Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Crowd Control THIS

Conventional wisdom says there are three roles in MMORPGs. Tank, Heal, DPS. I posit that there is a fourth in the form of crowd control. Let's take a look at crowd control (CC) options that exist for us. And while the photo over yonder has exactly zero to do with our favorite game, it is what comes up on a Google image search for "crowd control." Who knew?

There are several categories of crowd control. Some forms of crowd control can be applied prior to combat only, some can be applied before or during combat, some have long cool down times, and most affect only a few categories of enemies. Some methods of crowd control last a long time; some last mere seconds. Nearly all forms of crowd control can be broken.

Mages are well known for applying polymorph (sheep) to humanoid or beast enemies. Mobs can be re-sheeped in combat. Any damage will break the polymorph. Many instances and raids are absolutely chock-full of monsters vulnerable to sheep. Polymorph lasts around 30-45 seconds subject to resisting. It's a reliable, repeatable form of crowd control if you're fighting humanoids or beasts. The only other method of crowd control that mages have is frost nova. This will lock down melee mobs, but will not prevent spell casting or ranged weapons. Quite often frost nova is used to hold mobs in place for eventual death by AOE.

Rogues are known for sap. Humanoids can be sapped but only when neither the target nor the rogue is in combat. It must also be applied from stealth. Since sap requires both targets to be out of combat, mobs cannot be re-sapped. There is also a danger that a rogue will be "noticed" while setting up for the sap. Liberal use of distract helps lower this chance and if things truly go south, the rogue should be able to vanish out of the problem. Another caveat about sap is that some mobs can "see through stealth." Any enemy in a group that can see through stealth effectively eliminates this method of CC. Rogues can also make use of two other types of limited CC. Blind causes the target to walk around in confusion for a few seconds. This may be useful if a sap wakes up too early, giving the party just a few seconds to burn down another mob before dealing with the sapped mob. Finally, rogues can stunlock mobs keeping them from doing much for some time. Eventually, the rogue will run out of combo points and energy-usually with a pissed off mob on his or her hands.

Priests have a few options for CC. Undead mobs can be shackled. Shackles, apart from which categories of enemy can be affected, are very much like sheeps. Both can be re-applied and break on damage. Humanoid mobs, on the other hand, can be mind controlled. Mind control can be an effective means of crowd control, but prevents the priest from doing anything him or herself for the duration. Instead, the priest will have a "pet bar" representing a (very small) subset of the mobs normal abilities. Mind control is generally not favored for CC if the priest is your healer. While the fight is going on, the priest won't be giving any heals unless the mind controlled mob has healing spells on the pet bar. I've most often used MC as CC for dicey gigantic pulls when there is another healer. Keep in mind, some mobs have access to incredible buffs and a priest that MCs one can buff the party. Keep a watch out for these buffs if you are mind controlling one. Finally, priests can do an AOE fear. Fears are often dangerous as you can't control where feared mobs go. And a priests fear is often overkill as you can't select only one or a few targets to be feared. Everything in the area will be affected (subject to resists, of course).

Warlocks have a large number of CC options but only against specific mob types. First of all demons or elementals can be banished. This CC does not break on damage and can be re-applied. However, not many enemies match the types that can be affected. The warlocks succubus minion can seduce humanoids as well. The seduce is not as strong as sheep, for instance. It lasts less time (around 15 seconds) and is harder to reapply (without a macro). Aggro from the previously seduced mob is on the succubus. The succubus is a fairly fragile minion and will often die if the mob is not dealt with immediately. Warlocks can also enslave a demon enemy. This comes at the cost of the warlock's current minion, so don't ask a warlock to enslave and seduce concurrently. Enslave lasts a long time (up to 5 minutes) and can be re-applied. However, most parties will have the warlock release the demon prior to expiration. Enslaves have a nasty habit of breaking mid-combat otherwise. Warlocks also have access to fear in three flavors. Like the priest they have an AOE fear. Untalented, this takes about 1.5 seconds to cast (can be lowered to instant cast in the affliction tree). Additionally they have two single target fear effects (Fear and Death Coil). Death coil lasts only a few seconds and has a 2 minute cool down. However, it gives the warlock back some life. All warlock fears can be broken by damage.While I don't consider off-tanking to be true crowd control, a warlock's minion can also keep a mob busy. The only really viable off-tank pets are the voidwalker and felguard.

Hunters have access to Freezing Trap. Freezing trap will freeze a mob (of any type) in place for about 30 seconds. Any damage will break the trap. The mob must be drawn to the trap and will then trigger it freezing in place. Hunters that manage cool downs can have 2 (or even 3 specced right) mobs on ice at a time, but only one trap can be laying on the floor at a time-traps will last for up to one minute before they disappear. The cool down is shared amongst the five types of traps that hunters have (at 70) and is 30 seconds. While most crowd control can be applied wherever the mob is, the hunter must lure his target to the trap. It is harder for a hunter to CC mobs that cast spells or use ranged weapons. Another party member can interrupt a caster's spell to help the hunter, of if he or she is a Marksman spec, silencing shot can help. Hunters also have a fear effect, but it only works on beasts. The cool down is long (about 30 seconds) and it doesn't seem to last long. I'm sure all PVP hutners know this but both other hunter pets and druids in animal forms count as beasts. I still don't consider off-tanking to be true crowd control, but a hunter's pet can also keep a mob busy. The pet will likely need heals either from the hunter or the party healer to fulfill this duty. Finally, marksman hunters might have access to scatter shot. This will be similar to a rogue's blind.

Druids have access to several CC options, but with even further limitations. First, if outside, druids can use entangling roots to keep mobs in place (but like frost nova doesn't prevent ranged weapons or spells). Some raids and even one dungeon are considered "outside": Zul'Farrak, Zul'Gurub, and Zul'Aman. Basically, if an instance starts with Zul and features trolls, it's probably outside. Druids also have access to hibernate to put dragonkin or beasts to sleep. This is similar to a sheep-can be broken by damage, can be re-appplied, etc. Lastly druids can use cyclone to take a mob out of the fight for about six seconds. The enemy will be invulnerable for the duration (like a warlock's banish).

As we approach the final three classes, CC options are getting more limited. Warriors have an AOE fear like priests and a stun in the protection tree. Paladins have a single-target fear that affects only undead and a stun. Shamans have well...did I mention that I don't consider a pet off-tanking to be true CC? Shamans do have both an earth elemental and fire elemental totem that can keep one mob busy for a short time.

So. I'm looking up at this wall of text. It's important to know what types of crowd control you have available to you in an instance. If you're the group leader, you'll save yourself a lot of embarrassment by not asking rogues to "re-sap" or assigning a mage to polymorph a demon.


K said...

Don't forget that priests can MC-Kill a mob before CC is applied - or mid-CC if a sap is involved.

It isn't true "Crowd Control", but it does take a mob out of combat. :) Just gotta make sure the other crowd controls are applied just before the MC'd mob dies and the tank is ready with a pickup.

Like wise, with warlocks -- if the warlock hits the succubus charm with something like searing pain just before she crowd controls, the 'lock will have aggro when the succubus charm breaks, giving her that much more time to reapply.

The other handy thing is deathcoiling the succubus' charm if it's hitting her (or anyone else). By the time deathcoil wears off (stopping damage to it), the succubus' charm should be cast. It's away from the group (Useful if the mob is on AOE ground like an immolation trap, consecration, etc) and under control.

Boffors said...

Survivalist hunters also have wyvern sting which put the target asleep for 12 seconds and then when it breaks does nature damage over 12 seconds, which can make additional CC on the target problematic.