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Nightmares

Last night I had a dream that I accidentally queued for LFR as a tank, and didn’t realize it until we were already inside making a bee-line for the first trash group. I panicked and switched to bear form and tried to tank but I couldn’t generate threat and mobs were running loose everywhere. Then I accidentally face pulled a huge group of trash and half the group had already ran ahead to the next room so I was left to deal with them on my own with a few dps left to help. It was awful. No one said anything to me but I did wake up rather quickly. Stupid dreams. They ought to know I don’t tank for strangers.

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A Handful of Things You’re Probably Doing that Piss Off Your Tank

Or, an alternate title: STOP DOING THAT SHIT.

Fair warning: I’m not even going to TRY to be nice about this. Easily offended people should probably leave now.

Seriously. Tanking for any length of time (for PuGs, anyway) turns me into a bitter, angry, grouchy dick. It is an odd metamorphosis that occurs for me nowhere else in life. I dont get road rage, I am not generally impatient with slow people, I am unfailingly polite to food service staff, I go out of my way to help my classmates, and I don’t often swear. As a healer I’m easy going, generally pretty quiet, polite and unconcerned with group drama. But put me in a PuG as the tank and I will, without fail, end up kicking puppies and punching babies.

I usually suffer in silence, too, which for better or for worse means I don’t often (ever) speak in group chat. I say hi in the beginning but I don’t talk after that. I just settle into auto pilot and pull until I get a satchel and then leave. It isnt that I’m unfriendly! I’m shy and quiet but not unfriendly. It’s that people are so God damned rude in this game. Every group is bound to have one person in it that is rude, obnoxious, immature, or selfish. Or all of those things at once. In two different Stratholme runs I encountered probably the 4 most despicable souls in the queue at that time. Such is my curse, I think. I am prone to attracting filth. First there was the healer who started bitching six seconds after we popped into the instance that we were going too damned slow. It was one of those rare times when someone in the group who isnt me stood up and told him that he had no right to attack us and we vote kicked him immediately. Then there was the asshole who blamed everything on the “nigrz”. I draw the line at racist shit like that. He spent the rest of the instance talking in French with his buddy, and the hilarious part is that I understand French. He was no more coherent or intelligent in his native language than he was in English. Moron. Then there was the feral druid who kept running ahead of me, pulling groups, switching to bear form, and proceeding to tank. When, after like ten times, I told him to please stop pulling, another person in the group told me to shut up, just tank, and stop being a douche. He also alleged it was an accident. Right. He accidentally switched to bear form ten times and pulled groups ahead of me.

So if you have ever wondered why the queue times are so long for everyone but tanks, take a moment to consider that people in this game treat each other like absolute shit. There is no respect, there is no courtesy. It’s a free for all in which everyone forgets their manners and uses the anonymity of the internet coupled with the fact that Blizzard provides no accountability whatsoever for people’s actions. The next time someone bitches that the queue is too long, I am going to bitchslap a kitten. If you want people to tank, stop fucking treating them like shit when they do.

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And now on to the actual post.

The following are things I see people do in literally every PuG I have tanked for, ever. Whether it’s on my druid main tank or one of my little alts, I see it in every group, every time. Some of it I’m sure is because the game is complex and doesn’t lend its self very well to explanation. New players get new spells they don’t really know how or when to use and problems arise. New players also don’t have the same grasp of how to interact in a group, especially if they have never played another MMO. It’s all cool. I get it. I was new once too. The problems arise when people start copping an attitude when someone points out politely that something they’re doing is causing a bit of a problem. So here is my little list of things that I, as a tank, absolutely cannot stand.

1. Running ahead and accidentally pulling. It’s okay, it’s fine, it was an accident. The first time. Any time after that and I may just let your dumb ass die.

2. Running ahead for the express purpose of pulling a group. You are not the tank. You did not queue as a tank. You are neither spec’d nor equipped to tank. If you didn’t queue as a tank, sit your stupid ass down and stop trying to take over that role. The next time you queue, reconsider which role you choose. Personally I think you have no business queuing at all, but hey. If you get the urge to run a dungeon, play the role you queued for or dont play at all.

3. Typhoon and Thunderstorm. They have glyphs that remove the knockback from these. If you didnt glyph it, don’t ever use it in an instance. I cannot possibly convey to you how high my blood pressure shoots when some idiot knocks an entire group back into another group I didnt pull, and causes chaos. Moonkin and shamans: pull your head out of your ass.

