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The Care and Feeding of Warriors: If you pull threat, it's your fault

Matthew Rossi

Every week, WoW Insider brings you The Care and Feeding of Warriors, the column dedicated to arms, fury and protection warriors. Despite repeated blows to the head from dragons, demons, Old Gods and whatever that thing over there was, Matthew Rossi will be your host.

This is not open for debate. If you pull threat, it's your fault. Always. If you massively overgear the tank and he can't possibly hope to hold if you go full out, choosing to go full out may be fun as hell, but it's still a choice you made. It's still your fault. Blowing all your cooldowns and hitting Bladestorm before the adds have even reached the tanks on Garrosh Hellscream? Your fault. Going cleave happy on Paragons even though there's absolutely no reason to do so other than raw meter padding? Your fault.

Yes, I know tank threat and tank DPS is higher than ever, and a really good tank will often quickly become untouchable due to Vengeance. That's great - it's also irrelevant. If you pull threat, it is your fault. The issue is simple - your damage done is always more important than your DPS. If you go splat on trash, whatever, it's a lark - my own raid makes a game out of when I'll die on trash. DPS warriors explode on trash all the time - you get overly excited, you forget to watch where you're standing and take a couple cleaves to the face, game over. That's life in the melee trenches.

But on a boss fight, it's your responsibility to live as long as possible. You have to live, because your DPS is irrelevant if you're only alive for five seconds. Sure, maybe you do an awesome 500k DPS in that five seconds. If you're dead afterwards, that 500k DPS comes out to a paltry two and a half million damage, and if you'd stayed alive over the course of the fight you might have been able to contribute much, much more damage than that. Sure, you'd have dropped to less than half that big burst in terms of damage per second, but you'd have gotten a lot more seconds to damage in. And worst of all, we have tools for exactly this situation now.

One problem is people who think that switching to Defensive Stance to take less damage is a great idea (they're right) but who then don't immediately switch back out of it before attacking. If you are a DPS warrior, and you are in Defensive Stance, and you are hitting anything in an encounter you are probably doing it wrong. When is it okay to be a warrior who is not the tank hitting things while you are in defensive stance? I'm glad you asked.
  • All tanks are dead and you're trying to get aggro long enough for one or more to be raised. You've accepted that you're very likely to die.
  • You're in PvP so threat doesn't matter anyway.
  • You're soloing. You can do whatever idiot things you want while soloing. You can run around carrying a shield if you want while you're soloing, it's soloing. The only person you're inconveniencing there is yourself.
There may be some other edge cases, but the point is clear - you shouldn't swing your weapon when you're in Defensive Stance unless your goal is to get threat. If that isn't the goal (and it's never the goal for a good DPS warrior while the tanks are still alive) then don't do it. Yes, you'll miss out on an autoattack. Since you're in D-Stance, that doesn't matter, because you won't be generating rage from your autoattacks. You'll do more damage over time alive and swinging than you will dead because you pulled threat.

Do not even try that old "The tank can just taunt it back" argument with me. It is not the tank's job to taunt it back because you weren't able to switch your stance back before hitting anything. If it's that hard, write a freaking macro that switches your stances back. The tanks have all sorts of things to watch in raiding nowadays - in the few seconds it will take them to notice you pulled threat, you could already be dead. The healers aren't expecting you to take a boss hit, so don't go looking to them to save you, either. Not when you're making a wholly avoidable mistake. It's one thing if the tank is just plain failing to do his or her job, but when you pull threat because you're in a tanking stance, it's absolutely on you.

If this is happening to you I can't recommend the Glyph of the Subtle Defender enough. It's a minor, so you won't lose anything important by taking it, and it will keep you from ripping anything off of the tank because you forgot to switch stances back.

It's not always stance switching that is the issue. With Vengeance and threat multipliers the way they are, the biggest period of weakness for tank threat is still the initial pull. It's much harder to pull off a tank who has had a full stack of Vengeance for several minutes - but a tank who just threw a weapon or hit the Taunt button or dropped D&D has not had a chance to cement their aggro yet. If you immediately pop all of your cooldowns and hit your biggest AoE move at that very second, and you get threat, it is still your fault. It's your fault if you do it in a five man, LFR, a flex raid, any raid or dungeon. Maybe you feel like the tanks should be able to compensate, and maybe they should, but it doesn't matter. We don't play the game in a hypothetical world - if you are in a raid and you pulled aggro, it was your fault. Once or twice is no big deal - you're learning what you can do, and what your tanks are capable of coping with. Once you get past that learning period, if you're still doing it, then you're the one screwing up.

It's easy enough to figure out what your tanks limits are for the most part. It's entirely possible your tank simply isn't putting out enough threat. If no one else is constantly pulling aggro on said tank, however, you have to start looking at yourself. And here's a little secret - even if you're absolutely right, even if the tank is absolutely just plain not putting out enough threat, if you're the only one having problems no one is going to care.

So, you may ask, what can we do? Well, for starters, absolutely never be in Defensive Stance if you're attacking. That's number one. You have multiple survival cooldowns now - at the least, you have Die by the Sword and Shield Wall, if you didn't spec into Enraged Regeneration. Switching into Defensive to help reduce incoming damage from a predictable source like Iron Juggernaut is great so long as you don't attack while you're in D-Stance. Again, get the Glyph of the Subtle Defender.

It's also worthwhile to consider getting an assist macro or a UI that gives you a solid target of target for you to use to plan what you're attacking. Always be on the tank's target. If you're just hitting whatever random mob you want, yeah, you'll get threat on it.

As a DPS player, you don't want to let yourself not be DPSing. That's fine - it's a perfectly valid way to think about the role. That being said, be smart about cooldown use. Not just your damaging cooldowns like Recklessness, Bloodbath/Avatar, Skull Banner and big AoE moves like Dragon Roar or Bladestorm - be smart about your survival cooldowns. If you go whole hog and pull threat, do something to keep yourself alive to give the tank time to get threat back off of you. Hit Die by the Sword or Shield Wall or Enraged Regeneration (If you're a night elf and you don't hit Shadowmeld as soon as you pull threat I don't even want to know you) and throttle back slightly until you see the tank re-establish threat. There's already a ton of damage that your healers are going to have to try and keep an entire raid up through - don't make them work twice as hard keeping you alive.

If you pull threat, it is your fault, because ultimately you're the only player whose actions you can actually control. Should you do less than your best? No, of course not. But your best includes not doing things that get you killed. A dead player deals no damage.
At the center of the fury of battle stand the warriors: protection, arms and fury. Check out more strategies and tips especially for warriors, from hot issues for today's warriors to Cataclysm 101 for DPS warriors and our guide to reputation gear for warriors.

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