Let them die!
You yank it you tank it!
Ever thought those? If you have done any decent amount of tanking then yeah, you have. Even if you did not give in to the temptation you probably wanted to. Every time you got some jerkwad not watching his threat and pulling you probably wanted to let them die. I have let more than a couple such people die. But that is not what I want to talk about. I want to talk about the OTHER times you let people pull aggro and die.
Look, you can’t hold all the aggro all the time. I know, I know a good tank tries. Yes. I said as much in other posts. And a really good tank has a shot at pulling that noble goal off. But sometimes you just can’t. Most non-tanks might not agree, most non-tanks probably have never tried to hold aggro when you get an accidental extra pack, a patrol from the rear and some trigger happy DPSers critting their butts off.
The art of putting your efforts where it is most needed even if it means letting something else slip. This concept applies a lot to healers. Often they have to decide where that critical heal is going and who needs it most. However, when it comes to tanking we get in the same boat. It is very often we have to decide which of two or more targets to taunt and which to throw AOES at. Which to target for some extra hits and which to let run away from us.
Some of you are saying ‘I don’t do that! I just round them all up!’ Ah, but you do. You decide which to round up first and which to wait a GCD for. Or which to wait on your taunt cooldown. You might round them all up EVENTUALLY. But there are always going to be a few moments where something is not on you. Often that something is going to have a chance to take a swing at one of your party.
With healing triage you heal the people that need it the most AND are most critical to the over all team. Keep the tank up, keep yourself up, keep that really solid caster over there alive. Let the noob DK get smacked around for a while. It does not mean you are letting them die, though sometimes that happens.
Tanking triage works the same, even if we don’t usually think of it that way. Moment to moment, we the tanks, decide what threat moves to use and where. When things go to heck we are deciding on the fly what to taunt and what targets to use what moves on.
Like healing triage this is not something a new tank is likely to do. Like a new healer a new tank will simply throw around what aggro they can and play whack a mole with targets that pull off of them. As you get more experience you develop a system and a sense for what taunts and threats to use where.
Why we triage
The point of triage is that we don’t want to waste our efforts in places where they do no good. Taunting the add on that ret pally is less useful than taunting that add that is hitting the healer. Things like that. If we take the time to taunt off both, something else might pull off of us. Also if we taunt off the pally first the healer could die. A tank that is not actively deciding what triage to do might just simply taunt the first one he notices. In a really bad situation that could lead to a wipe.
The top priority is always the healer. That person absolutely needs to not be getting hammered. You have to taunt off them as fast as you can… mostly. If more than one target is going after your healer it might be best use of your precious time to move the fight toward them and use some more AOE. Some of your more exotic ‘oh crap’ moves may need to be saved for the healer alone.
Soft DPS… sometimes
Many soft DPS are either fast with their ‘oh crap’ moves or they are dead. Mages are the big example here. They actually have a lot of moves for saving their own lives. Based on my experience they don’t remember they have half of them and they are usually to slow with the ones they DO remember.
Soft DPS are important to save… except they are probably dead by the time you need to save them. So if you can’t get them in time, cut your losses and let them go. No reason to waste a taunt cooldown taunting a critter that has already finished off your friend in the pointy hat.
You have to keep the boss on you. Really.
Most of the time adds have no real threat built up yet so you don’t need a whole taunt to get them to come to you. Still it is better to get some of them on you any way you can.
Adds are usually in a pack. And adds are usually going after someone that is not you (at first). Which means someone is about to bet blasted. So you need to soften that blow as fast as you can. Taunting one of the adds as they come at you is a good way to do it. So is getting closer and throwing AOE. Whatever you can do. This is more important than taunting off of people that just are doing too much threat. Why? Threat pullers are usually pulling one target. And they usually do it often enough that the healer and the person doing it are ready for it. The healer may NOT be ready for the mage in the back to get omnomnomed by a whole pack of tiny velociraptors.
Adds happen. Dealing with them fast and effectively is the mark of a good tank. When adds happen is when a weak tank/group wipes. So the faster and more effetely you can deal with the changing situation the better. You want to round up those things so fast and tie up their threat so tight that most of the party does not even realize you got any adds.
When NOT to taunt off.
A big challenge in tanking is to not get tunnel vision. If you panic when you see a target pull off you then you stand a very good chance of losing threat on another target. Focusing on that first one caused you to miss a threat move or two and not keep building up your aggro on everyone else. So it is important to know when NOT to worry too much about a target ignoring you.
Taunt off of other dps…. Rarely.
