Things to think about before Tanking

If you’re thinking about tanking, then no matter what class you might intend to try, there are a few ideas you should have in the brain housing group to help you along the way.

Over the years I’ve said all this stuff, so none of it is particularly new or ground breaking. I don’t think I’ve ever put it together and stickied it before, though, so here we go.

When you want to play the game, you want to be successful. You want to be a good tank, a successful tank, a tank that other people will want to run with again.

Before you prepare, you need to get it clear in your mind, what is a successful tank? How do you measure success as a tank?

A successful tank is one that can hold threat on all appropriate targets, and can regain threat when it’s lost as soon as possible.

You can go above and beyond that, but aggro is the key measure of success.

In any combat encounter, there are mobs you intended to fight. Maybe you as the tank pulled them, or charged into them, or maybe another player attacked from range, or maybe a Rogue stealthed in and got busted before you got there.

However the pull happened, if you immediately grab aggro on all intended mobs, you build threat on those mobs to the point that your other players find it difficult to pull it away from you when they are dealing strong DPS, and you ride the group down until they’re all dead without chaos or confusion, then you are performing well as a tank.

I’d like to say you would be graded as “meeting expectations” on a performance review, but I’ve BEEN running heroics and randoms in LFD at all levels, and I’m here to tell you; a tank that can grab and hold aggro is exceeding my expectations these days.

That’s it. All the rest of this post is going to be meandering tips and suggestions on how to prepare for the mission of grabbing and holding threat.

First, study your abilities as you get them when leveling up. Take the time to read the player comments on Wowhead for any abilities you are not intimately familiar with. You’re not expected to know everything about how an ability works the second you get it. If you read what other people have to say, very often you’ll get some helpful tips on how other people use it… or whether people even use it at all.

As you read about your abilities, make a list of the ones that specify they deal “high amounts of threat”. What that phrase means is that, while all normal attacks will have a standard amount of threat per point of damage, some abilities have a built in multiplier; they do more threat per point of damage, or even do massive threat without dealing damage at all.

Also, make a list of abilities that affect more than one target. Those are your prime “multiple mob” abilities.

Read through the list of Glyphs available to your class. Some of them may modify an ability to affect additional mobs, or cause your AoE to have a greater range of effect. Any time you can use a Glyph to have a core threat generating ability affect more targets for free, it’s something to take notice of.

With Glyphs, don’t get locked into the idea that what works best at max level or for raiding is what you need to use all the time, or at all levels, either. You can find some things helpful at lower levels, then upgrade as you go.

So, build up your own repertoire of abilities based on threat, and on affecting multiple targets. Plan your Glyphs to help out.

Put your Taunt abilities, single target and group, someplace on your bar or hotkeyed where you can get to them fast. No matter how good you are, every tank has experienced someone pulling threat from them. Everyone. It’s how quickly you grab that aggro back that counts.

Finally, try and control the battlefield.

Controlling the battlefield is the absolute hardest thing for tanks to do.

I like to suggest that, when you don’t know how the group will work together, you try and mark a Skull target for a “first kill”. That will be the target you’re going to focus on when you’re not spreading AoE/multiple mob threat around.

A lot of players seem to resent such marks these days. I’m not sure why, since the idea is to help the tank hold aggro and let the DPS open up without worrying about pulling threat. Maybe people WANT to pull threat. Maybe people resent being told what to do by anyone, and want to be their own boss. Maybe some people are just dicks. I dunno, a little of part A, a little of part B with some C mixed in for flavor?

Still, it’s a fact. I’ve seen people bitch about Skulls, I’ve seen people intentionally target anything BUT Skull, I’ve even frequently seen Skull be the last mob standing in runs, even after asking everyone to please focus on Skull first.

Like I said, I suggest using Skull as a starter. All you can do is try. If you get good enough at threat generation, if you have your own ways of knowing whos got threat on what, you always have the option of not using a kill mark, and if someone pulls off you, just taunting the mob back and moving on with your life. There’s less drama that way.

Amazing how quickly people get prickly if there is the slightest suggestion that maybe, just maybe, they aren’t the greatest group player in the universe if you mention that they’ve pulled aggro fifteen times during the run so far. So, you can just deal with it as an added challenge, suck it up and move on.

Or, if you feel like you’re doing everything you possibly can and should do and they’re still pulling aggro, you can always let them pull and die. What the heck, it’s their repair bill. Tough love, right?

Back to controlling the battlefield.

Knowing which mobs in a group you DO or DO NOT have aggro on is very, very difficult. You’ve basically got three options.

