Thursday, December 23, 2010

So you want to tank...

I found this link on the official forums. Not always a great place but its very informative at times if you can get away from the QQ and Trolls.

I would love to thank Sceilence from Yesera for a wonderful post. Its a tad bit of a long read but really hits the mark. Please take a moment to read thru this its really well writting and hits the mark HARD!

I have played this game since launch, and I have played this character since Blackwing Lair was endgame content. I have never been in a server-leading progression guild, but I have led raiding guilds working their own progression, usually a tier behind the curve or so. In Wrath, I had all three plate-wearing classes at the level cap, specced and geared for tanking. I am a self-admitted idiot at DPS or healing; for some reason, my brain just won’t function properly in those roles. But so far as it goes, I’m pretty well versed in tanking in this game.

I have recently noticed a number of instances, in-game and in the forums, where 1) people are asking for advice on tanking because they’re new to it, 2) DPS or healers are complaining about tanks because they are being bossy or dictatorial, and 3) tanks are complaining about DPS for…being DPS. Several of these questions and comments have been addressed from the perspective of mechanics, but only rarely do the responses really touch on the theoretical foundation of tanking, or what I have come to call the Tao of Tanking. This post is intended to address this gap.

I am not a Theorycrafter. I leave that kind of thing to much more dedicated and talented individuals. I would recommend Elitist Jerks and Tankspot for guidelines on mechanics-related specifics, should you have questions on exactly how to maximize your threat or what the best tanking build is for your class. I am also not God’s Gift to Tanking, and frankly, I would question anyone who tried to tell you they were. From my perspective, tanking is a mindset, much like political affiliation; nobody is ever actually right (no pun intended), but people can certainly be wrong.

The purpose of this post is to put into writing some of the philosophy behind tanking. I expect that it will be exceedingly droll for people who have been tanking for quite a while, because they’ve probably got this figured out. It could, however, provide some insight for people new to tanking, or to DPS/healers who would like to understand why tanks act the way we do.
On Leadership
The tank’s role in 5-man content is, in my opinion, the most critical role in the group. Now, I understand (and agree with) the argument that without a healer, there is no victory, and without DPS, there is no victory. No tank is going to solo a level-capped instance or Heroic. However, the complexity for any given role in a group is largely determined by the amount of responsibility the player has to take for other people in order for the group to succeed.

The DPS player has only to:

Do any CC they’re asked to do

Do damage to the appropriate target

Stay out of the fire

The DPS player does not have to take responsibility for any other member of the group (though really exceptional players will find a way to do this - these players are truly treasured gems that should always be appreciated).

The healer, on the other hand, has to:

Do any CC they’re asked to do

Stay out of the fire

Make sure that nobody’s hit points get to zero before the pull is ended
The healer takes responsibility for other people by healing them when they take unnecessary damage (taking cleave hits, standing in fire, pulling threat from the tank…I could go on and on here); in this way the healer is taking up some of the slack created by poorly performing DPS (or tanks).

By comparison, the tank has to:

Assign CC targets based on mob type/group composition

Make sure everyone in the party is ready for the pull (particularly, the healer has mana)

Pull the group, often in some elaborate fashion that creates separation between the CCed mobs and the active mobs

Establish and maintain threat on all active mobs

Position the mobs to reduce splash damage to alleviate healer’s workload

Apply appropriate defensive debuffs to alleviate healer’s workload

Pick up broken CC before it WTFPWNs someone

Pop defensive cooldowns at the most appropriate time, usually to lower the healer’s blood pressure

Direct the other party members through those “oops” moments (i.e., the infamous hunter “Where’s My Pet?” scenario)

If you buy into this model, generally speaking, a DPS player takes responsibility for him/herself, the healer takes responsibility for the party’s health, and the tank takes responsibility for everything else.

And even if you don’t buy into this model, chances are, your tank does. This is why the tank starts looking through the combat log after a wipe – they want to figure out what happened, so they can appropriately address any apparent issues and avoid another wipe. This is also why the tank asks the one question healers hate to hear after a wipe: “So, uh…what happened?” The inevitable response is: “Uh, you ran out of hit points?”

