This post is about the art of pulling and tanking more than one pack at a time. This topic is not basic tanking. Infact it should not be in a ‘Tanking 101′ topic. In fact I would rather new tanks did not even think about doing this… But… It is useful information. It is useful to know even if you don’t regularly do this. It is useful for when you start feeling your oats and wanting to pull faster and it is useful for dealing with unintended adds.
The art of the multi pull is not simple. A very good tank can make it appear easy but it is not. The things you must consider are new, different and you must consider them on TOP of the things you are concerned with in a single pull.
But first, why? Why do it? Many people will complain long and hard about ‘go go go’ tanks that are over eager and don’t know their limitations. What they are complaining about is a tank that does multi-pulls WRONG. There are a lot of ways to do it wrong. However despite the complaints it can be done right. When it is done right there are rarely complaints. And you will know the difference. When you do things right you will have DPSers in awe and healers asking you to join their guild. Seriously, I get it a lot after a pull in which I never pulled any group by itself and did bosses with adds deliberately.
When you do it wrong people will drop group without a word or after a short rant. They will drop half out part way through very unhappy. But most of all you will know you did it wrong because you will be obliterated so fast the Spirit healer will offer you a pity discount. You will wipe so many times the floors of all of Northrend will be squeaky clean, washed with your innards and polished with your mangled body as a rag. Get the picture? You groups will implode so fast you will rarely see the first boss.
Now that you know what is at stake I urge you to try this stuff with caution. Practice with healers you know and love. And buy them flowers in advance. (Analogue inserts: Hey! Where are MY flowers??) Proceed with caution.
Multi pulls versus chain pulling
The first thing to note is that there are two kinds of multi pulls. One is the chain pull. Chain pulling means going for the next group before the first group is down. The term can also mean simply pulling groups one after another very fast, but here I am using it to mean something else. Chain pulling I refer to is the art of waiting until you have plenty of aggro on one group, to the point where the DPS could basically kill them even if you DCed. At that point you go for the next group, dragging a mostly dead pack behind you.
The other version of a multi pull is a pure multiple. This is where you aggro two groups at once, or charge through one and attack the other. The difference is that both (or all) groups are at full health when they all come together in an impressive orgy of destruction. If all goes right you will be in the middle of it.
This post is about true multi pulls and not chain pulls. I might cover chain some other time. What I will say that in chain pull the limiting factor for a healer is mana conservation. In multi pull it is upfront burst healing or sustained max healing rate, depending on how fast your DPS burn things down. More on that later.
Before we get into the ‘how to’ there are some very important concepts I want to go over. These become critical to multi pulling. Understanding them is how multi pulling will make you a better tank, even if you don’t regularly DO it. – I started to put these concepts in this post but instead I decided to introduce them in a separate post. If you have not read it, go back and read that one now. I will wait… It will be more important for the second half of this on how to actually survive multi pulls.
While you are at it read all the Tanking 101 posts as well. If reading those does not make you go ‘yeah I knew that’ then you are not ready for multi pull tanking.
This stuff is nasty. It can get you very very wiped and it can cause your group to drop or kick or both. If you want to get started doing it I recommend a guild group. Or starting small with just one add. Or both. No I don’t mean it is hard to tank a pat that aggros. While not easy that is not the difficulty level I am talking about. Pulling in an extra pack from nearby is not all that likely to get you booted. Mounting and riding through the next 3 packs before taking 4 on at once is likely to make your healer go ’WTF-bye’.
If you wipe after pushing it too hard I highly recommend you immediately apologize to your group and promise to throttle it back. This will go a long way to smoothing things over and give you more valuable practice. Whatever you do don’t blame anyone but yourself. If you wipe while pulling more than one group it is ALWAYS the tank’s fault. One of the tank’s jobs is to gauge how well the run is going and how good everyone is and set a workable pace. If you set a pace that is too fast it is ALWAYS your fault.
But… It IS possible to do this. It IS possible to do it well. And it IS possible to do it in such a way that your heals and DPS are elated or even in awe at the end of the run and not putting you on ignore.
Now on with the show.
In this section I will talk about the mechanics of the pull but not how to survive it. Don’t read only this section and go try anything. I will cover surviving it next.
First let’s ignore your actual HP and talk about the hazards in just getting all the packs to come to you and stay on you. However hard it is for you to round up and keep aggro on normal packs, multi pulls make this vastly harder.
