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Thread: Of Tanks, Main Tanks and Team Building

  1. #1
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    Of Tanks, Main Tanks and Team Building

    The scenario:

    You're a raid leader, it's two hours into the raid, you just reached a farm boss and your main tank just went linkdead. He calls his real life best friend, one of your rogues, and has him pass along the message that his power just went out. You have two choices: Call the raid, or let one of your offtanks that's never main tanked this boss before tank the boss. You have two hours left in your raid, you don't want to call it, you have your OT tank the boss.

    And he asks the question "The MT usually stands... here, right?"

    It looks about right. You never did look that close, you know he stood around that spot on your first attempts on wipe nights, but you know there was something funny that the MT adjusted in where he stood that first time you killed the boss and you're not sure if that meant anything or not.
    The hunter misdirects, the OT starts his rotation, the boss does his gimmick and... half the raid dies just like it was the first night of wipes. You hold it together for another half a minute before you wipe. You chalk it up to bad luck. Another pull, another wipe. You can't figure it out, why is the raid dying? Over, and Over... Then, a glimmer of light, the MT gets his power back, but his internet is wonky and his latency makes him leery of MTing anything. He agrees to come back into the raid on the condition that he doesn't tank anything important until his connection stabilizes.

    He can't believe you've been wiping on a farm boss. He whispers the OT and tells him to move and tank the boss three steps to his left, and when the gimmick happens, run into the middle of the boss' hitbox. All of a sudden the kill is a staple textbook kill. You have no clue what changed, then the MT tells you in /officer that the OT didn't know to move in at the start of the gimmick. You'd never even HEARD of moving at the start of the gimmick, neither had the OT. Lacking that one minor tidbit of knowledge cost you an hour on a boss you've had on farm for months.

    The scenario is a common one. You've got a main tank, he's awesome, your guild is glad to have him, and you have other tanks but they're nowhere near his caliber. It makes obvious sense to have him main tank every boss, right? WRONG.

    The Concept:

    Team Building is an important part of any raid force. Team Building is one important element that can separate an average raid guild from a sunwell raid guild.

    It's a simple concept. Share the tanking duties. You never know when a tank will be absent, or lose his internet, if he's the only person that's tanked Boss B, then it stands to reason that boss will give you trouble next time. Communication is key, when the tank that tanked the kill spots a problem that the other tank is having, they can teach them.

    The Execution:

    Your "Main Tank", or your Best Tank, needs to be actively helping the other tanks to improve. As a Raid Leader, you need to actively cycle tanks on bosses to bring the experience of all of your tanks up. On farm content, every one of your tanks should be completely interchangeable.

    How do you achieve this?

    1) Rotate tanks on farm content even when they aren't interchangeable.
    You don't grow by watching. You grow by being challenged. There's only so much that reading and watching will teach you.
    2) Your Worst Tank needs to tank, too.
    The Main Tank is Awesome, your others are good, but this guy is horrible. You've sent him to tankspot, you've made him read boss killers, he's watched dozens of videos of his class tanking xyz boss and he still hasn't got a clue. He's not going to get one without practice. The raid may balk, but the guy needs a chance, and all the help he can get. He may never get it, but without the chance he never will get it.
    3: Tank Communication
    The Tanks need to communicate with each other - perhaps even set up their own private channel. Ultimately, these people all need to be friends. You may have the best tank in the world but if he can't communicate or work with the other tanks, you're better off without him. You're building a team, not a star.
    4: Support and rewards
    Your tanks need support. Gone are the days of the obscene plate repair bill, but it's still bad. Some days, it never hurts to surprise them by hooking them up with consumables or enchants for new upgrades. You shouldn't make it a regular habit or a "right" of being a tank - It should be a reward for loyalty and effort. For that matter - the rest of your raid deserves the same every now and then. It doesn't take much, it could be as simple as handing him a stack of stam food before a raid, or as exorbitant as giving him a [item]nethercleft leg armor[/item] when he wins his new tier legs.
    This is by no means a comprehensive list. It's a starting point, a series of thoughts meant to help give you ideas for stretching your guild's capacity. It's one thing to say you have a "team of tanks" even though one tanks everything. It's another thing to have tanks who are, in every sense of the word, completely interchangeable regardless of class.

