Tanking Guide (MoP)

1. The Purpose of This Article

The scope of this guide is to cover every aspect of tanking, explaining everything that you need to understand and do in order to be a great tank. This guide will apply to you, whether you are new to the role, or a seasoned veteran.

This article will not go into technical details about talent specs, proper gemming or anything else that is tedious, and specific to a class or spec. You are able to find all the specific information pertaining to tanking classes and specs in our existing tanking class guides. This is not to say that we will never ever make a mention regarding a specific class or ability, but do not expect to gain any class-specific knowledge from this guide.

2. Introduction

You will no doubt have heard many stories about how tanks have it hard and about how tanking is the most stressful and difficult role to perform in the game. There is some merit to these claims, but they do also make tanking seem a bit daunting to the new player. We hope that our guide will remedy this.

Anyone can be a tank, and a great tank at that, provided that they know what to do and how to do it. While this statement holds true for all roles in World of Warcraft, tanks are certainly no exception.

3. Profile of a Great Tank

In order to properly explain all the things which you need to do to be a great tank, we first have to give you an idea of what the ideal tank is like. Below is a list of invaluable attributes.

  • A great tank always has top aggro on all targets that they are assigned to tank, and not on any other targets.
  • A great tank has excellent reaction time in picking up new mobs, before these mobs attack other raid members.
  • A great tank has excellent reaction time on taunting back targets that they lose aggro of (which happens to everyone at one time or another).
  • A great tank is intimately familiar with all the fight mechanics, and because of this, knows when and where to move, and when and how to use their defensive (and sometimes offensive) cooldowns.
  • A great tank understands the various positional requirements of (especially melee) DPS players, and does a good job at minimising their movement and downtime.
  • A great tank has the qualities of a leader, and is not shy to step up and take control of the group.

In addition to this, as tanks are the drivers of the party or raid group, a tank who is able to set a fast pace will make the dungeon or raid go extremely smoothly and quickly.

4. General Concerns

In this section we will cover a number of things which will improve all aspects of your tanking ability, but are not related specifically to game mechanics.

4.1. Add-ons and User Interface Settings

While Blizzard’s standard user interface is fully functional, and will allow you to successfully perform any encounter, it is far from optimal. There are several add-ons and features which will make life easier for both you and the rest of your raid.

4.1.1. Threat Meter

Omen Threat Meter is, by far, the best threat add-on out there. It will show you how much threat you have, as well as how much threat other people on the boss’ threat table have. In addition to this, it also displays other useful information, such as how long is left until the effects of threat modifying abilities (Misdirection Icon Misdirection, Fade Icon Fade) end.

4.1.2. Name Plates

There are several useful nameplate add-ons, the most popular of which is probably Threat Plates.

Name plates are essentially bars which appear over various enemies (and friendly units, if you so desire) in your proximity. They not only allow you to select enemies with ease (by clicking on the name plates) but they can also provide other useful information.

Threat Plates allows you, at a glance, to see which targets you have aggro of, and which you do not, as well as which targets you are likely to lose aggro of soon (where someone is catching up to you in threat).

This is achieved by providing different colors and/or sizes to the name plates of nearby targets. For example, targets of which you have aggro are green and smaller in size, while targets which you do not have aggro of are red and larger in size (making them easier to notice and click).

Name plate add-ons are mostly useful for add tanking, but regardless of this, they should be in every tank’s arsenal.

4.1.3. Raid Announcements

It is essential, as a tank, that you communicate with your healers, if not with all of your raid. Doing so via voice-chat is a viable option, but it will often cause needless clutter. Moreover, due to the various sounds in the encounter, you may not always be clearly heard.

Fortunately, you can simply use one of several add-ons which allow you to announce, in raid chat (or party, or a specific channel, at your choice), when you have used an important ability.

We recommend Raeli’s Spell Announcer, a highly customisable add-on. We suggest that, at the very least, defensive cooldowns be announced to the raid.

4.2. Keybinds

While keybinding is a near-mandatory practice for all classes and specs, if you are seeking to be competitive, it is even more so for tanks. As a tank, split second decisions can make or break your raid’s chances to succeed. Furthermore, as a tank, you often have to move and rotate your camera, while at the same time using various abilities. You simply cannot do this efficiently if you must use your mouse to click them.

As a result, we recommend making ample use of keybinds for your tank. Even if you prefer to click your action bars, a few abilities must be bound. These are: your main threat-generating abilities, your taunt(s), your survival cooldowns and your interrupt.

4.3. Gear Optimisation

Needless to say, you should research your class and specialisation, in order to find what the best statistics are for you, and adapt your character accordingly.

4.3.1. Adaptability of Stats

One of the ways in which you can make the transition from being a good tank to being a great tank is to know that tanking is all about adapting your gear (and talents) to the encounter.

As such, you should always collect and carry with you as many alternative gear pieces as possible.

This will allow you to change your gear on a fight-by-fight basis. If an encounter has heavy magic damage on the tank, you can use a magic damage reducing trinket, for example, or get more Stamina. If the encounter requires you to pump out a great amount of threat, you can switch in pieces with Hit and Expertise Rating (assuming you are not yet at the caps for these statistics).

If you are looking to reduce the physical damage you are taking as much as possible, you will probably prefer Mastery Rating.

The list goes on, but it is important to remember that a great tank’s gear and talent set-up is always dynamic.

4.4. Knowledge of the Encounter

As a tank, you have to be intimately familiar with all of the encounter’s mechanics, to a much greater degree than a DPS player or even a healer must.

Only when you are familiar with the encounter will you know what the best time is to use defensive or offensive cooldowns, what position is ideal for tanking the boss, or where it is best to move in order to most easily pick up new adds.

Additionally, as a tank, you have the unique opportunity to get a good general overview of the encounter, and how your raid is performing it. By having a good understanding of it, you can easily offer advice and suggestions for improving.

While not applicable to raid bosses, being familiar with the various trash groups (in both raids and dungeons) is also essential for a tank. Knowing exactly what the trash mobs do, how damaging they are and what kind of crowd-control is (possibly) needed allows you to better gauge whether or not you and your healer(s) are prepared to take them on.

Being familiar with encounter mechanics (adds, specifically) and trash mechanics allows you to “mark targets”, something which we cover briefly in the next section.

4.4.1. Marking Targets

The game allows players who are party or raid leaders, or assistants in raid groups, to place specific markings, of their choosing, above the heads of friendly or hostile targets.

This is typically done by right clicking the unit frame of the target and selecting a mark, but it can also be done by use of keybinding (they are listed in the Key Binding settings menu in the default Blizzard interface). There are also add-ons which serve this purpose, but we do not consider them to be needed.

Marks above targets can be seen by all of your party or raid members, and serve as a means to coordinate your efforts. The meaning of the marks is set by general consensus, or specific assignments prior to the encounter.

As a tank, you should bind at least 3-4 marks to accessible keys, and make frequent use of marking targets, in order to indicate which mobs you wish to be killed first, and which you wish to be crowd-controlled.

Keep in mind that, during raid encounters, marking is generally the prerogative of your raid leader, and unless specifically directed to, you should not interfere.

5. Aggro

This section will cover everything you need to know, as a tank, about gaining, maintaining and regaining aggro. First, however, we need to look at some introductory concepts.

5.1. How does Threat and Aggro Work?

Generating threat and maintaining aggro are the defining characteristics of a tank. Understanding these concepts is crucial to your performance.

5.1.1. Threat

Threat is a means of measuring the level of animosity a mob has towards a specific player. Each mob has a threat table, and every person who performs hostile actions towards that mob is put on that table.

There are two important actions which generate threat: dealing damage and healing. Other actions, such as casting a buff or debuff also generate threat, but in very small amounts which are not worth discussing.

Normally, threat is generated at 1:1 ratio with damage done to the mob, and a 1:2 ratio with healing done. However, in order to facilitate tanking, tanks generate threat at a 5:1 ratio with damage done.

In order to be considered a tank for this purpose, you must be in the appropriate tanking state:

Furthermore, threat does not decay (decrease) over time or otherwise, unless a specific ability is used which has this effect (such as Hand of Salvation Icon Hand of Salvation), or if the encounter mechanics specifically affect threat.

Threat is reset if the player dies, or otherwise leaves combat with the mob. Lastly, threat cannot have a negative value.

There are many types of threat modifiers, especially encounter-based abilities which reduce the threat output of certain players (forcing tank switching, generally). There are also friendly abilities, such as Tricks of the Trade Icon Tricks of the Trade and Misdirection Icon Misdirection, which offer a temporary threat transfer.