Effectively the ‘pull phase’ of the fight is extended to be several times longer than usual. The ‘pull’ part of the fight is from the first time any creature spots you and when you have them all rounded up and attacking you. This is the phase were it is most risky for things to pull of you. This is because you have very little threat on the targets and because some or all of the targets are outside your melee range, limiting your options for getting more threat. Once past the ‘pull’ phase all the targets are on you and you have ample opportunity to generate threat. In a standard pull it is possible to complete the ‘pull phase’ and have them all around you nice and close before the DPS really opens fire or before the healer has hit you with anything big. In a multi pull the chance of being able to do that go way way down. It is almost certain you will have to use a taunt as damage control during your pull. This means you want to save that and not use it in the opening stage, unless very early on, when you are sure to get it off cooldown by the time someone aggroes off you.
Line of sight pulls can also be very effective for multi pulls. You might line of sight one or more of the packs. It can be done by running through all packs and finding a place to hide or running through one pack, shooting a ranged attack at the next pack and then hiding between then. It can even be pulling them all back to the start by hiding around a corner there.
There are two big risks of multi pulls, one is the increased damage of having lots of things hitting you and the other is the extra chance of dropping aggro from having to manage more targets.
The main way to manage the second risk is to increase the first risk. The way is to move fast! Moving to round up extra groups group before the DPS engages is a great way to ensure they don’t have time to pull off you. Unfortunately this gets you farther from your healer and also take the healer off guard. I will talk more about that soon but keep in mind that it is a fine line to be JUST far enough ahead that the DPS does not pull off and not so far ahead that you are a fine smear on the floor before the healer knows you are gone. For this reason this sort of pull requires good cooldown use. I will go into this more in the second half, surviving the multi pull.
Because of these risks the pace of your pulls becomes absolutely critical. The same pull done with different timing, or rhythm can succeed or fail badly.
The first step in any pull is setting up and planning the pull. There are many places in the game where you simply can’t do a multi pull. It is too hard. The groups are too far apart. There is some sort of barrier or portal. There are lots of reasons some pulls just don’t work. Or they are just very hard to do. These are the ones you are likely to wipe on so be ready to “/p sry, my bad” on the way back to the instance.
So which are do-able? First of all not everything do-able is possible. I will get back to that later. Packs near each other are easy to round up. Packs with a nearby patrol you can get at the same time are also easy for multi pulls. With timing you can grab both with no additional effort. Tightly packed groups often require ranged pulls or LOS pulls to separate when you are doing normal tanking. These places can be turned into a multi pull simply by charging in.
There are three questions to ask.
1: Can I round all these guys up?
– The question is can you move between the groups and aggro them reasonably fast
2: Can I keep all these guys on me?
– This is asking if you can finish the pull without any DPS pulling off you and also if you can maintain agro with the multiple groups.
3: Does this pull actually speed things up?
– Just hitting two packs at once is not always speeding things up. If the other one was an optional pack then it isn’t. If the fight with all the packs is long and nasty it was may have been faster to do them separately. Also if it took longer to round them all up and get the fight started than it takes to just kill the first group you are wasting time.
If you have two packs near each other the start can be simple. You simply move in on one while throwing a ranged move at the other. Very straight forward usually. Try to use the ranged move on the group that is farther away. Also try to set up the pull so your camera can see all packs at once. This can mean going around one group until you can see the other group past them and then moving in. Alternately as you move in on the first group you can be rotating your camera to follow a group off to one side. It helps to be facing the second group as they come at you.
Here the tank is flanking one and then attacking though it.
Here the tank moves right into one and then rotates and ranged aggros the other.
Running between the two groups and aggroing both from there also works well, but requires more camera movement after the pull starts. It is still a good way to do it because both groups have a short distance to go to get inside your melee and AOE ranges.
A good example of this type of pull is the second pack of UK. You have 7-9 guys all around two anvils on either side of the hall. Careful pulls can make this into 3 or more pulls, some with only one dude getting pulled. A multi pull can pull all of them at once from between the anvils or just in front of that point. Stopping slightly short of directly between them puts the packs closer to your camera view area and you don’t have to pan as far to see them all.
There are two ways to do it. You can move to one and ranged aggro the other…
or you can ranged aggro both.
Of course if they are close enough you can do the whole pull with just your mere presence and save the ranged attack for any stragglers.
The pull is all about getting all targets into your melee. The longer it takes to do that the more risk there is of DPS or heals pulling them off you. This is why the second method of multi pulls is harder. This method is to run THOUGH or past a pack and continue on to the next pack.
The risk here is that you are leaving your DPS and heals close to the pack while you run farther on. Hopefully the DPS knows to keep following you until you stop before engaging. If they don’t you might tell them to do it at that the start of the run. If they are smart or experienced with ‘gogogo’ tankers then they might clue in on this on their own.
