Archive for the “Bear Tankatude” Category

I woke up this morning to the farewell to WoW post shared by Precious and Soft.

There is so much to value in her post, so much to think over, but one thing I felt moved to talk about the most was her “fuck you” to asshats she has known and loathed over the years in her random groups.

In speaking of player actions that draw fire in a group, Kelly broke it down into two different categories; those who take a little longer than YOU think is right to act, and those people who don’t bother to do anything at all, up to and including just standing there in the fire.

I’ve talked about this before, and I’m sure at this point I’m speaking to an audience that won’t benefit by my saying it again. The people who need it the most wouldn’t get anything out of it, because it’s not a skill issue, it’s a respect issue.

I won’t let that hold me back, if I never repeated myself here then I wouldn’t have anything to write about.

So, you make a mistake. I make a mistake. In game, in life, at work, whatever.

So what? Mistakes happen. To EVERYONE.

Do you know the lesson I have learned from Raid Team Wanda in Band of Misfits, who have cleared all heroic modes for Dragon Soul AND Firelands?

I have learned that while they are skilled and reliable players, their biggest asset is they don’t give up. They try, and try, and try again, learning from each go, trying to make the next one just a little bit better.

Of course everyone makes mistakes. The only people who don’t make mistakes are the people who never try.

If someone is trying, trying to play their class, do their part, contribute to the victory of the team, then awesome.

Is it frustrating to fail? Hell yes it is. Oh my god, yes. I’ll talk about last night’s Firelands raid in a minute, because it ties directly into that.

The important thing is, if you are trying and trying and not succeeding, it gets frustrating and miserable. Everyone loves victory, nobody loves wallowing in defeat.

You can find some joy in taking on the extremely difficult challenges and seeing success in incremental improvements. You may have failed to down the impossble boss, but did you get closer to phase two? Did you grab that add that sometimes slips out of your grasp, did you move out of the fire right on time rather than just by the skin of your teeth like the last four times? Those can be victories, and feel like it.

I get what Precious and Soft is saying, there are lots of people who can’t stand anybody doing things other than how they have it stuck in their head is the ‘right’ way.

There are plenty of others who will simply go off on you even if you ARE being perfect, just to be assholes. No, really, there are people that will tee off on you even if you are freaking flawless. I suspect there are some that just have a really bad day, are in a bad mood, and decide this is the moment to make someone else just as miserable as they are. Cynical, but that’s me.

It’s bullshit, but it doesn’t take away from the fact that it happens, those people are out there.

I have my own hot button, and it falls on the other side of the action divide. When I think someone else is taking action to hurt the group intentionally, I get really pissed.

I actually enjoy working with people fresh and new to content and working it through together, or with people that want to get through something as a group. People engaging in active sabotage or trolling of groups, trying to make other people fail? Oh, that pisses me off. I am SO troll bait for that.

Even when it doesn’t hurt anyone else to the extent of a wipe, if I see someone I think is trying to screw over other people even when it hurts their own chances at success, I start looking for ways to block them or cause them to fail.

Here is a fine example.

In the Dragon Soul raid, the very first boss, Morchok, has a mechanic that affects a group of ranged players. A Resonating Crystal forms somewhere on the field, and lines of color shoot out from the crystal to link to 7 ranged players. After a short interval, that crystal will explode, causing Shadow Damage shared among all the players affected. The mechanic is, if you are linked, you are supposed to run towards the crystal, until you stand on top of it. Why? The further away each affected player is from the crystal, the more Shadow Damage everyone linked to the crystal will share.

So, if you have a line of color come from the Resonating Crystal to touch you, then all you have to do to reduce the damage all 7 of you will take is run closer to the crystal. You don’t have to make it all the way, you don’t have to ALL stand on it or it fails, just try to run closer. Each and every affected person who manages to run even a little bit closer to the crystal will reduce the damage everyone will suffer, damage that healers have to heal through.

Time and again, I’ve seen the Resonating Crystal form, and time and again there are always people who ignore it. Just blatantly ignore moving from it, and even from the Black Blood.

I don’t get irritated at that shit because it’s going to cause a wipe. The Shadowson Annoyance Test; did you wipe? No? Well, not so bad then in the grand scheme of things.

I don’t get upset because I have to click another heal, either. That’s what I’m there for, and healing LFR DS is a trivial exercise.

I do get upset because it shows someone who is playing a multiplayer game with other people who doesn’t want to do their part for the group as a whole to succeed.

