Thursday, January 27, 2011

Your Tanking Toolkit

Tanking is making mobs mad enough to punch you in the face repeatedly and ignore the monkeys flinging poo at them... I mean dps doing damage to them. Each type of tank (warrior, druid, death knight, paladin) requires a different play style but there are some universal tanking tools. I'm going to help you build a "toolkit" to improve your tanking.

1. Mouseturn
The first item you should put in your toolkit is the mouseturn. Many players already do this but many still do not. Mousturning is just what it sounds like, using your mouse to turn your character instead of your keys. It's annoying at first and takes practice, especially if you've been keyturning for years, but the payoff is phenomenal.  Instead of waiting a few seconds to turn and run from something you just zip your mouse around and get the heck outta dodge. If you want to learn how to mouseturn looking4more has a great guide here.

2. Learn Your Class
Take the time to get to know exactly what your little pile of pixels is capable of. You need to know exactly what your abilities do, which survival cooldowns you have and which stats to stack. Much of being a successful tank comes from planning. Because you are the base upon which your party/raid is built there is no room for error. A crack in the foundation can lead to the collapse of the entire structure. If you aren’t ready to put in a little extra work then you probably aren’t ready to be a good tank.

3. Learn Who Can CC What
Crowd Control or CC is an essential part of the game again and you need to learn who can do what to whom. Most classes have at least one CC but are limited by what type of mob they can lock down. Ophelie at The Bossy Pally has this excellent CC guide.

4. Learn the Fights
If you don’t know a fight your chances of dying increase. In raids and instances a dead tank almost always means a wipe. Your job is to get everything to hit you… and live through it… so things can continue to hit you. You cannot die to avoidable mechanics. Make sure you do your homework and come prepared.

5. Gearing/Speccing
There’s a common theme running through this post and it all has to do with preparedness. There is no other role that takes the amount of preparation that tanking does. Gearing and Speccing are not exceptions. Go to Elitist Jerks or Tankspot if you have no clue how to spec or what stats to go for. The people there are uber-knowledgeable and their forums will help improve your game.
Another part of gearing is making sure that your gear is properly enhanced. Not many people can afford the best of the best enchants right now but you if you are in any kind tanking role you MUST enhance your gear to the best of your ability. There are many of the cheaper enhancements that work very well and won’t cost you an arm or a leg.

6. Mark Quickly
Marking can really slow down a run if you don't know how to do it quickly. If you learn who can CC what as suggested above it will go a long way to speeding up your marking. Next you need to be consistent with your marking. Not everyone marks the same way but some standards are:

Skull=Primary Target
X = Secondary Target
Moon = Sheep
Square =  Hunter Trap

(It's very important to remember that if you mark a skull chances are your dps are going to be burning it hard. The skull should be the primary recipient of your burning hatred. You need to keep enough threat on other targets to overcome healing aggro or stray aoe but focus mainly on the primary target.)

Keybinding your marks will also help when trying to get things done quickly. Something my buddy Toshi taught me was keybindng them to the numpad. I've got 1-8 as marks and 9 to clear. You can find this option in the stock blizzard key bindings interface. I don't know how well it would work for a left hander but it's great for righties.

7. A Few Addons
There are many great addons for tanking but there are a few that I feel are damn near necessary:

·         TidyPlates ThreatplatesTidyplates is an awesome addon on its own but when you download Threaplates as well it becomes one of the most awesomest awesomes of awesome mountain. It lets you look at nice neat nameplates and see how much aggro you have on mobs. The best thing is, drumroll please, it works with almost no configuration… beautiful.
·         TauntMaster – It’s like healbot for tanks. It puts up a nice neat raidframe where a player’s name turns red if they draw aggro. You click on the name and it taunts whatever’s targeting them. You can also configure it to use other spells.
·         DeadlyBossMods – Good ol’ DBM. It’s been helping people stay out of the stupid for years. Download and learn to love it.
·         Castbars – My castbar mod of choice. It’s most useful feature is the target castbar, letting you know when to interrupt.

There are many more great addons but these are a good place to start. I’m not a fan of the stock ui so I modify heavily… ymmv.

8. Your Big Fat Brain
Your decisions while tanking effect the whole party. The ability to see and interpret data quickly and make a decision based on what you learned is key to being a successful tank. Another word for this is Situational Awareness. I know I’ve harped on this before but it’s what separates good players from great ones and as a tank you’re not allowed to just be “okay”. There are many ways to improve your awareness but the best wow specific way I’ve found is to go PvP for a while. While I don’t think wow’s PvP is the greatest it does teach you to think on your feet a little better as you are going up against unpredictable humans. After a few battlegrounds you’ll find your mind and reflexes sharpened a bit.

There are many more ways to improve your tanking and many of them are class specific but these tools should provide you with a good base to start from. Remember tanking isn’t easy and it takes practice. If you are a new tank it’s best to learn in a positive environment so con a few guildies into helping you out and go get smacked around!

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