My Newfound Respect for Melee


Remember how I told you all, on April Fool’s Day, no less, that I was going to run off and play Ret Paladin? Well, it wasn’t entirely a joke. Yes, I’m still raiding on Syd, and still healing, but I’ve been playing my paladin this weekend as both Ret and Holy. I have a lot more confidence when I’m healing, and I have a few amusing stories about that stemming from a Naxx-10 PuG that I healed last night, but today I’m mostly here to talk to you about the special challenge of melee.

Not many healers have a melee class as their alt, and now I can see why. I’ve done ranged DPS before in group settings. I’d say it’s more of a challenge to me than healing at this point, but I can see how it could be done well. However, I was determined to take my Ret Paladin to some heroics. As I’m in a confessional mood, here’s a list of the Melee Failures I’ve indulged in over the last five days.

Failure #1

Accidentally taunting off the tank. Sorry, Brio. I’m still not sure how I managed to hit Shift 1 with the back of my hand, but I certainly did it.

Failure #2

Pulling mobs by accident . . . with my butt. You know, when you’re a melee class, you have to get behind the mobs. I think that my time as a healer has made me scared of them, and I tend to stay at max range, which can be rather dangerous with patrols around.

Failure #3

Hanging out in the green stuff. I was so happy when we defeated the first boss of Heroic Gundrak. So happy, in fact, that I stood there doing the Macarena as the poison slowly killed me. As always, I was suprised when Marfi hit the floor.

Failure #4

Staying in for whirlwind. I realized belatedly that the last boss of Heroic Gundrak was doing his little spinny thing. By the time I strafed out, I was low on health, and a ghost rhino charge made me go splat.

Failure #5

Standing in front of the boss. Now, I know I’m not supposed to stand next to Brio. I’ve made many jokes in my life about melee humping the hind legs of bosses. I’m not sure why I ended up in front of Heroic Anub’arak, but I do know what happened to me when he cast pound. Pound equals splat, for something like 10,000 overkill.

Failure #6

Getting ahead of the tank. In Utgarde Keep, I was getting antsy. Guess what happened when I edged in front of Brio? More pulling mobs. I’m glad Brio and I have a stable relationship, because I know exactly what he would have said if any other melee did that. Oh well, at least I can bubble and save myself.

Failure #7

Getting too far behind. Also Utgarde Keep. I have no excuse this time, only that I had to pee, and that turned into rather poor dps for a minute there. It turns out that you have to keep up, all the time, as a melee player.

Failure #8

Ignoring the kill order. Skull is for decoration, right? I’m issuing an apology to Amava, who was tanking Violet Hold on his cleverly-named druid Moodyswinger.

Failure #9

Panicking about my own health instead of trusting the healer. No, I didn’t say, heal me please, but I definitely used my Art of War procs whenever they were up, mostly on the tank, but also on myself. I have also bubbled a record number of times during the weekend.

Failure #10

Incomplete gear switch. I’m sure both Ret Paladins and Feral Druids face this one all the time. I don’t use any inventory manager addons, because my laptop’s poor performance means that I can only run necessary addons–nothing extra. This Sunday I DPS’d about seven heroics wearing my Holy libram. . . from Karazhan.

That’s my list of spectacular melee failures. The only one I didn’t check off this week was Die in a Fire. In my defense, Sartharion was the first instance I did with Marfi as DPS. I didn’t realize at that point I was making a checklist. I did die in that fight, not to a void zone or lava wave, but to a stray add. I also did about 1000 dps in my full suit of greens, but hey, I’d just dinged 80 10 minutes before. My dps has improved a bit now, but the failures keep mounting.

The Value of Failure

I’ve always told my students that failure is instructive. Errors are acceptable–even a good thing–while you’re learning a language, and they’re acceptable when you’re learning a new class role as well. If you never allow yourself to make mistakes, you’ll never learn. You’ll just continue doing what is comfortable and never branch out. However, I know my limits. I’m practicing in Heroics because they’re the minor leagues. The next time I see the green stuff, I’ll be running away.

