How to Tank Heroic runs?

As a rambling short-attention-span reader, sometimes great articles pop out of nowhere. One such from mid Feb is a good article by Tanking notes, on the value of Crit Immunity. Go read if you’re interested in a discussion on getting Critical Hits while Tanking.

However if you’re newer to Tanking, and theory-crafting is a bit aberrant then perhaps a simpler approach is better. As such I asked my self…

How should tanks actually execute a Heroic run?

Here is a series of pointers, which make sense to me, and following afterward a rambling stream of thoughts for how a heroic run should be done. Written for new tanks, by somebody who remembers what it was like to be new.

  1. Be realistic about how ready you are to tank. Really. You can expect some pretty insane comments if you make mistakes, and if you’re not the type that can take it without flipping out; don’t tank. Might sound odd as the first point in a how to tank post, but it needs to be said.
  2. Talk to the team when you enter, and let them know anything special in advance.
    1. Start with a hello.
    2. Warn them, or ask questions, maybe even set loot rules (need Orbs).
    3. ie. I’m pondering a macro that says how I’m a new Bear tank, so please give me a few extra seconds on threat. That might cause a few folks to leave, but you didn’t want that player in the group then anyway, and its better to say up front.
  3. Remember you are a team – don’t just bash orders out on the keyboard.
  4. Check if everyone is ready before the pulls..especially the boss pulls.
    1. if your healer is sitting down, they are not ready.
    2. if the healer has less than 50% mana they might not be ready.
    3. if the Shaman does not have totems down, they might not be ready.
    4. check your own big cool-down abilities before a boss pull.
  5. Always enter the instance in the gear that meets the basic caps for your class, and stacks Health. In a heroic a large health pool is often better than a lot of avoidance, and in the situations where this is not true the make-up and skill of the team is a far greater issue.
  6. Consider threat generation to be your next biggest target. You’ll need to have your taunts ready, and have plenty of threat on everything. My experience is that highly geared and skilled players will try to go “all out”, and end up ignoring threat.
  7. Configure your trinkets, old-tank gear, and other items so that you have a lot of sub-sets for Tanking.
    1. HP set.
    2. Threat set, even if that threat set means you have a much lower hp pool. Better that the healer with aweseom gear is kept busy healing you, than busy trying to heal 3 people.
    3. Avoidance set.
    4. Stun resist set (maybe, I just chucked this in, but it seems like a handy idea).
    5. Try to consider the boss fight for which set to use.
  8. Don’t be afraid to pause, but generally keep the team moving forward.

Now this is a Tanking discussion, so I’ll preface my comments about tanking with a few general statements:

  • I really enjoy Tanking, but I am not brilliant at it. So I tend to let others do it if they feel like pushing the envelope. Otherwise I’ll lumber in and threaten everything just fine.
  • The gear requirements for almost all Tank classes is strict, and it is difficult to tank if you are missing one of the key measures (ie. Crit Immunity – see above).
  • I’ve tanked as a Pally through TBC Karazhan and Heroics, and now leveling from 70 as a Tankadin.
  • I’ve tanked as a Death Knight in Wrath, through all the content, into ICC 10 mans.
  • I’ve tanked odd times as a Druid, mostly for silly value, and now in Wrath heroics.

I know for a hard fact that Tanks are in limited supply, and dps are everywhere. This is an advantage to Tanks as they try to gear up. For the most part I am happy about this, because two of my three level 80 toon have a viable Tank spec, and I can get runs on them quickly. My third tank is 72 now, and will continue to plod through the levels to 80.

The disadvantage is that while the group is often happy to have a tank zone in, they are often unhappy when that tank is wearing average gear. My Bear-druid is wearing a mix of gear, mostly epic stuff which is appropriately enchanted, but the odd blue item, and many rep based ilevel 200 epics. This level of gear is overkill for a heroic, except maybe the new Icecrown 5 man runs, where the normal mode is tough, and the heroic mode is a gear-check. Kind of cool to think that a new 80 running 5 mans will have a form of progression – but the LFG population are impatient, rude, anti-social, and altogether less than happy with a tank who has a 4150 gear score (don’t start on GS, that’s a separate thread somewhere).

But the progression in Tanking is critical due to the stats needed (pardon the pun). If you’re not Def capped as a Pally, Death Knight, or Warrior then you are seriously going to take spiky damage. You’ll be critically hit, and the healer may have trouble. Druids do not have this limitation due to a talent, but they also must consider the avoidance stats and their base HP as the key measures for acceptable gear.

The PuG’ers will generally use low ilevel gear as an indication that the tank is not ready, or not capable. Call a tank a noob and see how slow the taunt will be when you pull aggro. Tanks are people too.

This is where the post by Tanking Notes is interesting, as it is an argument for moving away from a strict def cap, and a more general understanding of the tank modes and needs. It could by extension (my extension..) also lead to a situation where a highly experienced Tank has chosen to switch stats for valid reasons, but get judged a noob by the other four team members.

I’ve seen a ton of arguments that Tanks should have certain stats before they attempt to tank. Generally I’d agree, as long as those stats are appropriate to the level of instance difficulty. Seeing a gs:5300 dps character whine about a gs: 4900 tank is just absurd. A gs of 4900 is far more than should be needed for any heroic, so why the disparity and stream of attitude? This situation creates and also helps re-enforce the gap of Tanks to other roles.

I think we have a tank shortage because it is a harder role than dps, needs ok gear, which is frankly not enjoyable to some players, also has a set of strict metrics which must be met, and lastly is a role (much like healing) that everyone has an opinion on.

But we play a game where a set of guidelines is handy, and a simple set is all that most of the player base will bother to learn. To new players the concept of special stats for Tanking is daunting. No way in hell that new player will then want to read about the expertise cap, or the affect of parry vs dodge, or any of the heavier concepts that fly around the threory-crafters.

And well they should not learn it. Dumbing it down to the player base will make the game more like a game. This is where I think Blizzard is heading, especially so if you consider that Cataclysm will remove a stack of the complex math.

cheers and end rant,


2 thoughts on “How to Tank Heroic runs?

  1. Thank you for the rant, if only more non tanks read that and maybe they could understand another perspective for a change. It isnt easy to keep your cool if a dps is talking trash about one’s gs even though their def is capped, their dodge is over 20 and block is almost 20. You cant automatically have a gs of 5000 right when you get to 80, thats why there are heroics, to get emblems to get the better gear. Anyways, thanks again for the rant.

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