A commentor on my Aspect of the Viper post mentioned that he often keeps Aspect of the Viper on when soloing, in order to help his pet hold aggro. There are much better ways to help your pet hold aggro, without artifically halving your DPS, here are a few:
1. Choose the right type of pet for soloing: If you are having problem with your pet holding aggro, try a Tenacity pet. Once you have enough talent points, take Guard Dog, which increases the threat generated by your pets growl, and Taunt.
2. Make sure Growl is on and Cower is off: Some pet spells (especially Cower) are bugged. Cower will sometimes turn it’s self on, and the pet will dump aggro onto you. You can leave most of the pet skills like bite/claw on auto-cast in your pet’s spell book, but make sure that you drag both Growl and Cower onto your pet’s toolbar, and turn Growl on and Cower off. I have found having them on the toolbar is enough to stop the bug. However, others have recommended using the following macros each time you resummon your pet (including when you dismount), to ensure that cower is properly turned off:
/petautocastoff Cower /petautocaston Growl
3. Begin attack with your pet: Send your pet in first and give him a couple of seconds to build up some aggro before you start shooting. You would do this with a tank in an instance, well its no different with your pet, especially if he is having difficulty holding aggro. If you have Kill Command (available from level 66) you can also start off the fight with Kill Command, this makes your pet do extra damage and the extra threat generated goes to your pet not you. I use the following two macros to begin attack (with maybe a Misdirection if needed too).
/cast Kill Command
/cast hunter’s mark
/cast Auto Shot
Obviously this is only to begin my attack, I then move to my shot rotation, which is usually just steady shot: auto shot when grinding.
4. Get Omen Threat Meter and use Feign Death: Omen Threat meter measures the threat of each person in a group, it is a must have if you are running instance and raids, it is also very useful if you are soloing with your pet. Use it to watch your pets aggro relative to you. Get to know how much aggro he needs before you can fire your big shots, and get used to using Feign Death (as you would with a tank in an instance) before you are about to pull aggro off him, rather than when you have done it.
5. Use Misdirection: If you have it, use Misdirection (available from level 70) at the beginning of a fight, to make sure your first three shot aggro is passed on to your pet. Misdirection has been buffed recently in that its cooldown has been dropped to 30secs, so you can use it more than once in long fights. Get used to using it both in instances and with your pet, it will help a lot.
These are my Misdirection macros:
This one sets a focus target (usually my tank). The Focus is an additional stored target.
/cast [target=focus,help][help][target=pet,exists,nodead] Misdirection
The Misdirection macro above, will Misdirect onto the Focus target if one has been selected, or onto my pet if I have no Focus Target. When soloing I just push the Misdirection button, and Misdirection is applied to my pet.
6. BM Hunters consider using Aspect of the Beast: If you are a soloing or leveling Beastmaster hunter, without improved Aspect of the Hawk talents, consider using Aspect of the Beast. You can test your different Aspects on a target dummy, but even in raid situations Aspect of the Beast can produce higher DPS for BM hunters (see Elitist Jerks forums). Whatsmore, this DPS boost is to your pet not you, so if you are leveling up a lower level pet, or you are struggling to maintain aggro with a pet, it might be a good one to try. It shouldn’t significantly gimp a BM hunters DPS (like Viper), and will transfer a chunk of DPS (and therefore threat) from the hunter to the pet. I often used it when soloing with my gorilladin (before respeccing to a raid spec which includes improved AoH) – it seemed to help him hold aggro and may even marginally have increased our DPS compared to unimproved Aspect of the Dragonhawk.
7. Blizzard is throwing you a bone: Patch 3.0.8 will strengthen the threat generated by all pets growls, making it easier to hold aggro. But this is no excuse for running around in Aspect of the Viper until then. By doing some of the things above, even MM and Surv hunters with weak pets and high burst damage should be able to hold aggro with their pets. It’s no different from playing with a tank in an instance – and you wouldn’t keep Aspect of the Viper on permanently then, right?