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Posts Tagged ‘tanking 101’

I was recently running a UK run on my 69 (now 70) warrior. We had a frost mage in the group. He was speced to make just about everything he cast do a ‘nova’ type effect and freeze things in place. I mentioned he should avoid using nova. In response I got called some names. He kept saying that if I could hold aggro it did not matter and that nova was ‘what mages DO’. He also insisted that on his tank and his 7 levels 80s (yeah right) he had NEVER heard a tank ask for a mage to not use frost nova. If that is true (i doubt it) there is a serious lack of communication going on out there. I decided my next installment needs to be targeted at this particular gap.

This post is aimed specifically at Ranged DPS, though other roles may benefit from it.

As you all know tanks do threat to keep aggro. The more threat they do the more likely they are to hold the attention (aggro) of the pack in question. Tanks do threat to the pack in several ways. Primarily they hit them and get a chunk of aggro equal to their damage done times some multiplier depending on their spec and class. This threat is applied only to the target they are hitting . They also have some abilities which do melee hits on more than one target, usually 2. This means some of the other critters in the pack get threat applied to them also. All classes of tank also have various things that do AOE threat. These moves are have 8 yard radius for Pally and Bear, 20 yard radius (but less threat per second) and 30 or so for things like death and decay. There are a few other moves tanks use for AOE threat but these are the main ones (DK do more other things that don’t have a strict radius (honestly I don’t know a lot about DK moves)). This means that anything within that range of a tank is probably getting some threat. Outside of strict melee (point blank) and this aoe radius, tanks have very few ways to generate threat. There are a few, but compared to the damage that a hit from a ranged DPS, the other tricks don’t amount to anything. So this leaves taunts.

A taunt works a very specific way. It takes the top person on the threat list and gives the tank that much threat. Taunts also force the target to attack the tank. What does this mean to you the RDPS?

Let’s get to some situations you are likely to see. When a creature is in the melee around the tank you have to do 130% of the tank’s threat to get that critter to attack you. Below 130% and it will stay on the tank. Above 130% and you are now that thing’s worst enemy and it will do anything to come and get you. Once the creature turns to come get you the tank has a very tiny window to use a melee ability before that creature is out of melee range. Even if the tank IS able to hit it with a melee move they would have to do 40% more threat instantly to grab aggro back. This is the 30% you beat them by and then the 10% melee range threat buffer.

You see, while you have to do 130% to pull off a tank from caster range, it only takes 110% to pull off a tank in melee range. That is melee range to the creature, not to the tank. That is the melee range threat buffer.

So it would take 130% more threat for the tank to catch up with you and then 10% more for him to out threat you and reclaim aggro… and that is just that first instant. A moment later the critter has passed out of the tank’s melee range and is headed your way. Now to ‘out threat’ you the tank will have to hit it with 30% more threat than you (160% of where he was when you pulled off ago). Which pretty much means he has to taunt it. Either that or he has to run after the critter, and hit it enough times to make up all that threat.

For discussion’s sake let us say the critter gets all the way to you and then the tank taunts. Now that this moment the tank has the exactly same aggro as you. He also has the creatures attention. The creature will turn and head toward the tank. If you continue to attack that creature you will only have to do 10% more threat to pull it off the tank. And is taunt is on cooldown. Hence this is a very critical window when you must do something difficult and complicated. That thing that you must do is this: STOP SHOOTTING THAT ONE!!!

Have I fully explained why that is? Is it completely clear that the tank can’t do much more after he taunts and must rely on that creature coming back into his melee range? Well there is one thing.. Lets see what that looks like, shall we? Let us say that you keep shooting that one. Now you blow past that 10% and you are once again getting beat on by that critter. What are the tanks options. Keep in mind he already had to rotate his camera around, find where that guy ran too, select the moving target, and fire his taunt. A good tank can do all that pretty fast, but that ‘pretty fast’ is still a distraction from what he had been doing. While he was doing all that he was NOT continuing to apply threat moves to the targets around him. Now maybe it only took one, or two global cooldowns, not a big amount of time, but it still was a distraction.

Back to his options after you agro through his taunt.. Some tanks might have death grip, charge or another taunt (pallys have two ranged taunts). If he has to taunt again he is still back where he was a moment ago, relying on you to change targets. Even worse if he charges or runs over to get them off you the hard way he/she is risking all the other creatures he was tanking pulling off and attacking other party members. Every moment you are distracting the tank is a moment where the healer or another DPS might pulls something off.

So you absolutely must change targets or that one you pulled had better be very very close to dead.

What else can you do during all this that would really annoy the tank? Frost nova. What did that do? Now you have a critter that is completely stuck and unable to run back to the tank. Even if the tank taunts the critter is stuck. Best case here is the tank taunts, and you change targets and the creature is safely back ‘on’ the tank even though it is stuck. But, the tank might not KNOW it is back on him. It is hard to tell when they are stuck over there. So it is still a source of distraction for your tank.

Here is the part that is worse. A creature stuck in place, able to hit things, but unable to reach the top target on its threat table, will attack anything it can reach. If you fail to move away from the nova the creature will still hit you, even after the tank taunts it ‘off’ you. Even if you DO move it can still hit anyone that was near you. Which might include a healer or another ranged DPS.

“Oh,” You say. “But they only have to move away too.” Sure. But do they notice? How many hits can a healer take? Is the healer too concerned with keeping the tank alive, or saving that rogue over there standing in the fire? She might not SEE the nova-ed thing next to her. A healer’s biggest enemy is tunnel vision on the health bars. It is quite often that a healer can see nothing else. The health bars are their whole world. Plus even if the healer DOES notice and moves away that movement might have interrupted a important cast that was going to save someone.

All of this about Frost Nova also goes for things like earth bind totem. It goes for any move that holds things in place but does not stop their attacks.  Those moves are only intended to keep things OFF you. In a party that is the tank’s job, not yours. And those moves interfere with the tank doing that job. It is not a wash or a nitpick to rail against that. Anything that you do to make the tanks job harder is endangering the whole party.

Just be cause you have a move does not mean it is a good idea to use it in instances.

One of the the tanks roles is to position the battle. They chose where the battle takes place and, if needed, they move the battle around (for example to avoid a patrol or to shift the boss off the fire). Anything that interferes with this must be used with caution or not at all. Typhoon and Thunderstorm are problems here too. They seriously disrupt the tanks ability to position and move the group and they blow things completely out of the tank’s AOE threat radius. While they are nifty and fun moves they have only a very VERY limited use in instances and should be avoided in most cases. THIS IS NOT TRIVIAL. The tank is not just whining and being a douche for complaining about it. These things make his/her job a lot harder. Just because a few tanks were overly nice and did not complain in the past does not mean most tanks are not annoyed by these moves. For example part of my warrior’s opening rotation is to align the pack into the cone in front of me and then use shockwave. It really hampers things, wastes a cooldown, and risks pulling stuff off me if someone typhoons at the start of a fight. This blows all of them out of my shockwave target area and ensures my next thunderclap will not hit them all.

