|Instance grouping guide|
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Running instances with a group of two to five players (or even more in a Raid group) is one of the three major ways to spend time in World of Warcraft (the other two being solo play and PvP). The key to successful group PvE is working together as a team, the first and most important hurdle being good aggro management. A group with a bad mixture of classes but with good teamplay always outperforms a group with a perfect mix of classes but doesn't properly work together.
Main Group Roles
The most important aspect of group play is that all group members know without doubt which of the three following roles they play, and put this primary function above everything else. Confusing these roles leads to disaster — a tank (or healer) who believes that they're damage dealers are immediate causes for wipes. Similarly, the damage dealers must be clearly aware that they're not tanks, and thus avoid getting aggro by all means.
The tank is the group member who should take all the damage. Tanks don't deal (much) damage themselves, their job is to gain and hold aggro on all mobs (aka enemies), and make sure nobody else is hit. A tank's primary task is to ensure survival of the healer.
- Main article: Instance grouping guide for a healer
Healers do no damage at all — even if this means they have nearly nothing to do at all on some pulls. They save their mana to keep the tank and everybody else alive. Healers can die from their heals drawing aggro. When they have drawn more aggro than the tank, they have to stop healing everybody else except the tank. If the healer still dies, then the tank is either not geared enough to hold aggro or must do a better job at holding it.
Priests, druids, paladins and shamans are all equally capable healers. At the raid level, each has particular strengths and weaknesses. For example, holy paladins are exceptionally good at tank healing while druids are better at raid healing. In 5-mans, any healer can do the job.
Damage Dealer (aka DPS)
- Main article: Damage dealer
Every class has the ability, given appropriate talent points and gear, to deal significant damage. Without sufficient damage from the group, it is likely that the healer's mana will run out or progress through the location is too slow to be practical, whether for Respawn or other reasons. A good damage dealer knows how to kill mobs without drawing aggro, a bad damage dealer doesn't and dies. The central and most important rule for damage dealers is "dead = 0 DPS". If a damage dealer dies, it's not the healer's fault, nor the tank's, but always the damage dealers own (assuming a normal Threat Table). Watching a threat meter is critical — if a DPS gets too close to the tank, they should cease DPS and bandage.
After the above three functions are well understood and practiced, proper understanding and handling the following functions further increases the party's efficiency:
- The Leader (mark mobs with target markers) - selects targets for Crowd Control, damage, and off-tanking or kiting
- Puller (start the fight with the first hit on the mob) - In groups of five this job of pulling is usually done by the tank himself. If available, a good Hunter can substantially increase the groups survivability in difficult pulls though (and since a good hunter is a bad hunter with a lot of practice, it's a good idea to let hunters do all the pulling all of the time).
- Crowd Control (CC, take mobs temporarily out of the fight) - Often hinges on the type of the mob. Polymorph is the most popular since most mobs are humanoids or beasts, but there are many other forms of CC, such as Traps, Sap, Fear, etc.
- Off-tank (OT, tanks extra mobs) - on some pulls, it's necessary to assign an extra tank to a mob, either because it's too difficult for the MT to build aggro on several mobs, or because he would take too much damage, and/or there's no CC available.
The following functions designations are either obsolete or used only very rarely:
- Since the advent of the target markers, the Main Assist isn't used that much anymore. In some cases it's still useful to have one; rotating through a series of mobs is much easier through one coordinator. It may also speed up things (because marking mobs can take some time), and is more flexible in case of unforeseen situations or emergencies.
- Scout (aka "The Reconnaissance") - A stealthed Rogue or Druid, a Priest with Mind Vision, a warlock with Eye of Kilrogg, A hunter's Minimap tracking, a Shaman with Far Sight and Sentry Totem (both are limited), different minimap tracking abilities; this role helps eliminate unnecessary adds by knowing when and who to attack.
- Rezzer - Responsible for reviving the fallen, especially after a wipe or near-wipe. Via any kind of Wipe Recovery, a Paladin, Shaman (who can also self-resurrect with Reincarnate), Priest or Druid is used to revive the whole party. All healing classes can resurrect, so any functional group will always have at least one rezzer. A Death Knight can temporarily ressurect someone for five minutes, which can really make a difference in instances such as Utgarde Keep, where someone can go from full health to no health very quickly.
