Up Close and Personal: Addressing Melee Discrepancies in Raid Content

Posted by in Cat, Cataclysm, Patch Notes

If you’ve been reading through the 4.3 information dump, you’ve probably noticed that Ghostcrawler made an attempt to acknowledge the difficulties native to melee DPS.

“It becomes a problem when it feels like consistently the same types of characters aren’t competing. We’ve seen a lot of concern about the melee classes just can’t compete with the ranged classes. Part of that is class mechanics; part of it is that we just have a lot of encounters that really favor ranged. So for the Deathwing tier, what we’re going to do is just a straight up buff to the melee classes that hopefully helps them a little bit. We’re going to do that in such a way that the raid buffs will just end up buffing melee a little more than they’ll buff ranged. So hopefully you won’t have a lot of widespread effects in PvP or things like that, but melee characters who are just stabbing away on a boss in optimal situations will feel like their DPS is very competitive.”[i]

Raid buffs? I’m uncertain whether he means that the awesome-factor of player buffs will be increased for melee or whether there will be a zone wide buff instead. A zone wide buff seems far easier to implement than individual player-buff tweaks, and we’ve seen effective zone buffs in place as recently as Icecrown Citadel. In ICC, Hellscream’s Warsong (or Strength of Wrynn) provided extra hit points, enhanced healing done, and increased damage done—all of which seemed to work very well. We could very easily see something like this added again. With a flat fifteen percent damage enhancement, a 25,000 Shred becomes a 28,750 Shred. The initial damage for Rake or Rip increases by fifteen percent, and so does the damage over time effect. What if Blizzard chose to pick a single melee stat, say haste, to boost?

We ferals have a little something called “Mastery” to consider, and if we see a simple flat haste increase I’m concerned it will further devalue Razor Claws. As I mentioned in my Class Discussion post, we seem to be moving back toward an emphasis on direct damage rather than a reliance on bleeds and bleed amplifiers. There’s nothing wrong with capping hit and expertise, and stacking critical strike and haste, but we’ll be sidelining abilities that benefit from our Mastery—though by how much I can’t really speculate at this juncture. But haste certainly isn’t the only option.

Blizzard could opt to provide a buff that works like a Flask of Battle. This zone wide buff would enhance the player’s greatest stat, providing a sort of dual-flask effect. As a cat, I could expect to see an AGI increase that would improve both attack power and critical strike, two things of which I wholeheartedly approve.

Still, while I love anything that benefits melee, the damage buff may be a Band-Aid that doesn’t necessarily address the real issues that make melee more difficult in the first place.

  • Frontal cleave. If your genius tank decides to haphazardly reposition a boss that has a 180 degree cleave, you’re far more likely to accidentally eat that damage.
  • Instant death. Similar to above, if the tank dies, melee is usually the first to eat dirt. Now, I’m not saying that tank death should be acceptable or even common place, but you can certainly battle rez your tank and continue an encounter. Minus a few melee.
  • Variable hit boxes. Certain bosses (or even trash mobs) require you to practically stand in the character model to DPS, making it difficult to stay in range if the boss is moving or is repositioned often.
  • Low visibility. I often play at max zoom so that I can sort of see what’s going on around me. As melee, I’m usually clustered around the ass-end of a mob and don’t have a lot of room to work.
  • Dodge and parry. Melee DPS requires eight percent hit[ii] and twenty-six expertise to accurately hit a boss and avoid being dodged or parried. If you’re a rogue, you actually need seventeen percent hit for poisons to work effectively. And, if you dual-wield, you need twenty-four percent hit for all white damage attacks to connect. Casters only need to worry about the seventeen percent spell hit cap—that’s it. They don’t have to worry about a secondary stat to avoid being dodged or parried.
  • Semi-strict positioning. Building on the above bullet point, melee need to stand behind the boss. If you’re a druid or a subtlety rogue, you are required to stand behind the boss to use your main combo point generation abilities.
  • Threat. Standing in melee means that you have a 110 percent threat cap until the boss turns around and wrecks your face; standing at range gives you 130 percent. This is moderately hilarious as most melee DPS don’t have an adequate threat dump in the first place (though theoretically the recent tank threat boost should ameliorate this).
  • Diminished reaction time. If a mob’s damaging/threatening ability originates from its body, melee have the least amount of time to react to said ability and get out. This is partially alleviated by spells such as Dash, Sprint, and instant Ghost Wolf, or even by talents that boost run speed. 
  • Spread. Certain encounters require that everyone stands a certain distance away from everyone else. Groups running with melee heavy compositions are penalized when melee can’t spread out and still DPS the boss. [iii]

To me, the solutions seem straightforward.[iv] Design encounters in which melee can stand a respectable distance from the boss without feeling like they’re slamming their weapons (or paws) into thin air. Remove the position-based requirement of abilities such as Shred and Backstab. Eliminate the need for expertise. Ensure that boss gimmicks are simultaneously targeting both ranged and melee DPS—get rid of the tired whirlwind and cleave routine.

Once we address the aforementioned disadvantages it will be far easier to evaluate what else, if anything, needs to change so that melee DPS consistently competes with ranged DPS. Then, all things being equal, we can more accurately determine why feral DPS still seems low, even for melee. I suspect that the T12 set bonuses are pushing us into making stat choices that are at odds with our Mastery, effectively splitting the difference between direct damage and bleed effects. But for now, I suppose I’ll take my free damage handout. And like it.

What ideas do you have to improve melee performance?



[i] Does his syntax annoy the shit out of anyone else?

[ii] This is the amount of hit required for yellow-damage attacks to connect.

[iii] This is especially annoying during Phase 2 of the Ragnaros encounter in Firelands.

[iv]Admittedly, some of the solutions I’ve suggested would be far more difficult to implement than a simple, flat damage boost.