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.


35 thoughts on “Threat generation – A (brief) discussion

  1. Tank threat is scaling much slower than DPS threat generation. If your Mages and Locks aren’t starting to push you as they get Ulduar gear, their doing something wrong.

    There’s also two fights in particular that stress Tank threat generation, Malygos and General Vezax. Both fights include areas in which the DPS stand to get a significant buff to their DPS and threat generation.

    So threat hasn’t quite been killed off as a choke point and as gear continues to improve it will continue to get tougher on tanks.


  2. –Maerdred sits down for the final few minutes of his Lunch break and opens Google Reader only to see a BBBB post entitled “Threat generation – A (brief) discussion”
    –5 minutes later–
    He calls this BRIEF??!?!!
    –5 more minutes later–
    Ohh he mentioned healers.
    –5 more minutes later–
    Oh screw this. TLDR. I’m going back to work.


  3. Great article on threat, B^3 😀 I always enjoy your walls of text. Two small points of correction, though.

    Honorshammer made one of the points I intended to make – in some encounters, situational buffs can send the DPS players’ threat soaring far ahead of the tank if they’re not careful.

    Malygos, for example, occasionally spawns Power Sparks around the perimeter of the fight area. If they reach him, he gains a massive damage buff, so the raid has to kill them. When they die, they leave an aura behind on the ground that increases damage dealt by 50% and stacks up to twice. A well-positioned raid that’s on the ball with sparks will have DPS putting out 100% more damage than the tank. Since this buff is more or less required to beat the fight’s Berserk timer, DPS will have to take full advantage of it while watching their threat carefully.

    The other point I wanted to make was a small one. You mentioned “ping ponging” mobs back and forth using Taunt – this is still possible but only in a very limited capacity. Taunts now suffer from diminishing returns and if a mob is Taunted back and forth rapidly it will become Taunt-immune until the diminishing returns effect wears off.


  4. Maerdred… “Oh screw this”? Yeah, whatever.

    Honor and Neil… thank you for the comments. In general, I really don’t think that the audience this is written for is clearing Ulduar at this moment as a main tank, but your points make me feel that maybe I didn’t cover enough about threat generation in specific encounters with this post.

    I do think that if you’re clearing Ulduar and Eye of Eternity as a main tank, and any of this post is news to you, then you are both extremely skilled and have a great crew that works together intuitively, and I salute you.


  5. I would make a couple specific points about this, from somebody who does a fair bit of tanking throughout most of Ulduar. (Yes, you do have readers who raid there).

    Maul is the single largest portion of bear threat, upwards of 60% plus of your total threat output. It also tends to scale very well with haste buffs, as well, and as such we get a very significant threat boost during things like Heroism, as well as other encounter specific haste buffs. (Lights in Hodir, for an example).

    Threat isn’t one of the largest encounter choke points in the game anymore, but it is still there. Neil mentions the sparks on Malygos as one example, but there are some similar buffs available in Ulduar that provide similar problems. Iron Council has a rune that increases the damage done by those standing in it, Hodir has haste buffs, crit damage buffs built into it, and General Vezax has a buff that players can take that can increase magical damage by a very large amount. I remember Sunday night, for instance, on our first night working on him. One of our mages stepped into the pool from a shadowcrash, and started throwing 30k Fireballs, ripping threat away from the threat lead I had. Fortunately, he wasn’t surprised, and Ice-blocked, got a Hand of Protection from one of the Pallies, then popped Invis, able to carry on.

    As far as specifics for build and rotation go, I use a build with no Improved Mangle and full Natural Shapeshifter. The rotation with this typically goes something like FFF(which does about as much threat as Mangle does since patch 3.1)->Mangle->Lacerate->Swipe, or some variant there of, always keeping Maul queued. For AoE situation, its a spamfest of Swipe, and tab-Mauling (Glyph of Maul). While the AoE threat isn’t as solid as a Paladin or a DK, it’s still enough to keep ahead of the DPS.


  6. Jeebers, BBBBBBBB, just ’cause it be yer anniversary is no excuse fer ta writes such a short, slackified post. Great googly moogly. I mean, is what? 5784297526718657054189 words? max?

