Forewarned is Well Armed

“Why is it that there is never enough time to communicate a plan, but always enough time to release and run back in?”

I had a nice reader, Trystalia, send in an email that got me thinking once again about roads left untraveled.

She reminded me that I’d meant to do something… and then let myself get distracted.

Oooh, shiny!

What she did was mention an old post I wrote, once upon a time, about Azjul-Nerub, talking about tanking the first mobs and boss.

Particularly, addressing the Skirmisher game mechanic. 

I’ll direct you to the post if you’d like to see it for old times’ sake, but in essence, I was simply talking about the way the Skirmisher mobs respond normally as melee mobs at first, but after a set time delay they abrubtly drop aggro, become untauntable, and dash straight for the player furthest away from them, there to whack them on the head, hey diddle fol-le-roll. 

If left alive long enough, the Skirmishers bear down on clothies like a steam locomotive driving down on a tied-up, helpess maiden lying on the tracks. It’s quite frightening, when it’s you they come after. Briefly frightening, anyway.

These days, with the rapid rise in potential DPS, they are almost extinct as a problem. Most groups I see don’t even seem to realize there is anything different about them at all.

It was nice to be reminded of the post, mostly because Trystalia said knowing what the heck was going on with those idiots really helped her get her tank on in AN. The groups she tanked wasn’t focusing on them, so they’d have some wipes. I love hearing that something I wrote actually helped someone. 

The other thing it really did, as I said, was remind me that I had always meant to write more… about game mechanics and learning to be a tank.

Here’s the thing. And here’s where it might get ugly.

Being a tank has a lot in common with being a raid leader.

For good or bad, with the rise of PUGs, more and more the tank is expected to be the leader, set the pace, make the decisions and lead the group.

When you zone into a Heroic PUG (or PUG Raid) as the tank, you really need to understand what is going to happen in the upcoming fights. If you haven’t seen the fights before, or only seen them in another role with a tank that maintained his silence, then you’re going to need to do some research on your own to prepare.

It’s your responsibility, now. You signed up as tank, and yes, that does mean you are saying you know what you’re doing, not just with your class abilities, but in leading the group as a whole.

If you are not confident, in your own mind, that you know what to expect, then you’re not prepared enough to do the best you can.

You need to understand the mechanics of each encounter, and you also need to understand the basics of all the abilities all the other classes have to draw on. You cannot expect everyone else to know what you expect them to do, and just do it.

Yes, you should be able to trust other players to know how to play their own class, but as the tank, it is up to you to specify that you want the Priest to keep the target you marked with a Moon shackled during the entire pull, and leave him for last. Or that you want the Hunter to use Freezing Arrow to ice trap the Hunter or Mage on each successive wave during Halls of Reflection, to keep the overall ranged damage down during the fights. The other players know they can do it, but in most cases they expect to be told if you want them to or not.

You need to know not only who to pull and how, but also know what the mobs will do that other classes can counter-act, nullify, cleanse and overcome with their abilities. You need to know that a boss or mob can and will Fear the group, and if there is a Shaman in the group, make a point to ask for Tremor Totem to cut down on silly running around.

Did you know Priests used to actually be asked to Fear Ward? No, really.

Above all, you need to be able to communicate, to direct those other players in what is coming so that they are prepared. They need to know exactly what to expect, and you as the tank need to provide clear directions on what you want them to do in special circumstances.

There is one last thing you must do, that is the hardest thing of all, especially with strangers. You really have to be brave enough to ask other people to do something other than mindlessly following along doing DPS or Heals. Expect some to be pissed at slowing down even for a second, but you have to be able to do it. And once you specify what you want someone to do, you have to trust them to do it on their own. You need to lead from the front as the tank, focus on doing your own job to the best of your ability, and trust that everyone will work together as a team and do the things that will make the run work.

That is the ideal. That should be every player’s ultimate goal in group play. To play with knowledge, with skill, and as a fine-tuned team, making every encounter you face seem smooth and effortless. To make the game look easy to any outsider. 

To be a master of the game.

Does that description characterize the runs you go on?

Do you try your best, study the encounters from afar, and stand prepared to Ice Trap or Shackle or Feign Death or Misdirect or use Tricks of the Trade and Fan of Knives? Do you watch your aggro, Misdirect incoming mobs to the tank, know to kill the Skirmishers first and foremost, know what happens when King Dred raises his claws in a threatening manner?

Or do you resent anything that requires you to hit any button that does not directly apply to a DPS rotation? Do you resent it when a healer doesn’t keep you alive while you stand in the green slime, so you are forced to move away, losing precious seconds of your DPS rotation? Do you resent it when you have to Feign Death for a millisecond because you were overtaking the Tank on aggro?

If you intend to play the game in a group environment, you should not be satisfied by ‘phoning it in’ and just mindlessly following a rotation no matter what. That’s fine in solo play, where no one suffers for your lack of skill or poor performance but yourself.

If you have no interest in actually trying to be the best you can be at what you do, why are you even doing it? Go play Hello Kitty Island Adventure and pick out a pretty sparkly wand with a hair bow and leave the rest of us alone, okay? 

What you’ll see in PUG after PUG is a lack of communication, a tendency to brute force everything, and at the first sign of trouble or a wipe, somebody will blame a bad tank for not holding aggro, or a bad healer for not keeping everyone alive, and drop group.

Do you buy into it? Is that really your view on how the game works when you play properly?

One prevalent attitude I’ve noticed is that raids are considered important enough to study, practise and learn about. To prepare for.

Heroic instances? Those are the places you go on your own to get your Emblems, lowering yourself to do content that is beneath your gear score, but what the heck, you’ll demean yourself to get your daily two Emblems of Frost if you have to.

