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.
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.