Archive for the “Tanking” Category

Of all the roles in World of Warcraft, tanks tend to get the most respect just for showing up.

Players who go for DPS are there doing what everyone does everyday. Since everyone does it, there isn’t much inherent respect for someone as a DPS player. Nobody is sitting in LFR thinking, “Woah, a Beastmaster Hunter, that must be one heck of a skilled player!”

No. Nobody says that.

Healers are a mixed bag when it comes to respect. Those that have never played a healer often seem to think they just stand there playing whack-a-mole on a grid of health bars, afk half the time watching Benny Hill.

In fact, healing is mostly noticed in the absence. You don’t know how the healers are doing or that they’re even there until people start dying. I’ve noticed in LFR that many people don’t care WHY someone died. Apparently mechanics are out the window, and it doesn’t matter if you were standing in purple or not, if you died, it was the healers fault because LOL LFR.

Of course, those of us who have played as tanks know exactly what kind of hell we put healers through, and God bless you, you poor, sad, abused souls.

But tanks?

Tanks get respect just for showing up.

The tank is the boss, the leader, the supreme poobah that is going to lead us out of the desert and into the promised land of 90 Valor and great big heaping… bags of gold.

Now more than at any other time, 25 random strangers appear in a room, and all eyes turn to the tanks to lead the way and go go go.

The tank is expected to automatically (and instantly!) take charge and lead the raid, right up front in the spotlight, all eyes upon you. Better not screw this up.

It is the tank that starts marking, controls where bosses move, and has the full responsibility for positioning everything properly.

The difference between a run that goes smoothly and a run that has you screaming hatred at the monitor is generally how experienced the tank is with the fight, and whether they know how to position everything/taunt/tank swap properly.

So, full respect for tanks, right? They choose to take upon their shoulders that responsibility, and I for one am very grateful to them.

Most of them.

Sadly, not all tanks in LFR are up to the task.

Maybe it’s precisely because I respect those who step up and tank and fully appreciate what is involved in tanking well done that when I see someone queued as a tank with a piss-poor attitude, it sends me into paroxysms of rage.

Look, the only thing a tank truly has to have is the right attitude.

You don’t have to have maxed out epic gear or prior experience as a tank on the boss fights. In fact, you don’t even HAVE to have been in the LFR as a DPS or healer first to get some experience with the base fight, although I strongly recommend it at least once.

What you have to have is a desire to perform your role well, and enough give-a-shit to prepare a teeny bit ahead of time.

Let me tell you something. If you can’t be bothered to do the bare minimum necessary to have a clue what to do before you step in the raid, then pick something else to do in the game. You aren’t cut out to be a tank. Don’t let people think they can count on you, you’re not ready for it.

At the point where you don’t care, that exact point where you really just can’t be bothered, but you’re going to queue as a tank for fights that you have never seen before and have no idea whatsoever is about to happen, it is at that point RIGHT THERE that you have lost my respect, and I hope you get the reaming that you are due. Even for LOL LFR.

It doesn’t have to be that way. I could macro it, I see it so much,  “Don’t know the fights? Never been here before? Next time why not try Fatboss strat videos on YouTube! Guaranteed to keep you from looking like a noob or double your money back.”

How to be better prepared to tank LFR, by the numbers;

1) Watch a strategy video.

This is an easy step to take. There are a lot of videos out there, easy to find, and many of them are funny to watch with great commentary. The Fatboss series of videos is good for this, and can be found on Youtube. No cost, easy to find, great sense of humor. A quick watch and you will understand what the basics of the fights are, without ever having stepped foot in the place.

Watching a video while someone else spoon feeds the fight mechanics to you is so easy that not doing it is inexcusable.

Maybe you want to be surprised by the mechanics, you want to experience it fresh and new.

Great. Go do it with friends on normal.

LFR with 24 complete strangers, queued as the tank with everyone relying on you to have a clue is not the time to be a dumbass. You want a fresh spoiler-free look at the content, do it on your own time with friends who love you and will put up with you because friendship transcends the stresses of time and stupid people.

2) Read the Dungeon Journal.

There is a resource built into the game that gives you detailed data on every boss in the new raids, every mechanic, every situation. Consider it a Gamefaqs for WoW raiding, a cheat sheet for chasing valors. Many Bothans should have died to get this information to you, and it’s all there, the weaknesses of the enemy, presenting you with all the info you need to shove your missile right up the enemy exhaust port.

The resource I speak of is the Dungeon Journal, and you can find it on your button bar. It’s okay, go look for it, spend some time reading through it. It’s pretty cool. And it’s free! They just GIVE this shit away! It’s like they want you to win, or something. Knowledge is powa, grasshopper.

It’s not perfect, I know. What the Dungeon Journal will not do is tell you what the ‘commonly accepted’ tactic is for handling a boss fight. It tells you what the bosses will do to you, not what you should do about it. But if you watched a video, they probably talked about the ‘commonly accepted’ tactics already, so you’re good, right?

And the Dungeon Finder will give you LFR specific information!

3) Do an LFR as something other than the tank FIRST, at least once.

