One of the biggest challenges for a hunter tank is keeping aggro. Compared to the abilities of traditional tanks a hunter pet’s threat generating abilities just don’t match up, and this greatly reduced threat output can be a major challenge for new hunter tanks and their groups. Fortunately there are things that we and our groups can do to prevent our favorite squishies from meeting an untimely demise.
The first step to ensuring our healers don’t pull threat is to understand how they generate threat. At a basic level a healer will generate threat on each mob in combat equal to half of the total healing they do to all friendly targets in combat. That means that whatever we can do to reduce the amount of healing they have to do, the less threat they’ll generate and the greater the chance that they’ll still be standing at the end of combat.
The easiest way to reduce your healer’s required healing output is to reduce the unnecessary damage your group takes. Simply making sure people aren’t standing in the fire can greatly reduce your healer’s threat. On fights with a great deal of AoE make sure that you’re using any available resistance buffs through paladin auras, shaman totems, our very own hunter aspect, and Mark of the Wild. On fights with frost based AoE your group can throw on some frost resist gear (the DPS will likely be holding back a bit anyway, so they won’t really miss the stats much). Finally even though your healers might complain at first, putting Dampen Magic on the raid will reduce the damage they take and thereby decrease healer threat, just make sure they don’t put it on your poor pet.
Don’t group with this guy.
The other major way of reducing the necessary healing is to reduce damage in on your pet. Beyond armor and avoidance talents, there are several class buffs and debuffs that will reduce the damage your pet takes. Stoneskin Totems, Mark of the Wild, and Devotion Aura improve your pets armor, decreasing damage taken. The attack speed lowering debuffs other tanking classes bring, attack power reducing abilities of several classes, and the his chance reduction from Insect Swarm of Scorpid Sting combined together hugely reduce the damage your pet will take in melee.
Finally, the most effective way to reduce your healer’s threat…
Crowd control is your friend. There hasn’t been a lot of CC since WotLK launched, so much so that people forget that it can be a valuable part of a group’s toolbox. If you can cut the number of mobs hitting your tank in half, you reduce the damage in half and your healers threat in half. Be careful though, in some circumstances when you break crowd control your healer could have a large pool of threat built up on CCed mobs, so be ready to taunt if needed.