Yes, most of the time using one of these will not wipe a group or even cause a big problem. That does not mean you should use them. And it does not meant a tank is being whiny to complain about you using them.

If all of this was too confusing click here.


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I started writing a post about multi pulls, the fine art of doing ‘gogogo’ tanking the right way. As I started the post I realized I should do a whole separate introductory one just covering this concept. I realized this concept was so critical to both tanking and healing that I decided to tag it to both our series.

Damage Profiles

What I am about to talk about any good healer knows by gut feel or by detailed mental charts and graphs. I figure adding more charts and graphs will help us all understand it better. Here is the concept: The rate of incoming damage is key to surviving a fight.

Let’s take a look at a couple fight ‘profiles’:

This first one is a standard fight. We round up 4 monsters and kill them one after another. The red line represents how much damage the tank is taking at each moment in time higher means more damage. Time is the bottom scale of the chart so the start of the fight is where the two black lines come together. Time processes to the right. Notice the damage ramps up fast as the fight starts. Notice that after each critter dies the level of incoming damage drops until the fight is over.

Next and AOE heavy fight:

Now to compare here is a fight were everyone using AOEs hard. The incoming damage stays high longer but then drops to nothing as all the critters die at the same moment. Because all the creatures are taking damage at the same time they all die at the same time. But until they all die the damage level the tank is receiving does not change.

Now I am going to add heals per second to the graph. As a healer knows the ‘heals per second’ are not constant and actually spike up and down depending on what you are casting. But, on average there is a maximum rate. All of us healers know that at some point there is simply more damage coming in than we can keep up with. Tanks know when this happens if they look at the health bar. If the bar is going down and does not go back up then they are not getting as much HpS and the incoming DpS.

Here are some heals. The green is the healer’s healing per second. Notice it ramps up and levels off at a maximum level. Up until the second creature dies we are actually not healing all the incoming damage.

Any healer has seen this happen. It is usually when we are under geared but it can also happen when adds show up. We are frantically spamming our stuff but the party is still going down, then suddenly one or two of the enemies die and the damage stabilizes. A moment or two later the damage levels drop more and our heals start bringing everyone back up to full health.

So what does this all mean. Well first off it means that a healer does NOT have to be able to heal the full incoming damage of a particular fight to healer it. As the DPS increases it actually means a healer can heal runs that he/she does not actually have the gear or healing ability to handle. The DPS and tank are carrying the healer. Usually no one but the healer knows. And not one actually cares because unlike a DPS or tank getting ‘carried’ the run is not actually slowed down. At least not from heal rate.

What comes into play after this is mana pool. At some point the healer runs out of mana. There are two ways for the fight to go badly due to not enough DPS. One is when the creatures to not die before tank health drops to zero. You can’t have the incoming damage be higher than the heals for very long. Every moment incoming damage is higher than the heals health bars are dropping. The second way is when the healer goes OOM. This is also a way to get a wipe due to a fight that is too long. But that first threshold is the critical one. An under-geared healer either needs a good tank and hard hitting DPS or the party goes down. This is the point where a smart party starts using extra tricks like CC to lessen the rate of incoming damage.

There are other ways to lessen the damage and extend what you can do with a given party. For example targeting one hard hitting mob first. This is why smart groups primary casters. The casters are usually softer targets that hit extra hard. So killing a caster is a great way to drop that incoming damage fast.

For kicks let’s put that on some graphs.

First off we see the party killing 3 melee enemies and one caster. They start with the melee. Each melee takes 8 seconds to kill and when they die they remove a small chunk of incoming DPS. Finally the caster only takes 4 seconds to kill and removes all a lot of dps, ending the fight.

Now look again when the kill the caster first.

Notice the green healing line? See how we get under that line much sooner? Also notice that the entire fight took the SAME length of time! Why does this matter? It matters because this is why many DPS will not understand WHY they need to go after soft high dps targets first. All they see is the fight taking the same time either way. If the healer can’t keep up that is the healers fault, right?

Now for a fun trick. Calculus! No no no come back! It is really easy. No I mean REALLY easy. You might be shocked how easy. It works like this. If you draw ‘rates’ on a graph the ‘area under the curve’ is the total. What does that mean? That means if you look at the total white space between the red line and then green line you will get how much damage the tank took. That is, you will get how much damage the tank took that did not get healed. See everything UNDER the green line got healed. And everything over adds up to be how far down his health bar went. Let’s do it…

See all that blue area? That is how many hit points the tanks’s HP bar went down. Everything below the green lie got healed back up again. Everything above it caused his bar to go down and stay down.

Now try the other way of doing the fight.

See how much less damage the tank takes? What if the tank’s total health is only 80% as big as that first chart. Everyone say ‘hi’ to the spirit healer when you see her. You have a party where your healer heals that much less than the maximum output of a pack and the tank’s health is smaller than that big area then you HAVE to do other tactics to survive. At this point jerk dps will say “yeah but it is totally the tank and heals fault we died.” Wrong, it is everyone’s fault. The tank for not having better gear, or popping cooldowns, the DPS for not stunning targets, trapping targets or otherwise lessening the incoming damage, the DPS for not following a smart kill order and finally the healer for just being inadequate at healing. Some while it is everyone at fault in various ways there are a lot of things that can be done to make this party work.

Sadly most of the time one or more of the party is too busy blaming someone else for the issue.

Of course there are lots of other factors that can make a group into a fail group. Kill order is just one of them. Hopefull this helped show how what order the DPS kill things in can cause the tank to live or die.

Before I go let’s look at one more.

 

Here a chart of two parties doing the same fight two different ways. One is the red line and one is the blue. The red group was the FAIL team and they decided to each target a different critter in pack of 4. Each critter was doing 2K dps to the tank. Because all the dps (and the tanks DPS) was evenly balanced everyone in the group dropped their target at the same time. It took them each 8 seconds.

Now observe the blue line. This group had the same damage output but instead the concentrated all on the same target. Because 4 people did 4 times as much damage as 1 person it only took them ¼ the time to kill each target. So each target dies in 2 seconds. Notice that this means the damage start dropping very early. If both groups had a healer that could only heal 5k per second which tank is in trouble? The blue tank took 3k unhealed damage for 2 seconds and 1 K unhealed damage for 2 seconds for a total of 8K unhealed damage. No problem! The red tank took 3K unhealed damage for 8 seconds. This is a total of 24k damage that did not get healed. Ouch! Let’s say we have a poorly geared tank that only had 20K HP. Who is at fault? The tank for being weak, the heals for being weak or the DPS for completely failing to pick targets that anyone else was on.

Now lets say that instead of soloing targets they all threw AOEs.

The dashed red line is the end of the fight using AOEs. This time the fight ended faster than the ‘good kill order’ blue group but the tank STILL took more damage.

I am not using real numbers because I am not a min-maxer or any sort of real theory crafter. The point of all this is to give a ‘feel’ for why various tactics work better. Hopefully the illustrations were useful. Before I go here are a couple more.

