For a DPS perspective on the issue of OTs, see laytkenight’s post below: My Intimate Relationship with the OT.

When I first started raiding, ironically it was as DPS – not because I wanted to, per se, but because both tank slots were full. For a variety of reasons, not least of which because our OT at the time apparently actually hated tanking, my little pally took a trip back to his trainer, and the 1K G I’d finally managed to save up to put toward my epic flying instead went straight down the tubes into a dual-spec.

The last time I had been prot was sometime back in Outland, when pallies, by and large, were laughed at (ahhhhhh the good old days), and well before I actually had anyone to tank for except Layteknight and SaveTheFails. And even then, I was doing it on my druid (and, creepily enough, Layteknight was actually a healer, and SaveTheFails was part-time DPS. Burning Crusade was a strange time for a lot of us). Suffice it to say that between level 65 and level 80 (to say nothing of an expansion and a bajillion patches), just about everything had changed.

I plundered the internet for its wisdom, researched my talents and my abilities (rhetorical question: have you ever tried to research a class and spec you don’t know the acronyms for? Holy shit. This isn’t helped by the fact that every pally ability has some combination of the words hammer, justice, righteous, judgement, and holy in it. And the bulk of the prot abilities simply don’t exist if you’re ret, so good luck). Once I had a semi-decent prot spec in place, I spent the rest of my money on reputation-based tank gear. Then I proudly equipped my [Pants of the Prima Donna] and refused to raid.

Why? Because I take a good deal more pride than I perhaps should in my tanking and the thought of taking 9 other people into a raid and getting them killed through my own ineptitude over and over and over again was, quite frankly, completely unacceptable to me. I couldn’t have lived with myself. My pride wouldn’t let me. In the end, I think their repair bills thanked me for it.

To say nothing of the fact that rep gear is great, but awesome it ain’t. We had several very solid combinations of people for heroics and there was no reason not to give me some practice and get me some decent gear. So we ground heroics for a little bit until I’d regained my tanking legs, figured out how everything worked (and how it compared to the classes I was used to tanking as), and got enough gear that I was satisfied I would not get one-shotted by Heigan (dance notwithstanding).

This all has a point, I swear. The reason I’m telling you all this is because I want you to understand how much work I put into making sure I was up to the task of raid-tanking. I was a full prot-spec (no BS hybrid spec, half prot, half ret), full prot-geared, and could have tanked any boss in Naxx with my eyes shut, just as well as our main tank.

And yet, the entire time I was OT, I had to fight tooth and nail against this idea that an OT is somehow weaker and less important than an MT. This is the prevailing view held by anyone who’s never been an OT, and has never worked directly with one (as LayteKnight often did with me). Conversations like the following were not uncommon:

MT: Well, I’ll take Boss X since he hits really hard and he’d probably tear through an OT in like 3 seconds.
Me: No. No he wouldn’t. Do you have any idea how much avoidance I have? I could MT this guy and not die.
MT: And, since my threat gen is higher, I’ll grab Adds Y and Z. You can pick up the oozes.
Me: Your threat gen isn’t higher. It isn’t higher at all. I have to STOP DOING ANYTHING on bosses where we’re on the same target or I’ll pull off you. The mage pulled Heigan by blinking. BLINKING! That’s like…negative threat.
MT: SaveTheFails, make sure you pay special attention to Protflashes. She’s made of Kleenex you know.

I’m exaggerating, but only a bit. It was like, despite the spec, gear, skill, and experience (I had tanked many times before, just not as a pally in the raid) the mere fact that I was OT meant I was less of a tank.

Let’s address where this completely false idea comes from. On things like trash pulls, and occasionally on some adds for some boss fights, it’s possible to have a “lesser” tank handle the side targets. If they have weak threat gen, it’s okay because they have a huge lead time while the raid tackles the other targets. If they have weaker defenses, it’s okay because they’re tanking the weaker mobs. The fact that you can occasionally put a weaker tank on OT duty leads many people to think that all OTs are weaker.

But you can’t always do it, being OT doesn’t negate an individual’s capacity to tank, and to be perfectly honest, when it comes to actual skill required, the OT is a much heavier job than MT. Let me elaborate. Here’s your average raid boss strat:

/rw K, so, for this boss, MT will tank the boss in the centre of the room and then stand there for three minutes pressing the same three buttons to maintain threat. The DPS will stand behind the boss and press the same two buttons until it falls down. The healers will heal their assigned targets.
/rw The OT will need to pick up the adds as they spawn. They spawn in three random locations, approximately two kilometers from anywhere useful. You then need to pull them in an alternating spiral, once clockwise, twice counter clockwise, three times clockwise, you get the idea. Never get more than 30 yards away from the boss, but never get closer than 20 yards to the raid. Every fifteen seconds, stop and stand still for three seconds. And watch for the pillars, they’ll break LoS with the healer and you’ll die. Oh, and there’s a poison nova going on, so make sure you don’t stop in it or whatever. And sometimes the MT will get ice blocked, so make sure you’re ready to grab the boss too. Just kite him around until the MT gets back – but remember not to let the adds get near him!

With all due respect to the DPS and the Healers (especially the healers) who do occasionally have more complicated jobs than that. But the fact of the matter is that on most boss fights, the MT’s job is the same. Figure out where you’re tanking it, then stand there and press your buttons. Move sometimes. Every fight is the same – the only thing that changes is where you’re tanking it.

But the OT…holy shit. I think everyone should have to OT at some point in their lives – especially MTs. Maybe it would finally teach them that OT isn’t a job for a weak tank. You need to have insane reaction times, good defences, and know your class inside out. Know what buttons you can press to pull something to you, to get it away from you, know the necessary positioning like the back of your hand, know where the DPS are at all times since at least two of them aren’t standing where they’re supposed to and you’ll have to work around them. You need to learn to generate threat on the run (something I find people who’ve only ever main tanked tend to be weak at since they’re used to standing still), you need to learn how to keep a mob of mobs planted firmly in front of you so they’re not critting the shit out of your backside. You need to learn to dance on that fine line between having more threat than the DPS but less than the MT (and therefore how to control your threat). You need to learn to survive indefinitely without causing your healer to OOM (especially since they’re trying to keep the two DPS who aren’t standing where they’re supposed to alive).

MT is like a sweet assignment that you need to have worked for thirty years with your company to get. Easy, sexy, good pay and benefits. But you have to earn the position by working your ass off as an OT for a while before you deserve it. If you can OT you can MT, and I highly recommend that all you tanks out there try it. No better way to improve your skills (or actually build some).

And for Christ’s sake, give your OT some credit. They don’t have an easy job, and they need to be one Hell of a tank to do it.