Holding aggro with your pet

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


/Assist pet

/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:

/Focus Target

This one sets a focus target (usually my tank).  The Focus is an additional stored target.

#showtooltip Misdirection 

/focus [modifier:alt] 

/cast [target=focus,help][help][target=pet,exists,nodead] Misdirection 

/clearfocus [button:2]

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?

Want to find out more?  See my Anger Management post and my 13 hunter macros post.


5 responses to “Holding aggro with your pet

  1. for the user that posted the comment of keeping viper on, most of those on the lists are small but they add up, i personally only use a few but the main one is misdirection, i am an mm hunter with a cat for lving, on a normal planned fight (maybe not the case when the mob attacks me no the other way around). growl is always on, pet attacks first, and always in my normal rotation is misdirect to pet or if i have a focus the focus target (your macro tin 🙂 ) even with my big burst damage and only a dps pet my pet can hold aggro on a mob for the entirety of the fight

  2. Thanks Tinuviel! Great Post
    Just wondering if I cast misdirect on my pet and then cast serpent Sting on the Mob before start spamming steady shot (ups sorry, using my shot rotation… ;-). Will all threat Serpent sting make over 15 sec misdirect to my pet or will it fain with misdirect when I’ve done the 3 attacks?
    I guess that omen could tell me that..

  3. @hasselfar: it counts the first three shots, not the DOT.

    I use two macros:
    focus=pet misdirect
    hunter’s mark


    serpent sting

    (and I’m not smart enough to get the syntax right in this comment without making my forehead bleed)

  4. Great Blog – read it all the time. Figured I’d chime in with a comment in response to this post.

    I just respecced to MM/Survival last night to try it out and I really dig it. That’s not my point though.

    I found that even with a level 65 Bear (I’m 70) I had plenty of tools to keep the aggro on my bear and not me. Blizz has made it easy for Hunters to manage aggro if the proper skills are used.

    Misdirect every other pull with the new lower cool down, Feign Death or Disengage when needed, pop Kill Command whenever it’s up – piece of cake.

    Besides, in my opinion, managing aggro as an MM or Survival spec is good practice for the ‘real thing’, ie raiding.

    Anyway, no perma-Vipering allowed, that is in the words of Mike Tyson: ‘Ludacrisp’

  5. Great blog. The only thing I dont think is so cool is that for a higher level hunter and getting the dragonhawk to high level is the only bad thing. Unless anyone knows where to find a higher level dragonhawk I am stumbled. LOL. And the other thing is that the pets that are supposed to be able to hold aggro against you is that most the pets in their are not tanking pets. I think that a good suggestion for holding aggro is the rhino you can recive in sholzar basin. There may be more places than that to find the rhinos. LOL. I dont know at the moment. I might get back to you on that. But after reading in this blog i believe that this guy or girl actually knows what he is talking about. 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 :0