Friday, September 5, 2008

Warhammer online guide: Melee DPS Survival Guide

Welcome to the MDPS survival guide! The current version is beta version 0.3.0, for Warhammer Closed Beta patch 3.3. This guide will be regularly updated as new relevant information is made available.

This guide exists to help users of the Melee Damage (MDPS) archetype, which includes the White Lion, Witch Hunter, Marauder, and Witch Elf classes, gain a better understanding of how "Pick Up Groups" (PUGs), which are unorganized groups of players, function and how to be successful within one of those groups. Users will find plenty basic tips and strategies that have been successfully tested and used on the battlefield. Users will not find comprehensive mathematical breakdowns and exact strategies for each class.

It has always been my hope and sincerest wish that users of this guide learn something and become better players. I hope you, the reader, enjoy this guide and do, in fact, learn something!

The Types of Combat
In Warhammer Online, and indeed most MMOs in general, there are four basic types of "PUG" (Pick Up Group), which is to say- unorganized, combat. What I mean by unorganized is that the players on each side are a random assortment of players that don't have a set plan in mind and are often very uncoordinated. They either never gain a plan, or they have to just make it up as they go along. The four basic types of PUG combat are:

    Large Group, aka "Zerg"
    The term zerg refers to a race in the strategy game "Starcraft." The main tactic for this race was not getting the best units or technologies, but instead the race was all about getting as many units onto the battlefield at one time...whether the units are very effective or not. Therefore, the "zerg" has come to be a term meaning "a very large, unorganized mass of players." When in a zerg situation, MDPS are at their very weakest. It is difficult for them to cross the field and do anything meaningful before they are gunned down by the large mass of ranged players.

    Medium Group
    A medium group could be loosely defined as 7-18 players. This size of group will most commonly be encountered in scenarios. MDPS fair surprisingly well in this situation, as long as the player understands some basic principles. "The Flow of Battle," my original guide, as well as the chapter with the same name, address this situation.

    Small Group
    Approximately 2-5 players. This is when MDPS are at their strongest. MDPS typically have the damage power to kill most healers and ranged damage (RDPS) classes by themselves, and the offense threats against them are at a minimum in this situation.

    1v1 combat. MDPS are very strong here as well, but don't fair as well as melee healers like Warrior-Priests and Disciples.

Basic Tips for Any Combat Situation
There are some basic things that will greatly improve your chances of success as a MDPS, no matter your combat situation.

    Have a healer friend.
    This is listed first for a reason! Cherish them as much as they should cherish you. In a tier 1 game having a healer would mean the difference from a game with 10 kills and 10k damage to a game of 18 kills and 35k damage. I prefer the ranged healers of any type as you can use your snare to peel enemies off them. The ranged healers also further improve your magic resistances with the appropriate buff...which is GREAT to have (always ask for resist buff over strength buff, trust me and tell them politely to use it on themselves!). Don't underestimate the power of having a melee healer with you though (especially if they have a tank friend to guard them!). Their armor buff is extremely helpful.

    Know your enemy.
    First, know that your biggest enemy is other melee. You have light or medium armor with only about 25% damage mitigation. A defensive tank gets up to 70% mitigation, an offensive tank 45%ish mitigation. That's a big difference! Second: know that ranged healers stand no chance against you. Last, know that if you start a fight in melee range against an RDPS, it's pretty much over for them as well.

    Know thyself.
    You're mainly a skirmisher...a caster killer. You're not built to stay on the front lines like a tank. Get in, get your kill, and get out if you're going to take hits.

    Situational Awareness
    This is basically being aware of your surroundings. Very often it is wise to pan your camera around to check if you're about to be flanked, or what your enemy is about to do. Don't get too caught up in the frenzy of battle.

    Stick Together
    Never run strait into the zerg unless all the melee run in together. You will get tab targeted and focused down unless there are other melee (especially a shield tank) to absorb part of the damage for you. Running in all together is very effective, but takes some coordination that most pug groups aren't willing to display.

