So you wanna be a tank? Think you've got what it takes?
I'll summarize what I think are the two fundamentals that go into the execution of tanking:
1) Generate lots of threat on a single target. The more threat you generate on that target, the more DPS your team can deliver. (resisted feign death, ftl)
2) Generate small amounts of threat on lots of targets. You gotta grab the attention of every mob, or your friends die.
I know, I know, you tanks out there do a whole array of fancy routines like stance dancing and other such amazing things that I have no idea about. I love and appreciate that you do them, it keeps us alive. But work with me here, I'm summarizing.
Maybe I'm being overly simplistic, but I view item #1 as an analogy to the hunter shot macro. Max single target threat comes from a relatively static sequence of moves, that varies by whether you're rage starved or not, or if you're taking enough damage to get enough heals to keep your mana high.
Becoming good at #1 is an exercise in reading, theorycrafting, and some tweaking during large single target fights where its your threat against your team's DPS.
But what about #2?
No real way to research or theorycraft this puppy. You either have the ability to anticipate when mobs are going to head for your healers or you don't. You either have the ability to quickly target and generate some threat on mobs or you don't.
The only way to develop the skill is to practice practice practice.
And I think I found the perfect test-bed for would-be tanks.
Bring some level 10 toons to the Deadmines, have them /follow you, and try to keep them alive.
Its a pretty intense experience.
Upon taking 2 steps into the instance, a level 10 toon begins to pull aggro merely by showing up. The aggro radius is simply massive, and the squishiness factor is ridiculous.
And the corpse run sucks, so you've got a little motivation to succeed.
The challenge is great. The mobs come in quick and consistently aggro on your lowbies first. Its a good entry level tank practice session because there's only a moderate amount of patrols, plus a few random spawn pats that will slowly creep up behind you. Most of the mobs are straight-forward physical melee dps, but theres some ranged dps and a few magic casters.
Now, granted, the toon I was playing is a hunter, and as such, not tanking material (although I've heard great things about the new and upcoming tanking tree of pets, but whatever).
And I do have the option of putting my pet on aggressive and having her just save the squishies.
But an aggressive level 70 pet in the Deadmines one shotting all the mobs is (A) no fun and (B) earns zero XP. One of the toons has to do some damage for the players to get XP out of the kill.
Another fun proving grounds for upcoming tanks....
Escort some low level toons from Shattrath City to Honor Hold on foot.
I took my babies along the path from Shatt City through northern Terokkar, through the Ravager-infested valley into Hellfire Penninsula, on through the hel boar fields, up to HH.
It actually felt like an epic journey where some Champion (lol, of the Naaru, and the princesses were Draeni, to make the story solid) had to protect some royal princesses through a dangerous path to get to some other spoiled brat's coming out party.
At level 50, the babies had a massive aggro radius. Spiders and Ravagers and Hel Boars were lovin on them. Also, at 50, they're not totally squishy, they could take maybe 2 hits and survive, but the third hit would be a doozy.
In separate news, I highly advise against running three copies of WoW and a massive download of four one-hour podcasts over the same cable modem at the same time. The lag became oppressive during the perilous journey, but alas, our princesses made it to the ball to meet prince charming.