Bear tanking strategies for multiple mobs
I’m going to go over a lot of information related to how a multiple-mob pull works, because I often am asked about all of the various techniques that go towards making it work.
Some readers have either only recently started to Bear tank at the end game, or are rolling a druid as an alt to add more tanks to their guild and haven’t really had a chance to play with Threat management yet.
This is a long post, because I’m going to put down in one place all of my thoughts on tanking multiple mobs at once and keeping them occupied.
This whole thing may seem overly complicated compared to what you’re used to, especially if you have played in cat form most of your way to high levels.Also, many groups are used to a tank’s role to be keeping one and only one mob fully occupied. Often, all but one or two mobs are fully locked up in crowd control, and if there are two mobs loose then there is often an off-tank to keep the second focused on. If an off-tank is used, most parties choose to burn the off-tanks’ target down first, to spare the off-tank from taking too much damage.Personally, I would prefer tanking that second add myself, and letting everyone focus on burning my main target down, and just let me worry about the add. That
way healing doesn’t get split up between two tanks, and you don’t risk the ‘rush to down the off-tanks target’ causing the mob to break free and cause havoc amongst the casters/Melee DPS.
Before we begin, let’s make sure you have the most fundamental tool used to manage Threat in a group. And that is a Threat Meter Addon.
Both Threat Meters function similarly, and communicate with each other, so whichever one you choose is based on your own preferences.
Threat Meters display a graph of each member of the group, and displays what their total current Threat is on a mob. You use this tool to ensure you see anyone coming too close to surpassing your Threat on a mob.
Everyone else in the group can use the Threat Meter to see how much DPS or Healing they can do without going over your Threat. It removes the guesswork as to who is causing Threat, and how close they are coming to pulling aggro away from you.
Before trying a multiple mob Pull, make sure every player in the group that can, has one of these installed.
Okay, now that we’ve got the Threat meter installed, let’s get to the tanking. Tanking a four mob pull is not a very common occurrence, but darn it can be fun!
Let’s deconstruct a four mob Pull.
We will assume, for the sake of argument, that you have no Mage to Sheep a mob, no Priest to Shackle, no Warlock to Banish, no Rogue to Sap, and no Hunter to
chain Trap. And of course no Restoration or Balance Druid to Hibernate. And I’m totally leaving out Fear or Scare Beast, because while they certainly have
their uses, I find such tactics… messy, no matter how effective they can be in removing mobs from a battle.
Wow, that sure is a lot of different ways to reduce the number of mobs in a battle! No wonder it’s rare that you have to deal with all four mobs of a pull!
But there are still those times when you do.
You and your party are ready to go. You are the main tank, and there is no off-tank. You have healers and ranged or melee DPS, but as far as a Tank, you’re it.
You are going to use a ranged ability to pull. (Yes, if it’s close quarters, I sometimes use Feral Charge to keep the mobs from closing to Melee range of the
casters. Ranged pulling is usually preferred, to pull groups out of potential patrol range or to prevent a feared character running too close to the aggro range of other mobs).
You may choose to pull your chosen mob with a Moonfire before switching to Bear, hitting Enrage, and preparing your follow on attacks. Or maybe you like to start in Bear form and pull with Feral Faerie Fire, which DOES do threat to your target (+108 threat, to be exact) at zero rage cost. I’d also say that you could have a Hunter use Misdirect to pound a mob on you for the initial pull with good solid threat at zero rage cost, which is my favorite, but if that were the case, there’d be a Trap available for this example, wouldn’t there?
If your targets are non-elites, then in your tanking gear you also have the option of Pulling one with Starfire or Wrath, then activating Barkskin and
triggering Hurricane when they are almost in melee range. In tanking gear, even in caster form, you should remain strong against non-elite mobs during your entire hurricane, and then when you shift into bear you will have amassed a furious amount of Threat on all of your targets. It can be a very risky tactic against even a weak group of Elite mobs, though, so be very careful and test your use of the tactic a few times before relying on it in groups.
Once you have pulled the group, the first key to the fight is that you will need Rage, and lots of it, to keep on top of all of your targets. If you’re getting pounded by four mobs, that shouldn’t be a problem. You will be using Mangle, Maul, and Lacerate often.
But you should make sure your party members know that if they have abilities that Stun a mob, they are not to use them until you have established that initial Rage, and that they are not to use them at all when you only have one mob left, so that the Rage can continue to come trickling in.
