Please note that since the introduction of Raid target icons in Patch 1.11, main assists are not commonly used anymore.
The main assist (MA) is the player in a raid or party who calls the shots on which mobs should be taken down next by the damage dealers. The main assist's job is to have one specific mob targeted at all times until it's dead, and then to switch to the next target to be killed, whereas the main tank must switch targets frequently to keep aggro up. In many cases, the MA will sometimes also serve as off-tank which means he will peel the mob he is DPSing off from the tank (by taunt or pulling DPS aggro). In five-man groups having a non-tanking warrior, this is common but not universal.
Any party with more than one attacker should have a main assist (MA). This is important to reduce the damage being dealt to the party. Concentrating on one mob at a time reduces the inbound damage faster than every one killing their own mob.
Ideally the MA will be familiar with the instance and must be able to prioritize the targets at hand. Prioritizing targets is very hard to quantify and depends almost always on the specific circumstances. However, as a general rule of thumb, you must ensure your squishies are ok, and then take down the healers, summoners, nukers, and then the rest. This is where knowledge of the instance comes in.
- If there is a mob who can nuke your whole party in two shots, take him out first
- Mobs doing AoE damage increases the inbound damage to the party a lot and needs to be taken out of the fight.
- If there is a healing mob, it will prolong the fight unnecessarily by keeping your enemies alive longer. It should probably go down fast.
- If the main tank is having problems building aggro on one mob (perhaps due to the mob staying at range far away from the rest), that mob will want to target the party's healer. It is a high priority to dispatch.
- When left only with "regular" mobs, i.e. ones doing roughly the same kind of damage to the tank, it is best to first target the ones that will go down faster, e.g. ones already damaged, or non-elite mobs over elite ones.
Naturally, the ordering depends on the instance and case in hand. Also, some of the more dangerous and/or annoying mobs can be crowd controlled, or some simply off-tanked somewhere out of range where they can't cause much trouble. The party leader will usually call these shots ahead of the fight.
Having a main assist makes both tanking and healing easier. Since most mobs will not have too much aggro, the Main tank just has to keep an eye on managing aggro, and mainly concentrate on the MA's target, and it obviously helps the healer since they don't have to heal everyone who accidentally gets aggro.
- The main assist is not to be confused with a main tank who manages the aggro. There is also a common misunderstanding that the MA is the one that assists others (this is sometimes called sweeping).
Classes suitable as main assist Edit
- Hunters have the Hunter's Mark, which helps to identify the mob which is selected to the party.
- Rogues do not need to switch targets, and they are not expected to take the aggro, but if they do, it is probably because dps is high enough that the mob he pulls aggro on will die in a matter of just a few seconds.
- Warriors not responsible for being the main tank or off tank.
- group or raid leader posses the ability to place identifying marks over key mobs, which can be used at the beginning of a fight to designate which mob should be considered the main target. While this technically does not fit the definition of main assist the concept of focusing on the pre-marked mob first is similar to having a main assist and provides the same advantages. If using this tactic make sure you know which mark is designated for damage as often other marks are placed on mobs to be CC’ed and you will not want to attack those opponents.
Classes that should not be main assist Edit
Classes who change their target often due to other party duties are not particularly useful MAs. Classes dealing ranged damage usually have more oversight. Mages sometimes have their sheep targeted, all healing classes also tend to target something else from time to time. Tanking warriors must keep switching targets around them to make sure they don't run off and go kill a squishy.
What the Main Assist wants You to do Edit
If a party has a main assist, then other members of that party should be helping the MA to take that target down. Obviously this should not get in the way of other roles such as healing, crowd control, etc.
It is invaluable to have a macro set up such as the Assist Main Tank/Main Assist macro. Being able to target the MA's target with the press of a key is much quicker and less error-prone than having to first target the MA and then press a key to target his target. An alternative is to use a target-frame AddOn which continually shows the target of the MA, and that you can quickly click on.