When I first started playing WoW, instances were challenging and tiring ordeals that tested one’s skills as a player. This changed with the expansions and by the end of the last one, almost everyone had such awesome gear that running instances was no challenge at all. Doing pickup groups was generally no problem (with some notable exceptions).
Now that Cataclysm is out, it is a bit like being back in the old days: being under-geared and facing dungeons full of tough monsters. The days of cruise control are, at least for now, over and people have to actually put in some effort. Mistakes and stupid play are once again potentially serious problems. This is both good and bad.
On the good side, it is nice to face challenges again. While I do not want every moment in a game to be on the razor’s edge between life and death, risk makes the game more enjoyable. On the bad side, the challenges can make an instance into an ordeal of annoyances and suffering if your group is not up to it.
Since I am a tank, I don’t have to worry about anyone else’s bad tanking. Just my own bad tanking. I do, however, have to worry about bad DPS and have to really worry about bad healers. If you are also a tank, here are some things to be concerned about and a bit of advice about countering these problems.
First, some DPS folks love to pull. They are in a hurry and don’t have time to wait the 2 seconds for you to set up a pull. In some cases, you can nicely ask them to stop doing that. In some cases, that doesn’t work and they just keep doing it. If you don’t want to kick them, then you’ll have to minimize the damage they can cause by grabbing the mob(s) they aggro and keeping them from dying. Of course, smart DPS know that the tank pulls. Often a few deaths gets that lesson across.
Second, most DPS folks love to pour on the damage instantly and try to max it out no matter what, perhaps to see themselves at the top in Recount. While the DPS folks are supposed to do damage (that is what the D is all about), focusing on mindlessly pouring out damage creates aggro problems for tanks and death related problems for the DPS. Many DPS folks seem to think that it is the tank’s responsibility alone to manage aggro while there sole responsibility is to top the damage meter.
While it is true that the tank’s job is to hold aggro, the tank’s job becomes much harder when others do not allow him a chance to actually establish aggro or when the DPS fail to watch the aggro they are generating.
One way to counter this is to get really good at managing aggro. Of course, this has its limits-no matter how good you are, you are still limited by the game mechanics. Another way to counter it is to let the other folks know that you need a second to actually get the aggro and that they need to actually watch their threat levels and act accordingly.
Third, DPS folks seem to want to attack different targets. One problem is that this divides up the damage, thus creating numerous damaged monsters rather than quickly making one dead. Another problem is managing the aggro. If 3 different DPS are hitting three different targets and doing good damage, they can pull the mobs off you and you will run out of taunts to get them back.
The solution is to mark targets and encourage the DPS to use assist to help them stay on your main target.
Third, DPS and healers often have a tendency to run away. This happens most often in instances where the party is hit by many mobs (such as in the Stonecore) or picks up an add or two.This behavior is learned in PvE activity outside of instances where running away can actually work to break aggro. However, it does not work in instances, but merely scatters the party. A tank can really only hold aggro in one location, so trying to manage a scattered party is rather challenging. I always tell folks that when they are in trouble, they need to run to me so I can gather up the mobs. If they listen, it goes well. If people do not listen, I stick with the healer and keep him alive while everyone else gets to survive as best they can. I’d suggest you do the same.
Fourth, ranged DPS and healers often tend to want to stay way the hell away from the fight. In some cases, such as those where they can actually avoid AOE or ranged attacks, this makes good sense. In other cases, this approach is a problem. One problem is that these folks can pick up wandering monsters far from the tank. If the healer does this, I will try to save him. If a ranged DPS does this, then I will consider trying to save him, provided that the mob might then turn on the healer when he dies. I try to encourage ranged folks to stay closer to me, provided that the situation warrants this. A few deaths tends to get this point across for a while. A second problem is that many bosses and mobs require that the tank move them around for the fight (for example, the boss is turning parts of the floor into magma). If the DPS and healer are way the hell away, they can get out of range and this can be bad (especially when a heal is needed). Oddly enough, some folks will simply not move at all or complain that they had to move.
Fifth, DPS folks often tend to throw down on wandering monsters. While this is a natural reaction learned from non-instance PvE, it is actually a bad approach in instances. After all, when the add is attacked, this creates threat and this makes it harder for the tank to get the aggro. What tends to work best is for the DPS to CC the mob or move towards the tank with the mob so the tank can grab it. Of course, the tank can help by moving towards the add or using a ranged taunt to grab it.
Sixth, DPS folks and healers sometimes think that all they need to do is damage or heal. Using other abilities, like interrupts or CC, is apparently not in their job descriptions. While it is possible for the tank to handle all of this, it does make it much harder. If the party does help out, it makes quite a difference. For example, I love tanking with my friend Ron. When he plays his DK, he death grips casters and drags them into melee. He interrupts casting and keeps an eye on the healer. This makes my job so much easier.
Seventh, PUG healers cannot always be counted on. This is perhaps the most critical concern. When you tank, you take the brunt of the damage and you need a decent healer to keep you going. However, you’ll probably find yourself with a bad healer from time to time. Also, even good healers cannot heal when they go OOM or get silenced. As such, it is always a great idea to be prepared to keep yourself from dying.
I’ve tanked as a DK and a paladin and both of these classes are quite good in the not dying area. I am currently playing my paladin as my main and this has taught me the awesomeness of Word of Glory. However, there is more to it than just using WoG.
While tanks tend to optimize for not dying, a paladin tank can do this quite well. As a paladin tank, you should have Divinity (which increases your healing output and input). Eternal Glory is also worth considering-it gives you a chance of using WoG without expending any holy power. Of course, this maxes out at a 30% chance, so it is not something to rely on. In contrast, if you know you’ll always be grouping with decent healers, than it would be better to spend the talent points elsewhere. It is also a good idea to get trinkets that either absorb damage or boost your maximum health. These can be real life savers.
Some healers are really amazing-I have even been in some groups where I never saw my health drop-I was always under a heal over time or being topped off.
I’ll close by saying that there are some really bad tanks, too. Fortunately, the only bad tanking I have to endure is my own.