Threshold Braking for WoW

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If you are already using a threat meter, I don’t need to tell you how useful they are … you already know. But there are a lot of players who don’t use them, and this is for them. Every time I join a group and find that the tank isn’t running at least KTM, I get an uneasy feeling in my stomach.

I think back to the dark days before I first installed a threat meter and I remember that I really didn’t think they were all that important. I’d like to take a little time to voice a few of my thoughts on these incredibly useful add-ons and hopefully give you a good argument you can use to spread the word.

If you’re not even sure what these contraptions do, they are add-ons that measure the threat you and other party members generate and display a comparison of the threat measurements. While threat meters can also tell you when you draw aggro, it is important to realize that threat and aggro are not the same. Threat is one of the elements that determine whether or not you draw aggro.

I’ll leave it as an exercise for the reader to explore the complex world of aggro determination, but I can tell you that if you know how much threat you are generating in relation to other group members you have a pretty good idea of whether or not you’re going to draw aggro. More importantly, threat is quantitative and can be calculated.

If you don’t have the data and don’t have an accurate estimate of the threat that you and your compatriots are generating, then you are probably basing the timing of your attacks, spells, healing, etc. on an educated guess. You’ve learned that you need to let the tank get in a few good whacks before you do anything that’s really going to be noticed. And the amount of time that you wait or the spacing of your heals or the shot rotation you use may be based upon a lot of hard-earned experience.

But you could be wrong, very wrong.

You could be misjudging how much threat your crits are spitting out. If you are underestimating, you’re going to notice quickly … the boss smacking you around and the forlorn expression the tank casts you over his or her shoulder is unmistakable. You’ve probably figured out how to avoid the underestimation pretty well and if you’re a tank you probably don’t care.

We’re not worried about underestimation as much as we are about overestimation. When you overestimate your threat generation, you’re going to be overly cautious. If you wait too long to fire off an arcane shot or a heal, you are nerfing yourself. Your damage per second or healing per second is going to suffer as you increase the time it takes to bring down the boss.

What we want to do is minimize the time between the pull and finding out that the boss has dropped an item that no one in the party can use. The quicker we take the boss down, the less chance the boss has to use whatever special attack they have or summon a healer. And we all love our tank, right? Shorter fights mean lower repair bills for our beloved plate-wearers.

This isn’t specific to WoW, this type of optimization is common in several domains. One of the ones that I am most familiar with is automobile and motorcycle racing where it appears as threshold braking.

Threshold braking is the technique of controlling your acceleration and braking to get as close as possible to the threshold between the shortest possible lap time and a fiery wreck without actually crossing over it. It is the opposite of what you were taught in Driver’s Ed. Rather than applying the brakes as you approach a turn, threshold braking consists of applying just enough braking in the turns to prevent losing traction. The top racers put enormous amounts of time, effort, and medical expenses into mastering it.

In WoW, us non-tanks want to do the same thing. We want to hold off just enough on threat generating activities to prevent drawing aggro, but no more. And the only way we can do that is to know how much threat we are generating along with how much threat others in our party are generating.

The best way to know that is to use a competent threat meter. Until recently, the most popular one was KLHThreatMeter. However, based on the way threat is calculated and several other factors, I personally recommend Omen. I’m not going to get into a discussion of which to use. Omen will share its data with KTMThreatMeter, so as long as everyone in the party is using one or the other you’ll get a reasonable picture of your threat footprint.

I don’t want to give you the impression that a threat meter is going to do everything for you. It’s just a tool that will show you how the actions you take during a fight translate into raw threat. You still need to understand the way the contents of your spellbook work. And you still need to pay attention to a lot of factors like you crit chance and know how crits are going to affect your threat.

But, the threat meter is the like the tachometer that a racer keeps their third eye trained on for the duration of a race. Instead of only knowing, “this shot might cause me to draw aggro,” you’ll be be able to tell yourself, “I know this shot is going to add about 250 to my threat rating and I’m still 400 behind the tank.” With the threat meter, you’re probably going to take the shot and still be OK rather than holding back. Your DPS ratings and your tank will be appreciative.

And hunters and warlocks can also benefit from a threat meter while soloing. As BRK has pointed out, the primary purpose of a pet is to keep your tukhes out of melee. Any decent threat meter will include your pet’s threat and you can use the information to keep just behind you pet’s rating. My standard soloing pattern is: Hunter’s Mark, send in pet, wait until the pet’s threat rating hits 1000-1200, start the shot rotation. The better you are at tuning you shot rotation an shot timing based upon threat rating, the less time you spend on the grind.

The threat meter is your friend, it’s going to give you the information you need to keep you from hesitating when you should be lighting up a mob or healing a party member. It is one of the primary tools that separates the timid Sunday driver from the Fast and the Furious.

This article was originally published on 25 Nov 2007.

--Stigg 19:51, 11 March 2009 (UTC)