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Scattered Shots: Hunter threat management

Brian Wood

Every Monday and Thursday, WoW Insider brings you Scattered Shots for beast mastery, marksmanship and survival hunters. Each week, Frostheim of Warcraft Hunters Union uses logic and science (mixed with a few mugs of dwarven stout) to look deep into the hunter class. Mail your hunter questions to Frostheim.

Patch 4.0.1 brought a handful of changes to the way hunters experience threat. Our Misdirection was changed so that the misdirected threat fades away after 30 seconds, and tanks in general have had their threat production changed. The result is a lot of tanks learning for the first time to actually pay attention to threat production and doing less threat as a result.

Hunters remain one of strongest classes in the game for threat management, and you could even argue that patch 4.0.1 has made us even better. Yet I've been getting an increasing number of emails since the patch from hunters who are experiencing threat problems. They're pull aggro from their tanks, from their pets, from small orphans in the street -- wherever they can find it, they take it.

This seems like a good time for a remedial lesson in threat management, as well as a good time to discuss some of the new threat management tricks hunter have acquired. Join me after the cut, and never pull aggro again -- at least, not accidentally.

If you pull aggro, it's always your fault

I've said this a lot, and every time, there are always a handful of people who disagree. The simple fact is that it is always your fault if you pull aggro, as long as your tank is alive. I don't care how incompetent your tank is. I don't care if he's in DPS gear or dual-wielding sunflowers or trying to tank only with his /tickle emote. You should never pull aggro from your tank.

Tanks spend all day getting smashed in the face and they do it by choice. It should be no surprise that they aren't the most logical or well-adjusted people. If they were smarter, they'd roll hunters, after all.

A tank's threat is limited by his gear, his spec, his knowledge of the class, his awareness, and how many brain cells actually remain in his skull. Some tanks aren't well geared. Some aren't very experienced and are just learning. Some are dumber than rocks.

Let's compare that to you, the hunter. There is absolutely no limit to how close to zero your threat can be. You can start off the fight with Misdirection. You can Feign Death if your threat gets to high. And finally we come to the great secret of the DPS classes: You can stop attacking. If your threat generation exceeds your tank's, you can always slow your DPS or stop it entirely.

This may seem obvious, but I'm telling you, it must be the most closely-guarded secret in all of WoW.

So while the tank's threat generation is limited by many factors, your ability to not generate threat is not. All you have to do is turn around, stop pushing buttons, and watch latest episode of Chuck.

Never kite your tank

No conversation on threat management would be complete without a brief note on what to do if you accidentally pull aggro. If you screw up and the mob or the boss goes after you, the worst thing you can do is run away.

If you pull aggro, run to the tank -- not away from her. That poor tank is desperately trying to get back that aggro you stole from her (well, unless your tank is like mine, in which case she waits for you to die first and then tries to get aggro back). If you start running away from the mob, you're also running from the tank. Instead, pop Deterrence and run to sit on top of your tank and let her get aggro back.

How to use Feign Death properly

FD is a powerful tool that completely wipes our threat; however, it is usually used incorrectly.

Any time you deal damage (or healing), you cause threat. Mobs or bosses have a threat table on which they keep track of exactly how much threat every person has. One damage is one threat. Tanks have all kinds of abilities to generate more threat than one per damage, and they also have taunt, which forces the enemy to attack them. Note that taunt has a cooldown, so it's not always available.

The boss is going to attack whoever is at the top of the threat table (we call this having aggro). But once the boss is attacking that person, he doesn't immediately switch targets as soon as someone has more threat. A player in melee range must have 110 percent of the threat of the current aggro target in order to pull aggro. Those of us at range need to get 130 percent of the threat of the current target to pull aggro.

This can create some interesting situations. It's entirely possible -- indeed, quite common -- for someone to be DPSing or healing away with more threat than the tank, but as long as he's under that 110 percent or 130 percent, he's fine. That is, until you pull aggro.

If you cross that 130% line and pull aggro and then do what far too many hunters to and just FD, your threat drops to zero and the boss will then go to whoever is currently highest on the threat table -- which is not necessarily the tank! It could be another DPSer or a healer that the boss turns to. This is not the correct way to use FD. If you pull aggro, run to the tank to let her get it back.

The proper way to use FD is proactively. When your threat gets high, 90 to 115 percent, then you want to FD before you get up to that magic 130 percent threat so that you never pull aggro in the first place. Pulling and then feigning forces your tank to waste a taunt in unnecessarily in the best-case scenario and kills a healer in the worst.

Note that FD has a small chance of being resisted -- it's not guaranteed to work.

The new Misdirection

Threat transfers like Misdirection were changed in patch 4.0.1 so that the transferred threat fades after 30 seconds. The tooltip isn't entirely clear on what exactly fade means, so I will be:

The transferred threat vanishes into the ether after 30 seconds. It does not transfer back to you. It's just gone.

This means that Misdirection is still a tool to lower your threat output, as well as to temporarily boost your tank's threat at the start of a fight or when adds appear. Just be aware that 30 seconds into the fight, the tank's threat may drop a significant chunk as all those threat transfers fall off. If your tank is good, her threat lead will be unassailable by then. If not, well, that still shouldn't be a problem if you're managing your threat well.

Too much threat? Your pet can help!

Now we start to get to a couple of new tools that 4.0.1 brings us to deal with threat. Our pet is never going to be danger of pulling aggro as long as we're attacking the same target as the tank. With Growl turned off, the amount of threat our pet does -- even as BM -- is a fraction of a player's damage. Because the pet's DPS is so low, its threat is equally low.

If we're really experiencing threat problems, we can shift some of that threat over to our pet.

The simplest way to do this is by using Kill Command. Normally only used by BM, any spec can get respectable damage from Kill Command (though less than by using our proper signature shots).Unlike normal shots, the damage and threat of Kill Command comes from your pet, not from you. If your FD was resisted or your tank is just really struggling, you can work in some Kill Commands in place of other shots to shift more of your damage, and thus threat, over to your pet.

The other new tool we have is the Glyph of Misdirection. This is only a major glyph, so using it doesn't eat up any of our DPS glyph slots. With the glyph, your Misdirection cooldown is instantly reset any time you MD to your pet. Thus, you can set up a macro to MD to your pet. When you're having threat problems in a fight (after the first 30 seconds, since you're using your first MD on the tank), you can start Misdirecting to your pet rather than to the tank.

By using this technique, you can transfer any amount of threat from your damage over to your pet, up to 100 percent. Just keep Misdirecting to your pet every four seconds until your tank builds up a threat lead again. Because your pet's damage is so low, comparatively, there's no danger of your pet pulling aggro from this technique. Keep in mind that after 30 seconds that transferred threat vanishes, so you're just moving the threat over to your pet temporarily, after which it magically fades into the ether. Of course you'll still be losing DPS, because you're wasting a global cooldown every 4 to 5 seconds on that MD, but it's better than having to stop DPSing entirely, which was our only option previously. And it's far better than pulling aggro.

So now even in the worst-case scenario -- your tank has horrible threat generation, and every FD is resisted -- you can still continue to DPS without any danger of pulling aggro.

Hunter continue to be one of the strongest threat management classes, and there is no reason any hunter should every pull aggro again.

Scattered Shots is dedicated to helping you learn everything it takes to be a hunter. Our Scattered Shots Resource Guide takes aim at everything from improving your heroic DPS, understanding the impact of skill vs. gear, and getting started with Beast Mastery 101 and Marksman 101.

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