Archive for April, 2010
Maybe you’re like me; totally psyched for Cataclysm, starting to be a bit bored with current content, wanting one last run through Old Azeroth before it becomes New And Improved Azeroth (Now with 500% more Lava!). And you’ve rolled, or are thinking of rolling, a class that can heal. Let’s say you’ve never healed before. Does the prospect seem daunting?
It definitely can, especially at low levels when you don’t have as many healing abilities. Team that up with low level tanks not having all their mitigation abilities and low level dps being no better than top level ones at not getting face stomped and a pug of RFC or Stockades suddenly approaches the difficulty and pain of a Blood Princes encounter.
The first thing you have to do is start thinking like a healer, and I think the most important skill there is triage. It’s a term referring to what battlefield medics or ER staff do; assess the injury status of patients in such a way as to save as many lives as possible.
For triage in WoW to work, you need to know what your abilities are and what they do. Even at low levels most healing classes will have at least a long slow big heal and a short fast small heal. Some classes already have hots or shields or other ways of preventing or healing damage. Make a mental inventory of all these.
Next, assess your party makeup. I’ll assume a classic five man group; fewer than five man and the problem gets easier. Our imaginary party will be a young Warrior tank, a hunter and his pet turtle Bessy, a frost mage, a rogue, and you, a priest (translate this to whatever healing class is appropriate; the priest is a good one for this scenario).
Notice that I set up this party so that other than the hunter’s Mend Pet ability, nobody else has healing spells. We’ll assume the rogue can bandage and likes to do so. Everything else is up to you.
Now set up a priority queue in your mind. It goes like this:
Whatever DPS has done the least to make your life miserable or you are romantically involved with
The other dps
The DPSer you are romantically involved with if he forgot that your birthday was last week
This is the “keep them alive” priority and not the “heal them” priority. What’s the difference? The “keep them alive” priority stays static the whole time; it doesn’t change unless someone annoys you enough to move down the ladder, or brings you chocolate and wine and moves up the queue. The “Heal them” priority queue changes every second of the fight. Here’s how it work.
You engage a small patrol. The tank picks up aggro and starts taking damage. You throw him a Power Word: Shield and a Renew and he stops taking damage while the shield is up. When it wears off, he starts taking some damage again. The Renew is a Heal Over Time spell and mends some of that damage, but he’s down about a quarter of his hit points and the mobs are still hitting him, so you start casting a Heal. (Assume you don’t yet have Greater Heal). Now he’s got his health back. You refresh the Renew, the mobs die, and everyone’s happy.
That one was easy! Only the tank needed healing. You adjusted your heals based on what he needed to keep his health bar full, didn’t waste mana, and nothing got scary.
Now on to the next pull. This one has more mobs and some of them are ranged. As you throw a Renew and Shield on the tank, it causes you to get aggro from one of the casters, who starts throwing ice bolts at you. You immediately put a shield on yourself and since you don’t have much damage, a Renew. Then the mage gets attention from one of the mobs, who wanders over and starts hitting him. The mage panics and runs over to you and then frost novas and runs away, leaving the mob right next to you. The mob decides that you look tasty and starts biting you. Meanwhile the tank just got critted and is at 50% health and falling.
Summary: You and the tank are both being actively hit
The mage is not being actively hit
You are at 70% life. The tank is at 50% life. The mage is at 30% life.
What do you do?
Well, whatever you do, you’ve got to get the mob off you. Take a few steps toward the tank. While the frost nova holds the mob can’t bite you. When it wears off, it will have to come toward the tank to get you. At the same time, refresh the Renew that’s on yourself. Now pay attention to the tank! If you can shield him again, do that. If the Renew is gone, refresh it. Then cast your fast quick heal, Flash Heal. It doesn’t do as much, but your tank is hurting bad and you need to get some breathing room. Often a couple of quick fast heals will get you enough breathing room to have time to cast your long slow top-them-up heal.
Now the tank is at 70%, you’re at 85%, and the mage is still hurting. If you can spare time, drop a Renew on him and let him stew. If you eventually have the time and mana, Flash Heal him to about 80%. More than that is a waste of your global cool downs and mana. He should have learned his lesson and not pull the mobs again this fight. A few missing health points is a good lesson.
