Saturday, July 24, 2010

Tanking Basics

Alright, well this was my first idea for a nice long post to get me into this blogging thing. I am going to do a general tanking guide for beginners. My hope for this guide is for it to be general enough as to not become outdated by Cata releasing but specific enough that it isn’t just mindless reading material; you will have to let me know if I hit that mark. Alright here we go…

I am going to split this into sections that I feel make sense and then elaborate on them. I will try and order them from what I believe is the most basic to the most complicated, or in other words most to least important. I hope that every tank does everything in the post to some degree but the later things will be not as important to do your job.

1) Know Your Abilities
This is what I believe to be the most important thing that ANY new player should do. It is especially important for those with more responsibility in fights such as tanks and healers and dps with special roles. When I say know your abilities, I don’t simply mean the ones that are used regularly by your spec but all of the abilities you might ever use if you played every role you are able to. You should never say to yourself, “ I know all my bear form abilities so I am set to tank”. Tanking is about being prepared and one of the best ways to do that is to know your class extremely well. An Example: did you know that if you want to root 2 mobs it is possible to do it, pull with entangling roots and then cast natures grasp on yourself. You can refresh roots without the NG one breaking and you can redo NG by having that mob hit you again. Now a lot of people may be saying to themselves what useless information that is and I will admit that it is almost completely useless for PvE. I have never used it and probably never will but I know that I can.

2) Know your Talents
With the overhaul coming to talent trees in Cata this may not be as important but I will still list it here anyway because for the time being I believe that it is very important. Different from the abilities, you should know the talents trees of the specs you play inside and out. I will probably never play resto so I only really know the top three tiers that I use for feral but in my feral tree I know tons of details. When I finished leveling to 80 and was creating my raiding spec for WotLK I spent almost an hour and a half combing through the talent tree individually looking at each talent and researching it. I came up with the cookie cutter build for druid tanking at the time all by myself and I know the pros and cons of every talent. Now that may have been extreme but knowing all my talents like that I have had to adapt to changing talents only very slightly and I knew what they all did and was able to make a very educated decision about my spec. It is not good enough to simply go to elitist jerks and copy their spec for the patch, sure your spec may end up looking the same anyway or you may want to use that as a very strict guideline but do something yourself so that you know what your talents can do for you. You may not need an hour but do 20 mins and have a better knowledge of what you are putting points in. You decided that you want to tank, now you have to do some work to get ready.

3) Know How to Pick Gear and Weight Stats
This is easy and only takes about 15 min to find out. All you want to know is maybe your 4 or 5 most important stats and their weightings relative to each other. There are lots of guides out there that will tell you what gear you should use over another and I use them quite frequently but when I am out in a raid or and instance I know my stat weights good enough that almost ever time I will pick the better piece anyway. This is definitely worth your time.

4) Know the Other Classes
This knowledge will be very general. Know the other classes buffs, major debuffs, big cooldowns, and the basic abilities used at max level for each spec. You don’t have to be able to have a thought provoking conversation about the ins and outs of arcane blast and arcane missiles and how they relate but at least know that they are used by arcane mages. The exception to this is the other tanking classes. You need to know them a step better. They are there with you doing your same job and you aught to show them a little more respect. For the other three tank classes you want a general knowledge of how they tank and pull as well as the usual patterns that they follow. Its probably a good idea to know what their defensive cooldowns are (except pallys cause they all sound the same :P).

5) Relax
So often you hear new tanks or perspective tanks worried about dealing with pugs and how they will react to them. In the end it really doesn’t matter what they think. No one is expecting you be the best in the world even though some people might seem like they do. All anyone in those groups wants is for you to be competent and you cant do that if your all nervous and freaking out and tense. Talk with guildies over vent, eat while you raid (healthy food though :P), or my personal favourite is to make funny noises IRL when no one is around. However bad you feel the run is going, or you are doing, just take a step back and relax.

