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!

19 thoughts on “Questions on threat generation

  1. For single target encounters you should absoluuuuuuuuuuutely being swiping. Lacerate’s initial attack is piss-poor threat, so you should only be using it to refresh the stack. I’m trying to remember the bear threat rotation, it’s been awhile since I played mine (except for Coren), but it’s basically like Mangle > FFF > Lacerate > Swipe x2. That’s after you’ve got a full 5 stack of Lacerate, of course.
    .-= Dave´s last blog ..Show #343: FUJIYAMASAMA. =-.


  2. Great advice.

    I am constantly amazed at how awesome feral faerie fire is. I mean, at just level 78, I’ve had it crit over 1000 damage. Plus a threat multiplier! For zero rage?!? All it costs is one GCD!!! Awesome ability. Seriously, it’s practically my third taunt.

    Plus, it’s a ranged attack! I use it to take down runners once they escape my swipe AoE.

    Mauls are a tasty treat that may be too expensive to use . . . Like, when farming BRD.

    Actually, I don’t know what the rage generation formula loooks like, but in BRD at level 78, I would pull a few groups and shoot up to a full rage bar in no time flat. Even hitting Maul every time it lit up, spamming swipe & Mangle, I kept a full rage bar until I was down to the final mob or two.


  3. I would also like to suggest an add-on that can really help a bear ramp up threat. Check out Runny’s post on Need To Know:

    That thing is AWESOME. It is customizable for any class, and any spell. With it, you can keep track and make sure you have all your threat moves up. Fairy Fire, Mangle, 5 stacks (or at least 2 or 3) of Lacerate, Demoralizing Roar, and Berserk. At least that’s what I have it keep track of.

    On single mobs, such as bosses, I often have to fight for initial aggro, and I’m pretty well geared. A way I’ve found to get a leg up is rather then pull with Fairy Fire, I body pull by running in and as soon as I’m in range Feral Charge. What does this do? If everybody was sitting back waiting for the tank to pull, they are out of range, hence I get an extra second or two to apply threat. Then I build up my threat moves. Mangle first and then Lacerates. Fairy Fire is indeed a high threat move, and should be used early, as it also helps the DPS kill the boss faster. After I have FFF, Mangle, and some Lacerates up, it’s time to Demo Roar to help out the healers, and once your Need to Know add on shows ALL your threat moves are up and ticking, swipe away if you have extra rage. ALWAYS keep maul up, and keep that taunt button ready to use. DO NOT BODY PULL on trash though. BBBs advice on marking and communication with your dps is much better. This is a boss only strat.

    One issue you will have with this, is you are using the groups distance to your advantage….which will also put you out of range of your healers. So right before I pull I pop barkskin so I’m not so squishy while the healers are running in going “OH SHIT! You are out of RANGE!”. This strategy also allows you to have time to turn the boss around if needed before those pesky melee dps get cleaved on certain bosses.

    One important thing that BBB mentioned is balance in your gear. Last night I was raiding in a couple pugs with my buddy a pally. He has better gear then I do, yet I have more HP. Hence, I was always made the “Main Tank”. Don’t be fooled by this pug level of thinking. If you stack stamina beyond all else, you are doing a disservice to your threat, your healers, and your whole raid group. Agility plays a HUGE factor in bear tanking. Agility = Armor and Dodge. And that’s all we get. No parry or shields for us, friend. Stacking stamina just makes you look good to the uneducated. Having armor and dodge is very important, as is having the extra crit chance for threat and Savage Defense. Hit and expertise are important as well, but come pretty easily on the leather gear you are wearing because it’s itemized for cats and rogues.

    For ease of marking, I second the add-on Quick Mark. Because it rocks.


