Sometimes there is fire…

Posted: 13 April, 2011 in Cataclysm, Healing, Raiding, Tanking

There’s an interesting argument going on over at Tobolds’ in his latest post: Assymetric Challenge.  What the commenters are arguing over boils down to which is easiest, tanking, DPSing or healing.  Tobolds’ position, along with several of the commenters, is that tanking is by far the hardest job in dungeons and raids.  If a DPS screws up the worst that can happen is that they die.  Big deal, plenty more where they came from.  A tank bears the responsibility for the whole group, they screw up and there’s a very good chance that the entire raid or group is going to die.

All seems so obvious when you put it like that, doesn’t it.  Case closed.  DPS and healing is for facerollers, Tanks got it the hardest.

Or not.

Leaving aside the responsibility of the healers for a moment, the thing is, there’s a world of difference between difficulty and responsibility.  Just because something carries the burden of responsibility doesn’t mean it’s hard to do.  You may not like doing it, but that doesn’t make it technically difficult.  Tanking is not intrinsically hard to do.  Tanking for a group of idiots is hard.  Doing anything in a group of idiots is hard, tanks aren’t special.  You just tend to notice more when the tank’s an idiot because you all end up dead.  But again I must stress, you end up dead not because the tanks’ job was hard, but because he was an idiot and he was an idiot with a very responsible role.

But” you all cry, “marking targets for crowd control and setting kill orders and doing interrupts and controlling the pace is hard work!”  Well maybe.  It’s tedious, sure. Responsible, definitely.  Tanking?  No.  That’s not tanking, that’s leading.  Tanks complain that if they don’t do it, nobody will.  This argument can go any way you like.  I’ve seen plenty of tanks not leading too.  Unless you call charging into packs of unmarked mobs with a healer on 50% mana after rezzing a dead dps fifty yards away as leading.  I don’t.  I call it Natural Selection.  As for interrupts, any clown can do that, and when you’re doing Nefarian, Halfus Wyrmbreaker, Omnitron Defence System or Maloriak I can guarantee you it won’t be the tanks ahead on the Interrupt count.  Or if it is, you’re all going to be dead pretty soon, and not just because none of the tanks are hit capped.

But yes, tanks certainly have a responsible role.  But do tanks have the most responsible role?  Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to introduce our special guest, the healers.

Healing is like playing whack-a-mole, except instead of one hammer, you have a choice of eight.  And you have to use exactly the right hammer for whichever mole pops up at any split second because if you use too many of the wrong hammers, your hammers start to get taken away from you.  And then you have no hammers, but the moles are still popping up.  And then you’re all dead. And sometimes, the moles like to dodge, or pop up out of the wrong hole, or run out of range of your hammers.  Sometimes, these dumbass moles even stay in the hole after you hit them with the right hammer, so you have to keep hitting them despite the fact that other moles are popping up all the time and you can only use one hammer at once and will that stupid bastard mole get the fuck out of that hole or do you have to hit him with this hammer all friggin’ day? But you still have to deal with it, even though you’re playing with a group of idiot moles it’s still your problem.  And if you can’t deal with it, moles are going to die.  Now that’s difficult and responsible, all in one package.  Is tanking harder than this?  Not sure I’m ever going to have the confidence to say “Yes”.  I’d be comfortable settling for a “perhaps”.

Now let’s look at the dps.  Is tanking harder than dpsing?  It certainly can be.  If your dps won’t follow the marked target, constantly breaks crowd control, pulls aggro, won’t silence the healers or casters or won’t even apply crowd control in the first place, then yes, unquestionably, tanking is bloody hard, thankless work.  But once again, that cuts both ways.  If your tank won’t follow the marked target, constantly breaks crowd control, loses aggro and won’t silence the healers or casters or won’t wait for crowd control to be applied in the first place, then doing dps is a job with a high mortality rate.  And whichever of the two holds true, it’s the healer, not the tank, who has to pick up the slack.  Careful placement of traps, intelligent use of Polymorph, Hex and Glyphed Fear, kiting loose adds, interrupting tank-killing or mob-healing abilities…  these are not tanking jobs.  But the thing about all of these activities is that they operate on a sliding scale.  If they’re being done correctly and intelligently, and if the tank’s sufficiently intelligent to not interfere with and take advantage of them, then the tanks’ job is a cakewalk.  In a park.  With flowers and shit.  The healer can even remember to breathe, too.  But the less these jobs are done the more difficult the tank and healers’ job becomes.  See how that works?  Tanks and healers jobs get easier the harder the dps works and the smarter the tank is.

