Evaluating Yourself and Comparing to Top Players

One of the most popular threads on the MMO-Champion Warlock forums is the ‘Fix My DPS’ thread, with over 2000 posts on it since its beginning in 2009. It’s generally a pretty helpful thread, as the players that post asking for help are polite and want to listen and learn, and the players that post to help try to be genuinely helpful and patient. Having been a part of that forum for quite a while now I’ve on occasion put in my two cents to help a fellow Warlock at at times.

There are a few things that continually crop up in that thread though, for example, players not knowing how to maximize procs and what not, and generally being very unsure of where they stand. Now this seems obvious, since they are posting in the ‘Fix my DPS’ thread after all, but I’m going to argue that actually, almost every player that isn’t at the top is sitting in the same position: how do I help myself? How do I improve from where I am? What am I doing wrong? I’m going to write about my perspective on how to improve.

How to Improve – Method 1: Imitation

Maybe this is just the type of player I am, but the easiest way for me to learn is via what is essentially imitation. And the easiest way to imitate is by finding great players, and doing what they do. The simplest way to find a great player when you’re trying to DPS hard, is to find another player that DPS-ed hard and was given recognition for it – that is to say, they ranked.

Those players that are sitting at rank 1 DPS are there for 1 of 4 (or all 4) reasons: gear, luck, skill and raid skill. It’s hard to separate out the skill from the other factors at first glance, when in actuality you should just ignore two of the factors – gear, and luck. Most players in the top 100 have a pretty good idea of how to play barring some ridiculous raid skill (mediocre players ranking due to sub 3 minute kills inflating the value of 2m CDs and Bloodlust, for example), and players in the top 50 are almost guaranteed to be skillful if you’re looking at the dominant spec (Affliction at the moment; being in the top 50 for Destruction means you’re one of the 50 players that plays Destruction). Sure, they might have good gear and good luck – but chances are, they’re just plain good.

To factor out the raid skill part, just find a log that has roughly the same kill time as yours. Comparing a 6 minute kill to a 4 minute kill doesn’t help you that much, but if you find a log with about the same kill time then likely the overall skill level of the raid is similar. This step is actually very important – there’s a tendency to just pick the rank 1 log (I wanna be the very best!), but different length fights mean that cooldowns get used differently and things like Bloodlust make a up a larger portion of the overall damage.

There are a few other things that you might double check for to make sure that you have a good log to dig into and compare to – on some fights there are buffs, or phasing, or different responsibilities. If you run tiles on Heroic Stone Guard you probably want to dig through a few logs to find someone that ranked and ran tiles. If you have to do adds on Gara’jal, you have to look for a player that did adds on Gara’jal and was the person that logged. This last bit is a little bit tricky, but you can usually tell because their damage is leaps and bounds ahead of the rest of their guild due to the phasing. If you’re looking at a fight like Stone Guard, make sure you dig a little deeper and see how many stacks of the tile buff they got. Identifying all these little things, while it might take some work, will make it easy to compare what you did to what they did.

How to Actually Look at a Log

The Expression Editor

There are three things, off the top of my head, that you should look at when comparing logs. I’ve picked out an example:

My Feng the Accursed 25H log from 2012/12/02 (6:15 kill time): http://www.worldoflogs.com/reports/rt-llu25ktbmabif1ki/dashboard/?s=8470&e=8846

My comparison log: Conz from Acquired Taste doing Feng the Accursed 25H from 2012/11/27 (6:25 kill time): http://www.worldoflogs.com/reports/yt2ifqncm2dpvmtl/sum/damageDone/?s=415&e=800

A quick check shows that Acquired Taste is 5/6H MSV + 1/6H HoF at time of writing, and Conz is 496 ilvl. So his raid is better than mine (2/6H MSV, 16/16N at the moment 😦 ), his gear is slightly better than mine (492). Still, is there anything I can pick up from his log?

The most in-depth way to look at any log is just a log of actions. To do this, go to the dropdown where ‘Dashboard’ is and pick ‘Expression Editor’. Then, use this query:

sourcename = “PLAYERNAMEGOESHERE” and type != TYPE_DAMAGE and type != TYPE_HEAL

What this query does is it shows you everything the player did, but without the actual damage or heal numbers, so it filters out all the DoT/HoT tick clutter. This is what it looks like:

An example of using the Expression Editor to find out what a player did.

An example of using the Expression Editor to find out what a player did.

I can pick out his exact opener from this. Pop all CDs, Soulburn: Soul Swap, Curse of the Elements, Haunt, Malefic Grasp. He also throws in a Fel Flame to refresh his Corruption and Unstable Affliction since you see he has Jade Spirit, the Elegon Trinket, the Darkmoon Trinket and Lightweave all up.

You can do this for the span of an entire fight. It’s not as time-consuming as you might think: altogether the fight is only about four and a half ‘pages’ in the Expression Editor, so if you want to sit down and spend 20 minutes to analyze everything that a player did, you can. I find it most useful for openers, and for picking out what a player does when certain events happen in a fight:

Oh, so he's Seed spamming for adds.

Oh, so he’s Seed spamming for adds.

Target Selection

Another thing I look at, in multi-target fights, is his damage on each target. This is fairly self-explanatory: am I DPSing the same things? Would I do more damage otherwise? Did I forget about something? This is Conz:

6.2 million on Soul Fragments...

6.2 million on Soul Fragments…

and here’s me:

Oops.

Oops.

Debuff Uptimes

Finally, debuff uptimes. With Pandemic, this isn’t as useful as it once was. Everyone always tells you to do this – make sure your Corruption/Unstable Affliction/Agony uptimes are as close to 100% as possible. What is probably more important to look at with the new Affliction, however, is how his Malefic Grasp uptime stacks up to yours, and to compare Haunt uptimes. Are you spending too many Shards on Haunt when you could be SB:SS-ing? Are you spending not enough time MG-ing and instead too much time reapplying DoTs or too much time Seed-ing? That’s the comparison you should be making.

Conclusion

It’s my opinion that the quickest and easiest way to improvement is to just do as someone else has done, and logs can tell you almost everything if you’re just willing to put in the time. He does his opener like this this and this? Do the same. Then, try to pay attention to what is going on at the time he’s doing something. Finally, once you understand why that player is doing something a certain way, you can try and test other things.

I’ll add more in future posts as I think of it. Feel free to tell me I suck or to ask questions in the comments.

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