  4. Curiousity at the door over here.

    I’ve always played a paladin tank, but even when we were AoE monsters in TBC, I still switched targets when pulling a large pack to make sure my ugly little friends liked me. Our consecrate only does a “pulse” dot so it it not always sufficient for keeping initial aggro, especially if you have a mage tossing down a blizzard. I was lucky enough to be a quick leveler and geared up quickly in Northrend, so I don’t think I ever fell behind the curve, but sometimes it was flat out necessary to individually tap targets even with the AoE abilities available to me. I only go through all this to point out that paladins are considered the AoE kings still, yet even I, a TBC to Northrend Paladin tank think it necessary to tap my targets individually unless 1) I horribly overgear my team-mates; 2) content is trivial.

    Is swipe seriously enough to keep secondary targets focused on you without some one on one attention?
    .-= Windsoar´s last blog ..Elementalist, Book 2 =-.


  5. Swipe is awesome. Many still believe that Druids are poor AOE tanks because Swipe used to not be so great. But now if all your other dots are cooking swipe is great even on a single mob. Now if your dps pals have similar gear, you have to do your tanking duty and tab through your targets if they are just popping AOEs instead of using a “kill skull first” order.

    This becomes an issue, alot of times in pugs while running heroics. Because lots of folks think that you just AOE everything down until you get to the boss. A similarly geared mage or hunter can easily pull mobs off me that I only have a swipe on. If I’m being lazy then I need to pick up that mob and tab through them all and get a lacerate/mangle on them as well. If I’m already doing that, then I suggest to the dps in question that “if you pull it off me with aoe, you better be able to kill it before it kills you.” After a few mage/hunter deaths they seem to get the picture.


  6. Windsoar, I’d have to agree with Copey on this one.

    The thing is, as with all skills and classes, there really isn’t a “This is all you need to do” kind of method.

    You can explain the underlying principles, and you can suggest tools that people can use to test themselves and see for themself, but when it comes down to it, every situation and every mix of mobs is a little different.

    One commenter recently took the time to break down the list of what mobs he chooses to mark in instances and why… and that was one hellaciously good list.

    To me, what his list did more than anything was to reinforce the idea that you need to be flexible and responsive in how you approach each pull. You don’t rigidly lock yourself into a ‘this is what I do’ and close off options. You instead have things you start with, but you have to be ready to adjust your own playstyle to match the group of people you are with, their gear in comparison to yours, what kind of mobs you are dealing with, etc etc etc.

    Is Swipe enough to hold every mob except your main target?

    The answer is… it depends.

    If your gear is very good, you don’t miss, you have very high crit, your team spends most of their time focusing on your main threat target instead of whoever they feel like, than yes, if started right away, and kept up on every cooldown, then Swipe will out-threat most AoE and healing threat, assuming that your DPS are not uber gods of leet destruction.

    If they ARE, then obviously you need to tab-target and share the Maul/Mangle/FFF love around and check Omen per target.

    If you’ve got one problem child that likes hitting tab and letting go with everything on whoever they saw first regardless of who you have targeted or marked, then heck, an adjustment to your play style may be to turn on the display of party members targets, and when you see your problem child on the wrong one, target off of him and Growl taunt/Bash/Mangle/Maul/FFF. And then chew the problem child a new one.

    I really do like the Nameplates addon I mentioned in a previous post last weekend, simply because if all the nameplates are glowing red, I’ve got threat, no matter if it’s a sea of nameplates. If one goes dark, then I know I’ve got a runner, and I grab him with Growl at range and if he’s a casrter, then Feral Charge to the rescue.

    It’s so situational… you gotta learn the basics, and then get comfortable with them, and then start branching out.


  7. BBB, I love your articles that actually focus on feral tanking, as that’s what attracted me to start following you in the first place. (Not that I mind your more general articles, you’re a great blogger, but when I want general, I go to So thank you for another spectacular piece.