    Oh, and is big hairy congo rats ta you and Missus Butt!


  7. Yah know I was going to ask you in Guild chat for some info on threat generation and you go and make a detailed post about it. Moondancer is 24 so she’s a long way from Ulduar, but this will definitely help me out in the instances I encounter. I’ve run EOE with a Horde tank. I was healing and it was a lot of fun. Who knows perhaps my Druid will experience that some day. Anyway great post, it is informative and I’ve printed and added to my Druid pile. I enjoy your long posts. 🙂


  8. Lol Ratshag, thank you very much. Hey, I said it was a brief discussion… I never said it was brief by YOUR terms, just mine!

    Atros, your post has me feeling bad now.

    I have to admit, I never expected anyone that raids in Ulduar to bother reading my blog anymore. I don’t pretend to offer advice to folks that are in there and getting it done on a daily basis, since you certainly have taken it to the next step and beyond what I do in game. Kudos to you.

    It’s one reason I never did another gear post. I pretty much assumed that, with the growing maturity of the entire player base, the need for someone like me to do a gear guide, for anything beyond the starting points of getting ready for Naxx, was unnecessary. I figure, once folks are at that point, they stop reading my blog and take flight on their own.

    I don’t know, maybe if folks are still reading even after going and taking on the most advanced content in game, I should do a modern version of the gear list. I suppsoe there IS the new stuff from the Argent Tourney to go with the Ulduar loot, and then there is the stuff that is BoE you can buy with Emblems of Valor. Hmmm.


  9. Fantastic post, BBB! This was just what I needed. Newly 80 and been away from my fuzzy behind view for quite a while.


  10. I’ve come across similar questions from feral druids about threat. The difference between their questions and what you seem to have addressed is that you’re dealing with trash-type situations with multiple mobs, and they’re having issues on single immobile targets (i.e. Patchwerk or a similar encounter).

    The issues I’ve been able to see (if it helps anybody else) are of two varieties. First, in an attempt to make a more hybridized feral spec–friendly to both bear and kitty–people have skipped over all those talents that either generate rage or lower rage cost. They will complain about being rage-starved, but have stacked the deck against themselves. Second, they have spent every last ounce of gearing on stamina. They have a massive health pool and NO stats aimed toward threat generation and very little toward avoidance.

    Just my two cents.


  11. Gear is getting pretty complex, there is alot of gear in naxx that as a hunter is either an upgrade or a downgrade depending on the rest of the gear and my hit rating. For example, i got 6 new pieces of loot last night. I’m going to have to go through my entire gear set and regem for +hit to make sure I am hit capped at first.

    I imagine bear stuff has simliar trade offs (for us its AP versus haste, crit, armor pen). I think the key is synergy; my gear set of half blues was as good as a bunch of naxx gear simply because everything worked to get me to hit cap and give crit and so forth. Not like I am a hunter god, i take what I can get. I have the rogue pants from heroics and the feral staff from hVH.


  12. I thought Maerdred’s comment was funny 😀 But then again I read the whole blog entry before I got to it 😉

    Great post, Big Bear


  13. #1 My dictionary agrees with BBB’s usage of the word: “Brief (verb, trans.) Instruct or inform (someone) thoroughly, esp. in preparation for a task.” – Oxford American Dictionary

    #2 Love this post, BBB. Being an angry spam can (ie warrior) and not having a face-tanker (ie druid) of my own, I really learned alot from this post. Not about the generation of threat but of the differing modes of generation by class.

    Stop reading now if you don’t care about warrior threat!

    Warriors have very limited AoE threat generation. In fact, in order to generate threat on groups of mobs greater than two, we really have only two abilites: Thunder Clap and Shockwave. These two abilites give alot of threat at the expense of a long(-ish) cooldown. Other than that, threat involves alot of tab targeting and the application of Heroic Strike (single target Maul equivalent) on every weapon swing.

    All that to say: Man, I love learning and even when one already knows something they can always learn more if they but look for it. Thanks Bear!


