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Spiritual Guidance: Threat and you


There's a lot of content in World of Warcraft that you can do all by yourself -- you can easily get to level 70 without ever joining a party. But there's plenty of content along the way that can only be accomplished in groups, and group play is, well, a bit different from solo play. To succeed solo, all you really have to do is kill your target before it kills you -- but in a group, every player has a specific role to fufill to make the group as a whole function. You've got someone to absorb damage (your tank, decked out in gear to help him or her mitigate damage), several someones to do damage (your DPS, which can come from nearly any class), and someone to prevent everyone from dying in the meantime (your healer). And regardless of whether you're healing or flaying minds, you're cloth-wearer who can't take a lot of hits. What does this mean? Well, my friends, it means you need to know a little something about keeping monsters on your tank and off you. And you're in the right place, because today we're going to talk about threat.

I have to say straight off that I know nothing about tanking. All I know that there is some voodoo the tanking warriors, druids, and paladins do that makes mobs very angry at them. What they actually do is a complete mystery, and some of them are very good at it and some of them are not so good at it. But whether I'm with someone who's tanking well or someone who doesn't have a clue, there are a few tricks I can play to keep myself safe, and that's what we're going to talk about.

First off, for those of you who are vague on what exactly threat is, we can define it pretty clearly. Each monster in the game has a "threat list." As you do something to attract the monster's attention (let's say you hit it with a spell or heal someone who's hitting it with a sword -- either of those will certainly make the monster notice you), you are added to its threat list. If you do enough of whatever you're doing to get on the top of the threat list, the monster will come over and start hitting you. Fortunately, the way monsters assess threat is quite predictable. As a general rule,

  • one point of damage done to a monster equals one point of threat to a monster.
But as with every rule there are exceptions -- some skills cause additional threat on top of the damage they do. These will usually be marked in the skill's tooltip, and as a priest you don't have any extra-threat abilities to worry about (the ability Mind Blast used to cause double threat, but the extra threat was removed in patch 2.0 -- a nice buff for players trying to PvE as shadow priests). Your second rule is that
  • two points of healing done to anyone who's on the monster's threat list equals one point of threat to a monster.
And, note that threat is only applied to actual healing done -- overheals do not count. Threat is done the moment the healing lands on the target, so for a Greater Heal, the threat will be added to your total threat the instant you finish casting. For a Renew, you get threat every time the ability ticks and some amount of healing is done to your target. This makes the timing of your heals important -- a sizable heal landing before the tank has established aggro or after a monster has used an aggro wipe ability (they aren't common, but some bosses will wipe out their entire threat list occasionally) means that that monster is going to run straight for you. Also,
  • buffing someone on a monster's threat list will cause the tiniest bit of threat.
Very tiny. So tiny, in fact, that it's rare that you'll notice it. But it is there. Aslo,
  • if you're on a monster's threat list, gaining rage, mana, health, or rage causes a small amount of threat.
Let me immediately clarify the "health" portion of that statement: you only gain threat on health if it's health you've caused yourself to gain. So things like health potions and mana potions will cause you to gain a small amount of threat. (Yes, I have pulled aggro with a potion before.) And finally, to pull aggro, you need to go over your tank's threat numbers. But in order to keep the boss from ping-ponging all over the place if threat levels are close, you can jump a bit over the tank's threat level without pulling aggro. Specifically,
  • if you're in melee range, you need 110% threat of the monster's target to pull aggro, and
  • if you're ranged, you need 130% threat of the monster's target to pull aggro.
And even with this restriction, if you find you're having aggro issues... well, first off, I suggest finding a better group. But also you can pick up the Silent Resolve talent on tier 2 of the Discipline tree. It reduces your healing threat by 20%, which gives you even more leeway on threat.

Are all the above numbers too confusing? Too much math to keep up with over the course of a fight? Well that's okay -- because there are addons out there that will keep track of the threat for your entire group -- and make it very clear when you're close to pulling aggro. I personally recommend Omen, which will keep track of all of this in a clear list for you (and will talk to anyone else you're grouped with who's using Omen or popular alternative KLH Threat Meter, to keep you all on the same page).

So now you know what threat is and how you gain it, we need to talk about what you can do to prevent it. First up,
  • give your tank a few moments to preform their tank voodoo before you do anything.
Let your tank run in and give them a few seconds to press whatever buttons they need to press to establish aggro. If you start casting before they've done their thing, you could pull aggro. (The exact period of time depends on your tank's class, gear, and abilities -- run with a certain tank for long enough and you'll get used to their style.) However, if you're healing, feel free to toss out Prayer of Mending pre-pull -- the healing done by PoM is added to their threat, not yours. So it gives them a small threat boost at the beginning of a pull and it does some healing without giving you any threat -- a win win situation! Next, if you see on your threat meter that you're getting close to the tank,
  • stop whatever you're doing!
Give the tank a few seconds to re-establish aggro. This also holds true if you or anyone else has pulled aggro. Stop what you're doing and give your tank a few seconds to re-establish aggro.

Let's say that despite of all your efforts, you've pulled aggro off the tank. A mob is hitting you! Ow! Ow! Getitoff! Well, stay calm and
Fade will temporarily reduce your aggro. As soon as you hit it, the monster that's hitting you should run right back to the tank. Take a break from all threat-generating activity and let your tank re-establish aggro, and everything should be fine. If Fade is on cooldown (or didn't work for some reason), then we have to move on to the next step,
  • announce you have aggro and run to the tank.
No, really. Sometimes the tank may just not have noticed that a mob has run after you. Sometimes the tank may not know quite where you're standing. When something starts hitting you, it's common to try to run away -- but that just makes it harder for the tank to find you and pull that mob off you. If your health is hurting, you can heal yourself, but you can't be expected to take much of beating regardless.

Though we don't have any other threat-reducing abilities, there are some trinkets in the game that will reduce your threat. (I tend to keep one equipped in my healing gear as a backup to Fade.) Though there are trinkets and other items of this nature scattered around the game, this one is likely the easiest to get:
  • The Hypnotist's Watch trinket is obtained by completing the Voidwalkers Gone Wild quest in Hellfire Peninsula. It reduces threat on use, with a 5 minute cooldown. And, unlike Fade, the aggro this trinket causes you to lose will never come back.
Other options include:
  • The Timelapse Shard, which you can buy when you become exalted with the Keepers of Time. It will reduce threat on use, with a 2 minute cooldown. (Worth acquiring just for the reduced cooldown!)
  • The Grace of Earth trinket, which you can get by doing turnin quests for the Cenarion Circle in Silithus. It reduces threat on use, with a 5 minute cooldown. (However, these turnins are time-consuming and you're probably going to have trouble finding a group for old Silithus content.)
  • The Jewel of Charismatic Mystique trinket, which drops from Grandmaster Vorpil in Shadow Labyrinth (both normal and heroic). It reduces threat on use, with a 5 minute cooldown.
  • The Muck-Covered Drape cloak, which you can buy when you become honored with Sporeggar. It reduces threat on use, with a 5 minute cooldown. (The downside here is that you're very likely to have a nicer cloak to equip.)
  • If you've got nothing else, you can buy and use Shrouding Potions to reduce threat -- but they use your potion cooldown, so beware.
That wraps up my explanation -- but if you have any tips on threat management for everyone out there, feel free to jump in our comments!

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