    May I simply mention that I keep 5/5 talents in Furor, and do a shapeshift + Enrage before most pulls, for tons of starting rage. You put a little focus on FFF for threat in this article, and suggest start with Mangle and go into a rotation from there. May I reiterate what you said about using Maul everytime it’s up by emphasizing that that’s especially true right at the pull. When I pull a group or boss, it’s usually with FFF at range, and then Maul + Mangle hit at the exact same instant, the moment my target is within melee range. You don’t sound like you like Maul replacing a melee hit, but how many other tanks can land multiple hits at the exact same time? Right at the moment where both land, I’ve usually got 10-15k threat almost instantly.

    I also have to vote for *not* using swipe in single target situations. I don’t know about the other bear tanks commenting, but I’ve got my mangle talented down to 4.5s cd, so between that and FFF and Lacerates and whatnot, there aren’t a lot of spare GCDs for swipe. YMMV.


  8. I was just curious as to the way the original question was worded and your response. I like tank blogs: paladins, warriors, druids and dk because while the buttons / stats may be different the overall mentality, and job are the same regardless of how we do it. When I read your post I was thinking “a new tank or a poorly geared tank compared to his fellow might have to make more effort to generate threat against his off-targets.”

    I was not trying to imply or suggest that a well-geared tank needed to constantly tab through targets (hell, even a good lazy and “ok” geared tank can generally aoe splash focusing on main targets if he bothers to mark), but I was thinking of my own toolbox and trying to equate how swipe matched up and whether marking and single-target focus (i.e. no change of target until mark is dead) would/could be sufficient for an under-geared tank. I have a tendency to assume a tank doesn’t know their ability rotation / have proper gear if they’re having threat generation issues in the current content. However, paladin rotations are different from other tanks, and I think their is alot more flexibility (or at least possibilities) for error in a bear tank rotation from what I’ve followed here and elsewhere.

    Nameplate addons would drive me absolutely insane, not to mention that I play on a laptop which gives me zero room for extra computations in a 25-man. I’ve found Grid sufficient for my needs (go-go aggro notification) but I also have the lazy man taunt that lets me choose the player over the mob ^.^
    .-= Windsoar´s last blog ..Elementalist, Book 2 =-.


  9. I am my guild’s main tank, a bear yes, and I’d have to say that this is a pretty solid go at the basics of getting attention.

    I would also like to recommend the spreading of infected wounds, that -20% attack speed is really useful at lowering the damage you take, so if you have 3 or more mobs on you switching targets can help get that spread around


  10. I’d be curious about his spec. Make sure he’s specc’d into proper rage gen talents, swipe damage increasing, maul damage increasing, AP increases and crit increases. Second make sure he’s not way undergeared. Third Glyph into Maul. 2 Targets per swing is glorious both for spreading infected wounds and threat in aoe pulls. Like I said, Faerie fire one and maul it while you swipe, then switch target and maul it while you swipe, and repeat steps 2&3 until you win. It’s situational but that’s a pretty good break down. Again I can’t over-emphasize glyphing into maul.


  11. So far the AoE spell I seem to have the most trouble overdoing in threat using “just swipe” is Mage Blizzard.

    I actually feel I have more problems when the DPS start focusing on 1 target, especially when a Destruction Warlock starts chaining his Incinerate, I can just see how the distance between mine and that Warlocks threat diminishes. But then it becomes a game within a game to me, a race to be highest on threat. I must shamefully admit that I were ignorant of FFF being such a huge threat so I’m working on making it a habbit to use, which probably means I’ll have to move around on some of my buttons and re-learn their layouts. The less walking the fingers have to do the easier it is to responsive to unforseen things.

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Marking to me is secondary. I only mark the “dangerous” NPC’s for quick burndown, as per the list I wrote in another comment a couple of days back. Often though the DPS doesn’t pay much heed to the marks, but usually it’s not a problem. In TBC I were an avid marker and used Magic Marker for marking packs FAST. I mean REALLY FAST. Just hold my ALT key and fly the mouse over the NPC’s and they were marked for the various CC and tanking. You can still use that addon in WotLK, ofcourse, I just haven’t taken the time to configure the priority.

