Concentration of Fire
Concentration of Fire is damage reduction by means of damage elimination. Assess mobs for their damage potential and eliminate those with the highest damage to hit point ratio first, using /macro Assist /assist on the team leader, or a puller/caller if the team leader is not the puller or caller. If the potential incoming damage over time is greater than the capacity of Doctors or other healers to heal over that same time, then aggro management must be used.
Concentration of Fire
In his excellent essay, originally posted at Wolf Brigade, Berael of RK1, in addition to explaining Assisting, its value to a team, and assist commands, also gave a blow-by-blow demonstration of what Concentration of Fire (CoF) means and its importance. In this formalized situation, there are no healers, and each of the mobs begins attacking a separate player. Before examining further the impact of healers and aggro on the Concentration of Fire strategy, we begin with the essay.
"We have a team of 6 players, one of which is a doctor, and a group of 6 mobs. Each mob is attacking a different player, while all the players are attacking the same mob. Each damage cycle the players are acting as one mob and will deal six times the damage to one mob to give an increased chance of killing it. Once one of the mobs is dead it no longer deals its damage (duh).
Now if we say that each mobs and each player deal 100 damage on every hit. All the players have 300 health. The mobs have 600 health."
- Round 1: Players deal 600 damage to Mob1 • Mob1 Dies • Mobs 2 through 6 each deal 100 damage to Players 2 through 6. All players have 500/600 HP.
- Round 2: Players deal 600 damage to Mob2 • Mob2 dies • Mobs 3 through 6 each deal 100 damage to Players 2 through 6. All players have (400/600) HP or more.
- Round 3: Players deal 600 damage to Mob3 • Mob3 dies • Mobs 4 through 6 each deal 100 damage to Players 2 through 6. All players have (300/600) HP or more.
- Round 4: Players deal 600 damage to Mob4 • Mob4 dies • Mob5 deals 100 damage to Player5 (200/600) • Mob6 Deals 100 damage to Player6 (200/600)
- Round 5: Players deal 600 damage to Mob5 • Mob5 dies • Mob6 Deals 100 damage to Player6 (100/600)
- Round 6: Players deal 600 damage to Mob6 • Mob6 dies
"In this example, everybody stays alive. If you can imagine each player attacking the corresponding mob, then it would come down to luck on who takes the last strike first for the killing blow, and also each player winds up more hurt over all then if they all assisted. Which means that the team is more in danger of dying from surprise adds, traps, or other fun problems.
A couple final notes. In a situation where you have a caller in team, when your target dies you should just spam your assist macro till you get a new target instead of trying to pick one out on your own. If you attack a mob that nobody else in the team knows about you could draw unwanted aggro onto you and the team. Its always really useful to have a script to make assist macros for you and your team, so try and dig one up."
Ihnnaw's assist macros
Another way of looking at the above scenario is its illustration of Total damage inflicted, which Berael alludes to when he says, 'each player winds up more hurt overall than if they all assisted'. The mobs inflicted 1500 total damage. Say the players had double the health so survival was not the issue; if they each singly attacked their targets, the monsters would still be doing more than twice the damage, 3600. That amounts to downtime, wasted time for the team as the doc sits and uses Nano Restoration kits or Coils, to say nothing of the time wasted fighting lesser mobs when, with better tactics, the team can safely fight mobs that give more xp.
Healing and Aggro and their effects on CoF
The above essay shows perfectly the importance of Concentration of Fire by means of timing; had the team not been concentrating all of their damage on each mob in turn, one of the other team members would have been 100 HP better off for each attack on another target, but Player6 would have died.
However, the essay assumed that all of the mobs would pick a different target. Had all of the mobs, perhaps having read this essay online in their Mob Cyber Cafe, decided to attack Player1, the scenario would have turned out quite differently.
- Round 1: Players deal 600 damage to Mob1 • Mob1 Dies • Mobs 2 through 6 each deal 100 damage to Player1. (100/600 HP)
- Round 2: Players deal 600 damage to Mob2 • Mob2 dies • Mob3 deals 100 damage to Player1. Player1 dies. Mobs 4 through 6 each deal 100 damage to Player2 (300/600.
Etc. Had the monsters struck first, the battle would have lasted only a round. The essay gave the players the first attack, and then critiqued targetting of individual mobs as leaving it up to chance as to whether the mob or the character died (" it would come down to luck on who takes the last strike first for the killing blow"), but this does not affect the truth of the central point, that "each player winds up more hurt over all then if they all assisted". Also, Berael is quite right about staying safe; had Mob6 landed a critical at any point, Player6 would have been dead.
The scenario also lacks a doctor, which brings up the other benefit of spreading aggro: Team Heals. Team Heals are more efficient, costing much less nano per Hit Point healed. In the example, given five players and one doctor against five monsters, and everyone with 500 HP, even a 25 point team heal would have kept everyone alive no matter who struck first, even without Concentration of Fire.
In real play, mobs will 'aggro' multiple players, but as soon as they get real aggro, like being damaged or taunted or worst of all, a player being healed, they will switch immediately and not so easily switch thereafter. In real play, then, aggro also accrues to Doctors and big damage dealers such as Nanotechnicians.
