Over the last few weeks, I’ve mentioned that the tables have been turned.

Cassie and I have alts we are playing through Outlands and now Northrend, and Alex has been providing runs through instances for us both.

To Alex, this means that even though he is an Unholy Death Knight with a permanent pet, he is “the tank” for our groups.

He takes this very seriously.

I don’t have a lot of experience with other children, but I really try and be open to his mood and his interests, and help him pursue what he wants to do and encourage him rather than redirect him to what I *think* he should be doing.

I’m aware that oftentimes what he wants to do is whatever activity Cassie and I are doing. But not always, he has plenty of other toys and shows and outdoor activities with us as well, it’s not all WoW, all the time.

One thing that really is universal though, is he wants to be the leader. He wants to be the one actively charging ahead, taking the initiative, guiding us, showing US how to do things, not the other way around.

So, he loves being able to pop dragon form and have me ride his back all the way to somewhere… seeing what he wants to show me along the way.

In point of fact, he found in his explorations the mountain of Uldis in the Storm Peaks, where there is a side ari lock that leads into the massive mecahnized guts of the mountain.

He loves that place, and his delight in taking me there and flying inside, showing me around was extreme. A hollow, mechanized mountain full of gears! And bad guys! Look, dad!

He likes to be the one to invite others to group, and to set dungeon difficulties, loot rules, etc.

He wants to be the one to tank us through runs.

I like him to feel that level of control, and see where it takes him.

For all of Outlands and most of Northrend, Alex really enjoyed running us both through instances. He wasn’t really tanking, as such, because the mechanics of the instances all left the fights at ‘overpower = instagib’.

He led us, and he made it happen, but he wasn’t really a tank with the pressures a tank feels.

I’ve seen many wonderful things that I love from him during this time.

He is very observant. I know the attitude many adults have is to discount the awareness of children, as though youth automatically means someone who is shallow or oblivious.

Alex, and I’m sure he is far from the only youngster who is this sharp, notices things and pays attention to detail. He has a very sharp eye.

One of the first signs is how he sees the armor other NPCs and players wear, and recognizes either where he has seen it before, or what it is. He makes connections from the armor one of the players in our Sunday ICC raid wears to the armor on an NPC to that same armor on a Mega Bloks character (the Worgen DK) all matching.

He asks me, in the middle of a fight, if I noticed how such-and-so’s armor is so cool, look at those shoulders, those are the same ones that NPC X was wearing in Underbog.

Me, I’m sitting in lala land, “Armor? Who? What? Oh, um, yeah.” Then I check on Wowhead later, no shit, he was right.

Similarly, in Violet Hold, he has already caught on that each portal spawn location will only ever be a group or a single summoner,  it’s not random. If you have a portal in front of the puppy dog, it will ALWAYS be a single summoner. So we run to a portal and he’s saying along the way to me, “This will be a group, Death and Decay!”

He notices the small things… just because he doesn’t TALK about what he sees all the time, or tells you he’s making a connection doesn’t mean he hasn’t.

Well, as I said he was ‘tanking’ us through Northrend instances, doing his best, and we came to Halls of Stone.

Halls of Stone we’ve done a few times as a group of three level 85s, in order to work on the Glory of the Hero achievement. He understands the fight and the escort of Brann Bronzebeard, but up to this point he had me Bearcatting, and I’m here to tell you there is in my opinion no more powerful low level content tank than a Bearcat. Swipe alone in cat form with fast run speed makes for ridiculous on-the-fly aggro retension over low level characters.

So I had been Bearcatting it up in Halls of Stone heroic, and Alex had seen the waves but hadn’t really dealt with it as a tank before.

Suddenly doing the Brann Bronzebeard escort quest, fighting off waves of incoming adds all trying to run past to get to Brann, with two level 76 squishies while in Unholy was not good. Death and Decay has a very long cooldown, and stuff in single target mode dies too fast to spread stuff around.

Cassie and I both died during the run.

It was inevitable, even if Alex was an uber-tank it wouldn’t have mattered, we were both getting shot by beams of light the entire time, and none of us are healers. I didn’t even have pots or bandages, I haven’t needed them before. Cassie bandaged me twice before we went down, but down we went, leaving Alex to finish it up on his own and then Mass Ress us.

Today, as we were running around doing chores, I saw that he was kind of down about something.

I asked him what was wrong, and he told me he was really sorry he let us both die while running Halls of Stone. He was really sad that we’d both died while he was the tank.

He followed that up by asking me if we could work on getting him tanking gear, so he would have gear designed to be a better tank.

He was really sad that he, as the tank, had tried really, really hard, but couldn’t keep some of the people in his group from dying.

Does that sound familiar to any of you fine tanks out there?

