The Norrathian Newbie #2 – Aggro Management

One of the first basic concepts that needs to be learned by ALL (yes all) classes is that of Aggro Management. If you are new to this game, or more specifically, new to MMOs, then you might be asking yourself “what is Aggro?”.

Simply put, Aggro is the level of “hate” a monster in the game has towards you. There are two types of mobs in the game. Those who inherently hate you, and those who don’t. Above a mob is their name. This name, when outlined in red, means that the mob is an “aggro mob”, and will attack you once you get into it’s “aggro range”. Aggro ranges differ depending on the mob; generally humanoids have a larger radius, while animals have a smaller one. If the name of the mob is not outlined, then it will not attack you unless you make a hostile action towards it first.

Whether a mob is aggro or not is inconsequential at this point, because you have not engaged it. Once you have engaged a mob, there are things to remember when it comes to managing aggro. There are 5 factors to consider, and here they are:

1. Damage. Every point of damage done to a mob, equals a point of hate.
2. Taunts. Taunts are extra hate generators.
3. De-taunts. The opposite of a taunt, this reduces hate.
4. Threat Transfers. Causes a % of your current hate to be transferred to X.
5. AoEs (Area of Effect spells/abilities). These play a direct role in aggro management.

Hate is measured on an invisible scale. There is no graph or UI mod that will show you who is on top of the hate table, or who is moving up the list at a blistering rate. Hate is something that is silently calculated, and something that all members of a group need to constantly monitor, so that the group can be successful. Every member of the group has a role, and each member needs to understand what they need to do for the group to function properly.

The generalization here, is that the tank “tanks” by holding aggro and not letting the rest of the group get hit (much) or die. Healers heal/cure the tank, and Scouts/Mages do damage to the mob until it’s dead. Generally speaking, these are the roles of each class, though each class has to think about aggro management on top of their normal roles. Here is a break down of how each archetype should handle aggro management, according to the 5 points above:

Fighter: First and foremost, a tank’s job is to hold aggro. Tanks are built to take hits with higher mitigation and higher hit points. They also have more taunts than any other class in the game. Going back to the 5 points, the tank does initial damage to the mob, putting him on top of that invisible hate chart. He then taunts the mobs to put him even farther ahead of the rest of the group, giving them lee-way to do more damage, without pulling aggro away from the tank. He will then consistently do damage to the mob, and taunt as needed. This is the general job of the tank when it comes to aggro management, to taunt and fight until the mobs are dead, and to keep the mobs from attacking his group mates. Crusaders have one small advantage with aggro management, having hate transfers. These allow a percentage of a target’s hate (paladin, amends) or the group’s hate (shadowknight, AA skill) to be transferred to them, making it even easier to hold aggro, and allowing an overall dps increase, with less worry.

Healer: Healers are ill-equipped when it comes to aggro management. They are not equipped to manage it, rather to keep the ones doing the managing alive. They don’t have taunts or de-taunts (except for maybe racial ones). They are not a threat when it comes to dps, as they should be concentrating on healing anyhow. Where a healer needs to pay attention, is on the pull, and during the fight. If a healer casts a heal, debuff, cure, or damage spell during the pull, they may accidentally pull aggro onto themselves, particularly in body-pulling situations where the tank hasn’t had enough time to set the mob. Also if the tank is taking a lot of hits, and the healer is forced to spam their heals, they can also grab aggro, as healing can generate hate as well, though to a lesser degree. A healer’s job also includes paying attention to over zealous dps classes (scouts/mages), who may steal aggro from the tank, and need healing when they do so.

