I know I haven’t been writing about tanking or even Bear tanking for a bit, but still.
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.
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.
AGGRO and THREAT
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.
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!”
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!