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So. Healing.


At first I was excited, you know? My pally’s had a Holy off-spec for ages and ages and ages (totally copied SaveTheFails’, right down to his glyphs…I’m cheap like that, and healing is a frightening prospect for me. I wanted the comforting security blanket of mimicking someone who knows better). I was like, hey! layteknight has a shiny new tank, I’ve got this never used “healer”. Let’s, you know, do stuff.

So I shelved the shaman for the night and pulled up my raiding tank and turned him into a heroics healer. Not bad, I told myself. 3300 gearscore, better than I expected. But I had been rolling off-spec in Naxx/ULD way back when, and the rep gear is actually decent to start from. Nothing’s really gemmed or enchanted, but whatever. Good enough for heroics.

Sign us up whenever you’re ready, says I, swaggering around Dalaran in my cute little healing set, flashing my spell power around like I understand what it means. I am ready to heal.

Can’t be that much different than tanking, right? It’s like the flip-side of the protection coin, that’s all. We’re both doing the same thing in the end – keeping everyone alive. Easy peasey, shampoo squeezy.

Boom. Loading Screen. Gundrak.

Sudden influx of fear. Wait, Gundrak? Isn’t that like…high level or something? Couldn’t we have started with UK? Wait, maybe we should have done a normal first. Wait, am I supposed to use Sacred Shield? I Beacon the Tank right? Spam Flash of Light? That’s it, right? Just click on the little green bars on Healbot?

No. I got this. I totally got this. I’m good.

I’m awesome.

I can totally do this.

Step 1 – Beacon of Light on me, because I figure – with all my healing prowess – that I’m never not going to be healing the tank, right? It’s heroics. People don’t take damage in heroics. So this way if I take damage I don’t need to worry about it.
Step 2 – There are some snakes.
Step 3 – There is a snake boss.
Step 4 – Everyone is taking damage all day all the time.
Step 5 – Waste precious time trying to heal a Phase-shfited Imp because I thought it was a person.
Step 6 – Hunter in nova, but healing him would mean letting the tank die because for some reason I thought it was a good idea to put Beacon on ME.
Step 7 – Hunter dies.
Step 8 – 60000000000 snakes on me, but I can’t remember whether I’m supposed to consecrate them or not. My brain wants to tank them. It wants to tank them so bad. They’re on the warlock! They’re on the warlock!
Step 9 – Warlock dies while I try to remember how to heal in the sudden inrush of tanking instincts and panic at being unable to find Righteous Defence which I’m totally not supposed to be touching anyway.
Step 10 – Overgeared Shaman kills the boss without anymore party member deaths.
Step 11 – Find the hunter’s body to rez just as he reenters the instance.
Step 12 – Find the warlock’s body to rez just as she reenters the instance.
Step 13 – Overgeared hunter pulls next group with misdirect before I’m anywhere nearby. Patrolling snakes join in the fun.
Step 14 – Realize that Beacon of Light apparently has a really short duration. Completely unable to locate it on Healbot. Don’t know what the icon looks like by sight (and all pally icons look the same anyway).
Step 15 – Hunter dies. Warlock dies. Overgeared shaman kills the pat.
Step 16 – Get asked, in a nice way, whether I’m new to 80. Friendly advice to put Beacon on the tank.
Step 17 – Text SaveTheFails to cry about how I suck at healing.

So…that’s what? Four pulls in, including the first boss, and I had four deaths. Now, to be clear, I have no intentions of taking full responsibility for them. The DPS were largely overgeared and not watching their threat. The hunter pulled FOR the tank (a curse upon him!) before she or I were ready. Yadda, yadda, yadda, typical bullshit.

But the fact of the matter is, I should have been able to keep them alive anyway, and I failed. Epically.

I think I sulked for a good hour afterward, even though people stopped dying and I eventually located Beacon of Light on Healbot (why the fuck did I put it there?).

Oh, did I mention I had fucking Fire Resistance Aura on and neglected to buff anyone until halfway through? That’s not even healer fail, that’s pally fail.

SaveTheFails very patiently texted me back, reminded me I’m not going to get it on the first try, let alone the first pull, told me to keep Beacon and Sacred Shield up on the tank at all times. Spam Flash of Light constantly, and throw out a Holy Shock if you’re having trouble keeping up with damage.

Part of my problem was that we were PuGging. Had it been a guild group I wouldn’t have cared so much. I’d’ve epic failed just as hard, but we could have laughed it off and moved on. I feel a strange sense of responsibility to not fail with strangers though. They didn’t sign up to have to bear with me as I try to find my spells or learn, on the spot, how to prioritize my healing targets. Which is a topic for another post, I think, because why is it okay for me to get my guildies killed over and over again, but not complete strangers who are generally behaving like idiots anyway? These people deserve whatever death my unskilled hands can give them.

Moorabi drops my Shaman’s fist weapon just to spite me.


So we finish Gundrak, I teleport out to Dalaran, and spend a few moments huddling in a corner of the bank coddling my wounded pride.

I let people die. I who has incorporated a short-form for Protection in my alias. I who has built a Warcraft career on not letting people die. I who judges a fight by how clean and efficient the kills, and how healthy and hale the murderers.

I let people die.

I am a bad player. I am a bad healer. I am once again Fail made manifest and given flesh to roam the world and wipe the innocent.

Healing is not like tanking. Healing is not like tanking at all. Healing isn’t the opposite side of the protection coin, it’s a different fucking coin, in a different fucking currency, from the opposite side of the world.

You want to know why most good tanks tend to be anal and uppity? Why they throw hissy fits if you pull for them and don’t follow the kill order? Because tanking is about control. In order to be a good tank, you have to control the fight. You control the timing, you control the mobs, you control positioning. You have to control the environment, and to some extent your party. You have to control what mobs they’re on, or you can’t tank. You have to control where everyone is standing or things get difficult. You have to maintain control of the situation, or it becomes incredibly hard to get things back on track.

I’m used to pulling. I’m used to charging. I’m used to setting the pace, going at my speed, and indicating what mobs are to be killed when. I’m used to enforcing the positioning rules with an iron fucking fist. People can ignore me, but they do so at their own peril. The rules are there for a reason, the kill order is established for a reason. Chaos means people die. Order means they live. It’s at least partly the tank’s job (almost entirely the tank’s job in Heroics) to impose Order on the run, otherwise it becomes impossible to do their job.

I’m used to having control.

Last night I didn’t control anything. Not a single piece of that fight was mine to affect. The tank handled most of it, the DPS took some of it away from her, and I could do nothing to affect the outcome except shriek and sob and thrash in panic as I tried my best to spam Flash of Light and keep Beacon and Shield up on the tank. I didn’t even have time to type anything in the chat. I couldn’t have yelled at them if I wanted to (and I did).

I could preempt nothing. I could change nothing. I could do nothing but react to the little squares on Healbot lighting up at inopportune times.

I spent the next instance mourning my loss of control, ability to impose order, and sanity (and fucking Lavanthor dropped my fucking Shaman’s boots just to spite me).

