Mechanics of Melee Attacks (MoP 5.4)

In this article, we detail the common mechanics that melee classes share.

1. Introduction↑top

Melee classes share common mechanics, which we deemed appropriate to present in this single cheat sheet.

There are two sort of melee attacks:

  • normal attacks (sometimes referred to as white attacks) which are regular melee auto-attacks;
  • special attacks (sometimes reffered to as yellow attacks) which correspond to an ability you cast.

We will first present in detail how normal attacks work. Then we will explain how special attacks differ from them.

2. Normal Attacks↑top

When your character performs a melee attack, this attack will be one of the following:

  • missed attack;
  • parried attack;
  • dodged attack;
  • Glancing Blow;
  • blocked attack;
  • critical hit;
  • normal hit.

2.1. Missed Attacks

By default, you have a 7.5% chance to miss if you are wielding a single weapon and a 26.5% chance to miss if you are wielding two weapons. In order not to miss, you need to increase your Hit Rating through gear, enchants, gems, and reforging.

Reducing your chance to miss with melee attacks until it reaches 0% (a process referred to as reaching the melee hit cap) is usually desirable. However, for some classes, Hit Rating can become less valuable than other stats once you have passed a certain point. For example, Enhancement Shamans only stack Hit Rating until they reduce their chance to miss with spells by 15% (the spell hit cap) which corresponds to a chance to miss with melee attacks reduced by 15% as well. Stacking more Hit Rating to fill the last 11.5% percents and reach 26.5% (the melee hit cap for dual wielders) is not very optimal for that class as normal melee attacks only do a fraction of their overall damage.

2.2. Parried Attacks

When facing an enemy, your attacks will have a chance to be parried, in which case they will deal no damage. By default, your attacks made facing a raid boss will have a 15% chance to be parried. Attacks made from behind your enemy cannot be parried. This is one of the reasons why DPS players should always position themselves behind a raid boss. This way, they need not to worry about their attacks being parried. Only tanks should ever feel concerned about reducing their chance to see their attacks parried.

2.3. Dodged Attacks

Dodged attacks deal no damage. Players can only dodge frontal attacks while NPC enemies can dodge attacks from the front and from behind. Your chance to see your attacks dodges depends on the level of your target. As a level 85 player attacking a raid boss, this chance is, by default, equal to 6.5% and can be reduced by increasing your Expertise Rating (gear, reforging or gems). Whether you need to nullify that chance (i.e., reach the Expertise cap) or attain a particular, optimal, Expertise value depends on your class and specialisation. Below, you will find the list of racial traits, proficiencies, and talents that increase Expertise.

  • Axe Specialization Icon Axe Specialization is an Orc racial trait, which provides +3 Expertise with Fist Weapons and Axes (both One-Handed and Two-Handed).
  • Mace Specialization Icon Mace Specialization is a racial trait common to Dwarves and Humans, which provides +3 Expertise with Maces (both One-Handed and Two-Handed).
  • Shortblade Specialization Icon Shortblade Specialization is a Gnome racial trait, which provides +3 Expertise with Daggers and One-Handed Swords.
  • Sword Specialization Icon Sword Specialization is a Human racial trait, which provides +3 Expertise with Swords (both One-Handed and Two-Handed).

2.4. Glancing Blow

Glancing Blow is a term usually used to designate an attack which lands on the targeted enemy but that deals less damage than expected. The frequency at which Glancing Blows occur and the damage they deal depend on the level of the targeted enemy. For example, on a raid boss, about 24% of your attacks will be Glancing Blows, which will deal damage equal to 75% of that of a normal attack. On an enemy which has the same level as your character, tests on Training Dummies show that about 6% of the attacks done are Glancing Blows, and they do in average 97.5% of the damage a normal attack would do.

There is absolutely nothing you can do to decrease the percentage of your attacks that are Glancing Blows.

2.5. Blocked Attacks

Very little documentation is available on attacks blocked by NPC enemies. The tests we performed on Raider's Training Dummies (raid boss level) showed that about 5% of our attacks were blocked, in which case they only dealt 70% of the damage of a normal attack.

Attacks from behind cannot be blocked. Therefore, as a melee DPS, you should not be concerned about getting your attacks blocked because you should be standing behind the boss anyway. Tanks should not be concerned about these blocked attacks either as there is nothing they can do to prevent them from happening.

