If you’re thinking of being the tank for a group, either for a team of your friends, a raid, or in a pug, I’ve got a few small suggestions that may help you out.
1) Be consistent.
When you get together with any group of people, you have to keep in mind that even if someone else is directing the overall strategy for the run, everyone else takes their cue from the tank. Everyone will be watching how you do things, NOT to judge whether you know what you’re doing, but to see HOW you will be doing things, so they can adapt themselves to your style.
There are so many ways, so many styles you can have as a tank. Each has it’s good points. But whatever you do, be consistent in how you perform each type of pull, so that your DPS and heals can adjust themselves to your flow.
I do not mean always pull every group the same way… but you should have one common way you do things, and then some variations depending on the opposing group’s makeup.
An example. If you prefer to charge into a group of mobs, and then drag them around so you are facing the rest of the party, providing melee DPS with a straight up-the-kilt shot as they run up… do that every time, not just some of the time. If the melee get used to running in after you and NOT having to maneuver around behind the mobs… if you suddenly change styles in mid stream, and stop dragging them around to put their back’s to the party, it will throw the flow off. And if you swap your style every other pull, it’s gonna annoy the shit out of them.
Being consistent in how you pull and how you position yourself allows the rest of the group to get an intuitive feel for how you do things, and they will respond by moving confidently to the attack without wasted motion, and your healers will be better tuned in to what your final range from them will end up being so they can position themselves well.
2) Encourage focus fire on targets with Raid Icons.
Most of the time, whether in Heroics or on raid trash, nobody uses CC anymore. Ulduar, of course, is a different story, but for the most part the normal sequence is pull, generate aggro, kill ‘em all, next pull.
Marking targets for Crowd Control or a detailed kill order really isn’t necessary, but there are advantages to marking a primary kill target to encourage everyone else to focus their attacks on that one target.
If you have a good group who know how to play they’re classes, then those with fast cast time attacks or insane burst damage will target your primary kill target while those with slow cast time attacks or powerful DoTs will know to take the initiative and work on some of the other unmarked mobs.
The fast cast burst damage will blow away the focus fire mob so quickly that the slow cast or DoT player wouldn’t have contributed much to that kill… but he will have done great damage against one of the other targets during that time. Everyone wins.
To encourage this, rather than stopping and marking everything up prior to engaging normal trash, instead use either an Addon such as Quickmark that lets you fast click a mark on your current target, or create a macro to let you mark a target with one keypress.
I don’t have a preference. If you like keybindings for macros and are comfortable with them, it can be a nice time savings in the middle of a pull to mark with one key press. If you are used to clicking the screen, then Quickmark is a great addon.
For a macro to mark a Skull over your currently selected target, I recommend the following line of code;
/script SetRaidTarget (“target”, 8)
Make the macro and then move it to your bottom left button or whatever your “1” is, and as long as you are the party leader or raid leader or assistant, then by tapping the “1” once you’ll put a Skull up on your current target automatically.
Alternatively, you can make a mouseover macro that will let you put a Skull over any mob, just mouseover it and tap your “1”. I don’t use it myself, simply because I want the majority of damage to be hitting my current main threat target, but your mileage may vary.
The code for a mouseover version is as follows;
/script SetRaidTarget (“mouseover”, 8)
As with any text you copy/paste from the internet into the game, copy it into Notepad or some other text editor that strips the hidden HTML code out, and then copy THAT and paste it into WoW.
And yes, of course you can keybind that to other things, I’m just using the “1” as an example.
Quickmarks gives you greater flexibility with what marks to use and when, but it takes some screen clicking distracting time to get ‘em up. Still a lot better than right-clicking an enemy portrait and using the drop down menu to assign marks.
Whatever way you choose, marking a kill target on the fly, and selecting another as soon as the first one is dead leaves no doubt in anyone’s mind WHO exactly you intend to focus your main attention on.
Many players will, without a kill target, assume that your current target is your main threat target.
The problem with that is, you might not stay on one target all the time. Most tanks will, at least occasionally, tab-target off the main threat mob to apply some good housekeeping Mauls of approval on some of the others, just for that extra wiggle room, and then go back to the main target.
