Bearwall!

Just saying. 4000 words. ‘Cause, you know, I was thinking of quitting the blog.

At this point in the game, the most common request I get is to help with advice on holding aggro.

Aggro in raids, aggro in instances. Just, “Help, they keep pulling off me!”

They pull aggro from me too. I know what you mean.

First, right up front; Gear levels and capabilities can vary wildly. Never, EVER feel that you have failed as a tank if you are a 4500 Gearscore tank in a heroic 5 person instance doing your best, and the 6K plus GS DPS player who unloads all out in the first millisecond pulls away from you. Like, c’mon, man.

Your job is to do the best you can with the tools available to you. If another player has much more powerful gear, and a correspondingly higher potential DPS/threat output, it is NOT your automatic responsibility to magically raise your threat output to match and overtake them.

No matter what someone tells you, no matter what justification they try to use, threat reducing abilities like Feign Death are there for a reason, and so are the built in threat level warnings. It is the responsibility of DPS to match their DPS output to the capabilities of the tank that is on the run. If they cannot do so, it is their failure to play their class and chosen role well. Period.

I’m not going to mention gear level disparity in this post again. It’s the single biggest contributing factor in threat loss issues, but it’s also obvious. If that other player is in all ICC 25 heroic gear, and you’re in blues running a 5 man trying to gear up, YOU are the one in the right place at the right time, at the right level of progression. If he’s there with you, he goes all out on every pull, and he bitches about pulling threat off of you, he is a MORON.

You can quote me on that.

So, moving past gear disparity. I’m going to tell you one thing, straight up; if someone wants to pull aggro from you, especially on a multiple mob fight, there will be nothing you can do to prevent it.

You have tools to pull the threat back to you, and you have tools to really build up threat on whatever one specific mob you want. It doesn’t matter. If someone wants to pull aggro from you, they can.

What you need to remember is there are three additional core problems besides gear. 

  1. DPS classes do not all generate their damage at the same rate over time. 
  2. Some DPS classes possess tank abilities.
  3. DPS players possess varying skill levels, and some do not change their style from solo to group play.

Point numero uno. Some DPS classes/specs have outstanding burst DPS capabilities.

Ret Paladins stand out in my mind, obviously, since I have one, but there are many other combinations as well.

Burst DPS means just that; in the first two seconds, they front load a TON of damage in the mobs’ face. After that initial burst of hellacious damage, however, most abilities are on staggered cooldowns, and the player has to wait while spells trickle back online in a measured fashion.

When are you most likely to have problems with holding aggro? You know the answer, you deal with it all the time. In the first couple of seconds of every pull, when you have yet to establish much more than a single Swipe on a group, it’s easy for someone playing a character strong in burst DPS generation to light it up and pull off of you.

It’s just that simple. Even if you are all equivalently geared, a single strong burst DPS player can unload and grab aggro from you in the first few seconds.

It’s easy to say what the DPS player SHOULD do to prevent this.

The DPS player should wait a few moments for the tank to establish threat, a tradition going all the way back to “Let the Warrior get 5 Sunders on the target before you begin your attack.”

Additionally, the DPS player should know to identify the tank’s MAIN target, and focus on that one rather than on the group in general. Either through the tank setting a Skull mark to easily identify the first kill target, or by waiting until the tank chooses a target and pulls, and then, using target of target, select that tanks’ target and going for it. Or, an even third way, use Focus to automatically change your target to that of the tank. Whatever you like.

Finally, the DPS player should aggressively watch their own threat generation, compare it to that of the tank, and compensate. Either tone it down themselves, or use their threat reducing or threat redirecting abilities to stay under.

Fine. That’s all great. You’ve heard it all before.

What you want to know is, what can YOU do about it, because the DPS players obviously aren’t DOING that all the time.

I promise you I will answer that question at the end of the post.

Problem 2. Some DPS players have tanking abilities.

Death Knights can pull from a distance with Death Grip, and doing it grabs aggro automatically. Warriors and Bears and Paladins all have taunts as well. Even better, most players that solo have their ranged taunts next to thier normal attack rotations on their bar, to make it easier and faster to use. Well, that makes it easier to slip and taunt during group runs, too.

Oops.

Other classes have pets that can generate additional threat with their attacks, much like Hunters who forget, and leave their pet’s Growl on during groups. Growl is no longer a taunt, it just causes a lot more threat, but if the pet is on a mob that ain’t your primary focus, it can pull anyway.

Tanking classes have tools that increase threat, or are designed to hit multiple mobs while dealing threat.

It does matter, and if someone uses a taunt, that player has aggro. You can pull it back, if you notice they did it. End of story.

Finally, point 3. Players have different levels of skill.

This comes down to different experience levels with group play in the game, and a lack of a consistent message when it comes to group content versus solo content. 

There are many players that display a basically flawed understanding of the grouping aspect of the game.

From their actions, and how they defend them, they show that they feel it is the job of DPS to go all out, full time, every time, without a single global cooldown wasted on any non-damage generating ability, in order to do their jobs well.

That, to be blunt, the role of a DPS class is to provide maximised DPS, and the role of a tank is to hold aggro no matter what anyone else does.

It is easily possible for a player to think that good play consists of doing as much DPS as is possible, as shown on damage meters. You see people judged on damage meters all the time, and that reinforces the concept.

If there was a way to judge someone’s performance by the number of mobs chain CC’d sequentially before diminishing returns lockout, and that was a key part of a high status fight, I bet you’d see a lot more CC being used and boasted about the very next day.

Ahh, I miss chain trapping.

The only yardstick I use for a successful job is, “Did we win as a team? Screw your DPS, did we win as a team?”

Sadly, not everyone thinks that way.

Most times, it’s a competition within the team of strangers to see who was Most Valuable Player, as ranked by DPS meters.  And then to either gloat about it, or bitch about it, both of which are just varied displays of epeen stroking.

This all comes back to a problem of understanding of the basic concepts of the game, and of what is important to success.

A DPS player that does not perform any other task but generate DPS, and who also starts their DPS rotation as soon as possible to “get a jump on other players”, is, as far as teamwork and group play is concerned, a horribly bad player.

