Hold the Line; An Endgame Tanking Reference
By: Patrick O'Callahan / Ciderhelm
AN INTRODUCTION TO THE ENDGAME
You've been through 10-man pickup groups formed from Ironforge and Orgrimmar. Not all are successful; not all coordinate around teamplay. The irritating personalities and misdirection often bogs you down. To top it all off, you've run Blackrock 35 times, the Breastplate of Valor has finally dropped and you can complete your Dungeon Set 1, and you just got outrolled by a warrior in all greens.
Endgame raiding is an entirely different experience. Guilds and coalitions that push through the endgame content are focused on team play, coordination, responsibility and fairness. Value to the raid and loot awarded is based on weeks, months, and years of investment.
When changing your mindset to the 40-man dynamic, you will need to keep some general principles in mind.
First, you are not there to be a hero; for example, never taunt off a main tank for any reason unless asked to. Conversely, if asked to do something, try to do it! If you showed an immediate reaction and effort, people will readily look past a mistake. Generally, any time the raid is relying on you as an undergeared app to tank it is because the raid group is on the verge of a wipe in a new encounter.
Second, pay attention to your surroundings and try to make sense of what people are doing. Sure, you can ask questions, but figuring out what's going on from your own intuition will make you more readily prepared to handle future challenges. If everyone is standing behind or to the side of a certain mob or dragon, perhaps there is a cleave or AOE effect you are not aware of? If people are only assisting with ranged attacks, does it make sense to run in and melee a target? Take a few seconds before doing anything and make sure you aren't about to do something crazy. Also, make absolutely sure you stay near your raid group; ideally, one or two yards behind a DPS warrior at all times will keep you in a safe place that you won't aggro other mobs.
Third, don't challenge the status quo. Understand that guilds that have been raiding for months do things for a reason; as a new raider, you will look arrogant if you offer unwarranted advice you heard from a friend or saw in a video (hey, this goes for our videos too!). Also understand that the guild is not there to provide you with loot; simply being on a raid gives you no right to epic gear made possible by the work of the veterans in that guild.
Ultimately, your raiding group is your family. While you are still trying to join with this family, keep in mind that they are fiercely protective of each other and showing arrogance or greed is a quick path to denial of your app or recruit status.
1.1 What is Main Tanking?
Main Tanking is the position of greatest responsibility in any raid; it is a natural position of leadership.
Personally, I classify several warriors as Main Tanks. In our case, Stag, Thinger, and Airknight are Main Tanks as of writing this. Among the Main Tanks, there is a Lead Tank, which is the position I generally take as it corresponds with guild leadership.
Main Tanking is taking absolute responsibility for raid mitigation through several methods: Funneling damage, removing damage, and controlling chaos. While each class has enjoyable and unique raid functions, from Hunter kiting to Rogue and DPS Warrior damage dealing, tanks take complete control of the actual battle. With the greatest risk comes the greatest reward -- and glory.
Understand, however, that Main Tanking is the most stressful position. You will wipe raids many, many times due to mistakes in pulling, positioning, tanking, and any number of unexpected issues. You will often feel overwhelmed upon encountering a new boss fight such as Razorgore where the sheer complexity seems impossible to overcome.
You are also alone in this responsibility. You will rarely have right to blame others for failings, and as such, should never take a stance that it is someone else's fault that you died.Indeed, this is very rarely the case: if you have any cooldown available on your hotbar, be it Shield Wall, Last Stand, or a Major Healing Potion, you are responsible for your own death.
You are not merely a warrior who carries a shield. You are a leader. Buck up, take the responsibility on yourself, take command.
1.2 Time Commitment
The second aspect to Main Tanking revolves around making a time commitment. There is no such thing as a casual Main Tank for a raiding guild; in our guild, our tanks are expected to be at every raid they can possibly be there for.
Real life very much factors into this. Are you single, or does your significant other play World of Warcraft with you? Do you have a schedule at work that can significantly change from week to week or month to month? Are you in college?
To make the fastest progression as a guild, you will need tanks with this particular time devotion. For almost any other class or balance you can compensate; for well-geared warriors, you cannot.
Afterlife, one of the top global raiding guilds and major Everquest guilds, happens to share the same server we do; because they lost several warriors after the release of Blackwing Lair, they lagged far behind the other guilds on our server (including Dawn Eternal, 5th global kill of Nefarian). With a solid grouping of warriors for their guild, they are back on top.
1.3 Guild Loyalty and Guild Gearing
As a Main Tank, your attitude towards your guild and your raid is not optional.
When is it ok to leave a guild as a geared main tank? It really isn't. If you are a member of a cohesive, mobile, forward-moving guild and are performing in a tanking position, you have no in-game "right" to this. Loot was not given to you as payment of services. You are an investment in the raid and guild progression. As such, most raiding endgame raiding guilds will simply not consider people who deserted a position of tanking in a prior guild. However, issues related to real life and necessary circumstance do come up -- this is only a game.
Why take this stance? The phrase, "never put all your eggs in one basket," sums it up best. Unlike any other class, aspiring raiding guilds will gear Lead Tanks and Main Tanks with first choice on new gear.
This is commonly referred to as Main Tank gearing. It comes in many forms: voluntary from other warriors or hard-coded into a DKP system, for instance. In our case, I take a Lead Tank position and do receive first choice on gear; the other Main Tanks also have tank priority. Very occasionally, this steps into cross-class items such as Onyxia or Nefarian's head or the Qiraji Armaments; for these items, we generally take an approach of every-other-drop so other classes get a chance at the items.
Why is Main Tank gearing important? Progression. That's it. If you kill a boss to get the loot in the first place, you don't need better geared tanks to finish that encounter again. But tell me, how many guilds do you know that go to Ragnaros and stop there? Or kill Vaelastrasz and say, "hey, let's relax?"
Gearing a Lead Tank and Main Tanks is a mechanic designed to push guilds to the next level. With each new piece of gear, every raid encounter becomes easier and the 40-man dynamic becomes smoother. A tank wearing five or six pieces of Might on Golemagg could save the guild hundreds of gold in repair bills, as he will be able to survive the encounter with relative certainty - whereas a tank who was only able to get one piece of Might in a free market has a considerably higher chance of being unable to mitigate and survive.
Equal gearing does not help your raid. Five tanks with 1 or 2 pieces of Might or Wrath does not come near the benefit to the guild that one tank with 8 pieces does. This is true particularly in Molten Core. As you progress, the need to continue and expand your tanking ranks extends to more warriors; for certain fights like Chromaggus (sans Timelapse) and Nefarian, you are still dealing with a Lead Tank - although Blackwing Lair is the first of the multi-tank instances.
The reason it is particularly selfish to walk away from a guild that has geared you is that you have been geared by the work of 39 other players who have put in very real hours, both in instances and outside farming gold for repairs. In raiding guilds, taking real life into consideration is important, and as a main tank you have to tether your responsibilities to them as part of a solid team and family.
This leads to one final point: finding the right guild. Ideally, you will find a guild that fits your raiding time and will stick to that schedule to as much of a degree as possible. Having friends in a guild you are looking at is important; however, it is not necessarily the end-all. If you are very serious about tanking and the endgame, try to target the most mobile and active guilds on your server. Warriors applying to raiding guilds generally are expected to be under-par in gear because tank turnover in guilds is extremely low.
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