Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Perfect Pull

One thing I really had to re-practice when Cataclysm was released was the fine art of a good pull. All through Wrath there was very little need to think twice about the way you decided to deal with a group of mobs because A: You'd probably keep aggro on them anyway and B: You could tank 15 mobs without dying. Alot of this changed in Cataclysm and I quickly noticed that I had really been slacking in terms of keeping my pulling-skills (if I ever had any) up to date. I remember actually having to use cc, los and other complicated tank skills back in BC, but that was such a long time ago. My first shots at marking and tanking around cc didn't go too well. Fortunately I did my mistakes in normals which rarely ended in distaster. Still, it made me notice that the fine arts of a perfect pull really is a school of knowledge in itself. There are so many things to factor in to make a pull a good one. There are still a couple of pulls I dread and very rarely get right, most notably the final pack of mobs under a lightning grid in Vortex Pinnacle. The one where you have to pull three casters out of the grid and collect them all, hoping your dpsers haven't already barged and/or forgotten all about your cc marks? Allthough I rarely wipe there, it's still a blow to my pride when I see mobs running around everywhere untanked. Here are a couple of things to think about when going about doing a good pull.

Identify yourself
How you will deal with a pull depends alot on what kind of tanking class you are. Some classes have great aoe threat (paladin/dk), some have less good (warrior/druid). Some tanks have great ranged threat (paladin/dk), some have less good (warrior/druid). Some have a great setup of cooldowns for survivability (paladin/warrior), some have less good (druid/dk). Some have good cooldowns for threat (paladin, druid), some have less good (dk/warrior). If you feel like your aoe threat is an issue, you might want to cc just to make the group more manageable to you, not just to the healer. If you feel like you can survive a big pull by popping the right cooldowns you might avoid cc where other tanks would prefer some.

Identify your party
Make sure you know which kind of cc your party is capable of. If you're unlucky you've ended up in a group with a warrior, dk and priest dps, which gives very limited cc possibilities. Fortunately this doesn't happen often, most groups have at least some sort of cc at hand. At first you won't know if your cc actually knows how to cc, so it is possible that although you have classes that can cc, you don't have players who can cc. Still, the first step of a good pull is to recognize what your party can and will do when you do your first attack. This doesn't just include cc, this also includes charging head-first warriors or druids, trigger happy hunters or aoe-happy dpsers overall. Knowing whether you will get help from your party or have to struggle against them will do alot to how you would want to do a pull. If you can't hope for cc, you won't have to mark. If you can hope someone else will deal with a certain mob (silencing, ccing, killing solo) you might change the way you mark. Another factor that makes a big difference is the amount of dps your group has, or how good your healers is. The better the healers and dpsers are, the less likely you will actually have to think much about your pull at all. Just as in Wrath, you can worry less about cc and just barge in head first. If your party dps is low or your healer badly geared/skilled, you will need to think alot more before a pull. Some of these things aren't things you know before you've already done a couple of pulls unfortunately. Therefore it is generally good to use the first couple of pulls to test your group. Try setting up marks and see if people care to follow them. Try to put up less marks and see if your healer can still keep up. This will determine how you deal with the rest of the pulls of the instance.

Identify your mob group
The next steps to good pulls are more situation to situation based. The first of which is identifying the group of mobs you're about to pull. Depending on the quality of your group, you must now decide how much cc you will need and how to go about doing the pull in itself. Are there many casters? Are some mobs more dangerous/annoying than others? In some cases, like with the VP-healers, you will want to cc at least one because keeping two healers up is a real nuisance unless your dps is awesome. They heal themselves and eachother for nearly full health, which means that even if you have no trouble surviving the fight, neither do they, making the fight take ages (this has happened to me a couple of times). Some mobs do tons of aoe damage, while others might cc your healer which could end in tragedy (unless you have dpsers who can and do remove that).

