Monday, March 30, 2009

Just Because You're Wearing a Shield...

... That doesn't mean you're a tank.

There. I said it. Somebody had to. We were _all_ thinking it but why is it always me who has to be the one who actually says it. No wonder everyone hates me.

I ran heroic Nexus on my secret death knight alt last night and I should have seen the warning signs right away. The warrior tank couldn't hold aggro to save his life. Lost aggro twice on the first pull... Which consists of one mob. The second pull was... Peculiar. I took a lot of damage from "somewhere". I'm guessing the two dogs that were flanking the humanoid.

The first three pull, however, was the really telling on. He locked onto a mob and never looked at the others. So when they healer did his job, they went straight for him. I was trying to lock down a healing mob when I saw that there was a mob on the healer. When I taunted him, I had _two_ mobs on me. In DPS gear and in blood presence, I dropped pretty quickly. It was enough for us to get through that fight but we wiped on the first boss because of the same issues.

It was shortly after that when I said "screw it" and put on my tanking gear and frost presence. I'm not a tanking spec on that toon but my gear is good enough that I can fake it on trash. I can at least make sure that the healer is OK... But here's the thing:

I ended up tanking everything... ALL of the trash. Even the mob the warrior "tank" was on. I mean... Maybe, you lose a mob here or there. But to not notice that your target isn't attacking _you_? That's too much.

I died on the mage boss during the second split because I was in my DPS gear and had two of the three copies on me... At least two. We wiped on Anomalus because the warrior lost aggro (and I was in my DPS gear/blood presence) and mashed the squishies... Tanking gear back on for attempt two. I ended up tanking him about 40% of the time. But I couldn't do the damage to the rifts so... It was dicey. The rock boss was about the same as the second attempt on Anomalus: Dicey, I tanked about 40% of the fight, but we got through it... Come to think of it... That's how the last fight went... But with a twist. The shaman (who was geared and a good player) had started putting earth shield on me instead of the warrior. He knew what was what.

I was so frustrated that I actually remembered the warrior's name and looked him up this morning. He's fully Fury and Arms. Not a single point in prot. While it is irresponsible to tank a heroic in his gear without a tanking spec... There's more to tanking than just a spec and a shield.

Tanking is an indelicate balance between keeping aggro on all of the mobs while maintaining a lot more threat on the target mob. While a proper spec helps with this, so does reading your tooltips and looking for abilities that "generate additional threat" as opposed to your normal DPS rotation. Yes, damage does generate threat, but Sunder generates more. You should know where your defensive cooldowns are and which to use when. You should know which talents are good for mitigation and which are good for threat generation and you should choose those over talents that generate more damage. Which is to say, you should be familiar with your class.

Tanking means knowing the fights... And I'm not saying "all the fights"... But you should have played enough to know what mobs look like healers and which are ranged because most tanks are made the de facto party leaders for marking purposes. And you should pay attention because most trash mobs are repeated through an instance. Which is to say, you should know the game.

Tanking also requires situational awareness. This is a trap I've seen too many tanks fall into. They lock down one mob while 3 others are allowed to do whatever they want. Not only does this cause wipes, it fosters frustration within the group. You need to be aware of when CC breaks and doesn't get applied. You need to keep an eye out for mobs moving in odd ways. And you should also tab through the targets to make sure that every one of the mobs is looking at you. Which is to say, you should be familiar with your role.

No matter how good your gear is... No matter how cookie cutter your tanking spec is... If you fail in any of those areas, you're going to be a bad tank. And that may be fine if the people you're running with _know_ you're a bad tank because you told them. But if you sign up to tank a heroic with people you don't know, the expectation is that you'll have at least a passing familarity with the instance, with your abilities, with the role of a tank and that you've got at least _some_ points in tanking talents.

This guy from last night... Had none. But he did, however, have a shield.

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