I was miserable. I was having fantasies about sending every healer I know a thank you card and begging them on bended knee to never, ever, ever, ever stop healing or force me to do it. I was, and remain, in awe of the required reaction times and instinct required for healing. I didn’t know, I swear to God. I knew it was harder than it looked, but I had no fucking idea. And those of you who can actually decurse, and buff, and all the rest of it between heals? What are you people, robots? Every time I tried to slap Hand of Salvation on an overgeared, undersmart rogue (oh rogues, how I love you) the warlock would dip dangerously close to dying.

It wasn’t until the last instance of the night that I actually stumbled on some kind of groove. One guy was sitting on a 5K gearscore, but everyone else was in the 3-4K range. Ironically, these “undergeared” people were a million times easier to heal – I assume because the threat of death is much more real to them. As SaveTheFails pointed out later, fear helps.

I had time on this run to engrave my keybindings into my head. Left Click Flash of Light. Shift+Right Click Beacon. Middle click Shield. Shift+Left click Holy Shock.

I had time to figure out how to cleanse between heals. I had time to find Hand of Protection on healbot (naturally, no one in THIS group needed it). It was still hard, but it wasn’t so frantic. Not so hectic. I had time to THINK, which, for me, is integral to actually LEARNING anything.

If not for that last group I would have probably been incredibly reluctant to ever heal again. Partly due to my own unrealistic expectations of myself, but partly due to the fact that it just wasn’t fun. It was worse than tanking.

But in a good group it changed, as most things usually do. Once I had time to understand what was happening and could actually think and decide how best to react to it, I started enjoying myself more. I began to understand the synergies between spells, what spells cause what buffs which means I now need to cast which spell. I had time to start building a flow chart in my head for the role.

I would be willing to heal again, I think.

As a parting note, in that last group, after we dropped Keristraza (who, in turn, dropped my fucking Shaman’s fucking trinket just to fucking spite me) one of the party members said: “thanks for the group, guys – great tanking and healing.”

You have no idea how much that one simple compliment meant to me. Maybe he was just being polite, but it made the whole escapade worth it. Up until that run I had been doing and feeling like shit, plain and simple. That little bit of positive reinforcement is one of the big reasons I have not given up on healing entirely after the stress-bath that was the first few runs.

It’s never going to replace tanking as my preferred role, but it’s something I could probably do from time to time for a bit of a change of perspective. The backline is a strange, foreign place to me. A lot more happens back there than I realized.

And to every fucker who ever told me healing was easy and healing heroics a cake walk – die in a fucking fire (couldn’t save you if I wanted to).


Soooo…better late than never, right?

Heh. Heh heh.


So, for those who missed Part 1 (Pallies and Warriors), we’re talking about how it feels to play each of the four classes of tanks – not too much about mechanics (especially given that they change constantly and I can barely keep up even when I’m actively playing a class. Two days ago I posted about how Devastate is meh. Now I’m reading that with the changes coming to warriors, it’ll be upgraded again? Like, it might be more important than Revenge or something? I don’t really care overmuch when Blizz nerfs or buffs anything, because they’re not malicious little gremlins out to ruin my game (contrary to popular belief). But man it’s irritating when a buff/nerf completely changes my rotation and I need to relearn everything).

I believe the analogy I was using (poorly) was rhythm.

A small disclaimer before I go into this: on Monday I posted about what are currently my two strongest tank classes in terms of my level of understanding, comfort, and actual character level. The classes I’ll talk about today are my weakest classes in terms of all of the above – I haven’t even gotten them to 80 yet, so I may be missing key abilities, and my understanding of their rhythm is still a work in progress. But then, this was a subjective set of posts to start with, and the information therein remains, as always, pure, unadulterated opinion (and is therefore subject to change).

So! Let’s start with the strongest of my two weakest classes:

The Druid

Okay, so…story time. Back in BC, this class held the position my Warrior currently holds – that is, my favoured tank (or at least, my favoured character). I levelled my druid and was tanking five mans with her long before my pally hit 80. I didn’t mean for this to happen – it just sort of did. I always mourned my neglected warrior, but by the time I realized what was happening, I was 70, partially geared, and it would have been a waste to try to pick up my warrior and force my guild to re-gear yet another one of my redundant tanks. So bear it was!

So I actually do have a good degree of experience with the bear – or did. So much changed between BC and 3.2 (when I sort of picked the bear back up in a casual kind of way) that I had to go on yet another research binge just to figure out what the Hell I was supposed to be doing.

Did you know that bears don’t need defence anymore?! Do you have any idea what a paradigm shift that was for me? What kind of tank doesn’t need defence?! What is this “AGI” and “Crit” and “Attack Power”? These are DPS stats! This gear list…it’s comprised entirely of ROGUE gear! I fail at rogues! Blizzard, what have you done?!

It is weird. That’s all. Very, very weird. As I’m questing I’m stripping off my lovely, apparently useless because of stat itemization, epics from BC and replacing them with ROGUE GEAR. It’s just…wrong…

Okay, right. Rhythm.

So, ironically given the above, the bear – for all I have honestly enjoyed it, as I have all the tanking class – has a DPS rhythm for me. It’s like a warrior (because in the end a bear is a warrior with less buttons, much like a cat is a rogue with less buttons), but a fury specced one (ha ha! A furry specced one! Get it? …you can kill me if you want). You only have a few buttons to press (I’m being mostly generous. The bear doesn’t really have much of a rotation, and I find that, because there’s less rage-cost-reduction talents available, all of their abilities cost more than the warrior anyway, so even if I had more buttons, I wouldn’t necessarily have the rage to spam them – though that may also be a function of my level), and you really, really, really want them to crit. Bears are right up there with the DPS in comparing crit chance and AP totals. It’s surreal.

Also, the bear’s defensive CDs seem designed to be blown together (they’re not on the GCD. I actually have a macro (appropriately labelled “Oh shit!”) that pops them all at once) – which makes sense. Because your focus is on effective health/absorption (as opposed to avoidance, since Dodge is really the only thing of much use to you), if you’re low on health you can’t rely on the boss not hitting you like some of the other tank classes. It is going to hit you. So hitting your “Oh Shit!” macro and popping everything you have is usually a good idea, because your block/parry/dodge won’t be able to buy you the time the healers need to bring you back up.

The bears, in short, have a very different feel/rhythm than the other classes. You don’t really have a rotation or a priority list – just a to-do list. Make sure mangle’s up and doesn’t come off. Maul when you have the rage. Lacerate (or don’t…couldn’t find a definitive answer on its use) if you want. Swipe if you need AoE or you just like the animation. Faerie Fire because it’s free (and apparently does threat now. WTF?).

It’s an “easy” class to tank with in that your options are limited, and your “rotation” is very simple/straightforward. It’s like…the California of tanks. Do what you want, when you want, and it’ll probably work out. This is perhaps why they feel strangely DPS focussed – because since there’s less “tank”-based strategies/abilities to it compared to other classes, the DPS aspect gives you something to do/watch. You want to crit because it procs half-a-dozen tanking buffs that are actually mostly passive and don’t require anything on your part.

