Tuesday, November 10, 2009

PuGs: Raid Role at a Glance

Patch 3.2

One thing that drives me NUTS when I'm sitting in a pug raid as it forms is those raid leaders who have no idea what they have in the raid. You know, those RLs that keep spamming "press 1 if ur heals," and they invite "healers" who are actually dps, or invite a dps and then forget that they're a dps and assume that they're healers just because of the color of their name? Quite often when a bunch of the healers have tabbed out or AFKed or just aren't paying attention because it's taking so long to start, and thus aren't even going to respond to the query on how many healers are in the raid?

I've pugged too much. It may drive me insane, some day, but I've met some cool people through it, too, so it's balanced out so far. But, I digress.

First of all, if you're going to lead a pug raid, please have raid frames for the raid on your screen. Trust me, it will make things easier. You can remove them later when the raid gets going, if you don't want them cluttering your screen (though it's very helpful as a raid leader to have them up at all times, so you can tell how many dead/debuffed you have). What the raid frames will give you is a targetable interface through which to take a look at people, nevermind will it prevent you from having to tab back and forth between the LFG tool and the raid social tab.

Second, if you have a bad memory on who in your group were healers... write down a list. Even if you don't do that, though, for laziness or lack of paper, you can still actually LOOK at the players in your raid and tell usually, at a targeted glance, whether they're a healer or not.

When you target someone, these things will normally come up:
  • Health Pool
  • Mana Pool
  • Spec-specific auras

Health Pool:

Someone with over 30k health (unbuffed) is likely a tank. Someone with over 40k health is most certainly a tank. Generally, if they have much higher HP than the rest of the raid, they're in some kind of tank spec or tank gear. If this is someone you didn't expect to tank, question them; they may not have gone to their second (dps or healer) spec yet, or they might be confused, or they might just be a better-geared tank than your currently selected MT!
  • A ret pally will have less health than a prot pally.
  • A DPS warrior will have less health than a prot warrior.
  • A feral kitty druid will have less health than a feral bear druid (and, often, a yellow energy bar rather than a near-or-empty rage bar). Yes, cat and bear require different specs to optimize.
  • A DPS DK will have less health than a tanking DK.
  • ...the rest of the casters all tend to be pretty squishy in health pools, though you can use health pools compared to members of their own class to compare their relative gear levels, stamina being a stat mostly unavoidable on all gear upgrades. Be sure to account for any buffs that individuals may have on them already when doing such a comparison: kings, fort, mark, and blood pact.

Mana Pool:
This is one of the easiest ways to tell apart druid and paladin healers from the crowd.
  • Druids: if they are significantly low mana, or if there's a complete absence of a mana bar, they're feral (in most cases; even travel forms have mana bars, though sometimes a waiting caster-druid may be goofing off in cat or bear). Otherwise, they are either healers or moonkin. Move on to auras from here.
  • Paladins: if they are significantly low on mana, they are either prot or ret. Look at their health to decide from there. The only pallies who have high mana pools are healers.

This is your final at-a-glance indicator of talent spec. Many specs will have passive auras that are specific to their spec alone, and are an easy way to further delineate specs.
  • Tree druids have a leaf-shaped "Tree of Life Form" aura; turkeys have a bird-faced "Moonkin Form" aura. If they are out of shapeshift form, you will have to whisper them or armory them. For the tree aura, make sure you are looking for the *form* aura, rather than the party buff aura.
  • Shadow Priests have a dark "Shadow Form" aura, when shifted. They will often be in this form as the raid is forming, cuz it looks cool and they probably want to intentionally use it to announce "hey, I'm not a healer!!"
  • Other classes have spec-specific auras as well, though all of their specs may be the same raid-role (dps), such as BM Hunters' Spirit Bond vs Marksman Hunters' Trueshot Aura.
Shaman are the one class that I find I need to inspect in order to tell them apart from dps. If when you're looking at their model (standing next to you) and they're dual-wielding weapons (often maces or fist weapons), however, you've got an enhancement shaman: enhancement shammies may well have enough mana to confuse you into thinking they're a caster! Elemental and resto shaman wear shields, however, so as far as I've been able to tell, picking restos out from elementals requires either a talent inspection, the presence of Totem of Wrath (ele's), or a good old-fashioned whispered query :)

When you've figured out your healers and tanks, remember who they are. Stick them in a party together, if that helps you remember them: spreading out healers to each party is a thing of the past and is no longer "required" for raiding. That way, if they drop the raid before you start, you'll know what you're missing, and you'll save time and the raid's sanity by not having to re-count your healers every 30 seconds!


Daniel said...

"Yes, cat and bear require different specs to optimize."

I'm going to quibble here. It's true that you can arrange a few talents in the feral tree around to get a boost for cat or bear form. But the truth is that it it's not much of a big deal. I would argue that feral hybrids are still a viable spec even in raiding content. They may not top the damage meter but they are still viable. The real difference between cat and bear still boils down to gear, not spec.

Kae said...

Most cats and bears have, from what I've seen, streamlined themselves to one side or the other to maximize their preferred role. Assuming that a feral druid is always able to tank isn't the best way to go about things, when you get into a pug raiding situation: some ferals are just resto druids who went pure cat as an offspec, and assuming that they will tank isn't a wise idea for a pug raid, as they may not have the armor or rage-generation talents that aid a bear tank.