But maybe they don’t know to run toward the Crystal? I know that you can see other people with the color line running to it, but some folks could be tunneling in on the DPS rotation, trying not to get called out by some asshat for having DPS too low, and so aren’t running. or maybe someone sinmply missed seeing the color line in a graphics lagfest sludge slideshow. Some fights cause gaphics cards to churn, and at times like that, all you can do is shoot and pray. I know I used to have issues in Ultraxion when all the twilight effects kicked in.

Maybe a million things. Who am I to say?

But if you watch, and you’re as cranky as I am, sometimes you can see that one person that, even if they are only 15 feet from the damn Crystal and is a healer and everyone is at full, would rather Wand DPS than walk a few steps. 

Even then, I don’t assume. I ask them, politely, if they knew that the Resonating Crystal did less damage if the linked folks all moved closer to it before it blew up. See, I try not to accuse, or to put someone on the defensive, but to follow Aunaka’s ideas on gentle advice.

I try.

If I get incredible, vile offensive shit spewed back at me? Well, there we go. 

I’ve had this a few times, but my favorite time, and one of the best reasons to play a Priest, was when I had one reply to me that he wanted to cause the rest of the group as much pain as possible, and fuck me too. I proceeded to use Leap of faith on him the very next time the Crystal was up to pull him in while he wasn’t moving.

The INSANE frothing at the mouth nutmonkey rantings he erupted with in raid chat brought so much joy to my heart I thought I was going to piss my pants laughing.

He was so enraged at being forced against his will to not screw the group for that one moment out of the entire run, I didn’t even have to Leap of Faith him again. The simple fact that I could and did force him to the Crystal blew his cool all over the place, and he couldn’t recover. He just lost it on raid chat until the group booted him. 

In my mind, the unforgivable sin in joining together to do group content is to try and screw the rest of the group intentionally. That kind of griefing should allow you to do a /ignore-account on that person, so you never have to see them again. Ever. Cross-server wide. Just block them from ever being in your groups or in your communications, ever again.

I want to focus my time on playing with people who enjoy working together, not with people who hate other people.

Last night, our guild had another Firelands run to further Pumpkens’ progression on the legendary staff.

Once again, we failed to kill Ragnaros.

They tried their best, and I tried my best, and each time we took a run at the boss I believe we did better and moved smoother. The last try we had Ragnaros to 42% and were holding so as not to push the next phase before splitting hammer was done.

It could have felt very satisfying to come closer each time, except for two things; the majority of the group were experienced hard mode raiders who killed Ragnaros on heroic, so this wasn’t shit to them. And we were under time constraints to be done before it was past Alex’s bedtime.

We kept failing, in small part because I wasn’t an experienced Firelands raider on Ragnaros, but in large part because I kept having serious problems picking up the closest adds to the splitting hammer and stopping them in time.

it wasn’t a knowledge issue, I knew what to do, I just had trouble translating that into doing it. I failed to perform.

I was, if not THE point source of failure, one hell of a major contributor, and I was getting very upset with myself over it. An entire group is trying to feel that moment of success, and I was preventing them from getting it.

Wanting it isn’t enough. Trying isn’t enough. You have to do it, and do it right, and be able to nail those transitions. If you are going to have the time to keep getting better until you reach that victory, then it’s not so bad. If you only have a shot or two befire it’s quitting time, oh holy crap.

When everyone is counting on everyone else to do their best, and YOU are the one that is letting the team down, it feels like shit.

In a perfect world, everyone could start fresh together on new content, learn it together, make mistakes together. it’s hard to feel like the outcast moron when other people are making silly learning mistakes too.

When everyone else is the old, experienced hand and you are trying to learn everything and master it in the first shot… it doesn’t matter if logically you know shit happens. Emotionally, you’re letting down the team, and it sucks, and you feel like  failure.

How much worse would it be, at that moment, where you feel like a worthless shit already because you keep making small mistakes or aren’t reacting quite fast enough, and then some cockbite starts in calling you what you’re already, in your head, calling yourself?

The TL;DR version would be the same old tired shit we’ve all heard. Everyone makes msitakes, yes even you, so stop being an asshat to anyone that isn’t doing it the way you think they should, because who died and made you the Lord of all creation?

But if you want to screw other people over in groups, don’t be surprised if someone else is going to get up in your case and try to figure out how to really annoy the piss out of you.

If you find those two statements contradictory… yep, they are.

THAT’S the biggest problem. Who can really, 100% be absolutely sure that what you’re seeing is learning curves instead of active sabotage? Isn’t it better to never say anything, ever, so as not to be the one that adds incredible hurt to an already overloaded stressful situation?

But then, if you do… I really do believe that assholes should be opposed. Always.

It’s a judgment call. I know I want to be damn careful not to mistakes confusing someone trying and having problems with someone actively being a seditious dillweed.