There is no respect for the content, or the players around you. If people stop for two seconds to say something, to communicate, to do anything other than chain pull through a brute force approach, then the pissyness comes out fast.

I’ll be blunt. If you think that having 5500 DPS in Drak’theron Keep makes you shit hot, and that’s all that matters, then I’ve got news for you, sunshine; it doesn’t mean jack shit. It just means you’ve got good gear, not that you know how to play.

Any moron can stand there looking cute and repeat a chain of attack moves as instructed by Elitist Jerks. ANY moron. That many people do not visit Elitist Jerks to aid them in optimizing a DPS rotation just makes those that do think they are truly teh aw3some.

That does not make you a good player. A good player is not someone that can stand still and mash buttons in the right order to pump out DPS up to the potential permitted by gear and spec, while standing still and ignoring Mana or Threat levels.

Sorry, it doesn’t. The good players are the ones that are doing all the little things to keep the group alive and stable while you are playing Lone Ranger for the sake of your DPS meter e-peen. 

A good player is one that knows all those OTHER abilities of their class, and will use them when the situation calls for it, in their best judgment, or when called upon by their teammates, even if that means their DPS drops by a couple hundred on that pull.

A good player is one that knows the mechanics of the encouters they are going up against, is mentally prepared for the fight, and is ready to MOVE THEIR ASS and use class abilities other than DPS when necessary to ensure the success of the team.

That Skirmisher situation mentioned above?

Trystalia was glad to know about the Skirmisher mechanic, because she had problems with most runs, experiencing at least a wipe or two each time as the healer went down, and she was hurt for consistently being blamed for losing aggro.

She was blamed by pissy little snots for losing aggro on the Skirmishers.

Guess what, a good player of a DPS class knows that the Skirmisher needs to go down firstest and fastest, because in a few seconds it’s going to drop aggro from the tank and charge the person furthest away, and whomp them good.

You know, when the Skirmisher runs free, it’s not a failure on the part of the tank, it’s a failure on the part of the DPS. The death of the Skirmisher is a DPS race, pure and simple. If the Skirmisher nails a non-tank, then the DPS failed. Period. Bitch at yourself, not the tank, because you failed.

A smart Healer on those pulls will make sure they’re not the most distant from the tank, so that if/when the Skirmisher runs free, the Healer isn’t the one to go down, and they can heal someone through getting pounded.

Let’s use another example I see all the time, of mindless brute force in an inappropriate situation.

Heroic Halls of Stone, on the last boss, Sjonnir the Ironshaper. Sjonnir has a Lightning Shield, a Lightning Ring, applies Static Charge to a target, and taken all together they do hellacious group AoE damage to people close to him if those people all dogpile on top of him and hang out as a brute force approach.

He also does a Chain Lightning for up to 3 jumps, and stacks a debuff on players that causes you to take even more damage from Nature attacks (like all that Lightning), which stacks up to 20 times.  TWENTY TIMES.

God, I feel like shouting OVER 9 THOUSAND.

There are also adds that come rolling in from each side, and when ignored, inevitably they gain Healer aggro and start interrupting/slowing the Healer’s cast times just when everyone needs heals the most from the Ring of Fire… the Ring of Fire. Er, Lightning. Sorry, flashback.

What do I see? I see people literally all piling on top of Sjonnir, EVEN THE HEALER, getting as close as possible so that everyone can ignore the adds, trusting the tank’s AoE threat to grab them, and try to brute force him down fast. Inevitably, that leaves everyone within melee range and chain bouncing range of every single high damage ability that Sjonnir can do. AND also puts them all within range of the stacking debuff.

This is Halls of Stone, people. This is not a Halls of Reflection run, it’s not even Trial of the Champions.

And still, time after time, I see 5200+ gear score groups die by droves and even wipe on Sjonnir. 

After all, it’s just a Heroic, right? It’s easy mode, noob tank, noob healer, you all suck, /leave group in a huff.

Smart groups take the extra 3 seconds to decide that the tank will hold the boss in the center, the ranged will all spread out to prevent chain hopping lightning, a melee DPS or two (if present) will take the adds and keep them off the healer, and guess what?

The Healer is left to focus on the few players still in melee range of Sjonnir, the adds are never an issue, the Chain Lightning doesn’t jump 3 times, most people don’t get affected by the melee range AoE, and even the Static Charge is only a momentary nuisance on 1 or at most 2 people.

Almost as though the instance was designed to favor the mentally prepared, and those that take 3 seconds to formulate and share a plan.

I cannot count the number of Halls of Stone runs I’ve seen, across all my characters, where everyone just piled on in, even the ranged and healer, and then it’s a race to see if the entire group wipes before the boss dies. 

It’s disgusting, and people who play that way should be bloody well ashamed of themselves. If you’re not going to take the time to learn how to manage game mechanics and play your class in Halls of Stone, when the heck were you intending to start? Ulduar?


I am, finally, getting to my point, and my point is this;

If you intend to tank, study the game mechanics of the mobs and bosses in advance, so you know what to expect. You will gain confidence and feel better prepared.

Give the encounters and your teammates the same amount of respect you would in a raid. A group activity is still a group activity, even if it’s with strangers, and it’s fewer people. Every instance is an opportunity to hone your skills and practise for the real serious shit.

Prepare properly. Take notes on what special problems there can be, find out who has abilities that can counter those problems, and use your judgment and experience to decide which game mechanics can be ignored and bulled on through, and which ones deserve your time and attention to nullify.

If you want to tank, even if you’ve seen all the fights as DPS, study them from the point of view of the leader. The organizer. The dungeon guide. You will have to explain them to other people, and that means you need to be able to articulate fast, with minimal typing. The better you understand the problem, the better you will be able to share your ideas and plans.

