Confessions of a Pre-Heroic Bear Tank

18 Aug

Pre-Heroic baby.  That means I’m not level 80 yet.  Thank the Lord and Lady for that.  Sure – level 80 is where you get all of the cool toys and it’s where the big kids play – but you know what?  Who cares. The big kids can be ass-holes.  They like to dress up in Heroic ICC-25 gear and show up like “they’re all that” and “you’re all crap” – they ENJOY watching new tanks fail and will tell you and anyone else in shouting distance of Orgimmar what a BAD TANK you are.

And what else can you really do at 80?  Raid Tank?  Maybe you can.  Maybe if you’re guild doesn’t already have 2 stonking amazing tanks that *always* show up on time and carry around enough avoidance and damage mitigation that it makes the 50-60k health they’re packing just seem like overkill.

So what’s left? Where can you enjoy playing the game – avoid all the haters – and feel like you’ve accomplished something at the end of the night?

Hell – I don’t know – play Farmville or something?

Seriously though.  Now is a great time to be a tank.  Queue times are super fast and down in the pre-80 Lich King Dungeons and there’s an opportunity to learn the tanking trade without all of the pain and suffering sometimes found in heroics.

But there are a couple things you need to do first.

  1. Don’t be a pansy: Seriously – grow the skin thick.  If you’ve never ever tanked before, you’re in for a rough ride and there will always be some passive aggressive prick speeding up your pulls or some loud mouth telling the whole world what a bad tank you are.  Suck it up and keep going.  If you have to drop group once or twice – so what?  Your queues are fast – enjoy it.  If people tell you you’re a fail-tank – *so what* – keep on keeping on. The simple fact of the matter is that you’re so unlikely to ever see any of them again that you can fail-tank your way to competence and never wipe the same group twice!
  2. Remember that Tanking Isn’t Hard: But it is different.  If you keyboard turn and don’t use mapped keys…well…things will be a bit tougher.  At its very basic, tanking is just about hitting things.  If you’ve ever played as DPS you already know how to do this!  In fact, as a tank you can hit things as hard as you want and no one will ever get mad at you for it!
  3. Know Where You’re Going: Tanks are expected to know their way through an instance and to know the pulls.  Period.  If you don’t know how to get from start to finish in the instance – you really shouldn’t be tanking a PUG group.  Nothing makes for a slower, more tentative tank than one that isn’t sure which way to turn or which mob to pull first.  Slow and cautious is rarely accepted by a pug group these days.  Lich King instances are quite easy once you get to know the layout.  So get in there!  Run instances with friends or run the instances on an ALT and PAY ATTENTION.  Don’t have an ALT?  Don’t have friends?  Look for dungeon walkthroughs on You-Tube – they’re out there – utilize them.

Confidence – Build on Success

If nothing else, keep this in mind: Being a tank is about leadership.  A great big part of  leadership is providing a sense of competence and calm confidence.  Project that.  Know what you’re doing – know where you’re going.  If you’ve done randoms enough, you can *smell* a tentative, scared tank.  You can pick it up in any of a hundred subtle queues.  It’s almost as if they’ve zoned into the instance and they can’t quite believe they’re really there.  They’re slow to start, slow to pull and will likely start things off by apologizing or making excuses for their tanking.  Now, for some folks this little bit of honesty works.  Don’t always count on it though.  Trust me, when you apologize for your tanking in anything other than a friendly guild run, you probably just made 4 other people cringe.

So, zone in, buff up, and get ready to hurt things.

Easy for you to say, but I’m a nervous Nelly when I tank!  How can I make the butterflies go away?

That’s simple, before I started putting myself and my fragile, fragile ego to the test of the random dungeon finder, I set myself up for as much sucess as I could.  I ran places I *did* know.

For a while the only instances I would tank were:

  • Violet Hold
  • Utgarde Keep
  • Azjol-Nerub

I’d queue myself up specifically for these instances and run them every day.  Nothing builds confidence like doing.  So if you’re going to “do” – then always do what you know.  Over time, you will start to get more confident of your basic tanking abilities.  The pulls make more sense, you finally figure out where you’re going and how fast you need to get there.  Repetition builds confidence.  You may start slow – but remember, slow is smooth and smooth is fast.  That smooth ride is what people are looking for in your tanking and the best way to get smooth is to practice, practice, practice.

Aggro – Keeping it – All of it….

For a tank, the ability to keep aggro in multi-mob situations is where success or failure is ultimately measured.  Yes – that heroic ICC-25 geared hunter could be helping you out with misdirects.  But more often than not, he’s probably fapping frantically over his chimera shot crits.  So yeah, his hands are full…literally….way to busy to be helping you out.  Expect that the rest of  your group is the same way.

Hell – I find it helpful to play as if the DPS are actively out to get me.  So no matter what – I get to the next pull well ahead of all of them. In a GoGoGO world – I GoGoGO myself.

With my healer in tow (can’t forget them – bad things happen) I avoid looting or skinning or any of the regular post fight foolishness and run straight to the next pull.

Getting there first has benefits.  First off – you’re the first one to the aggro party.  See that, see how your dps is scrambling along behind you?  That’s a good thing.  Keep ahead of your dps.  Hunter whining about mana?  Don’t care – Aspect of the Viper is there – they should use it.  Brand new enhancement shaman have an empty blue bar?  Maybe they should drop fewer Fire Nova Totems in their rotations.  If their pretty blue bars are getting pretty empty – they’ll throttle back and let you cement more aggro – they’ll have no choice.  The GoGoGO game is all about pacing.

Proper Pacing Produces Positive Possibilities

Probably the simplest way to think about your pacing is to manage every pull as if you were in Violet Hold.  First off – in VH you’re running from portal to portal to catch the dragonkin as they spawn.  There simply isn’t a great deal of time after each fight to do more than run to the next fight.  Which for a brand new bear tank looking for a crash course in rage conservation and total aggro domination, there truly is no better training ground.

So for the tank wanting to keep ahead of the aggro game, they should pretend that every pull has a Violet Hold style hidden timer behind it and show up early!  The longer you have to work on the mobs without the “help” of your DPS the more aggro you get to keep.

Confidence Check

So, how are we feeling?  Ready to run out and chain pull an instance yet?


That’s totally fine.  It really is.  I still get butterflies each and every time I tank.  They almost always go away right at the moment I connect with my first Swipe / Glyphed Maul combo.  The real key to tanking is in the willingness to pick  yourself up after utter failure and to try again.  So many new tanks end up hanging up their shields or giving up on bear form forever after one bad pug experience.  This sucks for all of us because unless you’re a tank or a healer – LFG queue times are creeping into the 20-30 minute range.  We could fix all of that with a little careful mentorship of our junior tanks.  If the elitist pricks were willing to do more than snark and provide a little basic human decency we’d see all the little bears pick up some experience and turn into real BEASTs – something we’d all benefit from.

How about you?  Tried Tanking?  Like it?  Hate it?  Have a favored class to tank with?


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