I know you want tank gear. And I know that, until patch 5.3 rolls around, the only way you can queue as one spec and have a chance to get the gear of another spec is to change specs  on the fly after the boss is dead but before you use your Bonus Roll for that boss.

Don’t lose hope, that DOES work! I’ve seen it happen.

If you have never done an LFR before, please run it as something other than the tank the first time. Give yourself that one chance to see the basics and integrate them before you add on the specialized tasks of the tank. You have no idea how critical the proper positioning of the bosses can be for these runs. Tanks make or break groups by how they position mobs, and both tanks are necessary for most of them. You can’t just queue for tank expecting to be the unnecessary offtank, and coast off of someone else doing the real tanking work.

If you really have to run it as the tank even for your first time, then I refer you once again to strategy videos and the Dungeon Journal. There are still ways you can prepare without announcing in full-on ignorance, “This is my first time in this raid ever, what do I do? Is there a taunt?”

4) Immediately whisper your co-tank when you step foot into LFR to coordinate with them.

When all else fails, talk to your other tank and work with them on who will do what. Maybe they will be experienced and will guide you on what they want you to do to back them up, maybe they will be in the same position as you, and you can agree to work together, boldly advancing into certain death.

It’s sad, is what it is.

I wish I could be sure that the people who need to see this ever would. The runs I’ve been on that make this post necessary leave a bitter taste behind.

I truly never expected to see a day when a 25 person raid would get someone who proudly proclaims, at the start of EVERY fight, “I’ve never seen this raid before ever, what do I do?” And it’s not a joke, or irony, or any of that! Dead serious, ignorant and queued as a tank anyway because why should they care? The queue was shorter and they’ll get better chances at tank gear. Truly has no idea, is in all greens and blues, but is there as the tank so yay.

First half of Heart of Fear, and on the fifth wipe of Horridon we are still trying to get through to the tank, “Stop, please stop standing in the purple circle. Please. Please, stop. Stop standing in the purple circle. Dear lord please stop doing it. Please. I just want my 90 Valor and to go curl up in a corner and cry, please stop.”

You don’t have to show up dripping epics to be a good tank. You don’t have to have run it a billion times. You don’t even have to have done it before, everyone runs everything for the first time sometime.

What you gotta do is, you have to care just a tiny bit that you are assuming a role that carries with it some responsibility. Just a little bit.

You have to give a shit.

When I think back over the years to some of the really nice people I’ve known who wanted to tank, who really wanted to try it but were afraid to because they weren’t confident in themselves or in their skill, who were nervous of failing under the pressure of all those eyes, judging them in case they weren’t great…

When I think of all the people I know who cared so much, who tried so damn hard to be perfect tanks, the stress of tanking for strangers could make them cry if things didn’t go well…

I want to take some of these new asshats and put their nuts in a vise. Just, give them a first class case of the nutcrusher.

Serious, no shit, I wish I could put an account on the ignore list and vote to kick them off the internet.

Ignorant louts. You give tanks a bad name.

Comments 30 Comments »

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.

Fine.

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.

*ahem*

AGGRO and THREAT

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!

Comments 28 Comments »

Are you starting up a new character, and about to try an unfamiliar role?

More specifically, have you always played as melee or ranged DPS, or as a healer, and now you’re about to try a tank?

Well, then this discussion is for you!

When you’re the tank, there are a lot of expectations about what you’re supposed to do.

Those are expectations. You don’t have to do anything but play your own way, but it’s a good idea to know what is coming your way and be prepared.

The first thing is Crowd Control.

The rest of the group expects that the Tank will handle all crowd control related decisions.

Your first decision? Do you need to have any crowd control at all.

You won’t be told you have to use it, but it’s expected that you will know your own skill level and gear level, that you’ll compare that with the gear and skill of your healer, that you’ll judge how quickly your DPS will be able to burn mobs down, and be familiar enough with the mix of mobs in the instance to know if you’ll need Crowd Control.

There are two different types of mobs that you’ll likely want to use crowd control on, even if you’re awesome, and those are the healers and the casters of big AoE damage spells. Even then, if the heal spells can be interrupted, and you have players that can interrupt and do so reliably, then even that can be optional.

The only really tricky part is knowing what all the particulars are for every type of crowd control out there so you know what CC you’ve got available. There are a lot of possibilities, some based on spec, and some that get modified for Glyphs.

MMO Champion has a forum thread that includes a great breakdown of various types of crowd control. It’s a great place to start learning about some of the more obscure types, and how they work.

Everyone knows Rogues can Sap and Hunters can Trap, Mages can Sheep and Shaman can Hex. Do you know the ins and outs of Druid Hibernate? Do you know that a Warlock can Fear mobs, and with the right Glyph those Feared mobs won’t run around screaming but will freeze in place? Do you know that some but not all Hunters have a second form of CC with a sting shot?

Most players in a thrown together group won’t tell you what they can do, they expect you to know already, and wait for you to call on them to use what they have when YOU decide you need it, not before. So, arm yourself with knowledge.

The most important things to focus on?

Can it be applied in mid-fight (direct cast Sheep, for example) or must it be applied in advance while out of combat (A Rogue using Sap)?

Is it cast on moving targets easily (again with the direct-cast Sheep), or does it only work when the mob runs over it/is positioned right (like with a Hunters trap).