The first option is what I call “Spray and Pray”. You start with your AoE threat ability, like a Druid’s Swipe, Warrior’s Thunder Clap, a Paladin’s Consecration or a Death Knight’s Death and Decay.

Then, you build on that by spreading around attacks that have multiple mob affects. Specifically, you target the mob on the center and use a multiple mob attack, then target the left most mob and attack, then the right most mob and attack. Since you have no control over who the extra mobs are that get hit by “target plus x” attacks, this is an attempt to spread your damage/threat as wide as possible among the group.

An example of Spray and Pray for a Druid is, start with Swipe, target the left most mob and get a Maul triggered (plus attacks), Swipe then target right most mob and Maul plus other attack, Swipe and hit the center, Swipe and Maul the left again, etc.

You’re hoping to build up group threat across the board before settling in on one main kill target. Then if you haven’t already, you can mark with Skull and keep the Swipes going, and hope that the group either switches their main focus to your Skull target, or that your Swipes and the Mauls you laid down at the start stay ahead of the DPS. Your healer will be fine.

If you lay a Skull down at the start, use that as the target you keep coming back to as you spread threat around. That’s the target that would get the Sunder Armor, the Mangle or Feral Faerie Fire, etc.

The problem with this method, of course, is that you won’t know if you’ve lost threat until a mob breaks from the pack and either heads for someone, OR if they’re ranged, begins shooting someone else. In a messy enough scrum, you might not have noticed you lost threat at all.

Still… guess what? It’s what at least 50% of the tanks out there do. And it works. If you really work at it, work on threat generation and gear, you’ll never need anything else. But when you do lose aggro, it’s gonna be frustrating as heck to get it back.

The second method is what I call “Information Overload”. It’s a variation of Spray and Pray, but instead of working blind, you add in the results of a threat meter like Omen. If you use Omen to show you threat levels on targeted mobs, then as you target various mobs in the group using your Spray technique, you can glance over at Omen on each mob, doing spot checks on threat levels.

As you do the circuit of mobs, if you see for example, that the Mage is building threat really fast on one particular mob, then you can choose his target as your primary kill target. If that’s who the Mage wants to kill first, and you’re way above threat for the rest of the group, just switch to that target for the rest of your main attacks, right?

The problem with Information Overload is exactly that; lots of things to watch all the time.  If you’re always glancing at Omen, then you’re not watching the mobs, and you might react a few seconds later when one breaks from the pack.

On the other hand… if you’re doing it right, then you’ll know long before the mob breaks loose, right? This is the method I’ve used since just about forever.

The third method, and one I just started using a few months… oh heck, I have no idea how long ago now,  is what I call “Evil Overlord”.

I call it that because, first, I’m silly, and second, using it can feel like you ARE an evil overlord when you feel so in control of the battle. It’s just using mob nameplates with a Threat Plates addon like Tidy Plates (with Threat Plates plugin) to be able to see in real time exactly who you do or do not have threat on.

With a nameplate addon, If you start to lose threat on someone, you see it as it happens, because that one nameplate will change size and color. If you’ve got thirty mobs in front of you all with tiny green nameplates, and one suddenly turns yellow and grows in size, you know exactly who to target and unload on to bring him back in line.

Just like smiting an uppity minion.

The wonderful thing about Evil Overlord is that you can see you are losing aggro before it happens. You get a warning, as the mob’s nameplate shifts from green and small, to yellow and bigger, to red and big, to flashing red and really big and THAR SHE GOES!!!! Plenty of advance warning to give you a chance to taunt and keep going, leaving nobody else the wiser.

Wrapping up threat.

So, a tanks main responsibility, and your means of measuring success, is grabbing and holding threat. You’ve got abilities that do lots of threat to one target, to multiple targets, and to every target within an area of affect (including behind you). You’ve got taunts on fairly short cooldown to grab threat immediately if someone breaks from the pack. You’ve even eventually got a mass group taunt, although they vary in ultimate effect. Some of them just force the mobs to focus on you for a few seconds… and then if you didn’t build up enough threat, off they go again.

Aggro and threat management is the core of it. Sure, if you are too damn squishy, you won’t get TOO far, but if you can hold aggro on your targets, all of your targets, then you’re well on your way.

Yes, study your class, learn what makes you tough and strong. Stamina never goes out of style. Be as hard to bring down as possible. Be as tough, as strong, as healthy as a brick shithouse.

Advice on that is better found elsewhere, depending on your class.

A few of the basics, if you intend to tank, you’re going to want to have your armor value as high as possible to reduce the physical damage you suffer as much as possible. We call this physical damage mitigation.

Then, you’re going to want to talent into whatever abilities you have that reduce damage from magic. Physical armor values do NOTHING to reduce magical damage, you might as well be standing there naked against it. Fortunately, most Talent trees have some form of Spell Damage reduction.

