I’d like to spend today opening the floor for telling stories about tanking or playing as a member of a team. This is a very long post, very long. So just do what Cassie does when I post one of these… mark it read in your feedreader and move on.
There will be some crankiness about tanking, a lot of talk about leading and tanking and AoE pulls versus crowd control, and teamwork and fun, ’cause… well, that’s me.
What’s ahead in the post;
I will babble on for awhile about the idea that tanks must be group leaders, that tanks are the special rockstars of a party, speculate on causes, challenge the concept that tanks are the most important people on a run, and pee all over the idea that crowd control is old fashioned and possibly for sissies.
I’ll then tell a story about playing in a 5 man group as part of a team and having fun.
After that, I’ll ask for people to offer their personal “Favorite story of a fun fight where me and my friends did x and x and x to handle a tricky pull or fight with everyone working together and having a great time” story.
I’d love to hear other bloggers share their stories of great experiences in 5 man groups on their blogs, as well. Since I bash Paladin tanks in this post a little hard, I’d especially like to invite Blessing of Kings to share a story of his own, a fight he personally enjoyed when playing with friends, just to help show that I am well aware that not all Paladin tanks act like self-important rockstars without consideration for players in the group.
Where is this call for teamwork stories coming from?
I have talked to more than a few people that tank over the last year or so, people that discuss how to handle a pull, how to run a fight, or how to run a raid or instance in a certain way.
It became pretty clear that, as far as some of those tanks were concerned, it’s a one man show. The tank is the all-important rockstar, and the rest of the group are just there to keep him alive, as if he needed it, and to provide some vague DPS to kill the mobs faster so they’re not there all day. But the tank could so totally do it by himself, really.
The tank who is a soloer at heart, and the rest of the group is there as an audience or something. And I’ll not mince words; I’ve encountered it as more of a Paladin attitude than from any other class, often enough that I’ll single them out.
But they are not alone, it just started with them. I’ve certainly seen it among the feral types, as well. It has rapidly grown out of the rise of the AoE tank, and with Blizz deciding to add AoE tanking to all tank classes rather than remove it from Paladins, this attitude has just gotten more common.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying the problem is AoE tanking. I love AoE tanking. I love having more tools available to help me keep aggro off the rest of the party, I love being able to handle more mobs without tab targeting or mouseover macros all the time.
I also love my ranged Growl, and I’m enjoying the extra thrill or having CC up and trying to reposition myself on pulls so I don’t break it, a challenge I’m facing and sometimes failing at because I keep underestimating my Swipe’s range and arc.
No, the problem I have is with any player that has the attitude that what they themselves enjoy in the game is somehow more important than what anyone else in the group enjoys.
And I’m drawing the focus on this, because with the rise of AoE tanking and the way most tanks are expected to lead a party by default, the rockstar tank with entourage is becoming a common sight to see.
Once upon a time, single target tanking was the gold standard, and having players that could effectively Crowd Control were critical for every run. Mages were cherished for Sheep and Hunters were slammed, and slammed HARD, if their chain-trapping skills were lacking in a group. Classes complained if they didn’t have CC abilities, saying it left them excluded from runs, and with good reason.
As recently as Magister’s Terrace, crowd control was king and teamwork a mandatory part of playing well.
And boy, did we hear complaints. Have a group lacking in one form of CC, and the run would turn into a nightmare… unless you had some blessed AoE tanking available that overgeared the run.
But it did serve to force some players to go back to using CC, at least until they overgeared it again with new Badge rewards. And players that were very skilled at CC were remembered, cherished, and invited back again and again.
Think about it. Good teamwork and team players shone again, for a golden brief moment in the sun.
Blizzard responded to many complaints about the CC imbalance by adding the ability to a class that lacked it, like Hex for Shamans, or by widening the number of mobs that could be affected by it, like the Rogue’s Sap, or by letting it be used indoors, like Entangling Roots.
But even so, with all of these widened crowd control abilities, many tanks seem to feel their goal is to improve their gear to the point where they can eliminate all use of crowd control as soon as possible, so everyone can stand back and watch as the tank takes on the full group… and oh yeah, you are allowed to provide MQoSRDPS, too. What? I died? The healer sucks, man.
People tell me so many stories about this still going on, rushed chain pulls and AoE tanking whether the rest of the group likes it or not, and to heck with CC. I really expected us to be relying on CC more than ever in Wrath.
So I wonder, maybe part of the problem is… the rockstar tanks are just very, very visible, and such tanks are quick to share stories of their leet uberness… but people aren’t sharing the stories of having fun playing the game, playing their class, using CC or class abilities in groups, and having fun. Maybe folks just don’t think it’s interesting enough to talk about.
How fast things changed.