Also, similar to the paladin, but worse because the bear isn’t as steady, I don’t feel I have a lot of things in my toolbox when things go wrong. I’ve got a taunt, I’ve got a challenging shout equivalent (like so much of the druid’s animal form abilities, it has a completely original name: challenging roar), but beyond that your only hope is pure, face-smashing awesomeness (which, ironically, is actually what the bear is about. Smashing things with your face).

I love the concept of the Druid tank, and it is actually enjoyable to play – although it feels like a guilty pleasure I have to keep secret, because in my head it’s not a tank, it’s a DPS that’s totally cheating and has found some kind of exploit that increases threat. But it doesn’t feel like a dedicated tank to me, most likely just because it’s so different in terms of gear/stats from the classes I’m used to playing. I can’t get over not needing to cry myself to sleep over how to get my DEF cap to stay at 540 without going over or under. The fact that I want this should tell you how crazy I am.

If you’re a DPS who wants to dabble in tanking part time, or maybe just try it out to see if you like it, the Bear is an excellent class for that. It’ll let you maintain aggro, but still feel like you’re DPSing. And if you’re looking for a bridge from DPS to tanking, it’ll do that very well too. You can pick up the bear without too much “culture shock” – the gear and stat preferences stay mostly the same as DPS, and it’ll give you time to get into the swing of the logic, positioning, and philosophy of tanking without simultaneously throwing the troublesome mathematics of tanking at you. You can worry about that later, once you’ve figured out how to establish threat, maintain aggro, and yell at the DPS because oh my God they’re standing in front again.

The bear-Druid is an I Am Awesome class. It can do it all – tank, DPS, face-smash – and it does it well, with minimum stress on you as a player, and a very gentle learning curve. Like all tank classes, there’s a difference between a newbie bear, and a master bear, but it’s a much gentler slope between the two (though, evidently, no less work).

The Death Knight

Right. *Cough* So… *awkward shuffle* I suppose I should be clear right off the bat here:

I suck at the DK.

There, I said it!

I do tank with my DK on a semi-regular basis. I don’t lose aggro unless I’m really not paying attention or a pull has gone badly. I have a toolbox full of an almost confusing array of abilities designed to prevent every fuck up known to man. My defensive CDs are the equivalent of phenomenal cosmic powers

And for some reason I can’t string it all together. I hit the anti-fear CD when I want the armour one. I can never seem to get Death and Decay off cooldown, or have enough runes for it. I’m too slow on Pestilence, and too fast on Blood Boil.

Mercifully, no one has really noticed. The group I tank for with my DK is very laid back and easy going, and like I said, I don’t actually lose aggro, despite my all-encompassing suck. But I can’t escape the knowledge that I am failing at playing this class to the max of what it can do. I’m wasting CDs, I spend too much time doing nothing because I have no runic power, and all my runes are on CD, and I don’t know how it happened (or rather I do. I fucked up my rotation. But I don’t actually, fully understand my rotation – or more specifically, how to deviate from it without fucking it all up). No matter where I put the anti-fear CD, I will ALWAYS click it instead of the armour one (why?! It doesn’t even remotely look like a defensive CD).

I refuse to acknowledge defeat. My goal when Wrath came out was to master the DK because I’d done pretty well on all the other ones. I wanted one of each tank, and I wanted to be good with them.

But the DK continues to thwart and mock me mercilessly (yeah, well, you’re stupid, DK. And ugly. And you smell bad).

And the reason I suck is specifically because I can’t find the DK’s rhythm. I’m trying to dance but he and I are hearing different songs. I can see, logically how it works. I can tell you how it all fits together. I can guess at what the rhythm must be like. The DK is a strange combination of the pally and the warrior (my two favourite classes, FFS! How am I failing this?!). It’s got the pally’s rotation based, steady AoE threat, on top of excellent single-target threat and some burst, like the warrior. The rune system is an intriguing twist on the typical CDs, and runic power is like the fucked-up love child of rage and mana.

The DK is a class made up of choices – if I choose this ability, I won’t have the runes for that one. If I pop this over here, I won’t have enough RP left over for a Frost Strike. Do I want to focus on a single-target rotation, or an AoE one? Killing Blow and Rime have both procc’ed – do I blow Killing Blow on a frost strike before the Howling Blast to up my threat on this target, or blow them both on Howling Blast to up my threat on everyone?

My CDs are all unique, without repetition. They’re actually encounter specific, not generic versions of give-me-more-health. There’s a lot of procs, and no few of them are active, requiring me to react and push a button, changing my strategy or my rotation mid-stride. Each and every spec is capable of tanking, with a different style/feel/rotation for each.

This is awesome. This class is made of win. It’s everything I ever wanted in a tank, all rolled into one. It’s everything I love about the others – the warrior’s complexity, the pally’s reliability, the bear’s fun-loving deeps-centered awesomeness – all rolled up into a single, thematically appropriate class with unique hair and skin colours!

Why – why – can’t I pull it together?!

The one area of the DK that I have down pat – where he and I are in perfect agreement – is that we’re both fucking angsty about being a DK, and all that’s inherent in that.


All four tanking classes are equally viable, equally useful, and equally fun – though not necessarily for everyone. Each has it’s own unique feel and rhythm, and if you really want to tank, it’s important to find one that you enjoy. ‘Cause I’m telling you right now, there are lot of aspects of tanking in general that suck. If you’re not enjoying your class, you’re going to be miserable.

I would personally encourage everyone to try all of them. You never know which of them will click for you (I figured warrior wasn’t for me until I tried it, and I’ve never looked back), and which won’t (from Hell’s heart, I stab at thee, DK). And each class has it’s own lessons to teach that apply across the board, and can actually improve your skill with the other classes.

For all I bitch about it, and all I fantasize about quitting, tanking is, in fact, a worthy endeavour, and can, with the right group, be amazingly fun. And it’s a role with a lot of options, and a lot of variation.

It’s like Country music. Almost universally despised, but everyone has at least one country song they like (whether they admit it or not). There’s a tank class out there for you, whoever you are, whatever your home-role.

You just have to find the right rhythm!

So, as I’ve probably made abundantly clear by now, I like to tank. I have a lot of tanks. I have at least one of each of the four types, and all of them I’ve played into Northrend (two of them I’ve played/raided with at 80).

The basic rules for tanking apply across the board (don’t let anyone tell you different, and yes, I have had people try to tell me different):

  1. Make every NPC in the room hate you with the heat of a thousand, fiery suns.
  2. Make sure the monsters are facing away from the raid/group (your raid/group will often be unhelpful, here. Some of them like standing in front. It’s their job to not stand there, but if they’re not going to do it, you’re going to die too, so suck it up and move).
  3. Make sure your defences are sufficient to be taking whatever damage the instance/raid can dole out (that means hitting your caps).
  4. Never get out of your healer’s line of sight. Never. Not just because you’ll die. That’s no more fun for the healer than when your DPS pull for you and make it impossible for you to tank. They’re here because they want to heal you. Help them out.

