On Being A Tank

This was posted as a comment to another post, but I felt it was so well written that it deserved a post of its own.  So here I present a post from guest blogger,Varangian.

Hello all first timer on these forums but an interesting read so far. I’d like to share some of my encounters as a tank.

As with most WoW players I began my existance as a DPS warrior to level as fast as possible. I’ve been playing WoW since 2007 so not as long as many who have already commented but still respectable I hope.

During that time I could not even begin to understand what being a prot warrior was like at all. Not because I didn’t care but because I had not yet become one. Even as a warrior who DPS’d I was not granted any special knowledge of the flip side of the coin as a prot warrior.

After about a year at 80 as a DPS our group needed a main tank so that we could begin to progress further into 10 mans and we were short of them.

Long story short it was a very bumpy road for our group and myself when I dressed and respec’d to fit the part. I was constantly losing aggro and people were repeatedly dying (myself included).

However our group is a very forgiving one and even toned things down a little while I got my sea legs learning to tank.

Over this time I beat myself up more then anyone else I encountered, both in our group, and the pugs that are famous for destroying a tank or healers learning curves.

I studied the best tanks on my server through the wow armory for talent tree builds and wow heroes for gear scoring and gemming. Each of these provided a slightly different window into what was needed by any tank trying to seriously get better and do so by not being handicapped by the simplist of mechanics.

Over time (about a month) my tanking improved but I was no where near some of the other tanks I encountered in pugs and through mutual friends who allowed me some insight into what it took to become a confident tank.

I discovered over time that there is a system that produces the best tank using the 3 C’s.

1.) Confidence
2.) Consistancy
3.) Consideration

These three C’s should be followed by all players who expect the best out of any tank they encounter, be it in a guild or in a pug. If everyone follows them a tank can learn quicker and be more effective for the group as a whole.

I was told by a friend of a friend who is one of the top tanks on my server (Ravencrest) after sharing with him that I was at a loss in understanding how I couldn’t hold aggro all the time and thus never allowing a trash mob or boss get away and run amok in the backfield.

He chucked and told me what he had learned by another tank who helped him out in his beginning stages.

He said all things being equal,

1.) If the tank dies its heals fault (Not always but 99.9% of the time.)
2.) If the heals dies its the tanks fault (Not always but 99.9% of the time.)
3.) If anyone else dies its their own damn fault. (Not always but 99.9% of the time.)

To all the up and coming tanks out there, I would only say stick to the 3 C’s. Don’t argue about who was at fault in a wipe situation just refocus and do your best at whatever stage of tanking you find yourself. Learning from mistakes made by yourself or others prepares you for the success of the future.

Be confident even when things might not look as if confidence is warranted on your part.

Be consistant in learning the skills that are necessary to improve as a tank and stay as committed as time allows to that goal. Read, read, read everything you can find that another tank has written about the subject of tanking as a prot warrrior. Listen to those who know what your going through and have been there themselves. Arguing back at a DPS’r or healer in a group or pug who have no clue what you do for a living in this game is simply spinning your wheels and going no where fast. It only hinders your goals and distracts you from performing at your best.

Be considerate to those who are clueless, struggling to understand, or trying to help.

Don’t allow the 3 B’s to invade your gaming even when others you encounter refuse to hold themselves to such high standards. Remember always you are the first in, the one who takes the most damage for everyone else, and the last out of every encounter. By necessity you are the leader, learn to be above the fray of fixing blame and seek to fix the problems encountered instead. That usually starts by saying something like “We’ll get it” at a wipe moment instead of partaking in the blame session going on around you.

Oh I almost forgot listing the 3 B’s. These are the things that no tank should ever sink to in any situation.

1.) Bashing (Going after or ridiculing anyone never changes what happened and can only make the next attempt tougher.)

2.) Barking (Don’t order people around, it only turns them off to what your trying to explain or share on a situation.)

