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Tanking at Tanking

June 23, 2009

If I could turn back time…

I’d have never spent the 1000g on dual-speccing Akromah without trying out tanking first.

I’m just not good at it.

Helpful Infographic

Helpful Infographic

Last week I volunteered to tank Heroic Old Kingdom. It was the heroic daily dungeon and as Akromah still needs that and Malygos (laughs maniacally as I have one instant-heal with a 5 second cooldown and how can I heal vortex with that??) for Champion of the Frozen Wastes, I figured what the heck?

I went into the whole event with a shaking stomach (not good) and a soft voice (yay unconfident-sounding tank!) and it was a hot mess. All the 9-6-9ing in the world couldn’t help me keep aggro.

My two biggest problems are:

  • After all this time in Wrath, I still don’t know all the dungeons in detail. This hurts my ability to know what to pull when. Is there a pat? Does this group’s casters silence?
  • I don’t notice when a mob peels away from my group and goes after the DPS. It’s almost as if I’m blinded by the spell effects (we had all ranged DPS in our group until the priest d/c’d, the shammy went resto and The Rogue came as third DPS) and all of the action surrounding me.

After hours of wipes I asked for another tank to come in, so I could heal and the shammy could go back to DPS and we could at least get the daily part done. I didn’t even turn the darn quest in yet.

As much as I want to vendor all my tank gear and forget I even entertained the thought of tanking, I just can’t. It’s just a game, right? I can do this. I don’t expect to be a brilliant strategist right out of the box, but I do expect myself to at hold onto aggro.

Here’s what I think I should do:

  • Start with simple dungeons and tank each one a few times on regular so I can learn them from a tank’s point of view.
  • Zoom my camera out to max distance while tanking so I can notice if I lose a mob.
  • Be strong and insist that my DPSers go easy for a while until I learn the ropes.

Any suggestions? Or should I just L2Ret?

25 Comments leave one →
  1. June 23, 2009 11:24 am

    This sounds disturbingly familiar as I did my first tank job this past weekend. And it merely reaffirms in my mind that all tanks are absolutely batshit crazy. *sagenod*

  2. June 23, 2009 11:32 am

    Don’t feel bad, no one can out-tank the Inanimate Carbon Rod!

  3. Derek permalink
    June 23, 2009 11:45 am

    That 1000gold isn’t a waste, you could always go Ret and have more fun ripping faces.

  4. June 23, 2009 12:12 pm

    Tanking takes time to learn and your suggestions are the right ones–start with instances on regular and go slow, run them to learn, run them with friends that know you’re still learning and are willing to work with you. Mark targets, and insist that the DPS let you do the pulling and stick to the target kill order. You can do it!

  5. June 23, 2009 12:17 pm

    I had plans to write something on very similar topic– Heroic Old Kingdom is hard! I tried tanking it for the first time last week and the group wiped 4 times b/c I kept messing up the pull on the pat you see when you go down the second set of stairs.

  6. Rich permalink
    June 23, 2009 12:44 pm

    Ask your rogues to constantly keep ToT up and on you. I start every pull with ToT on the tank to increase his aggro plus I don’t want any red boxes and noise popping up on my screen that I have dps’d myself into aggro. I also like to throw at least 2 FoK(fan of knives) in at the start hitting all mobs within 8 yards – even if the tank hasn’t established aggro on them ToT + FoK will.

    As soon as ToT is off cooldown, I pop the tank again with it……plus it gives the tank 15% damage bonus while counting down.

    If you have a hunter, they can use misdirect but not having a hunter I am not sure quite how this works in the aggroing realm.

  7. Mike_NJ permalink
    June 23, 2009 12:56 pm

    As Jong says, Heroic OK is hard, probably the hardest for a new tank.

    I admit, it was my second heroic – AN being the first.

    You do have the right idea, Kim – tank each one a few times on regular. The only differences between heroic and regular are the number of hit points everything has, how hard they hit, and a few additional abilities for the bosses. You could read up on the specific fights via Wowhead or Wowwiki, however these are just words and make no replacement for actual experience.

    I started tanking heroics with just under 20khp base, 18k armor, 540+ defense (540 is the minimum defense required to be uncrittable by raid-level mobs, so though 535 should be more than sufficient for heroics, it doesn’t hurt to go the extra few points). My gear was mostly quest blues (a few greens) that were quickly replaced either by AH spending (Signet of the Accord) or lucky drops (Naxx 10).

    As far as “situational awareness” I’m sure you’re familiar with camera-spinning on your mage (ie looking behind you so that you don’t get attacked from behind). This is useful as a tank (unless the target moves) but setting a Focus on your healer is a good idea too.
    Some macros could help, if you use any.

    /cast [target:focus] Righteous Defense

    will cast Righteous Defense on your Focus.

    Also, if you have guildmates with lower level alts (I know I’ve mentioned this before, but I do it weekly for guildies, and just about as often for my own second account) run them through Old World or BC dungeons. Keep in mind, your survival will be relatively easy (unless you get piled on by a bad pull) but you’ll need to watch your squishies in the back. Especially if you take, for example, a 45 into Stratholme – their aggro radius is -huge- since they are 12-15 levels below the mobs in the zone.

