Posted by: Kro | July 15, 2010

Time on Target: From Good to Great

Something I see a lot on different forums is “Why is my dps this low when I have the right gear, the right spec, and the right stat allocation?”

I also see plenty of “Why is the other <insert dps class> in my guild doing so much less damage than me consistently when they have similar, comparable, or even better gear than I do?”

Some of this comes down to class mastery, knowing your class’s optimal spec, rotation, and stats can be pivotal. In the end though, this is something anyone could (and should) be researching and implementing into their game in the first place.

A common retort is “play better”, but what does play better specifically mean?

In my opinion, a large portion of playing better (this example assuming your gear/spec/glyphs/rotation are not the problem) is your time on target..

What is Time on target?

This many sound silly but often you can check damage logs and find out why someone is doing better (or worse) than you primarily by checking how many casts they got off.

It’s no wonder that one death knight with 100 scourge strikes will do more damage than another that only manages 80. (Obviously these can be skewed by talents and the presence or absence of death runes but again, lets assume you’re competing against someone else playing a clone of your toon).  In a fight with multiple add phases, the DK with 400 disease ticks will win out against the DK with 250. The mage with 130 fireballs beats the mage with 90.

You may be thinking, durrrr, I’m not standing around doing nothing, these people getting fewer abilities in are obviously dunderheads picking their teeth or bioing during boss pulls. We aren’t talking about someone simply standing around though not doing anything. You’d be surprised how often in most fights there is an opportunity to sneak in one last hit, modify your rotation, or anticipate a phase to eek out that extra bit of damage as situations change.

Refresh diseases even if they have 8 seconds left because Sindragosa is lifting off into an air phase. Recast pestilence while running away from gunship archers to get 20 seconds of 2 diseases across 4 mobs rather than 12 seconds x2 x4, while you are moving to kill the battle-mage.

Understanding mechanics can easily increase your dps as well. If you are running all the way to the wall to avoid ooze explosion on Rotface and your fellow melee are simply side stepping a couple of yards, they are going to grab a distinct time on target advantage over you.  This is a severe example but you can see how a less obvious similar example might generate 1 extra attack. Multiply that extra attack by 10-15 opportunities per encounter and you’re looking at a big increase.

Putricide is another great example where you can set yourself up to do more damage by increasing your time on target. Having your diseases ready to be pestilenced to the green ooze so you can immediately start scourge striking grants you an extra attack. AMSing the knock back racks up your runic power to unleash 2-3 Death coils as your running back into position to soak the next explosion, and finally, being aware how close you are to Putricide while attacking the green ooze will enable you to often pestilence your diseases back onto Putricide as the green ooze is dying setting up an easier transition back to your boss rotation. Similarly, saving up runic power while on Putri to toss death coils at the red gas as it’s spawning and deciding who to follow, will mean you are in place to dps it as soon as possible while giving you the least time standing around doing nothing.

I use a lot of DK examples but this carries over to many specs. Increasing your time on target will improve your dps for any class even if the mechanics are slighty different for achieving that higher play. This is also why you will see a great player compete on a slightly undergeared toon or excel on many different characters. Skill transcends class and time on target proficiency carries over even if your class abilities don’t.

Using the Putricide example, leaving the gas a bit earlier than its death to catch your vengeance 5 stack from falling off Putricide will net a dps increase as ret. Constantly monitor your position as a mage so when its time to switch to the gas you can seamlessly swap targets without a gap in your cast chain. Use movement time running from malleable goo to refresh your insect swarm and moonfire on any available targets. You’ll be creating more dps from essentially no where.

If you are at the top of your wow macro (your gear, talents, glyphs, rotation are all 100% optimal) and you can’t figure out why your same class, spec, and geared peers are able to consistently outpace you then I highly suggest looking at creative opportunities to steal one last cast, snipe an extra bite before a phase swap, or juggle your dot’s to get around boss abilities intentionally designed to break your rotations.

The reason different boss encounters are interesting is because they intentionally try to break your rotation and force you to adapt. Knowing beforehand when your rotation will be under fire and setting yourself up preemptively to be in a position to cruise back into your groove will go a long way in ironing out the gap between you and your similarly geared classmates.

As a side note, after reading through this several times I can find instances where some of my specific examples are a gamble. I’m less of an exact numbers guy (I’m a healer remember!) and have more of a “more or less” (green bar or empty bar)attitude. I’d believe it if a scourge strike did more damage than 12 extra seconds of 2 diseases in some instances or a mage could spam a 130 fireballs and do less damage than a 90 fireball mage who also uses procs correctly and has 50 instant pyros. I’d like to cover my bases before posting and state that my examples are pulled out of the air rather than hard math.

 In other news, check out Borsk on the Raid Warning Podcast  for the round table Shaman discussion.



  1. Completely agree. I think this was touched on in the Roundtable – only move as much as you have to. It’s fine to be overcautious while you’re learning mechanics for the very first time, but once you’ve learned them, be prepared to fine tune your movement.

    Maximising DPS isn’t just about tweaking the best out of your spec and gear, or any of these things alone, it is everything added up together.

  2. […] on Target: Fury Warrior Circling back to a previous topic where I discussed going from good dps to great dps, I’d like to look specifically at a […]

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