Posts Tagged ‘Tanking’

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.

How to

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.

Run Through

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.

Tank Differences

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

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.

Extra Disclaimer/Warning

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.


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Cooldowns are a more advanced tank topic. Use of them is something people get better at as they spend more time in the tanking roll.

What is a ‘cooldown’? A cooldown is something you activate to take less damage for a short period of time. It might be an ability, it might be a trinket, it might even be a potion. To be considered a ‘cooldown’ it must be something you deliberately activate that lasts a short period of time.
There are some other abilities people might activate and then deactivate, like a warrior changing stances, or a paladin changing seals, judgments, or aura. Those are NOT considered cooldowns and are not covered in this post. For information on such things go find some class specific information.

Examples of cool downs:

  • Corroded Skeleton Key: Use: absorbs 6400 damage. Last 10 seconds.
  • Survival Instincts: When Activated this ability temporarily grants you 30% of your maximum health for 20 seconds. After the effect is expires the health is lost.
  • Indestructible Potion: Use: Increases your armor by 3500 for two minutes.
  • Runic Healing Potion: Use Restores 2700 to 4500 health.

How are all these things alike? If you think like a tank they are all the same. By that I mean, if you are in a fight, and getting beat on by critters, and you use one of these things then after the ability or effect is gone you will have more hit points than you would have if you had not used the ability. Or, more specifically you are going to be LESS LOW on hit points.

Corroded Skeleton Key: 10 seconds later you are 6400 HP less low than you would have been. Survival Instincts: in 20 seconds, assuming you got beat on for are much as 30% of your health worth of damage, you will have 30% more health than you would have had. The ability raised your hit points 30%, then the creature beat on you and took those extra points, and then the effect faded and the fake points went away, but they were gone already due to damage and so you don’t notice a change. You might think, reading the text of it, that at the end of the time limit your health will DROP 30% no matter what. But this is not the case. Rather the ability, for all practice situations, works more like it just plain absorbed 30% of your health worth of incoming damage.

Indestructible Potion: Same as the others, if you are getting hit on for 2 minutes then you end with more HP if you use this potion than you would end with if you don’t.

Healing potions are the only ones on this list that give you actual permanent HP… but since you are getting beat on you don’t keep the hit points anyway. So they work the same; if you drink a healing potion during a fight you finish the battle with more HP than if you don’t drink one.

Because each cooldown, and there are other kinds of them, work differently, there are some rare situations where you might prefer to use one over another. For the purposes of this post I am going to simply refer to them as big ones and little ones. Big ones have longer cool downs and do more damage mitigation and small ones are smaller in both damage absorbed and time between uses.

Cooldown Use Strategies

Kicking yourself

There are several ways you can use your cooldowns. The first is to use them to kick yourself after a wipe. This is a standard tactic used by newer tanks. The way it works is you get into trouble, die, and then while running back you suddenly remember that if you had used barkskin or shield wall or whatever, you might have lived. This tactic is a good way of reminding yourself how much you suck as a tank but it does not actually help you. I recommend moving on to a more advanced strategy.

Use on pulls

Sometimes people just pop them as they start a pull. This has a number of benefits.

The beginning of the fight is where you are taking the most damage. So this makes sense as a time to pop cooldowns . Hopefully by the time the effects of it have worn off you will have downed one or more of the pack and you will be taking less damage. If your healer is narcoleptic you give them a chance to get back into the game. If you have gotten too far in front of your healer you likewise buy them some time. In some cases there are other benefits. For example a warrior using a shield spike and popping ‘shield block’ at the start of a fight can use it to generate extra AOE threat early in the fight.

The drawback of popping cooldowns early is that you might mislead the healer into thinking they don’t need to heal you much. This might result in catching them off guard when the cooldowns wear off.

The flip side of this is that if the healer KNOWS you are popping cooldowns can avoid the healing the fight for the first few critical moments until you have rounded up the whole pack. This is a powerful tactic that is available to tanks and healers that have very good communication.

When you are taking a lot of damage

This is an obvious tactic. Your bar is going down fast so you pop something.

When you know you are going to take a big hit

This is an advanced version of the last tactic. This is where you know the fight well enough to see the damage coming and you pop things in advance. This sort of skill level makes a good tanking appear invulnerable to his/her healer. It is also a critically useful skill for raid encounters.

When everyone ELSE is taking big hits

So your whole party is getting AOEed or something. Now would be a great time for the healer to NOT have to worry about you. So you pop some and buy them some time to heal everyone else up.

The healer is stunned, feared, frozen, flying through the air, or otherwise indisposed

It should be obvious why this is a good time for you to not need as much healing. As a good tank this is also something you can see coming in advance and even use the cooldown preemptively.

When you get adds

This is just like ‘when you know you are going to take a big hit’. More things are there beating on you then what the healer expected. By popping cooldowns at the right time you can tank, for a while, more than the healer has a prayer of healing.

When the healer dies

Again this should be obvious. I have finished many a fight when the healer has been dirt napping for several seconds or much longer. Using cooldowns can make you last a long time. If you have many cooldowns you might want to space out using them so you stretch their effects. If you pop 5 at once chances are they will wear off before they finish absorbing all the damage they could have.

Right after you say ‘gogogo’

For some reason this phrase can lessen your incoming heals. Also the phrase is usually followed by taking extran damage. So, it might be a good time to make up the difference with some cooldowns.

Any time you are using deliberate multi-pull tactics

Hi, my name is Reversion and I am a multi-pull addict (Hi Rev). It has been less than a day since my last multi-pull. I have tanked just about every heroic 5 5man boss with at least one extra pack there. The only way to get good at multi pulls and do them ‘right’ is to get very good with your cooldowns.

When someone epeen waver just said something about healthpools

It is so fun to hear them say ‘holy cr**p! How do you get 70k Hp?’