4. Queuing as a DPS when you only have a tanking role and gear. Double the ire if you attempt to tank right over the top of me. If you don’t so much as have the right gear to fill a DPS slot, you have no business queuing for it. Don’t come in with your shield and your defensive stance or your righteous fury and try to “make my job easier” by “helping me”.

5. Trying to DPS and heal. You are a healer, so heal. The next time my health drops to 1% because you wanted to DPS, I will use your undescended testicles as punching bags. Got it? Don’t make me waste my defensive cooldowns on trivial trash because you’re too busy spamming Wrath to heal.

6. Taunting off me for no apparent reason. There is never a time in any group when you, as a DPS, should EVER hit your taunt. I don’t care how badly it looks like I’m being beaten. I have tools to deal with my own problems. If I die, go ahead and pick up the mob. But as long as I’m alive, don’t mess with my game.

7. Yell GO GO GO or some other stupid variant. I will pull at a pace with which I am comfortable. I will not go faster. I will most certainly slow down. I’m not standing there yelling DPS HARDER HARDER! So don’t ever tell me to “tank faster”. I’m watching the healer’s mana, I’m keeping an eye on patrols that might eat us alive, and I’m trying to figure out how best to pull the next group. Keep your mouth shut and do your job.

8. Clicking on things without any idea what they do. General rule of thumb for the cognitively impaired: if you see a cogwheel anywhere in an instance when you mouse over something, DO NOT TOUCH IT. Nine times out of ten you will spawn something nasty that I will then have to deal with unprepared. The mailboxes in Strat are a prime example of this. The next time I see someone click one of those, I am running as far away as possible so they can die.

9. Running in the opposite direction of me for no reason. What part of “the tank leads the group” was ever unclear? That’s why I have a shield, dumbass. So I can run ahead and get hit and you can stand behind me and kill things safely. If I run one way and you run another and then proceed to blunder face first into a group of mobs and get killed, you have your own idiocy to blame. If I’m not going the right direction, just tell me. If I missed a quest point or a mob you need, speak up. I have never refused to go kill something because it wasnt directly in front of me.

10. Rolling on tanking specific items. If you’re building a tank off set, the very least you could do would be to say so. I don’t often rage about loot. I do, though, get more than mildly annoyed when a mage rolls on a tanking shield, or a hunter on a plate helm (true stories). If you want tank gear, queue as a tank. Don’t expect tanks to queue for a dungeon when everyone treats them like shit and steals loot meant for them. If you want tanks in the queue (or maybe you like sitting for 45 minutes in the dungeon finder?) then don’t roll on the gear they need to do their job.

 

Apologies for the rant. In a few days we will return to the adventures of Iza (whom I need a break from for the aforementioned reasons) as well as a guide I am writing for BRD.

(Not so Low Level) Paladin Tanking: Mana Regen Part 2

According to records of who visits what on this blog, the most popular articles are those pertaining to my escapades as a paladin tank. Who knew? There are much better sources out there, I do admit, but perhaps the appeal is that the guides are written by someone who, unlike the authors of those guides, is not a hard-core progression tank hell-bent on min-maxing everything in sight. Or maybe I’m charming and witty. Or maybe my page view counter LIES.

Anyway.

My first installment of low level paladin tanking talked about mana usage at the early levels of tanking. The basics are these: you have a small amount of mana. Every spell you use depletes this mana. You cannot hold threat without mana. Therefore, you must do certain things to a) not spend an excess of mana and b) regenerate the mana you do spend.

This is accomplished in several ways. First, you withhold from casting spells that are superfluous. For example, consecrate when you have one mob to deal with. Second, you use Blessing of Sanctuary at all times. Third, you pop Holy Shield on almost (I’ll explain) every cooldown. The combination of points two and three will result in massive mana regeneration if you have large amounts of mobs smashing you. Lastly, you spend your talent points on Spiritual Attunement, which grants you mana when you are healed.

As a low level tank, mana is hard to come by and easy to spend. If you find yourself outgunned by a group of mobs, you can blow your entire pool on trying to keep threat. As you level up, you gain tools to regenerate the mana you use. You will also gain more abilities to hold threat, making the decision between ability X and ability Y a little more open to interpretation.