Oops, mobs still not dead. The tank has them all now, but the hunter, who has been afk, finally wakes up and sends in his pet, who growls at one mob and gets it to turn and fight him. Bossy the Turtle takes some damage. You can choose to heal it, or not; the hunter ought to Mend Pet on it and he was stupid to have its Growl on, but the pet is doing good dps and if you can spare the mana, give it some love.
And the rogue is taking a little aoe damage. He bandaged himself earlier when things were messy, so now you drop a shield and a Renew on him, and then turn your attention back to the tank who is in need of more Flash Heals.
Oh, dear – you guys just aggroed the boss who was wandering around, and he runs in and throws a big AOE that damages you all pretty badly. What do you do now?
Throw a shield on yourself and the tank (if you were a druid you’d be dropping more HOTs on you both here) and then cast your AOE heal. Sorry paladins, you don’t have an AOE heal, but the other three classes do and this is where to use them; you’ve got at least three people hurt and the tank is not taking so much damage that your heal can’t keep up.
Now you’re all at manageable health. Go back to the tank, keep him alive, and – oh dear. You’re out of mana. This will be fun.
Warn everyone “OOM!” and hope they get the message. No matter how much damage is flying around, do not spend mana on heals for anyone except you and the tank, and mostly the tank. If he drops you’re all dead, whereas if you keep him alive you might survive this.
Every time you have enough mana, cast your Flash Heal. It’s the fastest cast you have and so will get you back into mana regen mode as fast as possible (takes five seconds after the end of your last cast for your mana regen to start actually doing much).
Now let’s talk about what happens when things really go haywire; multiple groups of mobs, aggro everywhere, tank getting low, mage getting squishy, and your own special set of ravenous admirers.
First off, don’t panic. Easier said than done, but don’t panic. If you do, things will get worse. The worst outcome here is a wipe. Nothing can be worse than that. Your goal, once things start going turnip-shaped, is to keep yourself alive at the end. Everyone else is a means to that end. Remember, you have the magic res fingers!
If you are to stay alive, that means someone has to kill the mobs that want to eat you. Probably that means keep the tank and some dps alive. Sometimes it means all the dps die really fast and you and the tank slug it out slowly with the last few mobs.
start with keeping yourself alive. That might mean moving instead of healing; go over to the tank and hope he pulls the mobs off rather than trying to heal through the bites. You are not the tank. Don’t act like one. If you have damage mitigation cooldowns, use them. A druid should throw a hot on herself, throw Barkskin, and go to the tank. A priest should shield herself. A Paladin can use Hand of Salvation or Divine Protection (use HoS on yourself, Divine Protection on the tank, and gain some breathing room).
Next, if the tank is getting low, throw heals at him while you scan everyone else. Is there someone who is very low but not actively taking damage? Throw a hot or shield or Flash of Flight/Flash Heal at him to give him more breathing room. Someone who is low and actively taking damage, and not the tank, is probably going to die no matter what in a “ah crap” situation. Don’t waste mana and GCDs on a mage who has three mobs on him. He will die and his friends will come eat you next. It is his job to ice block at this point and avoid death, not your job to save him.
Heal the most likely to survive; this is why it’s triage. You decide who lives, who dies. Who is stable or could be stable with minimal intervention? Did the hunter just have his pet growl mobs off of you? Heal that pet, unless the hunter is about to die, in which cast that’s wasted mana.
Keep an eye out for environmental issues that affect you; fire on the ground, curses. Moving cuts down on your heals but so does being dead. Some curses can be ignored or healed through. If you have a curse that makes your casts take 50% longer and it can be removed, remove it! The one GCD and minimal mana you spend there pays for itself almost instantly. On the other hand, if it’s a curse that makes you have 100 less skill at Bows, like in SFK sometimes, ignore it.
Avoid tunnel vision at all costs. I think this is the number one cause of healer death; you’re too busy staring at the health bars to notice the gnolls eating your spleen. One of the best tools for preventing tunnel vision (and sometimes for causing it) is a good raid healing frame mod. Healbot and Grid + clique are both popular setups; my personal favorite is Vuhdo which I think combines the flexibility of Grid with the ease of setup of Healbot. Other sites have done far better rundowns of how to install and tweak these; if you’re stuck for ideas, I recommend visiting the http://www.PlusHeal.com forums and their UI and Mods subforum to see screenshots and suggestions of Healer UIs. Sometimes though healing frames can make tunnel vision worse, when all you focus on is the part of your screen with little boxes and icons. I suggest moving the frames somewhere near the middle of your screen and forcing yourself to see other areas.