  14. Even though I used to read a lot about druids all through TBC and Wrath, and could tank everything asked of me in TBC, I was having troubles with aoe tanking when I first hit 80. I still tried to use CC when everyone wanted to aoe. I blamed my lack of aoe aggro on bear mechanics and blaming swipe because swipe alone will not hold aggro on all mobs when you have strong dps. I know it has briefly been mentioned but somehow in all my readings it had never actually clicked in and I’m guessing since I was able to hold aggro fine in TBC, it had no need to click in before. It finally was revealed to me by a patient fellow druid, patient through all my excuses and trying to defend my tanking skills to learn that maul has no global cooldown! I used to have no idea what people meant by use maul if you have rage, (I always had tonnes of rage using all the moves I possibly could), and I did not know what they meant by having maul queued up. I for some reason had always thought that I had to wait and let it go off or else, if I used mangle or something else before it did, I thought it would cancel it. Boy did I feel like the biggest idiot. I felt like quitting right there and then. After I got over myself, I gave it a go and my aggro shot right up and my friends were able to call me a good tank again (thank goodness!). Maybe I am the only one who was so ignorant about the class I loved and read so much about, but perhaps you should mention this to those asking why they can’t keep threat. Talents for improved swipe,swiping and keeping maul ready to go with the maul glyph has been all I need to keep aoe aggro above everyone else besides the odd other tank. Mangles and lacerates every now and then and switching up the main target makes things a little more fun as well.


  15. Hey BBB, I think this is my only second post, but I have been reading your blog since BC. In fact your blog is the only one I read. I have to say I love your blog and grats on 8 year of marriage. Please dont listen to the negative people about your blog, like I said I love it and I check it 3-4 times a week and read back to get caught up. Some of my favorvite posts of yours was the one about Fox and theyre reality show about fires people and then the one about Brittany Spires song, I loved those.

    Now on to the tanking front, I’m in a small guild like yourself that just mainly runs 10 mans and we are in Ulduar. I tanked all of BC on my druid but when the annoucement of LK came out we lost a few people so I switched to Resto on my druid and for most of LK he was my main, then recently about a month ago we lost a tank to real life issues which is fine with us. So in my off time I had leveled my warrior(my first toon, always a special place in my heart) and begin building his gear, well I wasnt tanking on my druid anymore so I figured I would have a offspec for tanking on my warrior, well I got quite lucky with gear and he got be pretty well geared. When we lost our Tank, i offered to switch my main from my druid to my warrior to tank, as our GM is a druid tank also, so 2 druid tanks dont work well for progression, so I’m tanking on my warrior now.

    Now onto your post, yes threat is much easier in LK now than it was in BC, but as you get into Ulduar it starts to go back. I found myself being lazy because I never had to worrry about threat in 5 mans or even Naxx, but now that we have several pieces of gear out of Ulduar, it reminds me of BC, working my butt off to stay in the lead on the threat meters, in fact i had disabled Omen for most of LK until recently(lol).

    One question for you BBB, do you find tanking on your druid not as fullfilling as in BC, it almost seems to easy, too spammy. Which is another reason I like tanking on my warrior, there is no spamming on him.

    Thanx BBB for the post, keep up the good work and sorry for my horrible writing, I hope one day I can write like you, keep it up, there are us out there that read all time and dont comment, but we do read and enjoy it very much.


  16. LOL… choke points indeed.

    Incidently, I was caught up in one of those 3 man Heigan marathon sessions a couple days back.

    Me Bear, Holy Pally pal, Smart Hunter. Oh..and good dancing shoes. And..butt swipe FTW…I was able to use butt swipes while kiting heigan through the dance and keeping above the hunter’s threat… that and I think he’s also doing a good job of monitoring TPS.

    Threat is almost never an issue now.

    On fights like Sarth, where the DPS are keen as hell to go from the moment I charge, I usually shift for furor, enrage, feral charge, barkskin on boss contact, mangle,lacerate till 5 stacks, then pop berserk and keep mangle and lacerate up while rotating maul swipes and FFF. And watch TPS go like a rocket.

    🙂 Just my 2 copper.


  17. Don’t usually post long winded Replys.

    But here’s something that I’ve been mucking around with that I’d like to share with my fellow bears.