Identify positioning and surroundings

Look around you, in what way can you use your surroundings to ease up on the pull? There are a couple of things to decide on. Do you want to tank them where they are or pull them back to a new location? Do you want to tank them by mob X or mob Y? This too depends alot on your party and the group of mobs, but also on what kind of tank class you are. Warriors and druids that generally have more trouble with ranged mobs, usually prefer to line of sight multiple casters to have them gather in a manageable group (unless they can all be ccd).

Identify the first strike
Once you've decided if and what mobs you want to cc, you need to decide how to do the actual pull. Do you want the cc to make the pull or do you want to do the first attack yourself? It is important to note that it is not always the best idea to use your initial attack on the mob that is supposed to die first. There are plenty of reasons to why you would want to use your initial attack on a mob other than your skull marked target. Although it might sound like this would make your tanking more troublesome, it is actually to make your tanking less troublesome that you want to use this tactic. Say for example that you have a group of mobs that are spread out. You want to barge in where the most mobs are standing and start doing your aoe threat, but also keep aggro on the mob that isn't standing in the group. Your initial attack could be on that lonely mob, making sure that he doesn't immediately run towards the healer when you tank the rest of the mobs (because he will be out of range for your aoe threat). One example is the pack of casters just after Corla in BRD. Another example is yet again the last pack of mobs in VP (before the stary things by the boss). If you don't have cc for all the casters you might want to use your initial attack on one caster and then attack the other, so to keep aggro on both.

Pulling is a huge part of the tank role. Most tanks absolutely hate it if they don't get to do the pull themselves, because it really makes alot of difference to how easy or difficult a tanking situation will become. As you notice there are loads of things to think about. Unless you see this as a fun challenge, at least to some extent, tanking probably isn't for you. Fortunately (?), cc is becoming less and less needed even in heroics now that people are getting better and better gear. Personally I feel like there are few things as rewarding as a succefully executed pull. On the other hand there are few things as frustrating as a utterly failed pull (which doesn't have to be just the tanks fault). Don't let this scare you off however, you quickly learn exactly how to deal with an instance and every pull in it, with only minor adjustments to accomodate your group setup. Eventhough tanking always is a challenge, many parts of it quickly becomes routine. How to deal with groups for a good pull is one of those things.


  1. Outstanding quick and dirty guide for fine tuning your pulls. I like it! Personally, I am a warrior, it takes me at my mid levels a little more thought and letting the group know what I am doing to get a good pull without screwing it up. PuGs sometimes makes it difficult, and in hinky areas I have party chat macros to let them know what I'm doing. So far I havent had to worry too much about cc, but as I progress I am working on those folks who can to make my healer's job a little easier. Nice work!

  2. Pulling in general is much more of an art than it had been in Wrath, and that one you speak of in VP is rather nasty.

    we have found that if you pull them up the stairs and LoS around a corner up there you can group them all in a ncie tight pack.

    If you want to CC some of them then the CCers can hit them half way up the steps. Just have all DPS wait at teh top.

    Now with gear lvl's making it easier even in heroics I have found that ppl are starting to get sloppy again. I hate....H-A-T-E, sloppiness in a run. At no point should pure sloppiness be excused because a DPSer decides they want to go faster.

    I beleive you have written about it before, but why is that people think they need to use CD's and they MUST use thier procs regardless if omen is screamign at them on freakin trash in a run? Just....why?

    I heal, and it can be stressful or fun, and sometimes stressful makes it fun at times. If things go wrong on a pull and I heal through it then I feel good about it. If its stressful because some jerk had to pull before the tank, AoE multiple mobs regardless of marks, attack wrong targets or break just pisses me longer fun.

    With all this said I beleive tanking is still the hardest and most stressful job, and this is X2 in a random PuG. Follow the tanks lead. If they want to mark them all then let them mark, follow the kill order and dont be a jerk to them because they are not going as fast as you think they should be.

    I woudl rtaher take an extra 10 minutes in a run than pay 50 gold in repair bills plus have the bad taste in my mouth of whiping repeatedly.