    And lastly, remember this: if the healer dies, you do. So ignore that mage who is overblowing threat and getting whomped on to save the healer instead.

  8. Cosmo the Fallacy permalink
    June 23, 2009 1:58 pm

    Agreed with all the above.

    However… and I’ve never played a tank at max level, so this should be taken with a grain of salt… One possible problem with running regular/low-level instances is that you will not end up taking much damage being more or less Naxx-geared.

    This is a problem for two reasons: Firstly, to teh best of my understanding, a big part of a prot Pally’s mana return is based on Spiritual Attunement via receiving heals, and Holy Shield/Blessing of Salvation via shield block. If you run regular/low level instances, you will be dodging a lot of the incoming attacks and mitigating most or all of the others. I don’t think that this is a fatal flaw in the plan, but it bears remembering. Secondly, not taking much damage means you never have to learn when to burn your big damage-mitigating cooldowns, although I think this is more of an issue for DK’s and Warrior tanks than pallies, since pallies have fewer cooldowns to pop.

    That being said…

    I think that it’ll be pretty easy to find lowbies who would want to run BC instances. 😉

  9. Embalmo the Rogue permalink*
    June 23, 2009 2:38 pm

    @ Rich

    <—professional Rogue.

  10. June 23, 2009 2:54 pm

    I would be happy to run whatever you wish with you. All you have to do is ask!

  11. Brian Z. permalink
    June 23, 2009 3:03 pm

    Oh dear… as both my main and my most oft-played alt are laboring under the intention to main tank when they grow up, alls I can say is I hope that a) your stated plan is successful, and b) you blog the experience in detail so that c) I can learn from it.

    (What? If I can’t shamelessly use my oldest friend in the world in such a way, who CAN I shamelessly use?)


    (Helpful Infographic FTW)

  12. Cosmo the Fallacy permalink
    June 23, 2009 3:31 pm


    When I first read this, I was drinking my morning coffee-drink. The “Six Things” was funny… but the “Helpful Infographic” tag made me spit-take with laughter.

    You owe me one keyboard.

  13. June 23, 2009 5:16 pm

    @all – What a great wealth of advice, thanks very much! I especially like Mike’s macro idea & Linedan’s reminder about marking targets.

    Keep it coming!

  14. June 23, 2009 5:20 pm

    When I was first learning to tank in BC I bought one of those dungeon guides to help me learn the pulls. This resulted in agonizingly slow runs for the people with me but I figured finishing the instance slowly with no wipes was better than rushing ahead and having to run back over and over again. Point is, do what you need to do to learn the pulls, go at your own pace and just keep at it.

  15. June 23, 2009 8:22 pm

    Inanimate carbon rod FTW!

    Anywho, DEFINITELY pass on heroics until you learn the instances better. Even if you don’t need the gear/quests/etc, the experience is more beneficial than any epics you may gain.

  16. June 23, 2009 10:36 pm

    I really have nothing helpful to add. >.> I’m less helpful than the infographic when it comes to tanking.

    BUT, I think your ideas of what you ‘should’ do sound spot on. 🙂

  17. June 25, 2009 11:14 am

    Unfortunately, tanking “basic” dungeons at 80 with prolly purples won’t really help you on heroics. I’ve found I can faceroll tank most normal dungeons, but heroics are another ballgame. Honestly, I think there is more to tanking than anything else in Wow. I have almost given up myself and I’ve been straight prot for about a year and a half (since level 48).

    Best of luck though, tanking is a valuable skillset to have. . .

  18. Kikuzushi permalink
    June 25, 2009 10:35 pm

    Heroic Old Kingdom is definitely one of the tougher instances to tank (AN is probably the toughest). Be sure to mark your targets and make sure everyone gets the kill order down. Also, be sure you have your Righteous Fury on at all times. Sometimes I forget to refresh it when it goes off and the mobs make a beeline for the DPS. Another thing I recommend, if you don’t already do it, is to press the “V” button and toggle on the HP bars for the mobs. This makes it easier to target them and to see when they start to go after your party members. My last piece of advice would be to practice, practice, practice. The more you do it, the better you will be at it. Good luck!

  19. Kring permalink
    June 26, 2009 7:52 am

    Righteous Defense is cast in a player, not the mob itself. Therefore you don’t have to know which mob run away, only who got aggro.

    Install Grid. Your a healer, you probably have. Grid shows you who has aggro (red square). Or watch the blizzard group interface which should also show you who has aggro.

    Install Clique or another click casting add-on. You probably already have that as a healer. Put the Righteous Defense spot on a mouse button.

    If someone has aggro, click on that grid button. You don’t have to know which mob run away or who had aggro, the mob will walk back into your consecration.

    For kingdom, you have two stun interrupts. Your hammer and the AE spell. This is very very handy for interrupting these nasty one-hit-casting spiders.

