you’ll see clues for boss mechanics before you have to react to them.
You should not be relying on boss mods to tell you what to do every time a mechanic comes up. Each boss works on the same rotation and timer every fight. There are no “surprises”. Therefore, you know what’s going to happen next – you don’t need an addon to tell you! Instead, you should be using them to help you when you’re in a rough spot. Maybe you’re distracted because you’re low HP. Maybe you have to dodge someone else who’s failing a mechanic. Maybe things are hectic and lots of people are dying. These can all contribute to you forgetting a mechanic that comes up, or not realizing that you were targeted with something. THAT is when boss mod addons will be the most useful.
Treat bossmods warnings as an OH SHIT, not as a bible, and you will be a much more successful raider.
Weakauras, or WA, is probably the most customizeable addon in the game. I use WeakAuras in place of Boss Mod addons for certain mechanics that I know I will struggle tracking on my own (Eye Beam on Zek’vos, for example, doesn’t give you a debuff, but a WA can track it!).
What else can WA track? Pretty much anything. I currently have WAs that do the following: track when I have a minipet out; track when a dungeon queue has a bonus cache for healers/tanks; track when a spell is off cooldown; track how many stacks of a debuff I have; track what mythics I’ve done for the week; track how many buffed spellcasts I have left….and more. As you can see, some of these are useful, while others are just fun flavor.
As mentioned previously, we want people who are struggling with DPS to keep their eyes off the bottom of their screen. WeakAuras is perfect for tracking your cooldowns, buffs, and more. Compare my screen on the left to a complete WeakAuras setup on the right. All useful cooldowns, buffs, etc are right beneath the character, instead of waaaaaaaaay at the bottom! The most important spells are larger, while utility or longer cooldowns are much smaller and beneath them.
WeakAuras can be intimidating to build from scratch, but there’s actually a lot of pre-built setups built for each class! I suggest going through Wago and looking up your spec – “Shadow priest”, “feral druid”, “arms warrior” etc, and seeing what weakauras come up. Others in your class may have preferences, so you can consult with them (or with your class discord, below!) if you need more guidance.
You can also use WA as an assist to boss mod addons. For example, https://wago.io/bfaraid1 contains icons that show different debuffs in Uldir and makes sounds if you need to get out. It will even say “Stop Cast” or “Turn” for specific mechanics. I have a simple one to track Dark Bargain stacks on G’huun, so I never need to think about whether I should get another stack or not.
I’ll be making a post in the future that’s more in-depth on weakauras, that will include building your own WA from scratch. If you’re keen on getting more involved in your WA setup, keep an eye out!
Nameplate Auras, KUI Nameplates, etc
I suggest most people getting some kind of a Nameplate addon. Nauras and KUI both show DoT duration, CC duration, etc on targets – including the target you don’t have selected. This is especially useful for multi-dotters or for fights that need constant interrupts on targets (think MOTHER). They’re highly customizeable to your class and role. Play around with them and figure out what best suits you!
You’ll see why you want this further down the article. Just download it and trust me.
Rotation & Opener
Now that you’ve moved your spells and downloaded some add-ons it’s time to make sure you’re actually casting your spells in the right order. Hopefully, you’ve been doing that all along. If you’re grey parsing regularly, chances are you’re not. So, let’s try to fix it!
First, check the resources at the bottom of the page for your class discord, websites, etc. They’ll often list openers and rotation priorities for you.
It’s possible that someone has already taken note of the “perfect” opener and rotation of spells and wrote down exactly what you should do.
For example, Warlocks have an amazing website resource called Lock One Stop Shop that lists openers and rotations, including dependencies based on talent choices. Let’s take a look at the Destruction Warlock opener one would use for Taloc:
- Pre-pot and cast an Incinerate when there’s 3 seconds left on the pull-timer
- If you’re talented into Cataclysm use this to apply Immolate, if not then manually cast Immolate to land as the boss is pulled
- Cast your Summon Infernal and Dark Soul: Instability aswell as any on-use trinkets you may have
- Cast Conflagrate
- Cast Chaos Bolt
- Cast Channel Demonfire if talented
- Cast Incinerate
- Cast Conflagrate
- Cast Chaos Bolt
One of our Raid Leads just happens to be a destruction warlock. How fortuitous for my random sampling. Let’s take a look at his Timeline on Taloc to see if this is what he’s doing!