In this one the tank popped damage mitigation cooldowns at the start of the fight. See how they added a buffer of ‘virtual heals’ which helped the healer through the critical phase?

Here is that same fight with one critter getting sheeped. Notice how much it helps?

I hope to do more with these concepts in the future. They will be useful for understanding tactical use of cooldowns and also the best way to do ‘multi-pulls’. The point of this post was to get people thinking about and using the concepts of ‘rate of incoming damage’ and ‘heals per second’. You don’t have to be a min-maxer or math wiz to have a working knowledge of these concepts. They are useful for having a ‘gut feel’ about what went wrong in a fight or what needs to be different. They are pretty simple concepts but they have effects all over.

Finally I will throw a couple out there and not explain them. Here are two different healers using different mana conservation strategies. But that is a topic for some other day.

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I had the idea of doing a post just covering one instance’s tanking. And not even the details of the whole fights. I just want to go end to end and do every pull in the instance. The goal of this post is to explain the thinking and planning that goes into pulling. I am going to just cover how I do these pulls and why. There are way too many ways to cover doing it wrong. I might cover a couple examples of less optimal pulls but if I do I will note them as such. Also this is entirely 100% from memory. So chances are I will get some details wrong. But since I don’t look at guides while I tank so I guess it is appropriate to not give explanations based on more information than what I would have while running the place.

DISCLAIMER: This is not intended to be a comprehensive guide to old kingdom. It is intended to be a illustration to prospective tanks to show them the thinking and planning that goes into doing pulls.

Old Kingdom
This place has always been one of my favorites. The pulls are varied and interesting and the place has a nice epic feel to it.


 

Pull 1: Two watchers
At the bottom of the entry ramp are the two watchers. They hit decently hard and I think are pure melee. They might not be linked but they are close enough that it does not matter. I just move right in on these two and face pull. Sometimes it is nice to mark one but the main reason to do that is to test your pug and see if they actually down the marked one first.

Pull 2+: Solo pats
Now already this place gets interesting. Past the watchers is a courtyard and them some stairs on either side of the stairs are two groups. These groups can be left alone. With the groups are two solo patrollers. They are on opposite sides and alternately patrol across in front of the steps. They take long enough to do it that you can pull just one and move your entire party past before the next one patrols. But, depending on how you plan to pull the next group the second patroller might hit you from behind. If you really get things twisted up you can get the second patroller hitting you from behind just when your healer gets blasted for half their health. So unless you know the next pack cold I recommend taking the second patroller out. Naturally you must time the pulls to not agro the packs on the sides.

Pull 3: First shadow-caster pack
Personally I never do that second patroller because I tend to hit the next pack in a very optimal position while moving quickly forward. This next pack is 4 and patrols. It goes down a hall from the top of the steps and back to near another group in the room beyond. The safest place to hit it is right at the top of the steps. The best place to hit it if you are skipping the second patroller is down the short hall, just before you are out in the next room. What makes this group nasty is the shadowcaster. They hit HARD. And they cast so they stay well back. A good healer can heal through caster, even if the caster is shooting them. However, a good tank will never ever force a good healer to do that. The good tank, will mark that caster as primary and take it out fast. My skull raidmark is macroed to my Num-0 over on the number pad. This is a nice big button for fast for hitting while tanking. I tank as a bear so I am going to move straight through the group while hitting swipe and go right for the caster. I might charge to get through the group or I might run to the group and then charge through it to get to the caster. As I said I hit this group right at the end of the hall. Hitting it farther in means you probably pull one or more additional groups. Hitting it way in there will pull two groups at once. If two shadowcasters both shoot you at the same time you might die. If you shadowcasters shoot your healer at the same time they will be so dead the spirit healer will take damage.

Pull 4: Shadow-caster pack 2
This group is in the room the right and back. As you enter the room there are a lot of small things bugs off to your right. They are pathetic so ignore them. To your left is another pack. In this place you can either go right OR left but you don’t need to clear both, I go right so I only care about the group in front of me and to my right. I charge in. As before the caster gets primary and I hit it hard and fast. Lets say this time I am so focued on the caster that one of the others pulls off me. No problem I just go taunt and pick it up after the caster is dead. While I am at it I go toss an AOE at the small bugs in the corner. You can bypass them but they look better dead.

Pull 5: Shadow-caster Pack 3
Past the last group there are some steep stairs. To the right of the bottom of the stairs are some more small trash bugs. I jump over the stair rail and aoe them to death. Those are not a real pull. Next I spin around and wait for the party to catch up. In front of me across the room is a pack and then another pack patrolling around it. The patrol goes from way back in the far right corner all the way to near the bottom of the steps. Hopefully no DPS has already agroed them. This pack is perfect for an LOS pull…

The key here is the healer standing off to your left, by the wall next to the steps. If the healer is out in the open they are likly to get shot by the caster. The steps themselves will block LOS for the pull. I pick the shadow caster and mark it will skull. Then I pick the closest nerubian and feral faerie fire it. Next I move quickly to my left and hide by the steps. The group charges in. With even a little luck the caster will move a few steps forward. The rest of the pack gets here fast and starts attacking. The DPSers all start shooting and hacking at things. Only you care that the caster is your primary target. You throw some AOE to get agro on the three melee mobs and then you move from under cover. I can’t take the risk that the caster will get agro on someone else so I only give it a few steps toward the group, far enough to be away from the other group, and then I charge in. Swipe swipe swipe (with macroed and glyphed Maul) and that group is down. When you know this pull and do it smoothly it is easy. If you botch it you get two groups and dual shadow-casters will likely send someone to visit the land of black&white graphics.

Pull 6: last shadow caster pack
This group is stationary and has a shadow caster. I hit it hard and fast so they stay bunched up when I get to the caster. Once again the caster is primary. They really do hit rather hard.

Pull 7: trash and then the boss
In the next room there is a cluster of patrolling tiny bugs (one fast AOE hit) and then a boss. The boss is an easy pull. Just go hit it. I was not planning to cover boss fights, but for anyone that found this post from google and needs to know: When the purple shield pops up, find the guardian and kill it. Also AOE a lot and tell your healer to stand near you.

Pull 8: Patrol
There is a patrol just outside the other side of the boss room. Ignore it and go to the right down the steps. If anyone agros it kick/ignore them.

Pull 8.5: bug trash
Some tiny bugs patrol up and down the steps on the second flight and landing. AOE = dead.

Pull 9: More LOS
Now you are on a big landing, looking left from where you came down. In front of you is a pack. Of to your left are some giants and other stuff. Some of that pack in front our casters. You don’t want to fight them where the pack stands because that puts your DPS, heals and some patrolling giants and things all behind you and out of your vision. Instead run forward to where there is a little out-jut in the wall to your left. Hit the closest one of that pack with something ranged and then dodge behind the wall to your left. Do it fast, before your party is ready. Most people don’t seem to LOS this group. Most DPS screw it up by shooting them or hitting them before they get to you. You plan for them to do that by first moving fast enough that they aren’t ready to mess you up and second by expecting them to engage in the middle of the LOS pull. So now you are hiding behind the wall, the mobs are half way back to you and someone has just stepped past you and engaged. Since you expected that you jump out of your hiding spot early and engage with them. The group may or may not have gotten spread out by this sequence of events. If they did, watch for the farthest one to pull off you (If you don’t have the built in feature for announcing target changes in combat text turned on then go turn it on now. Seriously, this is majorly handy for tanking.) When it pulls off you taunt it. If you are a bear. Pallies and warriors can just ranged silence and DK can just grip it.