Group Combat in Detail
When clearing an instance, combats are usually followed by short times out of combat. Each combat can be broken down into a sequence of phases:
- Aggro Building
- Damage Dealing
It's very important that all group members strictly follow this sequence. Looting for example belongs to the "Aftermath" step, and should never be done during the combat. Another common error is to start dealing damage too soon.
The following really only applies to raids, and perhaps to the very hardest instances like Halls of Reflection. At any other level, a decently-geared tank can easily hold aggro on a whole pack without much need for crowd control.
In this step, the tactic for the upcoming fight is discussed, and if the pull consists of more than one mob, a kill and CC order is determined and the mob are marked appropriately with the target markers (). It's a good idea to mark all mobs in advance, including a few extra mobs which might come as adds, just to be prepared. The players must agree on a order in which the mobs are going to be killed. A widely used "standard" sequence is to kill the Skull ) first, followed by the cross ). The moon , star , and the square are frequently used for a CC target, usually meaning a Mage's Polymorph, Rogue's Sap, or Hunter's Freezing Trap respectively.
Generally, healer mobs are killed first followed by caster mobs and everything else last. The reasoning for this is that enemy healers prolong the fight and casters usually do high amounts of damage (Some may be Warlock or Necromancer type mobs that summon minions), while both are usually relatively easy to kill. In some cases if a mob has disruptive abilities like wide range AoEs or fear, they may take higher than normal priority.
If there are too many mobs to mark them all, or if the group just feels lazy, it is a good idea to designate a Main Assist (MA). The MA should be damage dealer with no other responsibilities (like CC). Party members should not pick their own targets, but rather always assist the MA. The Assist Main Tank/Main Assist macro/mod makes assisting very quick and easy.
Another method is to mark just the mob which is due to be killed (usually with Skull) "on the fly". Whenever the current target is dead, the group leader marks the next mob to killed, and the damage dealers just follow the Skull. It's also possible to use two marks (skull and cross), and alternate between them - after skull is dead, nuke cross, and then skull again.
Crowd Control and Kiting
- Main article: Instance grouping guide for a crowd controller
CC can sometimes make the difference between success and failure, On the other hand are some cases where it's used out of habit, but is not really needed and just slows things down. Use CC sparingly, but don't hesitate to use it when really needed. The group leader needs to know the CC skills present in the party, and should reserve a few target markers for each ability. All party members must know that CC is going to be used, and be very careful not to accidentally break it. Players tasked with CC'ing a mob must keep a watchful eye, and re-apply it if it breaks for any reason.
Kiting is a special form of crowd control. In some situations, a group may lack the proper form of CC to master a certain pull. In these cases, it's possible to designate one group member as kiter, and thus get the mob neutralized.
Fear when glyphed is an effective form of CC too. Unglyphed, feared mobs tend to bring adds into the fight. Therefore unglyphed Fear should not normally be used as CC measure, but instead only in special situations (where adds are impossible), or as a last resort. Note that Fear is treated by mobs as an attack and will start a pull, unlike many other forms of CC, which are not treated as an attack. Take care to fear the mob you wish to CC after the pull is started.
Every group should have one designated puller. He should try to pull one mob cluster at a time without aggroing more mobs than absolutely necessary, and pull clusters in a logical fashion. The most common mistakes novice players make when pulling are:
- Failing to designate an official puller. In such a case, frequently two people pull different clusters at the same time, usually producing a wipe.
- Pulling a mob that is too close to a second group, which aggros the other group.
- Pulling before Sap, as Sap must happen before combat begins.
- Unexpected CC pulls. Starting a pull with polymorph before the tank is ready for it, may cause a wipe.
After the pull, it is imperative that the group does not immediately start blasting away with all available means. Give the tank enough time to build solid aggro on the mobs, so they will not be tempted to peel off the tank and attack you. A good tank should be able to generate enough threat right away to allow the DPS roles to blast away as soon as possible, but even in this situation it's still vital that the DPS players be aware of their threat level.
Beyond protecting the party immediately, most tanks need to mix it up quickly in order to be able to build threat.
