The Call to Arms changes to the Looking for Dungeon tool have encouraged many to give tanking a try. Since many of these new tanks have had little experience in that role, I think a post about the basics of tanking is needed. In this post, I’ll go through the different parts of tanking:
- The tactical review of the fight
- The pull
- Generating threat
- Tools to help
The first thing that a tank needs to do for each encounter is assess the opposing group in terms of their composition. Are the mobs casters, melee or ranged?
The easiest by far to tank are melee creatures. Just say hi to them (shooting/throwing something at them) and they’ll come towards you. Charge one of them and the others will mass around you. Like I said, very simple. The second easiest is a caster. Casters will try to fight you where they stand but this is where investing 2 points in the talent Gag Order is worth it. Simply throw your weapon at them (Heroic throw) or go to them, pummel one of their cast and see them trying to melee you for the next few seconds. The real threat is archers. These cannot be interrupted, silenced, or anything. You have two recourse then: Crowd Control or Line of Sight.
The next thing to see is the location of those mobs. What are the obstacles that you could use to break line of sight? Are there patrols that come in the vicinity?
To tank is to do this analysis for every pull. You need to quickly assess an encounter and put together a tactic for it. Even a lowly trash encounter can easily overwhelm a group if the casters are left to target the healer, or worse, if a patrol joins the fray.
Now this to me is the real fun part of tanking. As a warrior, you have the following tools to start a fight:
- Heroic Throw – Generates a good amount of threat and if talented, silences casters and forces them to come towards you.
- Shooting/Throwing – Generates a tiny amount of threat, mainly used to just get the mob’s attention. Very useful before having the talent Warbringer if you don’t fancy Stance dancing.
- Taunt – Ok, never ever use taunt to start a fight. The most uncertain time in a fight is right after the pull when your aggro is tenuous. This is when you might need your taunt to do what it’s meant for, taunt back from an overzealous dps.
- Charge/Heroic Leap – This is the trademark pull for the warrior. Puts you in melee range right away so you can start building up aggro.
- Facepulling – Just move close enough, it will make them attack you. After the taunt pull, this is the worst way to pull as a warrior as you start the fight with almost no rage to work with.
Pulling by throwing your weapon, shooting, etc.
The simplest version of this pull is simply target a mob and shoot at it. The melee mobs will come to you while the others start attacking from range which can create a mess very quickly. It works only with a group that’s all melee or with one caster if you use heroic throw and have the talent gag order to silence him and force him to run towards you.
Line of Sight pull
This is one of the best technique out there. You shoot/throw something at a mob and then break line of sight by using the top of the stairs or a wall. The enemies will need to go up the stairs/go around that wall to get to you. It groups them all up in one neat pile for you to AoE. It works on all types of enemies, be they archers, casters or melee. The one thing that makes this a success is for you to inform your group of your intentions so that there is no healing (unless the healer is behind the tank) and no dps until the enemies are where you need them to be. Communication is always important when tanking, but in the case of the Line of Sight pull, it’s not even an option.
Note: Lara at Root and Branch has a great series of primers (Primer and Intermediate) about threat which include diagrams for Line of Sight pulls and a plethora of other useful information. I strongly encourage you to go and give it a read!
Pulling with a charge
There are a few ways of doing this:
The classic charge – Pick a target, click charge.
The charge and turn charge. – This one is a bit more complicated. You basically jump up before the end of your charge and while in the air, you mouse turn 180 degrees. You should now be behind your target, facing it. Your target will turn to face you and thus have its back to the melee dps running to join the fight.
Combining the styles
What truly will make you a pulling master is to combine the pulls mentioned above. There’s the:
Throw a weapon/run away/charge
This technique uses a simple thrown weapon to grab the enemies’ attention. Then turn and run away, forcing even the caster and archers to run after you as you move out of their range. Finally, turn back and charge them when they’re where you want them to be.
This works especially well when you cannot line of sight the enemies but do not want to fight them where they stand because of possible patrols.
Line of sight/charge
This one is very simple. You line of sight the enemies but strafe away from the corner. When the enemies turn the corner, charge in. You have them where you wanted them and you got the rage bonus from the charge. Simply awesome!
This one is pretty simple, most of what you do will generate threat, even using battle shout. How to generate the maximum amount of threat is fairly linear.
For a single target pull, Shield Slam. Early and often. Revenge on cooldown, devastate to push your three sunders. After that, I’d say it depends on your group. I most often run with groups with incredible dps and so I need to keep generating threat as much as possible. When you have a small cushion, you should use demoralizing shout and Thunderclap and keep those debuffs up.
For a multiple target pull, I most often thunderclap while still running, position the mobs quickly and then hit shockwave to lock them in place. I then apply rend and thunderclap again and spam cleave when the rage is available. You should of course distribute shield slams, devastates and revenge while switching target to solidify your aggro, but cleave and thunderclap (especially if you are talented into blood and thunder) should be able to keep the group on you.
Tools to help with tanking
Vigilance – While technically it’s not a tool but one of your abilities, it’s very important to put it on the dps that seems to have more threat than the others. It’s a free taunt and some vengeance when he gets hit, always useful.
Tidy Plates – It replaces the nameplates with its own custom version. It’s incredibly useful as you can configure it to show you which enemies is casting, about to run to a dps or is already hacking away at one of the other melee. I would say that most raid tanks are now using this or something similar to it.
Omen or Skada – You need to know how much cushion you have on the next person on the threat scale.
A Heads-up Display – This one is optional but I personally love to have information about my enemy right in my field of view. I know many tanks use IceHud but others prefer a cleaner interface. The main thing to remember is you need to customize your interface to how you like to play and what challenges you are currently tackling. You need to remember though that the tank needs to be able to react very quickly to additional mobs coming in battle, a patrol, etc. And so whatever you do with your display, make sure that it’s clean enough for you to have an excellent view of the battle.
The only real way to get better at this is to practice a lot. Get some guildies to go with you or even go and solo lower level instances and practice. Try out the line of sights, the pull and charge.
One thing I did not talk about today is the importance of crowd control. I’ll keep that part for another post but try to get to know the different types of crowd control present in your group and use them.
Hope this little post can help out. Have fun and good luck!