The second thing your party needs to know is that, since there is no off-tank, all of their attacks must be directed to your main-tanked mob only. You will have one mob you are focusing the majority of your threat-causing attacks against, and the rest of the mobs will be on ‘Threat maintenance’. It is a very good idea to mark your targets in advance, even though there will be no crowd control, so that the kill order is established in every ones’ mind. If they know you will be focusing your attacks on Skull, and when that one dies you will be switching to Diamond, then everyone is on the same page. Under NO circumstances are they to attack any target other than your main target. If they attack one of the others, they will quickly overcome your Threat maintenance with Direct Threat, and draw that mobs’ aggro.
The third thing to make sure the party knows is that a Bear takes a bit longer to build up threat than they may be used to with a Warrior or Paladin. Since you are going to be spreading your threat around amongst four targets to establish your initial aggro, it is a highly recommended idea to make sure everyone holds off on attacking the main target until you have two Lacerates visibly stacked on him, and even then they should only start with ‘white’ damage attacks for the first four or five seconds. The longer you can survive with only heals while you inflict Threat causing attacks, the stronger the aggro you will build on each mob, and the less chance of a runner disrupting the group.
Once you have spread enough threat around that you have had time to get four Lacerates on your main target, the rest of the party should be safe to open up. If you make a stack of Lacerate x2 your ‘begin white damage attack’ signal, and a stack of Lacerate x4 as your ‘go for it’ signal, then the group will have a consistent plan, even if it’s not optimum for every Pull.
When your first target goes down and you switch to the next one on your kill list, it is a good idea for all DPS to again switch to ‘white’ damage attacks, only until you have established good solid threat on your new main target. A common rule of thumb is to allow the Bear tank to establish a 4 stack of Lacerates before the rest of the party ‘unleashes war’ on your main target.
Okay, so you have your plan in place to pull a mob, and have the rest come running along after. Your party knows to focus their attacks on your main mob, and to shift attacks to the next only after you have established solid aggro on target #2. Everyone knows not to stun your MAIN mob unless you have a reasonable amount of Rage built up.
So how do you keep the other mobs attention on you?
When you gained the attention of your main target on the initial pull, you were added to the threat list of every mob in that group. They all became aware of you, and only you, and so they all came running to getcha. You established positive Threat with your targeted mob, and zero Threat, but AWARENESS and placement on the Threat List, with each other mob in the group. The rest of your party, so far, is invisible to the mobs. They are still not in combat and can be drinking water, eating food, whatever.
Now, there are two types of threat that will be generated in the fight; Direct Threat and Global Threat.
Direct Threat is what you’re generating on your targeted mob. You Lacerate him, he gets a little angry with you. You Mangle him, he gets even more angry. In general, every point of damage done against a mob equals a point of threat. In Bear form, with 3 points in Feral Instinct, you actually gain 1.45 threat per point of damage. Isn’t that nice? So the more damage you can pour out, the more threat you cause.
Global Threat is threat that is generated by healing, by buffs, or by using a Mana Potion or Rage Potion, anything that increases a friendly players’ power. It is important to note that the person can be using these abilities freely on anyone else NOT on a Threat List. As soon as you heal someone on the Threat List, you’re in combat. And if someone heals or buffs or Innervates YOU, they’re also now in combat.
The Threat created by healing is .5 times the amount of damage actually healed. Any over healing done causes no Threat, it’s only the damage that was healed that counts. Energy is exempt from this, regaining Energy from something like drinking Thistle Tea does not go on the Global Threat list.
And the most important point, Global Threat is divided equally among all the mobs that are aware of you.
Finally there are two different threat ranges that are based off of whoever is on the top of the mobs’ threat list; Melee and Ranged.
If you are in Melee range of the mob, you will draw aggro away from the person at the top of the Threat List when you exceed their threat level by 10%.
If you are outside Melee range of the mob, you will draw aggro away from the person at the top of the Threat List if you exceed their threat by 30%.
Whew! that’s a whole heck of a lot going on in a fight. What ever happened to “I hit him, he hits me back, I drink a pot, he dies, I win, NEXT?”
Welcome to party combat dynamics. And welcome to 4 mob pulls. If it was simple, you wouldn’t enjoy it as much when you handle the challenge very well.