After physical and magical damage mitigation, you want to really build up your health. It’s fine to reduce how much damage you take overall, but you really want to have a high health pool, too.

Finally, you’re going to want Agility, Defense Rating, Dodge Rating, Parry and Block (where appropriate), whatever your class uses to increase your avoidance. Not only do avoided attacks do no damage, but most classes have special attacks/threat generating moves that activate when you Parry, Block, or Dodge. The better your rating in these areas, the more often you get your special moves.

The importance of high damage output.

Don’t worry about your DPS. The important thing to know about DPS is that DPS is NOT your job.

I’ll say it again. Doing tons of Deeps AIN’T YOUR JOB.

Your job, as the tank, is to hold aggro and survive. That is the only standard by which you should measure your success.

Now, once you learn the ropes, nail down threat, and know exactly what your capabilities are, you can change your style if you want to. I still hesitate to recommend ever tying to go for DPS over threat.

IF you decide you can do so much threat that the other DPS players cannot possibly come close to matching you, THEN you can start mixing in DPS attacks over threat attacks.

Never forget that your job is to hold threat.

Why is it hard to hold threat sometimes? It’s hard, because DPS players are trying to do as much damage as possible. That’s how they measure their success.

So they are often going all out to be top cock of the block. They want to prove their worth. To be the baddest badass in the group. To strut, if only to themselves.

Or, to be kind, to feel that they contributed the best they could to the group’s success. 🙂

In order to do damage without pulling aggro and getting killed, the DPS have to stay under the threat of… guess who?

So, the higher your threat output is on targets, the more DPS the other DPS players can safely put out. EACH of them.

There is one of you, and at least three or more of them. If you worry about your DPS, if that’s what you are pushing instead of threat, then great, sure you’ll be up there on the meters, but if your threat output suffers for it, you’re bringing everyone else down. The DPS players will have to throttle back on their potential just so you can get your jollies.

It hurts the entire group.

If your threat output is so high that nobody can ever come close to you, then sure, do some DPS. Just like a Healer that never has to heal, so they start using Hurricane or Chain Lightning.

But if you are the tank, then every other properly played DPS class is using your threat level as their benchmark for how much DPS they can do without going past you.

If you’re worried about your DPS, and your threat output suffers for it, you might never actually LOSE threat, but most DPS players doing comparisons will quickly decide you can’t tank, because they can’t go all out with you like they can with good ol’ Frank.

Don’t be that tank. Focus on threat first, not DPS.

If, at the end of any given run, you can look back and see that you either held threat all the time, or were able to regain threat as soon as you lost it, then you did a good job.

If, when you look back over a run, you know that you put out so much threat that players could go hog wild on their damage without fear, you did a GREAT job.

You have to start with grabbing and holding aggro. You build on things from there, being able to take a beating and survive for a while, giving your healer a chance to stay on top of things.

But that’s where it all begins. If you start with “I’m going to grab this group, get aggro on them all, and hold it”, with the addition of “Now I got ’em so I’m watching the area around me, and any other mobs that get pulled are getting taunted on me right away”, then you’re going to be doing a great job.

End of line.

Rambling thoughts… I’ve seen people in various forums ask for advice on abilities, Talent specs and gear ratios for tanking while leveling. Often, in fact more often than not, the return advice seems to be that you don’t have to spec as a Tank. Warriors are told that they can just go Arms as a tank while leveling and they’ll be fine. Paladins can go Ret. Druids can focus on Kitty spec and gear (which, okay, is actually pretty accurate).

There is a significant difference between “you CAN do something” and “you will do WELL at something”.

The truth is, if you’re going to tank a random instance with strangers, if you do it in anything other than tank spec with properly prepared abilities, you are letting yourself in for a miserable ride.

I’m leveling a Warrior as Protection. I hit level 35 last night. I’ve tanked a ton of randoms, and I’ve done a ton of quests. I am 100% Prot specced (except for 5 points in Parry, which in my mind still counts as Prot).

My gear is Strength and Stamina. I have enchants for even more Stamina.

I find that I like Battle Stance when questing for the fast Charges, Rend and the slow debuff to keep mobs from running when they get low on health. But it doesn’t really matter what spec I am, I’m questing just fine, and it’s really nice knowing that if things get tight, I can switch to Defense Stance, and swap in Sword and Board. You can change Weapons/Shield while in combat, unlike other armor pieces. So, just like with Lances, I put the icons for them on my button bar to swap faster in combat.

It doesn’t matter in questing. Sure, my DPS is undoubtedly lower than it could be. But I sure don’t notice it being slow to kill things at all.

