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Situational awareness, or  “looking at more than just health bars so you see the puddles of goo on the floor”, is insanely key to being a good healer. So key in fact that I would further break down the topic into personal situational awareness and global situational awareness, the later being “seeing the goo that everyone ELSE is standing in”. So I’m breaking this up into two posts and starting with personal.

Imagine you’re looking at your WOW UI. There at the center of the screen, what do you see? You. It might be a dwarf priest, a Tauren shaman, a Draeni paladin, or a Tree (by the way, save the trees!), but it’s you. Too often in healing we are so busy looking at everyone else (at least, everyone else’s health bars) that we forget to look at ourselves.

To learn to escape tunnel vision we must be more aware of ourselves and our surroundings.  It makes a great story when we can say “… and then I realized I was wearing my fishing pole!” or “Then I remembered I hadn’t switched out of my PVP healing spec!” but in truth, when you say that, you have failed. Personal awareness is your first goal when entering an instance or a raid.

Your pre-flight checklist:

Am I in healing mode?

Healing gear?

Healing spec?

Tree form?

Am I ready to go?

Buffs ok? (what do your party members bring?)

Mana bar up?

Phone off the hook, dog outside, baby changed?

Is my party ready?

Identify the tank

Classify each dps player

Mentally categorize their resource type (more on the last few when I do the global situational awareness topic)

Communicate

Tell the tank “I’m ready to go”. Let him know after pulls if there were too many mobs or if you need a second. Remind the mage not to stand in fire.

This is in ideal world. In the real world, the tank has pulled three patrols before you’re actually in the instance, the mage is already dead, and the paladin doesn’t speak English and has given you Blessing of Might. So while you’re running to catch up, do as many of these things as you can, while firing off whatever “Oh Crap” spells you have and wondering if those Frost badges are really worth it.

During the Run:

Your location may vary fight to fight. In general, you want to be close to but not in melee range. If you’re too far away, then when the mage pulls aggro, frost novas the mobs next to you, and blinks away, then you’re in trouble. If you’re closer in the tank will have an easier time. On the other hand, sometimes you’ll want to stay back. Do you know that a mob throws chain lightning or fears? You might stay farther off. For a rule of thumb, never get so far behind that if the tank charges he goes out of range.

If you know an encounter cold, you might think about where you should stand to best help the tank. For instance in Utgarde Keep on the Prince fight, stand so that the tank is between you and the door where the skeletons spawn. When they aggro on you, they will run over the tank who has an easier job of picking them up than if he had to run over to you.  If you have a good tank friend, ask him about fights and where particularly you can stand to help him out.

Stay out of the fire, obviously. If you’re having tunnel vision, make your own health bar nice and visible so when you start taking damage you notice – and then move! Most fights you probably know cold by now anyway. You’ll know when a boss is going to do a move that means you need to move. Watch where you stand when you’re fighting dragons (head and tail are bad, stand on one side). Just run down an encounter before it happens so that when you need to react, it takes you less time

Remember your own defensive cooldowns: chances are when the party takes an AOE, you’ll take damage too. Throw a defensive cooldown ahead of time if you can, like Barkskin, to give yourself breathing room. Or have a shield or a hot on yourself already.

Watch your aggro: Try not to heal the tank until he’s got aggro. If you do pull, bring the mobs to him. Don’t count on him seeing that one that’s hitting you, take proactive steps. Again, if you have problems with tunnel vision, make your own health bar really big and obvious and when it starts going down, figure out why.

Afterwards:

Assess the run. If you were going with a friend, talk about it with them. Were there avoidable deaths? Places things could have been smoother? Figure it out and file it away under “next time”. Mistakes are for learning, not recrimination.

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Maybe you’re like me; totally psyched for Cataclysm, starting to be a bit bored with current content, wanting one last run through Old Azeroth before it becomes New And Improved Azeroth (Now with 500% more Lava!). And you’ve rolled, or are thinking of rolling, a class that can heal. Let’s say you’ve never healed before. Does the prospect seem daunting?

It definitely can, especially at low levels when you don’t have as many healing abilities. Team that up with low level tanks not having all their mitigation abilities and low level dps being no better than top level ones at not getting face stomped and a pug of RFC or Stockades suddenly approaches the difficulty and pain of a Blood Princes encounter.

The first thing you have to do is start thinking like a healer, and I think the most important skill there is triage. It’s a term referring to what battlefield medics or ER staff do; assess the injury status of patients in such a way as to save as many lives as possible.

For triage in WoW to work, you need to know what your abilities are and what they do. Even at low levels most healing classes will have at least a long slow big heal and a short fast small heal. Some classes already have hots or shields or other ways of preventing or healing damage. Make a mental inventory of all these.

Next, assess your party makeup. I’ll assume a classic five man group; fewer than five man and the problem gets easier. Our imaginary party will be a young Warrior tank, a hunter and his pet turtle Bessy, a frost mage, a rogue, and you, a priest (translate this to whatever healing class is appropriate; the priest is a good one for this scenario).

Notice that I set up this party so that other than the hunter’s Mend Pet ability, nobody else has healing spells. We’ll assume the rogue can bandage and likes to do so. Everything else is up to you.

Now set up a priority queue in your mind. It goes like this:

You
Tank
Whatever DPS has done the least to make your life miserable or you are romantically involved with
The other dps
The pet
The DPSer you are romantically involved with if he forgot that your birthday was last week

This is the “keep them alive” priority and not the “heal them” priority. What’s the difference? The “keep them alive” priority stays static the whole time; it doesn’t change unless someone annoys you enough to move down the ladder, or brings you chocolate and wine and moves up the queue. The “Heal them” priority queue changes every second of the fight. Here’s how it work.

You engage a small patrol. The tank picks up aggro and starts taking damage. You throw him a Power Word: Shield and a Renew and he stops taking damage while the shield is up. When it wears off, he starts taking some damage again. The Renew is a Heal Over Time spell and mends some of that damage, but he’s down about a quarter of his hit points and the mobs are still hitting him, so you start casting a Heal. (Assume you don’t yet have Greater Heal). Now he’s got his health back. You refresh the Renew, the mobs die, and everyone’s happy.

That one was easy! Only the tank needed healing. You adjusted your heals based on what he needed to keep his health bar full, didn’t waste mana, and nothing got scary.

Now on to the next pull. This one has more mobs and some of them are ranged. As you throw a Renew and Shield on the tank, it causes you to get aggro from one of the casters, who starts throwing ice bolts at you. You immediately put a shield on yourself and since you don’t have much damage, a Renew. Then the mage gets attention from one of the mobs, who wanders over and starts hitting him. The mage panics and runs over to you and then frost novas and runs away, leaving the mob right next to you. The mob decides that you look tasty and starts biting you. Meanwhile the tank just got critted and is at 50% health and falling.

