Deconstruction of a Rotation: General Rotation Logic

There are a few misconceptions about how abilities should be used. Most of these follow the “use your biggest hitting ability first”, but this fails to take into account a lot of subtleties in rotations. To try to explain these I’ll use the Elemental rotation as a basis for explaining the logic.

Base Rotation

  1. Use cooldown based abilities as soon as they are available.
    For short cooldown abilities like Elemental Blast they need to be used as often as possible. If in a 6 minute fight if you use an ability once every 14 seconds you’ll get 25.7 uses. Increase that to once every 15 seconds and you get 24 uses, reducing your overall DPS by the DPCT difference between your cooldown spell and whatever filler takes its place.
  2. Use cooldown based abilities that generate resources as soon as they are available while not excessively wasting resources.
    This is more specific for Lava Burst which generates Maelstrom. While a spell like this should be used on cooldown slightly increasing the time between casts can potentially be better than wasting the resources the ability generates. An example like this would be Obliterate for Frost Death Knights, where it’s delayed if Runic Power is high enough that another use would cause you to waste RP. In these situations it’s better to use the resource spender instead, but it requires a bit of detailed work to identify when that occurs.
  3. Use resource spenders
    Resource spenders can be either a normal resource like Maelstrom, Runic Power, etc, or using charge based abilities like Starsurge for Balance Druids or Arcane Missiles for Arcane Mages (ie: spell based charges or buff based charges). If there is a fixed cost then these can be used at any time, but variable cost abilities like Earth Shock should be used as few times as possible while avoiding potential overcapping issues in point 2.
  4. Maintain important buffs & debuffs
    Due to the “universal pandemic” effect, which allows refreshes up to 130% of the new casts duration based on the remaining duration of the existing spell, refreshes can be delayed until an appropriate window becomes available. When there are no extra interactions allowing these to expire is also okay, but in situations where there are multiple spell interactions, eg: Flame Shock buffing the damage of Lava Burst, getting a uptime as close as possible to 100% is required to avoid delays in point 1 & 2
  5. Use resource generators & “filler” spells
    At the final & lowest level we use abilities that generally have no cooldown, generate resources and/or convert a constantly generating resource like Energy into another resource for stronger spells (ie: combo points for Rogues or Chi for Monks).

Cooldown Use

Generally speaking cooldown abilities should be used as they come off cooldown. The only exception to this is when delaying one cooldown to use with another results in a larger gain than just using them on cooldown. For example, if delaying a 2 minute cooldown by 1 minute to sync with a 3 minute cooldown results in more than a 50% gain then it will be worthwhile.

Cooldown Bonus Required = Normal Cooldown Time / (Normal Cooldown Time + Delay)

May Not Be Complete

I’ve tried to write this out as generally as possible so it would cover the most situations. There will obviously be variations & exceptions, like the “don’t use the same ability twice” mastery effect for Windwalkers. If there are situations not covered please let me know so I can try to work them into the above points.


About binkenstein
I'm a geek, living in Christchurch, New Zealand.

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