5.1.2. Aggro

Having aggro is a state in which players find themselves when they have the highest amount of threat against a particular mob, and that mob attacks them because of it. Needless to say, in principle, this is the aim of every tank.

It is important to keep in mind that there will be times when you will want to avoid having aggro of mobs, even as a tank. This is the case in fights which require multiple tanks, each with their own assignments. It is also the case when the fight mechanics debuff you with something that makes you extremely vulnerable to the boss or other mobs.

It is worthwhile to know that you do not gain aggro of a mob simply by overtaking the current top-threat target. For example, if the person who currently has aggro of the boss has 1,000,000 threat, simply reaching 1,000,001 threat will not cause the boss to attack you. There is a threshold which must be met: 110% of the threat of the current aggro target, if you are in melee range of the boss, and 130% if you are away from the boss.

When either of those thresholds is exceeded, the boss will switch targets to the new top-threat player, and the old tank will have to exceed this person by 110%/130% again to regain aggro.

While knowing how to master threat-generation and how to maintain aggro is important, you must first know very well what you are supposed to be tanking.

5.2. Ability Rotation

Tanks, generally speaking, do not have a rotation in the same way that DPS classes do. Their playstyle is much more similar to that of healers, in the sense that some abilities are useful sometimes, and others are useful at other times.

Tanks generally have three categories of abilities:

  • important threat-generating abilities;
  • defensive abilities, which help survival;
  • other, miscellaneous abilities: buffs, debuffs, stuns/slows, taunts, mobility abilities, and so on.

Important threat-generating abilities are the bread and butter of every tank’s threat. They should be used whenever they are off-cooldown.

In addition to these, naturally, any damage-dealing abilities will generate a good amount of threat (due to the 500% threat multiplier), and should be used as fillers.

Defensive abilities are of two kinds:

  • active survival abilities, which have very short cooldowns and should be used as much as possible;
  • defensive cooldowns, which have longer cooldowns, and should be used at key points in the encounter.

Miscellaneous abilities serve a multitude of functions, and you should intermingle them with your other abilities as the encounter demands and as you see fit. Examples include buffs, debuffs, stuns, interrupts and movement abilities.

As a tank, you will have to maintain the Weakened Blows Icon Weakened Blows debuff (unless it is being provided reliably by another tank). This is a priority, so you should make sure that the debuff is always present.

Weakened Blows is applied:

5.3. Initial Aggro

As a tank, generally, it is your responsibility to start the encounters, or, in other words, to pull. This means that you get the opportunity to attack the boss before anyone else. This should, in theory, offer you the opportunity to gain initial aggro.

While you may find that running into the boss and pressing some of your abilities (especially when supported by Misdirection Icon Misdirection or Tricks of the Trade Icon Tricks of the Trade) at random will achieve this goal, it is far from ideal.

As a competent tank, you should at the very least know which of your abilities generate high amounts of threat. Once you know this, you should always have a plan for the pull, as well as for picking up adds which join the fight later on. While this is class specific, and up to you to perfect, there are several guidelines to follow.

  1. Always begin with the ability which generates the highest amount of threat.
  2. Be prepared to use another, high-threat ability immediately after it (especially if the first attack is dodged, parried or is a missed attack).
  3. Be prepared to use your taunt ability the moment you notice that you have lost aggro of the boss (but NOT before).
  4. Delay your debuffs and other survival cooldowns until you have stabilised your threat (obviously, if the fight mechanics require you to use a survival cooldown right away, then you should do so).

The idea is that, at any time, your attacks can be dodged, parried or they can miss altogether. Because of this, at the pull, your threat generation can be very volatile. This stops being an issue as the fight goes on, but it makes the pull the most crucial moment of the encounter, threat-wise.

Therefore, you should plan accordingly and have your most powerful abilities available. These should be coupled with offensive cooldowns which your class possesses, to maximise the amount of damage that you do, and thus your threat.

Depending on the environment where you are tanking (guild raid, pug group, 5-man dungeon, etc.), you may find yourself having to literally fight against DPS players in reaching the boss first.

This may be due to the desire (or sometimes, the necessity) to maximise damage done to the boss, or it may be due to impatience and lack of consideration. In any case, you should always take the initiative and be aggressive in engaging the encounter.

5.3.1. Picking up Adds

In addition to the normal way in which you will find yourself gaining aggro (pulling the boss), you will often encounter situations where new enemies, generally adds, enter the fight while it is in progress.

The same applies here as for the pull: you should have a mental plan on how you’re going to pick these adds up. The ability priority will change from the one you used at the pull, most likely, especially in the case of multiple adds, when you will want to use your AoE abilities. Furthermore, you will find yourself using taunt proactively rather than reactively.

Good knowledge of the encounter is crucial, because it is important to know when and where the adds will appear, especially if you want to use ground-based threat abilities.

You also have to pay special attention to healer aggro, when picking up adds. Indeed, it is quite likely that, as healers are constantly casting spells, they will take aggro of the newly spawned adds before you even have a chance to react. You must prepare for this situation, be in a good position, and not hesitate to taunt the adds to you.

Generally, practice over successive attempts will allow you to gain invaluable experience as to which way is best to pick up the adds in a particular fight.

5.3.2. Using Offensive Cooldowns

All tanking classes have some kind of offensive cooldown. Sometimes, these reduce the cooldown or resource cost of some abilities, while other times they simply increase damage done.

It is a natural reaction to think that, as a tank, you will focus on using defensive cooldowns. However, in order to be truly successful in managing threat, especially in crucial moments of the encounter (such as the pull), it is important to use your offensive cooldowns as well.

As a rule, you should always pull with one such cooldown available, and aim to chain another onto it immediately after it expires.

5.4. Maintaining Aggro

In addition to their increased threat generation, tanks also have a passive ability, called Vengeance. Vengeance grants you attack power equal to 2% of the damage you have sustained, for 20 seconds. The amount of attack power continues to stack, granting you immense amounts of attack power, provided that you continue to take damage.

There are times when maintaining aggro can be difficult, such as when you are severely undergeared compared to DPS players, when you have to switch off the target in order to pick up a different one, or when encounter design grants increased damage done to DPS players, but not to tanks.

In any case, the absolute best way to ensure that you never lose aggro over a longer period of time is to know your ability priority. It is essential to understand which abilities must be used on cooldown, and what other threat-generating abilities to fill gaps with. Proper knowledge of your abilities will, in most cases, guarantee that you do not lose aggro.

5.4.1. “Tab Targeting”

Tab targeting is a technique which involves using the TAB key (the default key for automatic targeting) to quickly switch between multiple targets. It is very useful when you are tanking multiple targets (adds, for example) and all of your usual AoE abilities are on cooldown or are proving insufficient.

Essentially, you want to cycle through all of the targets by using the TAB key (you can do it manually, as well, though it is less efficient) and apply single target threat-generating abilities on each individual add. For best results, check Omen to see if there are any targets on which you have a large threat lead, and do not bother attacking those.

5.5. Regaining Aggro (Taunting and Tank-Switching)

There are two situations when you will need to regain aggro of a mob: when you have lost aggro, unintentionally, to DPS players or another tank, and when you are engaged in a tank-switching rotation. While taunting a stray mob on which you have lost aggro is rather simple, a few notes are in order regarding tank switching. First, however, you must understand exactly how to best use your taunt.

5.5.1. How to Taunt

While using taunt may seem straightforward enough, and many times it is, there are a few subtle points which you must understand.

First of all, you need to understand how taunt works and how it affects your threat.

Taunting a mob has two effects:

  1. It forces the mob to attack the player who taunted it, for 3 seconds.
  2. It grants the player who taunted it an amount of threat equal to that of the player who had aggro of the mob at the time of the taunt.

Regarding the first point, the duration that the mob attacks the taunting player for is subject to diminishing returns, so subsequent taunts, within a 15 second window, will reduce the amount of time, until the spell eventually has no effect. Note that all taunts share the same diminishing returns, so a Warrior’s taunt will cause the Paladin off-tank’s taunts to have diminished effects, for example.

Regarding the second point, taunt only affects your threat level when you are not at the top of the threat table. If you are at the top of the threat table (but do not have aggro), then taunt will only force the mob to attack you for 3 seconds. If you have aggro and are at the top of the aggro table, then taunt does nothing except for making sure that the target will stick to you for the duration of taunt.

Taunt’s cooldown is relatively low, and it is a key part of any tank’s toolkit, so do not be afraid to use it. While you may get the idea that having to taunt off people is “shameful”, as a reflection of your ability to maintain aggro, this could not be farther from the truth. A good tank is one who makes free and efficient use of taunt.