But that’s about where the similarities end. Each class seems to have its own rhythm. I’m not necessarily talking about mechanics here – there are plenty of blogs, forum posts, articles, and various other examinations of which classes excel at which encounters. I find myself siding with Blizz more often than not on this one – bring the player, not the class. Don’t much care if a DK has stronger AoE threat; if he can’t pick up pats when they come in, or keep the warlock from pulling, I’d rather have the warrior who knows what she’s doing, even if her AoE threat is weaker.

Failing that, I’d take DPS that prioritize Omen over Recount, but hey. Some dreams were just never meant to come true.

What I mean when I say rhythm is how they feel. How they play. This is an inherently subjective topic – it’ll be different for me than other people. Or at the very least, the degree of enjoyment derived from one rhythm versus another will vary from player to player.

I was originally going to go through all four classes in this post, but then I realized I’d already hit an unwieldy length with just the first two, and that I need to think a little more about the last two since I give them less play time. So, for today I’ll stick with my two 80s – the ones I’ve played into the end-game and therefore am a little better positioned to comment on. The other two I’ll save for another post.

The Warrior

Let’s start with my current obsession – the warrior. It’s been a long, long time since I played the warrior in any kind of dedicated fashion – in fact, I practically ignored the class all the way through Burning Crusade. I was levelling a bear and a pally at the time, so my attention was there. And I stuck with the pally into Wrath. But, sooner or later the siren call could not be ignored. I went back to my character list and there she was. Sitting there all lonely, her lips turned down in a pout, her eyes accusing me of abandoning her, betraying just how deeply she’d been wounded by my betrayal. “I was your first tank – your first real, serious character,” she said. “How could you ditch me just because they finally let you play paladins on the Horde? Was it the hair? The glowy eyes? What was it? And…I mean…a bear? You replaced me with a bear?”

Oh the guilt! I got down on my knees and begged her forgiveness, and together we ventured back into Northrend.

It was like picking up an instrument you haven’t played in years. After a few clumsy trips and awkward stumbles, your fingers suddenly start finding the right combos and chords, almost as though no time has passed in between. The class had changed greatly in the intervening period and I had to go through a brief fit of research to make sure I’d accounted for all the adjustments, but once I’d reconciled the new with the old, it was music.

That has little to do with the warrior though – that’s the magic of your home-class. The one you never leave for long. The one you compare every other class in the game to. Mine, evidently, is warrior. Ironically it was the last class I tried because I didn’t think I’d like it. Ha, oh ha, how it amuses.

So…what was I talking about?

Right, tanking rhythm.

The warrior’s rhythm, if I may use a word I remember only vaguely from my halcyon days of piano lessons (I was…hmm…7- or 8-years-old I believe), is a staccato. At least, my keyboard makes it sound as though I am playing one. If you’re wondering what my mistells look like when I open the chat window by mistake while I’m tanking:


Half the key presses above won’t actually do anything. I’m pre-empting the GCD or am startled by an unexpected proc or praying Revenge’s CD comes off before the proc disappears and is wasted. Basically I’m spamming Devastate unless something else lights up – anything else, really. The mouse is moving in the background, hitting other abilities with longer CDs.

One of the changes I referred to earlier was that when I left the warrior, Devastate was The Big Deal. Woe unto you if you neglected to push Devastate. Woe and ruin! You were single-handedly wiping your raid.

When I came back to it, Devastate was something less than meh. It is now a filler button. Only pressed when absolutely nothing else on your toolbars is available (and, you know, for Sword and Board). I can live with that. We have a raid member who likes to sum up my contribution to the raid as “yay! Sunder armour!” So I like to do it as infrequently as possible, because last time I checked, Sunder Armour is not the extent of my contribution and I am loathe to do anything to help Mr. Stacking-the-DPS-Metres-Is-Helpful-(to-me). Also known as Mr. Too-Good-To-Get-Out-Of-The-Bad. Also voted Most Likely to Get Yelled At Over Vent.

So, with the warrior, it’s sort of like whack a mole. You watch your toolbars waiting for buttons to light up, CDs to come off, and keep up a steady thwacking of the Devastate button so that no GCD is wasted. You keep in mind your priority list to maximize threat in the event two or more buttons are available at the same time. But from that point forward your goal is to keep everything on CD. It’s not a class that’s easy to play asleep.

While you’re watching your toolbars like a hawk, of course, you also need to be watching your health, your healers, the adds, your target, the ground under your feet, and any of another half-dozen things simultaneously. It all requires a reaction from you – immediate and sharp. If you need to be on your defensive CDs, you need to be on them fast, and you need to be on the right one at the right time. If you need to get out of the bad, you need to do it while still watching your toolbars and pressing your buttons, or the aggro monkeys are going to do their thing and monkey your aggro.

The warrior is an As Soon As Possible class. All buttons must be pressed, in order of their priority, As Soon As Possible, or it all dissolves into fail, and it doesn’t matter what else is going on at the time. The class should be labelled “Must be able to multi-task”.

The Paladin

The pally is probably my second-favourite tanking class – not because of mechanics, but more because of whimsy. Of all the tanking classes available, this one is most in line with what I see in my head when I picture that mythical tank archetype. The warrior is a close second, but a warrior can also be many other archetypes, where a pally – no matter what spec they are – by definition fits the bill (and, in truth, the pally is the only class (off the top of my head) in which every single spec is attractive to me. I hate DPSing generally, but I did enjoy Ret when I played it. Haven’t tried Holy yet, but I’m dual-specced into it and it is a shiny gem I stare at longingly, wanting so bad to try it. But I am a big, gigantor coward when it comes to healing).

As far as rhythm goes, with apologies to all the pally tanks out there, I honestly find it really boring. I played this class forever – it’s one of my raid tanks. I enjoyed it, truly and honestly. It’s fun in its own way. But I was not exactly put out when I returned to the warrior.

The pally’s tanking mistell looks like this:


Do you see how neat and orderly that is? There’s not even mouse action going on in the back. On the warrior, there’s mouse action. There’s mouse action because there are too many things to press and not enough fingers to hit them all. Even while I’m mistelling that line of 2s, 3s, and 4s, the mouse is going in the back, slapping my longer CD stuff, spamming Heroic Strike, and hovering over Shield Wall. On the pally, it sits over the Orange-shield-thing (the one that’s like Divine Shield, but reduces damage taken by 50% and doesn’t monkey my aggro). And…that’s it really. Sometimes it clicks on Healbot in order to cleanse (because God forbid one of our 600 hybrid DPS with all the dispels in the world do it) or Righteous Defence someone’s ass, but that’s really about it.

This is how you pally tank:


Sometimes you can switch up the order of the numbers – for those who aren’t versed in pally tanking, your rotation (a true rotation, not a priority list) goes:

6 second CD ability – 9 second CD ability – 6 second – 9 second – 6 second – 9 second.

As long as you have a single point (no more, no less) in Improved Judgments in the Ret tree, you will never waste a GCD, and never not have a button to press. As long as you follow that rotation, the threat is plentiful, includes AoE, and makes it deliriously difficult for anyone, yourself included, to monkey your aggro. This is a class – on boss fights involving no adds and no moving, anyway – you could play while asleep. And, to be honest, that has an attraction all its own.