Summary: You and the tank are both being actively hit
The mage is not being actively hit
You are at 70% life. The tank is at 50% life. The mage is at 30% life.
What do you do?

Well, whatever you do, you’ve got to get the mob off you. Take a few steps toward the tank. While the frost nova holds the mob can’t bite you. When it wears off, it will have to come toward the tank to get you. At the same time, refresh the Renew that’s on yourself. Now pay attention to the tank! If you can shield him again, do that. If the Renew is gone, refresh it. Then cast your fast quick heal, Flash Heal. It doesn’t do as much, but your tank is hurting bad and you need to get some breathing room. Often a couple of quick fast heals will get you enough breathing room to have time to cast your long slow top-them-up heal.

Now the tank is at 70%, you’re at 85%, and the mage is still hurting. If you can spare time, drop a Renew on him and let him stew. If you eventually have the time and mana, Flash Heal him to about 80%. More than that is a waste of your global cool downs and mana. He should have learned his lesson and not pull the mobs again this fight. A few missing health points is a good lesson.

Oops, mobs still not dead. The tank has them all now, but the hunter, who has been afk, finally wakes up and sends in his pet, who growls at one mob and gets it to turn and fight him. Bossy the Turtle takes some damage. You can choose to heal it, or not; the hunter ought to Mend Pet on it and he was stupid to have its Growl on, but the pet is doing good dps and if you can spare the mana, give it some love.

And the rogue is taking a little aoe damage. He bandaged himself earlier when things were messy, so now you drop a shield and a Renew on him, and then turn your attention back to the tank who is in need of more Flash Heals.

Oh, dear – you guys just aggroed the boss who was wandering around, and he runs in and throws a big AOE that damages you all pretty badly. What do you do now?

Throw a shield on yourself and the tank (if you were a druid you’d be dropping more HOTs on you both here) and then cast your AOE heal. Sorry paladins, you don’t have an AOE heal, but the other three classes do and this is where to use them; you’ve got at least three people hurt and the tank is not taking so much damage that your heal can’t keep up.

Now you’re all at manageable health. Go back to the tank, keep him alive, and – oh dear. You’re out of mana. This will be fun.

Warn everyone “OOM!” and hope they get the message. No matter how much damage is flying around, do not spend mana on heals for anyone except you and the tank, and mostly the tank. If he drops you’re all dead, whereas if you keep him alive you might survive this.

Every time you have enough mana, cast your Flash Heal. It’s the fastest cast you have and so will get you back into mana regen mode as fast as possible (takes five seconds after the end of your last cast for your mana regen to start actually doing much).

Now let’s talk about what happens when things really go haywire; multiple groups of mobs, aggro everywhere, tank getting low, mage getting squishy, and your own special set of ravenous admirers.

First off, don’t panic. Easier said than done, but don’t panic. If you do, things will get worse. The worst outcome here is a wipe. Nothing can be worse than that. Your goal, once things start going turnip-shaped, is to keep yourself alive at the end. Everyone else is a means to that end. Remember, you have the magic res fingers!

If you are to stay alive, that means someone has to kill the mobs that want to eat you. Probably that means keep the tank and some dps alive. Sometimes it means all the dps die really fast and you and the tank slug it out slowly with the last few mobs.

start with keeping yourself alive. That might mean moving instead of healing; go over to the tank and hope he pulls the mobs off rather than trying to heal through the bites. You are not the tank. Don’t act like one. If you have damage mitigation cooldowns, use them. A druid should throw a hot on herself, throw Barkskin, and go to the tank. A priest should shield herself. A Paladin can use Hand of Salvation or Divine Protection (use HoS on yourself, Divine Protection on the tank, and gain some breathing room).

Next, if the tank is getting low, throw heals at him while you scan everyone else. Is there someone who is very low but not actively taking damage? Throw a hot or shield or Flash of Flight/Flash Heal at him to give him more breathing room. Someone who is low and actively taking damage, and not the tank, is probably going to die no matter what in a “ah crap” situation. Don’t waste mana and GCDs on a mage who has three mobs on him. He will die and his friends will come eat you next. It is his job to ice block at this point and avoid death, not your job to save him.

Heal the most likely to survive; this is why it’s triage. You decide who lives, who dies. Who is stable or could be stable with minimal intervention? Did the hunter just have his pet growl mobs off of you? Heal that pet, unless the hunter is about to die, in which cast that’s wasted mana.

Keep an eye out for environmental issues that affect you; fire on the ground, curses. Moving cuts down on your heals but so does being dead. Some curses can be ignored or healed through. If you have a curse that makes your casts take 50% longer and it can be removed, remove it! The one GCD and minimal mana you spend there pays for itself almost instantly. On the other hand, if it’s a curse that makes you have 100 less skill at Bows, like in SFK sometimes, ignore it.

Avoid tunnel vision at all costs. I think this is the number one cause of healer death; you’re too busy staring at the health bars to notice the gnolls eating your spleen. One of the best tools for preventing tunnel vision (and sometimes for causing it) is a good raid healing frame mod. Healbot and Grid + clique are both popular setups; my personal favorite is Vuhdo which I think combines the flexibility of Grid with the ease of setup of Healbot. Other sites have done far better rundowns of how to install and tweak these; if you’re stuck for ideas, I recommend visiting the http://www.PlusHeal.com forums and their UI and Mods subforum to see screenshots and suggestions of Healer UIs. Sometimes though healing frames can make tunnel vision worse, when all you focus on is the part of your screen with little boxes and icons. I suggest moving the frames somewhere near the middle of your screen and forcing yourself to see other areas.

Other than that it’s about practice, practice, practice. Going into battlegrounds can be good practice at getting a UI with raid frames set up to where you can concentrate on the frames but still watch your environment. Pug some dungeons – and please don’t wait til you’re 80 to start. It is harder to jump in at top level because your gear will be lagging compared to what people expect. But if you did just dual spec to Holy and you’re 80, go ahead and start! Don’t take stupid comments personally, just have fun.

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Threat is tanking. The number one thing a tank has to know is what threat is and how to control it. If you don’t know you can’t tank. Period. If you are interested in tanking you need to gain a working understanding of what threat is before you start.
If you have played WoW at all you are going to think this is somewhat obvious and simple. But stick with me for a little while. There are some tiny nuances that are of MAJOR importance to a tank. All those things that happen in the game happen for a reason. Learning the underlying mechanics of them will make you a good tank.
Threat is an invisible feature that every creature has. If it helps you can think of it as a reverse health bar. Every critter just hanging out in the world has zero threat on it.

