WTF is with all these Emerald Dragonfails!

I know I haven’t been writing about tanking or even Bear tanking for a bit, but still.

Tanking 101.

Healer aggro, and the counteracting thereof.

Also to be known as “Keep your healer alive, you idiot!”

Look, from the heroic runs I’ve gone on, it’s clear that the old arrogant tank days of Wrath of the Lich King heroics are coming back.


There is a simple formula that even the most arrogant tank has to recognize.

Your modern tank has high health and many mitigation/avoidance cooldowns. May even have self-heals. Way to go, tools in the toolbox, AoE threat, very nice, very nice. If everyone else dies, you can survive in some cases for minutes, all by yourself.

All by yourself…

Fine. Goodie for you, Tankie McTanknspank.

The reality is, if your healer dies, no matter how good you are, you are on your own. If there is any bobble in your boogie, any swivel in your sidestep, down your ass goes. And cooldowns eventually do JUST THAT.

The formula is really dead simple; any heals, even bad heals, are better than NO heals.

Hold that thought, we’ll come back to it.

End Time is an interesting instance.

Much like Bubba Gump, you never know what you’re gonna get. Spin the Wheel and see what the boss-o-rama has in store for us this time.

I’ve got my favorites, and I’ve got my flat-out “damnit not again!” bosses.

Sylvanis? I love seeing her. So long as the DPS all focus on the same target and everyone gets out of the bad, piece of cake. No random deathfail involved.

In fact, I love seeing all of them on the basis of their mechanics, although the extra trash on Jaina is annoying. Group after group after group ignores DPSing the lightwells, and it pisses me off.

How hard is it after all these years to internalize the concept “Kill the healer AND their healing toys”? Especially those lightwells. Look, when you see an enemy lightwell, just think of it as a totem. Or a cockroach. And then STEP ON IT!

But despite that, yes, I like them all.

Except the Emerald Dragonshrine, and the Echo of Tyrande encounter.

As the healer, I hate it. I hate it with a white hot passion that could re-ignite failed stars, and a fathomless depth that could crush a liquid-filled diving suit.

As a tank, I love it. It’s a piece of cake.

As a Bear tank, Emerald Dragontrash* is a joy. I put a star on my head, I tell everyone to stay on top of me, and I use my AoE Swipe and other threat generating abilities as I run from circle to circle, my Threat Plates showing me who I’ve got aggro on and who might need a Growl or other form of special attention.

Big Bear’s home for wayward mobs, I gather ’em in, make sure they’re all well taken care of.

If someone runs off and their role is DPS, well, screw them. I told them what to do, I put a star on my head so I stand out in a crowd, my big bear butt is the only huge fuzzy posterior in the domicile… get with the program or die, all the same to me.

But the healer… if the healer slows down, perhaps to drop a long cast-time heal on someone, I stop with them and keep mobs off their back.

That is my job as a tank. I take the hits because I’m the only one specifically designed to take the hits in the group.

I am not super hard to hurt because I’m a better class than everyone else. I’m tough because my class and spec as a tank were specifically coded to make me tough, and the gear designed for me enhances those traits. And I go ahead and wear that gear rather than the pretty cloth dress that goes with my fur.

If I intercept bad guys about to munch on a healer and take the hit in their stead, I am not lowering myself to save the lazy healer who should be healing themselves through it on their own… I am doing my job as intended.

Tanking 101. If the healer dies, we’re ALL screwed.

If you are a tank, you are assuming the role of defender of the innocent, protector of the squishy, and general meat shield about town. You get gobsmacked and abused because you like it, you eat the pain like candy.

And you’re durable. You’ve got to be durable.

But you don’t do enough DPS to down multi-million health bosses on your own, and you may keep yourself alive for a few minutes, but you do exactly squat to keep the entire group of DPS with you alive as well.

Famous last stands using your survivability and mitigation to eke out a win only work if the whole party already whittled the boss down to vapors in the drain.

As a healer, time after time, I see Emerald Dragonshrine, and I follow the same process in an attempt to stave off the inevitable.

I buff. I eat. I mark the tank with a pretty star. I follow the tank, I stand on top of the tank, and as we run from circle to circle I do the bare minimum healing I can get away with in an attempt to minimize healer aggro. I even Fade.