To me, that means it can only be the most obvious, blatant, “are you kidding me wtf” forms of asshattery that I respond to. I’d much rather err on the side of kindness than cruelty. Even that one person on Morchok, I whispered them in a non-aggressive way first, and only unleashed the Grip of Flail when they started swearing vile crap at me.

I  also won’t just let everything slide. Is it a failing? If it doesn’t do any good, it’s just drama right? I don’t know, but I do know that it feels real good to see someone trying to hurt other people, and helping to be the instrument that turns the tables on them.

That means I am arrogant enough to take it on myself to mete out rough adn ready street justice to LFG offenders, and looked at honestly, that makes me an asshat too. 

The real solution to all this?

The only way to win is not to play the game.

No wait, I kid.

No, the only real way to take all this kind of stress off and get away from it is to form friendships and only play with people you trust. people you truly trust to not laugh at you, screw you over, or even worse, act like they are oh so superior to you and pity you.

That’s the rub, right? To go away from the current trend of finding fast, easy and impersonal groups with strangers, and try to form groups with people you really get to know and feel you can trust.

If you can’t find a full group of people you trust who want to play with you because they really do like you and want to hang with you and do crazy shit with you first and foremost…

Well, I guess we see what the solution is from Precious and Soft, and the World of Warcraft community will be poorer with her moving on.

But Warcraft’s loss is craftings gain! Have you SEEN her Craftypodes site?

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I know I haven’t been writing about tanking or even Bear tanking for a bit, but still.

Tanking 101.

Healer aggro, and the counteracting thereof.

Also to be known as “Keep your healer alive, you idiot!”

Look, from the heroic runs I’ve gone on, it’s clear that the old arrogant tank days of Wrath of the Lich King heroics are coming back.


There is a simple formula that even the most arrogant tank has to recognize.

Your modern tank has high health and many mitigation/avoidance cooldowns. May even have self-heals. Way to go, tools in the toolbox, AoE threat, very nice, very nice. If everyone else dies, you can survive in some cases for minutes, all by yourself.

All by yourself…

Fine. Goodie for you, Tankie McTanknspank.

The reality is, if your healer dies, no matter how good you are, you are on your own. If there is any bobble in your boogie, any swivel in your sidestep, down your ass goes. And cooldowns eventually do JUST THAT.

The formula is really dead simple; any heals, even bad heals, are better than NO heals.

Hold that thought, we’ll come back to it.

End Time is an interesting instance.

Much like Bubba Gump, you never know what you’re gonna get. Spin the Wheel and see what the boss-o-rama has in store for us this time.

I’ve got my favorites, and I’ve got my flat-out “damnit not again!” bosses.

Sylvanis? I love seeing her. So long as the DPS all focus on the same target and everyone gets out of the bad, piece of cake. No random deathfail involved.

In fact, I love seeing all of them on the basis of their mechanics, although the extra trash on Jaina is annoying. Group after group after group ignores DPSing the lightwells, and it pisses me off.

How hard is it after all these years to internalize the concept “Kill the healer AND their healing toys”? Especially those lightwells. Look, when you see an enemy lightwell, just think of it as a totem. Or a cockroach. And then STEP ON IT!

But despite that, yes, I like them all.

Except the Emerald Dragonshrine, and the Echo of Tyrande encounter.

As the healer, I hate it. I hate it with a white hot passion that could re-ignite failed stars, and a fathomless depth that could crush a liquid-filled diving suit.

As a tank, I love it. It’s a piece of cake.

As a Bear tank, Emerald Dragontrash* is a joy. I put a star on my head, I tell everyone to stay on top of me, and I use my AoE Swipe and other threat generating abilities as I run from circle to circle, my Threat Plates showing me who I’ve got aggro on and who might need a Growl or other form of special attention.

Big Bear’s home for wayward mobs, I gather ‘em in, make sure they’re all well taken care of.

If someone runs off and their role is DPS, well, screw them. I told them what to do, I put a star on my head so I stand out in a crowd, my big bear butt is the only huge fuzzy posterior in the domicile… get with the program or die, all the same to me.

But the healer… if the healer slows down, perhaps to drop a long cast-time heal on someone, I stop with them and keep mobs off their back.

That is my job as a tank. I take the hits because I’m the only one specifically designed to take the hits in the group.

I am not super hard to hurt because I’m a better class than everyone else. I’m tough because my class and spec as a tank were specifically coded to make me tough, and the gear designed for me enhances those traits. And I go ahead and wear that gear rather than the pretty cloth dress that goes with my fur.

If I intercept bad guys about to munch on a healer and take the hit in their stead, I am not lowering myself to save the lazy healer who should be healing themselves through it on their own… I am doing my job as intended.