Maybe on your initial pull, you decide to use a ranged DoT like Moonfire to start some threat on a target that you intend to take second. You Moonfire, the group comes, and then you switch to another target to be the one you blow the shit out of.
If the DPS is going off of your current target, they might not have noticed you moved off your initial target… and will be going all out on the wrong target and pull threat away.
No big worries, just a helpful tip that using a Raid Icon to mark your primary threat target on the fly, every time your main target changes, helps keep everyone on track.
3) Be mindful of lines of sight.
Some instances have terrain that rises or lowers, such as hills or stairs, and there are the ever-present doorways.
Keep in mind that, when fighting, if you are positioned at the peak of such a terrain feature, the healer and ranged DPS are likely below and behind you… and the melee DPS and pets are in front of you, over the rise, getting behind your opponent.
This can leave your melee DPS and the pet out of line of sight of the healer. Violet Hold is infamous for these types of fights, with portal spawn points being at the top of rubble piles or being at a platform above a long flight of stairs.
Be mindful at all times of your position relative to the party, and ensure that you are not only keeping yourself within healing line of sight, but also the ones doing the fighting at the mob’s rear.
Never be afraid to grab your mob at the top of the terrain feature, and then drag him/them back far enough so the pet is within line of sight, too.
4) Knowledge is power.
One of the simplest things that will make any tank’s life easier is knowing what to expect.
For boss fights, this is obvious. Knowing what the boss does helps you devise your tactics against him.
When trying to tank a run as smoothly as possible, it’s just as important to know the characteristics of the trash you will face.
At the most basic level, is knowing who is a caster, and who is melee. Knowing who will heal, and who will net you in place and then run away to shoot at range.
If you know a group is melee, then you can just do a standard pull and everybody comes running. If one of them is a caster, however, knowing it in advance can let you target him for a sheep to get him out of the way, or inspire you to do a line of sight pull around a corner to make him run to you and get clumped in with the melee.
It should be your goal, when dealing with trash, to find a way to either clump them all up so your threat generating abilities will easily tag them all, or to get those that won’t come into your range out of the fight temporarily.
Sometimes you don’t want to run up to the group to make sure you engage the ranged attackers in melee range. The group might be close to a boss, or another pack of elites, or some other issue may come up.
So keep in mind that if you run out of line of sight of a group after you aggro them, even the ranged will come running after. Also keep in mind that your taunt abilities can be used at range, and so long as nobody is dealing damage to the ranged attacker, your taunt will keep them from attacking anyone except the healer’s global aggro.
A tip? If you have a GOOD working relationship with some ranged DPS, you can have your DPS friend damage the ranged mob a bit while you build initial aggro on the melee group… and then when he gets aggro and takes a few shots, he can switch over to your normal target… and you can Taunt the ranged mob, bumping your threat on that target up to match your DPS friend… WAY over the healer’s global threat. You won’t have to worry so much about reapplying Taunt after that.
The point is, knowing what to expect from the mobs you encounter will help you pull in such a way as to get them all clumped up in your threat range without pulling additional mobs, and without letting any run free to harm the rest of your group.
5) The first rule of martial arts; The board does not hit back.
When you are preparing to be a tank, what you should focus on, first and foremost, is being able to take being hit, not your DPS output.
Everyone tries to stack their armor, avoidance and health that is always active.
But you’ve got a host of other abilities to help keep you alive, and knowing when to use them is key to going from an okay tank to a good tank.
Tip? PvP duels can be great ways to practise your ‘oh shit’ techniques.
Are you a Druid Bear Tank? Then arranging your sequences so it’s easy to trigger Survival Instincts/Frenzied Regeneration (and an optional Lifeblood) when necesary is great, but being practised in USING them when the shit hits the fan, at exactly the right moment, is much better. Especially when you can tell your healer that you’re good at the moment; go heal someone else for 10 seconds.
