How much is a buff worth?

It is a common trade-off in MMO design that players are asked to decide whether they’d prefer more damage or more utility for their character. Any talent spec scheme that lets you choose whether you’d prefer to spend points on buffs instead of on more damage is following this theme.

With tanking or healing classes, you’re simply choosing what type of utility you prefer to provide. Would you prefer better buffs, or slightly larger heals? Better raid buffs or more threat for yourself?

But with a dps class, it’s a straight up choice between more personal dps vs more raid utility. The idea of a raid buff is that the performance of the whole raid is improved by more than any detrimental effect on the buffer. So why must it feel like a penalty if someone is asked to buff? I think it’s because there’s a sense in which you are donating a gift to the raid (the buff and the dps hit) in return for your raid spot, whilst raiding alongside other people who don’t have to do that. Not only that, but due to various buffs working in different ways, some classes do genuinely get to provide buffs at very little personal cost. So it is easy to feel hard-done-by.

In Wrath-era WoW, all classes have become buffing classes because Blizzard decided to spread out the buffs. But can you really teach an old dog new tricks? Will classes that had previously been categorised as pure dps really want to give up their top slots in order to give better buffs?

Ghostcrawler had an interesting comment on this in shaman forums recently:

We want classes to have to take a hit for buffing the raid, but we don’t want it to be a gigantic one. Again, on the one hand players are eager for these buffs because it “secures them a slot!” but on the other hand, they want someone else to do the buff so they don’t have to.

This is spot on in my experience. Dps tend to complain like crazy about having to be ‘the buff bitch’, even though they’d likely complain even more if no one wanted the buff at all and it was never worth speccing for. I don’t mean every single one of them complains, but everyone who enjoys playing the damage meter exhales a private sigh when they realise that they are on buffing duty so won’t be troubling the top 5 slots.

This expansion has marked a minor role shift for dps specs in the game, towards more hybridness. If we had buffing classes, no one would complain about providing buffs because it would be their raison-d’etre. Although that would present a completely different set of issues.

How does your raid decide which member of each class should buff? Do people complain when they are asked to do it?

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13 thoughts on “How much is a buff worth?

  1. “I think it’s because there’s a sense in which you are donating a gift to the raid (the buff and the dps hit) in return for your raid spot, whilst raiding alongside other people who don’t have to do that.”

    I don’t see any donation here. You don’t see less of the fight, nor you get less loot, emblem, rep or whatever just because you do 300 DPS less than the guy who doesn’t buff.

    If you FEEL it a penalty to be lower on the DPS meter (because of the buff and not because of errors), you are an idiot.

    • No you. *ahem*
      Since DPS are so rarely doing anything besides DPS, and because it is the easiest thing to measure, DPS tend to be judged by their spot on the meter. Something that makes them fall is going to make them look worse. How much DPS loss is justified by utility duty? It looks like excuse-making to say “I only had DPS that low because I was doing X activity as well.”

      Meters are a part of the game like anything else. People find areas in which they can excel and dislike it when something interferes with that. Surely you’re not so stupidly stubborn to think that gold meters are the only ones that matter.

  2. I’ve always enjoyed more versatility rather than just trying to go for the biggest epeen. I also tried to play for the team; I knew that by specializing in buffs then the group’s overall DPS should be higher than if I just focused on DPS.

    Even in TBC, I specced into improved Mark of the Wild on my Feral Druid because the stats helped everyone in the raid. (And this was when that talent cost 5 points.) Sure, it felt redundant if we had a Resto Druid along, but the times when I was the only Druid it helped a lot.

    I guess one could argue that my Feral Druid wasn’t going to top the DPS meters, so I could feel free to sacrifice a bit of DPS. But, I prefer to think of it that my epeen didn’t need to be stroked by posting meters. I knew that some percent of the raid DPS was mine, plus the DPS of the idiot I rezzed in combat after he or she pulled aggro and died. I kept getting raid slots at any rate even if I wasn’t at the top of the meters, so either people liked having me around or they realized how useful a bit of utility is to a raid.

  3. It’s not so much the dropping buffs and losing DPS that worries DPS. It’s that you’re expected to drop buffs /and/ keep up your normal, non-buff supplying level of deeps against people who don’t have the buffs down or whose buffs are better designed.

    People are, on the whole, not particuarly forgiving or respectful of deeps the way they are of Healers or Tanks. The bottom spot on the meters is a pecarious one if you’re pugging, for example, because you’re easy to kick and replace.

  4. I’ve always had to fight the tendency to be rather short with people who don’t want to buff. Like shamans not dropping totems which is terrible (even hurts their own dps).

    However for many people they simply don’t see the maths.

    I’m very numerate and (90% of my potential plus a 10% bonus to everyone else) > (100% of my potential plus a 5% bonus to everyone else) is a blindingly obvious equation that I’m absolutely staggered to find I need to direct people which one of those to pick to get a boss killed.

    But I think some people genuinely don’t know or forget or simply bring their soloing rotation to raids without questioning it. (Ret pallies that pause to heal themselves etc).

    Once or twice I have seen outright selfishness. In a 5 man we had a shaman who refused to drop some totem which would boost everyone’s damage because “I won’t beat the rogue on the meter if I put agility totem down”. I’ve never seen people outright say this in raids but I’m pretty sure they’ve thought this and acted on it.

  5. Klepsacovic already mentioned it, the world has become DPS meter crazy. Stabs mentioned another example of this.

    I had it happen to me – my first raid after returning to WoW was Magtheridon. It is a straight damage fight with a bit of cube-clicking now and then.
    If you fail to click the cube when needed, bad things happen. If you fail to dish out enough DPS, you usually still had/have much more DPS than needed to kill Magtheridon.

