Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Tanking Isn't For Everyone

Several months ago I wrote a long post called "Raid Tanking Isn't for Everyone" that I ultimately didn't put up because I figured it would be too easy for guildies to identify the person I was talking about, but I had an experience last night (through the random Dungeon Finder of course) that reminded me of that older post and parts of it are still relevant.

I ended up joining a heroic OK that was already in progress. For some reason they'd lost a dps, and their tank DCed about a minute after I arrived. After it became apparent he wasn't coming back, we vote kicked him out and our replacement arrived.

He was sporting 25k health.

Obviously an entry level tank. Low enough to be concerning, but not impossible to work with, especially if he knew his stuff. People would just have to be careful.

He trucked over to join us and the first thing I noticed was he was wearing Shoulderguards of Enduring Order. Wait, he's sporting ilevel 245 shoulders and his health is only 25k?

I inspected at him, and besides the shoulders he had only a couple other epics, the CoS shield and a ring, but the only thing socketed was the epic shoulders (with an epic blue gem, so he did it properly). He left his blue helm, which had room for a meta, unsocketed. Not only that, but nothing was enchanted.

Here was someone who plainly wasn't going to bother enhancing anything until it was epic, and here he was to tank our heroic.

Most tanks I talk with or whose blogs I read are raid tanks, they take pride in their gear. To do anything less would be a disservice to the people who depend on them. They get a new drop and it's gemmed and enchanted before the next time you see them, if it's not done in the first five minutes after raid. (If the tank in question is a JC/enchanter it might even happen during the raid itself.) These tanks know they're the first line of defense and the maintenance of their gear is tied more strongly to their ability to do their job than any other role.

Though I wouldn't expect a pug tank who may never raid to have top of the line gems and enchants, when you're just starting out every little bit helps, gives your healer room to breathe. Our healer wasn't well geared either, being completely in blues. A few heavy borean stam kits are cheap compared to most enchants, and six of those would have given him another 1000 health. Green gems might not be fashionable, but they're also cheap.

Surely the thought that more health is better must register even with the newest tank, right? Those gems and kits could pay off in repair bills avoided while he gears himself (he once mentioned how much it cost him to repair). And he should have at least put a kit on his shoulders if he wasn't eligible for a Hodir enchant, since he cared enough to put an epic gem in it.

I kept my thoughts to myself. Perhaps I shouldn't, but I try to give people the benefit of a doubt. Sometimes they look undergeared, but they do their job just fine. The no enchants really bugged me though. It always does when I see a tank without them.

So we continue on our way to deactivate those orbs at the top of the web ramps on the way to the second boss. The tank ends up dying near the end of one the pulls and I pull an emergency bear form, growl, and barkskin to keep the mobs off the rest of the dps. The healer apologizes, saying he got spell locked, and rezzes the tank. I remember that being a problem back when heroics were still hard so this doesn't bother me too much. Both tank and healer are entry level 80s.

We beat the second boss without a problem, and then we entered the big room with all the cultists and their elemental pats.

We cleared the pat at the bottom of the stairs, and from there I usually see tanks grab a stationary cluster of four cultists to our right. What I don't see is the tanks hug the adjacent wall and start pulling the elemental groups.

This tank ignored the group of cultists and attacked the nearest stationary elemental group. This would have been okay if he'd actually pulled them back and up the steps, but we fought them more or less where they stood, which meant that the elemental pat came up behind us and attacked.

Had this been a raid geared tank and healer, it would have been survivable. But being who they were, they could not handle the additional adds. We wiped.

We came back and the tank attacked the same group again. I say attacked, not pulled, because there was no pulling away to fight in a safer area. So we got the adds again and died.

The tank asked, "Where'd they come from?"

The healer's response was partially bleeped out by my swear filter, but did mention that they were the same group of adds we'd just died to two minutes ago.

At this point the tank said he had to repair, so he ported out to repair (which was adventure in itself since he couldn't find an NPC near him to do it). While we waited for him to come back I decided I would start marking pulls for him.

When he did get back I told him to range pull the group of four cultists with the skull. If we cleared them that would give us the safety we needed to pull the elemental pat and then we could ignore the group that he was originally going for.

As I told him which group to pull he had shuffled over towards the elemental group (for the third time!) that we had yet to kill without aggroing adds. He asked why should he pull the marked group instead. And as he did the elementals aggroed on him just from his proximity. And then somehow, someone got knocked into that very group of four cultists, causing them to aggro, and I said "So that doesn't happen."

When we inevitably wiped the healer said the tank was the worst he'd ever seen and dropped group, followed immediately by the other two dps. The tank asked what did he do wrong. After all, he was holding aggro.