    Try an easy instance first instead of kingdom. 🙂

    Utgarde Keep is easy to tank.

    Nexus is a nightmare as a palladin. Worst instance ever. Every mob has a silence there.

    Gun’drak and Drak’tharon are easy to tank.

    The two spiders and the HoL/HoS are not so easy.

  20. Kring permalink
    June 26, 2009 7:52 am

    You’re… -.-

  21. June 26, 2009 11:10 am

    For tanking heroics and beyond it is a must to have your defense score at 540 so you are un-crittable, that is most important, improved mitigation can come later with gear. If you are not defense capped then it is better to gem for defense to cap, all the stam in the world won’t help if you are taking massive critical strikes from bosses that already hit hard on plate with non crits. If you are not at 540 defense there are plenty of crafted items that will help get you there. What matters most is your effective health, HP is only a number.

    Always tank with Blessing of Sanctuary, this is your way of having more mana to keep tanking, 3% reduced damage taken from all sources, BONUS! Get another pally to do kings.

    — Bind Raid Markings to Keys —
    For a long time I did not do this, once I did this I was so happy I did, makes tanking much easier. You can mark up a whole pull in such short time. I personally use my number pad for the markings. You can also use the later F keys if you do not care about losing the individual back pack key binds.

    Numpad Bindings, with Numlock on
    1 – Skull
    2 – X
    3 – Triangle
    4 – Star
    5 – Diamond
    6 – Circle
    7 – Square
    8 – Moon

    — Glyphs to Use —
    Glyph of Hammer of the Righteous
    Glyph of Seal of Vengeance
    Glyph of Divine Plea

    — Taunt Macros —

    /cast [help] Righteous Defense; [target=targettarget,help] Righteous Defense

    This macro will work just like taunt and will come to the aid of the player who is being targeted and pull two other mobs if they are attacking someone else. I recommend not using this when off tanking in a boss fight as you may pull the boss off the MT, in this case its best to use Hand of Reckoning.

    /cancelaura Hand of Protection
    /cast [nogroup,target=player][target=targettarget,party] Hand of Protection

    Hand of Protection can also be used as a taunt, if a boss goes to run off and kill someone in your party with your taunts on CD then you can use this immediately regain the attention of said boss.

    — Control the fight —
    As a tank you are the one who controls the position of the fight, when going to make a trash/boss pull, remember you don’t have to fight them where they stand and in a lot of cases it is very bad to fight mobs where you originally find them. Usually you want to bring mobs way back into your territory and fight them there, leave yourself with plenty of room to work with this way you don’t make an extra pull by accident. Always keep the mobs in front of you, when they are behind you, your chance to block dodge and parry will be lost and you will be taking every hit from those mobs behind you, don’t be afraid to back up a little to get them in front of you. Sometimes there are mobs that are really difficult to position but getting the hang of that comes with experience with them.

    — The Pull and Building Threat —
    It nice to start off with getting holy shield active and throwing an avenger’s shield out there. When the mobs almost get to you lay down a consecrate where you choose the fight to happen, judge the first kill target, then Shield of Righteous, Hammer of Righteous. Keep holy shield active at all times. If you have crowd control in the pull, just bring your targets back away from crowd control, its just something us paladins have to deal with. If there are casters in the pull and you have no interrupts, look around you for ways to line of sight them to where you want the fight to be. And warn your DPS if they are jumping the gun too much and not giving you enough time to build threat, patient DPS is good DPS.

    All in all it helps to know the pulls and what mobs are most dangerous and should be killed first, once you get it down mobs will be stuck to you glue while your fellow party members melt face. When dealing with mobs with frontal aoe attacks and cleaves, its best to face them away from the raid.

    Anyway thats my little tanking basics guide for now, hope it helps, tanking is quite fun once you get it down.

  22. September 3, 2009 10:05 pm

    1) Don’t be afraid of the dungeon. Sure, you may fail, but if you just charge ahead, toss your shield, drop that con and keep on trucking, you’ll more than likely have a successful dungeon experience. (i.e. don’t pull mobs to you — it’s usually not worth the trade off)
    2) Mark your kill target only. If you’re running with people overgeared for you, they can easily pull off the side adds. Don’t let them “plan ahead” — make them wait until you feel established with the target before throwing up the next mark.
    3) You prolly picked yourself one of the most difficult dungeons for a new tank — and on heroic mode too! Going back to level 70 – 75 dungeons would give you time to change your perspective on the fights, but I honestly think you’d be more frustrated than enlightened. Rule of thumbs for paladin tanks = no damage = no mana, so our motto is “PULL MORE MOBS” meaning you’ll not really have time to digest the fight.
    4) Don’t be afraid to ask your team what’s around the corner. People try new things — be up front, say, “Hey, I’m trying out prot, is this the pull with the ugly spellcaster?”

    Definitely don’t hang up your sword and board after one poorly run dungeon. Tanking can be a gratifying and very rewarding experience — once you get the hang of it 🙂


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