The Forgotten Member of Team-Heals
In every raid there is a healer. This healer is not marked with a green plus. This healer is lost and forgotten. This poor healer only has a few spells. Very few. What is worse this healer’s spells can only be used one every few minutes. They are weak small spells. What makes it even more difficult is that this healers spells only work on themselves.
That is right, this healer is called ‘the tank’. I am talking about cooldowns and I am talking about attitude. I am talking about what it means to be a tank and what it means to be a team player. I have long thought there was something missing from many tanks. Something subtle I could not put my finger on. It was tied to poor use of cooldowns. Not non-use, but just not the best use. You see, many tanks are using their tanky cooldowns to keep themselves alive. It makes perfect sense right? I mean here you have this spell that only mitigates your own damage. What else can you use it for to stay alive? And what is the job of a tank but to not die? Right? I mean tanks have two jobs; hold agro, and not die…
Well not really… tanks have FOUR jobs. Hold agro, stay alive, control the fight in a way that helps all the DPS do their job, and assure the success of the group. The third one good tanks do anyway. They know it and they try to do it. Good tanks also do number 4. Bad tanks have lost sight of 3 and 4. They might throw up great numbers, they might be very hard to kill. They might even hold agro all the time no matter what, but they are not good tanks.
But they don’t know it. And other people don’t either. I had an argument just the other night with someone in run, he was DPSing and claimed they had pugged this wunderkind pally that was amazingly good at tanking… Except he refused to CC, pulled things too fast and did not wait for the healer to drink. I said those things made it impossible that he could be a ‘good tank’ but this DPS friend of mine insisted otherwise. However, the healer in the group was also a guildy and she told a very different story about this tanks ‘skills’.
The difference can be very subtle. All gogogo tanks are not created equal. I did a lot of gogogo in the last expansion and I got good at it. Sometimes it was bad but often it was very good. And I learned a lot from it. I learned something that a lot of people have not yet. The bad thing is not ‘go go go-ing’ That, by itself does not make things hard on the healer. And that IS the bad thing; being hard on the healer. If your run was fast, smooth and no one died, but the healer is a shaking, sweating pile of jelly that wants nothing more than to log off and drink heavily, then you are NOT as good a tank as you think you are. But WHY? I have had a hard time of articulating why I think that makes someone a bad tank. I am not some uber tank, there is a lot that separates me from the real uber tanks. My dps is bad, my gear is not optimized… How can I consider myself better than most tanks. What is that subtle different I complain about but can’t always explain?
And then it hit me. I have healed raids… I have also healed go-go-go tanks. Not only that but I spend all my wow time in the same room as my healer so I learn little tidbits that other tanks don’t. If I do something as a tank that is particularly abusive to my healer I catch an earful. But that is not all there is to it. It does not take all that to have the right attitude. I finally figured out what the attitude is.
I am a member of team heals. We, all tanks, are the junior forgotten members of team heals. The better we dovetail our actions to their needs the better the raid does.
One of the tricks I have picked up is timing cooldowns to not save MYSELF, but to save other people. I do this by popping them when I am low enough that the healer would be tempted to triage me while sacrificing a lower DPS. If I pop something then the healer gains more ‘healing bandwidth’ to hit other people. It is a very handy trick and one of the best uses of tanking cooldowns. It is a far better way to use them than staying alive when the healer dies and downing the last mob yourself. That is all impressive and stuff… Isn’t it better to pop it earlier and give the healer the cycles needed to get his/her health back up?
A good tank can do both as needed. In fact a really uber tank already operates for the good of everyone as if they were a part of ‘team heals’. The top raiders already know all this stuff because they absorbed it through thousands of hours of raiding. I picked it up a different way. I am not a uber top tier raider. Not even close. But fortunately I picked up some of the concepts by doing things a different way.
Actually a lot of it was from ‘gogogo’ tanking with my wife healing. This gave me an insight into when the healer was completely maxed out. If you read my posts on ‘visualizing tanking and healing’ you will get some of what was learned out of those experiences.
So what does being a member of ‘team heals’ mean for a tank?
First off, think about your cooldowns, stuns, interrupts, tool you have that lowers damage, think about them all as heals. Small, situational heals that you apply to yourself and sometimes others. Because that is what they are. Every bit of damage you don’t take is one less heal a healer has to cast.
Second, don’t fall into ruts with your cooldown use. They are not a part of your rotation. Rather they are something you use based on the situation. Don’t get into a habit of ‘when I hit X% health I pop Y cooldown’. That might work sometimes but not always. Many fights have specific times it is best to use them. With other fights it depends on your group, your healer, and your tactics. Never get habitual or complacent about it. Always look for a way to use them better.
Interrupt, stun, and move out of the stuff. You should always be asking yourself, how can I take less damage in this fight. After that you should ask yourself, what can I do to make the party take less damage.
Finally, every time you do something ask yourself, “Is this going to increase my damage taken?” If you turn to pick up adds does that turn your back on the boss? Are you running through something bad to do something else? Maybe you can’t avoid it and it is best that you take that damage… but you have to KNOW how your actions are affecting your incoming damage rates. The more aware and in control of that the better you will be as a tank.