Thursday, May 1, 2008

On Huntards...

When my shaman hit the Outlands, I decided to respect restoration. I leveled enhancement, which was a blast, but figured that I already had melee DPS in the form of Kava the rogue and Kvasira the paladin (shaddup with the snickering, it’s a viable spec now!), I already had casty DPS in the form of Kikidas the warlock and Karitei the mage, but I only had one healer in the form of Kiljara the priest. (The fact that DPS shaman have no aggro dump besides death or doing nothing but standing there, and no form of CC also leads me to devalue them as DPS and appreciate them more as healers)

Leveling a restoration shaman is easy… and boring as hell. You self-buff with Earth Shield. You lay down your searing totem and your mana totem. You pick your spot. You click auto-attack.

Then go ahead and make a sandwich. Come back and refresh buffs, maybe heal yourself once. Oops, you forgot a soda. Hey, doesn’t a rootbeer float sound good about now? Come back and refresh buffs, maybe heal yourself and drop more totems. Maybe it’s dead by now…

I’ve heard it’s rather like leveling a holy or protection paladin.

Holy priest leveling is more fun, because you can use Holy Fire, Smite, Mind Blast and Shadow Word: Pain and lots and lots of wanding. If you step away from your computer, it’s time to die. It’s mana intensive, but quite the brag right. I leveled as a HOLY priest!

So I have plenty of time, while leveling, to read the Hellfire Penninsula general chat.

While there, I saw someone asking for a tank for Ramparts. I saw a hunter (67, presumably BM) say that they could come tank it with their pet. I saw another hunter (65, presumably not BM) say that was impossible, that he had seen 70 hunters fail at tanking Ramparts with their pets! The response was, “Must have been luck the last three times I did it, then, huh?” (paraphrased and reworded!)

The conversation devolved from there. Let me get the salient points though…
1. Tanks are worthless, because they can’t hold threat against a DPS class.

2. Aggro is generated solely by damage done. This is why tanks are worthless.

3. Feign Death is not an aggro dump ability to enable a DPS to stay below a tank. It’s only an ‘oh shit’ ability for when you get aggro.

4. DPS is the best form of CC.

5. Hunters shouldn’t be expected to trap, because it takes too long for the trap reset to go through, and by the time it’s up, you’d have been better off placing an immolation or exploding trap as you should have done in the first place.

6. Pets can’t tank because a: they’d need an AoE taunt that will get the attention of nearby non-aggro’d mobs, b: they’d require CC to be effective as tanks, c: they chase running mobs and thereby get more aggro, d: they sometimes don’t path straight, so they can get more aggro by pathing oddly.

7. Given all the above being true, a tank should be able to tank multiple mobs, keep them all on him, off the DPS and off the healer. If he can’t, then he isn’t a very good tank.

Now, to give the rest of the population in Hellfire their due, most of them disagreed with these statements. Let’s dissect each argument, shall we?

1. Any tank, anywhere, cannot hold aggro against a DPS class that is paying no attention to their own threat. Any tank, anywhere, needs a certain amount of time to generate a beginning amount of threat before a DPS can begin. How much depends on the tank in question, the DPS in question and the fight in question. For example: Owaru is a great tank. Kikidas does a lot of damage. On trash pulls, Owaru doesn’t need much time to build threat against Kikidas, but he does need some to start. By the time Kikidas overtakes him on aggro, the mob is dead. How quickly she overtakes him depends on how sassy she is feeling and how quickly she knows the mob will die. If she knows she can take a hit IF the mob lives long enough to get to her, she’ll probably open up strong. If it’s Kara trash, she’ll open more conservatively. On a boss, Owaru needs more time to build more threat, as Kikidas will be steadily gaining on him the entire fight, which is going to be longer than your average trash mob. When Kikidas pulls aggro from Owaru, it doesn’t mean Owaru is a bad tank, it means Kikidas isn’t paying attention. Can you have a situation where the DPS spend so long waiting for the tank to build aggro that you can say ‘That’s a bad tank!’, yes. You can. But any DPS worth their salt can pull aggro off of any tank, no matter how good they are as a tank. This is why most DPS classes have aggro dumping abilities. I’ll go into that more in a minute.

2. Aggro is indeed generated by damage done, but there are also abilities that generate a high threat while being relatively low damage. For instance, take your threat meter and compare it to your damage meter. Will your high DPS people be high on the threat meter? Yes. So will your tanks if they’re good. Compare your damage meter and damage done, your tanks are hideously low on that list, if your DPS is good. I’m talking 10-15% (on average) will be your tank’s damage output. But 90-95% of the time (hopefully more!), your tank will be holding aggro. Since those numbers do not match up, it’s obvious that there’s more to threat generation than merely damage.

3. With the notable exception of shaman, paladins, warriors and druids, all DPS classes have an aggro dump. Feign Death, Feint, Fade, Vanish, Soulshatter, Invisibility and Ice Block. These are sometimes used as ‘oh shit’ buttons, like Vanish in the case of a rogue. However, if you have a good DPS, they will use them appropriately. Feign Death is probably the BEST aggro dump out there, other than True Death, because it drops the hunter to 0 aggro and has a short cooldown. Soulshatter is on a 5 minute cooldown, costs a soulshard and only drops threat by 50%. I don’t know about Ice Block and Invisibility. Vanish is on a longish cooldown (though Preparation can make that a quick cooldown if needed), Fade is on a shortish cooldown, but is temporary. To NOT use FD except as an oh shit button seems a trifle foolish, especially if you do have threat meters. You should be hitting it before you pull aggro. This is because if the mob is not hitting your tank, chances are your tank is losing aggro instead of gaining it, making it that much harder for the tank to keep aggro on it against other DPS or the healer. Paladins and Warriors, though they do not have an aggro dump, are plate wearers and can usually withstand a hit or two. Druids have the ability to turn into giant bears at a moment’s notice, and again, can stand a hit or two if they need to. Shamans wear mail, but otherwise… sorry kids, spec resto. (I kid!)