There’s a very good reason that I haven’t let myself DPS in Naxx yet. Even though the paladin is different from my resto druid, it’s the same raid role, and I have a wealth of experience healing on both toons from Classic to current. In a raid, I owe more to my group members, so I have to know what I’m doing to some degree. Sure, I messed up my Holy spec last night and forgot to even get Bacon of Light, but it didn’t matter. I still beat the other healer, a better-geared Holy priest, on the meters. It is true that I only pulled ahead because she died on the first pass of the Heigan dance, which then continued for 10 more minutes with about five players alive, but I was proud of myself nonetheless. It’s absolutely amazing how much energy playing a new character can give me on this very, very stale content. However, the Flash of Light spam nearly killed me. Syd uses such a variety of spells, which I have mapped for both hands (left hand for direct heals, mouse for hots), that I never feel stress in my wrists. This morning my left wrist is killing me from repeatedly hitting the C key. I don’t know how full-time paladins do it.

28 thoughts on “My Newfound Respect for Melee”

  1. Yes, I’ve heard many times from Brio just why I can’t stand in front of the boss as melee. I’m just not in full control of my melee-self yet–haven’t mastered finding myself in space. As a healer, we don’t even have to face the boss. Tricks I love as a healer, like standing backward if I’m too close to a wall so I can see more–just don’t apply to dps. It’s quite different to not just face the mob, but stand at a specific part of him, even moving constantly to get there, all while maintaining a rotation.

  2. See I took the easy way out. I made a tank! =P. I agree though, unlearning or shelving all our healer tricks to get used to melee is a hilariously awesome fun time.

  3. Great post highlighting some melee pitfalls, and also on how trying a new role can be exciting and fun!

    I will say, on point 9, “Panicking about your own health,” that if as a melee you can heal yourself, sometimes it’s not a bad idea to. I don’t mean a feral druid casting Healing Touch or anything, but a Death Strike or Art of War now and again can be very helpful – it’s just like taking the time to pop a healthstone or potion.

    We healers always joke about the DPS asking for heals, but from the point of view of the DPS player, if your healer is not a pro, any pinch healing you can do will help, and even if your healer is a pro, they may need to keep the tank or themselves up at a crucial moment, so saving your own bacon will always be appreciated!

    Wikwockets last blog post..Is Power Word: Shield TOO good?

  4. As healers our jobs are really one dimensional. We don’t have to worry much about positioning, or kill order, or what the mob’s abilities are. We only need to know these things when it affects us, like when we need to move. And that isn’t relevant on every boss fight.

    I’m working on an enhancement shaman alt right now and it is a completely different experience and a big learning curve having to learn about weapon dps and all that.
    And it is great to see the fights from a whole other dimension. 🙂

    Darias last blog post..Playing with Holy Builds for 3.1

  5. Failure #5 in a raid scenario can be a tank-killer. If you get parried (which is only possible in front arc) and the boss get’s a parry-haste, then the tank is going to take some unnecessary rapid-fire hits. Ouchies.

    Now if your REALLY want to respect melee, do the Heigan dance! Man that fight is an absolute rush as a melee – trying to top the DPS charts AND move all the time is pretty awesome.

    Karthiss last blog post..Add-on debate: Rawrcast mention

  6. I’ve been playing my poor neglected DPS warrior a bit recently and I laughed at every item on this list. It’s so true. I discovered that I too am guilty of judging the other roles and underappreciating their challenges. The first Northrend instance I ran with her after a 6 month+ hiatus was a PUG Nexus. Fortunately, I’ve done the Nexus about half a billion times so I know what’s going on. I don’t think I caused any wipes, but I’m sure I was messing everything up with my mostly random button mashing.

    I definately have a new respect for our resident raiding Arms warrior.

