Sunday, July 03, 2011

Melee vs Ranged

It's pretty common to hear that a fight favors ranged over melee. Relatively few fights favor melee over ranged. So let's take a look at why this happens.

In my experience, most fights don't punish you for taking melee, they punish you for taking more melee than normal. Put another way, it's easier to take extra ranged DPS than it is to take extra melee DPS.

So what are the advantages that ranged has over melee?

1. Any effect that hits one melee usually hits all the melee.

Usually if there's an effect that melee needs to avoid, all melee have to avoid it at the same time. However, you very rarely see an effect target all the ranged simultaneously. Usually the ranged can spread out, so that only a portion is hit at any one time.

This also shows up in effects that "chain" from one target to another. It's easier to organize ranged such that chain lightning hits a minimum number of people. It's much harder to do the same for melee.

2. Ranged can go to melee, but melee cannot go to ranged.

If a fight does favor melee, ranged can often avoid it by running into melee range. Take Magmaw, for example. A common strategy is to have most of the ranged DPS stand with melee, with minimal people standing out at range to be targeted by the specials.

If ranged could not do this, it's arguable that Magmaw would be considered a melee-friendly fight, instead of a draw.

Not saying it would be a completely good idea, but if ranged had a 10 yard minimum on their spells, the balance between melee and ranged would be very different.

3. Any effect that affects the ranged will also affect healers.

The healers are usually at range, so any environmental effects will often affect them as well. That means that there is a maximum to what can be done to ranged without making it impossible to heal.


As you can see, it's not so much that individual melee classes are weak, but more that melee and ranged are affected by mechanics differently. Add to that the ranged can "pretend" to be melee characters, and pretty much every advantage ends up falling to the ranged.

Fixing this might be pretty complicated. Large fixes, like a minimum range for ranged, are not really feasible at this point.

The best way to go is probably identify the ranged classes and have effects target those characters. For example, when Magmaw does flame pillar, rather than targetting "a character at range", he instead targets "a ranged DPS spec" even if that character is standing in melee. That would allow melee specs to avoid some mechanics, while preventing the ranged specs from running into melee range.


  1. " Add to that the ranged can "pretend" to be melee characters, and pretty much every advantage ends up falling to the ranged."

    I think this is the basic outcome of bring the class not the player. Originally, melee brought the interrupts, various buffs/ debuffs, the burst dps and the fast target switching. So there was more of a role there.

    When it all comes down to dps and ranged are just as good as melee, and interrupts and buffs are spread between classes more, but ranged don't need to always be in melee range, it's clear why people feel that ranged are favoured. It's because there isn't any balance any more for melee needing to cluster in melee range.

    I don't see how they can easily solve this, and I couldn't in good faith recommend someone play a melee dps class/ spec these days. It's not bad. It's just that ranged are better.

  2. Point 2 can be fixed quite easily with fight mechanics though, the developers just hardly ever seem to bother.

    Take Al'akir's static shock for example, which spams an interrupt on everyone in melee range (or used to anyway), making it impossible for casters to stay in melee for an extended amount of time. Or Festergut in ICC, who required a certain minimum amount of people to stand at range or else he would puke on everyone in melee.

  3. Shintar, I don't think Festergut is a good example because it means you can't bring more melee to the fight - you need people to stay at range so you'd need to send a melee or healer to do the job. Actually, it's a good example of Rohan's point - you can bring melee but if you bring too few ranged, you're punished.

    I think the biggest problem is the 2nd point; even if the mechanics favor melee, the ranged can still "become" melee so they profit from the advantage too.

  4. Fights where everyone has to keep moving are easier on melee than ranged, because if they can stay near the boss' hitbox they can keep doing damage.

  5. I wrote a post about this problem a couple of months ago (, and my conclusion was that the real problem was that they had removed many of what used to be the issues that ranged struggled with, without adding new ones or giving melee added benefits. For example, as a ranged you had limited dps possibilities while moving, which was something of a melee strength and one of the main reasons for bringing them. In Cata, most ranged have gotten skills that allow them to at least do decent damage while running, without changing how melee work, effectively removing one of the upper hands melee had on ranged. I identified 9 reasons to why ranged are better than melee atm, and unfortunately it feels like Blizzard only want us to bring melee for their interrupt abilities (which also was pretty over-used on t11).

  6. One of the problems with Spinks' and Zinn's argument is that WoW has never been melee-friendly. Vanilla, TBC, and Wrath were always melee-unfriendly.

    I think it's hard to argue that "bring the player, not the class" is to blame when melee was still disadvantaged under "bring the class" rules.

    I remember there used to be a top-end guild--Drow, if I recall correctly--that was famous for bringing all ranged and just aoe'ing down everything.

    I would disagree with the notion that Cataclysm has made things worse for melee.

  7. Melee's benefit had always been that they could do full dps while moving. Fights that had movement hindered ranged more than it did to melee. Fights where melee never had to move and ranged did (ala Saurfang) were heavily biased towards melee, and Rogues/DKs generally topped the meters.

    A better fix than to put a minimum range on nukes (which would screw up pvp, so Blizzard would never do that) would be to do what Al'akar and Rag 2.0 do: melee range spell interrupts.

  8. kadaan, why do you hate Holy Paladins? ;)

    (I was really hoping no one would bring up that suggestion.)

    Personally, I would prefer better targeting, because that would also allow you to differentiate between healers and ranged DPS. But interrupt pulsing would work for pretty much everything except possibly Warrior Slam.

  9. The original solution for this (back in Classic) was pretty simple: Rogues did more damage than anyone else. However, once non-Rogue melee dps started being brought up to effectiveness, this solution stopped being reasonable.

    In my mind, a better scheme would be to simply give melee specs talents that make them easier to heal. So you'd have a balance. In raids where melee was taking heavy damage, it would be 'range favored'. But in raids where the damage was universal, melee would actually be better.