Over the weekend, I leveled a new Worgen Druid in Eff the Ineffable, with the intention of maybe someday running some instances or… who knows?
From 1 to 23, it was a pretty smooth ride. I enjoyed the 100% completion of Darkshore quests, Skinning was as easy as I expected in that bear-and-cat saturated zone, and my Death Knight sugar-momma fed plenty of gold for equipment and training.
At level 23, I decided to see how the Druid stacked up as a low level instance tank.
Before I took this step, I checked my tools.
Solid gear – check. I bought from the AH, had a few nice quest rewards, and generally made sure that I had solid Stam/Agi gear with some hit rating and relatively high iLevels for the armor rating.
Skills – check. I had Enrage for instant rage generation, Mangle and Maul for single target threat, Growl for regaining threat from overzealous DPS, Demoralyzing Roar to help cut down on incoming damage and Skull Bash for those delicious spell interrupts.
What I didn’t have, of course, were Feral Charge, Feral Faerie Fire, or Swipe.
In fact, at level 23, two levels prior to Glyphs, I couldn’t help but notice that I had nothing to serve as AoE threat generation at all.
At least… I didn’t to a casual observer.
Time to bring out the tricks.
First, marking targets. Telling everyone who to focus on killing first will help cut down on most of the AoE threat issues. If I put my Skull (accessed by assigning Skull to F1, X to F2 for second kill priority) then the DPS should know who to focus on… and let me worry about the rest.
Second, overcoming healer aggro.
An experienced healer will know that they gain aggro from the amount they actually heal, WHEN it heals someone. That aggro is on a point for point basis, but divided amongst the number of mobs in the entire linked group. One point of healer aggro on a tank when the tank is fighting only one mob applies one full point on the mob, but that same point when the tank is fighting two mobs gets split up – 1/2 a point on mob one, 1/2 a point on mob two.
So how to compensate? The best way is for the healer to NOT cast any heals until they can clearly see the tank has aggroed everything. Even something as inherently weak as modern Swipe, in the hands of a tank, can overcome group healer aggro. That’s why healer aggro is divided in the first place. Healers get protected by the tank, DPS need to check their own six and be careful.
Without a Swipe, though, how does a healer keep from being swarmed by all the mobs in a four to six mob pull?
This is where Thorns and self-heal HoTs come into play for a Bear. You stand there in caster form, mark your primary kill target with Skull, cast Rejuvenation, Regrowth and Thorns on yourself, flip to Bear and run in.
Charging in, of course, would be preferred, but we ain’t got Feral Charge yet.
With the 12 second Rejuvenation, that HoT lasts long enough for Regrowth’s cast time to go off and still be viable for the 6 second Regrowth duration. Thorns has a 20 second duration, so it’s even better.
When you run in and tag that first mob, make darn sure you try to reach melee range of any casters. If not, well, thats what those HoTs on you that YOU cast are for; you’re generating your OWN healer aggro for yourself.
Anyone in melee range, of course, will also be getting tagged by your Thorns and helping you out on AoE threat. Mangle and Maul as appropriate.
If I only had Swipe, Feral Charge and FFF! Ah, the joys of playing mob pinball. /sigh.
With these tools, plus Tidy Plates / Threat Plates, I figured this was totally doable.
Of course, there is one key ingredient that I had neglected to check.
Group willing to actually work with me for one f’ing second?
Stockades. Seems simple, right?
I felt really, really bad for the healer. They seemed nice, they were polite, they stood up for me after we wiped on the first pull. But after the third time dying, I certainly didn’t blame them for leaving.
So, what was the problem?
The DPS, two Hunters and a Warrior, actually attacked while I was still running up. I hadn’t even gotten close enough to face pull and boom!
So mobs are on the three DPS and their pets, but not ALL the mobs of the group. I grabbed one of them, and started trying to get the rest, and the healer panicked, exacerbating the problem by frantically casting heals to try and keep all the DPS alive… bringing the remainder of the mobs down on her head.
We rezzed and ran in, and the healer, bless her soul, told the DPS to give me a chance to grab aggro before they opened up.
It didn’t matter. They never gave me more than a single GCD to do anything before opening up, and this inevitably resulted in mobs attacking DPS, healer trying to keep them alive, and then free mobs running for the healer.
With my wonderful system, if nobody ever actually attacks ME, then the self-cast HoTs and Thorns do exactly diddly and squat for threat generation. Nothing. So I got a chance to grab one mob before I got to watch the parade run right by me.
As I said, the healer was a trooper, but three wipes pretty much signaled that some people you just can’t teach. You can’t heal through stupid.
I was disgusted.
Sure, I know the tricks. But that doesn’t do me a damn bit of good if the rest of the group willingly choose to shut their brains off, ignore the plan, do what they want and then blame it on the tank if they pull aggro.
But what is more frustrating, is knowing that if I were playing a Warrior, I’d have Charge, Thunder Clap, and 2 points in Blood and Thunder to have nearly instant Rend DoT application on all targets in the group I just whacked.
I’m sorry, but I feel that this situation is pure bullshit. Maybe I’m missing something obvious, and if so I’m sorry for being stupid, but how is giving Warriors easy AoE threat abilities early on and Bears nothing a reasonable decision?
So, I’m not happy. I’m feeling a little pissy about it. I don’t mind having to squeeze out every ounce of usefulness from my tools to make something happen, I (like many of you) was a Bear tank in Burning Crusade when Bear tanks weren’t ‘cool’. I never saw it as cheating, I saw it as a challenge; make it work.
I guess the core problem I have is that there is a LFD tool, and I could take advantage of it… but the people in that channel seem to be getting trained by other tanking classes to just go all out balls out and not worry about their threat or target selection.
Without ez mode AoE threat abilities of my own at this level, that leaves me as the sucky ‘LRN2TANK’ dude.
And that SUCKS.
I guess the moral of the story is… only play with close friends that have a clue, wait until I’ve got some more tools, or re-roll Warrior, right?