How long can you expect it to last, can it be re-applied in combat, and finally… what breaks it?

Know the answers to those and you’re doing fine. After all, what does everyone ask after the main group is dead? “Who do you want us to break next, Ice Trap or Sap?”

Pulling.

Nothing says “I’m the tank” quite like making that pull. There is a delightful feeling to charging in and unleashing hell, or yanking someone to you and laying the smacketh down.

What you need to know here is, how you handle the pull, your position and style of movement, all have a massive affect on how your run will go.

The expectation in a random heroic is, you will run directly forward and attack the mobs. You will throw some form of smack on all of them in the first millisecond of the pull, so nothing runs past you at the healer. If a ranged caster is part of the pull, you’ll silence them in some way so that they’ll run closer to you, bunching up.

The melee DPS are expecting this, and will run past you to position themselves behind the mob. The ranged DPS and healers will remain where you left them, at extreme range.

This works, certainly, but there are reasons for what you’re doing, and if you break the pull down, there are a couple things you can decide you’d like to change based on the kind of tank you are, availability of Charge or having a ranged silencing Pull, etc.

The first point is that you are focusing the attention of the mobs on you. You set the position. If you move, the mobs will change both position and facing direction to remain oriented on you. They will continue to try and attack you. If they cannot SEE you, they will move in a least-distance course to regain sight of you and resume attacking.

Melee DPS want to be behind the mobs, not just to avoid any potential Cleave or Flame Breath, but also because mobs can’t dodge attacks from behind. It’s a net DPS gain.

No matter how you choose to pull, the melee DPS will want you to stand as stationary as possible for the fight. Every time you move, the melee have to move also.

What I’m saying is, when you have a mob in front of you, think in terms of a dog. You move away, the puppy follows you, and the melee DPS come trailing along as the tail.

Don’t wag the tail.

Also, remember the tail can catch on fire, too.

If the mob you are fighting drops pools of bad stuff, you will move out of the stuff, probably backing away and pulling the mob out of the stuff… but make DAMN sure you move far enough that you pull the DPS out of the bad stuff too.

Yes, it is the responsibility of melee DPS to move their own butt out of the fire. They also want to continue to do DPS. They will try to find a flank where they’re not in the fire, and also able to hit. If you pull far enough back that the DPS can stay on their butt and be out of the fire, they will thank you.

Pets don’t know enough to get out of the fire on their own, and some fires don’t do damage, they stun instead (like in Throne of the Four Winds). If you don’t pull the mob far enough, the Pet will stand like an idiot in the bad, stunned. So move the tail out of the yuck.

Knowing all this, how you handle the pull becomes less a “this is how you do it”, and more of a choice.

You can decide to charge in and stand still, letting the DPS run past to get behind the bad guys….

Or, charge in, move THROUGH the mobs and turn around, leaving their butts facing the group. The DPS will get to run straight in and stop, unleashing stabby-stab faster.

The first method is what is expected in randoms. The second method actually helps the group a little more, but can lead to confusion since nobody expects it.

If you charge forward, move through the mobs and spin around, then not only do the melee DPS have a shorter run up to get stuck in, but you are automatically turning the mobs so any flame breath or cone attack will be faced away from them. Also, you will be in a good position to see the ranged players, healers and DPS, and you will see if something comes up on them from behind.

It’s ALWAYS a good idea to be aware of what is happening to the ranged players, and be prepared to immediately tag and taunt at range. ALWAYS.

As I said, one weakness of this is that random people do NOT expect you to turn the groups. That can be fixed by telling them what you will do at the beginning of the run, AND by being consistent in doing it. Don’t mix things up at random, sometimes turning them, sometimes running up and stopping. Damn, that’s irritating. Pick a style and be consistent. 

The other weakness is that with you facing the rear of the party, you aren’t watching what might be coming up behind you.

Moral of that story is, no matter whether you run up and stop or run through and turn, you have to check your back for bad guys. Situational awareness, check your six. Don’t get ganked by a grue. It’s embarrasing.

One of the finer points, when you do have to move the mobs out of stuff (or into stuff), keep in mind melee DPS want you to stand still as much as possible.

To that end, when you have to move, move fast, get to a new position, then stop and continue the fight. Go in bursts of movement. Dash from position to position.

I’ve written before, endlessly it seems, about line of sight pulls but I’ll say two more words about it.

Most classes have some form of Silence now, but nothing feels quite as good as marking targets for crowd control, letting that CC get placed, then casting an attack on mobs at range and ducking behind a piece of in-game architecture to break their line of sight with you.

When mobs in a group are all spread out, you want to bring them in tight to get all of them in your own AoE. If you taunt at range and duck behind a column, all of them will try and attack you… and the ranged that try to cast spells at you will all run directly at you in a least-time intercept to be able to see you to start casting again.

This brings the spread up group into a tight little circle for your AoE, and coincidentally gets them away from any CCd mobs.

Vortex Pinnacle as an example has plenty of opportunities for line of sight pulls out of magic fields, and it continuously surprises me how often tanks just charge in and pray.

Line of sight pulls, when you warn the group you are about to make one, are a good tool to have in your toolbox, a weapon in your tanking arsenal. Use it, it’s FUN to mix things up!