The rhythm is monotonous, but not unpleasant. It’s steady, stable, and straightforward. It’s easy on your keyboard. You can frantically smash your keys if you want, but you don’t need to and it won’t do anything. You can watch the CDs come off and hit the button at the exact right time. Because you’re working from a true rotation, with no random procs, you always know what you’re pressing next. It leaves your eyes free to watch adds, to watch the floor. I’m quicker to taunt on the pally because I can afford to be extra vigilant elsewhere, since my toolbar requires less of my attention.

Any tank is challenging, but I would heartily recommend the paladin to people interested in trying tanking to see if it’s for them. It’s not a deeply customizable play style, and it has less choice in the heat of the moment than most of the other classes, but it’s a steady, stable one, and it’s a forgiving class with a lot of utility. Once you learn your rotation, you can take the time to learn how to manage your defensive CDs, how to position mobs, when and how to taunt – the softer skills that differentiate good tanks from bad. Because less focus on the basics is required, it’s a solid class to learn the advanced techniques with – or to use the advanced techniques. I will admit there are times on the warrior I find myself wishing I was a pally so I could deal with X just a bit quicker than I could otherwise when I can’t afford to miss a shield slam proc.

The pally is an All In Due Time, class. Things happen when they happen, at predictable intervals, and as long as you’re sensitive to the timing, it’s easily managed. The Pally is in control, provides time to think, and room to react.

Next Time, on Aggro Management: Druids and Death Knights and me sucking, oh my!

I intimated yesterday that people who tank do so for their own reasons. Sometimes the reasons are pragmatic. See a need, fill a need – guild/raid needs tanks so you tank. Hurry up and wait – who needs 10 minute queues when tanks only wait seconds.

Others, like me, choose to play one of the most “useful” roles in the game for entirely useless reasons.

Why do I play tanks? Peel away all the immediate answers – I understand the mechanics, it suits my playstyle, I’ve done it for too long to do anything else, etc.. Get rid of all of that. Get at the heart of the matter. Why did I pick up a tank in the first place? Why do I stick with it as stubbornly as I do (often at the cost of my mental health)?

Why am I a tank?

The answer? Pure whimsy.

Everyone in the game is aware of the MMO portion of the genre’s acronym – hard not to be when it’s getting you killed in a PuG. But WoW’s not just an MMO. It’s also an RPG – a role-playing game.

It’s Dungeons and Dragons with 15, 000, 000 people.

Unlike 99% of the blogs I read, I don’t play on an RP server, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t an element of RP in my play – a large element of it. Every one of my 25-odd characters has a needlessly detailed backstory, in depth personality, and actual reactions to in game events – in my head at least. I don’t tend to share this stuff with many people because a) it’s all hugely complicated; and b) it doesn’t tend to get positive reactions on a normal server.

If you’ve read our About page, you already know that 60% (at least!) of my characters are tanks. Combine that with my previous statement and you might start to see where I’m going with this.

The archetype, in any genre, that I am most attracted to is the Defender. The guy or girl who leaps in front of bullets, and monsters, and trains. The one for whom the only consequence that matters is the inability to live with yourself if you haven’t done the right thing. The one who “still hadn’t fully recovered from his last fight, but couldn’t just stand there and let the dragon eat his beloved companions! He had to do something!”

Shut up, layteknight, I can hear you gagging.

The equivalent of this character archetype in Warcraft is the tank.

What makes me play this game (the game as a standalone, outside its many social facets), what keeps me coming back to it no matter how long I may be away, isn’t the mechanics. It’s not the numbers. It’s not the gear, or the instances, or my growing collection of vanity pets I never wanted but somehow wind up carting around.

It’s the fact that Warcraft is the mother of all games of Pretend – at heart it’s no different than the version I used to play when I was six years old, when it was Barbie saving the world instead of my little gnome or my huge ass Night Elf or my cute little dead guy. (For the record, her name was never Barbie. It was something cooler. And she wasn’t with Ken, either. She was with G.I. Joe, or sometimes Hulk Hogan. I would have paired her with Leonardo, but he’s mine, goddammit!)

I have been a tank at heart since before there were mechanics and gear that actually translated that archetype into a playable class. Since before there was a game that did it.

No matter how often I may dabble in DPSery, or Healination, I will always return to being a tank, because there simply is no comparison for me. Those roles can’t give me what tanking gives me (it’s kinda like what Barbie told Ken when she eloped with G.I. Joe).

There are inescapable adult aspects to WoW – raid/guild leading, social interactions, adult conversations, team work, relationship management, etc. – but these are things I bring to the game, not things the game brings to me.

What the game brings to me is a chance – however brief, however inconsequential in the rush of raiding, chatting, regemming, venting, ranting, blogging, gearing, fighting, failing, winning, enchanting, questing, wiping, grinding, and farming – to step outside myself and play Pretend again, for just a moment. To not be a grown-up woman trying to carve a life out of the unforgiving rock that is the universe.

But instead to be a gnome trying to throw herself between the world and its enemies, for Love and Justice and Doing The Right Thing.

In essence, being a tank isn’t about threat generation and defence caps for me. It’s about taking that rare chance to be six-years-old again, to play the game I’ve been playing since long before WoW even hit my radar – to run around with my metaphorical underwear on the outside and a bedsheet tied around my neck.

I’m not playing a tank. I’m playing Pretend.

N.B.: I am not nearly clever enough to come up with that title on my own – I saw it on a shirt and it seemed appropriate.

So, I’m being told that the blogosphere is afire with discussions about tanks/healers vs. DPS, the importance of these roles, and whether or not the former deserve extra rewards. Apparently I’m still not reading enough of the blogosphere because this was news to me, though it does explain the few posts I’ve seen along these lines. I looked around a bit and managed to find what I think is the original post that sparked the discussion, as well as a few other interesting takes on it.

The conversation seems to break down (at least to/for me, from my limited reading of it) to three questions:

  1. Should Blizzard implement additional rewards for tanks/healers? Either as incentive to get more people to play them, or a reward because the answer to Question 2 is yes?
  2. Are tanks/healers more valuable than DPS? Is their job harder/more frustrating? (I’m not sure if this was actually stated, but it is implied by the suggestion that tanks/healers should get more gear).
  3. Why are there so few tanks/healers compared to DPS?

Let’s explore (with advance apologies for the length of the post. I should confess that I have never, in my personal history, been accused of being short-winded…).

Should Blizzard implement additional rewards for tanks/healers (as incentive or reward)?

My take on the first question (rewards and whether tanks/healers should get extra) is actually pretty succinct: no.

Why? Because as far as incentive goes, a couple extra badges or a shot at gear isn’t going to convince someone to roll a tank or a healer who had no inclination to do so in the first place. Giving me extra gear to use in a role I hate playing is worth exactly nothing to me. I agree with Larísa, over at the Pink Pigtail Inn – Blizzard has already done everything they can to encourage this by implementing dual-specs.

