Toque’s Guide to Instancing

As mentioned in my Beginner’s Guide to WoW, I recently came back to the game fresh with a brand new character. I’ve been doing all of the low level instances all over again with other low level characters, and a lot of them are new to the game and instancing for the first time. I was inspired to write up a guide to post in the help section of my guild forums for those new to grouping and instancing, and decided to format it as an official article for my site as well with hopes that it’ll help others.

Know Your Role
This guide is not intended to tell you how to play your class because you should already know that by now, but your role when you instance may be different than what you’re used to when you solo. There are some basic tips and tricks to keep in mind for all roles within the dungeon setting. Some of these are common sense, and some of these things are learned from experience. You’ll be loved a lot more in instances if you know the basics and help to make your group as efficient and productive as it can be. And let’s not forget the basic golden rule — treat others how you wish to be treated. Be polite within a group and you’ll quickly establish yourself as a respectful person that others will want to invite back to future grouping and instancing.

First of all, if you are the lowest level in your group or a lower level going with a group of higher levels, STAY BACK. Your aggro radius is a lot bigger than you realize, and you’ll cause a wipe simply by sticking your nose out too far. This goes for your pet, if you have one. Hug the walls, etc. Stick to the back of the group — you should never be the first or out in front — and let the main tank or other member of the party gain aggro first before attacking to avoid pulling aggro to you.

And here’s two simple words that are important in any group situation: STAY TOGETHER. Not only can your healer not save you if you run off and they can’t find you, but those that run off tend to engage additional mobs by accident, and then your group is split up between two sets of mobs. This is a nightmare for your healer and a nightmare for being successful in the instance. Stay together and no one will get lost or engage mobs by mistake and split your efforts.

Designate Roles Early
Decide at the beginning who is the main tank, who is the off-tank (if needed), who is pulling, and who the main (and secondary, if applicable) healer is. Have the Hunter mark the target. All party members should focus on this target until it’s dead. If adds pull with the marked target, send the off-tank or pets onto them to keep them busy until the whole group can focus on them, or utilize crowd control methods (explained later) to keep the additional mobs at bay until you’re all ready to deal with it. If there’s multiple Hunters, decide which one is going to mark targets. There’s nothing more confusing to the rest of the group than to look at your future pull and see three of four targets marked and not know what you’re focusing on, unless this is a strategy known ahead of time. The Hunter can put Hunter’s Mark onto the next target after the first one is down. The group leader should use the in-game marking symbols in addition if there’s multiple mobs so that everyone knows what to attack first, second, and so on, when applicable.

Once you know who the designated puller and main tank are, let them do their jobs. Stay back and let them pull the fight back to the rest of your group, and then attack. This doesn’t always apply, but it’s typically best to pull the group you’re attacking back to a safe and recently cleared area rather than everyone moving forward into a tightly packed room of mobs where runners may flee into nearby groups and pull adds, or your presence may actually aggro nearby groups. Relax, and let the puller do their thing and bring the fight back to you.

I mention designating the main (and secondary, if applicable) healer(s) for one important reason — efficiency. You typically only need one main healer, though designating a backup is not a bad idea. The secondary healer is good for watching the main healer’s back and providing assistance when the main healer’s mana is low or they are under attack. Towards the end-game, you may get into instance situations where mutliple healers are needed, but generally you will only need one main healer. It’s important to establish who this is and let them handle healing. It’s counter-productive if mutliple people are trying to heal the same target(s), not to mention that means one or more less people focusing on the mob that the group is supposed to be killing. If you are a healing class in a group with other healing classes, find out who is best suited for the job and support where needed if you are not the designated main healer. If multiple healers are “competing” with each other to heal the main tank, for example, it is wasteful of mana and inefficient, because that second healer could instead be helping to down the targeted mob faster. For the main healer, there’s nothing more frustrating than to spend several seconds getting off a heal you’ve carefully timed and planned out on your main tank only to see that a split second before your heal went off someone else did the job, thus wasting a large chunk of your mana. For all classes and all roles within a group, be sure to know where you fit in and what your designated job is in the instance to ensure your group is as efficient and productive as possible.

Agree on Loot Rules Early
There’s nothing more discouraging than to go into an instance with a group, have something amazing drop, and not know what to do about looting and getting into a fight over it. That’s why it’s good to cover your group’s loot rules before you begin. Make sure everyone is on board and understands fully before even entering the instance, to save aggravation and fights later on. While loot rules may differ depending on who you’re with, there are very basic loot rules that should always be followed when in doubt.

