Managing Aggro – the basics

[There is a MAJOR error in this post, and I recommend using it with EXTREME caution.  The concept is right, but while writing it I forgot all healing aggro is distributed across all mobs.  In other words, if I do 120 healing to the tank and there are three mobs, each mob doesn’t get 60 threat points toward me.  Instead, each gets 60/3=20 points apiece.  The concepts that foll0w are generally correct but the erroneous numbers could cause you to trip.  You Have Been Warned.]

Don’t you hate it when you’re doing your job keeping the tank alive, cranking out the heals, and suddenly one of the mobs breaks ranks and charges you? FADE=>RUN TO TANK=>YELL FOR HELP… (FRY, for future reference).

Let’s take a minute to see what happened and why it happens in the hopes of forestalling the need for all this panic.

The basic concept of aggro management is that the mob attacks the player it has identified as most threatening. At heart it’s a point system, and the highest point value is the most dangerous. It’s the stuff added to the heart that makes it interesting. Remember we’re JUST going to look at it as a healer here – and I’ll link a few pages with further discussion at the end.

Let’s start with the basic points.

One point of damage to a target causes the target’s threat tally for the originator to increase by 1. In other words, party ABCDE vs mob XYZ. All mobs consider all party members to be at 0 threat. A hits X for 100 points of damage. X rates A as threat 100, and BCDE are all still threat 0. Y and Z have everyone at 0. As a throw-away comment, if the mob group is linked or social then in the absence of any threat tallies of their own they will join the mob that has a ‘threatening opponent’.

One point of healing causes the threat tally against the originator to increase by 0.5 points for ALL MOBS IN COMBAT. Back to our example. A has 100 threat from X. E – our healer – tosses 100 points of heals at A. X now has a threat tally of 100 against A, and 50 against E. X still has A on top and keeps bashing away. Unfortunately, Y and Z have 0 points against A (and B, C, and D) but just picked up 50 points at E. Y and Z now make a beeline for our healer. FRY…

So before we go any further we have established rule one of healing. No heals go until EVERY MOB has picked up some aggro. This is out of your control. If your tank only hits X, and all the kill team (the DPSers) concentrate on X first then when you hit the tank with the heals you’re going to have Y and Z in your face. OK, this is worst case, but it’s important to know so if you see it you can advise the rest of your party (and the tank) what’s happening so they can fix it. If they won’t fix it, well, that’s when I see if another group needs a healer, but in my experience that’s less common. So let’s correct the example and continue this lesson.

A – our tank – used a series of attacks (AOE and changed target) and has 100 threat from all three mobs. We hit our tank with 100 heals and have 50 threat from all three mobs. Much joy ensues. But… how far can we go before we pull the mobs from the tank? After all, he’s taking a lot of damage getting beat upon by all three mobs – more than he’s dishing out, actually. Now we’re into something we can control. Actually, it’s something every player can control.

A mob changes “most dangerous” label from the current target when:

  1. a player in melee range exceeds 110% of the current target’s threat;
  2. a player out of melee range exceeds 130% of the current target’s threat.

In other words (and back to our example), when you cast your 261st heal point on A, you will have just over 130 threat on the list of all three mobs, and they’re going to decide you’re more dangerous. A needs to hit all three again – and if he waits till you did 261 heal he’s going to need to generate another 45 points on each – he has to exceed 110% of your 131 to pull them off you.

Bottom line at this point – if your tank grabs all the mobs but then focuses all the rest of his attention on one of them, then somewhere in the middle of the fight the mob that’s getting ignored will decide you, the healer, are his new Best Friend. You can delay this by staying as far away from the melee as possible (outside 15 yards minimum, and preferably over 30 yards).

Now, we’re going to get more complicated. Let’s get the whole party involved.

A grabs all three, BCD (our kill team) start whaling. Since they’re doing focused damage, their target decides the kill team – especially the DPS leader – is more dangerous than the tank, and changes target. While he dies fairly fast, he still does some damage. You, being a good healer, toss a party heal that gives everyone 100 points of healing. Now before I go on, know that overhealing – points produced that are more than the target needs to be at max HP – generates no more threat than an overkill (damage above what’s needed to kill the target). That is – zero threat. In our example, this means you – E – get no health. ABCD, however, each get 100 points. That’s 400 heal points which is 200 threat points. Congratulations, you just jumped from 100 (your first tank heal) to 300. Any mob which has less threat points against its target just decided YOU are Most Dangerous, and suddenly it’s time to FRY.

So, what’s the solution? Well, ideally your tank is working all the mobs — and preferably with extra attention to the mobs that aren’t the Kill Team’s current selection. But that’s out of your control. So… This is why you generally prefer single-target heals. Yes, multi-target heals are more mana efficient (a different subject to which I will be devoting time). But it’s also a LOT more threatening, and in a multi-mob pull it’s a near guarantee that you’ll have to FRY instead of heal.

Let’s recap, and I’ll write more later on special skills and talents to help. Remember:

  1. Your healing is not as threatening as the other players’ damage, but all the mobs notice it;
  2. The further away you are, the less threating you appear;
  3. ALL your heals are noticed by ALL the mobs, which means a mass heal is an invitation to the mob feeling left out to come play with you.

Links as promised:

Some Threat Values and Formulas

Wowwiki

Evil Empire’s Guide to Threat

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~ by Kirk on July 6, 2007.

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