I’ve heard this phrase being thrown around a lot in-game and also here on the forums with Stfupper going into depth about it, but still don’t really understand the basics.
What is a spell cleave group? What does it comprise of? What are the benefits of ‘cleaving’ over normal 5mans? Is this still meta?
"Cleave" is slang for any AoE or multi-target damage. The idea is that you get a bunch of high-level dps together, and the tank runs around and pulls huge numbers of mobs at once and then everyone AoEs/cleaves them down. It's a somewhat faster way of gaining experience.
"Spell cleave" in particular means "frost mages spamming blizzard"
Flame wars I've started: 0
Threads I've started that mentioned other posters by name: 0
Accounts I've created for the sole purpose of mocking other posters: 0
My reputation is clean.
The specific spellcleave groups that I've seen involve using frost mages to simultaneously tank and AOE the mobs down as a pack. A full spellcleave group doesn't need a tank, from what I've seen they go one healer and 4 DPS. They gather as many mobs as possible and then freeze them all in place and AOE them down as a pack. Mobs are slowed with frost blast attacks, and if they coordinate it right it's all damage output and no damage input to the group. A well orchestrated group of frost mages will rotate their slowing effects and freezeing spells so somebody always has a freeze ready to go once the mobs thaw. I think most groups are doing 1 healer, 1 tank, and 3 mages though. The tank's job is just to pull entire rooms, group them up in a tight pack, and try their best to taunt individual mobs back into the pit and stun others when taunt is on cooldown. There's no way for a tank to hold threat on mobs in this situation so they're not even asked to do so. They just pull, cluster, and drag mobs back into the pit as they can.
Warlocks can get in on the action as well, but it's primarily frost mages involved with these.
I'm not a fan. Not speaking of leveling efficiency; it's higher exp/hour by far and I don't think it's even close. But I like to tank. I like pulling small groups of mobs which I have control over. I enjoy the feeling of well executed chain pulls in familiar instances, brings a kind of zenlike pace to the game. Spellcleave groups don't even need a tank in the first place, so I feel like I'm wasting my time in them. So I'll level slower at my own pace in traditional groups.
inb4 posts in defense of cleave groups. They absolutely have their place and I got no problem with people running them. I just don't particularly like being in them. I don't get indignant during the run either, when I realize there are 3 mages in the group and they're all going nuts with AOE then I know what they're doing and I adapt to the situation and do my part to bring EXTRA THICC PULLS and do my best to drag as many fleeing mobs kicking and screaming back to their frosty deaths in the mage pit until everything is dead. But I just don't like it as much, so I try to form groups without mages these days which isn't hard because mage AOE groups have no need for the other classes, so everybody else is left out anyway.
I figured it involved a lot of AoE but I didn't realize some groups forego a tank entirely. Impressive.
I haven't healed a 4-Mage spellcleave group, so I've only heard about them before. I hear it takes tight coordination between the mages, usually requiring voice coms to make communication easier during the encounters. But with 4 mages you got 4 separate sets of cooldowns to use during a fight plus a hell of a lot of AOE DPS. They take turns freezing the mobs in place and blasting them with slowing attacks. If you have a pit full of mobs that are frozen in place with rotating ice spells, then there's not much need for a tank. And if a couple of mobs resist and get loose, well, all 4 mages have a blink in their back pockets to get away and another mage can pick up the straggler with some ice. A tank can't hold threat on 5-10 mobs at a time even without AOE bombs, they got no chance to hold agro in that kind of situation. So in some regards having a tank is making the situation more dangerous because you got one fewer set of frost cooldowns and less DPS to finish the pull.
Again, just a distant description from somebody who has never been part of a full spellcleave group. Would be interesting to hear from somebody who has been running this comp because I'm certainly missing a lot of nuance here.
A cleave teams comp is determined by pacing. Pacing is dependent on the individual class you are playing. You want to blend classes that have similar pacing. Most classes can cleave, not all classes can cleave at the same pacing. A melee cleave team will typically take 4 melee users and a healer. The goal of a melee cleave is to consistently kill mobs. Will a mage do well on a melee cleave team? No. Because a mage will need to break combat and drink - his burst will not be as valuable as sustained dps cleaving with the melee. And thus you have two separate niches... Melee cleave and spellcleave.
Melee cleave pulls packs of 4-8 mobs and stays in combat for the duration of their dungeon taking as few breaks as possible. Melee typically kill everything. They just stay busy. There are very few mobs these teams will avoid.
Spell cleave pulls as many mobs as possible in mass packs, AoEs them down and then takes a prolonged drink break for mana. Spell cleaves are specialists and focus on 1-2 desirable pulls in a dungeon. Spell cleave teams will also avoid difficult or challenging mobs that dont respond well to their utility.
The best healer for a spell cleave is a priest because of bubbles. This gives the team the capacity to round mobs up without dying. Later on priests can play around with their own AoE to add to the chaos, but generally speaking the healer is there to heal. The rest of the cleave is open to interpretation. A pure spell cleave that boasts upwards of 200k xp per hour at certain breakpoints, will have 4 casters and 1 healer. The issue with spellcleave is that eventually you will start to struggle and most of the classes in a spell cleave, arent bad at leveling by themselves. For this reason, spell cleaves will lose value to mages as they level higher and higher. I think its best to schedule a cleave until around 40-50 and then break the cleave and go back to solo questing for spell cleave teams.