    So I had to 1. fear and ban adds 2. click cubes and 3. do damage on Magtheridon in between that. On my first run. As the total novice.
    Now it gets funny: With Tier 5 gear as Magtheridon veteran I exclusively participated in the DPS race. 1. Do damage on Magtheridon + Shatter Soul to avoid breaking aggro on the tank.

    I have had Magtheridon runs with two tries because the well equipped “pro players” refused to do such vital things and rather played the numbers game. I have seen a rogue blow up the whole raid in Tempest Keep at Astromancer Solarian, he was the “bomb” but was too focused on the constantly switching place on the damage meter of him and his rogue friend.

    I don’t know where to start and to blame whom or what… but it is stupid. It can imagine that pickup-groups kick you for somewhat lower DPS, especially if you are enhancing the DPS/performance of the rest of the group. Or maybe they take you, because you allow them to shine on the damage meters. The world has gone crazy…

    The idea of the TEAM overcoming something TOGETHER got lost! It is a FIGHT against others in -your team-! As Tank or Healer you are exempt from this fight, but healers in raids also like to compare their healing penismeter.

    Hopefully you raid with more sane people, Spinks. The notion that DPS players are nothing but stupid, damage-obsessed freaks is too often true, unfortunately.

    So speccing for a buff spec? Yeah, someone else should do that to enhance my personal performance. :>

  6. There is also the problem that “buffers” often cannot improve at the same pace with gear than “non-buffers” because a lot of buffs are static.

    Take a look at an arcane mage. He does absolutely nothing for the raid besides damage. If he gets better gear, his damage increases.

    Compare that to an elemental shaman who dropps ToW. If he gets the same upgrade his damage will only increase by 80% (making this number up) of what the mage got out of this piece of gear. Because the other 20% are the “buff tax”. And ToW does not improve with his gear.

    Compare it to a Dark Pact warlock. He will also only get 80% (made up again) of what the mage would get out of this piece. But, he also gets a better buff. (The problem for warlocks is that they would gem and gear differently depending on if the have to supply DP or not. That’s also bad because they cannot, like a shaman, drop this or that totem.)

    A “buff tax” is ok. But if the “buff tax” starts making your gear upgrades meaningless, something is wrong.

    (exaggerate) It’s like a paladin at level 60 in MC. All he did was buffing the raid and when he finished start again (5 min blessings). This paladin could raid naked because his gear is completely irrelevant (besides manareg and stamina). Why should he raid to get better gear? He won’t be able to improve at his job.

    It’s like collecting damage gear as a tank before dual spec. Yeah… the damage you did on the 5 bosses in ZA which require only one tank was reeeaaalllllyyy important. :-)

  7. Certainly buffs that scale are better, and I would hope that Blizzard can help the buffers out by improving their buffs with content like they’re doing for dps.

    I regularly challenge for top dps slot – usually #1 or 2, and my buff is static, so I often take it for granted.

    But we had one of our destro locks respec demo a few weeks ago, and while his dps dropped sharply, I can say that all of us in the raid appreciate his sacrifice because it’s clear how much better the raid does with this buff. Still, he doesn’t get to see his shiny numbers at the high end of the meters, and that’s pretty significant.

    It would also be nice if there were some way – recount or otherwise – to quantify the effect certain buffs are having on the raids success. Posting those in response to someone touting their meters would be a very nice thing (we get this a bit with the ability to post things like dispels, but really, what we need is a chart that says, 5% increase in raid damage was due to MrBigglesworth, etc).

  8. As a tank I could care less about the meters, I’m not supposed to be in the top spots. My job is whats letting all the DPS get the top spots without the boss chowing down on them. I know it, they know it, no one complains if I’m doing my job.

    As to buffs, its pretty tight for me as a warrior tank, speccing into the few buffs I have can seriously hamper my main function as a tank. Dual spec lets me decide whats best for each encounter, but its not perfect. Do I use my threat build and constantly re-buff as they fall off, or my survival/utility build and struggle to maintain my threat lead… either way I’m not as efficient at something as I could be in the other spec.

    For this reason I appreciate any class that specs for the buffs, I know what kinds of costs are involved, its just sad that most ppl don’t see the broader benefits of buffs for the group as a whole and only notice the all mighty meter.

    There is more to it than just the spec, gear and glyphs can also hamper/help any build, but for the sake of this question (and for the sake of long drawn out discussions that belong in a forum thread) I’d assume that a utility/buff build would gear and glyph for it and dps builds would go for the big shiny numbers

    • We should never forget that DPS is also required to kill a boss. Everyone speccing for a redundant buff instead of more damage is hurting the raid the same way as people who don’t support but could.

      • That’s very true, and I think it’s something that raiders have become more aware of in Wrath.

        Still, I know that if I’m in a PUG on my warlock I won’t put up curse of elements unless the raid leader specifically asks me to. Why risk being booted for low dps?

      • Because CoE is more dps for yourself then any other curse if no other class can supply the 13% damage buff. Even for affliction, CoA is less than 6% of total damage. :)

  9. Skade/Recount-Informations about utilitieness would be fine.
    Should I drop enhanced melee-totem for 2 tanks + 2 M-DPS (+1 hunter) or suboptimal caster-totem for 3 healers + 2 caster?
    In my current raiding environment numbers excuse selfishness, looks like, melees are using their cds more effective than the casters do. But what happens, if more and more casters touch me/them on the meters? Will I pull the break for myself and push them even further?
    Are YOU great/generous (?) enough?!?

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