I explained to him that to me, that meant he had what it takes to be one the best tanks there is.

To me, the heart of a tank isn’t someone that wants to be the boss or run fast leading the way.

To me, the true heart of the tank is someone that cares that everyone in the group succeeds, and lives to make it to the end of the run.

A true tank takes it hard if someone else dies along the way, even if there was nothing the tank could do about it.

All the best tanks I’ve ever known have been more concerned about keeping the party together and making it through as a team.

The saying goes, if the tank dies, blame the healer, if the healer dies, blame the tank.

The good tank, in his heart, blames himself if ANYONE dies, including him or her self. Even when this is silly.

Maybe it’s a feeling of personal responsibility, and maybe it’s something else.

I get to talk to quite a few people who tank, and a common feeling is that even when someone dies by standing in the fire, the frustration of the tank comes at least in part from wishing there was some way the tank could Leap of Faith or Thunderclap the bastard out of that fire and save them despite themselves.

I spent quite some time explaining to Alex how proud of him I was. You can pretend a lot, but it’s hard to pretend you care. You either do or you don’t.

How to tank can be learned, gear can be grabbed, specs can be changed, skills can be moved.

You can’t just spec into ‘give a shit about others’.

On a side note, explaining how it wasn’t the gear, it was the spec that helps provide threat causing and damage reducing powers was interesting. Now I think he understands that he can buy dual spec, build a blood talent spec, and be able to use AoE abilities and have more damage reduction to make tanking easier, regardless of what gear he’s wearing.

Now that I’ve had that conversation, I wonder if in the future he’ll go the other way, and assume that it doesn’t matter what gear he’s wearing to tank as long as he’s in the right spec?

Ah, every new day brings new adventures.

Like right now. He’s decided he’d like to get the Cataclysmic Gladiator’s Desecration set, so I explained about Conquest points. Now he is, right this second, in a random battleground. Isle of Conquest.

This probably won’t end well.

Update: He won! Miracles do happen.

19 Responses to “The Cub Report: Tanking AAR”
  1. Stubborn says:

    Dear BBB,
    I love all your tales about your son, but this one really struck me, probably more than any since the mechanized fishbowl combat pet. As I mention (probably too) frequently, I’m a teacher, and I give my kids a lot of freedom to roam around intellectually and learn. It’s not always been seen as valuable, but I still know it is. I love to hear about how you give your son so much freedom to explore the possibilities around him, and more so how that freedom comes back to his observations of things we’ve all missed, and, even more importantly, to his coming to you when he knows he’s a little out of his depth.

    That kind of experience, as I’m sure you know since you’re raising your son this way, is beyond invaluable. It quite literally is what’s missing from so many kids I run in to who’ve had their whole lives scheduled by their parents until they’re 18. I had a college freshman in an 8 a.m. class who was perpetually late. When I finally had a serious conversation with him, he stated quite plainly that he’d never had to get himself up before. His mother always woke him for school.

    Independence can’t be given; it can only be discovered, and our youth are wildly dependent on all sorts of things these days. I love to hear these stories about your son, who will undoubtedly grow to be a strong and independent youth. I’m not too macho to admit I got a little choked up – not from happiness or sadness, but from awe – the goosebumps you get, the tingle in your mind that strikes when you’re observing something totally new, something that makes you feel connected in ways unknown.

    Sincerely,
    Stubborn

  2. I really enjoyed reading this post. I love seeing younger/newer players discovering things on their own and having the freedom to figure these things out. Too many times people who try to help do so by just telling someone how it “should” be done. For example, most people would tell your son that if he wants to tank, he should be in Blood, otherwise he shouldn’t bother. But you don’t really tell him that. You explain that Blood has more threat-generating abilities, and now your son is figuring out that he has the option to try that spec instead if he wants to perform better as the leader, the tank. I think you’re doing it right. ^^

    I also agree with your philosophy about a good tank. I always hated the “If the tank dies it’s the healer’s fault, if the healer dies…” saying. A good team player doesn’t blame ANYONE for their death. They take responsibility if it’s their own fault, they feel bad even if it’s not their fault, and if it’s clear who made the mistake, they don’t rub it in but attempt to help them instead. Instead of passing the blame, a good player should work with their teammates to solve the problem. I agree that your son has the makings of a good tank and group leader! :)

    I hope all of you continue to enjoy the game together. :)

    -Cerylia

  3. Gnomeaggedon says:

    “Update: He won! Miracles do happen.”

