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This will be a very basic introduction to raid tanking. Although a tank is often the raid leader this will not be about leading raids. The assumption here is that someone else is leading things and you are either main tanking or off tank.

Before you do anything else go get a raid boss addon, like Deadly Boss Mods. You can’t tank a real raid without one so don’t even consider it. You can probably tank most of the weekly raids without it… but go get it anyway.

First off…

Know the Fight!

This is totally critical. You must know what to expect. If you have done it as a DPS or healer don’t assume you know what you need to do. There are mechanics bosses do that no one but the tanks cares about so don’t think you know the fight if you have not tanked it. Go watch a video, read a guide or just plain ask lots of questions. Better yet, do all three. If you are not 110% clear on what you need to do, ask again. This is not a pug where asking questions is cause for mocking and kicking. Let me say that again…

RAIDS ARE NOT PUGS

Don’t assume you can just be mute and stumble though it and things will go well. That will not happen. There are things you need to know and there is communication that needs to take place. The standard social conventions of a 5man to NOT apply to a raid. If you don’t know something you are expected to ask. If you don’t ask and your ignorance causes a wipe you can expect the group will kick you out the door with their epic boots.

Basic Raid tank concepts.

There are a lot of different encounters with a variety of mechanics. You will learn those over time. But there are a few concepts you 100% must understand or you will fail and fail hard. These are widely used in boss fights and therefore must be well understood.

Cleave

When someone says a boss cleaves this means there is some move or moves that hit more than one target. It usually hits two targets. The way to deal with this is to have all tanks stand in front of the target and everyone else stand behind. THIS IS NOT OPTIONAL! This must be done. Many bosses can one-shot tanks if another tank is not standing next to him. This is because if only one target is in front of the boss the whole cleave damage hits that target. If there are two the cleave is split between them and both live. These fights are DESIGNED to require two tanks. The main thing people will tell you to do when cleave is in the picture is…

Stack on X

Or skull or star or whatever. When you are instructed to stack on a particular raid mark that does not mean be within shouting distance or to be sort of kind of near them. It means gets so close to their butt that it is illegal in 23 states. It means super glue your hip to theirs. Sometimes stacking is temporary until a phase is past or an effect goes off. When this is the case you need to stack FAST when it is time to stack and unstack when the time for it is over. Anytime someone talks about stacking in a raid it is IMPORTANT and you need to do it when they say to do it and not do it when they say to move away. It is not a suggestion, hint or gentle recommendation. It is an ORDER. You are expected to follow it or leave the raid. If you can’t handle that concept go back to pugs and give bloggers more fail-pug stories to write about.

Taunt swapping.

This is a very critical tanking concept. The way you will hear it will be something like ‘taunt on 3 stacks’ or ‘taunt when you get the mark’. Here is why. In many fights there are mechanics where the boss absolutely has to switch his aggro between the tanks at critical moments. There are a lot of reasons for it. Sometimes it is a debuff that reduces that tank’s healing received or sometimes it is a mark that gives the boss power. The why does not matter. What matters are these following steps…

Know when you are suppose to taunt.

Be clear on just what mark or debuff it is and how many stacks you taunt on. Don’t rely on the other tank to tell you in vent. KNOW YOUR JOB. If you wait for the vent command it might be too late. If someone has to tell you ‘taunt now’ in vent there is an unspoken ‘you slacker moron’ on the end of ‘taunt now’. Know when to taunt and do it before they tell you to.

Do NOT taunt ANY other time.

Don’t taunt when you already have aggro. That causes taunt immunity and is a waste of a GCD. Don’t taunt when it is not your turn. That can literally wipe the raid. That is right. Your taunt button can be a one button ‘kill everyone’ key in some fights. Be careful with it!

That is the short short version of starting in on raid tanking. There is a lot more to it. But, if you can’t handle the concepts of taunt swapping, stacking on the other tank, and following orders you should just save 9 or 24 other people the repair costs and stay away. There are lots of other things to learn so be willing to look things up and learn fights. Be ready to try different tactics and not just do something because you saw it done that way one time. There are a lot of other good raid tanking resources out there so go find them. This was intended to simply be basic transition information for someone who has never done any sort of multi tank fight.

