Rotation refers to a defined sequence of abilities that can be used to achieve a certain role in a group or raid. In other words, it can refer to the order in which a certain class will cast its spells or use its abilities in a PvE setting. Rarely, if ever, is there a defined rotation for a PvP situation.
Since Wrath of the Lich King, the term has been something of a misnomer. Almost every class has some combination of abilities that unpredictably proc, buffs or debuffs of varying duration, and temporary haste-increasing abilities that alter cooldown length. Consequently, almost no class has a list of abilities that should be followed blindly. It's more common for classes to have a priority list of abilities to be used, with some abilities taking precedent over others depending on particular criteria. These lists may still informally be deemed "rotations."
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This is the most commonly mentioned rotation. A DPS rotation tends to be somewhat calculated, be it either by time (duration of debuffs, cast time of spells) or availability of a cooldown (using specific abilities that have particular cooldowns in a certain priority). Many people of the same class and spec tend to use the same DPS rotation because rotations are more often than not geared toward dealing the most damage in the most efficient way. A solid DPS rotation will have little, if any, downtime between casts or use of abilities. It will generally yield more DPS than other rotations because of the order in which the spells and abilities are to be used. Rotations can be centered around one specific ability or talent, such as Slam or .
Mentioned perhaps less often than DPS rotations, tanking rotations are geared toward generating threat quickly and efficiently. There are other rotations that are used in different situations, such as generating a lot of rage or even dealing damage. There are AoE rotations, for gaining threat on many mobs at once.
A healing rotation can refer to one of two things:
- A raid healing technique where all the healers coordinate themselves in order to give healers that are low on mana time to regen, while others that have mana heal in place of those that are regening.
- An actual rotation that one healer uses in order to Main tank heal.
A druid that is main tank healing may place his HoTs on the main tank in a specific order so that they are all present on the tank at once, and may allow some time in between casts for large ticks of regen.