Tanking 101. If the healer dies, we’re ALL screwed.

If you are a tank, you are assuming the role of defender of the innocent, protector of the squishy, and general meat shield about town. You get gobsmacked and abused because you like it, you eat the pain like candy.

And you’re durable. You’ve got to be durable.

But you don’t do enough DPS to down multi-million health bosses on your own, and you may keep yourself alive for a few minutes, but you do exactly squat to keep the entire group of DPS with you alive as well.

Famous last stands using your survivability and mitigation to eke out a win only work if the whole party already whittled the boss down to vapors in the drain.

As a healer, time after time, I see Emerald Dragonshrine, and I follow the same process in an attempt to stave off the inevitable.

I buff. I eat. I mark the tank with a pretty star. I follow the tank, I stand on top of the tank, and as we run from circle to circle I do the bare minimum healing I can get away with in an attempt to minimize healer aggro. I even Fade.

I stand on top of the tank in the desperate hope that when mobs come charging in, the tank will drop a single AoE of something. Anything. And not a “I hit a mob, whee!” attack but an actual honest-to-goodness threat generating attack that pulls stuff off, oh, I dunno, the healer.

But no.

Time after time, I end up getting eaten as we cross the river to the second to the last puddle of light.

Time after time I am reduced to Fade, and then to chain-casting heals on myself as an ever-increasing menagerie of cats and riders masticate my meager manhood, and then, well… I fucking die is what I do.

I die while the tank is obliviously single-target attacking, or, more often, running on to the next circle because hey, yo, there’s a light over at the frankenstein place, let’s go quick to the lab and see what’s on the slab, oh boy, oh boy.

What did I forget? I’m forgetting something. Oh, right, the healer!

It has been a long time since I went over how healer threat works, so perhaps the fault lies not in willful disregard, but instead on an ignorance of underlying principles.

It’s been a while since I wrote a guide, so I may be a bit rusty, but I’m going to give this a shot for old times sake.



When you as a tank run up to something close enough, it knows you’re there. It becomes aware of you. If it’s naturally cranky, it’ll try and take a bite out of you just because it doesn’t like your looks.

BUT… until you actually HIT it, you haven’t caused any direct threat to it.

Now, any other mob that it was tied to becomes aware of you as soon as the first mob did. They’ll all come running after you, too.

But here is the trick.

Say that first mob ran up to you, and you smacked it in the mouth. Okay, that mob is pissed at you. It will continue to fight you. If you are the tank, then you do lots more threat than anyone else in your group, so that mob, we’ll call him Frank, he’s gonna stay right on you like a tick on a hound.

Frank’s friends, on the other hand, maybe they didn’t really like Frank all that much anyway. Maybe Frank took them all for big money at the weekly mob poker game the night before, and they really don’t mind seeing ol’ Frankie take a reaming from your tank.

Those other mobs, so long as nobody did direct damage to any of them, sure they will run to the tank and hit ‘em, but their hearts aren’t really in it.

They have not had ANY actual threat generated on them yet. They’re hitting on you, the tank, just because. You are the mountain, and you are there to be climbed for shits and grins.

Ah ah ah! BUT, as soon as anyone else hits them, anyone at all, those that got hit will peel off and go after the smartass son-of-a-bitch that just tagged them in the butt.

Now the tank, as we said, inherently does a lot more threat than anyone else. It is super easy for the tank to get that mob’s attention back. A quick change of targets, a growled “Yer mother is so fat she’s a world boss for two continents. Both at the same time.” And back it comes running.

Simple? Easy?

If you hit it, you generate threat. If you don’t actually hit it, then you don’t actually cause any threat, and it’ll go running off to whoever gets there the firstest with the mostest.

The key here is mob awareness. You might think you’ve got the attention of every mob, because they’re all on you at the moment. But if you are only doing damage to one of them, all the others are only pounding on you out of solidarity. Power to the people!

They’re a fickle bunch. They’ll go charging after anyone else that does damage to them first.

But they only go after who they are aware of.

This gets to the heart of what healer aggro really is.

A single mob only knows who the mob sees, knows who hits them… or who his FRIENDS see.

As soon as any member of the group does some damage, casts a buff, HEALS SOMEONE THE MOBS SEE, etc, then the person doing the healing or damage or buffing gets noticed. By ALL the mobs at once.

Damage done generates threat. Simple enough. If I no shootie, then I no cause threatie.

Ah, but what about healing?

Healing done also causes threat.

If you heal someone, it is the same as if you just did damage to every single mob that knows about the person you healed. All of them.