    Coming together is a beginning.
    Keeping together is progress.
    Working together is success.
    - Henry Ford
    Last edited by Alent; 08-14-2008 at 11:31 AM.

  2. #2
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    Well said To be honest it's not something i've thought a lot about but it gives me food for thought, i'm the MT, raid leader and GM of our guild and so my absences are usually as few as possible, for that reason I tend to hog the lions share of the tanking. We raid with a second prot warrior who is equally as dedicated to raiding as me and yet he very rarely tanks bosses. We talk a lot about gear, encounters etc but in the end I still end up hogging the lead role while he gets best supporting actor in a tanking role. I shall endeavour to push him onto centre stage more often
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  3. #3
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    Thanks for your post. I became MT of my guild by default when the other tanks (father, son team) left the server soon after TBC came out. My work schedule changes every week so there was no way I could make every raid, or even know far in advance which ones I could make. So I implemented a "tank boss rotation" so that my guild would not be gimped because one person out of 25 could not make the raid. It took a bit for the guild to learn the different strengths and weaknesses of warriors, paladins and druids, but now everyone in my guild can adjust to different tanks effortlessly. Except for the real gimmicky fights like Hydross, all our tanks get an opportunity to MT all the bosses. So far it's worked out great, thanks to blizzard redesigning tanking TBC, the entire guild's progress does not hang on one person's ability to make the raid.

  4. #4
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    As an off-tank, I've been in exactly that situation before, when RL crept up and kept our MT out, and I had to take over marking/tanking duties.

    We wiped on the first trash pull, because I wasn't experienced in initializing/leading the pull and didn't pull back far enough. We wiped on Lurker because I had the positioning wrong...by a few steps. Spout was hitting an island before they had time to react.

    When we did Tidewalker, I was already so depressed that I gave the MT duties to the other tank we had, and he had a few deaths that could have been avoided had we known what gearing strategy the healers were used to (they were used to avoidance tanking, our tank was using EH. Both can work, but the healers weren't used to the constant heals needed on an EH tank for that pull and there was poor communication).

    I have always been against the One-Tank mindset. When I was the guild leader of a Karazhan guild, I frequently had my offtank take over main tank duties, or take over pull duties, etc. My current guild doesn't do this, and our wipefest when he couldn't make it was a disaster.

    Fortunately, shortly after my experience, we progressed on to TK, which is much more of a "tank team" zone -- Alar needs 3 tanks on the bird and 2 on the adds, Void Reaver is a tank race, and we stick tanks on Solarian's adds, so the only difference to a new MT is "jump on Solarian instead of a priest, and hold aggro after 20%".

    Now, we're moving toward MH; more single-tank stuff. I hope we don't lose our MT, or we decide to mix it up a bit on second-kills and third-kills.

    And as a final note: we're all friends, and we are all communicating on gear upgrades we're focusing/passing on to other tanks. Except the MT gets first dibs on everything. He's got 1k+ more HP than the rest of the tanks.

  5. #5
    I believe a good offtank, so long as they are in attendance for the kills and not TOO bogged down with their own tasks for the encounter, should be paying attention and learning what the other tanks are doing in the event that they are called upon to change tasks. I've never main tanked a fair portion of the bosses in T5 content, but I know exactly how to tank each of them.

    Not to disagree with you, I definitely think swapping tanks around is a good thing. I just also think the scenario you described, especially if it's a fight that's been on farm for a while, is primarily the fault of the offtank.
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  6. #6
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    im terrible, horrible, miserable and awful about rotating tanks in on bosses. i know on nights when i cant make it the raids dont go well, but i think that has more to do with perception than ability. that and we have a raid full of short-busers who die in the fire every night... im glad i read your friendly reminder to rotate tanks more often =)

  7. #7
    2.3, which included the Prot Paladin stam buff, didn't hit until after we downed Illidan. As such, I MT'ed very few bosses while we were progressing through most 25-man content. I can't think of a single farmed encounter we wiped on the next week when I MT'ed most of them where the wipe was because I didn't know what I was doing.