    Pffft.. his Dad has a good teacher…

  4. Tsudrats says:

    Dear Cub

    It sounds to me like you have all the makings of a good tank because you pay attention to your team and what is happening to them. I hate it when I’m either tanking or healing and someone on the team dies … even when they’ve stood in the bad stuff. I also have a level 65 druid healer who ran Slave Pens last weekend with a DK in unholy spec. Although he had to work to control the agro, it would have to have been one of the best fun runs I’ve healed in a long, long time.

    Regards

    Tsudrats

    Dear BBB

    :) Thank your your post. I agree, it is amazing to watch young people explore and learn like Cub is. I love the light bulb moments my students have and the observations they make.

    Cheers

    Tsudrats

  5. Kemonojin says:

    Heh. He’s more observant than -I- am. I would have sworn that whatever showed out of the Violet Hold portals was random. The only one I can remember for sure is the one by the core hound and he’s right, I’ve never seen a group there now that I think of it.

    And you’re right, to be a good tank you have to want to keep people alive in spite of their own stupidity. Shouldn’t be hard to explain that gear does matter if that comes up, but he sounds like he may figure it out on his own.

    I wish I had tanks as good as this 9 (?) year old… and LFD people half as mature.

    • bigbearbutt says:

      We were in Gundrak briefly last night, and as we faced off against Moorabi he started talking about how cool the elephant mural on the floor was, with the four big elephants and the ring of other elephants and stuff.

      I was all, “Huh? Oh yeah, that IS cool!”

      • Kemonojin says:

        …elephants?

        Heh. Another one I’d missed. One thing I really regret about the game… sometimes there are really cool things to look at in dungeons, but people are in so much of a hurry you don’t get the chance to look at them…

  6. anon says:

    I get to talk to quite a few people who tank, and a common feeling is that even when someone dies by standing in the fire, the frustration of the tank comes at least in part from wishing there was some way the tank could Leap of Faith or Thunderclap the bastard out of that fire and save them despite themselves.

    Hence my sadness of the loss of Divine Guardian in MoP. 1 GCD that reduces everyone else’s damage for a few seconds always made me happy as a tank.

  7. Talarian says:

    I don’t have kids myself, but the cub reports always bring a smile to my face. As wonderful and magical as the world of Azeroth is, there’s nothing quite as magical as seeing someone discover it for the first time, especially with someone young enough to be (mostly) untainted by genre expectations. I think these cub reports are the closest any of us will get to that sense of wonder we had the first time we wandered into Azeroth. We may never get it back, jaded veterans that we are, but Alex’s point of view comes pretty close :)

  8. Yes.
    As a MT since 2.1 I have an inbuilt desire for everyone to survive a run. If people die then I feel bad – unless the person is a complete and utter jerk.
    Often I’ll find myself automatically moving the boss, just so an unobservant melee dps’er can no longer stand in a pool of bad green stuff behind the boss.

    The cub has a good future ahead of him :o)
    Ellifain @ Khaz’Goroth

  9. Cris says:

    BBB,

    I think it’s time to post of photo of Alex while playing. If it’s fine with you.

    Great post!

    Cris

  10. Suxxy says:

    It is good to hear about the exploits through new eyes, but it’s also nice to run with old timers, too.
    I’m levelling (yet another) feral druid and was pug tanking The Old Kingdom. I went left to get to the first boss and the healer says:
    Havent gone this way in a few years lol almost forgot it was here
    I replied:
    I’m old school
    After that boss, down the stairs at the 3-pull I did LOS, like I always have. Again the healer:
    Now im getting teary eyed an LOS pull even lol
    One of the dps asked:
    What?
    The healer had to explain:
    Line Of Sight around the corner pull
    I had quite a chuckle.

  11. Sarabian says:

    You have an epic son, man.

  12. Katzbalger says:

    Just regarding Alex wanting the conquest gear, as you know 5.0 is coming out on the 28th of this month, that will also be the last day of the current PVP season and all conquest gear will be sold for honor after that, conquest will be turned into honor (with no cap, so it doesn’t matter if that takes you over 4k, won’t lose any) so it should be nice and easy for him to get then, plus try taking him through a couple of BH runs in the meantime for a chance at some pvp drops ;-)

    Regarding the tanking philosophy….I agree but with reservations. I feel bad if someone dies and it’s my fault, however if it’s theirs I’ll try to save them and tell them what they did wrong the first couple of times, but if they keep doing the same thing, whether it’s charging in ahead of me, aoe’ing adds before I’ve swiped/thunderclapped or whatever, I’ll generally let them die the next time they do it for educational purposes. Sometimes, people just won’t or can’t learn without the incentive of consequences, I think that continually bailing people out doesn’t help them in the long run. It’s kinda like parenting, you set a good example, tell the kids what not to do, but if they get away with doing something every time without punishment, they’re likely to keep doing it and someday you might not be around to save them from it.

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