Now, it’s not as much threat as if you did direct damage t all of those punks. The mobs don’t look at each other and say, “Shit, that hurt, lets go git ‘em.”

No, the threat your heals cause would be the same as the equivalent amount of damage divided amongst all the mobs that are now aware of you.

So, if the tank is doing proper AoE on a huge group, and you are chain healing the tank, the tank is doing TONS o’ threat to each and every mob, and your single target threat is spread out among them all… in itty-bitty bits. You’ll never pull aggro.

But… what if the tank doesn’t do any damage to the group? What if he’s just smacking one mob all by it’s lonesome?

What if… let’s just run a hypothetical here.

What if there were 8 mobs all running in from all sides, the tank hit only one of them, and the healer then cast a heal on the tank?

The mobs come running in, see the tank, and the tank hits one. They all go for the tank.

The healer casts a heal on the tank, the mobs now ALL see the healer because you healed the tank, and your heals on the tank caused actual points of threat on every single mob, and all those mobs that were only aware of the tank but hadn’t actually been hit? They peel off the tank and come running right for YOU.

And as 7 mobs begin whaling away on you, you heal yourself, doing more threat to all of them, and then more, and more, until you’re glowing like the sun trying to survive, other DPS try to pick them off of you but they do straight DPS and threat, not the magnified threat of a tank so they can’t pull off your supernova of healing threat generation (because your threat is incremental, it just keeps adding onto the threat value before so long as the mob is alive, growing and growing with each heal), and the tank, your only hope of pulling the group off of you…

He’s in monte carlo drinking a daiquiri.

Now let’s go on to case two.

Say you have a group of bad guys come in, the tank DOES do AoE threat to all of them, and most of those mobs are burnt down.

Just one or two mobs remain, they’re almost dead, and the pool of light you’re standing in winks out.

The tank decides to run straight for the next pool, and everyone follows. It’s not a big deal, he has aggro on those mobs, so they’ll chase him. You’re fine.

As the next group of mobs comes running in, they meet the ones chasing the tank, and while running along, they compare notes.

The old mobs tell the new ones about this asshole tank up ahead… but the tank has one of your HoTs on him, and thanks to the old mobs, the new ones become aware of the tank, and of YOU. And guess what? You’re the only one generating actual threat as each tick of your HoT heals for another point of damage.

So instead of running after the tank, all those new mobs run after… yep, you guessed it.

This is basic healer aggro. These are the fundamentals that every healer and tank should understand.

If a healer heals any target that mobs are aware of, the mobs then become aware of the healer and the healer causes actual threat to them. Unless the tank or someone else does something, the healer WILL pull aggro.

Just running from circle to circle, doing nothing at all to any mob until you reach a circle, doesn’t cut it.

Maybe I’m being harsh. Maybe this is all pretty behind the scenes kind of stuff, and it’s not easy to find or understand how it all works.

I know not everyone spends time wondering and testing how the game rules actually function by forming groups and trying this stuff out.

“Okay, now I’m going to pull this group, and then hit just one mob with auto-attack. You see if you can eat that Pine Nut Bread.”

“Okay, now try and mount.”

“Okay, now buff me with Fort. OOPS! Okay, there they all go after you, Fort pulls aggro. Mark it down and burn ‘em out, next group up!”

I dunno.

What I do know is, I died three times today out of five End Time runs that all netted me Emerald Dragonfail.

A fourth time, I simply managed to heal and Fade enough to survive eating the entire pack of mobs. Tank was oblivious.

The fifth time? Tank did it up RIGHT. I never even took a hit.

One in five tried to keep me alive. That’s just embarrassing.

All that being said, it’s still fun as hell being a Holy Priest. I’m part of Team Snuffy now, and we did normal Dragon Soul this evening. I had a blast, we managed to kill Deathwing and everything, and I got my Destroyers End title as a healing Holy Priest. It felt great.

It just gets frustrating sometimes. Yes, powerful gear is great, it eases many things, but just because someone put together a really powerful tanking set and followed a recommended spec from a website doesn’t mean they can tank. It’s not about the gear, it’s about understanding how to put that gear to good use.

I’d rather run with an undergeared tank that knew what they were doing or TRIED to do it up right any day of the week. At least then, while I’m chain healing them, the mobs wouldn’t be nibbling on my damn face!

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All I can say is, after seeing what Keredria found, I think I will have to buy one, and then wear it while sitting in my chair bear tanking.

It’s a moral imperative.

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Last night, at the tail end of one long day, a few members of Team Wanda, Band Of Misfits most progressive raiding team, were chatting in vent.

They had just completed the server first Glory of the Cataclysm Raider earlier, so I thought I’d pop in and say hi and grats in person.

