Hold the Line; An Endgame Tanking Reference

By: Patrick O'Callahan / Ciderhelm


3.4.5 Fear & Intimidating Shout

There are two general types of fear effects: Intimidating Shouts and Fear. Intimidating Shouts are much more common in regular creatures, whereas Fears are commonly used by bosses.

As a general rule, an Intimidating Shout effect cannot be removed, cannot be broken, and cannot be avoided. While an additional Fear effect is applied to others in proximity, the Intimidating Shout immobilization is specifically applied to the player the creature is aggro'd to.

In most cases, the Intimidating Shout will cause the creature to continue attacking you as normal. You will be unable to move for the duration of the effect. However, in some cases an Intimidating Shout is the precursor to a Triggered Memory Loss or Triggered Threat Drop -- this is most effectively dealt with by having two tanks, one in range to eat the Intimidating Shout and another out of range to taunt the creature as it runs towards your raid and bring it back to the first tank.

Fears are handled differently. A creature which utilizes a Fear will cause all targets -- including the tank -- to run in fear. Also, a tank who is feared is unable to regain aggro through normal means during the actual Fear effect.

Dealing with Fear often involves multi-tanking. Though a Dwarf Priest can be helpful for most encounters through Nefarian, more complicated fights such as Gluth require you to use the Fear effect for tactical advantage to clear your debuffs. Also, multi-tanking is generally very helpful for any fight where fears come more often than 30 seconds -- even with the Deathwish talent, a fight like Nefarian is still very difficult to single tank.

Multi-tanking for Fears is simple in theory, more difficult in practice. First, you will need to utilize one of your early skills of stance-dancing -- that is, changing to Berserker Stance, using Berserker Rage, then switching back to Defensive Stance. When you do this, the other tank will generally eat the Fear. Once the next Fear is ready to occur, the other tank must use Berserker Rage to the same effect.

Coordinating this between two skilled tanks will become second nature.

However, there are two common issues involving Fear effects. The first is with the secondary tank getting aggro after you are Feared; the second involves special cases where the creature targets you during the fear and positioning is compromised.

Secondary tank aggro does not follow the normal rules of aggro exchange when involving Fears. Normally, a tank rotation or aggro exchange occurs through a melee player reaching 110% accumulated aggro or a ranged player reaching 130% accumulated aggro. However, this threshold never takes place on the first Fear which lands on the first tank -- the second tank has to literally have the second spot in raid aggro or the creature will ignore him. This means that through the first fear your raid has to watch aggro accumulation carefully. Once this first transition between the tanks has taken place, however, aggro is built against both tanks and pulling aggro will be much more difficult.

The next issue is quite a bit more technical in nature -- sometimes when Feared, the creature will target you either during or immediately after the Fear when he otherwise should not. This is a particular issue for multi-tanking Onyxia or Nefarian, where the dragon facing you while you are feared into the raid can wipe you immediately. Don't lose hope! This is not normal game mechanics and is avoidable!

If you are dealing with mid-Fear aggro, watch your reactive procs -- this includes Gift of Arthas, Thorns, Sanctuary, Retribution Aura, Essence of the Pure Flame, Drillborer Disk, any number of buffs which react to incoming damage. Dragons are notoriously bad for Cleaves, and while they are hitting the new tank they have a tendency to Cleave -- when that Cleave hits you while feared, having a reactive proc will signal the dragon that you are back in the game and capable of dealing damage to him -- then he will face you, regardless of your position or ability to control your actions.

If you are dealing with post-Fear aggro before you can move back into position, there are three ways of dealing with this in limited form. First, watch that you don't engage the target or buff yourself in any way prior to reaching the normal positioning on the mob. Second, avoid any party or raid buffs or heal-over-time spells such as Renew or the Transcendance eight-piece bonus near the timeframe of the Fear -- once your Fear has completed, a tick of a heal-over-time will make the creature aware of your presence again and he has a high likelihood of approaching you immediately. Finally, if the Fear effect is less than 5 seconds long on a fairly large-bodied creature and positioning is the only issue, try to position yourself in a corner that, even after your fear, does not put you out of melee range of the creature -- if he remains within melee range, he will not adjust his position when he attacks you again.

However, when dealing with post-Fear aggro, it is not always completely avoidable. The introduction of pulsed combat checks cause some aggro problems immediately after a Fear in certain encounters. Also, since Blizzard allowed health/5 items such as the Onyxia trinket to work in combat these items act like a constant heal-over-time and must be replaced.

3.4.6 Stacking Debuffs

There are three prominent types of Stacking Debuffs -- and plenty of less prominent ones. These three are as follows: damage over time, damage vulnerabilities, and Mortal Strike. Damage vulnerabilities are almost always environmental and the effects cannot be avoided.

Stacking Debuffs are universally used to enforce or encourage speed-killing, resistance gear, or more commonly, multi-tanking. This is done by slowly making it more difficult to the creature -- raising the temperature to the point where it is no longer safe to continue fighting the creature.