Other than that it’s about practice, practice, practice. Going into battlegrounds can be good practice at getting a UI with raid frames set up to where you can concentrate on the frames but still watch your environment. Pug some dungeons – and please don’t wait til you’re 80 to start. It is harder to jump in at top level because your gear will be lagging compared to what people expect. But if you did just dual spec to Holy and you’re 80, go ahead and start! Don’t take stupid comments personally, just have fun.
That is what I heard after an AN run. So there was this hunter who was managing pull off me quite a lot. The worst was where he pulled the final boss off me just as he was about to cast pound. So it would turn towards the hunter and cast it right into a melee DPS. Now for all you DPS out there that think that is the tanks fault think again. We only can do so much threat, there is a limit. Beyond that there is only skillful use of taunts and forced attacks. And beyond that there is nothing. So when I am doing 1500 dps (my under geared new bear, not Reversion) and you are doing 3600, over half of which is crits, then sooner or later you will pull off me. And if you do it right before he starts channeling which makes him ignore taunts (or at least not turn around until the channel is over) then there is not a darn thing I can do about it.
I called the guy on it at the end saying he should MD and FD more. His response? “I only MD, learn to hold agro”. Of course he dropped group right after so he did not have time to learn more about his stupidity. There are two problems with that statement. The first is that MDing once at the start of a fight is not ‘using MD’. That is just sort of a nod in the general direction of MD when it comes to boss fights. Second if the tank is holding agro almost all the time, even if there is something more about agro he needs to learn, he is getting the job done. Which means it is up to the DPS to do their part after that. What you have to do is manage your threat. Just throwing MD at the start of a fight is no more managing your threat then just simply owning a savings account is managing your money. It is a necessary start but nothing more. If you don’t know how to manage your own threat beyond that, then you need to go learn. Maybe I will do a post on that some time. But for HUNTERS it is so stupid simple that the very idea of some hunter not doing it and then blaming the tank really burns me.
Step one: Macro MD
Write a macro that says this: /cast [target=focus] Misdirection
With this all you have to do at the start of an instance is focus the tank. Next go download Omen and use it. When you get high on the threat list, use MD again.If you are even close to pulling off the tank hit your FD. That is it. A level 80 hunter should never be telling a tank to hold threat, even one with tissue and bubble wrap for gear. Other class have their own versions of that.
There are a lot of bad tanks out there. But if you are not an expert in your classes threat reduction skills and you seem to get more bad tanks than you think is possible… maybe the answer is not in the tanks. I had to instruct a mage the other day that his mirror images don’t do EXTRA threat. He was avoiding using them. They actually split up your threat and are therefore it is a really nice ‘dump’ skill. Every class has stuff like that but it seems most people would rather blame the tank than play their own class well. This is akin to ramming other cars on the road when they cut you off. It is a lot better to accept that other people do that and if you want lower repair bills you learn to use the brakes.
In Oculus tonight I was healing in caster form and noticed that I was getting a weird visual effect…
It’s triggered when Althor’s Abacus heals someone. To put it bluntly, my boobs start glowing.
Where exactly am I keeping this thing?
The secret to getting the most out of leveling with someone else is in understanding exactly what your class brings to the duo. For a pure dps class, one with no pet and the survivability of a cloth-wearing snowball in hell, the mage can be a powerful addition to a pair.
First, the obvious utility spells. Conjured food and water mean you can avoid spending gold on these. Time between fights is reduced when you can recharge your mana-batteries quickly and easily. The portals you won’t get until 40, at which point you can get from Kalimdor to the Eastern Kingdoms a lot faster than a group with no mage, making Fedex quests a breeze. Dampen and Amplify Magic are almost totally useless spells – unless you’re leveling with a warrior and receiving no healing anyway, in which case reducing the magical damage you might take is great. And Feather Fall is situationally useful.
