Everyone knows about normal instances, and most people have heard of Heroic-mode. What most people don’t know about is Easy-mode.
Normal mode is open to everyone who can walk through the instance entrance. Some instances need attunement, but even that can often be skipped by most players (when it’s key-based, only one person in the group needs the key).
Heroic mode is a bit tougher. You need to grind out some rep and buy the heroic-mode key (usually for some insignificant amount of gold). Since Blizzard dropped the rep requirement down to honored, most players probably don’t even notice the “rep grind”.
Easy mode requires something much tougher than attunement or rep grinding. It requires finding five people with common sense, awareness of their class role, suitable gear, and an understanding of how groups work. It also requires a leader who is familiar with the instance, and the correct class balance for the instance being run. Fortunately, the drops and quest rewards are the same whether you’re on easy-mode or not, and heroics also have easy-mode versions.
So how does this easy-mode work?
Well, first of all, you need people to fill a few clearly-defined roles, and fill them well.
Marking is central to playing on easy-mode. Everything that is going to be killed should be marked first, from the single-mob pat to the seven-mob pull. If it’s only one or two mobs, it will take you about three global cooldowns to mark them, so why wouldn’t you? If there are seven mobs, with three CCs happening, and your DPS have to burn down one or two before the combined damage overwhelms the healer, it’s worth the extra time.
Oh, and have a kill order. If everyone switches from the first kill target to different mobs, your aggro will go everywhere. Sure, your tank can generate some threat on a few mobs at once, but he needs to focus his main threat generation on the same target the DPSers are going after. Also, you reduce the overall number of mobs faster, which reduces healing needs (and the faster you’re down to one or two mobs, the faster your healer can jump into DPS mode and down things EVEN FASTER AGAIN).
A set kill order helps for breaking CC as well: if you have a trap, a sap, and a seduce, you don’t want all 3 CCs broken at once as soon as the non-CCed mobs are down. One at a time makes life easier for everyone.
The marker needs to know the limitations of CC, and the pulling plan. Avenger’s Shield pulls mean you want three mobs on one edge of the pull free of saps (and preferably traps). Rogues don’t want to be sapping a mob right in the middle of a group. And for goodness’ sake don’t make your hunter trap a caster. If you’re not sure how a particular type of CC works, ask.
Good marking is hard, but it makes for very easy runs.
We all know we need one; the tank’s job is to hold aggro on all the mobs. The easy-mode tank also needs to be aware of what the dps are doing, and what Crowd Control is being used. He or she needs to be ready for CC to break early, and know what to do about it. Gear needs to have enough damage mitigation to let the healer keep up, but also provide for enough threat generation that the DPS aren’t sitting on their hands the whole time. A good tank has a damage mitigation set and a max threat set, and is prepared to mix and match to get the right balance.
Good tanks know about healing aggro. Us healers generate threat against every mob we’re in combat with when we heal. This means that if there are three mobs not CCed, the tank must generate more threat than us AGAINST EVERY ONE OF THOSE MOBS. Focused threat on the current burn target is important, but so is spread-out threat on everything else.
No, the tank doesn’t have to pull. Particularly if he or she is a pally, there might be no good single-mob ranged pull. Avenger’s Shield is awesome, unless it breaks sap. Or bounces to a different pull group. Organise who’s going to pull, and have them do it the same way every time. Make sure they know what to do to let the tank grab aggro, like “shoot the skull, then run across the pally’s consecrate”. If someone other than the tank is pulling, it should be with something low-threat. I’ve pulled as a healer using faerie fire, running the mobs across the pally’s AoE.
A good healer is critical. Gear is important (as you would expect), but awareness is even more so. There are plenty of people who can watch the group pane (or their raid frames) and cast heals on people who are dying. An easy-mode healer also needs to watch what is going on: “Sorry, you went out of range and I didn’t know which way to run” is not acceptable. Easy-mode healers can stay mobile and still heal effectively. They aggressively use the assist key to find out who the current burn target is focused on (or have a target-of-target-of-target frame). They watch for the CC to break early, because they know how much aggro CC generates, and they know the mind-controlling priest is only seconds away from a ganking.
A good healer also knows when to stop healing. This is easy-mode, remember, so your tank may actually be holding all the aggro, the CC might all work, and your rogue may be keeping the burn target stunlocked: there might not actually be all that much healing to do. Ditch tree-form, or pop shadow-form for a bit, or whatever, and do some DPS. After all, mobs down faster = less damage, so just think of it as a different type of healing. Just be ready to go back to healing if necessary, and don’t you DARE go OOM burning mobs down. I’d hate to have angry tanks leaving threatening notes on my blog because my tips caused a wipe.
Crowd control is there to make life easier on your healer and tank. Thankfully, easy-mode CC is pretty easy to manage. Make sure the CCers know their marks, make sure the tank and healer know when CC is likely to break and whether it can be chained, and go for it! Some groups say things like “quick CC-less run” when LFM, but I think they have it wrong. More CC means less healing, which means your healer can do more DPS. That in turn makes mobs go down faster, which means you finish the run quicker. It takes a second or two to do your CCs at the start of a pull, and it saves far more.
I know, I know, healers DPSing = more downtime between fights. DRINK. Innervate. Whatever. In those 10 seconds you’re spending drinking, the leader is busy marking and organising the next pull; you’d just stand around doing nothing anyway. If you’re worried about the cost of drinking EVERY PULL, go queue for an AV, ninja a bunch of manna biscuits from one of the mage tables that are almost always around at the start, and afk out. Or, you know, have a mage in your group.