So, let’s rejoin our hypothetical fight. The only person actively causing threat is the Tank. He is in Dire Bear form, used Feral Faerie Fire to pull one mob, causing +108 threat to that mob, and pulled the mobs’ three friends, who are also angry at the Bear but have zero threat. They are happy to pound on you for now, but they’re ready to go running off after anyone that does anything to tick them off.
If after some Lacerates and a Mangle have gone in on the main target, melee and ranged DPS only goes after the Tanks’ main target, all is good. There is no change in the threat levels of the other three mobs. The DPS is ON the threat lists of the other three, but only at zero threat.
As soon as any healing is done by anyone, those other three are gonna start getting angry. And not at you.
Say a Mage has been fire balling away. As soon as he did damage to the main target, all other mobs became aware of him. He is now in combat and cannot eat or drink. He is on the mobs’ threat lists at zero. As soon as he drinks a Mana potion, the Mage generates .5 threat total per point of Mana recovered, that total threat then being divided amongst all the mobs. He’s starting to get them angry at him, personally.
Say the healers begin healing the Tank. As soon as they heal any damage, all the mobs become aware of them, they enter combat and can no longer eat or drink. They are not only added to the Threat Lists of the mobs, but each point of health they restore to the tank generates .5 threat, again divided amongst all the mobs that are aware of them. A single big whammy of healing is delivered to all mobs as a single big chunk of threat. A Healing Over Time trickling it’s healing out trickles the threat out.
If a Hunter drinks a Mana potion or casts Mend Pet on his pet, it generates Global Threat the same as any other healing or buff.
If a Mage sees that the party’s Intellect buff has run out, and, god forbid, casts Arcane Brilliance on the party when the Tank is in combat, that buff is a power increase, and causes Global Threat.
So the Tank must generate enough threat to all the mobs to counteract the Global Threat that any healing, buffing or potion use may cause. If you are fighting four mobs, and a healer heals you instantly for 2000 health, then the healer generated 1000 threat in one surge, and that 1000 is spread amongst the 4 mobs as 250 threat per mob.
Of course, dedicated healers have threat reduction abilities. And if the healers are properly beyond Melee range, the threat they cause would have to exceed yours by 30%. So you have a bit of a cushion. If you have two healers on you, and they are working together to alternate their heals, then you are staying healed but each healer is only a small blip on the Threat Lists. If you have one healer desperately
trying to keep you alive… well, he’s glowing like a pretty little star on the Threat Lists. Suggest any strategies to you? ‘Nuff said.
The lesson here is that, as long as DPS is directing their attacks to your main target, only Global Threat is an issue with the additional mobs. And you do not have to generate a huge amount of threat on each individual extra mob to stay on top of things, as long as you are given time to establish base threat on everyone. And the party can help by easing into DPS, healing initial damage with HoTs instead of big single value Heals, and generally working together and taking their time.
Your best healing friend at this point, tin fact, is the Priest spell Prayer of Mending, because not only will it heal you of damage when you re struck, but all threat caused by that heal is applied to You, not the Priest that cast it. It’s a free Threat inducing heal just for you. And since it only travels to someone that is taking damage, as long as no other party member suffers damage, it stays right on you.
So what are the mechanics of your establishing all this fancy aggro?
Many players are used to having a ‘Main Assist’ macro, or of automatically attacking whichever target the tank is focused on at the moment.
If you are using Tab to move away from your main target so as to hit an add with Lacerate or Mangle before moving back, you may find that some of the party has changed targets with you, and started attacking the add instead of the main target. This is bad. This is VERY bad. You have solid threat on your main target, and you’re switching targets to Lacerate to stay ahead of Global Threat, and now thanks to Main
Assist, Direct Threat is slamming in on the target that was barely paying any attention to you.
If you have to play this way, prevent this by making sure your party knows that they are to stay on the main target, instead of following your targeting around.
To help eliminate the target swapping problem, you can make a Macro that will allow you to attack a mob that you mouse your cursor over, without switching away from your actual main target. You can attach any Attack or ability you like to this Macro, although I prefer Lacerate because it is an instant cast attack with no cooldown, unlike Mangle which is instant cast but has a 6 second cooldown. I have heard of Healers attaching an instant cast Heal Over time spell to it when they want to be able to spot heal while remaining focused on the main tank.
