Archive for the ‘Tanking’ Category

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.

Ghostcrawler Gave Me A pony

Posted: 8 April, 2011 in Dungeons, Tanking

Just in case you’ve been living under a rock these last few days, Blizzard announced a new feature in the next patch:  Dungeon Finder: Call to Arms.  To sum up, Dungeon Finder will now be checking to see which roles are most under-represented and offering a Call To Arms quest to any0ne willing to queue for a random in that role.  At the completion of the instance, i.e. final boss kill, the person answering the call to arms and queuing in that role will get a goodie bag, similar to the Bag of Useful Goods you get for queuing for a low level dungeon.  This bag will contain gold, a chance at a rare gem, a chance at a flask or elixir, a good chance of a rare non-combat pet (including cross-faction pets) and a rare chance of receiving a mount.  This includes mounts like Reins of the Raven Lord, a mount that you normally get from running Heroic Sethekk Halls every day for two years.  Or don’t get.

Or in other words, “Pretty please tanks, come join the random dungeon queues, we’ll even give you a pony!”

This one’s opened a can of worms the size of Nebraska.  The problem that Blizzard are trying to address here is the ridiculous queue times for dps, which is caused by the lack of tanks in the dungeon system.  So what causes a lack of tanks?  Well, three main reasons.

1.  At entry level gear standards it’s a thankless job that requires a lot of skill, knowledge of boss mechanics and patience, and is rarely worth the effort to reward ratio.

2.  Once your tank has all the gear they need from Justice/Valor points there’s zero incentive for them to ever run a heroic again.

3.  Loot whores who can queue as tanks, but are scared of the responsibility, so they queue as dps or healers and then roll need on the tank gear.

Blizzards’ Call to Arms offers a partial solution to Problem #2, and no solutions whatsoever to Problems #1 and #3.  Let’s say you’re one of the tanks who falls into the overgeared category.  Is this going to encourage you to submit to the Random Dungeon Lottery and risk getting Grim Batol with a group of mouth-breathers again?  Possibly.  I’d hazard a guess that any tank in this category might only persuaded to queue for a random again if they’re not already reputation capped and can’t get a group from within their guilds.  So, time for an experiment.  Hands up any tank who’s covered in raid gear and Tier 11 and doesn’t have a full guild group ready to go within 10 seconds any time they say “Anyone fancy a heroic?” in guildchat…


No, I thought not.  Okay, question time.  If you’re dripping in ilvl 359 or better tanking gear and you don’t already have the Swift White Hawkstrider or the Reins of the Raven Lord, which is the least painless and fastest way of getting them?  Is it…

1.  Submit to the Looking For Moron system and take a lottery ticket that in no way guarantees you’ll get a group that’s even capable of completing the instance, for the slim chance that your goodie bag might drop a mount?

2.  Run over to Sethekk Halls or Magisters Terrace and run from the start to the required boss in about eight minutes and kill them in about 10 seconds for the slim chance that they might drop the mount you’re after?

Yeah, not too tough a question when you put it like that, is it?

What this system will do, is boost the number of idiots queuing as tanks.  The window-lickers who queue in pvp gear as tanks to get instant queues and then act surprised and say “But I’m dps” when the group asks them to get on with it and pull the first trash pack.  The keyboard-turners who wander into heroics with intellect shields and spellpower mail because it has more stamina than the greens they were using before.

Congratulations, Blizzard.  You just encouraged Wilbur to queue as a tank.

Courtesy of the ever-reliable Daily Blink

The Margin For Error

Posted: 18 January, 2011 in Cataclysm, Dungeons, Tanking

I finally bit the bullet and tanked a Heroic on Gorn a couple of days ago.  Surprisingly, it wasn’t that bad.  I might even go so far as to say it was mildly fun and not at all butt-clenchingly scary.  Which is strange.  See, I’ve run many Heroics on Gorn as a Fury warrior and they’ve ranged from “Ok” to “So awful you’d rather stick needles into your eyes than take one more step”.  Yet the first one I actually tanked myself was really rather pleasant.

Gorn’s not an incredible tank.  He’s not tanked anything since Icecrown except a normal Stonecore at level 84, and that was pretty rough.  What made the difference was the group I ran with.  First of all, they were all guild members.  Raiding guild members or their alts, and were geared appropriately.  They were not selfish cocknockers gaming the Dungeon Finder by queueing for Heroics in pvp gear half an hour after they hit level 85 and expecting to be carried through.  These folks know their shit.  Secondly, we actually used what crowd control was available to us intelligently.  Thirdly, everyone knew the fights, where to stand, where not to stand, and what to kill first.  Targets were marked and killed efficiently.  No-one stood in Bad. And finally, we were all on voice comms.  Result – Heroic Halls of Origination completed, no wipes, a couple of achievements knocked over with a newbie tank in less than an hour.  Job done.