I stand on top of the tank in the desperate hope that when mobs come charging in, the tank will drop a single AoE of something. Anything. And not a “I hit a mob, whee!” attack but an actual honest-to-goodness threat generating attack that pulls stuff off, oh, I dunno, the healer.

But no.

Time after time, I end up getting eaten as we cross the river to the second to the last puddle of light.

Time after time I am reduced to Fade, and then to chain-casting heals on myself as an ever-increasing menagerie of cats and riders masticate my meager manhood, and then, well… I fucking die is what I do.

I die while the tank is obliviously single-target attacking, or, more often, running on to the next circle because hey, yo, there’s a light over at the frankenstein place, let’s go quick to the lab and see what’s on the slab, oh boy, oh boy.

What did I forget? I’m forgetting something. Oh, right, the healer!

It has been a long time since I went over how healer threat works, so perhaps the fault lies not in willful disregard, but instead on an ignorance of underlying principles.

It’s been a while since I wrote a guide, so I may be a bit rusty, but I’m going to give this a shot for old times sake.



When you as a tank run up to something close enough, it knows you’re there. It becomes aware of you. If it’s naturally cranky, it’ll try and take a bite out of you just because it doesn’t like your looks.

BUT… until you actually HIT it, you haven’t caused any direct threat to it.

Now, any other mob that it was tied to becomes aware of you as soon as the first mob did. They’ll all come running after you, too.

But here is the trick.

Say that first mob ran up to you, and you smacked it in the mouth. Okay, that mob is pissed at you. It will continue to fight you. If you are the tank, then you do lots more threat than anyone else in your group, so that mob, we’ll call him Frank, he’s gonna stay right on you like a tick on a hound.

Frank’s friends, on the other hand, maybe they didn’t really like Frank all that much anyway. Maybe Frank took them all for big money at the weekly mob poker game the night before, and they really don’t mind seeing ol’ Frankie take a reaming from your tank.

Those other mobs, so long as nobody did direct damage to any of them, sure they will run to the tank and hit ’em, but their hearts aren’t really in it.

They have not had ANY actual threat generated on them yet. They’re hitting on you, the tank, just because. You are the mountain, and you are there to be climbed for shits and grins.

Ah ah ah! BUT, as soon as anyone else hits them, anyone at all, those that got hit will peel off and go after the smartass son-of-a-bitch that just tagged them in the butt.

Now the tank, as we said, inherently does a lot more threat than anyone else. It is super easy for the tank to get that mob’s attention back. A quick change of targets, a growled “Yer mother is so fat she’s a world boss for two continents. Both at the same time.” And back it comes running.

Simple? Easy?

If you hit it, you generate threat. If you don’t actually hit it, then you don’t actually cause any threat, and it’ll go running off to whoever gets there the firstest with the mostest.

The key here is mob awareness. You might think you’ve got the attention of every mob, because they’re all on you at the moment. But if you are only doing damage to one of them, all the others are only pounding on you out of solidarity. Power to the people!

They’re a fickle bunch. They’ll go charging after anyone else that does damage to them first.

But they only go after who they are aware of.

This gets to the heart of what healer aggro really is.

A single mob only knows who the mob sees, knows who hits them… or who his FRIENDS see.

As soon as any member of the group does some damage, casts a buff, HEALS SOMEONE THE MOBS SEE, etc, then the person doing the healing or damage or buffing gets noticed. By ALL the mobs at once.

Damage done generates threat. Simple enough. If I no shootie, then I no cause threatie.

Ah, but what about healing?

Healing done also causes threat.

If you heal someone, it is the same as if you just did damage to every single mob that knows about the person you healed. All of them.

Now, it’s not as much threat as if you did direct damage t all of those punks. The mobs don’t look at each other and say, “Shit, that hurt, lets go git ’em.”

No, the threat your heals cause would be the same as the equivalent amount of damage divided amongst all the mobs that are now aware of you.

So, if the tank is doing proper AoE on a huge group, and you are chain healing the tank, the tank is doing TONS o’ threat to each and every mob, and your single target threat is spread out among them all… in itty-bitty bits. You’ll never pull aggro.