Not sure how to get to the timeline? TLDR: Open a log, click the boss name, click the name of the person you’re looking for, and click “Timeline” in the upper right (again, check the previously mentioned post for more pictures on getting there).
Uh oh. Looks like some things aren’t lining up. Immolate was cast very late into the opening rotation, not as his second cast. Chaos Bolt didn’t follow Conflagrate. Incinerate wasn’t cast next, either. Now some variation is expected of course, but it’s possible that Zex needs to take another look as his opener on this sort of fight.
You can also compare his opener to another Warlock’s opener. Maybe theirs will be different even still! Let’s take a look at the #1 parse for Warlocs on Normal Taloc, and see what their timeline is like:
This is still different from the “perfect” opener listed above, but it’s much closer – we see Immolate cast almost immediately. Conflagrate is followed quickly by Chaos Bolt, followed by Incinerate. This lines up more closely with the outline above.
Different classes have different requirements for openers. Some classes have openers that don’t matter at all, where others (especially “ramp” classes) are incredibly dependent on a strong opener to set the pace for the fight.
Standard rotation is again going to vary based on class and on the fight. Some classes are “priority spell” based. Others are pretty easy “Cast spell 1, spell 2, spell 3 in order”. Again, check resources for your classes!
For example, here’s the Elemental Shaman rotation for AoE fights:
- Cast Totem Mastery when any of the following are true:
- It is not active.
- The buff’s duration is at or below 9 seconds remaining.
- Cast Fire Elemental / Storm Elemental / Earth Elemental on cooldown
- Maintain 3 Flame Shocks if there are 3 targets.
- Cast Earthquake when available.
- Cast Lava Burst to consume Lava Surge procs.
- Cast Chain Lightning.
Combining this knowledge with a good Elemental Shaman Weakaura kit will help you keep your damage rolling and downtime low!
If you’re truly struggling to get your rotation down, you can often find weakauras that will help guide what you should cast next. I don’t generally like weakauras that tell you “cast this spell next” because they aren’t accurate 100% of the time. But they’re a good guide to get you started. As an example, new Warriors could benefit from a package like Luxthos’s Rotations (in general I REALLY like Luxthos‘s weakauras – they’re very well put together and he has one for EVERY spec!).
Orcish Blood Fury, Tauren War Stomp, Troll Berserking, Undead Will of the Forsaken and Cannibalize, Blood Elf Arcane Torrent, Goblin Rocket Jump and Rocket Barrage, HM Tauren Bull Rush, Nightborne Arcane Pulse, and Mag’har Ancestral Call are all racial active abilities that have a variety of uses and cooldowns. When building out WA setups or arranging your action bars, consider where to put them and how to track their use. Arcane Torrent is a incredibly useful dispel in a Zul fight, so make sure you know where it is when things are hectic. Blood Fury can be used as part of a normal buff rotation, so think about saving it for bloodlust or when you have other damage buffs active. Rocket Jump is great for getting away from tricky mechanics. Put them there you’ll remember to use them!
Unfortunately because of changes to how WoW works, “Best in Slot” and “Stat Priority” are no longer words of law. You can no longer say “You need haste to 20%, mastery at 16, crit at 50…” etc. Trinket priorities are also ruined by titanforging. Your best bet to stay on top of what gear you need or what stat you should prioritize is going to be tracked by simming yourself.
Remember how I said to download the Simulationcraft addon? Make sure you’ve got it!
Raidbots is going to be your best place to start for simming. The website is comprehensive, and we even have a channel in Discord (covered here) so you can quickly get an idea for the numbers you should be outputting.