Concentration of Fire is quite clearly still a viable strategy when the incoming damage is less than the ability of a single player and his doctor(s) to absorb or restore it. And the monsters have to use it to beat it. But rather than the perfect description of how concentration of fire is a consideration that supersedes all others, Berael's scenario, while showing the basic principle of CoF, is also an example of how spreading aggro is a valid concern.
The decision to give preference to CoF or aggro management is based primarily on the answer to this question: Are your enemies Tanks, with armor that is heavier than their weapons are strong? Or Direct Damage (DD), that is lightly armored and deals heavy damage? If a Tank, then CoF can be used, if DD, then aggro management measures must be. The majority of dangerous encounters are against tanks: single strong enemies with far more HP than damage, with weaker allies with either more HP than damage or about even, so CoF is the norm; it works to clear the minions, and it is inevitably the means to defeat the boss. But in the case of multiple equally strong DDs that do as much or more damage than your healing, aggro management keeps your tanks alive.
CoF and aggro management are not mutually exclusive, either. A single hit may be all it takes to keep a mob on a player, or two in a row then switch, or switch back and forth. Concentration of Fire should always be the goal, but aggro management is the cost of getting there.
Nor is aggro management always, or even usually, achieved by force. Mobs can be coerced to stay their hand with Crowd Control nanos, whether it be Roots or Calms or Charms. But any aggro management only works if it works, and CC (crowd control) sometimes does not work at all.
And speaking of it only works if it works; the most important aggro management of all is between players. Everyone makes mistakes, no one was born knowing how to play this game or any other, and sometimes, no matter what you do, having made all the right decisions and actions, you die anyway. I blame the coders personally; they are not part of my team, in more ways than one, and they are not here to take offense anyway, which is convenient. Also, there is no such thing as a truly random result picked by a computer; coders have gotten very creative at assigning outcomes of individual strikes and the sequences of strikes that make up battles.
In this alternate scenario, the damage to hit points ratio is stacked against the players many more times than it was in Berael's. Crowd Control cannot be used, as the mobs are immune to it. However, one of the team is a Doctor. A simplified form of Aggro is also applied: all of the mobs begin by attacking whoever first attacked them, and switch targets to whoever next attacks them. The players take turns getting aggro so that the mob do not use CoF on them by default. This example is simplified to illustrate the basic point: if the total damage exceeds the capacity of healers to heal, then the HP pool of party members must be used to soak up the additional damage by getting the mobs to switch targets. The example admittedly relies overly heavily on Team Heals; they give more aggro than regular heals, and should be used with caution. A better scenario would tweak the HP and damage or other factors to make it more realistic.
Three mobs all do 200 damage, and have 1000 HP. The Doctor heals 200 damage to a single target, or 125 damage for the full team. Five attacking characters all do 100 damage, and all six players have 500 HP.
Player 1 is the Puller, and attacks Mob 1 at long range. All three mobs head straight for Player 1, but two are intercepted by Player 2 and Player 3. Players 4 and 5 /assist on P1's target.
- Round 1: Players 1, 2, and 3 are reduced to 300/500 HP; the doctor Team Heals 125 HP on each, back to 425/500, for a total of 375, almost double what would have been healed with a single heal. Monsters 2 and 3 are reduced to 900/1000 HP by attacks from Players 2 and 3 respectively, and Monster 1 to 700/1000 by the CoF of Players 1, 4 and 5.
- Round 2: Aggro against players 1, 2 and 3 is maintained; they are reduced to 225/500 HP; the doctor Team Heals 125 HP on each, back to 350/500. Players 2 and 3 switch attacks to all focus on Monster 1. Monster 1 is reduced to 200/1000 by the combined attacks.
- Round 3: Players 2 and 3 are reduced to 150/500 HP; the doctor Team Heals 125 HP on each, back to 275/500; the margin by which a Team Heal is better is reduced, however, as the Puller P1, healed back to 475/500, will no longer have aggro after this round, and Team Heals get more aggro on the doc. Attacking their initial targets only once also increased the risk of P2 and P3 losing aggro to the doc, but they also made it easier for P4 and P5 to gain aggro, which they now do, with attacks on M2 and M3 respectively. (Note that P2 and P3 never went so low on HP that keeping aggro for an unexpected second round could have killed them, which is a pretty good policy to follow) The Puller and P2 finish off M1, and P3 assists on M2. M2 now has 700/1000 HP, and M3 has 800/1000.
- Round 4: P4 and P5 are reduced to 300/500 as they receive their first wounds from M2 and M3; doc heals them to 425, P2 and 3 to 400/500, and the Puller to full. P5 stays on M3, as switching will not finish off M2; the rest of the players attack M2. M2 has 300/1000, M3, 700/1000
- Round 5: P4 and P5 are reduced to 225/500, doc heals them to 350/500, Puller, P2, and P3 kill M2, P4 and 5 bring M3 to 600/1000.
- Round 6 and 7: The team finishes off M2. The Doc can concentrate on M2's target with /assist and heal the whole of the 200 damage it does.
The team has killed mobs that, if they attacked all at once, could have killed any one of the team members in one round. This scenario might not actually be possible in real play due to mob AI: the mobs might not lose aggro on the Puller; they might switch to the doc on the first Team Heal, they might not switch from P2 and P3 to P4 and P5. But on the other hand, the margin of safety is not usually this thin, and the point remains: a team using aggro management can do something that would just not be possible with CoF alone, and even in a case of a greater safety margin, would be much more dangerous with CoF alone.