Tanking for Dummies

Stating the obvious: There is still a tank shortage
December 14, 2009, 1:20 pm
Filed under: Analysis | Tags: , ,

Ah.  New LFG Tool.  Your praises have been sung by many.  I have, myself seen the beauty of it’s well designed features.  The obvious rewards, both potential and actualized.  I could go on…

But I am a tank.

See, it has been brought to my attention that there are certain discrepancies in demographics, which, shall we say, make the LFG tool less than useful for certain other group roles.  Like, say, everyone else.

You may recall, way back when Wrath of the Lich King was being first introduced, that there was a general goal stated.  Something to the effect of, “Tanking Should be Fun.”  This generous offering was generally well received because, frankly, there was a pretty rough shortage of tanks through most of Burning Crusade.  You would think that, since we’ve been up in Northrend for a while, we would see the fruits of these labors.

Enter, the LFG tool.  The numbers we see from the tool are far more excellent that previous numbers.  Previous numbers might at best tell us only if a given body is specced and geared for tanking.  The LFG tool tells us something much more difficult to quantify, namely what a body wants to do, given a choice from all the options they have available.

I think the wait time, or lack of one more specifically, for tanks in the tool tells us something – and that something is that the vast majority of people don’t want to tank.

I, personally, think that the reasons for this are obvious, but feel free to set me right if you disagree:

  1. Playing a tank is more expensive in terms of gold than other roles. For me, this is about repair costs.  I also get battle rezzed a lot, which while stroking to the ego is deadly to the pocketbook.  This doesn’t get better over time, it only gets worse the more you tank.
  2. The learning curve on tanking is steeper. Mastering the basics of most classes is pretty easy, but being a good tank, let alone an excellent tank, is downright rough.   There also is no “good enough” level for tanking, probably because no one really has a good sense of what is needed from the tank in terms of skill.
  3. There are less “slots” open for tanks doing the end-game. Two tanks per 10-man raid.  Three tanks per 25-man raid.  Simple math here folks.  Axiom isn’t even looking for tanks and we must get an application for a Prot-Pally a week.
  4. Encounter Design makes you feel “fragile”. How many times can you get one shot before you begin to think your status as the all invulnerable and impossible to kill Juggernaut is all a lie?  By my count, it’s about Two.  Or, rather, maybe one if it’s not even a boss.  Gormok was bad enough.  But these fuckers?  Next thing you know I’m going to get walloped by a trash mob for 80k.
  5. No one wants to failknight tank or look at the big bear butt. I can totally sympathize with bear tanks.  I wouldn’t want my view to be obscured by my giant ass all the time either.  But most of all, I think that the greatest contributor to this trend is the failure of Death Knights to be the tanks they were supposed to be.  To be fair, that’s because they got the nerf bat in a serious way, but really: I saw one for the first time since 3.2 Thursday, and that was only because our normal Prot Paladin was on vacation.  I’m thinking there must be this bar in Acherus where all these guys sit around, drinking fermented ghoul blood and reminiscing about Ulduar when they were “the the kings of the mountain.”

In any case, what is the lesson that can be taken from this business?  If you need a group at 3 am on a weeknight, and you need it in less than 10 seconds… play a tank.  At last it pays to be a masochist.


20 Comments so far
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I’ll confess that none of my recent LFG binge was done as a tank, but that’s mostly because I just don’t have the gear. (My other DK never does but that’s because she used her dual spec for another, more different DPS spec >.>).

Also trash that randomly one-shots you is nothing new. Oh, my poor warrior’s multiplicitive repair bill on that fight . . .

Comment by Yuki

I disagree that playing a tank is more expensive. That’s an old truth that was fixed long ago. Tanks haven’t paid more than any other class for 2 expansions. Yes, our armor might get a bit more beat up, but I assure you the lack of reagents for buffs means that we make out like bandits. Not to mention, on trash in raids, I see dpsers dieing infinitely more than I ever do. I’ll go weeks without dieing on trash whereas a lot of dpsers can die every week even when stuff is on farm. I’m really confused as to why you’re getting battle rezzed. I can’t count on 1 hand the number of times I’ve been battle rezzed all expansion.

I agree completely with your 2nd point though. The road to “average” is definitely far, far steeper for a tank and the tolerance for “below average” is non-existent. I’ve had dpsers tag along for entire runs doing next to nothing, even healers on the easy instances, but I can’t tell you how many horror stories I’ve heard from new tanks that the second the group wipes because of them that they’re immediately left with a party of 4 or less.

