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The term Focus Fire most commonly refers to a tactic used by a group of players to quickly take down a single enemy target within a group of targets. Recognized in PvP situations such as arenas, this maneuver is often necessary to reduce to uptime of a specific threat such as a healer. In a situation like this, taking down the healer is of upmost importance because chances are a victory will be impossible with constant heals supporting other members of his or her team. So an effective tactic is to CC the other teammates and focus all damage and forms of CC on the healer until he or she is killed. Although Focus Fire is a well known term in PvP, there are countless examples of it being a required method to successfully complete an encounter in a PvE scenario. In some cases, a specific add spawning or receiving a particularly dangerous buff will require the raids damage to be focused on the target until the buff is removed or the target is dead (i.e. Overcharged Tempest Minions in the Emalon encounter in Vault of Archavon). Also, many raid bosses have a soft enrage timer in which the raid must perform actions to increase their damage output such as Heroism/Bloodlust to kill the boss before it enrages and kills them. Few encounters have multiple adds to worry about during the chance of an enrage; however, chances are that Focus Fire will be necessary to successfully complete the encounters that do have this mechanic (i.e. Heroic Lady Deathwhisper).
Focus Fire frequently refers to damaging a target until something has been achieved (such as bringing it to a certain percent, removing a buff, killing it, etc); however, the tactic applys to more than just damage. It can be broken down into different categories which may make the term easier to understand.
- Damage: Various fights in the game require on-demand damage on a specific target before it gains a buff or enrages which in turn will wipe the raid. This is when focusing damage or DPS is required to avoid such an occurrence. Known as focus damage or simply focus fire this tactic is literally a life saver for many encounters. Focusing damage can also change the way some phases work on certain encounters (i.e. Heroism/Bloodlust and CD's on Anub'arak at the beginning can skip the first burrowing phase during the encounter).
- Healing: In some cases a friendly raid member may take significantly more damage during a specific period of a fight, thus to keep them alive focusing more direct healing on the raid member will be necessary to keep him or her from dying. Phase changes and soft enrages on a boss encounters are great examples of times that focusing healing on the tank will most likely be required to keep them from dying and wiping the raid.
- Crowd Control: Often times there are certain phases where adds or even the boss needs some form of CC in order to avoid an unnecessary amount of damage to the raid or even a wipe. Depending on the encounter there are times when many raid members (especially damage dealers) must focus on CC'ing the target. This is known as focusing crowd control. Although rare, some encounters may include a mind control or some other type of CC on a random friendly member during the fight, this will require CC to counter the enemy's form of CC on the friendly raid member to refrain them from harming other friendly raid members.