    @ Seleria

    Yes, I agree with the observation that a lot of feral druids these days are going the polar stamina kitty specced bear form route. While they start with 35k health, they have nothing in the bag for mitigation what so ever, and given that they’ve just stacked the hell out of stamina and pretty nothing much else, it basically just extends the TTL bu a couple of seconds while soaking up heals from the bewildered healer.

    This stems from the kitty ferals being asked to prepare a tanking/OTing set and not know much about bear mechanics for mitigation and threat generation. So they stack the only thing they think will keep them above the water. Oh..and agility too. It’s not a bad choice given their situation. It’s just not a very ‘beary’ approach.

    I too, have met my share of tradition bear where little regard is given to hit ratings. But they do their jobs just as well by stacking agility, dodge, and armour and stamina. It’s just different approaches.

    @ Rob

    Yes, gear balance is VERY important as opposed to gear level. I , like you, gear specifically for function over gear level. ie… if the blue does the job better than the purple for my purpose and nets a better end result, guess what. I’d take the blue. Case in point. Bindings of the Tunneller and Chain Gang Leggards. But I have since replaced these.

    My current approach as a Feral tank. And this is coming from works done by Kalon (ThinkTank) and Karthris (Of teeth and claws), I won’t take credit for their theory crafting. And although they’ve moved away from building the hybrid feral. I am having so much fun with it.

    1) 30k health self buffed IMotW.
    2) Hit capped as bear.. yes. I know.
    3) 33 expertise. 2 points in primal precision (ya..I know… just ‘bear’ with me)
    4) 2 points in ThinkHide (I can hear bears screaming bloody murder
    5) 2 points in infected wounds (I can hear ya…)
    6) 2 points in primal gore (did I name it correctly? it’s that talent that lets lacerate and bleed DoTs crit and hence proc SD)
    7) Other points for kitty dps in the ‘right’ places (master shapeshifter, shredding attacks etc)

    7) Gear for dodge (38.5% in bear form), Crit (35% bear 40% cat..go figure:P ) and AtP.

    Now, if you follow this approach… you have no problems with threat. And in kitty in tank gear, even give the DPS a good run for their money. Savage Defence procs with good authority.

    This has allowed me to tank up to Sapp. And contribute above average DPS in kitty in a 20 men H OS run in the same set of gear, with the option to go bear and tank adds if needed.

    Having said that tho, I have the support of very good healers. 😛

    Hope this helps.


  18. /Agree Atros.

    Yeah, Bear, you have Ulduar raiders in here. 😀 We just love reading what you write. Try throwing Feral Faerie Fire in your rotation when it’s on cooldown and see what that does for your threat gen. With the upped dmg and increased threat, it’s actually really good for threat gen (better than one lacerate, I’d venture). Stacking lacerates is still necessary of course, but it’s moved down my priority list. Maul is always queued up for me, but then I rarely have rage starvation. It’s different for heroics and such, so I usually just put on some dps gear and that helps.

    For a while I refused to drop Imp. Mangle from my build… but once I did it was a lot easier to rotate the FFF and mangle cooldowns, and I seem to be putting out better threat, plus doing that and juggling around points to get the Master Shapeshifter helped a lot. It did mean I lost dps when I shift to kitty during a fight, but I needed it for Ulduar. But all that’s min/maxing for max survival+threat. A lot of druids (including me) like keeping a hybrid build to OT/dps. I just didn’t quite have the gear to pull that off when my group moved to Ulduar.

    *Hugs* Don’t let the dumbasses ever get ya down.


  19. Just quickly want to mention Loatheb. If your tank has the buff from the spores, (s)he generates no threat.
    Also H CoS, especially timed when everyone is pushing dps and the tank has to grab the elites out of packs of non-elites, while moving and building threat, the dps can overtake the tank on threat, which is really irritating.


  20. You’re spot on, and thank you. I hope this post gets the treatment it deserves and every dps in the game is forced to read it as part of the terms of service.
    Argue about the examples and particulars all you like, but dps has absolute responsibility to be watching and reacting to how the tank plays; not the other way round. Tank leads the pull, move mobs, sets CC etc. Why in hell should dps consider that they can just ping the AoE button(s) and everything will be ok? I’m a dual spec dps / tank, and it drives me nuts when a dps goes nuts at either the wrong target, or just starts AoE while I’m doing positioning. Grrrr.