Usage Order

There are things to know about using cool downs. You need to be aware of which last a long time and which are short. You also want to pay some attention to how much they do for you. One way I help myself with this is be arraigning them in my F1-F12 bar in order of how strong they are or how often I use them. Knowing how each work to help you is important because if I pop Frenzied regeneration I will get rage starved. Also it has a distributed effect over time. This means popping it before a fight, or to buffer an incoming big hit is not a good plan. Using something like Icks Rotting Thumb would be better in those situations. On the other hand Frenzied regeneration is great if couple groups of adds just showed up and I am getting plenty of rage. Which you use when will depend on what cooldowns you have available. If you are not sure, feel free to ask.

Different tanks use them differently. I have never compared notes with any other tank about it but the ways I use them probably are different than others. Having played a healer a good bit I have a good ‘feel’ of when a fight is getting hard to heal. I tend to pop them then. This might be when half the party is standing is poison or when one of the DPS took a big hit. It just depends on the fight and on the healer.


As a tank once you get good at pulling, picking up and holding agro and taunting runners, you will find you have time to spare to consider your cooldown use. Learning some good tactics for using them is a great way to make you a better tank.

By the way, if you have a healer you partener who you can talk to easily in Vent or in person try discussing when and why you use cooldowns. Also try announcing when you pop them. This may help them adjust their healing tactics.

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Instances are a dance. They are a dance of destruction and death and hopefully a dance of life and success.

The tank leads. Leading is not about going at your own pace, it is about setting a pace your partners can keep up with. You don’t set the pace too slow or your partners get bored and either leaves or tries to lead. If your partners are more accomplished dancers you may have to push yourself hard to keep up with them while still leading. The tank may even have to lean on them a bit or ask one of them to lead for short periods of time.

Leading in a dance does not mean you are in control. It means you make the first move and you signal as much as you can to your partner so she can keep up. Ignoring your partner almost totally only works when you know they for certain can keep up. When you do know they know the tune and the steps then you can cut loose. But if not, you will quickly find yourself dancing alone. A good tank is a good dance partner no matter who his partner is. Fast, slow, waltzing or break dancing a good tank knows them all. Leading also means finding out how NOT to step on the toes of your partner. It also means being polite when your partner steps on yours… but not too polite unless you like sore toes.

The DPS and heals all follow. Following means reading your partner’s moves and matching, echoing or merely complimenting them. It also means pusing yourself when they are challenging you to keep up. If the lead partner is good they will set a pace you can handle even if it is a whirlwind. You might surprise yourself as you stretch to keep up. You might get burned if they prove to be a poor lead, but you will never know unless you step out and allow them to toss you in the air every now and then. It might be a frightening at first but better to embrace the challenge than to refuse to be led.

This analogy shows how BOTH sides have to adapt. You might have to read their intentions and follow. The lead has to communicate those intentions and be sure all partners can keep up.

The dance is never more smooth than when you partner with someone that really knows you and your style. My best partner is my wife. I have run with some great healers that were able to keep up, but when it comes to knowing my rhythm she is best. It certainly helps that she has crazy uber healing gear. However, even uber gear will not keep me alive when I pop cat form and dash two groups ahead and start AOEing the crud out of 4 packs at once.

In some ways though, a very good and very familiar partner will make us complacent. We stop trying to read every move and just fall on familiar patterns. An unfamiliar partner forces us to read and learn as we go.

Most of all we cannot refuse to dance. If our partner for a swing-dance drops and starts spinning around on their head we must be at lead willing to shrug and follow along as best we can. If you refuse to dance to all except one sort of music you will find yourself unhappy and short of partners. But when it comes to pugs don’t assume you will know the tune, the song, or even get a flat dance floor.

I wanted to toss this post out there as background before I get to my upcoming post about multi pulls and go-go-go tanking. It is important for a tank to keep in mind that even as he/she is setting a whirlwind pace their partners are still there and still being considered. How you consider them might be different but even the best geared tank can-not do things alone. (well maybe technically they can but that is a different topic)

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I was recently running a UK run on my 69 (now 70) warrior. We had a frost mage in the group. He was speced to make just about everything he cast do a ‘nova’ type effect and freeze things in place. I mentioned he should avoid using nova. In response I got called some names. He kept saying that if I could hold aggro it did not matter and that nova was ‘what mages DO’. He also insisted that on his tank and his 7 levels 80s (yeah right) he had NEVER heard a tank ask for a mage to not use frost nova. If that is true (i doubt it) there is a serious lack of communication going on out there. I decided my next installment needs to be targeted at this particular gap.

This post is aimed specifically at Ranged DPS, though other roles may benefit from it.

As you all know tanks do threat to keep aggro. The more threat they do the more likely they are to hold the attention (aggro) of the pack in question. Tanks do threat to the pack in several ways. Primarily they hit them and get a chunk of aggro equal to their damage done times some multiplier depending on their spec and class. This threat is applied only to the target they are hitting . They also have some abilities which do melee hits on more than one target, usually 2. This means some of the other critters in the pack get threat applied to them also. All classes of tank also have various things that do AOE threat. These moves are have 8 yard radius for Pally and Bear, 20 yard radius (but less threat per second) and 30 or so for things like death and decay. There are a few other moves tanks use for AOE threat but these are the main ones (DK do more other things that don’t have a strict radius (honestly I don’t know a lot about DK moves)). This means that anything within that range of a tank is probably getting some threat. Outside of strict melee (point blank) and this aoe radius, tanks have very few ways to generate threat. There are a few, but compared to the damage that a hit from a ranged DPS, the other tricks don’t amount to anything. So this leaves taunts.

A taunt works a very specific way. It takes the top person on the threat list and gives the tank that much threat. Taunts also force the target to attack the tank. What does this mean to you the RDPS?

Let’s get to some situations you are likely to see. When a creature is in the melee around the tank you have to do 130% of the tank’s threat to get that critter to attack you. Below 130% and it will stay on the tank. Above 130% and you are now that thing’s worst enemy and it will do anything to come and get you. Once the creature turns to come get you the tank has a very tiny window to use a melee ability before that creature is out of melee range. Even if the tank IS able to hit it with a melee move they would have to do 40% more threat instantly to grab aggro back. This is the 30% you beat them by and then the 10% melee range threat buffer.