Now just try to convince them of that.

It’s incredibly difficult to convince someone that the most commonly used means of measuring DPS performance is not an accurate measurement of player skill.

All right, let’s move on.

Let’s cut to the case. There are a lot of variables involved in discussing “Why can’t I hold aggro”. They all boil down to knowledge and understanding, training and communication, on the part of the tank and of the DPS players. 

If a DPS player is skilled, knowledgeable, and willing to work as part of the team, they will almost NEVER pull aggro, except by making a simple mistake.

If the mobs would die, and the team succeed even without that extra 3 seconds of DPS the player put out at the first instant of each pull, then there is no legitimate reason to go all out in those first three seconds. None. Because it’s not helping the team succeed. It’s only stroking your ego.

But some folks think that’s what shows they are the best players, and with DPS meters out there, the middle of a run is the wrong place to try and change everyone’s preconceived ideas.

Now, I promised to discuss what actually matters; how to fight back.

The first and most critical aspect of learning to hold and regain aggro is knowledge. The knowledge of who has aggro, who is gaining it and who is losing it.

Don’t worry about what buttons to push just yet. I’ve talked about that elsewhere.

What you want to know is how to tell, among the sea of mobs you are fighting, what level of threat you have at any given time.

A mob can be in four states; you have threat, you are gaining threat, you are losing threat, you don’t have threat. 

If you have had problems managing your threat levels, and you do not already do this, here is what I’d like you to try.

Go to Curse.com, and download two nameplate addons. The first one is the core addon, Tidy Plates. The second addon is a threat-based theme for Tidy Plates called Threat Plates.

Once installed, setup is a snap. You have to open Tidy Plates and set Threat Plates as the theme to be used.

Then, you have to associate each of your specs with one of two Threat Plates modes; Tank, or DPS/Heal. 

From then on, whenever you swap specs, Tidy Plates will automatically reconfigure as appropriate.

If you are in tank spec, then you will get a nameplate displayed over the heads of each mob. You CAN customize the size of the nameplates, and whether or not they overlap, or push each other around so you can see them all clearly.

Here is how this helps you gain knowledge over your threat levels.

If you are the tank and you HAVE THREAT, each mob you have threat on has a teeny, tiny green bordered nameplate.

As you lose threat on a single mob, that mob’s nameplate both grows in size gradually, gaining more of your attention, and it’s border also begins to turn yellow. This warns you that you are losing threat on that mob or mobs.

At this point, you can clearly see who you should click on, the nameplates ARE selectable, and then use a focused attack like Mangle or Lacerate or Feral Faerie Fire to build up additional threat faster on that one mob.

If you have actually LOST threat on a mob, then their nameplate grows very large, and the border not only turns red, but little flashing red arrows appear around the nameplate.  

This is a great sign that it’s time to click the nameplate and Growl, or if a lot turn red, use Challenging Roar and maybe pop Berserk and then Mangle/Swipe/Maul like crazy.

I now that having nameplates on can be disconcerting. It adds more clutter to your view.

In one, and only one, instance I find it to be annoying. That is the snake room in the first boss of Gundrak, where every single snake has it’s own nameplate. It’s okay, I can pick out the ones I want and never have an issue, I just wanted to mention it because the first time you see a room full of nameplates, it’s disconcerting.

Once mobs are dead, their nameplate dissappears.

What I have personally found is that it makes tanking much easier. It aids in relaxation, cuts down the stress.

Previously, in order to know how you stood with threat on multiple mobs, you had to use a combination of Omen and targeting, and clicking on mobs in a crowd could be such an irritation that tab-targeting, cycling through the mobs around you to find the ones you want became a time saver. It was just too bad if the mob you were losing aggro on was the last one you got to as you tabbed around.

With this system of Threat Plates, not only can you see how you stand with every mob around you and know exactly where you’re at in terms of aggro, and identify who needs extra attention, but you can also monitor multiple mobs at range.

I frequently drive my groups crazy if they don’t know me, by targeting some mobs as Skull, and then running around charging like my ass is on fire and my paws are catching.

An example of my playstyle with Threat Plates.

Here is what I do in Forge of Souls, for example, where there is no line of sight to make ranged pulls, and where there are mixes of multiple casters spread out with melee at the edges.

I will mark a distant caster, like an Adept, as my Skull. That is who I want everyone to stay focused on to kill.

I say distant, because as I run into the group, I begin Swiping early, and nail all other mobs on my way in to get him. This lets me tag the other casters as I go, to overcome any Healer threat that will develop.

After I get to the distant Adept, I lay down a solid base of direct damage on him, keeping up my Swipe on the melee mobs that followed me.

I turn around so I can see the nameplates of the far off casters that did not follow. I watch them and monitor their green status.

You can make your own jokes about The Fifth Element here. “Are we green? Yeah, we’re green. What color green? Piss off.”

I am dealing direct damage on the Skull, which is who everyone else should be on right now. I am Swiping the melee mobs, and hitting some with Maul. I am watching my active threat level on everyone, including the ranged casters.

It can go several ways from here. Normally, a couple Swipes on the way in were enough to overtake Healer threat on the ranged mobs I left behind, and they are far enough away nobody else is dealing damage to them.

If I AM losing threat on ranged, I can quickly target them, toss them a Feral Faerie Fire, and regain threat without ever moving away from my main target.

Regardless, once Omen threat meter shows me I have built up a suitable lead on threat with Skull, and I judge the mob will be dead before DPS would catch up, I target the ranged caster, and I Feral Charge him immediately, BEFORE the Skull dies.

Pro Tip: You do NOT have to ride a mob to death before changing targets. Your job is to hold the attention of all mobs on you. Your second job is to survive. Your third is to hold the target steady to make life easier for melee DPS to position.

If the mob is a caster, it ain’t going anywhere, so you won’t bother melee DPS if you go charging away. So scoot!

While everyone else is finishing off Skull, you’re across the ramp building initial threat on the second caster. By the time Skull dies, and you’ve got a good lead on threat, you can mark hi as your new Skull, and then go charging off at caster mob 3.