    Zulwigas last blog post..No Skool like the Old Skool

  7. I completely sympathise, after 2 years playing my priest exclusively I tried a DK…My first dungeon I managed to find a group for was Ramps, fortunately they had a sense of humour because I stank, just positioning and trying to face the right mob was very difficult. I actually think it’s made me a better healer as I have an improved understanding of other player’s challenges. On a side note I was a little disappointed at your pride in ‘beating’ the other healer because of the meters. But that’s an old and well covered topic. Great post with essential tips for the new-to-malee.

  8. ” I don’t know how full-time paladins do it.”

    I can imagine that some Paladins after healing for most of their level 60 days might just go Prot or Ret and vow to never, ever heal again. Then spend much of Burning Crusade trying to get their DPS or Tanking buffed so its just as good as any other class so they never have to heal again. In Lich King, they’d never pick up a shred of spell power plate so they never have to heal again.

    I can imagine it.

    honorshammers last blog post..Talent Specialization for 3.1

  9. I have been playing a rogue in my off time for several years, including taking her raiding in BC. With Wrath I finally got a couple of decent daggers and decided to try a mutilate spec (she was sub during 1-70 leveling and combat for raiding) which was completely new. I was making mistakes I hadn’t made in 40 levels just because of a new spec. I still did ok, but I felt like a complete noob again.

  10. @ Serezur: I never ever “win” a meter in my own guild because I assign myself to tank healing. And, well, there are other healers in my guild who are better than I am. Let me have my moment of glory.

  11. I actually tend to do acrobatics with my left hand because i use q, e, w and s to move and ignore my a and d buttons while using 1, 2, 3, 4 to heal with along with pressing t for my bubble or f to target my target’s target for judging. That is just on my left hand. My right hand gets to take it easy and click around but I have a wrist rest so my wrist doesn’t suffer from the constant pressure.

  12. My personal favorite failure was not watching my range indicator and being out of range on Grob when he moved. Since I have a 3.2 sec swing timer on a pali, I just didn’t notice very quickly. Then to top it off, I overcompensated for the distance and got in front/ inside Grob causing more adds to spawn…Guess I’m sticking to healing.

    P.S. Ret palis are amazing at ganking horde :-).

  13. “I’ve always told my students that failure is instructive. Errors are acceptable–even a good thing–while you’re learning a language, and they’re acceptable when you’re learning a new class role as well. If you never allow yourself to make mistakes, you’ll never learn. You’ll just continue doing what is comfortable and never branch out.” – Sydera

    This is one of the most insightful paragraphs I have ever read regarding the value of failure. Fear of mistakes is the biggest thing that holds me back, both in WoW and in Real Life. These words were an encouragement to me and a reminder that failure is a necessary part of growth. Thank you for sharing this, Sydera.

    Aleatheas last blog post..The Ledge Boss

  14. My main is always a healer, and my secondary alt is always a melee dps. In BC it was a ret pally, but is a blood DK in Wrath.

    1. I’m always sure to move my death grip off of my bars when I’m grouping, as I usually have it in an easily-accessible place when I’m soloing. If I ever do need to use it for some reason, it’s off on the other side where I have to mouse-click on it.

    2. I’m so scared of pulling extra trash that I’ll stand away from the pull until the tank moves them into a safe area.

    3. I’ve been known to hang out in green stuff on my healer, too. Good thing I have a mod that makes the whole screen turn red when my health gets low, so I’m clued in to my low health.

    9. I don’t hesitate to use any healing abilities I have on myself if my health gets low. It’s always possible that the healer is busy with something and is prioritizing herself or the tank above me as dps. I’d rather bubble so I don’t die or use a heal/potion/deathstrike/rune tap to keep my health up. A dead DPS is not a good dps at all, no matter how much you trust your healer. Of course, when my pally is tempted to throw heals on the other dps, that’s when I know things have gone horribly wrong.

    Kiryns last blog post..Well, maybe I will.

  15. @Aleathaea: Thank you for the kind words!!!

    @HP: my hand would so die if I did that. I actually do play with a wrist rest, but it didn’t help a whole lot.

