So I've had a lot of requests to make a beginner's tanking guide after the positive reception from my War-Steed Guide. I held off for a while due to the threat changes in Helms Deep, but this guide will actually cover many more things and in much more depth than just threat or those changes. Don't get me wrong, threat is important for tanks, but this guide will put a major focus on the implicit elements of tanking that are often overlooked or ignored entirely.
If you have chosen a tanking role, it is most likely because you want to be the backbone of your fellowship in group content and because you want more control over the battlefield and how to complete content. It is also very likely that you have a masochistic personality, choosing a very under-appreciated and very difficult-to-play archetype. Even though some tank classes are listed as Basic, tanking in and of itself is difficult to play. You can probably think it as 'easy to learn, difficult to master' just without the 'east to learn' part. This guide will focus on basic mechanics of tanking gameplay but will not cover gearing, stats, or trait builds, as they are very different depending on your playstyle and class.
Table of Contents
- Fundamentals of Tanking
- Target of Target
- Raid Awareness and Positioning
Puddles and You
- Schrödinger's Threat Problems
Building and Dealing With Lost Aggro
Fundamentals of Tanking
- Always, always, always protect your Healer!
- Make DPS think they are more powerful than they really are with the use of killzones and the 'mob sandwich'
- Control the flow of battle through raid awareness, building threat, and positioning
- Keep yourself alive through the use of defensive abilities (these abilities vary for each class and spec and will not be covered in this guide)
And always remember the Three Rules of The Holy Trinity: if you die, it's the Healer's fault. If the Healer dies, it's your fault. If the DPS dies, it's their own @#$% fault.
Target of Target
My first suggestion for anyone new to tanking is to make one, very specific and extremely important option change. Go to:
Options > Combat Options > Show the vitals of your selection's target and place a checkmark in the box.
This will place a small vital display with name, morale, power, and icon that shows you the target of whomever you are targeting. In the case of being a tank and wanting to have all the aggro, you'll want this vital display to have your name. If this name is ever your healer's name, you have committed one of the cardinals sins of tanking and must beg the gods of tanking for forgiveness.
Raid Awareness and Positioning
There is no 'Raid Awareness' skill or trait, and many tanks will disagree on the finer details, but this is one of the most crucial concepts of tanking and also the least explicit. It's also somewhat difficult to explain, so I have provided a lot of visual aids for the class. Part of this helps you keep your Healer alive, but most of this is how you can help your DPS do their jobs. Remember, you're the important one here, but DPS are very sensitive, so it's your job to make them think they are too.
The basic position is the 'Mob Sandwich' where you place any and all mobs between you and the rest of the raid.
[Tank] >> << Mob(s) << [Raid]
This does three important things:
- As soon as you lose aggro, you will be able to tell immediately, because it will turn away from you.
- Block and Parry only works from the front, so if your group attacks from behind, they only have to worry about Evade rating. Remember, one of your jobs is to make the DPS' job easier.
- Lots of monsters have frontal Area of Effect attacks, which you never want to aim at your group, especially your Healer.
You need to group up targets in your pull and create a killzone for the DPS to melt everything at once. One way to make things easier for the DPS is Line of Sight around corners and bring melee targets on top of ranged targets. Generally ranged targets will stay stationary, so if you run up to them with other targets, your fellowship can blender everything together.
This is where Line of Sight can be useful. Ranged targets will follow you if you can hide behind walls or doorways. You can create a killzone in these areas as well. You might need to meet them halfway sometimes, but as long as everything is grouped up, your DPS will thank you and the pull will go more smoothly.
Avoid enemy puddles and for the love of Eru, don't avoid friendly puddles. But more importantly, be mindful of how puddles relate to The Sandwich. You have a lot more control of where things are than you probably realize.
Bad Puddle placement: Tank is safe, but the rest of your fellowship will be inside trying to dps the mobs.
Good puddle placement: the entire Sandwich is safely outside of the puddle.
Don't avoid friendly AOEs, especially Flurry of Words with its +3% incoming damage debuff.
Pulls will go a lot more smoothly if you can place your killzone inside a friendly puddle.
Schrödinger's Threat Problems
The basic premise of aggro is Highest Threat = Aggro Holder. It's fairly simple. Before Helm's Deep, the loss of aggro was a complete mystery. Like our Mr. Schrödinger's cat, it could be both the tank's and whoever-else-stole-aggro's fault. Until we could look into that box, no one really knew.