Threat

Ah, the big enchilada. Threat generation.

The expectation is that the tank will have aggro on ALL mobs within the first millisecond of the pull, even BEFORE the tank was able to physically reach the mobs, and the DPS will not be able to pull off of you no matter who you marked with Skull and whether or not they are on that, or on a whelp in the other cavern.

That’s the deal.

With yesterdays changes in place, that’s the deal. If someone pulls aggro, it will now not only be perceived as your fault, but people will assume that this message was approved by Blizzard; “DPS that pull off tanks are the tanks fault.”

Realistically, what this boils down to is understand that idiots will start shooting/casting even as you move/charge the mobs. You cannot rely on a second or two grace period to get a couple Swipes in. The Fireball is moving past your head as you’re running.

Sorry, that’s the way it is.

Now, I could tell you that the answer is to only play with friends that live close by to you, so if they act that way you can get in your car, drive over, and beat the shit out of them. But that’s not really very helpful, now is it?

My recommendation to you instead is that you be prepared to blow AoE attacks first, Swipes and all that stuff, just get it in and on cooldown as fast as possible.

Also, look for those caster mobs that stand off at range, as I mentioned before. Grip them to you, Silence them so they run to you, or simply Charge them and bonk them on the head, AoEing as you pass the rest of the group, using the caster as the new center from which you will build your battle. 

Whatever you do, I wish you well on taking up the tanking challenge, and I hope that you find your groups open to whatever plan you come up with next.

Comments 11 Comments »

From out of the blue yesterday came a new Dev Watercooler blog post from Ghostcrawler, where he revealed that Blizzard has decided tanks shouldn’t have to worry about generating enough threat to hold mob aggro against crazy DPS.

Specifically, tanks on the starter end of the gearing grind shouldn’t be crushed under the weight of trying to hold aggro against raid-geared DPS going balls-to-the-wall in a pick up group.

Ready? This isn’t some “we think it would be nice to someday…” announcement. The hotfix apparently went live today, August 16th, and right now all tanks in their tank mode will have their threat generated from damage boosted, going from 300% threat from damage to 500%. They’ve also ramped up the rapidity by which Vengeance builds in the first few seconds of a pull.

Surprise!

When the announcement went out yesterday, folks I talked to had a wide range of responses.

Among them were that this was the end of the game as we know it, tanks will no longer have to know how to do anything, skill is dead, everybody dance now or quit in disgust, blah blah blah.

Say what now?

I’ll admit, I thought that the days of there being anything tank-related for me to talk about here were gone, what with the high levels of knowledge and awareness I see among the players I run into every day, but I guess I was wrong.

Let’s talk about what this really means for you and me, mmm’kay?

Tank threat generation has been increased. Not just by a little, but by a metric shit-ton. Threat from tank damage has almost doubled. It’s close to TWO metric shit-tons now, and that’s a lot.

So, it’s all crimson blood spraying and rolling in the clover for tanks now, right? We run in, lay down a few quick swipes, then we can go stagger away from the keyboard looking for a Guinness while the DPS finishes the pull.

Right?

Well, maybe a teeny bit, but not really.

The big reason that it’s not going to work that way is that encounter design, even on trash pulls, has changed a lot over the years.

It used to be that the bread and butter, meat and potatoes pull (it’s lunch time, I’m hungry) was the tank runs in and hits the mob, the DPS burns it down. There would be minor variations on that theme, a few extra adds maybe, a healer or ranged spellcaster that wouldn’t come along for the ride, but that was pretty much it.

These days, just as GC points out, the design has changed.

Now, most fights in high level instances and raids have some kind of mobile component, a multi-mob component, and also what my wife Cassie refers to as a gimmick.

The mobile component is simply something to encourage people to move around. Tornados swooping in and out, rocks falling from the sky, mobs that start cleaving/flaying wildly, stomps that you have to jump to avoid being hit by, green or red shit to move out of, electrical fields to pull mobs out of, the list goes on and on.

A mobile component; Blizzard designing fights where the player needs to think about moving your ass instead of just standing and mindlessly pushing buttons in a fixed rotation.

The multi-mob component. This doesn’t just mean that there was more than one mob standing there.

This is where during the fight you need to be aware of the area around you, including behind you, because there may be roaming packs of adds wandering around, there may be adds that spawn periodically out of nowhere and come running in that the tank has to grab on the fly, there may be adds just like the old days that heal others or do evil debuffs and poisons that need to be killed first or locked down with interrupts, and there may even be adds like in Stonecore or Zul’Aman that, if not stopped, will run off and bring a LOT of friends to your fight.

And finally, the gimmicks. Ah, the gimmicks.

It seems like every encounter has some kind of thing that’s different. Bosses that will fixate on a target and charge them. Mobs that are frozen that need to be drug through fire, mobs that are on fire that will destroy you unless you hit a frozen mob first to get chilled out, mobs that will bubble and you have to go jump around flipping levers, all sorts of stuff.

Gimmick. It’s an unkind term for unique encounter mechanics, but it’s accurate.

Tank threat is buffed now. A lot.

So, how does this change the game?

It doesn’t. It simply smooths out the flow.

