DPS – From a tank’s perspective

Lehypally, Protection PaladinRecently, I have been neglecting my hunter somewhat. I know… Ten lashes for Lehyton!

Lately, I have really enjoyed tanking with my Paladin. Plus, I have found that learning to tank properly has improved my overall gaming skills and understanding of encounters significantly.

The most important first principle of tanking is to stay alive. That cardinal virtue is generally subject to the following maxim:

1. If the tank dies, it’s the healer’s fault;
2. If the healer dies, it’s the tank’s fault.

Oh, and of course…

3. If the DPS dies, it’s their own darn fault!

In this last item of the maxim lies a truth that far too many DPS have not yet grasped – and that in fact, I myself did not fully understand until becoming a proficient tank.

Now by “proficient”, I do not mean that I am one-shotting ICC25 or anything… but I am comfortable tanking ToC25 and ICC10.

Rule 1: Watch your threat!

The thing that tanks get berated most for by DPS is failing to maintain threat, often resulting in a DPS pulling threat at a critical moment. This can wipe a raid.

This is never the tank’s fault!

Yes, you heard me. Unless your raid is struggling in a DPS race against a hard-enrage timer, there is NEVER an excuse for a DPS class to pull threat from a tank unless they are too pig-headed to watch their threat meter, or unless they are not prepared to take a small DPS hit on the meters.

Threat is a cumulative concept. From the moment a boss is engaged, that boss created a threat table which tracks every member of the raid and ranks them according to their overall level of threat. Yes, I know you know this.

So why do you keep pulling aggro off your tank?

Tanks generally do poor DPS. That’s because tanks take stamina and mitigation-based talents instead of damage-increasing talents. Tanks also equip gear that stacks Defense, Block, Dodge, Parry, etc… instead of Strength, AP, Crit, and other juicy DPS stats.

Now while some of the tank’s talents increase threat, the point is this… A tank, doing his/her very best to hold threat on a target by mashing every attack they have, will rarely be able to out-threat an equally well geared (and played) DPS class (taunts aside). That’s why almost all DPS classes have one or more threat-reducing or re-directing talents. You need to use them regularly.

Rule 2: Help your tank!

As hunters, we are brilliantly equipped to assist a tank with holding threat. Misdirection, Feign Death and (if you are a NE) Shadowmeld will all help with this.

Most of you will already be familiar with Misdirection. Use it, and use it often (even during a fight) to help your tank with threat. Even if you’re not second on the threat meter, your added threat to the tank’s pool will help whoever is nipping at the tank’s heels. Whenever you get within 85%-90% of the tank’s threat, Feign Death. If it is on cooldown, misdirect.

If you do happen to pull threat, get yourself as close to the tank as possible before Feigning Death. TAUNTS CAN BE RESISTED, and worse, they generally have a 5-8 second cooldown. It sucks to be you if the tank’s taunt is resisted, and your FD is resisted too. It happens, trust me. Yes, if you’re a NE, Shadowmeld might save you – but whatever happens, get close to the tank to cause the minimum disruption to the raid. Melee DPS hate chasing bosses as much as tanks do.

And once again, if you so happen to pull a mob during a mass-pull, try to get the mob as close to the tank before feigning. This will make the tank’s Crowd-Control job that much easier, and possibly unnecessary (if you drop the mob in a Consecrate or Death and Decay, they should go directly back to the tank).

Rule 3: WAIT before dropping your Volley!

I always wondered why so many tanks are so fond of chain-pulling mobs. I originally thought it was because they were showing off. Now I know it is because there are many DPS out there who do not understand the concept of threat, and AoE threat in particular.

When a tank runs into a group of mobs, they will generally all run towards the tank. The tank is the first target to enter their aggro radius, so they attack him. This is not threat!

The tank has zero threat on any target until that target suffers some damage at the hands of the tank. If you drop Volley on that group, and there are mobs that have not yet been damaged by the tank, then YOU will soon be tanking those zero-threat mobs.

Of the four tank classes, all have an AoE damage/threat ability (though Warriors and Druids are considered by many to be weakest AoE threat tanks). Wait until the tank’s AoE ability has been used before dropping Volley, and you will be that much better positioned to do lots of damage and create minimum crowd control problems.

The Paladin’s primary AoE threat-generator is Consecration (a yellow glowing effect bursting out from the Pally’s feet). The DK’s AoE threat ability is Death and Decay (a red glowing effect, larger than consecrate and which can be targeted away from the DK if desired). A Warrior uses Thunder Clap (earthquake animation at the Warrior’s feet). Druids use Swipe, but it is limited in the number of targets it can hit (and is difficult to see as it has no distinct animation like the others). Be very careful dropping an early Volley on a large group of mobs (more than 3) with a Druid tank, and ask the tank before the pull to signal on vent when to use Volley. If in doubt, assist the tank in single-target mode.

Misdirection can be used with Volley or Multi-Shot to attach some initial threat to a number of mobs in a pack simultaneously. However, be careful – once the timer on MD wears off, the rest of the volley will be generating threat.