    As I also mentioned in the nameplate post, I use MouseOverThreat to view individual threat on NPC’s. So the moment I see anyone getting past 80% threat on an NPC I’ll switch to that one and focus on it a bit.

    Hell, I’ve played a Moonkin and I (like most other DPS) had one eye on Recount on all fights. I were looking at NPC’s health and were often switching between several NPC’s. The main reason is to increase my damage output 😉 like if I had Lunar Eclipse and current target had low health, I’d switch to next NPC because otherwise I’d probably waste almost a full casting time of Starfire.

    And here comes pet peeve that I feel that DPS should think about when focusing on one target. When you pull agro, don’t continue nuking with your super-duper-damage-and-threat ability (Starfire for Moonkins) but stop nuking until the Tank have agro again. Several times when I’ve been tanking packs and a Warlock chains Incinerate or Moonkin chains Starfire, and they peel an NPC of me, I usually just taunt it once to get it back to me. However, when the DPS just keeps on nuking they will get above me in threat right away again, and my taunt will then be on cooldown, so I either have to wait for Growl to get off cooldown (and most likely have the same happen again) or charge that NPC and drag the rest of the pack around with me in the process.

    What I used to do as Moonkin, to keep my damage up but not my single target threat, was to tab to next target and nuke that one while tank gets the one I peeled off back under control. Then when that’s done I switched back. If I didn’t have the luxury of another target to DPS I’d just stand down and do no DPS until NPC was back under control.


  12. If I”m tanking a “group pull” it’s all about swipe, swipe, swipe, swipe and maul to dump rage. Demo Roar stays up for 30 seconds so that’s not a basis for any kind of rotation. Tanks and DPS can AOE or single target their threat and that’s great for them but healers cannot choose. Healer threat is AOE. I swipe and if the DPS doesn’t set their nozzle to “fan” like mine then they can die in a fire. Threat is like a hose man. You can fan it out and hit more stuff softly or pinch it and hit one thing hard. We needs to be on the same setting bro. If I”m pinching and your fanning then you will die. If I’m fanning and your pinching then you will die again. The healer is always fanning. I am almost always fanning. Dakota Fanning. Mt. Rushmore.


  13. 1. and for single target funzies I have this on my mousewheel up:

    /castsequence [mod: ctrl] demoralizing roar; reset=5 Faerie Fire (Feral)(), Mangle (Bear)(), lacerate, lacerate
    /use [mod:shift] maul

    2. and for aoe funzies I have this on my mousewheel down:

    /castsequence [mod:ctrl] demoralizing roar; swipe (bear)()
    /cast [mod:shift] maul
    /use 13
    /use 14

    [My tab target pinky is now responsible for “shifting” for maul when I have rage and “ctrling” when I want to debuff with demo roar. Yup, I roll forward for singles and roll backwards for crowds. Whatever try it before you poke holes in it. It’s battle tested and crazy DPS approved. I have zero points in improved mangle because it just creates log jammed cooldowns on fff and mangle. Zero points means 2 lacerates for me and repeat.]


  14. Adding to, not subtracting from all this great advice:
    – Threat generation on something that gives you rage back is better than target dummies, although, more dangerous. In icecrown, on top of the buttresses, there are elite lvl 80-81 mobs. Skeletons near the “Threat from above” quest mob, and giants south of there. If you are geared enough to survive these guys (if you are ready to tank Heroics, you’re good), they are GREAT for testing threat rotations. The skeletons drop no loot, but respawn very quickly. The giants can be pulled together to take on 2 or more it you’re up to it (watch the knock-back).
    – Mouse-over lacerate. Threat generation & a chance for the tick to crit off each mob for that Savage Defence goodness.