3.) Boasting (You might be doing well, and if you are someone else will tell you so, don’t be or bring a superior attitude to a group or pug. Your next wipe is right around the corner….)

You are not DPS nor are you Heals… You are a tank…your leading from the front so act like it.

Good luck to all the tanks out there! May your sword and board be effective and swift.

<GT> Varangian


  1. Really enjoyed this post so had to seek permission from Varangian to put it up. Thanks for allowing me to post it!

  2. I’m about to try tanking pugs for the first time, so hopefully people will appreciate it if I do these things.

    Me and four of my WoW buddies had, until recently, a good little heroics group going and the best thing about it was that we all realised two things without it having to be explicitly said by anybody.

    A) If we admitted to a wipe being our fault, nobody would pounce. We’ve all made mistakes, so as long as everybody’s prepared to accept they’re not perfect then hitching your trousers up and trying again is the only way to really progress.

    B) It doesn’t have to be any one person’s fault. Sometimes the group (even a group you’re with all the time) doesn’t click on a given evening, sometimes it’s just not your night and sometimes it’s better to leave it and come back with a cool head. Often when you do that you’ll get past whatever part you’re struggling with.

    I’m genuinely quite nervous about tanking for folks I don’t know, but hopefully the fact I’m happy to admit when I screwed up and both ask for and receive advice should stand me in good stead.

    Great read, that was. :)

  3. Agreed this was great! Good timing too since I’m going to convert my DK to a tank for a newly minted group of 80 friends! :)

  4. Very humbled.

    Thank you Bizzam for taking the time to contact me directly about the permission and allowing me to fix those dang typo’s! lol

    I hope this helps those who read it and need it.

    I have added this post and link to our forums as well. I formally invite everyone to visit our web site and post on our forums also. We have recently added class discussions and would benefit greatly from those who know their own class well and are willing to share some knowledge on them.

    Thanks again all for your kind words.

  5. This was a well written post. I started tanking on my DK right after i got my pair of tank boots in Ramps. For eight months i tanked light 5 player content and soon found myself at level 80 with very little experience in what is a very competitive game. The groups all wanted a “geared” tank that knew all the fights. The best advice i can give is to pay attention. Listen to the groups that are willing to take you and show you. Pay attention to the criticism and learn from it. Pay attention when watching video, or DPSing your way under another tank. Pay attention to the basics, line of sight, and chain pulls can be seen.

  6. Interesting post. I also have to disagree with the “if this person dies it’s that person’s fault” (at least it sounded like you disagreed with it). When a tank dies, why does it have to be the healer’s fault? Of course, the argument has to do a lot with what situation you are discussing (trash? Boss xyz?), but, generally speaking, if you died, it’s not always the healer’s fault. Chances are you might have survived the ordeal through proper use of your cooldowns. Shied wall hasn’t been on a 30 minute timer for a year now, so start using it more rapidly.

    That, I believe, is one of the main things that characterizes proper tanks: knowing the tools that they have at their disposal, and being ready to use them at a moment’s notice in case a crisis is happening. It may be as simple as your HP going low, and with that I mean VERY low, and the only thing that can save you is a rapid Last Stand + Shield Wall combination, + anything else you feel you want to throw in in order to stay alive. It could be as complex (well, more complex than the previous example at least..) as your fellow tank who was handling the other twin Valk’yr dropping dead while the bosses have 10% HP left, and you taunting the other boss and keeping her from killing your other raid members in order to prevent a wipe. It can be any number of things. Quick reactions to a change in situation is what saves raids from wipes, what grabs a raid leader’s attention, what makes you the MVP of the moment.

    It’s a difficult objective to reach, since it means being at total control of your character. But that’s how you get to Carnegie Hall…. practice.

  7. PS: Bizzam, you’re finally back! :D Where have you been, and why are the forums down?

    • Well, not really back, just keeping up with things =( I haven’t been able to play due to work since August and obviously updates to the site have fallen off as well. Hoping to make a comeback towards the end of January!