I found them in discussion on whether or not it was possible to four-man the Conclave of Wind.

They apparently do mount runs. A lot.

I was about to head out and go to bed when Shadowson asked me, “You think you’d join us as a tank to five man it?”

Ummm… you know what? It’s been a very long day.


Let the record show that on this evening, four stalwart, skilled adventurers, brave and true, and one misfit bear boldly entered into the Throne of the Four Winds.

  • Shadowson the Shadow Priest
  • Kissinger the Mage
  • Pumpken the Resto Shaman
  • Randomski the Prot Paladin
  • Bigbearbutt the bacon butted

Yes, it is in fact possible to down the Conclave of Wind with five players. We did it on our second attempt.

We won’t speak of my incredible fail on the first attempt, ‘mkay?

Shadowson healed as Shadow DPS while I tanked on Anshal, Randomski tanked Nezir with Pumpken healing, and Kissinger… well, Kissinger blew up Rohash.

There was much hopping back and forth by Pumpken, Shadowson and Kissinger all trying to do the work of a full raid.

In the end, I felt the thrill of victory over a challenge I didn’t even expect to have put in front of me, a challenge we didn’t even know would be possible or not.

I think that is why it tasted all the sweeter.

Al”Akir, what to say about Al’Akir…

I went as Kitty, and I found out that it is possible to be thrown off the ledge by a tornado, get back up and be dropped in the NEXT tornado, and then again for a third time.

At least my kitty looks cute floating in midair.

Good thing, because I sure as hell spent a lot of time doing it.

Oh, and Al’Akir?

Easier than Conclave of Wind, and just as dead.

What a surprisingly good way to end an otherwise crappy day.

If you happen to be one of the folks that is feeling bored with Looking For Raid, and wondering what in the world there is left to do in the game…

May I humbly suggest you get three of your closest friends and see how much fun clearing older raids might be?

Sure, ICC and Ulduar spring to mind as tasty little targets, but why not see what other kinds of crazyness you can get up to?

The World of Warcraft is your oyster, after all. This is as overpowered as you’re ever going to feel before Mists of Pandaria sweeps away all before it.

Let your mind run riot, man.  What do you have to lose?

My thanks to Shadowson and Team Wanda, for the unlooked-for opportunity to have a little fun.

Comments 7 Comments »

Hi folks, and a happy holidays to you all.

This will seem a little unusual, I know, but I’d like to spend a little time chatting with you about tanking.

Since the moment the new patch was released, I’ve been running the new 5 person instances and Looking For Raid like a fiend. Just like everyone else, I’ll wager. :)

I know that the new content is exciting to me, and in my gushing I’ve talked to quite a few people that maybe haven’t played WoW in a while, or who haven’t tanked in quite some time (or ever), people who are now interested in getting into the tank thang.

There are quite a few issues I’ve seen in the new content, things that just could have gone better when I was playing as DPS, that were smooth as silk when I did them myself as a tank. Now that I’ve had a chance to test and verify a few things, I wanted to take this time to bring ‘em up, and make a few suggestions, things to keep in mind.

This is written for tanks, but honestly, I think it’s always good for everyone in a group to understand what is happening around them, what people are doing, and why. You never know when the chance might pop up for you to use your special class abilities to make everything better.

Tank Positioning

This is going to seem silly, but unless you’re used to being a tank or melee, the importance of your physical position in relation to the mobs isn’t immediately obvious. Especially if your view of tanks is being all go go go.

As a tank, you know you’re supposed to wear gear that makes you hard to damage, and gives you a healthy cushion to absorb the damage that does get through. You also know that you’re supposed to grab aggro on mobs and keep them focused on you, not the healer.

Positioning is almost as important as being equipped with the right gear and stats, but it’s not nearly as obvious. There is a lot more to it than “run in looking all cute and cuddly, then swipe.”

The first part of positioning is protecting your party. Some enemies have Cleave or Cone attacks, attacks that affect a cone or area directly in front of them in the direction they are facing. If you run straight in and start fighting, then the enemy is facing you… and the rest of the party behind you. If you charged, the rest of the party may be running in a straight line after you to catch up, and take a cone-effect breath weapon in the face. 

You handle cleave/cone situations by knowing what the enemy will do, and when you charge in (or pull them to you), immediately run off to one side so they are forced to pivot to face you, turning 90° away from the rest of the party behind you. This actually helps the group in two ways. You get the cone/cleave away from the group, and you present the side/back of the target to the group, making it easier for melee to get to their kill zone faster. Especially with Dragons (and their tail swipes), opening the side of the enemy to your group is handy and helpful. If you were to move the supposed Dragon completely around, then the tail is on your party, and really, we can’t be having with that. Sloppy.

