Tanking for Dummies

Notes from the Darkside
February 25, 2009, 12:01 am
Filed under: Advice for Non Tanks, Rants, Stupid Tanking | Tags: , ,

…Or, why Tarsus’ always ends up tanking on his Deathknight even though She is nominally DPS specced.

Yes, like everyone else I have Deathknight alt.  As I think should be obvious from the spec, I am working with a cookie cutter DPS/Leveling build.  It has been a reasonably pleasant experience so far – Death Grip is pretty much about as fun as Charge.  There is really just one problem.

I end up tanking anyway.raggok-ready

Thus far, I have grouped with one protection Paladin and a hell of a lot of frost/unholy Deathknights.  And I have some choice words for those Deathknights:  Learn how to f***ing tank.

You have three tools to nab casters.  And for gods sake use Death and Decay as often as possible.  Hell, Pestilence and Blood Boil are also your friends for AoE packs.  And, yeah, Frost Presence.  Lich King’s Elite my ass. Noobknight is the new Huntard.

It is so hard not to just simply say “No, no, no.  Give me that.  Go… try and DPS or something.  At least then your incessant spamming of howling blast and gargoyle will be of some use.”  At the moment I’m just sticking with “It’s okay, I’ll tank.”


I know, deep down, why this bothers me so much.  I am an experienced tank.  I am accustomed if with the dynamics of the art.  Even with mechanics that I had never seen before, I figured out how to tank practically from the time I finished my first Ramparts run.  It seems positively inane to me that someone could not figure out that they needed to be using Frost Presence.  Maybe I have standards that are just too high for a three month old class to hold up to, but it feels like finding a good Deathknight tank is like finding a Unicorn.

Or a resto Shaman.

I think, however, there are two lessons to be learned from this experience that apply.

1. You will always be most critical of those whose role you share.

As a tank, it was rare that I experienced this sensation until this Deathknight thing.  I always got teed off at noob DPS, but I never really thought about how high my bar is set for tanks.  It is worse because I have the capacity to simply swap gear-sets and presences and grab the reigns.  Have I stunted the growth of a future tank, just because I can?  It’s a pretty key question that I don’t have the answer to.

2. There are key abilities that are necessary for tanking to matter what your class/spec is.

Perhaps obviously, you don’t need to be specced to tank to tank anything lower than a heroic.  It’s the old corollary: ability > gear > spec.  And of those, ability is the hardest thing to cultivate.  A tank needs to understand what their abilities do and how to use them.  A tank needs to get a sense of what they can do to handle casters and other mobs that won’t just “get over here” when you pull them.  A tank needs a sense of what the inside of an instance looks like.  All those things you get from experience.

So all those Deathknights who I cut off: apologies are in order.  May I offer a bit of advice?

Play a warrior first.



21 Comments so far
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[…] you spot the alts? Tarsus wrote a great post about why he tends to end up tanking on his Death Knight alt while levelling, even though it isn’t really tank specced. His experience of tanking on another class makes […]

Pingback by Can you spot the alts? « Welcome to Spinksville!

[…] badly and sometimes it frustrates me (ok, so Spinks reminded me of this with her post commenting on Tarsus this morning). I would love everyone to match my standards, and that’s where I’m […]

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I will admit… I did laugh at the “Play a warrior first” line.

At least I’m “doin it rite”.

Comment by Anea

(And I pushed the button without getting all my thoughts out, sorry)

You brought up a good point that I hadn’t thought about before. “Have I stunted the growth of a future tank, just because I can?” This is something that I would very easily fall prey to. Because I am not confident yet in my skills as a tank (I know it’s silly at this level, but my ability too) I could easily have someone DPS for me on an alt and just shut me down while I’m still learning.

And even though it seems so long ago, I said things to myself that were very much along the lines of what you wanted to tell the tanks you ran with.

Small world, huh?

Comment by Anea

I had the opposite problem. My warrior was tanking Azjol’Nerub and I had to tell the DPS death knight to get out of frost presence, please, because he was making me fight for mob aggro. He thought he was doing me a favour as well.

Comment by pjharvey

…“Have I stunted the growth of a future tank, just because I can?”…

I too set the bar pretty high, but if the tank is trying his/her best I’ll offer advice and (hopefully) help them become a better tank.

If there isn’t any massive upgrades for my alt in that paticular instance I might even bring in my warrior for dps/back-up. He still tanks, but I can jump in and help if needed or show him a particular mechanic on trash to give him a better idea of how it works.

If it’s just some dumb schmuck that thinks he can tank because he wears plate… /flame on

Comment by Kudos

Hey! You have a pocket resto shaman, so shut it.

Comment by Jov

@ Anea – My background is in education, so it is kinda reflexive to think that way, but the sentiment is a good one I think – playing a warrior will prepare you pretty well for playing a death knight… and someone who has played a tank before will do well as a Death Knight tank.

@ pjharvey – God, don’t get me started. There is a certain Death Knight in our raid who is an awesome and wonderful guy – but it’s not a night with us if he doesn’t forget to turn off Frost Presence at least once.

