Monday, January 24, 2011

Tanking Movement Guide

I just realized that I promised you a guide and then posted it on the forums and forgot to post it here, so here it is now. It has only been complete for about 3 days now so this isn't too far behind. Also the guide is posted HERE on the forums so if you like it go sign in on that forums and up-vote the post. Also you could post a quick comment on the forums to bump it but now i am just getting greedy.

I wrote this guide partially for fun and, and of course to help. These are things that I have often taken for granted as common knowledge, but having paid more attention to people after I started writing it, I have a feeling that even some of you more advanced tanks may learn a thing or two. If you are reading through this and you find something unclear, wrong or would like to add something, then by all means drop a comment. I am not above admitting I am wrong (if I am) and care more about this being comprehensive and correct than buffing my ego.

As you start reading this you may feel that I started with an approach that is much too basic but I tried to move away from that quickly and use it as a quick step to the more complex movements, and if you keep reading you will find that it does get much more in depth. This guide will have a large focus on moving yourself but will have a large component of ways to move your enemies by moving yourself.  And Just before I get started, some of you may be reading through this and say to yourself, “Hey, I saw that on TankSpot,” and I will let you know that I did learn some of these things from a video put up by Ciderhelm, but I am hoping that I can elaborate more fully on some of those things to give the average a player a way to understand them, and not just the elite (not that I am elite, but just saying).

Moving yourself

The most basic way to move yourself is with either the arrow keys or with the WASD keys however this is rarely an efficient way to move and often leaves you either too slow or having to make less desirable moves in order to make up for your lack of speed. The problem with using only these keys is that you often cannot turn fast enough because the game dictates the speed of your turn. Even if you are absolutely perfect in your response time you will often find yourself too slow and may be given the title that everyone dreads, “keyboard turner.” But you aren’t handicapped so you knew all this already.

The easiest way to remedy this slow movement is to use your mouse to turn your camera. This allows you to basically move your camera as fast as humanly possible. If you can’t move any faster than you could get a new mouse and if you can’t move any faster after that then you probably just disconnected from moving so fast.

“But Jey, if I turn with my mouse I can’t click my abilities!!!” No, you can’t, and that is why you need to learn to keybind or at least use your binds. Pretty much everything from this point on will be hinged around being able to do things on the fly and that will require you to use your binds. You don’t need to have a bind for every ability, but having one for those abilities that you use often is a must. I personally have a bind that I am perfectly comfortable with for each of my four main tanking abilities and for my taunt and charge.


The next evolution of movement is to learn how to strafe. Strafing is moving sideways or at an angle, instead of turning and then running forward. I have found that as I have become more comfortable with strafing it has slowly taken over as my dominant form of movement while tanking. In my opinion it allows you to keep much better tabs on all that is happening around you.

There are two dominant ways to strafe. The first, and easier way, is to use your strafe buttons on the keyboard. These are originally bound to your Q and E buttons and they move you sideways without turning you around. You can also use these buttons in conjunction with your forward key in order to move at a 45 degree angle in either direction.

The second method of strafing is to use your camera in conjunction with your arrow keys. I think that this method affords you a larger amount of control over movement, but you may feel that you prefer the other way or a mix of the two. I also find this is much more natural way to strafe when you are using your mouse to turn anyways. To do this you simply hold down your right mouse button and use your arrow keys to move sideways, or your forward and sideways arrow keys to move at an angle at an angle forward. Using your mouse this way eliminates your ability to keyboard turn and forces you to move more efficiently. It also grants you easy movement between strafing sideways and strafing at an angle.

Either way you use, don’t ever hit your backward arrow as that will just make you start backing up at an angle.