If you know what to expect, then you will feel much more confident in doing your job. I promise you.

At the very least, you will begin to learn that sometimes, when you might have thought you simply lost aggro from over eager DPS, you actually lost aggro due to built-in game mechanics. Or that the group wiped not because you failed to have aggro, but because the wrong mob was targeted for death first, and he had abilities that hit like a brick shithouse.

It may look from the outside like every pull and every boss in a Heroic is just “grab ’em and go”, but that’s not the recipe for success.

Tanks, knowledge really is power.

On the first boss in Old Kingdoms, know that the boss becomes invulnerable when the add spawns, and make sure you grab that add. After all, everyone that is DPS should be trying to kill it fast so you can all get back on the boss, right?

On the Etherial boss in Violet Hold, know that standing there and getting nailed by the summoned orbs is a sure prescription for pain, even in Tier 9. Don’t be afraid to move your ass a little.

If you prepare yourself, yes, you will find that a lot of things can be forced, game mechanics can be ignored.

With gear level availability the way it is, though, there is no excuse for you to be found dead in Halls of Stone because you were in Brann’s chamber fighting wave after wave, and you stood in the big golden beams of death and died during Phase 3. When the golden beam hits your ass, MOVE!

Yes, even the Tank.

It’s disheartening, it really is.

Not that people are getting used to using brute force to solve all their problems, no. No, that’s expected and, given the current state of affairs, inevitable.

No, it’s disheartening how often people try and brute force things because they don’t know any better, and then when they fail in a Heroic, they lash out at the tank or healer, dump their anger out on the rest of the party, and then abandon group.

Don’t be like that. Take pride in what you do, even if other people around you don’t.

If you take the time to upgrade your gear, gem it, enchant it, plan your DPS rotations or set up your healing macros, or study how to generate and hold threat, then take it that next step further. Do what you can to learn the fights, the encounters and mechanics, and when you see yourself in that instance, know what mob will do what, and how you can deal with it.

One last thing.

Don’t be shy about communicating.

If you know what’s about to happen, you go ahead and try and offer some suggestions for a smooth encounter. If you’re rebuffed, or ignored, or even ridiculed for it, don’t take it as a sign that you are in the wrong. No, take it as a sign that those people who reacted in that way are poor players, or that they don’t respect you or the game itself. That makes them prime candidates for your ignore list so you don’t see them again in the future. 

When you do meet someone that plays well, knows what they’re doing, and is open to a plan, add them to your friends list. Build a network of people that actually give a shit.

In time, maybe you’ll forget that the other kind of player ever existed.

40 thoughts on “Forewarned is Well Armed

  1. Speaking as a long, long, long running tank (I still get misty-eyed over tanking UBRS the first time), I fully agree with you. What I find frustrating and more than a little saddening is that the current assholish behaviour of DPS classes is the end result of a long, slow decline of the playerbase in general.

    Blizzard has forgotten that when you drop the bar to make things more playable for the lowest common denominator, the lowest common denominator just gets stupider and lower. People genuinely go out of their way to exert the least effort possible for their best reward, and the game design choices have continuously favoured easier and easier encounters across the board, save for a few high-coordination raid fights. They have replaced the difficulty of coordinating all players in a 5 man or 10 man group with the difficulty of keeping a tank alive long enough to kill a boss – that is, they have shunted the responsibility to the tank and to the healers. Only a few encounters, such as the Skirmishers, require the DPS to do anything.

    I feel sad when I realize that if I don’t spell interrupt a mob, no one will (despite having both a rogue and an enh shammy in the group).
    I feel sad when I realize that if I ask a mage to sheep a mob, they will very likely complain about it, or AoE it themselves and break it.
    I feel sad when I realize that if I ask anything of any DPS player other than to hit things, they are going to bitch and cry.

    I will probably retire my tanks at the end of Cata. My own guild has more or less fallen apart, so raiding is not an option, and I don’t want to tank PUGs. As much as I have enjoyed my DK tank, my Warrior tank, and my Pally tank, I just can’t be bothered to work with these morons anymore. I’ll PvP for a while, probably. Who knows. I love tanking….but I don’t love the players anymore.

    Personally, I think the only thing that can bring back quality play and quality players is a ranking system for PvE, one that’s not based on gear. Introduce arena challenges, say, where mobs have special abilities kind of like Nefarion does. Have those abilities be targetted at a particular class, and be neutralised or interrupted by that particular class, and that will instantly kill you and possibly wipe your group if you fail to deal with them. Or put challenge mobs in specific instances. Make gear available on an arena points type system, where you need both a specific PvE rating and some tokens or other items from mobs to get them. Or possibly make instances only available to people with a minimum rank.

    Then you’ll only ever have to group with people who are in your ranking and who have only ability similar to yours.


  2. As a player returning to WoW from a year-long break, I’ve missed the “learning phase” of all the LK heroics; as a beartank (my wife plays a disc priest, ensuring the lovely instaqueue feature when we choose to run randoms) I’m very interested in finding tips on these instances from a bear (or plain old generic tank) perspective. I’ve found various info re: Raid bosses written from a tank’s PoV, but not so much the older 5-man content.

    Any tips on where to look? I’m a relatively new tank anyways, and would appreciate seeing/reading the “correct” way to do mah job.

    – Hudge


  3. OMG I just want to hug and kiss you. Thank you for spelling out exactly what I’ve tried to explain to so many people. It’s a team, not a competition with each other. I like to call Recount the narcissist addon.


