Archive for June, 2011

The tank girl

…is that it’s hard. Tanking is really quite hard. So why does everyone think they can do it.

There are three things the average tank fails to grasp these days. Firstly, keeping aggro is not all there is to being a tank. Secondly, a massive health pool is not the solution to every tanking problem. Finally, better gear will make you live longer, it can’t make you tank better. You need all of these things and more.

So the basic check list is: tanking gear, not PvP gear, no matter how good. 110K health is an absolute minimum for warriors in Cataclysm heroics. 26 Expertise will help you to generate threat and if you can reach the hit cap that will really help with aggro retention too. For heroics, groups of trash are going to be key and, besides, single target tanking has always been, will always be, easier. It’s therefore a good idea to err on the side of AoE: glyph for Thunderclap, Cleave and Shockwave. You’ve got the bare minimum prerequisites now let’s talk about skills.

The first one is almost too obvious to list. Don’t go anywhere without you healer. Also, make your healer’s mana your priority, you may not think that you use mana as a tank, but where do you think those heals come from. Try tanking without a healer for five minutes and see how dead you are.

Now, let’s talk groups. They mostly contain a mix of casters and melee. Sometimes even healers, I’ll come to them in a second. Warriors in particular hate casters. But we have means of dealing with them too, Blizz gave us tools to match Avengers Shield. They’re just not as powerful. When in doubt charge a caster, you can drop a Thunderclap as you pass the melee, casters are often at the back of groups. This will stun the caster and get the melee to where you need them…where the caster is because you’re saving Heroic Throw or Pummel for silencing the other caster and getting it over to the other three (or more) in a nice little group. Mars haling the mobs is essential for a good tank. Knowing what to do is only half of the equation though, you’re going to need to practice this technique. Personally, I favour Charge caster, Thunderclap, Cleave, Shockwave the mobs you have in place and Heroic Throw the caster outside the melee, forcing them to come to you. Wind up your rotation.

Paladins have Avenger’s Shield to marshal the mobs and they should always make a caster the target of the cast and move in to the melee range of the other. Death Knights have Death Grip. For tanking the principle is always the same move to one (or more) caster(s) and get the other(s) to come to you. What you are trying to avoid is tanking a small melee group between two out of range caster mobs. If they’re out of range you can’t build any aggro on them and the DPS or more likely the healer will aggro them and start taking damage. Damage to a healer equals interrupts with means dead tank, dead healer, wipe.

If you’re unlucky enough to face healer mobs, mark them up with skull charge them and wind up you rotation with liberal use of Throw Down and Pummel to interrupt those annoying heals. No one likes to kill a mob two or three times. If you have two healers mobs always make life easy on yourself and your healer by cc-ing one and burning down the other, ASAP. Easy is good. Taking your time to cc and discuss how you’d like to handle the next group will get you home quicker and just put the go guy on ignore. If he pulls, he tanks and when he’s dead you can pick up the tanking again. He either learns fast or quits the group. Either is fine.

The last thing to focus on in taking your tanking from basic: I have the gear and know a good rotation, to exceptional is situational awareness. There are two parts to this; a) extra mobs: spawns, patrols and ass pulls and b) fire; don’t stand in it.

Extra mobs happen. One minute your basking in holding the attention of 4 or 5 ugly brutes as your DPS burn them down then you’re joined by more. This can happen through bad luck, some mobs actually summon more, some mobs patrol a wide area and can easily catch you out and sometimes careless DPS or indeed tanks, or knock back or fear can lead to someone ass pulling the next pack. Deal with it. Accidents happen, people who have never been in a dungeon before have to have a first time. A good tank doesn’t bitch about n00bs he copes and then explains where the DPS should’ve been standing to avoid the extra mobs getting pulled. Wipes happen roll with it and be a leader. Sometimes with a good party, pressing the panic buttons: Challenging Shout, Retaliation, Shield Wall and Last Stand, will get all the mobs hitting you and not the healer, giving the healer a chance to heal you uninterrupted, the DPS will target assist and only attack your main target, pop all of their cooldowns and pots. You can win a stunning victory, everyone smiles, laughs, feels good and has fun. That is why we’re doing it right?

The other Tank Girl.

Fire, yeah a decent tank won’t stand in it to do their work. An exceptional tank will ensure there is a safe place, out of the fire, at the back or side of the mob where the melee DPS can safely do their job. Commander Ulthok, in Throne of Tides, is a prefect example of where a tank can distinguish themselves in this regard. Only today I had a tank who moved Ulthok to the edge of new void zones he creates on the floor after smashing down a Dark Fissure. This left nowhere for the melee DPS to attack from so both the Death Knight and myself died to a Dark Fissure slam because we could only DPS Ulthok from in front of the boss, next to the tank. We also lost DPS as although attacks from behind can be dodged, then cannot be parried, which is why melee DPS that knows their job always attack from behind. So that’s simply bad tanking. The same is true of Slabhide in Stonebore. Dragons usually have fiery breath and a huge frontal cleave. So tanking Slabhide on the edge of lake of fire pools puts your DPS in a quandary. Shall we stand back and do no DPS until the pools subside or continuing DPS-ing from in front of the dragon risking instant death? Again, bad tanking.

Basic tanking is easy: find a mob, hit a mob, keep aggro on a mob, have lots of health so you don’t get one hit. Exceptional tanking is about knowing and caring what is happening to the rest of the group. The healer because without them you cannot tank and the DPS because without them you will be tanking the same one mob for one hell of a long time…probably until the healer runs out of mana and you die. Good tanking is about thinking about your party and helping them do their jobs.

