Cooldowns are a more advanced tank topic. Use of them is something people get better at as they spend more time in the tanking roll.
What is a ‘cooldown’? A cooldown is something you activate to take less damage for a short period of time. It might be an ability, it might be a trinket, it might even be a potion. To be considered a ‘cooldown’ it must be something you deliberately activate that lasts a short period of time.
There are some other abilities people might activate and then deactivate, like a warrior changing stances, or a paladin changing seals, judgments, or aura. Those are NOT considered cooldowns and are not covered in this post. For information on such things go find some class specific information.
Examples of cool downs:
- Corroded Skeleton Key: Use: absorbs 6400 damage. Last 10 seconds.
- Survival Instincts: When Activated this ability temporarily grants you 30% of your maximum health for 20 seconds. After the effect is expires the health is lost.
- Indestructible Potion: Use: Increases your armor by 3500 for two minutes.
- Runic Healing Potion: Use Restores 2700 to 4500 health.
How are all these things alike? If you think like a tank they are all the same. By that I mean, if you are in a fight, and getting beat on by critters, and you use one of these things then after the ability or effect is gone you will have more hit points than you would have if you had not used the ability. Or, more specifically you are going to be LESS LOW on hit points.
Corroded Skeleton Key: 10 seconds later you are 6400 HP less low than you would have been. Survival Instincts: in 20 seconds, assuming you got beat on for are much as 30% of your health worth of damage, you will have 30% more health than you would have had. The ability raised your hit points 30%, then the creature beat on you and took those extra points, and then the effect faded and the fake points went away, but they were gone already due to damage and so you don’t notice a change. You might think, reading the text of it, that at the end of the time limit your health will DROP 30% no matter what. But this is not the case. Rather the ability, for all practice situations, works more like it just plain absorbed 30% of your health worth of incoming damage.
Indestructible Potion: Same as the others, if you are getting hit on for 2 minutes then you end with more HP if you use this potion than you would end with if you don’t.
Healing potions are the only ones on this list that give you actual permanent HP… but since you are getting beat on you don’t keep the hit points anyway. So they work the same; if you drink a healing potion during a fight you finish the battle with more HP than if you don’t drink one.
Because each cooldown, and there are other kinds of them, work differently, there are some rare situations where you might prefer to use one over another. For the purposes of this post I am going to simply refer to them as big ones and little ones. Big ones have longer cool downs and do more damage mitigation and small ones are smaller in both damage absorbed and time between uses.
Cooldown Use Strategies
There are several ways you can use your cooldowns. The first is to use them to kick yourself after a wipe. This is a standard tactic used by newer tanks. The way it works is you get into trouble, die, and then while running back you suddenly remember that if you had used barkskin or shield wall or whatever, you might have lived. This tactic is a good way of reminding yourself how much you suck as a tank but it does not actually help you. I recommend moving on to a more advanced strategy.
Use on pulls
Sometimes people just pop them as they start a pull. This has a number of benefits.
The beginning of the fight is where you are taking the most damage. So this makes sense as a time to pop cooldowns . Hopefully by the time the effects of it have worn off you will have downed one or more of the pack and you will be taking less damage. If your healer is narcoleptic you give them a chance to get back into the game. If you have gotten too far in front of your healer you likewise buy them some time. In some cases there are other benefits. For example a warrior using a shield spike and popping ‘shield block’ at the start of a fight can use it to generate extra AOE threat early in the fight.
The drawback of popping cooldowns early is that you might mislead the healer into thinking they don’t need to heal you much. This might result in catching them off guard when the cooldowns wear off.
The flip side of this is that if the healer KNOWS you are popping cooldowns can avoid the healing the fight for the first few critical moments until you have rounded up the whole pack. This is a powerful tactic that is available to tanks and healers that have very good communication.
When you are taking a lot of damage
This is an obvious tactic. Your bar is going down fast so you pop something.
When you know you are going to take a big hit
This is an advanced version of the last tactic. This is where you know the fight well enough to see the damage coming and you pop things in advance. This sort of skill level makes a good tanking appear invulnerable to his/her healer. It is also a critically useful skill for raid encounters.
When everyone ELSE is taking big hits
So your whole party is getting AOEed or something. Now would be a great time for the healer to NOT have to worry about you. So you pop some and buy them some time to heal everyone else up.
The healer is stunned, feared, frozen, flying through the air, or otherwise indisposed
It should be obvious why this is a good time for you to not need as much healing. As a good tank this is also something you can see coming in advance and even use the cooldown preemptively.
When you get adds
This is just like ‘when you know you are going to take a big hit’. More things are there beating on you then what the healer expected. By popping cooldowns at the right time you can tank, for a while, more than the healer has a prayer of healing.
When the healer dies
Again this should be obvious. I have finished many a fight when the healer has been dirt napping for several seconds or much longer. Using cooldowns can make you last a long time. If you have many cooldowns you might want to space out using them so you stretch their effects. If you pop 5 at once chances are they will wear off before they finish absorbing all the damage they could have.
Right after you say ‘gogogo’
For some reason this phrase can lessen your incoming heals. Also the phrase is usually followed by taking extran damage. So, it might be a good time to make up the difference with some cooldowns.
Any time you are using deliberate multi-pull tactics
Hi, my name is Reversion and I am a multi-pull addict (Hi Rev). It has been less than a day since my last multi-pull. I have tanked just about every heroic 5 5man boss with at least one extra pack there. The only way to get good at multi pulls and do them ‘right’ is to get very good with your cooldowns.
When someone epeen waver just said something about healthpools
It is so fun to hear them say ‘holy cr**p! How do you get 70k Hp?’
There are things to know about using cool downs. You need to be aware of which last a long time and which are short. You also want to pay some attention to how much they do for you. One way I help myself with this is be arraigning them in my F1-F12 bar in order of how strong they are or how often I use them. Knowing how each work to help you is important because if I pop Frenzied regeneration I will get rage starved. Also it has a distributed effect over time. This means popping it before a fight, or to buffer an incoming big hit is not a good plan. Using something like Icks Rotting Thumb would be better in those situations. On the other hand Frenzied regeneration is great if couple groups of adds just showed up and I am getting plenty of rage. Which you use when will depend on what cooldowns you have available. If you are not sure, feel free to ask.
Different tanks use them differently. I have never compared notes with any other tank about it but the ways I use them probably are different than others. Having played a healer a good bit I have a good ‘feel’ of when a fight is getting hard to heal. I tend to pop them then. This might be when half the party is standing is poison or when one of the DPS took a big hit. It just depends on the fight and on the healer.
As a tank once you get good at pulling, picking up and holding agro and taunting runners, you will find you have time to spare to consider your cooldown use. Learning some good tactics for using them is a great way to make you a better tank.
By the way, if you have a healer you partener who you can talk to easily in Vent or in person try discussing when and why you use cooldowns. Also try announcing when you pop them. This may help them adjust their healing tactics.