- Druid and Warrior tanks gain rage from taking hits, dealing damage, and using special rage-inducing abilities. Rage is required for Druids and Warriors to use their threat-inducing abilities, like . Damage-reducing buffs, like do not affect rage generation from hits because the critical factor for inducing rage is being hit, not taking damage. See Druids as tanks and Warriors as tanks.
- Paladin tanks primarily get aggro the same way DPS does, mainly by dealing damage to the target. But they also have spells and auras that augment their threat level, such as . See Paladins as tanks.
- Death Knight tanks build aggro simply by being Death Knights. That is, by melee fighting. There are some abilities which generate more aggro than others, but multiplies a Death Knight's threat just by standing around. See Death knights as tanks.
Before the tank pulls sufficient aggro, feel free to sheep, sap, shackle, but stick to some plan. Learn to recognize the Sunder Armor debuff of Warriors on the mob, the Mangle, Swipe and Maul motions of Druids, the distinctive Judgement of Righteousness and Consecrate animations for Paladins, and the Death and Decay and Pestilence animations for Death Knights.
Priests with Holy Nova can also use this early in the pull. It damages everything in range, with a little bonus healing, while causing no threat, but pay attention not to accidentally break CC. Similarly, Prayer of Mending and Earth Shield are very good on the tank, because they do not place threat on the healer, but rather on the tank.
Warlocks and Hunters, should turn off auto-cast of and on Pets and Voidwalkers, because these abilities can pull nearby mobs into fights unexpectedly. Additionally, this is especially important for Warrior tanks, as they generate a significant portion of their rage from being hit, and if the minion or pet is getting hit instead of the tank, some rage generation will be lost. In Dungeons and Raids, Hunters should favor pets with Ferocity or Cunning over Tenacity as these pets will deal more damage and produce less non-damage threat in a situation where pet survivability in an encounter is not an issue.
Battles in an instance should be precise and controlled. Novice players often behave the same way in an instance that they would when soloing. They separate and attempt to fight individual skirmishes. This defeats the entire point of grouping, and virtually guarantees a wipe. Instances are designed to be almost impossible for a single player, so your group must try to act as a single entity.
The most common mistakes novice players make during battle are:
- Scattering, thus drawing adds.
- DPS failing to focus their damage on one mob (e.g. the one marked with a skull target marker).
- DPS overpowering the threat of the tank. Biggest reason for most wipes.
- Tanks not understanding which of their abilities produce the most aggro, and thus failing to keep aggro off the healers or damage dealers.
- Tanks failing to equip a shield in situations in which the healers are running out of mana trying to keep up with physical damage taken by the tank.
- Healers not understanding the Five Second Rule and how to avoid running out of mana.
- Pulling multiple groups of mobs at once.
- Failing to act as a team.
- Breaking crowd control (Sheep, Hunter traps, Sap, or Shackle).
- Looting during battle. This is highly unwise because it diverts attention away from the battle as the group members examine the loot popup. It is especially detrimental to the tank and the healer in their abilities, or else if they stay on their task, they may lose out on a loot roll.
- Fearing (unglyphed), because unglyphed fear will frequently cause mobs to run away randomly into other mobs causing more aggro. (For exceptions to this rule, see the section on Fear, below).
In many fights (boss fights in particular), there is usually more to watch out for than simply tank and spank the mobs. Make sure you aren't making life harder in battle by standing in range of an AoE attack when you're a long ranged attacker, or standing in places that may get you attacked by patrols or other nearby mobs. On the same note, watch out for mobs that can fling you away, into the air. They'll run at you and you'll go flying – make sure this doesn't send you toward another group of mobs or maybe worse, off the edge of a cliff. When possible, fight these mobs with your back to a wall.
First of all the group needs to stay together post-battle. One easy mistake is that the next mobs are pulled too early before the casters have regained enough Mana. The most common mistakes novice players make post-battle are:
- Abandoning Casters who are regenerating mana.
- Wandering from the group, becoming lost or aggroing mobs.
- Failing to wait for members who need to accomplish quest tasks.
- Failing to wait for everyone to be resurrected before looting.
Remember: It's as much the Leader's job to check everyone is ready, as it is your own. You can help by making sure you communicate in plenty of time if you are ready or not; equally the Main Tank should check to see if the group is ready for the next encounter.
