This series is an effort to approach something near and dear to me – how the fun gameplay of tanking can often be ruined by the uncertainty of the role. The anxiety tanking causes is unlike anything in the game, even healing, I’d argue (and I’ve main-spec raided in both roles!).
I wanted to put this together because I think that there is a lot of good advice on the gameplay side of these issues – learning how to use mitigation, learning how to pop cooldowns and survive damage spikes, learning how to pull trash packs together for efficient AoE DPS, etc – but there aren’t many guides that touch at the heart of the issue (in my opinion).
Tanking is hard because you are expected to lead if the group does not already have a leader. Even if the group has a de-facto leader, you often are a silent lieutenant at a minimum, dictating the pacing and pathing of the group through the dungeon or raid through your gameplay choices. The thing many people are unprepared for, or know about and avoid, creating this Tanxiety, is that the tank is most often faced with the crushing pressure of dictating a group’s success or failure in their objectives.
A good tank can save an otherwise crummy run, with a disinterested core of DPS and a poor healer. A bad tank can exacerbate problems in a good group, driving them to a breaking point. Oftentimes, a tank’s failures are the most easily visible, and the ones that cause the greatest conflict and commentary from the other players in the group. It’s easy to rag on a bad DPS, but it is, in many cases, much harder to accurately pin blame for a wipe or enrage on that same DPS player. The burden of proof is higher, because outside of a raw DPS number, or damage dealt per target, you can’t always substantiate that. But if an add peels off and thwacks the healer, well, it is easy to see what happened there, even if there is a multitude of reasons why that could be.
For me, while this first video on the topic does focus a lot on the core ideas in lots of similar videos (know your abilities, know your positioning, learn your pacing) – subsequent videos will drill much more into the actual mental health aspects that plague people who feel that tanxiety.
I used to be one of them – still am every now and then. Tanking filled me with fear and dread. I tanked on a Death Knight alt in Wrath of the Lich King, but only for friends, only for groups with multiple friends, and only in a casual, non-progression environment. When something went wrong, I was quick to abandon ship, log off and disappear until I was certain the mistake had blown over. When someone would criticize me, I would internalize it and make it about me, the person, rather than me, the player. In this type of mindset, one can imagine how every slight, real or imagined, could blow up rather quickly. I am of a mindset to avoid confrontation, so I also tend to not speak up or stand my ground when I should. Even now, when my co-tank is being a mouthy asshole, I will only occasionally push back, even when I can logically evaluate the situation and see that he is in the wrong.
It took 7 more years past the point of my first foray into tanking to do so in a main-spec, core gameplay fashion, when I switched my main from Priest to Monk during Hellfire Citadel in Warlords of Draenor. Even now, I tend to random queue only as DPS, unless I am short on time. I have never tanked for an LFR group, and probably won’t ever. If I try to find a pick-up group in the Group Finder, I will usually put myself in as DPS, unless it is a trivial bit of content. This is also why I tend to run Mythic dungeons solo – doing so is easier on my psyche, even if the fact that I can do so, besides speaking to gear inflation, also speaks to my level of skill and comfort as a player.
My goal for this series is to convince any fence-sitters to at least try tanking. At the end of the day, you can commit in small chunks of time – a random dungeon group, a single wing of LFR, a single world boss – and if it does go poorly, at least it ends quickly and you can take the time to recover and try again.
My story is far from unique, and is part of why DPS are stuck waiting so long. By the end of the series, I also hope to invert the view a bit and take a look at how DPS and healers can help ease more people into tanking.
So take a peek, enjoy, let me know what you think, and look forward to at least two more parts next week!