So no.  The tank categorically does NOT have the hardest job in a group.  Not by default.  He may end up with a hard job if his dps are mouth-breathing window-lickers, but I wouldn’t call it the hardest unless he was prepared to strip to the waist and fight the healer for the title.

But you’re not convinced.  I’m sure there are many of you who are quite capable of pointing to a given boss and saying “But look at this fight, it’s an utter nightmare for a tank.”  And you’d be right.  But for every Ozruk and Foe Reaper 5000 there’s a Baron Ashbury.  Or Ascendant Lord Obsidius.  Or Drahga Shadowburner.  Come to think of it, Foe Reaper 5000’s no laughing matter for the DPS either.

I guess where I’m going with this is that saying tanking is the hardest job in a dungeon is nonsense.  Any part of the holy trinity can be a nightmare if one of the three corners is being an asshat, whether that be tank, dps or healer.  Tanking, in and of itself, is not hard.  DPS and Crowd Control are not hard.  Healing is not hard.  They’re harder than in Wrath, certainly, and all three are utter nightmares if your group isn’t being led effectively.  Leading IS hard.  Especially in PuGs, and herein lies the crux of the argument.  The role of leader has traditionally always fallen to the tank, because let’s face facts here, if the tank’s not ready for the pull, the pull ain’t happening (or at least it shouldn’t happen).  So since the tank’s in the lead, the tank may as well Lead, right?  This is nonsense.  Any clown can lead, it doesn’t have to be the tank, but the thing is, people are lazy.  People like to follow the path of least resistance, and that usually means following the tank since they’re the one in front anyway.  And if you’re being followed, you must be the Leader.  THIS is why tanking is hard, not because there’s anything hard about tanking, but because Tanks either accept the burden of leadership or all too often, no-one bothers to lead.  And then you have a fail pug, and everything becomes hard.

I’ll tell you what else is hard.  Very damn hard.  Trying to Lead when the tank’s not interested.  “Just mark whatever you want sheeped with an X and I’ll take care of…  oh you just charged in and we’re in combat.  Never mind”

“Okay, I marked X, I’ll sheep it then you grab the mobs when they aggro on me.  Casting…..  now.  Oh, your Death and Decay appears to have broken the sheep, and now it seems to be diseased.  Great.”

“Anyone not know this boss?  Three of you including the tank?  Okay, he’s actually pretty simple.  He has two abilities you watch for.  The first is Static Cling, when he’s casting this, you all need to be off the ground when it finishes casting or you get rooted, and this is bad news when he does his second ability, which is…  why are we in combat?”

All three genuine examples from a Heroic Vortex Pinnacle two days ago.  The tanks’ job was not hard.  It was piss easy.  All he had to do was listen.  My job was an utter nightmare, and not because I had to dps.  It was because I had to lead the unleadable.

That’s hard.

  1. Tachyon says:

    Raidleading IS the hardest job, no matter what class you play. My current raid leader is a tank, but I also had raid leaders playing ranged DPS in previous guilds.
    Though my current raid leader does an amazing job, from explaining encounters to giving orders and watch people playing mid fight, I’d generally say that ranged DPS classes have it easier leading the raid during the fight (meele and tank don’t see stuff apart from the bosses ankles, and headers are busy playing whac-a-mole with their grids).

    I play in a 25man guild (5/13 HC so far), and my main is a mage, but I also have two alts, tank and heal, at max level, so I can claim to have played any role.
    Almost any class deals with the same problems in a raid (staying alive, positioning, special abilities that require to interrupt and disspell), that’s the base level of difficulty anyone faces.

    Apart from that, my impression is that tanking is actually quite easy. You may have to taunt straying adds, or swap aggro with another tank at times, but apart from that it’s just maintaining threat and blow your cooldowns at the right time.