I mean really, why bother? Melee DPS are mostly plate wearers and rogues. Plate can take a few hits and if a rogue can’t dump their own aggro they aren’t worth your taunt cooldown anyway.
And hey, the more threat that DPSer builds up before you taunt the more threat you will have after you taunt.
Hunters, just about never taunt off them. Seriously, feign death and misdirect? What the heck else can anyone need?
Don’t throw threat moves to save someone if there is a higher priority issue. Don’t taunt off that melee DPS if you have not sewed up that pack of adds with enough AOE yet. Early in a fight AOE is more important than taunting. Let me say that again…
EARLY IN A FIGHT AOE THREAT IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN TAUNTING
If someone pulls off you early and you stop some AOE to get that target back you are highly likely to lose someone else. Don’t do that.
I will get back to that in a second…
What moves to use when
Moves like Intervene, deathgrip and that one that taunts three targets that pallies get. Maybe you save those for the healer and maybe you don’t. It depends on how often you need them and what the chances of getting adds is.
It depends on your play style as well and what your personal strengths are. You don’t want to save a move for saving the healer if you never can remember where you put that obscure hotkey. If you can’t hit it fast and easy then it is not the right move to pick when saving a high criticality target. A lesser move fast is better than an uber move too late. You need to get to know your more obscure options and try them out BEFORE you need them. If you are not use to using something then it will let you down when you need it.
Some ‘oh crap’ type moves need macros to use them most effectively. Even if you don’t use macros for much consider using them for a few critical things as needed. In another post someday I will cover ‘oh crap’ moves and when to use them. Your main categories are these.
-Focused threat (might be more than one target still)
-‘Other’ oh crap moves.
Here are your top priorities as the fight changes…
1) Opening instant of the fight:
->Get some small amount of threat on EVERY target.
2) First few seconds of the fight
->Build up a lot of threat on the target or targets your party is focusing on.
->Build up some AOE threat on every target
3) Middle and late stages of the fight
->stabilize any situation that developed early on.
->round up targets that pull off you
->watch for adds
4) End of battle
->check on your healer
->plan your next move
Notice how your focus and priority changes. Also that phase three one ‘->stabilize any situation that developed early on’ is a big area. It might be that your health is going down to fast, or that someone is off in a corner soloing something. It could be a lot of things. But you can’t get distracted by those until you have done the ground work early in the fight. By the time targets are half dead you could almost stop tanking entirely and the fight will end favorably. It is those critical first few seconds your agro generation has to be a high priority. It still matters later. But later, if you drop threat on a target or two, it is unlikely to cause a wipe. If you do that early on it is quite likely to cause a wipe.
Order of business in the triage world.
Stabilize the patient
The party is your patient. If you have to amputate (let someone die) to keep the whole body alive, do it. The first thing to do is to stabilize the situation. What I said about getting to a pack of adds fast? That was stabilizing the situation. Taunting off someone is the same. It is that initial minimum thing you need to do for things to stop being ‘bad’. Even if for just a moment. This can take many forms. Lots of ‘oh crap’ moves are good for stabilizing different situations. AOE force attack moves are great for buying you a few seconds of stability. Antimagic shell is a bit of a stabilizing move, if the issue you have is magic related. Shockwave’s area effect stun is a nice little stabilizing move if timed right.
Assess the situation
This happens in a nano second. If you are having trouble with assessing the problem might be that you are having situational awareness issues. I can’t cover those here so go read other posts :P
Part of assessing is measuring the situation against what you are personally capable of. Can you handle a pack of adds that big? What would have to happen in order for you to survive? Can you keep agro on those casters over there and still keep the big melee all under control? If you can’t handle the situation as it is, what would have to change about it for you to be able to handle it?
See above. You have to decide what area needs your attention the most and focus on that. If there is something you have to do to get things under control, do it. If there are things that are getting in the way of you getting control, stop doing those. Now is the time to do what you KNOW will win the fight. Don’t play threat tug-a-war with an over geared DPSer if you think something else about the fight is at risk.
Cut your losses
Let people die that are going to do. The most important thing in the world is that at the end of the fight one of your party with a rez spell is still standing. Everything else is optional. Sometimes this means you the tank have to die to buy time for the rest of the party. So be it. Your survival is optional. Failure is not optional so be certain that whatever you do, SOMEONE that can rez is alive at the end.
Usually this means you need to preserve yourself, the healer, and one decent DPS. As long as those live you can usually finish things. Sometimes you might be the last one standing or you might only be able to save the healer. Triage is about making the tough choices fast so that the whole survives.