And as far as tanks/healers deserving a reward for their job being hard, the fact of the matter is that if everyone plays like they should – i.e., not like complete, drooling idiots (tanks and healers included) – then, in fact, nobody’s job is actually harder than anybody else’s. Easiest thing I’ve ever done in this game is tank for a well behaved group that stays on target and pays attention. I’ve heard the same from healers.

This is also a partial answer to Question 2, but we’ll come back to the inevitable caveat in a moment.

Are tanks/healers more valuable than DPS? Is their job harder/more frustrating?

Short answer to Question 2.a: Yes and no.

Short answer to Question 2.b: Yes and no.


With regards to value, on a purely economic level (ha ha! Like I understand economics), yes they are. Why? Because they’re in short supply, and you absolutely need to have one of each in order to do group content. All the DPS in the world couldn’t burn through the boss fast enough to keep anyone from dying, and there won’t be much gogogoing unless it’s from the graveyard back to your corpse. But that’s where any additional value ends. If the LFG was suddenly flooded with tanks and healers this whole point would fall off the board and it wouldn’t matter any more.

Tanks tank, healers heal, and DPS do damage in varied and colourful forms. None of these roles is actually worth more than the others, it just appears to be so because tanks and healers are rare, and their roles are more obviously required. You could lose a DPS (Hell, you could lose two DPS) and provided the remaining is/are sufficiently competent, you can still actually clear content. But that’s not a result of DPS being worth less, it’s a function of the damage role and the fact that you can always add or lose DPS without significantly affecting your gameplay. You could add a healer or a tank, and they might be a little bored, but you could play like that. You couldn’t afford to lose a healer or a tank, though. You need to keep the minimum one.

So, it’s not that tanks and healers are worth more, it’s just that they appear to be so because you can usually afford to lose a DPS or two because you have extras.

The fact of the matter is, you absolutely need DPS. Sure, in theory, you could two-man the world as a tank/healer combo. I know, I’ve done it once or twice. But I hope you’ve got patience, time, and a Godly mana bar of unending blue.

The mechanics of this game work around the assumption that all three roles are filled. You have somebody distracting the monster so somebody else can kill it. You have somebody healing the first somebody to keep them alive and buy time. And you have somebody else who is killing the monster before the healer runs out of mana, and the tank runs out of life.

If you don’t have DPS, the healer runs out of mana and the tank runs out of life. If you don’t have a tank, the DPS run out of life before the healer can cast so much as a HoT and then so does the healer. If you don’t have a healer, the tank runs out of life and the DPS die screaming. Each role is required. Each role is equal. If you don’t have them all, everybody dies.

It’s the synergy between the roles that makes the game work and means the difference between win and fail (and, incidentally, it’s this synergy that is the most rewarding thing in the game for me). Why would you reward one of the roles over the other? You need them all. We’ll be in no better a position if all the DPS in the world rolled tanks and healers and there was no one left to actually kill things. We can’t ALL be protectors of the weak and squishy.


In my answer to Question 1, I intimated that the tank/healer role was no more frustrating than the DPS role when everyone played intelligently, but (told you there was a caveat) in the event that someone(s) isn’t playing intelligently…

The source of the added frustration in the two pole positions is people who play like idiots. If you’ve never tanked or healed, you have no idea how hard you have to work, or how stressful it can be, to try to save people from their own stupidity – to say nothing of saving everyone else from their stupidity.

It’s not that the roles are inherently more frustrating, it’s that they come with more responsibility for the lives of others – and therefore more stress if you feel the situation slipping out of your control. There is almost always something you could have done. You will always wonder “what if I’d popped my CD sooner”, “what if I’d saved my taunt”, “did I miss a step in the rotation?”.

As DPS as long as you’re playing well you’re doing everything you can to preserve the HP of your group and you can’t actually compensate for other, less helpful players. As tank or heals…you are designed to preserve the HP of your group, and a drooling idiot is no excuse for failing, no matter how hard they make your job. And you have to watch everything.

Example scenario:

Kill target is skull. I’m tanking skull and throwing down enough AoE threat to keep Cross, Square, and Star off the healer and the DPS that can’t help but AoE as part of their rotation (ret pallies, warriors, etc… I’m not talking Blizzard or Volley here, but Divine Storm and whirlwind). But Retarded DPS #1 is wailing on the square. Why is anyone’s guess.

So I notice I’m losing square. I throw a shield slam on it and return to skull, tersely reminding RD#1 that the kill target is skull and nobody will be impressed with his DPS if they’re all running back from the graveyard. RD#1, you may have guessed by now, is retarded. So he stays on Square.

I start doing more AoE threat, trying to single-target-tank Skull, since the rest of the DPS are sill single-target-DPSing it, and AoE tank Square, even though I know it won’t work since RD#1 is single-target-DPSing it. Inevitably, he pulls aggro.

Depending on the situation and how long we’ve been fighting, this may not be the end of the world. Let’s assume worst case scenario, though.

RD#1 starts taking more damage than his squishy little frame can bear. Healer panics and starts pouring heals into him. I’m snarling and swearing and have to switch targets to get Square back. I slap Vigilance onto RD#1 to kill his threat (since he’s not smart enough to do it himself) and taunt Square off of him. Naturally, RD#1 thinks this means he can keep wailing on Square. Because he’s still wailing on Square, there’s going to be a period where, even with Vigilance, he’s riding my threat, because taunt does not give me anything more than 100% of whatever threat you had, which means I don’t have any wriggle room on Omen. So I fight with RD#1 for a bit to establish adequate threat on what is basically the third target in the kill order.

Meanwhile, the rest of the DPS are still wailing on Skull because that’s what they’re supposed to do. Only problem? I’m no longer tanking Skull, and I’ve swapped Vigilance from the highest threat DPS in the group, to RD#1 in an attempt to compensate for his idiocy. The healer has topped off RD#1, during which time I am still taking damage from three targets and not getting healed, and as he turns to start sinking mana into me – where it’s supposed to go – inevitably the good DPS still following the kill order pull the Skull I haven’t been tanking. Healer has another heart attack. I’m a tank, I’ve got defences, I’m not down that much, so his priority becomes keeping the DPS alive as the monster wails on them.

One of the DPS maybe stops attacking the Skull when they see it’s not on me. The other one closes their eyes and maintains the faith that I will taunt it back and save their ass. Depending on how quickly this has happened (and believe me, it can be fucking quick), my taunt may actually be on cooldown. Let’s pretend it is (worst case scenario, remember?).

So I mocking blow, which forces the monster to attack me for a bit, but doesn’t change my threat level. Now I have to manually hike my threat back up to where it would be if I’d been tanking the target the whole time before Mocking Blow wears off. I’m not sure I want to move Vigi again because RD#1 is still on the square and now I’m not. The DPS, seeing that Skull is on me again and unaware it was Mocking blow, not taunt, open fire. Maybe they pop a CD to try to get their DPS up again to make up for having to slow down when I switched targets.