It’s crazy how fast the focus shifted from teamwork to rockstar tank during the last year.
It’s hilariously like the front runner of a band that suddenly thinks he can pursue a solo career with a pick up group of musicians grateful to sit in the shadows and play instruments while he shines on the stage in the spotlight.
It didn’t start in Karazhan, but the AoE tanking thing, and the outgearing of existing content making tanks more survivable certainly played a huge part.
When excellent Badge rewards and the vast number of Badges available in Karazhan made running that raid a regular part of even Black Temple guilds, the focus inevitably changed to speed runs. And an AoE tank that could hold aggro on massive groups of mobs and live became a very potent symbol of success.
People began discussing how a Paladin really shone in that raid, because of AoE tanking.
Some people began specifically trying to build raids based around Paladin tanks and lack of CC.
Our guild even took advantage of it to some extent, simply because it was faster, and Karazhan complete clears for a casual guild is a very, very large time commitment.
And I think it sent the wrong message.
The tank is not the super special rockstar of the group. Every player of the group has an equally valid right to have fun on the run. It’s one team effort. Every single member of the group is important, not only because of the role they play, but because each and every one is a player.
Every class has a right to shine.
Everybody chose their class for a reason, and maybe part of that reason was to provide something to the group on a run. Whether it be to heal, or trap, or sap, or spell interrupt, or sheep, or drop totems, or mana recovery, or explosive AoE damage, or healthstones and soulstones and fear and drain tanking, or even just to wear feathers and dance.
Everybody chose their class for a reason. And to tell someone that you don’t care what else they brought to the party, you’d just like them to stand back and DPS is irritating.
Maybe, and this is crazy talk I know, but maybe they were a Hunter that didn’t want to be considered a huntard, went to BRK’s website and obsessed for hours over how to chain trap, watched the videos, practiced it, macroed focus targets and pull shots and went and kited their butts off…
And now, excited and with sweaty palms, they got in a group, only to hear, “Okay, I’m going to pull the group and you’ll all open up on the main target. As soon as Skull dies switch DPS to X.” “But, I can trap one, I’m all set.” “No, that’s a waste of time, we’re gonna chain pull, it’s too much trouble to try and have CC when my Consecrate is just going to break it anyway.”
Just because a tank CAN pull the entire group of enemies and survive, does not mean that this is how it has to go. Not for Bears, not for Warriors, not for Paladins, nor for Death Knights. Period.
If you are the tank, and you sneer at the use of Crowd Control or other classes’ special abilites as being somehow beneath you or as a waste of your time when they want to use them… you need to re-examine your attitude.
The need for speed.
Chain pulling, fast pulls, pulling the entire group and beating them down and moving on… yes, these pulls are lots of fun, faster, exciting, yes. Yes, indeed. Everyone is overgeared, and the group decides to destroy the instance or raid. Just crush it. Steamroll the bloody thing and leave the remains a steaming pile of rubble under your booted feet.
That’s fine. As long as that is what all the people in the group actually want and know about it in advance, hey, go for it.
But if people in the group want to take more time in the run in order to get the chance to use their abilities, or to learn a new aspect of the game or their class, then how do you justify telling them no? By telling them it’s more fun for you to do it your way?
Who died and made you Captain Bipto?
Leading by default.
Speaking of Captain Bipto, I find most groups usually expect the tank to lead the group and mark targets automatically. It’s the rare run I’ve seen where the tank is not given group lead to mark.
The assumption, as far as I can see, is that it is the tanks’ job to lead the run properly.
Leading a group does not have to be the tanks’ job. It really doesn’t. It’s fine if that’s what you’re used to, and you work at doing a good job of it, but it doesn’t always have to be that way. And I think having that expectation be the norm really contributes to the problem of rockstar tanks.
In a perfect world, everyone knows their own roles in the team, everyone understands the fights, and any one of the people could lead the group, but one person is chosen to actually lead the team out of convenience. Perhaps one person does a better job at staying focused on priorities, or perhaps one person has more experience on that particular fight than the rest.
But in that perfect world, the role of leader is not a dictatorship. Everyone is equally engaged and driven towards success, and feels quite comfortable in offering their own suggestions as to what they could do, especially when the player feels their class has something special to offer.
The person that ends up leading the team should be the one that has the best handle on the abilities of all the classes in the group, has the most experience with the weaknesses of the enemy (if possible), and does a good job of selecting a strategy that best uses the skills of the group to take down the enemy in a safe, smooth, efficient and fun manner.
I honestly think that the utopia I describe is what the majority of runs out there are like.
We just don’t hear about them. They don’t provide the same opportunity for self-promotion or boasting of how leet and uber someone is. Just having fun together as a group must seem so boring.
Leaders of groups shouldn’t expect themselves to be infallible.
