Thoughts on Active Mitigation: Is it Really 'Good' Tanking?
TLDR: I think so. Others may not agree.
(Not really a rant, but it may sound like one as I kinda fuzzy navel gaze looking for whether we need to be as good as tanks as we feel we need to be. )
At three months into the expansion, those of us who tank have gotten used to the whole Active Mitigation thingy. The tank role has its own special rotation that comes into play to keep you alive better, longer, and so we've all had our moments where we either embraced it or loathed it.
And yet I run into tanks all the time in LFR who are bear tanks, and I put them as my focus, and I take a gander at their gear. I run Skada and look at their buffs, and what they're doing, and silently assess how good they are. I watch their Rage bar fill up and never go down -- meaning they're not even using Maul.
I have run into one tank that is doing it 'right'. One bear tank out of about ten or eleven that is bothering to use Savage Defense and Frenzied Regeneration at all, who isn't just stacking Stam and reforging for Dodge that gives them 16% dodge. Or less. I watch their health go yo yo crazy up and down, and yet...
...they live. With crappy gear, no less. Tanks with mostly PvP gear, but because they gemmed for Stamina, they have more health than I do, and the healers keep 'em up, except when they don't. And then the tanks are only blamed if they did the fight completely wrong.
Blizz's intention was to make tanks work to be a tank, more than just controlling the boss movement and not standing in stuff. But it's only when you get to actual Normal/Heroic raiding that 'real' tanking makes a difference...
....or so I thought. The bear tank I got to watch tank Will of the Emperor this weekend wasn't using his cooldowns, but they had 547K health, so despite getting hit multiple times by the Opportunistic Strikes thingy they lived with only having to use their healthstone once. They weren't even healing themselves with Renewal. The healers have gotten that good. I checked their Armory -- they have FOUR Will of the Emperor kills. On Normal. So either their healers in their guild are that good, or they're not the tank, or... maybe it doesn't really matter as much as we thought it does.
I had the occasion to tank Vizier this Saturday, and I have a bear tank in my guild that isn't that great at the Active Mitigation thing. So she'll take multiple damage spikes up to 75+K, because she's failing to dodge melee strikes, and the healers all say she's squishy, but they can still keep her up. (We're dying because one of the healers and two of the DPS keep eating discs.) Me, I take the tank role and my damage taken is smooth, and stays at 30K, worst spike at 55K. My healers prefer healing me, but they can keep the other tank up almost as well.
I'm not sure what to think. At the end of the day, some of the fights seem specifically geared to how well you do your active mitigation, but whether you get hit less or not, or hit for less damage, it's the healers that seem to make the difference between success and failure, instead of the tank.
I can make bad healers look good by rotating cooldowns and avoiding damage. But bad tanks can be covered by good healers, just as much. And no matter how bad the tanks are in LFR, half the time it only takes three good healers out of six to make a successful run.
So does it really, truly, matter? Those of you who practice and know the other tank disciplines, do you see the same thing? Those of you that heal, can you tell a tank that is doing it right versus a tank that isn't?