Pull 10: Giests Patrol
Next up there are several groups that patrol around. Two packs of Giests and two giants. The giants do fear. Wait for the first giest pack to get close and hit it with a ranged move. Don’t move toward it, let it come to you and aoe it down.

Pull 11: Giant
Now move forward just enough to engage the first giant. While you are doing it you are watching two things. One is the second giest pack which is patrolling nearby and the second is for any of your party to get feared either into the group on the far left, the other giant or the giest pack). Expect one of those things to happen and be ready for it. Stay well to the right and just plan on agroing the giest pack soon after. This should put you far enough from the group on the left to be safe from the fear.

Pull 12: giest pack
Depending on the patrol timing you might do this pack before the giant. Not likely though. Same as before, engage and aoe them down.

Pull 13: platform pack
Now you are going up the ramp to the right. That other giant should be far away but don’t forget it is there. The group you are after is at the top of the platform. It is mixed with casters and melee. There are two tricky bits, one is that the pylon in the center of the platform blocks line of sight. The other is that the ramp platform lip also blocks those on the ramp. Be sure your healer has caught up before going on to the platform (Or pop cooldowns) and don’t get on the other side of the pylon from your heals. You can use the pylon LOS to move the casters closer to you if you are good. Throw around plenty of agro as this spread out group is likely to get pulled off you.

Pull 14 and 15: Giant and platform
You might do the other platform next or the other giant. They both work like the first platform and giant. When doing the giant watch out for fearing into that group that is still down there.

Pull 16: Prince vampire
He is annoying but super easy. As you go up the ramp to him watch that your dps does not agro that other pack. Then move in and engage. Every now and then he vampires someone. If it is the healer, and there is a fire orb up, pop a cooldown.

Pull 17: Now it gets interesting
If anyone in your group is extra dumb, over eager and does not listen, now is the time to votekick. You go past the boss, down the ramp and come out on a raised area overlooking a lot of packs. This place use to be very tricky but now that they dumb it down… it is just as bad because now people do it even worse.
Here is what not to do… don’t’ leave the platform.
Directly in front of the platform there is a group patrolling left and right. Past that group to the right side is another group. Off the far right and left ends of the platform are two more groups. Time the patrolling group until it is just to the left of the center of its patrol path. This means it is not near any other group. Shoot at it or throw something ranged. Now STEP BACK! The top of the steps will LOS the casters. If you don’t do that some helpful DPS will run down the steps to engage the caster. It they do, taunt what they are fighting and back up even more. The big risk in this area is agroing extra groups.

Pull 18: Front right camp
Don’t leave the platform! Do something to shoot the group the front and right and then back up again. Can you skip this group? Kinda. Can you wipe if you skip it and mess up? Yeah. Don’t bother skipping it. Don’t forget to back up after you agro them and double check that no patrol was near them.
If you run down there and fight where they stand you run a good chance of getting the group behind them too.

Pull 19: far left camp
We are going for the tree boss so we now go down the far left end of the steps and engage the group there. Alternately, do be safer, you can pull them up to your spot on the platform and kill them the same as the last two.

Pull 20: Shambler 1
It is a single patrolling target, kill it. Do it fast-ish because there is another one patrolling back there.

Pull 21-22: more shamblers
There is another one down around the ramp. Kill it. There is one straight ahead after that. You theoretically can skip it but if you have some run to melee a ‘shroom while you are on the boss they might agro it. Pull and kill it before the boss.

Pull 23: Boss
These days you can kill it without doing the mushrooms. If you want to though you can go kill a healthy mushroom to get the debuff off you. Kill the boss.

Pull 24: Pack by the fire
Leave the dead boss and go back up the to the courtyard area. There are two ways to the second to last boss, one is right in front of you. Move in and engage the group by the bonfire. They might have someone ranged but if you move if fast and fight where they stand you are fine.

Pull 25: Elementals
Dead ahead and just before the stairs are some elementals. Some are ranged and they hit fairly hard. I just charge I and kill them where they stand.

Pull 26: Groupies
At the top of the steps is a platform area with lots of worshipers. Soon as they are all dead the boss will come down. If you want a tiny breather you can do just half of them, rest a second, and then do the other half so there is less to deal with as a part of the boss pull.

Pull 27: Bossette
She pulls herself the instant the last worshiper dies. Just pick her up as she comes down.
Be ready to drop the add fast when it starts going toward the circle. If you don’t get it down before it gets there blow any and all tanking cooldowns as boss returns. She will be hitting very hard and might take the healer by surprise.
After the boss be sure to go back around via the side you cleared. If you have a particularly oblivious DPSer they might start going back via the side that was NOT cleared. It happens more often than you might think so expect it. But don’t wait around on the platform. As soon as the boss drops start moving toward the cleared side and hope the others take the hint.

Pull 28: pack under the tent
There is still the pack to the right end of the steps (left if you are on the way back from the boss) (I mean the steps we fought several groups at the top of). To avoid the groups to the far left (the other approach to the bossette) I will go back up the steps, across to the far end of the platform and then jump down behind them. Then I will start engaging the group from behind so they move slightly toward me and away from the other packs. I COULD have done this group before we went down to the tree boss. In fact I should have but was being lazy. (there use to be a patrol that made tanking this group on top of the stairs a vastly better idea)

Pull 29: first faceless one
So now we go up the big ramp to the final area. Dead ahead is a narrow area and then the first faceless one. I engage him close to where he is standing. Just a little back from there to avoid the patrolling ones but not so far back as to get him in the really narrow spot. These faceless throw a slow moving purple missile. It hits hard but is easy to dodge. Tanking him close to where he stood gives the DPS more room to dodge the missile. Most DPS don’t even know you can dodge it so they just stand there and get hit.

Pull 30: Second faceless
Here you have two patrols. If you wait for one and then fight him roughly where he is you are likely to get the second one agroed from your side. Instead I run past their patrol line off to the left and pull the left one over away from where he was patting. This has the double bonus of leaving me looking straight at the second one just in case an extra intelligent ranged dps decides to stand over near where he patrols.

Pull 31: last faceless
Nothing special for this one. Move in and take him when he is to the right (closer to the entrance) so you are not near the boss.

Pull 32: Boss
Kill him… By the way. If you are a rage using tank remember to kill your healer first. If you don’t you will get rage starved when the healer is the only one left. If you don’t know what I am talking about, you will wahahahaa.