Now the purpose of this post isn’t to flex my epeen over the lesser mortals who struggle through a heroic for three hours and then give up on the third boss.  (Although it is a pretty impressive epeen and you can touch it if you ask nicely)  Instead, I’m going to talk about what the military call “force multipliers” and something I like to call “the margin of error”.

Force Multipliers
A force multiplier is essentially something that helps you punch above your weight.  Let’s look back at the previous expansion.  In Wrath of the Lich King, we had force multipliers coming out of every orifice available.  Take two level 80 tanks, one who just dinged 80 half an hour ago and who’s sporting the finest in green world drops and quest rewards, and another who’s had the Lich King on farm in 25 man heroic for two months.  One tanks heroics with 23k health fully buffed.  The other tanks heroics with 50k health unbuffed and has over 60% avoidance.  Having better gear is a force multiplier.  You hit harder, have more health and avoidance and heal for more with less than people in lesser gear.  Even your Joe Average tank towards the end of Wrath was rocking 35k health unbuffed.  Your average level 80 quest mob in Icecrown had 11-12k.  I was one-shotting them with a single Arcane Blast while doing dailies.  That’s why Blizzard had to give starting mobs in Cataclysm triple the expected health pools, anything less would have been a joke, and we still facerolled over mobs even though they had 35k health.  Just to put things into perspective here, we’re doing dailies and killing mobs with 80k health, some of them have 115k health.  It’s not a problem.  Fel Reaver, that terror of Hellfire Basin, the sound of whose feet could send noobs scurrying for the hills in panic….   104k health.  I have more health than Fel Reaver.

The Margin For Error
Having all these force multipliers thanks to gear gave us a massive margin for error.  What this means is that if we make an error, we have a comfortable margin in which to compensate for it.  If the tank doesn’t round up all of the mobs and one goes for a healer or a dps, it wasn’t a big deal, because the healer could just heal through it or the dps could just kill it.  If the healer tabbed out to check Facebook and missed the pull, it wasn’t a big deal because the tank had so much health and avoidance they could pretty much tank without heals for the first fifteen seconds of any fight, and in any case, the dps put out so much raw damage that no trash pull lasted much longer than fifteen seconds anyway.  I’ve even seen tanks stay up through bosses with a healer disconnected.  People were so overgeared and the dungeons were so relatively easy that the margin for error was so huge we relied on one force multiplier and one force multiplier only – our gear.  This made us lazy.

Fast forward to today and we’re playing a whole different ballgame.  It’s almost like the start of Wrath, where we had rubbish gear, crappy health pools and struggled to push out 2k dps on a good day.  Except it’s not like the start of Wrath, because dungeon mobs in Cataclysm are not the gentle, playful, happy go lucky funsters we all know and love from Halls of Lightning.  The mobs and particularly the bosses in Cataclysm Heroics are lean, mean killing machines that want to tear our your guts and wear your spleen as a hat.  And if you give them half a chance that’s exactly what they’ll do. Again and again and again until you lose the will to live and go to cry on the forums demanding nerfs.  The problem here isn’t that we have relatively crappy gear.  It isn’t that the dungeons are too hard.  The problem is that we’ve had such good gear and had such gentle dungeon mobs for so long that we’ve forgotten that other force multipliers exist.  We believe that we have no margin for error.  But we’re wrong.

Crowd control is a force multiplier.  Focus fire is a force multiplier. Spell interrupts are a force multiplier.  Talking to each other is a force multiplier.  Hell, just paying attention is a force multiplier. But like any force multiplier, having it and knowing how to use it are two very different things.  Take two paintball teams and give one of them voice comms.  Instant force multiplier, but only if you teach them how to use it.  If you don’t, you just have one team getting their arses handed to them by a team that aren’t telling “Your Mom” jokes to each other from the opposite ends of the playfield.  Similarly, it’s all well and good telling the Mage to polymorph the target marked with the Blue Square, but if you then slap a blue square over the head of an elemental and immediately pull, it’s not the Mages fault that the elemental eats the healer.  Top tip – Polymorph only works on humanoids and beasts.