But… what if the tank doesn’t do any damage to the group? What if he’s just smacking one mob all by it’s lonesome?

What if… let’s just run a hypothetical here.

What if there were 8 mobs all running in from all sides, the tank hit only one of them, and the healer then cast a heal on the tank?

The mobs come running in, see the tank, and the tank hits one. They all go for the tank.

The healer casts a heal on the tank, the mobs now ALL see the healer because you healed the tank, and your heals on the tank caused actual points of threat on every single mob, and all those mobs that were only aware of the tank but hadn’t actually been hit? They peel off the tank and come running right for YOU.

And as 7 mobs begin whaling away on you, you heal yourself, doing more threat to all of them, and then more, and more, until you’re glowing like the sun trying to survive, other DPS try to pick them off of you but they do straight DPS and threat, not the magnified threat of a tank so they can’t pull off your supernova of healing threat generation (because your threat is incremental, it just keeps adding onto the threat value before so long as the mob is alive, growing and growing with each heal), and the tank, your only hope of pulling the group off of you…

He’s in monte carlo drinking a daiquiri.

Now let’s go on to case two.

Say you have a group of bad guys come in, the tank DOES do AoE threat to all of them, and most of those mobs are burnt down.

Just one or two mobs remain, they’re almost dead, and the pool of light you’re standing in winks out.

The tank decides to run straight for the next pool, and everyone follows. It’s not a big deal, he has aggro on those mobs, so they’ll chase him. You’re fine.

As the next group of mobs comes running in, they meet the ones chasing the tank, and while running along, they compare notes.

The old mobs tell the new ones about this asshole tank up ahead… but the tank has one of your HoTs on him, and thanks to the old mobs, the new ones become aware of the tank, and of YOU. And guess what? You’re the only one generating actual threat as each tick of your HoT heals for another point of damage.

So instead of running after the tank, all those new mobs run after… yep, you guessed it.

This is basic healer aggro. These are the fundamentals that every healer and tank should understand.

If a healer heals any target that mobs are aware of, the mobs then become aware of the healer and the healer causes actual threat to them. Unless the tank or someone else does something, the healer WILL pull aggro.

Just running from circle to circle, doing nothing at all to any mob until you reach a circle, doesn’t cut it.

Maybe I’m being harsh. Maybe this is all pretty behind the scenes kind of stuff, and it’s not easy to find or understand how it all works.

I know not everyone spends time wondering and testing how the game rules actually function by forming groups and trying this stuff out.

“Okay, now I’m going to pull this group, and then hit just one mob with auto-attack. You see if you can eat that Pine Nut Bread.”

“Okay, now try and mount.”

“Okay, now buff me with Fort. OOPS! Okay, there they all go after you, Fort pulls aggro. Mark it down and burn ’em out, next group up!”

I dunno.

What I do know is, I died three times today out of five End Time runs that all netted me Emerald Dragonfail.

A fourth time, I simply managed to heal and Fade enough to survive eating the entire pack of mobs. Tank was oblivious.

The fifth time? Tank did it up RIGHT. I never even took a hit.

One in five tried to keep me alive. That’s just embarrassing.

All that being said, it’s still fun as hell being a Holy Priest. I’m part of Team Snuffy now, and we did normal Dragon Soul this evening. I had a blast, we managed to kill Deathwing and everything, and I got my Destroyers End title as a healing Holy Priest. It felt great.

It just gets frustrating sometimes. Yes, powerful gear is great, it eases many things, but just because someone put together a really powerful tanking set and followed a recommended spec from a website doesn’t mean they can tank. It’s not about the gear, it’s about understanding how to put that gear to good use.

I’d rather run with an undergeared tank that knew what they were doing or TRIED to do it up right any day of the week. At least then, while I’m chain healing them, the mobs wouldn’t be nibbling on my damn face!

28 thoughts on “WTF is with all these Emerald Dragonfails!

  1. Lately (well, I haven’t done Emerald Dragonshrine in a bit) I just stand in the lake. Yeah, the reduced casting speed sucks, but as long as nobody’s being totally stupid about taking damage, I can keep everyone alive just fine.