6) Practice
The only way you are going to get better is to practice. If you need to learn your rotation, your abilities better, how to pick things up better or anything else, you need to practice. You can’t learn to tank by going out and doing dailies, you learn to tank by tanking. If you are so worried that you are going to be a bad tank and that people are going to make fun of you that you never queue in the dungeon finder, im sorry to say it but you are going to be a bad tank. You have to queue to get experience tanking; you don’t need experience tanking to queue as a tank. Just let your group know you’re new and get on your way. If they kick you shake it off and queue again. You wait 3 seconds for a group they wait 5 min for a tank. If you really do not want to do a random dungeon group, go with friends. They will know what’s going on and even though they might poke fun at you while you are learning they probably wont be hostile. That being said there are two really good ways to learn to tank that I have found, the calm gentle way and the one that forces you to get better. The calm way first, queue for a group in a dungeon that is under your level by say 2 or 3. This way you probably will not have to worry about dying or wiping but a really good player might give you some threat issues to deal with and it will help you learn to pick up mobs. This way is really good for learning how to pull and position and lets you get a rhythm for your tanking. The second way is to go into a dungeon of your level where everyone else in the dungeon over gears you. This forces you to improve you reflexes, gives you better vision for mobs that are running and given enough time will help you relax. This method is stressful at first but I find it a lot more fun once you get a hang of it.

7) Bind Taunt
In a perfect world you could stick taunt off on some obscure action bar where you would casually mouse over to it and gently click it in order to properly tank switch on a fight that requires a tank switch. This is not a perfect world. You bind taunt in the most natural, most easy to hit place that you can hit in the least amount of time possible, because in this non perfect world you are going to use taunt, and you are going to use it a lot. I don’t care if you are a clicker and you key bind nothing, if you are only binding one thing to one button on your keyboard or mouse it better be taunt.

8) Always Be Prepared
To a lot of people this most likely seems like second nature; they go to a raid with flasks and a well fed and they are ready to go. But are you really prepared with just a flask and a well fed? As a dps player all you have to know for the fight is there anything you shouldn’t stand in or that you have to move for and are there target switches. Tanks need to know everything. Being prepared to go to a raid isn’t just limited to having a flask and a well fed, you need to understand the fight and almost all the spells and abilities and adds that come during the fight. Any little ability in the fight has the potential to change what you are doing drastically as a tank. When you go into a fight you need to have a solid knowledge of what is going to happen to everyone. Now ill lay off the preachy part for a second. Being prepared does not mean that you have read all the abilities and memorized them, while also having watched three different strat videos showing you every thing that you should look for in the encounter. For each individual person this will be different. 95% of the time your raid leader will give a rundown of the fight and positioning that they want…take that into account. You will most likely have a wipe or two while everyone is learning the fight…take that into account. When I was doing naxx I watched every strat video that tankspot put out, I was new to raid tanking and wanted to be absolutely prepared. Now I often just read the boss abilities and listen the raid leaders description and then jump into the fight. Your goal for the boss should be that after a wipe you understand the majority of the mechanics and then after that you simply work to improve your reactions to them. One more thing…don’t take heroics lightly, it used to actually require a little knowledge to kill those bosses when they were fresh and I don’t know how many times I’ve seen a tank just eat Ingvar’s smash in UK when it is really easy to avoid and can almost one shot you at appropriate gear levels, Just saying.

9) Know What Is and Is Not Your Fault
Too many times I have seen tanks take blame for things that are not their fault and are totally out of their control. Even worse though is when tanks do not take the blame for things that absolutely are their fault, and this happens even more. When you understand a fight this will be much more clear to you and having this simple knowledge will help you to relax. Do not use this as a means to attack people who mess up but instead just know for yourself so you can tune them out or accept it and move on. As a start follow this simple (and entirely incomplete) tanking mantra:
If the tank dies it’s the healers fault,
If the healer dies it’s the tanks fault,
If the dps die it’s their own friggin fault.
While not always true it’s a good point to start from.

10) Find Your Own Rhythm
As you become more comfortable with tanking this will naturally happen but it is a good thing to note. Some tanks are extremely spastic and move all over the place when they don’t need to. In guild chat I once referred to tanking as a dance where you are leading and the mobs are dancers that are following. That was a brilliant metaphor imo. It’s exactly how tanking should be. There should be a way you move that is always the same and appears to be graceful. There will be times when you will fall out of step and lose that, but always return to that natural tanking rhythm you set for yourself. Now I may be overdoing this now but so ill stop but having that rhythm helps everyone. Healers will know how to expect you to move, tanking will become so much more natural for you and dps will thank you because they know how the mobs are going to move all the time. This rhythm is going to be slightly different for most people but it helps immensely. The people it helps the most of anyone in the raid however are your other tanks. After tanking with someone for a while you pick up their rhythm and you learn to adapt to it and you work so much better together than if the other person was erratic. It goes along with practice but its something to keep in mind while you are learning.

