Damage meter tyranny

There’s a thought-provoking post over at The Thrill of the Wild today that suggests there may be more efficient ways to apply AoE damage in raids than just madly spamming Multishot at large packs of adds. It’s definitely worth a read. But the part that got me to thinking was a parallel thread in the piece, hinting at the psychological dependency many of us have on raw numbers.

Usually when anyone asks me about my damage numbers, I will do a virtual airy wave of my hand and say something like “Oh I never really look at numbers.” That, of course, is a lie. By claiming to pay no attention to them, I am just insulating myself from a) criticism that I am slacking if the numbers are low, or b) unwanted attention if the numbers are high. I admit that I do run a damage meter while raiding (I use Skada), but I rarely look at it unless the raid as a whole is doing badly. However, I do pore over numbers in the logs after every raid, and sadly I tend to measure my performance solely based on big numbers, both for overall damage and DPS. If I am very low on the charts, I feel that I did badly, if I am high on them, then — it pains me to say — I feel pretty darn smug. I know there are plenty of other ways to measure raid performance, and thankfully my raid leaders do use them, but when I evalute myself I really only look at the damage numbers.

I consider myself to be, at best, a slightly above average hunter raider. On a scale of 1-10, 1 being your stereotyped really clueless hunter and 10 being world class, I am a pretty solid 5, maybe 5+ on a good day. My raid awareness is better than it used to be, but could still stand a lot of improvement. In fights requiring a lot of movement, my damage takes a bigger hit than it should given a hunter’s great mobility. I am not the best focus planner, so I lose a significant number of signature shots. I have a bad habit of mashing keys, sometimes causing certain shots to be clipped. I am very clumsy with frequent and rapid target switching.

I say all this to point out that — even given as average and casual as I am, and how much I may try to brush aside damage meter readings — I get a rush when my numbers are high and I am annoyed when they are low. I will go out on a limb and say this is true of 99% of raiders in this game, whether they admit it or not. Admit it, you are one of that 99% too.

This is one reason it is difficult — especially in a pug — to get people to volunteer for utility duties. Almost every time, such duties cause a loss to personal damage numbers.

Here’s a perfect example. Last night my raiding guild downed Beastlord Darmac. My assigned role in this fight is spear hunter — Heavy Spears are my primary targets, boss and other adds are only secondary. Since I am SV, my tactics are usually to dot up all the ones in range, then finish them off one by one. If I can get some collateral damage on pack adds with Barrage or Multishot or even a quick Explosive Trap, that’s a bonus.  Unfortunately, the spear dispersal pattern is not usually such that one Multishot will get them all, so I spend a lot of time repositioning and firing off Arcane Shots at single targets. And of course more Arcane Shots lead to needing more long cast focus generating shots. Last night I opted not to leave my pet on passive and on the boss, instead switched to Blink Strikes figuring the extra DPS on the spears might help, but even with Blink Strikes you lose a lot of pet damage by switching targets. As I said, we did down the boss, but my personal DPS was a disaster. This was a fight that for me required lots of movement as well as frequent and rapid target switching ( see above). The spears each have relatively low health, consequently they would go down faster than I could establish any kind of efficient rotation, and if I did manage to get a signature shot off, much of its damage was wasted because the target died too quickly. Even when there were no spears and I could switch to the boss, it was usually not long enough to establish a good shot rhythm before the next set of spears came out.

So in this case, I did the job I was assigned, I did it pretty well, I had fun (I kind of like utility duties), and the team was successful. So I should have been happy, right? Wrong. When I looked at the logs afterwards and saw I was on the bottom of the damage charts, my heart sank. This is how strong a hold these arbitrary numbers have on us.

Damage meters are useful tools. But they need to be used intelligently, which is surprisingly harder to do than most of us would think.

I would never suggest that damage numbers are irrelevant. This entire game is numbers-based, and high damage is a plus in the big picture. Raid teams need to strive for the highest damage they can generate. But, as Del irium pointed out in the blog I cited at the beginning of this post, generating higher team damage may mean generating lower individual numbers — a clear example of the whole being greater than the sum of the parts.

About Fiannor
I have a day job but escape by playing WoW. I love playing a hunter, and my Lake Wobegonian goal is to become "above average" at it.

2 Responses to Damage meter tyranny

  1. I read the Thrill of the Hunt article too. I think it blossomed from the podcast with Roger Brown. In fact, I spent some time with my Guild Master talking about target priority over big AOE numbers so the boss dies with alacrity. It’s a very heady concept.
    I’ve never gotten the job of Spear Hunter! It sounds like fun.
    Our guild doesn’t run any raid logs, I envy you that — but I have been known to peek at my fellow hunters on the armory to see what talents that they are using!

    • Fiannor says:

      You could run raid logs easily yourself. Check out how to do it at AskMrRobot. It’s a pretty handy app, and much easier to use than the older World of Logs or some of the other log apps. It works off your in-game combat logger, so you will have to enable that. But it can tell you a lot about raid performance at a quick glance.