#3 is the big one in my mind. You don’t solve a tank shortage by adding more types of tanks. You solve it by increasing demand especially where it counts which is the end-game. Increase the number of tanks we need in 25 mans and I guarantee you’ll see a gradual filtering down effect.

I think they’ll be solving #4 in Cataclysm. I’ve got faith and outside of that mutant dude that I agree is terrifying, ICC has actually honoured that promise pretty good so far. Ultimately, it’s okay if they have mobs like the mutants that need to be kited. We used to have to kite stuff all the time. The difference is now we’re so used to tanking everything that I think we forget to consider that option sometimes.

As to DKs, I really think they’re fine. It just takes time getting used to having to try when you’re used to not having to. It’s all relative, but I think you’ll see that the good DKs are still around, they’re just scarce because DK tanking is now up to the standard of your 2nd point just like the rest of the tanking classes.

All that said, (and btw, really liked this post hence why I’m replying with my own practically lol) I think that the LFD tool is going to be a huge step in the right direction to alleviate the tank shortage. It’s no secret that as a tank, I wait 10 seconds for my groups whereas as a dpser it takes 10 minutes. What’s to come is a sea of people learning to tank… I hope the other 4 people in the group are ready to be patient ;)

Comment by Veneretio

Great post. In my mind, there’s also reasons #6 and #7 of why you have far fewer tanks in the LFD tool.

#6–I don’t want to deal with the potential crap.

I’m a decent enough tank, well-geared, reasonably good at it. But honestly, the last thing I want to do is pull some kind of fail in a random heroic and get people talking about “that rp server scrub warrior sucktank.” Face it, if Joeschmuck the death nugget from Random Server gets himself killed a few times because he can’t manage aggro, he’s gonna blame the tank. And from what I’ve seen running randoms so far, such blame will find fertile ground.

Plus, it seems like everybody is in “faster pussycat kill kill NOW DAMMIT PULL WTF WHY AREN’T YOU PULLING YOU SUCK” mode. Normal chain-pulling is not enough for these people. When I ran heroic AN on Lin yesterday, whenever I’d actually stop to, y’know, loot cash, a DK in our group would pull something. He also dropped Army of the Taunt on two bosses. Full rage bar IRL. On my dwarf, I had two tanks who literally did not stop to loot. They pulled with healers 100+ yards away around two corners. They pulled with the DPS OOM. They pulled multiple groups. That’s not chain-pulling, that’s assisted suicide. I’d rather take a couple minutes longer to run the instance than risk a wipe that sets us back 5 minutes.

#7–My alts need it worse.

Since my tank is my raiding main, he’s pretty well pimped out for ICC. But I’ve got two hunters, a death nugget, and soon a shaman that all need the love. Combine that with DPSing being a vacation compared to a weekend tanking ICC, ToC, and the three new five-mans, and I just chilled on my dwarf MM hunter and got him a couple T9 bits and a new gun.

Comment by Linedan

Im going to add that tanking in a PUG is less relaxing than dps in a PUG.

Comment by spinks

Very much so, I’m preferring to dps / heal (raid geared healer) to taking the tank in to a completely random pug.

Comment by Korenwolf

I’ve gotten battle rezzes a ton of times. Mostly heroic Beasts, but I got one on Marrowgar the other day.

Comment by Kinch

See, this is why Spinks rules. She sums up in one line what takes me a couple of rambling paragraphs.

Comment by Linedan

@Yuki – Bringing up AQ is totally not fair. I still have nightmares.

@Vene – I hope you’re right about the LFG tool. It does kinda provide an obvious reward for being a tank.

@spinks – Agreed, my experience in the new 5-mans was pretty stressful, but that may have been because the hunter I was with still managed to pull agro even with glyphed Vigilance on him.

@Linedan – I keep hearing about these groups, but I haven’t seen it yet. Of course, do pull very aggressively (helped by the fact that I have my healer with me, <3 Jov) so that might have something to do with it.

Comment by Tarsus

I think the biggest reason is number 3, there may be a severe shortage of tanks in lower content (heroics) but there is a severe lack of spots in higher content (raids)

Comment by Valalvax

I have two..what does this say about me?