Just as I manage to get control of skull, I lose Square again. I blow my newly refreshed taunt pulling it back and drop a thunder clap out desperation as I attempt to reposition the scattered group for a shockwave. But then the Star peels off from the group and bears down on the healer because I’ve been so busy trying to single-target-tank two different targets, I haven’t been paying enough attention to dropping AoE (and as a warrior, AoE is not, exactly, my strong suit – it’s not something that happens passively, it’s something I have to do).

Healer’s still busy trying to bring the DPS back up to full so he can get back to healing me when he sees the mob and shifts focus to keeping himself alive. Lo and behold, my taunt is on CD and Vigi’s on RD#1. So I Intervene back to the healer and start wailing on Star until it’s looking at me again. By the time I’m charging back into melee, Skull has died and the good DPS have moved onto Cross even though I’m not there and haven’t had much of a change to put threat on it, since I was forced to split my attention between the first kill order target and the third. RD#1 has already re-pulled aggro on Square. Healer’s dropping into a coma from all the stupid and starts ignoring the DPS because I’m getting pretty low on health and he can’t keep us all alive.

So what do I do? Do I pick up cross before the DPS do, or do I try to get square back? Technically, I’m expected to do both, even though I’m fighting with CDs, the GCD, my rage level (repeat after me: if it’s not wailing on me, I’m not getting any rage back), and the ever narrowing gap between my threat and the DPS’.

There are a couple of ways this scenario ends. Ironically, it’ll depend on how good our not-retarded DPS are. If they’re good enough at their class and they’re packing the requisite heat, they’ll be able to kill the adds before the tank-bouncing and heal-bouncing that is a direct result of RD#1’s inability to follow a kill order falls apart at the seams and either me or healer just aren’t fast enough to compensate.

If the DPS aren’t good enough, we all die.

So, suffice it to say, in an ideal world, tanks, healers and DPS have equal degrees of difficulty and frustration in their roles; however the world is not ideal, and when shit goes wrong it’s harder on the tanks and healers than the DPS specifically because they’re the ones who need to compensate for it. Good DPS are already doing what they can to mitigate the damage and there’s not much they can do to make a situation right again if someone else is fucking up.

As a throw back to the value question, in the scenario above you’ll note that assuming your tank and healer are good ones, success or failure ultimately comes down to the DPS.

Funny how that works, eh? It’s unlikely to be acknowledged, because unfortunately the tank and healer are frothing at the mouth with rage because that fight was exponentially harder than it had to be, and our relaxing heroic run just turned into the nightmare from Hell (to say nothing of the fact that odds are good RD#1 is already gleefully running into the next group without waiting for us).

What this translates into is anger at the DPS – not because they all suck, but because it’s human nature to use a broad brush. Statistically speaking (okay…anecdotally speaking) there’s a LOT of retarded DPS out there, and they give tanks and healers Once Bitten Twice Shy Syndrome, and give DPS as a role a bad name.

Not because DPS as a role is easy or has no value, but because they’re doing it wrong. If DPS as a role didn’t matter or had no value, a DPS being an idiot would not be able to wreak such havoc just by not being on the wrong target. But they do.

Because they matter.

Why are there so few tanks/healers compared to DPS?

So many answers to this. It can’t be answered in a general sense, because people choose to play or not play a tank/healer for very personal reasons. In some cases, they choose not to because they simply don’t want the responsibility. In some cases they’re just not attracted to the roll. In some cases they tried it, but ran into one too many RD#1s and quit because it’s just not worth the frustration. In some cases they tried it, and douche bag PuGs swore at them and vote-kicked them and never gave them a chance to learn how to do it so they quit.

Tanking or healing is very often at best a thankless job, at worst an abusive one. You take a lot of shit and very little of it is deserved. On top of it, it’s hard to defend yourself. At the end of an encounter, DPS can link Recount and say – see? There’s my number. It’s HUGE. Where’s your incontrovertible proof that you performed well?

The fact that everyone’s alive is not always a good indicator. If you’re all still standing at the end, but the DPS had to spam threat-reduction abilities constantly, and your healer is OOM, and the mobs were all over the place…well, you didn’t do a very good job, did you?

There’s nothing you can link to say “I’m a good tank.” If you’re a healer, Recount does track things, but it’s not accurate or necessarily worth linking. If you’re a Disc priest you’re barely going to register since 90% of your shit is absorption, not healing. If you’re RH you’re going to be much higher on Recount than the MH. If your tank is overgeared for the content, your numbers will be low. There are too many variables.

Being a good tank or a good healer means having softer skills. Do you notice incoming pats and pick them up before your DPS do? Do you know when you can afford to heal a DPS without exposing your tank to risk? Can you compensate for RD#1 and the rest of his Guild? Are you good enough to make up for other people’s epic foolishness?

These aren’t things that Recount tracks. And if they’re done right, they’re not things that anyone but you notices. And they’re hard to do, and they’re frustrating to do, and the require a degree of skill and experience that most other players simply aren’t aware of. A while ago I went into an instance on my bear and warned them in advance it had been a while since I’d played a bear. The response I got was “just swipe” as though that was really all tanking came down to. But tanks who “just swipe” are not good tanks.

I’m not saying the DPS get all kinds of glory and appreciation (because they don’t usually even get a thank you, and that’s as bad as not thanking your tank or healer), but at least as a DPS you have a number you can spam if it’s high enough. You have a mechanical means of evaluating your own performance and defending yourself from or preventing criticism.

As a tank and a healer, all you’ve got is your own private evaluation of whether you did everything you could to prevent a wipe. And there’s nothing much you can do to prove beyond the shadow of a doubt it wasn’t your fault if it happened.

This is why it’s easy to blame the healer and/or the tank for a wipe – not just because their job is actually to prevent it, but because they can’t reliably defend themselves. You get he said, she said.

[RDno1]: wtf y i die/
[Angrytank]: Because you were on the wrong target. Follow the kill order and you won’t pull.
[RDno1]: I asist u
[Angrytank]: No, you didn’t. I have three different mods that show me what target you’re on. You weren’t assisting anybody.
[RDno1]: lrn 2 tnk! u shuld devestete mor usck
[Angrytank]: You. Weren’t. On. The. Skull. Even if I DID devastate more, I’d be devastating SKULL. You would still have pulled.
[Angrytank] has been vote-kicked.

It’s almost futile to try to defend yourself. And I’m not even going to get into DPS that pull for you and start fights before you’re ready (because they think you can “just swipe” and that will fix everything).

So, in the end, you really have to love healing/tanking to play those roles outside a friendly, supportive guild/raid group – because the amount of abuse, grief, and frustration you’ll take isn’t worth it otherwise.

And for the record, neither is an extra badge.


It’s not Blizzard’s fault there aren’t more tanks and healers. It’s the shape of the community. Too many asshats, not enough patience or respect for other human beings. Tanking and healing requires you to perform a service for a group of people, and your success is measured not just by how much life they had left at the end of the fight, but by their quality of life during the fight.

But there’s only so much you can compensate for, and sooner or later it’s hard to care whether they live or die, especially when they did it to themselves, but give the blame to you.

Every time a DPS says “wty y i die/” a tank quits the game.

