Checking your Target’s Target (or How to Taunt on 3 stacks)

It is often useful to be able to check who your target in a MMO is attacking. If you are soloing and don’t have a pet, it’s pretty much a given than anything you attack will be hitting you back.

But there are times when that won’t be the case. Keeping an eye on your target’s target will help in these sorts of situations:

  • You have some ability to control threat. For example, if you are a tank and your mob switches target to someone else (a healer, maybe), you can quickly taunt them back.
  • Your group is using a main assist – i.e. everyone else agrees to let one player pick a target and then will all switch to the same one. This is often a useful PvP tactic.
  • A boss can cast a spell on a random member of the raid. If a healer can keep an eye on the boss’s target, they will know to start casting a heal as soon as the target switches from the tank.
  • A boss puts a debuff on the tank every X seconds. The debuff makes tanking very difficult (maybe it reduces tank threat, or increases the amount of damage that the tank takes) so a second tank must taunt as soon as it is applied. If you can see the debuffs on your target’s target, then you can attack the boss and taunt as soon as the debuff goes up on the current tank (ie. the target of the target.)

In a game like WoW with huge numbers of available addons, there might be specific ones to make this easier in different situations. A boss mods addon might plaster a warning across your screen when you need to taunt, or highlight the players who are about to get nuked randomly. There are also addons which quickly show you who has threat, intended to help tanks figure out when to taunt.

But keeping an eye on the target of your target is a solid, reliable, basic way to make sure that you have the information that you need.

Setting up Target of Target


To set this up in WoW, press ESCape to get to the game menu, and then select Interface. Pick combat in the right hand menu and you’ll arrive at this screen.

In the standard UI, the target of the target will be shown just to the left of the target window. You can experiment a bit with checking who your friends are looking at.

In a unitframes addon such as Pitbull, xPerl, or Shadowed Unit Frames, you will have a lot more control over exactly where the target and the target of target window appear on your screen.

Put them somewhere easy to see. And also set things up so that you can see buffs and debuffs on the target of target (at the very least you need to see which of the debuffs is stacking, which will be marked by a number in the corner.)

Taunt on Three Stacks

The inspiration from this post came when I was tanking a VoA run alongside an inexperienced tank. We had agreed to taunt on three stacks for Toravon, and as I saw my stacks hitting 5 and then 6 I realised he was waiting for me to tell him what my debuffs were doing. (So I typed TAUNT into raid chat, and then he did it.)

But you don’t need to wait for the other tank to tell you. You can keep an eye on their debuffs yourself. Also, taunting very neatly when the debuffs pile up is a useful raid tanking skill in current WoW raid content.


This is a screenshot from where I was tanking Toravon with a friend (note: she is NOT the inexperienced tank I mentioned above, this was a different run). She’s currently tanking him, and I’m looking at her debuffs via the target of target frame. This is not the world’s best example because I have the debuffs set to show very small – but the point is that one of those debuffs has a number in the corner.

This is another section of the same screenshot, showing that I have a double check. Deadly Boss Mods also prints up the current stack of debuffs on the tank in the middle of the screen.


But if it was a new boss, or DBM had not yet been updated, I would have been watching the debuffs stack on the target of target frame.

I’m not sure these screenshots prove much except how non-optimal my UI is. I’m sure you can do better!


19 thoughts on “Checking your Target’s Target (or How to Taunt on 3 stacks)

  1. Ooo… so DBM does that by itself?! And I’ve been worried to join a ToC10 because I cannot make out the debuffs/buffs of the other tank from my UI.

    Now hand me the gauntlets, I have stuff to kill…

    C out

  2. Yup, DBM does that 🙂 And it also shows the timer until the next impale.

    But I find it’s nice to have debuffs showing on the target of target frame too, just as a double check.

    The other thing to keep an eye on is when a taunt fails. I use some addon to print out some info in the raid chat when a taunt fails (there are bound to be others though). Because if it fails, you probably have a backup taunt you can use — eg. an AE taunt if there arent’ any other mobs in the vicinity.

  3. It does always astonish me, how lost are most people if some sort of Addon is not telling them what to do.

    Please do not consider this to be intended as an offense towards your entry.
    With all those Addons, many people actually do not know, gives you everything you need to deal an encounter.
    So I highly appreciate, showing others how to play with an open eye.

    Target of Target is also quite useful for healers. While healing the tank, they get informed about Aggro Swaps and many Bosses do target raid Members when using certain spells, outside of the Aggro Table.
    It also informs the healer about Boss Self Buffs, that need to be dispelled or require more healing.

    Using “Assist” (default:”f”) has always been a very elegant option in conjunction with target of target.

    I know it does not fit really in here but my Tank-Favorite is, binding a mouse-over taunt macro to a mouse button. This enables you, to quickly deal with other targets, while not losing your target (and target of target).

    • From time to time I have a bug where I can’t see the target of target frame although I use the default WoW frames. Relogging fixes it, /reloadui does not. (That’s the same with the “no combatlog bug” I have from time to time which disables recount.)