  4. You sir, are my hero!

    I feel vindicated for every time I ask a Hunter to use freeze on Mages in H HoR (lol noob tank lern2holdaggro)
    I feel vindicated for every time I ask people to spread out in Halls of Stone (fail healer…spam HoTs…{my main’s a druid})
    I feel vindicated for every time I moved the boss in H VH away from the orbs and I got laughed at by the DPS…

    It may be “just” a heroic, but I actually take the trouble to read up on the fights and try to counteract them as a tank (I’ve only been playing WoW a grand total of 2 months…only have 1 lvl 80 and no alts), and I’ve had to deal with a ridiculous amount of criticism, taunts and outright insults from pugs in the LFD Heroics.

    Its nice to know I’m doing it right. 😉


  5. Bpmonk, my rebuttal to you is that the time to learn an instance for the very first time, exploring it and learning it as the group encounters difficulties, wipes, and figures things out is not as the tank of a group of random strangers in a PUG.

    If you choose to find things out as you go, learning by doing, and refuse to spend time outside the game researching to prepare yourself, that’s fine. I love doing that as well, seeing things firsthand.

    But do it on your own time, with friends that know the plan going in, and are happy to figure it out and experience it together.

    You mention in game honesty, but from where I’m sitting, honesty also incorporates respecting the fact that not everyone on the run with you has the same goals you do, and likely won’t appreciate being your guinea pigs for the testing experiment.


  6. BBB,

    As always, a well considered and thought provoking post – and just this afternoon I was in HC ToC in my tree spec watching 3 wipes of the PuG at the 1st set of “on foot” bosses. When I asked the tank why he wasn’t marking a kill order his answer “Because everyone knows what the order is” seemed quite typical!! (and obiously untrue :-()

    But my more contentious point is – I really don’t enjoy or see the “in game” honesty of researching an instance before I run it – part of the the joy of the game is (for me) working out what the hell is going on and adapting to it – as long as I learn and don’t make the same mistahe next time I think it makes me a better bear. What I do get really hacked off with though is in PuGs and (even more so) 10 man raid PuG’s everyone assuming that everyone has doen this (not only) plenty of times before but IN THE SAME WAY. OMG – there are times when there might be different wasy to complete a specific boss/encounter whatever, and 2 minutes of chat can make sure everyone is on the same page.

    I think I tank well – I keep an eye on my group, and point out the critical steps (that I know of) for each engagement, I ignore the dps that constantly shout gogogo and I learn from what I see – but I don’t think its reasonable to also expect that I spend hours searching the web and researching each and every isntance before I run them – it seems to take all the excitement out of the run and make it dull before you even get there.

    Maybe this does mean I make the rest of my party/group take longer than if I knew the whole thing backwards, but at least if we talk we can all know that we’ve all got the same idea before we barrell in and have some fun!!!


  7. I’ve already expressed my congruent opinion of good DPS, but these tanking instructions are a good wake up call. My hubby likes healing when I tank, because “you take every single fight seriously.” However, “you don’t tell people what you’re doing or what you want them to do!” /shame

    Yes, while I’ve worked hard to learn all the fight mechanics and my class, I’m lazy about communicating. I should not assume other people know what they’re doing. I will make some macros for the common issues and use them.

    But when is communicating over-communicating? I was skull-marking priority targets the other day (communication, right?), and all 3 PUG DPS were ignoring the mark or immediately AOEing. I’m bitching because aggro is going everywhere and the priority mobs are getting their unhappy-making powers off, and the hubby says, “You didn’t tell them that the skulls should be killed first.”

    Wha…..?!? These people made it to 80, are running heroics, and they don’t know the WoW meta-language that skulls are the kill priority? Congratulations on winning the too stupid to live prize.

    So I type, “Please kill skulls first.” And say out loud, “I’m not going to taunt off those bastards any more. Don’t heal them if they pull aggro.” Sadly, it did require 2 deaths before they actually followed instructions.


  8. Aside from some pugs not understanding the mechanics of an instance, I think that it also is a case of a lot of pugs not understanding the mechanics of their tank and this is generally what causes the greatest amount of pug rage for me. I currently have 3 tanks a Druid (main), pally and warrior, working on a DK tank at the moment and it seems apparent that many pugs assume that all tanks have the same strengths and weaknesses.

    I felt this most when I was gearing up the warrior and found that the more geared the dps are the more prone a run is for a dps or 2 to just pick a target and go all out on it, despite whether there is a mark on it or if it’s the tanks focus target. Then of course there are the mages, hunters, boomies that open up with aoe before all the mobs even reach the tank….welcome to warrior hell…population..1.

    It got to the point where I was actually happy to see lesser geared people in the group as it meant I could actually chill out and enjoy the instance.


  9. Hate to be pessimistic here, but unless Blizzard miraculously finds a way to build a moron filter we’ll more often than not end up in pugs with them. You may know the instance like the back of your hand but there will still be somebody who makes a habit out of pissing the whole group off. Ninja looting, going ahead before the tank, a hunter refusing to take growl off the pet and then blaming the tank for not doing their job properly, somebody who brushes you off when you try to talk the group through the boss, saying “yeah ok ok, lets get on with it” and then plunging straight into the encounter and dying. First. Then quitting the group. Etc.

    You can Alt+Tab all you want between the game and wowhead, but if the group just won’t cooperate then you’ve no choice but to have a hissy fit (not really recommended), vote to kick the moron out of the group (may just be me, but it feels pretty bad) or just simply /leave group.

    I suppose the best you can hope for is to fall into a decent group who know what they’re doing, or are at least willing to learn. But still, it only takes one guy to turn a decent group into a hopeless one.

    Pessimism? Or do the French servers suffer from a high concentration of idiots?


