Intro to the basics of Bear Mechanics

For the brand new Bear tank, a few fun facts about bear tanking to help you understand why you do what you do, and how things generally work.

We’ll assume you visited my previous post about Specs, and are specced with the key Bear Tanking Talents.

This is in a nutshell how Bear tank abilities work;

  • Mangle makes your Lacerate (Bleed) do more damage, Lacerate (Rend and Tear Talent) makes your Maul do more damage.
  • Mangle and Maul both can apply Infected Wounds in a  target, slowing them down (Infected Wounds Talent).
  • Swipe is instant cast, and costs Rage. (It is affected by the global cooldown).
  • Swipe affects a 360 degree radius around the Bear.
  • Swipe can affect targets that are slightly outside your normal melee range at the moment. Keyword: Slightly.
  • The target of Swipe does not have to be physically in range for Swipe to activate; Swipe will still normally affect targets that are within your range.
  • Bears cannot Dodge targets behind them.
  • Bears can cast Swipe while moving.
  • Every time you successfully achieve a Critical Strike, you activate a personal damage shield/bubble. It lasts for one hit, regardless of how much the damage of the hit would be, and absorbs an amount based on your Attack Power.
  • Every time you successfully Dodge or achieve a Critical Strike, you get a small amount of Rage back.
  • You also get Rage from dealing damage, and from TAKING damage.
  • Growl is a Taunt that forces a targeted enemy to focus on you. It causes NO threat. All it does is raise your threat to be the highest your target sees. If your target has only seen you, it does nothing. If someone else has passed your threat on the target, it RAISES yuor threat level for that target to match.
  • Growl can miss.
  • Survival Instincts raises your maximum Health when activated. Frenzied Regeneration heals based on your max Health at the time it is activated. Casting Frenzied Regeneration immediately after Survival Instincts gives you bigger FR self heals.
  • Barkskin allows you to reduce all damage you take by 20% and can be used to survive attacks that would otherwise kill you. The Tier 9 4 piece bonus reduces the cooldown, further encouraging you to use it often.
  • Demoralizing Roar is an AoE ability that reduces a mob’s attack power (by 575 with talents), reducing the damage you take.
  • Feral Faerie Fire is free to cast in bear form, causes damage and a large amount of threat, and is a great rotation “filler” if you’re waiting on a global cool down.
  • Maul does not consume a global cooldown, can be added to other abilities in macro form so that it is always queued when you use Mangle or Swipe, for example, and when Glyph of Maul is used it strikes two targets. It does a very large amount of threat. Using Maul replaces a normal Rage generating attack, so using it when at low to zero Rage at the beginning of a pull can be dangerous without activating Enrage first.
  • Challenging Roar is not a true taunt like Growl – mobs will be forced to attack you for a short time, but it will not raise your threat level with them to be the highest. At the end of the effect, their threat list will be restored. While active, use high threat generating abilities to re-establish aggro on mobs. 
  • Enrage generates Rage, but the armor reduction applies to final armor value, not ‘base’ armor before multipliers. With a balanced group, this should simply mean that you take slightly more damage while Enrage is active, and this causes even more Rage to build up. Warning healers that you will be temporarily more squishy can be helpful.
  • Lacerate is a bleed that Bears can use and stack to 5. Not only is it good threat but when talented with Primal Gore it can crit and activate Savage defense, this is very useful when stunned as you can still mitigate some damage if Barkskin is on cooldown.
  • Demoralizing Roar is great to use right after a charge – not only does it reduce the damage you will be taking from mobs, but it also has more range than swipe which reduces the likelihood of a mob being missed by swipe and going after the healer.
  • Berserk is highly useful and has multiple applications. If you are facing mobs or a boss that frequently fears, popping Berserk after the pull can allow you to spam Mangle along with Maul repeatedly without interruption by Fear, allowing you to keep the boss in one place and establish a lot of initial threat. Additionally, as Berserk allows your Mangle to hit three adjacent melee targets in front of you, you can pop it to establish high initial threat on three targets when feeling stretched thin by solid DPS using AoE. 
  • Ignore what the people who don’t know Bear Tanks tell you… Bear Tanks fully Talented in Survival of the Fittest do NOT need Defense Rating at all. It is a useful stat, but is NOT required to become uncrittable. Blizzard likes it so much that they are giving every OTHER tank class a Survival of the Fittest type Talent in Cataclysm. 
  • Damage absorbed by bubbles, such as those cast by a Disc Priest, still gives the Bear that it is cast on Rage comparable to the damage that would have gotten through. Don’t ask your Priest friends to hold the bubble.

This list is purely for a short form “bullet points to be aware of” kind of list. Comments are welcome for one sentence tips to add to this list. Simply mention your tip in the comments, and I’ll add it to the list. Thanks!

I hope folks will offer tips on how these things can be used in day to day life.

I’ll kick it off, by mentioning that you can target a distant enemy spellcaster that will not come to you, and while he is targeted and outside your melee range, you can use Swipe to cause threat on near targets and Feral Faerie Fire to build threat on the distant target. Select your close Skull kill target, Maul and Mangle and such, then select the distant target and Grow if necessary, Feral Faerie Fire for threat. Assuming your group not doing massive AoE, the only aggro you have to stay ahead of on distant targets is healing aggro. If they ARE doing massive AoE and hitting the distant target… kill close spellcasters first, then kite the melee enemies over to the distant so he IS within range.

In a word… WoW!

Tonight, we went and accidentally did the three new 5 man instances.

Well, it was an accident on the part of myself and Cassie.

I’ve intentionally not read or viewed anything at all about the new instances previous to going. No PTR stuff, no videos, no pictures aside from what was shown at Blizzcon and a few screenshots showing a chamber with a dangling Frostmourne hanging over an altar.

No strategies. No walkthroughs. No “this is what to expect.”

For once I wanted to just see it, cold, up close and get to react to it.

My one regret was that I was in vent and didn’t have game sound turned on for most of it, but hey, I’m a blabbermouth in vent. I fully intend to join LFG as a silly little solo pugger, just so I don’t have to listen to anything other than game sound next time around.

It was an accident, because we expected to take a few shots at the first of the new 5 mans, The Forge of Souls, and see what we could do. After that, we expected to have to leave to put the cats to bed, our son to bed, and watch the season finale of Top Chef.

Just prior to running The Forge of Souls on my Druid as tank, I ran it once on Horde side as a Ret Pally. We set it up, went in, and the rest of the group had seen it the night before, so they had some basics to share. It let me see the fights, and gave me some respect for it even on normal, because the guys I was with are pretty damn good, and the fight against the final boss left two DPS dead at the end, with the Tank dying simultaneously with the boss. And this was on normal mode, and the guys had downed Onyxia 10 with ease a few weeks before. Clearly, something to take seriously.

On Alliance side, I gathered up the same group of us that had wanted to do it last night, and failed from being unable to zone into the instance. I’d promised we’d try a second time, and everyone was up for the challenge.

I went in as the Tank, and it was an unfamiliar sensation to truly know nothing about the actual abilities of the mobs aside from what I’d seen once. But I had a lot of faith that we’d be, well, overpowered.

Improvise, adapt, and overcome. Especially the improvise part.