If you don’t know, ask.

People are far less having to give an explanation than they are by wiping. And trust me, you NEED the explanation. These are not fights you can just get through on luck and instinct. They are tricks and traps that you need to respond to. So ask as many questions as you need to. Don’t worry about looking dumb. Worry about getting kicked if you don’t speak up and everyone figures out you don’t know the fight when they are dead on the floor. People are more forgiving of learning tanks if you TELL them you are learning in advance.

Other raid tips…

Expect to wipe.

Wipes happen. Wipes can happen many times. This is not a 5 man where if you die to a boss 2 or 4 times you drop group and don’t look back. Raiding is a whole different dynamic. You might die to a boss many times before downing him. But as a raider you should be ready to go the distance. You should be ready to buff back up, learn from your mistakes and try again.

Speaking of mistakes…

Take criticism.

If you can’t handle having someone tell you just how dumb you are then you should not raid. Think of such people as drill instructors. They are getting in your face and cutting you down to size so that you straighten up, follow the leader’s orders, and get the job done. They don’t do it for you to cry, shout, argue, or drop group and spend all evening bad mouthing them in /trade. If you messed up face up to it, take your licks and your verbal abuse and learn from it. Sometimes it is not pretty. There is very little room for error in a raid fight so raiders can’t afford to let repeated mistakes go unanswered. They might say mean and unfair things. Downing the boss is worth it! Learning from your mistakes and becoming a better player is worth it. Thank them for their help, ask what you can do different and be willing to learn. Do that and you will find you get a lot more invites and a generally better attitude from your leaders. If you try to argue with them or just storm out of the group in a huff, don’t expect them to have sympathy. They worked hard and learned from their mistakes to get as good as they are. So they don’t have a lot of patience for people that are not also willing to work hard and learn from mistakes.

Willingness to try hard and learn something WILL earn their respect. Remember, when you wipe they are mad about failing and they are taking that out on your. The way to get out of the line of fire is to not be the weak link. Let them vent and then try to learn something. Arguing or being stubborn is a waste of time. Raids are srs bizns to many people. In the event that they are jerks AND morons you can still be quite, learn what you can, and take that learning to a new raid group next time.

Raids are challenging and rewarding. Good luck and have fun.

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Tanking 101: The Pull

So you can hold aggro now eh? You have a rotation that works and the dpsers hardly pull off you anymore? That is good. But there is more.

Let us get into the dynamics of a pull. A ‘pull’ is the act of starting a fight with a particular monster or group of monsters. The pull usually is considered to encompass the initial contact as well as the tank getting agro on each creature. What I mean is the pull includes getting in there, getting things started and getting the fight stable. A tank has to get minimum threat on ever target and not have them pull off him the instant the melee, casters, or the healer start doing their thing. If any of the critters pull off you in the first few seconds then you did something wrong (unless that was part of your plan).

Setting up a pull

Scope them out:

The first thing to do is take stock of your target pack. Most mobs are in a pack. How big that pack is and what kinds of critters are in it have a large effect on what sort of pull you want to do. It is critical to take these things into account. The tank has to make the decisions on how to deal with these things. Tanks that don’t do that wipe their group. In many or most cases there is no other person in the party that can deal with the effects of a bad pull. If you can’t pull well you cant tank.

Some of the things to take note of are:

Are there casters in the group?

What kind of range to the casters have?

Does the group patrol?

Do any of them have a fear ability?

Do any of them do a ‘knock back’ effect? (Rinos that charge)

Are there any beasties in the pack need to be turned away from the party? (dragons that breath fire in front of them, snakes that do a multi target poison, etc)

This is the short list but there are others. What you, as a tank, do to set up this fight and shape it is called ‘controlling the battle space’. The job of doing this solely belongs to the tank. Some other classes can help but only working with the tank.