11) Get a Threat Meter
This is one of the most important things that you can have as a tank as far as addons go. I will not tell you what to use or how to use it but get one. Currently I use Omen3 for single targets and the underrated and imo extremely powerful built in blizzard threat meter for all my off targets. I know that there are probably better ways to show this. Grid I believe can be set up to do this, John “Big Bear Butt” Patricelli over at likes to use the threat plates skin for tidyplates (which I am slowely becoming a fan of) and I am sure there are more I am missing. “Sorry I didn’t know I didn’t have agro” is not an excuse, its just because you were being to lazy. Not being able to react in time is fine but simply not knowing an add is running around is not acceptable.

12) Never Tunnel
DPS are known to do what is called tunneling. Tunneling is when you focus only on your dps and your rotation and don’t notice what is going on around you. When a dps tunnels they die, when a tank or a healer tunnels other people die. You chose to be a tank and so you chose what goes along with being a tank. The simple greatest skill you need is awareness. A whole lot of awareness can make up for a lot of crappy play. Some things that you need to keep track of are not easy such as specific debuffs on specific players that affect you as a tank. I can’t really give you many pointers as to how to get this skill but move your camera…a lot.

13) Install a Boss Mod
More experienced tanks will wean themselves off of relying on boss mods but when you are learning they are extremely helpful for knowing what is going to happen and when. As you get better you will find that you look at it less and less. You may find it kind of annoying but most of these addons are very small on your UI and you get used to them being there. If you feel that you are beyond using boss mods I am not going to say you are an idiot for having them but even though I rarely look at mine, I would far rather have it and not need it, than need it and not have it. The three I know of are Deadly Boss Mod, DXE, and BigWigs.

14) Don’t Seek Acceptance, Expect Rejection
When you are tanking you will rarely, if ever, get any sort of gratifying compliment outside of your guild members, and even within your guild it is not a given. A good tank is not often recognized until they screw up, once. You wont often hear that you did a good job for picking up that group that just came without casualties, but you will know in about 3 seconds if there is a level 1 spider attacking the healer. You are the unsung hero of the instance or raid group and you better get used to it. If a group thinks you are a good tank they will invite you back or take you off of guild trial status. If a group thinks you are a bad tank…you will know.

15) Make Your Healers Life Easy
Of all the bars of all the people in your dungeon group you watch your healers bars the closest. If there health is low see if something is attacking it, If there mana is low toss them an innervate or stop so they can drink. In raids this becomes a little different, there is too much going on during some fights to be constantly watching your healers bars but If a healer tells you that you are out of range or turned in a bad direction you better be moving, don’t be dumb but always make sure that you are trying your best to make their life easier. And remember that being a healer is like being a tank in that often there is little said when you are doing good, so if a healer is doing good just let them know, takes 5 seconds and it lets them know they are on the right track.

16) Learn How Strafe Works
I will briefly explain this and you can do some looking of your own. Strafing is moving side ways instead of turning around for lack of a better definition. You can strafe one of two ways: The first is the strafe keys, which are Q and E if you have not rebound them. The second is to hold down your right mouse button and hit A or D or the turn left/right buttons. In essence you are just turning around and running however when you strafe the game responds entirely different to the actions you make. When you strafe you move at full movement speed as opposed to backing up which severely cuts your move speed. A second advantage is that you can see more of what is going on easier than if you turn around and run. Probably the greatest advantage to strafing however is that you are considered to be facing the target and because of that you are able to dodge, block and parry as usual instead of just getting wailed on without having any avoidance like what happens when you are fully turned around. Another thing that happens is that strafing forces the server to track your position more often and what ends up happening is that any mob that is following you runs to a point in front of you in the direction you are running instead of directly at you. Imagine running with a long stick in your hand and pointing it in the direction you are facing and having someone chase you but instead of running at you they run at the end of the stick when trying to catch you. While not entirely useful knowledge all the time there are certain times when it helps to position an add. A better look at this can be seen in this tankspot video around the 7 min mark however for a new tank this is a very informative video to watch.

That’s about all I can think of for the moment but after 3300 words I think it is good for the moment. If I randomly think of anymore I will add them in before this little blurb. If you leave a comment with another idea and I like it I will write on it and/or copy it and add it in with your name beside it so that everyone knows. I would like to also follow this with some things that I feel are more of tanking conveniences but I think ill just wait and see If I can think of enough to just make a new post.

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