This is a companion post to Working With Healers and has a similar purpose: discussing tanks and hunters in the opening tier of Cataclysm. While it’s true that healers have the toughest job right now, tanking still ranks above huntering in terms of difficulty. Tanks are expected to know new fights inside and out, and a lot more hangs on their actions than on a hunter’s. They have to balance three stat goals (mitigation, damage soaking and threat) as opposed to simply “moar agi = win!!!!” They usually have to coordinate CC, positioning and kill orders themselves, at least in dungeons. And they have to compensate for the abundance of Wrath-style facerolling and “it’s never my fault” attitudes that still and will always exist in the game. It’s not an easy job, tanking, so what can we do to help?
First, we can remember the basics:
- Keep your pet under control.
- /assist the tank.
- MD to the tank at the beginning of every pull, providing MD is off cooldown.
- Feign Death before you steal agro.
- If you steal agro, it’s your fault (you control your threat, not the tank).
Tank Changes in Cataclysm
It can also help to note the changes to tanking in Cataclysm. These changes don’t alter the longstanding fundamentals of the tank-hunter relationship noted above, but they do adjust how we should evaluate and interact with tanks. The most obvious and sweeping change is the advent of Vengeance. This passive, stacking aura is standard for all four tank trees and increases a tank’s attack power as she takes damage. It was implemented for Cataclysm because at the end of Wrath tank threat was failing to scale with dps threat. This was partially due to gear, but it was also due to the incentive structure that Blizzard had imposed on tanks that made it more important for themto stack stamina to survive spike damage than to care about threat stats like hit rating. This in turn lead to odd compensation measures on players’ parts, including having hunters MD on cooldown to carry tanks on threat (something we can no longer do, and I doubt that’s a coincidence).
Vengeance ameliorates the conflict between threat and survivability for tanks by causing threat to increase over the course of the fight according to the tank’s health pool size. Basically, the tank gains a percentage of their damage taken as attack power every time they’re hit, stacking up to 10% of their health. For a tank with 150k health that’s whopping 15k ap; this is why you see some tanks reaching 12k dps on single target fights. The key thing to remember for us, though, is that Vengeance builds over time. It helps tanks stay ahead on threat over the long haul, but not in the face of off-target Explosive Shots at the beginning of a fight. Put another way, Vengeance effectively puts an end to fight-long struggles for the threat, but it does not help tanks keep agro at the very beginnings of fights. This may be true now as much as in Wrath because, thanks to Vengeance, tanks still aren’t stacking threat stats like Expertise or Hit and so can very easily miss their opening attacks and not build much early threat at all. The opening 30-40 seconds of agro on any target thereby remain quite precarious when it comes to threat; this preserves threat as a real concern for tanks and dps at the same time that it also preserves the role and worth of Misdirections and Tricks.
Stamina is no longer the be-all and end-all of tank stats. This is due to the sea change that damage and healing saw with Cataclysm. It used to be that healer mana didn’t matter and damage was very spikey, so tanks had desired to get as much health as possible (even at the expense of threat and mitigation) in order to soak damage. Yet, now, healer mana does matter and damage is not as spikey. This alters stat priorities for tanks. They no longer need as-big-as-possible health pools for normal tanking and want to stack enough mitigation stats so that they leave the tank healer(s) with enough mana to finish the fight. From a hunter’s perspective, this means that you can no longer judge a tank by his health pool size. A tank with 170k and a lot of mitigation stats is most likely a better tank in terms of survivability and sustainability than a guy with similar gear who’s stacked Stamina to 190k.
Mastery is a tanking stat for tanking trees. So, if you see a tank rolling on a piece with Mastery and Expertise, don’t automatically cuss her out. Even the Expertise is valuable since it helps with threat (it’s no longer as necessary for tanks as it used to be, though, since parry gibs are a thing of the past).
Defense Rating is not in the game anymore. It is even more extinct than than Armor Penetration considering that crit immunity is picked up with talents now, much as it is for our pets. You’ll have to turn to other values if you want stat standards for judging tanks. Aside from basic questions like whether or not they’re gemmed and enchanted to begin with, you can also ask more incisive questions. Are they reforging into avoidance stats? Are they wearing dps gear (gear that favors Crit and Haste) and pretending it’s tank gear? Are they over 150k health (even though stamina matters less, it still does matter quite a bit)?
Crowd control, interrupts and dispels are now important in dungeons and not just raids for tank survival. This is fairly obvious if you’ve run any Heroics, but it bears repeating. Tanks and healers often simply aren’t geared enough yet in order to be able to ignore boss mechanics and most still aren’t geared enough to take on whole packs of trash at once. CCs and interrupts and dispels may seem annoying to a dps, but they make an enormous difference for heals and tanks. Trust me, tanks want to go fast and take big pulls too, so if they’re slowing down to lay out strategies, raid icons and the like it usually means there’s a good reason for it.