Secondly, you must understand the following: if you are about to taunt a mob on which you do not have aggro, then do not bother using any threat abilities before taunting, as any extra threat you gain before taunting is essentially useless (since taunt puts you on top of the threat table anyway). Rather, save your most powerful ability or abilities for the moments immediately after you have taunted. This will ensure that, in addition to getting pushed to the top of the threat table, you will gain a considerable lead over everyone else.

Likewise, there is little point in taunting a mob which you do not have aggro of, if you cannot reach it to attack it and thus boost your threat. Therefore, you should try to always position yourself close to mobs which you have lost aggro of, and taunt them only when you are prepared to attack – otherwise they are very likely to simply run back to their previous target after the 3 second effect of taunt wears off. You can use ranged abilities to help you out in these situations, but as tanking ranged abilities are rather weak (and on long cooldowns), this is not reliable.

Finally, because of the diminishing returns of taunt, and because, when you already have aggro, it provides no benefits whatsoever, it should not be used as part of your “rotation”. Rather, taunt should be saved for when it is actually needed.

5.5.2. How to Tank-Switch

There are a great many encounters in the game which require two (or more) tanks to taunt the boss off of each other at specific intervals of time, usually due to some debuffs applied to the tanks.

While the practice itself is not overly complicated, we would like to make three mentions.

  1. Understand exactly why you are taunting the boss, why it is being taunted off you, and what the correct timing for it is. Boss mods usually alert you as to the timing, but you must make sure that you can monitor your fellow tanks’ debuffs.
  2. Time one or more powerful threat-generating abilities to land immediately after your taunt lands, to ensure that you do not lose aggro after taunting.
  3. When you have been taunted off of, stop using powerful threat-generating abilities for a sensible amount of time (a few seconds), in order to help the other tank stabilise his aggro. Depending on various circumstances, you may even need to stop auto-attacking.

Additionally, it is very important to observe the correct position and facing of the boss before you taunt it. This is especially true in the case of dragon bosses, who have both tail and breath attacks. The best thing to do is to to position yourself exactly in the same place as the tank who currently has aggro, before you taunt, so that the boss does not move at all.

Lastly, it’s important that you position yourself behind the boss when you are not tanking it. This ensures that none of your attacks are parried, and also that you do not receive damage from breath or cleaving type attacks that the boss may perform. Keep in mind, however, that some encounters specifically require both tanks to be in front of the boss.

6. Survival

Instinctively, it feels as though your survival, as a tank, is all in the hands of your healers, but this could not be farther from the truth. Yes, with incompetent healers, you will die, and there is little you can do to save yourself. However, even excellent healers will fail to keep you alive if you do not make proper use of the tools at your disposal.

This section will be rather brief, but there are a few important mentions we feel need to be made.

6.1. Active Survival

Each tanking class has various active survival and mitigation tools at their disposal. These take the form of abilities with low or no cooldown, which offer great benefits but are also rather expensive. You must learn to make constant (and proper) use of these abilities in your rotation, otherwise you will be practically unhealable.

Going into depth about these abilities is beyond the scope of this guide, so we recommend that you read our class-specific tanking guides.

6.2. Cooldowns

Every tanking class has at least a few defensive/survival cooldowns. You need to be familiar with what they are, how they work and, very importantly, you must have them keybound to accessible keys. Furthermore, you should keep in mind that you have other survival tools at your disposal outside of the major cooldowns, such as trinket on-use effects or minor cooldowns.

6.2.1. General Guidelines

  • Prevention is better than remedy. Unless there is a specific event in the encounter which you need to save cooldowns for, use them freely, as many times as possible during the fight.
  • Damage reduction cooldowns should always be used proactively. Do not bother using them when you notice you are on 5% health, since it will already be too late by then. Use them when you anticipate a period of high damage, or when your healers are going to be unable to heal you.
  • Health increasing cooldowns can be used both proactively and reactively, though if given the choice, you should try to save them for moments when your health is suddenly very low.
  • As much as possible, do not stack cooldowns. As a rule, if you need to use all of your cooldowns at once to survive a fight mechanic, chances are you are not intended to survive it in the first place.

Having a good understanding of the encounter mechanics and of your raid’s strategy will help tremendously in allowing you to time your cooldowns to perfection. Practice makes perfect.

Additionally, good communication with your healers is invaluable. Everything may appear to be fine, but a healer disconnecting, or being targeted by a boss ability which requires them to move are important events that justify the use of a cooldown.

6.3. Positioning and Movement

In addition to not standing in any harmful ground effects, which is something that every raider should be aware of, there is another absolutely key piece of advice for every tank out there: never ever have your back to a mob which is attacking you.

There is a simple reason for this: when your back is turned to an attacking mob, you will not be able to dodge, parry or block any of its attacks. This translates to, essentially, a burst of damage onto you, as a lot of attacks are generally dodged, parried or blocked. This will not only increase the amount of healing that is needed to keep you alive, but it may make it impossible to keep you alive altogether.

What does this mean, though, in terms of movement? What if you have to move the boss from one place to another, and you have to do so quickly? Well, rest assured, you do not have to slowly backpedal your way there. What you should do instead is strafe sideways. If your side is turned to the attacking mob, you continue to parry, dodge and block attacks, and what’s more, you maintain your normal run speed.

This is slightly tricky to master right away, but you can always find a low level mob (so it doesn’t kill you), aggro it and run away from it. This will allow you to practice the exact angle you need to be facing. Just check to see if you are registering any dodges or parries, as this will be an indication that you are facing the correct way.

Finally, you should always make sure that you do not leave line of sight of your healers, as this is a sure way to get yourself killed. While it is less of a problem in raids (as most rooms do not have obstacles), it can happen easily in dungeons.

6.3.1. Pushing

In case the target you are tanking needs to be moved a short distance backwards (that is to say, in the direction that you are facing), you can employ a technique known as pushing. To do this, simple step forward until you enter the target’s hitbox. This will cause them to adjust to your position, and in most cases this means that they will step back a very short distance, and face you again.

The alternative to this is to drag the target to the desired location, but in the process of doing so, you need to move a lot more, and the target is very likely to turn around for extended periods of time, making it much less desirable than pushing.

We would like to note that some mobs, due to the size of their hitbox, are not very receptive to this technique.

7. Maximising Your Raid’s and Your Own DPS

Holding aggro and not dying are essential aspects of being a great tank, but to move to the next level, you have to understand how each and every one of your actions impact the rest of your raid.

There are many encounters which require you, as the tank, to position or move the boss. Doing so is, generally, a requirement to completing the encounter successfully, but simply knowing when and where the boss needs to be moved is not all there is to it.

In order not to hamper your raid’s DPS, you must understand that melee DPS players must be within melee range of the boss to perform their attacks. This means that, whenever you move the boss, you should make sure that you move him as little as possible, while still achieving your goal. The less you move the boss, the less melee DPS players will have to move to follow it, and the more DPS they will be able to do.

Additionally, you need to understand that melee DPS players need to attack mobs from behind in order for their DPS to be competitive. This has two implications.

  • You must keep the boss facing the same way, as much as possible, so that DPS players do not suddenly find that they have to reposition themselves.
  • You must make sure that there are no fire patches or other void zones behind the boss, making it impossible for melee DPS to stand there.

Indeed, while it takes a good tank to know when to move the boss from place to place, it takes an excellent tank to move him in the way which is most efficient for your DPS players.

Finally, keep in mind that, even after you are generating enough threat to maintain aggro, and you are surviving the encounter, you can still improve your own performance. Any extra DPS that you do as a tank will be added to your raid’s DPS and will, even if in just a small part, help you kill the boss faster.

8. Leadership and Attitude

As the tank, whether you desire it or not, you are in a unique position of control over your group. Healers and DPS players may be the assigned leaders, or they may wish to take charge, but at the end of the day, they are unable to do anything without you.

This state of affairs makes it so that, often, it is preferred that a tank simply be the leader, as this simplifies matters greatly. Furthermore, because tanking attracts leaders, it then becomes an expected quality of all tanks to lead their groups.

So, exactly what qualities should a tank have, in terms of leadership? They should be confident, they should not be shy to speak up, they should know perfectly well what they want their group to do (which, incidentally, should also be the correct thing to do, hence why knowing the encounter mechanics is important), and they should have the vigour to do it.

Tanks have a lot of responsibility, as a tanking mistake is going to lead to a wipe a lot more often than a DPS or healer one would. For this reason, tanks are most likely to receive criticism. But, because, as we said, tanking is all about confidence, you cannot let it get to you! If you did indeed make a mistake, then learn from it and apologise, but do not let it impede your drive.