Happy pewpewing, Hunter friends! See you at the top of the Recount charts 🙂


8 thoughts on “DPS – From a tank’s perspective”

  1. Very helpful thread. I had not realized that just because the tank is chain pulling and has 5 mobs attacking him, doesn’t mean he has a high amount of threat with all of them. Now I will always MD before volley. 🙂

  2. As a new tank i find i am getting frustrated a lot. People do not seem to be courteous like i do. Assisting the tank is critical. i don’t care what your threat generating abilities are, if they attack the wrong mob they will pull aggro.

    Pulling is a tanks job unless otherwise requested.

    When i have a melee dps annoy me i kite the boss to make his job harder, gives me a small satisfaction. I am starting my second tank, a pally. My new trick is to set focus to the healer, and DI them when dps piss me off. What i don’t understand is a dps has to wait 10-11 mins in my battlegroup for a tank. Why risk annoying them. i used to run 5-6 heroics on my dk. Now maybe 1-2 until someone ticks me off.

    You mentioned that playing a tank improved your overall performance. Having now played all three roles endgame i have a much better appreciation for the importance of coordination. don’t stand in the fire, don’t pull aggro, don’t trigger extra mobs. but most importantly be courteous and polite, it goes a long way. DPS who really upset me get ignored, eventually their wait will get longer and longer.

    Anyway enough ranting. Thanks for the blog


    • Preaching to the choir, J! Never tried the DI trick tho… If I know the DPS, I curse them out after the pull (though I hardly ever run with people who do that outside of a random). If it is a random group, then I guess a vote kick is in order. Considering that I usually queue with 2-3 pals in a random, the poor saps wouldn’t last long.

      Thankfully, you will find (or likely may already know) that a reasonably geared Pally tank has little trouble holding aggro in most situations. In a heroic, I usually just start chain-pulling if there is someone in the group doing that. Building up a threat lead is the best antidote 😉

      Keep on keeping on!


  3. My first shot almost always goes with a MD. If MD is on CD, then I take a differing route depending the type of tank. With good Paladin and Death Knight tanks I can normally just go all out and slap in the MD once its CD is up. With warriors and bears I go to single target mode.

    MD and FD are my favorite friends. I most likely scare some tanks because I like to ride the red line. The warnings from Omen help me to keep it close, but not over.

  4. Just a quick note – you use the terms “threat” and “aggro” casually and, often, incorrectly. They are not interchangeable terms. They are terms that have very specific meanings within the game’s mechanics.

    Threat is a value. This value measures the amount of aggression a mob feels towards a character. Initially, the character with the highest threat is the one which the mob attacks. After that, for that situation to change, a character needs to generate 10% more threat to “pull aggro” and change the mob’s target-of-choice. Threat is generated through various means, most commonly from doing damage or from healing.

    Aggro is the state of being a mob’s target-of-choice.

    You don’t “hold threat” nor “pull threat. You hold or pull aggro. You generate threat or reduce your threat. Hunters have the ability (misdirect) to transfer threat that they would otherwise generate to a target (usually the tank). Hunters have the ability (feign death) to reset their threat value to zero. Hunters have the ability (distracting shot) to pull aggro – to outright force a target to attack the hunter, regardless of the amount of threat the hunter has on the target.

    I play a hunter and also have a feral druid with which I tank. I feel it is very important that, if one wishes to have a conversation about threat and aggro, that one uses the terms correctly to ensure the reader correctly understands the mechanics involved.

    You generate/transfer/reset threat.

    You pull/hold aggro.

    • You are right and I must concede the point 🙂

      In any event, hopefully my readers will see through my term-based errors to understand the point I am trying to make.

      Again, thanks for the clarification!


  5. Personally, I never wait to drop an MDed Volley. Unless your tank is an AE threat master, without a little initial assistance, there’s a damned good chance an overzealous Mage or Lock is going to yank one away. With an adequate amount of haste, at most one tick of Volley will miss the MD, if you launch it with rapidfire or hyperspeed accelerators, there’s a good chance you can get the first tick of a second Volley to land under MD. If you’re trying to maximize the initial threat your tank has, it’s all about beefing up that 4 second burst as much as possible.

    Beyond that, if you pull threat off the tank, you should FD the instant it occurs, waiting to try and run back to the tank is just going to guarantee you’ve made a mess of things already 🙂 Ideally your timing on FD should barely make the mob take a single step towards you, in the case of a failure however, by all means hoof it back to the tank.

    However as you stated already, there’s little to no excuse for pulling the threat away from the tank in the first place, as a hunter you have the tools to be 1st on the recount charts and 10th on the threat list if you’re handling yourself properly.

    Of course, in my opinion if you pull threat, just slip into your tanking gear and let ’em have it!

    • With the new mechanics of Misdirection, you are exactly right Sol – dropping an MD’d volley on a group of mobs is HUGELY helpful to a tank – especially a Warrior or Druid tank. That is an excellent point and I would encourage all you hunters out there to help your tank out in this way wherever possible.

      The touchy pull is the one where MD is on CD. As a tank, and especially since the new LFG system came out, I have noticed far too many ranged classes dropping AoE before I have established aggro against the pull. This is primarily what I am referring to, as CC is a necessary (but unpleasant) part of tanking. Tanks love not having to do it, as do the healers healing them!

      Thanks for the clarification!



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