Stripped of our great gear we need to use our other force multipliers to overcome problems that our crappy gear alone clearly isn’t going to carry us through.  But we need to know and understand the limitations of the options available to us.  Rogues can’t Sap Elementals, and they can’t Sap anything that’s in combat.  Warlocks can’t Fear undead.  Shamans can’t Hex elementals, but they can Bind them.  A Mages polymorph heals the target to full, so probably best not used on the mobs surviving the dragon bombing run in Grim Batol.  A Mage can interrupt a spellcast, but only once every 24 seconds.   Yes, your Priest or Shaman can dispel that spell haste buff on the enemy caster giving you so much trouble, but it’d be a lot better if your Mage used Spellsteal on it instead.  Curse of Elements might be a significant dps boost for your casters, but if the mob casts a fast heal that restores 50% of its health and you’re short of interrupts, Curse of Tongues might be a far better option.

I’ve played every class to level 80 (and four to level 85) so I know these things.  I wouldn’t expect everyone to.  That’s why talking to each other is probably the most simple but effective thing you can do to help punch above your weight in Cataclysm dungeons.  It’s where everything listed above begins.  The rot set in when the Dungeon Finder tool was introduced.  With one stroke, people didn’t even need to speak to each other to find a group, let alone to faceroll their way through Wrath dungeons.  Most folks find speaking to their groupmates an alien experience these days.  Just remember that like any tool, talking is something that needs to be practiced, and not everyone is good at it.  If the number of Worgen Deathknights named on a variation of “Evilclaw” is anything to go by, there are still plenty of people for whom English isn’t a first language but who are reasonably fluent in Stupid.  Keep it simple.

Above all else, remember that this is just a phase.  It won’t be that long before you’re covered in Tier 11 epics and feasting on Ozruks tears.  Loken in Heroic Halls of Lightning killed more players at the start of Wrath than any raid or dungeon boss in living memory, six months later he was a joke.  In the meantime, get out there and talk to each other.  Learn your weaknesses and exploit your strengths.  It might do you some good, and you might actually have some fun along the way.

Start Your Engines!

Posted: 25 September, 2010 in Cataclysm, Dickhead of the Week, Tanking

Well folks, Cataclysm’s fast approaching, and with it Wrath of the Lich King winds down to a few last weeks of furious grinding and raiding.  Most of that loot you’ve sweated hard to obtain is going to be vendor bait before long unless you’re a complusive packrat like me and keep absolutely everything (every mage set except Tier 3, all the holiday clothes etc).  There are certain things you can do to both spin out the time between now and the expansion release and prepare yourself for when it arrives.

1.  Get Stuff Finished.
Still not downed the Lich King?  You’re fast running out of time to get it done, I’m afraid.  There are other things you can do that will have tangible benefits that you can take with you into Cataclysm, though.  Weapon skills are going away, so the achievments associated with them are becoming Feats of Strength too.  Get your Master of Arms and Did Somebody Order a Knuckle Sandwich while you can!

Speaking of which, since Zul’Gurub is being demoted from raid status, the Hero of the Zandalar Tribe achievement is also becoming a Feat of Strength.  As a consequence, that’s one less faction you can grind to Exalted, so now is the time to get yourself to Zul’Gurub and make the Zandalar Tribe proud of you.  I can quite happily confirm that any raid geared Warrior or Deathknight can comfortably solo everything in Zul’Gurub with ease.  As an added bonus, there are two mounts and a polymorph recipe that drops in there too, you never know your luck.  Get them while you can.

Go out and explore!  Get that World Explorer achievement (and the title that goes with it) before those world zones aren’t there anymore, or are changed beyond all recognition.  Seriously, The Barrens and Mulgore are breathtaking, get out there and see them before Deathwing ruins them.

Get back into Ulduar and farm those drakes while you still can.  Tier 10 gear’s going to be useless very soon, but flashy mounts are for life.  Since the Ulduar drakes are a lot easier to get than the Icecrown ones, and they’re also 310% mounts, you not only get a groovy rare mount but you save yourself the 310% flying skill fee in Cataclysm.  Once the expansion hits you won’t be able to get them, and if you fancy a challenge, Firefighter and One Light In The Darkness are still far from easy.  If you’ve never even been past the Siege area of Ulduar for the weekly raids before, you owe yourself a look, it’s an incredible raid instance.

My Other Mount is a Ferrari


Full speed ahead for Mimiron! Choo choo!

2.  Stock Up!
Give yourself a headstart on your trade skills.  There are still plenty of orange and yellow recipes even at 450 skill, and most people are dumping all their materials on the Auction Houses now before they lose value completely.  Pick yourself up some bargains and get some easy skill and xp when the expansion hits.  Some trades are easier to level up than others of course.  Blacksmiths, Leatherworkers and Tailors are pretty screwed since their best recipes use very rare and expensive resources (ohai Primordial Saronite), but Enchanters and Alchemists are laughing.  Stock up now!  Cooks can also steal a headstart over the competition, start fishing up those Glacial Salmon now for your favourite meal.
And Finally…
And since no week is complete without a fail story, here’s two!  First, another moron who doesn’t seem to realise that if you act like a fuckwit to look good on the damage meters I’m still going to know you’re a fuckwit.  Ladies and gentlemen, I give you mage extraordinaire: Reversed!