2.6. Critical Hit

Critical hits deal by default twice more damage than a normal attack. This can be changed by a meta gem: Agile Shadowspirit Diamond or Reverberating Shadowspirit Diamond.

Your chance to deal critical hits can be improved by increasing your Critical Strike Rating, and taking specific talents. Note that when fighting enemies whose level is above yours, your effective critical strike chance with melee attacks will always be lower than what the tooltip on your character sheet says. People refer to this phenomenon as Crit Depression. For instance, against a raid boss, your critical strike chance with melee attacks will always be 4.8% less than what you read on the tooltip.

3. How Does the Game Decide the Type of an Attack?↑top

Intuitively, we would think that the game performs a check for all the possible attack types, in a certain order, and whenever a check succeeds, the associated type of attack is performed. For example, the game would check whether the attack is a miss (this has a certain chance to be true) and if that check fails, then the game would check whether the attack is parried, etc., until a check succeeds or they all fail, in which case the attack is a normal hit.

Unfortunately, the actual mechanics are more complicated than that. The game builds a sort of probability table based on your chance to land each type of attack. The easiest way to explain how that works is to use an example. Imagine that you have the following chances (the numbers are not meant to be realistic, we chose them for the sake of the explanation):

  • 20% to miss an attack;
  • 10% to see an attack parried;
  • 5% to see an attack dodged;
  • 30% to land a Glancing Blow;
  • 10% to see an attack blocked;
  • 20% to land a critical hit.

Here, the game would roll a die between 0 and 100 and the outcome would be decided as follows:

  • If the roll gives a value between 0 and 19.99, then the attack is missed.
  • If the roll gives a value between 20 and 29.99, then the attack is parried.
  • If the roll gives a value between 30 and 34.99, then the attack is dodged.
  • If the roll gives a value between 35 and 64.99, then the attack is a Glancing Blow.
  • If the roll gives a value between 65 and 74.99, then the attack is blocked.
  • If the roll gives a value between 75 and 94.99, then the attack is a critical hit.
  • In any other case, so from 95 to 100 (well 99.99 if we want our example to be mathematically sound), the attack is a a normal attack.

By now, you must probably be wondering what would have happened if one of the chances had had such a value that the total of all chances was greater than 100% (for example, if the critical strike chance with melee attacks had been 30% instead of 20%). In that case, the game use a precedence order which is the order we have used to far to present the different types of attacks:

  1. chance to miss attacks has the highest precedence;
  2. chance to get attacks parried has the second highest precedence;
  3. chance to get attacks dodged has the third highest precedence;
  4. chance to land a Glancing Blow has the fourth highest precedence;
  5. chance to get attacks blocked has the fifth highest precedence;
  6. chance to land critical hits has the sixth highest precedence;
  7. landing a normal hit is the default action.

If the probability table is filled (i.e., reaching 100%) before going through all the types of attacks, the subsequent attack types are ignored. For example, if you have a 50% chance to miss and a 50% chance to see your melee attacks parried, then your attacks will always be either missed or parried: they will never be dodged, Glancing Blows, blocked, critical hits, or normal hits.

Similarly, if you have a 40% chance to miss, a 40% chance to see your attacks parried and a 40% chance to see your attacks dodged, only 20% of your attacks will be dodged, because the chance to miss and the chance to see attacks parried have a higher precedence than your chance to see your attacks dodged.

Considering all that was said, you can now see why people sometimes refer to a melee critical strike chance cap. This happens when the combined chances of all the attack types (including the critical strike chance) is greater than 100%. As you should be standing behind the boss and have reached the Expertise cap (or almost), it means that we are talking about your Glancing Blow chance and your critical strike chance adding up to something greater than 100%. Since your Glancing Blow chance is constant at 24% against raid bosses and you need to take Crit Depression into account, you will need about 80% critical strike chance with melee attacks to reach the cap. That number is so high that you can simply forget about it for now, we only mentioned it here for the sake of completeness.

4. Special Attacks↑top

Special attacks, also referred to as yellow attacks, are abilites you cast which deal melee damage, such as:

The mechanics of special attacks differ from that of normal attacks as follows.

  • The default chance to miss with a special attack is 7.5%, regardless of whether you are dual-wielding.
  • Special attacks can never be Glancing Blows.
  • Special attacks use a 2-roll system where the first roll decides if the attack hits or misses and the second roll decides if the attack is a critical hit or not.