9. Conclusions

This concludes the tanking guide. If you have followed us all the way to the end, you now know exactly what a great tank is, and what you need to do to achieve that.

You must understand, however, that tanking, more than any other role in the game, is all about repeated practice. Only when you have done something many times will you be so confident as to do it effortlessly and quickly. So, if you are wondering how you can start, then remember that you cannot practice tanking on a training dummy. There are a few steps you can follow.

  1. Set up your user interface, add-ons and keybinds, and do a few high level quests to familiarise yourself with your new settings.
  2. Look up the tactics for the bosses (and trash pulls, if possible) of a specific heroic dungeon, and just go and do it! You can do it with friends or guild members, for added support, but the anonymity granted by the Dungeon Finder may suit you better.
  3. Be polite and considerate with your fellow party members, but do not let them get to you, regardless of what they may say.

If any of this seems daunting, fear not, and remember that the best quality of a great tank is confidence! Remember that we have all lost aggro, accidentally pulled in DPS gear, or fallen off of platforms.

10. Changelog

  • 04 Aug. 2013: Fixed an incorrect mention that Death Knights apply the Weakened Blows debuff through Blood Boil Icon Blood Boil (it is actually Blood Plague Icon Blood Plague).

MoP Melee Attacks

In this article, we detail the common mechanics that melee classes share.

1. Introduction

Melee classes share common mechanics, which we deemed appropriate to present in this single cheat sheet.

There are two sort of melee attacks:

  • normal attacks (sometimes referred to as white attacks) which are regular melee auto-attacks;
  • special attacks (sometimes reffered to as yellow attacks) which correspond to an ability you cast.

We will first present in detail how normal attacks work. Then we will explain how special attacks differ from them.

2. Normal Attacks

When your character performs a melee attack, this attack will be one of the following:

  • missed attack;
  • parried attack;
  • dodged attack;
  • Glancing Blow;
  • blocked attack;
  • critical hit;
  • normal hit.

2.1. Missed Attacks

By default, you have a 7.5% chance to miss if you are wielding a single weapon and a 26.5% chance to miss if you wielding two weapons. In order not to miss, you need to increase your Hit Rating through gear, enchants, gems, and reforging.

Reducing your chance to miss with melee attacks until it reaches 0% (a process referred to as reaching the melee hit cap) is usually desirable. However, for some classes, Hit Rating can become less valuable than other stats once you have passed a certain point. For example, Enhancement Shamans only stack Hit Rating until they reduce their chance to miss with spells by 15% (the spell hit cap) which corresponds to a chance to miss with melee attacks reduced by 15% as well. Stacking more Hit Rating to fill the last 11.5% percents and reach 26.5% (the melee hit cap for dual wielders) is not very optimal for that class as normal melee attacks only do a fraction of their overall damage.

2.2. Parried Attacks

When facing an enemy, your attacks will have a chance to be parried, in which case they will deal no damage. By default, your attacks made facing a raid boss will have a 15% chance to be parried. Attacks made from behind your enemy cannot be parried. This is one of the reasons why DPS players should always position themselves behind a raid boss. This way, they need not to worry about their attacks being parried. Only tanks should ever feel concerned about reducing their chance to see their attacks parried.

2.3. Dodged Attacks

Dodged attacks deal no damage. Players can only dodge frontal attacks while NPC enemies can dodge attacks from the front and from behind. Your chance to see your attacks dodges depends on the level of your target. As a level 85 player attacking a raid boss, this chance is, by default, equal to 6.5% and can be reduced by increasing your Expertise Rating (gear, reforging or gems). Whether you need to nullify that chance (i.e., reach the Expertise cap) or attain a particular, optimal, Expertise value depends on your class and specialisation. Below, you will find the list of racial traits, proficiencies, and talents that increase Expertise.

  • Axe Specialization Icon Axe Specialization is an Orc racial trait, which provides +3 Expertise with Fist Weapons and Axes (both One-Handed and Two-Handed).
  • Mace Specialization Icon Mace Specialization is a racial trait common to Dwarves and Humans, which provides +3 Expertise with Maces (both One-Handed and Two-Handed).
  • Shortblade Specialization Icon Shortblade Specialization is a Gnome racial trait, which provides +3 Expertise with Daggers and One-Handed Swords.
  • Sword Specialization Icon Sword Specialization is a Human racial trait, which provides +3 Expertise with Swords (both One-Handed and Two-Handed).

2.4. Glancing Blow

Glancing Blow is a term usually used to designate an attack which lands on the targeted enemy but that deals less damage than expected. The frequency at which Glancing Blows occur and the damage they deal depend on the level of the targeted enemy. For example, on a raid boss, about 24% of your attacks will be Glancing Blows, which will deal damage equal to 75% of that of a normal attack. On an enemy which has the same level as your character, tests on Training Dummies show that about 6% of the attacks done are Glancing Blows, and they do in average 97.5% of the damage a normal attack would do.

There is absolutely nothing you can do to decrease the percentage of your attacks that are Glancing Blows.

2.5. Blocked Attacks

Very little documentation is available on attacks blocked by NPC enemies. The tests we performed on Raider’s Training Dummies (raid boss level) showed that about 5% of our attacks were blocked, in which case they only dealt 70% of the damage of a normal attack.

Attacks from behind cannot be blocked. Therefore, as a melee DPS, you should not be concerned about getting your attacks blocked because you should be standing behind the boss anyway. Tanks should not be concerned about these blocked attacks either as there is nothing they can do to prevent them from happening.

2.6. Critical Hit

Critical hits deal by default twice more damage than a normal attack. This can be changed by a meta gem: Agile Shadowspirit Diamond or Reverberating Shadowspirit Diamond.

Your chance to deal critical hits can be improved by increasing your Critical Strike Rating, and taking specific talents. Note that when fighting enemies whose level is above yours, your effective critical strike chance with melee attacks will always be lower than what the tooltip on your character sheet says. People refer to this phenomenon as Crit Depression. For instance, against a raid boss, your critical strike chance with melee attacks will always be 4.8% less than what you read on the tooltip.

3. How Does the Game Decide the Type of an Attack?

Intuitively, we would think that the game performs a check for all the possible attack types, in a certain order, and whenever a check succeeds, the associated type of attack is performed. For example, the game would check whether the attack is a miss (this has a certain chance to be true) and if that check fails, then the game would check whether the attack is parried, etc., until a check succeeds or they all fail, in which case the attack is a normal hit.

Unfortunately, the actual mechanics are more complicated than that. The game builds a sort of probability table based on your chance to land each type of attack. The easiest way to explain how that works is to use an example. Imagine that you have the following chances (the numbers are not meant to be realistic, we chose them for the sake of the explanation):

  • 20% to miss an attack;
  • 10% to see an attack parried;
  • 5% to see an attack dodged;
  • 30% to land a Glancing Blow;
  • 10% to see an attack blocked;
  • 20% to land a critical hit.

Here, the game would roll a die between 0 and 100 and the outcome would be decided as follows:

  • If the roll gives a value between 0 and 19.99, then the attack is missed.
  • If the roll gives a value between 20 and 29.99, then the attack is parried.
  • If the roll gives a value between 30 and 34.99, then the attack is dodged.
  • If the roll gives a value between 35 and 64.99, then the attack is a Glancing Blow.
  • If the roll gives a value between 65 and 74.99, then the attack is blocked.
  • If the roll gives a value between 75 and 94.99, then the attack is a critical hit.
  • In any other case, so from 95 to 100 (well 99.99 if we want our example to be mathematically sound), the attack is a a normal attack.

By now, you must probably be wondering what would have happened if one of the chances had had such a value that the total of all chances was greater than 100% (for example, if the critical strike chance with melee attacks had been 30% instead of 20%). In that case, the game use a precedence order which is the order we have used to far to present the different types of attacks:

  1. chance to miss attacks has the highest precedence;
  2. chance to get attacks parried has the second highest precedence;
  3. chance to get attacks dodged has the third highest precedence;
  4. chance to land a Glancing Blow has the fourth highest precedence;
  5. chance to get attacks blocked has the fifth highest precedence;
  6. chance to land critical hits has the sixth highest precedence;
  7. landing a normal hit is the default action.

If the probability table is filled (i.e., reaching 100%) before going through all the types of attacks, the subsequent attack types are ignored. For example, if you have a 50% chance to miss and a 50% chance to see your melee attacks parried, then your attacks will always be either missed or parried: they will never be dodged, Glancing Blows, blocked, critical hits, or normal hits.