Working With Tanks
Establish a basis for communication with the tank. Unlike with healers, hunters and tanks actually have a lot to say to one-another and so it helps for them to be on the same page. They have to share an understanding of what the raid icons mean. They have to know what each other’s abilities do; for example, it really helps if a tank knows that traps can be broken, that they work on almost anything, that they can be chained, that Ice Trap is actually not the same thing as Freezing Trap, etc. Because of all this, it can be good to make sure at the start of a dungeon or raid that you and the tank(s) understand one another.
Offer your services. A lot of tanks don’t have a full sense of what hunters can do in terms of crowd control, kiting, threat management and dispels. Instead of the huge asset that we can be, we’re more likely to be viewed as generic dps who at best won’t wipe the group due to incompetence.
Use Misdirect for the purpose it was intended: to give tanks an opening boost on threat. While that threat gain is nice for any pull (and for any add that shows up mid-fight), it is particularly helpful for multi-target pulls. The less work a tank has to do hunting down stray mobs with taunts, the more threat he generates overall and the less likely he is to lose mobs later in the fight. Just like globals spent on Deterrence and Mend Pet cost us dps, a tank’s attention and time spent on taunts, Intervenes, Hand of Salv and the like cost him threat and mitigation. The more we can do to help tanks focus on their optimal threat+mitigation rotations and positioning, the smoother things will go for the whole group or raid.
Waiting a couple seconds to start doing damage is okay. It’s not going to hurt your dps and it’s going to help the tank establish a solid threat lead. You want the tank to have such a lead because (1) it lets you go all out when you do start dps and (2) it gives the tank enough breathing room to focus on mitigation. Waiting a couple seconds also helps the tanks overcome rng. Unlike the always hit capped hunter, the tank is most likely not hitting with all her swings, and so if the rng gods smite the tank and she misses all of her opening attacks, it can leave any dps who did start blasting straight away with a boss bearing down on them.
Feign before you steal agro and stay feigned until you see your threat disappear. Pulling a boss out of position is bad, as is getting up and resuming dps only to discover that FD did not actually have enough time to wipe your threat. Note that once the opening MD and Tricks threat buffs fade after 30 seconds, you may actually have more threat than the tank. Feign preemptively when you see this is the case. Omen does a nice job of displaying how much threat is buffed threat and so you can predict whether the thread fading will put you ahead of the tank.
Once the tank has a solid threat lead, he or she is not very likely to lose it. So, while you may need to watch the threat meters closely at the start of the fight, you typically do not need to pay much attention to boss threat in the middle of the fight (with obvious exceptions for multi-target fights). Likewise, you do not need to cast MDs to the tank in the middle of the fight (unless it’s for an add) because it will not help the tank and will only cost you a long global.
Tips for the Current Raid Content
Here are some fight-specific tips for working with tanks that go beyond the standard advice mentioned above.
- Magmaw – If your guild kites the adds, MDing to the kiter certainly helps. Magmaw’s threat resets after every head phase and so a fresh MD to the tank at such times doesn’t hurt.
- Omnotron – MDing any new golems helps, but the golems preserve their threat tables during deactivations and so you don’t need to MD at every switch later on in the fight. Also, please kill any slimes that fixate on a tank first because they require the tank to kite a boss around the room until the slime is dead. Lastly, mouseover Tranqs on Arcanotron when he has extra stacks of Converted Power can save a tank and indirectly help with interrupts. However, do not retarget to Tranq because your autos will add more stacks than your Tranquilzing Shots remove.
- Maloriak – Ice Traps for the add tank help immensely, especially if you’re talented into Entrapment. Note that Entrapment roots rather than stuns the adds, and so anyone who’s standing next to the rooted adds will start taking melee hits. Also, the extra dragonkin adds that spawn at the beginning of phase two need to fixate on the offtank and MDs can help with that. Do not, however, shoot at them without an MD going because that can cause them to fixate on you.
- Atramedes – Remember that the tank does not keep building threat (and can even lose her Vengeance stacks I believe) during air phases and so it can be very important to feign as the dragon lands.
- Nefarian – Ice Traps can help the add tank with kiting Animated Bone Warriors if placed on the kiting route (providing that the snare doesn’t put the adds in phase 1 breath or phase 3 fire). Concussive Barrage can likewise snare the adds.
Bastion of Twilight
- All of the encounters here require some form of mid-fight target switching and so MDs on any newly-agro’d targets are of course appreciated.
- I have not done Sinestra myself and so do not have any tips for that fight.
Throne of the Four Winds
- Conclave – I have only ever been on Rohash’s platform. It gets a bit boring, yes, but it also means I have no experience working with tanks on the Conclave of the Wind encounter.
- Al’Akir – It can help to ask to be within 100 yards of the tank’s position for phase 1 in order to be able to MD. MDing Stormlings in phase 2 is also quite helpful since they can spawn just about anywhere and you want them out of the raid fast.
Do you have any additional advice for working with tanks, be it general or specific to a raid encounter?