But when I’m in instances as the tank, every single run I hear variations on “Good lord, finally someone that knows how to tank”. Almost every time, they want me to run another one with them, queueing us up immediately, or asking me to keep going for more.

With a new group in a random, I kept seeing DPS just run ahead without waiting for me, and start pulling themselves. As a longtime tank, this pisses me off. It’s hard to grab and hold aggro when some jackass just takes off without a word and starts pulling. The first thought that comes to MY mind is, “You want to tank, next time queue as tank, jackass.”

And some of them probably would if they let Hunters queue for randoms as tanks.

What I’m starting to figure out is, based on running in groups as DPS on other classes, lots of people are used to having tanks that may have plate armor or high health, but do not have high threat generation. They have standard DPS spec threat generation.

Those wonderful Arms specced Warrior tanks in Gnomeregan. Yay.

People leveling in groups at this point have gotten used to thinking it’s a free for all, every DPS for themself, everybody try and kill targets all by themself and hope the healer keeps them alive.

As soon as I run in and grab the whole group and just take them away, the attitude of a run typically changes immediately. Well, that coupled with my “Hi, I’m leveling as Prot and am gearing and specing for it. Give me a chance, and I’ll control this chaos, and we’ll have a smooth, fast run. Thanks!” macro.

People calm the heck down and approach it as a regular old run, instead of a chaotic free for all. Although amazingly, I get snotty “macro lol” comments, too. At least, I do until they see I actually hold the damn aggro on the group.

That can be you. No, really. And a LOT easier than you might believe.

If you want to try tanking, and you’re nervous about it, you’re scared you’ll suck, people in randoms are mean pricks, etc… give yourself every advantage first.

Get a nameplate addon and try it out on your own, or in a party with a friend. You don’t have to have one, but it can sure give you a feeling of improved confidence that you’ve got better control over the fights. I love seeing that distant nameplate turn bright red, Taunting it back to green, and then watching it stay green as I take care of business where I’m at. And, if someone panics and starts shooting it cause they don’t know I got aggro and am ignoring it because I know, for a fact, that I’ve got aggro but they don’t… well, there’s always Feral Charge, or another ranged Taunt, or running over and beating heck out of it before moving back to the first group.

Get some gear that focuses on Stamina and high Armor value, and get some enchants on it for more Stamina. Look at Glyphs, you get a Major as early as level 15.

And get your tank spec settled, know what your abilities do, and focus on the ones that give you the biggest bang for your global cooldown.

I’m serious, as a Warrior tank at 35 in instances, I rarely use more than Thunder Clap, Sunder Armor, Cleave and Revenge. Sometimes I have to Taunt when someone pulls the next group before we’re ready.

In Scarlet Monastery Library, there are lots of mobs that Stun you. I don’t lose aggro, because I’ve already blasted the hell out of the groups with Thunder Clap, Sunder Armor to left and to right, and Cleave. I get stunned, and I watch the nameplates show that I don’t lose aggro the whole time.

You can do it. You can even do it easily, especially if you give yourself every advantage.

Remember the tired old saying; Prior Proper Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance.

It may be a tired old saying, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s true!

27 thoughts on “Things to think about before Tanking

  1. I enjoy doing the random dungeons as a healer, with a tank that I know. And this combo gets you in dungeons always really fast. So this way, as we both know the etiquette, we get to see all sorts of styled dps’s come along. The tanks I play with often are really good at what they do so they are sometimes well mannered and do it real well and no one gets wiped. But I really like it as a healer that the tank pushes the envelope to the edge and almost get us wiped or in fact does and I just use the soulstone the warlock gives me to resurrect and resurrect the entire team. I love the challenge of the wipe, provided that we don’t have to come back from the graveyard. So I give my rebirth to the dying tank just before I get wiped myself from an onslaught (and the dps’s are all nearly down) and let the tank decide when it’s best to resurrect.


  2. I’m playing a druid tank for a while now and the last month i stopped playing my druid. Now i’ve picked up where i left of and started tanking again and i have to say that most dps i run with are pretty well geared and skilled. Most of those dps like to charge 0.0001 sec after i ran in so they can keep up their 8k dps over the entire run. Whenever a dps starts off with a 12k hit on a target i didn’t target swipe just doesn’t cut it and they pull aggro, i’ll taunt once which is usually all it takes before the mob is down. But if they keep pulling i just let them tank it.
    As is said in the tips most dps expect an ICC geared tank who can keep aggro no matter what they throw at the mobs. To new tanks all i can say is do your best and if you lose aggro to these trigger happy dps, let them leave and move on.


