What is crowd control and how do I use it?

You've probably heard about crowd control -- or maybe even used it yourself -- but you may be a little unclear as to what people want when they ask you to "CC" or "sheep" a monster. Crowd control generally refers to a lot of different skills, but they all have one thing in common: they let you, in some way, control the actions or movement of a hostile target. The standard example is mage's Polymorph spell, which turns its target into a sheep for up to 50 seconds, during which it wanders aimlessly, without doing any damage or casting any spells.

So just why would you want to "sheep" a monster? Well, when it's a sheep, it's not attacking you or your party, which can be the difference between life and death when you're trying to take out a large group of monsters at once. The idea is that you polymorph one monster while you focus on taking down others. When the polymorph runs out, you can either recast it to get more time to fight your other targets or take that opportunity to kill the formerly polymorphed monster.

Good use of crowd control can let you and the rest of your group take on more difficult monsters and groups by limiting who's attacking you. So just how do you become a crowd control ninja -- and the hero of any party you're in? We'll walk you through the basics.

What kinds of crowd control are there?
While that description makes crowd control seem pretty straightforward, CC comes in many different flavors -- each of which have their own advantages and disadvantages. Here are some general facts to know about CC before you go any further down this rabbit hole:

  • Most types of crowd control only works on certain types of monsters, like humanoid or beast. Know your CC so you know when and where to use it!

  • Most crowd control abilities are broken if you do damage to the target while it's CC'd.

  • Many crowd control abilities can only be used on one target at a time -- so you can't Polymorph a whole dungeon's worth of creatures at once.

  • Crowd control suffers from diminishing returns, which is a complicated way of saying that each time you use CC on a target, it's more likely to break free of your control. This means you can't chain-cast crowd control to keep a monster out of your way forever.

  • Not all CC means you don't have to worry about the monster at all. Some abilities, like Fear and Psychic Scream, can send your targets running from you -- and they might wind up running directly to a group of friends that won't be very happy with you. (Though there are glyphs for both of those abilities that will prevent your targets from running.) Other abilities, like Frost Nova and Entangling Roots, will freeze your target in place but not prevent them from casting spells or using ranged weapons. Again, know your CC!

  • There are some very useful ways to control a monster that aren't typically considered crowd control, like silences which prevent your target from casting spells for a period of time and interrupts which stops whatever spell your target is casting. Though these don't give you total control, they can still be very useful to keep your target from doing what you don't want it to do -- so keep your eyes open for abilities with these sorts of effects.

There are more ways to control your target than it's practical to list, but we've rounded the abilities with longer durations -- over 20 seconds -- which means they're the most commonly used when you're tackling group content.

Entangling Roots: Roots your target in place for up to 30 seconds, but they can still perform actions -- like casting spells -- while rooted.
Hibernate: Puts beasts and dragonkin to sleep for up to 40 seconds.

Freezing Trap: Any monster that walks into the trap will be frozen in ice for up to 1 minute.
Wyvern Sting: Puts any monster to sleep for up to 30 seconds.
Scare Beast: Causes a beast to run in fear for up to 20 seconds.

Polymorph: Turns a beast or humanoid target into a sheep for up to 50 seconds.

Paralysis: Incapacitates your target for up to 40 seconds.

Repentance: Incapacitates demons, dragonkin, giants, humanoids, or undead for up to 1 minute.
Turn Evil: Causes undead, aberration, or demon targets to flee for up to 40 seconds. Turn Undead is a similar spell available at a lower level that only works on undead for up to 20 seconds.

Dominate Mind: Lets you control a non-mechanical monster for up to 30 seconds.
Shackle Undead: Imprisons an undead for up to 50 seconds, preventing movement as well as attacks and spellcasting.

Sap: Incapacitates a humanoid, beast, demon, or dragonkin target for up to 1 minute. Can only be used on a creature that is out of combat, so a rogue must Sap from Stealth.

Hex: Turns humanoids and beasts into frogs for up to one minute.
Bind Elemental: Imprisons an elemental for up to 50 seconds, preventing movement as well as attacks and spellcasting.

Fear: Causes your target to flee in fear for up to 20 seconds.
Banish: Banishes a demon, abberration or elemental for up to 30 seconds. While Banished, the target is invulnerable.
Seduction: Using the Succubus pet, warlocks can seduce humanoids to incapacitate them for up to 30 seconds.

If your class isn't on this list -- or even if it is -- be sure to check out your skill list to see what smaller crowd control abilities you might have. A good grasp of crowd control can be a big help, whether you're playing alone or with a group.

How do I know when to use crowd control?
No matter what the situation, the key to success with crowd control is planning. If you're soloing, instead of running into a group of monsters, take a minute to consider which monster would be most useful to take out of the equation. CC it and focus on killing your other target (or targets) before your CC wears off. This makes it easier to tackle groups on your own -- without dying. CC can also save your virtual skin if an extra monster wanders into you -- CC the surprise monster to keep it off your back while you burn down your target.

If you're in a group, coordination is especially key -- since damage can break your carefully planned crowd control, it's important that the entire party knows what you're doing. For your crowd control efforts to help rather than hinder, you should be sure to follow the group leader's instructions -- or, for less organized groups, let everyone know when you're going to be using CC.

Just because you're a newbie doesn't mean you can't bring your A-game toWorld of Warcraft! Visit the WoW Rookie Guide for links to everything you need to get started as a new player, from the seven things every newbie ought to know to how to get started as a healer or as a tank.