Keep Yourself Alive

*This is a rewrite of one of the very first posts I wrote on this blog. I thought it was time for an update*

One very important aspect of raiding, no matter what role you play, is to take as little damage as possible and stay alive for as long as you can. Besides obvious avoidance like not standing in fire (which is very important) you should also make the best use of your class’s damage reduction abilities and any other tools available to you.

Healers do their best to keep everyone alive, but each player also plays a role in this and can make the healers job easier or harder.

This post isn’t just aimed at specific classes, I’m also aiming for healers, raid leaders, and avid combat log analysts so you can tell if your fellow raiders are doing everything in their power to stay alive and reduce damage taken as much as possible.

Here’s a list of class-specific damage reducing abilities and self-heals that people can use in raids:

Death Knight

Anti-Magic Shell – Good against magic-based bosses. If timed properly it can be used to prevent the application of magic debuffs. With only a 45-second cooldown, it should be used often on any fight with magic raid damage.

Army of the Dead – This isn’t just a dps cooldown, it also reduces the damage the DK takes. For a dps DK this damage reduction won’t be huge, but any little bit helps. If they can channel the spell while raid-damage is happening they’ll get the damage reduction plus the benefit of the ghouls.

Bone Shield – Blood tank ability. This reduces damage and should be used on cooldown.

Dancing Rune Weapon – Blood tank ability. Increases parry chance by 20% while active.

Death Coil – Can be used as a self-heal while under the effect of Lichborne.

Death Pact – Sacrifices a minion to be healed for 25% of maximum health. This can be used to sacrifice and Army of the Dead ghoul rather than your normal pet.

Death Strike – This ability will heal the death knight for at least 7% of their maximum health. Though it’s generally not part of a dps DK’s rotation, it can be used to great effect when they’re desperate for a heal. Tanking DKs should be using this all the time.

Icebound Fortitude – A 20% damage reduction for non-tanks. Shouldn’t mess up damage rotations as it only requires runic power (no runes), so it should be used any time large amounts of damage are expected. For Blood tanks IBF reduces damage taken by 50%.

Rune Tap – Blood tank ability. Heals for 10% of their health.

Vampiric Blood – Blood tank ability. Increases health and healing received.


Barkskin – 20% less damage taken for 12 seconds every minute. It costs no mana, triggers no global cooldown and can even be used while stunned. This ability should be used multiple times on any fight by druids of any spec whenever damage is expected.

Frenzied Regeneration – You need to be in bear form to use this, so it will generally only be used by tanks.

Survival Instincts – This is a feral talent, and a bear’s major damage mitigation ability. It can be used in bear or cat form, so if your feral kitties are specced into it they should be using it too, whenever large amounts of damage are expected.


Deterrence – This ability can save your life in a lot of fights by deflecting incoming attacks. It does, however, cause the hunter to stop attacking so it should only be used when the incoming damage will be significant.

Raptor Strike – With the glyph, using Raptor Strike will reduce damage taken for 20% for 5 seconds. This is of questionable use since hunters are not likely to be in melee range to use Raptor Strike most of the time, but there are situational uses (such as using it while on a pillar during phase 2 of Nefarian).

Spirit Mend – Spirit Beast talent. Beast Master hunters with a spirit pet can use this ability to heal themselves.


Evocation – With the glyph of evocation this will restore health as well as mana.

Frost Armor – Very situational spell. It can be used if physical damage is expected, but most raid damage will be magical.

Ice Barrier – Frost only. Will absorb any type of damage.

Ice Block  – Removes most harmful debuffs and makes the mage completely impervious to damage.

Mage Ward – Absorbs fire, frost and arcane damage. This spell should see a lot of use on fights with these kinds of magic damage.

Mana Shield – Damaging attacks will drain mana instead of health.


Ardent Defender – Protection paladin talent. Reduces damage taken by 20% and can save you from an attack that would have killed you.

Divine Protection – Reduces damage taken by 20% for 10 seconds. Should be used often whenever damage is expected. Can be glyphed to give 40% magic damage reduction (but no physical damage reduction).

Divine Shield – Removes most debuffs, in addition to preventing all damage for 8 seconds.  If being used by a dps, should be clicked off when no longer needed to avoid screwing up your damage output too much.

Guardian of Ancient Kings – When used by a protection paladin this decreases their damage taken by 50%

Hand of Protection – Removes most physical debuffs. Can be used and clicked off when no longer needed to reduce downtime. Can be used on others, so it might be a good idea to use one of your self-use only skills first.


Desperate Prayer – Holy talent. Self-use heal that can be a lifesaver.