  10. Also p.s. regarding marking… you wouldn’t believe how many people don’t know what that means any more. Ran ToC last night and hubby always marks the first add to go after on the joust, and kill order for the champions (skull, x, square). There are many people out there who just dps what they want to dps, and don’t even look at the marks.


  11. I was lucky when I started tanking that my hubby was fluent in heroics (he’s a tree). Having that sort of knowledge sitting right next to me, willing to let me know what to expect before I started pulling… made me look like a much better tank than I was. I am glad though, that this was before the advent of the random dungeon system, because the only people I had to disappoint were guildies, and they were very forgiving. If I had to learn all of this in randoms, I don’t think I’d still be tanking.

    What’s discouraging is seeing this attitude in raids. I got into Ony-25 with a friend who’s in a pretty progressed guild, and they had trouble with phase 2. There were no explanations ever, just threw everyone in there and expected them to know what to do. After all, Ony is easy mode when you’re in T10, right? Just dps the damn dragon. After the second or third wipe, it was obvious this wasn’t working, so people resorted to raid warnings in all caps, calling people out for dying to one thing or another. After the fifth wipe, we started losing people, and the group fell apart. No support whatsoever from the people leading the run, saying ok, this is how we want to strategize this, you guys in this group, you’re on the adds, nothing. And they were surprised and frustrated when the group couldn’t one-shot it.

    You nailed it with that first sentence. If people would just take a second to talk about things, it would be so much different. *sigh*


  12. This kinda depresses me and discourages me from trying to tank a heroic in the Dungeon Finder. Hopefully players in the normal instances are a bit more forgiving, we shall see. That or stick to playing with guildies are my thoughts.


  13. BBB, this post was so very helpful for me. My little bear tank jumped into LFD for a random LK normal, and low and behold, AN popped up. And, as you mentioned, the skirmishers made a b-line right for the mage: I was a growling, challenging roaring, swipping fool trying to get them off that guy, and though a wipe fest was coming. The group though was very patient, and we made it through to the end. Too bad we didn’t have a DK to try your tactic. But thanks for the helpful articles. I have been a bit timid to try tanking as of late, and your posts are helping me get back on that horse (or kodo in my case). Thanks for all you do. Semper Fi.


  14. We have two new(ish) 80 tanks in the guild who aren’t sure of boss mechanics in heroics. I’ve taken to grouping with them as tree, going on Vent, and giving them tactics tips for the bosses they encounter. They’re bright, they don’t usually need telling twice :-). This is the nice thing about tanking – all the tanks are hybrids, so it’s always possible to go in as another role and tutor a new tank you know.

    I wish more people had that tutoring – might be fewer idiots in pugs.


  15. I love you, BBB. Thank you so much for saying these things so boldly. I wish I could paste this whole thing into a macro, to use when pugs go askew. And they so often do.

    It seems to me it doesn’t even take that much extra effort to make a big difference. One well-timed Kick, Wind Shear, Mind Freeze, Chains of Ice, Blind, Sap, Entangling Roots, Cyclone, Disarm, Dismantle, Kidney Shot, Art of War flash, Tremor Totem, Remove Curse, or any of a million other things can make the difference between success and failure for the encounter. Even if we go in unprepared, what you said about “knowing the OTHER abilities of your class” can totally save the day! To the rogue who kidney shots the whirlwinding dwarves in Halls of Lightning, to the shadow priest or shaman who dispels the shields off the Runecasters in Utgarde Keep, to the hunter who feigns death before the mobs change target, and yes, even to the death knight who Death Grips the Shadowcasters in Old Kingdom, thank you, thank you, thank you! Your healers and your tanks are ever so grateful. ❤

    Heck, even just doing nothing for a few seconds while the tank makes a line-of-sight pull can help!

    I think you’re absolutely right, that a lot of the level 80 content has become a mindless brute-force AoE slog. And that’s bad enough, but the attitudes you see in level 80 Heroics are also spreading to groups in lower-level instances. I can’t count the number of times I’ve pulled a group while I’m tanking on my baby bear, and had the entire group covered in Volley, Blizzard, Consecration, and Rain of Fire before I’ve even had two GCD’s to Swipe the crowd and Mangle my skull-target. If I pull at a pace fast enough that they can’t catch up till I have a threat lead (with their BoA heirlooms against my quest rewards and lucky drops), I leave my poor healer gasping. If I wait for the healer to drink, the dps will shout “GOGOGO” and pull the next group. I wasn’t around during Vanilla WoW, but after groups like these, I find myself sharing a vicarious nostalgia for the days when the C’s: crowd control, cooperation, communication, and coordination, were still required to get things done.

    Bless your bold, blunt, bear soul.


  16. Yes yes yes! I was a fulltime Tree for BC heroics, running with a warrior tank, two rogues, and a hunter the large majority of the time. They cc’d nearly EVERYTHING in instances, focus-fired, re-blinded when a sap got broken.. chain-trapping.. the works. Right before Wrath hit, I was absolutely delighted to learn that druids would get to use Roots indoors – a viable CC! Finally!

    And then.. then.. no one ever used it. Brute-force, maybe focus fire, but the control mechanism just got thrown by the wayside. I learned to look up to players that had that kind of group utility and made good use of it; I pride myself on using similar ‘support’ spells. BR’d and innervated! Root the mob that’s coming towards my now-chicken before it can eat me if I can see the tank’s worried about other things! Thunderstorm mobs off my shaman/the healer!

    I’ve tried to make a habit of thanking those I see in PUGs using those utility spells rather than just facerolling dps – I wish it were the norm, but since it’s not, I am absolutely going to be grateful to those that still play their class to the best of its ability.. even if their dps is lower because of it.