Knowing how much you can expect to recover from this manuever, by actually having a friend beat the heck out of you in PvP down to bare bones, and then triggering your ‘oh shit’ technique and getting a feel for how much Health you will recover, how much damage you will avoid using Barkskin or Evasion, how much of a hit your bear bubble will eat on a Crit, all these things help you better prepare for when you’re in deep trouble..and will help prevent you from looking at your ghost form, and think “Oh yeah, I should have used my Healthstone/Healing Pot/Lifeblood/Shield Wall/Survival Instincts/Evasion/Bubble.”
Come on. How many of you, with a straight face, can tell me you never died with a Healthstone still active in your inventory.
It won’t be second nature to use your ‘oh shit’ buttons, if you normally aren’t in ‘oh shit’ situations.
So practise it!
And what the hey, while you’re at it, practise your bubble/self heal, or your quick-shift/self heals, and get a feel for how long your cast time leaves you vulnerable, versus how much health you get back.
Practising as a Bear Tank to see how fast you can pop out of Bear, throw down two insta-cast HoTs and pop back into Bear can give you some good skills.
I know that when fighting Moroes in less than full groups, being able to self-heal during a Vanish is a wonderful thing… but leaving yourself in caster too long while trying to get greedy with the heals on long casts is embarrasing.
Your goal is to absorb damage and stay alive first, aggro everything second. If one mob gets loose, you might only lose one person. If you die, you will probably wipe the run.
Priorities, cheena. Priorities. You first, healer second, the DPS gets a rock.
6) Never assume.
For better or worse, the main tank is often looked to as the raid or party leader for group events.
If you have run something a thousand times, that’s great. When you are tanking a run though, you have to remember, just because YOU know what to do, doesn’t mean everyone else does. Remember that knowledge thing up above? Yeah, if you know what to expect, and there is a trick to keep things going smoothly… share the trick with your group.
Communicate clearly to the group your expectations for a fight… and be open to suggestions on different things to try. Please, for all that is holy, don’t tell other people how to play their class or character. But DO suggest a tactic that has worked in the past, things you’ve seen or asked other classes to do before, and ask if the other players can try the same thing.
Again, don’t tell other players how to play, and do be open to constructive suggestions after you’ve said your piece.
You know the portal to the upper left in Violet Hold that is going to spawn a group that splits up in two? Well, when it spawns, don’t just run around in silence, tell the Hunter that you’d like a Misdirect if possible onto you for the left pair, or that you want everyone to move back to the stairs to give yuo more time to round ‘em all up, or explain that you feel suicidal and you’re gonna bear dance and let the team wipe.
Don’t act in silence.
Likewise, don’t assume that the current boss is ‘ezmode’, so you don’t need to explain your intentions on a boss fight or your expectations of the team.
I get a LOT of crap in my guild, because every time we do a raid, I ask if there is anyone on a boss fight that doesn’t know what to do… and if I get an affirmative, then I take the time to explain what is going to happen, and make sure that person and anyone else is clear on what we will do.
I get a load of crap… but our runs are always pretty smooth, even when we are learning a fight for the first time.
I’ve been on raids before where the raid leader apparently thought that being master looter meant he was a leader. That’s great, but when you have folks just blindly shooting at whatever comes along, and hoping they don’t screw up, afraid to speak up and ask questions because they’ll ‘slow down the run’, then I call that a massive failure on the raid leader’s part.
If you invited them on the run, then you are responsible for making sure they know what to do, and aren’t treated with derision for having the temerity to ask questions.
If you want everyone to have studied their role in an upcoming raid in detail before you ever set foot inside… make sure that expectation is communicated ahead of time. And then feel free to rearrange your raid if that was your rule, and someone showed up unprepared.
You can have a speed run where no words are exchanged the whole fight and everything died anyway, awesome loot, kick ass, no deaths… and if one person on that run felt that if they spoke up, they’d be mocked for not knowing what is going on, and spent the whole run tense and confused and unhappy and fearful of screwing up, I consider that a crappy fail of a run.
But then, that’s just me.
The fish wrap-up.
I hope some of this can prove helpful if you’re just starting out as a tank, and wondering what kind of things to think about to help make your runs go smoothly.
Until next time, have fun!