But why strafe? Strafing affords you better movement because you are never slowed from backing up. It allows you to always know where your enemy is because they are never behind your camera if you don’t want them to be. Strafing also has the distinct advantage of allowing you to move away from your enemy at full speed and still be able to dodge, parry and block your enemy where simply turning and running does not. It is worth noting that just because you are strafing the mob could still be “behind” you when you think that it is in front of you, in order to rectify this you should try to turn in a very large circle in the direction that your camera is facing. The direction that your camera is facing is the front side of your character and the direction opposite your camera angle is the back, so if you are moving in a circle to your backside you might as well just turn around and run away. The avoidance advantage alone makes it worth learning to strafe masterfully, but remember that strafing adds style points while you’re tanking so you look like more of a boss, and who doesn’t want to look like more of a boss?

So now you know how to move yourself but tanking isn’t something you do by yourself, if you are doing it right you always move with a partner.

Moving Your Enemy

Tanking is like a dance, and you have the man’s part. Everything that you do will cause a predictable response in the enemy you are tanking. Most of the things here will be mostly geared towards tanking bosses in raids and dungeons as it will be hard to properly execute some of these things with more than one target trying to branch out around you, but a better knowledge of movement will never be a hindrance.

Large Groups

When you are dealing with large groups of enemies you want to make sure that all of your targets are within your front 180 degrees so that you are able to be able to have your avoidance be effective. Large groups of enemies naturally try and spread out around you and get behind you, they are trying to accomplish the exact opposite of you. You need to develop a strategy to make sure that most, if not all, enemies are in front of your character.

The easiest way to counteract the problem is to back away and force them to move towards you. The farther that you move, the closer to the middle of your front cone that they get. So there you go, problem solved. But you get a problem sometimes when you can’t simply move backwards and you need to move in a more confined manner, not to mention that you may be ticking your dps and possibly your healer off. This may work sometimes but it won’t work always. You want a system that will work 95% of the time not one that works only 80%, and in a perfect world you want a system that is more predictable and causes the rest of your group to need to move as little as possible.

Many tanks get it in their mind that they are above the group, and that they are truly better. They feel that the world revolves around them and that their movements should be adapted to. The fact is that you are in a group of 5 or 10 or 25 and you are no better than any of them. It is up to you to limit your impact upon the group as much as you possibly can and then require the group to move for you. Blah, blah, blah, who cares? The less the group has to move the less chance there is of you dying because a healer lost range on you and the more damage your dps can do to your enemies. /Rant over. ( this is not to start a fight, simply to illustrate my reasoning)

So how should you move? Pick a direction, left or right, strafe that direction and then turn 90 degrees back to the direction you came from. If you move just past the enemy to that side, all the other enemies will be in front of you and the movement is very small. It also has the distinct advantage of never requiring that you move in the same direction twice, so that you can move in a very small area and continue moving forever in that space (but let’s hope you don’t need to). You may wish to make a small sidestep after you have moved through the enemies in order to make the positioning better but that will come with practice. Also, this is not so important on groups of 3-4 but when they start to get larger is when they really start to move around you.

The Hit-box

Just quickly on the hit-box because it is somewhat critical in tanking. The hit-box is the range from which you can melee attack the enemy. Some enemies have rather small hit-boxes but raid bosses tend to have rather large hit-boxes. The enemy is considered to be standing at the center of the hit-box and the edge of the hit-box is sort of like their personal space. You also have a hit-box, though it is generally much smaller and enemies really like to get into it and whack you in the face, that’s good.

Moving the Big Guys

This is where the fun stuff begins. This is where you make your mark and become that guy that always has the enemy exactly where he wants it. Others may not notice all the time but you will. If you have ever seen the enemy move with the tank instead of after the tank you will know how.

Strafing to Move Your Enemies

Did you think you were done with staffing? Nope. One final advantage to strafing, that I did not mention earlier, is that it forces the server to keep better track of your movements. Basically, when you strafe, the server registers your position more times per second than when you are simply running. This has the advantage of helping you move out of bad stuff on the ground better and is the reason that people sometimes say that the fastest way to get the game to realize that you are outside of a building is to strafe after across the threshold.