      As for the forums, they were a point of vulnerability so I took them offline for now. I will revisit when I have the time.

  8. When you are good its hard to resist boasting… it sucks sometimes when a save goes to the healer for awesome heals, but we don’t get recognize for keeping agro from super crazy DPS. :) great post.

  9. Ups, linked to my other blog and not the wow one. LOL, no trollin in either!

  10. Boasting is dangerous. If you boast in an annoying way, some players don’t group with you outright. If you boast and group together with some people that raid in a high end raid guild, and you per chance are having a bad day (everyone has them…), then they’re going to compare you to a fire with lots of smoke but little heat, which is also not good.

    Being modest about what you do is the best way to approach the role. And anyway, there’s no way for tanks to whore Recount like DPS/Heal can, so there’s no real worry about that anyway

  11. Hey Shalandra, that was my feeling as well, the blame game is bad. I understood the veteran tanks advice to mean this: As a tank it is your priority to keep the healer alive and healing. All others become secondary to heals for a tank so don’t beat yourself up if a DPS dies because they exceeded the 130% threat level on a target. You can’t always save everyone from their own errors. Help them if you can but don’t freak out if they die because of their own mistake.

    As a healer the same applies regarding the tank. The tank is and should be the healers priority target for heals. I know that the healers most times are viewed as the supertoons who should be able to keep everyone alive all the time. But that expectation is just not a possibility with the game mechanics.

    If the Tank and a DPS happen to be low health at the same time the Tank must remain the healers priority even at the cost of a death to the DPS.
    All the other group or raid members will die (including the DPS they are trying to heal ATM) if the healer picks the DPS as the priority to heal first instead of the tank in such situations.

    I hope that the article is read in its full context to understand the point of the subject at hand and not viewed as any hard fast rule. The intent was to help out a newer tank to prioritize what they should be most concerned with in the beginning. Keep your healer alive first and foremost. Perhaps even help a newer healer prioritize as well.

    Thanks for the comments on the article.

  12. My main is a lvl 80 warrior tank, and she is floundering. I know I am lacking Confidence as a tank.
    Up untill recently, I’ve been able to tank without much peripheral help, but since WotLK came out, I’ve noticed that I am not a good tank. I’ve been reading up on what I am supose to be doing, what my rotation should be and what to expect from certain mobs.
    I wish I could have an experienced tank take me by the hand and show me what to do and tell me what I’m doing wrong.
    I am trying to get my defence up. It is at 517 atm. I have been collecting good gear, but was recently kicked from a Heroic the other night for being undergeared.
    I’m sorry this is a rambling thought, I’m just not sure where to find my confidence…

  13. Shalandra says:

    Speaking about the blame game, Aliena on TankSpot talked about it this week on her weekly show as well – in her case, how DPSers blame their deaths on the healers, when in reality they stood still in a whirlwind, didn’t move here, didn’t kick that, etc. I sure did have to laugh at some points, because I’ve seen it all before, both as a raid leader and as a healer with my alt (those orbs on Twin Valkyr? Yeah… move away from them if they’re the opposite color, I can Swiftmend only one person…….).

    The “Tank > DPS” priority system works wonders when it comes to simple encounters and 5mans. It also works for farm content. However I can honestly tell you that if someone died during the first minute of our Algalon10 (yeah, we still didn’t get him…) attempts we would call it a wipe, regardless of it being a tank, a healer, or a DPSer. All three cases are bad, tank and healer for obvious reasons and DPSers due to the pure DPS requirements. Granted it is easier to recover from a DPS loss than from a tank loss, since you can simply rebirth him, rebuff him and rock and roll, but that also means an absolutely enormous DPS lost and HPS loss. For encounters where the enrage timer is very steep, that will probably be a wipe. The same happened whenever we did Anub10 HC – if someone died before Anub reached ~15%, it would almost guaranteed be a wipe.

