Wednesday, November 4, 2009

How Do You Tank?

Well, Elle, the warlock, turned shaman, turned tank-on-the-side, ran a healer survey that looked into the personal style and opinions of healers across the blogosphere. She then asked for someone to cook up a tanking version. Well, I don't know anything about healing, but I've been tanking since my first level, so I guess I'll kick one off.

What is the name, class, and spec of your primary tank?
I run with Dämmerung, a human protection paladin with a 0/53/18 spec.

What is your usual tanking environment?
I run 10 and 25 man raids, with an emphasis on 10 man progression, along with the occasional 5 man.

What is your favorite encounter to tank, and why?
Firefighter is a personal favorite from a tanking standpoint, although I know my healers hate it, because it presents a comprehensive tanking challenge. Phase one is a phase of personal mitigation through cooldown coordination, phase two is a phase of raid mitigation and maximum personal damage output, phase three is a phase of rapid add pickup and movement, and phase four is a complex kite. Firefighter is essentially two phases of main tanking, and two phases of off tanking, and due to the movement and spawning of the fires and frost bombs the movement of the fight is different each time. If you can solo tank firefighter, then you are capable, from a skill standpoint, of tanking any encounter in the game.

What is your least favorite encounter to tank, and why?
Probably Loatheb, it's fairly mundane, and there have been some attempts where I literally left myself auto attacking so I could go check the fridge about a minute into the fight. Patchwerk is a close second, but at least he has enough incoming damage to make for some interesting kills.

What do you think is the biggest strength of your class, and why?
Paladins are currently a very strong tanking class, and while Druids have better survivability, and Warriors have a more diverse toolkit, Paladins are untouchable when it comes to single target threat. This allows our raid's DPSers to go full bore, without even the need for a feign death or invis, and on the fights where they can get buffs to imbalance things, we can salv them ourselves to maintain the threat lead. Also, the lack of a spammy queue move like heroic strike mean that we're the only tanking class for whom carpal tunnel is not a valid concern.

What do you think is the biggest weakness of your class, and why?
Lack of an interrupt. I know that druids are in the same boat as us, but lacking anything that can interrupt on a semi regular basis is incredibly frustrating. Having to tote my personal pet enhance shaman around to any fights that require an interrupt when another tanking class could do it on their own is kinda embarrassing. I'm not saying that we should get the absurd amount of interrupts that the warriors from the Swiss Army get, but something that's off the GCD with like a 12-14 second cooldown would be a huge quality of life bonus.

In a 25 man raiding environment, what do you feel is the best tanking assignment for you?
Whatever's the toughest assignment for the encounter, with three caveats. Snap AoE aggro on more than 4 mobs is difficult for paladins, so whelp tanking on Sarth or Ony tends to end up being very... interesting. Two, is the aforementioned lack of an interrupt, so put me on Steelbreaker, not Stormcaller Brundir. And Three, that the other Prot Pally in my guild, who's better than me, isn't already doing the tough work. Other than that, I'll dig up adds, I'll kite snaplashers, kite worms, haul constructs, and any other role that might be less glamorous than letting Ignis punch me in the face, but is much more difficult.

What tanking class do you enjoy tanking with the most?
I feel that the amazing toolbox that a warrior has lends themselves well to complimenting a paladin. Being able to hit interrupts, fly across the battlefield, and control mobs efficiently makes them solid at cleaning up anything that escapes. Another paladin would be a close second due to the raid utility that they bring, bringing two different external cooldowns plus LoH.

What tanking class do you enjoy tanking with the least?
Well, I guess I would have to say a druid, because it seems like they don't exist on my server. Plus they don't bring a consistent interrupt, nor can many of their external cooldowns (rebirth, innervate, etc.), be used while actually tanking. Their survivability is enviable, but their utility is not.

What is your worst habit as a tank?
I tank on my laptop, with my touchpad... it's my secret shame.

What is your biggest pet peeve in a group environment while tanking?
People who aren't tanks pulling things. I pull when I'm ready, and if it's something that requires an oddball pull from a hunter or imp, I'll ask for it. Otherwise, you're just making my life harder.

Do you feel your class/spec is balanced with respect to the other tanking classes?
I feel that while the classes are missing some of the tools, for the most part, aside from DKs, all the tanking classes are currently in a good place. Death Knights got dismantled in patch 3.2, and need some serious work to fix. Some of those things are being addressed in patch 3.3, others, such as the lack of an AP debuff, still leave DKs kinda out in the cold.

What tools do you use to evaluate your own performance as a tank?
I use Recount to figure out why I died, and if there was something I could have done to prevent it. TankadinTPS to check my threat output. But really what I've found to be the best tool for self improvement as a tank is my own Catholic guilt. I make a point of knowing exactly how I want an encounter to go down. I make a note of every little error I make, be it something drastic, like accidentally diving into the chasm Kologarn stands in, or minor, like like accidentally facing a parry hasting mob into the melee for a second. Those errors eat at me, and drive me to never repeat them. And while it probably isn't that healthy, it has gotten me from on a trial account during Hallow's End 2008, to riding a Rusted Proto Drake with the Starcaller title before Hallow's End 2009, so I can't complain too much.