That is it. All of Old Kingdom pull by pull. I went a bit fast but I hope it helped illustrate some of the decision making that goes into doing various types of pulls. If you are confused by anything please please ask in the comments. Keep in mind I might have forgotten something. I did this purely from memory to illustrate that a decent tank needs to be able to remember every pull in an instance and how they are unique. Happy tanking.

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Good Situational awareness means never saying “what the hell just happened?” Really good situational awareness means never saying “Woah! I did not see that coming.”

It is being aware of what is going on around you. Not just being there. Not just seeing it. Not just doing some stuff while seeing things. Being AWARE.

The first step of being more aware is realizing that you need to be. If you think you already are, but you aren’t, then you will not get any better. At first trying to pay attention to more things will seem hard. Overwhelming and stressful are two words new tanks use a lot. It gets better as you get better at being aware (among other things).

Camera control is a key aspect of situational awareness. If you are not looking AT a potential trouble spot you can’t keep tabs on it.

Take this situation:

The giant is dead, the boss is way down there and we are all clear to finish this HoL run off. But wait! Pan that camera round and let’s become aware of the real situation.

Oops.

Last I checked I am not omnipotent. Neither is anyone else currently walking the earth in human flesh. Well except that one DK in your last run. I think he knows everything. But for the rest of us we don’t. The trick to knowing more and being more aware is focusing on things you need to know. As you get better at it you will be reflexively updating yourself.

There is a thing that pilots call the scan. As you are flying a plane you can’t see all your gauges at once. For a pilot it is deadly if you forget to check one of your gauges for a long time. So you scan them in a regular pattern, like a rotation. What is my airspeed? Ok, now how is my attitude? Now look out the windscreen. Ok, now check my engine status indicators. Good, now back to airspeed.

We do this when driving a car but cars are much more simple. Look at the lines look at the lines look at the lines ah $#@% where did that cop come from? @$#*! How did I get going that fast?

FAIL. A decent driver is watching the road, taking glances at his speedometer, and checking the cars around him all the time. A good driver is also keeping an eye on that car over there that looks like it might be about to change lanes without signaling while still keeping another eye on that intersection coming up, the one that people tend to roll through the stop sign. He might not be paying attention to what the passenger is saying because that is not important. This is what I mean by paying more attention to the things that matter. If you can’t drive and talk to the passenger at the same time you tell your friend to shut up. Likewise if you can’t tank and follow guild chat you might turn that off. Learning to be more aware of the things that matter and be less distracted by the things that don’t.

Let’s say you are a hawkeyed bodyguard for a VIP. You watchful gaze sees all, knows all. Well not really. You might be scanning the rooftops for a sniper and checking the shadows for a sneaky ninja, but you are not going to be getting distracted by the way that guy over there is wearing shoes that totally clash with his tie. You see that sort of thing and dismiss it instantly as not important. But, being a good bodyguard you do zero in on the important things. You don’t care what color the guy’s socks are but you are very aware of how the suit coat he is wearing hangs unevenly on his shoulders. Which means there is something heavy in his pocket. Something about the weight of a handgun. See what I am getting at? Some details matter and some don’t. The ones that matter really really matter and the ones that don’t are a distraction.

Trick is to pay attention to the things you need to when you need to.

At the start of a run you are checking:  your buffs party composition  and you might be checking a few things about the group, GS, server, whatever.

Then you are looking to the first pull. Part of setting your pull up is being aware of your target group. What is the make-up? Are there casters? Do some of them do some special tricks? How far apart are they? Which ones will be in my aoe range when I start the pull? Which are likely to pull off me? Now is not the time to notice that the hunter has a BM pet, it does not matter. But, if you notice him starting the ‘shoot something’ animation then that IS worth noticing.

What you are paying attention to can change depending on your group and how they play. Do they AOE a lot? Which ones get into fights quickly and which lag behind. Where does the hunter usually send his pet? Which one does the rogue prefer to go after when he ignores my kill order? Does the healer throw a big heal early in the fight? Is he far behind me?

Do I need to pop cooldowns to survive the first few seconds of the fight?

You are also need to be aware of things around the pack you are targeting. Not just other groups and pats but what the terrain is. Are there Line of Sight hazards? Is the group going to path somewhere strange when I pull them? Am I likely to fear out of range of the healer. Which nearby groups or pats are the most likely to get aggro on us.

This is all in the instant before a pull and in the first few seconds of a fight. It may seem like a lot but as you get experienced as a tank you can take in all that information and much more in the instant before a pull. Some of it is off of memory, knowing the dungeon, and some is just gut feel.

As the fight goes on some of the questions change and some of them stay the same but the answers might be different. Between fights you are checking some of this but also checking on the status and mana of your party members.

I phrases all those as questions, but being aware is not about questioning. It is about coming up with the answers quickly and then acting on them. You should be doing this proactively instead of just reacting as things happen.

Basically nothing should ever surprise you. If people in your party gets too close to a pack you were bypassing, you should have expected that. If a that mage over there is too close to where the patrol is, you should see the aggro coming from a mile away.

If you pull the pack an instant before they spot him, or even as they spot him, you will be a second or two ahead of the tank that just reacts to things as the happen. That second or two will save the life of the mage.

How can you keep up with all of this and not to nuts? Learning the instances helps, getting reflexively fast at your tanking skills keeps them from getting in the way of your ‘awareness’. but in the end it comes down to focus and lack of distracting emotional reactions.

Someone WILL pull off of you. The time to be bother by it is AFTER the fight (or never). The healer will let someone die. Don’t worry about it. It is critical to not get distracted and forget about something you need to pay attention to. One of the biggest things to cause this is people pulling things off you. It is easy to instantly focus on getting it back and to lose track of everything else. When you do that you are highly likely to drop aggro on something else. And then things completely brake down. So what do you do? Well there are a couple things. One is TANK TRIAGE. This is also known as ‘you yank it you tank it’.

At some point very early in your tanking career you will find yourself with several DPSers that are blowing your threat away. These jerks are going to be pulling off of you right and left. Part of situational awareness is knowing both who is most likely to pull off you and who can take a few hits. This is where knowing other classes comes into play. If a hunter and a mage pull off you at the same time who do you burn your taunt cooldown on? This is a trick question. The hunter has FD so she is on her own. And the mage is dead a half second after he pulls off you anyway. Heh. Mages have several ways to dump aggro but most mages are BAD at using them. So if they use one you can round aggro back up and if they don’t you have a nanosecond to taunt off them and then they drop.

Tank Triage is the art of knowing who to pull a mob off of and who to let die. Ideally this will never happen. In reality it happens all the time. The number one of course is the healer. You absolutely have to keep them off the healer no matter what. Pop quiz, when is the most risky time for the healer?

