A Learning Experience

It would be hard to tank something and not learn anything. I think tanking by definition is a learning curve steep enough to knock down those who cannot climb it. You don’t tackle Everest with a protein bar and a pair of tennis shoes. There is a lot of very strenuous work that goes in to a venture like that. And if you don’t succeed the first time, odds are you won’t try again. Everest kills people. Bad tanks do too.

So I have endeavored not to be a bad tank. I don’t care about being the best. I’m a tree, I heal, I strive to be the best healer I can possibly be. But tanking is sort of a hobby. I go to work as a tree, come home and change out of my clothes and lounge around as a bear. I started tanking at level 70 in the Burning Crusade. I didn’t enjoy it but it was kind of expected of a feral druid. No one wanted kitties piddling around; they wanted bears who could tank. Peer pressure (oddly enough what lead me to healing) made me a tank. It wasn’t for very long and I haven’t touched it since.

Until recently. I don’t know why. Call me a glutton for punishment. I like being “important”. I like the feeling of knowing that I am contributing. I’m sure most people do. Whether you’re a pure DPS person or a healer or a tank, reasonable people like to contribute to the best of their ability. I think part of what lead me to tanking again is that “ability” no longer has any bearing on my healing. I can suck all I want and my gear will get a haphazard group through any heroic. That’s all fine and dandy, but the challenge is gone and I enjoyed that challenge. Hear tell it’s going to be challenging again in Cataclysm, but my lazy ass hasn’t updated the beta in several weeks. Blame school.

Tanking, however, is my fairly neglected off-spec which means that it isn’t as easy. My gear is mediocre (a very strange mix of ilevels that range from Ulduar to ICC). I started collecting it at random out of boredom. My skill level is about as eclectic. I have tanked all over the place at all levels on all classes…but not seriously. I never raided as a tank. Healing was scary enough my first time! Having my little bear nose an inch from some bad guy’s crotch is a hair-raising experience that, to me, isn’t considered in the realm of “fun and relaxing”. But it’s challenging. I’m not a master at it. I can learn something. (Let it never be said I think I have learned all I can about healing. Bull. Shit.)

So I put on my tanking shorts (it’s a dress, really…) and ran a few guildies through their daily allotment of random heroics. Ow. I learned things. Things I would not have learned from my guild because, desite our banter in guild chat, we’re a group of reasonably fair and experienced individuals who don’t go out of our way to harass people. Your random pugged player, however…not so much.

And there are a plethora of very skilled, very nice players out there. I assume they are a minority, though, when the vast droves of people I encounter in the LFG system are jerks. I’m talking jerks who pull aggro, jerks who won’t watch threat, jerks who don’t wait for a tank to pull. Jerks who, unlike my pleasant and mild-mannered guildmates, are ruthless in their resolve to finish each random heroic as fast as possible in a balls-out sprint to the final boss. It’s an exceptionally frustrating atmosphere that leaves me feeling like a failure. Frazzled and annoyed and ready to condemn everyone who isn’t me.

I have learned, though.

Swipe is somehow a very effective threat tool. I discovered that I can hold a group of mobs more effectively just spamming swipe than I can trying to tab target and Lacerate and Maul and what have you. It is my understanding that bears are not really meant to be AoE threat tanks. This confuses me at times, as I am very used to playing my paladin tank right now. Where is my consecrate?! Why are mobs running lose? Where the hell is my shield!? Augh.

Snap aggro seems to be a mite weak as well. Swipe, sure, or pull with a taunt…but I feel like bears are missing an opening attack (something similar to Avenger’s Shield) that immediately ramps up threat and glues things to you like grotesque ornaments. It is very likely I simply haven’t figured bear out yet. Hell, I’ll be right up front about it: I have no freaking idea what I’m doing. I just hit buttons that seem appropriate in the order that makes the most sense and pray no one mega-crits right off the bat.

The most horrid thing is when the LFG system, in its infinite and unquestionable wisdom, decides I am geared and skilled enough to tank one of the ICC instances. Seriously. My gear may suggest that I am competent, but let me straighten this up right now: I’m not! I’m about a competent at tanking as Elmo would be if you set his little fuzzy hands on the keyboard and mashed buttons. I panic very easily. If something comes up behind my big bear butt, I freak out. If the healer takes one hit, I mash challenging roar. I forget about bash entirely. I’m a mess.

Simple, easy heroic instances are no problem. ICC heroics make me wish I had worn a diaper before queuing. It doesn’t bother me in the slightest to heal them. I think it can be agreed upon that even seriously over-geared healers need to pay attention in the ICC five-man heroics. They are not quite the faceroll that other heroics ended up being after obtaining tier 10 gear. I think the difference between healing and tanking them (for me) is that I know exactly what I’m doing as a healer. This happens, which means I have to do this, resulting in this. It’s a clear, quick thought process that results in a heal. Tanking, though, is seventy different thought processes all screaming DO THIS! in little Mickey Rooney* voices, all contradicting each other. I can’t sit there methodically going through each scenario to test it out while the group I’m supposed to be shielding is being beaten to a bloody mess. I have to react. And I do. And it’s the wrong reaction. And someone dies. And I learn.

So what I’m getting at is I’m a tank in training. I’m going to fail. I’m enjoying doing something that is not my forte. It is not easy. I’m not over-geared or overpowered. Some people recognize this and are courteous and watch their threat and mind their manners. Others don’t. PUGs are a cruel environment to learn in – which is partly why I am pushing my paladin tank through as many as possible – but they result in one very simple and highly under-valued thing: growth.

PUG people are so impatient and so quick to judge, you cannot succeed if you cannot learn. If the wipe was your fault, you’ll know about it from four other people. And you have one chance to learn and live, or you’re considered a failure and booted from the group. It’s harsh, it’s almost unfair, but if you can’t learn…what are you doing playing what is essentially a learning-based game?


*It should be noted that anyone who hears Mickey Rooney’s voice in their head is quite insane.

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About Sylvestris

Gamer, nerd, book worm, baker.

Posted on September 3, 2010, in Chatter, Tales and Adventures and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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