And I, feeling a bit sorry for him, since he genuinely seemed clueless, told him that there was more to being a tank to holding aggro. It was situational awareness, knowing how to pull the mobs, knowing which mobs to pull, avoiding unwanted adds, avoiding putting the party in a dangerous position.

But despite what I told him he insisted that he had pulled the right pack of mobs and was tanking them in the right spot, lol. (Yes, he did include lol's as he told me he was doing the right thing.)

I didn't know what else to tell him other than he asked for feedback and I gave it. I asked him, if he really did do everything right, then why did everyone leave?

It was blunt, but hopefully I gave him something to think about. I left on that note, because it was late and I should have been in bed already. I could have gotten on my high horse and said I'd tanked this before on both my raid-geared 80s, he was pulling wrong end of story. I could have asked him if he was blowing his tanking cooldowns. I could have said he was undergeared for what he was trying to do. One of my guildies suggested I should have asked him if he was defense capped (probably tough at his stage without enchants).

But there's only so much coaching a person feels up to at 1 am and I wanted to focus on why that specific pull resulted in a repeated wipe. He was undergeared, yeah, but we still could have made it if he played better.

The funny thing is… after one of the wipes, we'd lost a dps and so we had to re-queue. I made sure to queue as both tank and dps, in a vain hope he would have a dps off-spec so the dungeon finder would give me the tanking role and we might actually survive. But he only queued as tank, nothing else.

I realize there are some people who live for tanking, but oddly enough don't seem to have a clue how to do it. I've met them before. The subject of "Raid Tanking Isn't for Everyone" was one of them. That person ran every heroic under the sun, multiple times, wanted badly to raid tank, but had horrible situational awareness, didn't like to take advice on how to spec, and didn't like to read up on tanking strats. But man that person wanted to be a raid tank.

A lot of what makes a good tank comes from practice, so every tank is a nub at some point. One of my old guildies was a fabulous warrior who could tank Shattered Halls so well you'd think he was a paladin (back when only paladins were good AoE tanks), and he liked to tell me how bad he was when he first started.

But this 25k tank in OK must've had at least a few instances under his belt given his shoulders (45 emblems… probably at least eight or nine heroics) so he couldn't have been all that new to it.

I think it takes a certain type of person to be a good tank. A tank needs to be a good observer, because they need to know who and what's happening around them. A tank needs to be adaptable, because sometimes things don't go according to plan. A tank needs to be aware of their strengths and their weaknesses. A tank needs to realize the safety of the rest of the party resides first and foremost in him or herself. A tank needs to go that extra mile that others don't.

I'm not always a good tank, but I've run with tanks who are, and it's not always enough to just hold aggro.


Klepsacovic said...

I really like this post. I'll have to reference it in a post I'm writing about the dps shortage and LFD.

Hana said...

There's a dps shortage? :O

Klepsacovic said...

Um... what was I trying to say? I don't remember. Let's just go with "Nice post."

Korenwolf said...

Tanking well is hard, gear and enchanting isn't everything. Though OK is one of those instances where every little does help (the room with all the mobs is known as "The room of wipes" in our guild).

Situational awareness, as you say, is the key, watching for that minute or so to work out where the patrols are running, see where the gap is to make the pull, LoS pulls in that room are the key and getting out of the damm red evils.

bo-breaze said...

I realy enjoyed this post it is absolutly true that a good tank must be aware of everything. IF you dont know the pulls when your a tank ask because making a wrong pull can wipe you. If you make a bad pull and recover from it remember what happened and avoid it next time. Learn which mobs drop aggro to save the aggro snapping tools needed to bring them back. IE skeltons in auchi crypts i encounterd last night.

Gear is 25% of what makes a good tank 25% is being able to hold aggro 50% is being aware of how the fight is proceeding and reacting they way you need to.

To bad theres not a skill score associated with players because to me skill > gear. if somone knows how to play well then gear is just a bonus that makes it easier. Unless its a warrior then gear makes it even harder when doing lower level content.

Hana said...

@Korenwolf - I realize enchanting isn't everything, but the very act of gemming and enchanting shows me that this person cares about what they're doing. Green gems can provide over half of the utility of an epic at a fraction of the price and it's easy to plaster on stam kits.

My newly 80 feral is using blue gems and stam kits for her tank set. It's not just for the party's benefit. It keeps me alive too. :) At the level I'm at I'm trying to strike a balance between gear that is likely to be replaced soon and giving my healer a good health buffer.

@bobreaze - That's why I try to give people the benefit of a doubt. I don't use GearScore or any add-ons to tell me what people are wearing. I might inspect them if I see something unusual about their health or gear, but skill beats a lot of that. I ran a heroic Forge of Souls with a 31k health tank, which I initially thought was a little low, but the tank had no problems holding aggro or staying alive (I was healing that one).