If adds come running in, the tank still has to tag them and do damage to them to generate threat. End of story. You will not suddenly, miraculously grab adds and hold them automagically without doing anything to make it happen.

You will not be able to charge in, blast up and tune out. You as the tank will still have to be mobile when necessary, be aware of your surroundings and actively grab adds and distribute damage/threat amongst them, and you will still have to handle the gimmicks of each encounter. 

What you can expect to change is that, if you are already doing everything you are supposed to, you will have a much stronger chance of holding aggro on all members of an AoE group, even if you are focusing on Skull, and the DPS are ignoring your marks to blow up whoever they want.

This change would normally encourage you to prioritize AoE threat generating abilities more. Since most AoE is on some kind of cooldown cycle now, you’re probably already using your AoE abilities whenever they’re up anyway, so, well, no big change there. Right?

It’s not like you can do Swipe spam, no matter how much you would have wanted to. But you can pop it every time it’s off cooldown, and expect it to have tastier results.

Likewise, for DPS players, this does not signal the death of Vanish/ Feign Death and Misdirection/Fan of Knives. Adds will still come in from wierd directions, and being able to send them off to the tank is always a good thing. Likewise, having an emergency “Get them the f&*(^ off of me” button never loses it’s value.

So.

In conclusion…. I don’t know where the hell all the panic I saw came from, or the rage about dumbing down the game, but I for one welcome our new threat overlords, and invite them to come tank at the pug table.

My Warrior and Hunter alts will be sure to make you feel RIGHT at home.

Comments 22 Comments »

I’ve run some of the new instances in Cataclysm, and along the way I’ve seen a lot of really good tanking out there. It’s exciting the way the tanks I’ve found in random pugs are taking the content seriously and using some pretty solid movement, positioning and spell balance abilities in their play.

What is this ‘communication’ you speak of?

One thing I noticed in the pugs was that, while the tanks were individually skilled, and DPS players and healers played their roles well, each person played as individuals, without much in the way of teamwork or communication.

The only points where communication came into play was for a brief pause to ensure each player understood the strategy for the next boss encounter.

In a random pug, this is a fairly common story. But it shouldn’t be, and I’ll explain why I feel that way before getting into specifics.

In each pug, I had a different tank. Each tank controlled group pulls in a different way. There are two different core styles of  group tanking, and each tank used one of those styles, with personal variations, without telling the rest of the group what to expect.

The DPS players in these runs played with their own expectations of how the tank would be pulling, but in some of the cases, it was clear that what they expected, and what the tank was actually doing, were not the same thing.

That right there is where communication should come into play.

I’ll get into a more comprehensive breakdown of the two core styles of group tanking in a minute, I want to nail down why this is important first.

When the DPS players are unsure of what the tank is going to do next, or how the tank is handling the pulls, the single greatest effect is to instill confusion in the group during the transition from target to target.

I noticed some DPS players were trying to follow the tank’s lead and always stay on whichever mob the tank currently had targeted. This caused problems when the tank used a style that involved frequent switching of targets to apply threat evenly amongst an entire group using direct theat spells.

I also noticed that some DPS players were picking a mob and sticking with it during the entire course of each pull until that mob was dead. These players had higher overall DPS during the run due to being able to fully engage a DPS rotation on a single mob, but sometimes the DPS player picked the first mob the tank targeted in the pull and stayed there while the tank had moved on to another mob, and did not continue generating sufficient threat to hold aggro in the face of determined DPS. Also sometimes, but much rarer, the DPS player just picked something at random regardless of the actions of the tank, and fired away until the mob died. This caused problems when the tank wasn’t applying enough threat to that particular mob, which would happen pretty frequently.

My opinion is, if the tank took the time at the beginning of a run to explain how they would handle group pulls, and what their expectation of the rest of the group would be, then the likelihood of the group overall to succeed would improve.

Here is an example. If you do not communicate what you intend to do, the assumption for most DPS players will be, without a way to read the tank’s mind, to believe that whichever mob the tank is currently targeting is the mob having the most threat generated upon it. 

The logic flow is simple – DPS players can generate damage up to the limits imposed on them by the tank’s threat output. If they go over, intentionally or not, they pull the attention of the mob away from the tank.

In a group of four mobs, the one the tank is focusing his attention on tends to have the highest threat generated if the tank remains on that target and uses Direct Threat spells, and thus is the mob the DPS has the best chance of dealing massive damage to without pulling it’s attention off the tank.

If you, as the tank, intend to spread your threat amongst the mobs equally, and thus will not be focusing on and building threat more on one mob than any other, and you do not tell your group that’s what your plan is, then the other players will not know who they’re supposed to kill at any given moment. They’ll have to guess, based on direct observation.

“Is it this one? That’s the one the tank grabbed first. Okay, shooting, shooting, OOPS! Tank’s on someone else now. But this one is still over half health. Do I switch to his new target or stay? I don’t want to go over and pull, I’d better switch. Damn, now he’s moved on to a different one!”

This level of confusion results in reduced effectiveness at it’s best, and pulled aggro and an unhappy healer at it’s worst.