We went in on the normal setting, looking to learn the ropes, and the thing that really struck me was how long the run up to the first boss seemed, when the groups of enemies are spread so far apart on long, narrow ramps. It really was quite fast to go from the entrance to Bronjahm, but it felt slow, if you know what I mean. It felt as if I should be taking the trash seriously, because of how spread out they were.

One thing I noticed is that the arrangements of the groups meant that almost every pull consisted of some ranged casters that don’t come when you pull, spread out far enough that you can’t blanket them both with a simple ‘run and gun’, or as I prefer to call it ‘charge and stun’ attack.

I found myself, much more than normal, spending my time watching threat levels across all the targets, satisfied that I had aggro and were marking kill orders rather than pin down one mob specifically.

I found it best to mark a ranged caster, charge him and lay down a heavy initial threat level on him, target a distant ranged caster while still Swiping local targets, thrown down a Growl and Feral Faerie Fire, drop back to local Skull to gain some more Threat level distance over the DPS, and then with a safe margin Charge the second or, if there, third ranged caster and pin him down better.

Really, it was group aggro control, the way I liked it from the bad old days of Burning Crusade, when it felt like flying fangs of feral fury spinning around and twisting viewpoints to keep an eye on the two legged lunch and just having fun.

Now, next time I’m going to play with something you may remember… Crowd Control. I think there were many situations where solid coordination and the effective use of Crowd Control would add… fun to the encounters. It’s almost as though they spread out the mobs enough that the designers are asking us to please, just think about using CC. Just for fun.

There are several situations that Crowd Control would have actually added to the smoothness of the run, but I’ll get to that later.

We faced down Bronjahm, I shared the tips I picked up from my horde side friends, and sure enough, easy kill. I was shocked to learn we were getting an Emblem of Triumph for each boss kill. This is normal mode, right? Cool! AND loot? Well, dip me in butter and call me corn!

We moved on, facing the same kinds of trash, with the addition of a couple Spectral Wardens, that are pushovers but they can fear you, so pounding them is not only fun, but a sound tactical idea.

We went on and faced the final boss, and I found that, aside from remembering that he summons many, many, many adds at times, and that he drops puddles of evil goo that you don’t want to stand in, and that he does a mirror soul on a target that causes damage he takes to be shared with the player just like the Eyeball boss of Violet Hold… I couldn’t remember anything else about the fight. 

Still, I had a few plans for what I could remember, such as calling out when someone was hit with mirror soul so we could stop DPS, and to watch for the purple circle that looks like a well and drag the boss away from it, and to call out for everyone to fall in on my position when the army of ghostly adds appears so they all come to me and get their little spirit butts handed to them.

We tried it, and well… I guess it went well, because we won handily, although sadly I somehow allowed dear Cassie to take a dirt nap. Still have no idea what killed her, either.

Well, that was it. A lot to digest, a great new instance, a lot of fun. Time to go.

And Elystia says, “And now we jump in this convenient portal right here to go to the second instance in the chain, Pit of Saron.”

Umm… well, okay. Sure.

In we go… and there’s all sorts of cool stuff, there’s a big ass dragon flying around and a huge wide open space filled with things, and Jaina Proudmoore, and wow, this kicks ass.

It’s day two of the Patch. That’s as far as I’m prepared to go in terms of spoilers.

I will say this.

We are, all of us, in gear that comes from drops in ToC, Heroic ToC, some 10 man Naxx, a few Ulduar 10 drops, and mostly Emblem of Conquest gear. Maybe one or two pieces of Triumph.

We cleared all three instances, in normal mode, without a single wipe, without having any idea of what was coming at us. We took it as it came, we reacted and tried to think our way through (although I think Jardal and Kaelynn cheated and were reading strats from somewhere!) but in the end, we won.

Even that last bit at the end of Halls of Reflection, and DAMN that was exciting and awesome and fun! Woo!

I’ll tell ya, we almost let him kill us just to see what would happen. If you’ve done it, you know what I mean. Damn, that’s tense when you’re all rushing “Kill him now, kill him now, get the fat one, shit Arthas is almost here, crap, go go go! Now RUN!”

God, that’s just a great series of instances to run back to back to back.

Here are some tips for Bear tanking it, for those of you that are raring to get in there, but haven’t yet done it.

First, be prepared to remember the kill order. Don’t hesitate to mark, and remember, if they wear cloth or heal the enemy, kill those bastards first. If they are ranged and don’t pull, you don’t have to get in their grill to hold them, but you DO have to use your Feral Faerie Fire and ranged Growl to keep them on you, and stay over the healer aggro. When in doubt, Feral Charge and make it up close and personal.

When dealing with fast runs, remember your strength; kiting and tanking on the move with your butt, and a moving AoE Swipe that hits 360 degrees. By all means, gather them up and drag them after you. In the Halls of Reflection, be prepared to search for ranged healer or casters, mark them with Skull to tell the DPS to focus only on them at first, and then do a run around the room to gather up the moveable mobs and bear swipe them on the fly and kite them/Feral Charge them into your designated kill target. Make solid use of Growl, because sure as heck if you spend a few seconds gathering up other mobs, the kill target will have time to get off at least one shot on someone else if you’re unwary.

Mostly… have fun in there. It’s a freaking winter wonderland for a Bear tank, and also for a Tree druid.

Mobility is our key strength. It’s our bread and butter. Yes, melee DPS wants us to stand still, and you’re a professional, so do it, and be consistent in how you pull so the other players know if you’re going to be facing the mob, or turning it to put it’s back to your group.

But always be prepared in there to make the fights mobile, to drag them around out of poison and toxic waste and the paths of boulders and wells of souls and gauntlets of adds standing in collapsing tunnels and roomfuls of waking adds and all sorts of other awesomesauce.

I can’t help but feel this was what I was missing. My only regret was in not marking CC targets, and using it in my tactics. I really, really want to do that again. Yes it’s slower… but it always gave me a strong sense of, well, “playing with my food.”

I really miss that. I think I’d like it back.

I hope you’ve had the chance to get in, and to see it all for yourself. I believe that when you do, you won’t be disappointed.

Questions about Defense and Survival of the Fittest

In continuing this trend where I answer emails, here is another one on another topic of long discussion, Defense and Survival of the Fittest.

Long time lurker, first time e-mailer.  I loved when you were on the BRK podcast and you were my inspiration to actually roll a Druid.  I am trying to be the best druid I can be, so I am reading everything I can get my hands on.  Main spec is tank, off is resto.  I read something the other day and I had a question.  I decided to throw it your way and see what happens.

From the post:
Druid tanks do not need Defense gear.

The Survival of the Fittest talent reduces the chance to be crit by 2/4/6%, which means a Druid tank can achieve uncritable by only taking 3/3 SotF.

However, Defense is not totally worthless. Once you reach ~50% Dodge, due to diminishing returns, stacking Defense actually becomes better then stacking more Dodge.

Begin to stack Defense only after you have reached ~50% Dodge.

Note: Like with Crushing Blows, you must be Defense capped at 400 to be crit immune.