Scout: A scout’s primary function is to damage the mob. They are not built to take hits (though many can tank under the right circumstances), rather they are built to dish out mass amounts of damage, killing the mob faster than the tank could alone. But, because they do put out a lot of damage at once, they threaten the group’s integrity. Scouts can easily rip a mob from the tank, and unless proper measures are taken, they will die in the process. A scout needs to learn aggro management early on, or pay costly repair bills. Scouts are one of the archetypes equipped with de-taunts, and some even have threat transfers. A threat transfer can assist the scout by allowing them to do more damage, by having a portion of their hate generated to their transfer’s target (the tank). Essentially, it makes it harder for them to rip the mob off of the tank. De-taunts are a similar concept, but instead of being a constant transfer, it is a one time use ability. Using a de-taunt will aid the tank in regaining aggro, and allow the scout to live through the battle. De-taunts are one of the most important tools in the scout’s arsenal, allowing them to basically say “I’m sorry” to the mob, have the mob forget about them, and then being able to stab it in the back again. So remember, if you’re playing a scout and you continuously rip mobs off of the tank, it’s not because you have “uber dps”, or the tank “sucks”. It’s because you don’t know how to properly play your class. Aggro management is everyone’s job, not just the tank’s.

Mage: The mage is also primarily a damage dealer. Much like the scout, they typically get de-taunts to aid in their aggro management. Unlike the scout, mages can sit in the background with the healers, and it’s typically a little easier for the tank to realize the mob has ripped to them before it’s too late. Then again, they can’t stand more than a hit or two from most heroic/epic mobs, so they have to be particularly careful when using the big hits. The best practice for a caster is to allow the tank a couple seconds of combat before starting to attack, thusly allowing the tank more time to generate hate. Also, mages need to take care not to cast on the pull, or it may be the last thing they do in that encounter. Another practice is to use dots (damage over time) first, and then let loose the big nukes after the fight has gone on for a few seconds. Mages, like scouts, have to control their dps, or they will pay hefty repair costs.

One facet of aggro management that applies to all classes, is AoEs. There are two types of AoEs, ones with green backgrounds (on the hotkey image) damage all the members of the target encounter. Ones with blue backgrounds, hit anything within a certain radius, be it around the caster, or around a target mob. These AoEs can accidentally grab adds in a hurry, and cause the group to fail, no matter how well they manage their hate. AoEs, no matter what color background, can cause hate issues. If a tank has only used a single target taunt on a group of 3 mobs, and the scout in the group decides to use an AoE on the encounter, the mob the tank has taunted will stay locked on him, but the two other mobs will most likely rip off an attack the scout. AoEs are only safe to use in two situations. One, if you’re the tank, these actually help hold aggro in large encounters. Two, if the tank has used his AoE taunts, and/or AoE CAs. There is no easier way to grab aggro than by using AoEs, so use them with care.

Now, to sum up all of this information, a scenario:

You are in a group of 6, containing a Paladin as the tank, an Assassin (scout), a Swashbuckler (scout), a Wizard (mage), a Templar (healer), and a Warden (healer). The Paladin, who has Amends, needs to pick a target for this ability, allowing 39% (adept 3) hate transfer to him. Who would he pick to be most efficient? In this case, the Assassin and the Swashbuckler both have hate transfers of their own, both of which would be placed on the tank, so, he would put Amends on the remaining dps class, the Wizard. This is a basic step in aggro management, allowing the 3 dps classes to unload a lot of their high damage attacks without worrying about the tank losing aggro.

After the initial group set up, the tank leads the group into a dungeon. At this point, they are presented with an encounter of 3 mobs, all ^^^ heroics. The tank states that he will be pulling said encounter in 5 seconds, and the group prepares for action. Upon the pull, the Wizard casts a green AoE, hitting all 3 of the mobs, but before the tank had a chance to taunt, so all 3 mobs hit the Wizard, killing him. The tank then has his chance to taunt, and regains control. One healer heals the tank, while the other rezzes the Wizard. The Scouts attack, and when the Assassin uses his decapitate (their high hit ability), he rips one mob off of the tank. The Assassin quickly hits his two de-taunts, while the tank taunts the mob, and sure enough, the tank now has control again. The mobs go down easily, and the group continues it’s venture into the dungeon.

In this scenario, can you guess who wasn’t doing their job?

I hope this helps clear up some of the terminology used in game, and sorts out what each class should be doing in a properly played group. Stay tuned for the next Norrathian Newbie post, coming soon!