Similarly, if you have a 40% chance to miss, a 40% chance to see your attacks parried and a 40% chance to see your attacks dodged, only 20% of your attacks will be dodged, because the chance to miss and the chance to see attacks parried have a higher precedence than your chance to see your attacks dodged.

Considering all that was said, you can now see why people sometimes refer to a melee critical strike chance cap. This happens when the combined chances of all the attack types (including the critical strike chance) is greater than 100%. As you should be standing behind the boss and have reached the Expertise cap (or almost), it means that we are talking about your Glancing Blow chance and your critical strike chance adding up to something greater than 100%. Since your Glancing Blow chance is constant at 24% against raid bosses and you need to take Crit Depression into account, you will need about 80% critical strike chance with melee attacks to reach the cap. That number is so high that you can simply forget about it for now, we only mentioned it here for the sake of completeness.

4. Special Attacks

Special attacks, also referred to as yellow attacks, are abilites you cast which deal melee damage, such as:

The mechanics of special attacks differ from that of normal attacks as follows.

  • The default chance to miss with a special attack is 7.5%, regardless of whether you are dual-wielding.
  • Special attacks can never be Glancing Blows.
  • Special attacks use a 2-roll system where the first roll decides if the attack hits or misses and the second roll decides if the attack is a critical hit or not.

MoP Gear Optimisation Guide

No matter how well you master your character’s spell/ability rotation and playstyle, you will not reach your maximum potential if your gear is not well optimised. In this guide, we will walk you through everything you need to do in order to get the most out of your character’s gear.

1. Introduction

In this guide, we will discuss the four ways of improving and optimising your gear:

  • Choosing the correct items;
  • Gemming your gear;
  • Reforging your gear;
  • Enchanting your gear.

While each of these processes is independent from the others, they all lead together towards the same common goal: to maximise the statistics that are most desirable to your class and spec. In the case of some specs (mostly DPS), in addition to simply maximising your desirable statistics, you must also reach certain caps.

2. Statistics

Statistics, informally known as stats, are the various bonuses that are found on your gear. They are divided in primary and secondary statistics, as follows:

Primary statisticsSecondary statistics
  • Agility
  • Intellect
  • Stamina
  • Strength
  • Critical Strike Rating
  • Dodge Rating
  • Expertise Rating
  • Haste Rating
  • Hit Rating
  • Mastery Rating
  • Parry Rating
  • Spirit

Each class/spec combination has a primary statistic associated with it. The complete list is:

AgilityIntellect
  • Feral Druids
  • Hunters
  • Brewmaster and Windwalker Monks
  • Rogues
  • Enhancement Shamans
  • Balance and Restoration Druids
  • Mages
  • Mistweaver Monks
  • Holy Paladins
  • Priests
  • Elemental and Restoration Shamans
  • Warlocks
StaminaStrength
  • Blood Death Knights
  • Guardian Druids
  • Protection Paladins
  • Protection Warriors
  • Frost and Unholy Death Knights
  • Retribution Paladins
  • Arms and Fury Warriors

As a rule, every class/spec combination values its primary statistic more than any secondary statistic. The relative value of secondary statistics differs between class/spec combinations. In any case, your general goal when it comes to the statistics on your gear is to maximise your primary statistic and the most valued of your secondary statistics.

2.1. Caps

Due to certain game mechanics, a number of class/spec combinations require a minimum amount of one or more statistics in order to be able to perform their role competitively.

Most commonly, these statistics are Hit Rating and Expertise Rating, ensuring that all of the player’s attacks or spells will hit their target. Other classes may have Haste Rating or even Critical Strike Rating caps, due to their own mechanics, although this is more rare.

As a rule, these caps have the highest priority among all other stats (possibly second to the primary statistic, in some cases). After the caps are met, the value of the capped stat drops considerably (often to the point where the stat becomes totally useless).

2.2. Example of Statistics Priority

We will provide you with an example of a class’ statistic priority, and show you (briefly) how you should optimise your stats.

In this example, we will look at the statistic priority of Beast Mastery Hunters. In our guide, we list the statistic priority as being:

  1. Agility
  2. Hit Rating and Expertise Rating (until 7.5% each)
  3. Critical Strike Rating
  4. Haste Rating
  5. Mastery Rating

To summarise, this means that you value Agility more than any other statistic. After maximising your Agility, your next goal is reaching the hit and expertise caps. Once this is achieved (remember that, after reaching the cap, the value of additional Hit Rating and Expertise Rating is zero), your next most important statistic is Critical Strike Rating.

Therefore, you should do the following:

  • Maximise the amount of Agility that you have;
  • Reach the hit and expertise caps;
  • Maximise your Critical Strike Rating (first and foremost) and Haste Rating at the expense of Mastery Rating.

3. Choosing the Correct Items

This is the first step you should take. When choosing the best items for your class/spec, there are three things to keep in mind (in this order):

  1. Choose items of your character’s armor type (cloth, leather, mail or plate), because there is a sizeable bonus for using the correct armor type;
  2. Choose items that have the highest amount of your primary statistic. This generally means that you want items of a higher item level, but you should also check the available sockets (a lower item level item with an extra socket and a socket bonus of your primary statistic may be better than another, higher item level item);
  3. Choose items that have the secondary statistics most desired by your class/spec. In our example of the Beast Mastery Hunter, you would want to avoid items that have Mastery Rating as a secondary statistic, and aim for items that combine Critical Strike Rating and Haste Rating/Hit Rating.

4. Gemming

Sockets are sometimes found on gear. A socket is essentially a hole in which a gem can be inserted. Gems offer extra amounts of certain statistics (of your choice). There are several kinds of sockets:

  • Meta Socket Meta-sockets: sockets in which a meta-gem can be inserted. Meta-gems generally offer something special when compared to other gems (such as increased movement speed or increased armor). Only head items have a meta socket.
  • Red Socket Yellow Socket Blue Socket Red, yellow and blue sockets: these coloured sockets allow any type of gem (except for meta-gems) to be inserted in them. However, matching the colour of each socket of an item will activate the socket bonus. The bonus is a moderate amount of a given statistic.
  • Prismatic Socket Prismatic sockets: this special type of socket allows you to obtain the socket bonus regardless of what colour gem you insert in it.
  • Cogwheel Socket Cogwheel sockets: these sockets are only usable by Engineers. They are found on head items crafted by Engineers and they can only be filled with Cogwheels Gems.

For most DPS classes, it is ideal to gem your primary statistic in most sockets. Healers and tanks usually have different gemming recommendations, based on the need for versatility in their playstyle. In all of our guides, we provide you with the best gemming strategy.

4.1. Gemming Table for Beast Mastery Hunters

We will once again look at the Beast Mastery Hunter, as an example for applying our recommended gemming strategy. Our recommendations are simple, as follows:

SocketsGems
Meta SocketAgile Primal Diamond Icon Agile Primal Diamond or Capacitive Primal Diamond Icon Capacitive Primal Diamond (better)
Red Socket Prismatic Socket
Yellow SocketDeadly Vermilion Onyx Icon Deadly Vermilion Onyx/Perfect Deadly Tiger Opal Icon Perfect Deadly Tiger Opal
Blue Socket

As you can see, Beast Mastery Hunters do not aim at maximising Agility, their primary statistic above all. Indeed, they can obtain twice more Expertise Rating and Hit Rating than Agility from gems, and Agility is not more than twice more valuable than Expertise Rating or Hit Rating. So, if they still need to reach the expertise or the hit cap, they can safely gem for Expertise Rating or Hit Rating.

The same hold for other classes and other secondary stats. For example, Fury Warriors will prefer using pure Critical Strike gems in yellow sockets.

5. Reforging

Reforging is an in-game feature that allows you to redistribute 40% of a chosen secondary statistic on an item into another secondary statistic. Reforging is subject to a series of restrictions, mentioned below. Reforging is done by talking to specific NPCs located in Stormwind City and Orgrimmar.

5.1. Restrictions

Reforging is subject to a series of restrictions:

  • only secondary statistics can be used for reforging;
  • you can only reforge to a secondary statistic that is not already present on the item in question;
  • only items of item level 200 or higher can be used for reforging.

The cost of reforging an item is the same as the item’s vendor value (i.e., how much a vendor will give you for the item if you sell it to them).

5.2. Reforge as a Healer or Tank

Usually, healers and tanks do not have to reach statistics caps. This makes it very easy to reforge, as they simply have to repeat the same task for each of their items.

For each item, if the two secondary statistics are not your two best secondary statistics, take the weakest of the two and reforge it into the best secondary statistics available.