I understand that Crushing Blows are different from Crits.  And maybe this is a stupid question, but is Crit Immune and Uncritable the same thing?  I though that with 3/3 SotF talent you were Crit immune period.  You could walk out there with your bare bear backside (pun intended) and be crit immune.  You do need the defense to be crushing blow immune, and I am ok with that.

Love the blog.  I am in the process of Tattooing the Beginning Wrath tanking guide on my arms.  :)

Urak level 65 Driud on Cenarion Circle

Great email, Uruk. Thanks for the kind words!
The first part of that is the unstated expectation that your base Defense skill, which levels up as you take some smacks in the face, is at 400. If it is at 400, and you have 3/3 in Survival of the Fittest, then yes, even stark naked, you are uncrittable.
Uncrittable, Crit Immune, these are all terms developed by idiots like me that have to make the terminology for these things up as we go along. They all do basically mean the same thing; The boss enemy, that is exactly 3 or less levels higher than me, cannot score a critical strike upon me.
The math aspect to this is that Defense skill reduces your chance to be Dodged, Blocked, or Parried, as WELL as reducing the chance that you will be hit with a critical attack.
I flat out refuse to go over the combat table in detail again, I did it years ago in a Shifting Perspectives article for WoW Insider/, but in effect what kind of attack event that can occur has a place in a combat table. If you get high enough in some categories, such as Parry, it can push other attack possibilities right off the table. If you want to melt your brain like I have, you can find out more on your own at the website.
What’s important to the discussion is that the Defense skill you need to push critical strikes off the table changes depending on the level of your attacker, in comparison to yours.
Bosses in level 80 raid instances are set at an effective level, for the sake of Defense and what you need to hit them, at level 83. Survival of the Fittest provides exactly enough protection from critical strikes to remove the possiblity that a level 83 raid boss could critically strike a level 80 Bear Druid, when properly specced. Yes, even if naked.
What Survival of the Fittest does NOT do is provide any of the other bonuses to Dodge, Parry or Block that Defense skill does.
Now, the reason Defense skill is not considered a primary stat for Bear tanks is the same reason they gave us SotF; Bears cannot Parry or Block attacks. Therefore, we were previously (in Burning Crusade) stacking tons of Defense Rating on our gear to become uncrittable just like every other tank class, but we weren’t getting any benefit from the Parry and Block portions of the itemization.
Yes, there was a lot of whining about this fact. Including from me.
I personally did not resent it all that much… because the perception at the time was that Bear tanks weren’t supposed to be viable in the first place. I was too busy working at pioneering Bear tanking and proving them wrong than in whining about my Defense Rating.
That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it. :)
There’s a few things to keep in mind about the SotF. First, the crit rate of enemies 1, 2 or 3 levels above you rises at a normal rate. Starting at 4 levels or more above you, the chance that they can successfully crit you rises dramatically. It just takes off like a rocket. If you are level 76 tanking a level 80 opponent with SotF, expect to still be crit at times. Also expect yourself to miss a lot. SotF, as I said, was aimed at erasing the critical strikes from enemies three or less levels higher than you, the situation that max level Bear tanks would encounter in raids. It doesn’t make you crit immune from everyone as you level.
Second, Critical Strikes as mentioned are not the same as Crushing Blows.As far as I was aware, Crushing Blows were removed from the game entirely. They just don’t happen anymore. Maybe I’m wrong on that, I’m at work and can’t access research sites or log in to check records, but that is my understanding. I don’t believe it’s a question of level or gear or Talents, I believe that Crushing Blows themselves were simply removed. Maybe that’s only from level 71 – 80 content, though.
Finally, as far as the Defense stacking versus Dodge stacking. As I said, Bear tanks cannot Parry or Block.
This next bit requires understanding itemization a little bit. Gear that is item level 200 and blue (rare) quality has a certain number of possible stat points that can be spread amongst armor value and the other stats and abilities. An item that is level 200 and purple (epic) quality has a larger budget of points.
Either way, when comparing two items of item level 200 (epic) side by side, for the same equipment slot, they are each supposed to have an equivalent number of potential points that could be allocated to stats.
Therefore, when analyzing gear upgrades, if an item is very good, and comparable to another, but the difference between them is that one has Defense Rating, and the other has Dodge Rating, then the Dodge Rating one is considered more valuable to a Bear tank because none of the itemization points were wasted on stat benefits Bears don’t get. Bears get all the potential benefit from Dodge Rating, and only get the Dodge benefit portion of Defense Ratings’ Dodge, Parry, Block and reduced chance of Crit.
This is where you see the phrase “that item has wasted stats” for some gear, because if the item didn’t have points allocated to that stat, then maybe something useful on the gear would be higher instead.
Oh, and I’m not going to go into the point allocation of gear itemization any deeper. I could, like how points get allocated if there is only one stat on a piece of gear rather than two stats, or three. But I won’t because my head still hurts from having combat tables brought to mind. Hint; if all stats on the gear are useful, then having more than one stat on the gear provides more total benefit, because you get more stat per point allocated if it gets broken up among multiples. No, I don’t know why.You might see an item with 55 Agility, and another that has 35 Agility and 35 Stamina. Oh, and no, 1 Agility does not equal 1 Stamina as far as point allocation goes, Stamina is actually cheaper when allocated than other stats, so you might see a 35 Agility/35 Strength side by side with a 35 Agility/50 Stamina… sigh. Shut up, Bear, you don’t want to start that discussion. Right, shutting up now.
The end result is that I think I broke down all of this Dodge versus Defense stuff in greater detail in my sticky on the website sidebar about Level 80 Hit Rating, Expertise and Dodge. I may be wrong, though. If you’ve got more questions (or just want to chat), just respond in the comments.
Thanks for the email, Uruk!
I hope I answered your questions in some way!

Questions on threat generation

One of the most common emails I get is a request for help on basic threat generation strategies. I also get some terrible tales of the perception of Bear tanks as, well, sucking in threat generation.
We’ll see if the recent reduction in threat generation of Paladins and such has any long term impact on that perception, but the fact remains that I get a lot of folks that are concerned that they may not be doing the best they can to put out threat, or aren’t doing it the ‘right’ way.
Obviously, gear comes into question with these issues, and it’s hard to know what kind of situation people are in. Does the person worried about threat generation have enough Hit Rating and Expertise on their gear to make sure the hits are getting home when needed? Are they using Agility and Stamina AND Hit Rating and Expertise, as well as Crit and Attack Power, keeping a sensible balance between avoidance/mitigation and threat generation?
We don’t know. But what we CAN do is try and answer the question that is asked… what kind of advice can I give on threat generation for Bear tanks?
The email below is just one to represent the awesomeness that are you, my readers.
First off I want to say thank you for writing a great blog. It has been a great help with getting me started with bear tanking. Which is a great change of pace from playing my hunter. Though I am running into an issue.
The issue I am having is maintaining threat in a group pull. My group is really good about letting me build a nice start but, as soon as they let the damage fly I start loosing agro. So what is the best way for me to keep ahead of them on threat besides them throttling down some. I use swip/maul and demoralizing roar on rotation. So any advice would be great.
I will also provide a link to my underwere so to speak if you have any questions about gear/spec.
And please keep on writing.
Thanks again

Direye, thank you for your email!