Should a spell cleave run a tank? Maybe. If you run a tank, you are massively nerfing your potential xp per hour. However, if you dont run a tank, your group may not be consistent enough to net good xp per hour anyways due to wipes. Adding a feral druid is best for a spell cleave. The druid will essentially taunt mobs or bash them to bring them back to the AoE. A druid can also stealth deep into a dungeon, use moonfire and cat sprint to round up a massive pull for the casters.
Can you use a warrior? When demo shout spamming was broken, warriors were king in the context of spell cleave tanking BUT, good spell cleave teams were not running tanks anyhow. At this point, I would only consider a feral. The ferals job is not to tank. Its to play the edges of the AoE and offer heal support, crowd control and to generally control the pull and help round mobs up for the AoE. Otherwise the feral is simply leeching xp.
So what does a spell cleave look like?
A top tier spell cleave would be Priest, x3 mage with an optional 4th mage or a warlock. Eye of killrog can be used in certain circumstances to add to pulls and synergises well with priest bubbles for pulls. There are tons of spec considerations within these classes and you can run a variety of different builds, but this will be your basic layout. There are even bizarre comps that I have heard add a hunter who will use a stealth pet with eyes of the beast to get behind mobs, dash through a massive portion of the dungeon and bring them back to the hunters frost slick to start off the AoE. Any cleave has a lot of room for creativity so long as the team is monitoring their xp per hour and getting good value out of the players within the team.
The goal of a spell cleave is NOT to kill bosses. Nor should it be your goal in ANY cleave. You should be tracking your xp per hour - this is the ONLY thing that matters. As such, spell cleave teams have great mobility and can traverse the world quickly with mage portals and warlock summons which allows them to summon for repairs, summon mule characters to carry loot or use the mages for ports. This is a major difference between melee and spell cleave teams. People like to post their xp per hour numbers, but leave out their travel time. Spell cleaves are far more efficient than melee cleaves between dungeons AND have the potential to net more xp per hour within dungeons. This means that the potential for a spell cleave is WAY higher than a melee team, but that potential is far harder to obtain.
When you enter a dungeon, you start your timer. You can only enter 5 dungeons per hour. Your goal is to get the juiciest pulls and then burn time for 15 mins until your reset. Some dungeons only have 1-2 good spell cleave pulls. These pulls will net you MASSIVE xp, and the rest of the time, youre just burning time until the reset. Spell cleave teams are far more dependent on predetermined routes within the dungeon. A spell cleave will take a very defined path to kill preferential mobs and avoid many mobs that are less valuable due to the shortcommings of a spell cleave.
Would I recommend spell cleaving? No. Not now. Spell cleaving is very challenging and would only be worthwhile if you could lock in 5 guys for an extended period of time. Even if you could do this, most people will struggle with spell cleaves as we saw with Method and many other pro players who were simply unfamiliar with the specific pulls and how to juggle mobs properly. A spell cleave is essentially worthless as a pug in contrast to how much xp per hour a solo mage can net AoE grinding. If you built a team before Classic and were practicing this leading up to Classic, this was very valuable but this is not something you should just throw yourself into unless you are specifically interested in it. Very few people will net consistently higher xp per hour by spell cleaving with friends or a pug than they would by following a rigid AoE grind guide by themselves.
In comparison, melee cleaves are very accessible and VERY rewarding because the classes who participate are slow solo levelers. I would recommend melee cleaves, even within the context of a pug presuming you could find 4 competent players who could commit to a full session.
Cleaving produces more xp per hour with a skilled group that is practiced and informed. Technically yes, but will be unobtainable for most teams as a spell cleave. Most would be better off AoE grinding as a solo.
Nice explanation there @Stfuppercut , very comprehensive.
On Firemaw most mage's / priests in the 28-55 bracket did or are doing "spellcleave" so it's very easy to get into it, also people are used to do it so it works well without the need of voice com
I was in a couple of groups who wanted to kill some bosses too as a warrior, but most just run the streamlined m / m / m / p / wl lineup.
Even though it might be less xp / hour than solo leveling most do it because it's safer than running in the open world.
1 priest, 1 warlock, 3 mages.
Priest shields the warlock's eye which then pulls huge packs of mobs to a nice LoS position, the mages pre-cast rank 1 Blizzard to group them and then they begin a frost nova rotation whilst casting max rank Blizzard (spec'd for slow effect).
Everything dies in seconds and nobody should really take any damage.
With a good group it works like a charm, with a bad group you might as well not bother.
The big issue I see is that too many people think they can spell cleave and they are not good at it. And they bash the tank for not being able to "keep it up". There are many people that, having seen streamers aoeing like madmand with frost mage, think it's easy and emulate them. It requires a lot of skills to do it correctly. Other than this I see no problem in experimenting new tactics :-)
Hydraxian Waterlords - RP - EU
- Fendor - Tauren Shaman
- Ildebrando - Dwarf Hunter
- Osandiron - Dwarf Priest