Archive for the “Tanking” Category

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.

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