Gear and Statistics
The most important stats on gear, in my personal preference order (I say it this way because it's bound to be debated), are:

    Resists - You're a caster killer, and they don't like to see you coming! Resists are very important for your survival. Even the "physical" ranged damage: Shadow Warriors, Engineers, and Squig Herders, are equipped with a number of skills that are based on resists. Do not spend RPs on increasing resists though. All your resists should come through gear and buffs from friends.

    Armor - Realistically, armor is soft capped by the type you wear and so increasing it isn't always possible. Still, you want armor as your biggest enemy is other melee. Having a melee healer (Warrior-Priest or Disciple) in your group that runs the armor buff helps significantly. I would not spend your RPs on increasing armor, increase it through gear or buffs from friends.

    Strength - You're a damage class. Strength improves your damage. Makes sense! But wait Duty, I'm a Witch Hunter and have ranged skills, shouldn't I stack Ballistic? No. WHs have a very high base Ballistic skill. Mythic gave them this so their stat spread wouldn't be too crazy. Stack strength as a Witch Hunter just as you would other classes. Strength is where the majority of RPs should be spent.

    Toughness - Per point, in my opinion, resists/armor offer a lot more survivability increase, but you can only get so much of those. Toughness is the next best survivability stat. For AoE-focused character builds, I'd recommend stacking toughness equally or in preference with strength. These builds tend to do well in large situations with healers to support the MDPS. Because you will be taking so much damage in these situations, toughness becomes more vital. Toughness is where your secondary RPs should be spent.

    Initiative - Lowering your chance to be crit is nice, but still won't have as much effect as other defensive stats. Dodge chance is nice to have to avoid the crowd control and damage skills of shadow warriors, squig herders, engineers, and witch hunters. A note: the point-blank area of effect root of Shadow Warriors, Squig Herders, and Engineers is considered a ranged skill, and so is dodged, not parried.

    Weapon Skill - The armor penetration is not as significant as you might think. First, you're killing casters, they don't have a lot of armor (and armor does not work logarithmically like it does in other's a flat increase, so armor penetration is more useful against high armor targets due to hitting the "penetration cap" on lower armored targets). Melee is your biggest enemy, but you are trying to avoid them, and armor is a natural defense against them that doesn't eat stat budget (stat budget refers to what stats you spend on your can only have so many stats and so have to choose). Weapon skill is nice to have, but you get more offensive punch out of strength, and more defensive punch out of toughness, initiative, and armor.

    Willpower - Since MDPS don't heal, 1/2 this stat is worthless. The other half seems beneficial, but you don't gain enough disrupt chance to warrant stacking over other stats.

    Ballistic - Mostly worthless. Helps Witch Hunters some, but Strength will net you a better DPS increase.

    Intellect - Mostly worthless.

Tips for Large Group Situations
Zergs aren't easy for MDPS. In fact I'd say they're downright painful if you have a bad group or no support. Brawler types tend to fair much much better, but still are at a general disadvantage in this situation. Obviously character builds that emphasize AoE (Area of Effect...skills that hit multiple characters at a time), such as the Marauder's Monstrosity line, will fair better.

Large group situations tend not to "whittle down" to smaller and smaller groups. There are typically too many players to kill before the ones you just dispatched are already back. Splitting up to take multiple objectives, or players just logging/relocating are the only ways zergs tend to dissipate. Since you're weak at this type of combat: encourage dissipation. Go somewhere else, fight another battle. Don't play the zerg game and don't be a sheep. Even if you have to 1v1 you're in a much stronger position.

Still, if you feel you must participate in a zerg, you must know that zergs don't generally get progressively smaller, and so aren't won by killing all the players. They're won by pushes. Admittedly, it can be incredibly fun charging the line and routing your enemies even if that's more a tank's job then MDPS.