  2. Huh. You know, I’ve tanked and healed that both as bear and ‘din. I think my whole strategy for not pulling aggro is just not to heal until tank/dps have aggro. Usually, it’s been my experience that “feisty” dps will pull aggro before me there, and tanks are usually robust enough that they don’t get too hurt.

    The tank you were dealing with therefore must have truly been atrocious, and the dps unusually mindful of threat. 0_o

    (As an aside, DK tanks should almost never be without AoE threat. It may be the case that they’ve forgotten about Blood Boil for large packs of trash, which is one blood/death rune, only one rune tap away, but even tab targeting with heart strike works wonders. DKs are threat monsters – the problem is not being so squishy in the meantime.)


  3. One thing my husband (pally tank) always says is if a dps dies it’s the healer’s fault or their own fault, if the tank dies it’s the healer’s fault, but if the healer dies it’s the tank’s fault.

    I hate the Tyrande fight so much as a Disc priest, especially if I am the only one at range. So much movement to avoid the orbs and the moon lance things. Luckily, I haven’t had a bad tank experience like that, but it doesn’t surprise me that others have. I mostly run with my husband, so we just have to deal with stupid dps. Such as a hunter who gets hit by one of the light orbs on the Benedictus fight, and proceeds to run forward and stand in the pool of bad light left behind.

    On my Mage, I saw a group blame the shaman healer for a wipe when the tank pulled while the healer was drinking across the room. The shaman was a good healer, just didn’t have the gear for chain pulling. This tank also ignored the ranged mobs, and the mobs would be hitting the healer during the whole fight. It was at the point where I would pull the mob off of the healer as Frost and try to survive until the tank realized the mob was there. I’d rather die then let the healer die when I’m dpsing. The healer even called it out during the fight, but the tank ignored him.

    It would be nice if someone filling the tank role actually had the awareness to tank. Hopefully your post will help some of the newer tanks out there become better.


  4. You ended it with my biggest argument all along. Gear doesn’t make a player good. Gear tells you where a player has been.

    Not just tanks, but when it comes to players in general I will always take the undergeared one who knows her role and follow direction over the one in i400 gear that dies in the fire. Repeatedly.

    As a healer (and Holy Priest same as yourself) I appreciate this article. The only thing I’d add in is the role where the party succeeds and as the healer sits down to mana up, the tank is two rooms down the hall screaming for heals…


  5. As a tank, trying to get healers to understand healing agro seems to be beyond me.
    On Mannoroth, the final boss in the Well of Eternity, where the adds pour out of the portal, I tell healers I will be on the boss’ right shoulder near the portal, and I ask the healer to stack on me.
    I was in a run with a guildie dps, I asked the healer to stack as usual. The response in /party:
    “I know how to play”
    “I’m not a scrub like most of the jerks who play”

    So, arrogant; but at least they’ll do the right thing… right?!!!

    They stood about 20 yards in front of the boss, drawing all the adds to them.

    Yes, I could have charged to the healer & got them all… but I didn’t. Healer died (my guildie & I laughed hard on vent). All the ads came to me (via my hunter guildie’s MD).
    Swipe/thrash crits with Leader of the Pack kept me at full health and we downed the boss quite easily.
    I rezed the healer & they left group straight away… /sigh I didn’t even get a chance to /golfclap them ;(


  6. Learn adapt overcome in this case You have to learn to not pre-hot the tank
    You will only heal him when his health goes below 50% this Will make him aware
    That he needs heals and after he sees your big heal restoring him and the mobs
    Chase after You hopefully he Will charge after them and all Will be good


  7. I don’t run the new dungeons anymore – and only run 10 man DS to help guildies out… but back when I was, and Tyrande came up, I’d switch to booming. Still had plenty of heals to keep everyone up (plus I’d almost always run with a second boomie guildmate – so he’d help too) – and armor / dps to burn down anything that the tank didn’t catch.

    No one seemed to mind… especially since we never wiped.

    I suspect paladins don’t have the problem much, Shaman can dps as resto anyway, and priests… well, Holy I can see having that problem (as BBB notes) – but Disc might have an easier time of it. Stronger shields and better fade… maybe.


  8. Of all my healers, the most problematic one is resto druid, until I hit a winning formula.

    I don’t heal.