    I did have Anetheron in a different spot than normal, because I usually tanked the infernals for him (and thus was a fair distance away from the boss), but a DPS'er just said "Hey, that's the wrong spot, go over to the left more" and I moved him.
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  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ringthane View Post
    The problem here, and one I'm not sure how others here would address, is what happens when the rest of the raid starts balking about having this guy take over.
    You know, I did debate including that because of this point here. It's something that has to be handled with care because if done poorly, it could really wreck a player's enjoyment of the game. That said, I'm also of the opinion that if he doesn't get to try it himself, he's going to lose interest anyway. Even if he is the worst player, it leaves a bad taste in my mouth to see someone who tried, give up without at least a chance. As long as they put forth effort, I think they need to be supported and get a chance. If they're not even trying, well, then, steps have to be taken. It may not be wise to carry them, every situation is different.

    I just think it's worth it to try to nurture their growth as a player.

    As far as what Lore said about things being the OT's fault... Everyone learns differently. What some learn simply by watching, other people have to be taught directly. That's just life.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ringthane View Post
    Leaving it at the foot of the offtank ties in with what I was saying in my other post - it's pretty disheartening to be doing your best and doing everything you can to improve, and having the rest of the group coming down on you because you're not the tank they're used to.
    we have run into that a lot in the last few months, especially with ZA. we had a bear of a time (no pun) getting groups going if i wasnt involved with the runs. for what ever reason people didnt feel they could rely on the other tanks in the guild whether they were mains or alts - and some of our alt tanks are probably better than some of our regular tanks...

  10. #10
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    In my guild, we've sometimes taken special pains to make sure we shift roles around a bit. But in general, the key here is making sure that everybody in the tanking team is aware of what's going on with all of the tanking jobs they might be involved in. Communication is key: We have a dedicated channel for conversations between all of the tanks. (Our other roles have this, too.) Tanks and healers also often tend to join the other role's channel so we get some good dialogue going on there. That dynamic flow of conversation that's role related makes it much easier to pick out specific changes in tactics that are tanking-related from everything that's going on.

    One fight we dealt with this change on recently was Illidari Council. We switched from me tanking Gathios to having me on Melande, so that we could free up another melee DPS to actually DPS instead of just interrupting stuff. (I've been our only warrior tank for a while now.) In this kind of multi-tank scenario, where there's a lot of stuff going on, it can be quite difficult to keep track of what everybody is doing in detail ahead of time. Now that I'm on Melande, I have a much easier time seeing what else is going on, but while tanking and dragging Gathios around, I couldn't even keep track of positioning for the other bosses.

    Anyway, we had no problem changing things up, not because we'd switched people around on this fight in the past, but because we've got experience talking together. We do use different tanks on different fights all the time, and as a result we talk easily together as the "tanking team". We don't really have an MT, although we do tend to have an MT or set roles for each fight that we don't change very often. But that keeps everybody's skills and morale up, and even if I don't know the precise positioning for a role I haven't done before, I can trust that one of the other tanks will know that positioning.


    In any case, I do suggest that switching up tanks regularly is a good idea, particularly in a semi-casual raiding scenario. It's bad when you have a tank who is always and only ever off-tanking—they didn't spec for tanking just so they could be "the guy who tanks when the other guy who has 98% attendance can't make it." Always being the OT also leaves you unsure of yourself (I speak from pre-BC experience here)—if you don't ever get to test your skills against tough things, you'll never feel securely that you're up to the task when called upon.


    On the flip side, changing up tanks "just because" can cause problems. We did this seriously when working on Lady Vashj, because we couldn't afford to have more than a couple of tanks in the fight on any given night. We wanted to make sure everybody got experience in there, and that everybody had a chance at loot once we were done learning. That went fairly well.

    But it does definitely slow down learning. We did make sure that tanks always went in for two nights at a time, overlapping in the middle. So A+B, B+C, C+D, D+E, E+A, and so on. That way the person who had been there the last night could always pass on any new info to the tank who was coming in fresh from sitting out for a bit.