You see, while you have to do 130% to pull off a tank from caster range, it only takes 110% to pull off a tank in melee range. That is melee range to the creature, not to the tank. That is the melee range threat buffer.

So it would take 130% more threat for the tank to catch up with you and then 10% more for him to out threat you and reclaim aggro… and that is just that first instant. A moment later the critter has passed out of the tank’s melee range and is headed your way. Now to ‘out threat’ you the tank will have to hit it with 30% more threat than you (160% of where he was when you pulled off ago). Which pretty much means he has to taunt it. Either that or he has to run after the critter, and hit it enough times to make up all that threat.

For discussion’s sake let us say the critter gets all the way to you and then the tank taunts. Now that this moment the tank has the exactly same aggro as you. He also has the creatures attention. The creature will turn and head toward the tank. If you continue to attack that creature you will only have to do 10% more threat to pull it off the tank. And is taunt is on cooldown. Hence this is a very critical window when you must do something difficult and complicated. That thing that you must do is this: STOP SHOOTTING THAT ONE!!!

Have I fully explained why that is? Is it completely clear that the tank can’t do much more after he taunts and must rely on that creature coming back into his melee range? Well there is one thing.. Lets see what that looks like, shall we? Let us say that you keep shooting that one. Now you blow past that 10% and you are once again getting beat on by that critter. What are the tanks options. Keep in mind he already had to rotate his camera around, find where that guy ran too, select the moving target, and fire his taunt. A good tank can do all that pretty fast, but that ‘pretty fast’ is still a distraction from what he had been doing. While he was doing all that he was NOT continuing to apply threat moves to the targets around him. Now maybe it only took one, or two global cooldowns, not a big amount of time, but it still was a distraction.

Back to his options after you agro through his taunt.. Some tanks might have death grip, charge or another taunt (pallys have two ranged taunts). If he has to taunt again he is still back where he was a moment ago, relying on you to change targets. Even worse if he charges or runs over to get them off you the hard way he/she is risking all the other creatures he was tanking pulling off and attacking other party members. Every moment you are distracting the tank is a moment where the healer or another DPS might pulls something off.

So you absolutely must change targets or that one you pulled had better be very very close to dead.

What else can you do during all this that would really annoy the tank? Frost nova. What did that do? Now you have a critter that is completely stuck and unable to run back to the tank. Even if the tank taunts the critter is stuck. Best case here is the tank taunts, and you change targets and the creature is safely back ‘on’ the tank even though it is stuck. But, the tank might not KNOW it is back on him. It is hard to tell when they are stuck over there. So it is still a source of distraction for your tank.

Here is the part that is worse. A creature stuck in place, able to hit things, but unable to reach the top target on its threat table, will attack anything it can reach. If you fail to move away from the nova the creature will still hit you, even after the tank taunts it ‘off’ you. Even if you DO move it can still hit anyone that was near you. Which might include a healer or another ranged DPS.

“Oh,” You say. “But they only have to move away too.” Sure. But do they notice? How many hits can a healer take? Is the healer too concerned with keeping the tank alive, or saving that rogue over there standing in the fire? She might not SEE the nova-ed thing next to her. A healer’s biggest enemy is tunnel vision on the health bars. It is quite often that a healer can see nothing else. The health bars are their whole world. Plus even if the healer DOES notice and moves away that movement might have interrupted a important cast that was going to save someone.

All of this about Frost Nova also goes for things like earth bind totem. It goes for any move that holds things in place but does not stop their attacks.  Those moves are only intended to keep things OFF you. In a party that is the tank’s job, not yours. And those moves interfere with the tank doing that job. It is not a wash or a nitpick to rail against that. Anything that you do to make the tanks job harder is endangering the whole party.

Just be cause you have a move does not mean it is a good idea to use it in instances.

One of the the tanks roles is to position the battle. They chose where the battle takes place and, if needed, they move the battle around (for example to avoid a patrol or to shift the boss off the fire). Anything that interferes with this must be used with caution or not at all. Typhoon and Thunderstorm are problems here too. They seriously disrupt the tanks ability to position and move the group and they blow things completely out of the tank’s AOE threat radius. While they are nifty and fun moves they have only a very VERY limited use in instances and should be avoided in most cases. THIS IS NOT TRIVIAL. The tank is not just whining and being a douche for complaining about it. These things make his/her job a lot harder. Just because a few tanks were overly nice and did not complain in the past does not mean most tanks are not annoyed by these moves. For example part of my warrior’s opening rotation is to align the pack into the cone in front of me and then use shockwave. It really hampers things, wastes a cooldown, and risks pulling stuff off me if someone typhoons at the start of a fight. This blows all of them out of my shockwave target area and ensures my next thunderclap will not hit them all.

Yes, most of the time using one of these will not wipe a group or even cause a big problem. That does not mean you should use them. And it does not meant a tank is being whiny to complain about you using them.

If all of this was too confusing click here.

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I started writing a post about multi pulls, the fine art of doing ‘gogogo’ tanking the right way. As I started the post I realized I should do a whole separate introductory one just covering this concept. I realized this concept was so critical to both tanking and healing that I decided to tag it to both our series.

Damage Profiles

What I am about to talk about any good healer knows by gut feel or by detailed mental charts and graphs. I figure adding more charts and graphs will help us all understand it better. Here is the concept: The rate of incoming damage is key to surviving a fight.

Let’s take a look at a couple fight ‘profiles’:

This first one is a standard fight. We round up 4 monsters and kill them one after another. The red line represents how much damage the tank is taking at each moment in time higher means more damage. Time is the bottom scale of the chart so the start of the fight is where the two black lines come together. Time processes to the right. Notice the damage ramps up fast as the fight starts. Notice that after each critter dies the level of incoming damage drops until the fight is over.