Now, threat generation is placed more heavily on the tank's shoulders. Other members of your fellowship used to be able to utilize many legacies and skills that reduced threat, making aggro entirely a group effort, rather than a tank's effort. With the exception of very few remaining threat reduction capabilities, these are all but removed, and tanks now generate a massive amount of increased threat by default.
Just being in a tank spec will increase your aggro generation. When Helms Deep launched, this value was +300%, but as of 12.1, it has increased by an unspecified amount.
Increasing your DPS will increase your threat generation, so as a tank, you must actively try to build threat by directly damaging mobs or using taunts.
All taunts will force a target to attack the tank for 5 seconds and additionally apply a Threat Catch-up, increasing the tank's threat on the target over the highest threat holder, including you. When Helms Deep launched, this value was 20%, but as of 12.1, it has been increased by an unspecified amount.
For example, before 12.1, if the highest threat holder had 1,000 threat on a target, using a taunt would increase your threat to 1,200 (regardless of what threat you had before, and even if you were the current aggro holder at 1k). After 12.1, this value is even higher.
One thing I like about the new change, giving tank's almost complete control over who has aggro, stems from the fact that very few players seemed to consider aggro a group effort when it was designed as such. Now, tank's actually have the tools to make it almost entirely a sole effort, so you can better prepare yourself to hold aggro and (usually) deserve the angry yells from your fellowship when you lose it. That said, identifying aggro problems can still be tricky on occasion, and tanks can still lose aggro for a variety of reasons beyond their control.
There are a few reasons you may lose aggro other than doing a poor job of generating it:
- Random Aggro - these attacks target random members of the fellowship despite still being targeted on you
You can tell a random aggro attack if you are still the Target of Target
- Perceived Threat Reduction - occasionally bosses will place an effect you that will lower your perceived threat
- Stunned - occasionally a monster will stun and your perceived threat will effectively drop to 0 for the duration
- Overzealous Damage Dealer - it's not your fault (sometimes)! Occasionally a DPS can go full bore on a target that just spawned or isn't the target assist before giving you the chance to generate aggro
Remember, your job is the make everyone else's easier, especially bad DPS, so taunts are designed to fix this problem.
One topic that's a lot more difficult to pin down is pacing. It is problematic, because not everyone agrees on fast or slow pacing. As a tank, however, it is your job to decide on the intervals between pulls, and even people who might want to take it slow and have a break every now and then, no one wants to stand around doing nothing waiting for the tank to decide to pull. You can't be timid as a tank.
As soon as you finish a pull, you should position yourself within range of the next pull as quickly as possible and be ready for your group. If you are not ready, don't pull. If your healer is low on power, let them build it back up. It can be important sometimes to communicate this to others if you plan to wait between pulls, but as soon as you are ready, don't make everyone wait for you. Go ahead and pull.
Don't ever, ever, ever walk up to a group that's waiting at the next pull and just stand behind everyone, waiting for someone else to start. You are not a DPS. You are not a Healer. You are the Tank. You start pulls.
Exceptions for this are waiting for the fellowship leader to do a ready check. Just check to see when/if they'll use them. If it's a good leader, they'll announce when they are doing ready checks, and you'll recognize quickly that they will usually reserve them only for boss fights and relatively tough trash pulls. If your leader doesn't seem to using ready checks, assume that everyone is waiting on you unless they ask for you to slow down or want a break.
Otherwise, you should barrel through content at your own pace. Have you ever joined a PUG with a DPS who runs ahead of everyone and pulls everything? He probably complains about dying a lot, but that guy thought he was a tank. It is your job to run ahead of the group, pick up everything, let your DPS kill it and while your Healer worries about keeping you alive.
Although someone doing this is a true sign of a very bad DPS, it could also be a sign that you are going slowly, so try to pick up the pace a little if you can. If you are already going as fast as you can or if you speed up and they're still going ahead of you, you don't have to deal with it. They're not letting you do their job, and they're only hurting everyone by doing this.
One of my biggest pet peeves is tanking for a group that thinks a tank is only a meatshield when there's a boss to fight. Tanking is so much more than mitigating damage, and one of your biggest jobs is helping the DPS do theirs. So even in trash pulls tanking is important, because if people run ahead of you and just blindly attack whatever they see, they will ruin a lot of killzone opportunities and have to deal with attacks being blocked and parried.
Special Thanks to Aethraen for helping me model for the pictures.