To best win the pushing, you must coordinate melee charges. You can't send 1-2 melee guys at a time as they get slaughtered. It can be difficult in a PUG to rally players to all charge at the same time...but when you do get enough to make a difference, it's quite a sight to behold as you rout the enemy and slaughter them from behind. If possible you want to stay behind tanks that are using "Hold the Line." You'll recognize it as an animation that sprays behind the tank, and he will hold his shield steadfast in front of him. He gains a 45% chance to dodge and disrupt (that is: avoid any ranged attack) while you gain 15% chance to do the same. However, you can gain the benefit up to 3 times if you stand behind 3 tanks doing it, which gives you a total of 45% to avoid any ranged attack. Hold the Line only lasts a short amount of's meant to get you to the action (which by that time your enemy will probably be routing unless they have significant amounts of melee players to hide behind).

After you get to the fighting, it's pretty simple. Assist other players by focusing on 1 guy at a time to kill them faster, and don't go beyond the front line. The worst thing you can do is pass your tanks, because you'll get "tab targeted," which refers to players hitting the "target closest player" button and all focusing on you. You want to let your tanks take the damage...that's what they're there for. You try to remain as inconspicuous as possible.

If you have 2 or more ranged healing friends that are dedicated to keeping you alive, you can really rampage and flourish in a large group situation, as long as you are a brawler MDPS (marauder or white lion) that is specialized in AoEs. You can often run in and kill several players at chokepoints when you have such a support corps. Using Monstrosity spec on my Marauder, I've managed to kill 13 players near simultaneously while they came up the stairs in a Dark Elf keep. The secret is to choose your spot: a chokepoint where they're all bunched up (like stairs, a doorway or a bridge), know your AoE combos, and have help to keep you alive. When things go the right way, you'll net LOTS of kills and have a ton of fun doing so.

The Flow of Battle: Medium Group Situations
Let me start by saying that there is a very key difference in how medium group battles tend to take place from large group battles: they whittle down. What I mean is that as players die, it becomes a progressively smaller group situation. So as medium group battles carry on, MDPS get stronger and stronger.

You must use this to your advantage! I have recommended this approach because I know the power of the tab target. The biggest difference in an organized group against an unorganized one is that the organized guys are all hitting the same target to kill him faster, while unorganized guys are hitting all different ones. Tab Target turns those unorganized guys into organized ones by making sure they all target you: the melee guy who happens to be closest. I've recommended this approach so you don't get into that particularly nasty situation.

    Phase 1: The Skirmish
    When two armies first meet, the skirmish takes place. This is a period where each side is at full or near full strength. Ranged characters are at their best as they can safely hide behind melee types and blast away. The cardinal rule for MDPS of this stage is to stay alive. Don't take risks. Your RPDS buddies are at their strongest: so let them do their job! Let them pick away at the enemy forces from a safe distance. Your job is to use that wonderful snare that all MDPS have and help your RDPS friends stay away from the melee players that charge too early.

    The more melee players from the enemy side that want to charge over, the better. Kill those foolish melee! They're your biggest enemy and the more you remove, the better your survival chances are later in the fight. Even if they're tanks, they're by far the safest thing to beat on at this stage, and with enough people focusing on them, they'll die eventually.

    Don't worry, they will come to you. A true master does not chase his enemies, but lets his enemies come to him on his land...his advantage. Let their melee come (and they will), as they're easy to single out and destroy. If one of them happens to target you, run back into your group so you "overextend" him. This means you make him chase you out of range of his support: where he becomes a very easy target.

    Phase 2: Fun Time!
    After their melee characters are either dead or otherwise distracted away from you, it's time for you to make your move. You want to get at the casters at this stage. Try to flank or otherwise reach them without drawing attention. Stealth characters excel at this as they can cross the battlefield without drawing focus to themselves. Brawlers may be tempted to use Charge! but this is unwise. You not only want to save Charge! for retreating or catching a player that tries to escape, but it also brings attention to that fast moving White Lion blazing across the field...something you don't want.

    Once behind the front lines, you should know which classes to kill first. Because the majority of their healing comes from their "big heal," which is easily pushed back when they take damage, killing ranged healers is often the easiest to do, and often enough required before you can kill anything else (they'll just keep healing it!).

