Thursday, September 30, 2010

Off tanking?

Ah off tanks. The redheaded stepchildren of tanking. The person you ignore completely unless they are causing problems for your raid. Generally regarded as lesser tanking when compared to the main tank role, the off tank is generally your second tank and the one with less gear. Historically your off tank is the person who you have less faith in, who has worse gear, is less raid-aware, or is not a warrior (vanilla).

It seems that within the community as a whole there is a stigma about off tanks. I think off tanking is usually seen as lesser tanking when compared to the main tank. After all who would rather be the guy holding the binoculars than the guy shooting the Barrett 50 cal? But I think that this opinion is somewhat dated in today’s raiding. Sure there are some fights where this distinction is still there but I for one see it slowly vanishing.

I was reading one of the breakfast topics over at wow insider called “Do you Prefer to be the off tank?” and reading through the comments and I think a lot of people feel the same way. Dps and healers may still feel that there is a distinction between the main and off tank but in the tanking community I am starting to see the shift from asking “who is main tank and who is off tank?” to “who are the tanks and who is doing what?” I am going to go through Naxx and through ICC in order to illustrate my point. The reason I chose Naxx is that it was a level 60 raid converted to 80 and ICC because it is the pinnacle of WotLK raiding (yes it could be argued that ulduar was the pinnacle of WotLK and I would tend to agree but at the end of the expansion it cannot be said that ulduar was the hardest).


Anub’Rekhan – Definite main/off tank responsibilities. The main tank found himself on the boss at all times and the off tanks found themselves on spiders and narubians that spawned. No tank switches at all.

Grand Widow Faerlina – Definite main/off tank responsibilities. Main tank on the boss and the off tank on the mobs already present keeping aggro until one was killed or MC’d or just left alone the entire fight for achieve.

Maexxna – There is only one tank on this fight and the off tank goes to dps for the fight.

Noth the Plaguebringer – Definite main/off tank responsibilities. Main tank on the boss and the off tank picking up skeletons that spawn throughout the fight with the main tank helping with adds at some point.

Heigan the Unclean – only the main tank on this fight however depending on your raid you may have the main tank simply stay in tank gear and just do the dance just in case (Boring).

Loatheb – only a main tank for this however you could have an off tank in case the main tank gets the spore debuff but I always just found getting the spore while tanking to make the fight more interesting.

Instructor Razuvious – It could be that you have two tanks on equal footing here in 10 man or that you have or two tanks keeping the extra adds from killing the raid on 25 man.

Gothik the Harvester – The two tanks do the same two jobs on this fight just at different times so there is no distinction here.

Four Horsemen – The two actual tanks do the same thing here and alternate in the front with the two melee bosses.

Patchwerk – Definite main/off tank responsibilities. Main tank on the boss and your off tank(s) just needs to stay second or second/third on threat and take hatefuls.

Grobbulus – One of my favourite fights in the game to main tank and I have no idea why, it’s not even that interesting. There is however a clear main/off tank distinction. Main tank kiting Grobbulus around the room and off tank picking up slimes that spawn.

Gluth – tanks on equal footing here with both switching off when there are too many stacks of MS on the other tank.

Thaddius – Definite main/off tank responsibilities. The two tanks start on the beginning mobs and then after they die the main tank picks up the boss and the off tank just runs back and forth when his charge changes.

Sapphiron – There is only the main tank in this fight. The off tank will just need to go dps for the fight.

Kel’Thuzad – Definite main/off tank responsibilities. Starting in phase 2 the main tank will get agro of the boss and then at 45% health the off tank will then pick up the guardians of Icecrown and tank them until the end of the fight.

Alright so what we have for Naxxramas is 7 fights where there is a clear distinction of roles, 4 fights where there is no off tank at all and 4 fights where the tanks have equal jobs. So of the 15 fights in Naxxramas we have 11 bosess that have a main/off tank setup or simply just a main tank. That means for 73.33% of your run you have a distinct main tank. It is no wonder that there is a stigma attached to being the off tank as you generally had the lesser role or did not tank at all.

Icecrown Citadel:

Marrowgar – this fight is interesting as the tanks stand together and soak damage but after bone storms usually it should be the tank in the better position that should pick him up and the other tank should go and stand on the tank with agro. For my purpose there is no main/off tank (feel free to disagree).

Lady Deathwhisper – The tanks start off picking up adds and then switch to the boss when the shield breaks and the tank switch when the threat debuff gets high enough. No main/off tank distinction.

