I have a confession: I was once a tank. Technically I could have been half a tank, because I think I healed just as often, but once upon a time I rolled a druid with the intent of getting a melee DPS perspective.
One night in Wrath of the Lich King, my first guild had some trouble with kiting the adds on Gluth. So we upped the tank count to 3: the paladin tank moved to the back for holy tag with the undead while the former-bear warrior walked me through my feral spellbook as I sat in bear form on that pipe. I think it was the extra Mauls that hooked me. I became a bear tank with a branch-waving offspec.
I have fond memories of alt or PUG raids where I had cooldown-busting health pools and hero-bear resurrections between Gormok's death and the arena entrance of Acidmaw and Dreadscale. But as my guild tore apart in the beginnings of Icecrown Citadel, I've been back to pewpewing from the back as a warlock. My bear is merely an alt.
But my bear has made my warlock a little stronger.
The line between life and death
Let's face it: "[DPS] are that which stands between the boss and certain defeat." OK, OK, OK. Technically there's a tank in between you and the boss, whether that's a minion or an actual player. If you drop threat, there are now 9 or 24 players between you and the boss.
But what I really mean is that if DPS don't damage things down to 0%, the survivability of your raid for long periods of time is highly questionable. There are enrage timers and when there are no enrage timers, there are your healers' finite mana pools and regeneration.
Tanks or healers can talk about being the keystone of the raid all they want. Fact is, all members of a raid bear weight, just like all members in an arch hold it in place. We DPS may not be the center piece and there might be a lot more of us, but we still have a job to do: kill the encounter before it kills the raid. Perhaps my death as a DPS has never singly doomed a raid, but the only time I've happily died in a raid is with the Lich King at 10% health.
Most all things have to die before you can possibly receive loot. Dumping a boss's health bar isn't going to come from an unbuffed tank and it certainly won't come from a healer. This is why we wax about theoretical DPS from hypothetical gearsets and talent builds.
Investing in your role, class, and spec is not limited to tanking. Neither is caring about other classes's abilities. I care enough about when Skull Banner and Stormlash go off that I have Weak Auras for them. My entire gearing strategy rests on whether we have a very specific DPS player in the raid (and if we don't, the sporebat really is the best hunter pet ever). Having a rogue stabbing the boss in the butt means I just saved a GCD.
Topping the meters isn't a default perk of great gear or choosing a DPS spec. There is no spreadsheet that will tell you how to seduce-nuke or anything about your minion beyond which one wins the simulation. While many boss guides from all over the internet will warn you about the dangers of various voidzones, there is no finger but yours to guide your pixels out of it. Get yourself a piece of tier 6 and grab warlockery by the horns.
...you'll lose more than 50 DKP for not being where the felfire you were supposed to be. Respect from your teammates, for example.
I hear things from my vanilla guildmates about DPS just standing there during boss encounters. Nowadays, a stand-still Patchwerk fight is nonexistent; all fights include some movement and all fights have some kind of floor crap you have to move around.
Being aware of how events will progress is not just a tank thing or a healer thing anymore. Damage dealers need to be just as mentally agile as the rest of the raid. Soul Swap is a great warlock tool to put DoTs on a boss initially or to later move DoTs around mobs. It's also a great tool to pull DoTs off a boss if your raid leader shouts a STOP DPS call over Ventrilo. Initially I put my portal at the back of Megaera's platform to aid in ice-beam kiting. After only a couple of wipes, I soon realized it would be of greater use up front so I could return to the Rampage stack-up without having to run around the eventual voidzone maze.
There will be raid-wide damage or select debuffs you must endure at the will of RNG. Cycling through mitigation cooldowns is not merely a tank thing anymore. Frostbitten? Pop Unending Resolve until you find nearby raidmates to help soak the debuff. Rampage incoming? Eat a cookie or tap an ember under the discipline bubble once the inverse rain dies. Druid gave you Symbiosis? That's great news for Tsulong in the daytime, but while working the graveyard shift with your raid, toss those Rejuvenations via a mouseover macro to the target of your target.
Run away, little girl!
There is still the odd mechanic where this is true.
But generally speaking, if you get a mob beating on you, don't run away. Instead, run towards the tank, or at least within the range of whatever AoE threat mechanic applies to your tank's class. Drop your threat if you have to.
Perhaps it's finally my turn to put on the rose-colored glasses as the finer games of threat set in the west. I still remember waiting for Patchwerk to not only run across the room to me but to actually start his melee swing before I committed half my threat to putting Soulshatter on a ten-minute cooldown. I waited until the last second, because a few whole seconds later the paladin tank would be teasing me about riding his tail on that 129% threat line again.
But seriously, Vengeance will not solve your tank's threat problems if you never let the tank play a little Double Double This This with the mob in the first place. If you want a mob off you, stop adding more threat to your name with more spell hits. Preferably, switch your damage to the mob the tank has been hitting.
I don't completely understand the less stress argument. The murkiness of a job well done for tanks and healers helps them deflect some stress. It's very obvious to anyone running a damage meter whether I did my job correctly or even comparatively well. Meters have enough options and modes now that you can even tell if I deliberately padded my numbers or if I hit the correct target the whole time. Did I make the top cut that got spammed to raid chat?
Perhaps the in-combat stress is less (maybe try a tight berserk timer as DPS?), but out of combat, your performance is laid bare for everyone to judge (and, oh boy, they sure do) without even needing to alt-tab for log-diving. It's a tad stressful trying to play spreadsheet-perfect all the time.
The dime-a-dozen argument doesn't faze me either. There may be many warlocks out there, but there are none like me. I earned my raid spot and ten more mages rerolling to warlocks won't dilute my worth. My raid knows that I bring more than the sum of my gear to every boss encounter.
I could like the floating number spam of my DoTs or how various spell effects play. However, I think the real reason I play a DPS class is because I feel like I have my raidmates' backs. Life is dirty for the front line and life is spiritually tense for the menders. I'm in between, shooting shadow and fire over everyones' heads, promising that the great combat stresses that my tanks and healers proclaim they feel will eventually end.
Blood Pact is a weekly column detailing DOTs, demons and all the dastardly deeds done by warlocks. We'll coach you in the fine art of staying alive, help pick the best target for Dark Intent, and steer you through tier 13 set bonuses.