      While tanking a heroic I’m completely lost without that frame because there’s no way telling which mob is attacking you and which you should taunt back from a melee. How is it possible to tank without that?

      • I have no idea to solve your disappearing target of target frames, but maybe a hint to solve it game play wise.

        First search your Group UI settings, for an option, that highlights a member frame on Aggro. While doing that, make sure, that no option is activated, that highlights a member frame on damage.

        Now if a member of your group is targeted by a hostile target, a red frame should appear around that respective group member. If you are a paladin, clicking on that member and using “Righteous Defense” should solve the problem.

        Secondly, I would suggest, tuning down the particle density on magical effects in your graphic settings.
        Especially Deathknights and Paladins, tend to drown a mob group in blinding Ligheffects. Lowering the density, will make sure, that you can see the mobs and figure out, which direction they are looking at.

        My third advice, would be asking the melees to attack their targets from the rear. Experienced melees will do this automatically, to avoid being parried etc., but in heroics, they might skip it due to AoE nature of the fights.

        Those three steps might not work wonders, but at least they make tanking a bit easier.

  4. Hey, I know Mootabelle, big shout from Sythe on Anachronos.

    Also very interesting, I’m thinking about re-doing my entire UI and whilst I currently only play DPS and Healing toons anything like this is useful as I tend to standardise my UI as much as possible across toons.

    Currently use target of target but have all buffs and debuffs hidden 😉

  5. I use Pitbull for my unitframes, but I can’t stand their buff/debuff layout. I’m using Satrina Buff Frame to lay out all buffs/debuffs for any frame. For target and TOT I have them disabled. On the target, I show my debuffs only with SBF and all buffs. For TOT I don’t do any, instead I focus my off tank and show a debuff frame there.

    **Spinks if you want some good UI ideas check the tankspot compilation forum, I’ve got an entry in there as well!

  6. I try to go just by the target-of-target frame when working with a taunt rotation, but annoyingly, sometimes the mini debuff icon *doesn’t* show the number of stacks, at least not in the default UI. Examples of this are Gormok’s impale in TotC and the stacking healing debuff you get from Stinky and Precious in ICC. Very annoying.

  7. I go by default UI and just put the other tank on focus frame, since some patch focus frame was fixed and now you can:
    – see buffs and debuffs on your “focus”
    – move the frame wherever you find it convenient and easy to spot
    – resize it

    When I’m healing I usually put main tank on the focus frame so I can always heal him between healing other people. But on Saurfang I put the boss there so I have it easy to spot which tank he’s targetting at the moment. And yes, target of target always shown.

    P.S. Saw you yesterday by the statue, was sure hoping you’ll drop some word of though about it. 😛 Especially it’s horde who got it this time!

  8. Grid isn’t just for healers! After hearing me go ON about grid, hubby tried it for tanking and loves it.

    1) You can see who has aggro!

    2) You can monitor raid status on the other tank by using gridstatusraiddebuff

    100% win for all classes!

  9. One of the nice things about addons and being able to mod the UI is that people have lots of different options for how they choose to display the information. (Having to program all the individual debuff names into grid would give me hives, but I can see how it’d be great if you didn’t mind doing that 🙂 ).

    I still think there’s something to be said for figuring out how to do something with the vanilla interface, if only for very new fights and when addons break.

    But please keep coming with the tips! I think a lot of these things seem obvious when you’ve been doing it for awhile but are obscure to newer players or people who never had to check the debuffs like that.

  10. I never used any Addons besides Deadly Boss Mod, untill my better half, convinced me of X-Perl two years ago.

    X-Perl is very intuitive and does not need a lot of extra downloads or Maintenance.

    The charm of X-Perl is, that the Addon keeps track of your current Class. For Instance, your own Debuffs on a Boss are displayed bigger, with own Timers, and Buffs or Debuffs, that your class is able to cure or remove are highlighted.

    Besides, it automatically activates the relevant Displays, like Tank or Healing frames, or Pet Monitors.

    • Never liked Xperl, it’s too blocky for me. That said, the bigger debuffs you mention, are also part of the default blizzard UI. When I go to my girl’s house I shut off all of her addons.

  11. Very cool tip, thanks. Will activate it tonight 🙂

    Can you attack through your target? EQ2 had this feature and it was absolutely excellent. For example, DPS would just target the tank, see his target in another window, and then could attack and automatically fight the tanks target. A little strange at first but surprisingly quick to pick up and extremely useful.

    • First activate “attack on assist” in your UI, than click on the tank an press “f” (Default for assist) and you will automatically attack, the tanks target.

      Assists can also be very helpful in situations, where the tank switches between different targets (while applying Sunder Armor for instance).

      Let’s assume, you are targeting, a tanked target. Pressing “f” would target the tank (since your targeted Mob, is targeting the tank), now pressing “f” again, would target the tanks target (might be the same as before, or another one).

  12. Thanks for your interesting post Spinks. I recently posted a taunt table – listing the number of stacks of debuffs to taunt on for the various bosses, which might be useful.

    I use Grid and the GridStatusRaidDebuff addon to show debuff stacks clearly, and who has aggro.

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