Dispersion – Shadow talent. Reduces damage by 90%. You can’t dps while you’re using this, but you do regain mana and should be able to live through almost anything while this is active.

Guardian Spirit – Holy talent. Will prevent a target from dying and increase their healing taken. Will likely be reserved for tanks on most fights.

Power Word: Shield – If you don’t have a Disc Priest throwing these around the raid, a timely PW:S can save you.  And yes, it can be cast in Shadow Form.

Pain Suppression – Discipline talent.  Will likely be reserved for tanks on most fights.


Cloak of Shadows – Removes harmful spell effects and causes you to resist new ones for 5 seconds. Gives momentary immunity to damage which, when timed correctly, can avoid large bursts of predictable damage.

Combat Readiness – Using this will make the rogue deflect incoming weapon strikes. Enemies shouldn’t be targetting the rogues for attacks often, but it can come in handy.

Evasion – Again, rogues shouldn’t be getting directly attacked by mobs often, but this can occasionally come in handy if the tank drops and a rogue (if he’s next on aggro) is able to evasion-tank a boss for a few extra seconds.

Feint  – Reduces threat and damage taken by AoE effects. With the Glyph of Feint (which reduces the energy cost to zero) and only a 10-second cooldown this should be used all the time whenever AoE damage is happening.

Recuperate – Using your finishing moves to heal yourself can be a significant dps loss, but it can be very useful during heavy damage or when out of range of healers.


Stoneclaw Totem – When glyphed this totem will place a damage absorb shield on the shaman.

Shamanistic Rage – Enhancement talent. Reduces damage taken by 30%. Has a 1 minute cooldown, so it should be used often.

Spirit Link Totem – Reduces damage taken by 10% and redistributes the health of anyone in range.


Death Coil – Causes damage and restores health.

Drain Life – Causes damage and restores health.

Shadow Ward – Absorbs shadow damage. For Destruction Warlocks, this can turn into Nether Ward, which will absorb any magic damage.

Soul Link – Causes 20% of damage taken to be taken by your pet instead.


Bloodthirst – Fury talent. This does damage and healing and will be used by Fury warriors all the time.

Enraged Regeneration – Regenerates health over 10 seconds.

Last Stand – Protection talent. Increases the warrior’s health by 30%.

Rallying Cry – Increases the health of all raid members (the warrior included) in range by 20%. This is a great raid cooldown to help people survive a large amount of damage and give the healers some extra time to catch up on healing.

Shield Block – Requires a shield, so will only be used by tanks. With Shield Mastery, this also reduces magic damage taken.

Shield Wall – Reduces damage taken by 40%. This will generally only be used by tanks. For DPS putting on a shield and hitting this can be rather unwieldy and a big dps loss, but I’ve seen it used to save a raid from a 1% wipe.

Victory Rush – On fights with adds  this can provide some decent healing for your warriors.

Race/Profession Abilities

First AidDense Embersilk Bandages can heal for a fair amount and are great to use in a pinch.

Gift of the Naaru – Draenei’s racial ability.

Lifeblood – A self-heal (plus haste boost) for herbalists.

Stoneform – Dwarves racial ability. Removes harmful effects and reduces damage taken by 10%.

And some general tips for all:

Don’t pull aggro – Most classes have threat reducing/dropping moves. Make use of them before the boss comes stampeding towards you. And for heaven’s sake, don’t use Bladestorm as your opener on a pack of trash mobs.

Don’t stand in fire – I know the old tunnel vision trap is easy to fall into. A large part of avoiding bad things on the ground is being able to see them, so this problem can often be solved with a good UI. Don’t clutter your UI with enough mods and meters that you can’t see half your screen. Also, make sure you can see your health bar (by moving it to a place your eyes automatically track to, or using a HUD) or have some kind of visual or audio notification to tell you when you’re taking damage. If you’re taking unexpected damage, the answer might be to move.

Use your health stones/health pots – To increase the likelihood of using these things, make sure they get integrated into the way you play. If you use keybinds, have one for your health stone. If you’re a Clique user, assign a mouse-click to it. If you put your health stone on an action bar on the corner of your screen that you never look at, you aren’t going to use it.

21 responses to “Keep Yourself Alive

  1. “Comprehensive AND comprehensible, this list of abilities is a must-know for all know-it-alls, smartasses and griefers around Azeroth.”
    Insanity Fair

    “Fantastic! Finally a post that helps healers.”
    The Cosmopaladin

    “I didn’t even know whe had Deterrence!”
    Petting Zoo

    “Maybe now those lousy DPS will learn to stay alive!”
    Phish Tank

    “Jasyla demonstrates again that she knows her stuff. And have you seen her gorgeous hair?”
    Blood Elf Today

    “Damn good post. I will have to translate this so I can propagate it within the non-English community. Once I get my shite together and get everything set up, that is.”