The only thing that he managed to hit a Frozen Orb with were the Val’kyr Guardians from his Nibelung.  By contrast, there was a noob warlock in that raid who only managed to do 2k dps, and from a straight glance at Recount/Skada he would appear to have been the most useless raid member.  But hey, at least 30% of his damage was on Frozen Orbs… you know, the thing ranged dps are brought along to Toravon raids to kill?  Congratulations Reversed, beaten on damage meters by a warlock who dinged 80 half an hour ago.  You suck incredible amounts.  Please go find a motorway and play chicken with buses.

Our next candidate for Dickhead of the Week is Saxomen, alleged to be a tank and most definitely a Protection Paladin.  Fingers had the misfortune to be grouped with him this week in an Icecrown 10 PuG.  My first indication that he may have spent too much time tanking bosses with his face was when the raid leader announced that we’d be doing I’m On A Boat, which involves no raid member jumping over to the lootship more than twice, explained how he wanted it to work, and Saxomen asked why he had to jump over too.  Yeah, not the sharpest tool in the box.

Things went from the sublime to the ridiculous once the Gunship battle started and the first Battle Mage ran out.  As melee dps, Fingers was in the forward cannon bay, and as Below Zero began channelling, he was forced out of his cannon.  I counted to three, targetted an area on the Horde gunship to jump to, but managed to pick a landing spot that was out of line of sight, thus cancelling the rocket jump.  My second attempt was more successful, and I hit Sprint to close on the enemy Battle Mage.  Usual practice here is for Overlord Saurfang to be tanked over by the Horde axe throwers, because he’s got a very nasty cleave.  He’s High Overlord Saurfang, he’s pretty famous for his cleave, actually.  So, my being all alone over by the Battle Mage didn’t surprise me at all.  At least until I got company, the High Overlord Saurfang kind of company.  “Er…  tank?”  I thought to myself, popping Evasion at that same time.  After a couple of seconds, the tank did indeed show up.  Let’s just take a quick break here for the sake of the numbers.  From the time the Battle Mage ran out I had to time to dismount from my cannon, fumble one rocket jump, launch myself over to the other ship, run to the Battle Mage, generate a Slice and Dice combo, pop Evasion, and unload two 5 point Eviscerates before a tank appeared from anywhere.  At which point, Mister Saxomen decided that the best place to “tank” a Cleaving raid boss was…   you guessed it, right next to the melee dps.

And that was just my THIRD most powerful Cleave, boy!

Shortly after, from my comfortable viewing spot in a crumpled heap on the deck of the Horde Gunship, I witnessed this “tank” turn his back on the High Overlord, walk to the rail of the Gunship, then jump back over.  With High Overlord Saurfang beating on his exposed back all the way.   Top tip, folks.  Turning your back on Raid Bosses is very, very bad for your health and your healers’ blood pressure.  This is what the nice goblin gave you a Rocket Pack for.

Apparently this was all my fault because I jumped too early.  Sorry, my bad.  I didn’t realise tanks needed 20 second headstarts on Gunship these days.

That’s all folks!

Sad Tank Is Sad

Posted: 6 August, 2010 in Cataclysm, Healing, Tanking

In current raid content if your tanks are out of cooldowns, drop below 50% health and don’t get a heal landing in the next two seconds, they’re roadkill.  Healers are conditioned to panic if they see tanks drop low on health for even a fraction of a second.  As for low health dps, if the tanks are in trouble, you’re on your own.  Stand in a boss’ cleave, you are dead dps.  Stay in Fire for more than one tick, you are dead dps.  Fail to move out of the way of Bad Shit, you are dead dps.  Worse, you’ll probably take someone else with you.  Right now, fully raid buffed, Calli is rocking 37k health.  Calli is a Mage.  She wears a dress.  I’ve seen tanks in VoA with less health than that.  And yet, Calli is still seriously fragile in heroic 25 man raids.  She can survive one hit from the likes of Malleable Goo if she’s on full health, and she’ll be dead seconds later if there’s not a heal on its way.  In Cataclysm, things are seriously different and tanks and healers are having a hard time adjusting to it.

