Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Tanking with a Tenacious Pet

So I briefly mentioned how I took some friends to Hellfire Ramparts with my new pet Bear. Let me tell you a little more about that.

First, with the new hunter changes, several families of pets are now known as Tenacity pets and have a talent tree with pet talents designed to make these pets excellent tanks. Some of the talents revolve around generating threat, or increasing pet health and armor, or even give taunt and intercept like abilities. Very cool. Now, the first thought would be that these would make great pets to solo with so that they can both hold the aggro of whatever you are killing and also withstand most of what is thrown at them. But I had read in various blogs and places on the internet that you may even be able to tank instances with just a hunter pet and no other tank. I wanted to try that out for myself.

So Elionene went out and trained an Ashenvale Bear in Ashenvale. He's nothing special. Just a plain brown bear. I chose a bear because Elionene used to live in Ashenvale, and it would make sense for her to have a bear from that area. It's the same reason she has Lethan, her owl. I also got her a moth from Netherstorm for various reasons. Perhaps I'll post on that later. Anyway, Bears are Tenacity pets and have a unique ability similar to what Bear druids have. They can swipe up to three targets in front of them. I talented him with armor and health, and a bonus to healing so that my mend pet and other healers spells have a better effect on him. He can also taunt once every 3 minutes and has an ability similar to last stand that raises his health by 3000 or so temporarily for those "danger" moments. When I trained him, he auto leveled to 65, 5 levels below my current level.

A couple of my guildies had recently turned 60. A paladin and a warlock team that were leveling together. I asked them if they had yet been to Hellfire Ramparts and offered to take them with my bear tanking. I offered for others in the guild, and an adventurous level 70 rogue decided to come along to see if I could actually tank with my bear. He was skeptical to say the least.

I got to the instance first and went inside on my own to test it out a bit. The bear was able to keep one mob occupied, but I somehow aggroed the second mob and had to Feign Death. I was a bit slow on my abilities, but I managed to get the mobs down solo. I started to think this might not be so bad.

So when all four of us got there, we prepared and I made the first pull. Initially I thought it would be simple enough to misdirect mobs to the bear to start off a pull where I wanted to, and not necessarily where the mobs were standing. However, the changes to Defensive mode for pets made this a bit awkward. For example, if I MD my bear, and then shoot the mob so that the mob runs to the bear, if the bear is on defensive, he'll start to run after the mob as soon as I use a shot to MD. What this means is that I have to keep the bear on passive, and then wait for the mob to get to him, then manually tell the bear to attack the mob. It's not that big of a deal, but it does mean a lot more button pushing.

The second pull went bad. I didn't pull the mobs back and so we pulled a patrol, which in turn pulled a second group of mobs. For one, it's hard for me to see all of what is happening around the bear since I'm back a little bit doing ranged damage. By that same token, it's harder to maneuver the pet than it is to maneuver yourself. We didn't wipe thanks to the superior attack power of a level 70 rogue and hunter, but it was a messy attack process.

I took a little bit more time on the pulls after that, marking them and laying down an ice trap, and having the rogue sap mobs. Things went generally okay as long as people stuck to kill order and didn't attack things that the bear wasn't directly attacking. His swipe was working, but it didn't seem to build that much aggro on the mobs he wasn't directly attacking. Little by little we made our way to the first boss of the instance, Warkeeper Golgalmar.

The first boss has two healers that you have to kill so that they don't heal the boss. I marked them in kill order and sent the bear in. After the first mob went down, I moved the bear to the next one and killed him. Then I put him on the boss. I don't think the bear lost aggro on any of them at all, so I was pretty happy about the way it worked out. As far as the bear's health, I usually could just throw a mend pet on him and not worry about it too much. Our paladin was also throwing out occasional heals, but he said he wasn't seeing the need for many heals in general. Awesome.

On we went to the second boss, Omar the Unscarred, who is a demon that throws out some curses. This is where the bear truly shined. I put him on the boss and then we spread out and just laid into the guy with DPS. The bear kept aggro the whole time and the boss went down quickly. A battle well won I thought. All that was left was the dragon rider boss, Vazruden the Herald.

This fight would be a bit complicated since you have to attack the Orc boss first and then pick up his dragon when it lands. You also had to make sure and maneuver out of the flame circles that cause a lot of damage. With maneuverability being a big awkward with the pet, I was a little worried. We started off on the orc and he died pretty quickly as before I knew it, the dragon was landing. I moved the bear to the dragon and picked him up pretty well. With the orc dead, we only had to concentrate on the dragon who was belching flame on my bear. I hit passive to move the bear back to me and pull the dragon, but as soon as he was out of the fire, I ordered him to attack again, but this time not in the flames. The dragon soon died and we celebrated our run of ramparts with 4 people and a pet bear tank.

What I learned:
It's difficult to tank with a pet because it's a little harder to control, but with practice could become much easier.

He was able to hold aggro on single mobs really well. He's only level 65 but I think as far as single target aggro went, I didn't have to hold back on DPS too much.

Things that are not the direct target of the bear can be pulled off pretty easily if people are attacking the wrong target. Occasionally I would see a mob start attacking another person or the void walker or something. I couldn't always tell what the cause was, but it just showed me that the bear is not the best multi mob tank, which I sort of already knew. If you want a pet that tanks like a paladin, get a gorilla.

All in all it was a lot of fun, and the two level 60ish people got a lot of neat loot from the dungeon. Our rogue wasn't completely convinced that pets made good tanks, but was at least a little impressed at the boss fights. The trash pulls were sometimes really messy though.

I'm going to continue doing instance runs with the pet tanking. I'd like to get him to level 70 and try some of the harder dungeons, maybe Steamvault since I'm pretty familiar with that place. I feel that at level, he could definitely be an awesome off tank and hold his own against almost any equally leveled mob with just a mend pet going. And if that's the case, then I could effectively CC two mobs at a time. One with the pet and the other in an ice trap. But that's going to take a whole of of concentration. I think I'm up to the challenge.

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