The Burning Red Line
Tanks try to keep it, healers avoid it, but for some reason DPS have a difficult relationship with it: aggro. Whether doing raids or heroics, you will find that there are many different views on the topic of aggro, and they often do not mesh with the intentions that Blizzard has put out for it.
That thin red line
Aggro is when your threat has exceeded a certain threshold, and a mob will come cruising straight for you. This threshold is 110% for Melee, and 130% for ranged. When this happens in a 5-man, a tank will usually get annoyed with you, and you with the tank.
What happens here is a classic difference of opinion. DPS believe that the tank needs to generate enough aggro to keep the mobs in line, no questions asked. If it doesn’t work, taunt or something. Tanks believe it is their job to generate as much threat as possible, but that since they also need to position mobs and watch for patrols, the DPS have a shared responsibility to keep their threat in mind and not go over the tanks on purpose.
This debate has been raging on since Vanilla, and it hasn’t changed a bit in Heroics and PuG raids. Queue Icecrown Citadel.
Threat, Tanks and a Chilled Throne
In ICC, tanks first really noticed that they had threat problems. They were already penalized by Chill of the Throne, losing 20% of their Dodge, but also did not share equally in the ICC-wide damage and health buff. You see, tank threat is based on their DPS, with a modifier, and additional threat from abilities earmarked to cause more threat.
As the percentage bonus of the ICC buff goes up, it benefits you more if you have a lot of DPS already. Since tanks generally have low DPS, they benefit less from the buff, which also gives them less of a threat boost.
DPS meanwhile not only do not care for Chill of the Throne, they also gain more health and more damage from the buff. As such, every time the buff jumps up and every time we get an upgrade, we come closer and closer to an invisible red line. This invisible red line tells us the tanks simply cannot generate more aggro, it’s physically impossible.
When this line is reached, tanks simply cannot hold responsibility for keeping aggro on trigger-happy DPS. This is where we have to manage our threat, Fade away, Iceblock, Feint or Feign Death. Even we Shadowpriests, normally blissfully unaware, now have to pay attention, because our DoTs give us a little less control over stopping DPS and thus aggro gains.
Tanks now live on Misdirect and Tricks of the Trade, which allow Hunters and Rogues to transfer some of their meaty aggro onto the tanks, and give them an artificial boost. Without it, you will find tanks struggling unless they are horribly overgeared in ICC, and on Hard Modes even that might not be enough.
Blizzard does not like it when people have to rely on others to do their job, and so there are redesigns to the tank and tanking philosophy on the way in Cataclysm. In short, tanks should be able to manage DPS and healers at roughly equivalent gear level without outside assistance, and without furiously using DPS cooldowns or continually running out of mana/rage/runic power.
Tanking, no matter how many people make jokes about it, is fairly strenuous. You have to keep an eye on the environment, you have to keep aggro, sometimes use cooldowns, not stand in the fire and are generally expected to take the lead. Go to slow, and some “gogogo-tard” will haunt you. Go too fast and the healer cries “OOM!” every corner.
Having to explain that people need to mind their own aggro because you simply cannot create more of it is enough of a burden without getting a “lol L2 aggro scrub” reply.
In a raiding situation, that goes double. When you are raiding and the tanks are struggling (due to tank switches, incoming adds or just “zomg loads of mobs!”) don’t add to it by going all-out. Trust me, the damage meters will still be there next time, and you three seconds of not pulling aggro guarantees another minute of DPS with your health bar intact.
This is why I love Ruby Sanctum. Having to modulate DPS on Halion is great practice for what we’ll be doing in Cataclysm. Be repaired, be prepared!