If you come across a chest while in the dungeon, everyone should type /roll into the party chat. The person who gets the highest roll (closest to 100) wins the chest and has the right to open and take out the items within the chest.

Also ask before you begin who in the group is a miner, skinner, or herbalist. Sometimes, depending on the dungeon you’re in, the possibility to mine or skin or gather herbs comes up. It’s considered rude to just run up and start mining a node you see, because you may not be the only miner in the group. It should either be decided in the beginning that all of the miners will /roll for each node you encounter, or that you’ll all take turns mining nodes you come across. Same thing for skinning or gathering herbs. Play fair and respect your group members. You’re not the only one with a profession to level! Find out if there are any enchanters in the group, too, because their disenchanting services may be needed later in the group. (see below.)

The basic loot model is Need Before Greed. This means that priority for an item is given to those who need them instead of those who just want them for selling or to disenchant, for example. Blizzard has made this easy. When an item drops and the loot box pops up, look at the item. If it’s an upgrade for YOU (not for your alt, who is not in this instance and/or contributing to the run) and you need it, then by all means, choose “Need.” If the item is not better than what you have and/or you just want it to sell on the Auction House or use it for disenchanting, then you should click “Greed.” We ALL need money, but priority for gear is given to those who wear the gear and who can actually use the upgrade over our desire for more money. This includes those who want the item for disenchanting purposes. It is NOT a need situation if you just want to disenchant the item. Period.

Be careful when items drop that are Bind on Pickup (BoP). This means that if you win the roll, the item will be soulbound to you. Blizzard has also made this easy by popping up a reminder box on BoP items to warn you of this when you go to roll so that you can change your mind if needed. Normally in most groups I am in, all green items are greeded unless someone in the group actually needs the item because it is an upgrade to their gear. This gives everyone a fair chance to get a few drops in the instance that they can sell or disenchant. When blue items or better drop, it’s also important to follow the Need Before Greed model… blue and purple especially tend to bring out the worst in people when they’re grouping, and greed tends to set in. If the item is truly an upgrade, choose “Need.” If it’s not, then choose “Greed.” If the item is BoP, most times groups will tell everyone to pass on the item instead of greeding it (unless they need it, in which case they choose “Need”), and if no one needs the blue or better BoP item, it’s given to someone in the group who can disenchant it down into a shard or dust, and then everyone does a /roll in order to win the result of disenchanting. This is done because typically the disenchanted items sells better on the Auction House than selling the soulbound item to a vendor later. Again, doing this is fair to everyone. The disenchanter gets a chance to level up their enchanting, and then everyone gets a fair chance with /roll to win an item that can later be sold on the Auction House.

While this is the most commonly accepted loot rule model, don’t assume. When in doubt, it’s always a good idea to go over the rules and make sure everyone is on the same page before you begin. If it’s not discussed, ask. Trust me.

Oh, and DON’T LOOT UNTIL EVERYTHING IS DEAD. I know you’re excited to see what awesome blues and purples dropped from the boss you just finished off, but his adds are killing your group and your help is needed to finish off the entire fight. THEN you can loot. It can be annoying or distracting to have a loot roll box pop up while you’re still fighting. It’s hard to make decisions on loot and compare with what you have when you’re fighting for your life. Be sure to wait until everyone is done fighting to loot. Also be sure that everyone is in range before you loot. So if someone in your group dies during the boss fight, don’t loot until they’re back with your group or they won’t get a chance at the loot… and this will make them very angry, to be sure.

Basic Plan of Attack
Let tank gain aggro first. Have your puller pull and give your tank time to gain plenty of aggro. If you do high DPS that’s great, but let the tank get the aggro first before you start pelting away, and tone your damage down a bit if necessary if you find yourself pulling aggro too much. While it’s wonderful to be “the star” that does high damage, it’s a big pain in the arse for your healer if you pull aggro a lot and have to be healed along with the tank, especially if you’re squishy and go down easily. And remember — instancing is a group effort, so help keep it balanced and play your role accordingly — it’s not like solo play where you’re required to dole out the most damage in order to survive. Sometimes it’s slow and steady that wins the race, and if you wish to complete a large dungeon run, you need to know when to do high damage and when to turn it down so that together, your whole group can succeed. There is no “i” in “team!”

