One of the most consistent complaints about the current state of the Evolution of Combat in Runescape 3 is that six years later, the tick system still creates problems, especially in high level encounters that require what feels like immediate response time. The tick system is one of the most fundamental elements of RuneScape that makes it a different game from almost any other. Instead of actions or events happening in real time, they occur following a 0.6 second tick system. While this can sometimes make combat feel clunky, especially when combined with revolution automatically using abilities and the click to move grid based movement, it is also ripe with opportunity to be exploited to your advantage. For the purpose of this article, much of what I will be discussing will be in the context of full manual, but nearly all of it is absolutely possible while using revolution, it will just require the same sort of precision normally reserved for full manual. It is worth noting that while the majority of what's discussed in this article doesn't require magic, being able to manually cast auto-attacks makes things much easier, and reading through this may help readers understand why magic reigns as the utterly dominant style, with or without C4TAA in the mix.
First, I'll give a brief vocabulary list for those not familiar:
1) Lossless auto-attack -- this refers to the ability to cast an auto attack without resetting global cooldown. Sometimes these are not truly "lossless" as they can result in a loss of a single game tick, but essentially they do not trade off with the use of an ability.
2) Lossless debuff -- the same as above, but with a debuff such as vulnerability.
3) Ability cancelling -- manually casting another ability before the channeled ability you are currently using is completed in order to maximize the number of abilities/minute used.
Taking advantage of the tick system has received a lot of attention lately due to the broader community learning about four tick auto-attacking and continuous four tick auto-attacking. The debate over whether these are healthy for the game and how to proceed moving forward is an article entirely on its own, but I'll briefly outline these two forms of combat. 4TAA and C4TAA revolve around the ability to manually case auto-attacks with magic and take advantage of the different speeds of wand and staff auto-attacks. Staff autos are slower, but much more powerful. 4TAA involves switching between a wand/offhand and staff for every single ability, allowing you to simultaneously cast a staff auto with your staff ability in exchange for waiting a tick. While this is seemingly a high amount of effort, this method is well worth learning because it results in an approximately 5% gain in overall DPS. C4TAA (now no longer possible) worked due to the ability to bypass the global cooldown for staff auto-attacks, allowing players to cast a lossless auto-attack with every single ability, which resulted in a massive, something like 12%, gain in DPS. If these percentages seem small, note that the different between using 4TAA or not is at least more than double the improvement a player would get by upgrading from a t90 to a t92 weapon, but will be even higher if the player using T92s isn't switching weapons.
There are several easy ways to take advantage of lossless auto-attacks without manually casting them, and they work for any style. The most obvious is simply tagging your target. When initiating a fight, you can start with an ability, but starting a fight this way will not grant adrenaline and is a waste of a potential auto-attack. Instead, tag your target with a debuff or an auto-attack and then use an ability, which will start you off with adrenaline gained from both the auto-attack (3% for ranged/melee, 2% for magic) plus the adrenaline from an ability with no cost. The next is another that most people have probably used, but not noticed, and that's the lossless auto that comes with a damage over time ultimate ability. Using sunshine, metamorphosis, deaths swiftness, and berserk all put your abilities on cooldown, but they allow you to cast an auto before your able to use an ability, without resetting any of their cooldowns. Ensuring you always get off this lossless auto is a great way to slightly improve DPS. For anyone who has fought Araxxor for example, using berserk just as Araxxi spawns on phase 4 allows you to "tag" her with an auto attack inside of your berserk, which can easily hit up to 7,000 damage with proper gear/aura. For this reason, it's always best to use an ultimate ability with a two handed weapon to get the much higher damage. (If using a planted feet switch, simply switch to your 2H weapon immediately after using the ultimate ability and you'll get the auto). This is also a great way to get off a lossless vulnerability, especially at the start of the fight.
The next major category of lossless auto-attacks is with defensive abilities. If you've ever done high-level PvM, you've probably used abilities such as Freedom, Anticipate, Resonance, and Devotion. These abilities all work similarly to damage boosting ultimates, in that they reset the global cooldown for abilities but not auto-attacks. With all these abilities you can sneak in an auto-attack before your next ability becomes available, which can make a huge difference over time. When I was learning how to duo Vorago, my partner and I realized that we were leaving a massive amount of DPS on the table by not taking advantage of lossless autos that can come with defensives and adding them made Phase 5 of our kills exponentially easier. Freedom in particular is a special case, as it's the only ability that resets the cooldown for both your main and off-hand auto attacks (I don't know if this is intended). This means that using freedom with a wand and off-hand can let you cast both an auto-attack and a debuff (or two autos) for free, which is worth it for the bonus adrenaline gained on its own.
While lossless auto-attacks with magic could be the subject of an entire article, as I noted above, one important usage is with the ability detonate. Detonate is a channeled ability that once charged to 100% can do up to 350% AoE weapon damage, functionally making it as powerful as an ultimate ability. In most cases, using detonate is not worth the charge time and loss of potential adrenaline gained, but in some cases it's fantastic. Examples of when this ability truly shines, and another reason magic is currently such a dominant style: bosses with a reflect mechanic, notably Vorago but also Araxxor's web mechanic, or a charged attack where the boss is immune from damage, for example Telos phase 4 during fonts, and clearing large numbers of minions, (Telos P4/P5, lured chargers at Beastmaster Durzag, mobs in Elite Dungeons). Due to how long the charge is on detonate, everything will be off cooldown when you're ready to release, allowing you to get in a lossless auto with Detonate. To achieve this, you have to simultaneously hit your auto-attack and Detonate and then immediately use an ability. I find the easiest way to do this to be hitting my auto keybind, clicking Detonate and then hitting an ability keybind (usually Dragon Breath). This can allow for you to pump out a lot of damage, and in a place like phase 5 telos can be used to get a huge heal with blood barrage if you're on ancients. As you can see in this gif, you will see me get three hit splats on the dummy all in one game tick from utilizing this method, a big improvement in DPS vs just Detonate.
While there is a lot more to talk about in the era of utilizing the tick system, I hope this will at least give readers a small amount of insight into what's possible with the Evolution of Combat, and why high level PvMers love it so much.