Monday, January 12, 2009

Threat Generation, Single Target vs. AOE

There seems to be a common theme on various forums regarding our threat generation. It's not enough.

I beg to differ.

Within reason, we can generate sufficient threat regardless of fight to cover AOE and Healing aggro. Almost all the issues are solved by a little common sense and good raid discipline.

First) if the DPS out gears you by a long shot and they pull aggro, they need to back off and give you more time.

Second) if DPS pulls aggro on an AOE tanked fight, they most likely are not focus firing on the right mob.

Third) if Healers pull aggro, you either screwed up royally at the start, or were not positioned to pick up an add.

Basic rules of threat generation for the DK tank.

If you are not in frost presence you will not hold threat. This isn't such a big deal since you will be dead anyway. Dead toons don't generate threat either.

Before the pull, know whether it will be AOE or single target.

If it's AOE use the basic AOE rotation found in my tanking primer. Start with DnD, IT, PS, Pest, and Unholy Blight. As soon as you get your first blood rune back, blood boil. At this point Pestilence, Blood Boil, and Unholy Blight should give sufficient threat for the remainder of the fight. If you find you still need more, save a few runes and Death and Decay again.

On single targets, start with IT and PS to get your diseases working as soon as possible. You will also want to Blood Strike twice to proc Blade Barrier. Please note, BS does not provide threat as quickly as Scourge Strike. Keep your diseases up, Scourge Strike and Rune Strike whenever you have the runes or it procs. Also if you need all the threat you can get, only use runic power on UB, Death Coils, and RS. Don't waste your RP on Gargoyles since you do not get threat from their damage.

Regardless of Single Target or AOE, the mechanics of our threat generation dictate we need a little bit of time before DPS can lay into the pack. Our initial threat builds in layers as the first hits or ticks of DnD take place. Then the disease damage starts to pile on. After that you start adding in threat from RP dumps.

The point is, our threat is not front loaded. DPS needs to give us a couple seconds before trying to hit a home run.

On AOE pulls, its a good idea to mark a kill order. I actually only use Skull and have it key bound so I can easily apply it to whichever target I'm focusing on. (I don't have it macrod to my strikes since sometimes I will tab target another mob to lay some extra hurt on it.) So long as DPS follows the skull they will always focus fire the target I'm hitting the hardest.

If your healer is getting aggro I assume its due to adds coming into the fight where you are not positioned to pick them up. The other option is you suck so bad healing out threats your attacks. Positioning problems can be solved on most fights quite easily. The other quick solution is to drop a Death and Decay where your healer is standing to send the adds your direction.

With my level of gear I can easily push 3500 TPS. In the unlikely event I'm running with DPS that can consistently go over that, I know I'm out geared and will ask them to give me a bigger head start.

People need to remember, as tanks we have to balance mitigation to keep the healers happy and threat generation to keep DPS happy. At the end of the day, everyone needs to know how much threat they can produce relative to yours to kill the boss and not get one-shot.


  1. My guild's resident teenage mage outgears me by a longshot and he pulled aggro off me initially in at least half the fights. That usually happened when I was trying to reposition the guard where we wanted to tank him down...

    It got to the point that beyond threatening him with the wrath of doom that I was telling him the next time he pulled aggro that HE was tanking...

    ...funny, but he didn't pull aggro after that.

  2. All any DK needs to do to realize that we can indeed have sufficient threat to tank anything is forget they're still in frost from tanking random heroic instance and then go raid. We you have all the agro without even trying, you have all the proof you need. All joking aside, it's not hard at all to hold agro as a DK tank and it takes a VERY outgeared dps to pull it from you if they're on your focus fire target.

  3. Speaking as a raid-running prot warrior that has a Horde DK alt on a PvP server for a break from the norm, I offer up that I currently love DKs in my group/raid, both for Horn of Winter and for the glyphed Death & Decay that makes large AOE pulls a little more manageable. Obviously, Death Grip and uber DPS are never unwelcome, either.

    Unfortunately, they're removing cower from Death & Decay, so that mechanic won't exist anymore to help me out.. and I'll miss it. I wouldn't mind Desecration's snare as a secondary method of sanity-saving against the trigger-happy mages, but ironically enough, none of the DKs in my raid are Unholy. I've thankfully specced for Piercing Howl, so there is at least that saving grace.

    Having said all that, I honestly believe that some of the others you referred to that said DKs need more threat are not entirely incorrect. DPS classes enjoy not having to wait, and certain tank classes allow them that luxury when tanking. For AOE, paladin tanks generally foster this balls-out play stile, but part of that is due to the JoL bug which is getting fixed soon. Warriors often do well at front-loading AOE threat with Thunderclap and Shockwave, but can't necessarily always maintain it indefinitely in the face of unrestrained AOE damage from hunters, mages, and warlocks. I feel DKs are in the same boat. Druids... well, druid AOE tanking still needs love.

    But my primary point is that while DKs can dish out respectable TPS, the ramp-up time is often frustrating for the rest of the raid if they're used to timing the start of their attacks according to what warriors and paladins can achieve for them. I wouldn't mind seeing Blizzard give DKs an opportunity for more front-loading threat. DnD is a nice means of doing so, but placement and keeping them inside it at pull-time seems a bit tricky from my warrior's perspective. Especially in any situation that arises where you feel you have to run through the mobs and back into the DnD radius, exposing your back. That could prove... painful.

  4. Stu,

    I agree with you completely. DK's can produce enough threat when geared at the appropriate level and played correctly.

    However, there is a perception that we can't and this post was to show why the belief that we don't produce enough threat is wrong.

  5. Kow, I meant it when I said he seriously out-gears Grim. Grim is in quest/crafted/rep blues - pretty well a standard entry level Naxx tank. The mage in question is wearing Naxx-25 epics. That he lives to top the DPS charts means that he's attacking the second the thing takes a swing at me. Maybe my repositioning tactics need work, but that seems to be the only time I'm vulnerable to losing aggro, regardless.

  6. If the Tank dies its the Healers fault
    If the Healer dies its the Tanks fault
    If DPS die its their own damn fault

    DK threat is just fine imo. As long as people DPS intelligently theres no problems.

  7. On AoE mobs there's not a chance of pulling threat off me short of a taunt. Even when I let the warrior pull and thunderclap, the second I run in IT>PS>Pest>HB, I pull aggro on them all. Single target isn't an issue with Obliterate and Frost Strike, unless you're talking about Maly or Sapphiron phases where range can attack while I cannot.