Therefore, it is usually not mandatory to use a reforging tool, but it can help check that you reforged properly. Below, we explain how to use WoW Reforge, an online reforging tool.

5.3. Reforge as a DPS

All DPS classes have to reach hard caps (Hit, Expertise) and/or soft caps (Hit, Haste, Crit, etc.). This makes it much harder to reforge manually as you want to reach exactly the caps (for example, 15% hit for casters, not 15.5%), as otherwise statistics points are wasted.

Fortunately, there are tools to help you do that, as we will see in a further section.

6. Enchanting

Enchanting is a means of improving your gear. It works by allowing you to add certain amounts of statistics to most of your gear pieces (neck items, rings and trinkets are excluded).

Even though there are multiple choices for what you can enchant an item with (both primary and secondary statistics, in most cases), there are usually very few viable options and it is best to follow a very clear and simple enchanting strategy. In all of our guides, we provide you with a comprehensive list of the best enchants to choose for each specific gear slot.

6.1. Enchanting Table for Beast Mastery Hunters

SlotMain EnchantmentsExtra Enchantments
Shoulders 
Back 
ChestEnchant Chest - Glorious Stats Icon Enchant Chest – Glorious Stats 
WristsSocket Bracer Icon Socket Bracer (Blacksmithing)
Hands
Waist Living Steel Belt Buckle Icon Living Steel Belt Buckle
Legs 
Feet 
RingsEnchant Ring - Greater Agility Icon Enchant Ring – Greater Agility (Enchanting) 
Weapon 

 

7. Changelog

  • 04 Feb. 2014: Added monks to the tables in the second section.

MoP Healing Guide

1. The Purpose of This Article

This article will cover all the important aspects of the healing role. The information contained here will be of interest both to new players and to healing veterans.

We will not go into class-specific details. Talent specs, gemming or reforging advice are beyond the scope of this article. For such information, we recommend that you read our healing class guides.

This guide is mainly targeted at healing in a raid environment, but a lot of the things we mention will, naturally, also apply to dungeons.

2. Introduction

Healing is, in our opinion, the most stressful and difficult role to perform. There are a multitude of factors involved in performing well as a healer, but we feel that the most important ones are reactivity and class and encounter knowledge.

While part of being a great healer comes from personal skill (which we will attempt to define and dissect below), it is also extremely important to familiarise yourself with various concepts which, for the most part, are counter-intuitive.

2.1. What is Healing?

While, no doubt, some of you will find this part to be extremely basic and unneeded, we feel that, to have a proper discussion about healing, the act of healing must first be defined.

Healing is the act of using spells which restore the health of friendly players (your party or raid members) in order to help them survive the various forms of avoidable and unavoidable damage present in all PvE encounters.

This is a very basic definition, of course. In today’s raiding environment, healers also often have to dispel friendly players of various harmful debuffs (magic debuffs, curses, poisons and diseases).

Additionally, in organised raiding groups, healing is done based on assignments. This is to say, each healer will be given a specific task, such as to heal another player (for example, the tank) exclusively.

There are currently 5 classes which can perform the healing role, in World of Warcraft:

  • Druids: the Restoration specialisation;
  • Monks: the Mistweaver specialisation;
  • Paladins: the Holy specialisation;
  • Priests: the Holy and Discipline specialisations;
  • Shamans: the Restoration specialisation;

10-man raids, on average, will have 3 healers assigned to keeping the entire raid alive, while 25-man raids will have around 6. There are exceptions to this, and 10-man raids often downsize to 2 healers.

Essentially, healers will be selecting damaged friendly players and casting helpful, healing spells on them.

3. The Attributes of a Great Healer

In order for this article’s structure to be easily apparent to you from the start, we will list all the attributes of a great healer. Afterwards, we will detail each of these, and provide you with tips in order to maximise your performance.

  1. Be able to use your character reliably and with ease, at any time during the encounter. This includes being comfortable with your user interface and your keybinds.
  2. Be able to anticipate what will happen in a given encounter, in terms of damage (this involves knowing the encounter mechanics), and know how to properly react to it (this involves knowing your own class).
  3. Understand your role within the team, and the importance of knowing your healing assignment.

As you can see, the first point relates to external factors, not necessarily related to healing. You must be extremely familiar with your user interface and with your keybinds (of which you should make extensive use).

The second point relates to encounter and class knowledge. You must be familiar with the encounter mechanics, in order to know what to expect, and you must be familiar with your own class, in order to know what spells to use in order to properly react to the damage in the fight.

The third and final point relates to understanding that you are part of a team, and that respecting your own (and other players’) assignments is crucial.

In addition to these three, main points, there are other, finer points, which you must keep in mind, such as overhealing (and how to avoid it) and mana management.

4. General Concerns

More than any other role, healing is about precision and reaction. Your ability to perform your role will be strongly affected, every step of the way, by the ease with which you can input commands to your character.

Tanks and DPS players do, sometimes, have to make split-second decisions, and these decisions can sometimes impact the outcome of the encounter. Healers, on the other hand, have to make this kind of decision every time that they use a spell.

Therefore, we feel that it is important to dedicate this section to giving you the necessary information required to tuning your character for proper performance.

4.1. Recommended Add-ons and User Interface Settings

The standard Blizzard interface has improved greatly over the years (often, by including features which were previously supported only by user-created add-ons). It is possible to perform the healing role using only this user interface, but we feel that it is far from optimal.

Below, we list three user interface elements, which we feel require further customisation. In addition to these, however, you will want to optimise your user interface in every other way, removing unnecessary items and allowing you to keep a clear view of the encounter and your raid frames.

Keep in mind that, at all times, your goal is to make your user interface aid you in completing your goals, and not have it hinder you. We feel that it is a very good investment to spend a large amount of time tweaking and tuning your interface.

4.1.1. Raid Frames

The raid frames are the most important aspect of your user interface. This is where your eyes will rest for the majority of the encounter, and you will need to be very comfortable with their appearance and layout.

There are several add-ons which present you with an improved (and highly customisable) version of the Blizzard raid frames. Before providing you with their names, we will list a few things which you should keep in mind when customising your raid frames.

  • Ensure that they are large enough so that your eyes do not become tired from focusing on them at length (which you will have to do).
  • Ensure that they have a position on your screen which is relatively central (either under your character or to its side).
  • Ensure that they show all the relevant buffs and debuffs present on players.
  • Ensure that the pet frames are also displayed (this option is usually turned off by default).

Obviously, these guidelines are subject to your own personal preference. The most important thing is that you are comfortable with your interface and that it does not hinder your actions.

We cannot stress enough how important it is that the relevant buffs and (especially) debuffs are properly displayed on the raid frames. As a healer, you will often find yourself having to dispel or cleanse raid members of various debuffs (magic, poison, curse or disease). Furthermore, and this is detailed below, you should have your dispel or cleanse ability properly keybound.

The most popular (and reliable) raid frame add-ons are:

  • Grid: probably the most popular raid frame add-on available. There are many plug-ins which allow you to further enhance and customise it.
  • HealBot: another popular option.
  • VuhDo: a highly customisable alternative.

4.1.2. Raid Announcements

Communication is extremely important as a healer. Generally, healers have many cooldowns which affect other players (raid damage reduction cooldowns, mana regeneration cooldowns, single-target damage reduction cooldowns). It is, therefore, useful to have a means of communicating the use of these cooldowns, without choking your voice-chat medium.

We recommend Raeli’s Spell Announcer, a highly customisable add-on. We suggest that all raid-wide damage reduction cooldowns and all raid-wide mana regeneration cooldowns be announced in raid chat.

Other, single-target abilities (such as Pain Suppression Icon Pain Suppression) can simply be configured to be whispered to the targeted player.

4.1.3. Buff and Proc Monitoring

Most healing specialisations have various healing cooldowns and procs. It is essential to master these, and use them to your advantage, in order to maximise your performance.

While the Blizzard user interface has improved a lot, especially with Cataclysm, and it allows you to more easily notice various procs, we feel that this is insufficient.

We recommend WeakAuras. This highly customisable add-on allows you to create visual and auditory markers, to help you track any number of cooldowns and procs.

4.1.4. ElvUI

In all of our class guides, we recommend using ElvUI. This is a comprehensive interface add-on that will change the way your interface looks in many ways. We find that its minimalistic approach allows you to see a large amount of your screen, and focus on the important events.

4.2. Keybinding and Macros

So far, we have covered some important aspects related to add-ons and user interface settings. If you have customised your interface suitably, you should now have a good view of the encounter area and quick and easy access to your raid frames.

