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Guide to Threat

Written by Taladril

· threat,raiding,reference

Introduction

Threat is an incredibly important aspect of Classic’s gameplay and I can guarantee that everyone will have mobs attack them (or stop attacking them!) unexpectedly at some point while grouped up – whether it be in a dungeon, raid, or simply out in the open world. For you to play optimally and minimize issues with threat and unexpected aggro it is critical to have a basic understanding of the mechanics of how it works.

This guide is based on the original work done by Kenco, whose original guide is reposted here and was published in January 2006. The data below is from later research conducted by Kenco (published July 26, 2006) as well as other individuals.

Threat and Aggro

Aggro

Aggro is a term we use all the time in the game to mean that the mob is focused on us. To get aggro is to have to mob start attacking you or to change focus from one person to you. This is usually not intended unless you are the tank.

There are a lot of complex things going on in the background of the game that are based on classes, spells, and even positioning that is causing the game to decide to have the mob change focus to attack you. The simplified version is that you generated more “threat” to the mob. This threat is the basis for how mobs decide who they are attacking. Generally the person at the top of the threat table is the one the mob is attacking. But it’s not exactly that simple and we’ll get into that.

Defining Threat

To transition from a broad concept of aggro to one of concrete numbers that can be controlled and parsed we have to define threat in relation to something. For simplicity we will set that every point of damage you do to a mob will build up one point of threat. So if we swing our sword and hit the mob for 137 damage we have now generated 137 threat points on that mob’s threat table. Every person hitting the mob will have their own threat value that gets put on the threat table that the mob tracks to decide who should be attacked at any given point.

Getting on the Threat Table

So now we know that every mob has a threat table that is in the background dictating what player the mob will attack. But we need to understand how players get on that table in the first place. There are many ways that you can get on the table, such as:

  • Pulling with a damaging ability.
  • Pulling linked mobs (pulling one pulls a whole group). Note that after pulling linked mobs, any mobs not pulled directly by you will not add you to their threat table if someone else pulls them instead.
  • Body pulling (simply getting close enough to a mob where the mob automatically aggros).
  • Buffing or healing someone who is currently in combat.
  • Combat proximity (mob has an Area of Effect (AoE) spell that hits you while the mob is attacking someone else).
  • In raids the combat pulse will automatically put everyone in the raid in combat.
It is important to note that threat can be added or removed from the threat table of a mob, however these are static numbers that remain regardless of time. In effect threat does not decay. It is a set value that only goes away after either you or the mob dies or you use remove yourself from combat.

Threat Tables of Multiple Mobs

Determining threat when discussing one mob is very straightforward. However it is important to understand that the rules change when confronted with multiple mobs at the same time. The way threat is distributed changes – but for only certain abilities. The amount for those abilities changes depending on how many mobs are engaging you. We will get into greater detail to understand how this works exactly when discussing the specific abilities that take this into account.

Rules for Aggro Transfer

Remember when we stated that generally the person at the top of the threat table would be the one with focus? Well unfortunately it’s not that easy. If the game functioned like that you would see mobs often bounce from one person to the next rapidly. It would make for weird and unpredictable gameplay. So that’s not how the system works. For you to get aggro from someone who is already on a mob’s threat table you must do more threat than the person being attacked. How much more threat is dictated by your distance from the mob.

There are two different threat amounts used based on distance: melee and ranged. Note that this is literal distance and not how your class does damage. Casters who are directly next to a mob being tanked by a player will use the melee rules.

For melee distance players, the player would need to do 110% of the threat of the current player tank to strip the aggro away. For ranged distance characters the player would need to do 130% of the threat of the current player tank to strip the aggro away. What this means for gameplay is that in general if someone has aggro it’s easier for them to keep it. However once they lose aggro then it becomes very challenging to regain it. This is why Taunt is such a useful tank spell and also why it is extremely important for you to manage your threat.

Generating Threat

There are a lot of ways to generate threat. Damage abilities, healing, buffing, and even other odd things you wouldn’t expect all manage to get added to the threat table to paint the complete picture of your current threat status. This list will give a complete picture of how the threat gets rolled up. Note that special rules for multiple mobs will be mentioned, otherwise the threat will only be added to the threat table of the specific mob being targeted. It’s important to note that some abilities such as healing isn’t affecting the mob directly but still adds threat. If you are in combat (in a raid for example), any threat generated that isn’t directly to a mob will still be applied to the mob’s threat table. Threat has infinite range.

