How does aggro work in Diablo III?

I'm a tank, so my job is to keep mobs coming after me, and not after my squishy dps partners, however I am not sure what the aggro/threat rules are

I'm fairly sure it's not the closest player or the one that hits first based on some of the longer boss fights I've done with some friends. I don't think it's damage-based either, although I'm not positive on that one. I also don't think its entirely random because I'm usually not targeted if I hang back.

I'm looking to find out:

  • How does aggro work in Diablo III?
  • Can it be "controlled"?
  • And does it work differently for bosses or regular mobs?
  • 2
    All that I really know is that yes, it can be controlled. The Templar's Taunt and the Demon Hunters Smoke Screen are examples of abilities that grab, and drop aggro respectively. Commented May 16, 2012 at 19:14
  • 1
    Could you put an explanation what "aggro" means into the question? Because I don't know what it means.
    – yas4891
    Commented May 25, 2012 at 15:31
  • 1
    @yas4891 Sure, I added a link to my question which goes to a good definition of aggro
    – Rachel
    Commented May 25, 2012 at 15:41
  • Because there's no easy way to guarantee you get aggro as a tank (you have no taunts) it's actually other character's jobs to lose any aggro they get. A Demon Hunter, for example, should be using Smoke Screen if he happens to pull aggro. Running headlong into things should mostly achieve want you want :)
    – Sadly Not
    Commented May 27, 2012 at 20:18
  • 1
    @SadlyNot There aren't any taunts, however there is an aggro system the tank can use to their advantage to be a good tank (see my answer for details). For example, tanks that pull groups with an AOE skill will hold mobs better than simply pulling with a single-target skill, since it will let the dps hit for a short time without pulling aggro. Of course, being a smart dps will keep you alive longer than a dumb one, regardless of tank quality :)
    – Rachel
    Commented May 29, 2012 at 13:28

3 Answers 3


I play a tank and try my best to keep aggro on me at all times, and here is what I've observed

  • Aggro is initially obtained through proximity or attacks (even non-damaging attacks)

  • Aggro obtained through proximity can be trumped by damage, meaning if you do damage you can pull aggro off of someone who had obtained it through proximity only.

  • You do not pull aggro from doing more damage than another person once aggro is obtained via damage

  • Mobs will frequently and randomly decide to stop hitting their target, and look for someone else to hit. Once this happens, aggro can be re-obtained through the same thing: either proximity or attacks

  • Skills which interrupt mobs, including those which push/pull mobs around, will cause monsters to find a new target after they've recovered

  • Boss fights seem to work the same as regular mob fights

Some things I have noticed to back this theory up:

  • If I aggro monsters by being too close to them and my DPS hits them before I do, the monsters run for the DPS player

  • If I pull monsters with a damaging ability, such as Cyclone Strike, I keep agro for a few seconds regardless of how much damage the dps players do until monsters randomly start dropping aggro and looking for a new target

  • Tanking monsters with an AOE dps ability active, such as Sweeping Wind, typically will keep monsters on me since when they drop agro, my aoe ability will tick and cause them to stay on me. Of course, it's not perfect since dps has a chance to hit before my aoe ability ticks.

  • Using a skill like Cyclone Strike to pull a mob off a dps player will cause the monster to re-focus on me in most cases, unless they take damage from the dps player before I can do damage, or are shielded/invulnerable so I don't do damage

Other notes...

  • Per Bashiok's twitter comment, some mobs may work differently

  • Damage absorbed by the enemy does not count for aggro purposes (for example, hitting a shielded enemy will not pull aggro off of someone who has it via proximity only)

  • Much of this is simply speculation based on what I've observed while playing, and the little bit of information found online.

As for controlling aggro....