The instant that creature spots something it wants to kill it gains one point of threat towards that person.

The murloc has spotted the gnome. Now it has just one point of threat toward her and none toward anyone else.

This one point is enough to give the murloc an intense burning desire to drop everything it was doing (hanging out gurgling) and go stab the gnome to death (our horde readers can identify with this urge).

So now the murloc does this; stabbing the gnome for a few points of damage. Notice the threat level the murloc has does not change. When a creature does damage to something he does not generate any more threat toward that creature. All of his threat bars stay the same. The gnomette still has just one point of threat and the rest of the world has zero. Notice that the threat meter is associated with the Murloc. It is ‘his’ threat. Each creature in the game has their own little threat list. They hold a grudge on everyone who is on that list and will try to kill them.
Now let us say that the Gnome defends herself.

Notice that the meter went up. Now the Gnome has 11 threat. Because she is the only one here it does not matter how much she has. She is still the at the ‘top of the threat list’. This means that she ‘has aggro’. Also note that the ‘threat’ the gnome generated by attacking the murloc is proportional to the amount of damage she did to it. If she takes a few more swings that number will keep going up to keep pace with the amount of damage she does.
Now let’s see what happens when things go badly.

The gnome has died (/cry). But notice the threat meter. The Gnome is no longer on it. The list of threat for this creature is reset because the only one that was on its list is dead. It will run back to its home. Other things besides dying can reset the meter. For example a hunter using ‘Feign Death’ will do the same thing. The hunter will drop completely off the threat list and the creature snaps back to its home.
Simple right? Don’t go away yet. It gets more complicated.
First of all I will start drawing the threat list to look like an addon called Omen. There are other addons out there (and a built in feature) that let you actually see the threat a targeted creature has. For a tank these addons are very helpful. They are particularly helpful early in your tanking when you are trying to gain complete mastery of this ‘threat’ stuff.
This example has a lot more going on….
Here is a happy piggy… er, vicious razorback boar in need of killing.

And here is a band of friends out questing. There is a gnome rogue, a druid healer and a draenai paladin.

The boar sees them, but since it is a happy boar (yellow name) it does not get any threat toward them. It has aggro on no one and its threat list is empty.

What’s this? The rogue was stealthed and just backstabbed the poor pi… er. I mean vicious mean boar. Now we can see the threat table below. It is turned sideways to make it easier to see who is on the ‘top’. Also that makes it look more like an Omen meter. As we can see the only one on the list is that mean little backstabbing… I mean our friend the rogue. No one else has done anything to the boar so no one else is on the list. What else do you notice? The threat on the meter is less than the damage the rogue did. This is because the rogue took talents points into something that lowers his threat.
(Actually rogue talent trees don’t have any skills like that but some classes do.) For example a warrior in berserker stance would generate less ‘threat’ than the strict amount of damage he did to the target. By being in the correct stance he can keep his threat low. We will get into more on this later. The numbers I am using in this tutorial are only a rough estimate and not strictly accurate examples.
So what happens next?
Let’s say our paladin is trying to be a tank. So she is going to use a ‘taunt’. In this case the actual ability is ‘hand of reckoning’ but the important thing is that it is a ‘taunt’ type ability.

A taunt is what we call a broad class of abilities that all share a certain feature. There are minor differences between them but the main feature is that you, the tank, are given as much threat as the highest person on that target’s list, plus one. This is great because it puts you on the top of the threat list. A taunt will ALSO force the target to attack you. This has the effect that after you use the taunt you have 1 point higher threat than anyone else and the target is planning to attack you.
Notice that I broke that into two pieces, first getting to the top of the threat list, and second that it will attack you. This is because, in WOW, even if you are at the top of the threat list, you actually have to do 10% more threat than the current ‘leader’ on the list in order to get the creature to attack you. Let’s say the paladin had only swung her mace at the target and not taunted it. She would have generated as much aggro as the damage she did. In order to beat that 10% buffer she would have had to hit the target for 17 points of damage for it to ignore the rogue and attack her instead. By taunting instead she does not have to rely on doing enough damage to get to the top of the list. The taunt blasts her to the top of the list AND makes her the target instantly.
So now she has taunted off the rogue and is at the top of the list. What next?

The paladin, confident that she is now ‘tanking’, merrily swings at the boar and does 10 points of damage. At the same time, the rogue attacks again and does another 15 points of damage. Now the rogue is back at the top of the list! And, even more than that, the rogue is more than 10% higher than the paladin. So now the boar is going to attack the rogue.

Here we have the boar om-nom-noming on the rogue. The paladin is desperately whacking it with her mace and the rogue is in a panic, stabbing harder than ever. They are both doing damage, but the paladin is just not catching up.
This could go on forever. When the pally’s taunt is off cooldown she could use that again, but she would have to get lucky to keep the boar off the rogue for long because the rogue is doing more damage than her. This is the makings of a frustrated tank who is confused as to why she can’t ‘hold aggro’.

But it does not go on forever. The rogue is going to cast Feint. This ability lowers a rogues threat by a set amount. Because I am using fake numbers I am just going to say it is 30. The real number is a lot more but all these numbers are just place holders for the real values to give you the idea of how it all works.

So in this next moment the rogue stabs again and uses feint, and the pally hits again with her hammer. The rogue gains some threat and loses a some from feint and the pally just gains. Now the pally has a very good lead and can hold aggro.

On a side note this tank may not realize the target is now attacking her due to something the DPS player did. She might think she has succeeded as a tank but in reality the other player has saved her bacon. So everything is good again…

Except now the healer wakes up.

The healer throws a nice big aoe heal. So what does that do? Now the healer is on the threat list. For every point of healing that is done to each person on a creatures threat list the person doing the healing gains that much threat. This means a creature can easily get far more mad at the person healing the guys hitting it. This goes for other kinds of buff spells too, even ones that are not healing. Almost anything you do to help someone who is fighting causes whatever they are fighting against to get mad at you.

So now the healer has blown past the other two on the aggro table and pulled the boar off of them. The druid ‘pulled aggro’ big time. He did that by doing more threat and getting to the top of the meter. He even got over the 10% ‘buffer’. But, actually is is more than just 10%. The 10% buffer is for melee targets. For caster-range targets it is 30%. What this means is that if the tank has 100 points of threat it will take 110 points of threat coming from anyone in melee range of the critter to pull it off the tank. For any party members outside of melee range it will take 130 points of threat to ‘pull aggro’.

