|Encounter by type|
|Battle for survival|
|Stay out of the fire|
|Tank and spank|
An encounter is an enemy or group of enemies which must be defeated together, sometimes in a particular order. Typically, once a character engages an encounter, they will remain in combat until all enemies in the encounter have been killed. Some encounters, in particular boss encounters, also have scripted events associated with them.
The concept is not (to our knowledge) used internally in the game engine, instead stemming from the way Blizzard has chosen to design most dungeons and boss monsters throughout the game. As such, the term is mainly a theoretical construct which makes it easier to discuss the structure of some reoccurring challenges in the game. Most instances feature several major encounters throughout their course.
There are a number of different types of encounters that are generally recognized. Note that these types are not mutually exclusive; most modern encounters fall into more than one category. Examples of each are given on their main pages.
Tank and spank
The simplest type of encounter, a tank and spank fight has few or no adds, very simple or no meaningful mechanics and is considered very easy. Encounters of this type may sometimes be derisively viewed as "loot pinatas" for their simplicity. As raid encounters become increasingly more complex, the frequency of these is decreasing.
A DPS race is an encounter where delivering maximum damage output is crucial to completing the encounter. They frequently feature relatively simple mechanics but tight enrage timers or instant wipe mechanics that trigger when a timer is reached. Alternatively, a DPS race may feature a mechanic where the boss(es) gain an increasing damage effect that is unsurvivable if it takes too long to kill the boss.
The opposite of a Tank and spank fight where there is one primary target that must be focused, the add fight revolves around managing (generally) a variety of different kinds of adds while killing the boss when you have a spare moment to damage them.
A council encounter sits between the tank and spank fight and the add fight. Unlike the tank and spank fight, there are multiple primary targets, but unlike the add fight, those targets all have a substantial amount of health and will likely be active for most or all of the encounter. There are several sub-types of council encounters depending on what happens when councillors die. In some council fights, the bosses each have an independent health pool, while in others the bosses share a single health pool. In some cases where they have separate health pools, the other councillors will heal and or buff when one of their allies dies, in others they do not.
Battle for Surival
Battles for Surival are generally long and grueling encounters with little DPS throughput requirement (in contrast to DPS races) but either fairly high healing needs or incessant avoidable damage that is constantly pounding on the players. They are characterized by the importance of each member of the party surviving the encounter, as a single death will have a deleterious effect on the party's ability to kill the boss. Recent examples include Thok the Bloodthirsty and Garrosh Hellscream
Stay Out of the Fire
A Stay Out of the Fire encounter revolves around dodging avoidable damage, whether it be literal fire on the ground or other effects that can be mitigated/avoided by proper play. Recent examples include Kor'kron Dark Shaman and Siegecrafter Blackfuse.
Healer encounters are notable for containing a specific mechanic that requires healers to engage in different behavior, such as healing a boss or an add, in addition to or instead of their normal healing responsibilities. Recent examples include Tsulong, Immerseus and Malkorok.
In some ways the total opposite of a traditional boss, the bossless encounter generally revolves around managing a variety of different kinds of adds and has no central target or boss character, or the boss is immune to damage and cannot be conventionally defeated. Bossless encounters are very rare in World of Warcraft; the most recent are Spine of Deathwing, Spoils of Pandaria, and Hellfire Assault.