Once you have your “full” paladin tanking repertoire (for our purposes, I’m talking about Avenger’s Shield, Holy Shield, and Hammer of the Righteous) then you are well equipped to handle almost any situation. The paladin tank is bred for large pulls of many mobs. If you think you and your healer can handle it, go for it. Pull an entire room. Experiment. Learn your limitations and strengths. The paladin tank is also a supreme soloing god. Try pulling all of Sorrow Hill. I dare you. It’s fun.

With all this power, though, you have a great responsibility – to your mana pool. Never forget that Sanctuary is your best friend. Your mana regen will be almost non-existent without it. You will encounter situations in the higher level dungeons, however, where rotating through your entire arsenal will be a huge waste of your precious blue resources.

Scenario: A large group of caster mobs.
Why they suck: Casters cast. They don’t hit. You cannot block, dodge, or parry a spell.
How to handle it: Spec into Shield of the Templar. Don’t argue. The chance for your Avenger’s Shield to silence mobs is invaluable when pulling trash packs like these, and you will find a lot of them. Throw our your Shield of Awesomely Silencing Doom and gather up the worthless spell-less casters before the effect wears off. Consecrate. Hammer of the Righteous. Don’t bother with Holy Shield. You won’t block enough to justify its mana cost.

Scenario: Only two melee mobs, standing apart.
Why they suck: Only two? That’s not what a paladin was born to tank. But if you cannot reasonably drag them a few feet to gather more (or they really hurt and you’d be dumb to pile any more damage atop them) then you’re going to have to deal with it.
How to handle it: If they’re standing so far apart that Avenger’s Shield won’t jump between them, then don’t cast it. Save the mana. Pull one with taunt and run it over to the second, pulling that one with judgment. Hammer of the Righteous. Don’t bother with consecrate. Keep using Hammer on cooldown. If the mobs have fast melee swings, throw up Holy Shield. If they are slow, or use a mix of spells and melee (like the big uglies right before Anub in Azjol-Nerub) then forget about Holy Shield.

Scenario: Boss fights.
Why they suck: Only one mob to focus on, may or may not cast spells exclusively, etc.
How to handle it: This largely depends on the boss. You will need to be familiar with the encounter to understand how to handle it (and you are looking up boss fights before you tank them, right?). If the boss is a caster and only casts spells, Holy Shield is mostly useless. If the boss has no adds, consecrate may be a mana sink you want to avoid. I find that on most bosses, a rotation of Hammer and refreshing judgment is the most mana-conscious.

However, there is a different between being mana-conscious and contributing to DPS. If your mana will allow it, pop your cooldowns and pour everything you have into the boss. I have seen myself at the top of the DPS meters before (which I admit is more a reflection on the DPS in the group than on me). It’s not enough to simply hold threat. Contribute as much as you can, but keep in mind that if you burn out your mana, you may fail to pick up adds. No mana means no threat.

I find I have the most mana problems with a priest healing. I define mana problems as “having to hit divine plea every other pull”. Whether this is a result of their reliance on shields or some other mechanic I have yet to pull out of my combat logs, I do not know. I just know that when I have a shaman or druid or paladin healer, I never have to look at my mana. With a priest healer, I have to rely on Divine Plea to get myself from one mob to the next. It is never a bad idea to carry a stack of level-appropriate water around, even at level 80, to help these situations. Stopping to drink for 10 seconds is preferable to being out of mana at a crucial pull. Ignore pushy people who insist on the GO GO GO method of running instances. They can suck it.

The above can be summed up in a few simple rules. If it casts, don’t cast Holy Shield. If they stand far apart but pull as a pack, don’t start with Avenger’s Shield. Use consecrate once to establish threat. If there’s only one mob, pull with taunt or judgment. If you can effectively hold threat with a minimal amount of mana, do it. If you aren’t struggling for mana, contribute to DPS.

Ultimately mana conservation at higher levels comes down to knowing the pulls and the mobs well enough to plan ahead. If you level via the dungeon finder, you will become well versed in the instances at your level and knowing what to do where will not be as difficult. After a few runs I know which groups aren’t close enough for Avenger’s Shield, which ones consist of casters, which mobs don’t warrant Holy Shield, and so on and so forth. If you find yourself constantly low on mana, check yourself. Successfully holding threat often times does not require you to blow every cooldown and mash every button on your keyboard. Using the right abilities at the right times when they will be most effective is key.

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.