Doing Damage

Damage is the simplest type of threat to add up. In general damage done to the mob will be added up as threat. The type of damage (melee or spell) doesn’t matter. Misses or resists don’t add to the threat table – only damage is counted. Crits, either spell or melee, do not add extra bonus threat. The damage that the crit does is added to the table just like any other amount. By default one damage equals one point of threat. This is a base amount that would need to be multiplied by modifiers (class specific adjustments of threat that we get to later).

Damage that is in the form of a lifesteal (do x damage and receive back x in healing) only factors the damage done as threat added to the threat table. The healing is not calculated.

Healing

Healing generates threat, but at half the amount as damage. So every health point healed to a player is equal to 0.5 threat points. This is a base amount that would need to be multiplied by modifiers (class specific adjustments of threat). Since healing is not directed towards any specific mob but to the player’s party in general, the way threat is distributed is tied to the number of mobs actively engaging the party members. What happens is the threat that is generated is distributed to all of the mobs equally. So for example if you heal someone for 600 health and there are 3 mobs that are attacking the party then the total healing threat is 300 (600 * 0.5) which is then divided by the 3 mobs for 100 total threat to each mob. Overhealing is not factored into threat generation – only health actually healed will be calculated.

Buffing

Buffs cast while in combat have some level of inherent threat. The amount of threat is unknown, however the amount is small. The rules for the threat from buffing is the same as healing in that multiple mobs will divide the total threat between all mobs.

Power Gains

Power gains is a concept that during a fight, gaining resources (mana, rage, or energy) will add threat to the threat table. The standard increase naturally given by the mechanics of playing don’t add threat. For example, rogues and ticking energy gains doesn’t do anything and the same is true for rage and mana users. However talents such as Unbridled Wrath or Bloodrage for Warriors or using items such as Mana Potions will add threat. The amount of threat depends on the type of resource and the amount of resource points added.

Mana gained adds 0.5 threat per mana point regenerated. Rage is 5 threat per point, and energy is presumed to be 5 points but it is not confirmed. These values are not ever multiplied by modifiers. The threat is always static amounts. Similar to healing and buffing, it is affected by multiple mobs and the threat will be divided equally.

Classes, Abilities, and Talents

In addition to the standard ways to generate threat listed above, there are multiple player abilities that directly add threat. For example, you see it in the tooltip as being an ability that generates “high amount of threat.” Depending on the spell, it may do damage or not. If it does damage then the threat for the spell will either have a fixed threat increase in addition to the threat from the damage, or it will have a modifier that will be multiplied to the damage done to calculate the threat. There are also abilities that generate threat that do not do any damage. These abilities always have fixed threat values that get added to the table when used. Lastly there are even damage and healing spells that specifically do zero threat.

In addition to abilities that have special threat characteristics, most classes have modifiers that apply to whole schools of spells. These modifiers are multiplied to the total threat that is being generated based on the ability used. Often the modifiers are accessed through talents, however some are inherent to the class itself. Some classes through talents or buffs have the ability to have more than one modifier. All modifiers, similar to percent based buffs will simply multiply together. If for example you have a modifier of 120% and one for 102% then the actual modification is just 1.2 * 1.02 to get the total of 122.4%.

Special Items and Enchants

There are some special items in the game that generate threat besides standard damage. Their threat ability needs to be understood to understand the true value of the item when gearing your character. Additionally there are enchants specifically meant to lower or reduce threat generation. This is like directly adding a modifier to all of your abilities.

Importance of Maximizing (or Minimizing!) Threat

Threat is a Damage Ceiling

We have talked a lot about threat and aggro. From the basics threat is the concept of what is necessary for you as the tank to keep aggro or you as the healer or DPSer to not pull aggro. But the real importance of understanding threat and figuring out how to optimize it is because threat in its application is how much damage you can do. The main tank (MT) generates the highest threat and everyone else must be below that person. Many people will be actively limiting the damage that they could do but because they are close to the threat of the MT they must slow their DPS down. If the MT were able to do something to increase his threat per second (TPS) then your raid is now more free to be able to do more DPS accordingly.

The big push most recently is to look for ways to boost TPS for the MT. Since the MT is only one person and not a raid of 40, it’s the easiest solution and a lot easier than finding ways to have DPS lower their TPS while magically keeping their DPS constant. Without trinkets or special buffs, higher DPS invariably means higher TPS. Some methods that raids use to boost the MT’s TPS are for the tank to use special weapons that are optimized around higher threat rotations or to change their talent setup or to change their armor. Gone are the days of tanks trying to reach “def cap” as tanks take a more balanced approach that looks at both tankiness and threat capability. Tanks today use a lot more pieces of threat plate gear and even to the most extremes abandon their shield and look to utilizing dual wielding weapons and supplementing their armor reduction with consumables and other buffs.