Aggro boosting

Innate boosting

So what is this tank doing wrong? One of the things wrong is Righteous Fury. The ability that separates a damage dealing Paladin from a tanking Paladin is Righteous Fury. This ability makes all of their holy damage attacks do 80% more threat. So if the paladin throws an ability that does 100 damage points to the target the threat will be 180 instead of just 100.
This concept is very important. Every tanking class has some mechanism or ability that allows them to do more threat from their attacks than just what the damage would cause. This is important because in many situations other members of the party will actually be doing more damage than you. They put all their talent points into things that make them hit harder while you were putting points into things that make you block, dodge or parry better. It is almost certain that in an given party someone will be doing more damage than you. This gets even worse at higher levels. In an endgame raid for example some people will be doing well over double the damage you, the tank, are doing. Taunts are great for getting things to attack you, and for bumping your threat to the top, but if you do not have a way to pump your straight threat output up higher even taunts will not keep critters attacking you for long.
Each class of tank has a different way of pumping out more threat than damage. For Druids it is a feature of bear form. All damage caused in that form does more threat than it normally would. For warriors the defensive stance has this feature built into it. For DKs it is Frost presence (not to be confused with frost spec, DK can tank in other specs).

Specific boosting

In addition to abilities that raise the threat generation of all their attacks tanks also have attacks that specifically generate extra threat. These abilities have various amounts of extra threat they apply to the target over and above the damage they do. Some of them do very little damage but still apply a good bit of threat. Abilities like this will specifically say they do extra threat in their tool tips. What those moves are depend on what class of tank you are playing. A good tank will work these types of moves into their rotation.
It is important to understand that as a tank it is more important for you to be doing threat to the targets than it is for you to be doing damage. The DPSers are there to actually kill the creatures. You, the tank, are only there to keep the creature distracted from killing the DPSers or the healer. If a tank also does good damage that is just icing on the cake. Sometimes tweaking your rotation to do more damage will also increase the threat you cause, but not always. Sometimes it will lower your threat. As a tank it is your job to do the research about your class and spec so that you know what things increase your threat and what things do not.

Aggro Reduction

As I already mentioned, some dps classes have features that do the opposite, abilities that lower the amount of threat caused by attacks. Some are innate, meaning they lower all the threat caused by attacks. For example in cat form a druid doing 100 damage with an attack will do much less than 100 points of threat.
Aggro dumping
The final class of aggro abilities are ones call ‘dumps’. In the example above the Rogue used Feint which is an ‘aggro dump’. This means it drops your overall threat . There are a lot of different aggro dumps in the game. They work in a wide variety of different ways. Priests have Fade when just lowers threat by big chunk. Hunters have Feign Death which completely removes all of their threat and drops them out of combat entirely. Some aggro dumps are temporary. For example if a night elf shadow melds that will only keep creatures off them until they come out of it. If the combat has not ended when they get out of shadow meld, either by taking damage or by doing something, then all the threat they had before comes roaring back.

Forced attacks

The last things to talk about on this subject is very important. Forced attacks are a class of abilities that tanks have that are extremely useful. They also have some important drawbacks so it is vital to understand them.
A forced attack is an ability that forces a targeted creature to attack you. This is NOT the same things as a taunt. The critical difference is that a forced attack does not increase your threat and put you on the top of the list for that creature to attack. Instead these moves just artificially put you to the top of the list temporarily. As soon as the ability wears off those creatures will go back to attacking whoever is REALLY on the top of the list. These moves are very useful for buying you time. A good example is Challenging Shout. This ability forces a bunch of enemies in the nearby area to attack the warrior using it for a few seconds. It hits a lot more targets than a ‘taunt’ move so it is very good for getting large numbers of creatures to stop attacking someone. For example if a patrol just attacked your party and they all start beating on the healer this move will instantly get them off the healer. BUT only for a few seconds. So it is critically important that the tank use follow up moves to generate threat on those critters before the forced attack wears off. If the tank does this then the day is saved. If not all of those creatures will go back to chewing on the healer and there is a good chance the party is doomed.

That does it for the intro to threat and the explanation of the categories of abilities. As a tank it is very critical to know the mechanics of what your abilities do. When and how to use those moves is a subject for more posts.
Whenever you are not sure do some reading! There is a lot of good information out there and there are a lot of tricks and hidden things to learn about how it all works. For example I recently had to do some research into ‘taunt immunity’ after a failed ICC raid. What I discovered was that the other tank had doomed us by over-using his taunts on the 4th boss and making him immune during critical tank swaps. If you are a new tank and don’t know what I am talking about don’t worry about it. The important thing is never assume you have it all figured out. Just when you have learned most of it Blizzard will change something.

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The tank is the leader of the party. The big cheese, the head honcho, el presidente…

Some of you are disagreeing already, assuming more than one person is reading this. To fully explain that statement we should take a glance at the nature of leadership and then put it in the context of WOW. Webster.com defines leadership as something a leader does…  yeah that helps. It defines a leader as someone who leads… hah. But further down it says that it means someone who ‘has commanding authority or influence’. Right, so tanks have authority. Hah! No really, they do. It is just a limited kind. It is limited in EXACTLY the same way all authority everywhere is. You get authority as people give it to you. In politics they sometimes call it a ‘mandate’. Like if the big issue in an election was ‘fix XYZ’ then the person that wins is said to have a broad mandate to do things about that issue.

Now think about a club. Let’s say you are the president of a card playing club. What authority do you have? Well you can decide what day you are going to play cards on. And people will go with that decision unless you pick a bad one. So you get to pick any day that works for the majority…. Ok.

And you can spend the membership dues on new cards. You have total authority there. You can buy ones with the checkered pattern on the back or ones with pictures from a gift shop some place. But you can’t buy a new car with the money. You can also decide who brings the snacks each week. But you can’t order one person to buy pizza every week. Your authority has a narrow river bed it flows down. You can do what you want inside those narrow banks, but if you try to splash your authority out of those narrow banks the other people just laugh and ignore you, or leave the club, or kick you out for embezzling the dues money. It is a voluntary organization and the leadership you wield has only the power to motivate people along lines they have implicitly agreed to in advance. And you have the responsibility to, within those confined channels of authority, make decisions and lead in ways that further what the people signed up for. In the case of a card playing club those things are playing cards on regular schedule and having fun.

Pugs are like this. Tanks have the authority that the other people give them. It comes with the responsibility to help make the run go well. You can give orders and make demands based on things they will think are reasonable. But within those bounds of reasonableness you have full command. If you say ‘I am going to pull this group LOS to this corner here’. That is a 100% reasonable statement. It is also an implied command for everyone to support that action. If some moron messes the pull up you have a mandate to complain to that person. The other members, assuming they are reasonable, and assuming you don’t take it so far you are ‘spoiling their fun’, will support you complaining to that player and telling him to not mess up your LOS pulls. It is this pact of peer pressure that gives the tank the mandate to give instructions that will further the group’s aims (finishing the run, getting loot).

