This week, we're continuing our series on Pulling 101 with a look at what happens during the dungeon itself. I was surprised to discover exactly how much of this advice concerns rage management, but shouldn't have been; any discussion concerning how to pull as a rage tank invariably touches on how to get the most out of an eccentric resource system. A good chunk of this advice will become obsolete as of the Cataclysm content patch, but if you're leveling and gearing a bear through the dungeon finder, there are still an awful lot of 5-mans between yourself and this fall.
Set the tone
You, as the tank, are the de facto group leader and have more power than anyone (barring the healer) to determine how the run goes. If you're a nice person, you set a standard for the behavior you expect to see during the run. If you're an asshole, players are often reluctant to drop because that means going back to a lengthy queue.
Say hello to the group when you zone in. Apologize if you screw up; it makes people feel more comfortable about owning up to their own mistakes, if the tank is honest about his/her own. Thank the DPS who go out of their way to make your life easier (e.g. DPS who interrupt or silence attacks, rogues and hunters who Tricks and Misdirect on cooldown, DPS who remove debuffs the healer can't get). Ask if people want "extra" bosses when they're available.
Innervate on cooldown
While your first priority for Innervate should always be your healer, a decently-geared one can and will go the length of a dungeon without ever stopping to drink. If your healer doesn't need it, use Innervate to support your casters and/or hunters, particularly if you're chain-pulling.
Rage as a resource
In any discussion concerning how to pull as a bear tank, it's necessary to acknowledge firstly that you are pulling as a rage tank. This has a few implications for warrior and bears, mostly in the form of what happens to rage outside of combat.
Namely, it decays. Once you finish up a pull and leave combat, you'll lose rage at the rate of one per second. It's this that gives warriors and bears their reputation as "impatient" tanks, because the longer they're outside of combat, the harder it becomes to generate and maintain early threat on the next pull. If the healer takes a bathroom break, there are several seconds between pulls (unavoidable in dungeons like CoT: Strat or Forge of Souls) or something else delays the run, your threat-producing resource turns into a big pile of nothing.
Understanding this, the best way for a rage tank to pull is to stay in combat as much as possible. This does not necessarily mean that you spend the dungeon running around like a ferret on meth, but it does mean you should pull as briskly as your gear allows.
Critters = free rage.
You know all the critters typically scattered around dungeons? Each is good for a huge chunk of rage. You don't need to do anything fancy with them, and you certainly shouldn't blow a special attack; just target them, queue up a white hit, and hey presto, you've got rage. In any dungeon with long periods between pulls, it pays to keep an eye out for critters if your rage bar is dwindling.
Just ... try not to kill anything really cute. There's a cat wandering around the streets of old Stratholme in Caverns of Time that's almost invariably within Swipe range, and I feel terrible every time I hit it.
If you're having issues with threat, make the effort to start each pull with as much rage as possible -- which means don't waste it while the last pull's dying. If mobs are collectively at low health or half the pull's already dead, it's usually pointless to keep queuing Maul. Your rage income isn't as good in this period, and the rage you do have is better spent on a fresh pack of mobs. Confine yourself to Swipe, Feral Faerie Fire and Mangle, let Maul lapse so you keep getting white attacks, and finish the pull at 100 rage.
That is, if you're even there when the pull dies ...
When threat is an issue
If threat is an issue, don't wait for pulls to finish before aggroing the next. This is something a lot of tanks wind up doing on less difficult pulls anyway, to speed dungeon runs, but the Massively Impatient Tank strategy is equally helpful to tanks who may struggle to control mobs against well-geared DPS.
If the pull you've got around you is starting to hit 25% or lower, simply head off for the next pull, Feral Charge a mob, aggro the pack and start building threat. Ignore whatever mobs from the last pull are struggling to reach your rear. Your DPS will still be finishing them off, which should give you several seconds' worth of unmolested threat generation on the fresh pack. As the previous pull dies, the DPS moves onto the new mobs, and the cycle simply repeats.
Counterpoint If you're not well-geared, you need to be very careful with this strategy and may even have to avoid it entirely. Being able to hold threat against DPS who massively outgear you isn't worth the stress you'll be putting on your healer if you can't do multi-pull tanking without losing huge chunks of health. Consequently, this strategy is probably useful only to tanks who are decently-geared but struggling to hold threat against ICC-geared DPS.
Casters die first (usually)
If it has a blue bar under its nameplate, it gets the skull. While there are a few exceptions to this (notably in the form of killing Anub'ar Skirmishers rather than their caster brethren, in the pulls before Krik'thir in Azjol-Nerub), it's a good rule to keep in mind while pulling any dungeon you haven't seen. Any mob with mana is a potential healers or caster with nasty AoE attacks, and you need to end their threat to the group as quickly as possible.
Switch off the first target
Switch off the first target before your DPS does. One of the ancillary benefits of always killing a caster mob first is that it's not a big deal if your DPS overtakes your threat. The only advantage that tanks really have for surviving caster damage is a higher health pool (and yes, we have some passive damage reduction, but it's nothing to write home about). If a caster aggros one of your DPS while the group's focusing it down, don't worry about it. While it's doing that, you're spreading attention around the rest of the mobs, ensuring they won't go anywhere when the group starts to focus them.
Otherwise known as the bear's nightmare, yes. You'll encounter this situation frequently in all three Icecrown 5-mans, with an additional irritant in the form of rare-to-nonexistent places to line-of-sight pulls. As a result, pulls are invariably a bit messy if your DPS can't silence errant casters, but there's really not a whole lot we can do about this.
The thing about these messy pulls is that you don't need to tank everything at once. Anything you can't hit, you can't hit -- but that's not a problem as long as the wayward casters aren't attacking your healer. One or two Swipes while you're gathering the rest of the pull is usually enough to keep their attention while your group's busy with the other mobs. If you want to target them specifically, an occasional Feral Faerie Fire thrown their way accomplishes the same trick. Focus on the mobs you've got in front of you and don't worry about a caster attacking you from range, as long as it's attacking you. And if your DPS is sensible, they'll know better than to attack a mob that's not being actively tanked.
The multiple-caster mess
What if there are multiple casters in a pull and a DPSer won't stop hitting something I'm not attacking? You can do one of two things. If you're a nice person and you don't want the DPSer to die, you can taunt the other caster on cooldown and/or Feral Charge over to start putting some threat on it. If you're not a nice person and/or the DPSer has been warned about this behavior and continues to do it, the mob is now his problem.
So far, the best rejoinder I've heard of to players who get snippy about not being taunted off is: "I belong to the Church of Darwin and it is against my religion to save the life of a terminally stupid person."
Every week, Shifting Perspectives treks across Azeroth in pursuit of truth, beauty and insight concerning the druid class. Sometimes it finds the latter, or something good enough for government work. Whether you're a bear, cat, moonkin, tree or stuck in caster form, we've got the skinny on druid changes in patch 3.3, a look at the disappearance of the bear tank and thoughts on why you should be playing the class (or why not).