Why this is mostly directed at the tank

As the tank, you are going to be pulling or charging into mobs, either mobs you’ve personally selected or at the direction of a raid leader. 

Once you have engaged the group, how you generate your threat amongst those mobs is all in your paws.

Your threat generation is very important to the team. Every single member will be counting on you to hold threat on the mobs to prevent healer aggro, and to build sufficient threat to allow the DPS players in the group to perform their tasks to the best of their own abilities.

You are the one that the rest of the group takes their cue from. Everyone watches you to see where to focus their attention next.

As the tank, even if you are not the one directing or leading the raid, you ARE the one choosing how you will prioritize threat generation. 

As there is more than one valid way to generate and prioritize group threat, communicating to your team exactly how you intend to control the group of enemies will allow everyone to anticipate your actions, prepare themselves for the fight, understand their own responsibilities and help the entire team work together. 

Tanks lead from the front, no matter who sets the overall goal.

Laying a little groundwork on the terms

For the rest of the discussion, I’m going to talk about threat using two terms, direct threat and AoE threat.

Direct Threat is when you use a spell or ability that must be targeted on a specific mob, and when the majority of generated threat from that spell or ability is applied to that one targeted mob. Splash damage from a direct threat spell tends to affect other mobs less severely than the primary target. 

AoE Threat is when you use a spell or ability whose function is to generate threat amongst a group of mobs equally. The AoE may take the form of a circle targeted on a position on the ground, a cone in the direction the tank faces, or an area centered on the tank himself, and the threat may come from a persistent Damage Over Time effect, a single pulse or burst, or a combination of them both.

Got it? Let’s go.

Our tanking style is based on our intended goals

There is a reason we try to study how to generate threat, and look for ways to improve our style and technique.

It’s all about controlling what we can.

We don’t have any control over the rules of the game, the basic stats, the cooldowns, the spell effects, or the actions of the mobs.

What we can control is what gear we choose to seek out and equip, and how we play our own character using the tools provided.

Gear lists and stat prioritization are all about learning how the core rules work, and making sure we are personally seeking out and equipping the best gear we can, reforging the stats that are most important, enchanting and gemming most efficiently, and basically becoming as powerful as the rules of the game will allow us to be. It’s all about timing, stats, offense and defense, and can be mathematically calculated.

What cannot be mathematically calculated, and thus is frequently overlooked, is how to actually play our character using the tools provided.

If Blizzard chooses to reduce the effectiveness of an ability, we have no control over that. If some of our gear is buffed, or nerfed, or removed entirely, all we can do is recompute the importance of stats and make new lists.

What we do have control over is understanding how our abilities work, what situations or conditions they are most useful for, and using them to the best of our skill based on our intended goal for the fight. How to prioritize which abilities to use, based not on more powerful over less powerful, but more useful for one situation compared to another.

Intent. How we pull and handle a group is going to depend on our intent. 

The core styles of group threat

There are as many styles for tanking a group of mobs as there are tanks out there, but there are two core group tanking philosophies most commonly in use today.

Prioritized and Even Split.

Prioritized is what I call it when the intent of the tank is to build as much threat as possible on one target to give the DPS a double rainbow opportunity to go all out. The general technique is to identify a first kill target that you will focus the majority of your Direct Threat against, with the expectation that all DPS players will be focusing on that one target to kill it first. AoE Threat abilities will be used to maintain anti-healer threat on the rest of the group, and no more.

Split Evenly is what I call it when the intent of the tank is to try and spread the threat from all of your AoE Threat and Direct Threat abilities evenly across the entire group, to provide the DPS the ability to use AoE damage spells and target whoever they wish freely. 

Prioritized group tanking style breaks down in the following way.

The tank identifies a mob in the group that will be killed first. That mob is the first kill target.

The tank targets the first kill target, and charges into or otherwise pulls the group.

In the first few moments of the pull, the tank starts by dealing Direct Threat to the first kill target, immediately followed by AoE Threat to counteract healer threat amongst the remainder of the group of mobs.

Over the course of the next several global cooldowns, the tank focuses all Direct Threat on the first kill target, while using just enough AoE Threat to maintain a respectable lead over the threat generated by the healer.

At this time, it is the expectation that the DPS players are all focused solely on the first kill target. It is also expected that, because the tank is focusing his Direct Threat generating capabilities solely on the first kill target, that the DPS players are limiting themselves mostly to single target attacks rather than AoE, and if AoE is used, it is of the low-threat style.

Once the tank judges for herself that she has generated sufficient threat on the first kill target to hold aggro for the remainder of the fight until the mob is dead, no matter HOW much threat the DPS players cause, the tank switches over to a second kill target.

The tank begins using Direct Threat on the second target, and continues using AoE Threat as a secondary mission just to stay above the healer.

The rest of the DPS rides the first priority kill target down until it dies before switching over. They do NOT follow the tank to the new target.

By the time the first target dies, the tank will have built up sufficient advance threat on the second target that the DPS players will have a healthy cushion allowing them to go all out immediately.

The rest of the encounter is, for the tank, about watching and preparing for emergencies. With the continued use of AoE Threat for the duration of the fight, there is rarely any need to mark a third target to prioritize. The DPS players can focus on and burn down whichever remaining targets they wish. If someone begins to accrue high threat, well, that is what Taunt is for, along with Tidy Plates/ Threat Plates for pinpoint threat accuracy.