I might have answered some of your questions about how to generate threat in a previous post, but for the life of me I don’t know which ones might help, or where I would have gone over it in detail, so here are a few things to keep in mind.
1) Feral Faerie Fire costs no rage, and does a large amount of threat. You should compare it’s TPS as shown on Omen (addon) with other ‘one target’ abilities you have, such as Mangle or Lacerate. Depending on your gear, you may find that it’s every bit as good as a damage causing attack when used to maintain threat, and better than some.
2) On single targets, do not use Swipe. Instead, use a rotation that uses Mangle when it’s off cooldown, Feral Faerie Fire, and activate Maul EVERY time Maul is available. Maul is your single highest threat and damage generator. The downside to Maul is that it replaces one of your normal attacks, so it’s not an ‘instant on’ when you activate it. You activate Maul, and on your very NEXT normal attack action based on bear wing speed, you will Maul instead of the regular auto-attack. Since you generate Rage from normal auto-attacks based on damage done, but you do NOT receive Rage from damage done by a Maul (hey Blizzard, change that for me please) then Mauls are a tasty treat that may be too expensive to use in easymode sessions when the mobs aren’t hitting you for enough to generate Rage from damage received. Like, when farming BRD. Lacerate is good, and should be used when Mangle is on cooldown. The Glyph of Maul will help give you a free second Maul on another target when in a group, so even in a group fight, especially in a group fight, keep Maul going.
  • Feral Faerie Fire.
  • Maul on, Mangle.
  • Lacerate x3, keep Maul on, replace Lacerate with FFF or Mangle when off cooldown.
  • Repeat as needed.
3) With groups, you should have a primary kill target marked with a skull so most focused DPS is headed for that target. People with single target attacks will then have guidance on who to attack, and that of course is the mob you are applying Mangle and FFF and Lacerate and Maul on. The rest of the group you are keeping in line with Swipe as a AoE threat attack, and one other mob is getting the second Maul from your Glyph.
For single targets, then, an easy attack scheme is to pull with FFF, hit with Mangle initially when in range, activate Maul, Lacerate while Mangle is on cooldown, keep activating Maul when available, replace a Lacerate with FFF when it’s off cooldown, and replace a Lacerate with Mangle when it’s off cooldown.
For multiple mobs in a group, a typical attack scheme is to mark your primary threat target with a Skull, pull the group with FFF (or charge the entire group with Feral Charge if there are casters mixed in, so you can keep the entire group within range of your Swipe), open with a Swipe when in range to counteract initial healer group threat, Mangle, Maul, Swipe, Lacerate, Swipe, and in effect so long as you have more than two targets, use Swipe whenever it’s off cooldown but mix in your normal attacks on your primary threat target as normal. If your initial pull or Feral Charge left you with some mobs, like casters or the Faction Champion Hunter out of range, drag you butt over to them so your 360 degree Swipe radius will pick them up. Maybe target them and hit them with a FFF or Mangle before moving back to skull.
When you switch to a new main threat target, pop a Skull over his head to help the rest of the group know who to focus on next.
In groups, some folks will use AoE attacks like Volley or Blizzard, but others like Rogues and Ret Paladins will be all over one at a time. Giving them a Skull to help them focus on the target you’re dumping most of your threat on helps a lot.
For help in fast Skull marking in mid-fight, you can assign Skull to a keybinding directly from the Keybinding menu. Simply go to the Main Menu, choose the Keybinds option, and scroll through the list until you find markings like Skull, X and Moon. I have Skull on F1 and X on F2, and I rarely if ever use anything else. For those times when I will be using crowd control, I have Quickmarks (addon) available. With the keybinds, though, it’s easy to simply target and attack as normal, and tap a quick F1 to apply a Skull mark.
This is, seriously, a fast and dirty and completely strategy-free rundown on threat generation. The art, as with anything, is in how you handle various situations such as split groups. The mobs aren’t always in nice neat packs that come when you call. But this should get you started on testing your threat.
My suggestion to you is, armed with the above advice, go to a level 83 target dummy in a capital city, make sure you have Omen (addon) installed and open enough to display your TPS (threat per second), and then start actually USING these abilities. You’ll likely have to Enrage immediately before your cycle, and you might want to bring a Rage potion or three with so you have enough Rage to go for a bit, but watching your TPS as you go, and have the leisure time to make some changes to what you’re doing, will help get you accustomed to what works and doesn’t work.
I hope this helps!

Raid jump down go boom!

So, last night was rare white elk day, we actually had a scheduled raid.

It was a notable raid for many wonderful reasons.

First, the entire raid was tanked by two people; Suxtobundr, feral Druid… and by Lady Jess’ Paladin tank!

We did Obsidian Sanctum, Abomination wing of Naxx, and then Vault of Archavon…. and you know it’s gonna be a fun night when one of your tanks gets the “Emblem of Heroism” Achievement on the first drake kill in OS.

Grats, Jess! :)

Second was that the entire raid was healed entirely by Druids. Three trees leafing around in the backfield; Jardal, Faydre and Windshadow.

As Lady Jess said at the time, “I never would have imagined a year ago that someday I’d be in Bears’ guild, and I’d be tanking a raid while he healed it.”

Third, Elystia was back!

I’ve missed her terribly, it’s like having your sister move away. Ely and her hubby Cal have been moving to an entirely new home in Canada, and it’s been a long, hard time for them, living rough while renovations have been done. People move all the time, it’s true, and packing and moving and unpacking sucks… but let’s please have a moment’s quiet consideration for poor Ely and Cal, who had to live with Ely’s neo-luddite mother-in-law the whole time, a lady who thinks high technology is using a phone with buttons instead of a round dial. A wonderful woman by all accounts, but she just doesn’t understand that a person has needs… the kind of needs that only high speed internet can satisfy. She’s had no internet for months!

I’d crack. I’m not even remotely joking. I know I would, because in Pennsylvania when staying at a home that barely had electricity, I roamed the neighborhood looking for unsecured wireless networks to ninja, and spent time at the Public Library every day checking mail.

Oh yeah, it was also a notable raid in that we had the most disturbing vent conversation ever. We were recovering from a trash wipe (those pricks after Gluth, the ones with the knockback from heck, they suck when you’re not prepared to handle two of them at once and aren’t all the way in the room for the first knockback) and Penny Arcade’s latest post prompted a discussion that started with their list of phrases that aren’t dirty yet, but that they anticipate WILL be soon… and from there went on to discuss what a Dirty Sanchez is (and people ignored my advice to NOT look it up on the internet, did it anyway, and went eww… why do people not listen?) and then went all the way to discussing the aesthetic merits of Two Girls One Cup.

Warning; I swear to god, I will banhammer anyone in the comments that graphically describes, or links to, Two Girls One Cup. You’ve been warned. Just drop it. And no, if you don’t know what it is, you DO NOT, DO NOT want to look it up on Youtube.

No, really. Please. Just let it drop. Knowing what it is does not ‘enhance your cool’. In fact, I think I lost a gazillion cool points by knowing what it was… I blame listening to the hip hop radio morning show crew on the way to work. They talk about it on KDWB’s Dave Ryan Show all the time.