If a creature can be killed quickly but applies a high-damage debuff, such as a gargoyle from the necro wing of Naxxramas, chances are that is exactly what you need to be doing to avoid the debuff stacking too high. Further, these fights are generally made clear very quickly -- such as the six second timer on the gargoyles to burn them 30% -- and are used as gear checks for your raid.

If a creature is stacking a particular spell vulnerability or low-damage DOT but cannot be killed quickly, such as Firemaw, it suggests that resistance gear may be very helpful. As with all resistance-based fights, it relies on a small bit of luck, but generally will never get to a point of severity. Firemaw, for instance, will generally clear debuffs before 10 debuffs stack if you are wearing 315 fire resistance, yet one fun memory I have is reaching more than 30 debuffs before they reset.

If a creature is using a high-damage DOT or spell vulnerability and cannot be killed quickly, it must be multi-tanked to force the debuffs to clear. An example of this would be Huhuran -- regardless of strategic tank switching, be it temporary using Limited Inulvnerability Potions or Blessing of Protection or whether it is tank alternating, the fight requires debuffs to clear in terms of a long-term strategy.

In fights such as Huhuran where you need to multi-tank to clear a Stacking Debuff, you will need to set up a system for aggro alternation. The process I generally use with my tanks is to gain aggro through the first set of debuffs then stop attacking the creature. During the time I am not attacking, the other tank is working on gaining aggro. After gaining 110% accumulated aggro the creature begins attacking him and he immediately stops attacking. I begin attacking again until I have aggro and repeat the process. This method of tank alternating is very effective but requires raid aggro -- damage -- output to dip a bit lower than it normally would be. The advantage to this tank switching is that we can drastically reduce the amount of resistance gear we need to wear for encounters such as Huhuran because our Stacking Debuffs never accumulate enough to be dangerous.

Stacking Debuffs have specific rates of re-application. Prior to Ahn'Qiraj, most stacking debuffs have a six-second window prior to their clearing when the debuff will either be resisted, avoided, or will stack again; using Limited Invulnerability Potions can strategically guarantee the debuff clears in some fights. However, in Ahn'Qiraj and Naxxramas, Stacking Debuffs have two points in their timers at which they can be reapplied -- for instance, a debuff which would clear in 30 seconds may have a chance of being refreshed both at the 14 second marker and again at the 4 second marker. This is used generally to limit the chance of Invulnerability or Blessing of Protections from clearing these debuffs. Another thing to note is that a Stacking Debuff, once it has checked for reapplication, has a chance of being removed several seconds early. For instance, gargoyle poison volley debuffs can completely clear several seconds before the timer has completed.

As a special note to Mortal Strike Stacking Debuffs, these currently come strictly in increments of 10% healing reduction. In fights such as Fankriss, these debuffs can be helpful in reducing overall healing aggro across the raid.

Also, there are other forms of Stacking Debuffs which have to be handled through innovative thought on the part of your guild. Gluth's Zombie Chow apply a debuff every time they use a melee that increases melee damage taken the next time they hit you; this nasty debuff is meant to suggest that you need to find a way to limit or avoid contact with the Zombie Chow altogether.

3.4.7 Paralyzation

Paralyzation is a rare immobilizing effect found in specific raid encounters such as Lethon and Maexxna. A Paralyzation is generally designed to affect much of the raid so as to stop healing from occuring during this time. Paralyzation effects do not affect avoidance statistics -- you are fully capable of avoiding damage and blocking while paralyzed.

Survival during a Paralyzation effect is primarily a strategy developed through your healing force. However, you can greatly increase your chances of survival by timing key skills. First, hold off on your Shield Block -- ideally Improved through talents -- and use the ability immediately prior to the Paralyzation. Second, use either Last Stand or Lifegiving Gem as necessary either immediately before or after the effect. Improved Shield Wall can also be particularly useful for handling Paralyzation as a fight draws near a close. Finally, if dealing with an enrage, forcing a tank rotation through the use of Limited Invulnerability Potions or Blessing of Protection immediately prior to the Paralyzation will temporarily move the creature onto the secondary aggro target.

3.5 Positioning

Positioning will be different for nearly every fight and situation. Though certain classes of creatures such as dragons have general positioning guidelines, instanced encounters nearly always rely on using built-in terrain features to your advantage.

The physical location of a creature will be built around a strategy you have developed. In some cases, the location itself will be shifting and the raid will be moving in relation to your actions as a tank -- for instance, Ossirian and Sartura. In other cases, positioning can be very strict depending on elements of your strategy - avoiding Line of Sight on Firemaw or Chromaggus or gaining maximum range from healers with torches on the Twin Emperors.

Positioning itself is a critical element of tanking. There are some general guidelines and tips which will help you with this.


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Last Updated: Mar 29, 2016

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