  16. Have you ever thought of using a mod like clique and binding your attacks to mouse clicks? I just got a Logitech G5, so its 6 easily accessible buttons (left, right, middle, 2 on thumb, and pinkie button). On my Pali, I bound all of my healing spells to shift click, and all of my offensive spells to ctrl + click. Then when I’m ret spec, I just change the profile and switch to shift+ click for offensive, and ctrl+ click for heals (makes it easier on my left pinkie).

  17. Absolutely love it!

    I’m learning to tank and/or melee DPS on my new Druid right alongside you. The low-stress environment of alt runs is so much fun as we all laugh together at eachother’s rookie mistakes.

    Having been there for most of the events in the OP and simultaneously committing my own hideous crimes of noobism, I can say confidently that none of the errors were serious business, and every one had comedy value making it well worth it.

    Amavas last blog post..My first raid tanking Heigan

  18. I’m a healer but my offspec through all of BC has been enhancement and I most of the time play side by side with a lovely rogue.

    The difference between the two class roles, ignoring play styles, is the the competition between raiders of each class roles.

    Healers are most of the time always in demand. Healers are mostly working as a team to get the job done. In all guilds I ever raided with there were more than enough raid spots for very few healers. There was no drama about loot.

    Melee dps on the other hand, well that’s a different story. In all guilds melees were the class most afraid of losing a raid spot. Same goes for ranged dps, but especially in BC it was more apparently in the case of melee dps for me. Part of that might be that BC raid bosses were extremely unfriendly to melee classes and more often than not it was a better call to take rather one ranged dps too much than a sixth melee dps.

    Part of it I blame the game design for. Healing is not attractive for many many players, especially compared to dps. In most guilds, good healers that do their job over a long time and are reliable are in demand while every guild is packed with dps.

    Another part is statistics. Healing meters are a nice tool for analyzing my performance. But at the end of the day, If all 25 raiders are alive at the end of the fight I have done my job and numbers don’t matter at all.

    DPS is different and all about dps meters. The harder the content the more important it gets to pump out max. dps. If a dps underperforms, he might not find himself in the next raid lineup. And with dps being all about numbers, gear gets much more important too. While a good healer most of the time can do the job even in crappy gear, or at least much better than a dps does in bad gear.

    drugs last blog post..State of Raiding pre 3.1

  19. @ Smartteaus: I have the very small hand problem. I like to bind things to single clicks, because either shift click or control click (damn, for every spell too!) just hurts my poor weak pinky. Clique also doesn’t work particularly well with a multi-button mouse. I’m considering changing things around. Now I have my three mana abilities on the mouse, but I may change it up so Flash is on my clickwheel. Right now, it takes me forever to redo my bars every time I respec, which is something like twice a day. I can’t wait for dual spec to come in and let me maintain two setups. The Ret one is just right–very comfortable even over many hours, but for holy I need to move Flash of Light off C and maybe onto 4 or R. Something about reaching up from the spacebar with my thumb causes RSI disaster when I’m healing.

  20. I have two chars I consider my mains: a healing priest and a dpsing DK. I have two complete mindsets when I play them, but sometimes I mix them up. I run too close to the mobs on my priest, I even take the wrong target. On my DK I have the constant feeling I’m not noing my job when someone is low on health. You’ll never see a DK use as many bandages as me.

  21. I totally know the feeling! I’m pretty sure I have done all of these mistakes at least once LOL I played a healer for 4 years before I made a Death Knight as melee DPS. I had a druid in BC, but it was mainly for Offtanking ~ it’s always interesting playing different roles in dungeons 🙂 But i honestly feel I have a better view on healing because of it!

    Antimonis last blog post..The Future of the DK Trees

  22. Ah yes. Healers switching to melee DPS is ALWAYS a learning experience. No matter how many times you go over what you have to do as melee you never really understand until you have had to do it.

    All I can say is that if you find it enjoyable stick with it. What to do will come with experience, but don’t get to discouraged. And I can tell you as a veteran rogue I still find myself doing #4 sometimes when I’m not paying attention.


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