If there were three casters, well, I’m sure you were watching him too, and throwing him some of your Feral Faerie Fires, right?

I have sometimes charged three or four times across a room at various caster mobs, trailing melee mobs along behind. It’s fun!

Drives unprepared players nuts, though.

The whole time I can see, everywhere, the threat levels I have on every target in the room.

If I see a sea of green, then I’m all good.

I can maintain Swipes and Maul and Mangle, I can pick and choose who gets my attention.

What to do when they pull all the time.

Now, in the situations we’ve been discussing, where you have threat stolen away from you in the first few seconds of a pull, with Threat Plates active you can see, plain as day, not only what mob or mobs you’re losing, but who it is that they’re turning to face.

You can identify not only who you lost aggro on to immediately toss a Growl at and taunt back, but you can identify who is doing it.

This is where you can try and ask that one player to tone it down, to wait a few seconds, or to use some threat reduction.

If that player responds with any attack at YOU, accuses you of being a bad tank because they were capable of pulling aggro off you in the first place, remember what we’ve talked about here. 

If you mark a Skull, if you pull, and other DPS players are already attacking before you even get one Swipe up on the mobs, or if the other player ignores your Skull to attack another target in the group you are NOT hitting with direct damage, and when asked they refuse to change, it does not make you a bad tank.

I have personally seen attacks go past me and hit the mobs before I had even hit Feral Charge to get within range. It’s common.

Now, if someone does that and you can see which mob they tagged, you have the power to use Growl to get that mob right back, and can unload your focused attacks to build single target threat on that mob.

If they used AoE, you can use Challenging Roar and Swipe and Maul and even Berserk and Mangle spam.

But if they have good burst DPS, and will not work with you, and insist on doing their own thing, there is little long term you can do except arm yourself with knowledge of who has what threat level, Growl when it’s off cooldown where appropriate, and switch main attack targets to focus on who they insist on killing.

Or, and this is what I do after a while…

See if they can tank it. Let it go.

Example of losing threat.

I did a Heroic Trial of the Champions yesterday. One of the players was a Warrior in full, and I’m not shitting you here, full ICC 25 gear. 

And this Warrior, with a much greater than 6K Gear score, was charging mobs the same instant I was, stayed on the mobs going all out from the instant he got there, and just blew it all up. Full out. And he almost never attacked the targets I marked.

Now, this made my job a lot harder, when my self-appointed duty was to stay green on everyone, all the time. There was literally no way I could prevent him from taking aggro on someone. Multiple mobs would turn yellow, then red. I would Growl back on one and nail it, while losing another.

I had two choices. I could get all pissed off because it felt frustrating to lose control over the threat, which is my main reponsibility.

Or, I could try to look at it from his point of view, if he thought he was helping and had never tanked before.

What I decided to do was act as though he thought that he was helping. I put myself, mentally, in the position of someone wearing Plate as a melee DPS, in insane gear, doing hellacious damage, playing in easy content, and I dropped my awareness for a moment of how it feels to be responsible for holding aggro as the tank.

What I saw was that it might feel as though, since the tank has aggro on all those other guys, I could best help by doing tons of damage, and no harm done if I pull threat away, because I can take it with my high armor and stamina. If I get pounded, big deal, I’m tough. Maybe not as tough as a tank, but I can take a beating just fine until the tank picks it off… or the mobs are dead. No worries.

Now, we as tanks know that this is fine, except that THE TANK HAS NO IDEA THAT’S WHAT YOU’RE DOING.

All the tank knows is, I got aggro on him, I got aggro on her, holy shit I lost aggro on that one, get it back, get it back, get it back!

Welcome to Frustration County, population: me!

The tipping point for me was that the player had gear that suggested they just HAD to know how to work in a group, or they wouldn’t have gear from that deep in ICC 25.

So I didn’t get pissy, I just complimented them on their insane DPS output.

What was their reply?

“Thank you! I know I’m a bit of an aggro whore tho.”

This was not the response I’d expect from an asshat. It’s what I would expect from someone who simply overgears the content, figures if they steal aggro they can deal with it, and didn’t realise it could cause a tank additional stress.

I joked back that I didn’t mind, I simply rolled with the idea that, if you pull it, you tank it.

Not only did we get a laugh out of it, but he actually eased back a little on the pulling threat when we went on to the final boss. And I stopped worrying about him. He was a big boy; if he died, well, that’s the way the game works, right?

Let’s wrap this fish up.

What I’d like to leave you with here, if you take anything away from this post at all, is simply an awareness that if you sometimes have trouble holding aggro as a Feral Bear tank, it’s not just you.

It is NOT a sign that you suck, or even that the other player is an asshat.

The player may think they’re doing their job, and just aren’t aware what a Skull even means. Or might not know what havok it’s causing YOU that they are unloading higher burst DPS than your initial threat can overcome.

I also hope that, if you are a new tank and haven’t tried Tidy Plates/Threat Plates before, you’ll give it a try. For new tanks, and even for grumpy old Bears like me, it can really help you gain control over the battlefield.

And don’t forget that it has the Heal/DPS mode too, it’s not just for tanks. So that if everything is green and small, it means you do NOT have aggro, and if you start seeing yellow, it means you’re pulling off the tank, time to back off or Feign.

Nothing helps get the value of the system across quite like firing your gun into the crowd, then seeing the nameplate turn huge and flashing red just before the mob ignores the tank to come running after you. Whoops! Time to Feign Death, like NOW!

And few things are quite as reassuring as seeing that charging red nameplate… and seeing it turn instantly to green, as the tank shows he is aware of your pulling aggro, and taunted it back away.

Have fun, smell ya later!

67 Responses to “Chasing Bear Aggro”
  1. Wugan says:

    Great stuff. I just leveled a new paladin tank and I’ve been doing a ton of heroics to gear up. I find ThreatPlates to be very helpful, and I’m not quite sure how I’d tank without it.