The surroundings:

The second thing to look at is where you are and what is around you and what is around the pack you are going to attack. The most critical thing is what other packs might join the fight. This threat is variable. If packs are far away it is low. If packs are far away but patrol then it might be higher. If the creatures in the target pack do a fear or ‘knock back’ then the risk is very high. As the tank it is your job to know the area and be aware of what could happen. It is your job to take steps to lower those risks. It is also your job to be ready for the worse case situations. If a patrol comes at you from behind, it was your job to know they were coming, see them coming and to round them up as soon as they join the fight. A good tank has eyes in the back of their head. This is called ‘situational awareness’. It is the same skill that soldiers on a battle field, fighter pilots and cops need. The skill is the inability to be taken by surprise. You can’t be taken by surprise because you already expected the surprise and have a plan to take care of it. And when that plan goes wrong you have a back up plan. But lets get back to the pull…

The shape of your pull:

There are many kinds of pulls. Every tanking class has several options available to them starting a pull. Not all tanks have the same options. Since there are tank classes I have not played I might miss some but here is the list. Keep in mind there are more tricks to a pull than this and there are variations.

Straight pull:

The tank runs in to the pack and starts hitting them. Every tank can do this pull. What attacks and abilities they use once they get to the group depend on what class they are. I will not get into those. We are just talking the pull itself. Sufficient to say that the tank needs to get agro on every target in the pack as they do the pull.

Pros: Simple. Easy. Able to be done with no rage, RP, or mana.

Cons: This pull is slow. The dps or healers might pull off you between the time you start running forward and the first attacks you make. There is a gap between the time you get close enough to the mobs for them to notice you, and the time you get within melee range. When you are in this ‘gap’ an healing or buff effects cast on you will cause the critters to gain agro on the healer.

Some variations on this pull are able to compensate for this.

Charge pull:

This pull is the bread and butter of warrior and bear tanks. It involves using a charge ability to dash in there and attack right freaking now! This pull compensates for the slowness drawback of the straight pull. The tank closes that gap between initial agro (they spot you) and the first melee or aoe abilities you do. By blowing past that gap you get the fight started fast and have a much better chance of a clean pull.

Ranged attack pull:

This involves the tank standing in one spot and casting a range attack at the pack. It might be a shot from a warrior’s gun. It might be a bear’s growl or farie fire. It could be that icy touch thing DKs do. There are a lot of ranged attacks that a tank can use to start the fight.

Pro: this pull is great for moving a group to you and getting them away from other packs that are dangerously close.

Con: This pull, by itself, is very risky. It combines the ‘gap’ issue of the straight pull with the fact that most dps, faced with a bunch of critters running at them, will start attacking. Also, this pull does not pull in creatures that have ranged attacks. Those ones will only move to you partway (or not at all) and then sit there shooting arrows or fireballs at your head. Only it will not be your head because as soon as the healer heals you that creature will shoot fireballs at their head.

There are ways to get rid of those cons which I will get to in a minute.

Deathgrip pull:

This is the same as a ranged attack pull except it is done by a Death Knight. The ranged attack they start the fight with is ‘death grip’. It has all the pros and cons of the ranged pull except that you also get to pick on target and have it come right to you instantly. This is a very good pull for groups with just one ranged caster.

This could also be done as a ‘straight pull’. In that case a DK will death grip one of the critters while he is moving into the pack. Or he might do it just after he moves in, but still as a part of the initial pull. This is an outstanding method for gathering up groups that are spread out and contain casters. Knowing which mob to grip and where to grip them is a critical skill for a DK tank. It is what separates a so-so dk tank and a really good one. Often a good choice is the critter in the pack that is farthest away. This clumps them up around you fast.

Shield throw pull:

You will see this one a lot with a paladin tank. Like the grip pulls there is a skill to knowing which targets are the best ones to throw your shield at. This pull can also be done as a standing pull or while moving in during a straight pull.

That covers most of the basic pulls. Other abilities can be done during those pulls as variations. For example a bear who is good can get off a fairy fire on one target while she charges a different one. In effect this is combining a ranged pull and a charge pull. DK and Pallies get some of their best results by using combinations of abilities as they move in with a straight pull. Bears and Warriors tend to use a charge pull and then throw an AOE as a follow up.

