Survival in an extreme tanking situation is about 3 things, reducing the incoming damage, Mitigating the incoming damage and healing the damage. Of course we all knew that right? So let’s apply them to multi pulls.
There is nothing the tank can do about the heals, right? You just take what you can get. Wrong. First of all you can do various things to ensure the healer is ready. Check they mana levels before you pull. Confirm their position before moving. Estimate how long it will take them to get into the healing action. Pay attention to how far ahead of them you are and estimate how fast they will be able to get heals on you.
A good tank does all of this on any run. Multi-pull runs are even more intense this way. But you are multi-pulling to save time, right? So get in the habit of checking the healers status so that you don’t have to take extra time for it when you deliberately make things harder.
Do NOT assume the healer can keep you up. In fact you are much safer to assume the heals will be bad. Pay attention on the first few pulls and adjust your pace to match what the healer can do. By a few pulls in you should be able to tell if pulling that one extra pack is going to kill you because the healer is maxed out.
Finally don’t assume good gear means they can keep up. Gear is cheap and easy these days. Also the healer might be distracted, talking on the phone, or feeding a baby, or any number of things. You can’t just say “Oh, nice gear. Time to go full speed.”
That is enough about healing. Our goal is going to be to not need any.
Reducing incoming damage
This means applying a debuffs you have. It also means being vigilant about spell reflecting, stunning, anti-magic shielding, interrupting, and just generally making it hard for the mobs to get you. This is not to be dismissed. A few well timed interrupts or a spell reflect can really cut down on how much damage you take. So can shifting the fight off the time bomb, out of the fire, or ducking around a corner to interrupt a cast. Pull out all the stops and do whatever you can to cut that damage down.
This is the big one. This is where the tank can do the most to survive on their own. This is cooldowns. Well mostly cooldowns. First it means doing other things, like being in the most defensive posture you can be and being gemmed, enchanted, and itemized to have the maximum health pool and mitigation stats you can. Unless you have serious threat generation issues you need to drop those attack power gems for some more stam (I saw that but Rev has a few gems that need replaced). Gear your 5 man tank like you are planning to raid and you will be in fair shape for multi pulls.
But now for the real meat. Cooldowns are where it is at. Being able to reduce, absorb or regenerate incoming damage on demand helps makes a decent tank into an uber tank.
Let’s get straight to examples. If you remember the Profiling post and the Cooldowns post here is where I put it all together.
Here is a basic multi pull. Our bear is doing the two anvils in the hall at the start of UK.
The two packs are in black circles. The patrolling guys are in between. The tank (blue) moves in, throws ‘growl’ to the left and ‘Feral Faerie Fire’ to the right. Then he ‘Swipes’ like crazy and rounds up all agro.
This pull is a short run from where the party started. No long ‘down the hall around the corner’ stuff. This means the heals and DPS get in on the action fast. Lets plot it out.
Here we are. The damage the tank takes per second is in Red. The red line jumps up fast because both packs and the patrollers all get to the tank about the same time and start swinging.
The healing line reacts a little slow and then hits a reasonable sustained healing rate.
All the DPS uses AOEs hard and some the packs all die almost together. It is never exactly together because some of the damage will be single or double target.
Notice that there is a ton of damage that does not get healed. How can we cut that down? In the profiling post I looked at using kill order to cut down on the damage the tank takes. In multi pulls situations this does not make sense.
To explain why not we need to back up a little. For a quick recap here is one group down with single target and with AOE.
The Red line is the damage the tank takes (that does not get healed right away) with using a kill order. And the Blue line is the damage he takes when only AOE is used.
Here we shade the important areas in.
Just the blue area is the difference.
He takes a lot more in an AOE fight assuming the DPS is bad at AOE.
Here is the same fight more realistic, with the AOE taking less time than the single targeting.
The tank still takes a lot of damage when we kill stuff with AOE instead of single targeting down. That happens because the amount of time he is tanking damage from more critters is longer. This means more time taking more damage than the healer is able to heal. The chart shows if you can kill one or two of the pack fast you can get that incoming damage down to something the healer can handle.
Now lets look at two fights.
The bottom red line is one pack of 4 getting killed by following kill order and single targeting them down.
The top red line is TWO packs of 4 being killed in the same way. Just look how much unhealed damage there is. Again, the green line is how much the healer can handle. The space below the red line bug above the green is the damage the tank has to eat. In the fight that is two packs (double the citters) the damage that the tank eats is a lot more than double. Not only that but the time he spends eating more damage then the healer can heal is a long time. Longer than the whole previous fight.
Now we will overlay the AOE version of the two pack fight.
Here the red area is tank damage in single target and the blue is tank damage when AOE is used. Notice that now the blue area is SMALLER than the red area. So as we increased the number of critters and keep healing and AOE damage the same at some point it is better to AOE. What point that is varies depending on how good the healing is. BUT, fight length also comes into play because at some point people will go OOM.
Did that make sense? Let me try it another way. For single pack fights and moderate (not over geared) healing levels it is faster to AOE things down BUT the tank still takes more damage in that shorter period of time. As we add more and more monsters to this equation the amount of time it takes to single target them down gets down right crazy. And the damage the tank takes get unhealable fast. But in the AOE version of the fight while adding more mobs does up the damage the tank takes, it is not as bad as it is in the ‘kill order’ fight. At some point, as we keep adding more creatures to the fight, it starts to get easier to tank by AOE killing them instead of ‘kill order’ killing them.
