So over the past few weeks as I have been working with some raiders on optimizing their characters and going over some of their AA options I have been asked by more than a few people "How am I doing?"or "I am close to beating out (Raider Name Of Same Same Or Similar Class), what can I do to surpass them?"
To answer the first question I am going say it totally depends on your class, each class does a different thing, and each is skilled in it's own way, however the end all be all that most people turn to is the DPS parse. I will say if you are a DPS class, yes this will be the standard by which you measure your worth, but not so much for other classes such as bards/enchanters/tanks/etc. However pretty much everyone is expected to show up somewhere on the DPS parse. And the best way to tell where you stand from a DPS standpoint is by seeing where you sit in relation to other players. Enter the DPS Tier System....
The DPS Tier System
Basically the system says which classes should sit where in relation to other classes in the raid. A few things to think about though, there are many outside factors that make up a person's parse, from the gear they are wearing to the buffs they are receiving from group members or raiders that can increase a player's parse. That being said though those buffs and that gear will not likely give you half of your parse, so it should not be an excuse for sitting at the bottom of the parse. Skill plays a big part in how your character performs, don't shirk it and blame the setup for your lack.
Tier 1 DPS (Predators/Sorcerers): These classes are expected to be the forerunners of the DPS parse, and as such if you play one of these classes you will be expected to perform at that level. Aside from hate transfers you will notice these classes bring DPS and only DPS to the raid, and as such that is what they are expect to focus on.
Tier 2 DPS (Summoners/Rogues/Beastlord): These classes tend to sit just behind the Tier 1 DPS classes, they tend to bring high DPS but also the debuffs needed for the Tier 1 DPS to reach their full potential. It is not however unheard of for a Tier 2 to out parse a Tier 1 DPS, it usually shows the skill of that player, or they may be gaining some group benefits not available to the Tier 1 DPS.
Tier 3 DPS (Bards/Enchanters): This tier is primarily made up of the classes that buff their fellow group or raid members, they are responsible for things such as debuffing mobs, buffing group/raid members, replenishing power, rezzing, etc. And because much of their time is spent assisting others, their DPS tends to sit lower. If you want to help your Bard or Enchanter do more DPS stay focused on following the script, staying alive and avoiding things like AoEs that drain your power.
Tier 4 DPS (Fighters): Fighters can play different roles at different times in the raid, of course with just 1 that roll is going to be tanking and as such they will likely be focused on holding agro and surviving, not leaving a lot of room for DPS. However if they are playing as a second or third tank that is not focusing on holding a mob they will likely be expected to focus on DPS. This may mean using Reckless stance to increase their DPS, and in these situations they will likely be closely following the Tier 3 DPS.
Tier 5 DPS (Priests): Again like fighters priests are focusing on healing the members of their group, depending on the skill/gear of the group they sit in they may find they are able to DPS between rounds of heals. Other priests may have found it easy to keep their group alive and have moved on to focusing more on DPS, it is not unheard of to see a skilled priest working their way up the DPS tiers.
For the second question "I am close to beating out (Raider Name Of Same Same Or Similar Class), what can I do to surpass them?" there are a few things you can do. First, find out what they are doing differently. Are they casting a different set of abilities? Do they have a more efficient casting order? Is it simply a gear difference? You can find the answer to all these questions by either talking to that player about their play style, or doing some research in A.C.T., it will track all that information and more, that is it's job. Alternately, you can go your own route and find what is right for you, and that means practice, lots and lots of practice. Pull out a training dummy and work your parse, try swapping some AAs, try that ability you never tried specing into before, work on developing your character to match your play style