    One final note! In 2pcT10 on my healypriests, I’ve become accustomed to marking the Shadowcaster mobs-o’-doom in Old Kingdom. I can generally keep everyone alive if just one gets pulled… but I’m horrendously overgeared, and if it teaches one person out of many that it shouldn’t need to be done that way, I’m content with that.
    .-= Cazenovia´s last blog ..Warlocks are.. kind of fun. =-.


  17. Soooo true.

    I’m levelling a tank and my baby druid is lvl 27… did three dungeons last night and every time there was a hunter just determined to piss me off. In one instance the healer was a little lower level so I’d try to pull two or three mobs and pull them back, but the hunter would decide to run in and pull another four or five while he was at it. He would seriously start pewpewing at totally different stuff (you can’t blame your pet! your arrows are visible flying through the air!)

    I thought you mentioned a while ago that you were levelling another feral druid, and I’d love to hear your thoughts. I got super bored of redridge mountains for the millionth time, so I’m doing lots of dungeons with my rogue friend


  18. “With gear level availability the way it is, though, there is no excuse for you to be found dead in Halls of Stone because you were in Brann’s chamber fighting wave after wave, and you stood in the big golden beams of death and died during Phase 3. When the golden beam hits your ass, MOVE!”

    Nope in my opinion is more fun to actually STAND IN THE FIRE erhm beam whatever at least with those 40k+ hp tanks these days. Then atleast i have something to heal, even if its just spamming myself because i am too lazy to move away.
    On the other side i also like to take aggro from tank when i am moonkin when i know the mob will be dead be4 he reaches me, ok that is evil to the tank i admit it 😛
    But usually i dont read up on encounters the first time i do them, because its boring to just read what WILL happen. I want to see what is going to happen and REACT properly on the given situation.


  19. The nice thing about having office hours in my college is that the students rarely visit me and I can read excellent blogs like this one.

    I have experienced the skirmish mobs in AN but I never knew what was up. Someone once said they had no aggro table and I was just guessing that’s what was happening.

    I’m hunter and resto-druid and I like running heroics, I’ve done it a lot. I don’t see hunters using traps much or using hunter’s mark; but more are using mis-direct in the past few months. I read in a blog (or on a youtube?) that if you drop the snake trap for the boss with the orbs (in VH) that it will trigger it faster; meaning good stuff. I had a tank pull the boss away from the trap each time — I think they were afraid of something new. I put frost traps down when-ever I had time; my companions acted as if they’d never seen such a thing.

    The beautiful thing about our classes is that they are so deep. There is always so much to learn about them. I got lectured one time in CoS on my tree for not putting Thorns on everyone to help with the zombies. Lectured! Actually, I took it well and was not offended tho I was humbled a bit thinking it was my fault for the wipe. Now I’ve run it many more times and don’t think it was my fault, but I still thorn everyone — in Nexus too before the little walking flowers.

    Y’know, I’ve never been called a bad healer or hunter. I’ve never been kicked. I don’t think it happens to people much. Now, quitting. I’ve bailed on some groups — I hate it but I just gave up on them, bickering at each other.

    Thanks for the blog, I’ll try to look deeper into my skill-set to see what other things I can bring to the group and practice them in heroics.


  20. BBB – you are so on target. Rock Star Tanks are starting to tick me off so badly that I’ll drop group rather than put up with it.

    Been bear tanking and tree healing for a while but was running a resto shaman alt and queued into HToC. Rock star pally tank and 3 dps who had never been there before. I’m thinking, “How bad can this be?” As I start to explain the joust portion to the 3 dps, the tank says “GOGOOGOGO!” and starts the encounter. It was like watching clowns spill out of the clown car. 10 minutes later (I’m not exaggerating – boss remounts and NO focus fire), we get to the champions portion. Rock star pally throws his shield at the the champs as I’m trying to explain the encounter to the dps. As everyone is attacking something different, rock star pally is standing dead center of the poison and refused to move. I’m healing my ass off trying to keep everyone alive and by some miracle, we complete (although I’m sorry to say, some of the dps died).

    As I’m rezzing the dead, rock star pally starts pulling the trash mobs for the paladin boss. Nothing like starting empty of mana and with only 4/5ths of your players present. We manage to clear the trash mobs and rock star pally starts wailing on the boss. When the add is summoned, there is no attempt to pick it up and guess what player the add made a bee-line to. That’s right – healer aggro. I die a quick death and of course we wipe. As we re-enter the instance, I start to eat and drink to replenish. 2 of 3 dps have made it back and you guessed it – rock star pulls the boss.

    We wipe and as I’m flying back to the instance, I see in party chat “For all that good gear, you’re a crappy healer.”

    /drop group


  21. I was tree healing a H CoS the other day. We lost the tank after the scourge waves, right in time for the boss who’s name I can never remember. A brilliant wanna-be DK tank decided to start pulling the boss, then talked to Arthas to start the next run through the inn. And then was really surprised when we wiped. Because I can’t heal three dps through those fights. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been blamed for a wipe because my “healing sucked.” I think from now on, I’m going to point them to this point, and tell them to come back when they have their heads connected properly.