Second, crowd control. These days nobody uses it at high levels but you can and should use it as you level up. Convince your partner to let you sheep things at the start of a pull. Frost nova and blink away from mobs. Use frost bolts to slow things down. You’re more likely to survive when one of the six gnolls that want your spleen is suddenly a fluffy sheep and the rest are struggling across frozen ground while pelted with shards of ice.
Third, sheer firepower. It’s hard to match a mage for damage as you’re leveling up, and if you’re leveling with someone specced into healing especially you’re going to be doing the lion’s share of the killing. Just remember that especially in the first fifteen levels you are going to pull aggro off your partner even if you’re teamed up with a tank class, and be ready for it.
Tips for Leveling
First, do not spec Arcane. Arcane is not viable until you get Arcane Blast at level 64. Your choices are to level Fire or Frost. A mage who is planning to do a lot of soloing should level Frost. This is also a good spec if you are leveling with a healer or with some other squishy dps class. You can slow things down and kite them while taking little damage yourself.
However, if you’re leveling with a tanky class, you might spec Fire instead. Let your meat shield pick up aggro while you lob balls of fire at the kobolds’ heads. There are plenty of sites out there with leveling mage builds and I won’t replicate that here, but here’s a fire and here’s a frost that are pretty cookie cutter.
You and Your Partner
If you are paired with a warrior, hunter, enhancement shaman, ret paladin (at early levels, or prot later) or feral druid: Spec fire, let your partner or partner’s pet keep aggro on the mobs. Kill things. Don’t pull aggro; cast fireballs and pyroblasts at one mob as a time as long as the tank isn’t dying. This can work with a warlock with a voidwalker out too but warlocks and mages are bad pairs. One second you’re questing, the next second you’ve destroyed two or three countries and your hair is missing.
If you are paired with a priest, balance/resto druid, some sort of shaman that isn’t enhancement (I don’t think they’re doing it right. Unless she’s a resto shaman and you’re doing a lot of LFD), holy pally, or rogue: Spec frost. Plan your pulls carefully. Sheep things, then use frost nova to trap them, empowered blizzard to slow them. Kite ‘em, shoot frostbolts, don’t let them near your partner if he’s healing you.
Either way, things are now dead. Sit down and have some conjured bread and water. Steal the kobold’s candle. Profit.
Other things to consider: Try to get your partner to role a class that does not wear cloth. If you’re teamed with a warlock or shadow priest, you’ll be fighting over gear. You aren’t likely to find a wand until level 15 or so, unless you get lucky, so you might have an enchanter make you a low level wand (the mats are pretty darn cheap). You’ll want a wand; at low levels your mana can disappear fast and leave you no way to kill the mostly-burned-to-death boar that suddenly isn’t dying. Do a little research as you level up to learn real details; this is supposed to give you a feel for the flavor and fun that a mage brings to a pair.
I’m a bit of a control freak.
(Reversion is not allowed to make a comment on that statement)
I’ve always had control freak tendencies. Sometimes they come in handy, like when I was applying to grad school. Or organizing a bookstore run with my younger siblings. All six of them. No surprise it would spill over to WoW; the biggest surprise is how long it took me to roll a healer.
As a Resto druid, my inner control freak is very very happy in 10 man raids. I feel like I’m responsible for keeping everyone alive and I like it. Even if I’m supposed to be raid healing I can keep an eye on the tanks for a good time to drop a Swiftmend or my Nature’s Swiftness + Healing Touch macro.
25 mans are another beast. “Ok Analogue you keep Rejuvs on groups 3-5″. There’s my healing assignment. Drop a WG on the melee if I can spare the GCD. Otherwise, Rejuv, wait for the order to battle res. Drop a hot on the tanks. Don’t even think about Nourish, unless the fight goes to heck and the healers start dropping.
It’s fun, don’t get me wrong. I see more of the fights in 25 man. I’m glad I did Rotface in 25 first; I have a really good idea of what to do in 10 man now. But I’m not in control. How could I be, as one of 25, one of 7 healers? It’s as bad as being DPS. In 10 man, I’m one of two, maybe three, performing my role. I can challenge myself a lot more. Should I Swiftmend the tank or heal up that mage over there that took a few ticks of fire damage before moving? Do I need to focus heal the Mark target? Doing my own thing and actually thinking for myself is an asset. In 25 man, I’m part of a team, greater as a whole than as a part. We can do some awesome things together – but deep down inside I feel insecure.
