Instances are smaller confined areas of a larger area/keep/dungeon that are very special. These areas are specifically harder than the other areas in the game and are enabled for a group or a raid to interact with it privately without allowing anyone that isn’t in your group or raid to enter into your copy of the instance. Each group/party get their own copy of the dungeon (or instance) to interact with meaning that no one else can enter into that area and makes the encounters more difficult by establishing hard numbers on the number of participants.
Instances are located throughout the world at different locations (for our guides to the various instances click here). To enter an instance you have to go through either blue (group only, except for Blackrock Spire which is an exception), green (raid only), purple (heroic difficulty available), and skull and purple (heroic difficulty only). Red instance portals are for PvP (player vs. player) instances which do not work (battlemasters were placed in front of the portals instead) and are much different than the PvE (player vs. environment) instances.
To understand how instances work in regards to multiple groups you can read our quick instance primer or continue with this paragraph for a quick summary (the instance primer is good for unstanding the finer details of what exactly they are while this guide focuses on how to prepare for and interact with the instances). Let’s say there is two groups, a Group A and a Group B. They both enter into the Deadmines at the same time. Once they load into the instance they will not see each other at the entrance nor will they be able to see each other until they leave the instance portal. Group A engages the first boss while Group B engages the same boss. Each group gets their own copy of that boss just like they have their own copy of the entire instanced area. That way each group can progress through the same content at their own pace with no interference.
Non-raid instances are small areas where you can only bring five other players into them. When you’re facing tough and challenging encounters with only five players then you need to choose those five players properly or else you’ll be unable to go anywhere. As an added bonus you’ll also need to pick five out of the ten (eleven with Death Knights) available classes. This means you’ll need to get a mixture of all of the tools needed to finish through the instance with just five different classes.
Each class carries a wide arrangement of tools with it and some of these tools are unique to only a few classes. For instance, Mages and Warlocks are the only classes with extremely decent AoE (area of effect) attacks while Paladins, Druids, and Warriors are the only ones who can really successfully tank (that means to get beat on by the baddies) things. Priests, Paladins, and Druids can work as dedicated healers. Mages bring along Polymorph which is a form of crowd control (keeps mobs from beating on things for a bit) while Warlocks and to some extent Priests and Warriors can fear.
As you can see there is a lot that various classes share and a lot of other skills that are only one or two classes. So when you’re mixing and matching classes you want to pick enough classes that you get a little bit of everything you need to advance.
Generally speaking you want three main slots filled with three different types of classes.
- Tank: The tank should be a Warrior during the lower levels (generally pre-60, although there are exceptions) since Warriors have more tanking skills early on, better gear suited for tanking, and are generally the better tanks. With enough gear and skills Druids and Paladins can also be recruited as the main tank. If you didn’t read about it earlier, tanks are characters who take the beating for the team. They draw the enemies’ attention and keep it on themselves who are far better suited to take the damage than the other classes.
- Healer: This can be a Paladin, Druid, Shaman, or Priest. You need one of these to heal the damage taken. Without a healer your group will be unable to progress through an instance.
- Magic DPS Dealer/Crowd Control/DPS: Warlock, Mage, and to some extent Druids can fill this roll. You need someone with a fair amount of magic DPS, magic utility, and crowd control. Mages have the ability to conjure water, Polymorph, and high damage single target and AoE spells. Warlocks carry with them a pet who can tank extra enemies, fear, healthstones, soulstones (for resurrections), and good magic DPS. Either or will work, although groups have worked out with neither before. Shamans can also work with their totems and extra DPS. In a group that goes for high DPS you don’t really require utility,
For your remaining two slots you generally want DPS (DPS is damage per second but also slang for someone who does a lot of damage or dedicated to doing damage). Sometimes groups will grab a Paladin, Shaman, or Druid as a DPS character and backup healer which is rarely a bad idea.
So basically you need a tank (someone who can absorb damage), a healer (someone who can restore damage), and then three more people who can deal damage. You’ll want a Mage or Warlock in your group just for their utility, but Shamans works well too.
Using this formula let’s go over a few sample group constructs:
- Warrior, Priest, Mage, Rogue, Hunter
Is this a good set-up? Yes. You’ve got a tank (Warrior), a healer (priest), someone for utility (Mage), and then two dedicated DPS classes (Rogue and Hunter). This party will work really well.
- Warrior, Druid, Warlock, Shaman, Paladin
Is this a good set-up? Yes, kinda. You’ve got all the basics, but your DPS is somewhat lacking. It’ll work, but it’s not optimum unless the characters on damage are spec’d for damage. You don’t need optimum to progress.
- Warrior, Warlock, Mage, Rogue, Hunter
Is this a good setup? NO. No healer! You need a healer in an instance.
- Warrior, Shaman, Rogue, Hunter, Hunter
Is this a good setup? Yes, kinda. If the Shaman is able to heal enough for the instance then you’ll be fine. You might not have any magic utility, but you do have a lot of DPS to compensate for it and Shaman’s do come with some awesome totems. Paladins and Shamans are considered “secondary healers” but for many 5-man instances if the group is good enough they’ll do fine unless they’re not spec’d for it/experienced with it.
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