The Lacerate on Mouseover Targeting Macro is as follows;
/cast [target=mouseover] Lacerate
It can’t be any simpler, and provides wonderful functionality.
You place this Macro on your button bar, and while you continue to stay targeted on your main target, you can mouseover each other mob with your cursor and press the Macro button to hit it with a Lacerate.
Using this Macro lets you select your adds easier than Tab, but will usually require you to shift your Bear positioning around so that they straggle out and get more visible. In tight quarters, there may still be situations where you have no choice but to Tab target to flip through the mobs, but the Lacerate on Mouseover Targeting Macro can definitely help.
For another alternative to the traditional Tab targeting, you could use the WoW default ‘V’ command to display all health bars over the heads of visible foes.
Most people find that the default bars creates a very cluttered looking interface, with overlapping bars that are almost as bad as the original problem.
A refined solution to keeping the bars while removing the clutter is to use an Addon such as Aloft, which among other things will allow you complete customization over the size of the displayed bars.
The use of overhead bars for your visible targets will make it easier to mouseover each one with confidence, and which method you use is entirely according to your preference.
Returning to the mechanics of generating Threat.
One of the most valuable tools in your arsenal, besides the Lacerate on Mouseover Macro, is Swipe.
Swipe will cause damage to three targets in a cone before you, EACH target hit has a chance to Crit, and each Crit triggers Primal Fury (and returns +5 Rage…so for a 20 Rage Swipe, you get three possible hits, for a possible 3 Crits and +15 rage returned… ). Also, Swipe level 6 does 84 damage per target hit. That’s around 121 threat per mob… and Swipes’ damage is increased by your Attack Power.
If your AP in Dire Bear is 1000, then the additional Attack Power damage is divided amongst the 3 mobs, which means you would do (1000AP x 2.5 weapon speed)/14 divided again by /3, and then added to 84 base damage making it 143 damage done per target (207.35 threat). A very nice Threat return on Rage investment when each hit has the potential to Crit and return some additional Rage.
As good as Swipe can be if you have the Attack Power, it still only strikes 3 of your melee range targets in a cone in front of you, and you have no control over which three. While using it is critical, and should even come before Lacerates in a 3 pull, you must make mure that in a 4+ pull you are not forgetting to tag anyone, and that’s where Lacerate comes into play.
To help the rest of the party know when they should begin to attack or heal, it’s great to have a visual indicator for the party to watch for.
With Warriors, the old standby is “Wait for 5 Sunders on the mob before attacking”.
For us Bear tanks, it can work just as well to set a goal of having a stack of LacerateX4 on your main target before the healers begin their casting. If you are spreading your Lacerates and Swipe around on all targets before establishing 4 Lacerates on your main target, you should be holding solid aggro on all four when the Global Threat begins.
If you really need healing, request that the healers either use Heal Over Time spells that will tick their Threat slowly instead of in one burst, or ask that they use understrength heals to keep you going until you can get those Lacerates in solid.
After you have your two Lacerates on each mob, and a Swipe, you can relax just a little. Keep Swiping and Lacerating them when you have a chance, since Threat caused by anyone in the party never decays in an instance, and every heal will be edging the casters higher on the threat list of each add.
Still, it will take a lot of heals by one caster to overcome 500 threat when they are spreading their Global Threat over 4 mobs, and you should certainly have enough time to get your 3rd of 4th Lacerate in before a single healer can generate enough Threat to pull aggro away.
Don’t forget, the fewer mobs there are left, the fewer mobs that threat is spread around. As the fight goes on, add a lot of Swipes whenever possible, and keep those Lacerates going.
Let’s talk a bit more in depth about the initial Pull.
I personally on a 4 pull alternate between pulling with Moonfire, or in Bear form with Feral Faerie Fire on the main target. Others have said they try to back up continuously and hit EACH add with Moonfire before the main target gets within range. Personally, I dislike forcing the rest of a party to reposition themselves by backing up unexpectedly during a pull.
A quick Tip for the many times you may have a Mage or Priest in your group. many Crowd Control abilities generate Threat on the target. If you are pulling one target, and forcing the Priest to cast Shackle directly on their mob before you apply any Threat to it at all, then as soon as that Shackle duration is over, it will be heading directly for your Priest.