Who would have thought I’d end up regretting the day I stopped listening to political talk radio. At least Rush Limbaugh never talked about, or described, Two Girls One Cup.

Okay, anyway, moving past that (shudder)… we did not actually describe what it is, but just the thought of doing so was enough to send terror running freely, carrying scissors handle first, down the halls of vent. People typing in [sticks fingers in ears] lalalalalala and all the rest of it.

As far as the raid goes, I think we had a mostly wonderful time. We had some learning curves, which I think is understandable, but it was all learning the fights, we didn’t really have any gear check issues at any time.

You know when you’re fighting something, and you’re having trouble… you can feel the difference between struggling to win based on being undergeared, or struggling based on coordination and understanding of what to do. You might not be able to pin down who ain’t on the program, or exactly what is missing, but you know there was something that just wasn’t right.

As an example, our first shot at Grobbulus was pretty close, just a few slime add issues and a few bad Mutated Injection blooms… and our second attempt was pure running around like chickens with our heads cut off, blind panic.

You just step back and ask yourself, wtf did we do dere?

And then the third shot goes so smooth it’s damn near a record downing with nobody even mussed up.

That’s not gear, that’s poorly described fights and folks that are seeing things for the first time or working together for the first time. Whoops!

Another example is when we did Patchwerk, a fight that is generally a tank and healer gear check.

You might think, with Lady Jess main tanking Patchwerk, and having just earned her first Emblem of Heroism, that there were issues.

Nah. She was just fine. Neither tank ever went below 75% health for more than a millisecond.

Like I said, we had some fun, we fought our way in, had some interruptions but generally closed escrow.

And then we faced Thaddius. Ah, Thaddius.

I love that fight.

I also loved seeing Jess get tossed across the room over and over. That’s hilarious.

Anyway, I calmly described the entire fight, I walked through what we do for the two mini-bosses, the tossing, the threat pause after a toss, the keeping close to lightning generators, the 3 seconds you have after the mini-bosses die to jump off the back ledge and for the tank to engage the boss, the positions to stand for polarity shifts with Negative to the edge of the ledge in front of him, Positive to the vat behind him, running 10 yards apart counterclockwise around Thaddius like moons orbiting a planet to keep seperation, etc etc.

I was pretty pleased with myself. I think I covered it very well, and I felt the group exuding confidence.

We split into teams, and it was smooth as Babs.

Both bosses were DPSed at a nice, balanced rate, they died together, we gathered and jumped, Sux aggroed as the main tank perfectly on schedule, and I cat dashed to be right on his butt for insta-healing. Everyone hit the ledge, we were just nailing every phase. I felt so proud.

As Sux grabbed aggro and I dropped my first HoTs, Thaddius began casting Polarity Shift, and I prepared the raid for it, calling my reminder out over vent, “Polarity Shift in two seconds, Positive to the front, Negative to the rear, get ready!”


Oh, hell yes I did.

Some folks did what I told them to do during our preparation, and some folks did what I told them to do on vent at the time.

Raid go boom!

What’s funny is, I knew we were doomed as over half the raid went down, but I started the chain Battle Rezzes anyway. After all, you never know.

Well, yes, yes I did.

I, the Big Bear Butt, wiped the raid. And when I say wiped, I mean I am the annihilator, baby. Total and complete destruction.

I’d like to blame Cassie for standing over my shoulder distracting me… but she really had nothing whatsoever to do with it. The fact is, I simply let my mouth run on automatic pilot while my concentration was on positioning, wathcing main tank aggro and position, my position, who was alive and who made the jump, and all the other raid leader crap. Oh yeah, and casting heals.

My mouth apparently thinks we like to put the Positive charges on the edge. Who knew?

Brain was not involved at that moment in any way.

In fact, it took me a second or two for what I actually said to filter up into my brain, sink in, and kinda knock around for a moment, saying “Um, excuse me… you might want to run the instant replay on that one chief, I think there’s a flag on the play.”

On the plus side (sorry, sorry, can’t help it) we kicked his ass the second attempt… and then trashed Archavon and Lady Jess got to be lunged, grabbed and have her dwarf tanking butt tossed across the room. One of those moments that just make you glad you’re a tank.

So, a good time was had by all… I hope it was, anyway. I know I never mind the occasional wipe, I find the moments rather endearing.

If stuff is too damn easy, where’s the sense of accomplishment? The struggle makes victory taste all the sweeter.

Good job, everyone! It was a (ahem) blast!

Just keep tanking, just keep tanking

What do we do, we tank, tank….

Okay, aside from channeling Dory, what am I on about this time?

I’ve been having fun, trying to balance my time between what I’ve done for years, Bear tanking, and what I’ve just started having fun with, Tree healing.

I love healing, simply from the fact that it is new. Totally new. Not new like “Oh look I’m playing a different class that does melee DPS”, or “Oh look I’m playing a different class that does ranged DPS”, but “Omigod the entire party lives or dies depending on my whim. I am like unto a god! Muahahahahahaaaa!”


Sorry about that.

So anyway, tanking fun with Bears, oh my!

I was recently asked to answer some questions by Sylly of Rolling Hots, about Bear tanking… Bear tanking and what a healer ought to know.

It’s just one of a series that Rolling Hots did, introducing healers to each of the tanking classes, in the words of those that do the tanking themselves. It’s a nice idea, and she did a great job with it. Very good read.

Along the way, answering questions made me think about how the cahnges to Swipe ahve changed how I tank sometimes when I’m having fun, things I really haven’t talked too much about here.

How silly of me. I have long gotten tired of telling people who are already experts at Bear tanking things they already know about Bear tanking. But this… this is fun stuff that people might not have thought about or tried just yet! Well, shoot, that right there is worthy of a blog post!

Although the novelty of me writing about Bear tanking may cause long time readers to go into terminal shock.

I’ll risk it. */shiftyeyes*

Okay, so, things you already know.

  • Swipe is instant cast based on Rage (and the global cooldown).
  • Swipe affects a 360 degree around the Bear.
  • The target of Swipe does not have to be physically in range for Swipe to activate, and Swipe still will hit those other targets that ARE within range.
  • Bears cannot Dodge targets behind them.
  • Bears can cast Swipe while moving.

So here’s where I relate my fun.

In Culling of Stratholme/Heroic CoS, you could say the instance has three phases. The first phase would be the 10 waves, the second phase would be the Dragonkin battles in the Inn, and the third phase would be keeping that young punk ass Arthas alive as you run flat out through undead pafter the Inn, before you reach the final confrontation with Mal’Ganis (or rescue the dragon fro Chromie if you’re speedy enough on heroic).

So phase three. You’ve got Arthas, and lots of undead scrubs, and some elite undead and cultists of various types. Arthas loves to run ahead, and the undead has a very fast respawn rate, making slowing down too much a pain.

The normal progression of pulling/fighting in phase three makes for predictable difficulties.

Normally, a tank pulls (or charges), or at the least walks forward to attack a mob. Then, the melee DPS and pets run behind the mob to attack unaffected by Dodge.

Well, thats normally just fine, but with the fast spawn and frequent pathing movement of the undead in CoS phase three, this often results in the melee DPS being seen and attacked by the undead.

This FREQUENTLY happens if you did things the normal way.