Next and AOE heavy fight:

Now to compare here is a fight were everyone using AOEs hard. The incoming damage stays high longer but then drops to nothing as all the critters die at the same moment. Because all the creatures are taking damage at the same time they all die at the same time. But until they all die the damage level the tank is receiving does not change.

Now I am going to add heals per second to the graph. As a healer knows the ‘heals per second’ are not constant and actually spike up and down depending on what you are casting. But, on average there is a maximum rate. All of us healers know that at some point there is simply more damage coming in than we can keep up with. Tanks know when this happens if they look at the health bar. If the bar is going down and does not go back up then they are not getting as much HpS and the incoming DpS.

Here are some heals. The green is the healer’s healing per second. Notice it ramps up and levels off at a maximum level. Up until the second creature dies we are actually not healing all the incoming damage.

Any healer has seen this happen. It is usually when we are under geared but it can also happen when adds show up. We are frantically spamming our stuff but the party is still going down, then suddenly one or two of the enemies die and the damage stabilizes. A moment or two later the damage levels drop more and our heals start bringing everyone back up to full health.

So what does this all mean. Well first off it means that a healer does NOT have to be able to heal the full incoming damage of a particular fight to healer it. As the DPS increases it actually means a healer can heal runs that he/she does not actually have the gear or healing ability to handle. The DPS and tank are carrying the healer. Usually no one but the healer knows. And not one actually cares because unlike a DPS or tank getting ‘carried’ the run is not actually slowed down. At least not from heal rate.

What comes into play after this is mana pool. At some point the healer runs out of mana. There are two ways for the fight to go badly due to not enough DPS. One is when the creatures to not die before tank health drops to zero. You can’t have the incoming damage be higher than the heals for very long. Every moment incoming damage is higher than the heals health bars are dropping. The second way is when the healer goes OOM. This is also a way to get a wipe due to a fight that is too long. But that first threshold is the critical one. An under-geared healer either needs a good tank and hard hitting DPS or the party goes down. This is the point where a smart party starts using extra tricks like CC to lessen the rate of incoming damage.

There are other ways to lessen the damage and extend what you can do with a given party. For example targeting one hard hitting mob first. This is why smart groups primary casters. The casters are usually softer targets that hit extra hard. So killing a caster is a great way to drop that incoming damage fast.

For kicks let’s put that on some graphs.

First off we see the party killing 3 melee enemies and one caster. They start with the melee. Each melee takes 8 seconds to kill and when they die they remove a small chunk of incoming DPS. Finally the caster only takes 4 seconds to kill and removes all a lot of dps, ending the fight.

Now look again when the kill the caster first.

Notice the green healing line? See how we get under that line much sooner? Also notice that the entire fight took the SAME length of time! Why does this matter? It matters because this is why many DPS will not understand WHY they need to go after soft high dps targets first. All they see is the fight taking the same time either way. If the healer can’t keep up that is the healers fault, right?

Now for a fun trick. Calculus! No no no come back! It is really easy. No I mean REALLY easy. You might be shocked how easy. It works like this. If you draw ‘rates’ on a graph the ‘area under the curve’ is the total. What does that mean? That means if you look at the total white space between the red line and then green line you will get how much damage the tank took. That is, you will get how much damage the tank took that did not get healed. See everything UNDER the green line got healed. And everything over adds up to be how far down his health bar went. Let’s do it…

See all that blue area? That is how many hit points the tanks’s HP bar went down. Everything below the green lie got healed back up again. Everything above it caused his bar to go down and stay down.

Now try the other way of doing the fight.

See how much less damage the tank takes? What if the tank’s total health is only 80% as big as that first chart. Everyone say ‘hi’ to the spirit healer when you see her. You have a party where your healer heals that much less than the maximum output of a pack and the tank’s health is smaller than that big area then you HAVE to do other tactics to survive. At this point jerk dps will say “yeah but it is totally the tank and heals fault we died.” Wrong, it is everyone’s fault. The tank for not having better gear, or popping cooldowns, the DPS for not stunning targets, trapping targets or otherwise lessening the incoming damage, the DPS for not following a smart kill order and finally the healer for just being inadequate at healing. Some while it is everyone at fault in various ways there are a lot of things that can be done to make this party work.

Sadly most of the time one or more of the party is too busy blaming someone else for the issue.

Of course there are lots of other factors that can make a group into a fail group. Kill order is just one of them. Hopefull this helped show how what order the DPS kill things in can cause the tank to live or die.

Before I go let’s look at one more.


Here a chart of two parties doing the same fight two different ways. One is the red line and one is the blue. The red group was the FAIL team and they decided to each target a different critter in pack of 4. Each critter was doing 2K dps to the tank. Because all the dps (and the tanks DPS) was evenly balanced everyone in the group dropped their target at the same time. It took them each 8 seconds.

Now observe the blue line. This group had the same damage output but instead the concentrated all on the same target. Because 4 people did 4 times as much damage as 1 person it only took them ¼ the time to kill each target. So each target dies in 2 seconds. Notice that this means the damage start dropping very early. If both groups had a healer that could only heal 5k per second which tank is in trouble? The blue tank took 3k unhealed damage for 2 seconds and 1 K unhealed damage for 2 seconds for a total of 8K unhealed damage. No problem! The red tank took 3K unhealed damage for 8 seconds. This is a total of 24k damage that did not get healed. Ouch! Let’s say we have a poorly geared tank that only had 20K HP. Who is at fault? The tank for being weak, the heals for being weak or the DPS for completely failing to pick targets that anyone else was on.

Now lets say that instead of soloing targets they all threw AOEs.

The dashed red line is the end of the fight using AOEs. This time the fight ended faster than the ‘good kill order’ blue group but the tank STILL took more damage.

I am not using real numbers because I am not a min-maxer or any sort of real theory crafter. The point of all this is to give a ‘feel’ for why various tactics work better. Hopefully the illustrations were useful. Before I go here are a couple more.

In this one the tank popped damage mitigation cooldowns at the start of the fight. See how they added a buffer of ‘virtual heals’ which helped the healer through the critical phase?

