Training a Tank

A warrior is not a tank, though some tanks are warriors. A Bear (druid) is not a tank, though some tanks are bears. You know, I could go on and on, but you get the idea.

Sadly, most people I see claiming the role of “tank” don’t do a good job. They’re often excellent melee dpsers. They’re often decent tacticians. But as tanks, they’re mediocre at best.

As a priest – especially if you’re a healpriest – you’re ideally placed to help fighters become tanks. But to get there, you have to start by understanding what the tank is.

Referencing the Rule of Groups, a perfect tank takes all the damage.

The hardest thing for the proto-tank to grasp is that creating threat is more important than doing damage. And learning how to tank is hard. It is hard for two reasons. First, optimizing talents and gear for tanking makes the player far less able in solo play. Priests, we can sympathize. Healpriests are massively beneficial for groups. All of us who’ve tried to level as a healpriest… know the pain. In addition, the tank can ONLY LEARN HOW in a group. Ponder that a minute. A healpriest can get some idea of spell timing by self-healing. Other than that… learning the 5SR dance takes a group. So does sharing heals – getting a feel for when you can heal the party and when everything belongs to the tank. The tank doesn’t even get the healpriest slice. If the prototank is alone he can’t learn what works or not because EVERYTHING HE DOES WORKS.

It’s worse, actually. A tank in solo learns to balance dancing and killing. In fact, he does a lot better if he kills – if he works on his DPS. Which is why, again: The hardest thing for the proto-tank to grasp is that creating threat is more important than doing damage.

So…. you can help. ESPECIALLY if you’re a higher level trying to train lower level tanks. Here’s the drill in that case.

Pick an instance where everything is gray to you. Ideally it’s at least green to your tank, but still gray to you. (Make sure it’s a party instance, not a raid – you’re good but not THAT good.) Now you and the tank are going to two-man the instance.

Heh – the concept is easy. The practice… See, you probably can’t tell the tank what to do. (Maybe you can – maybe you have a tanking druid or warrior alt. But the odds are…) You can’t tell the tank: “Shield smash. Now thunderclap. Now change target and sunder twice – and change back to the first.” Disregarding your knowledge, the battle’s too fast. BUT… You can mention the tools ahead of time. And then you can run the instance.

You are the healer, and you are the DPSer. You want to use Just Enough DPS to challenge the tank, but not enough the tank can never recover. You also will need to pop a heal now and then – maybe a lot more.

What spells should you use – and of what rank? Guess who else is learning? (grin).

Seriously, however, I recommend a surprisingly simple set of spells. Choose an SW:P that will barely kill the mob — or come just short of it — and use that as your sole offensive spell. The rank, of course, depends… The rest of your casts are healing. The time it takes to kill the mobs (between the SW:P and the tank’s damage) will be enough that the third mob will test the tank’s aggro management. Which is the reason you’re there after all.

Now you’re going to have to deal with the troublemakers. Spellcasters usually – the ones who the tank usually ignores because they’re for the DPSers. But if you’re training a lower level tank, that’s within your capability.

As your tank gets more comfortable, start making his job harder. Kick a level 1 SW:P at one of the mobs that aren’t tagged. Call an add (a quick dot will do fine).

And don’t forget to start training on other tasks that’ll matter down the road. For example: facing. Have him turn the mobs so they’re facing away from you – refuse to kill what’s looking. Have him practice kiting – single and multiple – down a hallway and around obstacles. Remember this is HARD for him so keep the heals going, and be prepared to catch the mess when he slips.

After each pull – not after the instance, but every time he’s done something new and interesting, good or bad, TALK ABOUT IT. And analyze the battles when you’re done. (To help with this remember to start your combat log before the instance — and use one of the analysis addons or supplements for further assistance.)

“What could you have done to keep this skeleton?” “You taunted here, very good. Was there anything else you could have done?”

or the evil “Did you ask me to reduce my DPS till your cooldowns cleared?” (Yes, I try to teach the benefit of TALKING during the fight — communications turn out to be Oh So Helpful.)

OK, let me wrap this with two variations and some philosophy.

Variation one is the fact I can teach a healer and tank as easily as I can just a tank. The healer of roughly equal level enters and is solely responsible for healing the tank. I am DPS, OMG Squasher, and troublesome team member. The healer needs to learn what to do when mobs change target – for priests it’s a lesson in when and how to fade (even preemptively), and to RUN TO THE TANK, just for basics.

Variation two is… if the tank’s high enough level, I cannot do it alone. But I still don’t need a full group. The key, really, is that the mobs of the instance are barely green for the tank but gray for you and your assistance. Too difficult and you might as well learn the hard way — and there’s always the background question as to whether the problem is the tank, or if it’s you doing not-quite-so-good a job. You need there to be no doubt when things get sticky — and you will prefer it if you can bail out your party if things go from sticky to ugly. If the tank is high enough he needs levels that are challenging to you, bring in assistance.

Finally, a bit of philosophy. If YOU are the low level, you can make this work for you. If you’ve got a friend or acquaintance with the right level and skill have them help. If not, ask. “Looking for level HIGH tank to help me learn how to properly party-heal by running Gnomer.” Yep, most of us hate clearing an instance for other player’s spoils (Plz, 70, run me thru DM??) But make it clear you’re in it for the training, not the loot, and you just might get the help you’re needing.

Final message. If you DO get the opportunity to train a tank, do it. Do it well. And friend that tank, because while players are everywhere a good TANK is hard to find.

~ by Kirk on August 10, 2007.

2 Responses to “Training a Tank”

  1. Great post!! My main is a Prot Warrior who I sometimes call a Tank. Sometimes he’s just added waste… (lean concept) in a raid or instance. There are so many guilds and raiding parties in the game that just assume that if you’re high level and spec’d for prot, you know how to tank. When I decided to create a new toon and raise that toon as my next 70, I decided to pick a class that was to me, the most helpful to my warrior growing up. I never put the similarity of priests and warriors soloing in the perspective you just showed me. What a concept. It makes learning my new toon that much more interesting. Thank you once again.

  2. I might just take your advice… although in a backwards way.
    Ya see, I just started a priest. My first healer ever. And my wife just started a paladin who she plans to make a tank. But! And this is the fun part: I have paladin tanking experience, and she has healing experience (although not priest: she’s run a resto-druid and a holy-paladin). And we’re both comfortable with those other roles.

    So I might see if she wants to run some instances once we start leveling over them, so that we can both learn our roles.

    And for this advice, and a couple of your other posts: Thanks!

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