Threat Potential

Alliance has a much easier time with threat with all raid members having access to Blessing of Salvation while Horde players must be in range of a shaman’s comparably inferior Tranquil Air Totem. It might seem trivial but threat is a big deal and is the focus for top guilds trying to maximize raid capability since it is such a limiter to DPS ability.

For single target fights as a MT, feral druids and dual wielding fury specced warriors are the best options for threat generation. Because of the multiplicative nature of feral threat, their TPS while being MT is extremely high. Fury warriors too have a lot of tools in the toolbox to help with threat generation, especially with burst capability. And they have an added advantage of being able to switch from dual wield to standard sword and shield in the same fight. Standard fury tank spec and protection spec warriors fall behind here a bit but still hold their own, and Paladins come in last as high TPS requires a significant mana expenditure and ideally needs the target to be Undead for certain spell usage.

When looking at AoE tanking, paladins lead the charge, however warriors are close behind. For both, it is important for them to utilize Engineering items for optimal effect. Druids are pretty far behind for large mob groups so keep them focused on one or two targets at a time.

Regardless of tank class or spec used it is critical for tanks and especially the MT to be utilizing all of the DPS consumables that they can. That added damage capability makes a huge difference on the TPS that they can output and will directly correlate to a higher raid wide DPS increase as well.

Threat Tracking Addon

One of the necessary addons for the game is a threat tracker that shows threat that you are generating and listing you compared to all of the people in your party/raid. The one in vanilla that was used was called KLH Threat Meter. You would need to make sure that you stay below the threshold of threat that the main tank is outputting so that you don’t pull the boss.

Class Threat Generation and Ability Lists

This section will run through each class and list all of the modifiers that are available to the class as well as any special talents or abilities that add or remove threat compared to the standard rules outlined in the Generating Threat section.

The sections are broken up by modifiers and abilities. If they are abilities it is important to understand that the ability is a fixed threat value that is a base level. Any modifiers will affect the total threat of that ability. See the Calculating Threat Examples for clarification about how to determine specific threat.

Spells listed below will either be as a set increase/decrease of threat or a threat multiplier. Threat values that are highlighted green are verified as derived from the original Vanilla game. Note that no actual numbers have ever been listed by Blizzard so there is still some doubt about exact values and rules.

Druid

Threat Modifiers

Bear Form: x1.3 base threat

  • Talent – Feral Instinct: x1.15 base threat

Bear Form (Fully Talented): x1.495 base threat
Cat Form: x0.8 base threat
Healing Spells Talent – Subtlety: x0.8 base threat

Abilities

Challenging Roar

See Growl. This ability works exactly the same way that Growl does, except with an AoE effect in a 10 yd radius.

Cower
Rank 1: -240
Rank 2: -390
Rank 3: -600

Demoralizing Roar
Rank 1: 9
Rank 2: 15
Rank 3: 20
Rank 4: 30
Rank 5: 39

Faerie Fire
Fixed: 108

Growl

Gives the character equal threat to the highest player on the threat table. Also gives the player aggro despite the fact that normally it would require 110% threat to get focus. The threat does not wear off, however to maintain mob focus will mean maintaining threat so that someone else does not get over 110% of your new threat level.

Maul
Multiplier: x1.75

Swipe

Multiplier: x1.75

Hunter

Abilities

Distracting Shot
Rank 1: 100
Rank 2: 200
Rank 3: 300
Rank 4: 400
Rank 5: 500
Rank 6: 600

Feign Death

Zeroes out all threat

Pet Abilities

Cower
Rank 1: -30
Rank 2: -55
Rank 3: -85
Rank 4: -125
Rank 5: -175

Intimidation
Fixed: 580

Scorpid Poison
Fixed: 5

Mage

Threat Modifiers

Arcane Spells Talent – Arcane Subtlety: x0.6 base threat
Fire Spells Talent – Burning Soul: x0.7 base threat
Frost Spells Talent – Frost Channeling: x0.7 base threat

Abilities

Counterspell
Fixed: 300

Paladin

Threat Modifiers

Healing Passive: x0.5 base threat
Holy Damage – Righteous Fury: x1.6 base threat

  • Talent – Improved Righteous Fury: x1.5 Righteous Fury effect

Holy Damage (Fully Talented): x1.9 base threat

Abilities

Blessing of Wisdom
Power Gain: 0

Holy Shield
Rank 1: 20 | x1.2 (for damage caused)
Rank 2: 30 | x1.2 (for damage caused)
Rank 3: 40 | x1.2 (for damage caused)

