View Full Version : Mini-Guide: Aggro Priority Order when fighting bosses

10-21-2011, 08:37 PM
I have with some dismay, noticed that in PvE, making sure that the right class gets aggro has become quite difficult. Many players simply refuse to do their job in a group. This is a huge problem for bosses.

Note that this is primarily geared towards the end-game as in early game, the difficulty level is such that most players of any class can hold aggro.

What is aggro?

From the WOW Wiki, but appropriate here:

Aggro is understood to be the condition of a particular mob [or boss] attacking a particular character, while threat is the numeric value that each attacker has towards each character on its threat list. ... Holding aggro is done by (usually) one person (the tank) who uses his abilities to make the enemy attack him and no one else. ... Aggro control is the art and work which is done by all members of a party to force the mob to attack the tank(s).


Aggro should always be in this order:

Bear > Bird > Pally > Int Mage/Dex mage

1. Bear should always be the first one to try to hold aggro simply due to their crowd control abilities and the fact that they have the highest Hp. Dex bears should also hold aggro against bosses (consider switching to tanking gear if you have difficulties surviving). Even dex bears are better equipped than other classes (except perhaps warbird and pally, but bears do have certain advantages over them that turns things in their favour). Finally, bears have crowd control abilities. Many bosses are resistant to repulse, cannot be frozen, nor rooted. If the bear dies, then the mage can revive.

Taunt should always be used aggressively. If the enemy boss has engaged a "squishy", use beckon to pull them away. When stomping, always attempt to stomp into walls or an object.

2. Next in line is bird. Absent of a bear or in the presence of a bear that doesn't tank well (ex: most bears in PUGs:apologetic:), birds in theory at least can unload the most damage onto a single target. Furthermore, the auto bow means that kiting is much easier and although there are many bosses that resist it now, they also have repulse. Again, if the bird dies, it can be revived.

Warbird throws this all into disarray. Their single target damage is greater than that of a pally, but substantially less than int and dex mages. Without any crowd control abilities, this makes gaining aggro as warbird difficult. Nonetheless, warbirds should try their best to gain aggro as they are reasonably well equipped to handle aggro. The lack of a ranged auto weapon is compensated by the increased durability. In most cases for pure PvE players, I recommend if possible to stay pure dex (or at least give it a try).

Break armor should generally be the first spell used. This amplifies the damage from all other spells. Blinding shot should also be used to debuff the enemy. Of more limited use is repulse (many bosses now resist it). Thorn can be used, although it isn't to root the enemy, but for the debuff effects and to set up for a nature strike (spam this as mage lightning recharges every 3 seconds).

3. Pally should be next in line, absent of all that (or if the birds and bears don't hold aggro ... bad party). Pallies in strength sets with heal and mana shield are reasonably durable. The difficulty is that due to their low damage output and lack of crowd control, getting aggro can be quite difficult. They should be near the end of the line as they can rev. One of the defining features of a good pally from a bad one is if they are able to gain aggro and overcome their weaknesses in damage output.

For all types of mages, debuffs should be used first. Generally, I haven't found a combination of spells that unloads the most damage. Hot flash is worthless against bosses, so basically, spam spells as they recharge. One exception may be the drain life, which has a long recharge - try to use while the blessings of might buff is active. Don't expect ice to freeze either.

4. Int and dex mages should always be the last in line to gain aggro. They have higher damage output to a single target than bears (both str and dex), warbirds, and pallies, which makes their propensity to get aggro very high. They are squishy and need to be kept in a support role. Like pally, they can rev, which makes it critical ... particularly in parties with only 1 mage. In fact with parties of 4-5 with only 1 mage, perhaps the int/dex mages should deliberately under-fire. This is the only time that anybody should not unload everything they have.

In the presence of a good team, int and dex mages should always fire everything like everyone else, as in a good team, they should not have to be concerned with holding aggro. They may get it for brief periods of time, but for sustained periods of time, it should be held by mainly str-based builds or birds.