I was going to write a long and detailed walkthrough of using Raidbots…but someone else, bless their soul, already wrote a google doc guide. I’ll eventually write out something similar to keep on the site, just in case this ever vanishes, but read through it and follow along. (It’s important to remember that Raidbots assumes you’re running with full buffs: food, flask, and bloodlust. If you want to compare to your “target dummy” numbers, make sure that you select “NO BUFFS”)
Raidbots / simming is going to tell you what you should be focusing on next for gear (“do I need more mastery or vers?”) and even lets you compare items you have in your bags VS what you have equipped (“is this 10ilvl upgrade with bad stats an upgrade,or should I keep what I’ve got now?”). You can compare talents on Single-target VS multi-target fights, too.
If you ever get a high-ilvl upgrade on something like a ring that you can’t trade but have bad stats you can’t use, keep it anyway! Because your stat weights are always changing based on each piece of gear you acquire (and the constant buffs / nerfs Blizzard applies), you may find that that shitty ring is actually going to increase your DPS a week later. Generally, feel free to scrap ilvl side-grades with mixed stats, but high ilvl upgrades are worth hanging onto for a week or two, just in case.
Hero Damage and Bloodmallet
Herodamage is another simulation site, but it’s based off of pre-built assumptions rather than your own character. It shows what the top simming azerite traits, races, trinkets, and more are – as well as combinations thereof.
For example: I’m a balance druid. I’m gonna click the giant bear paw (for druid), and then under “Azerite Powers”, look for “Balance” under “Tier 22” (since Uldir is Tier 22).
For 385 gear, this graph shows me that in a relatively perfect situation, I am going to want Laser Matrix (with 5 or 10 stacks), Archive of the Titans (with 5 or 10 stacks), or Dagger in the Back if I can get them.
However, I’m not at 385 gear. At 340 gear, Archive of the Titans edges out Laser Matrix. Streaking Stars outperforms Rezan’s Fury. Regardless, this gives me a general idea of what I should be looking at for top-performing traits. If I have Rezan’s Fury at 340 instead of Streaking Stars, I’m not losing out nearly as much as if I had Ruinous Bolt instead!
Bloodmallet is a lot like Herodamage. It’s another general simulator.
Here, you can see a graph that shows how different traits stack up if you stack them:
One stack of Lively Spirit underperforms compared to one stack of Blightborne Infusion, but 3 stacks significantly outperforms Blightborne. Bloodmallet also has trinket simming, just like Herodamage.
However, I have a caveat: simulations are not reality. Dagger in the Back, specifically, will underperform compared to simulations, since sims assume you’re always going to be facing the target’s back. Be aware of traits like that. Likewise, Lively Spirit performs well in sims but may underperform in reality if your healer isn’t casting enough spells to make it worthwhile.
Personally I don’t like either Bloodmallet or Herodamage, but some people swear by them. They give you a good general sense of “this trinket is good for my class” or “this azerite trait is garbage”, but they’re not real. So, since they’re not real, where should you be looking for your top traits and trinkets?
First, I encourage anyone to read the WarcraftLogs for DPS post I made during Antorus. Some of the information (legendaries, tier sets) is outdated, but the general gist is exactly the same. Also, there’s this useful image that’s a TLDR of what your parse number means. Generally, we’d like for all our raiders to ilvl parse at 50% or more. Ideally, I’m always shooting for regular 75% performance. Imagine how fast we could down bosses if everyone was doing at least half as well of everyone else of their class, compared to only 20% as well. Hopefully, after this guide, you’ll be able to pump your numbers!
A caveat for using real data: because of loot and RNG, top performers may not always get what would be their BIS gear. They may end up making do with “whatever they have on hand”. This is why simming yourself using Raidbots is important. If you get a trinket that Bloodmallet says is the best, and you have a trinket that’s used in top parses in WCL, your best bet is to sim yourself on both Patchwerk and HecticAddCleave fights to see which performs best for you. (If there are big differences, you should be keeping both on hand and swapping depending on the fight!)
Let’s figure out what the top performers – real, live players – are using in Uldir for my spec in both Azerite Traits and Talents. Let’s start with a simple one: Normal Taloc.
Method one: Select the Menu, then under “Taloc” click “Rankings”. Select “Druid” – “Balance”. Select “Normal”.
