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A Tanking Primer: Adaptability

August 11, 2009

uldapowWelcome back to the Tanking Primer series here at Going Bearfoot! Here we’ll explore a new aspect of tanking each week for the next several weeks, continuing with today’s topic, Adaptability. My hope is that I’ll manage to stay objective enough to cover tanking aspects without making this a “druid only” resource, and even include things specific to my warrior, paladin, and death knight brethren.

Tanking Primer Table of Contents

1. The Pull

2. Tank Talk

3. Adaptability

4. To be continued…

The World of Warcraft, like the “Real World” ™, is usually in some state of flux, and while you’re tanking there will always be patrols, groups with casters, groups without casters, bugs, lagspikes, awful PuGed people, and Cenarius knows what else. Your job then, is to always be prepared to deal with things, shift around, and make changes on the fly.

A few basic rules about adaptability:

1. Never let yourself be tunnel-visioned.

Start first with always keeping your camera zoomed out, at an angle that lets you look around. You’re not DPS, you don’t have to be focused in on the thing you’re killing. Really, you shouldn’t be because generally there will always be more than one mob to handle anyway. Don’t be afraid to stop watching your character specifically for a few seconds and take a look around. Are there mobs in your ranged DPS or beating on the healer? Is there a pat coming? Are the giant black pancakes of doom or forked lightning or poison clouds or fire or anything that you need to be aware of? Always be looking around.

2. Don’t plant your feet.

Boxers know this, and you should too. Blizzard is really liking the whole crap on the ground to avoid mechanic these days, and you simply can’t afford to ignore that. Furthermore, as tank and likely leader of your group, you need to be watching to see if other people are in/near anything on the ground that can kill them. It is entirely possible for you to get your melee DPS to move out of stuff by walking away with the boss or trashpack. To stay tunnel-visioned on their DPS they need to stay in melee range and will follow you around. If you take it, they will come… It’s harder to move your ranged around, but experiment with a few things (LoS, bring the boss through to the other side of them, be creative!) and you can get them to move too.

This isn’t to say that all DPS are tunnel-visioned or stupid or anything. Some can be, even the best players can zone sometimes, and you never know what you’ll get in a PuG. I’m simply arming you with concepts for worst-case scenarios.

3. Knowledge is power.

Know your class, know your gear, know the fight, know your consumables and everything you bring with you to the instance. Know what cooldowns you have, how long they are, what can be used in combat, and what kind of situations they’re best for.

If things start going sideways, as they usually do, knowing what tools you have available to pump out more DPS, heal yourself, or simply endure for awhile while your healer concentrates somewhere else  is crucial. Micro manage things on your end of the screen. Have items with cooldowns up on your screen so you can watch them. Have out-of-combat cooldowns somewhere else that is handy. Have gear profiles set up so you don’t end up fighting with your Tourney lance still equipped, your healing gear on, or one of your trinkets a used arcanite dragonling.

Other things to keep in mind:

  • Communication is key. If you have something incoming and need to deal with it, announce it in Vent, type it out, or have a macro with a warning already typed out. This will help warn your healer and shift your DPS which is neccesary.
  • Keep your group focused. So crowd control is a lost art. So AoE is the way things work in Wrath. So? You’d be surprised what slapping a good ol’ skull up on the thing you want to die first can do for you. At worst, your group knows what you wanted them to do, and if it ends up wiping they’re more than likely to follow your marks from now on. At best you can avoid wiping alltogether by marking something to die first and allowing you better threat on all the other mobs in the pack. I keep my raid markings hoykeyed on the F1-F5 buttons so I can move ’em around without the tedious menu process. It really helps.
  • Are you off-tanking? If you are, you have special rules that can apply to you! Frequently in multi-tank situations there will be times when you’re only fighting one mob or boss or you somehow else have a break in your job as a tank. This is where you can really rev up your adaptability and make yourself an invaluable asset! In multi-tank situations where only one tank is needed and you’re not it, you’re free to hit your gear profile to change weapons and stances and go DPS, pop out of form and heal or help dispell debuffs, throw some form of crowd control on a charmed party member, or rebuff (and maybe give an innervate to) that healer that went down and got a battle-rez or soulstone. Always be prepared to do That Thing What Needs To Be Done and your group will love you for it.

Adaptability. Tank like water, flowing around the obstacles and claiming them for your own.

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