Adds. Adds always go for the healer first because the healer is usually throwing a heal when they show up. The second riskiest time for healers is when the pull first starts. A very good healer will time his or her first couple heals until a split second after you get aggro on the whole group. There are a lot of not very good healers so you can expect a nice big heal to pull something off you right at the start. It will usually be that caster mob over there in the corner. You know, the one that can two-shot your healer. This is where awareness and a form of triage comes into play. I often ignore that caster. At least everyone thinks I am because I rounded up everyone else except that one. But in reality I have my camera aimed right at that guy and I am waiting for the ‘changed target’ notification. When that happens I am going to taunt him. Then I will have the 30% margin before he pulls off me again. Alternately I might opt for charging and interrupting. I do this because I am a bear and bears have no tools for moving caster mobs around. Basically, no ranged silence. That is what a ranged silence is, a way to move a caster mob somewhere. The only other way to do it is with Line of Sight. Doing THAT during combat, while the healer already has aggro is a challenge. It requires a fast taunt and a quick movement while still maintaining aggro on everything else. But that is not the focus of this post.

Tunnel vision versus ‘in the groove’.

Those two things are similar but not the same. Tunnel vision is when you are forgetting something you should be paying attention too. ‘In the groove’ you are aware of all the things you need to be aware of. You are ready for the things you need to be ready for because even if they have not happened yet (adds, pets, people pulling off you, etc) they could happen at any time. The thing to learn is getting all the things you need to be aware of in your ‘groove’ and not forgetting any of them. Or, if you are sort of forgetting them, you are ready at anytime to start paying attention to them. But not with tunnel vision. You are ready, when something ‘unexpected’ happens, to add those new things you need to pay attention to into your awareness while not dropping any of the things you were staying aware of before.

Oh no adds! Target, turn, charge, aoe, turn back, back into threat rotation. All with no hesitation or loss of focus. Did I miss one? A quick taunt and then back to what I was doing. Once you develop the skills and tricks to rapidly pick up a group of adds it is not very difficult to simply be ready at any time to do those tricks. Being a tank is about having a bag of pre-set tricks, skills, and tactics. I have this bag ready at any time to grab up the one I need an apply it. The key to making it all work is not hesitating. Don’t get distracted by something happening, just rapidly apply a strategy to the changed situation. If that does not work do another. ANY strategy is better than no strategy. The perfect actions a few seconds late is not the perfect action. Some half-ass sloppy moves done quickly with no hesitation can save the situation.

In theory being able to react very quickly can take the place of being so ‘situationally aware’ that you see everything coming. But that is a poor tradeoff. Being more and more aware of what is going on, and what could happen, or is about to happen allows you to decide in advance. I don’t have to react to that hunter backing up too far and aggroing the giant because I saw it coming. I had the giant targeted and was pressing the charge button before it took its first swing because I knew that would happen. This lets me be one step ahead of the tank that only reacted when he saw the hunter run past him with a giant on his butt.

Note for DPS and Heals on tank awareness: Dealing with an unaware tank. I will do a post on this someday but the best and easiest thing to do is get near the tank but not too near. Be far enough away that it is obvious when something pulls off on you but close enough that you are not out of his camera view. If you are well behind him an unaware tank will not see that thing eating your face. Yes, that is totally his fault for being fail, but if you want to live move close to him. Don’t get too close though. If you are lost in the melee he will be just as oblivious that you are getting om-nom-nom-ed.

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So you want shorter queue times eh? Or you just want to try out this tanking stuff. Reaspecing as a tank is not very hard but I have heard several times that people tried it but did not like it. Or it was too much stress. I have also seen people trying to get into it the wrong way. Here is a quick how to guide to respeccing as a tank. This assumes you are already 80 and know the basics of the game. This will be a MUCH lower stress way of getting into tanking.

You don’t have to have uber gear to start tanking. In fact, with this plan you don’t even need crit immunity.

The first thing to do is STOP, LOG-OFF, and READ!

Go read some blogs about tanking. Go read all of my tanking 101 posts (see link on the sidebar). There are a lot of other good things out there so feel free to read more. Most importantly read up on what a real tank spec for your class is.

Something to keep in mind when reading is that some material is targeted at raid tanks tweaking for that last little bit of threat or that extra tiny bit of stamina. That is probably not you.

Respec carefully

Find a good spec online and then find 2 more that match it. Don’t just take one person’s word for it.

Re-itemize carefully

Find out your class’s hit and crit immunity numbers (defense cap or talents) and be sure you get there. If you use a shield get a good one. If you don’t have money or mats to get one crafted, go look up the best quest you can do which drops one and get that one. If you have any really weak slots, check and see if there is a quest drop upgrade for those slots and go do that too.

Re gem and enchant as much as you can. If you are not sure you will be a full time tank, get some armor pieces that are spare or alternates and gem those for tanking instead.

Don’t neglect your glyphs

The glyphs matter. Read up on which are good for tanking, also read other advice. Keep in mind that the advice out there will be raid oriented. If you can only afford one set of glyphs then DON’T do it yet. Wait until you try a couple runs and learn which abilities you actually USE in a rotation. Glyph those. If you are a bear get a glyph of maul before you do anything else. If you are a warrior get a glyph of sunder armor (it works with devastate too).

Getting started

Rotation

First off you need to know your rotation. There is good information about doing pulls out there but those are useless if you don’t know what to do right after the pull. So know what abilities to put in your rotation or priority list and practice them on the dummies. Read your abilities carefully and know which ones do a lot of threat and which don’t do any.

Pulls

If you absolutely have no clue on starting pulls, and/or have stage fright, get a friend and go do some quests or dailies. They can be DPS or heals. Your job is to pretend to tank. Just focus on keeping several things attacking you while they heal you or dps them down. This will let you play with a few pull tricks, some rotations and even taunts. Use them all and experiment. Feel free to round up more than you can handle and get yourself killed. That is part of the point of doing this with a friend in low stress. If you don’t have a friend do it solo; it is still good practice.

Run something

Do NOT queue for a heroic. I don’t care how good you were at DPS or healing. I don’t care if the tank set you built is 6k GS. If you are not used to tanking do NOT NOT NOT queue for a heroic run.

Queue for the lowest level regular run that you can. Pick a couple of them. Don’t put Occulus, ToC, PoS, HoR, or FoS in the list. Just don’t. Trust me.

Why? ‘Trust me’ was not enough for you? It is simple really. If you queue heroic you will get people that are uber at DPS and have zero patience or tolerance for a learner. You will also get every moron in gear made of paper and cardboard that just dinged 80 and thinks it is heroic time. Not queueing for heroics is the single most critical piece of advice I can give.

Also, the smart players, the experienced ones gearing up an alt, are all in the non-heroic runs. Particularly the non-heroics of the TOC and ICC 5mans. The average player in those runs is going to be more adept and understanding. So there will be fewer way out gearing you and fewer you have to carry if you avoid heroics.

If at all possible bring a friend. Any DPS class or healer is fine, just someone that knows you are learning and get watch your back a little bit. That will take a lot of the stress off. If you can, get a friend that plays a tank to come and dps or heal for you. They can give you advice on some of the more interesting pulls.

Heck, if you play on Ghostlands US whisper or ingame mail me (Reversion). I will be happy to give pointers any time I can.

Queue!

Now run regulars, then run some more regulars. Then run more. Get to know each one well. Now go run ToC regular. At some point, when you have done a lot and are confident in your gear, rotation and ability to do some basic pulls, queue for the ICC 5 mans. One at a time, in order.

