AKA How to Not Suck as a Tank in WoW
First, the usual credentials. I’ve been playing since 2005, and I’ve played lots of tanks. Currently, my tanks consist of a 90 Brewmaster Monk and an 85 Blood Death Knight that I’m leveling.
I also get a lot of compliments on my tanking. Constantly (“Wow, you’re an awesome tank”). People Battletag friend me to run with me later. I’ll have full groups that want to requeue with me. So I ain’t just sayin’ “I’m awesome”; I get that feedback all the time.
There, worthy credentials from random Internet person.
I’m going to tell you some things I don’t tend to see in other posts about WoW tanking. Many of them focus on raid tanking, which is nice. But a lot don’t tell you how to learn to do your job before you get to raiding. If you can’t do dungeons worth a damn, you will fail at raiding too. The more you practice early on, the better you’ll be later.
I’ll include some of the usual advice, in case you found this post before the others out there. If you already know the gear, stats, addons and such and just want to get on to the “actually tanking” part, go on ahead.
Before You Tank…
Play some other classes. The tank has to lead the group through the dungeon and know the fights well. Granted, as you go up in level, knowing the fights is important for everyone. But if you haven’t played WoW before, you may not want to start with a tank. Play something else and learn the dungeons first and get a feel for the fights. If you’ve come from other MMOs and just love tanking, then you’ll probably be able to start off tanking and pick it up as you go.
That said, tanking gear can get pricey. You need higher level gear or you won’t be able to tank. And if you’re just starting out playing World of Warcraft and don’t have any friends that can drop a pile of gold on you (Ok, that’s rare but it happens)…then you’ll have to run dungeons as DPS or make your own. Otherwise, you buy gear off the Auction House. More on gearing up below. As an FYI, your gear costs are going to get expensive as you level, not just because you may have to buy it, because you’re the tank and your job is to get beat on. You’ll have high repair bills. And you’re gonna die. A lot. Life of a tank. Death = more expensive repair bill.
Know your stat priority
Know what your class’ stat priority is. Not all tanks use the same stats (sure, parry and stamina but other stats like agility or strength vary by class and there are other stats you’re going to need). If you need to learn more about stat priority, check out Noxxic’s PVE Guides or Icy Veins. Excellent, in-depth guides for everything, not just tanking. Once you know your stat priority, this will help you…
Be properly geared
Get the gear with the right stats. That may sound obvious, but some people don’t know that. Also: do not expect to tank in greens after the lowest level dungeons. If you aren’t wearing any blues after level 20, you’re gonna die (you’ll likely need them a little sooner than that even). Then you will get votekicked out of the group because you are too squishy for the healer to keep alive. Also remember, after every expansion: green is the new purple. Don’t wear epic or rare (purple or blue) gear from vanilla WoW and expect to tank in Burning Crusade dungeons (yes, I’ve seen it far too often…and those tanks die). You can’t wear epics from BC and expect to tank Cataclysm. You can’t wear epics from Cata and expect to tank MOP (Mist of Pandaria). It’s just not gonna happen. So like I said: expect to shell out some cash, run dungeons as DPS, or make your own gear (which will take a while if you are in a hurry to level).
Heirloom gear is also great; there are many ways to get it. You can get some from the guild vendor after your reputation is high enough with your guild. (Another reason to play another character first: that one will get the rep first, then you can have it mail heirloom gear to your tank. Although you can just level the tank and once it has the right reputation for heirlooms, you can purchase the gear.) You can learn more about heirloom gear and other places to get it here.
I should caveat this with: you’ll likely do fine if you have a few greens early on. But not all greens; you want as much non-green gear as you can get.
I’ve got a few of the usual, plus one I rarely see people using.
- Omen Threat Meter (To make sure you have aggro)
- Tidy Plates: Threat Plates (Shows you what you have aggro on and what you don’t)
- TankPoints (To figure out what gear you need)
- GTFO (Tells you if you are standing in something you shouldn’t be)
- Deadly Boss Mods (A must: a heads-up on what the boss you’re fighting is about to do. NOTE: there are addons for each expansion; get them.)
- Healers Have to Die (Tells you if your healer is under attack)
Originally, I got All Healers Have to Die as an easy way to find healers to kill in battlegrounds. But it also works great in groups and lets you know if your healer is under attack. Because the last thing you want is for your healer to die. I don’t see people using this addon much, but it’s awesome and I think it’s a must-have addon.
Admittedly, I just found TankPoints, GTFO, and Threat Plates while writing this. But they look good and I’ve just grabbed them and will give them a shot. You can tank just pre-raid dungeons without them, if you know how.