    Healing is brutally hard with bad gear, going out of mana is a serious threat until you gear up. Permanently monitoring the health of the raid group and watching out for fire on the ground at the same time is not easy, and gets worse in movement intense fights (with players getting out of healing range etc.).

    DPS might be the easiest job in random dungeons, but in a serious raid it’s unforgiving. Bad performers are spotted instantly, and giving your top performance means doing a clusterton of research outside the game. As a mage I have to micromanage my gear, do research on all known mechanics (especially glitches such as ignite munching), tweak my network and input latency in the milisecond scale to get out as much DPS as my class can. Theorycrafting and simulation is an essential part of the job of being a DPS class, especially a caster (just look at the amount of theorycrafting that mages, shadow priests and warlocks did since the beginning of WoW, compared to other classes).

    My impression on the difficulty of the holy trinity:
    Healers > DPS > Tank

    A good indicator for me is the amount of Macros, Addons and Key Bindings needed to play your class as good as possible, that again reflects the order above.

    • Calli says:

      Hello, welcome to the blog and congratulations on 5/13 25man heroic! We’re at 4/13 ourselves so I know how hard you worked to get where you are. I’m glad you opened the raiding can of worms, I was hoping a commenter would. I’m pretty much in absolute agreement with your assessment, having also played Warrior tank, Druid and Shaman healer and Mage and Elemental Shaman dps in current raids. By far the toughest role I play is healer, with dps coming next and tank last. I don’t think I’d be exaggerating if I claimed that playing an Elemental Shaman on Maloriak is an order of magnitude more crucial than anything the Main Tank has to do. Success or failure depends almost entirely on your timely interrupts of the Arcane Storms and Purges of the Remedies, while at the same time trying to maximise your dps and maintain correct distance on the blue vials while standing in the right spot on the red vials. By contrast the Main Tank has to stand in one spot and keep aggro for two thirds of the fight then take the boss for a short walk for the final third. You also get the short stick on Omnitron, having to maintain distance and facing on Arcanatron for interrupts while at the same time avoiding/kiting/killing any number of other targets. The tanks just need to switch targets every minute. They have a responsible job, sure, but it’s not hard. Of course, things get a lot more interesting on heroic raid modes, but the examples stand.

      Tanking heroic dungeons is, in my opinion, more challenging because the consequences of failure are correspondingly less severe so the difficulty can be made higher. But it’s only more difficult in relative terms. In absolute terms it’s no more hard than playing any role well. And the relative difficulty depends entirely on how well or poorly the other two members of the holy trinity are performing. And in that respect, the exact same can be said of the healers and dps. It’s only as hard or as easy as other people make it for you.

      As for leading, yeah, that’s no walk in the park, especially in heroic raids. My current 25 man raid leader also happens to be a Warrior tank, but in the past he was a Rogue, and he does an excellent job. My 10 man raid leader is a DPS/Tank Deathknight, but his main is a Hunter. I’ve lead or assisted raids and wouldnt even consider trying to do it while playing a healer. Too many irons in the fire to even think about doing that.

  2. josh says:

    I just wanted to say this is the best, most articulated argument I have encountered on this issue yet. For the last two weeks all I have been reading is Tanks complaining about DPS and Healers, Healers complaining about Tanks and DPS and DPS complaining that they take all the crap cause their role is considered easy. Grrr… no one wants to admit that it takes the entire team to make it through these challenges. It has been my personal experience in Cata so far to have impatient taks and idiot DPS but to a one my healers have all been awesome.

  3. Calli says:

    As usual when one side is saying “You got it easy!” and the other side is saying “No, YOU got it easy!” the truth usually falls somewhere inbetween. 😉

  4. EchoPoint says:

    Karsh Steelbender Heroic. Going away the worst of the Tank boss fights in Heroics. Ozruk becomes much easier once you’re familiar with the order of abilities, just start running as soon as Paralyze goes off (and always remember to run away from the rest of the group so you don’t mistime a Ground and one shot the healer and the ranged) and you’ll always clear Shatter.