Expect to wipe

Expect to have morons gripe at you. Expect to have morons do stupid stuff. If you let the healer die apologize. Feel free to tell the group you are new to tanking. Many hardcore players will tone it down and adapt when you give fair warning. Whatever you do, don’t take it personally. If you find yourself getting annoyed take a break. But don’t take a break for more than a day or two. You need to keep at it to get better. Also, if you are grinding runs remember, DPSers are very often willing to do several runs with a tank. Invite them to stay in the group. If you need to drop someone who is deadwood, invite the others to stay in whisper. Getting a couple people who are friendly, good, and know you are learning to queue with you will REALLY cut down on the stress.

If you have an IRL or guild friend giving helpful advice, remember to tell them to back off and let you play BEFORE you get the point of hacking them to death with a shovel. Accept the advice with a nod and then say ‘ok now let me try a few before you give me more pointers’.

Heroics

Above all, don’t set foot in heroics as a tank until you have run all of them on regular. Preferably until you have run them all until you know the pulls very well. And double preferably don’t run them until all your gear is purple 200 or better. Remember that the ICC 5 mans drop 219 on regular. Look up what drops for your class and makes sure you have it all before moving on (unless a badge piece is in reach).

So now you are in heroics and tanking. The only real advice I have left is to avoid heroic PoS and HoR for a while until you are really good with taunts and rounding up packs. Those are very nasty and can chew up and spit out a new tank.

Good luck!

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Hitting the wall

Hitting the wall is when you run into something that you just can’t get past. It can be suddenly and in your face or it can be a dawning realization. With all the demands of tanking it might hit you several different ways. The cause of it be different. Heck you might never hit one. With the arrival of ICC the gear levels are so high any new tank between now and Cata might not even hit one. Or they might hit one while leveling.

Let me tell you about my wall. I started tanking somewhere during the leveling of my first druid (Reversion).

Actually that is not true, I tanked as a warrior a couple years ago.

Actually that is not true either. I started tanking with my pet starting at level 10 on my first hunter not long after WOW’s launch. A hunter pet is not a real tank of course but you get a lot of the ideas from it. You have abilities as a hunter+pet to generate threat, dump threat, and move threat around. You get many of the concepts of tanking as you play one. Having leveled several alts a little, and two a lot, I found my first warrior tank both familiar and eye opening. There were many things different about being a main party tank instead of just the pet tank controller for a leveling pair or trio. I mentally apologized to every tank I had ever had prior to that point for all the sins I had committed against them.

But that is another story. The point is that the concept of tanking was familiar to me and I picked it up fairly fast. I did a few dozen levels of tanking on my warrior. Then the warrior spent time in storage and eventually I leveled a bear tank. Going from warrior to bear was very intuitive and I was soon feeling very comfortable with the role of tank. I did my homework and got the talents and gear I needed. I was doing pretty good as a max level heroic tank. Then TOC came out. Remember back when most pug players only were wearing 200 purples? Times were very different. I was pulling around 860 dps as a bear tank which I thought (at the time) was not bad. Most dps were only doing 1200-2k back then and for most fights it got the job done.

On one Friday night I ran a TOC heroic pug and was completely unable to keep aggro on the three heroes fight. I am pretty sure it was the hunter mage and druid but I am not 100% sure. After a few wipes the group lost a few and then some Uldar geared tank came and finished the run. I was annoyed but did not think too much of it. I probably blamed the DPS for not following kill order. Anyway, the next morning I got up and while Analogue and the baby were sleeping in I tried another run of it. BAM! I was at the wall. The same thing happened again and I realized suddenly that this WAS a wall.

I knew at that moment that my gear, spec, rotation and skills just simply were not up to generating the threat I needed. It was a WOW epiphany I will never forget. What made it so critical was how I dealt with it. I went out and read stuff. And then read more stuff and then studied some more. From all these I made three very small, very subtle and extremely critical changes.

1: Maul. I had been using Maul. I used it a fair bit…. But I did NOT use it on EVERY melee swing. You see Maul is one of those things you trigger and then it goes off on the next regularly scheduled melee swing (like Heroic Strike). It does not blow the global cooldown. So unless you are hurting for rage you should be using it on EVERY swing. So the subtle change I did here was to move it from the 7 or 9 button (I forget which) on my hot bar and put it on 4. What this did was to put it right under my usual hand position and with my other spam able buttons.

2: I discovered the ‘glyph of maul’ that had somehow previously escaped my notice. This maul made my maul hit two targets instead of one!

Now these two changes ALONE boosted my DPS by around 50% and those I was putting out much more threat. What is more I was spreading that threat around better. My biggest damage dealing attack was hitting two. This meant that in a fight at least two of the enemies were glued to me pretty solidly.

3: The third change I made was even more subtle. I read some more about what ‘growl’ did. I had read the tip text before so I KNEW that it did nothing to targets that were already attacking you. I knew it, I mean it is right there in the tip so how could I miss it? But somehow it did not really sink in deep. You see, the hunter pet ability ‘growl’ does not work that way. It is something that just applies a set amount of threat to the target. So it makes sense for the pet to keep spamming growl on whatever it is fighting. What I read after I hit the wall was the math behind druid growl. The math is this. Whatever target is at the top of the threat list, you get that much aggro +1. For some reason reading the actual numbers like that had far more impact on me. The tool tip more or less says the same thing but not as clearly.

So what did this realization do? Not much. I was already using growl properly to taunt things back when someone else pulled them off. What I was not doing was saving growl for ONLY that. After I read that I made extra certain to never use growl except when it was actually needed. Well, really I do bump it a lot… and sometimes I fire it off before I get the right target selected. But basically I save it for what it is really meant for, for those times when someone pulls off you. What this meant for me was that the cooldown on growl was almost always ready when I needed it. It was a very subtle change to how I used it. And I had already been using it mostly right. But that extra assurance of having growl every time I needed it was huge!

So that was it; one hard and solid wall that I hit head on and three fairly small and subtle tweaks. The result was that I obliterated TOC the next time I ran it. That wall was totally blown away.

My conclusion is this: there are a lot of things to do with tanking. Doing any of them weakly might someday run you hard against a wall you just can’t beat. The trick is to recognize it for what it is and go seek out the information you need to overcome it.

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Foundational skills are basic things that help you tank better. Other classes make use of these things so if you have played WOW a while you will already be good at them to varying degrees. But they are all skills that will make you better as a tank as you get better at them. Most of these are useful for a DPSer or solo player but are even more critical for a good tank.

Aggro range estimation

 This skill is simply the ability to look at a critter or group of critters and know where you can stand and not ‘aggro’ them. Or, alternately, where you can stand TO aggro them. This also includes the ability to figure out which other critters will chain aggro off the one you pulled. All players pick up some degree of this skill as they play the game. You can’t help but have a minimal ability to do this. However, not every player gets really good at it. Tanks, by getting really good at it, become much better tanks. Getting good at this skill will enhance all of the following things: strong consistent pulls, the ability to not accidently grab extra packs, choosing the best place to fight, knowing when to do what kind of pull, and the ability to know when your DPSers are in danger of aggroing adds.

