At the moment, I cannot post any links or pictures in this guide due to restrictions on my account. As I didn't feel like posting random stuff just to get my post count up, wowhead links and additional pictures are missing.
As most players have found out by now, Crowd Control has returned as an important aspect of the game in this new expansion. Ignored during most of Wrath of the Lich King - except on some rare occasions, CC (the common abbreviation for crowd control) fell out of use and its merits were almost forgotten. This was in stark contrast to the Burning Crusade era, where most dungeon groups were built around CC - many long time players will remember the end of the expansion, when Magister's Terrace came out. This was the pinnacle of crowd control: in a time where most tanks could take on 2 enemies or perhaps 3, packs of 6 mobs were a true test of the crowd control skills of your party. In Cataclysm, many heroic instances require once again that skilled players use the appropriate skills to make life easier.
In this guide, I will first give a summary of all abilities that I consider useful as crowd control. They are ordered by class, such that it is easy to see what skills are available to the people you play with (either your friends or in random dungeons). Secondly, I will give a short explanation or "How To:" about the different methods that are used in crowd control, and finally I will present a list of abilities ordered by the type of NPC they apply to (humanoid, undead, beast, elemental, demon, dragonkin).
Please note that in the summary of crowd control skills, snares are intentionally left out - however useful they may be for solo play or PvP, they are not much use in dungeons. It is possible that I mentioned some abilities that you consider worthless, or forgot others that you would include in the list. Lastly, this guide was written from a tanking perspective. Although it is meant for every player to use and learn from, this will from time to time become apparent in the text.
Feel free to comment so I can improve this guide.
Summary of crowd control abilities per class
- Army of the Dead
The archetypical Wrath of the Lich King character, the Death Knight doesn't have access to real crowd control abilities. Army of the Dead is on a long cooldown and generally only useful in emergency situations or extremely difficult pulls. Moreover, most DK's save this for boss fights.
Pretty much a standard CC spell, but limited to use on beasts and dragonkins. Very useful in Grim Batol and some pulls of other instances.
A short duration spell, but can be used on all types of enemies. Since it makes the target immune (i.e. it doesn't break), it can be cast on a mob that is in the middle of the fight. Very useful in emergency situations or at the start of a pull.
- Entangling roots
Roots the target in place. Generally only useful in emergency situations (like saving a healer), or to reduce tank damage at the start of a trash fight by rooting a melee mob before the pull.
- Freezing trap
Hunters can launch this trap nowadays, as opposed to putting it down like in the past. Good hunters will be able to place this right in front of a target so that a pack will not be pulled. If it reaches a target and traps it, however, it will engage the pack.
- Pet tanking
Mostly useful in emergency situations, hunters can use their pet's growl ability to grab aggro on a mob.
Widely seen as the go to crowd control ability, polymorph (commonly called "sheep") is the reason many tanks are relieved to see a mage in their party. Breaks on damage but can be reapplied in combat.
- Frost nova
Roots all targets around the mage in place. Due its value for solo play, often used by mages in emergency situations. Be aware, however, that a rooted mob will attack the targets that it can attack, even if they are not on top of the threat list.
- Turn evil
A very useful crowd control spell, but limited to demons and undead. Can be used mid-fight to move one mob away, but only if there are no other packs nearby.
Only available to Retribution paladins as a talent, this ability puts the target to sleep for 1 minute. However, the cooldown also is 1 minute, so this spell must be used on the pull to avoid breaking it with AoE.
- Hammer of Justice
A short stun available to all paladins. Can be used in emergency situations.
- Mind control
The only Crowd Control spell that makes the caster lose control of her own abilities. The priest instead gains the control of the CC'd mob, using his abilities to inflict damage or heal. Realistically, this spell can only be used by Shadow priest. One must be very mindful of positioning, since any damage to the priest will cancel this effect. Keep in mind that when Mind Control ends or is broken, the priest will have high threat on the mob.