  2. Just to be nit-picky, DK’s can only heal with Death Coil if they pop [url=]Lichborne[/url]. (Hope I linked that right. >.>)

    Also for mages, a well-timed Invisibility can negate most, if not all, things aside from persistent aura/ground type stuff. I’ve used it against Al’akir once (Only time I’ve fought him) to ignore both the damage and knockback from Wind Burst. Good for less damage, with the added bonus of not having to move for moar pew pew, weee. Mostly works best against things like that with a cast time you can see, otherwise it can be tough since you have to be phasing from normal to invisible in order for this to work, so the window of success is rather small.

    • Okay, I’ve edited the Death Coil description a bit. Thanks.

      I had no idea Invisibility could do all that. Does it have to be used on something targetted at you?

      • Not specifically a single target spell, no. That particular Wind Burst from Al’akir is raid-wide. (The one you have to run in and hug him.) I think it just has to do with a spell being cast and you going invisible before the damage can register. Actually it goes for melee swings too. I’ve managed to luck up and see a boss swing at me, right when going invis, and the damage not hitting. Was like /flex.

        Not sure it deserves to be on the list though, just because it’s not a guaranteed thing and does require the good timing bit.

        Another fun fact: I believe you can spam the hell out of Invis. on Majordomo as your cyclone is coming off and not get a Seed on you. (So I hear, haven’t done it.) And I’ve also heard if your timing is spot-on you can use it to not get hit with the cyclone in the first place (The I believe you can also Iceblock before it’s cast too in order to ignore it.). I know you could ignore Putricide’s transition stun with it in ICC.

        But those (Aside from no Seed) aren’t really about staying alive that much. :p

  3. Great post, something to maybe add. There are good add-ons that can help as well, GTFO is my favorite and a very strong suggestion in our raids for everyone to have.

  4. *Great* article – I’ve featured it on the Melting Pot today. I’ll also be forwarding it to my RL.

    One quick note – Rogues also have Combat Readiness, which is a powerful temporary-tank ability.

    • Yay! Thanks for the feature.

      I’ve been debating adding Combat Readiness and Evasion. I was initially leaving them out because I was thinking it’s really only something to use when you’ve done something wrong, like pull aggro, and rogues shouldn’t have to deflect any melee attacks otherwise. Though, I guess they can be used to prolong a fight a little bit if the tank drops.

  5. Great post. Really useful.

    +1 for GTFO. It’s a mandatory addon for our guild as well.

    A possible addition to the Death Knight section is Army Of The Dead. It may sound strange (because most people think of it, rightly, as a DPS cooldown), but while channeling you take less damage (to the tune of your combined Dodge and Parry). Since the ghouls taunt non-bosses, it can also save your hide on a nasty trash pull (although, of course, army ghouls Leroying their way through an entire raid instance can be a curse as well as a blessing, so use with care).
    Johnnie @ MMO Melting Pot recently posted..Stay alive longer, make Heroics harder, and make being a GM easier

  6. I would add one thing under hunters, and mention that only BM hunters can use it. If a BM hunter is using a Spirit Beast, s/he can macro Spirit Mend ( it to heal him/herself. I read that BRK is currently doing that on the same day I read this post.

    BRK post:

  7. Great post 🙂 As a Warlock I had Death Coil and Health Stone in the same macro (using Health Stone doesn’t trigger the GCD).

    Noticeably, from my experience many self-heal and damage reduction abilities are often “discovered” while doing pvp – “discovered” meaning you actually learn of their existance and how to use them effectively.

    For instance, an Affliction Warlock will always use Haunt (an offensive spell with a self-heal component) as it’s part of his regular rotation, but Death Coil?
    Rayze recently posted..Chapter VI – I can write guides too, part one: TellMeWhen

  8. You missed the warlocks voidwalkers Sacrifice, which sets up a damage prevention shield.
    There is also some abilities that provide resistances (such as a paladin and huter auras), and a paladin skill that increases the affect of said aura.

  9. Pingback: Stay alive longer, make Heroics harder, and make being a GM easier — MMO Melting Pot

  10. A few extra notes on the rogue abilities:

    Cloak’s momentary immunity to all damage is great for huge bursts of predictable damage (e.g., Majordomo seeds to keep the buff, Nefarian to skip some electrocutes).

    Feint should be glyphed by PVE rogues on most fights, which reduces its energy cost to zero. In a lot of fights/phases, this should be cast on c/d since 50% less damage is huge on something like heroic Beth’tilac up top or during burn phase.