  14. Shalandra says:

    PS: Meh, I talked about the clip but I forgot to post it… that’s being up early in the morning for ya.

  15. Shalandra says:

    I can’t really think of a case that has not been through the issue that you listed. You’re talking about inexperience causing a loss of confidence which, together with a lack of gear, cause you to struggle with heroics.

    You’re asking for an experienced tank to take you by hand, which, in my opinion (and do not take this personally) is a very big thing to ask for.

    My advice to you would be:

    Run non heroics until you are well enough geared to do heroics (517 defense in my eyes sounds like very undergeared). Don’t try doing it beforehand

    Do you have a group of friends that play on the same server? If yes, try and group together with them, with Ventrilo/Teamspeak if necessary; it will make the ride easier, smoother and more entertaining.

    Also, read through articles and blogs related to tanking. TankHard is, of course, a great resource to start, and helped me out quite a bit a while ago as well (back when we had Rochelle as an active poster). The best blog that I know of (and the only one that I follow) is Vene’s over at TankingTips.com; he may not be raiding at the same level as the high end guilds you see on WoW news sites (then again, I don’t even think he would want to do that in the first place), but his way of explaining things are pretty much second to none. Finally, Tankspot.com is the ultimate source for anything tank-related, all the way from gearing strategies to optimal talent builds to class mechanics and optimizations. I would suggest devoting a whole afternoon into researching the topics on these three sources and going through anything you can find. If you THEN have questions then I will be happy to help you.

    However, no amount of reading will substitute practice. As a very old man said a long time ago, “there is no substitute for hard work”. Practice, work on your skills, work on your understanding of your class, work on your shortcomings and then work to minimize them or, better yet, remove them. If you keep pushing forward and invest enough time and passion you will achieve the point in control where you can adapt to any situation.

    So again: go through content that is appropriate for your gear level, try to find people to group with for several groups, read up on theory, and practice.

    I used the same strategy when learning how to play my resto druid alt (consider that I didn’t know jack about druids, or healing at all), spending probably too many hours lurking the Elitist Jerks forums on PvE Resto healing, analyzing what old time healers were talking about, figuring out what they did based on what they wrote, and then emulating it (this is of course something I wouldn’t recommend anyone doing unless they really have a lot of time to waste at work, and with that I mean a LOT. Simply reading the sources I posted above will be more than enough). Now I top heal charts, outhealing even mains in our guild raids, and do so without (too much *cough*) recount whoring.

  16. Nice guest post, thanks!

    I’m learning the tanking role, and the three C’s were useful. Consistency really helps the melee for example, to get into position and start safe dps quickly without getting cleaved etc. If you are a tanking class with Charge, and you suddenly charge into a boss encounter, the healers may not be expecting it and you may be out of range and die/wipe. Many other examples but if you’re consistent, your team members and fellow tanks will know what to expect from you.

    As for the naming and blaming, it should be up to the raid leader (not the tank, unless you’re both) to speak about the cause of wipes and how to correct them. You can and should feed in to that process if you have something to add of course. You can remain more neutral as the tank. ‘Praise in public and chastise in private’ works well.

    Confidence grows as your knowledge and experience grows. Fake it until you can make it..

  17. I really enjoyed reading the article posted here. Like everyone else, I took my bumps and bruises learning to tank with my druid and it does have quite the learning curve.

    I’d like to address one topic particularly though that has sort of thrown a monkey wrench into the game. The new random heroic system has definately made tanking instances a whole lot more daunting for a new tank. What I mean by this is the huge gap between gear of a new tank and a seasoned dps with a 5.5k gear score that can pump out 4-6k dps in a heroic without too much effort. Since everyone is trying to get their frost emblems once per day, it is certain a new tank will group with them and a new tank will simply not be able to out-threat these people. Since I dual-spec as heals I see this happen all the time to new 80 tanks. The harsh reality is you will automatically be labeled a bad tank or ‘scrub’ regardless or whether or not you are doing everything right. It is a confidence destroyer when aggro is everywhere but on you where it should be and takes the fun right out of being a tank.