  21. Beathooven – I hear you on HCoS with the threat race. I have had quite a number of stupid wipes in there where people are going for the timed run and overtake the tank on threat. Cue me dropping all my emergency heal buttons on the non-tank and then don’t have them available for when the tank starts getting shredded a moment later.


  22. After I’m done ROFLing at Ratshag calling Cassie “Missus Butt”…


    Ok, done. 🙂

    Personally, as a hunter, when I’m MD’ing a pack of trash mobs onto a tank, I use Multi-shot. I figure a little threat on three mobs is better than a lot of threat on one, in case someone busts out the AOE a few seconds too soon. Of course, if there’s more than three mobs in the pack, there’s still danger of a clothy getting gnawed on, but I figure I did my part! 😉

    And Happy Anniversary, too! I didn’t get a chance to stop by yesterday.


  23. BBB,

    Great post. And yes, some of us Ulduar raiders/tanks do enjoy reading your blog. It’s nice to see a reaffirmation of what one is doing, and to double check that one’s grasp of the details was not lacking.

    I’m dual spec’d Balance/Bear, doing most of my tanking in 10man Ulduar, and the occasional tanking of 25man Hodir or Thorim. Threat, as you say, is often very easy to maintain with a good raid. As mentioned by several other posters, the situational buffs that DPS can get in some encounters does make it more difficult.

    Of note, I found Hodir (25man) threat management vital. When a couple of the DPS players find a spot next to the fire, next to the crit buffed player, while standing in a moonbeam they can seriously dish out the threat.

    Keep up the good work.


  24. I have 2 places where threat is a problem right now.

    Ignis, because of all the movement and wearing all polar gear.
    Hodir, see above plus DPS is getting buffed.

    I am going to start playing with health levels to see just how low I can go and still be kept up.


  25. We tease out of affection. Read the title, laughed, then scrolled to see just how long it really was. Only had to hit page down… 10 times… so… short! =) And hey, in my book, a discussion is kinda long on it’s own. This was kind of a “brief” one. Sort of. OK, it was long, but we still love ya.

    Heck yeah you have Uldar readers, you’re a great blogger period.


  26. BBB you’re way to modest. You are the venerable BBB, a stalwart member of the feral community. I’ve MTed all of Uldar now, but it was only after finding your blog a year or two ago, and discovering the clefthoof set at the same time that I came to know a true and lasting joy in feral tanking. I always read your articles, and especially the ones about druids.


  27. lol… ah yes…the good ol clefthoof set pre nerf.. brings back memories (teary eyed..)

    I remember reading BBB when I first started tanking, and then buying my Warden Staff at level 43 and chanting it with +25 agi and blowing all my gold. I then had my trusty tanking weapon until I got to level 64 and grabbed the Braxxis 😛 good times indeed.

    btw, tanked Korgy and XT last night. First incursion (yea I know, a tad slower than a lot of bears in here, but it’s a casual guild) In polar for the added padding. And I’ll have to agree with Jace. I might have to see if the healers can keep me up if I start trading stamina for agility, dodge, hit and attackpower cos I didn’t find the need to use the polar set for Sapp. There were definately some close moments there with TPS with the trigger happy going nuts within 3 seconds of the pull.



  28. One note on initial pulls… ever since 2.whatever (the big patch right before Wrath came out), I’ve noticed something tanking that never occurred before…

    I’d walk into Slave Pens, or Kara, or any other at-level instance in the game; we’d all buff. Finish buffing. Readycheck. I’d head towards a group and throw FFF on one of them. And one of the other little buggers would amble right past me towards that oh-so-squishy mage that hadn’t even been buffing himself since I pulled.

    There are two possibilities here (that I can think of):

    a) Said mage/warlock/whatnot (it has happened on multiple occasions) was lying, every time. This is not inconceivable, but I’d hope my friends in-game wouldn’t lie to me like that, and I’ve heard “Oops, I popped [Threat-Causing Ability] before you hit it, my bad.” plenty of times.

    b) They tweaked aggro someone so it’s not so straight-forward on pulls.