Here is that same fight with one critter getting sheeped. Notice how much it helps?

I hope to do more with these concepts in the future. They will be useful for understanding tactical use of cooldowns and also the best way to do ‘multi-pulls’. The point of this post was to get people thinking about and using the concepts of ‘rate of incoming damage’ and ‘heals per second’. You don’t have to be a min-maxer or math wiz to have a working knowledge of these concepts. They are useful for having a ‘gut feel’ about what went wrong in a fight or what needs to be different. They are pretty simple concepts but they have effects all over.

Finally I will throw a couple out there and not explain them. Here are two different healers using different mana conservation strategies. But that is a topic for some other day.

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I had the idea of doing a post just covering one instance’s tanking. And not even the details of the whole fights. I just want to go end to end and do every pull in the instance. The goal of this post is to explain the thinking and planning that goes into pulling. I am going to just cover how I do these pulls and why. There are way too many ways to cover doing it wrong. I might cover a couple examples of less optimal pulls but if I do I will note them as such. Also this is entirely 100% from memory. So chances are I will get some details wrong. But since I don’t look at guides while I tank so I guess it is appropriate to not give explanations based on more information than what I would have while running the place.

DISCLAIMER: This is not intended to be a comprehensive guide to old kingdom. It is intended to be a illustration to prospective tanks to show them the thinking and planning that goes into doing pulls.

Old Kingdom
This place has always been one of my favorites. The pulls are varied and interesting and the place has a nice epic feel to it.


Pull 1: Two watchers
At the bottom of the entry ramp are the two watchers. They hit decently hard and I think are pure melee. They might not be linked but they are close enough that it does not matter. I just move right in on these two and face pull. Sometimes it is nice to mark one but the main reason to do that is to test your pug and see if they actually down the marked one first.

Pull 2+: Solo pats
Now already this place gets interesting. Past the watchers is a courtyard and them some stairs on either side of the stairs are two groups. These groups can be left alone. With the groups are two solo patrollers. They are on opposite sides and alternately patrol across in front of the steps. They take long enough to do it that you can pull just one and move your entire party past before the next one patrols. But, depending on how you plan to pull the next group the second patroller might hit you from behind. If you really get things twisted up you can get the second patroller hitting you from behind just when your healer gets blasted for half their health. So unless you know the next pack cold I recommend taking the second patroller out. Naturally you must time the pulls to not agro the packs on the sides.

Pull 3: First shadow-caster pack
Personally I never do that second patroller because I tend to hit the next pack in a very optimal position while moving quickly forward. This next pack is 4 and patrols. It goes down a hall from the top of the steps and back to near another group in the room beyond. The safest place to hit it is right at the top of the steps. The best place to hit it if you are skipping the second patroller is down the short hall, just before you are out in the next room. What makes this group nasty is the shadowcaster. They hit HARD. And they cast so they stay well back. A good healer can heal through caster, even if the caster is shooting them. However, a good tank will never ever force a good healer to do that. The good tank, will mark that caster as primary and take it out fast. My skull raidmark is macroed to my Num-0 over on the number pad. This is a nice big button for fast for hitting while tanking. I tank as a bear so I am going to move straight through the group while hitting swipe and go right for the caster. I might charge to get through the group or I might run to the group and then charge through it to get to the caster. As I said I hit this group right at the end of the hall. Hitting it farther in means you probably pull one or more additional groups. Hitting it way in there will pull two groups at once. If two shadowcasters both shoot you at the same time you might die. If you shadowcasters shoot your healer at the same time they will be so dead the spirit healer will take damage.

Pull 4: Shadow-caster pack 2
This group is in the room the right and back. As you enter the room there are a lot of small things bugs off to your right. They are pathetic so ignore them. To your left is another pack. In this place you can either go right OR left but you don’t need to clear both, I go right so I only care about the group in front of me and to my right. I charge in. As before the caster gets primary and I hit it hard and fast. Lets say this time I am so focued on the caster that one of the others pulls off me. No problem I just go taunt and pick it up after the caster is dead. While I am at it I go toss an AOE at the small bugs in the corner. You can bypass them but they look better dead.

Pull 5: Shadow-caster Pack 3
Past the last group there are some steep stairs. To the right of the bottom of the stairs are some more small trash bugs. I jump over the stair rail and aoe them to death. Those are not a real pull. Next I spin around and wait for the party to catch up. In front of me across the room is a pack and then another pack patrolling around it. The patrol goes from way back in the far right corner all the way to near the bottom of the steps. Hopefully no DPS has already agroed them. This pack is perfect for an LOS pull…

The key here is the healer standing off to your left, by the wall next to the steps. If the healer is out in the open they are likly to get shot by the caster. The steps themselves will block LOS for the pull. I pick the shadow caster and mark it will skull. Then I pick the closest nerubian and feral faerie fire it. Next I move quickly to my left and hide by the steps. The group charges in. With even a little luck the caster will move a few steps forward. The rest of the pack gets here fast and starts attacking. The DPSers all start shooting and hacking at things. Only you care that the caster is your primary target. You throw some AOE to get agro on the three melee mobs and then you move from under cover. I can’t take the risk that the caster will get agro on someone else so I only give it a few steps toward the group, far enough to be away from the other group, and then I charge in. Swipe swipe swipe (with macroed and glyphed Maul) and that group is down. When you know this pull and do it smoothly it is easy. If you botch it you get two groups and dual shadow-casters will likely send someone to visit the land of black&white graphics.

Pull 6: last shadow caster pack
This group is stationary and has a shadow caster. I hit it hard and fast so they stay bunched up when I get to the caster. Once again the caster is primary. They really do hit rather hard.

Pull 7: trash and then the boss
In the next room there is a cluster of patrolling tiny bugs (one fast AOE hit) and then a boss. The boss is an easy pull. Just go hit it. I was not planning to cover boss fights, but for anyone that found this post from google and needs to know: When the purple shield pops up, find the guardian and kill it. Also AOE a lot and tell your healer to stand near you.