  3. My warrior tank just turned 30. It really is true about how, in almost all groups at this level, many dps start out by pulling and generally being ignorant, but settle right down when you take all the mobs and set a decent pace. I don’t even use the macro.

    Also I wanted to thank you for the heads up on threat plates. I tried it once when you mentioned it a month or 2 ago, didn’t like it and dropped it (mostly because it had defaulted to showing all plates instead of just enemies), then picked it up again a week later and loved it. Can’t hardly imagine tanking without it now.


  4. Yep, BBB gave me my start in tanking as a bear some time back. I’ve since gotten 2 more tanks to 80, a paladin and more recently, a warrior.

    One thing every tank needs to take away from this post: You have 2 jobs. Get threat, stay alive.

    A word to DPS migrating to tanking work: When you’re tanking, gear doesn’t matter much past the defence cap and basic HP requirements unless you’re running hardmode raid content. Work on situational awareness, knowing your abilities, and everything else will fall into place. At the end of the fight, so long as everyone is alive (granted its not always your problem) and the boss is down, you’re a hero.

    To HerrDrache: about the rhinos and warriors. You never noticed that you can’t thunderclap while silenced? ^_^ apparently the rhinos wrap bubblewrap around your feet so its real quiet when you stomp on the ground.


  5. Welcome to the world of warrior tanking 🙂

    One of the things I do in heroics is to focus the healer. That way I can tell what their mana bar looks like, how their health is (hopefully they moved
    out of the cleave in H-Nexus), and if I can keep pulling. I don’t ignore DPS, but yes, they’re lower on my attention scale. The cat that attacks the unmarked mob *just* far enough away that I can’t hit him, or the melee that stands next to me in front of the cleaving boss… well, I can’t help you. And if casters would please stand at caster range, as the 130% rule does NOT apply when in melee range? I’m dreaming again 🙂

    There’s an issue I ran into at 80 on the warrior when I was getting better gear. In raid gear I was rage starved, and in my “heroic tanking set” (still with everything stam/def/agi) I *still* ran into threat issues. At that point (please don’t try that as a fresh 80!) I decided to try to “threaten up” by increasing my damage. 2 DPS trinkets, a (bad) agi-DPS ring, and playing with a DPS weapon while upping my expertise helped a TON!
    And yes, I use ThreatPlates as well – next step is to turn on “mouseover threat” and see if/how well that works 🙂

    Lastly, knowing mobs… yeah. About that… Gun’Drak Rhinos. I tanked them on the warrior, dozens of times. I face-tanked them as a bear several times. They are no problem, right? I tank them as a Pally. And discover that they have a silence?!?! WTF is up with that? Whatever rotation I have is shot, I’m just trying out everything because of course I don’t know exactly what’s a spell and what’s not a spell… Most of what I tank with is a spell!!!


  6. Thanks again for another superb post.

    My ‘old’ main is a level 80 Ret Pally. I created a new Pally so that I could have a tanking toon (read a few articles and decided Pally was right for me). Rather than just pick up gear on my existing 80 and wing it for a while, I created the new toon to learn the mechanics from the beginning. I believe this has really helped me. I just hit 65 last night, and everything is going very well.

    I do have to laugh at the occassional trade or guild post stating, “I out dps’d the tank”…. well, thanks for doing your job.


  7. Here’s a tip for DPS using the default UI and keyboard layout.

    Tab: targets the creep in front of you. If you waited 0.5 seconds, he should be beating on the tank.
    F: targets what the creep is attacking (the tank).
    F: targets what the tank is attacking.
    Unload DPS.

    Three taps on two keys. Will really help the tank/group out.


  8. I’ll let you in on a secret. upgrade sunder to devastate, and toss in shield slam and shockwave (basically, a second, better sunder, and a second, better tclap), and I rarely use more than that to tank at 80. Sure, I’ve gotten into the habit of tossing other abilities in there as needed, but that’s the core, the 90% of situations.
    Can’t get those at level 35.

    As an 80 prot warrior, I add cleave to the mix to burn off a bit of rage and maintain a large lead on threat in heroics. Sometimes I do need to divert my attention for a second or three, and having a huge lead on threat on the whole group makes that easy.

    I also hate all those that mock my abilities when I use thunder clap on single targets. Do they not read the tooltip and see what else it does? Wow.

    Also, I started a frost DK tank just to see what the other side is up to. My advice for the pugs that get one of the hordes of frost DK tanks? Remember that they don’t have a ton of threat tools at that level. They may be level 60 or 61, but their abilities are limited because that is still the starting levels for them. Give them a break and hold off on groups to let them get aggro. It all comes back to Butt’s advice on worrying more about the group’s success and less about your own personal deeps.