An example of the ‘run through’ pull would be all the ‘guy with a wolf’ packs that patrol up and down the stairs in UK and UP. You can run through one of those and then up to the top of a flight and pull the pack of 4 up there. The group you are running through is fairly weak so adding it to the group at the top of the stairs is a fairly straight forward multi pull if the patrol is near the top of the steps. If the patrol is on the landing or farther down then it is a long way to drag them up to the next group. If the patrol is near but bottom they can be done multi-style with the group at the bottom of the steps. This is using the technique of moving to first group (bottom of steps pack) and use a ranged attack on the second group (patrolling guy with wolf).
Another example of a run through pull would be doing the first two groups of DTK together. You run through the first two guys and then attack the next group (This is risky because the first two guys in the first group don’t spawn at the same time).
There are a lot of reasons why run through pulls can be nasty and painful. First of all you can get hit by the first pack. Also your DPS and heals will see a normal pull and have no clue what you are doing until you are well past the group. This makes it VERY easy for them to pull off you simply by starting the fight before you want them to. You could take the time to explain what you are doing to them… but by the time you are sure they understand you have blown all speed advantage from the multi pull. It can easily take longer to get the concepts across to everyone than it would take to kill both groups the old fashion way. So what to do?
There are actually several ways to do a run though and some of them help with the problem of getting too far ahead. One is to move just far enough past the group to aggro the next one and then turn back and round up any aggro you have dropped. This is a good way but only works on groups that are fairly close together. That is basically the choice you have with a run through pull. Do you run to the next group and fight where they are or do you bring them to meet the first group and fight there.
Here is a tank stopping short, using a ranged move and then turning back to the first group.
They say no plan survives contact with the enemy. It is almost certain the DPS and heals aggroing something will force you to shift and move. But, you have to start with a plan! Even a vague one is better than nothing. Just charging in is a great way to get killed. It can be as simple as “I am going to run into this pack, fire one thunderclap as I go by and then charge that group over there.” That is enough of a plan. At least provided you are wise enough to remember that the next step will be to AOE the second group and then look back to see if the first group is coming to you. That is the opening of a Multi pull, but the ‘pull phase’ is not really over until that second group gets to you and you have them all in melee.
Different tank classes and different play styles will have a big effect on how you do a multi pull. Pallys and DK are likely to want to pull the second group to them. Bears and warriors may want to charge back and forth between groups. I will not go into all the stuff each class can do because if you are even considering tanking this way you had better already be an expert in all your class can do.
I will noted that each tanking class can handle different levels of AOE threat and has different taunt options. For example number of critters a bear can round up and multi tank will not be equal to a warrior. And of course gear makes a huge difference.
Dealing with the fallout
People WILL pull off you when multi pulling. But if you are not already fast and clean with your taunts you should not be trying this anyway. So you should be able to round things back up. When you have run through a group to get to a second group and then you lose aggro on some of the first group it works just like adds. From a tactical standpoint you are in almost the same situation as if a patrol had hit your ranged/healer squad while you were pulling something. The big difference is that you KNOW it is going to happen and can be ready for it. As with an adds situation it is un forgiving so you have to be fast and taunt cleanly on the target you mean to taunt. Also you have to practice good Tanking Triage.
Tanking Triage is the art of taunting what you can and being ready to give up on what you can’t get threat on so you can focus on what you can. Lets say you run through a pack and pick up another. You get aggro on the second group and then see two of the first group are headed to your DPS/heals. Just now your mage opens with a blizzard on your head. You don’t want to leave the pack you are fighting because if you do the mage is SURE to aggro them all. So now you have to make a split second decision. Assuming you are not a pally with a three target taunt you can only taunt one of the dropped ones. So you hit the one you think is going for the healer and stay where you are, spamming AOEs and spreading threat around you. Maybe someone else will pick up the other one and maybe the healer will have to heal though one hitting him. Either way 8 seconds of the healer getting hit is usually better than you dropping aggro on the other 4-7 critters. Waiting that 8 seconds for your taunt MIGHT wipe you, but dropping aggro on 7 critters while you run after that one is much more likely to kill you. When you can’t get aggro on everything your goal is to get the most aggro on the most things for the longest possible time. With multi pull tanking every global cooldown is precious so don’t waste any.
Everything is your fault. No really. If you are pulling more than one pack deliberately there is NOTHING anyone can do that will make a wipe that is not YOUR fault. Why? Because you had the choice to do things the easy and safe way and chose not to. You can’t jump into the street and blame the blind old lady in the Cadillac for not swerving around you. And you can’t throw an knife at someone and blame them if they are not a good enough ninja to catch it.
But the good news is that if your skills and gear are good enough you can multiple almost any pull in any dungeon regardless of your group.
But don’t try this yet! Stay tuned for the ‘How to Survive Multi Pulls’ post. Coming Soon. In the mean time I will take no responsibility for any wipes you may experience.