    Question: as you move into raids with more than one tank, how do you deal with ThreatPlates? In heroics, I have a single minded focus to keep all those plates green and focus on me. If I see one get big and red, I know I need to taunt to get it back. But, in a 10 man with another tank, the mob might just be focused on the other tank, and now I’ve just taunted off of him and made him mad.

    This would seem to be a particular problem on trash pulls, where there are not clear assignments between the two tanks but you often just sort of pick stuff up. Any tips for managing this, or is there a setting in ThreatPlates that let’s you recognize the other tank(s)?
    .-= Wugan´s last blog ..We are No Longer Special Snowflakes =-.

  2. Sarabian says:

    Downloading the twin plates now. Thanks for the heads up on those, they sound like they’ll be very handy.

  3. Schecke says:

    This is fantastic, Bear, thank you! I’m trotting off on all four paws to download Threat Plates, and I intend to try out your strategy for those Forge of Souls caster groups, too.

  4. Gekkoracing says:

    Hey BBB,

    Well definately like this post….I am new to bear tankin’ ……and me’s a likes it lots! I was starting to stress ’cause I’ve had a few DPSers like that….pulling off agro from me…..still a lowbie bear 32, soooo it’s a lil tougher to hang onto and build it quick like. This post was very informative and has releived me of the stress….thank you!
    I missed your last 2 posts…so read over those right quick and…well….good for you!! The game should NOT be a mistress to you or your wife…it’s a game. end of story. People will get over it and move along….they always do…..I am very glad you keep writing…I check your blog almost everyday.Wether it is WoW related or not…I ALWAYS enjoy your musings and your style….please. for us, let the words flow!

    Thank you for being you brother bear!

    Grimclaws -Brothers at Arms – Wyrmrest Accord

  5. David says:

    One thing that people have always failed to mention about tanking is your gearing and stat itemization. All too often you see tanks who are totally subdued by the “EH-bandwagon” I rarely see tanks that gem enchant or even gear for threat/dps. I realize its a losing battle because the static threat does not scale with abilities, but its at least something you can do.

    My brother is our raid’s (10-man only) priest healer and I have tanked as a warrior, then druid and finally heal on my druid. I was able to communicate with him very bluntly and due to the amount of talking we did, we were able to analyze fights in a way I’m sure most healer and tank combos are unable to do. Once I had enough health where he was not constantly flash-healing me just to keep me up and was able to use greater heal more I felt I had enough EH. As a druid, I then gemmed, geared and enchanted solely for threat/dps. I kept my raid-buffed health at or above 48k (which is the point at which my brother and I felt there was enough of a cushion) and I went straight agility on everything.

    Druids are very lucky in that agility is a monstrously good stat, and should be your main focus once you have enough health where the healers are comfortable keeping you up in the content you are doing. I just have to chuckle at the 58k HP warriors who i get in pugs who can’t keep aggro because they are putting out 700 dps. They cause more wipes than a warrior with 30k HP who can crank out 2k dps.

    In summary, stam isn’t everything for a tank. It may be come cata, but for now, once you are at a comfortable health level, go gem/enchant and gear for damage-dealing stats, as a bear, agi and crit are fantastic tanking stats anyways. Think of it this way, if your healers can keep you up, and have enough time between healing you to heal the dps, then you are health-”capped” and need to move on to other stats.

  6. bigbearbutt says:

    Wugan, in the case of two tanks, if both are trying to grab aggro on trash, my tendency is to assume that if the trash ain’t on me, it’s on him.

    It’s still valuable to have, because say you’re on a fight where the tanks have to taunt off each other, swapping aggro as stacks of debuff build up.

    With this sytem, sure, as soon as the other tank taunts off you, the nameplate turns red.

    I find this helps, because you know right away if the taunt was resisted, and emergency action plans/calls for overhealing/attempts at using secondary taunts/retaunting all go into effect.

    No guesswork as to whether it got taunted right on time.

    I guess what I’m saying is, I know exactly what you mean about the dual tank uncertainty, but in most cases for serious fights each tank knows who is supposed to have which boss, so it’s not that bad. Still annoying, though.

  7. Iceveiled says:

    This is why I love feign death and misdirect as a hunter. When i’m in my survival spec I always make sure to re-misdirect when my Lock N Load procs because 3 explosive shots in 5-6 seconds is a LOT of burst damage.

  8. Saniel says:

    “Either through the tank setting a Skull mark to easily identify the first kill target”

    I want to expand on this briefly, especially in the case of tanking 5-mans. I touched on this in a post I made a while back (Pugging Sanity Protip) and it bears (ha, get it?!) repeating here:

    Throw a mark on the target you want DPS to kill first when running dungeons. It you grab an addon like Lucky Charms it’ll take half a second before the pull. It’s not going to help much if you’re running with a ton of AoE casters, but if you have some DPS classes that primarily single-target burn, they’ll usually respect the mark. This way you can focus on Mauling that target while you swipe to generate threat on the rest. It can be a huge help.
    .-= Saniel´s last blog ..A Bear’s guide to ICC: Professor Putricide =-.

  9. Rowtan says:

    Very helpful, very interesting post Bear. I’ve just started using Threat Plates myself and although I haven’t had much practice with them they look like they’re going to be one of those addons that I’ll wonder how I did without – especially in these current days of all out dps and no CC.

  10. Calmfury says:

    I’ve been bear tanking for quite some time now, I wouldn’t trade it for anything. In my experience I find that stacking expertise has resulted in a huge increase in my threat generation. I am very near the hard cap and I have not problems holding aggro against almost anyone.

    I will also admit to a morbid fascination with watching the painful death of any DPS who dare burst in the first few seconds of the fight and pull aggro. Far as I am concerned survivability is a skill that not enough Rogues, DKs and Ret Pallies acquire.
    .-= Calmfury´s last blog ..pt 42 The Arena =-.

  11. Muron says:

    If tanking is your thing and only your thing then you might also want to build a spec specifically for tanking heroics.