- Shackle undead
As expected, this spell can only be used on Undead targets. One of the "typical" crowd control spells that will be broken on damage and therefore must be used at the right moment.
- Psychic scream
Short range AoE fear. Useful for emergency situations.
A very useful crowd control ability that must be applied before the pull, but will not cause the mobs to engage your party.
- Various stuns
A rogue has access to various stuns and disorient abilities that can help in emergency situations or at the start of a high-damage pack.
- Bind elemental
Standard CC spell that only applies to elemental type mobs.
A typical CC spell that applies to most mobs.
Makes a mob run away in terror. When glyphed, this ability roots the target in place. This is very useful as fear does not break immediately upon damage, so it can be used even after the pull if the tank is smart enough to pull the other mobs away from the feared target.
- Enslave demon
A crowd control ability with a long cooldown, but it can be very useful, especially when dealing with multiple demons such that the warlock can banish one and enslave the other.
Banish is a crowd control ability that can only be used on elementals and demons. It does not break on damage (it makes the mob immune), and can be cancelled by casting banish again.
- Succubus seduction
When your party is low on Crowd Control, a warlock can use his Succubus pet to control an additional mob.
- Intimidating shout
An AoE fear that usually can only be used when clear from other packs. However, when glyphed this ability causes all mobs to be rooted, which can be very powerful at the start of a fight to reduce the incoming damage.
How to use Crowd Control
As mentioned in the previous section, there are different sorts of crowd control spells. They can generally be divided into 4 groups:
- Pre-pull CC
- Pull CC
- Mid-fight CC
- Emergency CC
Pre-pull Crowd Control
These are spells that can be used before the pull without engaging in combat. Only Sap and Freezing trap (depending on how it is used) belong to this category. If you plan to use this form of CC, refrain from pulling until they are applied.
Pull Crowd Control
This is the "typical" CC spell that usually lasts long, but breaks on damage. Polymorph, Hex and Repentance are good examples of Pull CC. As the name suggests, this type of crowd control spells is usually used on the pull. If different spells of this type are used on one pull, the casters must try to coordinate in order to let the spells land at approximately the same time.
Mid-fight Crowd Control
This CC spell can be used on a mob in the middle of a fight. Good examples are any form of stun, Cyclone and Banish. These spells can also be used to pull, but it is not necessary to time them as accurately as the previous type, since they do not break on damage.
Emergency Crowd Control
Any form of Crowd Control that is either dangerous, short duration or long cooldown belongs here. They can be used in case the healer is out of mana, the tank is taking too much damage, a mob is loose or any other scenario.
Tips and tricks
Remember to use Raid Marks. If you are the party leader, bind them to easy to find keys like the Numpad or the F1-8 keys. Assign one type of Crowd Control to one mark. Common marks are Moon for Polymorph, Diamond for Banish and Square for Freezing Trap, but conventions may vary from server to server or even from player to player. Just make sure everyone knows what marker means what.
Make sure that everyone in the party knows when to use his or her Crowd Control spell, as described previously. The tank should pull right after the first CC spell has made the pack engage in combat. Ideally, he should use an ability that generated (a small amount) of AoE threat, such as Commanding Shout. If your party is very experienced with CC (you probably don't need this guide in the first place), you can also let the tank pull and use CC spells during the pull. This was the preferred way of handling CC during the Burning Crusade. However, with the improved AoE tanking capabilities this is no longer necessary.
Do not use too much CC. It can considerably slow you down if you crowd control too many mobs, as you have to wait for the CC to be applied and casters that are casting CC spells do not have time to do damage. Healer mana and tank health should be the main parameters you monitor in order to judge how much CC is needed per pack.
Look around you to see whether you can use AoE and Cleave abilities. If a mob is near, perhaps you can stand in a different spot where it is safe to use these abilities. It is nearly always a smart idea to move tanked mobs away from the crowd control mobs.
Summary of crowd control abilities per NPC type
Roots and other emergency abilities are left out