EDIT: Ok, I’ve tried the addons for a week or so now. GTFO is awesome. It makes the most obnoxious blaring sound when you’re standing in something you should’t. Great for if you just don’t notice or are tired. Threat Plates takes some getting used to, but is handy. TankPoints: haven’t even used it yet.
There are also tanking addons for each class. For example, I use CLC DK for my Death Knight tank so I know what cooldowns are about to expire (I often forget Horn of Winter and Bone Shield if I’m not reminded).
When Tanking in WoW
It is not a race
First and foremost: the dungeon is not a race. If you remember this, you’re gonna do better, thus people will like you and not votekick you. Every group is different and some groups want to race through a dungeon. That’s fine, and in those cases go for it. But remember:
Stay with your healer
If you want to die, go ahead and run away from your healer. I’m sure you can tank those 20 dungeon trash mobs without heals. I’ve played healers longer than tanks and I’ve totally let tanks die because they were too impatient to wait for the rest of us. In the immortal words of Wil Wheaton: Don’t Be A Dick.
Stay with your team
When I’m not tanking, nothing irks me more than a tank that can’t wait for the rest of us to get to where they’re going. You’re not soloing. You’re in a group. Give your team time to get their loot, upgrade gear with new loot, get mana and heal up. Which brings me to…
Watch your healer’s mana
For the love of all things holy (heh) watch your healer’s mana. The other reason not to take off without your healer is they may need mana. Yes, they have regen gear, this doesn’t give them unlimited mana, regardless of how well-geared they are. Yes, some healers never have to stop and drink. But dungeons are for gearing up, so not all have top-level gear yet. Before running into a boss fight or a room of mobs, at the very least: check your healer’s mana bar. If it’s low and they’re just standing there, ask them if they want a drink. Odds are good they didn’t notice they were low, or they’re used to dumbass tanks that run into a room while the healer has little to no mana (because wipes are fun).
Fight while facing your team, always
Most tanks fight with their back to the team. This is stupid. Face your team. See what’s happening to them. Your job is to keep aggro off them. You can’t tell what’s happening to them with your back to them.
That said: zoom out to max distance and if you’ve got your back to a team you can still see what’s going on. There is a slider bar in the interface options that will zoom your view WAY out: Camera > Max Camera Distance. If that’s not enough, you can type: /console cameraDistanceMaxFactor <value> (where <value> is the number you enter…try 4 and if that doesn’t work for you, fiddle with the numbers). There are also addons for this.
But sometimes, a part of a dungeon won’t let you do that and the screen gets weird…so face your team. It’s a good habit to be in. Because when you face your team you can…
Rescue your healer
If they die, you die, and the group wipes. That simple. I love watching tanks blame the healer for a wipe when the healer was getting beat on by mobs while the tank merrily spanked another group of mobs. Way to go buddy.
Rescue your team
You and your healer alone can only do so much. While tank and heals are vital, so is DPS. Don’t be a diva. If it’s just you and healer, your healer is gonna run out of mana. And again: they die, you die, group wipe, big repair bill. Respect the DPS on your team: you need them too.
Expect to die
Another fun one: watching tanks bitch because they died. Tanks die. Cope. Your job is to take one for the team. If the group is overwhelmed and the healer can keep you alive long enough for the group to dps down a bunch of mobs or a boss, then there likely won’t be a wipe when you die. Because at this point, they’ve gotten the mobs and/or boss down to a manageable level. And that’s awesome because now you just get a rez and don’t have to do the spirit jog. Die, and be graceful about your death. It’s only game death and a repair bill. Get over it.
Know your role, rotation and fights
Your job is not to top the DPS meter. I’ll say this again: your job is not to be top DPS. While tanks often are due to them needing higher level gear, it’s not required for the job. You should be spamming taunts, anything that does AOE, self-heals, and anything that will increase armor and survivability in boss fights. Your focus should be doing everything you can to hold aggro on everything and keep yourself alive. Don’t just ignore your health and assume your healer has you. Things go wrong, so watch your health and remember your self-heals. Like all classes, know your rotations. Learn what spells to keep up and when to use them. Noxxic and Icy Veins are great for this info, as are World of Warcraft’s forums and other sites. Just make sure you’re reading a post about the latest patch rather than something from a prior expansion or patch.
Admit if you do not know a dungeon or fight
Most people are cool if you say “I’m new here”. Or as I often say: “I haven’t been here in a while and I’ve forgotten how this dungeon works” (yes, after all these years, I still forget my way around dungeons and what comes next in some dungeons). When you admit you need a hand, you’ll get the info you need to tank effectively. People will point you the right way on the map, or give you a heads-up that a particular boss is going to fear you or will have adds. It’s cool, you don’t have to know everything all the time. At least, not until you start raiding.
Got any tank strategies? Got some tank horror stories or tales of awesome tanks? Share! I’d love to see them.