Pull 8: Patrol
There is a patrol just outside the other side of the boss room. Ignore it and go to the right down the steps. If anyone agros it kick/ignore them.

Pull 8.5: bug trash
Some tiny bugs patrol up and down the steps on the second flight and landing. AOE = dead.

Pull 9: More LOS
Now you are on a big landing, looking left from where you came down. In front of you is a pack. Of to your left are some giants and other stuff. Some of that pack in front our casters. You don’t want to fight them where the pack stands because that puts your DPS, heals and some patrolling giants and things all behind you and out of your vision. Instead run forward to where there is a little out-jut in the wall to your left. Hit the closest one of that pack with something ranged and then dodge behind the wall to your left. Do it fast, before your party is ready. Most people don’t seem to LOS this group. Most DPS screw it up by shooting them or hitting them before they get to you. You plan for them to do that by first moving fast enough that they aren’t ready to mess you up and second by expecting them to engage in the middle of the LOS pull. So now you are hiding behind the wall, the mobs are half way back to you and someone has just stepped past you and engaged. Since you expected that you jump out of your hiding spot early and engage with them. The group may or may not have gotten spread out by this sequence of events. If they did, watch for the farthest one to pull off you (If you don’t have the built in feature for announcing target changes in combat text turned on then go turn it on now. Seriously, this is majorly handy for tanking.) When it pulls off you taunt it. If you are a bear. Pallies and warriors can just ranged silence and DK can just grip it.

Pull 10: Giests Patrol
Next up there are several groups that patrol around. Two packs of Giests and two giants. The giants do fear. Wait for the first giest pack to get close and hit it with a ranged move. Don’t move toward it, let it come to you and aoe it down.

Pull 11: Giant
Now move forward just enough to engage the first giant. While you are doing it you are watching two things. One is the second giest pack which is patrolling nearby and the second is for any of your party to get feared either into the group on the far left, the other giant or the giest pack). Expect one of those things to happen and be ready for it. Stay well to the right and just plan on agroing the giest pack soon after. This should put you far enough from the group on the left to be safe from the fear.

Pull 12: giest pack
Depending on the patrol timing you might do this pack before the giant. Not likely though. Same as before, engage and aoe them down.

Pull 13: platform pack
Now you are going up the ramp to the right. That other giant should be far away but don’t forget it is there. The group you are after is at the top of the platform. It is mixed with casters and melee. There are two tricky bits, one is that the pylon in the center of the platform blocks line of sight. The other is that the ramp platform lip also blocks those on the ramp. Be sure your healer has caught up before going on to the platform (Or pop cooldowns) and don’t get on the other side of the pylon from your heals. You can use the pylon LOS to move the casters closer to you if you are good. Throw around plenty of agro as this spread out group is likely to get pulled off you.

Pull 14 and 15: Giant and platform
You might do the other platform next or the other giant. They both work like the first platform and giant. When doing the giant watch out for fearing into that group that is still down there.

Pull 16: Prince vampire
He is annoying but super easy. As you go up the ramp to him watch that your dps does not agro that other pack. Then move in and engage. Every now and then he vampires someone. If it is the healer, and there is a fire orb up, pop a cooldown.

Pull 17: Now it gets interesting
If anyone in your group is extra dumb, over eager and does not listen, now is the time to votekick. You go past the boss, down the ramp and come out on a raised area overlooking a lot of packs. This place use to be very tricky but now that they dumb it down… it is just as bad because now people do it even worse.
Here is what not to do… don’t’ leave the platform.
Directly in front of the platform there is a group patrolling left and right. Past that group to the right side is another group. Off the far right and left ends of the platform are two more groups. Time the patrolling group until it is just to the left of the center of its patrol path. This means it is not near any other group. Shoot at it or throw something ranged. Now STEP BACK! The top of the steps will LOS the casters. If you don’t do that some helpful DPS will run down the steps to engage the caster. It they do, taunt what they are fighting and back up even more. The big risk in this area is agroing extra groups.

Pull 18: Front right camp
Don’t leave the platform! Do something to shoot the group the front and right and then back up again. Can you skip this group? Kinda. Can you wipe if you skip it and mess up? Yeah. Don’t bother skipping it. Don’t forget to back up after you agro them and double check that no patrol was near them.
If you run down there and fight where they stand you run a good chance of getting the group behind them too.

Pull 19: far left camp
We are going for the tree boss so we now go down the far left end of the steps and engage the group there. Alternately, do be safer, you can pull them up to your spot on the platform and kill them the same as the last two.

Pull 20: Shambler 1
It is a single patrolling target, kill it. Do it fast-ish because there is another one patrolling back there.

Pull 21-22: more shamblers
There is another one down around the ramp. Kill it. There is one straight ahead after that. You theoretically can skip it but if you have some run to melee a ‘shroom while you are on the boss they might agro it. Pull and kill it before the boss.

Pull 23: Boss
These days you can kill it without doing the mushrooms. If you want to though you can go kill a healthy mushroom to get the debuff off you. Kill the boss.

Pull 24: Pack by the fire
Leave the dead boss and go back up the to the courtyard area. There are two ways to the second to last boss, one is right in front of you. Move in and engage the group by the bonfire. They might have someone ranged but if you move if fast and fight where they stand you are fine.

Pull 25: Elementals
Dead ahead and just before the stairs are some elementals. Some are ranged and they hit fairly hard. I just charge I and kill them where they stand.

Pull 26: Groupies
At the top of the steps is a platform area with lots of worshipers. Soon as they are all dead the boss will come down. If you want a tiny breather you can do just half of them, rest a second, and then do the other half so there is less to deal with as a part of the boss pull.

Pull 27: Bossette
She pulls herself the instant the last worshiper dies. Just pick her up as she comes down.
Be ready to drop the add fast when it starts going toward the circle. If you don’t get it down before it gets there blow any and all tanking cooldowns as boss returns. She will be hitting very hard and might take the healer by surprise.
After the boss be sure to go back around via the side you cleared. If you have a particularly oblivious DPSer they might start going back via the side that was NOT cleared. It happens more often than you might think so expect it. But don’t wait around on the platform. As soon as the boss drops start moving toward the cleared side and hope the others take the hint.