There was a quote I heard from a healer doing beta testing on Cataclysm a while back which perfectly illustrated the differences between healing raids on live and healing in the next expansion. It went something like this:

“I struggled to heal even a 5 man until I realised that I didn’t actually need to keep the tank and dps on 100% health all the time.  Once I realised that a tank or even a dps on 30% health was in no immediate danger of dying from anything I started to relax and enjoy healing again.”

I’ve seen green level 305 dps plate armour with a third again as much stamina on it as the current best in slot epic tanking plate.  The gear reset coming when the expansion hits is to going to send a lot of folks into deep shock.  All that gucci gear you’re struggling to get in Icecrown right now?  It’s going to be vendor junk real soon, homeys.  With the stat inflation on Cataclysm gear, no-one’s going to be dying anytime soon if they take a 20k hit.  You will not be one-shotted by a Lava Burst crit even in pve gear.

All of which leads me in a fairly roundabout way onto the real point of this post, which is about a couple of tanking experiences I’ve had recently in current content.  I get asked to log a tank for guild groups doing random dungeons fairly regularly.  Now you’d expect a guild random dungeon to be smooth sailing, and in most peoples’ experience you’d be absolutely right.  Gorn and Sithica both have 50% avoidance and Sithica, the “squishiest” of my two tanks, has over 42k health unbuffed.  Gorn tanks Heroic ICC10 with ease and Sithica could too.  Niether of them have anything to fear from 5 man heroic dungeon content, except when you’re doing a 5 man with certain players from my guild, you cannot keep aggro for a second.

I join a guild group and see certain 25 man heroic-geared names in the party and I just get a sinking feeling.  I know that the dps are going to be pulling for me, often grabbing the next pack while I’m still dealing with the last one.  There is no single target dps.  They pull the next pack with aoe and don’t care if I’m ready or not.  It’s not that I’m slow, I know the healer likes a fast pace and I know she can handle it, it’s just that 5 man content is so utterly boring for these guys that the only way to make it mildly interesting is to see how far they can push themselves.  I know you’re all thinking “Let the dumb pricks die if they won’t let the tank dictate the pace and hold aggro” but it’s not like that, they’re not being malicious, they’re just enjoying the game.  And in any case, it’s not that easy to “let them die”.  Not that I have any pangs of conscience about it or anything, but the little buggers just won’t die!

Last week we were doing Old Stratholme and by the time we’d cleared the gauntlet with me desperately running after the dps who were having the time of their lives blowing shit up, I just quit and switched to Fury spec and gear for Mal’ganis and the Twilight Corruptor.  It didn’t make any difference at all, except stuff died a little faster.  Last night we cleared Utgarde Pinnacle in about seven minutes.  At one point the healer whispered me to not panic if I suddely lost all aggro from Blessing of Protection on the next trash pack, then proceeded to BoP me while the Hunter misdirected to the Warlock.  And the little bugger lived!  They were actually making a game out of trying to get the Warlock killed from trash aggro (not that he needed their help) and couldn’t kill him! He even took it as a challenge and happily played along.

It gets worse.  On Hellscream this weeks’ weekly raid quest is Instructor Razuvious.  just to refresh your memory, he’s a boss who hits so hard that he cannot be tanked by a player and has to be tanked by a Mind Controlled npc.  Even that npc will die if he doesn’t have his Bone Shield up, so you have to switch tanks between the npcs regularly.  Or at least, that’s how it used to work when Razuvious was current raid content.  Yesterday, one of the Laser Chickens actually managed to pull aggro off the tanking npc, an npc whose taunt is on something like a 20 second cooldown.  Dead chicken?  Nope.  Guess what, fact fans?  With ICC25 Heroic dps and healers, you don’t even need tanks for raid bosses anymore.  I’ve never felt so completely and utterly useless.

All of which leads me back to that quote from the healer in the beta test.  The realisation finally sunk in last night that I am that beta tester, except I’m playing on Live.  Once I realised that not only do I not have to keep aggro on everything all of the time, that in fact it doesn’t matter if dps are pulling aggro, I started to relax and have fun again.  When you’re this far ahead of the content, roles cease to mean anything.  Anyone can tank, because anyone can tank.  All you need is to be the one with aggro.  Survivability is a non-issue.

I can recall back in vanilla WoW that my Rogue couldn’t solo Deadmines until he was level 40.  I recall being very pleased, relatively early in The Burning Crusade, when my level 70 druid was sufficiently epic geared to be able to farm Scholomance alone for drops that Calli could disenchant for profit.  That’s a 20 level gear difference in vanilla and a 15 level gear difference in TBC before you were sufficiently overgeared to be able to completely trivialise the content.  Right now in Wrath we’re trivialising current content.

Cataclysm, we’re ready for you now!