In those situations, it’s better to use a direct damage spell such as Wrath or Starfire, NOT a damage over time spell, to pull the crowd control target first. Once you cast your direct damage spell you will have to switch your attention quickly to your main target, but you will have the satisfaction of knowing that if the crowd controlled mob breaks Shackle or Sheep, it will run directly to YOU, and not the
Above all else, whatever technique appeals to you, please make sure you practice your pulls until you know what range you can safely Pull from, and how much of a ‘backing up’ distance you’ll need to get your shots in before switching to Bear.
I suppose now would be a good time to describe what you’re doing on your main target all this while, right?
On a 3 or 4 mob pull, when the main target gets in range, I hit him with Mangle, Swipe, 2x Lacerate, and Demoralizing Roar the crowd. Mangle’s cooldown should be over, and after re-applying it I have time for 3 Lacerates before it’s cooldown is over. The first round, I will actually allow Mangle to go unused for a second or two while applying Lacerate on Mouseover to each add once. Anywhere in there I will press the number key for Maul on my button bar, because it does not have a cooldown, instead making your next normal white damage attack a boosted damage attack. With
plenty of Rage coming in from 4 opponents, you can hit Maul whenever it is available.
With each add having one Lacerate, a Mangle, Swipe, Laceratex2 and maul on your main target, it’s a good time to hit mangle again and make a second round of Lacerate on Mouseover for each add. Now is when you can hit Swipe, maul, Mangle your main target, and begin to relax a little and let the group DPS begin to remove your main target from the equation.
Keep your Mangle and Maul going in on your main target at all times. Swipe whenever it is available. Lacerate on Mouseover the adds, and apply Laceratex2 to your main target one last time, and by now your main target should be quite dead.
With only three targets left, you can safely switch your focus to the next mob on the kill list, and cut down on your Lacerate on Mouseover, alternating them with Swipe to keep Threat on your adds. Focus your Mangle and Lacerate on your new main target.
This is a good time to cease using Maul, as your Rage generation is going to be reduced with each enemy death.
In general, Mangle should be used on your main target whenever the cooldown is up.
As long as you have infinite Rage generation, Maul should be used as often as possible as well.
Swipe causes excellent Threat for Rage output when dealing with multiple mobs, but with over 3 mobs someone isn’t getting the love. Use Lacerates to make SURE you hold them until you’re back down to 3 mobs.
If your Rage is really getting low, remember that Feral Faerie Fire does +108 threat to one target, for zero rage cost.
Finally, don’t forget that Growl, your Taunt ability, raises your threat to equal whoever has the highest Threat at the time in the group. If you are already at the top of the Threat List, then it will do nothing to your Threat. But if someone is over you, it instantly raises your Threat to match theirs.
As an example, if a Warlock had an exceptional Crit and raised his Threat for that mob 30% above your Threat level and pulled aggro, then a quick Growl will immediately raise your Threat to match his. Immediately apply Threat producing attacks on the mob, and you should re-establish your place at the top.
Remember, to get good at these tactics requires practice.
If you’re a Bear tank at level 70, and you have acquired the basic gear such as the set of Heavy Clefthoof Armor, the Braxxis Staff of Slumber, and other recommended bear Tanking gear, then you should be able to easily solo three level 66-67 mobs in a zone like like Nagrand.
It will take you a long time to kill them all, and you’ll probably need to activate your Feral Regeneration, but you can do it.
So head out somewhere where the mobs will hit hard but not too hard, and live long enough to let you play with your food.
Practice pulling a group, and then using whichever your choice of switching targeting is going to be; Lacerate on Mouseover macros, Tab Targeting, Visible Bar customization with Aloft and Lacerate on Mouseover, etc.
Practice your Rage management, and what sequence works best for you in generating threat on your main target while spreading your Lacerates and Swipes around on the adds.
If you have a healer friend that is willing to help you practice, take them with you and ask them to wait until you are WAY down in health, and then have them slam you with a Greater Heal. Try and stress test your group threat generation. It will give you confidence when you’re in that instance run.
Above all else, do not hesitate to try and explain how important it is that the party work together. It will seem boring, tedious, and unnecessary to many of them to hold back their initial attacks, or use Heal over Time spells first instead of whatever their normal style of play is.
But remember, 4 mob pulls aren’t easy mode. It’s easy to get a mobs attention, but you will need the cooperation of your entire party to help you KEEP their attention.