One of the top excuses ever used for bad performance or other various screw ups (right behind “blame the healer”) is lag.
More guilds have wiped to lag than any other boss, more players have died to lag than any other enemy. It’s an inconceivably (go on, do it, I dare you) powerful monster, capable of slaughtering thousands in one fell swoop.
It’s also something a large number of us combat on a daily basis. Some of us (like the awesome DK tank mentioned last post) get alarmed and call their ISP when their ping exceeds 100ms. Some of us (like me) are overjoyed if we experience anything less than 400ms.
A brief tangent: Blue Ulduar proved that gear can’t hold you back. “I don’t have the gear” is not a valid excuse.
Well, if you’re green head to toe, chances are you aren’t going to be able to tank Crusader’s Coliseum. But get reasonable gear, well itemized, well tweaked blues and the world is your oyster (even while mounted!).
Lag is treated the same way. “I shouldn’t raid, my latency is so bad” or “I can’t PvP properly”, blah blah blah.
This isn’t a valid excuses. Lag, even heavy lag, is just another challenge to overcome, another hurdle to… well, hurdle.
I’m using myself as an example here. The lowest latency I ever experience is 350ms, and this is very, very rare. A good night for me is around 450ms, the average is about 550-600, and I spend a fair amount of time in the 750ms area.
But I don’t whine. I don’t refuse to PvP because I’m bogged down by 600ms. I don’t sit out for raids despite trucking along with 700ms.
Is it hard to counterspell a 1 second heal when it doesn’t even show up on my screen until it’s half finished? You bet it is. Is the safety dance a wee bit difficult when you are operating half a second behind everyone else? Sure it is.
But it isn’t crippling, it isn’t game breaking. It’s simply an extra challenge that needs to be accounted for.
If you have lag in excess of 1000ms, that I can see being a valid excuse. Anything lower than that, and you just aren’t trying hard enough.
What I’m really preaching here today is that lag does not hold you back. YOU hold you back.
Naturally, having played with supposedly bad lag for so long, I have developed a few tricks!
I will share them with you, all you have to do is donate five dollars using the donate tab over on the left there, then scroll down.
[There is no donate button. Stop looking.]
Firstly, there’s that whole pre-pressing thing I’ve talked about before. With lag in excess of 400ms, there really is no other way to play. If a shaman starts casting a 0.9 second LHW, you don’t have 0.9 seconds to interrupt it. You only have 0.4 seconds, maybe 0.3. You need to cut out as much time as possible from your actions.
If you’re already half a second behind everyone else, you don’t want to be caught with slow reflexes and become a full second behind everyone else.
Second, you have to develop a sort of sixth sense about your surroundings. You need to be able to predict what’s going to happen next.
For PvE, this isn’t typically that difficult. A boss mod of some sort should be able to tell you what’s going to happen next with a high level of accuracy, allowing you to preemptively react to many mechanics. Some things, like the Safety Dance, will simply take time and practice.
It’s a lot easier to screw up the safety dance when what you are looking at on screen is not reflective of reality. You need to reach a point with your play where you are very familiar with the fight at hand, and can preempt boss mechanics rather than react to them.
Familiarity cannot really be taught. It’s just something you need to experience, learn, and internalize.
PvP is somewhat more difficult. Again, this is something you just have to do to gain proficiency. You start learning patterns, things your opponents do, and you can start reacting to their decisions before they even make them.
Some are common, and easy to remember. Most DKs open up with some good ol’ Chains of Ice spam, and when that fails, that’s usually when they’ll death grip. Some do use it at the start of combat, those death knights are foolish. Blink and have your way with them.
Ret paladins, due to their lack of tools, are the most predictable melee class around. If you start the fight at range (which you always should, if you hope to win) they really only have two options: repentance and hand of freedom. A kited ret pally will always use one or the other.
Trinket out of repentance, or do nothing and laugh as Mage Armor makes mincemeat of his pitiful magic debuff, and prepare to deal with HoF. Ideally, the opening moments of combat against a ret pally would be getting off as many spell steals as you can. HoF lasts a long time and it is impossible to kite with it up. And as many paladins run at 115% speed, you will not be able to run for long.
Spellsteal HoF when it goes up (and it will go up), then prepare for the bubble.
And so on the list goes. Shamans always drop a grounding totem before attempting a self-heal with a cast time, hunters almost never wait for you to blink before hitting disengage, and almost always feign death if/when that manoeuvre fails. Discipline priests inexplicably panic when penance gets locked out, almost always making several fatal mistakes in rapid succession. Druids will happily waste boatloads of mana trying to shapeshift out of Slow.
Third, you need to make judicious use of timing addons. Things like Quartz, OmniCC and some sort of buff/debuff tracker are not optional.
Quartz is pretty obvious, we all know and love it. It will allow you to compensate for your additional lag; more importantly it will allow you to compensate for variable lag. This addon, combined with pre-pressing, will make a HUGE difference in your performance.
Fourth, you should be able to perform your entire spell rotation blindfolded. You should be intimate with your rotations. The timing of chaining your main nukes, of when to use your procs for maximum efficiency, should not require any conscious decision making.
If you are, say, a fire mage, you should be able to maintain your rotation on a TD (test dummy) for minutes at a time relying only on aural cues. (Preferably without random haste procs, those will screw with you. If you have haste proc style trinkets, unequip them before trying it blindfolded.)
This, more than anything else, requires an immense amount of familiarity. If you’ve been a frost mage since Molten Core, you probably already have raided with your eyes closed. If you’ve been arcane since patch 3.2 hit… well, chances are you still need some time, though you’re actually in a better place than those who’ve been arcane for longer.
Anyone else still instinctively go for AM once AB hits 3? /guilty
You don’t have to be able to manage your cooldowns completely internally. Getting all of your cooldowns and their various cooldowns into pure instinct is pretty rad, but may be a few steps too far. I mean if the cooldown on AP gets lowered by ten seconds, that will completely ruin all your internal instincts.
Consider, I tried out glyph of Blink once. That extra 5 yards was extremely confusing and disorienting. I had completely internalized the distance I travel with that spell, and increasing its distance by 5 yards left me utterly bewildered and confounded every time I used it.
Fifth, complain to absolutely everyone you know about how bad your lag is. Eventually, you will find someone with an even worse connection than you, and you will feel much better for it.