Hmm, a tanking post that has nothing to do with math or stats or technique.
WoW is a social game, and tanking is, by definition, something done as part of a group effort. So, let’s talk for a bit about the social aspect of choosing to tank.
I think the biggest potential obstacle facing a good player who is contemplating trying to tank in a group is finding a way to deal with the consequences of failure, real or perceived.
Real or perceived by the tank, and by each individual of the groups they will be in.
I spent a lot of time thinking about the phrasing of that statement.
I said good player, and that’s at the core of where I’m coming from.
By good player, I meant people who care about what they do. Care about how well they do while playing their role, care about not screwing up and causing a wipe, care about whatever it may be that they’re doing, just care.
I think, sometimes, that it’s not fashionable to care about things in the game. That, somehow, if you allow yourself to care, to become emotionally invested in something thats “just a game”, you’re tossed off as a loser.
To me, the structure of WoW is a video game, sure, but as soon as you move from interacting with programmed AI to a group, to actually playing with other real living people, it’s no longer “just a game”. It’s now all about playing, interacting, and socializing with others.
Suddenly, the only difference between grouping in WoW and getting together at a party, bar, pool hall, hopscotch tournament or sporting event is that if you act like a dick, the people around you can’t grab you by the throat and choke the living shit out of you.
“Just a game”? Like hell. It’s the biggest game there is; interacting with other people, working together towards a common goal. Whether trying to be a leader or a team player, putting the success of the group above your own snotty feelings of the moment.
Who are the losers in real social situations? Assuming a group of people who share similar interests and could be considered part of the same clique, it’s the people who act like self-centered asshats that become ostracized by the rest of the potential group. Nobody will hang out with them except, of course, other asshats, who splinter off and console themselves by saying the rest of the group were losers anyhow.
Enough BS pop psychology so simplified it’s nearly insulting. Let’s move on before Cassie flames me.
To me, it’s the players that just don’t care, who don’t “give a f%&^” that are the players I never, ever want to see again in my groups. They’re the ones you run into that are in it for themselves, care nothing about anyone else, and who, if feeling themselves slighted or inconvenienced, whether from a slow run (by their standards) or a repair bill or just from having things not go according to THEIR plan, will lash out with hatred and venom instantly to make sure everyone else suffers too.
A good player, to me, is simply someone that cares. Everything else is negotiable.
Any time I am playing any character, if I’m running solo I’m fine. I will be relaxed and confident that whatever happens, nobody but me will get annoyed.
If I’m grouping up, then it’s a different game entirely. Why? Because whatever I do affects other real people, and I don’t want to be the one that screws up or causes the group to fail, or even annoys people. I’m playing for fun, I am inferring that THEY are playing for fun, and I don’t want to ruin other people’s fun with my idiocy.
As soon as someone in the group reveals through their words or actions that they don’t care… well, I’ve said it before, you don’t have to be anybody’s bitch. You deserve a certain amount of consideration and respect, too.
The group requirement is a big obstacle for potential tanks.
By definition, tanking is a group activity, right? So, no matter how well you know your character or spec, at some point you HAVE to face the very first time you will be tanking for someone else.
Tanking a group run consists of a different set of concerns than soloing, regardless of spec.
Let’s say you level as a tanking spec. That will help you to become familiar with the mechanics of the spec, and be more comfortable with what you’re capable of. That’s a great thing.
Even if you dual spec at 80, practising your technique while soloing will help you get comfortable with what you can do. Sure, it’s a good idea.
When you’re soloing, though, the mobs you attack aren’t being distracted by other players. You’re not learning what your big threat generating attacks are, what speed sequences work best for different situations, or have a need to practise generating reactive threat.
You never have to fight to keep the attention of the mobs on you.
Also, while soloing you don’t have an opportunity to practise manuevering yourself and the mobs into positions tactically advantageous to the rest of the party and seeing how well it really works.
Yes, you CAN practise line of sight pulls around terrain obstacles to bring ranged casters closer, and yes you CAN find groups of mixed melee and ranged mobs so that, as a Bear, you can practise our unique skill of Feral Charge to leap from ranged mob to ranged mob, pounding them in sequence and building threat in turns.
But you’re also limited in the size and frequency of that kind of training by not having a healer… and again by not having competing threat generators (those pesky DPS) to challenge your control.
