I *almost* hate to write this post from a “omg, everyone knows that” perspective; however, it’s darn obvious that not everyone knows it, and if it helps a single player learn a basic tanking skill, well, I’ll never know it, but at least I’ll feel better for having tried.
As a tank, you have two basic options to deal with casters in groups:
1. Charge in
2. Line of Sight pull
The reason you want to do this is simple — generating threat. If the caster is not being hit by your AoE, the person building the fastest threat is either your healer, or the dps with the largest AoE ability.
Not all casters are ranged, however, enough of them are that it’s better to play it safe than be sorry halfway through a dungeon. The easiest way to tell if a mob will cast spells is that it has mana. You can get this information on any standard frame (including the default) or plates addon.
The second, and sometimes trickier way to tell is by the name of the mob. Many casters have caster in their name, or some type of class that generally casts, such as mage, warlock, shaman, etc.
The third, and least desirable during a pull, is to look it up on a site that compiles such information, such as Wowhead. Feel free to prep ahead of time though ^^
Now that you know you’re dealing with casters, let’s discuss how to get ’em gathered up.
Running into a pack of mobs is a perfectly viable and acceptable way to start a fight. However, when there are casters involved, positioning gains a bit more importance. Casters will not voluntarily follow you, so you must make sure that you either attack them first or have positioned your mob pack in such a way that casters are affected by any AoE abilities you may be sporting.
The Charge works best when you have 1-2 casters that are placed in relative proximity to each other. Larger groups can be handled with the charge if the casters are close enough together, or you happen to be a blood elf with that nifty spell, Arcane Torrent. Otherwise, a line of sight pull is preferable.
If, for whatever reason, a line of sight pull is not possible, it is imperative that some effort is made to maintain threat on casters not easily accessible through AoE. This may mean more dancing around the floor than what you’re comfortable with; however, if you do a fast burn on a particular caster, and then move to the caster with the least threat build-up, it will help limit your movement.
Light of Sight
Line of Sight, often abbreviated LOS, is a pull that makes the mob pack run to you. The tank is the best person to make the pull in most cases as you don’t have to worry about potential threat issues with a fellow team member. The goal in a line of sight pull is to tag a mob in the pack, and then retreat behind an available wall to break the caster’s ability to hit you with spells. When you duck behind an obstruction, casters will run to re-establish line of sight, and if handled properly, bunch up on the tank.
The problem with a LOS pull is that there isn’t always an appropriate object to break the caster’s sight. However, this does not mean that they cannot be effectively moved to a more appropriate position. Running a certain distance from a caster will work the same as breaking LOS as you exceed the maximum range of their spells. If you must resort to this type of pull, it is advised to drop an AoE ability, like Consecration or Death and Decay at the point you make the initial pull before, running back until the casters enter this area, and then returning to your initial pull point to begin dps. If you have a reliable dps, preferably a hunter with Misdirection or a rogue with Tricks of the Trade, they can take over the caster kiting and assist in transferring threat when the mobs are properly positioned.
While we’ve discussed LOS from a threat generation/mob pack perspective, LOS can also be a useful tool in assisting your party members in applying and maintaining crowd control in an area separated from the group. In addition, expectations in most groups at this point in the game tends to run towards the group moving in a forward direction at all times which prohibits many players from feeling comfortable with LOS pulls. It is ok to initiate LOS pulls, even in today’s content, but you must notify your team if you expect compliance. New dungeons may require old strategies, and practicing in familiar territory can be a big help.
From your semi-retired tank, and your grumpy healer who’s tired of being shadow/frost/fire/arcane-bolted ~