Do other healers feel this way? I bet it’s more of a Resto druid thing than, say, a Holy Pally thing. I think we probably are more likely to feel like we have to heal everyone at the same time rather than focusing on assignments, but I might be wrong.
And how, when the tank’s health bar keeps going down, can I NOT heal him?
I think everyone knows what GDKP runs are these days; if not, the quick version is that when loot drops, you bid gold on what you want, high bidder wins, and at the end all the gold spent is divvied out in equal shares to the raiders. Guilds often run GDKP raids for their raiders’ alts as well as a few pugged potential buyers.
Tuesday after the ICC zone buff was raised to 10%, one of the officers of our guild announced they’d be doing a GDKP run of ICC this Saturday. I immediately went to town, clearing out my bank vaults and doing some serious auctioneering. With six 80s between us, Reversion and I have most of the professions covered and mine are especially lucrative; jewelcrafting, enchanting, tailoring, and my pally tank has a glyph business that has been netting us a few hundred gold a week. Basically, Tuesday my mage, who is our auctioneer and has all Reversion’s and my money, had about 14k gold; Saturday we had 32k. I sold a couple primordial saronite from frost badges that my alts had collected but mostly it was bank leftovers, bags, and gems. Also a weird quirk on my server has runed orbs selling for more than 4 times the cost of frozen orbs and I took advantage of that.
Anyway, Saturday rolls around; the raid leader asks Reversion to bring his hunter instead of the druid, which he’s happy to do, and I get an ok to come on Analogue. This will be the first time we’ve actually gotten past Marrowgar on 25 man ICC and I’m looking forward to it immensely. An hour before it’s time to go we hear a horrible thumping and crashing from the garage. We go out and find our washer has walked off the pedestal, fallen on its face, ripped pipes out of the wall and there’s water going everywhere.
Great. The joys of home ownership.
We shut off the water, move the boxes off the floor, start hacking at pipes. Reversion assesses our tools and gear and we make a quick run to Home Depot. Five minutes before raid time, we’ve got a fix that lets us have cold running water, the washer is on its feet and given a tentative “maybe it’s ok” verdict, and we decide to raid.
Marrowgar gets one shot and a pair of caster leather gloves drop, which I buy even though it breaks my Tier 10 2 set bonus; they were just too nice to pass up. Deathwhisper takes two attempts and some nice hunter pants drop for Reversion’s hunter Approximate; we both got lucky and got these pieces cheap as my competitor druid was afk during bidding, and Approximate was the only hunter around.
Then Gunship, and I’m holding my breath the whole time and then it drops: the Abacus, the trinket I’ve been wanting since I first heard of it. The bidding war is fierce but once it gets past 3k gold it’s down to just me and a holy priest; we bid it up to 4.9k before he drops out and lets me have it, telling me privately that if Trauma drops off Rotface he’s not giving up so easily. I tell him it’s on and don’t tell him that I still have close to 20k if Trauma drops and man do I want that mace.
Saurfang gets one-shot. So far the fight that I’ve found the most different on 25 versus 10 man is Deathwhisper; the mind control and the sheer number of adds made that one interesting. Most of the fights are actually easier for me as a healer, since I can concentrate on raid healing and just spam Rejuvs and WG everywhere.
We head to Rotface first. It takes two tries, and the second time we succeed even though one of the pugged guys does not take his small ooze out of the raid – someone managed to pull it out after two minutes. That’s the first time I’ve seen that fight and I enjoyed it even though I ended up dying twice on the second attempt – bad luck with slime puddles.
Trauma, of course, does not drop. Argh. I’d been setting myself up all week but I guess when I’d already got the Abacus I couldn’t be too greedy.
Then we go to Festergut and we wipe and wipe and wipe, mostly by hitting the enrage timer. I end up pulling out my mage, we swap out the worst dps (the aforementioned pugged warrior who didn’t move his slime) and finally – finally – get him down, after a heartbreaker attempt where the last one of us died a nanosecond before he did.
Why am I writing all this up? Because I wanted to emphasize how awesome GDKP runs are for people who have skills, ok gear, and not enough time to commit to a real raid schedule, or just don’t want that pressure regularly. If it had been a “real” guild raid some of the wipes would have been… unpleasant, but because everyone there was a customer as well as a raider, the raid leaders had to put up with a bit of idiocy. The idiots’ gold is just as good as anyone else’s.