Likewise, a feral druid focusing on bear may not have taken Shredding Attacks, thus severely hindering their damage in cat form (it's painful for me to try to cat things in my tank spec!). I have met druids who were pure-tank spec with a moonkin as their second spec.

If the druid isn't a cat/bear dualspec, they may've chosen a hybrid feral spec as you've mentioned, but it's never an assumption that a pug raid leader should make, particularly if they are unfamiliar with druids!

Farmer said...

With dual specs available, no leading edge raiding would take a hybrid feral spec for any role in the raid. There are just no good fights where being able to tank well AND dps decently is of benefit. It's better to be able to do 8K dps one fight and perhaps MT another fight using dual spec swapping.

The only possible exception might be champions - and in that fight a druid's strongest utility is not in any feral form. The best spec there is probably some sort of pvp/pve hybrid, not a bear/cat hybrid.

Anonymous said...

For shaman, looking at our weapon imbue buff, if it's up, will generally tell us apart. Flametongue = caster dps, windfury = enhancement, earthliving = healer

Verile said...

Nice run down. I know that I sometimes have an issue keeping up with what I have and I even write it down. :) The thing with PuGs is that people are always coming and going so it can be tough to keep up.

LawGirl said...

This drives me nuts too, so when I start creating a PuG or even RL my own raid, I always move healers down to group five when I invite them. This make it soo much easier. I also immediately mark the tanks and leave them in group one. This way I never have to say healers press 1. Cuz many times I am a healer and it drives me nuts, plus I never hang out in tree form so people wouldn't know from my aura.

Also enhance shammys have a really low mana pool, and they are pretty common so you can rule them out when you click on them and check their mana bar. If a shaman has an earth shield on themselves they are definitely resto, sometimes they put it on themselves while hanging around.

LawGirl said...

O and regarding the other comments about feral druids. I use my feral spec just as much as I heal, and I am full specd kitty dps, and no one who has a hybrid spec can come anywhere close to my dps in a raid, sure it is ok in a 5 man or even an easy raid, but I would never take a bear tank specd druid to dps the entire raid or vice versa. I many times tank 5 mans for my guild in kitty spec, but I would never tank in hard core raids. It is not a good idea, and druids should really not have a hybrid spec if they plan on doing serious raiding.

Kae said...

"enhance shammys have a really low mana pool"

...see, that's what I had thought, too, until I ran a pug with someone I assumed was an elemental shaman until I saw him meleeing next to me. An inspection later, and I was blinking my eyes in surprise at his mana pool. I didn't think Ancestral Knowledge gave that huge a boost, but I guess at 10% int... *shrug!*

Are weapon temporary buffs actually on the buff bar? I can't remember off the top of my head, except that rogue poisons are not...

Mark said...

They're not.

Shamans pretty much require an inspection of some sort to tell the difference.

We're sneaky like that :P

Alaron said...

This is my strategy:
1. TipTacTalents addon (if you have TipTac) adds a player's current talent spec to the tooltip.
2. VuhDo (raid frames) can be set-up to autosort a raid into tanks/melee DPS/ranged DPS/healers, which it does fairly well. (It has some problems with hybrids.)
With these two combined, I've never had a problem running a PUG VOA 25, if I choose to.

A hybrid spec can tank well enough and DPS well enough for everything save hard-modes. The only thing you lose by going hybrid is the 4% damage boost from the MSS/NS chain, and 1 of ILOTP, IW, and Predatory Strikes. I drop PS, personally, which means I probably only do 90% of the damage that a full-specced kitty can do (with a glyph/gear swap) but I have a full tank toolset.

Farmer said...

IMO, you have to count glyphs in with your spec. And for kitty dps anyway, glyphs are a pretty strong contribution to dps.

If you tank with your kitty glyphs (which is the combo I would recommend for a hybrid if you have any hope of doing decent dps), then I can see maybe 80% as effective. Heck, some fights have enough swipe spam that you can't tell the difference between kitty and tank specs from the dps numbers.

I would agree that for normal TOC kitty spec can work, but your healers are most definitely going to notice the difference. Less dodge, no -12% damage, possibly no -20% attack speed debuff on the boss. Even the lack of the 10% armor increase from Thick Hide contributes. Together it's a lot of extra damage coming in. If your healers are questionable at all, or if you're just learning a fight (no matter hard mode or not), then kitty spec just isn't a reasonable consideration.

I think we all tank 5 mans in kitty spec and gear, and it's fine. Many of us have enough dodge that healers can't even tell the difference. But 25 mans are a completely different story.

Kae said...

Short of the long re: the feral matter:

*Optimizing* a feral's role as dps or bear does require different specs (and gear/enchants/glyphs/gems/yadda). Not all ferals optimize in this way nor need to, though those in the "cutting edge raiding" would optimize themselves, like any other class should optimize for their role in such a raid situation which can't be brute-force outgeared.

In a raid pug (which isn't the cutting edge), you will get both types: the optimizers and the hybrids, and of course some ferals that have no idea what they're doing and put points in something like imp moonfire. If the raid leader doesn't know druid talents enough to be able to inspect and tell the difference between a pure cat and a hybrid and a pure bear and a terribad spec, then they can't assume anything except by what that druid is a) invited as, b) their relative health (thus gear and likely bear form), and c) if they happen to be in one form or the other (and thus are expressing their interest in raiding as that role).