Tuesday, March 10, 2009

On learning to tank

Short Version: If there is one ability that I'd like to see added to the Feral Druid tree, it is an AoE debuff that will cause the mobs to be immune to Death Grip. Nuff said!

Medium Version: Learning to tank at level 69/70 is interesting. For a player long trained to stand far away from the fight, to avoid being #1 on the threat meter, and to follow the pace set by another player, it is a very strange experience. I highly recommend all DPS players to try it out at one point or another, if for no other reason than to get a very clear pair of concepts through their head: FOLLOW THE DAMN KILL ORDER and THROTTLE YOUR DAMN DPS IF YOU'RE ABOUT TO PULL AGGRO!

Long Version:

By the time my Druid reached level 69, she really hadn't raised a claw in anger in her career. She flew from 1-60 as part of the RAF program, following her big sister through classic dungeon after classic dungeon. Then in Outlands to 68, she did a combination of questing and instance boosts, still with an actionbar that really only had a single macro on it..."/follow Amava".

Once she was Northrend capable at 68, she began questing in Borean Tundra, but still as a lover, not a fighter. Multi-boxing, FTW. This brought her to 69.

And then a friend leveling a healer was looking for a tank for Nexus or Utgarde Keep, so it was time that my little bear brushed her fur, cleared her throat, and started to growl.

Getting Ready

As you can imagine, things were not pretty at first.

Step 1: Get some gear. Level 69 is kinda stinky for AH greens and armor packs and stuff. Level 70 would have been better, but my friend was anxious, and since he was the healer, if he felt I'd be ready, then its time to take the training wheels off and see if this bike can ride. I was able to get a few items with agility and stamina, and some gems.

Step 2: Visit the Druid trainer. Hadn't been there in countless levels. A couple hundred gold in training :-)

Step 3: Spend talent points. 10 or 15 talent points just sitting there doing nothing, dump them into tanky looking abilities. I'll do my research later for a real spec, for now lets jump into the deep end and learn to swim.

Step 4: Glyphs? Who needs glyphs? Totally forgot to get any for the first couple runs. Oops.

Step 5: Browse the spell book and see what these bears put on their actionbars. There's a reason Blizz doesn't just let new toons jump in at 70. The array of abilities you're faced with is overwhelming. So I picked a few that looked reasonable. Hindsight showed that I was almost right.

Trial by fire

Did a couple runs at level 69 in Nexus and UK. I can only imagine what the PuG members were saying to eachother about the tank. Sloppy, to say the least.

But, I've got a reasonable handle on the game's mechanics, and sorta got the hang of things. Definitely rough around the edges. Definitely not using any sort of threat rotation. Definitely missing a few key abilities off of my action bar and talent spec (lacerate & charge, ftl).

Not too many deaths, but then again, a 5-man group with 4 level 71's won't have too much trouble in nex and uk.

Focused on watching the kill order and pushing threat on the current mob in the sequence, while also swiping for threat on the rest of the pack.

The runs all completed successfully, with the biggest obstacles being your standard PuG afks and other non-sense, not the hopelessly inexperienced and undergeared tank.

Changes at 70

After a few runs, I reached 70.

This allowed me to go to the AH and get solid starter set of gear, jumping from 9K health to about 14k health in an instant.

There's just so many more options once you hit 70, and the leap in stat allocation is nice.

And the big discovery at this point. LACERATE and CHARGE.

Went back into nex and uk with a real threat rotation. What a world of difference, as if that should be surprising. FFF, 5 stack lacerate, keep mangle up, maul like a madman, swipe if there's extra mobs.

Will I become a good tank?

I'm not sure if I'll make a good tank or not.

Not so much a skill question. I have no doubt that with more practice, I'll do a reasonable job at holding aggro. I'm sure I can study gear and spec and whatnot to become sturdy for taking hits. With experience, I'll learn the subtle art of positioning mobs to point where we want them and to move the packs such that the melee folks are not standing in fire.

No, my problem is an attitude thing. I react poorly to coconuts.

Mr. Death Knight who loves to death grip mobs away from me? DIE IN A FIRE. I shall not taunt anything off of you, not that it really matters at this level, you OP f'er. Even better that the healer is my friend, and we're in cahoots to let you die when you act irresponsibly.

Ms. Warlock with your little pet who is dumping out more threat than I can keep track of? What's the deal? Do warlocks have a pet that's more threat-oriented, or have a growl'esque ability like hunter pets that can toggle on/off? Either way, you and your pet annoy me.

Mr. Mage who thinks that we're putting icons up so that each player can pick his own mob to DPS? Watching you die was so. much. fun. I hope you don't have a lot of gold, and the repair bill was a big inconvenience for you.

All the DPS players who respected the kill order, and when things became chaotic you kept assisting me to keep up with my high-threat target? I love you, and you reinforce the behaviors I like to exhibit when I'm DPS'ing.

And it takes more than one or two boo-boo's to become a target of my hatred. Its those jokers who death grip every pull, or specifically target their own mob on every single pull. Those are the ones who need to either (A) leave my party or (B) die in fire, not necessarily in that order.

I hope to keep playing as a tank, as its a very different and fun view of the game. Time will only tell if I'll learn to tolerate renegade DPS, or maybe I'll just stick to runs with players I know.


Lakland said...

When you first learn to DPS you hit it too hard because you don't know better. Then you learn to throttle your DPS and follow the kill order. Then you learn to Maximize DPS / Aggro wipes and really push the tank to the highest TPS levels.

As a tank first you have trouble holding aggro on everything- Then you learn to ask your DPS to throttle themselves and use their aggro wipes.

When you become a great tank you challenge your DPS to maximize their threat, you abuse the taunt button, and learn the secret to holding aggro...

Pull before the DPS has time to setup.

mandm413 said...

Congrats on experiencing the joys of tanking.

As to DK's, I agree whole heartedly when they use their grip to pull the mob away from the tank, just stupid.

As to locks, you should always ask them to have their imp out for the stamina buff if they don't already. Big blue does have a taunt and that was probably your problem.