For the good of the group the Tank MUST speak up and communicate if something is going wrong. It is the responsibility that goes with that authority. If a hunter left his pet on growl it is well within the mandate of the tank’s authority to say something about that. To a point. He/she can’t throw a hissyfit over it any more than the members of a card game club would be ok with the president flipping out over bad shuffling. They might be ok with some gentle remedial shuffling instructions or advice, but not with a full blown tantrum.

It is not ok for the leader to let something important slide. If some moron is pulling without you and you don’t say something about it you are failing as a leader. The other guy is making the mistake but it is YOUR duty to speak up and try to fix the problem. That is leadership. If the problem is fixed, everyone wins. But there is a fine line here. If the DPS is all impatient, and you stop the whole run to give them a lecture about impatience you are more likely to get a vote-kick than you are to get a smoother run. One of the things a leader has to do is make the most of the resources at hand. A manager can’t fire everyone who works for them for bad performance. Instead they must assign people to tasks that fit their ability, get them training where they need it, and fire people only as a last resort.

For example if the hunter can’t figure out how to turn off his pet and absolutely insists on picking a target you are not primarying you can point them toward a caster mob, even mark it for them. This is taking a bad situation, an uncooperative DPSer with bad skills, and assigning them to a task they ARE capable of doing. This also saves your sanity as a tank. Plus it helps the other person learn a skill and play style that is useful for groups. If the DK insists on gripping and pulling stuff, you might just let him tank that target. It gives you one less mob to tank and hopefully he takes enough damage to die in shrieking agony. But don’t be passive aggressive about it. If you just drop a mob and don’t say anything everyone assumes you are a bad tank. If you tell the dps ‘you yank it you tank it’ then they know you are making a stand on bad behavior and they can either correct it or tank their own mob. Again, stopping everything and throwing a hissyfit over either of these examples would only piss off the whole group. But even short of that there are active steps that can be taken to either fix or harness the behavior.

The interesting thing about tank leadership is that you don’t have to do anything more than what you do… most of the time. Moving ahead from group to group, picking your targets, marking where needed, checking on the healer’s mana before a boss, throwing your cooldowns when needed, taunting mobs where they need to be, moving the melee tangle out of the fire, all these are what a tank should be doing anyway. But they are also all leading a group.

My dad once told me being a leader was keeping management off the back of his people so that they could get their jobs done. Things like helping them get their payroll problem straightened out with headquarters, or handling the annoying customer so they can get back to the register. Those are things a manager does to enable his or her people to get the real job done. In the case of a tank you are doing exactly the same thing. You are there to do anything you can to let the dpsers kill things. That is it. You goal is to line up packs of creatures for them to kill. Your goal is also to do it at a rate where the healer can keep up. In this way you are warding off the obstacles in that person’s way also. That is your job. But if one of the DPS is doing something that threatens the whole it is also your job to try, within the bounds of your authority mandate, to fix the problem.

If the rogue over behind the boss is standing in the fire then you can tell him to move, or you can shift the boss and force him to move. But you can’t do nothing and then sneer when he dies. That is not leadership and that is not your job. You forced him to have to decide between being in good back stab position and being safe and he chose wrong. Or he just did not notice, but YOU did. If a leader notices his people making a design mistake, or even flipping their burgers wrong, but does nothing about it, then they are all at fault and the group as a whole fails. But the leader is at fault most of all. It is only after the leader has done what he can to help the others fix the problem that the responsibility for the failure moves to solely rest on the ‘underlings’.

There are a lot of bad leaders out there. Most people just want to get along. So they say nothing and the group muddles along, or fails and re-forms. And often no learning happens. There are a lot of variables in a failed group and many people can’t see/admit what they did wrong to cause, or help cause the problem.

Anyway I think I have wondered off tanking and into advice giving in general so I will wrap this post up.

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WoW and Stereotypes

I’ve read a couple posts over the past few days that brought this to my mind:  Klepsacovic’s I Started Blogging To Meet Women and Would You Pay to Play With a Girl over at Pugnacious Priest, Pink Pigtail Inn’s Musing Over Boobs and a new one I discovered linked from that, Girls Don’t Exist on the Intertubes at a blog called Digital Incorrectness.

What’s sort of funny is how the assumptions being analyzed in these blogs are a bit contradictory. One blog is about guys paying for girls to play with them, another is countering the idea that girls suck at WoW. I assume the girls who are being paid must have some modicum of skill at the game, or it would just be frustrating, and I assume the guys who are paying for their company expect them to be at least competent. Maybe that’s a bad assumption.

Then the contrast between Klep’s post and Larissa’s, where Larissa muses that blogs are about a meeting of minds and therefor she doesn’t notice the sex of the blogger (as much) while Klep wonders if there’s a reason why there’s a disproportionate number of female bloggers.  Klep also brings up the stereotype of “women as healers” and I myself have noticed that all the Resto Druid bloggers I read are women. All of them. All the trees I currently know in game are women; the first one I remember, the one that made me say “Wow, druid healers are COOL” was a guy. A gay guy. (Stereotype affirming or breaking?)

But they’re all dancing around that same issue; men and women are different and those differences carry over into our playstyles. There’s a reason stereotypes exist; they are a distorted exaggeration of a truth. It might not be a truth that is universally applicable but somewhere some collection of observations supported the idea.

Stereotype 1: Women are bad at WoW.

Truth: not everyone who plays WoW is any good at it. People can be stupid and therefore play badly. People can have other reasons for playing besides being good (social reasons). This second group is less likely to give up when they know they are bad at the game because being good at the game is a secondary goal. My parents have played WoW; my dad liked it although he’s gone back to EverQuest, my mom followed him around with her priest, clicked the “heal” buttons when he said to, and picked flowers. She didn’t like the game but she played to spend time with my dad. I got into the game because a few months after we got married my husband wanted to get back to playing WoW and wanted me to come with him. I sucked at first, but I eventually liked the game and got better. If you’d seen my hunter the first month I played you would have classified me as one of those “Women who suck at WoW” players and you would have been right.

The solution is to find a way to convert this type of woman player into an active fan of the game. Once she is motivated she’ll become a better player. Blizzard does a better job of this than anyone else out there, hence their huge female market share. Trolls in trade or party chat calling these women out and saying “lol u suck girls cant play wow” will never improve things. This doesn’t inspire most women to get better. It’s more likely to get them to quit.