Pull 28: pack under the tent
There is still the pack to the right end of the steps (left if you are on the way back from the boss) (I mean the steps we fought several groups at the top of). To avoid the groups to the far left (the other approach to the bossette) I will go back up the steps, across to the far end of the platform and then jump down behind them. Then I will start engaging the group from behind so they move slightly toward me and away from the other packs. I COULD have done this group before we went down to the tree boss. In fact I should have but was being lazy. (there use to be a patrol that made tanking this group on top of the stairs a vastly better idea)

Pull 29: first faceless one
So now we go up the big ramp to the final area. Dead ahead is a narrow area and then the first faceless one. I engage him close to where he is standing. Just a little back from there to avoid the patrolling ones but not so far back as to get him in the really narrow spot. These faceless throw a slow moving purple missile. It hits hard but is easy to dodge. Tanking him close to where he stood gives the DPS more room to dodge the missile. Most DPS don’t even know you can dodge it so they just stand there and get hit.

Pull 30: Second faceless
Here you have two patrols. If you wait for one and then fight him roughly where he is you are likely to get the second one agroed from your side. Instead I run past their patrol line off to the left and pull the left one over away from where he was patting. This has the double bonus of leaving me looking straight at the second one just in case an extra intelligent ranged dps decides to stand over near where he patrols.

Pull 31: last faceless
Nothing special for this one. Move in and take him when he is to the right (closer to the entrance) so you are not near the boss.

Pull 32: Boss
Kill him… By the way. If you are a rage using tank remember to kill your healer first. If you don’t you will get rage starved when the healer is the only one left. If you don’t know what I am talking about, you will wahahahaa.

That is it. All of Old Kingdom pull by pull. I went a bit fast but I hope it helped illustrate some of the decision making that goes into doing various types of pulls. If you are confused by anything please please ask in the comments. Keep in mind I might have forgotten something. I did this purely from memory to illustrate that a decent tank needs to be able to remember every pull in an instance and how they are unique. Happy tanking.

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Good Situational awareness means never saying “what the hell just happened?” Really good situational awareness means never saying “Woah! I did not see that coming.”

It is being aware of what is going on around you. Not just being there. Not just seeing it. Not just doing some stuff while seeing things. Being AWARE.

The first step of being more aware is realizing that you need to be. If you think you already are, but you aren’t, then you will not get any better. At first trying to pay attention to more things will seem hard. Overwhelming and stressful are two words new tanks use a lot. It gets better as you get better at being aware (among other things).

Camera control is a key aspect of situational awareness. If you are not looking AT a potential trouble spot you can’t keep tabs on it.

Take this situation:

The giant is dead, the boss is way down there and we are all clear to finish this HoL run off. But wait! Pan that camera round and let’s become aware of the real situation.


Last I checked I am not omnipotent. Neither is anyone else currently walking the earth in human flesh. Well except that one DK in your last run. I think he knows everything. But for the rest of us we don’t. The trick to knowing more and being more aware is focusing on things you need to know. As you get better at it you will be reflexively updating yourself.

There is a thing that pilots call the scan. As you are flying a plane you can’t see all your gauges at once. For a pilot it is deadly if you forget to check one of your gauges for a long time. So you scan them in a regular pattern, like a rotation. What is my airspeed? Ok, now how is my attitude? Now look out the windscreen. Ok, now check my engine status indicators. Good, now back to airspeed.

We do this when driving a car but cars are much more simple. Look at the lines look at the lines look at the lines ah $#@% where did that cop come from? @$#*! How did I get going that fast?

FAIL. A decent driver is watching the road, taking glances at his speedometer, and checking the cars around him all the time. A good driver is also keeping an eye on that car over there that looks like it might be about to change lanes without signaling while still keeping another eye on that intersection coming up, the one that people tend to roll through the stop sign. He might not be paying attention to what the passenger is saying because that is not important. This is what I mean by paying more attention to the things that matter. If you can’t drive and talk to the passenger at the same time you tell your friend to shut up. Likewise if you can’t tank and follow guild chat you might turn that off. Learning to be more aware of the things that matter and be less distracted by the things that don’t.

Let’s say you are a hawkeyed bodyguard for a VIP. You watchful gaze sees all, knows all. Well not really. You might be scanning the rooftops for a sniper and checking the shadows for a sneaky ninja, but you are not going to be getting distracted by the way that guy over there is wearing shoes that totally clash with his tie. You see that sort of thing and dismiss it instantly as not important. But, being a good bodyguard you do zero in on the important things. You don’t care what color the guy’s socks are but you are very aware of how the suit coat he is wearing hangs unevenly on his shoulders. Which means there is something heavy in his pocket. Something about the weight of a handgun. See what I am getting at? Some details matter and some don’t. The ones that matter really really matter and the ones that don’t are a distraction.

Trick is to pay attention to the things you need to when you need to.

At the start of a run you are checking:  your buffs party composition  and you might be checking a few things about the group, GS, server, whatever.

Then you are looking to the first pull. Part of setting your pull up is being aware of your target group. What is the make-up? Are there casters? Do some of them do some special tricks? How far apart are they? Which ones will be in my aoe range when I start the pull? Which are likely to pull off me? Now is not the time to notice that the hunter has a BM pet, it does not matter. But, if you notice him starting the ‘shoot something’ animation then that IS worth noticing.

What you are paying attention to can change depending on your group and how they play. Do they AOE a lot? Which ones get into fights quickly and which lag behind. Where does the hunter usually send his pet? Which one does the rogue prefer to go after when he ignores my kill order? Does the healer throw a big heal early in the fight? Is he far behind me?

Do I need to pop cooldowns to survive the first few seconds of the fight?