But that is not all that that means. Strafing has a unique way of interacting with enemies that are attacking you. When you are simply running forward the enemy you have following you will run towards the center of your hit-box. He will run towards you. When you are strafing however, the enemy will run to a point that is in front of you in the direction that you are traveling, not the direction you are facing, but the direction that you are traveling (thats important). Imagine that you are running and carrying a tennis ball on a short stick. You can face whichever direction that you want, but you must point the tennis ball in the direction that you are traveling. Now there is someone else trying to catch you but he isn’t running after you, he is always running straight at that tennis ball. This is what is going on when you strafe.

If you have ever seen the tank move an enemy, and they both seem to move at the same time, in the same direction and the tank didn’t really appear to have to change anything after they stop. This happened because the tank strafed and the enemy wasn’t trying to chase the tank, they were chasing that point ahead of the tank. This particular way of moving the enemy with you is actually rather difficult to do. I probably only get it to work about 15-20% of the time, but when it does work it is a really nice bonus to your movement. Usually what happens is the enemy doesn’t start moving till a split second after you so he ends up following you instead of moving with you.

Then there is a second way that you can exploit this enhanced server response to your advantage. Imagine you are still running around with that tennis ball on a stick (boy you are cool) and that guy is still following you but that you run into a fence. Yeah you aren’t the most skilled runner but you illustrate my point nicely. So you run into the fence, where is the tennis ball. In real life the tennis ball would have hit the fence and the stick would have jabbed you in the side, but this is a magic tennis ball and it just goes through the fence (I’m almost done with this, I swear). So know that guy following you is going to run up right next to that fence also, trying to get the tennis ball. You can actually do this while tanking.

So let’s say you want the enemy right up against the wall. That’s actually kind of hard to do when you are not strafing, but if you strafe it is actually rather easy. All you have to do is strafe towards the wall. Now when you get to the wall don’t stop cause then the enemy will stop, just keep running into the wall and the enemy will move right up next to the wall and you can rotate them and have them perfectly positioned. I used to do this in the twin valkyr encounter in ToC when using the door strategy. For those of you who don’t know what that means, you had to get the two bosses (yours, and the other tanks) into the doorway so that your raid didn’t get hit by exploding balls that hurt a lot. Well often I would strafe into the door and keep moving till the boss got to me, and then I would turn around and position him nicely, and then the hunter would get mad at me because the boss was too close to the door, but the other boss never was. Its minor but it helps a ton sometimes. It’s cool to note that it is actually possible to reset some encounters by moving the boss through a door using this technique but I have never done it (ciderhelm on tankspot shows how to do it with 4 horseman).

Turning Your Enemy Around

There is no collision detection in WoW when it comes to Units, which you no doubt know, which enables you to run straight through your enemies. This comes in handy when you want to turn your enemy to be facing the opposite direction very quickly. There are three common ways to do this, I prefer the second but I know a lot of people prefer the third so just get used to doing one and stick with it.
This is the most basic one. Simply run straight through your enemy and when you get to the edge of their hit-box just turn around. The problem with this is that while you are facing the other direction the boss will be guaranteed to hit you, it isn’t a very large amount of time so the probability of you dying is quite small, but there are better ways to turn the enemy that you should get used to.

The second way is to use strafing. I prefer this way because I don’t lose control over my movement ever but it is largely personal. The way to do this is to strafe just barely to the side of the middle of the hit-box on the side that allows you to keep your camera facing the boss, if you start strafing and your boss is between your character and your camera then you are on the wrong side. After you move past the midpoint on the hit-box you can turn to face the boss and just back up until you are a comfortable distance away from the boss.

The third way is like the first with a key difference. You are going to start off and just run straight at the boss, however, you want to make sure that you jump before you pass the middle of the hit-box. When you pass the middle of the hit-box you want to be in the air (thus carrying your forward momentum) and turn your character around to face the boss at his new position relative to you. When you land just back up until you are a comfortable distance away. I find that I use this way much less than the second way, but I find it useful to do this when I am less worried about positioning and more worried about getting through the boss to avoid something.