    For fights since then, our general policy has instead been to have different tanks specialize in different fights, often based on who's going to be doing best during that fight. There's been some serious resistance to changing tanks up while learning, and to changing tanks up after learning—since there's always more progression to go in the future, it's hard to argue that we should slow down to do this just so more people have experience with the fight.

    But again, in these single tank fights it's much easier for a second tank to watch what the MT is doing, and ask questions if they have any.

    Anyway, we've had a few slow-downs when somebody had to be out for a few days or a week, but this strategy has worked well. All of the tanks work well together, nobody's tanking skills get rusty, and we don't slow down too much.


    Short form: As long as all of the tanks are regularly getting serious tanking work and you have a good atmosphere of communication in the tanking team, it's all good. Setting up a tank rotation to make sure everybody gets experience on some specific bosses can be a good way to encourage that communication, but once the communication is flowing it is less important that multiple tanks have experience on a single boss.


    P.S. It is, however, always entertaining when another new tank cries out "There is NO WAY I was standing in that eye beam" and the other tanks reply in a chorus of "We told you it was bigger than it looked!"
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  12. #12
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    Very good post. I agree 100%.

    We had an extremely solid MT pre-TBC. He was on every single progression run, he was RLer, MLer, and coordinated practically everything except class specific details.

    When he wasn't around, things often went to shambles. He wasn't irreplaceable by any means, but because he was as solid as he was, we just couldn't do anything difficult without him. When he lost his internet for a week, we had no progression runs in BWL. We simply couldn't move on without him, despite having tanks almost as well-geared as he. He knew this, but he was wary of relying on anyone but himself. We started learning to do raids without him when he stopped going to 20-mans -- rather than scheduling them, they became more or less optional. Late in vanilla he did start to delegate it out and we were the better for it.
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  13. #13
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    thats exactly what our RL thinks, last night our RL couldn't make it and I was the RL while having some game crashes and keep hearing over vent the GM was keep moving the raid making the OTs to pull, saved a lot of time.
    When I tank I'm always watching what the OT are doing and directing their tanking as posible. Having a tank channel helps in this cases.
    You can not make yourself indispensable, for when RL happens you know that things are still moving ingame and just relax and forget about it. There is another tank whom i share rolls, and we often take turns, which works good for me.
    Another thing is never RL alone if you're the MT, perspective from the front line is not as good as a healer/range dps one, it can be done, but optimal is to have other RL in the back watching things from a different perspective.
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  14. #14
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    Oh that is sooo much a "been there done that" experience.

    Expecially the part where your omnipresent wellgeared MT has a real life issue and is forced to quit, leaving 2 undergeared tanks (we used loot prio system, but only for him, other tanks had to fight for loots like others, and our DKPs weren't much exceptional) to deal with Kalecgos and Brutallus.

    Needless to say that now that we use a multiple tank system (actually, 2 protection tanks and a small bunch of druids) we neved had issues like that.

    Heh i wish some of the old minded "One (warrior) MT is for ever" could change their mind... they usually do when their MT got a RL issue or goes emo and leaves, but that's too late most of the times ^^
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  15. #15
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    This is a good message and should not be only for tanking.

    I'm sure some of you heard the term SPOF, Single Point of Failure in RL aspect and it is the same in raiding. You don't have just 1 MT and never rotate. You don't only have 2 Fire tanks for Illidan and never teach anyone else. You never have only 1 warlock to tank illidan or Leo... You don't only have 1 person who knows the direction felmyst moves before his breath... etc... SPoF is bad in anywhere, not just tanking.

  16. #16
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    I still chuckle at one glorious wipe fest in HKM where the mage tank was a new one...well he didn't know that he was supposed to have a macro to spam healer chat a tell when the shield thingy went down so someone could crank out a BFH . Two or three wipes later after he's yelling how he didn't get a heal the real mage goes "well did you whisper the healers that the shield was down?" ... crickets... Yeah, we rocked the fight the next attempt. Wasn't his fault at all, just didn't know.

