The taunt game

Tanks do a lot of taunting off one another. Last week I was reflecting on a post from Chev about taunting. He has tabulated the number of debuffs your fellow tank should have before you taunt.

What’s remarkable is that a standard table, without many footnotes or explanatory exceptions, is able to capture this taunt dynamic. That’s because there usually isn’t much more to it than simply “at x debuffs, do the tank switch”.

On some fights, you could brief a tank on the entire encounter with just that statement:

  • Saurfang: taunt when there’s one debuff.
  • Festergut: taunt at 9 stacks.

There you go. Done. Go kill the boss.

For other fights, that have more than one dynamic for the boss it might be 4 words longer:

  • Deathwhisper: get adds phase 1, taunt at 3 stacks in phase 2.

Obviously that simplifies it, sure, but it’s actually not that far from the minimum you need to tell tanks on those fights. Raid leaders do need to be aware of the limited number of instructions anyone can remember without having a chance to practice them, so cutting things down to the bare bones is wise.

I expect healers know about the taunt game, or can review the table so they are prepared to switch heal targets. I usually call on Vent when swapping.

Encounter design from tank’s perspective

The more complicated fights involve not just the taunt game, but other mechanics too like tank positioning, chasing things, kiting things, cooldown management and timing. Blizzard were clever to introduce some new mechanics in ICC like vehicles like the Abomination and Festergut’s DPS-boost you enjoy after tanking him.

Older players will remember, perhaps very fondly as I do, the dragons in Blackwing Lair. One in particular had an aura which you could break with line-of-sight, so the tank had to position him exactly, thus allowing healers and ranged to use a doorway to break LOS to the boss whilst still having LOS to the tank. I haven’t seen that kind of mechanic since, but quite liked it (I healed back then).

I think somehow the taunt game leads to some of the camaraderie between tanks, in that you’re protecting one another.

What else can to do when not the main tank?

Once you have the very basics right, a tank can optimise his role in the raid by asking what else can I do when not actually main tanking? Festergut makes this decision very simple for us; your role is to dps your socks off without pulling aggro.

On some fights you may be able switch to blood presence (or dps stance): if you trust yourself to switch back, if you are not taking any damage, if your required taunt is predictably distant and if it’s a wipe when either tank dies (so it won’t matter if you can’t taunt immediately, since it’s already a wipe). On others you can use chains or ice, Paladins can debuff raiders, and so on. This should be 101.

You usually can’t slack off when tanking, and the taunt game is one of those mechanisms which require our attention and quick reaction time.

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6 comments to The taunt game

  • Judgeratt

    “… the dragons in Blackwing Lair. One in particular had an aura which you could break with line-of-sight, so the tank had to position him exactly, thus allowing healers and ranged to use a doorway to break LoS to the boss whilst still having LoS to the tank.”

    I used this method against those first two giants on the way to Ignis back when Ulduar opened up. We weren’t a very good raid group, but getting those guys down made us feel like kings!

    “Naxx is over, ladies!” :D

  • Leafie
    Twitter: leafiethedruid

    Healers do indeed know about the taunt game! I generally want to be pre-hotting the tank who’s about to take aggro to smooth the transition. I nearly lost a tank on Saurfang 10 a few weeks ago when the 2nd tank, who was new to the encounter, failed to taunt when the Rune showed up on the first tank. I’d already swapped to healing the person who should have had aggro and it took me a few seconds to notice he’d spaced out.

    But of course even though I know when tanks should be swapping, it helps to get warnings on Vent.
    .-= Leafie´s last blog ..The Definitive Lich King Guide (10-man) =-.

  • Xaris

    On Saurfang it seems that the Rune of Blood always comes about the same time as Blood Beasts. So I try to taunt Saurfang 6 seconds prior so that he’s on me and I get the Rune of Blood always. Then our bear taunts off me and I’m free to put chains of ice on a blood beast or taunt them back to me to help out the kiters and I don’t have to worry about my taunt being on cooldown from taunting Saurfang.

  • Kenshi

    nice post gravity but there is one small error

    •Festergut: taunt at 8 stacks.

    you should taunt at 9 stacks.

    Then you get a much bigger DPS boost and makes the encounter a little EZer.


  • Kenshi

    I think that is a safety precausion :)

    That is the tank dies during the transition you still have a little time to get him up

    while with 9 stacks it is certainly over and out when the second tank dies.

    I guess we do it for Learning the Heroic modes I guess.

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