This style of tanking has several advantages. Every player knows who to be targeting at all times; whoever the tank has targeted first until it’s dead, then whoever the tank is on next. If the tank is practised in using them, this is the style that supports marking targets with Skulls and Stars and Green Nachos. Using these marks only improves the flow of the fight, because it ensures that every player remembers who the first priority kill target was supposed to be.

By knowing exactly who you should be paying attention to, it allows the tank to devote the majority of her Direct Threat spells to one target, providing the highest level of threat possible. This allows the DPS the best opportunity to go ‘all out’ on a target with a full rotation, and still stay under the threat threshold.

Confusion in the transition from one mob to another is HIGHLY reduced, and the chance that aggro will accidentally be pulled is minimized.

Another advantage to this style, is that it’s excellent practise for incorporating marking targets for Crowd Control. Once a team is comfortable with the idea of using single target damage spells and marked kill targets, it’s a small step to suggest that a target be marked as the “last to die”, and be crowd controlled by one of the DPS players for the duration of the fight.

There are drawbacks to this method, though.

The first issue is, this style is very rigid. The tank directs who the DPS is to kill, and the DPS players are expected to obey. There is very little room for independant decision making. For some DPS players, it can feel as though the tank is having fun, and the DPS players are merely along for the ride, and are not trusted to innovate or unleash the full potential of their characters. This is actually a pretty telling argument, as most characters have a wide variety of tools available, and many players are keen to experiment and vary their methods of play to enliven a run.

The second issue is, this style requires willing teamwork and coordination. If a player in the group decides they simply will not follow the marks or first kill target priority, then this style will result in a run that quickly degenerates into chaos. The tank is not focusing on building infinite threat on everyone; just the maximum possible on one mob. If a DPS player decides to go ‘off the mark’, they will easily blow past the tank’s threat on the secondary mobs and pull aggro.

Take as an example a pull of a group of four mobs, where the Prioritized system is being used, but one DPS player decides to ‘do his own thing’.

The tank marks a target with Skull as the first kill target, another with a Star, and leaves the last two untouched. The tank charges in, uses two instant cast Direct Threat spells on the Skull target, followed up with an AoE Threat spell, then a Direct Threat DoT, and another AoE Threat. From this point, healer aggro is counteracted, and some serious pounding on the Skull can begin for the next three global cooldowns.

Dri$$t the Night Elf Hunter decides the unmarked mob with the bow tie is looking at him funny, and goes all out on it. He blows right past the tank’s meager threat on the mob, and it goes running after him.

At this point, your average Dri$$t will panic, forget that he has Feign Death, and go nuts with even MORE DPS, in the hopes of killing the mob before it reaches him. If this fails, then he will begin running around the room screaming and wailing while the mob smashes him in the back, which, of course, means he’s not Parrying or Dodging.

The healer will change focus from the tank to the DPS in trouble, and begin chain casting like crazy to keep him alive. Most healers will, anyway. The instinct to try and save a life is strong with healers. It’s a pride thing. “You’re not dying on my watch” and stuffs.

The tank will stop attacking the Skull target in order to grab the loose mob, Taunt it, and get it back under control. Unfortunately, in such situations, the mob is frequently out of Taunt range, and the tank will have to go chasing the mob down first… leaving the group he was fighting to begin chasing the tank from behind… where, again, the tank has no Parry or Dodge chance. The tank thus takes accelerated damage. This happens because most tanks take their responsibility to hold aggro and protect the party very seriously, and like a hound can’t resist chasing that fox that he lost aggro on.

The healer sees the tanks’ health suddenly drop like a stone, the DPS player is dying, there’s running all over the place…. and since the tank is no longer on the Skull target, one of the DPS that were following the original game plan just got one sweet crit, and pulled aggro himself. Oh crap.

It is usually at this point the healer has a nervous breakdown, and Dri$$t says, “Learn to tank, noob.”

Does any of that sound familiar?

No. Of course not.

Split Evenly group tanking style breaks down like this.

The tank does not mark a target. The tank instead selects one for other reasons, spellcaster perhaps, and charges in/pulls.

The tank uses all AoE Threat abilities, uses one instant cast and one cooldown Direct Threat ability on the current target, and then switches to a different one.

The tank uses more AoE Threat, and then applies two more Direct Threat abilities, trying to include DoTs if possible. Then the tank switches to different target #3 and continues the process. The whole idea is to use AoE Threat at all times when off cooldown, and fill in with Direct Threat on every mob in rotation evenly. Spread all the threat out like cheese on a cracker.

The DPS players are given no direction as to which mob to attack. It is understood that each DPS player is on his or her own during this encounter.

The tank is operating under a much different priority list. First, the healer must be protected. Second, the tank must survive to deal threat and stay as still as possible to give the DPS players a clear field of view, and third, the tank must be on overwatch during the entire battle, prepared to shift attention to any mob that shows signs of breaking free…. if necessary.

This style is much more fluid, and puts more of the responsibility on skillful play and proper use of judgment on the DPS players.