Those skills only really come from experience in groups.
At some point, to be a tank you’ll have to volunteer to tank for others without having any actual group threat and mob control tanking experience.
It’s the very first time thats the worst, when the fear is highest, the fear of failure, of screwing up, of letting the team down.
That first experience, I think, is where we lose a lot of potentially great tanks.
Just the knowledge that you have to tank cold and learn as you go is daunting.
How much worse if you have to join group for the first time with strangers?
Some quick advice; do not, do NOT group up as a tank for your first time with a group of strangers. You might get a group of good players, but chances are high that at least one will be a self-centered snot.
All it takes is one to ruin that first time. Please, don’t do it! Ask some friends, or friends of friends, to go with you knowing that you want to take it slow and ease into it.
My second bit of advice, reiterated from before, is practise your actual skills and talents ahead of time. When you go into an instance (or group situation) for the first time, you should already know what the buttons do.
My third piece of advise is, study the instances ahead of time, and be familiar with them. Most especially, read up on what various mobs and bosses do before you go in, if possible. This isn’t meant to spoil new content, but is very important when tanking content that everyone around you has memorized already. Wowwiki and Wowhead both have excellent comprehensive resources describing each instance, and the mbos and bosses within.
When you enter that instance with a group for the first time, you should know your buttons, be familiar with your surroundings, and know where to go next. That frees you up to focus on learning/practising two new group-only aspects of tanking;
- How to grab mobs and build threat as fast as possible. Controlling the mobs.
- How to manuever your camera view to watch the room around you, and do it all the time. Situational awareness.
The first one is obvious. The DPS especially, but also the healer, will generate threat. This finally gives you a means to compare your own ability to generate threat against others. Use your Omen, use your Tidyplates/Threatplates, and concentrate NOT on generating your highest DPS but on cranking out your highest possible THREAT per second. You’ll find that is situational. Some of your best threat abilities will be single target only, and if you use a Global Cooldwon on them, you’ll be losing threat on a group of mobs. For Bears, learning when to start with group AoE threat abilities first like Maul and Swipe, and when to ease off Swipe and switch in others during your GCD comes from experience… and learning what your party will do.
The second one goes with the first. If you lose aggro, being fluid and watching your surroundings will show you what’s going on behind you. If you don’t see the mobs break off and go after your healer, then you can’t react to it with, say, a Feral Charge to a mob on the healer followed by a Challenging Roar.
Also, sometimes members of your party will stand in the wrong place and pull mobs from another group. You have to be able to move your view around and see what those chuckleheads are getting into.
It also helps to be able to see if someone in your group is just an idiot, and stands in the green slime all the time. Knowing that the reason their health is dropping is that they won’t move their ass helps take the feeling of personal responsibility over their life off your shoulders.
It also helps warn you that the healer is probably having to spend their own Global Cooldowns on saving said idiot, rather than on healing you. Time to be prepared to pop your own Survivability and Damage Mitigation cooldowns? Could be.
Please, the first time you run with a group, do it with considerate friends that will help. And try and keep at it, practising until you’re pretty happy with it.
But, that being said, the next hurdle will be deciding if you are willing to put up with random bullshit from asshats to tank for randoms.
It will happen. Nobody that tanks randoms gets good players ALL the time.
From that point on, having given yourself every possible opportunity to learn and practise and master the basics and nuances of tanking…
It’s your call.
I know of several really good players that just don’t tank for random groups. They’ll DPS, and they MIGHT heal, but they won’t put up with the casual abuse. They tank for friends, and that’s it.
I hear that from far more people in private comments than you might believe.
If that’s what you choose, I support you 100%. I’ll say it again in a different way; you do not have to suffer abuse from other people. It’s not your job to be somebody else’s chew toy. If you tank in randoms and people throw abuse your way… you don’t have to deal with it. Put them on ignore at the very least.
What I hope is, if you’re facing that wall, the fear of failing a group, if THAT is what is keeping you from trying tanking for the very first time…
I really hope that you’ll prepare, give yourself every chance at success, and then give it a try with friends. Tanking is an incredibly fun aspect of the game, and you’ll never know if it’s that one thing that really ‘clicks’ with you until you give it a try.