    On my warrior I run a full threat spec (with deep wounds, imp thunderclap etc)
    Glyph of devastate, cleave and blocking
    minor glyphs of thunderclap and battleshout (500AP gives you more threat than a DPS)

    On my druid I run a standard spec, but if I am going to do heroics generally I switch out and use
    Glyph of mangle + maul

    Druids with decent gear can also improve their threat by going with a
    Mangle, FF, swipe, lacerate, Mangle, FF, Swipe, Swipe rotation instead of
    Mangle, FF, swipe, lacerate

    Though that is for long fights your rotation will differ depending on the length of the fight

  12. Tesh says:

    The notion that it’s the team that succeeds, not the individual, is one that I strongly identify with… but I do think that it runs at odds with some of the game design. I’ve been the low level variant of that overgeared warrior, playing as a Bear DPS before I had Cat Form (with the inherent threat generation of a tank, of course, even without using threatening abilities). I simply killed stuff faster as a Bear than as a Tauren, and could pop a growl if the squishies got in trouble and the warrior tank wasn’t handling it. See, as long as none of us die and all of the baddies die, I don’t particularly care who did the killin’ or the tankin’. The tank thought that he had to handle everything, though, and that I should have stood back and been a nice little anthropomorphic pew pew machine.

    That, in a nutshell, is what bothers me most about the tank/DPS/healer trinity. It’s terribly static, and it gets boring. I want tactical variation, and the ability to react to many situations as they come up. When the tank simply controls everything, well… all I have to do as a DPSer is nail the rotation, throttle my output and use the occasional panic button if something goes south. Bleh.

    Of course, that might make me a bad *trinity* team player, since I’m not a nice little cog in the machine, but when I have tools to make a group succeed, I want to use them, not get relegated to a DPSing followbot because the tank wants control.

    Thing is, I blame that on the game design. It’s meant for the tank to control things. I just find that I don’t particularly like that, because it’s not the sort of teamwork that I’m looking for. I don’t want to be a cog. *shrug*

    Perhaps it’s telling that I play far more volleyball than football.
    .-= Tesh´s last blog ..Political Pop Quiz: Dual Wielding =-.

  13. Melpo says:

    bouncing off to grab those addons. I’ve just hit the lvl 70 dungeons, and am seeing more and more chars that can pull aggro from my pally. These sounds like pure win covered in frosting and sprinkles.

  14. bigbearbutt says:

    @Saniel, I agree that your option is good, and used it for a long time. I changed a while back, though, on the advice of some of my readers who told me you could actually set the marks to hotkeys directly through the interface now.

    I went in and looked at the hotkey setup list and, sure as hell, there they all were. I set Skull to F1, X to F2, and Moon to F3, and never looked back. With things the way they are now and CC, I have yet to find a situation where I need more than those three, and the ability to target a mob and tap F1 to set Skull while moving the mouse with the other for movement simultaneously is very time and effort saving.

    Basically, your method is quick and easy and gives you all the options, my method is quicker and easier, but each one took a hotkey off my keyboard and limits my options.

    @Tesh… All my advice on managing aggro, tanking, etc is predicated on playing with strangers, where the only control you have is over what you, yourself can do.

    When playing with a group of friends, where you can actually talk to each other, and even have a regular group, all of the variations you describe are quite possible.

    Even in raids, I’ve seen people coordinate so well with each other that a Healer dies, the bear tank calls “Rogue UP”, the Rogue unloads on the tanks’ target, the bear tank uses Night Elf shadowmeld to isntantly drop aggro, and for 8 seconds the Rogue dodge-tanks the mob while the druid tank shifts out and battle rezzes, and the hunters misdirect onto the Rogue. Bear shifts back and taunts off, and everyone moves on with the run.

    The better you know your fellow players, and the more you experiement and screw around and TRY wierd shit, the more fun you can have and the wilder you can get.

    It’s when people lock themselves into “what my job is” and stop communicating and messing around that things get really boring.

  15. Wugan says:

    Thanks for the feedback guys. I think what you’re saying is right, and that in some ways it will be helpful to have a big huge nameplate to see when a taunt has worked or not. In many ways, these are just theoretical problems I’m worrying about, since I’ve just barely started to tank anything other than 5 mans.

    Also, apparently my question is quite common, since people ask it like 6 different times over at [url=http://www.tankspot.com/showthread.php?57223-New-THREAT-name-plates-Theme-creation./page13] the Tankspot page [/url] for ThreatPlates. Sounds like recognizing the other tanks is something outside the scope of what this addon can do, but you can add a text option on the bars to see WHO has threat, which should help ensure that everything is on a tank.
    .-= Wugan´s last blog ..We are No Longer Special Snowflakes =-.

  16. Sarabian says:

    Thanks again for informing me about Tidy Plates! I installed this and can easily tell this is going to be great for me.

  17. Restopunx says:

    I just got good enough gear to start tankin Normal/Heroics in my offspec. Usually I resto full time. This is my first toon and I’ve only been playing since June of 2009. I’m so used to healing, so at first tankin was very different, It was weird taking so much damage! I started with Tidy Plates and Threat Plates already from my Healer. I could not imagine playing without it at this point. I tweaked the settings and changed the scale down so it’s not crazy big. I’m slowly learning how to tank and am getting more comfortable with taking damage.. Almost got my aggro problems solved, I just need to learn the fights and kite when I’m supposed to! HEheh.

  18. Rob says:

    This a fantastically good article, please put it on your “Best of” lists.

    For me; i play a DK tank. I’m pretty good at holding and grabbing aggro back. However, if the dps aren’t paying attention (more like *when* they aren’t), I will lose threat on ocassion. If it’s trash, no big deal. If its a heroic, no big deal. If it’s a raid boss, ICC25 geared people will go splat. I’ve seen it happen.

    To reiterate what you said, tanks can only do so much. We can gear the best we can, generate the most threat we can. However, if the dps are not paying attention to their threat, they will pull aggro. You can try to take back the mob, but it’s a collaborative effort. DPS who refuse to help you with your aggro abilities (going all out, not stopping, no CC, no nothing), my attitude is they can then tank the damn mobs. If they go down, no skin off my back. If they whine, leave. You are the tank. You are the one with the instant queues. You leaving will hurt them more than it hurts you. Sorry, that’s just the way it is. I’m not a prima dona tank, but I don’t put up with retards who ‘help pull’, who whine, who carry on, who give me crap about tanking. Sorry, goodbye.