    If you think you can get away with it without them getting heals: kill "Glass Cannons," which are Sorceresses and Bright Wizards first. They do a TON of damage and can ruin your day if you don't take care of them. If smart ranged healers are around to prevent you from doing so, you'll have to kill the healers first.

    After the ranged healers and glass cannons are dead or not present, take out "skirmishers," who are Squig Herders and Shadow Warriors. These classes have a lot of crowd control and can make life very frustrating. Taking them out makes your job easier. Last, take out the "defender RDPS," which are the engineers and mages of Tzeentch. They are the most difficult of the ranged characters to kill, and typically aren't your first choice to kill.

    So the kill order tends to generally (there are exceptions that experience will teach you) look like this:
      Sorceress/Bright Wizard - First if you can get away with it
      Squig Herder/Shadow Warrior
      Witch Elf/Witch Hunter
      Marauder/White Lion
      All tanks

    If you succeed in not attracting attention, you should almost be guaranteed a kill. You're brutally effective when facing the enemies weakest to you while the enemies strongest against you are distracted elseware.

    If you do attract attention, be ready to retreat. Where as stealthy types rely on getting there unnoticed and are good at it, brawler types tend to excel at getting out if needed. Your detaunt (that is: the skill that reduces the damage players around you deal to you), followed by Charge! if you have it, will get you out of many situations. The whole reason I personally love brawler MDPS is their 50% AoE detaunt. It's completely underestimated by new players. It has saved me from many many sticky situations.

    Understand a key component to this stage: you don't want to overextend. There is still enough DPS on the field to be a threat to you if you stray from your support. No one can heal or kill the enemies attacking you if you're out of range. With few exceptions, you don't want to chase enemies back too far.

    Phase 3: Small Group
    At some point in the battle, one side will most likely establish itself as the clear victors and will just "mop up the rest." At this point you are generally free to overextend some (never too much though), chase down enemies, and revel in the glory of killing your enemies.

    However, sometimes the sides are fairly even with only about 2-6 players left on each side. This is a time you will want to keep special considerations in mind.

    First, there generally isn't enough DPS still out there to kill you before you can make it back to your support. *Some* overextending and chasing is warranted if it furthers the cause of winning the battle.

    Second, you want to focus fire. Take a look who others are killing and help them. Help other DPS classes before you help tanks. If you see a Witch Elf bashing on a Runepriest, and a Black Orc hitting an Archmage, go help the Witch Elf as your combined DPS is pretty staggering.

    Third, help your ranged guys by using your snare against their melee pursuers. Keep them safe: your best weapon is the guy beside you (for proof of this, calculate your current weapon vs getting the best weapon in the game for your class...figure out the gain. Will you gain double the damage or healing, double the hit points, and double the utility skills that you get from having a friend?).

Solo Battles
Solo battles are truly beyond the scope of this guide, as they are a much more exact science then groups. They depend on your class and what class you are facing more then anything, and tend to become exact blow-for-blow, counter-for-counter fights.

There are some key advantages and tips MDPS players have in solo situations though. Knowledge of which classes you can defeat and which generally defeat you is paramount. In general the melee healers, which are Warrior-Priests and Disciples, tend to be the strongest solo classes, and most of the time you'll want to avoid engaging them. Tanks also tend to be fairly tough, but most of the time will not finish you off before you can escape them if the battle goes poorly, as your escape moves tend to trump their pursuit moves.

Knowing which classes you can engage and which you can not is very important because MDPS, over any other class, have the power of selecting their engagements. Stealth and runspeed buffs (Charge!) give you that power. You're very hard to escape and you can escape very easily.

It's always beneficial to get the first blow in as well. You have a major advantage, especially against ranged characters, if you can reach them before they know you're coming. Lastly, bring friends. Two or more can always accomplish more then one solo player.

This concludes the basic training for MDPS in RvR. It may sound like a lot more work then it is, but with some practice you can become a successful player. The key is to be patient and fight on your terms...not the enemy's. Don't go chasing kills when they'll come right to you. And bring friends!

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