It takes gold to make gold of course, but at 80 the gold comes rolling in with minimal effort. Dailies, or auctioneering, or a good profession, add up fast. I’ve never ever bought gold, but I have four characters with dual spec, three with epic Northrend flying, crafted gear, and been a high roller on two GDKP runs in the last four months. And I have a trinket that I’d have given my eye teeth for, a fun afternoon of content that for me was progression, and an achievement in my log.
Dear person who came here looking for advice about “healer looking for tank and love”:
I feel your pain. Who among us has not known what it’s like to sit wondering whether your match will ever appear? And then the “Dungeon Ready” notice flashes up and your heart leaps, hoping this time – maybe – you’ll find The One.
Good news! Blizzard wants to help even more than it already has with the LFD tool and is introducingBattle.Net Matchmaking. I’d say you should check it out, it might just be what you’re looking for.
If not, my suggestion is to find the “love” part first and then make him tank for you. If he really loves you, he’ll re-roll a meat shield. And playing with the one you love is really the best part of WoW!
Threat is tanking. The number one thing a tank has to know is what threat is and how to control it. If you don’t know you can’t tank. Period. If you are interested in tanking you need to gain a working understanding of what threat is before you start.
If you have played WoW at all you are going to think this is somewhat obvious and simple. But stick with me for a little while. There are some tiny nuances that are of MAJOR importance to a tank. All those things that happen in the game happen for a reason. Learning the underlying mechanics of them will make you a good tank.
Threat is an invisible feature that every creature has. If it helps you can think of it as a reverse health bar. Every critter just hanging out in the world has zero threat on it.
The instant that creature spots something it wants to kill it gains one point of threat towards that person.
The murloc has spotted the gnome. Now it has just one point of threat toward her and none toward anyone else.
This one point is enough to give the murloc an intense burning desire to drop everything it was doing (hanging out gurgling) and go stab the gnome to death (our horde readers can identify with this urge).
So now the murloc does this; stabbing the gnome for a few points of damage. Notice the threat level the murloc has does not change. When a creature does damage to something he does not generate any more threat toward that creature. All of his threat bars stay the same. The gnomette still has just one point of threat and the rest of the world has zero. Notice that the threat meter is associated with the Murloc. It is ‘his’ threat. Each creature in the game has their own little threat list. They hold a grudge on everyone who is on that list and will try to kill them.
Now let us say that the Gnome defends herself.
Notice that the meter went up. Now the Gnome has 11 threat. Because she is the only one here it does not matter how much she has. She is still the at the ‘top of the threat list’. This means that she ‘has aggro’. Also note that the ‘threat’ the gnome generated by attacking the murloc is proportional to the amount of damage she did to it. If she takes a few more swings that number will keep going up to keep pace with the amount of damage she does.
Now let’s see what happens when things go badly.
The gnome has died (/cry). But notice the threat meter. The Gnome is no longer on it. The list of threat for this creature is reset because the only one that was on its list is dead. It will run back to its home. Other things besides dying can reset the meter. For example a hunter using ‘Feign Death’ will do the same thing. The hunter will drop completely off the threat list and the creature snaps back to its home.
Simple right? Don’t go away yet. It gets more complicated.
First of all I will start drawing the threat list to look like an addon called Omen. There are other addons out there (and a built in feature) that let you actually see the threat a targeted creature has. For a tank these addons are very helpful. They are particularly helpful early in your tanking when you are trying to gain complete mastery of this ‘threat’ stuff.
This example has a lot more going on….
Here is a happy piggy… er, vicious razorback boar in need of killing.
And here is a band of friends out questing. There is a gnome rogue, a druid healer and a draenai paladin.
The boar sees them, but since it is a happy boar (yellow name) it does not get any threat toward them. It has aggro on no one and its threat list is empty.
What’s this? The rogue was stealthed and just backstabbed the poor pi… er. I mean vicious mean boar. Now we can see the threat table below. It is turned sideways to make it easier to see who is on the ‘top’. Also that makes it look more like an Omen meter. As we can see the only one on the list is that mean little backstabbing… I mean our friend the rogue. No one else has done anything to the boar so no one else is on the list. What else do you notice? The threat on the meter is less than the damage the rogue did. This is because the rogue took talents points into something that lowers his threat.
