Monday, April 13, 2009

Hunters 101 - part I: Threat

I am going to use these first installments to talk about concepts and statistics that affect hunters: threat, attack power, hit rating and percentage, crit rating and percentage, agility, haste, etc. These are numbers and concepts that may seem somewhat nebulous to a hunter that has gone through the leveling process, simply questing away, shooting mobs without worrying about how much damage he/she is doing and what affects it.

First of all, something that is probably more familiar to hunters than to other classes, and likely the most important concept of all to anyone who intends to do any kind of raiding: Threat. Every mob (any computer-controlled attackable monster, creature or NPC) in the game has what is termed a "threat list" or "aggro list". On this list is anyone that the mob is negatively disposed towards: the hunter and his pet, their group, the entire raid, the random healer that walked by and healed you while you were fighting, etc. Whoever is at the top of that list is the one the mob attacks. Behind the scenes, there is an absolute threat number associated with everyone on the threat list, i.e. George the hunter has 1000 threat, while Snuggles, his pet bear has 1300 threat, therefore the mob is attacking Snuggles.

Pretty much everything anyone does affects that number by a certain amount: damage done to the mob increases it by the amount of the damage, damage done to the mob's allies increases it by a smaller amount; healing (NOT overhealing) increases by half the amount healed; buffing someone on the threat list increases threat by an amount dependent on the buff. Certain classes have threat-generating attacks: for example warriors have heroic strike and druid beartanks have maul, which generate more threat than the damage they do would normally indicate; other classes have ways of reducing their threat: every hunter knows what happens when they feign death. Some classes have an innate increased threat (warriors have a +30% threat built into defensive stance, for example and paladins increase threat generated by holy damage by 90% with Righteous Fury) while others have an innate decreased threat (rogues only generate 80% of their damage as threat). Certain abilities, only possessed by tanking classes: Death Knights, Druids, Paladins and Warriors, enable them to force a mob to attack them, regardless of current threat. These abilities, normally called "taunt" - after the warrior ability - instantly bring up the threat of the tank to whatever the mob was attacking at the time it was taunted. It is important to note that hunter pets' growl does NOT work this way. Growl instantly applies a large amount of threat to the mob but does not force the mob to attack the pet. There is an ability that tenacity pets have called taunt, but it has a 3 minute cooldown and is not nearly as useful as the PC tanking family of abilities. It is also important to note that many mobs in raid and 5-man dungeons including most bosses are immune to taunt-like abilities.

So beyond all these complicated threat mechanics the most important numbers to remember are: 110% for melee and 130% for ranged. What do these mean? Well, if you are in melee range of a mob (the way a hunter's pet or a rogue usually is), it will switch aggro (i.e. stop beating on it's current target and switch to you) when your threat reaches or exceeds 110% of the threat of it's current target. If you are at range from the mob (i.e. NOT in melee range, as most hunters will usually be) you have a little more leeway: you have to reach 130% of the threat of the mob's current target in order to pull aggro.

So what can a hunter do to manage their threat? Well, first of all, you need to know who has aggro (i.e. who is holding the mob's attention) at any given moment. Within the default UI (user interface), there is an option to show the target of your target. Under the Combat section of the Interface options, click on the "show target of target" option and from the drop down menu, select "always". This will put a small frame underneath the frame of your target showing whom it is targeting at any given moment. That gives you an immediate indication when the tank loses aggro, which still happens from time to time, but is much less of an issue now than during BC or vanilla WoW.

Another thing that you could do is install a third party addon threat meter. The threat meter of choice these days is called Omen. Upon downloading and installing it in your Addon directory, you will have a bar-chart on your screen showing relative threat for the mob you are targeting (or the one your target is targeting, if you are targeting a friendly toon like your pet). Most raids and even most 5-man groups these days will expect you to have some sort of threat meter installed.

So how do we put all this together? Well, a good rule for all kinds of raiding and group activities and even soloing in WoW is to be aware of your surroundings. Know who has aggro on what. Is that what is supposed to be happening? Do you need to use your pet creatively to pull that extra mob off your healer? Do you need to wipe your own threat by using feign death? Make sure you lay out your key bindings to give you quick access to feign death, misdirection and other abilities such as your pet's growl. One of your most powerful tools for managing threat (your own and your raid's) is misdirection. You can use this to increase your tank's threat when the your raid's DPS is creeping upwards on the threat meter, you can use it to pull a wayward mob running through the raid onto it's proper tank, you can use it to jump start an encounter and pull to a tank, giving the rest of the DPS a buffer while the mob or boss is being properly positioned. If you are creative, it can save your raid multiple times. With only a 30 second cooldown it is the "go-to" threat management tool.

I think that about covers the concept and management of Threat. If you have any questions, comments or suggestions, please put them in the comments so I can address them in the main post if necessary.

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