Every time a non-heals says: “just heel thru it1” a healer quits the game.

But everyone time anyone tells someone else (DPS, tank, or heals): “Hey man, good job. Tough fight, but we made it.” then someone jumps into the queue again for just one more run.

The solution to this problem is a simple one.*

*And if it fails, there’s always Plan B – which involves a bat, a road trip, and some skulls. Who’s with me?

Let’s talk about positioning.

One of the things that I, personally, feel separates the good tanks from the bad, is positioning. A lot of people think a tank’s job is as simple as being really hard to kill and/or ignore. And on most levels, it is. But there’s an art to doing that that is not always obvious at first glance.

Let’s start with being hard to kill. The biggest factors here are your defensive stats, ability to use your CDs judiciously, and how much your healer loves you (can’t go wrong with flowers and chocolates). But – new tanks take note – there are other things you can do or not do that will help or hinder your efforts in this regards, and they all come down to positioning.

It never fails to startle me how many people don’t know this, but most of your avoidance stats don’t count if a monster is hitting you from behind. You can’t block, dodge or parry a knife in your back, I’m afraid. Know what’s worse? A knife in your back can, and will crit. This is bad. Very bad.

The reason why everyone goes on and on about the 540 DEF cap and how important it is, is because it basically makes you immune to crits. It does a bunch of mathematical mumbo-jumbo behind the scenes that makes you impossible to hit for anything more than your average, run of the mill blow. Given that most bosses’ average, run of the bill blow will take 30-50% of your life in a single hit…you begin to understand why them not critting your pants is a good thing.

But that only works if they’re attacking you from the front. In short, if they’re behind you, you’re avoiding fuck all, and they’re hitting you twice as hard. You may as well be standing in the back in your sissy robe for all your 4 000 000 000g worth of armour and gems is doing for you.

Never turn your back on the mob.

Other defensive reasons to watch where you’re standing and where you’re facing?

Position yourself too close to a wall, and the next thing you know you can’t see anything but the mob’s chestpiece (or codpiece if you’re a gnome…which I am, from time to time…oh the things I’ve seen). Sometimes this is unavoidable, but the rest of the time…if you can’t see what’s going on past the rippling pectorals (or, if you’re a gnome…nevermind. Let’s not go there) of the guy you’re fighting, you can’t see the pat sneaking up on you from the left, or the mage at the back summoning fire right under you, or the blizzard going on all around you.

Pop in and out of Line of Sight (pillars in UK, anyone?) and watch your healer die of a heart attack (and yourself die of a big fucking axe in the face).

Fight on top of the stairs and spend the next thirty seconds wondering why your mages aren’t doing anything to help you kill the mobs that are happily munching through your armour and your healer’s mana. Watch said mages have to run up the stairs to get in LoS, only to catch a whirlwind in the face and die. Have fun DPSing that shit down by yourself. Hope your healer’s got a mana potion!

I could go on.

So let’s talk about ignoring. I can hear you now. But Protflashes, is it really going to impact my threat if I stand in a less-than-convenient location, or I’m facing the wrong way?

To which I respond, with a good degree of incredulity: did you really just ask me that?

When I get a shrill message from layteknight that consists of the word “threat!” over and over again (like an alarm clock, but the only way to shut it off is to make the red go away from the edges of her screen), it’s for one of three reasons, all of which I check in the following order:

  1. I’m not in Defensive Stance (or Frost Presence, or Bear Form, or wearing Righteous Fury – though, seriously, how do you miss that you’re not in bear form?). I’ve done this a grand total of once in my entire tanking career and was frightened so badly by it (“WTF? Why is it telling me Overpower is read—fuck!”) it has never happened again. Still, I check. Because oh my god is it happening again?!

  2. I have neglected to refresh (or, you know, put on at all) Vigilance. I’ve seen some warriors poo-poo this ability, and I can generally understand their point that perhaps it’s not always required and you should be able to generate threat without it (like the good old days before it existed). To these people I would politely point out that it’s not the good old days anymore (nor were they necessarily that good, but that’s a post for another day), and Blizzard has probably designed encounters, the class, and threat mechanics around the assumption that warriors will be raking in 10-15% of a DPS’ threat at any given point. I can usually go quite a while before this becomes an issue, but all it takes is a string of (un)lucky crits, or one of the six million overgeared, under-intelligent players out there, or a bad stun/fear/incapacitate to make things a lot less certain that they are otherwise. It makes a noticeable difference, whether the difference is required or not.
    • Aside: It’s a 30 minute buff that costs you nothing, increases your threat gen, and lowers the threat of a high DPS. STFU and use it.

  3. OR I’m facing the wrong way. This happens more often than I like, usually as a result of a wonky charge, and exacerbated by the fact that I’m a gnome. It’s not like I can see myself under all those monsters (interestingly, I have the same problem with blood elves. They’re bigger than gnomes, but they look the same back and front to me. The bears…well, this is less of an issue on a bear). If the first two options don’t pan out, I look to the centre of my screen to confirm or deny the presence of the “You are a fucking tool case” message, alternatively read as “Target must be in front of you”.

I can smash my Shield Slam key all I want, but if the monster’s not in front of me, I’m not generating any threat.

But there are other threat-generating reasons to watch my positioning. As a warrior, for example, one of my (only) AoE threat generators is Shockwave, which is a (fucking) cone. Which means that right up in front of me, the area it affects is actually very narrow. And, as tank, it’s not like things are standing more than two inches from my face. So for this to be effective, I have to make sure that not only are the mobs all in front of me, but they’re spaced out correctly so I can hit them all. Same goes for cleave and similar abilities.

Clump, my pretties! Clump!

Additionally, similar to the above note about chest(cod)pieces and not being able to see incoming pats or other badness going on around you – if the healer’s standing in a weird place (note to our old MH: seriously, why? Why would you stand over there? The mages, warlock, and RH are all standing in a squishy little clump on the other side of the room. Why would you not stand with them?) and catches an ambulatory monster, how are you going to taunt it if you’re busy inspecting the craftsmanship of your target’s armour? If your rogue (note to rogue: K, no, for real, why?) is on the wrong target for the four thousandth time, same question? You’re not even going to see him pull that shit, and there’s no way you’ll be able to select it to pull it back.

You are the tank. The tank! She who pulls shit and then takes it to the face. Whether or not you’re party/raid lead, you’re the one – by definition – who has to control where those mobs are standing. And you sure as Hell can’t make your party stand where you want them to, so you’re going to have move the mobs. You’ll have to push, shove and bully them into a useful position, from which you can survey the battlefield, taunt errant bullshit (or scream at it over vent), keep your enemies squarely in front of you, and maintain line of sight to every single member of your party and their threat-pulling-asses at all times.

If you don’t do this, you don’t have control of the battlefield. If I had a dime for every “tank” I’ve played with who figures once they’re at that DEF cap they can just faceroll the world…only to die beneath a swarm of angry, stabby mobs (or worse, lose aggro on them completely)…

Facerolling this shit will only get you so far.

If you want to tank, to truly tank, assume the position.