On the note of CC, there are a few “bonus CCs” most people don’t think of. A good rogue can sap one mob, and stun-lock the burn target. CC that doesn’t break on damage ROCKS, and lets your healer DPS. Warlocks can chain-yoyo-fear (a good one can control fear quite effectively). Druids have emergency-cyclone (yes, it does work in PvE too), Hibernate (beasts and dragon-kin) and Entangling Roots if you’re outside (everyone forgets that druids have CC, even druids).
Warriors and feral druids get stuns, and they aren’t just for interrupting spells. A mob stunned for a few seconds means a few seconds of no damage, which once again means your healer is DPSing and not healing. Oh, speaking of interrupts, interrupt spells. Really. Especially heals. And mind controls. And fears. Actually, pretty much everything.
Everyone is a DPSer. Your tank is busy smacking the mob in the face with his hammer. Your healer is looking for a break in the damage to throw out some DPS. Your DPSers are, well, DPSing. Killing mobs is everyone’s job: after all, that’s why you’re there. DPSing isn’t just about hitting the burn target, though. You have to do that right (WRITE THE KILL ORDER DOWN NEXT TO YOUR KEYBOARD), but you also need to be aware of what’s going on. There are plenty of boss fights involving non-elite adds, and these will generally be the job of the non-tank non-healers. Think Black Morass, think Grandmaster Vorpil.
Also, have a threat meter, and don’t pull aggro. If the aggro is on you, then the healer is busy healing you. You take more healing than the tank, and so the healer can’t take time to DPS. Also, all those hits you’re taking, and that running around you’re doing, mean your DPS drops too. Your tank is in rescue-mode, your melee DPS is out of range, and you’ve just ruined four-fifths of your group’s DPS. Don’t do it.
Speaking of running around like an idiot: when you pull aggro (and no matter how good you are, some boss-fights are set up so it Just Happens), don’t start kiting the mob all over the place. Your tank can’t catch you, and your healer just went out of range because you were running too much: You die. Be calm. Run towards your tank (you’re paying attention, so you know where to go). Your healer is in range of your tank, so running towards the tank can only help. DON’T RUN AWAY (I’m talking to casters in the Blackheart the Inciter fight here).
By now you’re probably thinking this isn’t easy-mode at all. It’s complicated. How can I ever remember all this stuff? How will I ever find other group members who know it? I can’t exactly cut-and-paste this whole article into party-chat, and even if I did, everyone else would just tl;dr me.
So you need a tl;dr version (that stands for “too long; didn’t read” btw). Now, a few of these things you never need to communicate. Take on marking yourself (I’ve hardly ever run into someone who actually WANTED to mark), and nobody else needs to know all of that stuff. Organise the pull yourself: I’ve lost count of the number of groups I’ve been in where someone marks everything, and we all stand around for a minute or two wondering when someone else is going to pull. Then two different people pull different mobs suddenly, and … well, we marked up, so it’s not chaos, but it could be better. Trust me: most groups will be relieved when you pipe up and organise the pull. Don’t dictate, be gentle: “Hey, StealthyRogue, would you mind rifle-pulling the next few groups? The tank’s avenger’s shield will break your sap.”
You’re marking, so you’re organising the CC. Throw out a few tips. ONE BIG WARNING: Don’t tell people how to play their class. “Hey huntard, I’m marking the triangle for your trap. Make sure you lay it out of the way so AoEs don’t break it. Be ready to chain-trap, they sometimes break early. Oh, don’t forget to hit your trap mob a few times to get aggro, or it’ll just run to the tank. But stop hitting it before it gets to your trap: the trap breaks on damage, you know…” will not be well-received. Try “Triangle’s your trap, CrazyHunter. Let me know if I mark a caster by accident or anything.”
Oh, and don’t forget to tell people the kill-order. Gently remind the tank that kill order isn’t just for DPS: “Hey guys, tank and DPS, kill order is …” If your tank doesn’t already know about healer aggro and primary target threat, you’re probably wasting your time anyway.
As for DPS, just give people a gentle reminder of any adds they need to burn down, and ask if everyone knows the boss fight. If everyone says “yeah, we’ve downed Vorpil heaps lately running guildies for the Kara key”, you just need to quickly tell people which strat you’re using, assign DPS to different jobs, and get on with it. Or maybe even ask their advice… They just might know more than you or I. Tanks particularly like to pick the strats for boss fights.
As for general strat, just throw a few tips out there early on. “Remember guys, interrupt heals.” “Can you rogues stun-lock the main burn target to let our healer do a little DPS?” Stuff like that. Keep it light, and once again, DON’T TELL PEOPLE HOW TO PLAY THEIR CLASS.
Oh yeah, the healer. Sometimes I forget that I should write tips for how to deal with us. Don’t give the healer that “maybe you can DPS” idea straight up: wait for a few pulls. If the healer is coming out full of mana, and nobody’s dropping too low on health, then throw it out there. “Hey TreeGirl, you look bored. You might be able to manage a bit of DPS if you want, just watch the kill order.” If they seem to be struggling, don’t even give them the idea.
Also, remember healers can be a bit touchy sometimes. If they don’t wanna DPS, don’t push it. Never annoy your healer: it hurts you right in your repair bill (“Oh sorry, I didn’t notice you took a few hits there, I was too busy healing the tank. Bad luck. You’ll have to corpse-run, I’m saving my cooldown for the boss fight.”)
So there you have it. Easy-mode. Hard, isn’t it?