Of course I ran out of hit points. But why? Were you busy healing one of the DPS because he was standing in fire? Was there some debuff that needed to be cleansed but wasn’t? Did you run out of mana because you were spamming flash heal? Where other members of the party may be willing to dismiss the causes of a wipe or a bad pull, the tank refuses to do so, because all tanks know this one fundamental truth: “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over, but expecting different results”. Loosely translated, this means that the tank doesn’t want to repeat that horrible experience again, and is looking for input on avoiding doing so. So give your response some thought before pointing out the obvious.
On Threat, Crowd Control, and DPS  
One thing everyone needs to understand, and this goes for the tanks, the healers, the DPS, everyone, is that trash is no longer a speed bump between you and the boss mob’s loot table. This is no longer the WoW that has been played for the last two years. The Wrath model for the game was discarded by Blizzard, and AOE grinding instances is a thing of the past. Yeah, at some point tanks will have the gear to survive pulling the entire group without CC, and healers will have the gear to heal through such pulls, but even under those circumstances it will be more efficient to single target than AOE DPS, because Blizzard doesn’t want AOE DPS to actually do anything anymore.

I think what really needs to happen in the game is a paradigm shift. Everyone needs to step away from the view that being a good DPS player is represented in the numbers posted by Recount, and embrace that a good DPS player is someone who avoids taking unnecessary damage, does a good job with CC (both performing and not breaking it), does respectable damage, and has the ability to think outside the box. Honestly, this is the level of expectation placed on tanks and healers, so why have we allowed DPS to be gauged solely on their damage output?

I have a mage and a ret paladin that I group with regularly. The pally has been playing since launch, and the mage just started in Wrath (3.1 or so). For nearly two years I have heard them arguing constantly about overall damage done according to Recount. With this expansion, they are having a hard time beating my damage output when it comes to overall instance damage done according to Recount. This has caused absolutely no end of argument and frustration for them, which in turn frustrates me, because I just don’t care about overall damage done for an instance. Show me your l33t skills by not dying to your own stupidity, by be a benefit to the party rather than a hindrance, and by doing some decent measure of DPS. DPS players that do this are like liquid gold.

The fixation players have on damage meters is probably one of the single largest causes for the ineptitude encountered in random groups. DPS players want to prove their worth in the group. As established previously, it’s not hard to prove the tank’s worth, or the healer’s worth. DPS have to work at it. Enter, the DPS meter. Now we have PROOF of how important we are to the group! We have numbers to back it up!

Yes. And sadly, Recount provides me with some equally interesting numbers. For example, I can see that I’m still at the top of the chart in interrupts, because I’m the only one doing it. I can see that the healer is spending entirely too much mana healing your stupid ass. And if you keep playing like an idiot, I’m going to start seeing you climb the charts in total number of deaths as well.
I tank with the understanding that many DPS characters can pull agro off of me whenever they really want to. This is less of a concern at this point in an expansion, where the gear differential is not significant. As that gear difference becomes more pronounced and as DPS players in Tier 18 epics start showing up in your random daily heroic run…you may notice some threat issues. Do not be discouraged by your lack of ability to maintain threat in this situation, for Blizzard has granted you a tool for dealing with such inanity: the repair bill. It really is OK to let the DPS die, as long as you save the healer from a similar fate.
On the Successful Group
The successful healer understands that communicating with your tank is important. You need to be willing to speak up if you need a minute to drink. Again, without heals, the tank is not going very far. Complements should always be extended to a good healer, and patience should always be extended to a new healer, for this one thing is true: healing sucks. Just as being a good tank is a thankless job, being a good healer is even more thankless.

The successful DPS player understands that they can be replaced instantly, or that the tank’s queue time is pretty much immediate. While DPS wait in a queue for over 40 minutes, a tank waits less than a minute most of the time. So if you’re unwilling to play by the tank’s carefully laid plan, don’t be shocked when you’re booted from the group. It’s no problem for me to replace a DPS who is breaking CC, or AOEing all over my sheeped and repented mobs.

The successful tank understands that the game is social in nature. Goading your DPS by linking your top-of-the-meters-in-overall-damage-done performance is not only insulting to the DPS players, it shows your own ignorance of the game’s mechanics: congratulations, you’re the top of the meters in a useless stat. It’s like being top of the meters in mana regeneration. You’ve also alienated the rest of the party, and while you may not care (yay, anonymity), you’re also not going to improve anyone’s performance by doing that kind of thing.

The successful group will accept that there may be some deaths, and that you may actually have a repair bill after a heroic run (contrary to most of Wrath). Every expansion since Vanilla has increased the amount of gold available in the game, and Cataclysm is no exception. Commenting on your repair bill after a wipe shows only one thing: you are a lazy tag-along who wants to get carried to your gear.

The successful group will understand that being respectful of one another is preferable to a more egomaniacal approach, and that teamwork is required in order to avoid a wipe-fest. The successful group will understand that the tank’s goals are the same as everyone else’s goals: to finish the instance.

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