Aggro control is probably one of those strategies in the game that everyone’s heard of but few actually fully understand. The reason is simple. To understand aggro control, you have to experience it from both sides and contrary to popular belief the characters that are not tanking have just as much control over a good aggro as the tank does. Hopefully this guide can help those of you who just want to play your [insert favorite class here] and not worry about the other classes.
What is Aggro Control?
To aggro is to get the attention of a group or groups of enemies. Aggro control is directing the enemy’s movements, etc. for your party’s benefit.
What are the benefits of Aggro Control?
The major benefit of aggro control is that if used correctly it can keep your party members safe. As melee attackers are the easiest to control during an aggro proper aggro control can stop most if not all melee enemies from getting to your party.
The second benefit of aggro control is the increased effectiveness of AoE, or area of effect, skills. Some AoE skills can be detrimental to good aggro control as they cause monsters to flee thus enabling them to reevaluate their targets. Skills such as Firestorm, Balthazar’s Aura, Mark of Pain, and Breath of Fire should be avoided if you are on a team that intends to control aggro. AoE skills that can work extremely well on an aggro control team include Spiteful Spirit, Liquid Flame, Rodgort’s Invocation, Suffering, Ancestor’s Rage, and Spirit Rift.
The Tank’s Role
The tank is whatever character your party decides will be acquiring and holding aggro. When about to aggro, announce it and move out of everyone’s aggro (they will be outside of yours). Be sure to keep communication open. You must tell everyone what you plan to do if you expect them to follow along. Once you have enemies attracted to you, try and position yourself between all of them and the backline. A good technique is to leave some room between yourself and your party so that you can back up to manipulate the aggro. Most of the time simply backing up will better group the aggro.
If there is a corner available, you should try and use it to your advantage. Once you announce which corner you will be using and where your party should stand during the initial aggro. You will not want to pull to the corner right away unless the aggro groups extremely well before getting to you. If they don’t, step up acquire aggro and back them to the corner then announce to your group that you have aggro.
If a corner is not available, then you will have to attempt an open area aggro. Pull the aggro, manipulate them until you have them to where they form a straight line between them, yourself, and your party. Finally, announce that you have aggro and tell your party to move in straight behind you.
If there is a flat wall available, you can also use this to your advantage. It is not as advantageous as a corner aggro but it can be very effective. You would use the same tactics as an open area pull when attempting a flat wall aggro.
In all situations, the tank’s lack of movement are crucial once they have announced that they have aggro. During a corner aggro, the tank may move once other party members engage only if the angle is great enough to keep enemies from acquiring another target and only one step at a time backward. During either open area or wall aggro, the tank should plant their feet and prepare not to move.
Not moving is harder than it seems. The fact that most characters tanking will be using melee attacks makes not moving more complicated than most people think. The second an enemy tries to drop back you will be pulled to it. To avoid this, continually press C and Spacebar. This technique will make sure that you are only targeting the closest target to you and that you don’t go following a fleeing enemy and break up the aggro you have worked so hard to control.
As the tank, you should be running some skills that will give you time to manipulate your aggro while not being too heavily damaged. Skills that tanks can use to prevent damage include Arcane Echo’d Shadow Form, Gladiator’s Defense, Deadly Riposte, Dolyak’s Signet, Vow of Silence, Conviction, Armor of Earth, Obsidian Flesh, Stoneflesh Aura, etc. Find the tank build that works for you but you will probably want some combination of damage prevention, damage reduction, and self heal.
All characters that will not be holding aggro, including melee characters not chosen to tank, are extremely important when trying to hold a good aggro. When the tank is acquiring aggro, make sure to be outside of his aggro bubble (he/she will be outside of yours). It only takes one person to be out of place and form an aggro bridge which monsters can use to rush past the tank and straight for the backline. The key is to stay back until the tank announces that he has aggro for if you move in too early there is a chance the monsters have not aggro’d tightly to the tank and will run straight to the backline. Once the tank has communicated that he has aggro, then it is all about positioning.
Positioning as a support character on a aggro control team is crucial. During a corner aggro, stay at as much of an angle as possible to the enemy. To spread out due to AoE, you should spread out in the area behind the tank close to the wall. During a wall or open area aggro, you should stand directly behind the tank forming a straight line between the enemies, the tank, and yourselves. Party members can run up and down the line to avoid enemy fire, AoE, etc. while giving the tank the greatest chance to keep aggro. Try to keep the tank on the outer half of your aggro bubble though as in wall and open area pulls getting too close will cause monsters to retarget.
Casters should know that their spells, unless otherwise noted, can be cast from outside of aggro bubble range. For example, an Elementalist casting meteor shower can target the closest enemy of the aggro then move until he is just out of aggro then cast MS without ever being in aggro range. Also, be aware of which spell you have cause aggro breaking. Many damage per second area of effect spells cause aggro breaking (firestorm, mark of pain, etc). If you know that you will be in a party using aggro control try and minimize the amount of these skills on your bar. During open area and wall pulls, it is extremely important that no spells triggering the AoE run be used. It is possible to get away with using such spells during a corner pull if the party knows about it and can stand as close to the wall as possible during the spells duration.
Warriors, Assassins, and Dervishs should hold back until the tank gathers aggro then move along the safest path to begin attacking. In the open, move in from straight behind the tank. If the tank is using a corner, move in along the wall. In any instance, Warriors and Dervishs should stand shoulder to shoulder with the tank to decrease the chance of an aggro break.
Rangers and Paragons need line of sight but make sure to stand at the harshest angle possible to get that line. Stand no further out than necessary to use your weapon. This means when using a corner only move away from the wall far enough to use your weapon and if necessary move closer to the tank along the wall. When in the open, the harshest angle possible is where the tank is directly between yourself and the aggro.
Ritualists and Rangers need to aware of where they are placing their spirits. Support spirits (Winnowing, Union, etc) should be placed as outside of aggro range while offensive spirits (Pain, Bloodsong, etc) should be placed using the same strategy as Rangers and Paragons. Use a staff to find the harshest angle in which you are not obstructed then cast your offensive spirit. But offensive spirits are supposed to be spread out right? Yes, and to accomplish this once you find the harshest angle place spirits along that line closer or farther from the tank.
Minion Masters and Beastmasters should only get close enough for minion/pet aggro once the tank has acquired a good aggro. This will allow the minions or pets to move in and help surround the aggro without breaking that aggro.
A quick note about heroes. Due to their erratic nature, it is not advised that heroes be used as tanks. As a human tank, it is possible to successfully complete the above strategies by pinning heroes strategically but be advised that heroes will cause aggro break due to bad positioning often.
I hope after reading this that you’ve found it helpful. If you put this into practice, you can keep your backline and support characters much safer. You can expect a few enemies to stray every now and then, especially on open area and wall aggros, but for the most part you can control the way the enemies get to move in the game.
Thanks to everyone that helped me to polish this guide.