Memorizing a good way to do all the pulls in a given instance can be a crutch used when you aren’t actually good at aggro range estimation. It works well and can get you by. But if you are good at estimating on the fly you are just simply going to be a better tank.

Personally I am one for visualization. Imagine every critter has an invisible circle around them. That circle’s diameter varies based on the difference between your level and the critter’s level. If you enter that circle the critter will spot you and ‘aggro’. Now imagine that when the critter aggros it sends up a ‘pulse’. When this pulse goes out anything in that aggro circle that is allied with that critter will also aggro on you. In addition to that some critters that are hard wired to stay in aggro will all aggro at the same time regardless of how close they are to each other. This is how I think of things working. The mechanic might actually be a little different than that (I have never looked into it) but thinking of it this way is very helpful.

Most of this can only be learned through practice and experience. The point of bringing up the topic here is to get new tanks thinking about these things. It is critical a tank learn from mistakes and grow. A DPS can often get by with making the same mistakes over and over. Some helpful friendly tank might keep saving their butt. A tank cannot afford that and must learn from his mistakes. Maybe not the first time you make it and maybe not the second, but sooner rather than later.

Patrol path knowledge

Knowing where and when patrols move and turn is important. This goes hand in hand with simply memorizing the layout of instances and remembering all the pulls in an instance (also a useful tank skill).

When you start tanking you will find you learn a lot more about what groups are ‘linked’ and will all aggro together. You will also learn, probably via wipes, what groups have a patrol that goes between them. Patrols often ‘bridge the gap’ and cause those agro pulses to jump to the patrol and then jump to the other group. Simply by timing a pull poorly you can get 2 or 3 groups in your face. You also can learn over time how to estimate when to pull a patrol so that it does not aggro anyone with it. Mostly this is timing and the ability to estimate distances without stereo optic depth perception. Of course it can also be done with pure memorization.

Camera control

Long time gamers probably come to WOW with a reflexive ability for camera control. People new to gaming, or new to games with camera control, had to start from scratch. The stages of camera control go from utter bewilderment all the way to pure reflex. If you feel like you are still not great at it don’t let that stop you from trying to tank. Tanking is something that forces you to get better at it. But it does not require you to be uber to start tanking.

Practice using both the right click ‘character turn’ and the left click ‘camera’ turn. When not tanking, or just not meleeing, you can often get away with not using your camera independently of your character’s direction. What I mean is, for example a mage might only face his camera while turning his character. In fact, if he uses just the keys to turn his character then he might not use ‘mouse look’ at all.

As a tank you should be using your mouse and movement keys at the same time. This may seem awkward at first if you have not been doing it this way already. Why do it? Two simple reasons, the keys can’t turn your character fast enough, and you need to be able to look around and maintain situational awareness while still facing your primary target.

For example I run up to a boss start the fight, and then rotate just my camera around to see where the adds are going to spawn from. Now I will be ready for them.

Or I might be rapidly changing targets as waves of attackers come at us. This could require me to turn completely around instantly to face a new target. Only the mouse gives this fast and independent control.

But as I already said, you CAN get started learning to tank without already having this skill. There are a lot of ways to set up your controls so don’t hesitate to try something new. For example if you are left handed you can still use WASD just by moving the keyboard over, or you can use the arrow keys. I will talk more about keys in the ‘user interface’ post I have planned.

Here are a few tips for getting better with camera control.

Play with your smart camera settings. Sometimes a small tweak might make things more to your liking.

Scroll the scroll wheel! In close tight instances zoom way in. This will cut down on disorientation as the camera bumps along the ceiling.

Slow your mouse movement rate down. High mouse sensitivity can be extremely disorienting. When you rapidly move your camera the whole WOW screen jumps to a new direction. Now your brain has to catch up and figure out how far you turned and what new things you are looking at. Did you turn 180 and are looking back the way you came? Or did you turn 270 and are looking at some branching tunnel off to one side. A small decrease in mouse speed can really help your brain handle those rapid turns and cause less disorientation.

When my wife was brand new to wow she had her mouse rate set sky high and was always getting turned around and lost, even if she was standing right next to me. One quick twitch jerks your camera too far, your brain receives two images that are not related and has to do work to piece it into a complete picture of your surroundings. If instead you pan at a rate that lets you see everything as it goes by, your brain can build a completely understanding of where you are, what you are facing, where everyone else is around you, and which way you are headed.

Maneuvering your character

Maneuvering goes hand in hand with camera control. Practice using the mouse to turn. Practice using the keys to turn. Practice ‘strafing’ with the Q and E keys. Practice strafing while looking in some other direction. Try running diagonally while looking in some other direction. A good skill is to be able to navigate around a corner or winding staircase while looking in some other direction.

When tanking

Don’t forget that small steps backward can save you from having to turn completely around.

It is better to have all the targets in your forward 180 degree arc. Stick your arms straight out to the left and the right. Draw a mental line straight out from them to the end of the universe. Everything in front of your arms is in front of you. In WOW you can only dodge and parry attacks from in front of you. I think block too, but I forget. Also if you tab between targets that are in front of you then you don’t have to turn to hit them.

Running through a group and then turning around on the far side is sometimes handy. (other times it gets you killed)

Many abilities require the groups to be in a certain place or proximity. Shockwave, Captain America shield throws, and many others work better when you can position the pack where you need it.

NOTE: On positioning packs. There is an issue where server lag causes the critters to run behind you. What happens is you start to move, lets say one step backward, and the game client sends that to server. But you stop moving right away. Then there is a lag before the server gets the update saying you stopped. Meanwhile all the critter AIs started moving to follow you. Because of the tiny lag you took just one step but they take 3 and are now behind you. On trick I use is if I am trying to adjust the pack’s position, I use more strafe and move in circles and arcs. Then the critters are using turns to follow me and they don’t overshoot with turning. So instead of taking on step back to be sure they are all in front of me I might take on strafe step right and then turn left slightly. Sometimes it works better.

General knowledge of other classes

This one is so vague that it almost does not rate being on the list. But it is an importation foundation for a tank. It really helps a tank BE a tank if they know a wide variety of things about the game. If they are solely focused on their own class and don’t have a working knowledge of the strengths and weaknesses of other classes then they will not live up to their potential as a tank. How much knowledge you get concerning how other classes play is up to you. Some of it you will pick up over time and other stuff you will have to seek out, ask about, or read about. I will do some posts some other time giving the highlights of each other class from a tank perspective. Look for ones on ‘know your healer’ and ‘know your dpsers’

All these skills are in addition to the ability to use taunts correctly and to generate good threat levels. (see Taunt and Threat guide)

Another key tanking skill is ‘situational awareness’ but that one is big enough to rate its own post.

Another, more advanced skill, is using ‘cooldowns’ really well. I will also cover that in a later post.

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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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