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The Druid's Guide to Grouping

I. Introduction

In my experiences as a druid, cleric and warrior, I've seen druids from a number of angles. I've seen it from my perspective as a player, from my perspective as a cleric and warrior, and from the perspective of other players. There's a lot of bad druids out there, we have to face that. It's those bad druids who make those of us with a clue look bad. There's a reason clerics and wizards get groups in Sebilis and Velketor's Lab and druids are left shouting LFG over and over.

The main problem is that too many druids quad for their whole career, or at least single kite up to level 34, and don't learn even the basics of grouping. Not to mention they get scared in dungeons because half of their spells don't work.

Verant has made it worse with the release of Shadows of Luclin. Aside from the numerous indoor zones and the lack of ports, there are a lot of mobs that can't be snared. This also happened in the revamp of Chardok. Nothing is ruder than to get a message that a monster is immune to changes in its run speed. This just plain sucks and screws the druids and necros, who depend on snaring to be competitive. This is why you never see druids in Fungus Grove. It's indoor, you can't snare anything and the guards won't help you.

Yes, it's possible to quad to 60. I did it. Still, you've got to learn how to group. Beyond 60 what's next? A guild, obviously, and in a guild you are a supporting character. What do you think you're going to do against Velketor or Trakanon, kite them?

A lot of druids learn their supporting role after their quadding days are over, but it's something you can learn early on, really. I've spent time watching newbies, since it's been a year since I began the game, and realized that most of the spells become so important at the upper levels begin to show up at the lower levels, but people don't use them.

Then there's strategy. Lowbie in Oasis tend to play in a clusterfuck method that does succeed in killing the mob, but in a less than clean strategy that's seen by veterans in Sebilis. This guide, therefore, isn't just for druids but for everyone.

II. Group Balance

The first issue, of course, is class balance. The ideal group would be a warrior, ranger, rogue, shaman, enchanter and cleric. You've got everything. The heavy artillery, snarer, backstabbing damage dealer, buffers and healers and crowd control and haste. The only real gap in this crowd is an evacer. In that case, you can replace the shaman or ranger with a druid for that job, but only if you do it right.

In my days in Oasis, groups on orc highway were always just thrown together with anyone who's LFG. It's not uncommon to see a Shadowknight, mage, cleric, druid, ranger and rogue. Or two warriors, two wizards, an enchanter and shaman. It's quite random. Everyone just swarms over the orcs and kills them. It's not the most elegant thing to watch some times.

If you can, the group should have both a shaman and enchanter. The shaman's specialties are buffing and slowing mobs. Dexterity affects how quickly you learn your defensive skills (defense, dodge, riposte), strength buffs are obvious. They deal out more damage and increase your offensive skills. They also can buff you stamina, which is important to melees. A stamina over 100 means that exhaustion is no longer a factor, so if the yellow stamina bar goes to zero, it won't affect the melee's performance.

Shaman can also increase a melee's attack rate, but they don't have the haste capabilities of an enchanter. At level 16, enchanters tend to be just breeze machines and occasionally mez mobs. However, far too often they don't. I've seen it in Oasis more times than not. What often happens if two mobs get pulled is the melees will split the mobs and the casters will jump in and also tank. I think back to my lowbie days, and occasionally watch newbs today, and realize I never see anyone asking chanters for haste. At level 16 they get Quickness, a 30% haste.

Enchanters get mez at level eight but don't use it, which often boggles my mind. Now granted, it's not totally a bad idea for the enchanter to be involved in melee because they need to build their defense skills. My druid has a 200 defense and it makes a huge difference. I can stand toe to toe with a mob and it can swing away and miss repeatedly while I get a snare or some other spell off. Trust me, you want defense. But they do need to learn to use Color Slant for mass stunning and then Mesmerize individually.

Lowbie grouping in places like Oasis, Highpass and South Karana tends to be a disorganized clusterfuck, so let's try and make it more seamless.

III. Group Responsibilities

First, agree on the main tank. They are often called the MA, or main assist. Make a hotkey for yourself that says /assist MainTank, whatever his name is. When the tank engages, hit that key. It will immediately target the main mob.

The reason to do it this way is to keep focus on one mob. Say you pull three orcs in Oasis and the enchanter mezzes two of them. Do you know which is the one to attack? Do you really? You'll have to wait until the other two stop moving before you know. And then there's a sucky mouse in this game that makes selecting things right in front of you an impossible effort.

This is also important for people with pet classes. Necros and mages become unpopular at higher levels because their pets are uncontrollable. If two mobs jump a necro pet, for example, the pet will jump back and forth between the two rather than stay focused on one. So pet casters have to wait if there's a bad pull until the enchanter does their crowd control, then assist the tank and send in the pet.

Ok, you've got the MA and your hotkey. Buff up your group. With the release of Luclin, you now have group buffs. Group skin like rock, skin like steel, etc. A trip to the Luclin druid guild  is definitely worth the time. One thing to remember: druid Skin spells do not stack with cleric hero spells (Bravery, etc.), but if you cast the skin spell first, then the Hero will stack over it.

You also get a strength buff, but if you have a shaman, leave it to them. Regeneration spells come at 20, cast it on the main assist at first, and watch how things go. If there's a lot of damage being dished out to the group, then regen everyone. If things are going well, the only person taking serious damage is the main assist.

Harmony is a spell that you will use a lot less often than you think. First, it's useless indoors. If it worked indoors, druids would own Sebilis, so that will never change. If you are in an outdoor zone of wanderers, like Oasis, LOIO, FM or OT, Harmony is pointless. You need it in an area of static spawns. I can only think of two times when I used it regularly: from my 20s to 30s at Redwind's temple in Everfrost, and at the high levels, pulling Othmir. Other than that I never use it. Mobs are either too far apart or roamers. So I doubt you will have much use for Harmony.