Dying and Wipe prevention
When a group member dies or is about to die, it often means the rest of the group will follow soon after. If it is the tank dying, the mobs will scatter and quickly kill the healer or damage dealer who is the next on their threat list. Party members should be willing to do almost anything in their power to prevent a full wipe, or speed up the party's recovery.
You are dying (Don't Panic!)
You've only got a little health left. There's a monster beating on you or a spell flying at you and your cloth or leather garments aren't doing you any good.
Do not run away! Running away does nothing to help you. The mobs will follow you all the way to the instance entrance. When running, you can't block, dodge and parry and you will be dazed. You might even aggro more mobs, almost assuring a wipe. If you move at all, move within taunt range of the tank and then stop.
Do let the rest of the party know that you have aggro. The healer and tank may not have noticed. The /helpme and /healme macros are tacky, but they are designed to get attention. The tank has ways to pull all mobs onto him, and the Healer will usually have a fast heal or some kind of shield to help you out.
If death is inevitable, try to find a place clear of mobs to make resurrecting you easier. Don't release on death. This helps the party find your body and lets you share any loot.
The tank is dying (Emergency Tanking)
This scenario is quite a bit different from a damage dealer dying. It's worse than the healer dying if there is not another healer prepared to take over. When the tank dies, aggro will usually go to more fragile members of the party.
The most able members to save the party are those who can both get aggro immediately, and survive high damage. This primarily means any Druids, Paladins, or Warriors left in the party. They should use their Taunt abilities as fast as possible and start building threat. If no one is geared as an ordinary tank, any secondary tanks should try to tank an individual mob if they can get its attention. Hunter pets and Warlock minions can be used as tanks in a pinch if the rest of the group can restrain their burst DPS to allow the pet to keep aggro. Beast Mastery hunters have , a special pet-tanking aggro ability which can prove useful in such situations.
Everyone is dying (Wipe recovery)
- Main article: Wipe recovery
If a wipe is about to happen, the party should concentrate on keeping someone alive who can Resurrect. The leader should make the decision that a wipe is inevitable and announce this to the rest of the party. They should then use any abilities they have to put someone who can resurrect, and then themselves, out of combat. The Wipe recovery article has a large list of ways to do this.
This also applies as early as the pull; if the pull has gone bad, the healer and anyone else not yet in combat should run back to a safe place and watch the others die.
Some abilities allow a party member to return during battle. Don't use self-resurrection abilities while the combat is still going on, unless you died in a very precarious position and there is still a good chance to survive.
After the wipe
If the group wipes, this usually means that:
- Something went wrong.
- Somebody is unhappy.
Try to be patient with your group, understand that some of them might be even bigger noobs than you, and try to understand/explain how to improve.
If you're the group leader, it's your job to know what your group is capable of and to work with it. Especially in pick-up groups with strangers, be sure that every person's specialization is known.
While it is tempting for a leader to choose roles for the whole group, remember that a player will play the role they want to play with the most aplomb. In groups below 80, there will frequently not be players specialized for tanking and healing; in fact, there will rarely even be a single one of those. In groups formed through the Dungeon Finder, players are expected to perform the role they signed up for, but of course if a DPS is willing to heal or tank that's fine.
Be warned that many players still dismiss legitimate roles for some classes. You may have to concern yourself with educating players about something as common as a Shadow Priest or a Paladin tank. Also keep in mind that player ingenuity and proper use of game mechanics can beget potential roles that are not considered "legitimate", usually because of a lack of a talent tree devoted to it and/or lack of general mention or notice, but which can nonetheless be quite potent in the proper hands. In those cases, it's advisable to harbour an air of scepticism originally, but remain open-minded and allow the person a chance to both explain and, if he seems competent enough in his explanation, to perform; that player may well surprise you and the rest of the group!
Dealing With Poor Group Dynamics
A serious problem that is often encountered with players within WoW in particular, is that although certain activities within the game (raids, battlegrounds, etc.) ideally benefit from a level of group discipline vaguely approaching that which is usually only otherwise seen within real-world military groups, the people playing the game will almost exclusively consist of civilians, who are thus entirely unaccustomed, in many cases, to working within a group in such a focused and controlled manner. This lack of familiarity with a desirable level of discipline, is in itself probably the single main cause of wipes and other failures, during instances or other group-oriented activities within the game.
