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Crowd control (often abbreviated to CC) refers to spells and abilities which limit an opponents ability to participate in a fight. Crowd control abilities can be divided into two distinct categories: loss of control abilities, and positional control abilities.

Loss of control abilities are such that when used, the target loses the ability to participate in a battle (be it an NPC or player). They are essentially taken out of play for the duration of the controlling spell. Positional control abilities, however, do not remove control over the unit but may hinder it in some other form (target may still use its abilities to an extent).

All raid bosses are immune to all forms of crowd control. Elite mobs may or may not have high resistance to, or be immune to, specific CC that would normally work on their non-elite counterparts. Player characters are susceptible to most forms of CC, but are subject to Diminishing Returns.

Within the two categories discussed, further forms of crowd control exist, similar to the way magical spells are divided in to schools (e.g. Holy, Shadow):

  • Loss of control
    • Charm: target is under control of the caster.
    • Fear: target runs randomly around.
    • Stun (controlled and random): target is unable to move or perform any actions.
    • Incapacitate: a stun which breaks on damage to the target.
    • Sleep: target is put to sleep, unable to move or perform any actions.
    • Disorient: target wanders around slowly, unable to perform actions.
    • Polymorph: target is transformed into a critter, unable to perform actions. Most Polymorph effects also include Disorient.
    • Banish: target is made immune to all effects but is unable to perform any.
    • Horror: similar to Fear effect, but duration tends to be short.
  • Positional control
    • Snare: targets movement speed is limited, often slowed to below normal run speed.
    • Root (controlled and random): target is locked in place, stationery, but abilities may still be performed.
    • Spell frost stun [Dazed]: targets movement speed is reduced to 50%, and dismounted if applicable.
    • Grip: targets are pulled from their original position, often having spells interrupted.

However, as of Warlords of Draenor, the number of CC types with diminishing returns in PvP was drastically reduced to just six types: Roots, Stuns, Incapacitates (including Polymorph, Sap, Charm and Sleep types), Disorients (including Fear, Horrify, and Cyclone), Silences, and AoE Knockbacks. While Snares continued to exist, they were never affected by DRs and hence never given a classification during this transition.

PvE strategy[]

The strategy for crowd control was generally well understood in vanilla World of Warcraft and the Burning Crusade expansion. During the Wrath of the Lich King expansion, use of crowd control diminished as it was not well suited to the AoE based tanking style of play that the expansion favoured. With the release of the Cataclysm expansion, crowd control is once again used frequently in instances.

Raid icons[]

To use crowd control effectively in an instance, it is necessary to select and communicate which mobs will be controlled. This is most commonly done through the assignment of raid icons and the establishment of a default "kill order" based on the icons chosen. For example, it is customary for players to treat a mob marked with a skull icon as the first target to be killed, followed by X. At the other end, it is often customary to use the moon icon as the "last target" to be killed, and to designate that target for a repeatable crowd control such as the spell Spell nature polymorph [Polymorph]. The blue square is also commonly used for this purpose. The star icon is often associated with the rogue's Ability sap [Sap] ability, and is also often associated as a third or fourth target in the kill order. This dual-meaning is partly due to the fact that Sap may only be used at the beginning of the fight, so it is necessary to kill the rogue's target as the fight progresses sooner than other targets that may be crowd controlled indefinitely.

It is reccomended that the kill order be established to include the order in which crowd controlled targets will be killed (for example, one could declare that square will be killed before moon). Repeatable crowd control abilities should be kept last in the order, for maximum effect. In the event that group participants confuse the targets and go out of order, is generally best to follow the tank's lead. If possible, crowd control the other target instead. To aid in preventing confusion, group leaders might consider assigning the skull icon to a key and then progressively assigning the icon to the preferred target as each previous target is killed.


To effectively employ most forms of crowd control, it is necessary to avoid causing damage to a target that will break the effect prematurely. For this reason, tanks should take care to pull the fighting mobs a short distance away from controlled ones so that AoE abilities will not cause accidental damage. One way to mitigate this problem is to select casters or ranged-attackers to be controlled, or to use line of sight tactics.

If the crowd control fails and the mob enters the fray, the player may have to abandon the use of crowd control. It is particularly difficult to apply crowd control once there are DoT effects on the target. If possible, select an alternative target and announce the change of targets.


Players responsible for the application of crowd control are well advised to take advantage of macros. A common strategy is to assign a focus target and use a macro to cast the crowd control ability on the focus target without diselecting the current target.

Warlords of Draenor[]

Main article: Patch 6.0.2#Crowd control and diminshing returns

With Warlords of Draenor the amount of crowd control in the game will be dramatically reduced, and the number of diminishing returns categories reduced.

For the lastest announced patch changes, see Patch 6.0.2.