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Ready Check: On damage meters

Tyler Caraway

Ready Check helps you prepare yourself and your raid for the bosses that simply require killing. Check back with Ready Check each week for the latest pointers on killing adds, not standing in fire, and hoping for loot that won't drop.

The smell of fresh territory. I have to say, despite being the most hated writer on the WoW Insider staff, there's nothing like writing under a new heading, no matter whether it be temporary or more permanent. While I love my other projects on the site, there's something ... thrilling when you get to write about a new topic. It's like buying a new car or getting a new apartment. You just love the thrill of new.

In his goodbye but not farewell post, Mr. Gray listed five lessons that he had learned during his time writing Ready Check. For any who read my other works, you probably guess that I agree with his statements for the large part. There is one point that he made that struck a controversial chord with some of our readers: meters. People love their meters; people hate their meters. Many of us would love to play in a game where such things didn't exist, while the same number would probably make them required. What's a player to do?

Why meters are unimportant

Before diving headlong into how it is that I disagree with Mr. Gray, I would first like to reiterate how I do agree with him. There are far too many people who cling to damage meters in this current day and age, and they do so without the aptitude or proper knowledge of how to properly utilize them.

Frankly, in the large amount of encounters that I do, I really don't care about a person's DPS. Each encounter is designed differently; each has its own unique handicap or challenge that a raid has to overcome. While damage is always a part of every encounter, it isn't usually the central factor in the success/fail category. Chimaeron, for example, is only about DPS in the last portion of the encounter; prior to that, it is about precision healing and mana management. Atramedes, too, isn't as much about DPS as it is about coordination and the basic ability to move out of the way.

When DPS does become a factor in encounters, it usually is only a very specific type. Heroic Halfus is a perfect DPS check (though I would probably argue it is more a tank ability check), but the primary DPS factor comes in at the very start of the encounter. Being able to quickly AoE down the whelps and take down the rest of the dragons is crucial because it lessens tank damage and decreases the risk of tank/raid death. Phase 1 Nefarian is also a DPS check, though most people don't realize it -- being able to get as much damage onto Nefarian while killing Onxiya before she explodes upon the raid.

Despite what strong DPS checks do exist, there really isn't much of need for DPS meters. In most general cases, all of these encounters are tuned toward an average of what players should be able to reach given a standard raid composition and gear. Even heroic encounters work this way.

There's just nothing within the game currently that remotely matches the DPS checks of old.
Brutallus was the king of DPS checks. Your normal guild simply never stood a chance against it. Even the "elite" guilds had to do some serious gaming in order to get him down. This just isn't the way that the game is built anymore. Chalk it up to things getting "dumbed down," but raids just don't really have the same flat DPS requirements that they once did.

You really don't need meters

The simple fact is, the times when your raid is failing because of poor DPS are going to excessively slim. Further, in which cases that you do find yourself having DPS issues on an encounter, it usually isn't going to be the fault of any single person. No DPS meter in the world is going to help you at that point.

For as much as other players laud damage meters, for as much as I love them, they really aren't a required function of any raid. There is nothing that a damage meter is going to tell you that will make or break any raid. It will not suddenly turn failures into success; changing out one "weak" player identified by a damage meter won't suddenly make your raid that much more enjoyable.

Damage meters are a tool, yes, but unlike many other tools that you can get your hands on, they do not determine any crucial part of an encounter. They will not suddenly make your players better at their jobs. They will not increase your healing. They will not fix raiders with bad positioning or a bad strategy for an encounter.

For all that a damage meter is, never forget what it isn't. Knowing the limitations of any tool is the first and most important step in knowing how to use it correctly.

Why every raider should run meters

Now that I am done bashing damage meters for all of the ills that they can bring, it is time that I stand up as a champion for them and explain why it's important that every raider either use an on-the-fly damage report or that every raid run an in-depth damage parse.