Obviously all tanks that do Culling of Stratholme have worked out ways to address this.

For myself, the way I’ve found that is the most fun is to do the same thing you do when tanking Grobbulus in Naxxramas; kite your mobs while walking or moving backwards, and keep Swipe up in your rotation.

This lets you see everyone in front of you, so if one slips by on the right or left, you can Growl them at range back in to you.

As you waddle backwards, you are naturally attracting the attention of all the mobs first. You’re the first thing they see, so your melee players aren’t getting bothered. Sure, your healer is kept hustling to keep up, which is not nice… but they don’t have to spend so much time panic healing the DPS.

Yes, as you waddle backwards you are tanking with your butt… but as you continue to move, you move past the mobs, and gather them in… in front of you, where Dodge DOES work. So your window of vulnerability without Dodge is limited per mob as you are moving. Once you stop, IF you stop, that’s the time to adjust to get ’em all in front of you.

It’s fun. I find I like tanking with my butt. :)

Than you again to Sylly for getting me back into thinking about blogging about Bear stuffs… it is fun. I should do it more often!

Threat generation – A (brief) discussion

I think one of the most frequent questions I’m asked concerning Feral Bear Druiding is how to generate threat.

Often, I’m told that the person plays a Feral Druid, and has a hard time generating and holding aggro in group situations, but I don’t really get any specifics to help narrow down what might be wrong.

I’d like to help folks, I really would. But sometimes, talking about numbers of threat generated per second by ability and breaking down rotations and such doesn’t reall answer the question, which is… “what am I doing wrong?”

The answer may just be, “Nothing. You’re fine, it’s your group that needs to lrn2play.”

No, I’m not saying that IS the case. But it may be that you are doing everything to generate threat in a good, solid fashion, but your group, especially in a pug that is unfamiliar with your particular style, doesn’t understand how to work with you or what their timing should be without some suggestions.

First, let me remind folks who might be starting to play a tank class or spec for the first time, or are getting back into it for the first time since before Wrath of the Lich King was released, that Blizzard’s philosophy on choke points and group stress has changed.

I just use the term group stress to describe in general the concept that mechanics of group encounters are intentionally designed to have a team have to learn to overcome various choke points to succeed.

A choke point, of course, is one of the various specific things in an encounter that are made especially difficult, things that you have to overcome to succeed. Healing, Movement, Maximum Tank Survivability, High DPS in a short amount of time to beat an enrage timer, etc.

Once you learn how to handle the choke points reliably, the encounter usually gets put on ‘farm’ status.

There are role choke points, and there are situation choke points.

An example of a role choke point can be as simple as having enough DPS in the group to be able to kill Emalon before he hits the enrage timer.

An example of an encounter choke point is Thaddius, being able to sync your two teams’ DPS so that both mini-bosses die at almost precisely the same time, and then on Thaddius himself, having everyone in the raid be able to coordinate their movement so that they are aware of charge potentials, run to the appropriate spot once they switch, and still tank, heal and DPS well.  

People talk about Heigan and the safety dance, but the distinctive thing that makes that encounter difficult is the sudden requirement of synchronised movement from everyone in the raid. There is no enrage timer, so I’ve heard of teams of two people taking 30 minutes or more as the last two left alive, doing the dance and winning in the end.

Thaddius has that same movement requirement, but not as intensely. It reduces the movement difficulty, but adds the enrage timer so even if you have great movement skills as a team, you still need the DPS to beat the enrage timer.

My point is, prior to Wrath of the Lich King, one of the primary role choke points was threat generation.

In the game before Northrend, you had to learn how to generate as much threat as possible, and stack your gear appropriately, because individual player DPS was often capable of putting out far more damage/threat than what the tank could generate, even with threat multipliers.

From encounters as far back (and well known) as Onyxia, when everyone was required to wand and do white damage only to allow the main tank (usually a Warrior) to get 5 Sunders on the target before being allowed to ‘open up’ with the big guns, so that the tank had a big lead on threat, to as recently as Karazhan and other Outlands raids where DPS had to watch their Omen threat meter like a hawk because it was absurdly easy in the middle of a fight to blow past tank threat, it was something we all had to adjust to.

Tank threat generation was a role choke point. Not the only choke point, but certainly one of the most frustrating, because the better your DPS as a group got, the easier it was for those players to surpass the main tank’s threat. Suddenly, how much damage the entire group could do was throttled purely by a main tank’s threat generating capabilities.

Yes, this is why skills such as a Hunter’s Feign Death shone so highly, and became such a standard part of a rotation. 

Hopefully I have refreshed your memory on this issue? Very well then.

A lot of talk has been made about how crowd control pretty much died out in Wrath of the Lich King, until Ulduar was released. Now teams are rediscovering the joys of CC while tackling the hardest new content, after several months forgetting what CC stood for. What fun!

But what hasn’t been quite as widely talked about is that the choke point of threat generation was also pretty much killed off in Wrath, by design.

Blizzard immensely buffed specced tank threat generation in Wrath, to the point that you really should no longer have to worry about an optimized threat rotation, a serious tick by tick rotation, in any 5 man run or even a larger raid.

Instead, Blizzard chose to put the new main role choke point squarely on the shoulders of the healers.

As a tank, your new focus should be on maximizing your health, dodge and damage reduction first, because you need to give your healers every possible advantage you can in keeping you alive… and more importantly, giving them a chance to be able to ignore you while they heal party members that take ever increasing splash damage.

Most of the new encounters in Wrath involve widespread party damage, to stress the healers. Healer skill and gear and multitasking are, intentionally, what Blizzard wanted the new choke point to be. They have stated in blue posts that they wanted to get away from a single tank’s threat generation being the limiting factor, the choke point, in a raid.

If you have a very high health cap, great Dodge, good physical and magic damage mitigation, and a bunch of ‘oh shit’ abilities, using them at key moments can free your healers to spend that time worrying about healing up the group, and not babysitting you.

I do not do this well myself, at times. I’ll be up front about that. We always have slightly different healer composition on our guild runs, and I’m never quite sure who is doing what. They have a healer channel they communicate their strategy across, and often I ask if the healers are ready, and get told “we’re ready”. And I trust them. I don’t ask the details.

I have tried in the past to call out “Using SI and Frenzied Regen, you can ignore me for now” at key moments, but hey… I get wrapped up in that raid leadering thing way too much while I’m tanking. I forget to articulate what I’m doing to help the healers far too often, and it’s something I need to work on.

You should be focusing on increasing your survivability, and then afterwards buffing your threat generation, not because you have to, but because it will help ensure your attacks hit precisely when you need them to as your main DPS dealers go to godlike levels.

Nowadays, if your gear for tanking is fairly solid from Crafted, Reputation, Heroic drops and Emblem of Heroism rewards, you should never have to worry about the specific quantity of threat it is possible for you to generate.

On a single target fight, your threat should soar into the stratosphere compared to even the most insane DPS… provided everyone is working together with a certain basic understanding of how threat is generated, and by who, and when it’s appropriate for them to get going.

And that is the crux of the problem, I think. It’s not about how much threat YOU generate anymore, it’s about making sure everyone with you understands how they generate threat, and how to handle it.