    I have to tell this one, too: I was playing my baby paladin (Ret lvl 25) and got a group as DPS. The tank? A 24 fury warrior that didn’t even own a shield. He started dual-wield tanking and of course couldn’t hold aggro or anything. I popped on my sword and board and upped Righteous Fury and pretty much ignored him. The group saw how well this worked and also ignored him. After he died 6 times in a row by not being healed when he attacked something other than what I did, he got mad and left. We did a group /cheer and 4-manned the rest of it. I respecced prot and just queue as tank now.


  9. “I’m serious, as a Warrior tank at 35 in instances, I rarely use more than Thunder Clap, Sunder Armor, Cleave and Revenge. Sometimes I have to Taunt when someone pulls the next group before we’re ready.”

    I’ll let you in on a secret. upgrade sunder to devastate, and toss in shield slam and shockwave (basically, a second, better sunder, and a second, better tclap), and I rarely use more than that to tank at 80. Sure, I’ve gotten into the habit of tossing other abilities in there as needed, but that’s the core, the 90% of situations.

    As to other new-tank experiences, I was doing Oc on my DK, typically dps but I’d recently changed his second spec to tank, and had better gear than when I started tanking on my warrior back in the Emblem of Heroism days, including a 232 weapon, but still at least half blues. Thus, I knew how tank in the ways that go beyond any class’s particular abilities, I had gear I knew was up to the challenge of the zones, and I was entirely comfortable with my position. The full t10 warlock who’d pull boss aggro off me every time Dark Command’s fixate wore off? He didn’t say a word. I was waiting for him to, ready with righteous indignation, since clearly this was not a “tank sucks” moment but a “tank is decent but has mostly blues” moment, and figure he probably knew that too. Probably helped that I was solid on trash aggro, kept a good pace, and knew what I was doing.

    However, I know a lot of people who are tanking in youngish gear don’t have that experience, and I’ll typically cut them some slack. Then I see them do stuff like barely seem to notice when a mob is on the healer. Gear not withstanding, some folks have it, and some don’t. For now, that’s usually acceptable, since healers tend to have pretty solid HP pools and can survive a lot more, and the with-it dps just burned down the mob in a few second anyhow, but that won’t be the case come cataclysm. We won’t have random parties which greatly outgear the instances, and mistakes will be far more costly. With luck, the easy mode we’re in now, due to groupmates being able to pick up the slack, has served as enough of a training platform, teaching young tanks the basics in a low-cost environment and that they’ll adapt to higher stakes, but I’m not really that hopeful. I figure too many people, tank, dps, and healers, have learned too many bad habits, gotten too complacent. We’ll see.


  10. My advice when tanking, and I’m sure someone else mentioned it before I did, and that’s…BE NICE TO YOUR HEALER! I know that I have made countless friends leveling my second Prot Pally (yep, done it twice now) simply by whispering the healer and saying hi, and letting them know that I’ll be waiting on their mana. As soon as they see I really mean it…I’ve got a friend. Pity you can’t friend across servers, but hey, what are you gonna do?

    Second, is make sure when things go to hell that you have your healer’s back. If you’ve lost multiple mobs, or if some idjit pulled another group you didn’t intend, make sure you’ve got your healer covered. I noticed that, quite frequently in leveling dungeons, as long as my healer was alive….we’d get through the fight. Ii might take awhile, but we’d live.



  11. Nicely said, even if some random heroics its all I can do just make sure nobody pulls enough aggro to die, and i have even had some dps apologise when they did die because they know its their fault, DPS pulling 8k,9k in random heroics from start to finish, You really dont have a hope when you have used 2 gcd’s and a mob is allready at 25% hp. My best geared random dps so far has been a 6700 gs dk with frostmourne, I didn’t even know it was possible to be that high. DPS are pulling? Pull faster, just be aware of your healers mana,


  12. Great post — I was lucky enough to stumble across your site as I made the decision to make tanking my second spec after healing on my druid. Always good info.


  13. Sorry but anyone who dies as a Blood spec tank in the situations you have described is either having learn to play issues or the healer needs a few lessons in HoTing the tank up.

    As for the warrior with 30k health….thats more than people went into Naxx with at the start of WotLK and just because a tank isn’t ‘uncrittable’ doesn’t mean he is unhealable and can’t tank a heroic. In fact with enough resilience you will be uncrittable.

    A Holy Priest friend of mine loves to remind me that he kept a Blood dps specced DK, who was most certainly not uncrittable, alive in heroic Occulus a long time before it was nerfed and that was just with the original heroic badge gear…L200 stuff. Sometimes you have to step outside your comfort zone and rise to the challenge.