Although the DPS races of the past no longer exist today, there isn't much of a reason for players to want to improve themselves, to perform to the average standards set for their raid. First, I want to drive that point home -- a player should strive to be average within his own raid.

That's a very key factor. Looking at WoL or other top damage sites and thinking that you should be hitting that mark is a fallacy. It doesn't matter how perfectly you play, how good your gear is, or how skilled of a player you are; you will never hit those numbers. You may be able to outperform the rest of your raid by some margin, but you will never catch up to the best. It takes an entire raid group performing at such a high level to reach that mark.

Instead, you should shoot to be able to reach the average DPS of the rest of your raid -- that is, the point at which you will never be holding the raid back, ever. That should always, always be your goal. You don't need to be a star; you don't need to be the best of the best. You merely need to be on par with the rest of your raid.

Healers and tanks -- exempt?

It is rare that I actually ever use a damage meter to report actual DPS by players. I trust my fellow raiders. I know that we can all do our jobs well enough to get through each and every encounter that we tackle. To be quite honest, the only things I really look for in DPS is interrupts and damage taken from avoidable environmental factors.

I find that healers and tanks, though, are often the ones who don't run with damage meters -- which, honestly, isn't what these tools should be called. "Damage meters" are more combat parsers than anything else, and they track a lot more than merely the damage done to or from a player.

It is well known that meters also track effective healing and overhealing, but those are usually rather meaningless numbers. You can use them to pinpoint "weak" healers, but that's such a complicated ordeal once you factor in everything else that can alter healing numbers. What is most important is the death report function.

All common combat meters should be able to display, in an easy-to-read format, the last moments of any player's death -- their incoming damage, their incoming healing, everything. This is wonderful for tanks and healers both to pinpoint how it is a tank died. Once you start noticing patterns, you can plan cooldowns.

Even though I rarely heal anymore, I constantly make use of this feature any time I die in any encounter. I like knowing what happened and why. Was it my fault? Could I have avoided something? Did I just go far too long without healing? These things matter.

A tool for improvement

Of course, when you want to increase your DPS, there isn't anything better than a damage meter. While we all like to say that DPS doesn't matter, and I am at the front of the fight that we should stop judging people based exclusively on their good posts, we all like to see big numbers.

People love having high DPS. They love beating out others. They like feeling useful. It can be depressing if you constantly see yourself at the bottom of the meters (though it should also be said that always being at the top can give people such a horrid case of ego that you really want to smack them).

If you consider yourself "low" on the meters, the first thing you should do is to compare against the rest of your raid. As I said earlier, you only want to be average. If you are the very last person on every encounter, but the top player is doing 14,000 and you are doing just over 12,000, then I'm really not going to care that much. When there isn't a large gap between you and the rest of the raid, then I honestly wouldn't worry about it.

Yes, you could probably improve -- but by the same token, it shouldn't come at the cost of stressing yourself over a game. Now, if you find that you're way behind the average of your raid, then you can start to look at what you might be doing wrong.

Usually it involves your rotation, but not in the way you might think. Check others of the same class in your raid or within similar raiding guilds. The things you need to look at are specifics: DOT uptime, buff uptimes, number of casts. Usually, it isn't so much that you are executing your rotation wrong as it is there's a specific difference in the rotation that you could be taking advantage of.

Also note differences in strategy. On heroic Magmaw, my guild only has a select number of players at ranged. I don't expect for our shadow priest to perform at 100%, because he's having to dodge fire and exploding junk, while I sit in melee the entire time, free-casting without ever having to move.

When you want to improve yourself, always remember that damage meters are merely a tool -- a useful, highly valuable tool, but a tool nonetheless. They cannot show everything. They have their limitations. But they can help. Love or hate damage meters, never forsake them. Learn to use them accurately and wisely.

Ready Check shares all the strategies and inside information you need to take your raiding to the next level. Be sure to look up our strategy guides to Cataclysm's 5-man instances, and for more healer-centric advice, visit Raid Rx.

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