Advanced pulling

LOS pulls

What is LOS? LOS means line of sight. Basically this means hiding where the pack can’t see you. This is used to force the ranged attacker creatures to run to where they can see you. When properly done an LOS pull will take a spread out group of caster mobs and bring them in to the party in a nice tight pack. This pulls, more than any other, needs the cooperation of the party. A DPS or the healer don’t hide with you, or start doing their thing early, the critters will stop coming to you and start casting fireballs at your parties heads. There are ways to vary the LOS pull and mix things up. But the basic LOS pull is this: the tank will use a ranged attack on one of the creatures and then will turn and hide. So technically the LOS pull is a ranged pull. And it is specifically designed to compensate for the ranged pull weakness; casters not coming to the tank. There are many pulls were LOS is not only an excellent choice. Many tanks don’t use them. Really good tanks know when and where to use them and do them as needed.

Cooperation pulls:

Healer LOS

One interesting thing to note is that a healer can do a LOS pull by himself. For this the tank stands out in the open and does a ranged pull. As the creatures start beating up the tank the healer will hide near the tank and start casting heals on the tank. This will agro the caster mobs on the healer and they will run in.

There are a lot of other pulling tricks that can be used if you are tight cooperation between the party and the tank.

Hunter Misdirect

Sheep pull

Counterspell and taunt

Tricks of the trade

Trap pulls

Remote control pet pulls

Mind control pulls

Death grip and taunt (with DPS DK)

Multi tank pulls

Multi GROUP pulls

And many more.

Maybe in a later blog I will talk about more advance pulls. I originally was going to talk about that in this one but I got carried away explaining the basics.

Before I go let me say don’t get complacent. Don’t just find one pull that works and stick with it. There are many ways to pull, even with a given pull type or single class. Try stuff. If it does not work, try something else. Having the ability to start different fights in different ways will make you a better tank. A lot of group wipes could have been prevented if the pull had been executed differently. Don’t just assume it was someone else’s fault (that stupid hunter stood back there and the pat came). Instead think about what YOU can do different to make things succeed. The mark of a good tank is being able to make just about any group work no matter how bad the heals and dps is. If something fears and you bring adds, next time pull that group farther back. If the caster over there keeps shooting the healer, find a place to LOS that pull. Try different things and find what works. Then try other things. The more tricks you have up your metal (or fur) sleeve the better you will do.

A short note on using a ‘taunt’ ability as a ranged attck for a pull. Avoid doing this. It is better to have your taunt off cooldown if (when) the dps messes up your pull. Because a taunt on a target not in combat does no ‘threat’ using it makes it more likely that someone will pull off you. This advice does not fully apply to taunts that damage the target.

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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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Dear Level 60 DK tank hopefuls:

Please open your talent book. Look at the rightmost talent on the first tier of each spec. (Blade Barrier, Toughness, and Anticipation). Do you have five point in each of these? Good, then you may continue to try to tank.

You don’t, because you’ve put all 51 points into Frost because you’ve heard that’s the tanking tree? Sorry, wrong answer! These talents are absolutely vital to surviving at low levels. Your healer will love you if you have them. If you don’t, then I hope you know how to get back from the GY.

Healers working through these levels, now you know what to look for too. Rightmost talent at the first level of each tree. 5 points. Feel free to tell them they’re doing it wrong if it’s not there.

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Noticed one of the search terms that have apparently sent people to this blog was the phrase I just used in the title. The answer is YES.

Healing is hard if you’ve got a bad group, a tank that can’t hold aggro, dps that are insisting on targeting the wrong mob, really soft party members, low gear.

Tanking is harder if you have a healer who isn’t paying attention, dps that are on the wrong targets, a new instance, gear that is significantly lower than the dps average gear making it hard to hold aggro off them.

Healing gets easier and easier with gear. Tanking does too but not as much because your dpsers are getting better gear too. If I am on my healer and everyone in the party has a gear score of 5500 I know things will die fast and I can probably just spam Wild Growth and be done. If I’m on my tank and the same gear – hoo boy, I’d better watch Omen closely because that mage is going to pull off and so’s the hunter, and probably the healer too…

In 5 mans, I’d vote tanking is harder. In raids I think healers have the harder job. Thoughts?

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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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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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