    On Topic BBB I love threat plates, it has made tanking a hell of alot easier, especially some of the more gnarly trash deeper in ICC.

    I play 3 tanks on and off, Paladin/DK/Bear and have to say that the most fun is the druid, nothing better than starting an instance, pointing your nose at the first mob and not stopping till you get to the last boss…fast and furious 🙂


  14. Bear, are you reading my mind? Seriously, this is an absolutely phenomenal collection of your how to tank tips and an absolute must-read for anyone who is thinking about trying the tank role out! Sure, a person can find plenty of tips on how to talent, how to gear but your explanation of how to control the battlefield is definitely a rare find! And quite helpful for someone who doesn’t have a clue where to begin! Kudos!!! 🙂


  15. I really like this post. But I do have to say, back in BC, I was that arms warrior that tanked. At least up until OL. But everything there hit hard enough that I went prot and never looked back,

    Even when Wrath came out, I leveled as prot. Nothing better than pulling 10 mobs and go at it, and still have 3/4 of your HP left.

    Now I’m working on my bear and am really enjoying tanking again. I do use a combination of Threat Plates and Omen to keep an eye on things. I had a tendency of spamming swipe until I started using Omen and actually seeing how large a threat lead I had. Threat Plates is awesome for a good overview of everything. But nothing beats Omen to see exactly how much you can ignore those mobs while focusing on another.

    Now I don’t recommend trying to tab Omen after pulling 10 mobs, that’s a little overkill. Then you go into the spray and pray mode.

    What I’m getting at, is I believe that there is a situation for ALL the tanking methods. And you just need to use a little common sense and decide which one on a pull by pull basis. I’ve learned that if you haven’t been marking throughout the run, then suddenly a skull shows up, they know you mean it. Just don’t abuse it and they will follow your direction. This isn’t BC where you needed to mark EVERYTHING, saps, sheeps, etc.

    Just tank and have fun.


  16. Agreed with the post above.
    One problem that I seem to have is that once my random groups see than I can pretty much control large packs of mobs they just go on and pull more even tho’ I saw that the healer is oom or that one is afk or any other reason like that. So my problem seems to be more of a group control. Dunno if this fits in the post or not but I guess it’s som tanks should think about.


  17. I think one other aspect to being a successful tank is being able to take a punch. Being a tank and healer I have had more than my fair share of frustration with tanks that require round the clock healing. Not to single anyone out but this is especially common amongst death knight tanks. A new trend for DKs is to be blood spec tank. I am sure they feel very cool and powerful tanking and while they hold aggro well they cannot take a punch and as soon as the healer has to heal some one the tank goes down.

    One of my main reasons for insisting that Aggro control and Mitigation are of equal importance. In higher end dungeons regardless of threat there are attacks that hurt the whole group or random group members. Sometimes the tank no matter how good their aggor holding skills are, cannot prevent people from getting damaged. It is important that you can server for several seconds with out being healed. If you cannot you will most likely wipe everyone. The healer will have to eventually heal some one else if not everyone else. If you cannot survive on you own then the whole group suffers. So always keep in mind that you need to be specced to take damage and wearing gear designed for tanking. I had a Warrior in a heroic that thought just because he was protection and with 30k health he could tank. Sad fact is he was wearing PvP gear and was easily crushable. We wiped three times before finally booting him.

    I am not trying to spur any arguments just trying to point out a recent trend I have noticed amongst random tanks. And pls if your going to tank as a DK pls be frost they have the best damage adsorbing abilities.


  18. Awesome tips and I agree that more and more these days what used to be known as a poor tank is now a mediocre tank. But that’s what happens when the game gets dumbed down to “Charge in and go” (and yeah, heroics were like that even as fresh 80’s, so long as you weren’t pugging)

    Don’t get me wrong though. Tanking is still the hardest job in the game simply because you have to watch everything and hustle your butt around quick. Tanks do the most work in the game and get no appreciation for it usually. It does make me feel warm and fuzzy though when I switch to Prot (Paladin) to get quick Daily Random Heroics, and at the end everyone is wowed at how fast and smooth the dungeon went. That is not all due to the tank though, speed is limited by healer mana and DPS gear/skill levels. But the tank certainly sets the pace and those odd times when you do get thanks for it, you smile to yourself and leave the dungeon a little more happy than you normally would. : )


  19. I’ve seen a lot of people try the switch from DPS to Tank and a lot of them quit because it is a totally different mindset and it is difficult to figure out, especially when you have level 80’s that expect a tank to know what is going on. If you stick with it tho, you will be rewarded with a plethora of groups and super short wait times on LFG. With practice it comes easier and you learn what to do in those situational circumstances. Don’t be discouraged because there will always be those rude asshats that only care about themselves and will criticize and be disrespectful. You just have to take it in stride and learn from it. You will make mistakes, don’t let other people persuade you to quit.