Here's what I find works best for when you want aggro:

  • Pull mobs by doing damage, so dps doesn't pull them off you with their damage

  • Use AOE abilities if possible so monsters will re-target you after losing interest

  • If you don't use AOE abilities, consider building attack speed so you can pick up monsters faster when they lose interest in you

  • Have some damage reflection, so things that aggro to you based on proximity will now aggro because of damage, and won't get pulled off by other dps

  • Be wary of monsters losing interest with you, and use push/pull/stun/etc skills to reset their target and hit them immediately afterwards to pick aggro back up

  • Hit things chasing squishy people, because their aggro resets fairly frequently and you will probably pick it back up quickly

For not getting aggro:

  • Let your tank do damage first

  • Stand back, so your tank gets proximity aggro when a mob loses focus, and they have a chance to do damage and pick them back up

  • Use push/stun/blind/etc skills if you get aggro to reset the mob's target

  • Stop hitting things chasing you if the tank is hitting it as well if you want the tank to pick aggro back up

Most of this stuff is probably just common sense, but figured I'd list it to provide a complete answer to the question.

  • 2
    Fantastic write up!
    – Nevir
    Commented May 29, 2012 at 18:07

Initial agro is acquired by attacks, or proximity from a player. After that, if other players / minions come into the screen, it's random. Agro can't be controlled in the same way threat levels can in WoW (assuming you can relate your question to that). However use of snare, confusion, slow spells can help. When you force the mob to slow it's path of direction to you, it's more likely to jump to another player in that time.

  • So once you're fighting, mobs will agro randomly any nearby player, and will change targets either after a specific amount of time or number of actions?
    – Rachel
    Commented May 16, 2012 at 19:25
  • 2
    It seems that way to me. I've looked up the topic myself. I'm not sure what the algorithm used to switch targets is, but from my findings, and game play experience, it seems to be a few things. Time, Number of players and minions attacking the target, and mob control type spells. As @LessPop_MoreFizz mentioned, there are a few spells to grab and drop threat specifically, but once the effect of the spell wears off, that player holds the same threat as any other.
    – Frantumn
    Commented May 16, 2012 at 19:39
  • 1
    In my few observations (no big bosses yet) I also note that mobs don't seem to "random shift" nearly as much as WoW. So there is less need to re-grab aggro off the clothies, because the mobs are satisfied to stay on the tanks. Maybe that means everyone is more equal, and tanks get attacked just because they engage in melee.
    – EBongo
    Commented May 18, 2012 at 12:07
  • 2
    Noises? You do realize they would have to integrate a whole new system for that... It may be possible that certain spells projectiles count as "object" coming in range and therfore producing aggro but noise is impossible. Imagine the data: arcane orb 30dezibel, elemental arrow 20dezibel --> skeleton warrior ear range 0 yards (because it has no ears)
    – Melini
    Commented May 25, 2012 at 15:17
  • "it's random" No. It isn't. I have never once seen a mob with a melee attack run from the tank to a ranged attacker, as long as the tank continues to (melee) attack the mob.
    – Olhovsky
    Commented May 29, 2012 at 13:15

I skimmed through Bashioks twitter account (having read a question about aggro there) and found it:

@Bashiok How is threat handled in D3?

Pretty loosely. In most cases it's first proximity which can be trumped by damage. It depends on the enemy, though.

So this means that range is the primary reason mobs attack you. Obviously range enemies have a higher range so its harder to estimate but for melee mobs it's pretty obvious. If you want to "hold aggro" you gotta do more damage since we don't have the option of real taunt's for most classes.

Cyclone Strike is kind of a taunt in the way that the enemies get into melee range or close to the monk, therefore they will primaril attack him unless you outperform him damagewise.

I tested non damaging effects like threatening shout and Horrify.It seems they will also aggro (horrify obviously after the fear effect is done) because an effect produces more threat than just coming in range of an enemy.

Hope this helps...

  • 2
    I'm fairly sure aggro is not based on the amount of damage done. I play a tank and do about 1/10th the damage of the dps of players I run with, so there's no way I would be able to hold anything if this were the case. Thanks for linking Bashiok's comment though, as it does provide part of the answer (full explanation in my answer here) :)
    – Rachel
    Commented May 25, 2012 at 18:25
  • Well even in the Bashiok post it says that damage influences it. You may be able to hold the mobs as "tank" through cyclone strike because of proximity or just by beeing first to hit them and then not beeing outdamaged by others in time.
    – Melini
    Commented May 26, 2012 at 9:28
  • Damage counts for more then proximity. But not as in high dmg vs low dmg. I once played as wizard with a barb tank with a small fraction of my dps and yet he held aggro well over half the time. Commented Jun 2, 2012 at 16:16

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