Priest

Threat Modifiers

Shadow Spells Talent – Shadow Affinity: x0.75 base threat
All Spells Talent – Silent Resolve: x0.8 base threat

Abilities

Fade
Rank 1: -55 Temporary reduction
Rank 2: -155 Temporary reduction
Rank 3: -285 Temporary reduction
Rank 4: -440 Temporary reduction
Rank 5: -620 Temporary reduction
Rank 6: -820 Temporary reduction

Holy Nova
Fixed: 0

Mind Blast
Multiplier: x2.0

Rogue

Threat Modifiers

Passive: x0.8 base threat

Abilities

Feint
Rank 1: -150
Rank 2: -240
Rank 3: -390
Rank 4: -600
Rank 5: -800

Vanish

Zeroes out all threat

Shaman

Threat Modifiers

Healing Spells Talent – Healing Grace: x0.85 base threat

Abilities

Earth Shock
Multiplier: x2.0

Healing Stream Totem
Fixed: 0

Mana Spring Totem
Fixed: 0

Mana Tide Totem
Fixed: 0

Rockbiter Weapon
Rank 1: 6
Rank 2: 10
Rank 3: 16
Rank 4: 27
Rank 5: 41
Rank 6: 55
Rank 7: 72

Warlock

Abilities

Life Tap
Fixed: 0

Searing Pain
Multiplier: x2.0

Warrior

Threat Modifiers

Defensive Stance: x1.3 base threat

  • Talent – Defiance: x1.15 base threat

Defensive Stance (Fully Talented): x1.495 base threat
Battle Stance: x0.8 base threat
Berserker Stance: x0.8 base threat

Abilities

Battle Shout
Rank 1: 5
Rank 2: 11
Rank 3: 17
Rank 4: 26
Rank 5: 39
Rank 6: 55
Rank 7: 70

Challenging Shout

See Taunt. This ability works exactly the same way that Taunt does, except with an AoE effect in a 10 yd radius.

Cleave
Rank 1: 10
Rank 2: 40
Rank 3: 60
Rank 4: 70
Rank 5: 100

Demoralizing Shout
Rank 1: 11
Rank 2: 17
Rank 3: 21
Rank 4: 32
Rank 5: 43

Execute
Multiplier: x1.25

Hamstring
Rank 1: 61
Rank 2: 101
Rank 3: 141

Heroic Strike
Rank 1: 20
Rank 2: 39
Rank 3: 59
Rank 4: 78
Rank 5: 98
Rank 6: 118
Rank 7: 137
Rank 8: 145
Rank 9: 175

Revenge
Rank 1: 155
Rank 2: 195
Rank 3: 235
Rank 4: 275
Rank 5: 315
Rank 6: 355

Shield Bash
Fixed: 180

Shield Slam
Rank 1: 160
Rank 2: 190
Rank 3: 220
Rank 4: 250

Sunder Armor
Rank 1: 100
Rank 2: 140
Rank 3: 180
Rank 4: 220
Rank 5: 260

Taunt

Gives the character equal threat to the highest player on the threat table. Also gives the player aggro despite the fact that normally it would require 110% threat to get focus. The threat does not wear off, however to maintain mob focus will mean maintaining threat so that someone else does not get over 110% of your new threat level.

Thunder Clap
Rank 1: 17
Rank 2: 40
Rank 3: 64
Rank 4: 96
Rank 5: 143
Rank 6: 180

Spells, Items, and Enchants Threat Generation List

In addition to the class abilities, there are general buffs and items that are modifiers of threat

Spells

Paladin Buff – Blessing of Salvation: x0.7 base threat
Shaman Totem – Tranquil Air Totem: x0.8 base threat

Enchants

Enchant Gloves – Threat: x1.02 base threat
Enchant Cloak – Subtlety: x0.98 base threat

Items

Thunderfury proc does damage and also applies two debuffs:

  • Speed Reduction: 92 per proc
  • Nature Resist Debuff: 149 per proc

Stealthblade: -55 per proc
Black Amnesty: -540 per proc
Fetish of the Sand Reaver: x0.3
Eye of Diminution: x0.65
Nemesis Raiment (8 pc): x0.8 Destruction spells
Bonescythe Armor (6 pc): x0.92 for Backstab, Sinister Strike, Hemorrhage, and Eviscerate
Vestments of Faith (6 pc): x0.9 Healing spells

Calculating Threat Examples

It can be helpful to understand how to accurately calculate threat as it can be a lot of mathematical operations to get to the final answer. Here we will walk through an example of each type of ability to give a clear picture so that you can be confident to calculate threat on your own.