I have to wonder how much of the rockstar tank situation comes from a simple fear of failing as a party leader, and being afraid to ask questions and reveal there might be something in the game you don’t actually know.
The secret is, you can lead a run without knowing everything about every class, so long as everyone works together and is comfortable in speaking up. You really can. Innocent mistakes can happen, sure… but they happen a LOT more often if you don’t open up and make sure everyone is comfortable talking in the group.
As an example of an innocent oversight, if a leader hardly ever plays with a Priest in the group, unless the Priest speaks up, it may never occur to the leader in a run that the Priest could have been Shackling undead mobs. Intellectually, the group leader knows Priests can Shackle, but emotionally he’s not used to including that as a strategic option. But hopefully the Priest will see that undead mobs are not being Shackled, and will feel comfortable enough with the leader to gently remind him that Priests can, like, do that.
“Hey, is there a reason you’re not marking a Shackle, dumbass?”
I think that shows an admirable level of comfort with the group leader, don’t you?
Sometimes it’s not just fear of speaking up that prevents a discussion. You can’t just put people at their ease; you need to encourage people to speak up and offer ideas.
I know I have tried to learn as best I can what the various classes can do, but I have my blind spots. The Warlock class is a huge black hole to me. I just don’t keep their abilities in the front of my brain, even after all these years. Nobody ever plays one near me consistently, and mine hit level 20 and stalled. I know they can Banish… but it’s not the first thing that springs to mind when I finally have one in a group.
I’ve been on a run in Burning Crusade where we had a Warlock in the group, and as we ran back from a wipe on the end boss, it occured to me, “Damn, we could have had a soulstone!” I asked the Warlock why he didn’t put one on the healer. He said to me, “You never told me to.”
That’s the kind of passivity you should want to discourage. You should want everyone to want to chime in on suggestions. If you are playing with friends, you need to openly encourage everyone to engage in the group and offer suggestions, and to make sure they don’t expect to be slapped down for it. I love vent, it makes it so much easier to chat about pulls and how things are going.
And if you are made group leader and someone else clearly has more experience than you in the instance, and has a good handle on the classes and is willing to try… pass the lead on to them.
Pulling these many threads together.
What if you have a tank that is ignorant about any class but his own? What if that tank is automatically expected to lead the group on every run? What if that tank doesn’t want to admit there is something he doesn’t know? And what if that tank reads all these wonderful stories featured on WoW Insider about the latest uber-soloing rockstar AoE tank, and what he soloed this time?
I would imagine the temptation of the player of this tank, when invited into a group and lead is passed to him by default, is going to be to go with what he understands best, his own class, and mark kill targets 1, 2, 3, 4 and then pull. It’s easier than admitting to people that you don’t know that much about the other classes, that you haven’t run much before, that you haven’t really done this kind of thing much… and if the tank lives through it, even if there is the occasional wipe, it just reinforces the idea that you can do it and get away with it.
I haven’t really focused on it as much as I could, but there are also those players that want to be the tank because they crave the power and attention. They want to be the rockstar. That’s the whole point of being a tank, to them.
I have actually talked to some tanks in the past, thankfully not in my guild, trying to get the idea across to them as to why their method of pulling and running a group was unpleasant for some of the other players involved, and that when done regardless of what anyone else in the group wanted, it showed a lack of care or respect for the other players.
And I discovered to my amazement that the reason I just couldn’t get through was that they didn’t get my point. Because they were the tank, and therefore the leader, and that’s how they liked to play, so why were the wishes of the rest of the party of any concern? Where was the problem?
As far as I can see, all you can do is make a mental note to run far, far away from any group run by that person. And from the guild too, as far as I’m concerned.
No, I’m not declaring war on Paladins.
It’s not all tanks, it’s not all Paladins, and it’s probably not very many Paladin tanks at that. They just are so darn visible.
I have the perfect example of the other side of the spectrum on Paladin tanks.
Graimerin, treasured Paladin tank. He is the least likely Paladin tank in history, if you go by what I just finished writing, because he cares about everyone else in the run BUT himself. I keep threatening to pull his punk card if he doesn’t start acting more like a typical Paladin. It’s unsettling.
My favorite Graimerin quote when we run an instance; “If I keep offering suggestions or ideas and it gets annoying, just tell me to shut up, I don’t want to butt in.”
Dude… you’re too nice of a guy to be a Paladin. You’re killing the stereotype I’m trying to build, here.
Here’s where you folks come in. I think the stories of runs where folks all have fun together as a team don’t get enough attention, and it’s time to change that. All I hear about are speed runs and I’m tired of it.
So here’s your chance.
Share your story of a 5 person group fight that stands out in your memory. Tell us of a time where you really enjoyed playing your class, and had fun working together as a team. Win or lose, trash pull or a boss fight, I don’t care. The key is that you felt, walking away from the fight, that by God everyone had fun and played their class well together.
