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Damage per second
Damage per second (DPS or dps) is a measure of the damage dealt by a person or group over one second. DPS is a more practical measure of damage output than plain damage, as it allows characters of differing levels and classes to effectively compare their damage output.
The term dps is also sometimes used to describe the act of applying damage to a target (as in "all dps on the boss" or "stop all dps"), or to refer to a class whose primary role in a group is dealing damage (as in "Gundrak group needs one more dps to roll"), i.e. damage dealer. There are UI modifications which enable players to track their DPS.
"Burst DPS" refers to damage dealt over a relatively short period of time. High burst damage is the preferable form of damage against targets at/with relatively low health. Most classes have at least a few spells or abilities that generate high damage very quickly. This type of damage is preferred in PvP environments, but is usually too expensive or has too long a cooldown to be sustainable.
"Sustained DPS" refers to constant damage dealt over an extended period of time. High sustained damage is the preferable form of damage against targets with relatively high health. Every class is capable, when specced and geared properly, of doing good sustained damage. Hunters, Mages, Rogues, and Warlocks tend to have the highest sustained dps, as "pure" dps classes.
- Note that Sustained DPS is best calculated on a one boss encounter. Full raid / dungeon DPS calculates AOE damage into your DPS, greatly increasing it.
Weapon Damage Per Second (DPS) Formula
The general formula for your weapon's DPS is:
((Min Weapon Damage + Max Weapon Damage) / 2) / Weapon Speed
Individual Spell DPS
The DPS of a single spell can be calculated as either (Damage / Cast Time) or (Damage / Cast Interval). The former, also referred to as "damage per cast time" (DPCT) is the amount of damage dealt over time spent casting the spell. The latter is used to express the spell's damage contribution over the total combat time, a figure used to express its damage contribution relative to other spells. For most calculations, an instant spells' cast time is treated as the GCD, 1.5 seconds / (1 + Spell Haste). Some spells have a reduced GCD as affected by talents.
where HI is the spell hit percent, D is the base damage, P is spell power, CP is the spell power coefficient, B is the critical damage bonus, SC is the critical strike percent, HA is the spell haste percent, and T is the base casting time.