    I’m not the only tank who’s noticed it, but rather than doing research, I make sure I get a swipe in before they get past me… I’ve been a wee bit on the lazy side there.

    It still happens, however, and to other tanks too. Have you noticed it, by any chance?


  29. Regarding Cower:

    I was reading the tooltip on said pet spell and it tells me that: “Cower, causing no damage but lowering your threat, making the enemy less likely to attack you” seems to indicate that the spell is intended for the Hunter, lowering the Hunter’s threat, and not the actual pet.

    Any one actually successfully tested this on training dummies and on OMEN?

    I am in Australia and unfortunately, my net ping is such that I cannot track the change in TPS adequately to come to a satisfactory conclusion.

    Any assistance would be very helpful and will engender much thanks.


  30. Handy article, thank you 🙂

    There’s an add-on called ‘tank warnings’ – sends a raid warning when you use panic-button abilities. I find it’s a handy way to warn the healers that you’ve used them without needing to type or call out.


  31. Kbear, one thing to keep in mind…

    Anything that raises stats, such as Strength, Health or Wisdom, Agility, et al generate threat.

    I cannot answer you as to why, if you had just done an initial pull, anyone else would pull aggro by doing a self buff like eating food, drinking, or using the Warlock’s ability to swap health for mana. Since you were the only one taking an action, the others should not as of yet been in combat and the mobs should not have even known they existed.

    But I can tell you that, if the Warlock had tossed a single dot or any kind of attack at your incoming main target, and had THEN traded health for mana, every other mob would have had threat generated from the Mana gain and gone after him.

    Just a thought.

    I have noticed irregularities in global threat and mob awareness dating from the same time as well, but I’ve never been able to pin down wth might be causing it on a consistent basis. I just know that I feel someone has a self buff that is bugged and IS causing aggro as if it affected the tank, because as I said, I’ve seen the same kind of thing on occasion.

    Maybe part of it is I never run with a Warlock in the group. The guild has two at 80, and one doesn’t run with me, and the other plays his Paladin most of the time as heals. So maybe it’s a Warlock only thing that I haven’t had the chance to see often enough.


  32. Ok this is more of a healer question, but it’s still threat related – How does pre-HoTing work wrt threat? For example, pre-pull I throw a HoT (or 3) on the MT. Neither of us are in combat at this point. MT initiates pull so he’s in combat, I do nothing. Then the HoTs tick or bloom, do I get global aggro (and in-combat) out of that? I’ve read it both ways, yes I do, no I don’t. I even once heard the claim that a LB bloom would apply its threat to the recipient if the caster was still out of combat. I suppose it would be easy enough to test all this with a body pull, but thought I’d ask.

    Kind of reminds of doing that in reverse in TBC. HoT myself (bear MT) immediately before the pull so I’d get a little early healing and global threat. Not really needed any more but yeah, I miss those “fancy pull” days too.


  33. Good post there, and reading the comments did take longer then reading the post 🙂
    You certanly have readers doing Ulduar because I enjoy reading your posts, if nothing else and since I’m more of a hobby tank (main spec is resto) every piece of information is of value. I belive I knew most of what you wrote but almost every time I read a guide there is something new or something I more or less had forgotten and that’s why it’s good to keep reading. There is no such thing as too much information in these cases and it’s hard to remember everything, especcially if it’s not practiced on a daily basis.

    Root – I’ve been wondering about that too. As I understood it HoTs didn’t give you any threat if they were applied before the pull and I never saw any reason to question that … until WotLK. As it stands I pre-HoT in any case to make it easier for me and lowering the risk of the tank dying before I’ve had time to get them up and I’ll continue with that until I start hearing complaints about it. I have been thinking about looking into it though but it seems like Omen doesn’t show threat until I’m in combat and when I’m tanking I have enough other things to think of initially.

    Btw, I checked out the threat for FFF the other day and it gave me 3.1k threat in total, certanly worth using even after the pull. I tend to use it on Heigan while dancing in a try not loosing too much threat even if I generally taunt asap when he rushes back in anyway, just to be on the safe side.


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