Let’s assume a normal pull, 3 or 4 targets. As much as I enjoy playing with fancy pulls, they really are no longer necessary.

I once described pulls using a long cast Starfire on one, an instant Moonfire on another, shifting to Bear and throwing a Feral Faerie Fire on yet a third, and then getting ready to start some serous threat generation once they all get within range.

It’s just not necessary anymore. Fun, sure. Hey, the game is supposed to be fun, knock yourself out. Okay, starting on your main target with a big damage spell can be helpful, but if the group is working well together, it shouldn’t really make a difference.

For a regular pull these days, I usually throw down a Feral Faerie Fire on one mob to draw them all to me, and then once in range open with Swipe to generate threat on all mobs.

Once all mobs are within my range, and I may have to do some ranged Taunting, some ranged FFF, etc, maybe a Feral Charge to bring myself into a caster’s range, it all comes down to priorities.

As long as there are multiple mobs, Swipe is my first priority to counteract any direct damage threat generation caused by people being on the wrong target, or global threat from buffs and healing.

Mangle is my second priority, on my main kill target, because of the threat it causes, and because it adds the Bleed effect that Cassieann the Rogue loves.

Maul is my third priority, using it every time it’s available AND I have comfy rage levels (which, when tanking multiple mobs, should be NO issue because your Dodges and Crits are generating rage, and when you Swipe usually one or another thing is a Crit) because it does awesome damage, and when glyphed is nailing two targets for the price of one, adding even more threat on one of the extras.

My last priority is Lacerate, tossed whenever both Mangle and Swipe are on cooldown. Lacerate does reasonable threat, provides a nice DoT, slows my target’s attack speed, and with my current spec each DoT tick has a chance to Crit, which, again, adds to Rage generation and to the new Bubble procs.

That’s it. That’s all of it. The rest is ‘oh shit’ buttons and situationals, when I’ve got the luxury.

If your gear follows some of my previous posts on where you should be at for Heroics, and if you are specced properly,  and if you understand why this is the rotation priority I use… then you should have no problem generating and holding single target or group threat… provided your teammates are working with you, and not against you.

Threat control is not solely your job. Yes, you can put a ton of threat out now. There are times when, no kidding, I know ten seconds into the fight I’ve already dealt all the threat I’ll need for the rest of the encounter before the mob is dead, and can freely go get a Mountain Dew or, realistically, switch to a different target if there is one to build up more threat, or simply sandbag it with auto attack for a few seconds to let rage build up to max in anticipation of the next pull in the chain. 

No, I don’t recommend walking away and getting a Mountain Dew mid-fight. That was a joke. You never know who might be reading this from my guild, and I wanted to make sure you know, I’d NEVER, EVER, walk away from a fight and get a nice, frosty cold beverage. Nuh uh. Nope, not me.

Umm, okay. Moving along….

Yes, if you are prepared and know what YOU are doing, you can generate a lot of threat now. But the rest of the team has their own responsiblity for understanding what threat is, and how to manage it.

For example, if the DPS opens up on your main target when all you’ve done so far is pull with Feral Faerie Fire… the mob will go straight to them.

Yes, I promise! No, I know you’ve NEVER seen that happen before… you’ll have to take my word for it.

A long time ago, I wrote an article for WoW Insider on the Shifting Perspectives column concerning threat generation, and how the actual mechanics of threat works. I probably went into too much detail on it, but I wanted to write a basic primer on how, exactly, threat works in a group, and I think I nailed it at the time. I’ll try and dig up that link and post it here, but in the short term, threat generation works like this;

If you deal direct damage to a mob, there is threat associated with that damage, on that mob.

That mob may be alone, or may be tied as a group with other mobs. If you deal damage to a mob tied to a group, you have generated threat with the mob you damaged, and you have gained the attention of, but generated zero threat with, the rest of the mobs in his group.

At this point, every mob in that group will have their attention focused on you… but only the mob you damaged and generated threat with is actually tied to you. The others are coming after you, but just out of a spirit of camaraderie and goodwill towards their buddy. If anyone angers them, in any way, they will choose enlightened self interest and go racing off to get revenge on whoever pissed ’em off.

If nothing angers the rest of the group, then once they get within your range you can Swipe once, deal damage to all of them (assuming you hit each of them), and generate threat with all of them. NOW they are all tied to you, and as you continue to hurt them all, you will continue to generate threat with them all.

One way many tanks ensure they can quickly generate this group threat is by using Feral Charge to get into knife-fighting range of all of them immediately, popping two Swipes back-to-back to build up fast group threat, and then settle down into single target threat/group Swipe rotations as I described earlier.

Another way, of course, is by doing a line of sight pull, especially with groups of mixed caster/melee, or with groups that start spread out where a single Swipe won’t tag them all. In this case, you choose one mob of the group, use a ranged attack (like Feral Faerie Fire or Starfire or Moonfire), and then turn around and run like hell to get around a corner or other terrain feature so none of the mobs can see you anymore. Once they cannot see you, they all run forward until they can… and that gets them right into your knife-fighting range as soon as they pop around a corner into your snarling face.

Another similar method to accomplish the same thing is to sit your butt behind the terrain feature, let a Hunter put his pet on Passive/Stay, and then let them Misdirect a single mob onto you, sending them all running your way. This works better when mobs do a chain pull effect similar to the Death Knight Death Grip, such as some abominations do, or if some of the mobs have a ranged charge that can stun you in place before you reach the corner.

The key to all of this, is that you are the only one doing any damage or attacking these mobs, until such time as you have established threat by using a threat generating attack. The Hunter, for example, must stop his attack as soon as the Misdirect is done.

The rest of your party generates threat in one of two ways; direct threat, and global threat.

Direct threat is caused by direct damage. If someone does damage to a mob, they generate threat on the mob. The key to direct damage is, only the mob they are doing damage to has threat generated. The rest of the mobs, EVEN if they have zero threat with the tank, will not be pulled away because none of them have any threat from the direct damage attacks.

If you mark a single mob as a kill target, you pull with a Faerie Fire, and everyone opens up on it and only it the millisecond after you nail it with Mangle… not a single other mob should get pulled off of you, because nobody generated any other threat through damage.

If someone opens up with an area of affect damaging attack, however, they are now hitting everyone… and may be applying damage and generating threat with mobs you have not, as of yet, hit.

Thus, why I recommend opening with Swipe, twice in a row, to counteract the tendency of most groups I’ve seen where the Hunter and Mage love to start with AoE. As long as you’re prepared, you should be able to get in your hits before they do… as long as they actually can wait for that first Swipe to go in.

If they want to hit the entire group before there is any remote possibility you could have Swiped them… well, repair bills will either teach them the monetary value of patience, or you’ll get told you suck as a tank.

Now, the other kind of threat is Global Threat. This is caused by all healing… and by all buffs that change your stats.

Global Threat is based off of who is zooming who, who is aware of whom in the fight.

If you have not pulled, and you’re just sitting there, rebuffing and healing and eating food causes no threat with anyone. Nobody knows you’re there.

If the tank, and only the tank, has pulled a group and is fighting, then the mobs are utterly unaware of the rest of the groups’ presence. They are not yet in combat. They can begin to eat food, whatever. As soon as a person does any kind of damage to a mob in the group though, that player is now known to exist by the entire group of mobs.