    That is, unless I’m right on top of the tank or on one of the moon puddles.

    Too many new tanks just charge ahead for the light…


  9. I guess I’ve been lucky, I’m no fan of that trash but I don’t groan every time I zone into it either (and I’ve run five healers thru End Time at this point, two druids plus one each of the other three). The shaman seems to have the hardest of the specs, no real threat drop (Salv/Fade) or cooldowns (Divine Shield, Barkskin or Divine Protection with sprint) and she has to stand still for most of her healing (can’t heal on the move as well as the druids).

    Had an absolutely spectacular near-wipe on Tyrande herself a couple of days ago. Zoned in on the paladin and a kitty druid whispered me to switch to my offspec because my healing gear was terrible (he would heal). Granted my gear was pretty bad (ilvl 333 shield and a 316 trinket) but everything was enchanted/gemmed, I had zero PvP gear and had in fact already cleared all three of the dungeons at that point. I told the druid we would be fine. Trash was okay but on the boss the tank and both of the other DPS stood in every bit of shiny they could find and Stardust got thru a couple of times as well. Fight ended with me OOM having blown every cooldown in the book, the tank, the druid and myself hovering around 20% health and both of the other DPS dead. Druid whispered me, “That was fine??”. I’m proud to say I didn’t ragequit which is good cause the healing ax dropped and I won it. Equipped it right then and there feeling like I’d earned the darn thing.


    • you didn’t reply “Yes, the fact we didn’t wipe when you couldn’t stay out of the stupid, is more than fine. LTMove.”?

      I don’t tolerate people critiquing my healing when we lose because they’re too important to move / be aware of the environment.


  10. The emerald dragonshrine… I am amazed you’re writing about this today. Two days ago I tried to heal end of time on my modestly geared shaman.Queue the second last light pool, the party heads over the river and mobs start raining down. As the healer I’ve already spent my earth elemental on the trip to the previous light pool and so I’m defenseless. Mobs start laying into me, I shift to ghost wolf to get ahead of the party into the light and hope the tank notices that I’m covered in mobs. No response from the tank . Dead shaman.

    I respawn, rebuff and head back to the group waiting for the boss pull.

    “DouchebagDps#1 waves farewell.”
    “You have been removed from the party.”

    Not even kidding. Healing instances to gear-up from 85 greens to DS was not a pleasant experience. I was almost always blamed for wipes…
    even after obvious fire standing fails. I must’ve linked skada death logs half a dozen times and was sometimes told to shut up.

    This however was the final straw. I am NOT healing pugs again. Ever. I’ll be dps exclusively from now on. Filling the support role for ignorant impolite aholes is just not worth the effort. I’ll gladly sit in queue to avoid the aggravation.


  11. I hate tanking it, healing is no so bad, just run to the tank. Both the DK and warrior I just run out of options to maintain threat with, My aoe will be on cooldown for another 5 seconds a new pack is coming , I can’t melee them all, I can’t taunt them all and if I and the dps are standing in the circle and the healer is standing out in the dark, arggh.

    Every time i queued for a hot as tank it would be please please dont give me echo of tyrande, anything else is fine


    • Well if your thunderclap and shockwave are on CD, sometimes you can use heroic leap… or creative use of charge and cleave lol. I hardly ever feel like my warrior is completely out of options but yes, TC and SW can both be on cooldown at the most inopportune times. That said, sometimes you have to restrain yourself from hitting TC/SW when a pack of mobs is almost dead so that it is available in the next few seconds when you’ll need AOE again.

      Goes for all tanks I guess, its the next level of tanking – knowing encounters well enough to be able to predict what you’ll need and control your current resource consumption accordingly. Its little things to work on like this that make tanking so much fun and an ever learning experience for me. 🙂

      After this mini wall of text, I have to circle back to BBBs original point that it isn’t the tank who is trying but has his abilities on cooldown for a few seconds that is causing him grief. It is those tanks who don’t even try at all that are the troublemakers.


  12. Never had any trouble in there, once I get my healy butt over to the light the dps usually goes nuts on the aoe and presto: no more aggro on me. And yeah, this is on my druid usually. Though I suppose I can at least keep running while I heal myself. I have much more trouble on Tyrande herself: nowhere to stand and all the dps are eating the light beams that they’re supposed to dodge.


