Tanking Multiple Targets (AoE Tanking)

I wanted to address a problem that I see a lot of warriors having. As of patch 3.0.2, Echoes of Doom, Blizzard has made it easier for all of the tanking classes to tank multiple mobs at the same time. AoE tanking is something that Prot paladins use to corner the market on, but with the pre-LK content patch, tools were given to warriors and druids to help us be just as effective at it. Death Knights were designed from the start with abilities to AoE tank, but that is the topic for an entirely different blog. So anyway, the idea for WoTLK was to have a leveled playing field for all tanking classes. To make us all equally capable to handle the different tasks associated with main and off tanking, single target tanking and multi-target tanking. (Warriors imho still > then all!!!)

So then why do I see so many Prot warriors having trouble with tanking large groups of mobs? Yes, I guess we can always blame the healer for not being able to heal through the incoming damage. In some cases, especially with raid trash, that can be the problem. However, in my experience even halfway decent PUG healers have been able to keep me up while I tanked 4, 5, 6 or even 7 mobs. I just had to hold threat on all of them while DPS burned them down. So assuming you have a healer without Downs, then all warriors should be pros at tanking multiple mobs.

If this is an area you have trouble in then I think you’ll find this article will be a great help to you. And if your pretty good at it then you should still be able to pickup a few extra tips to help. The first thing we need to establish is the new and improved tools that Blizzard gave us to do this with. I know that with the revamp to threat generation that warriors received on many of our skills, we could point to a variety of changes that help us to accomplish multi-target tanking. However, for the sake of this blog post I want to discuss the specific tools that I feel come into play with every big group pull.

The AoE Tanking Toolkit

Here are the tools that every warrior should be using while AoE tanking.

Skills:

  • Demoralizing Shout (Rank 8 ) – Reduces the melee attack power of all enemies within 10 yards by 410 for 30 sec. 10 Rage, Instant
  • Heroic Throw – Throws your weapon at the enemy causing [50% of AP = 12] damage (based on attack power). This ability causes high threat. 30 yd range, Instant, 1 min cooldown
  • Shield Slam  (Rank 8 ) – Slam the target with your shield, causing 990 to 1040 damage, modified by your shield block value, and dispels 1 magic effect on target. Also causes a high amount of threat. 20 Rage, 5 yd range, Instant, 6 sec cooldown
  • Taunt – Taunts the target to attack you, but has no effect if the target is already attacking you. 20 yd range, Instant, 8 sec cooldown
  • Thunder Clap (Rank 9) – Blasts nearby enemies increasing the time between their attacks by 10% for 30 sec and doing 300 damage to them. Damage increased by attack power. This ability causes additional threat. 20 Rage, Instant, 6 sec cooldown

Talents (and skills they unlock):

  • Concussion Blow – Stuns the opponent for 5 sec and deals [75% of AP] damage (based on attack power).
  • Damage Shield (Rank 2) – Whenever you take damage from or block a melee attack you cause damage equal to 20% of your block value.
  • Devastate (Rank 5) – Sunder the target’s armor causing the Sunder Armor effect. In addition, causes 50% weapon damage plus 101 for each application of Sunder Armor on the target. The Sunder Armor effect can stack up to 5 times. 15 Rage, 5yd range, Instant
  • Incite (Rank 3) – Increases the critical strike chance of your Heroic Strike, Thunder Clap and Cleave abilities by 15%
  • Puncture (Rank 3) – Reduces the rage cost of your Sunder Armor and Devastate ablities by 3.
  • Shockwave – Sends a wave of force in front of the warrior, causing [75% of AP] damage (based on attack power) and stunning all enemy targets within 10 yards in a frontal cone for 4 sec. 15 Rage, Instant, 20 sec cooldown
  • Sword and Board (Rank 3) – Increases the critical strike chance of your Devastate ability by 15% and when your Devastate or Revenge ability deals damage it has a 30% chance of refreshing the cooldown of your Shield Slam ability and reducing its cost by 100% for 5 sec.
  • Vigilance – Focus your protective gaze on a group or raid target (member), reducing their damage taken by 3% and transfers 10% of the threat they cause to you. In addition, each time they are hit by an attack your Taunt cooldown is refreshed. Lasts 30 min. This effect can only be on one target at a time.
  • Warbringer – Your Charge ability is now usable while in combat and in any stance. In addition, your Charge, Intercept and Intervene abilities will remove all movement impairing effects.

Glyphs:

  • Glyph of Devastate (Major Glyph) – Your Devastate ability now applies two stacks of Sunder Armor.
  • Glyph of Thunder Clap (Minor Glyph) – Increases the radius of your Thunder Clap ability by 2 yards.

Another glyph option that is out there is Glyph of Sunder Armor (Major Glyph) which affects a second nearby target with Sunder Armor when you use your Devastate ability. I personally do not use this due to its potential to pull threat on undesired targets. There is no control over which nearby target it affects.

How to AoE Tank Using the Tools Above

If you were to ask another warrior how to AoE tank he/she would probably name the same tools I listed above but their application of them might vary slightly from what I am about to tell you to do. If it works for them that is fine, but this is a blog after all so I am going to tell you how I do it. Please use the above list as a reference tool if you are not sure what the full effect of an ability is that I am telling you to use.

*** Note: For the sake of this article I am assuming no CC. If you are using some CC for larger groups and AoE tanking what is left over this will all still work, you just have to be aware that you will need to separate the group you are tanking from the CC’d targets to avoid breaking them out of CC with some of the AoE skills we’ll be using. ***

Finding Your Best Friend:

No I am not talking about finding your BFF for moral support while your trying to get this all down. I am talking about finding the best person to place your Vigilance buff upon. Because while AoE tanking they can and will be your best friend for the bonus 10% of their threat they’ll be giving you. You will have to determine who you think will generate the most threat from your group or raid and then throw Vigilance on them. If you know the people you are with this process will be easy. But if your in a PUG group then you have to use a little common sense and be ready to change things up if needed.