Post it on your blog, write it in a mile long comment, I don’t care. I’m going to read every one.
I’ve got one story to get the ball rolling.
Earlier this weekend some Sidhe Devils went into Heroic Nexus.
We had Windshadow as feral furry tank, Sinnas the Hunter with his kitty, Critics the Warlock rolling Demonology, Cassieann the Rogue specced Combat Swords and Nighthawque the Resto-specced Tree.
I was the group leader.
On the run, Nighthawque had warned us up front that he couldn’t stay long, he had to leave soon for work on the night shift. So we were moving kind of fast, and I was doing some quicker pulls than I’d normally like. A lot of “Sinnas, please Misdirect the mob onto me while I hide around the corner to bunch up the casters” kind of things.
But when we reached the corridor just after the frozen mobs, and right before the second Heroic Nexus boss, Grand Magus Telestra, we had a group of four mobs standing all in a pretty line against the left wall. Apparently enjoying a smoke break, I dunno.
And the pull seemed to be the perfect opportunity for us to have some fun.
Nighthawque had been healing great, I certainly had no worries about the pull. Furthest thing from my mind.
But here we are, a group of four HUMANOID mobs, a handy corner behind me to the right, and there they stand in a line stretching away from us.
Oh, c’mon, let’s have some damn fun!
So I marked them up… marked the closest mob as a Sap target for Cassie, and the farthest target as an Ice Trap… and asked Sinnas if he could throw Misdirect on me, and then use a ranged Freezing Arrow to nail, as close as he could, one of the farthest mobs in a trap.
Sinnas… Sinnas, who has been to 25 man Naxx pugs and gotten great loot drops, who has done Heroics, who has been playing lots since hitting 80 and is a wonderful Hunter… he has never used Freezing Arrow in a pull before, he tells me.
I’m serious, doesn’t that make you sad? The guy gets this great fun ability at 80, and hasn’t been called on to use it before in a group?
Now, I’m sure Sinnas felt that he was put on the spot being asked to use an ability for the first time in a Heroic setting, being watched by everyone and all.
But I knew we could do it.
So I asked Cassie to go in to Sap, and that once Sinnas saw that the mob was sapped, he should Misdirect onto me and then fire off his Freezing Arrow, so the pull threat from the arrow would go to me, hiding around that corner, and I would end up having one mob sapped, one mob trapped, and two mobs in my face whether they were a caster or not.
Everyone agreed, sounded like a plan, so we went with it.
Everything rolled just like clockwork. Distraction and Sap, boom! Misdirect the Freezing Arrow, boom! And here they come…
The fight was very, very easy. Ice trap came running to us around the corner just as mob two died, then Sinnas laid down an ultimately unnecessary but smart Ice Trap in front of the Sapped mob while we took down number three, keeping the extra totally controlled until we felt like handling it.
It was not a hard fight. It was not a panicked fight. It did not challenge Nighthawques’ +Healing or Mana pool and it did not bring me to the edge of low health and popping Frenzied Regen. It was totally unnecessary and it took longer than face pulling the four and laying down Swipe.
But it was very, very fun, because everyone contributed to the fight in some way other than just DPS. You could feel the mood over vent lighten and cheer up as folks felt the pride of doing something other than just attacking, and doing it damn well. Rather than being passive travelers, we all became active adventurers. It engaged everyone to think tactically and offer suggestions.
Okay, on that pull Critics didn’t have a special role, but I am totally not used to running with a Warlock. Ever. Our guild just doesn’t have any active Warlocks. I’m hoping Critics hitting 80 will cause that to change, they are tons of fun. But he more than made up for my ignorance by reminding me of some of what he could do, and he Banished Elemental mobs frequently later in the instance.
A simple trash fight, but that set the tone for the rest of the run. We discussed how to do pulls, we used Freezing Arrow and Sap and Banish where we could, and while it was rushed as hell because Nighthawque had to leave… in the end, even though we were rushed we took our time with most of the pulls, and we still ended up clearing all five bosses together in less than two hours before he had to leave, and I swear we never wiped. Ever. As far as I know, that was our groups’ first ever Heroic Nexus.
And instead of being a serious, ‘game face on let’s get this sucker’ kind of run, or even feeling all that rushed because we knew we were on the clock… it felt fun, light-hearted and a pleasure to do.
Hell, I’m thinking about the Heroics we could do, and the Instances we could do, and I find myself really wanting to do Nexus again… even though there are no drops for me in there, simply because of the great feeling left over from that one run. I want to experience that again. Because it felt great to feel that everyone on the run was having fun.
Okay, there we go. That’s my team story, and a very simple story it is, too.