Crowd Control
One method of pulling a group is to use some form of crowd control. Crowd control is also important when you’re fighting and unexpected mobs join in. Crowd control simply means that someone (or multiple people) in your group temporarily incapacitate specific adds or mobs. The Hunter marks the main mob that everyone should be focusing on. Let’s say another mob wanders by and jumps into the fight, causing chaos. Instead of panicking, a class with crowd control abilities can keep the add at bay until your group is ready to deal with it. One of the most frustrating things in an instance for crowd control classes is that they go to the trouble of incapacitating a mob or add, and someone else in the group ruins it by beating on the incapacitated mob. If you see purple swirls, hearts, shackles, or sheep — DON’T ATTACK! These mobs have been successfully incapacitated and are not a threat currently, so stick to the main mob you should be focusing on, and then you can come back and attack the add after the crowd control method wears off. This saves mana and effort for your group. Rogues sap (purple swirls), Warlocks soothe (hearts), Priests can shackle undead, and Mages can turn mobs into sheep.

Sometimes crowd control methods are used as part of the pull when you have a group of mobs in front of you. A Rogue may sneak in and sap one mob so that it’s out of the way until the other mobs are dead, or a Mage may sheep one mob and then everyone can focus on the others, for example. If an add joins in and you see it turned into a sheep or see little hearts floating above its head, DON’T BEAT ON IT. I can’t stress this enough. Any damage done towards crowd controlled mobs will break the effect and bring the mob back into the battle. If you see that a mob has been crowd controlled, help out your group with whatever they’re focusing on (which you should be doing already), and leave the incapacitated mob alone until your group is ready for it.

Let’s talk about healing. Be mindful of your healer — they draw aggro trying to save other party members, so it’s just good practice to make sure they’re not getting beat on. If your healer draws aggro, send in your pet or immediately switch targets to get the mobs off of them. It’s everyone’s role to do this, not just the tank(s). This means the tank may have to damage all of the mobs in a group or be prepared to switch targets or have an off-tank sent in immediately, because if the tank only taps one mob of three in a group and ignores the rest, the minute your healer sends in some love to keep the tank alive, those ignored other three mobs will instantly be all over the healer. Not good.

Remember, if your healer can’t get heals off, everyone dies. Keeping your healer alive means everyone wins. It’s a good idea to have a designated secondary healer to protect your main healer. I know myself, when I’m busy focused on keeping my party alive, I don’t even notice when I start to lose health. Having a backup watching this will cover your bases in the event your healer needs heals.

If you are not the main tank and you suddenly gain aggro and feel like you’re going down fast, I have two words for you. DON’T RUN! This is highly annoying to your healer, who needs you to stay within range and within line of sight in order to heal you. In a panic situation where you’re running around like a chicken with its head cut off, your healer may not be able to find you and/or get within range to help you. Stay calm and close to your healer, and they’ll take care of you.

Hunters should not assume that a healer is going to heal their pet at all times. Personally I do my best if I have the mana available to heal Hunter pets in my group, but your pet is not a priority over a real person, and heals and mana are best served to the main tank or others that need to stay alive in order to rez in the event a wipe is possible.

And since we mentioned Hunter pets, I’ll quickly go out on a tangent and mention that Hunters should ALWAYS have their pets on passive when instancing. Always. And if you plan to take a shortcut in the instance where you need to jump down or do some fancy footwork to avoid a group of mobs, dismiss your pet. Why, you ask? Because your pets aren’t smart when it comes to pathing, and instead of jumping down with you, they’ll instead take the long way and run right through a group of mobs to get to where you jumped. This could wipe your group! Take special care to watch where your pets are pathing so you don’t pull extra mobs to your group. Ok, back to healing.

Healers should be mindful of their caster friends that do area of effect damage (AoE), such as Mages or Warlocks, and quickly cover them if they see area of effect damage taking place. In some specific dungeons it is known in advance and/or part of the strategy to AoE so you’ll know, but don’t forget to protect your squishy casters! If it’s not a planned strategy to do AoE, casters planning to AoE should try to warn the main healer in advance of sending off a massive attack onto a group of mobs if at all possible so that the healer can be prepared to cover them in case they draw aggro from doing so. Priests can cast Power Word: Shield and help absorb damage until the mobs are dead or the tank can regain aggro. Squishies go down much faster than meatshields, so healers need to be on their toes in AoE situations!