One codicil to this… tanks, for the love of Elune, don’t move if you don’t have to. If you don’t have to kite, DON’T. Moving all over the place just screws with the melee, places your healer at risk of having to interrupt casts to get back in range of you, and generally pisses everyone off. Tank kiting Nozdormu in End Time, I’m looking at you. If you have to kite, kite in a clear, consistent pattern. Straight lines or gentle curves around the group are your friend. Trust me, you’re not a fighter jet, they ain’t enemy migs, and you won’t lose them by jinking all over the place.

The second part to positioning is protecting yourself. Enemies make the least amount of effort they can to attack you. If they have ranged attacks, they move forward just far enough to get you in range and line-of-sight, then stand in place to shoot you. If they can disengage like Hunters can (Azure Dragonflight in End Time, Thrall Gauntlet in Hour of Twilight), they will leap backward and shoot you from range that way. If they have melee attacks only, they will run directly to you in a straight line, then attack.

This is significant for a lot of reasons. The first is, and I am stunned how often I see this, if you run into the middle of a group of enemies, they will ALL turn to attack you. If you run forward until you are solidly in the middle of them, (probably to make sure your AoE hits them all), some of them will be in front of you, but others will be behind you.

I know it’s rude of them, but enemies standing there looking at your unprotected back will NOT run forward to get in front of you.

Enemies that are behind you are completely unaffected by your Parry, Block, and Dodge. You are literally standing there dropping your trousers, bending over, and asking them to shove their attacks like a red hot poker right up your unprotected ass.

That hurts. It hurts far more than you probably expect, since you are used to having damn good mitigation from frontal attacks, even as DPS.

I hope that the visual gets my point across, because I am constantly seeing tanks charge forward into the middle of a big pile of enemies, stand there in the center, and then use AoE threat-generating abilities like Swipe and Thrash or Thunderclap while standing still. Then, they get pissed at the healer because their health plummeted like a brick from the butt ramming they just got.

I have seen this cause group wipes. On trash. MANY TIMES.

Many whelps. Left side. HANDLE IT. 

But I digress.

Moving back on target…

I’ve seen this (standing in the center of a group of mobs) happen to a Bear tank most recently. His health dropped so freaking fast I thought he was just starting out as a tank. I inspected his gear, and to my surprise he was dressed head to toe in 378 or better, properly enchanted and gemmed and reforged. Great gear or not, that didn’t do him any good when he ran into the middle of a group, stood there and let everything behind him have a free pass at his ass. And he was by no means the only tank I’ve seen do this.

Even if you’re sword and board and used to it, make no mistake, do not EVER intentionally give things standing behind you a free pass at your ass.

Got it? Good.

Now I’m going to tell you when to ignore all that. This again comes under the heading of ‘knowing what you’re fighting’. Some trash mobs hit like a truck, but others really are candy-coated marshmallow puffs. You can be surrounded by 15 – 40 of the damn things and safely ignore their attacks while keeping aggro and letting the DPS burn ‘em down. You have to know when it’s safe to do that, though, you can’t just assume ALL groups of trash are like that. Groups like that are usually accompanied by one really big, hard hitting enemy that you spend most of your attention on.

It is that subtle training we’ve had over the years, the ‘ignore the little adds when there is a big one in the mix’ that made me applaud Blizzard the first time I saw the trash in the Ruby Dragonshine for Echo of Sylvanus. The trash consists of a pack of Time-Twisted Geists and one big Time-Twisted Scourge Beast. If you focus on killing the big Scourge Beast, then all the little Geists will cannibalize freely, and, well, bad things happen. Bravo, well played. Moral of the story is, you gotta know when to hold ‘em. Know when to kite ‘em. Know when to pop your cooldowns, and know when to bubble-hearth. You never loot no corpses when you’re trying to interrupt ‘em, there’ll be time enough for looting when the encounters done.

Using positioning to control the pull

There are several things you can do to keep from giving enemies a free shot at your butt. The simplest way is to charge in, use AoE to get some fast aggro, then take a couple steps backwards. This makes the enemies in front of you take a couple steps forward to follow you, and the enemies behind you will stand in place (since you are staying in their range) and simply turn to maintain facing, ending up with all of them in front of you or to your sides, and your butt poking safely out of the pileup.

I find it helps to think of it as covering your ass, even though the goal is to have your butt be the only thing not actually covered by anything.