  19. Tesh says:

    So… I *do* need a regular group of wacky proficient players. So much for soloing. ;)
    .-= Tesh´s last blog ..Political Pop Quiz: Dual Wielding =-.

  20. Cornfedhick says:

    I stopped feeling frustrated over groups failing once LFG finder started. Since I’m a tank I get put in another group instantly. If a DPS doesn’t like to play nice and keeps pulling agro and dying then they are welcome to leave and wait another 20 minutes for a group or they can stick around, and either have a large repair bill or tone it down a notch or two and finish the dungeon. It still amazes me some DPS will choose to get the debuff.

  21. Paul says:

    While I agree that it is the DPS’ job to ensure they aren’t pulling threat, it is also a team effort, and no excuse to sit back and not try everything in your power to maximize your threat output and keep all the mobs locked to the tank. When tank 5-mans, I welcome with open arms the overeager DPS to the group. I consider it a personal challenge to keep all the targets on me and while I wouldn’t say I ‘blame myself’ for every dps’ death, each time I do lose a mob, I try to ask myself if there is anything I could have done differently to have prevented that death.

    While overeager dps will cost you in the short term, (the instance run could take twice as long and cause twice the frustration) I find that they ultimately shape me into a better tank.

    In fact, I tell guildies I run with to go all out and don’t give me any time at all….I like the practice. They know me well enough and trust my ability to keep the mobs off of them (well…most of the time. :P)

  22. Rayvynn says:

    I’ve been a long-time healer, and haven’t tanked since Naxx content (with a Pally tank, so I got single targets/big mob pairs). I’m leveling yet another Druid as a tank. Solely. This has been driving me CUH-RA-ZEE in pugs, and I keep downing on myself. I don’t do randoms that often, and I only really have quest greens and a few blue drops that I got lucky on, so my gear is blah compared to those that run randoms all day every day. I’m so downloading the name plates to help out. Tab-targeting doesn’t always work. :P

    :D Thanks for the awesome Bear Wall as usual, Bear.
    .-= Rayvynn´s last blog ..Mashup Addiction =-.

  23. Rowtan says:

    Hehe yeah … only tonight one of the dps (DK) stood AGAIN in front of a bad guy with a biiig cleave and, unsurprisingly, died. They apologised, realising what had happened – I just said “its your repair bill”. As long as it doesn’t impact on the rest of the group, then eventually they will either learn, or run out of gold :P

  24. Rauxis says:

    I’d like to elaborate my pov on this subject – as more often then not I run instances either as tank or healer. In any case and any role I adhere to a simple principle: the tank protects the healer, the healer heals the tank. You notice that DPS is not part of the equation?

    as Tank: protect the healer, especially from trash; make the healers job is simple as possible by facing the mobs; mark the target you focus on; and I worry about maximizing threat only on single target bosses; if a DPS pulls aggro – try to get it back, but I always assume they know what they are doing, and have the equip to survive it; if they don’t, everyone has a good laugh and we continue; as long as tank and healer are up, every trash group will eventually die
    as Healer: heal yourself, heal the tank, if there is time heal DPS
    As DPS: if I draw aggro from a tank (which happens sometimes on fresh tanks, and sometimes on purpose with equally overgeared friends) I have no right to complain. If I die from everything but unavoidable splash damage I have no right to complain.

    all: be true with your group – announce if you are undergeared or inexperienced; don’t stress the others, play with the group; have fun

    Rauxis, chosen of CAT

  25. Nightwhisp says:

    EPIC POST from a master. I have lately been tanking on my Death Knight. I have run into basically each situation you have described, including the over-geared warrior situation. And the classic that many have encountered that you didn’t discribe: When I zoned into Pit of Saron already in progress and the healer said to me: “Don’t wanna make you feel bad, but did you notice that my Mana Pool is larger than your health bar.” His buddy the warrior, “lol”ed and took off down the tunnel and pulled everything he could. I shadowmelded out of harms way and chatted, “I forgot to mention the policy around here, ‘you pull it you tank it.’ If you need me I’ll be in Dal fishing and waiting for your kick.” The teleport option is a very valuable tool, second only to the “/ignore” option that I also used in this situation. Five minutes later, back in the queue with no deserter debuf, five minutes and four seconds later in heroic halls of lightening with a group that was happy to have me tank it for them. As for mister smartass healer and his warrior friend, I imagine they spent the next half hour waiting out the queue for a tank that would join an “already in progress” dungeon.

    Thanks for all you great posts and I do sincerely hope that they will continue coming.

  26. suxxy says:

    My personal favourite is ret pallies who leave righteous fury on. FTW.

  27. Four says:

    Nice post Bear,
    Whats your take on dps Dks’ who yank a ranged mob into the furball? I love doing it on mine, I know i can take a hit or two while the tank grabs it back. Am I helping or adding to the stress of tanking? ( I think I’m helpin’)

    Anywho~
    Love the posts, hope you decide to keep posting. (you could always go the BRK route, and just post about IRL stuff if you like. Its not usually the topics so much as the style and wit I enjoy.)

  28. bigbearbutt says:

    @Four; personally, I’m a big fan of it. However, the reason I’m a big fan is that not only does the DK bring some ranged caster right up into my AoE/melee range fast and simple, but Tidy plates let’s me see that, in the middle of the scrum, there’s a sudden apparance of a big red nameplate… sinec you pull aggro when you do it.

    So when a DK dps uses the Death Grip, it helps me bring the mob close, and I just Growl to take aggro back. Win/win.

    now, don’t EVEN get me started on Army of the Dead.

    Oh, and Suxxy.. Ret pally with Righteous Fury… ALMOST as epic win as a Holy healing paladin with it on, but probably more common.

  29. Fangtastic says:

    Superb write up on tanking BBB and while its feral centric, I think there is a refresher in here for tanks shaven and furred, clawed or armed.