So far I have found that burst DPS such as Ret pallies, Enhancement Shams and all DKs make a good first option if your in a group where you are uncertain about threat. However, if you find that another person in the group seems to be closer to you on the threat meter then switch it up. Vigilance costs no rage and can be changed to a new person even in combat. It only lasts 30 minutes so make sure to refresh it. The whole time it is up it will only make your job easier.

The Pull:

Okay so for pulling we have three options available to us: 1) Body Pull 2) Shoot/Throw 3) Heroic Throw. Once you get this down you will probably use all three depending on how fast you are pulling trash and what is off of cooldown. However, while you are trying to master this I recommend you pulling with your Heroic Throw each time. The reason for this is that Heroic Throw generates a very high amount of initial threat. I have pulled bosses with it that I needed to kite across a room and had DPS classes still be able to DPS it during the kite without pulling aggro.

I like to pick the furthest target away from me if at all possible when using it. By pulling one of the mobs in the back of a group it creates a nice controlled pull where all of the mobs start rushing toward you. Before they get too close make sure to use your charge (remember with the Warbringer talent you can charge in combat) to generate a stun on your target and give you some extra rage to start with. You will also want to get a Shield Slam off on the target you charged.

The Suction Effect:

Now that you have charged and are up in the face of your enemies, it is time to create what I like to call the suction effect. You do this simply by using your Demoralizing Shout ability which ensures that for the next second the mobs that you haven’t touched yet will not keep running past you, but rather will start attacking you. If you tanked multiple mobs in BC then the use of Demo Shout  for AoE tanking won’t be new to you, but still just as effective. If you do not remember to apply it right after you charge you risk the chance that some of the mobs might just keep running right past you and one shot your healer and/or DPS.

Also keep in mind that Demo Shout decreases the damage output of all the mobs and makes it a bit easier for your healer during all of this.

Gaining Control:

Okay so now they are all attacking you, but you really only have a few seconds before that all changes. It is now time to fully gain control of the group. So first things first, you need to throw out a Thunder Clap. This adds a 2nd debuff on top of Demo Shout and also helps slow down incoming damage. But the main reason your doing this is to generate threat on all of the mobs you are tanking. Since patch 3.0.2 Thunder Clap now has no limit on the amount of targets it can affect so take advantage of it. The Glyph of Thunder Clap also gives you an extra 2 yards to work with, so I suggest you pick it up.

Now to maintain control and allow your DPS to go to work on the mobs you need to get 2 stacks of Sunder Armor up on each target you are tanking and you need to do it fast before the mobs start breaking off of you from the damage and threat your DPS is causing them. So once I Thunder Clap my next step is to make sure they are all stacked in front of me and I hit them with Shockwave. This buys 4 seconds of stun time in which you can Devastate > Tab Target > Devastate until all of your targets have two applications of Sunder Armor on them. With Glyph of Devastate this task becomes almost too easy. It cuts the time needed to do this in half and means you only have to use Devastate once on each mob initially.

Also in case you are wondering, this does not mean down time for your DPS while you do all of this. The can pretty much start DPSing after you charge and get your Demo Shout up. Any initial aggro they pull will be put on pause when you use Shockwave, and by the time they come out of it you should have gained aggro back.

*** Note: All of the above steps should take you 3-4 seconds tops to do, any longer and you may run into some break off aggro problems. ***

Don’t Let Go:

Okay so now that you have them where you want them, don’t let go. Switch back to the mob that you intend to kill first and use your standard tanking rotation on them, making sure to get 4-5 stacks of Sunder Armor up and then switch to the next target doing the same. You will want to Thunder Clap whenever it is off of CD and the same for Shockwave. With Sword and Board you will also see your Shield Slam off CD a lot more than you use to and it should be used on whatever mob you are targeting when it is up. Once you have 4-5 stacks up on all of the mobs it is safe to sit on one until it is dead. Just make sure the one you sit on is the one being focused by your DPS.

A Few More Tips/Notes:

  • Be ready to taunt if one of the mobs break away for some reason. If they get away from you don’t be afraids to use your Warbringer to charge them and taunt them back to you. The increased range of Taunt also helps with this.
  • For those stubborn casters and ranged mobs who like to hang back instead of running up to you with the rest of the mobs, after demo shout and thunder clap, use your Warbringer to charge at them. The threat on the other mobs should be high enough at this point that they will follow you over to where the stubborn mob is. If you find they aren’t following you then quickly stun the stubborn mob with Concussion Blow and rush back to regain control of the other mobs. This will buy you time without having to worry about them. Also as you learn which mobs will be problematic it might be helpful to have them be CC’d.
  • Although not an actual skill you use, Damage Shield id s passive ability that helps you hold aggro on mutiple mobs as well. It provides extra damage which equals extra threat without you having to do anything other than tank. Well worth the talent points if you ask me.
  • If you pull an extra group of mobs or pats, don’t panic. If it is a wipe then it is a wipe, it happens. However, if you maintain your composure you may just be able to cycle them into what you already have going on using the same steps above. This is especially true in situations where you have already killed 1 or 2 of the current group you are on.
  • My “Sticky Bleed” build also makes AoE tanking easier as the bleeds it provides add another debuff that helps hold aggro on all of the mobs you are tanking. For a full write up on the build please click here.

I hope you enjoyed this article. If you follow it you should start seeing compliments on your tanking ability and your instance runs and trash clears going a lot faster. If you would like to comment or ask questions please do. I try and answer them all. Your support of this blog is appreciated!

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