So you can hold aggro now eh? You have a rotation that works and the dpsers hardly pull off you anymore? That is good. But there is more.
Let us get into the dynamics of a pull. A ‘pull’ is the act of starting a fight with a particular monster or group of monsters. The pull usually is considered to encompass the initial contact as well as the tank getting agro on each creature. What I mean is the pull includes getting in there, getting things started and getting the fight stable. A tank has to get minimum threat on ever target and not have them pull off him the instant the melee, casters, or the healer start doing their thing. If any of the critters pull off you in the first few seconds then you did something wrong (unless that was part of your plan).
Setting up a pull
Scope them out:
The first thing to do is take stock of your target pack. Most mobs are in a pack. How big that pack is and what kinds of critters are in it have a large effect on what sort of pull you want to do. It is critical to take these things into account. The tank has to make the decisions on how to deal with these things. Tanks that don’t do that wipe their group. In many or most cases there is no other person in the party that can deal with the effects of a bad pull. If you can’t pull well you cant tank.
Some of the things to take note of are:
Are there casters in the group?
What kind of range to the casters have?
Does the group patrol?
Do any of them have a fear ability?
Do any of them do a ‘knock back’ effect? (Rinos that charge)
Are there any beasties in the pack need to be turned away from the party? (dragons that breath fire in front of them, snakes that do a multi target poison, etc)
This is the short list but there are others. What you, as a tank, do to set up this fight and shape it is called ‘controlling the battle space’. The job of doing this solely belongs to the tank. Some other classes can help but only working with the tank.
The second thing to look at is where you are and what is around you and what is around the pack you are going to attack. The most critical thing is what other packs might join the fight. This threat is variable. If packs are far away it is low. If packs are far away but patrol then it might be higher. If the creatures in the target pack do a fear or ‘knock back’ then the risk is very high. As the tank it is your job to know the area and be aware of what could happen. It is your job to take steps to lower those risks. It is also your job to be ready for the worse case situations. If a patrol comes at you from behind, it was your job to know they were coming, see them coming and to round them up as soon as they join the fight. A good tank has eyes in the back of their head. This is called ‘situational awareness’. It is the same skill that soldiers on a battle field, fighter pilots and cops need. The skill is the inability to be taken by surprise. You can’t be taken by surprise because you already expected the surprise and have a plan to take care of it. And when that plan goes wrong you have a back up plan. But lets get back to the pull…
The shape of your pull:
There are many kinds of pulls. Every tanking class has several options available to them starting a pull. Not all tanks have the same options. Since there are tank classes I have not played I might miss some but here is the list. Keep in mind there are more tricks to a pull than this and there are variations.
The tank runs in to the pack and starts hitting them. Every tank can do this pull. What attacks and abilities they use once they get to the group depend on what class they are. I will not get into those. We are just talking the pull itself. Sufficient to say that the tank needs to get agro on every target in the pack as they do the pull.
Pros: Simple. Easy. Able to be done with no rage, RP, or mana.
Cons: This pull is slow. The dps or healers might pull off you between the time you start running forward and the first attacks you make. There is a gap between the time you get close enough to the mobs for them to notice you, and the time you get within melee range. When you are in this ‘gap’ an healing or buff effects cast on you will cause the critters to gain agro on the healer.
This pull is the bread and butter of warrior and bear tanks. It involves using a charge ability to dash in there and attack right freaking now! This pull compensates for the slowness drawback of the straight pull. The tank closes that gap between initial agro (they spot you) and the first melee or aoe abilities you do. By blowing past that gap you get the fight started fast and have a much better chance of a clean pull.
Ranged attack pull:
This involves the tank standing in one spot and casting a range attack at the pack. It might be a shot from a warrior’s gun. It might be a bear’s growl or farie fire. It could be that icy touch thing DKs do. There are a lot of ranged attacks that a tank can use to start the fight.
Pro: this pull is great for moving a group to you and getting them away from other packs that are dangerously close.