    TPTP is a great addon, I started using it a few weeks ago and it has done wonders for my situational awareness. It is so good and adds to the fun so much that I see Blizzard building this into the UI in the future.

    Part of me wishes you’d roll a warrior, they have so much in common with bears with all the rage, charging about and snap aggro tools. Would be thoroughly entertaining to read your thoughts there.

    Thank you for yet another delicious bearwall.

  30. Angie says:

    Hi

    is it any update on how to contact you? Ive tried send you a email but it keep coming back with Empty MX found (http://mail.google.com/support/bin/answer.py?answer=7720). So I was wondering if it was any other way to send you an email other than yahoo, since it seems yahoo stopped accepting mail?

    Sorry for the out of content comment, great post.

    Thank you also for not giving up the blog :D

  31. Luiniel says:

    BBB: Holy Paladin with RF on is probably a 25-man raider who’s forgotten to turn it off — many Holydins spec into Imp.RF for the damage reduction, and if the shit does go down then the Holydin is the healer best able to deal with a stray mob and RF pretty much guarrentees that they’ll get it. Unlike the Retridin they’ll probably just look embarrassed and turn it off if you point it out.

    The other trick I’ve learned is that if you do have one of those insane burst DPS in your group, and they’re survivable (Ret against melee mobs, Mage against casters) then let them burst out on Skull whilst you pick up the rest of the group and then taunt it off them once their burst is done for a nice threat lead on everyone else.

  32. Nimizar says:

    Good post BBB – I’ll have to check out those name plate addons (I picked up Vuhdo for my tree spec after you suggested it, and am very happy with that one).

    On a run with some guildies the other day, they had a little trouble managing their aggro (yes, they outgeared me by a substantial margin) – they were on a shadow priest and a warlock, so by the time their threat got dangerously high, they had too much crap ticking to avoid going over the top and their threat reduction tools weren’t all that great. For the bosses at least I was able to keep it under control by combining Growl with the 30% margin on threat for ranged DPS (i.e. while using Growl only brought me equal with their threat level, the taunt was off CD again before they got too close to the fatal 130% mark). For trash… the warlock died rather a lot, since Soul Shatter has a fairly long cooldown :)

  33. bigbearbutt says:

    Angie, I have no idea why my Yahoo mail wouldn’t be working. No, I don’t actually have another email address to give out. The only other email I even have is my direct work one.

    My email is

    tigerlordgm@yahoo.com

    And I check it frequently throughout the day. I got email all day yesterday, and I had one waiting when I checked this morning. I’ll hope it was a temporary network thing, until I get a chance to ask Cassie to mail me. Nobody emailed me about anything that might have been on their minds at all about the game.

    I did have 4 new spam messages, but I never count those. I did think it was an unusually low number of emails to find in the morning, but hey, usually when I send out a huge flood of posts one on top of another, the number of emails I receive drops substantially, so I didn’t find it too unusual.

    If you need to get ahold of me, please try again. If it doesn’t work, I’ll set up a new email account somewhere for you to get ahold of me at.

  34. bigbearbutt says:

    Just tried emailing myself through yahoo itself, and directly from my totally unrelated work email, and both went through with no problems. Not really being an IT guy, I don’t know what else I can do right now to help. :(

  35. jealouspirate says:

    Fantastic post! I recently got my Druid a starter tanking set and have begun tanking heroics for the first time ever. Your many resources on theory and getting started has been a massive help, and this just makes it even better. Bear tanking is fun!

  36. Elegantdeath says:

    Welcome back (haha… as my eyes fall out from exhaustion)

  37. Flargan says:

    I have a question, as I am working my own little bear tank and he is about to start heroics soon. Mangle..do you let it run its full course before reapplying, or do you as they say in Warlock speak at times “clip your dots”? Just kind of curious, as I tend to be a mangle spammer and was wondering it that effected my threat mitigation.

    I will say that this article, along with many others you have written have helped me greatly. After I get off work, I plan on heading to my desk top and downloading the Tidy plates/threat plates most tic! So again, like others have stated…thanks for all you do BBB!

  38. Erthshade says:

    One thing I should mention about Death Grip in defense of dps DKs who use it to pull casters to the tank… it’s not actually a taunt in that it doesn’t put you at the top of the target’s threat list, it just forces the target to attack the DK for 3 seconds. Which means if your tank already has top threat on the caster and the DK in your party Death Grips it, relax, don’t bother blowing your taunt unless it stays on the DK longer than those 3 seconds, though in that case they’re being stupid and attacking it and not something in melee already so probably deserve to die, so, your call.

    The DK’s actual taunt is Dark Command, and I can’t think of a good reason why any DPSing DK would have that on their bar at all or intentionally use it, since it consumes a blood rune that could be put to much better use.

  39. Phaedra says:

    For the question about OTs in raids: on the Tanking forum, it was posted that marking the tanks as main tanks in the raid window will help with this issue. I think that if any tank marked as a tank as aggro, the mobs will show up as green.

    As for the “I’m helping!” mentality, it made me recall a past guildie of mine. I got the guy into my guild becase he was the brother-in-law of a co-worker of mine. He got to his mid-70s pretty much entirely on his own – no grouping, etc. So, when he joined the guild, he had NO IDEA what he, as a plate-wearer, should be doing. I remember one run I was tanking and he kept pulling mobs off me. It was frustrating (because I am more than a little anal about tanking), but, since the rest of the group overgeared the instance, I didn’t say anything. At the end, we all said the typical “Good run, thanks guys!”, etc. He pipes up saying something like “Good run! Yay I helped off-tank!”. Because he had no idea about group dynamics, he honestly believed that as a plate-wearer, part of his responsibility was to OT.

    He has since moved on (with blessings) to a more progressed raiding guild. Still, I feel good that I helped him to get where he is today and that he now understands his role in groups a little better.