Soulstones should be put on party members that can rez, preferably a Priest. If things go south mid-battle and a wipe is inevitable, make sure your Soulstoned member moves back away from as many mobs as possible and waits until it’s all clear to use the Soulstone. If you’re the lucky one to be Soulstoned, protect that privilege by dying away from mobs that will aggro the minute you rez via Soulstone and be sure that it’s all clear and any chasing mobs have returned to their normal spot. Also watch for patrols that may be standing on top of you when you use your Soulstone. And don’t accidentally rez to the graveyard instead of using your Soulstone if you have one. It’s the Warlock’s job to keep an eye on when the Soulstone runs out and to re-apply it immediately when it runs out every 30 minutes. If someone in the group that can rez can get out of the instance before dying, make a break for it! Then you can come back inside the instance, rez the Priest or another to help you, and get the group back together instead of having everyone run back from the graveyard to save time.

Other Tips in Dungeons
Don’t use area of effect damage spells or actions unless your group is in a controlled situation or in a wide open area where there’s no risk of it pulling nearby mobs and causing adds. There are definitely situations where AoE damage is part of the strategy and perfectly ok in an instance, but when in doubt, don’t use it unless you’re absolutely sure you’re safe. This may include some Shaman totems, so be careful and aware.

COME PREPARED! It is your job and responsibility to come prepared to every dungeon with the necessary potions and elixirs you may need, food and drink or bandages, out of courtesy to the rest of your group. Don’t assume that because there is a Mage in your group that you don’t need to bring any food or drink; while most Mages typically plan in advance and have some food and drink on hand, it takes time and mana to make those items, and it’s not always convenient to stop mid-dungeon to make more. Bring your own, and if your Mage supplies you, that makes you that much more prepared. Also… just because there is a Warlock in your group doesn’t mean that you can expect to be summoned to the dungeon entrance. If you’re on the other side of the world when you’re invited to the group, get moving. Don’t hang around in Ironforge checking the Auction House or playing around. If the Warlock gets there and there’s enough people available, they may be able to summon you, but you shouldn’t rely on it or expect it as their job to do so just so you have more time to play the Azeroth stock market. If the Warlock has to hoof it to get to the dungeon, so should you.

And while we’re on the subject of being prepared, I want to share a pet peeve of mine. Being prepared also means that you should know about how long x instance is going to take and being able to fulfill that need for that time period. I understand that things come up in real life, but if you commit to a group for an instance run, do your best to have enough time set aside to actually complete the run. Your group depends on you, and if there’s any uncertainty of whether or not you’ll have enough time to complete the instance, be sure to let your group know up front so there’s no surprises when you’re a few clears before the final boss and you have to split, leaving your group hanging.

Know your buffs and be mindful of their timers. Be ready to re-apply buffs as needed immediately when they run out so that everyone always is on the top of their game with the best stats they can have for a better chance at success. When I played my Warlock, I always made a second Soulstone immediately after applying one to the Priest and let it sit somewhere on my secondary action bar. This was like a little mini clock for me, and I could see its cooldown as it ran out easily. And when I saw it run out, I already had one in my inventory ready to re-apply immediately and that way I rarely forgot to re-soulstone. If you’re a Paladin, know what your various blessings do and who they are best for, and be sure to keep them on the right people regularly. You’d not want a Blessing of Might on a Priest, for example. And be sure to keep watch for any poisons, curses, or diseases that your party members may pick up on the way, if you’re able to heal those things, so you can take care of them as soon as possible.

Kill any healer and caster mobs in the group first. Caster mobs dole out a lot of damage but go down quickly, so take them out as soon as you can. Healer mobs can make it difficult to take down other mobs in the group because they’ll just heal each other, so if you take out the healers first, there’s no one left to heal the other mobs and they’ll go down faster. A good rule of thumb is that when you come upon a group of mobs to clear, look to see if there are any casters (or any that have special abilities that you know about that will be painful), and focus on killing them first before switching to the melee mobs.

That’s all I can think of right now, but I am completely open to more suggestions or ideas to make this guide better. Happy instancing, and enjoy yourself out there! :)

Articles may not be republished elsewhere in whole or in part without permission. Feel free to link directly to this post. ©2005-2008 by Lesley Karpiuk (Toque of

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I'm Toque, (aka @geeksoap) and I'm a gamer girl. This is where I've been blogging about the game(s) I play and sharing screenshots and gaming articles I've written since 2006.

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FFXIV Online: A Realm Reborn Character

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Old WoW Characters

Amoodala, Tauren Monk on the Emerald Dream US realm. Horde main, Mistweaver spec. Guilded with After Hours.

Amoothyst, Tauren Druid on the Emerald Dream US realm. Resto main, Balance secondary. Guild: Bloodscourge Pillagers.

Lumiya, Blood elf Hunter on the Emerald Dream US realm.