Con: This pull, by itself, is very risky. It combines the ‘gap’ issue of the straight pull with the fact that most dps, faced with a bunch of critters running at them, will start attacking. Also, this pull does not pull in creatures that have ranged attacks. Those ones will only move to you partway (or not at all) and then sit there shooting arrows or fireballs at your head. Only it will not be your head because as soon as the healer heals you that creature will shoot fireballs at their head.
There are ways to get rid of those cons which I will get to in a minute.
This is the same as a ranged attack pull except it is done by a Death Knight. The ranged attack they start the fight with is ‘death grip’. It has all the pros and cons of the ranged pull except that you also get to pick on target and have it come right to you instantly. This is a very good pull for groups with just one ranged caster.
This could also be done as a ‘straight pull’. In that case a DK will death grip one of the critters while he is moving into the pack. Or he might do it just after he moves in, but still as a part of the initial pull. This is an outstanding method for gathering up groups that are spread out and contain casters. Knowing which mob to grip and where to grip them is a critical skill for a DK tank. It is what separates a so-so dk tank and a really good one. Often a good choice is the critter in the pack that is farthest away. This clumps them up around you fast.
Shield throw pull:
You will see this one a lot with a paladin tank. Like the grip pulls there is a skill to knowing which targets are the best ones to throw your shield at. This pull can also be done as a standing pull or while moving in during a straight pull.
That covers most of the basic pulls. Other abilities can be done during those pulls as variations. For example a bear who is good can get off a fairy fire on one target while she charges a different one. In effect this is combining a ranged pull and a charge pull. DK and Pallies get some of their best results by using combinations of abilities as they move in with a straight pull. Bears and Warriors tend to use a charge pull and then throw an AOE as a follow up.
What is LOS? LOS means line of sight. Basically this means hiding where the pack can’t see you. This is used to force the ranged attacker creatures to run to where they can see you. When properly done an LOS pull will take a spread out group of caster mobs and bring them in to the party in a nice tight pack. This pulls, more than any other, needs the cooperation of the party. A DPS or the healer don’t hide with you, or start doing their thing early, the critters will stop coming to you and start casting fireballs at your parties heads. There are ways to vary the LOS pull and mix things up. But the basic LOS pull is this: the tank will use a ranged attack on one of the creatures and then will turn and hide. So technically the LOS pull is a ranged pull. And it is specifically designed to compensate for the ranged pull weakness; casters not coming to the tank. There are many pulls were LOS is not only an excellent choice. Many tanks don’t use them. Really good tanks know when and where to use them and do them as needed.
One interesting thing to note is that a healer can do a LOS pull by himself. For this the tank stands out in the open and does a ranged pull. As the creatures start beating up the tank the healer will hide near the tank and start casting heals on the tank. This will agro the caster mobs on the healer and they will run in.
There are a lot of other pulling tricks that can be used if you are tight cooperation between the party and the tank.
Counterspell and taunt
Tricks of the trade
Remote control pet pulls
Mind control pulls
Death grip and taunt (with DPS DK)
Multi tank pulls
Multi GROUP pulls
And many more.
Maybe in a later blog I will talk about more advance pulls. I originally was going to talk about that in this one but I got carried away explaining the basics.
Before I go let me say don’t get complacent. Don’t just find one pull that works and stick with it. There are many ways to pull, even with a given pull type or single class. Try stuff. If it does not work, try something else. Having the ability to start different fights in different ways will make you a better tank. A lot of group wipes could have been prevented if the pull had been executed differently. Don’t just assume it was someone else’s fault (that stupid hunter stood back there and the pat came). Instead think about what YOU can do different to make things succeed. The mark of a good tank is being able to make just about any group work no matter how bad the heals and dps is. If something fears and you bring adds, next time pull that group farther back. If the caster over there keeps shooting the healer, find a place to LOS that pull. Try different things and find what works. Then try other things. The more tricks you have up your metal (or fur) sleeve the better you will do.
A short note on using a ‘taunt’ ability as a ranged attck for a pull. Avoid doing this. It is better to have your taunt off cooldown if (when) the dps messes up your pull. Because a taunt on a target not in combat does no ‘threat’ using it makes it more likely that someone will pull off you. This advice does not fully apply to taunts that damage the target.