  22. Continuing with what Sieghild has written, the Brute Force philosophy isn’t very conductive to Up-and-Coming tanks being able to absorb content that they are new to. Having a new 80 Prot Warrior myself and attempting to run heroics, has proved to be quite the challenge for so many reasons. SO much pressure is generated from the other four members urging tanks do barrel through the instance that it’s damn near impossible for some to see any given run as something other than a 20 minute stream of oncoming mobs, with brief peaks in difficulty for bosses. I, fortunately, have a resto druid main and I’m very familiar with all of the Northrend heroics. Even taking that into account, I’ll usually still run through an instance as dps just to see it from a melee point of view before I’ll run as tank. If it wasn’t for that, however, I truly would be lost. Sadly, this play-style (although I can sometimes understand the motivation – the hardcore raider just looking to snag 2 fresh emblems as quickly as possible) does not facilitate finesse; it instead only encourages “Mastery” of about 6 buttons to perform the essential function of any class, then hurry along to the next group of whatever. It’s because of this rushing that I’ve too often found myself in a situation where I can’t get out of a scatty and panicked state of mind. Which, also, is not conductive to absorb everything happening around you, just absorb enough to survive and progress.

    Yet another post that hits the nail on the head. Nice work, B³.


  23. Well said, Bear. I plan to turn a few friends looking to start tanking toward this post. It’s good to see the realities of pugging along with some encouragement.

    I’ve taken the “knowledge is power while tanking” thing a step further: I like seeing if I can get DPS killed with certain mechanics due to inattention. Anub in AN is great for this. Pound and spikes? I try to angle them toward the snarky, or jerkish players to see if I can “educate them in strategic repositioning.” Thankfully, my pocket healer (who I heal for while he tanks) makes this more viable by playing along.

    Also, in the Brann event in HoS, I tell people that the yellow beams give you a buff. It’s amazing how often people test that out.


  24. Thanks, BBB.

    I’d have to say that, for someone who turned level 80 a year ago and started running 25-player Naxx as cat DPS right away, I am actually at a disadvantage in some Heroic Dungeon boss encounters because I never learned the mechanics. And even though I’ve been tanking dungeons for months, I still find myself learning on the fly.

    This post is great, because it reinforces a bunch of things for tanks regarding taking charge, knowing fights, having the balls to piss someone off by stopping to do something correctly (which upsets the “gogogo!” crowd). As someone who tanks as an off-spec, I take a lot of inspiration from posts like this. Much appreciated.
    .-= Russ´s last blog ..Anacrusa the Argent Champion =-.


  25. BBB, you’re the hero of untold masses of puggers. From the who desperately spams heals on the tank that pulls entire rooms and lets them all hit him in the back to the tank using taunt every cooldown because the hunter can’t be bothered to FD or target the tank’s target… I feel the frustration in this post!


  26. Because I’m returning to the game after a 6 month break, I decided to start on a new server. So when tanking with my level 71 Dk with mostly cobalt defense gear and a few greens I cant take the damage properly geared tanks can do. So the pugs I am in, I try and take a steady but maybe slower pace. Unfortunately you get some groups that the dps wants to “GOGOGOGO” and while tanking a group will pull another bunch or aoe when instead you need to dps a certain mob because they have a bomb that blows up after a few secs that can wipe out the melees in a few hits.

    On another note, I feel sorry for all the up and coming tanks that don’t have heirlooms. Try to contend with heirloomed equiped and chanted dps is very “interesting”.


  27. On my Huner, I always took pride in being able to do more than just stand there and shoot things until they died. Pre-Wrath, I had more than one person compliment my chain-trapping skills. It’s been so long since it’s been necessary, though, that I would probably be rusty to say the least if I had to do it again. I couldn’t help but feel a twinge of pride the first time I Misdirected the mobs from the portal in VH where they split off to the Tank. And in AN, I would always make sure I was standing behind the healer for those first mob pulls. If we lost control of the Skirmishers, I would rather have them hitting me than the Healer. (This is still a habit, even when I do it nowadays.)


  28. Great post bear. I’ve seen a lot of the brute for way going on after taking a little break, and it’s just mind blowing to watch. Another thing in AN I’ve seen, is people who have no clue how to do the 2nd boss the intended way. I had a tank who was yelling at everyone about how bad we were doing, and after this patch they fixed the glitch where you could run down to the spider boss with a steam tonk. So it doesn’t work, and we have to do it”real”, and he has no idea the mobs auto pull after the 1st group at the bottom of the stairs, and yells at the dps for pulling the mobs, and then has no idea not to go attack the big spider untill the little ones are dead. It was a pretty epic wipe, and even more epic explanation on the mechanics of the fight. Note: we also had a small discussion about how and why the skirmishers wouldn’t taunt back to him earlier. But he was epic rock star tank with a higher gear score than me, so he must be better right? 😛


  29. BRAVO! My comment comes with a bit of a warning, though… My boyfriend and I are currently leveling a couple of alts, and while we are loving the convenience of the new random PUG tool, we’ve noticed a trend, at least on our Battlegroup (Retaliation)…dps queuing as tanks to get quick groups. And if you say something to them, they don’t care…and they just run off and start aggroing stuff. My bf is a healer, so he just lets them go, says, “I queued as a healer, and I’ll do my job when a tank shows up.” I’m starting to wonder what’s going to happen when these players hit 80 (not sure if any have yet since the new random PUG finder)…


  30. Excellent post. Laziness in pugs is a major pet peeve of mine. I hate when corners are cut out of laziness, in the interest of saving time, and instead it just leads to a wipe and adds 5 minutes to a pug.


  31. Nearly everything that needs to be said has been said. The post was great (as is most of your blog) and you hit the nail(s) on the head(s). I started tanking the other morning and ended up getting a regular ToC (just at the defense threshold, was trying to get The Black Heart) and I ended up with two fresh 80s, one 80 in 2p-t9 (a warrior), and one 80 in ICC-25 gear (a DK). The healer (one of the fresh 80s) said they were new, they’d do their best. We all said it was fine, except the ICC-geared guy, who immediately said “fail group” and dropped. Okay.