    But you’re right — really bad anything can make Heroic and Raid content somewhere between annoying and impossible for everyone else. 2 dps pulling 4K each in Heroic Tol’Vir – the healer is out of mana before the bosses die, every time. Paladin channeling his days of glory in Kara chain casting Flash of Light on Throngus, splat goes the group. Tanks who delude themselves that 170K health means they can swarm pull trash and ignore spike abilities on Bosses, hooray for the ghostmode tour of the inside of Blackrock Mountain.

    My main is a Tank/Healer, and I find that I can brute force things much more easily healing than tanking. That said, Tanking for stupid is much much more annoying than Healing for the same kind of dumb.

  5. Calli says:

    Yeah, Karsh is pretty brutal, and there’s nothing your dps can do on that fight to make it any harder or easier, other than killing him asap. Or not. Welcome, by the way. Lots of new first-time commenters lately. Make yourselves at home!

  6. TheGrumpyElf says:

    I always try to look at it in the “all things being equal” sort of way.

    If all parts are played well then DPS becomes the hardest job.

    The reason for that is, once a tank has locked aggro you can’t lock it twice. Once a healer has everyone healed and alive, they can’t be kept more alive. Once DPS is hitting 15K they can hit 18K and then they can hit 20K and then… well you get the idea. DPS is the only job in the game that there is no skill cap on it. Once you are a great tank or a great healer you just do what it is you do. Once you are a great DPS, now you have to get better.

    Adding the random asshat in any one of the positions changes everything however. One bad player makes everyone’s job harder and DPS is no longer the hardest job, not even close.

    One of the reasons I do not tank heroics is because, to be quite honest, I do not want to lead. I’ll lead on vent because I can tank. I will not let a bunch of random people on vent however and I hate typing so I don’t tank randoms because it will always be a chance of, will I get a group that knows everything or will I get a group I have to explain everything too.

    Being there will be four other people you would figure that at least 1 out of those 4 will be new, which is a reasonable assumption, means that you will almost always have to explain. I do not mind new people, I had to learn at some point and they do too, there is nothing wrong with that. I just do not want to be the one that teaches them, even if that sounds selfish. I can’t assume that everyone was like me and looked everything up online before stepping into a dungeon, I have to play it like they don’t know anything, which is oft times correct.

    I think it is a part of the tanks job to lead whether they like it or not, at least in a random. That is what makes the tanking job harder. They have to lead and hope the people behind them are not idiots. Just the stress of thinking that even one might be an idiot is harder to deal with then any boss in the game.

    People make tanking hard, game play doesn’t.

  7. Vladdi says:

    Being a prot/holy pally raidleader (only 10/12 normal :s), which in raids is more holy then prot, i have to say that healing demands much more concentration and perfectionism then tanking. Tanking is pretty straightforward and has a lot of “calm” moments, no such thing in healing (and if ther’re you should think of manaregen) also raidleading new encounters while tanking is very doable, never try it while healing cause thats just a bridge to far (for me atleast), maybe because i’m a man but watching timers, running from bad stuff and healing is to much to combine. While tanks mostly have no bad stuff and don’t have to do unexpected things like healing the slacker dps in the fire you just ran out.
    So i would clearly say healing is harder then dps/tanking. ALtough i think the higher level you play the harder dps gets and the easier healing gets as dps has to maximize his damage while minimizing incomming damage and healers get better gear and hopefully better dps who are minimalising more. The one thing is in my vision the tank never really gets the hard job.

  8. Tachyon says:

    TheGrumpyELf has a very good point:
    With better gear and better routine in the raid the tank is hit less hard, healers heal for more, and the rest of the raid can effectively avoid unnecessary damage, meaning that less healing is needed overall. Tanking gets easier, healing also, but DPSing stays as challenging as ever. There’s no such thing as ‘ok’ DPS, damage dealers are always under peer pressure to justify their raid slot and excel in doing DPS.

  9. Gx1080 says:

    I’ve never undestood how people can lead AND tank. I mean, I don’t know how it is currently, but tanking usually involves having boss crotch using a lot of real state on your screen.

  10. Calli says:

    Ranged dps for me every time. There’s a limit to how much dragon crotch and ass a man can stand.

    That needs to be a quote!

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