Stereotype 2:  Women who can play Wow, play healers

Hard to counter this. I have an arcane mage and a prot pally and I’m good with either one, but Analogue the resto druid is my main. She’s who I raid on, and I feel most in control of the situation with her.

Women tend to be more nurturing than men. Guys tend to be more protective/aggressive than girls. Women tend to work toward the success of the group; men strive for personal achievement. Both sexes are drawn to both goals, of course, but the dominant leanings tend to be as I’ve stated. Avoiding any discussion of whether this is good or bad, these tendencies would explain why there tend to be more female healers out there.

Everyone can think of counter examples; awesome female warlocks or warriors, terrific male resto shaman. But nobody is surprised when the tree starts talking in vent with a girl’s voice.

This is a good thing! Remember how I said about that for a player to be good at WoW, she needs to actually want to get better? Well, if she discovers that healing a party appeals to her, now she has motivation to improve! Healing isn’t easy, and the skills to do it well translate over into general Wow uber-ness. I am a much better mage since I’ve leveled up my druid. (And a better healer after I leveled my tank but that’s another matter)

So yes, I’m suggesting that we counter one stereotype with another. No, I’m not suggesting that you tell the fail hunter girl to go roll a priest. But be supportive of her if she wants to do it. Guys, if your girlfriend who tentatively follows you around in WoW expresses a desire to heal, don’t laugh at her because you know she’ll wipe you. Let her do it. If  you wipe, let her figure out why without yelling at her. You’ll have a lot more fun if you let her convert herself to a WoW fan than if you convince her to never play with you again.

One final note: the blogs I read I think are probably close to 70% female, because I read a lot of resto druid blogs and “Wow Social” blogs like Pugging Pally or Stories of Wow.

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Blessed are the altaholics, for they shall receive heirlooms

Lissana over at Restokin had a long blog post today about Specialists vs Generalists as a play style. Pretty obvious this blog falls more on the generalist side of the equation! Reversion and I have three level 80s each and three other characters that we are actively leveling (each). We both have healers, tanks, and dps classes and play any of those roles pretty well. We’ve got most professions covered between us (don’t have a max level blacksmith and the leatherworking char is only at about 430 skill).

On the other hand, if you ask us who our mains are there’s no question. Reversion and Analogue, the druids, see the most content, have the best gear, and are definitely our most played. They weren’t our original mains by a long stretch but during the course of WotLK we began to realize how much more content we could see with a dedicated tank/healer pair than with a couple random ranged dps. I think our experiments with other classes have made our mains better. Analogue has become a better healer as I’ve gotten better with tanking on Divergent.

As Lissanna mentions,  one reason for alts is to see content you didn’t see before, particularly opposite-faction content. We’re trying that now with our low-level Horde alts. It’s fun, and I’m running a few other experiments at the same time (like whether we can run these guys up and afford epic flying without needing cash from our mains, thanks to gather professions)

She’s right that WotLK has been paradise for generalists, and her conclusion

However, I’ve come to accept that being a generalist is a viable play-style in WoW as of WotLK being released, even for end-game purposes. I appreciate handing out new gear and heirlooms and all the fun toys that generalists get to play with.

I agree with. In fact, I think that Blizzard has actively been pushing the generalist playstyle for the same reason they’ve made raids so much more accessible this expansion. They want to maintain their subscription numbers so the game can continue. In Vanilla WoW, hardcore raiders had a reason to play every day for many hours, but that never represented more than a tiny fraction of the population. In WotLK, anyone who devotes  a few hours a week can eventually see most if not all of the endgame content, and that makes Blizzard happy because players who feel like they are progressing continue to subscribe.

But, the player who really likes questing and leveling and running low level dungeons is just as good a source of cash as the end-game raider. In fact,  from Blizzard’s point of view he’s a better cash source because it takes few developer-resources to keep him happy.  I suspect most players fall somewhere in between those two extremes. My personal experiences make me believe that most end game raiders have some alts that they like playing with, and a lot of less-raid-oriented players still join pugs or weekly raid quest groups. I think that’s probably Blizzard’s intent.

Blizzard must like alts, because they’ve given us 10 slots per server and 50 total slots to play with. A lot of other games? Not so much. EVE Online lets you have 3 (I think) but because of the training system you really only play one character per account. Star Trek Online released with only 2 character slots as the default (you can buy more). On the other hand, Lord of the Rings Online supports the generalist playstyle and from what I’ve heard, that’s part of why people go back and play around in that game. It’s a lot harder to get totally bored of a game when you can just log in to a different experience every night of the week.

The day when you could claim that the specialist was the true WoW elite is passed. Nowadays, it’s the tank who can’t say “oh yeah I hate healing this goup on my shaman” or the dps who doesn’t mention “I know what a pain that pat is to LOS when I’m tanking” who is the noob. Anyone can be pretty good at one class, especially with the epics falling like cherry blossoms, but it takes skill to be uber at everything.

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The Addons We Need

(Warning: Written while sitting on the couch in extreme pain from throwing out my back. May not be very happy friendly lets-play-nice-children-esque)

GearScorePlus – when you mouse over a character you get a tooltip that shows how many incorrect gemming and enchanting choices they’ve made.  Will auto-initiate a kick vote for any DK with a spellpower enhancement. An extension, GearBusted, will warn me when a dpser zones into a dungeon with armor that’s below 50% repaired. I hate when the hunter dies (from pulling aggro) and then says “lol sword broke need to rep”.

OmenEnhanced: Puts up notices every time a player who is not the tank uses a taunt or threat-generating move (Ret pally using Hand of Reckoning because “it does damage”, hunter pet on growl even though “I already shut it off jerk”).

RecountTheFailRotation: Heck, I don’t know what abilities ought to make up a DK’s dps rundown, but my theory is that “Death and Decay (50%), Melee (45%) Heart Strike (4%)” isn’t right. How about a damage meter that shows me what they should have been doing?

DeadlyBossEasilyPredictedDamage: For healers only, mark the players who are about to be standing in the easily dodged fire/spikes/whatever so I can pre HOT/shield/whatever them.

RangeAlert: let me know when anyone is so far away from the fight that they’ll be aggroing the pat behind us while the rest of us are fighting (hunter and mages only)

AutoIgnoreIdiots: auto-add people to my ignore list before I get grouped with them. This includes any dps who is going to fuss about how they don’t want to be bothered going after extra bosses and anyone who has ever dinged 80, queued for H COS, and, while contributing less than 800 dps, asked more than once if we were going to make it in time for the drake. Or any dk who has thrown Army of the Dead on the Saurfang fight. (bad memories)

DontCursive: Clearly mark when people in your party have diseases, curses, poisons, or magic effects that you can remove. This is so you know to whine at the priest who is not removing curses, the druid who is not curing diseases, etc.