The next step is making sure that you can deliver your healing spells in the shortest possible amount of time. Having an excellent reaction time is an important quality of a good healer, and this is hard to accomplish without the use of keybinds.

Furthermore, selecting a target from your raid frames (by clicking it) and then using one of your spells, even through a keybinding, is not efficient. Instead, we advise you to use mouse-over macros. We discuss this in a subsequent section.

4.2.1. Keybinding

Any ability which you may need to use during combat should be keybound. This does not only refer to healing spells, but also to dispels, healing cooldowns, mana regeneration abilities, and trinkets.

Missing even a second to click an ability, as a healer, can often prove disastrous to your raid.

Moreover, as you will find in the section below, we advise you to make extensive use of mouse-over macros. Mouse-over macros, in short, allow you to cast spells on friendly players without selecting them as your target. You can simply hover your mouse over their raid frame, and use your ability.

This saves you precious time, but, as you can see, makes it impossible to hover over the raid frame and move your mouse to the action bar to click the spell. For this reason, keybinding is a mandatory practice for healers.

4.2.2. Macros

Mouse-over macros allow you to simply mouse over a friendly player (“hover” over their raid frame, for instance) and heal them without having to select them first. This can only be done if you are using keybinds, and doing so will save you precious time for each spell cast.

Below, we use the Heal Icon Heal spell to provide you with an example of a mouse-over macro:

  • #showtooltip Heal
  • /cast [@mouseover,exists,nodead,help,][exists,nodead,help][@player] Heal

While seemingly complicated, this macro changes your Heal spell in such a way that:

  • If you are mousing over a target which exists, is not dead and is friendly, it will cast Heal on them.
  • Otherwise, if your currently selected target exists, is not dead and is friendly, Heal will be cast on them instead.
  • Lastly, if neither of the above two conditions are met, it will cast Heal on yourself.

You can reduce the macro to a simpler format:

  • #showtooltip Heal
  • /cast [@mouseover] Heal

This presents less functionality, though.

An added bonus to using mouse-over macros is that it allows you to have the boss or another add targeted (so that you can use your offensive spells on them) without it impacting your ability to heal.

4.3. Gear Optimisation

The whole theme of this section, up to this point, has been that you should put an emphasis on stability, reliability and functionality. This same idea should be reflected in your gearing.

Statistic priorities differ between healing classes, and can be affected by certain gear levels as well. The first statistic that you should aim for is Spirit. Spirit is very important for healers, as it provides mana regeneration. There is no specific point where you should stop looking for items with Spirit on them. The general guideline is that you can start looking for “caster DPS” items, with more preferable statistics, when you are comfortable with your mana regeneration rate.

This level where you have enough Spirit will vary, based, in part, on what mana regeneration cooldowns your raid has available.

After Spirit, we advise you to prefer those statistics which offer you the most reliability and precision (Haste Rating and Mastery Rating) over Critical Strike Rating, as this offers uncontrollable bursts of healing output.

The reason for this is that, as a healer, you are being constantly put under pressure to anticipate and react accordingly. In this sense, the more spell haste you have, the more reliable your healing will be. If your healing is reliant on registering critical heals, you will always be in a position, while casting a heal, to have to wonder and hope about its outcome.

For example: two players, both of whom you are assigned to heal, take two bursts of damage (each) within a 3 second interval. In order to save them from dying, you must heal each of them once before the second burst of damage hits them. If you have a lot of Haste Rating, then you will be able to reach both of them in time, even if your heal is smaller (due to lack of Mastery Rating or Spell Power from Intellect gems) and has a very low chance to be a critical strike (due to lack of Critical Strike Rating). If, instead, you have a large amount of Critical Strike Rating (hypothetically, let’s assume you are guaranteed to register a critical strike), you will heal the first player for a lot, receiving the benefit of mana-free healing, but you will not be able to cast the second heal fast enough.

Obviously, in addition to your own class’ statistic priorities, your gearing will be influenced by your healing assignment and the encounter you are progressing on.

4.4. Knowledge of the Encounter

As a healer, you have to be intimately familiar with a great part of each encounter your raid is attempting. You have to be prepared for every ability cast by the boss or an add, which has the potential to deal damage to anyone in the raid (regardless of whether this damage is avoidable or not).

A great part of being a good healer is being prepared for what is about to happen. Most boss abilities are on fixed timers or cooldowns, and will often have a predictable outcome. You must be prepared for every such ability, and already know which spell you are about to cast to heal your targets before they have taken any damage.

It is advised that, while learning encounters, you pay special attention to how much damage various abilities do, and how sustained that damage is. This will give you a good indication, for future attempts, of which spells are best used when.

For example: if you know there is a boss ability which deals a very high amount of damage (let’s say around 80% of the health of most raid members) at a specific time, and that it is not followed by any raid damage whatsoever for 30 seconds, you would make sure that everyone has enough health to survive it, and you would then go on to heal them with mana-efficient spells, allowing you to preserve your mana. If you were not familiar with the encounter mechanics, you might fail to have everyone at the minimum health threshold to survive, and you might then panic and use mana-inefficient spells trying to heal everyone up after the damage hits.

5. Healing-Specific Concerns

If you have been following this guide so far, you should have your user interface, add-ons, macros and keybinds in place. You should be comfortable with clicking your raid frames, tracking your own procs and cooldowns, and just generally using your character.

Naturally, the deeper the understanding you have of your class, the better your performance will be. This sort of coverage is beyond the scope of this article. There are, however, various aspects of playing a healer in a raid environment which are not related to class or specialisation, but rather to the healing role in general.

We have done a great deal of talking about all sorts of aspects which prepare you for healing. Now it is time to actually look what how you should heal, who you should (and should not!) heal, and what you should avoid doing.

5.1. How to Heal?

Your most basic goal, for every encounter, is that each and every one of your raid members survive until the boss is dead (or until he enrages due to insufficient DPS).

Practically, you will have to wait for raid members to suffer damage, and then use your healing spells to heal the damaged targets.

This is a simplistic look at things, and the reality is more complicated because of several factors.

  • Different healing spells are suited for different situations (high mana cost and low cast time versus low mana cost and high cast time, for example).
  • The damage your raid takes is not always predictable; player error will often cause random bursts of damage which you will have to heal.
  • Various encounter abilities can target healers, shifting the balance of the assignments. You will need to communicate and improvise.

In order to achieve this goal, you will need to make good use of both your mana and your global cooldowns, and use the correct spells at the correct time. Let’s go into a bit of detail!

5.1.1. Mana Management

All healing classes uses mana as their main resource. Without mana, you simply cannot heal.

Mana regeneration is affected by your Spirit and by various class talents and abilities. Healers have to manage their mana for the entire duration of the encounter, and mistakes in this management can quickly lead to a wipe.

While it is beyond the scope of this article to discuss specific class abilities, all healing classes have the following types of abilities:

  • a single target, small heal which costs little mana and is slow to cast;
  • a single target, large heal which costs a large amount of mana and is quick to cast;
  • a single target, large heal which costs a moderate amount of mana and is slow to cast;
  • a single target, small heal which costs little mana and is an instant cast (it can be cast while moving);
  • an area-of-effect heal.

In addition to this, each class has a few specific tools to work with.

The true skill of a healer comes from using the right heal for each situation. For example, you should use a fast and expensive heal when your target would be dead before you have the time to finish any other heal; you should use a slow and inexpensive heal when you have ample time to heal your target; you should use slow, large heals when your target is suffering sustained damage.

The idea is that, for the entire duration of the encounter, you have to strike a perfect (or near-perfect) balance between healing enough to keep your assignment alive, while not using too much mana. The only way to do this is to use the proper spells for each situation. To be able to do this, you will need an excellent understanding of your class’ abilities as well as of the encounter mechanics.

Finally, one key aspect of properly managing your mana is to ensure that you do not overheal. Overhealing is covered below, but to summarise, you should ensure that you do not expend mana on a heal which lands on a player whose health is already full (or that a great part of the heal is wasted because their health is almost full).

5.1.2. Triage

As a healer, it is your job not only to try to keep every single raid member alive, from the start of the fight until the end, but also to know when it is more profitable for your raid to let someone die so that you can better heal others (and possibly to save mana). Before we detail this further, we would like to remind you not to forget to heal yourself. It is very easy to make the mistake of trying to heal everyone else and simply overlooking your own raid (or unit) frame.

Sadly, there are times when, as a healer, you simply cannot keep everyone alive. This can be either due to encounter design (fights where the damage ramps up progressively until it becomes unhealable) or due to the mistakes which your raid makes in the execution of the fight.