Backing Your Enemy Up

I have used this many times on the new Omnitron Defence System in BWD. When Toxitron is up he drops a cloud on the ground that increases damage taken by 50% for anything inside it. You will often find yourself tanking the boss who is just about inside the cloud but not really. You want to get the boss in the cloud because it is a nice buff for your raid damage but you don’t want to be inside it yourself. Now you could just properly turn the boss then strafe until you have the boss in the cloud and then properly move back through the boss again to get yourself out of the cloud :), But then you have been in the cloud for a good 5-10 seconds and you could possibly die from an ability from the other boss, such as a buffed arcane annihilator (this isn’t an interrupting guide), so that is not a very good option.

So just make the boss move backwards. How you ask? Well I will tell you. This is a very simple move that is extremely useful in many positioning oriented encounters. All that you want to do is move towards the boss and into the hit-box, you are going to want to do this kinda slowly until you get used to it because it is really easy to overshoot the point that you want to get to. There is a point in your movement when the center of your hit-box will get very close to the center of their hit-box and they will turn ever so slightly in one direction. STOP. That is the point you want. If you go too far past this point the boss is going to spin around and start to melee you in the back, which is bad.

This point will be the point when the middle of your hit-box is starting to get close enough to the middle of theirs that small forward movements are causing the boss to rotate. They are going to move just the slightest amount and then you need to stop. It should be about a 10 degree turn in the direction they are facing or less the better you get. Now what is gonna happen is that the boss isn’t going to like you being all up in their face and they are going to get intimidated, so they are going to back off. This may take a second but if you do it right it will happen. The boss should turn around walk about 3-7 yards away depending on how big their hit-box is and turn around to face you. Tada.

One thing to note about this move is that the boss is never going to actually turn around. It will look as though they are walking away from you and then turning back around, but as far as the game is concerned, bosses don’t have a back-up animation so the game makes them turn around. For all intents and purposes the boss is actually backing up, evident by the fact that they actually move slower than normal. This is nice on a boss with a cleave or shockwave as you can back them up a bit without needing your raid to reposition. People may freak a little when the boss turns towards the raid and then back to you but just ignore the people and know that there is almost no risk to doing this. So try it out.

Moving Into/Out of Things

This was brought up in the comments and it seems like a lot of people don’t know about it. When you are moving out of things don’t jump. Jumping has the opposite effect of strafing in that it causes the game to only register your movement once you land. So if you are standing in fire/ooze/lava/void zones and you need to get out don’t jump out of them. Perhaps you may have some experience of this with the big worm boss in Stonecore who burrows and then jumps out and one shots anyone standing above him in the dust cloud. If you jump out of the dust and don’t land before he jumps then you are going to die. So just remember that if you are trying to move out of things, even though you feel like jumping means you are technically no longer standing in lava, you are.

On the flip side of this, if you do have to move through something for some reason, such as needing to be on the other side of a line of fire. Jump before you enter the fire and you will have a little bit of carry before you land and you will take less damage or be slowed less by a frost path (sort of like jumping before entering stealth or going into the water).


You were probably worried that I was a moron when I started talking about moving with your keyboard at the beginning but I wanted this guide to have some useful info for every level of player ( I may have over-done it a tad). I hope that some of you read this and take one or two of the things and try them out. You will find that as you learn to move more efficiently, and as it becomes more natural, that you will be able to focus more on tanking and awareness and less on getting yourself positioned nicely because it will just happen. If any of you have any feedback just leave a comment and I will get back to you.


  1. Wow, this is really very interesting. I'll be trying a lot of this out as it sounds totally useful. Thanks!

  2. np, bit of a wall-of-text but i think if you can get through it most people are finding it to be useful, even if only to realize the reason the game does some of this stuff.