(Actually rogue talent trees don’t have any skills like that but some classes do.) For example a warrior in berserker stance would generate less ‘threat’ than the strict amount of damage he did to the target. By being in the correct stance he can keep his threat low. We will get into more on this later. The numbers I am using in this tutorial are only a rough estimate and not strictly accurate examples.
So what happens next?
Let’s say our paladin is trying to be a tank. So she is going to use a ‘taunt’. In this case the actual ability is ‘hand of reckoning’ but the important thing is that it is a ‘taunt’ type ability.
A taunt is what we call a broad class of abilities that all share a certain feature. There are minor differences between them but the main feature is that you, the tank, are given as much threat as the highest person on that target’s list, plus one. This is great because it puts you on the top of the threat list. A taunt will ALSO force the target to attack you. This has the effect that after you use the taunt you have 1 point higher threat than anyone else and the target is planning to attack you.
Notice that I broke that into two pieces, first getting to the top of the threat list, and second that it will attack you. This is because, in WOW, even if you are at the top of the threat list, you actually have to do 10% more threat than the current ‘leader’ on the list in order to get the creature to attack you. Let’s say the paladin had only swung her mace at the target and not taunted it. She would have generated as much aggro as the damage she did. In order to beat that 10% buffer she would have had to hit the target for 17 points of damage for it to ignore the rogue and attack her instead. By taunting instead she does not have to rely on doing enough damage to get to the top of the list. The taunt blasts her to the top of the list AND makes her the target instantly.
So now she has taunted off the rogue and is at the top of the list. What next?
The paladin, confident that she is now ‘tanking’, merrily swings at the boar and does 10 points of damage. At the same time, the rogue attacks again and does another 15 points of damage. Now the rogue is back at the top of the list! And, even more than that, the rogue is more than 10% higher than the paladin. So now the boar is going to attack the rogue.
Here we have the boar om-nom-noming on the rogue. The paladin is desperately whacking it with her mace and the rogue is in a panic, stabbing harder than ever. They are both doing damage, but the paladin is just not catching up.
This could go on forever. When the pally’s taunt is off cooldown she could use that again, but she would have to get lucky to keep the boar off the rogue for long because the rogue is doing more damage than her. This is the makings of a frustrated tank who is confused as to why she can’t ‘hold aggro’.
But it does not go on forever. The rogue is going to cast Feint. This ability lowers a rogues threat by a set amount. Because I am using fake numbers I am just going to say it is 30. The real number is a lot more but all these numbers are just place holders for the real values to give you the idea of how it all works.
So in this next moment the rogue stabs again and uses feint, and the pally hits again with her hammer. The rogue gains some threat and loses a some from feint and the pally just gains. Now the pally has a very good lead and can hold aggro.
On a side note this tank may not realize the target is now attacking her due to something the DPS player did. She might think she has succeeded as a tank but in reality the other player has saved her bacon. So everything is good again…
Except now the healer wakes up.
The healer throws a nice big aoe heal. So what does that do? Now the healer is on the threat list. For every point of healing that is done to each person on a creatures threat list the person doing the healing gains that much threat. This means a creature can easily get far more mad at the person healing the guys hitting it. This goes for other kinds of buff spells too, even ones that are not healing. Almost anything you do to help someone who is fighting causes whatever they are fighting against to get mad at you.
So now the healer has blown past the other two on the aggro table and pulled the boar off of them. The druid ‘pulled aggro’ big time. He did that by doing more threat and getting to the top of the meter. He even got over the 10% ‘buffer’. But, actually is is more than just 10%. The 10% buffer is for melee targets. For caster-range targets it is 30%. What this means is that if the tank has 100 points of threat it will take 110 points of threat coming from anyone in melee range of the critter to pull it off the tank. For any party members outside of melee range it will take 130 points of threat to ‘pull aggro’.
So what is this tank doing wrong? One of the things wrong is Righteous Fury. The ability that separates a damage dealing Paladin from a tanking Paladin is Righteous Fury. This ability makes all of their holy damage attacks do 80% more threat. So if the paladin throws an ability that does 100 damage points to the target the threat will be 180 instead of just 100.