This style is where you will frequently see a tank stand back and not interfere if a DPS player decides to go all out on a mob that is close to death, to try and burn it down before it reaches them.

The difference between doing that in this style as opposed to prioritization, is that in this one, the responsibility of NOT pulling threat is solidly on the DPS players. If they go over, that’s their ass. 

In this style, it is expected that a DPS player knows how to watch their own aggro on a targeted mob, and if they are getting close to going past the tank, they will simply switch targets to one they haven’t blasted yet.

The biggest advantage to this style is that it requires no teamwork or communication with the rest of the group at all. As long as everyone understands that all mobs will have threat spread evenly among them, and that it’s up to the DPS players to NOT go over the tank, then it doesn’t matter who attacks what when. Anyone can attack anything, and the tank’s main priorities are right up front; healer, then tank. 

The second main advantage to this style is that it really does open up the DPS players to pulling all the tools out of their toolbox. If a hunter decides to use a Frost Trap, or kite a mob around, or send in their pet on one mob while attacking another, it’s no problem at all. DPS players are trusted to know what they are doing, and that if they get into trouble and just can’t drop aggro, to run TO the tank to get the mob pulled off, and to use threat reducing abilities if possessed.

The main disadvantages is that the higher the individual DPS of the player, and the higher the health of the mobs, the harder it will be for the tank to generate enough threat spread out on all the mobs without having someone go over. It works best on groups of mobs with relatively low health that die quickly, so that even if a DPS player pulls, it’s a simple task to burn it down fast.

Another disadvantage is that it does not train groups in how to incorporate Crowd Control skills, at a group level. Individuals may see their use of CC increase as they play with their food, but it does not train a player how not to break another players’ trap. This style also encourages DPS players to use low threat AoE damage spells more than direct damage, and that is a bad mix to have been practising when it’s time to worry about Crowd Control.

With this style, as long as the tank focuses on AoE Threat and spreading Direct Threat out evenly, and watches the entire field of battle closely, then most group pulls will go very smoothly, with the additional frequent use of Intercepts, Charges and Taunts. This is not necessarily a bad thing, as playing in this fashion and succeeding can be just as exciting for the tank as for the DPS players.

The last major disadvantage, of course, is that with the hijinks of the DPS players to consider, the healer is likely to have a very, very rough time if they don’t prioritize their heals and give DPS players a chance to pull themselves out of the weeds on their own.

A Bit of Wrapup

Both core styles work very well depending on the intent of the players using them. Many long time tanks don’t even think of these as the seperate styles they are; they blend both styles together to greater or lesser degree, depending entirely on the situation. Perhaps they mark one particular mob with a Skull because of the special attack or property it has, but go half and half on Direct Threat and AoE Threat, and switch to a Split Evenly style as soon as that mob is dead.

The key thing about them, and blending them together, is that if your group has no idea why you are targeting the mob you are at any given time, they’re not going to know if they should go all out, or switch around, or follow your target on /assist, or anything else. This means that your groups aren’t playing to their full potential.

So, please do me a favor. If you actually care about tanking a smooth run, then take the two minutes at the start to let the party know your intention.

Macro a mini-speech if you like, or type a simple sentence, but do something to let them know, “Hey, I’m going to be spreading my threat around as evenly as I can, so attack whichever mob you want, but if you go over my threat and pull from me, you either better kill it yourself, feign it off or run it toward me to taunt.”

Or, alternately, “I’m going to be marking Skull as the first to die, stay on it until it’s dead, don’t worry if I switch my target to Star halfway through, it’s cool. Kill Star second, and Mage, please sheep the Moon, and everyone leave Moon untouched for last.”

A Last Word, or, Advanced Teamwork

The way I have described Prioritization and Split Evenly may sound melodramatic, but that’s because I used the extreme examples of the styles. As I mentioned briefly, many players already use both, blended together smoothly.

If you’re new to tanking, and these styles make sense but sound kind of boring, please keep in mind one thing; when you play with a team often, and get to know each other a little, everything loosens up and you all learn to trust each other.

Being able to trust each other means that, even when using the Prioritization style, your DPS players change up who they attack based on how they flow through mob transitions.

For example, you mark a Skull and a Star as first and second kill targets. All DPS players get on Skull to start, but once it is down to about 40% or less health and the tank has switched to Star, the melee DPS can feel comfortable switching over to Star and letting the ranged DPS burn Skull the rest of the way.

Why would this make sense and make your players happy?

It’s because the melee DPS players can use an extra two seconds to move over to and get properly behind the Star. During those two seconds, the ranged DPS can finish killing Skull, and then with a single click be already going to town on Star. No manuevering or physical repositioning necessary.

Those are the kinds of things that a group of players comfortable with each other, and trusting each other, do all the time without worrying about it.

But it all starts with clear communication of your intentions, and the understanding and cooperation of the rest of the team.

And above all else, having a healer with nerves of solid chrome-plated steel.

Comments 38 Comments »

World of Warcraft™ and Blizzard Entertainment® are all trademarks or registered trademarks of Blizzard Entertainment in the United States and/or other countries. These terms and all related materials, logos, and images are copyright © Blizzard Entertainment. This site is in no way associated with Blizzard Entertainment®