Any other suggestions?

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Trust

Sometimes it’s easy to forget you’re playing with other people in WoW. Other times the game forces you to acknowledge that for some challenges, you have to be part of a group that’s bigger than just the players involved.

This week the weekly raid quest on our server was Lord Marrowgar. I don’t know about your server but on ours that means the chance of getting a good ICC run actually goes down. The guild runs multiple 10-man-alt runs and there are still folks left out.  Trade is full of angst and vitriol.  Our raid had all the makings of fail; instead we ended up with moments of sheer epic…

After the two scheduled guild alt groups filled up there were enough guildies left over that we started a scrub/alt/pug raid. We needed to fill three slots; two melee dps and a tank healer. The melee dps were easy to pull out of trade, got a paladin and a rogue to help balance out roles. The healer was tougher and after ten minutes I was willing to take the holy priest. It wasn’t til we got to ICC that I started worrying. The off tank, a guildie, was somewhat undergeared, and so was the tank healer. Both of them had slots that still didn’t have Triumph badge gear level items.  Still, we decided we’d start and see how things went.

Trash pulls went smoothly, no wipes. Got to Marrowgar, ran down the strategy, and we started. The off-tank went down. I b-rezzed him. Then he went down again. Bonestorm started, and Reversion popped out of bear to b-rez the OT and help heal the raid (he always throws rejuvs around during bonestorm, just because he can). Start back again – and the OT goes down for the third time. We’re out of druids, Marrowgar is at 50% – but everyone else is still up and taking very little damage, so I start fully healing Reversion. Every now and then I have to throw out rejuvs and wild growth for the raid, but we’re mostly stacked under Marrowgar so we don’t take a lot of fire damage, the dps are being great about taking down the spikes – and we’re doing it. Reversion blew every cooldown, potion, trinket he had, and Marrowgar went down. Nothing like having a tank with 48k health to eat those big hits.

I made sure to compliment all the dps-ers for their attentiveness. If they had taken damage, I would not have been able to help out with tank healing, and we would have wiped. Instead we one-shotted him. (I also will add, the pugged paladin judged Light consistently and it healed the raid up a good little bit, actually accounting for 10% of total healing during our whole run according to Recount; that was a nice buffer)

We went on to Deathwhisper. I dropped to the first set of adds; Reversion got me back up and although I was hurting for mana, I got back into the groove. We ended that fight with four of us alive; the priest went down thirty seconds before the end of the fight, the OT had died minutes before, but I saw the 4% health on Deathwhisper and threw everything I could to keep Reversion and the last dps alive long enough to take her down.

The pug broke up on Saurfang because people had to get off, but it was great.

So, after that long discussion, why the title of my post? Why ‘Trust’?

Because I didn’t, and wasn’t. I did not trust my healing partner and it hurt us. Some of the dps deaths to trash and to Deathwhisper were because I was dropping Nourish on the tanks and ignoring my own responsibilities. Usually in 10 mans I heal with a guildie, someone who I think is probably a better healer than me.  Our pugged healer was great, but I saw her gear and achievements and doubted. I couldn’t help it; I’m the sort who worries a lot over things I can’t control. I do that in real life too, but it’s not as obvious.  I don’t have fun with my mage any more in WoW for the same reason, because I see health bars and start wanting to fix them. My pally tank keeps trying to save the day in 5mans with Lay on Hands or Hand of Sacrifice on the healer.

It makes me a more conscientious healer most of the time, when I can force myself to let the other healer do her job and just do mine, but on raids like this last one, it can wipe us.  And I don’t know how to stop worrying about their jobs. It’s not easy for me.

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Pairs Leveling: The Druid

After doing the warrior post I decided it would be better to focus on the characters I know best. My top level Warrior is languishing at 59, whereas I have two max level druids.

Druids are outstanding pairs leveling characters.  I highly recommend them. They are survivable, have good dps, and have multiple ways they can be leveled. They stand with paladins as the only classes that can be all three roles: dps, healing and tank. They stand alone as the only class that can play all FOUR roles: healing, tank, melee dps and ranged dps.

They make a good choice for if your partner has their heart set on leveling a particular class. Because they are so adaptable you can tailor your play style and spec to match the person you are leveling with.

Overview

Druids are in touch with nature and use its power to obliterate their foes, or smash them in the face, or sneak up and rip their guts out, or, for the nicer druids, to nurture and restore their allies. At level 10 they get Bear form and turn into a baby tank. At 20 we get cat and can do mad crazy dps. Around 50 we can become a tree or boomkin, and either have uber heals or good ranged casting. Because we don’t get to pick those paths right from the start, we adapt our play style over time. This might require respeccing at key points. It also might mean saving a few pieces of gear for an upcoming spec change. How you handle all that will depend on who you are leveling with.

I am going to further break things down into level ranges.

1-10. In this range there is not much variety. Just Wrath things to death with some staff ‘thumping’ thrown in until you hit 10. You will basically be a ranged caster with some melee ability (easier if you have the BOA weapon).

Levels 10-20

At 10 things start to diverge. Not a lot, but they do. You get bear form once you do the level 10 quest. It is about now you have to ask yourself ‘am I going to tank?’The answer to that lies partly in who you are partnered with. You have the choice in this level range of spending most of your time as a bear or as a humanoid caster doing ranged damage and/or healing. You have to decide what you want to do if you are going to run an instance. If you want a fast queue you can chose to tank or heal. You can make that decision in advance and practice the play style by questing mostly as a bear or a caster.

A Bear plays like a warrior. It uses rage is its fuel and the major abilities are all analogous to warrior skills. If you are familiar with warrior tanking a bear will either be comfortably similar or boringly the same. Of course since a druid has an extended bag of tricks you might still love it.

Caster druid, 10-20

One strategy in this level range is to stay humanoid and throw spells around. This is versatile since you can cast or heal as needed. You will not have a large pool of spells but you will have a nice variety.

If you are planning to run instances later as a healer you should probably be getting familiar with your healing spells at this time.

In the future playing as a caster could mutate into Tree or Boomkin (or you can respec completely). If you want to be pure dps and want to be a cat but don’t like bear form, you can stay in a caster spec until you get cat form and then respec. If you plan to do this don’t forget to hang on to a few pieces of agility gear as you level up.

Staying in caster mode is very good if you are paired with a pure melee class. This is even truer if your partner is a tanking class. Casting alongside a warrior or Paladin (or a bear druid) is a very good combo. The pair will be durable as heck and able to take on many foes at once.

Druids are durable enough that you can even distract things while a rogue backstabs them.