Instinct and experience.

I’m a committed PUGger, I’ve have some great experiences PUGging old and new content. I meet some fine people on my realm and others. However, waxing lyrical about great PUGs and phat lewts is boring and disaster, stupidity and chaos is far more amusing.

Admittedly it can seem like I am volatile, impatient and intolerant. The explanation for this is that I am. However, there is often good reason for me to be so. Some people may think I get annoyed about nothing and others that I am simply intolerant of inexperience and jump to hasty conclusions. The explanation for this is that I am and I do, but no one really cares.

This is the essential problem of PUGs – no one really cares. My experience is that a PUG can collapse and fail for many reasons. You can suggest an alternate course of action, a different tactic and people will ignore you and carry on regardless. When you point out that we wiped again because you failed to understand the mechanic and follow the simple tactic to cope with that mechanic they /ragequit the group, usually after a rant about your DPS. You can bite your tongue and take a deep breath and line up at the the boss after a long corpse run and have the: tank / healer / half the DPS / all of the above; quit the party shortly after the pull. Punked! You can even rant and berate people for not tanking the right target, healing the person taking the damage or standing in the fire and in CAPS explain the tactics for the third time and have a great run all bosses cleared. Go figure.

Given this and the inevitable level of abuse the average (or exceptional) player can receive in PUGs, for no justifiable reason, it’s hard not to justify lighting up at small or large fuck ups. As I posted previously, accident and inexperience I can tolerate if people are trying. However, stupidity, ignorance and arrogance I can’t and won’t find it in my heart to be patient with.

I’ll give you some examples. Excellent healer gets abused after a wipe for not giving the tank any healing, which “caused” the wipe. I’ve seen this a million times and even the best healers (skilled and geared) will struggle to heal while constantly being interrupted by, say, four panthers…try it yourself. I’ve seen excellent tanks abused for losing aggro on one mob…to a mage nuking an unmarked target one of a group (the one the mage also neglected to polymorph: “with 17K DPS I don’t need to sheep!”)

With Tier 12 content imminent 10K is, while by no means spectacular, still more than adequate to hold up one third of the DPS triumvirate. So when I was in Zul’Gurub the other day and we were having a poke at the ‘Raptor Boss’, I was disappointed that we wiped mostly to standing in the fire and all taking way too much damage to be sustainable. I was more disappointed that the healer commented that he didn’t think we had enough DPS for this fight. After we spanked the boss soundly the next try with little or no problem: better focus, more considered placement; everyone on their mettle; Clearly we had enough DPS to comfortably down that boss with everyone doing their job. I couldn’t resist commenting:

[Fleetfoot]Not enough DPS my arse.

[Healer] 9.4K on that last boss?

[Fleetfoot] Is the boss dead, was it a struggle?

No reply.

This bullshit started in TBC with the introduction of badge gear. Once upon a time you had to run dungeons to get gear…now you get abused for running them in gear from heroics and putting out the DPS of someone in gear from heroics. Tanks need to be epic, full T11, and never lose aggro even with casters nuking as they’re charging in. Healers need to cope with tanks pulling the instance and taking surprisingly large spike damage. Entering Zul’Gurub for the first time you need to know all the tactics and put down 24K DPS to be sure of not getting any abuse.

Maybe it’s that people just like someone to blame. But I’ve been kicked out out groups for my pitiful 10K DPS when everything is going well. Maybe they don’t like to carry me, but when I’m not grouped with people putting out 18K+ DPS, I seem to manage to claw my way up to 14K – 16K, I can peak at (fluke to) 24K on bosses. Some people fail to realise that their high DPS output can actually impact the output of the less well geared. if you can’t wind up your rotation, and get your talents proc-ing, then you will look significantly worse than you actually are. Frequently I’m told I’m much, much worse than I am. Which is harsh especially when I’m playing one of my fun alts…yeah if I was here fully gemmed, enchanted and food buffed we’d see how large the skill gap was!

So I’m tired of tanks who pull the first group in Heroic Throne of Tides berate the poor DPS for taking 15 minutes to kill four mobs. Mark a healer, CC a healer and we can focus DPS and interrupts on them and then they can’t heal each other back to full health forever. I’m tired of tanks blaming DPS for dying when we’re in Stonecore because they’re happy tanking Slabhide on the edge of multiple fire pools, a veritable fire lake, and the DPS can’t get in back or to the side without taking damage from these pools. Don’t just get yourself out the the fire get the dragon to a clear spot or to a place where the back or at least one side of the hit box is safe to stand, as well as at the front where you are.

I’m tired of healers that let you die and then shout at you for having three mobs on you that you took off them. Dead healer equals wipe. So if three mobs are hitting on the healer and the tank can’t or won’t go pick them up give me a few heals when I come charging over and aggro them all off you and try to move back to the tank. I saved your neck and the group. If you can’t get heals on me because the tank is taking a lot of damage at least don’t berate me for dying.

I get unfair baseless abuse all the time in PUGs. I’ve been around with my DPS chars and too often I’m the last man man standing in a wipe. I usually know where to stand and when I need to sacrifice myself for the healer. So my metre output often does look a littlle low, but I invariable get to the end of dungeons with a group that has an eye on all that is happening around them and not just on the DPS metre.

So if I appear to ignite at the slightest thing it’s usually because I know what is coming next. I recognize thin edge of wedge opening remarks and behaviour and I heard it all and I’m so tired of it.

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