Tanking in World of Warcraft – Part 1?

As I mentioned a couple days ago, I’m starting to explore the third major role in World of Warcraft, that is, being a tank. What I have I learned so far?

No, not that kind of tank. Although a tank would be a pretty good tank now that I think about it..
No, not that kind of tank. Although a tank would be a pretty good tank now that I think about it..


By tanking, I mean the role that is pivotal to most 5 man dungeon groups, and even more pivotal to Raid groups of 10 or more. They get the boss’s attention, and more importantly, keep it. Their job is to take the shots that would easily crush the squishier members of the group (and when you’re the tank, EVERYONE is squishier then you) and keep going. Of course, without a healer (or in the case of raids, multiple healers usually), the tank will eventually die, and a tank sacrifices their damage potential, so it’s up to the DPS folks to actually do the major work to bring the boss down, but especially when you get to the top levels, you can cover for a below-average healer, or DPS fairly easily.

However, tanking mechanics are not graded on a pass/fail basis.. more like a pass/WIPE basis.

By that I mean usually, there’s some mechanic that the tank(s) have to move the boss and or switch which tank has the boss’s attacks (a concept known as aggro) or things can go very bad very quickly. You have to know the windows for a fight pretty well, as you may only have a few seconds to do the handoff or move the boss, or you’re going to be eating dirt very quickly. In a lot of cases, you’re working with people you haven’t worked with before, and/or can barely communicate with.

When things go well, it sounds like this.

“Ok, we’ve pulled boss.. move him to the skull (a prearranged spot on the map).. good, face him away from the raid, good.. taunt switch in 30 seconds.. be ready to move him over to X (another prearranged spot on the map) after switch..” It flows nice and easily, almost with military precision.

This is what it ends up being like sometimes.

“Ok.. here we go.. hey? Who pulled the extra mobs? Ok, I got this.. taunting the monster.. NO you can’t go eat the healer.. get back here. ok.. oh shit, fire.. move! NO stop using the healer as a chew toy, monster.. Wait, HUNTER, WHAT ARE YOU DOING, you’ve pulled half the room… NO, STOP EATING THE HEALERS.. get back here!  Argh! Gotta use all my cooldown abilities and then.. DAMNIT, where did these extra monsters come from?? Heal me heal me heal me heal me.. (every one dies)”

Hunters can be a valued member of any dungeon team or raid.. or they can be your worst nightmare as a Tank. And the sad thing is, they can be both at the same time.
Hunters can be a valued member of any dungeon team or raid.. or they can be your worst nightmare as a Tank. And the sad thing is, they can be both at the same time.


You get the point.

I think if there was a study done, you’d find more people who play as Tanks who are the Alpha types.. they want to control the fights, when to start it, etcetera. There’s a definite feeling of superiority amongst them, and I can understand why. The difference between average tanks and great tanks is that an average tank can handle your average raid encounter fairly well. Great tanks can handle average raid encounter, and just about every application of Murphy’s Law (whatever can go wrong will go wrong) that can happen. There are some things that even the best tanks can’t handle, but a great tank can make an average raid group look spectacular. And there’s always a high level of demand even for average tanks.

So why am I trying it? Because after something like six+ years of World of Warcraft play for me, it’s the one role I’ve constantly avoided. I’ve played DPS classes like crazy.. I’ve picked up Healing classes with my latest characters. But never, ever ever have I played a tank. Why?

Because as a tank, you feel like you always SHOULD be in control of things, and as things mostly turn out, you’re not, especially levelling. You’re dealing with people learning new abilities and not understanding the drawbacks on them. For example, a Hunter with Barrage may think “Hey! I can shoot everything within this range, do a lot of damage! I’m helping the team!”

And meanwhile you’re screaming that he just shot a bunch of new monsters into the existing combat and that you (as Tank) has to grab the monsters aggro before the monsters can make their displeasure as being filled with pointy sticks evident by eating said hunter, and then the rest of the party.

I know it sounds like I’m down on hunters. Well, to a point I am, there’s a reason that one of the most usual classes to be referenced with an epithet is a Hunter. I won’t repeat it here.

As a Tank, you need to be able to respond quickly to regain control of an encounter that’s always on the verge of spiraling out of control. And that feeling (that loss of control because you simultaneously have to manage your own mechanics for fights, and watch out for everyone else’s screw-ups of said mechanics) drove me nuts. It’s like herding cats, except in this case, the cats are being chased by wild hungry wolves.

So, it’s going to be a while for me to be comfortable as a tank, but it’s a new frontier for me in World of Warcraft. So, have a bit of appreciation for your tank the next time you play a MMO, alright?

Oh, and if you play with Katyala-Sentinels, give me a thumbs up, and don’t hold any problems against me, Ok? 🙂

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