Loot(gun)ship – No main/off tank distinction both pick up add(s), it is just whether you jump or not.

Deathbringer Saurfang – You have to taunt off each other about every 20 seconds and that goes through the whole fight. No main/off tank distinction.

Festergut – the tanks switch at 9 stacks or the raid wipes...not much leeway. No main/off tank distinction.

Rotface – The first fight you see with a distinction where the main tank is on the boss and the off tank is on the ooze.

Professor Putricide – This does have a main/off tank distinction up until p3 when the tanks assume the same job. I’m going to call this as having the distinction but I’ll talk about it later.

Blood Prince Council – No distinction. With 3 bosses there is always a boss on a tank unless you range tank with a hunter or lock but I’m not counting that.

Blood Queen Lanathel – I am going to call this the same way as Marrowgar because when I tank with someone who is a good sport I like to have a threat race and it feels like you are doing the same thing then. But once again argue if you wish.

Valithria Dreamwalker – Both tanks tank adds and that is all that they do. No distinction.

Sindragosa – same as patricide in that there is no second tank until P2 but I am going to call it the same way because the off tank essentially does nothing until she is grounded and that is more than half the fight.

The Lich King – Ok this fight has no main/off tank duty and I will tell you why I feel this way. First of all yes I have tanked LK and yes I am a kingslayer so I feel I have a certain amount of credibility. At no point during this fight have I ever though “boy I am doing so much more than my off tank” it’s more like “crap crap crap crap crap crap crap.” But in all seriousness there are very few points where one tank is doing more than the other and LK bounces back and forth between the 2 tanks so much there is no distinction.

Ok so from my perspective Icecrown Citadel has 3 fights where there is a distinction between and off tank and a main tank and 9 fights where the tanks are on equal footing. So of the 12 fights in icecrown there are only 3 where there is a main/off tank distinction and that is only 25.00% of the fights.

One last thing that I want to bring up is that in Naxx it was possible to use 1 tank for Gluth, KT and if your dps were attentive Grobbulus on 10 man once you had good 25 man gear. I would like to see you 1 tank festergut or BQL in an average guild (if you do it record it and I will eat my words). As a whole I think that the expansion has moved to a point where there is only an off tank on a select few fights from a point in the game when it was mostly main/off tank fights.

Some of the comments I was seeing on that breakfast topic made the point that in ICC off tanking was more fun than being the main tank anyway or that it was much harder but I respectfully disagree. Take a look at the fights that you could say have an off tank. Putricide: have you done the abom because it is super boring and super easy, and if you are not doing the abom as the off tank you are not doing anything. Sindragosa: You don’t do anything till p2 and then you are doing the same thing as the other tank so that isn’t any harder. Rotface: this would be the only one I might agree with that assessment on; the main tank is on rotface but the off tank is on the ooze but there are 2 things that affect how easy/hard that fight is. First is what class you are, druids and warriors got the short straw with warriors having the shortest of the straws but for paladins and DK’s who both have considerably more ranged attacks I cannot see it being that hard since it isn’t really even that hard on a druid depending on the second point...the skill of the rest of your raid. If the rest of your raid members are bringing the small oozes right to the big ones, not making second big oozes and not pulling agro (I’m looking at you balance druids) then it is a whole lot easier.

Now just to finish off this entire post I thought I would look at Ulduar and ToC to see what the numbers looked like there, and here is what I got:

Ulduar – 7 bosses with main/off tank or only main tank duties applied, 6 bosses requiring both tanks to do the same job and 1 boss that required no tank at all. So of the 14 bosses there were 7 with main/off tank designations or 50.00%.

ToC – 2 bosses with main/off tank responsibilities, 2 fights with equal share of the tanking (northrend beasts is mostly equal as p3 is shorter than the rest of the fight) and 1 fight where no tank is required. So of the 5 bosses 2 had main/off tank designations or 40.00%.

Man I love when things work out nice. In order of release the instance had less and less main/off tank fights with Naxx=73.33%, Ulduar=50.00%, ToC=40.00% and ICC with 25.00%. To me that looks like blizzard is trying to eliminate the main tank off tank distinction and move towards a raid environment where the tanks are equal. Now obviously we cannot get rid of fights with a boss and adds that have to be tanked at the same time so this will always exist to some degree. But I for one will look at it as the tanks and everyone else who just can’t handle it.

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