If a healer then heals that person that had just done damage, the entire group of mobs is now aware of the presence of the healer… and Global Threat will be generated with each heal the healer does, spread out amongst the group.

If the healer then tosses a heal or buff to someone not yet in combat, the group of mobs knows about that person… even though that person has taken no action as of yet. It’s all a chain of whos zooming who.

If someone drinks a healing pot mid-fight, that generates global threat. If someone rebuffs mid-fight, that deals global threat.

If, say, the tank pulls with a Feral Faerie Fire, and as the group is coming towards the tank, the healer casts a minor heal or HoT on the tank, and the tank was NOT at full health at the start? As soon as actual healing is done to the tank, as soon as REAL damage, whether pre-existing or not, is healed, then all mobs that were aware of the tank are now aware of the healer… and threat is being generated by the amount of damage healed, and those other mobs will peel off and head for the healer if they haven’t been directly hit by the tank yet.

You see? It’s all about situational awareness, and knowing when it’s safe to start doing your thing.

For a healer, the first time to cast any spell is after every mob in a group has been tagged by the tank at least once. Because your threat is generated by the amound of actual damage healed, not the POTENTIAL amount healed, then HoTs generate less up-front threat than a Greater Heal on a critically low tank would.

But your threat caused by healing is also spread out over the entire group. If you are healing a target that is fighting 5 mobs, your threat is divided by 5, applied to each mob. It lets the tank quickly build up so much group threat through AoE like Swipe, that there will be no normal way for you to ever pull aggro, if you just wait a second or two.

For DPS, the first time to attack the main target is after the main tank has done at least one initial solid attack. Once the main target gets within range of the tank’s serious attacks, it should quickly become impossible for you to pull threat off the tank on that one target.

For DPS on a group of mobs, the first time to use AoE is after the main tank has had a chance to use an AoE threat generator, like Consecration or Swipe or Death and Decay on the entire group. Only after that point is it safe to throw down on the entire group, and even then be careful of the damage you do, because the group of mobs only gets AoE threat (and Mauls), the main target is the one that’s really getting all the main tank’s love. Your threat from AoE damaging attacks is Direct Threat, and is NOT spread out… each mob is gaining a lot of threat, and you WILL pull aggro from the tank a lot faster than a healer ever will.

So… why are tanks having a hard time holding threat in groups?

I think that, after breaking it down, you can see many potential areas where aggro can be pulled.

Are the healers and DPS waiting long enough for the tank to establish a little threat on the entire group?

Did the tank manage to get ALL mobs in a group in his range to generate threat?

Are the DPS unloading on group AoE before the tank has grabbed threat on them all?

Is one of the DPS targeting, and going all out, on a target OTHER than the tanks’ primary kill target (the mob he is focusing all of his non-AoE threat generating abilities on?)

Is the tank opening up as soon as possible with AoE to generate threat on everyone?

Is the tank gathering the mobs in so everyone is in range, or so that those not in range get CCed so as to not be free to hit the first healer to generate Global Threat?

It doesn’t all come down to ‘the tank sucks’, as much as a group might like to think so.

Responsibility for threat control is in the hands of every member of the group. That’s why everyone is supposed to use a threat monitor like Omen, so you can see the main tank’s threat on the target you are fighting, and make sure you do not go over.

That is why Omen has settings for watching your threat on all mobs that are aware of you, so if you ARE generating global threat or AoE threat, you can watch to make sure you’re not overtaking the tank on group threat on any one particular mob.

And finally… it is why there is so much room for fun when it comes to Taunting abilities.

The core mechanic of a Taunt like Growl, is that it generates zero threat of  it’s own… it only raises your threat level on that target to suddenly be higher than anyone else’s.

This can be fun to play with.

The warning, of course, is it makes no sense to pull with a Taunt like Growl, because while it did get the mob’s attention, it did zero threat. The slightest breeze of healing from a caster and the mob is running away after them.

Taunts are for using in the middle of a fight, when a mob runs free and you need to pull it to you NOW… by jumping your threat above everyone else.

If you have two tanks and one mob, you can totally ping pong the poor mob by Taunting to you, whacking it a few times, and then having the other tank Taunt and whack a few times, and back and forth. The key is you have to generate more threat while it’s on you, and then the other tank has to generate more threat while it’s on him. Gives you something to keep topping when you Taunt.

It’s what the bear boss in Zul’Aman was all about. Timed Taunting.

Another thing, as I’ve mentioned in a previous post, is that your Taunt is now ranged.

If you have a single mob at range, and the rest is in your face, and you don’t want to physically go to where the ranged mob is for fear of pulling extra mobs or groups, you can have one ranged DPS attack that ranged mob, generating ranged Direct Threat (and yes, taking damage from that mob), and then as soon as the mob has some serious threat built up on it, you can Taunt it, and the ranged DPS can immediately switch to one of your melee targets.

That leaves you with a lot of threat on that one ranged target, because your threat was immediately jumped ABOVE whatever the ranged DPS had caused. The ranged DPS is no longer causing threat to the target because he’s moved on to your main kill target, and the threat you have on the ranged mob will EASILY counter the global threat your healers will generate, until you get the chance to go after him.

No, you don’t have to rely on Misdirect all the time. You’ve got your own options.

Of course, some mobs are immune to Taunt. God, I hate that. Knowledge is power, and knowing which ones are immune helps your life immensely.

The last thing to remember, the very last thing, is to know that you do not pull aggro away from the tank just by being 1 tick of threat over the tank. You have to surpass the tank by a certain percentage before you actually pull the attention of the mob away.

And the percentage you can go over changes based on how close to the mob you are.

If you are in direct knife-fighting range of the mob, it takes much less threat over the tank to pull aggro than if you were at a distance. 

If you are a ranged DPS class, you want to be at or near to your max range, so that you have plenty of cushion before you go over the tank’s threat.

If you are a melee class, then you want to be aware of what skills and spells you have to dump threat, like a Feral Druids’ Cower, so that when your threat is peaking you can dump it down as you go.

Hunter’s, this is why you want to turn off Growl and turn on Cower when in group situations. Your pets, especially for Beastmasters, do a lot of damage, all in melee range, and your method of reducing the threat caused by damage is by turning the pet’s Cower on Auto.

If Growl is on, obviously Cower should be off, and vice versa.

Okay. I think that’s it. Hopefully, Cassie will have a moment or two to look up and add the link to that old WoW Insider post sometime today. I went into the actual numbers and percentages for all of this in that post, and I just don’t see the need to go into all of that again. Threat has been changed enough that it should be enough for you to know how it works (or be reminded), and to know what to watch, and you’ll be JUST fine.

Feel free in the discussion to go into a lot more detail as to how you like to generate your threat, how you like to pull, what stats you like for getting ‘enough’ hit and expertise to make your shots count when you need them to, and by all means don’t limit it to just Druids.

The main thing I hope for is that post helps answer a lot of the questions that I get about threat generation, and if it doesn’t, by all means ask your question in the comments as well. I figure if I get that many emails about it, there just might be a lot more folks that wonder but don’t ask.