  40. Feorfin says:

    BBB:
    Great advice! My main is a rogue so I understand threat management is incredibly important for DPS classes especially ones as squishy as rogues. I glyph for TotT and try to pop it every cooldown. Last night I ran CoS with a bear tank who was a bit less geared than the DPS and lost aggro on a number of occasions. (not to me) The top DPS was a hunter and I’m certain he wasn’t using redirect because I was right behind him on the meters and I didn’t pull aggro once. As a melee DPS I like mobs to stay rooted to the tank like glue so i can camp behind and beat the heck out of them. Having to chase mobs all over the place doesn’t make them die any quicker. I’m definitely going to download that addon. Thanks for the suggestion!

  41. Lazaros of Llane says:

    @Flargan: Use Mangle judiciously. It’s great for single target threat (three targets when Berserking), and helps amplify our Lacerates a bit (plus other class / spec bleeds (Hunters, where is your Lacerate now?)). The increased duration on the Mangle debuff is really for the cats, as it relaxes the “rotation” a tiny bit.

    On multimob pulls, I tend to neglect Mangle except in two parts: the initial pull, I throw a Mangle in as I get in Range (Maul going off at the same time) for a big threat lead on the marked target. I’ll also use it when I feel like one of the DPS is catching up to me a bit on threat (typically on a non-focus mob).

  42. Tiggerr says:

    Awesome information, I have been thinking of going back to bear to tank as my second spec. A few things I would do back in my bear days was to cast a starfire or wrath on one mob and then target another and hit moonfire and shift into bear and proceed to pull. You can also add a regrowth or rejuv on yourself before pulling to help out with some heals too. If you let the group know what your doing before hand it makes it easier with the pulls since they will wait until they see you cast and charge in before they start to attack :)

  43. Hatha says:

    Bear, you are my frackin’ hero. I’m an old-school bear tank who just got back into the game in February, and I have been *struggling* to find the balance between what I knew (DPS waits for sunders, or at least 3 seconds before beginning and watches their own aggro or they die) and the world of random dungeons where DPS just unloads AoE on everything as you start the pull. I’m part of a small RL friends guild, and a couple of them really embraced the new mindset, so I’ve been having a lot of trouble keeping mobs off the shammy and the warrior. Our GM asked me to please try figure out how I could do more TPS so he could say “Look, Hatha’s trying to meet you in the middle, you guys need to back off too”.

    So, I actually have spent the last couple of days desperately combing through your archives, trying to find any ideas or advice on how to generate the kind of threat I’ve been feeling like I’ve been lacking. And then, today, I remember to hit ‘Home’ and look for a new post. The heavens opened, shedding Holy Light and Angel Sparkles around this post while choirs of cherubim sang in ecstasy. I have a new addon, and a new bear tankatude to carry forth into my tanking adventures.

    I might actually be willing to random by myself now.

    Thanks so much!

  44. oakayam says:

    Tidy Plates are awesome as far as the concept goes. Their only shortcoming is that they are .. huge. I personally prefer caelNameplates from wowinterface. Someone also posted a short code in comments section how to make them ‘threat colored’. I used that and with few changes they work great for me.
    When it comes to aggro, sadly for a bear that comes down to doing good dps yourself. It was painfully obvious for me when we started to work on Sindragosa with our guild. The boss has a nasty breath that applies stacking debuff that lowers movement speed by 15% and attack speed by 50%. The attack speed lowered is very very bad thing for bear aggro. Fortunately you can powershift out of it and boss does enough dmg that you will never miss rage :)

  45. Lara says:

    @Erthshade — Because of the wording of the Death Grip spell, it’s tempting to assume the spell has only the “fixate” effect you described. I’d thought that too for a long time! Only recently did I learn (http://www.wowwiki.com/Death_Grip) that, in fact, Death Grip does actually set the Death Knight to maximum threat, so it really is in fact a true “taunt” mechanic in addition to the fixate. That’s really not at all clear from the spell’s description in game, though!

  46. Bernie says:

    I’m making this a must read for my guildies.

  47. Sahele says:

    As well written and a joy to read as allways. Love your bear walls! Have you ever considered writing fiction? Over to the topic :)

    Thanks for the tips on nameplates. Will check it out for sure. I also wholeheartedly agree that even though the tank should do his best to top the dps on threat it’s up to the dps to make sure they don’t pull aggro.
    One good thing to remember is that some, or even most, party/raid intefaces (mine is grid) can be set to show what player has aggro on a mob. That might help making sure no one but the other tank(s) have aggro. It can also help finding the particular mob a dps has pulled off you by using target’s target, if it’s difficult to pick out where all the mobs are in the melee.

    Sincerely
    Sahele

  48. Sahele says:

    And also, it’s not only the tank you take the stress of by watching your threat. I used to focus on my own mobs when PUGing with my rogue (never got to max lvl) and kind of offtanked them thinking the healer would heal me. What I didn’t understood until I got into healing myself is that the healer might actually be stressed by having to heal you too, and burning a lot more mana. It’s so much easier to only have to heal the tank and unless you know the healer I belive that should be a goal for the whole group, let the tank take all the damage whenever possible. Remember that and you will make healers happy (or bored :) ).

  49. suxxy says:

    Ok, I’ve been tanking for… quite a while now on both bear(s) & warrior. Thought I had a pretty good handle on the situation awareness thing, cycling through the mobs, checking out omen levels. Looked at this article again and thought what the heck, give it a shot.
    Less than a day & I’m hooked. Threat Plates is SWEET.
    Tanking multiple mobs and one name plate is growing larger, I’d better give it some lovin’. One name plate pops huge & red, I’d better taunt it NOW.
    Tanking HoR, all those HUGE red name plates charging towards us turning small as they turn to me is a wonderful sight. So much less stressful knowing at a glance.

    Even while kitty dps’ing, when swiping. When DBM rings in my ears, instead of simply stopping dead (one way or the other) I can see which mob agroed because the nameplate just popped big & red in my face, target that one & hit the cower button.

    I pet it & love it & call it George.

  50. Kattrinsaa says:

    @sahele in my opinion there is nothing better than a bored healer.
    .-= Kattrinsaa´s last blog ..faceplant halls of stone =-.

  51.  

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