@ Kudos – I wish I could claim such magnanimity. I have a tendency to envision puggers as the worst of their class (a subject I will touch on friday >.>) until I learn otherwise.

@ Jov – Wait. I thought I was your pocket Death Knight?

Comment by Tarsus

I have a friend who rolled DK and wanted to tank… no previous tanking experience. After realizing that he was not that clear what to do, I pointed out tankspot and elitistjerks and he is now awesome :) Sometimes you just need to point in the right direction.

Comment by Grorg

@ Grorg – The guides published on Tank Spot for DKs are fabulous, that’s for sure, but no amount of reading is a replacement for experience in the hot seat. DKs problem is that it is so easy to succeed on your own without knowing what you are doing – the old problem of grouping with someone who has soloed most if not all of their previous experience is exacerbated with DKs.

Glad to hear your friend managed to not group with me and have his promised crushed under my ruthless boot (or something).

Comment by Tarsus

There are very few people I can stand tanking when I’m on my dps alts. I don’t have a level 80 alt yet, but I’m now started on one. I’m not looking forward to potentially ending up in PuGs as I go, with clueless tanks.

Comment by Yakra

Actually I dunno how helpful playing a warrior would be to learning DK tanking; I think a paladin is probably the closest fit, but even then there’s some pretty severe differences. Add to this the common misconception that frost is the best tanking spec (it isn’t) and the fact that a lot of these people haven’t really tanked anything before, and you can expect a lot of mistakes.

I don’t know that it’s so much that DKs are easier to solo with than anything else (while they’re in the top tier of easy soloability, my afflock still makes my dks look like amateurs in that regard) as it is that your first real opportunity to start tanking is in Ramparts and no one wants to instance in Outland anymore, so you’ve got less opportunities than any other class to get some practical experience.

Comment by Yuki

@ Yakra – As always, a relief to know I’m not alone here.

@ Yuki – You know how to gear and play a warlock. I’m not discounting what you are saying, but when you get blue outlands level gear handed to you and can kill pretty much anything no matter what buttons you press, that seems, well, a bit easier than my experience trying to level a warlock.

Comment by Tarsus

Have you levelled anything else since 3.0? It’s all pretty much laughably easy now; only difference is afflocks, dks, ret pallies, and enh shamans never have to stop for anything.

The fact that DKs start with gear that’s pretty decent certainly helps, but you really don’t even need that; I think my warlock was still wearing some of her starting-zone greens. But, then, you and Jov know me well enough to know that I’m terrible about upgrading my gear pre-endgame >.>

Comment by Yuki

@ Yuki – I haven’t. Though I am leveling a druid at the moment with Jov’s paladin. I will let you know how it goes and I’ll present a mea culpa (or at least a re-evaluation) once I have a chance to try things outside of the newbie zone.

Regarding gear though, Saminae/Caelie was always worse. I remember when he was so surprised he couldn’t kill any of the trolls who were ten levels lower than him because his weapons were 30 levels out of date.

Comment by Tarsus

Basically these days the main separator is downtime, which is why prot is the new warrior levelling spec :)

Comment by Yuki

This made me laugh so hard! I absolutely agree about Deathtards/Noobknights trying to tank.

That said, one of my friends is starting a DK tank at the same time as I’m starting a dps DK (her first tank, my first dps :-O) and I’m sure she’s laughing at me as much as I’m laughing at her.

I know what you’re going through, but please, please, please don’t steal teh tanking role from them. If you need to, run as a second (secret) tank, grab the mobs that they miss, DG that caster and tank it, but don’t destroy their confidence.

At the end of a run with a starting tank, no matter how good or bad s/he was, compliment them, send them to Tankspot (or, even easier http://thestoppableforce.net/ has an absolutely brilliant (starting) guide to DK tanking).

Don’t ruin their game time just cos you can do their job better (but I know you won’t). Help them develop, grow and learn and one day, one day you can watch and cry as they hit 80 and haven’t listened to a word you’ve said and go on to wipe groups and raids for all eternity /facepalm.

Comment by Ablimoth

@ Ablimoth – My iron fist will be restrained. >.>

Comment by Tarsus

[…] answer, invariably, is playing a character who might actually use these things – such as my Death Knight, or starting a new one, such as my little druid.  Invariably this means spreading some of the […]

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[…] efforts, and you will be happy that you aren’t stuck running Blood Furnace with some crappy Death Knight who can’t tank. Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)So you want to be a prot warrior: Coming […]

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altelveling is the pleasure to find yourself in the middle of unexpirinced players.
since Bliz rocks at trowing casterleather in the lootlists my druid was full cloth. after geting the answer “what is TC… oh Thunderclap, yes i have that somewhere in my Spellbook” it dramatically increased my awareness. And in the next wave i went bear and picked the crowd of the healer. She begged me to stay bear, and even arging with her about wearing cloth she ended up with saying “I don’t care if your tank this in underwear, you at least know what to do.”
A DK has not tanked for 80 levels unlike any other tanking class. there are differences but the job stays the same, and you may meet many, 80minus55. and – wearing tankgear makes no tank.

Comment by Laskia

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