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The middle of the pack is a fine place to be

Josh Myers

When I was a young kid, I was a ball hog. This was most often obvious when I played soccer, when I'd spend entire minutes running the ball down the field in an attempt to score when my teammates were wide open and available. Sometimes, I'd get lucky and score a goal. Most of the time, my unwillingness to pass got me blocked by half the opposing team and earned me a nice, cozy spot on the time-out bench as my coaches tried to instill some sense of being a team player into my young mind.

This seems to be a lesson a large number of us playing World of Warcraft missed from our childhood. We may not have a literal ball to hold away from our teammates as we sprint down the field, but we have Recount and our own personal DPS.

Last week, I was doing my daily ritual of browsing the official Damage Dealing forums when I came upon a thread about fury warriors. The title of the thread was clearly designed to grab attention, some title along the lines of "Fury Warriors NEED a buff NOW" or something else as startlingly original. The body of the thread was what really got to me, though. It said, paraphrased, "Fury warriors are in a bad place in terms of PvE DPS right now. We're in the middle of the pack in terms of DPS and need to be buffed to be higher."

Now, this post got one thing right. If we look at State of DPS and sort by average DPS, we do see fury warriors toward the middle of the list. They're 34 DPS away from breaking away the 19,000-20,000 mark, where the majority of middle of the pack DPS is. While they are slightly lower, they're nearly within the same range as both specs of DPS druids, enhancement shaman, and frost death knights.

What that thread got wrong is that fury warriors are badly in need of a buff. It isn't a complaint that is restricted to fury, either. A post on the shaman forums today said that enhancement was "at best middle of the pack," and the slightly better-off fire mages and shadow priests have also been quoted saying as much. (We're not going to get into the annoying hybrid vs. pure argument here; that isn't what this post is about.) There was even a post on the Damage Dealing forums recently that said the nerf to survival hunters would bring survival DPS to middle-of-the-pack levels, making the spec unplayable.

The spec you play is not what everyone plays

There are a number of reasons that having DPS in the middle of the pack isn't a bad thing. First off, there are 31 specs in the game, counting both specs of feral. With five healers and four tanks, that means there are 22 DPS specs, and everyone would like to see the DPS spec they play on the top of the totem pole. There will always be one DPS spec that is the mathematically superior spec during a given patch and one DPS spec that is the least DPS of the 22.

Blizzard's job as as the game designer is twofold. First, it needs to limit the variance between the 22 DPS specs so that the last DPS spec doesn't look pitiful next to the first. Second, it needs to introduce buffs and nerfs to the classes at both ends of the pack, so that no spec is always mathematically best or worse for extended periods of time. For evidence of this, review the most recent patch notes for survival hunter DPS nerfs in 4.0.6, and compare them to the retribution paladin buffs. Playing in the middle of the DPS pack means more stability for your spec in the long run.

Generally, Blizzard does a very good job of this. There are few specs in the game that are ever actually not viable to bring to raids in the least, and in every case in the past year and a half, those specs are specs of classes that had other raid viable options. Beast mastery hunter, frost mages, arms warriors, and subtlety rogues are all great examples of this. There are classes like the patch 3.3.6 enhancement shaman or Cataclysm retribution paladin that are clearly behind the rest of raiding DPS, but they are/were still at the point of being viable to bring to the raid for the sake of the player.

WoW as an MMORPG -- not a single-player RPG

More importantly, raiding is a team e-sport. Your job as a raider is to show up to the raid and do the best you can possibly do playing finger DDR with your DPS buttons while avoiding Shadow Traps and Sonar Pulse. Blizzard doesn't design content with the idea that every DPS is playing a survival hunter in patch 4.0.3. It designs content knowing what the DPS range for most classes is going to be, and it balances the game accordingly. Playing an enhancement shaman, a balance druid, or a fury warrior does nothing to limit your raid's ability to down bosses, which is the entire reason you're raiding. If you're playing any of the above classes or any of the classes that currently fall within the 19,000-21,000 DPS range, you don't need a buff to your DPS output to be competitive. Blizzard is nerfing the higher output specs like survival and buffing the lower output specs like elemental and retribution to be more like us middle-rangers.

We all like to top meters. I upload parses to World of Logs after every raid we do because I absolutely love seeing how I do every fight, and I find it awesome whenever I manage to be on top of a given fight. That's fine. That's normal. However, your overall raid is your primary concern. Doing the best you can possibly do and always trying to bring your A game to the raid is your concern. Raid content will be downed more easily if you focus on improving your performance in game rather than complaining to Blizzard that your class isn't the best in the game. Ultimately, we all need to leave our 12-year-old ball-hog self at the instance portal and stop trying to always be the show-off member of the raid.

I'm an enhancement shaman, and I'm totally content with being in the middle of the DPS range.

World of Warcraft: Cataclysm has destroyed Azeroth as we know it; nothing is the same! In WoW Insider's Guide to Cataclysm, you can find out everything you need to know about WoW's third expansion, from leveling up a new goblin or worgen to breaking news and strategies on endgame play.

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