What do you think is the biggest misconception that people have with your tanking class?
Paladins are no longer the "Hyjal Trash Tank". Death Knights and Druids are actually surpassing our sustained AoE threat output, and Warriors are now much better on the actual pickup than we are. The days of "Stand in my consecrate and ye shall live!" are over. We've given that up for the ability to be legitimate main tanks, versatile enough to fulfill most any role required.

What do you think is the toughest thing for new players of your class to learn about tanking?
That there's more to being a paladin tank than simply tanking. You can learn and master the 969 rotation, you can have your positioning down perfectly, but because you are a paladin, there is yet more you can do. You should be able to: Throw Hand of Salvation on an overzealous DPSer, Hand of Freedom a player snared in the path of the bad stuff on the floor, LoH an OoM healer or freshly rezed player, Hand of Protection a healer who drew the ire of the whelps, and find the right spot in an encounter for the clutch divine sacrifice to make life easier for your raid and your healers. You need to be able to do all that, and STILL do everything all the other tanks are asked to do... except interrupt.

If someone were to evaluate your tanking ability via tools like fraps, recount, and World of Logs, what tendencies would they notice?
I'm extremely strong in terms of survivability and sustained threat. However, I tend to be very minimalist in my movements, which is nice for fights like Thorim where you're supposed to keep him still, but has occasionally gotten me yelled at by the melee DPSers who find Grobbulus' slime pools to be creeping a little close. This also leads to me being a little weak on the initial pickup, because I have a tendency to pick where I want to tank the mob, and get the mob there. Sometimes that becomes frustrating when I taunt a mob, and watch a Warlock conflag it before it gets within 10 yards of me. I do however multitask very well, and can use the full range of paladin abilities in my tanking style.

Stamina or Avoidance, and why?
If forced to choose, I'll take stamina, due to the encounter design in wrath, pretty much everything that threatens a tank is unavoidable. However, that's not to say that avoidance is useless, I'll take everything blizzard gives me.

Which tanking class do you understand the least?
Due to their scarcity, I have much less experience with bears than any other class.

What addons or macros do you currently use to aid you in tanking?
I use Icehud and Parrot to give me a good idea of what's going on with me and the mob I'm tanking, without having to look away from the floor from which all bad things arise. I use omen, not so much to track my own threat, but to track the other raiders so I know if someone might need a salve. I use pitbull to allow my shift click out the various hand and cleanse spells if need be. Recount for post fight analysis, and CLSaver because I always forget to start logging. I also use tanktotals for raid warnings when I use cooldowns. DBM is also a godsend. And to control this unwieldy mess of programs, along with my non raiding addons, I use Addon Control Panel.

Do you strive for a balance in tanking stats, or do you stack some higher than others, and why?
I tend to stack stamina, every gem I use has a stamina component to it, however, I strive to maximize my itemization, I'll hit my socket bonuses, unless it's something incredibly stupid, like spell pen. I throw Agil/Stam in red sockets, Def/Stam in Yellow sockets, and straight stam in blue sockets. When choosing enchants, I tend to stay away from the oddball proc enchants like Bladeward and Blood Draining, and select the enchants that give me the best itemization, like Accuracy.

And now comes the romp. I'm gonna pick a few of the tanking bloggers that I read with regularity and hopefully they'll pick this thing up too.
  • I'll start with Elle, as she was the one who came up with the idea.
  • Next up will be Honors, of Honor's Code.
  • And we have to have a warrior, so Tarsus, from Tanking For Dummies is a great choice to represent the original tank.
  • Ridach, at Righteous Defense was one of the first wow bloggers I started reading.
  • Because we need a Death Knight, I'd like the very analytical Gravity of Pwnwear to give it a shot.
  • And because we have entirely too few druids, and alliance tanks, the eponymous Big Bear Butt.


  1. Awesome! Something to do at work in lieu of, you know, work. ;)

    Small point of clarification: Miss Medicina (of actually started the healing survey. I just jumped on the bandwagon (late, no less!). I can't claim credit for her brilliance and/or insanity.

    ... and you're totally right about Firefighter. Healers /hate/ it. I haven't had the opportunity to tank it yet (although I suspect that will change, since my solution to the 24/10 dilemma is to put on my tanking pants. From a tank's perspective, it looks like a blast! But as a non-mobile (read: non-druid) healer? OMG, stress!

    I am also constantly amazed by paladin survivability. Going from being the dead warlock in the back of the room to the last elf standing is exhilerating. I'm not looking forward to the LoH-causes-Forebearance thing, because one of my favorite things to do as a tankadin is solo things I have no business soloing. I don't expect Blizzard to balance the class around my desire to do stupid stuff (in addition to PvE and PvE), but /sadface nonetheless.

    Anyway, great to see you updating again. :) I'll try to respond to this later today.

  2. Will do. Is my response done on my blog I guess?

  3. Yes, the idea is to convey to your readers your personal theories that amalgamate into your style for tanking. It'll be a little bit different for everyone. Some people prefer having a warrior tanking with them, some people prefer a death knight, some people focus on 25 mans, some focus on 5 mans. It gives people a quick comparison to look at.

  4. Done!