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Posts Tagged ‘theory’

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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Blessed are the altaholics, for they shall receive heirlooms

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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