There are a few comments on my blog about the “best rotation” for a spec, and a few times I’ve asked this question, often receiving a complex answer. So here and now I say there is no such thing as a fixed best rotation.
Critics: Huh, TyphoonAndrew you idiot, I always use [a][b][b][c][a], and it rocks, you’re wrong!
Me: No pal. That is just what works now when you’re doing a tank and spank. Read below for why you need to think deeper.
Most wow classes have a few abilities that are straight out fire and forget. Other abilities are better when used in a particular order, or used after a number of other affect have been applied. And a few quirky ones have internal cool-downs, shared cool-downs, and best used with powers from other classes. eg. Using Hysteria with Heroism is godlike, and Inner Focus with Devouring Plague is nice too.
This creates the expectation (and a good one) that you should use some abilities together in the “right” order and/or right time for maximum affect. This also means that as a player if you’re aiming for best performance, then you’re going to have to understand the abilities and how they mix, so you can best decide what to do. And that is the key difference between sayings a rotation is best, or knowing that a series of affects is optimal, but then being able to adapt to other situations when they occur. Those who just learn the a+b+c formula will always be limited by a lack of true understanding when compared to somebody who learns the detail of their powers.
For the sake of giving it a name, lets call this adaptive style of play Opportunistic Rotation; which is really saying the opportunity to use power with a set of rules that establish priority.
I first learned this lesson on my Warlock in TBC. After many raids of doing OK but not brilliant I sat and decided to really dig through the powers and see what I could find. It made no difference the next day, but about 4 weeks later I was much higher rated on damage. It took time, practice, screw-ups, discussion, and even more time.
It meant that I could start a fight using my preferred a+b+c routine, but then when all went to shit, or the fight got complex, or I had other duties during the fight, I didn’t just swap back into a+b+c, I took stock of where affects were, where people were, and what would have most affect in the time remaining.
So a real, current example for me is my Death Knight.
eg. Death Knights, for single target
- Consider powers that will make you live longer
- Consider what will be best for positioning
- Use an ability that does DoT before a straight damage affect, unless most of the damage in the Dot will not be applied because the mob will die very soon, I’ll have to switch target.
- RP dump ability ready? Use it.
- If disease 1 not applied, then use it. Use the disease that can be cast from range, as you run in.
- If disease 2 not applied, then use it
- Use the best strike for your spec, with diseases up.
- Consider an alternate strike (heal, etc), if the strike above will not do comparable damage due to no diseases.
You end up with a huge set of If..Then/Else statements that dictate what you’re doing. Its harder than a+b+c, it takes longer to really learn, and it also changes when you change fights. But hey, we’re in this because we have the passion, not because we like changing numbers in a database.
The rules change by fight (eg. doing Zombie Chow in Naxx, or Malygos’s air spin phase), by team (oh no! Too much melee, maybe we should try to stay alive more), and by role (AoE vs single target, CC needs etc). Keep yourself flexible, and you’ll be doing far more DPS in no time.
So if this makes sense, but you’re lost where to start, then open your spellbook and start writing notes. Once you have a shortlist of powers that are interesting, put them in groups (CC, single target, AoE, Oh Shit, Utility, Buff) and start planning how you’re going to use them. Then head to a target dummy, pick your first spells that you’d like to understand more and unload. Then finally join a BG and pick a power and see how often you can use it. When did it work, when did it suck? You’ll have a deeper understanding darn quickly.
Now all I need to do is practice what I preach. 🙂
Of course the abridged version of this is: roll face on keyboard, and stick out your toungue when you need extra deeeps. But then if you play like that, then send me $24.95 for my advanced face-rolling guide. Go on, you know you’re tempted.