    I guess this whole convulated column I just wrote basically shows that yes teh tank must know how to pull, whom to mark and what to do, but sadly a major piece of the "perfect pull" is in teh hands of the DPS, as they can manage to fook up the best laid plan for pulling any group.


  3. Maybe it's my vanilla roots showing, but the first rule of any perfect pull is "the hunter does it."

  4. Phelps, yeah, it's been a long while that's not true anymore.

    Way lot more than I would like I had the hunters 'drop' their traps at their own feet instead of traplaunching them at the right mob, having either to wait/explain them how to do.

  5. Would love to see more tanks pull just after I refresh Lifebloom - because I keep 3xLifebloom running between pulls to get mana back which also saves spending 3xGCD to re-stack. A guild tank does it (he has an addon setup to check for HoT on him I think) but never seen anyone else do it. Mistimed HoT refresh cause aggro issue for resto druids :(

  6. Ditto priest shields, pull after I refresh it, not immediately before -_-

  7. @Anonymous druid, ditto this! Some tanks just can't get a clue. I refresh LB, he waits. I pop Thorns on him to give him an extra nudge, he waits. I refresh LB *again*, he finally asks "Ready?"


    And yes, gear is no excuse for sloppiness in a run. We're getting to the point in the expansion *already* where people are acting like CC is a dirty word. I've had tanks deliberately break CC when I apply it, and when I'm tanking I've had DPS who outright refuse to CC or the healer tell me we don't need it.

    I actually had someone tell me the other night that I was tanking too slowly and that's why he kept pulling for me. I think I tank at a pretty decent clip, my faux pas, apparently, was looting mobs. The horror! :|

  8. ALOT

    About hunter pulls...As a hunter myself, I think trap launcher pull works very good in most cases, you can have more control of the whole group this way.
    Trapping near yourself instead of launcher brings a whole lot of trouble sometimes - it works only on melee, and those are often least troublesome; you need to keep aggro after the tank's initial AoE; the mob being in melee range means extra movement after all others are down; getting occasional DoT on the mob between the pull and the trapping...etc.
    However, there are cases when it's really better than launcher - when tank or someone else has trouble in measuring his own AoE range...

  9. Yeah there are many details about pulling that are worth knowing. Maybe I should've added a "Identify your healer" section too, you're quite right that some healers tend to have heals that steal aggro more than others (especially LB and Shield as you mention). We have a couple of druids who constantly die on trash in raids because of this ^^ Generally I take it as a hint that I can pull when a healer starts putting up hots on me, but not everyone does that. Poor tanks can't keep track of everything :P

    Hunter pulling is really quite vanilla! I guess it comes from the days when warriors were the only viable tanks and they didn't have any good ranged attack. Wait, they still don't >:(

  10. If you want the Hunter to use freezing trap w/trap launcher on anything other than a caster, the hunter must initiate the pull. This is because of the launcher travel time and the arming time of the trap. Some good discussion about Hunter CC and the need for communication among tanks and CCers.

  11. I've been playing as a warrior tank til lvl 80. I've lvled a holy priest till lvl 36, and a fire mage til lvl 26.

    It's just unreasonable to expect your tank to know everything about your particular healing mechanics. If you want them to wait before you refresh you hots, then tell them. You don't know if he's been playing every class since Vanilla or if this is his first character and he doesn't know much about the rest of the game yet. Be content if your tank can keep aggro reasonably well ;)

  12. For those who don't get the joke, the way pulling worked in vanilla was for hunters to pull. Feign death was the only aggro dump in the game (invis didn't work like it does now) and hunters had more range than anyone else.

    So, you had the hunter creep up and set his trap, the rogue sapped, the hunter did one of his stings (don't remember which one, but I remember that it was low/no aggro) and ran back to the tank. When the tank dropped the first sunder, the hunter fd'ed. If it was a bad pull, the hunter did his fd BEFORE anyone else had aggro.

    And frankly, with a good hunter, I still prefer the pull & FD method, just for the reset.