  20. Great post BBB, I was also interested to know how your warrior is doing… glad she’s going strong!

    The next thing we tanks want to work on after getting a solid handle on threat, is situational awareness. Like BBB said, once you have solid threat, keep an eye out for pats… if you’re the first one to pick them up before they wander into DPS AOE, you’ll find it much easier to hold on to them. Your friend here is your camera – stop zooming in on your toon’s butt… spin the view to a top down view, turn it sideways so you can see down that corridor you’ve not cleared yet, or around to face your toon… what you’re trying to do is get an angle that gives you the greatest possible awareness of what is going on around you.

    /script SetCVar(”cameraDistanceMax”,40) (even 50) will increase your max camera distance to let you zoom out more and see more. I often tanking with my toon showing as a little ant just to avoid tunnel vision on my current targets and so I can see everything going on around me.

    Also, what you want to do is to get the jump on mobs before they get the jump on you… I’ve tanked with bears and warriors to 80 and I find groups just adore you if you charge and grab a pack that just ambled up. This is different from chain pulling – this is pulling loose mobs that are about to run into your group, before they trip over DPS AOE or aggro on to the healer.

    If you had enough threat on the mobs you were tanking, they’ll stay on you until they die even with you not hitting them again – leaving you free to grab the next pack and build threat on them. With experience in tanking, you’ll get a feel for when you can stop hitting a mob and focus on another with confidence that you won’t lose threat until the mob’s demise. Threat plates help a lot too, they make tanking so much easier that its actually relaxing now (unless you have two retard DPS that will focus fire two different mobs, then it can be annoying).

    Mind you, I’m not advocating rockstar tank chain pulls with no regard to healer mana – just picking up pats pathing to your current engagement so you stay i control of what is happening! 🙂


  21. Hey,
    thanks a lot for this. You have no idea how much it helped. I started tanking with my drood for a while now, she just hit lvl 62 and i’m starting to have some DK problems but i’m slowly getting the hang of it.
    Some of your posts are very helpful. Great job 🙂


  22. I have only ONE single expectation of a tank – that she can protect the healer. Think about it – all mobs running loose will turn on the healer. So if the healer is protected, the mobs are on the tank. And if a DPS pulls aggro – blame the DPS. Even basic WoW will give you threat warning. If you still manage to get aggro – live with it (or die).

    So my advice to all new tanks – and I think I’m completely in line with good old bear here – WATCH the environment. Do not pay attention to omen. Do not care about your DPS. Watch if anything starts hitting on your healer – and take actions against this. Once you have this covered, you can move on to other things (like facing the mobs all the time).

    Rauxis, chosen of CAT


  23. never over estimate your dps either…they will surprise you ever once in a while…
    one peice of advice…Don’t expect a “GOOD JOB” every time..some days Tanking is a thankless job no matter how good you are


  24. Averna, I know exactly what you mean.

    Yes, once you build up a solid threat lead, one thing to try and do is coast on the mob(s) left alive so you build up rage before the next pull. Especially watch Maul at low levels – it’s a rage stealer from hell.

    At low levels, before your talents start feeding you rage back, it’s a pain.

    One thing I’m doing is keeping a stock of Rage Potions on hand at all times. The most irritating ingredient is Sharp Claw, and as long as you hold onto the ones you get when killing animals, hand em over to a friendly alchemist and you’ll have disposable rage in those clutch moments.

    IF you are better at remembering to use potions than I am, anyway.

    The other thing I did last night, was when I dinged 35, I leveled my First Aid all the way to Frostweave Bandages. Having 2200 health, and being able to regain the whole thing by using one bandage for four seconds is OP. Seriously, what else am I supposed to do with all the Frostweave I get on my mains? Might as well have OP self heals between pulls… or when the Mage frost novas all of em and you back up for 2 secs. Or if you’re the healer or DPS, and would like to handle your own healing when out of mana.

    It’s fun!


  25. Nice post; I love it when you post tanking tips, mainly because I’m so new to it. =)

    My problem with my drood tank (she’s level 33ish atm) is that I’m more often than not rage-starved. The most frustrating thing is when Enrage is on CD and I’m mashing the Swipe button for all it’s worth, praying I build enough rage soon to unleash it. Lately I’ve been getting better about trying to build up my rage on easy 1-2 mob pulls (I’m learning that I actually *don’t* have to swipe every time it’s up when there are 2+ mobs). But rage is still an issue for me.


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