Other thoughts:
1. Everybody should be spamming skills more or less as soon as they recharge. Be sure to use the cruel blast and smash combo (just be careful where the boss is stomped to).

2. Debuff spells should be used aggressively. Break armor is very important for this reason and should be maxed for bird, as should blinding shot. Bears should have hell scream and crushing blow maxed.

3. By this logic, int and dex mages should NEVER hold aggro unless they are the last ones alive.

4. Kiting is very important for ranged builds - dex bears, dex birds, all mages. It is important that you develop your kiting skills. Even pally and warbird sometimes kite as their spells are ranged. In fact, only str bears in tanking gear should try to stand their ground against the toughest bosses.

This is intended strictly as a "best practices" guideline - it may not hold for all future levels, but in most cases so far, it has held. Also, do not expect PUG players to be always receptive to feedback or to perform effectively.

A significant proportion of players are afraid of holding aggro when they should be. Bears are generally the worse offenders here - it has been noted how such a small percentage of bears tank effectively these days. I believe that it is due to a fear of death and perhaps an unwillingness to use potions. To put it bluntly, if you have not figured out as a bear that it is your job to tank for the team and to hold aggro by end game, you have thoroughly failed to be an effective bear. (If you are in this situation, the forums fortunately contain extensive information on how to be effective as a bear and I recommend that you take some time to do some research). It is your responsibility to tank for the team. Just bear in mind (pardon the pun) that as the difficulty increases, the margin for error also decreases and you are in a poor team, things can go wrong very quickly. Bears are, and not without justification, often blamed for the failures of the team.

Other offenders include birds, who fail to unload everything that they have. As a bird, the time where the group faces the boss is your time to shine. Against mobs, pure ints will do more raw damage. Bears tank. What do birds do? They should of course, be killing mobs as fast as they can. However, it is against bosses that birds truly shine (and some bosses are a pain to defeat without birds, such as the Galactic Overlord). Unload everything and don't be afraid if you do draw aggro.

Mages are strictly a support unit, except for pally. Nonetheless, being an effective support unit can make or break a team. I have noticed that many mages do not revive casualties quickly. One thing that I have loved about PvP is that it does instill a sense that time has a value. If an dead team mate is right beside you and unless you are under attack to such an extent that you have no mana (probably because your shield was depleted and you are fighting desperately to survive), if you have not pressed the revive button within 0.5 seconds of the team mate's death, you have failed to respond quickly enough. In Pvp with multiple enemies on you, you would die very quickly without support. In PvE, sadly, most players do not seem to have this importance instilled in them sometimes. This can be vital to preventing group wipes sometimes.

It's a pity that Castle Keep Away CTF couldn't be a mandatory test to be honest. It would force a greater level of cooperation in PUGs.

Remember, at the end of the day, you goals are the following:

1. Kill the boss as quickly as possible

2. Kill the boss with minimal casualties

Following these best practice guidelines will go a long way towards doing so.

10-21-2011, 08:43 PM
Nice thread!

I think the best way to learn this is to jump in with an experienced party and watch the mechanics of how the classes are supposed to work together. Once the party gets into the groove of things, they become a killing train that can't be stopped.

10-21-2011, 08:48 PM
Nice thread!

I think the best way to learn this is to jump in with an experienced party and watch the mechanics of how the classes are supposed to work together. Once the party gets into the groove of things, they become a killing train that can't be stopped.

It's a chicken and egg problem.

The majority of experienced players will be loath to invite some random person in. Experienced players are far more likely to farm with each other. If an inexperienced player jumps in (usually if there are 4 experienced players, often from the same guild or are close friends and there is an open spot), they are usually awed by the effectiveness of the team, but fail to draw any long term lessons. Said inexperienced player usually spends most of their time with other PUGs, which shapes their expectations of a team.

Sadly, the percentage of players that actively aspire to use game mechanics to their advantage is a small, elite minority.