This concept is very important. Every tanking class has some mechanism or ability that allows them to do more threat from their attacks than just what the damage would cause. This is important because in many situations other members of the party will actually be doing more damage than you. They put all their talent points into things that make them hit harder while you were putting points into things that make you block, dodge or parry better. It is almost certain that in an given party someone will be doing more damage than you. This gets even worse at higher levels. In an endgame raid for example some people will be doing well over double the damage you, the tank, are doing. Taunts are great for getting things to attack you, and for bumping your threat to the top, but if you do not have a way to pump your straight threat output up higher even taunts will not keep critters attacking you for long.
Each class of tank has a different way of pumping out more threat than damage. For Druids it is a feature of bear form. All damage caused in that form does more threat than it normally would. For warriors the defensive stance has this feature built into it. For DKs it is Frost presence (not to be confused with frost spec, DK can tank in other specs).
In addition to abilities that raise the threat generation of all their attacks tanks also have attacks that specifically generate extra threat. These abilities have various amounts of extra threat they apply to the target over and above the damage they do. Some of them do very little damage but still apply a good bit of threat. Abilities like this will specifically say they do extra threat in their tool tips. What those moves are depend on what class of tank you are playing. A good tank will work these types of moves into their rotation.
It is important to understand that as a tank it is more important for you to be doing threat to the targets than it is for you to be doing damage. The DPSers are there to actually kill the creatures. You, the tank, are only there to keep the creature distracted from killing the DPSers or the healer. If a tank also does good damage that is just icing on the cake. Sometimes tweaking your rotation to do more damage will also increase the threat you cause, but not always. Sometimes it will lower your threat. As a tank it is your job to do the research about your class and spec so that you know what things increase your threat and what things do not.
As I already mentioned, some dps classes have features that do the opposite, abilities that lower the amount of threat caused by attacks. Some are innate, meaning they lower all the threat caused by attacks. For example in cat form a druid doing 100 damage with an attack will do much less than 100 points of threat.
The final class of aggro abilities are ones call ‘dumps’. In the example above the Rogue used Feint which is an ‘aggro dump’. This means it drops your overall threat . There are a lot of different aggro dumps in the game. They work in a wide variety of different ways. Priests have Fade when just lowers threat by big chunk. Hunters have Feign Death which completely removes all of their threat and drops them out of combat entirely. Some aggro dumps are temporary. For example if a night elf shadow melds that will only keep creatures off them until they come out of it. If the combat has not ended when they get out of shadow meld, either by taking damage or by doing something, then all the threat they had before comes roaring back.
The last things to talk about on this subject is very important. Forced attacks are a class of abilities that tanks have that are extremely useful. They also have some important drawbacks so it is vital to understand them.
A forced attack is an ability that forces a targeted creature to attack you. This is NOT the same things as a taunt. The critical difference is that a forced attack does not increase your threat and put you on the top of the list for that creature to attack. Instead these moves just artificially put you to the top of the list temporarily. As soon as the ability wears off those creatures will go back to attacking whoever is REALLY on the top of the list. These moves are very useful for buying you time. A good example is Challenging Shout. This ability forces a bunch of enemies in the nearby area to attack the warrior using it for a few seconds. It hits a lot more targets than a ‘taunt’ move so it is very good for getting large numbers of creatures to stop attacking someone. For example if a patrol just attacked your party and they all start beating on the healer this move will instantly get them off the healer. BUT only for a few seconds. So it is critically important that the tank use follow up moves to generate threat on those critters before the forced attack wears off. If the tank does this then the day is saved. If not all of those creatures will go back to chewing on the healer and there is a good chance the party is doomed.
That does it for the intro to threat and the explanation of the categories of abilities. As a tank it is very critical to know the mechanics of what your abilities do. When and how to use those moves is a subject for more posts.
Whenever you are not sure do some reading! There is a lot of good information out there and there are a lot of tricks and hidden things to learn about how it all works. For example I recently had to do some research into ‘taunt immunity’ after a failed ICC raid. What I discovered was that the other tank had doomed us by over-using his taunts on the 4th boss and making him immune during critical tank swaps. If you are a new tank and don’t know what I am talking about don’t worry about it. The important thing is never assume you have it all figured out. Just when you have learned most of it Blizzard will change something.