That’s one of my favorite lines whenever I pug on my DK. Whenever I see some tank doing something silly, I keep thinking ‘Dude, go back to tanking school!’. But there is no tanking school. We all have to learn the basics from experience, with no experience you cannot obtain the skills.
As tank in a group, you have the ability to control a pull and set the pace for your whole group. While in the beginning, you will probably pull carefully, once you understand the basics, you can proceed through instances and raids at a steady pace. That is the skill that the non-tanks in the group will appreciate the most. It will also enable you to move your raid through farm content quickly once you start raiding. You should never be shy and insecure about pulling. Someone’s gotta get the ball rolling.
Trash is inevitable when doing group content, and usually comes in groups of 3-4 mobs. When faced with new content you’re not completely familiar with there are some easy guidelines you can follow.
- Are there any mobs that look like casters? Blizzard makes it relatively easy to spot those. Guys in dresses, most female Vrykul, dragonkin wearing hoods, they’re all identifiable as casters at a glance and should probably be killed first. Often the name also hints at their abilities. Casters should generally die before any melee mob, because they often have abilities that damage all group members, silence, heal, all the nasty stuff that clothies do. Healer-types should die before normal mage-type casters. This is e.g. why you usually kill the shaman in ToC before you kill the mage.
- If there are no obvious casters, pick the mob that looks the biggest. Yes, sometimes it is that easy. Size usually signifies how hard mobs hit so you want to kill the big guys first.
- If there is no obvious size or name that hints at a mob hitting like a truck, you have free pick. Should you spot a mob that looks like it does ranged DPS, like a hunter (e.g. in Utgarde Keep) you want to pick them first, just because their mobility and uncanny habit to go back at range are irritating.
This is an important concept that every tank should live and breathe. Every class has different tools for clustering a pull (though I think feral druids got the shaft here?). Until level 80, we only have Charge available to cluster a pull but at 80 you receive a very powerful tool, Heroic Throw. But first, what is this Clustering? It means that you pull and keep all mobs in the group tightly together, so that your AoE tanking abilities like Thunderclap, Shockwave and Cleave all have their full effect on the group. It means that somehow you manage to bring ranged mobs into your range and keep them tanked together with the melee. You cannot build threat on a mob that’s outside of your range, risking healer or DPS death due to being unable to maintain proper threat.
Our tools for clustering:
- Charge. Tried and true, it’s a bit more effective for pulling now than it used to be in the past. 2 melee and a caster? Charge the caster, keep the group in place. Is there another group close by and you’re not 80 yet? Warn your group, pull the caster, run out of range of the caster’s range, let him come towards you, Charge. If you’re just pulling with a gun and you do not use the opportunity to Charge, you should get used to it.
- Heroic Throw. At level 80 you receive Heroic Throw, which will make Clustering even easier. If you picked Gag Order (and why wouldn’t you), HT will silence a mob. The above mentioned pull would be even easier now. Heroic Throw the caster, have them all run towards you, then boost your rage by charging at the group as they come running at you. Thunderclap, then position yourself for Shockwave, and they should be all yours. But not only does Heroic Throw silence a caster, it also causes quite a bit of front threat. If you’re pulling and HT is up, use it.
Now assume we have a group of two casters and two melee (like e.g. dragonkin in Nexus or Vrykul groups in Utgarde Pinnacle). The above-mentioned method usually means you have three mobs charging at you, and one caster staying behind. Sub-optimal! If you now try to just move your group to the other caster, you will end up with the same situation, as the other caster will stay behind. Soon, all hell might break loose. To cluster a group like this takes practice, but I love ‘em, because we get to use our tools. Set your /focus to one caster, Heroic Throw your focus target, and then charge the other caster. The silenced caster and the melee will come to your Charge target, eh voilà, your pull is clustered. Thunderclap, Shockwave once you’re in position, tank, loot, repeat.
Another way of clustering that I see tanks struggle with is when it’s ranged mobs, like the hunters in the Nexus hallway with the Commander. Pro-tip for clustering ranged hunter-mobs: go into their melee-range, then slowly strafe away to where another hunter might be. The secret is to not move too quickly. As long as you stay in their melee range, they will follow you around. They are that dumb. So imagine a group of iceblocks with two hunters and a berserker in H Nexus. Charge one hunter, then walk her over to the other. TC while you’re strafing, Shockwave once in position.
I keep mentioning ‘Shockwave once you’re in position’. Our 51 point talent is an amazing talent, very fun to use but it does require proper execution to work. If you are struggling with this, I highly recommend practicing in my favorite farm spot for rhino meat in the Storm Peaks. Find one of those large groups of roaming rhinos, Charge into the aggressive rhino, use Demoralizing Shout to aggro all the yellow ones and then position yourself. Shockwave is a frontal cone effect within 10 yards, so mobs to the sides of the cone or behind you will not get hit. You want all mobs to get hit by it. The easiest way to accomplish this is to Charge in, Thunderclap and then walk backwards, one or two steps, before using it. The frontal cone will hit more mobs this way.
If you want to test clustering with mixed caster-melee groups, the fortress of the Scarlet Onslaught not too far from Naxxramas in Dragonblight is good. Densely packed with mobs, you can test your moves there. Any area that has a lot of caster mobs mixed in works to practice this.
I might follow this up with a companion-video if there’s any interest. If you have any advice, suggestions or questions, please do let me know.