    The good news is that the new triumph gear comes quick and anyone with a free weekend to play can get quite a bit of gear to bridge that gear gap between emblems and drops. It is possible to get your gear to a level that contends easily with good dps on single target mobs.. but that isn’t the only problem.

    Your next obstacle to overcome once you’ve got a bit of gear and confidence in your skill is the high dps classes that open the can of AoE whoop-ass the moment you engage multiple mobs. As a druid I would watch as my swiped mobs pulled off me to the ele shaman or Seed of Corruption spamming lock that couldn’t wait 3 seconds or so for me to get an adequate threat level on the mobs. I found the solution is much easier than you might think. As stated in the article, you are the leader as tank. Be kind, but be assertive at the beginning of the instance about your tiny, but important expectations of the group. For me, it’s a simple macro that states “Please attack my target which will be marked as Skull and allow me 3 swipes or 5 seconds before beginning AoE.” You’d be suprised how people will respect what you’ve asked and act accordingly. When someone doesn’t, I have found that other people in the group remind the offending dps to do as asked. It’s simple, but quite effective. Remember, back in the Vanilla and BC days of WoW there was a whole lot more communication and CC going on before a fight even started. Even a trash pull was a concerted effort. A simple macro in the beginning of a WotLK heroic will not harm anyone and will likely make the run much much smoother.

    Finally, I’d just like to add one last tip for all tanks out there running WotLK heroics. There’s a very simple macro that aids your targeting that goes along with the group expectations I mentioned above…

    /script SetRaidTarget(“target”, 8);

    That little script will mark your target as skull. Add it to your action bar and be as familiar with it as the rest of your abilities. If you charge into a group of 4 mobs, the first one you have targeted should be skull and as soon as that mob drops, mark the next one skull and so on… By informing the dps of your expectations in the beginning, they will 90% of the time follow them. Furthermore, by asking them to wait on AoE you should have established adequate threat on the other mobs. Not only will running the instance this way save you from taunting mobs you aren’t attacking, but it will save the healer from getting carpal tunnel trying to keep people alive because aggro is all over the place. “Attack Skull” is quite a simple request to ask and quite easy to follow if there is in fact a ‘Skull’ to attack.

    Good luck and good tanking :)

  18. Soulmaner says:

    Great Post!…There’s alot of knowledge and wisdom in this post for all lvl’s of Tanks, but this information should be available for All gamers here in the W.O.W…simply because of what i’ve experienced in most dungeons and general playing. You’ve heard of the old saying, “One bad Apple spoil’s the bunch”…well it’s so true!…if you have just one player that thinks they’re better than the others or starts bashing another player it shuts down all teamwork, communications, and goals of what you’re to accomplish! But really!…Is’nt that the same way LIFE works? People with too much Pride or a wrong Attitude can cause SO MUCH distruction! So i believe that the rules that this player set to go by…”The C’s
    1.) Confidence
    2.) Consistancy
    3.) Consideration
    and B’s”
    1.) Bashing (Going after or ridiculing anyone never changes what happened and can only make the next attempt tougher.)

    2.) Barking (Don’t order people around, it only turns them off to what your trying to explain or share on a situation.)

    3.) Boasting (You might be doing well, and if you are someone else will tell you so, don’t be or bring a superior attitude to a group or pug. Your next wipe is right around the corner….)

    is a great example for ALL People to go by in Life! We could all make this a better world to live in if we make these rules a standard in our own lives! Remember what the Bible says “Pride comes right before DISTRUCTION”
    My hat’s off to the writter!!! Thank you for this Post and God bless you!

    • Yeah, this is one of my favorite posts here. It’s really more about the ‘soul’ of a tanker than tanking per se, which is a nice change of pace =)


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