Doing Damage

Rogues have a passive 0.8 multiplier to all damage done. If a rogue hits a boss for 300 damage that calculates as 0.8 * 300 equaling 240 total threat.

A warrior in Defensive Stance who also has the Defiance talent does damage on a boss. He hits for 300 damage. This calculates as 300 * 1.3 * 1.15 to get 448.5 total threat.

A druid in Bear Form with Feral Instinct hits a boss for 500 damage with Maul. Remember maul has a x1.75 modifier. 500 * 1.3 *1.15 * 1.75 gives a total threat of 1308.125.

A shadow priest who has Shadow Affinity and Silent Resolve casts Mind Blast against a mob. The Mind Blast does 600 damage to the mob. There are multiple modifiers that are being used here but just like before just multiply them together. 600 * 0.75 * 0.8 * 2.0 gives a total of 720 threat.

Healing

A shaman who has the Healing Grace talent in a boss fight heals a party member for 500 health but 100 of that is overhealing. Remember healing generates 0.5 threat per health restored and that overhealing does not count towards threat. (500-100) * 0.5 * 0.85 gives us a total threat of 170.

A paladin heals a warrior who is tanking 10 dragon whelps for 2000 health. Healing is divided up equally between all mobs so (2000 * 0.5 * 0.5) / 10 gives a total threat per mob of 50.

Fixed Threat Abilities

A warrior in Defensive Stance with the Defiance talent uses Sunder Armor on a mob. Sunder Armor Rank 5 has a fixed threat value of 260. Total threat on the mob is 260 * 1.3 * 1.15 to get 388.7.

A rogue uses Feint in combat. Rank 8 Feint is -800. Total threat is -800 * 0.8 to get 640 threat reduction.

A warrior in Defensive Stance with the Defiance talent uses Revenge on a mob. Revenge Rank 6 has a fixed threat of 355 however it also does damage. In this case Revenge does 90 damage. Threat calculates out as (90 + 355) * 1.3 * 1.15 for a total of 665.275 threat.

A warrior in Defensive Stance with the Defiance talent uses Heroic Strike on a mob. Heroic Strike Rank 9 has a fixed threat of 175, however it adds 157 damage to the next weapon attack. If the weapon hits for 300 (before the Heroic Strike increase) then the threat calculates out as (175 + 157 + 300) * 1.3 *1.15 to get 944.84 total threat.

Area of Effect Spells

A warrior in Berserker Stance casts Battle Shout while attacking a mob. The buff is in range of the player plus two other people in his group. Battle Shout Rank 7 generates 70 threat per person buffed. Threat would be calculated at 70 * 0.8 * 3 to get 168 total threat.

Since Battle Shout is in the Buffing section for threat generation here is an example with more than one mob. A warrior in Defensive Stance with the Defiance talent casts Battle Shout while attacking 4 mobs. The buff is in range of the player plus all four other people in his group. Battle Shout Rank 7 generates 70 threat per person buffed. In this case the calculation is (70 * 1.3 * 1.15 * 5) / 4 for 130.8125 total threat on each mob.

Demoralizing Shout is a debuff so it would seem to fall in the Buffing section’s rules however because it is being applied directly to the mob it is actually an AoE Fixed Threat ability. A warrior in Defensive Stance with the Defiance talent casts Demoralizing Shout which hits 4 mobs. Demoralizing Shout Rank 5 adds 43 threat to each mob. The calculation would be 43 * 1.3 * 1.15 for a total threat of 64.285 for each mob.

When looking at larger packs you can see that there’s a point where Demoralizing Shout can be more valuable because its threat doesn’t degrade with mob number. Smaller mob numbers will boost the value of Battle Shout but larger ones will boost the value of Demoralizing Shout.

Items

Thunderfury is a very special weapon where the proc does a massive amount of threat. When the item procs it does 300 damage as well as place two debuffs on the target which both have threat associated with them: a speed debuff of 92 threat and a nature resist reduction debuff of 149 threat.

A warrior in Defensive Stance with the Defiance talent uses Thunderfury and gets a proc that hits the mob. The proc’s threat can be calculated as (300 + 92 + 149) * 1.3 * 1.15 to get a total proc threat value of 808.795.

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