Most of this guide is geared toward pickup groups or guilds that haven't yet established much routine in grouping or raiding. If you're in a group that already works, you probably don't need this guide. But what if you're in a group that doesn't work?
Groups fail if a member of the group ignores their role or compromises their performance in it. Many players misbehave in order to climb the damage meter. Some players are impatient or don't care about the group's procedures in pulling. Other group members may not understand the game well enough to use a shield or a certain spell. Changing this kind of behavior is the highest priority in fixing bad groups.
If you are the group leader, make sure everyone knows their role, and encourage them in those roles. Correct poor players and be prepared to boot them for the sake of the group. A poor enough player will drag down the whole group worse than not having them! As a communicator, consider saying as little as possible so the rest of the team will speak up for themselves. (While the group is forming, be slow to relinquish the "group leader" icon, since you are giving up direct power to save the run!)
If you aren't the group leader, leave the run if you see deep problems. It's best for everyone to leave as soon as you know that you aren't committed to the group. Ask the group who is going to tank as a litmus test; any decent group will be concerned with this before entering the instance. Be prepared to aid a timid group leader by offering advice or suggesting a boot.
Positive speech and action can bolster a failing group. Acknowledge your group members when they do well, but diligently correct them when they make mistakes. Give inexperienced players a chance to run the instance; frequently, newer players are good learners. Don't yell at players after a wipe; explain to them how the group may improve.
- Curiosity Killed The Cat Don't touch any usable 'cog-icon' objects until the entire group is rested and ready. Several instances have usable bits and pieces - doors, levers, buttons, etc, and many of these will spawn new enemies. Only do so when everyone is ready and alert. Also, don't talk to NPCs - even friendly ones may start some event or attack you after a short dialog.
- Watch Your Back! One common feature of the Instance is triggered 'Patrols' (often abbreviated 'Pats') being spawned behind the party when it reaches certain key points. Just because you've killed everything you've seen on the way in, doesn't always mean there's nothing behind you. Have someone keep an eye out behind.
- Listen to your party. In the end this is a group effort and, as such, decisions have to be taken to benefit all. Also, do not be afraid to ask. Being marked as a newbie is better than causing a wipe because you were too afraid to ask if you could activate something and did it anyway. Although it's often forgotten, everyone was a newbie once.
- Not Out Yet. Similarly, just because you've made it to the end of the map and killed the big monster with the exotic name, it doesn't necessarily mean you're done yet. Further scripted events on the way out should not be ruled out, and if the expedition has taken longer than two hours, (wipes, etc), respawning becomes a possibility. The respawn timers in some lower level instances are shorter than one hour. Stay together and on high alert until the party is out to the Meeting Stone and breathing fresh air again.
Be particularly careful using fear unglyphed in any Instance. Fear (unglyphed) and fear-type effects cause targets to run around randomly, alerting other mobs to your presence. More often than not, these additional unexpected mobs can turn a close call into a hopeless battle. As a general rule of thumb, simply don't use unglyphed fear in an instance. Cases in which unglyphed fear would be an acceptable thing to do are only when:
- You are the healer and are about to die in a situation where the group can obviously not survive without you.
- You are saving the healer or the tank when he is about to die and the group can obviously not survive without them.
- You are absolutely sure that there's no possible way for the fear to draw adds. Warlocks can implement , which causes Feared targets to tremble in place instead of run around like a chicken with its head cut off.
That said, Fear can be a valuable CC tool in some instance situations. Warlocks in particular have tools to allow them to control their feared target(s). However, this should only be done by experienced players who know how to handle feared targets and are willing to go to the effort, as Fear yo-yo tactics (Fear -> Curse of Recklessness -> (other curse) -> Curse of Recklessness, etc.) can take a great deal of attention, lowering DPS noticeably. [EDIT: It is no longer reliable, as CoR was removed from the game in patch 3.1.0] In general, this form of CC should be treated as a valuable asset, but also as a last resort.
The next step
Stepping it up to Raiding? Raiding for newbies.