If you ran dungeons at all while leveling, you have at least a basic familiarity with the overall roles in the game:
Keep the monster’s attention.
- Damage (often referred to as DPS, short for “damage per second”)
Generate damage to kill the monster.
Keep the group alive.
The same roles carry over to raiding. Your class and spec determine your role. For some classes, (mages, rogues, hunters, warlocks), only one role is available: DPS. They have no real ability to tank or heal. Other classes take more than one role; for example, warriors can DPS as well as tank, while priest can DPS as well as heal. Paladins and druids have the ultimate flexibility, with trees available for all three roles.
Learn the spells inherent to your class and those added or modified by your spec, and learn how to use these spells. If you are a tank, know which spells generate threat and the relative threat generated by each. Also know which spells generate threat on only a single target, and which generate threat on multiple targets. Tanks have a cast sequence at the outset of an encounter to establish a high threshold of threat on the monster; learn it and use it.
Healers have a standard heal they cast most of the time, a powerful heal with a long cast time, and an instant cast heal (or “Oh, shit!” button) that costs a lot of mana and generates a lot of threat while not doing a lot of healing. Know when to fall back on these alternate spells, especially your emergency heal. Also know how to enhance your mana generation while in combat, and any special abilities to boost mana generation. Most healers now have an ability to generate mana off an attack spell. Be sure you take the talent that enables this ability, and learn when to use it.
If you are a DPS character, learn the spell rotation that generates the most damage on the monster. Learn what special abilities become available randomly, what to do when they become available, and how to trigger them or increase the likelihood that they will occur. (These abilities are often said to “proc”, shorthand for “programmed random occurance”; it sounds like an oxymoron, but it basically means that there is a random chance that the event will occur, usually based on the casting of other spells. In any event, watch for your procs and know how to respond when an ability procs.)
Every class, and every talent tree, has special abilities, which fall into a vareity of categories:
- Defensive abilities
These are abilities that protect or help your own character or another character. For example, tanks generally have abilties that enhance their health and armor to mitigate incoming damage. Several classes have abilities to reduce aggro temporarily in case they draw too much threat. Some classes provide a character with abilities to protect another character, such as the paladin’s Hand of Protection.
If you have defensive abilities, learn what they do, how they work, and when and how to use them. For example, a tank’s defensive cooldowns should generally be used when damage from the monster (usually a boss), spikes or when the monster enrages. Aggro dumps should be used when a DPS or healer pulls aggro from the tank. Know how your aggro dump works and how to use it.
- Offensive abilities
These are abilities that escalate or enhance your damage against the monster. See the discussion above.
- Crowd Control abilities
Crowd controls are spells that take a monster out of the fight temporarily. Most crowd control abilities simply incapacitate the monster, but priests have Mind Control, which actually takes control of the monster, and allows you to use its capabilities against other monsters. Know what crowd control abilities you have, and how to use them.
- Other special abilities
Some classes have other abilities that contribute to the fight, such as a tranquilizing ability that may be able to offset an enrage, and an ability to escalate the damage output by the rest of the raid. If you have special abilities like this, learn what they are and when to use them.
Some classes have unique or special resources and mechanics in addition to or instead of mana. Warriors, for example, use rage. Rogues use energy and combo points. Paladins use Holy Power in addtion to mana, while Death Knights use Runes and Runic Power. Learn how these reources are consumed, and how they are generated and regenerated, and how you can enhance their regeneration.