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!

Fun with Vigilance

Vigilance is a quirky warrior talent.

It’s a 30min buff that you can put on someone else in your raid and while it is active, you will nick 10% of their threat, the damage that they take will be reduced by 3%, and every time they get hit your taunt is refreshed.

When I first read the text, I thought that perhaps the idea was that you slapped it on someone mid-fight if they’d accidentally got aggro — that would not only reduce their threat and how much damage they take but also let you taunt off them quickly.

You can do this if you want. But we have other abilities that are just as good for grabbing a mob that has transferred its undesired attentions  to someone else (Intervene, or if the mob is tauntable then just taunt it with the new 30′ ranged taunt).

Ninjaing other people’s threat

The 30min duration hints at another use though. If you put Vigilance on whichever dps is likely to be top of the threat meter,  they get some extra breathing space on threat and you get a nice scaling threat talent. Bargain.

If you’re quick with your targetting, you can also swap it around during a fight if the previous holder died or someone else is coming close to you on threat.

If you read forums, you’ll find that a lot of warriors don’t like Vigilance on principle. The basic reason for this is because they’d rather have their threat increased via more damage. Warrior damage is already weak compared to other tanks (while tanking or off-tanking) and while the threat boost is very useful, why not hit two birds with one stone  instead of providing a strange pure threat talent that scales with other people’s damage?

The concern is that Blizzard may be balancing tank threat assuming that all warriors have Vigilance. In which case, we’ll always be way behind on damage because they’ll assume we don’t need it. Which is hard to swallow when you see other tanks pulling significantly more dps than you do, while tanking. Tanks aren’t picked for their damage but it’s not a good thing for the gap between top and bottom to be too high.

[edited to add: Actually, the more I think about this, the more I think it’s a daft thing to worry about. The extra dps added to a raid by letting one of your top dps have a 10% higher threat cap is probably way more than you would have done as a tank.]

I think this is mostly ‘sky is falling’ fretting. But we’ll have to wait and see what 3.1 has in store, tank changes are in the works and the proof of what Blizzard actually think/ expect will be in the pudding.

Taunt to victory

Passive threat increases are fine and good but what about the other side-effects of Vigilance? In most fights, taunt is only used in emergencies but sometimes having it available on every global cooldown is precisely what you want. And in those cases, you can Vigilate (it SO should be a word) one of the other tanks … as long as you are sure the fight isn’t threat sensitive for them.

I was messing with this in Naxxramas this week, on Gothik. For those not familiar, this is a fight where there are a lot of adds to pick up in Phase 1 which need to be tanked and killed on a priority basis. I was tanking the live side with a Death Knight helping out. I stuck Vigi on him, knowing that he was bound to be constantly aggroing something. It made it very very easy for me to keep taunting the riders and knights in a fight which is normally quite hectic.

You can use the same trick on Sartharion if you’re picking up adds or elementals. Vigi the main tank and enjoy being able to taunt everything all of the time.

Damage reduction

The other side to Vigilance is that it does reduce damage taken by the target by 3%. Which is another good reason to stick it on a tank in a non threat-sensitive fight. But I haven’t really found a place where I’d use the buff just for that yet. It’s more of a side effect than anything else.

What does Blizzard intend for the talent?

I do love abilities that can be used in several different ways, adapting to the needs of an encounter (I always thought that lifebloom was genius design, for example). But you always end up wondering ‘is this really the use that was intended?’

Is the intention for warriors to be able to taunt constantly or is that an unwanted side effect? If it is the intention then … that’s cool. It does give us something neat that other tanks don’t have, the ability to pick up streams of tauntable mobs quickly and neatly (and from 30′ away).

But that’s also the reason that I have my doubts. I expect that when 3.1 comes live, it will answer my questions about Vigilance and what Blizzard expects us to use it for.

Until then, I’ll be sitting here on the Live side of Gothik, enjoying my uber taunt.

Miss Manners Guide to Tanking Etiquette

The main difference as a tank between running instances and tanking in raids is that in raids you get to work with more people. In a raid, you are part of a tanking team. You will very likely have a private tanking chat channel, which will be used for assignments as well as small talk.

You will probably be given an assignment on every trash pull as well as every boss fight. But there are some general rules of etiquette when working with other tanks — people won’t necessarily tell you these in advance, but you’ll quickly find out when you have crossed the line.

1. Never taunt a mob off another tank (unless by prior arrangement), it’s rude. It is the tanking equivalent of telling someone they’re doing a bad job and you could do better. If you taunt something off another tank by mistake, apologise after the pull. We all do it, but it’s polite to say sorry.

Note: this is a little different in Warhammer because taunting makes you do more damage. In that game it’s more common to have taunting rotations (or just assume everyone will taunt when their taunt comes up).

2. In a trash pull, tank the mobs close together unless you know in advance that one has to be taken to a safer distance. This makes it easier for the dps to use AE, easier for them to move from one mob to the next,  and also easier for other tanks to use AE parts of their rotations (why would you want this? It’s extra damage/ debuffs as much as anything else). If you insist on taking your mobs off to their own special corner without prior arrangement, expect to get some snark.

3. If you’re in a raid and you know another tank hasn’t tanked a particular mob before, make sure they know any special tanking tricks that they need to know. The raid leader may not be a tank and may not think to remind them.

4. Tanks are a TEAM. You have to work together. You stand as a team, you fall as a team. It’s not a competitive sport like dps (or healing, although that really shouldn’t be competitive either). You will tend to find that most tanks are pretty supportive of other tanks — there are a LOT of helpful blogs, websites, bbposts, gear guides, and so on. Yes there’s a lot of player support for most sides of the game, and raids are teams too, but tanks stand together. Don’t refuse a request for advice from a less experienced or lower level tank.

5. If you see another tank in trouble or low on health, be ready to step in if needed. This can go against rule 1, but it’s OK if you saved a wipe.

Tanking is like sex, it’s more fun with partners 🙂 Happy tanking!