You absolutely have to have snare ready. If nothing else that's your role. But one of the big mistakes druids make is they snare immediately, or while the mob is in-bound. Snare is a huge taunt and when a mob is first pulled, it's agro list is fairly open. It can change direction on a dime and go after someone else very easily. Snare too soon and the MA will be pulling it off you, already throwing things into chaos. Count to five from when the MA engages and then cast snare. This gives the warrior time to build and hold agro. Mobs don't run until they are at 20-30 percent of life, so you have time. Be patient. That's druid mistake number one with snare.

The second mistake they make, believe it or not, is not casting it at all. That usually comes from mistake number one. They cast it too soon, which got agro on them, and that makes them gun shy about casting snare. This happens a lot in dungeons, since there's nowhere to run. So wait. Give the MA time to get and hold agro so when you cast snare, it doesn't get the mob on you.

The damage shield is not just your friend, it's everyone's friend, but you must use it wisely. At the high levels, your DS will do 32 damage per hit. Against a mob with 15,000 HP like Velk, who hits twice per round, that means he's taking 64 damage per round. A fight against a mob like that is a good five minutes, and the DS will chew up thousands of hit points.

But only put it on the MA. The reason is this: a DS builds agro. They hit you and take damage. That only enrages the mob further. Now, say the MA loses agro and it turns on the enchanter or rogue. It hits them, and the DS acts as an automatic agro increase. That makes it harder for the MA to get agro back. So only DS the MA.

And CHECK. Tanks have other things on their mind. Know the time limits of your  damage shields, but it's tricky to keep that in mind. You can either cast it on yourself and then the tank, so when it fades on you you know to cast it on the tank. The other option is to constantly check. "DS check," I say in group. The tank will respond, if he's on the ball. If not, keep asking. The DS will make a vital difference, and if you keep on the ball with the DS, people will notice that you are on the stick, thinking, and taking an active part. That in turn will cultivate a positive reputation that makes you in demand.

In attacking the single mob, the MA and secondary tank face him, and the rogue gets behind for the backstab. One of the chief mistakes new rogues make is they immediately launch into their attack with a backstab. Backstab is a huge taunt and will easily get the mob turned away from the MA. So rogues should go into melee swinging and hit backstab after about three to five seconds of combat.

One of the tricks of high level raids is what's called "the rainbow." Below is a great shot of it against Velk, with my guild, Rel In Por.

It's hard to box in a mob on four sides, but three sides makes it easier. You have to remember that in melee, you move the mob ever so slightly by hitting it. With the three sides covered and the mob against the wall, he's pinned. The main assist and other heavy tanks are in front, secondary tanks (Paladins, SKs, Rangers) are on the side, and rogues are behind, with casters out of the way. By doing it this way, the mob has nowhere to go. Also, in most cases, when pushed into the wall, a mob can't cast heal or gate.

There is one notable exception: Lady Vox. Don't ever push her into a wall or let her get into a wall. Form a line on one side between her and the wall and keep her away from the wall. She gets in the wall and the raid is over. She'll cheal and you are dead.

So can a group of six do it? Sure. MA in front of the mob, second tank on the side, rogue behind, and casters in the gaps between the melees. With practice, you can form a perfect rainbow.

Now as you are pulling, your the secondary healer to the cleric. Talk to the cleric and let him know that you are watching him and other casters while he does the tanks. Make it clear to the group as well that you are on caster healing duty and they should shout if there's a problem while the cleric deals with the damage dealers.

Something that I think every healer should do is create a hotkey that says who they are healing, which puts those people at ease. Here's how I do it. The chloroblast spell is usually in gem slot three while Nature's Touch is in slot 8. Here's the what I have in my hotkeys:

Chloroblasting >>> %t <<<

/cast 3


Nature's Touch on >>> %t <<<

/cast 8

If you just do it like I do, it will be said in whatever way you have talking set up. So if you have set conversation to group chat, it will be said in the group, etc. The alternative is to put something in front of the dialogue, like:

/g Greater Healing on %t

/gu Casting Superior Healing on %t

/shout Complete Heal on %t in 10 seconds.

You should only say it in guild chat if it's a raid involving the whole guild, so everyone knows. Shouts, again, are for raids also. Doing so in any other capacity than a raid is rude, so leave it to group conversation.

Nuking is another skill you have. You can't hold a candle to a wizard, obviously. Nuking, of course, is an agro, so you have to wait until the mob is at least than half of its life. Nuking is your third option, after buffing and healing. Nuke if you have the mana and breeze.

Again, because it's an agro, hold off on nukes. The best time to nuke is when a mob runs. Almost all mobs, except undead, will run when near death. If you've snared them, they won't be going far or very fast. Running can bring other mobs to help, and this is where people can lose it. They want to finish the mob but they have a new, fresh one on their case. So save your nukes to finish off the mobs.

The other time to nuke, and nuke frantically, is a bad pull and no crowd control. If you've got three mobs on you and no enchanter, help finish off one mob very fast. I've done this a few times, moreso at higher levels because I've got the mana to spare. At low levels, you may not. In that case, I hope you SoWed everyone.

Remember, you're a supporting class. If you want to be a star, or in there dealing damage, make a warrior. You should only melee if you've got the mana and don't need to med, or if it's a dire situation and you need to take down the mobs fast. I'm not averse to druids meleeing, even though they are casters. And as I said earlier, you got to get your defense up as high as possible.

Questions? Comments? Write me.