  15. Hi, im new here in this great blog, so i bookmarked…

    As i say in The fluid druid blog…

    “a paiful thing as Bear its to make clear to all those dps-reccount-zombies, that a Bear needs to generate aggro before the dps-fest begins, damn!!! So i use a more painful way to educate them… the dps-reccount-zombie who steal my aggro, will die… no growl, no charge, no nothing to save her/him, repair bills and zero dps-reccount will get them in line… ”

    One technique i often use goes like this 2 targets example… mark {skull} and {x}, all group know {skull} dies first, so i land 1 or 2 full cycle of hits (aggro guaranted), then i change to {X} and land 2 or 3 full cycles to raise my aggro on it and as no one hits this mob im sure my TPS will endure much longer (if AoE dont over pass) , at this point my aggro on {skull} will decay, so i back to hit until it dies… in the case in wich someone steal the aggro on {skull} i just growl, and hold until it dies. This works for me in various situations, when number of mobs increases, the marks increases too, in order of importance and sequence to knock down specific targets. I know this

    Mark its a important thing in my tanking style, because its better when a group member says “moon its gonna wipe my ass off” (via ventrilo or similar) then the tab cycle runs more eficciently to identify and focus the menacing mob… in fact i keybinding all icons in my key number pad for flexible situations, sometimes i mark the healers with a well distinctive blue square or diamond, so ease my way to save him if a mob decides attack them, or in a raid scheme, skull goes for another tank and i pick the orange circle (refered to orange durid tankor.. =P) to mark my target, and many situations like that.

    Last said, i request some help in order to develop a macro or a suggested addon that allow me select directly a previously marked target, because tab cycle sux in a pull with many mobs and targetings with click mouse over screen its a ass pain in low fps instances.

    In example i bind {skull} to the 7 key number pad, {X} to 8, {circle} to 9 and so on… i would like to select directly {skull} with ctrl+7 key number pad, {X} with ctrl+8, etc etc. Help me out please =)


  16. realy like some stuff i read here, but one of the comments made me feel the need to say something about it.

    tankspot video on bear tank is FAIL bigg time, i watched it once and just thougt for me self that when ever i se anyone post a link to it and saying its good id be there saying its not…

    you can go look at my feral tank gear i use atm. Alchmoi on Talnivarr EU, im afk from wow atm but i think youd se my gear still on armory.

    and btw its my offspec, my mainspec is resto =)

    I keep maul on CD more or less always. and if i need the extra rage i just skip it one cd .
    use FF in the pull/charge moment if i got the time.
    always have demo up on my targets (also spec for 40% extra reduction.)
    and put out lacerate 2at a time, more if dps is slow in start. and then i just keep it up, max stacked on the boss. maul when i need to have the debuff up.

    with my gear i can get to 45K raidbuffed, and still im not the best geared. also im not the best dodge tank either. but then again i dont take mutch dmg. in a 25man raid im like 71-72% dmg reduction on mele hits (spelldmg dmg can be hard if its huge.) i prefer armor/agi/stam/dodge on my gear. and i will be taking out the armor trinket when i get to the point i have enough emblems for that. just to get as close as possible to the 75% dmg reduction cap.

    imp mangle = nono… dont need it its just a debuff not a TPS thing (thou it does actually make one do more dmg by just having it on the boss). i do more tps with maul than with mangle so…. and i dont think my maul hit/crits are high realy. only around 4-6.5K in 25man. but if you keep lacerate mangle and ff up on your target and use swipe/maul on CD the TPS is insane.

    and on expertise and hit i just say try to keep hit capped (but if your not main tank for a verry progressive guild you dont realy need max hit, for HC runs you can mostly ignore it), expertise you should be above 26 at all times in any mele class. but its a must for a tank. (yes in wotl its not as bad as before but still…).

    liked most things i read here thou, just wanted to share my thoughts 🙂


  17. One big thing you can do to generate more threat, is drop any PVP gear. Until recently, I was using about 4 pieces, cause I was just looking at the stats. (Stam, Armor and Agi) I was also having real problems with threat. I made a second Threat set with no PVP items. While my stats were lower, I found the runs would go much smoother, as I was holding agro better.


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