4. DPS as a form of CC… I’ve seen it work, where the mob in question has low armor/hit point and can easily be killed by a DPS class by him or herself. I’ve also seen it where an AoE tank (Paladins, you know that warlocks love you, right?) doesn’t need any CC at all. (And no, I’m not saying that warrior tanks and druid tanks can’t AoE tank, it just takes a bit more running around to do that. We can’t AoE tank quite the same way that a paladin can, but I’ve run instances on both my warrior and my druid where I didn’t require much/any CC.) However, we are not talking about my awesome playability, we’re talking about your average person’s playability. Your average tank, average DPS, average healer… will require CC. Why is it, otherwise, that almost every DPS class has some sort of CC ability, be it short, middle or long term? I will discuss why CC is a bit more important than DPS in a minute.

5. What you are saying is that it’s more DPS effective to run into melee range (thereby not shooting your weapon), place a trap (and not shooting your weapon since you’re in melee range) and running back out of melee range (still not shooting your weapon!) than to lay an ice block trap, shoot your target once or twice, back up a step and keep DPSing, maybe move around a little bit so that when your trap breaks, it’ll run into another trap right away? Now, granted, sometimes you have traps break early, or be resisted, or accidentally broken or have the wrong mob run into your trap and your timer is on cooldown still (which a smart hunter will usually have a trap in place and the timer cooling down even before the mob gets to the trap…) and you have to stop DPSing in order to kite a mob. If you’re a BM hunter, you can put your pet on said mob, but otherwise, you’re kiting. If only hunters had some sort of movement impairing melee attack or some type of short-range ranged stun ability… (why yes, you’ve just observed sarcasm at its finest! Wing clip and scatter shot (spec dependent) make the ability of a hunter to kite mobs legendary.)

6. How well your pet can tank depends a little bit on the type of pet you have and a lot of bit on how smart you play your hunter. Any tank (regardless of if it’s a pet or a person!) that runs into a group without paying attention to where the group is (charging in rather than pulling back, for instance), or not paying attention to the mob they’re killing running off (concussive shot, kidney punch, slow, judgement of justice (the paladin movement impairment judgement)… can all stop runners if you have an issue with runners, and there are more that I’m not getting into right now, like hamstring, curse of exhaustion…) or as we mentioned earlier, using CC, is going to have the same problems as a hunter pet would have. I’ve been in instances where my pet had higher armor than the tank I was with! Smart playing will allow a hunter to tank an instance with the understanding that unless it’s Artemis herself, the hunter is going to be substantially higher than the instance they’re tanking or have a ridiculously good pet (if only Al’ar was tamable!).

7. Now we get to the crux of why CC is important. If you have a tank (our proverbial average tank) and your group (proverbially three average DPS and one average healer), and you aren’t using CC, you are going to have a dead healer, a lot. Healing aggro is roughly 1 hit point healed causes 1 point of threat. Most healers have talents that reduce that, but we’ll just use that for now. Healers, unlike DPS classes, are building threat on ALL active mobs at the same time. What this means is that your tank not only has to keep the attention of your main target on him (and if you have DPS going on him, …. Well, see point 1), but the attention of the other targets on him from the healer. Most tanks build threat readily on their main target, and rely on some form of AoE ability to hold the attention of the other targets, consecrate, swipe, cleave, thunderclap, etc, which are usually relatively low threat, but do enough to keep mild attention on the tank. A really good tank will try to get a good solid threat building attack on each mob, like a sunder, lacerate or mangle, or whatever you pallies do besides consecrate and shield pull, but the tank knows they need to spend most of their energy on the main target. Your average tank is going to be taking some crits, some crushes and will need to be healed a lot if they’re being hit by three or four mobs. You’re going to see that the second and third (and fourth and fifth!) mobs will peel off in short order to go say hello to your healer. As the tank goes to get those fellows back, your main target will probably whack your highest DPSer. The healer, now healing not only themselves (more aggro, yay!), now also has to heal your DPSer (and more! Threat is yummy.). I bet you can see how this is going to end up? Like I’ve said, I have seen and done instances where the tank can AoE tank a group and not have the healer die and do well. It can be done! But your AVERAGE tank in your AVERAGE group? Good luck.

Now, you may not agree with everything I’ve said above, but hopefully more so on my side than the huntard’s side. There are obviously a lot of ‘exceptions’ to everything I said above and I’m sure everyone can find something to add. Feel free! The more the merrier!

I hope no one takes offense to me calling the instigator a huntard, but… well, really.

And as promised, a shout out to Bremagorn over at and Neshura, wife of Owaru! Both are hunters of awesome abilities and talents.


  1. Awesome post K!

    Just one more huntery thing. Feigning death as an OH SHIT is also a problem because of the way threat works. Your threshold for pulling aggro depends on where you are (in or out of melee range with them mob). Melee range requires 110% more threat than the person who has the mob's attention, out of melee requires 130%.

    So, if a healer and mage are staying just under the tank and a hunter actually pulls aggro, waits for the mob to run to him and feigns, he's just put the mage & healer INTO melee range. Their previous values of threat are now enough that the mob will have tossed mage with bite sized bites of healer (Hold the Dressing).

  2. I hadn't considered that aspect of using FD as an 'oh shit' button, but it makes sense and explains why even after a FD, the mob doesn't always just immediately go back to the tank.