I am not talking about different fights. I am talking about just one fight were we try the same pack again, in the same way, but there just happens to be one more creature than the time before. Somewhere the numbers balance out and AOE is the better option. How many critters it takes to get to that point depends on many factors but it is almost ways way past that point when you have enough critters for two full ‘packs’ of some average size.
There is another factor that makes longer fights your enemy. Cooldown durations.
Here is a chart where the tank used a bunch of nice big cooldowns to mitigate damage. Now the damage the tank takes in an AOE fight (blue area above the green) does not look all that different from a fight with just one pack. And the fight was the same length. So the healer has the same ability to heal it.
If the fight last longer and the tanks cooldowns wear off the fight gets hard again. When multi pull tanking and using cooldowns time is your enemy. The fights need to be short and brutal and then packs need to die fast.
There is another obvious reason to AOE…. It is easier. There are far to many targets in a multi pull for people to find the one with the X and only hit that. They waste all kinds of time changing to the right target. The rule of thumb for fight length is above 3 targets the fights are faster to use AOE instead of single target. At 3 targets it is about the same and with 4 or more it is faster to AOE. The speed boost starts to level off above 6 targets and somewhere (15+??) it gets slower to AOE. I think… Not sure really. There is a diminishing returns factor. It really does not matter because NO ONE will single target a pack of a bazillion. Someone else can do that math. I don’t care.
Basically over 3 targets, if the tank can take the extra damage, AOE. Over 6 or 7 AOE even if the tank can’t take it (unless you are trying to kill at least one before you wipe) (On a side note, if you are DPS, when you realize you are 100% sure to wipe you should go single target and try to drop at least one).
So let us get back to the basic multi pack pull chart.
The damage drops off, as I said before, because something all ways is taking more damage and dies early no matter how much you AOE.
As before what we care about is the red area.
That red shaded area below the red damage line and above the green heal line si the damage that goes onto the tanks health bar and does not come off until the fight is over (or the red drops below green for a while).
So how do we make that red area smaller? First off we can use our debuffs religiously.
Here we see the dashed line is the reduction of damage that the tank can get using whatever debuff moves his class has.
The effect of those is more or less the same as if the healer just was able to heal a little more. So lets just bump the healing bad up.
Now we are assuming you are using those debuffs… but there is still a big area to deal with. How else can we fill it in. Here the tank drinks a potion.
Not much eh? The effect of the potion is a drop in a bucket compared to serious incoming damage. (maybe I dezagerated it a bit (of course that is a real word.. stop asking dumbquestions)
So healing pots don’t help much and we can take only one. How about popping a damage mitigation cooldown before the pull starts. Here is a bear using Barkskin.
Nice. we filled in a good big. But notice how some of the ‘virtual heals’ cause by the cool down were wasted off to the left? That is because barkskin only reduces damage as it comes in. To get the most out of it you have to be tanking damage the whole duration. What if we use a damage absorption effect instead? Here we use the Coroded Skeleton key.
This cooldown absorbs a maximum amount of damage in a given amount of time. It does not matter if we pop it early as long as we are sure to take the maximum amount of damage before the time runs out. This sort of cooldown in a very high damage situation wipes out all your incoming damage for a very short time. Much shorter than the ‘duration’ the cooldown claims to have.
As we can see from these two examples, different cooldown types have a different ‘shape’ when compared to damage and heals. It is useful to understand this because we want to get the most out of those ‘shapes’.
here we have a tank popping a large number of cooldowns early on in the fight.
Notice how the the cooldowns were wasted. All that area above the redline was wasted. That was mitigation of damage that did not actually happen. What if instead of popping all his cooldowns at once the tank had just popped some and then waited and popped the others later.
Here we have a tank spacing cooldowns out and getting great coverage of all that red space. This tank did not take much damage at all.
To better understand overlapping cooldowns lets look closer. Here the tank will wait only a few seconds after popping one to use the second one.
This is good strategy. The tank just used some of his cooldown arsenal and then waited a few seconds to see how well they worked. The tank noticed his health bar was still going down so he popped more cooldowns. Now he could see that his health stabilized almost completely. This lasted until the first cool down wore off. The second wore off right after that and the tank started taking heavy damage. But this tank had a cool head and saw that the packs he was fighting were more than half dead. He estimated that the amount of health he had left would last until the packs died. Hopefully he also notced that the healer had enough mana to keep going. Either way he decided to not pop more cooldowns. This is being ‘cooldown’ efficeint. To be able to do multipulls one after another you will need enough cooldowns to always have one or more for each fight. Well that is assuming your gear and healer is nto so over powered that you don’t really need cooldowns. But even in that situation it is useful to always have some in reserve.
Cooldowns are like taunts. Getting good at using them when you need to and conserving them when you don’t is part of the path to being more uber as a tank. A tank that is good with them can get get through many fights without any healing at all.
Personally have my cooldowns mapped via Bartender to the F1-F8 keys. In a pinch I can always lift my fingers off the WASD or 1-5 keys and just hammer a few more F-keys. It is not always efficient but it has saved me many times.
Before I wrap this up let me remind you that pacing is critical for a ‘gogogo’ multi pull instance run. Even if you can handle a certain pull under most situations, even if you have done it a dozen times that way, you still need to check that you have your cooldowns off cooldown and that your healer is not 3 rooms back drinking and OOM. Getting carried away is the main killer in multipulls. And remember, if you wipe it is YOUR (the tank’s) fault.