Stealing aggro from a tank

7th February 2009 – 2.14 pm

With a recent successful pick-up group run through Azjol-Nerub with my death knight I feel more comfortable about tanking the instance with my warrior, Sapphire. I manage to get in to another pick-up group and we all enter the instance. During the run I find that I am have a really hard time keeping aggro, as the death knight, two levels above me, is putting out huge amounts of threat. Curiously, his damage doesn't seem high enough to generate that threat. Having my own death knight I am fairly sure what's happening. 'Are you in frost presence?'

'You will die less if I steal aggro from you', comes his reply. This may be superficially correct, as I will end up taking fewer hits and thus take less damage, but it misses the point of the current archetypical group composition.

As a tank I am set up, both from equipment and talents, to mitigate and withstand large amounts of damage whilst generating threat, at the compromise of the amount of damage I can output. Rage powers my abilities and is built-up in part from being hit, so by not being hit I end up being far less effective in the group. By stealing aggro from me I become almost useless, preventing me from getting hit and removing the advantage I have in being able to absorb that damage, as well as reducing my already-low damage output.

As if making me next-to-useless isn't enough the death knight acting as tank is also a waste of his own abilities. Being in frost presence reduces the death knight's damage output, which means it takes longer to defeat mobs and in turn the group is taking more damage overall. This puts more pressure on the healer, who has to heal more damage and concentrate on more than just the tank.

Funnily enough, if the death knight stuck to a DPS rôle the mob would be killed more quickly. I would take less damage, the healer would be under less pressure, and we all end up dying less as a result. If only I could communicate this succinctly in a simple sentence in party chat, but I am not known for my brevity. Luckily, another party member comes to the rescue: 'go in to blood presence', he says. And, with that, I am no longer struggling to maintain aggro, no longer bereft of rage to power my abilities. Moreover, the damage output of the group is increased by about 20% and we suffer fewer incidental deaths.

The 'holy trinity' of tank, healer and DPS may be an artificial construction of MMORPGs but it is what the games currently demand in order to overcome many challenges. To ignore that is to put an unfair burden on the rest of your group and increase the risk of failure.

  1. One Response to “Stealing aggro from a tank”

  2. I ran into exactly the same problem recently -- it has twin sources, I think. First, pre-3.1 Death Knights generate large amounts of threat via their high damage. Second, since Death Knights are presently the Corvette class, they're often played by hotshot players.

    The pickup group in question included two Death Knights off the street. The instance was Ramparts, a cinch, which didn't help the pair's overconfidence. They simply took and kept aggro whenever they could, occasionally pulling via deathgrip when impatience got the best of them.

    My healer mused over party chat that twice he was willing to let one of the headstrong Death Knights go since, as you note, the team's roles had been thrown out of place.

    Two solutions: watch out for Death Knights in PuG, and let Blizzard mete out justice in the upcoming patch.

    By Aedilhild on Mar 21, 2009

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