    Funny how it is usually something really really little. That kind of knowledge is the stuff that makes rotating people so important. Everyone can read a fight or watch it but the real knowledge is how the raid has adapted how they play to the fight at hand and all the little things like tells, placements, etc.
    Former healbot now a Disgruntled protection warrior.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ringthane View Post
    The problem here, and one I'm not sure how others here would address, is what happens when the rest of the raid starts balking about having this guy take over.
    One could tell them that the alternative is, after every raid, to guildkick the dps'er who came in last on the meters that raid as the guild as a whole is clearly very opposed to carry people and letting them learn through actual experience.
    Groingnasher of (EU) Quel'Thalas

  18. #18
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    I fully agree with OP, but my question is... what do you do when the other tanks just don't put out as much threat as you? The raid has to hold back a fair bit a a result, healers go oom and tank goes splat. You get asked to tank, there are no threat issues and GM's prefer to use you as MT from there on.
    No matter how fast light travels it finds the darkness has always got there first, and is waiting for it. - Terry Pratchett

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by Spacegoat View Post
    I fully agree with OP, but my question is... what do you do when the other tanks just don't put out as much threat as you? The raid has to hold back a fair bit a a result, healers go oom and tank goes splat. You get asked to tank, there are no threat issues and GM's prefer to use you as MT from there on.
    You work with the new tank to try and see what the difference is. Use WWS parses to compare if necessary. Try to find ways to help the new tank improve their threat rotation. Also, you talk with the GM's about the work you are doing with the new tank so they are on board with what you are doing.

  20. #20
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    It can work well being thrown in at the deep end too, or more precisely forcing people out of a regular comfort zone and having to work. The mistakes and KZ farming of a casual guild, or pugging heroics were annoying. The focus & communication of a raiding guild were much better until that folded when the GM's did their own projects, and not being geared enough for a 'decent' raiding guild.

    Doesn't sound much, but having to go off and lookup bosses, work out positionings - many videos are a bit vague in that department, work on communication, gearing, macros and so on gives you a much better grasp of what to do, questions to ask, and where, and how important synergie is with other people around you. Thanks to a raid alliance I could work on my gearing and eventually got this guild slot. Main reason was I enjoyed working with the pally tank, swapped around on bosses, or to strengths (especially in 10 man) and had a laugh doing it. When it upped to 25 man I didn't enjoy it as much, especially with another guild pretty much merging with the alliance. It didn't feel the same, silly mistakes (and people not being on TS) were annoying, I knew it can be done better, and after a offhand cheeky application went serious.

    The scary part other than turning up in battered T4 and shiny badge gear, surrounded by printouts, with bookmarks to bosses, and getting told to go tank one. Month later being given MTing on a number of progression bosses, despite missing 3-4 bits of gear for a comfort zone. presume thats come from a decent job, and knocking off a few bosses with other class preferred tank. Bit gaulling working your arse off, asking daft questions, getting then down and tossing off when the shinies get hoovered up when DKP kicks in. However it's a team effort, the people who built the place finally see their work pay off, and sooner or later RL catches up, or rotations.

    For example only boss I did prior to yesterday this week was ROS, which I don't especially like. Yesterday = archie killing, which up till recently was a wipefest before I joined, and on a couple of attempts I had had painful. Having asked the daft question, resolved the issue, and planted him each week since, it was 3rd time lucky, in beating the DKP trap for the helm. Not normally into the 'I must have that' brigade, having a gobby lock winding a few people up about it on 'priority' rather than a means to an end to function is kinda why. That one felt sweet, as I had to work for it, a few weeks paid off, and with our other warrior grabbing items he was after in my absence better for us as a unit when we hit Illidan seriously. At times be nice if other feedback was coming in, rather than bouncing it off websites like this, or spending 70% of the fights stressing about CD's and heals having blown panic buttons. . . If we can clear our easy & hard farm bosses with one of us around, then hit on the progression stuff, and be chuffed when they get a shiny for their work this whole happy clappy teambuilding crap has paid off somewhere, especially with the focus shown and even a giggle doing it.

    The annoying part is having new people come in, and then spending more and more time floating on farm compensating or covering, as they've asked for the kill order list for the third time, general rather than specific info on boss XX, and yet the website and other websites have been used. That respect(?) and entertainment when with the original unit is appreciated more, or when the daftness stops and focus engages.
    Last edited by Dunmail; 08-26-2008 at 08:02 AM.
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