With a warlock or hunter partners you can let their pet tank while both burn things down.

Mages are soft and have little ability to keep things off them. They focus mostly on killing things fast, before they kill them. You can both burn things down pretty fast and not have to worry about taking a lot of damage. If you pair with one as a caster you will want to get familiar with your ‘root’ skill and the mage will want to be using frost abilities to slow things up. This will be a pretty soft pair however, so if you get in trouble you might be doomed.

Comboing with a warlock that does not like tanking with their voidwalker will be much like pairing with a mage.

Comboing a caster druid with a priest gives you redundant healing but not a lot more durability. This pair will require more finesse to play.

Comboing with another caster Druid will be similar to the mage and priest.

Comboing with a Shaman will be a little of everything.

Bear druid, 10-20

The main reasons to go bear at this level are to practice tanking or to keep things off a softer partner.

Bear is going to have a little lower dps, so if you are not trying to do one of the above things you might not want to level 10-20 as a bear. One other reason might be so you will be ready when you get cat form. It is not really necessary though, because you can always respec when you get to 20.

One of the nice things about being bear (or later cat) is that you almost always have full mana at the end of a fight. This lets you heal yourself and your partner up for the next round.

One final reason to go bear would be to have both partners have the same range. If you are paired with a melee class it can be frustrating to have everything be half dead by the time your partner gets over to it. Keep this in mind if you are playing a bear and paired up with a ranged dpser. This consideration (and the heals after fights one) makes a rogue+bear pair a good choice.

Basically bear is a good choice to match an melee class played as dps or a soft caster. It is a bad choice for any melee class played as another tank

Recommended pairings: 10-20

Pally + caster druid

Hunter + caster druid

Mage + either

Warlock + either

Warrior + caster druid

Shaman +caster druid

Priest + Bear

Rogue + Bear

Pairs druid, Levels 20-40

Feral druids, 20-40

At level 20 the druid learns how to be catty. Or at least how to turn into a cat. A cat is a baby rogue. It uses energy and is all about combo points and finishing moves. It has a lot fewer abilities than a real rogue so if you are a hard core rogue addict those missing bits might drive you nuts (no vanish, no sap, no fan of knives, etc.). But, if you love all the versatility a druid offers then you are going to love having ‘cat’ in your bag of tricks.

If you leveled up as a bear so far you might want to opt for a cat/bear hybrid. Such a hybrid is viable for either tanking or DPS up until high end lvl 80 instances and raids. I leveled my first druid this way. For most fights you are going to want to be cat. Cats do a large amount of single target damage. But, unlike rogues, they can pop into bear form at any time. If you are leveling with a caster or other soft DPSer you will want to get good at dropping into bear on demand. Even if you don’t get good with bear form it will do you good to know have to work the basics. At a minimum you will need to know how to work your taunt (growl) and some swipe for aoe threat and damage. With just those abilities (and maybe a couple more) you will be able to not die on demand.  Going Bear is not like a pally bubble, but it is fast and effective for either pulling a mob off your softer friend, or being able to take more hits while your friend heals you or dpses the pack down. You CAN live without learning your bear as a feral druid… but it is well worth it to set up its hot bar and learn your way around a few of its moves.

Caster druids 20-40

As you start getting up to 20 and 30 talent points you will, as a caster druid, get pretty far down one of your trees, balance or resto. So you will need to decide how you are mostly playing the druid and take as much healing or dps as your pair needs. Play it by ear and don’t be afraid to respec. You probably will respec at 40 anyway so don’t sweat it. In the past, leveling resto, even in a pair, was annoyingly slow and not really worth it. Today, with LFG, you can level mostly in dungeons where a dedicated healing spec will speed things up, not slow them down.

Recommended pairings: 10-20

Pally + either

Hunter + caster druid

Mage + either

Warlock + either

Warrior + either

Shaman +either

Priest + Feral druid

Rogue + Feral druid

Notice most say either? Here is why… as a hybrid class any druid can heal, and with instant cast hots you can throw at least some healing around very fast. Additionally, unless you put all your points into resto you will still do decent DPS. What this all means is that you don’t want to over specialize while leveling in certain pairs. For example if you are leveling as a caster with a priest you can get away with almost no healing ability. But if you are leveling feral with a warrior you would be well served to get good at dropping out of cat and throwing some heals at your friend. Again, play it by ear. If your pairs keeps dying, practice dropping out and throwing heals.

We’ll talk about post-level-40 in another post.

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Why Every Healer Should Roll A Tank

Because tanking is harder and if healers realized that they would stop whining? NO. Running some instances as a tank, getting ok at tanking, will make you a better healer, and here’s why.

You’ll know what the tank is going to do next, and why. If you’ve been healing for a while you probably already have instincts that tell you when a tank is going to LOS a pull or charge into the next one, but once you’ve tanked those pulls yourself you’ll know why. There is no substitute for actually doing it.

You’ll know what a tank is capable of, and what he’s not: This will make you more tolerant when he loses aggro,  remind you to keep an eye on those dps-ers pulling 5k damage, and know when to have your emergency macros on hand.

A change of perspective helps: I’ve run Northrend dungeons dozens and dozens of times on my mage and my tree, but it wasn’t til I tanked them on my paladin that I realized certain things, like that some of the portals in VH always spawn groups while some always spawn a single mob.  Or that those stupid orbs on the platforms in OK do LOS. Or that there’s an invisible wall in TOC by the door the enemies come in that they can get through but you can’t, so you can’t hit them.

You learn what healers do that makes tanking harder: I often start dropping HOTs on the tank as he pulls. Turns out it can be a bit annoying when the healer instantly pulls off you when you’re tanking. Makes life tricky. I’ve started looking for other strategies.

You learn just why tanks are always wanting to go-go-go. Oh, rage really is a pain to regain once it’s gone. And Divine Plea needs to stay up, so either start the next fight in less than twelve seconds, or wait out the cooldown til it’s ready again. And the mobs move around, so waiting ten more seconds changes the battle space.  Not that any of these concerns match “healer has no mana”, but maybe if I’m in all tier 9.5 or better and have 70% mana I can handle another trash fight…. yeah, probably.

Because there’s nothing you can’t do: We all dps, for daily quests or leveling. You know deep down you might not be as good as the rogue who tops the damage meters, but you can do it. But tanking seems like an esoteric skill. It is, but no more so than playing whack-a-mole with 25 health bars WHILE staying out of the fire. Give it a try. Most healers will probably find that they still like healing best – I know I do; I think raid healing 10 mans is my favorite part of the game by far. But I can tank, and I can tank pretty well, and just knowing that is empowering.

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