  13. If you’re on your priest and in great gear you can fall back to using holy nova lol. It causes no threat from its heals or damage.

    Healing that as a Druid I have had to go travel form to get away from the mobs though if the tank is doing jack all to peel then that only delays the inevitable.

    Good post BBB. I would like to tank for you but are you horde or alliance?


  14. As soon as I am of proper level, Bear… I’ll get your back! I heart my healers, cause they keep my heart going!


  15. For me, running as a bear tank, if I didn’t have threatplates running that would be a nightmare. As it is, my threatplates turn red if I missed a mob (which is darn easy to do in that place, with things coming from all sides) and then I hit that mob with FFF or something, and we are good to go.


    • Exactly. If, as the tank, the healer isn’t actually on top of you, keeping all the mobs off him is nuts. At least Threat Plates warns you.


      • My point basically being, that this instance is designed for things like Threat Plates. I’ve never had a healer die on me in this (or anyone else for that matter), but without that more or less required tool? Forget it its too easy to miss between the mobs coming every which way, the extreme darkness making seeing things really, really hard etc… Sometimes Blizz seems (to me) to design to things other than the generic UI, which (from some point of view) is a shame. Though I love me some addons!


      • I agree tidy plates (tug-of-threat ftw) should be default ui – I noticed it again having been tanking on beta. Before (I knew) it existed I would tank without it – but you had to be more zoomed in (I normally tank at max camera distance) and watching what way the mobs are facing and/or tabbing through and seeing what things weren’t actually targeting me. Admittedly in those days it was before LFD and I was running with guildies so I could generally tell who was the one to steal aggro (and they got my vigilance – this was on my warrior). There have been some improvements but the ‘lost threat’ warnings that the default UI provides are next to useless.


  16. I can usually survive emerald on my paladin heals, almost alway survive on my priest with judicious use of fade but I have never survived in my druid on that part if the instance. Keeping a stack of lifebloom on the tank results in my death by the end of the area, usually right at the foot of the boss.


  17. I, too, hate that fight on my Holy-roller, Zeptepi. And I have been chastised by healers whlie tanking it on Luperci, Who Is Not A Fail Tank. Your explanation is fantastic, and deserves a second, or third read, after coffee. To me, it is a matter of “RUN FOREST RUN!” (to piggy-back on your Bubba reference) and GET TO THE LIGHT! Have had many successful runs with Luperci, saved healers, which, if it pleases you, I also know is my job as a tank. I was trained well. Actually, truth be told, I recognize that every player has a part, an important part, but maybe that is a post for another time.

    What I would like to know is how do you heal that damn thing? And Tyrande, get some help. Seriously. Running out of arrows? Moon Goddess protect you? Elune is doing her best to smite the hell out of me. I’ve heard rumors there’s a pretty dress she drops, which sadly may be my only motivation for ever going back in there as a healer. It’s all about the trasmog, baby.


    • I heal by being in single-target Holy mode Holy Word, watching the moonlances like a hawk, spreading away from the other ranged to have a chance not to eat every single one (stun = I die, everyone dies, ugh), and being close enough to not get the full moon fan spread of stunnage, instead just accepting the increased cast time of being close in to see the cast start, see where the first spike appears, and then sidestepping while I can. And keeping Renew up a lot.

      If there is a second where everyone isn’t dying, I even use single target Dispel to unfreeze some of the others that got stunned.


  18. I hear you there … I’ve not had the healer agro/ignorant tank issue in Emerald so much but for some reason, struggle as a healer in the trolls runs.

    If you ever have to heal my dk, I will remember my aoe.


  19. I see you shiver, with antici……….pation!

    And this tirade is why I don’t do LFG, let alone LFR.

    I don’t really read up on fights, and watch the videos, and stuff.

    But when I run LFG enough to get into heroic LFG, and I’m still doing ~35% of the damage in the group, with the worst gear, then I cry tears of blood and stop doing LFG.

    And thus I have 9 toons at 85 and another at 76… Maybe I should find a guild that has members that still play…


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