    We replaced him with another decently geared guy, another warrior, who stuck with us through the whole thing. The run was smooth, no trinket drop. We decided to run again, everything went fine. The new guy we had claimed the group’s DPS was too low (despite clearing the instance twice with little-to-no trouble) so he left. Alright.

    The first warrior asked why I kept moving during the champions fight, and I explained the whole poison bottle thing. He replied with “o, lol, that makes sense.” That’s fine.

    We ran a quick H-UK to get the new guys some emblems and some experience in a heroic, and said our goodbyes. I hopped on my warlock and queued up. 20 minutes later, I end up in Nexus. Warrior tank, druid healer, another warlock, and a rogue. The rogue was mostly silent, the tank was fine at holding aggro and telling people to move their ass during the Keri fight. At one point, just before Telestra, we decided to pull a few packs and just AoE them down. I rolled SoC, the other used Rain of Fire, the rogue spammed Fan of Knives. The usual. A couple of well-timed crits lead to me pulling aggro, to which I replied with “STFU, /cast Soulshatter.” We finished off, and the tank spoke up:

    [Tank]: You wasted my taunt, lol.
    [Me]: Haha, sorry. I have a bad habit of actually using Soulshatter. 😉
    [Otherlock]: wtf is soulshatter?

    I could continue with how we explained what it was, but really, I don’t think anything else has to be said. As DPS, you don’t really NEED to know that Wild Growth has a cooldown, or that Consecrate will fade the moment it’s ready to be cast again. You don’t even have to know that you need to click on a Lightwell (but that’s really because nobody ever uses it in 5-mans…) to get the HOT, or that Shockwave is a cone effect while Thunderclap is a 360. But not knowing your own class skills just seems ridiculous to me. If you’re not going to read up on encounters (which, even as DPS, you really really should) at least learn what you should be doing to help out the tank. I can’t count the number of times I’ve called for, say, Shackle Undead only to find the priests didn’t know where to find it in their spell books.

    Maybe I am a jerk for vote-kicking a guy who won’t use CC when the rest of the group asks for it, claiming that if the DPS was better they could just burn through, but damn it, I’m proud of that.


  32. Halls of Stone has several opportunities for people to ignore the game mechanics. I mentally cringe on the first boss when melee run back in after the knock back. The result is sooo predictable. A bunch of dead melee from the shatter. Sad thing is that the boss can be two manned by the healer and tank if need be.


  33. Great post. I’m not sure its’ the cure-all for the heroic problem that exists. But I can offer this: the *regular* dungeons are the learning grounds now. I just hit 80 on a hunter alt and went into regular HoS, HoL and CoS for the first time on the hunter. What I found really surprised and pleased me. Groups, when confronted with a possibility of wipes, had patience, communication and the back-and-forth sharing of information that makes this game great. Heroics? Its all a steamroll and when it isn’t, no one really cares. But the regulars? Mmmmm. WoW 5-man goodness.

    WTB: 30 slot bags so I can carry a blue set of gear for 5 man regulars along with the ICC tanking, dps and trinkets and all the other stuff!


  34. I tend to end up in OK a lot when I pug. Just my luck, it seems. Overall, it’s not bad, though…unless someone needs Triumph Badges, you can shortcut half the instance.

    Anyway, I always make sure to throw a Skull on the Spellweavers in the first half of the instance. They’re not half as deadly as they used to be, granted. But they can still cause problems if left alive. I used to also communicate to my group to keep them interrupted until they die. Now they’re usually dead fast enough that I can interrupt their first cast with a Charge or Bash and they’ll never get a second.

    When I end up there on my Shaman (Resto or Enhance) I still mark it and make sure I Wind Shear every time until it’s dead.

    It amazes me that 16 months after Wrath dropped, so few people actually understand why those trash groups used to wipe groups endlessly. The first time we went in there (running Heroics blind was the best part of Wrath for me) and we kept dying on those pulls, I sat back, watched what was going on, and said “ah ha!”
    .-= Saniel´s last blog ..3.3.3(.3.3.3) broke my game! =-.


  35. Phaedra, right… watching someone AOE over and over on a pull with two (or even sometimes 1) mob left standing makes me want to turn around and smack that dpser.

    One evil trick that works is to link the damage meters for the last pull showing the DPS who was not AOEing at the top of the pile… haha… nothing like using a little epeen to make people get their act together.


  36. Awesome post BBB, thought provoking and entertaining!

    Makes me want to jump into a heroic right away… 🙂

    BTW, I once wiped the group as a tank in HHOS – I was new to 80 as a tank and trying to be a bit too efficient. So… when the adds spawned and went for the healer, I feral charged them. Yup, me, the healer and the melee DPS all got the crazy charges stacking on us we lit up like a Christmas tree plugged into a high tension power line. That was very ugly, I did apologize but that didn’t stop one DPS from (rightfully) calling me an idiot.

    I still cringe at myself for that. 😐


  37. Thank you. This is an eloquent post the conveys so many of the frustrations I sometimes feel PuG’ing heroics.

    In OK, I take the time to mark the Spellflingers b/c those basterds HURT and can kill T10 geared tanks if not handled properly. I take a moment or two in Oc to ask if the healer wants me to kite or stay in blizzard and to make sure everyone knows the final fight. I’d rather spend 1 minute explaining something than eating a wipe and repair bill.

    The other issue that gets me raging is when I see high GS DPS (>5k) barely putting out 2k DPS, merely autoattacking or just AoE’ing. Seriously. I don’t get to slack as a tank – heck, I have to work HARDER – pulling quicker, managing aggro, watching for butt-pulls, not skinning mobs, etc. I don’t mind taking lower-geared people through heroics at all, but I sure as heck will not drag your lazy ass through a heroic, working my butt off, while you eat Cheetos and watch MTV.


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