World of Warcraft – rules for melee DPS in raiding

With the advent of patch 3.3 for World of Warcraft came the addition of a new “dungeon finder” system, which allowed players to enter a queue for a random or specific dungeon based on their chosen role – healer, tank or damage-dealer, commonly known as DPS or “damage per second”.

World of Warcraft - rules for melee DPS in raiding

What this system has shown, as evidenced by its wait times, is that most servers are severely overpopulated by damage-dealing classes. A healer or tank will have no problem getting a group in very short order, but for a DPS the wait can be much longer.

One of the reasons for such an overpopulation of damage-dealers is that they are considered to be extremely easy classes to play, lacking the sheer amount of information which has to be handled by tanks and the finesse exemplified by healers.

Melee DPS in particular, including Enhancement Shamans, Fury and Arms Warriors, Rogues, Retribution Paladins and Feral Druids can bring an excellent amount of damage to the table, but can also drag a group down if they players behind the characters don’t bear a few basic rules in mind.

Melee DPS Rule #1 – Wait for the Tank

World of Warcraft

This used to be par for the course, back when World of Warcraft had only one continent and there was no ability to dual-spec or gem items. DPS would always allow the tank time to run in, grab all of the enemies being fought, and WAIT until the tank had a decent amount of threat built up so that when they began to attack, they wouldn’t pull the target’s attention away from the tank.

At higher levels, damage-dealers would try their best to make sure that their damage output was smooth and consistent, rather than punctuated by large “spikes” or critical hits. This made the tank’s job much easier. Now, however, melee DPS tend to rush in swinging the moment the tank runs forward, using every skill that they can find in order to output the highest number possible and top the damage charts of their raid group.

This can unnecessarily pull threat from the tank and get an unlucky Shaman or Warrior killed. Be very mindful of this – if it occurs, the tank is not to blame for failing to pick up the mob, and nor are the healers since they have to focus on more important targets, such as the tank. A melee DPS that pulls aggro from a raid boss is typically a dead DPS, and in almost every case they are to blame for their own demise.

Melee DPS Rule #2 – Positioning and Capping

For any melee DPS who is interested in raiding, there are two very important factors to remember which will both increase survivability and damage done.

The first is positioning. Melee need to stand behind the boss or mob being attacked as much as possible. This is because even a raid boss cannot block or parry from behind, meaning that more attacks from the player will go through. It also allows the DPS to be out of the way of any frontal attack the boss may do, for example the “Saber Lash” done by Lord Marrowgar in Icecrown Citadel which attacks the closet three players in front of him.


There will be times that the melee needs to position differently, such as when they fight the dragon Onyxia and need to stack up on her sides to avoid both a cleave attack from the front and a swipe from the tail.

Secondly, every melee DPS must be concerned about both their hit and expertise ratings. Hit rating actually controls the number of missed swings a melee DPS will have with their weapons. The higher the hit rating, the fewer misses there will be. To achieve a situation where there are no missed swings from melee weapons is not a currently obtainable goal, so many classes will aim for a point at which all of their special skills and talents will hit. For example, an Enhancement Shaman will aim for 368 hit rating, which will enable all of his spells to hit, as well as most of his melee attacks, provided he has all necessary raid buffs.

Expertise rating works in much the same way, except instead of lowering the player’s chance to miss, it effectively lowers the targets ability to dodge or parry. The highest observed dodge rate for any raid-level boss in WoW is 6.5%, which means melee DPS are looking to match that number. Expertise rating, which is a statistic listed on a player’s character sheet, will display a percent value if moused over. Every class and race combination will result in a different rating required to achieve the value, so make sure to look at the percent, not the expertise rating number itself.

Melee DPS Rule #3 – It’s the Win that Matters

Too often, DPS will get caught up in their own specific and almost hardwired rotation, and forget about the general good of the raid. With mods like recount and others which show damage done by each raid member, fights can sometimes become a competition to see who can hit the fastest and the hardest.

This will do the raid and the player no good, however, if the boss encounter fails because there was more attention paid to personal performance than team effort. If the raid leader calls for DPS to move or stop, follow the directions. Don’t wait for the next “big hit”, don’t wait for a cooldown to come up. Stop, or move. This will ultimately help both the player and the group.

Melee DPS make a huge contribution to the success of any raid. The key is simply playing smart and keeping the good of the team in mind above oneself. The boss won’t drop loot unless the raid group can kill him, after all.