If there are casters at range, and you aren’t fortunate enough to be a Death Knight to yank them to you or a Paladin to silence a bunch of them with your shield and make them come running to you, then you pretty much have to start by getting aggro on the melee enemies first, make sure they are all focused on you, then charge the ranged enemy, run a little past him and turn around looking back the way you came. This puts the ranged right there in melee range in front of you, and all the rest of the melee enemies will trot along after you to group up conveniently in a handy pack, nowhere near your butt. 

The problem with this? Mostly, if you do this and your group doesn’t know to hold up for a second while you drag the melee along, you will likely lose aggro on the melee since you’re off harassing the ranged. Then the pull gets all messy, with you darting back and forth trying to grab them all back up, and players running around screaming “get it off, get it off”, and isn’t it funny how they almost never run the mob chasing them TO the tank?

There are lots of other fun things you can do if your group is willing. If there IS a Death Knight, hey, don’t be too proud to ask them to pull the ranged in to ya. Sure, that forces them to have aggro from that mob for a few seconds until you taunt it off, but Death Knights can take a little abuse.

Also, and I know this is a strange thought, but those ranged trash mobs are sometimes able to be Crowd Controlled. Now, before you get too upset, let me tell you that I’ve seen about half and half in the new instances between groups that did use CC and those that didn’t. Both types succeeded, but the ones that used CC took a few seconds longer. Some folks just hate that. 

Don’t forget, while we’re on the subject, that Druids can do our own CC on dragonkin, Hibernate. The final boss encounter in End Time has two groups of dragonkin you pull first, each group having two ranged casters and two melee. By all means, Hibernate one of the casters yourself, wait a few seconds for the rest of the pack to walk out of Swipe range of the CCd mob, then nail them bastiches.

Make it hard to do it wrong

A lot of the new instances can get pretty chaotic. There are several gauntlet-style fights where mobs come running in at you from various angles, appear from patches of noisome darkness, or just uncloak.

When you are running from fight to fight, it is extremely common for the group to get spread out. Someone may stop to loot, someone else may have stopped for a sec for a quick mana drink, or maybe a patch of light appeared in the darkness ahead and everyone ran for it like a herd of cats, every kitty for themselves.

What happens next is quite natural. If people are running ahead of the tank, they face pull the mobs first, even if they didn’t do anything yet. When they get attacked, they start fighting back or casting heals, causing actual threat you’ll have to pull off. If the tank is running ahead to try and facepull first, other people lagging behind can get aggro from mobs still running in, or the healer may start casting heals on you and pull healer aggro on mobs that haven’t gotten near you yet.

The calm players will simply keep running to catch up to, or fall back with, the tank and trust the adds will be picked off.

Not all players are calm. They stop and panic, trying to fight the mob themselves. They run around looking for the tank. They buckle down and DPS harder, and sometimes that doesn’t always work if the mobs have some meat to ‘em.

The best way to prevent this is to get the group thinking like a team instead of five strangers. You can help this along by marknig yourself with a golden star so you stand out in the chaotic mess ahead. Then just a quick message saying that the healer should try to stay close to you through the gauntlet, and everyone should try to match your pace and bring adds to the star if they get ‘em should eliminate all the craziness.

If you want to mention that you’ll mark a Skull as a first kill on casters (like the Shadow Priests in Hour of Twilight or the healing Priests in Azure Dragonflight), who knows? You might even find people following them. 

The point is, if you communicate to your group that you have some kind of clue what you’re doing, and make it EASY to do it right and bring stuff to you or stay at your pace, why, people tend to feel reassured you won’t just facepull Swipe spam and will work as a team. If you zone in and proceed to pull in silence, you end up with every person for themselves half the time.

Try to step back and keep that principle in mind. Look for ways to make it hard to do it wrong. If it’s easy to lose sight of the tank in the crowd, mark yourself. If it’s hard to tell who should die first in the crowd, mark it out for the DPS to focus on. If it’s easy to pull two groups of ooze trash in the ring around Yor’sahj the Unsleeping, then move your ass around the outside ring further to center yourself before running in towards the center to pull instead of running across at them at an angle.

 Wrapping this fish up

The most important thing I recommend is to make sure you read up a bit on what to expect before you go in. If you haven’t run the new content as DPS or Healer before going in to tank it, take the time to read up on the boss fights at least, using a nice resource like Wowhead that will tell you info about the zones and what bosses do. Read the comments as well, people love to give tips there, and many are excellent. They won’t tell you much about trash mob encounters, those you’ll have to find out on your own, but knowing what is critical to interrupt and what the inevitable twist will be is just immense.

Make it hard to do it wrong… and that includes yourself. If you know what to expect, chances are a lot less likely that when Sylvanis raises ghouls in a ring around you, coming ever closer, you won’t panic and jump past ‘em. 

Have a happy!

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