When this happens, you will find yourself in a position of desperately trying to heal several low health (and dying) targets at once, and you will face being overwhelmed or running out of mana. In times like these, you will have to choose which players to heal and which players to simply let die.

While this is counter-intuitive to the nature of the healing role, it is often the only way to survive the encounter. It is impossible to state in general terms which players should be sacrificed and which players should be saved, as this can depend greatly based on the encounter.

As a rule, you should keep as many tanks alive as as are needed for the boss to be killed. Furthermore, when choosing among DPS players, those who do more damage should be preferred over others (keep in mind what stage the fight is in, though, as overall DPS numbers may not be relevant in a specific “burn phase”).

Finally, while your initial reaction might be, when seeing how difficult healing is, to try to save as many of the other healers in preference of DPS players, this is often wrong. The reason is that when a fight reaches such a critical moment, the only things which will make it easier is if the boss dies extremely quickly. Therefore, even a few seconds of another DPS player being alive can make all the difference.

5.2. Assignments

No matter what encounter your raid is progressing on, and regardless of whether it is in 10 or 25-man difficulty, your raid or healing leader will surely provide you with an assignment.

In short, you will be told who to heal, and when. For the most part, healing assignments will be simple, along the lines of “Healer #1 heals the tank, while healers #2 and #3 heal the raid.”, although sometimes the encounter may require more specific assignments.

Currently, all of the 6 healing specialisations are fairly well balanced. In the past, certain specialisations were suited to a single role (for example, Holy Paladins were exclusively tank healers during Wrath of the Lich King, while Restoration Druids were extremely potent raid healers).

Despite this balance, some specialisations shine in certain situations more than others. A good raid leader will assign specific healers to specific tasks based on the strengths and weaknesses of the healing classes (and the players playing them). If you feel that you have been given an improper assignment, or that the assignments provided, as a whole, are not satisfactory (ie., too few healers have been assigned to the raid), you should voice your concerns.

5.2.1. Tank Healing

The tanks are the only players who, regardless of encounter, take sustained damage for the entire duration of the fight. The amount of damage that they take and the frequency with which they take it varies widely from fight to fight, but in every case, the tanks must always have at least one healer assigned to them.

Most fights require two tanks, although it is possible that they will be taking damage alternatively, and not simultaneously. In any case, the amount of healing that each tank requires, based on their gear and on the encounter, is something which will have to be determined on a case-by-case basis.

You should be at least remotely familiar with the kind of tanking mechanics your assigned tank has (Paladins and Warriors have a smooth damage intake because of their blocking mechanics, Death Knights rely on self-healing, etc.).

Finally, it is very important that you communicate with the tank you are healing, so that you can both make good use of your respective cooldowns.

5.2.2. Raid Healing

Healing the raid varies widely from encounter to encounter. Some encounters present very little unavoidable raid damage, while other encounters contain heavy, sustained, unavoidable raid damage.

Based on the type of damage you are facing, you will have to adapt your healing style (and possibly your talent spec and gearing) to match it. With very few exceptions, raid healing is the task of several healers who must work together to keep the raid alive.

As a result, you must be able to communicate with your fellow healers and we advise you to set very specific healing assignments. Below are a few examples:

  • Healer #1 heals the raid members (non-tanks) in Group 1 and Healer #2 heals the raid members in Group 2.
  • Healer #1 starts by healing the damaged raid members, from left to right (on whatever raid-frame add-ons you are using) and Healer #2 starts healing from right to left (this is to avoid the same target within the same group being healed by multiple healers, while other targets remain unhealed).
  • Healer #1 heals the players damaged by the first cast of ability X and Healer #2 heals the players subsequently damaged by ability X.

5.2.3. Cooldown Rotations

Another type of assignment which you will receive in many encounters is to use your raid-wide healing or damage reduction cooldown at a specifically determined time.

The reason for this is that there are various boss abilities which are too damaging for your raid to be able to survive without the use of cooldowns. Furthermore, these abilities will often add continuous and increasing strain on your raid’s healing, meaning that a single cooldown will not be sufficient to mitigate them.

In order for each and every damaging hit from the ability to be mitigated by some cooldown, it is important that all healers know when to use their cooldowns (so that they do not end up using two cooldowns for one ability and none for another).

When being assigned a time to use a cooldown, you should make sure of a few things:

  • that you understand exactly when you need to use it, and why (timing generally needs to be very precise, with only a few seconds as a margin of error);
  • that you do not (accidentally) use your cooldown on something else, before, and end up not having it available for when it is needed;
  • that your cooldown does actually mitigate the damage that you are assigned to counter (your raid leader may be mistaken in how exactly your spells work);

If, for some reason, your cooldown is not available at the designated time, you should announce it to the raid ahead of time, so that they can improvise.

5.2.4. Respecting Your Assignment

One of the most sensitive issues, related to teamwork in raiding, is the ability (or inability) of healers to respect their own healing assignments.

When healing assignments are first devised, it is assumed that each healer can complete their own task without the aid of other healers. In practice, however, this is not always so. There are many factors which will cause a healer to fall behind on their assignment (latency or user interface problems, encounter mechanics, mistakes caused by the people they are assigned to heal or even by themselves). When this happens, there are two possible outcomes:

  • The other healers ignore the situation, continue to only heal their assigned targets and the first healer’s target dies.
  • The other healers decide to help, and therefore ignore their own assignment for a few seconds.

While the second outcome may appear to have a good chance to save lives, and the raid, this is often not the case. More often than not, what happens is that, as a result of the other healers’ reaction, they themselves will fall behind on their assignments. After this point, either chaos ensues or healers are forced to use a lot of mana-inefficient heals to catch up, thus running out of mana later on in the fight.

We advise you to stick to your assignments as much as possible. This does not meant that, if something exceptional occurs during a fight, causing one of the healers to fall behind on their assignment, they should not be helped. Indeed, great healers are those who can react to the unexpected as well as to the expected damage and situations that occur during an encounter.

What should be avoided is constantly making up for the lack of healing ability of a healer or improper healing assignments by improvising and filling other people’s roles. This type of practice is not helpful for your raid in the long-term. Instead, you should aim at correcting the underlying problems which cause you to perform someone else’s assignment. This means, the other healers should be helped to improve (or replaced) and the healing assignments themselves should be revised.

Another important reason for respecting your own healing assignment is that it ensures (in theory) equal healing of all targets. Each player in the raid has one or more healers assigned to heal them, and if assignments are respected, they will all receive heals. If you go outside of the assignments, some players will end up without any heals, while others will beoverhealed.

5.3. Overhealing

The final concept that you should be familiar with, as a healer, is overhealing. In essence, overhealing refers to when a target receives heals when their health is already at maximum. Any such healing is effectively wasted, and so is the mana that that healing cost.

We have gone through many facets of the healing role, so far, in this article. All of them are important on their own, but during all of them, you must also keep in mind that you should not overheal.

In order to avoid overhealing, you must be familiar with the amount of health that each one of your spells restores. Moreover, you should have a good understanding of the encounter mechanics, so that you know whether a damaging ability will hit the player while you are casting a heal.

Basically, you should not heal a player who is already at full health and you should only heal a damaged player with a heal which, roughly, matches the amount of missing health that they have.

Some overhealing is unavoidable, due to having to top players off in preparation for boss abilities and due to the critical heals, which will often overheal their targets. So, do not be alarmed if anywhere between 10 and 30% of your healing is overhealing. Keep in mind, though, that reducing your overhealing goes hand-in-hand with properly managing your mana, so if you are struggling for mana, you should review your overhealing.

Finally, there is one additional, less well-known, way to avoid overhealing. You should configure your raid-frames in such a way that they display any incoming heals on players (pay special attention to enable HoTs). By doing this you are able to avoid using a heal on someone who was already in the process of being healed (either through another healer’s in-progress cast or through a HoT), thus reducing your overhealing or that of the other healer.

6. Conclusions

We cannot stress enough how important it is, as a healer, to anticipate the damage which will occur and to know exactly which of the many spells in your arsenal are suitable to counter it.

Provided that you have followed this guide, and have allowed yourself sufficient time and practice to customise your user interface and familiarise yourself with your class, you should be well on your way to being a great healer!

Lastly, keep in mind that healing, more than any other role, is a team effort, and you should try to find ways to work with your teammates at all times.

We hope you have enjoyed our guide, good luck healing!

7. Changelog

  • 04 Aug. 2013: Reworded a paragraph related to the importance of keybinding. In short, while we do not feel that you absolutely need to keybind in order to be a good healer, we do feel that it is a particularly advantageous practice.