…and it used to be two HEALERS…the other side of the “if you want a group in 3 seconds be this” coin.

Comment by Ambrosine

@Kinch – A certain druid friend of mine had hers macroed so that it said “Doubling %t’s repair bill in 3… 2… 1…”

@Valalvax – Low incentive = time to break out the DPS/Heal spec.

@Ambrosine – The irony isn’t lost on me, despite Healers now also having to wait. Have you considered changing your blog’s name to “I Like Shields”? It would cover all your bases >.>

Comment by Tarsus

So, I have a warlock and a DK tank, both in 4pT9. And I’ve done less and less of the random grouping on the warlock, just because so many times I end up with a tank who doesn’t gem, doesn’t know his class, etc (healers, so far, have been good.

That said, last night I did end up in a group with a slightly under-geared but very competent DK tank, and it went fine.

Also, re:DK tanks underpowered – I’ve tanked ICC-25 alongside Warriors and Paladins, and held up fine. From everything I’ve seen, we (DK tanks) are at about the same level, assuming our gear is the same, and myself and a paladin absolutely rocked through ICC-10 – our abilities complemented each others perfectly.

Comment by Figworth

1 more reason there’s a tankshortage for PuGs:

Retarded dps.
Now, I’m not a failtank by any measure, not coated in awesomesauce and legendaries either, but some of these dps…
I mean it’s like they spend each and every waking moment of every day, planning how to rip aggro from me, just so they can whine about me not helping them or the healer not healing them.

Thankfully the LFG tool has set me up with really cool people thus far, minimal wipes and a metric crapton of badges.
And it’s really true, the waiting line for tanks is SHORT. My max wait-time using the new lfg-tool? 15 seconds…

Comment by Boslar

Palli tank-wannabe here. Agree with the getting into an instance fast as a tank. My issue is that I am fairly new to running instances (lvl 64 currently). You never know who you will team up with a PUG. Guess I need a guild that works together to better learn our roles. It is hard to keep aggro when the DPS pull additional mobs…

I enjoy your blog and am learning a lot. Keep up the good work.

Comment by Paul

I personally find that BYoH (Bring Your own Healer) can mitigate a surprising amount of stupidity from the DPS. That was true before the LFG tool as well.

“If he pulls before you are ready, don’t heal him. I’ll grab the mobs after he is dead.”

Comment by Tarsus

I love crappy pug dps, best way to become a better tank IMO is that particular school of hard knocks.

Oh, and if you don’t already have it, Aloft is FTW when someone pulls the whole room.

Comment by Kobeathris


Comment by Tarsus


Replacement for the standard Blizzard nameplates. If it’s glowing red, I have it, if its glowing orange, i need to smack it, if its not glowing, I need to taunt it.

I think blizz actually incorporated something similar into the base UI now, but Aloft looks better, and you can configure things how you like.

Comment by Kobeathris

As a fairly new tank (been 80 for about 2 months) I totally agree that it’s incredibly fast to get a spot now with the new Dungeon Finder. Obviously there are fewer of us (tanks) than there are DPS, I can’t speak for heals though, but really it can’t go any faster for me as a tank, so healers must be more plentiful, if only slightly.
Last week I was sitting in the old LFG tool, for Ony25 among other things. I got a tell “Are you a geared tank?”
I responded with “What do you consider ‘geared’?”
“4500 gs”
“Well, I’m at 4483, I can link my 10-man if you like.”
And I heard nothing back.
Mind you, at the time I had a ToC10 clear under my belt as well.
I consider myself quite well geared for all the longer I’ve been at it, I’m at about 35750 health, 25k armor unbuffed. I ran into a group the other night though that pushed me for all I was worth. I grabbed one of the better healers in my guild, and headed off for Pit of Sarron. Got a ‘lock, rogue, and hunter, all of which pulled 3k-3.5k for the run. But it was one of the toughest runs I’ve ever tanked. The damned hunter kept ninja-pulling, and with all 3 of them AoEing for all they were worth it was a real challenge.
That said, I actually like the tool, and plan to continue to make use of it. I never know what I’m gonna end up with group-wise, so I gotta stay on my toes, and be ready for the unexpected.

Comment by Wiredude

Not a big fan of having to link your stats. The only way I will improve is to run instances, learn more about my tanking role and hopefully get some good drops in the process.

Comment by Paul

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