You are also need to be aware of things around the pack you are targeting. Not just other groups and pats but what the terrain is. Are there Line of Sight hazards? Is the group going to path somewhere strange when I pull them? Am I likely to fear out of range of the healer. Which nearby groups or pats are the most likely to get aggro on us.

This is all in the instant before a pull and in the first few seconds of a fight. It may seem like a lot but as you get experienced as a tank you can take in all that information and much more in the instant before a pull. Some of it is off of memory, knowing the dungeon, and some is just gut feel.

As the fight goes on some of the questions change and some of them stay the same but the answers might be different. Between fights you are checking some of this but also checking on the status and mana of your party members.

I phrases all those as questions, but being aware is not about questioning. It is about coming up with the answers quickly and then acting on them. You should be doing this proactively instead of just reacting as things happen.

Basically nothing should ever surprise you. If people in your party gets too close to a pack you were bypassing, you should have expected that. If a that mage over there is too close to where the patrol is, you should see the aggro coming from a mile away.

If you pull the pack an instant before they spot him, or even as they spot him, you will be a second or two ahead of the tank that just reacts to things as the happen. That second or two will save the life of the mage.

How can you keep up with all of this and not to nuts? Learning the instances helps, getting reflexively fast at your tanking skills keeps them from getting in the way of your ‘awareness’. but in the end it comes down to focus and lack of distracting emotional reactions.

Someone WILL pull off of you. The time to be bother by it is AFTER the fight (or never). The healer will let someone die. Don’t worry about it. It is critical to not get distracted and forget about something you need to pay attention to. One of the biggest things to cause this is people pulling things off you. It is easy to instantly focus on getting it back and to lose track of everything else. When you do that you are highly likely to drop aggro on something else. And then things completely brake down. So what do you do? Well there are a couple things. One is TANK TRIAGE. This is also known as ‘you yank it you tank it’.

At some point very early in your tanking career you will find yourself with several DPSers that are blowing your threat away. These jerks are going to be pulling off of you right and left. Part of situational awareness is knowing both who is most likely to pull off you and who can take a few hits. This is where knowing other classes comes into play. If a hunter and a mage pull off you at the same time who do you burn your taunt cooldown on? This is a trick question. The hunter has FD so she is on her own. And the mage is dead a half second after he pulls off you anyway. Heh. Mages have several ways to dump aggro but most mages are BAD at using them. So if they use one you can round aggro back up and if they don’t you have a nanosecond to taunt off them and then they drop.

Tank Triage is the art of knowing who to pull a mob off of and who to let die. Ideally this will never happen. In reality it happens all the time. The number one of course is the healer. You absolutely have to keep them off the healer no matter what. Pop quiz, when is the most risky time for the healer?

Adds. Adds always go for the healer first because the healer is usually throwing a heal when they show up. The second riskiest time for healers is when the pull first starts. A very good healer will time his or her first couple heals until a split second after you get aggro on the whole group. There are a lot of not very good healers so you can expect a nice big heal to pull something off you right at the start. It will usually be that caster mob over there in the corner. You know, the one that can two-shot your healer. This is where awareness and a form of triage comes into play. I often ignore that caster. At least everyone thinks I am because I rounded up everyone else except that one. But in reality I have my camera aimed right at that guy and I am waiting for the ‘changed target’ notification. When that happens I am going to taunt him. Then I will have the 30% margin before he pulls off me again. Alternately I might opt for charging and interrupting. I do this because I am a bear and bears have no tools for moving caster mobs around. Basically, no ranged silence. That is what a ranged silence is, a way to move a caster mob somewhere. The only other way to do it is with Line of Sight. Doing THAT during combat, while the healer already has aggro is a challenge. It requires a fast taunt and a quick movement while still maintaining aggro on everything else. But that is not the focus of this post.

Tunnel vision versus ‘in the groove’.

Those two things are similar but not the same. Tunnel vision is when you are forgetting something you should be paying attention too. ‘In the groove’ you are aware of all the things you need to be aware of. You are ready for the things you need to be ready for because even if they have not happened yet (adds, pets, people pulling off you, etc) they could happen at any time. The thing to learn is getting all the things you need to be aware of in your ‘groove’ and not forgetting any of them. Or, if you are sort of forgetting them, you are ready at anytime to start paying attention to them. But not with tunnel vision. You are ready, when something ‘unexpected’ happens, to add those new things you need to pay attention to into your awareness while not dropping any of the things you were staying aware of before.

Oh no adds! Target, turn, charge, aoe, turn back, back into threat rotation. All with no hesitation or loss of focus. Did I miss one? A quick taunt and then back to what I was doing. Once you develop the skills and tricks to rapidly pick up a group of adds it is not very difficult to simply be ready at any time to do those tricks. Being a tank is about having a bag of pre-set tricks, skills, and tactics. I have this bag ready at any time to grab up the one I need an apply it. The key to making it all work is not hesitating. Don’t get distracted by something happening, just rapidly apply a strategy to the changed situation. If that does not work do another. ANY strategy is better than no strategy. The perfect actions a few seconds late is not the perfect action. Some half-ass sloppy moves done quickly with no hesitation can save the situation.

In theory being able to react very quickly can take the place of being so ‘situationally aware’ that you see everything coming. But that is a poor tradeoff. Being more and more aware of what is going on, and what could happen, or is about to happen allows you to decide in advance. I don’t have to react to that hunter backing up too far and aggroing the giant because I saw it coming. I had the giant targeted and was pressing the charge button before it took its first swing because I knew that would happen. This lets me be one step ahead of the tank that only reacted when he saw the hunter run past him with a giant on his butt.

Note for DPS and Heals on tank awareness: Dealing with an unaware tank. I will do a post on this someday but the best and easiest thing to do is get near the tank but not too near. Be far enough away that it is obvious when something pulls off on you but close enough that you are not out of his camera view. If you are well behind him an unaware tank will not see that thing eating your face. Yes, that is totally his fault for being fail, but if you want to live move close to him. Don’t get too close though. If you are lost in the melee he will be just as oblivious that you are getting om-nom-nom-ed.

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