At the top, you’ll see a row of icons. These show the most picked talents, trinkets, and the top pick in each azerite trait spot. Now, these are top picks, not necessarily highest dps output picks. Staying alive is just as important as DPSing, and some folks might pick different defensive talents or azerite powers than you. There’s something to be said for playstyle variation!
Method Two: Select Menu, then under “Taloc”click “Statistics”. Select “Normal”. Select “Druid” – “Balance” – “Azerite”.
This will show a line graph of all talents / trinkets / etc compared to the average Balance Druid damage (shown as a different color – blue vs orange in my case). You can narrow down by specific tiers of azerite traits or rows of talents to see what the most picked per fight are.
Again – these are most picked. Perfect traits or stat spread doesn’t apply, since some things are rare drops (like WB trinkets). But, since this is real data, I consider this to be more useful than either Bloodmallet or HeroDamage for figuring out what you should be taking.
It’s not a sim, but it’s related to WCL. Wowanalyzer is another tool that can help you figure out what you should be doing. It reads through a WarcraftLogs report and tells you what you should be doing differently. Unfortunately, there are a few problems. For one, not all specs are supported at this time (sorry, Shadow Priests). Two, I often get dinged against “Avoid refreshing your DoTs too early” because of talent or azerite choices I’ve taken that mean spam-casting my dots IS effective. Three, it will discount your usage of defensive abilities and utility casts even if you don’t need them (I rarely use Barkskin during normal Taloc unless I have blood, and I often save it for when I have blood, since it’s my only defensive. So if I never get it…I never use it…and that gets counted against me).
The timeline aspect of Wowanalyzer IS a nice feature. You can select a person / fight and scroll to see red-highlighted casts that should have been done differently. If nothing else, check out what the timeline says about your spellcasting. If you have a lot of red-boxed casts, you’re missing something important!
Class Discords and Websites
Paladin: Hammer of Wrath
Hunter: Trueshot Lodge
Priest: WarcraftPriests (formerly HowtoPriest)
Death Knight: Acherus
Mage: Altered Time (formerly Hall of the Guardians)
Warlock: Council of the Black Harvest
Demon Hunter: The Fel Hammer
Class Discords are often going to be one of the first places you will want to look for up to date information on your class & spec. These are run by people who are nigh-obsessed with number crunching and statistics. There are constant discussions you can sift through about trinkets, azerite powers, and more. Make sure you check ALL their stickied resources. Some are a lot more in-depth than others. If your class doesn’t seem to have a lot of good resources, come to me and I’ll help you find some.
WarcraftPriests (formerly howtopriest)
Lock One Stop Shop
Peak of Serenity
Class-specific websites tend to update a little slower than Discords, since there are fewer cooks in the kitchen and they require more maintenance. They’re great for reference, though, since Discord can be a little messy for important information. (There are also google doc guides linked from discords that are updated regularly, but I won’t be linking them here – check those discords!)
Unless your discord specifies otherwise, these are often the most outdated sites for guides, trinkets, and other priorities. Still, they’re guaranteed to be there, so it’s not a bad idea to keep them in mind if you lack other resources.
Icyveins: Class guides, rotations, PvP, PvE, raids, etc.
Wowhead: Class guides, talent builds, rotations, etc.
Tanknotes: Tank-specific notes on Uldir. Includes sections on each class for talents per boss!
Reddit: Oh yeah, I included it. Firepower Friday is a weekly stickied thread for any and all responses to classes. You can also ask questions (like “What should my standard rotation be as X class?”) and generally get good answers, if you can’t find it in search.
That’s all for now
OK so that’s…a lot. And the worst part is, I wanted – and still want – to write a lot more. I wish I could be more specifically helpful to you, as an individual, reading this. But I play one class and spec, so I can’t give you as much helpful information as I might like. But if reading the above doesn’t seem to help you, or you’re still lost, please reach out to me on the discord! I’d love to take time to come up with a plan of attack for you to feel better about your class and abilities. I’ll work with you on an individual basis, especially if you’ve ever been sat from raids for underperformance.
Credit for amazingly cute Boomkin artwork to Divine Tofu