Sunday, 13 July 2008

Warrior Tank Essentials #1: Staying Alive

As the Beegees once said, "You can tell by the way I use my walk, I'm a woman's man, no time to talk." Oh wait, that's not the right one... umm... well, anyway, it was something about staying alive. As someone else probably once said, you ain't no good dead. This is obviously important when it comes to being a tank; if the group rogue gets his head lopped off at the beginning of a fight, no big deal, but if your big ol' heroic tank snuffs it... well that's bad news.

And there's more to this staying alive business than just fancy armor, 490 defense, 25 stamina gems and a lovely healer constantly stitching up your broken butt. There's plenty of tricks us tanky folk can employ that can be the difference between being a heroic victor and being a heroic stain on the floor:

- Last Stand. An obvious one maybe, but of great importance. Many a time you'll need this; for example, when you realise that giant bogmonster you just charged into hits a tad harder than expected, or when you're in a fight and your healer gets suddenly transformed into a fish. Treat Last Stand like a health potion; when your health is looking precarious, or you want to give the healing a temporary hand, don't be afraid to pop it. It's also useful to use pre-emptively – when you know a big bit of damage is on its way, and you need that extra bit of meat to absorb it. Of course, the downside is that you lose this added health after 20 seconds – but hopefully by then the healer has un-fished, or the bog giant is swamp food. Even if you end up dying anyway, the extra time this spell can buy can be invaluable.

- Shield Wall. Another obvious one, and not much needs to be said about it. Heck of a cooldown, but the reason is understandable: 75% damage reduction for 10 seconds. Blowing this during a particularly nasty boss enrage can be a lifesaver.

- Shield Block. With the extra block available from protection talents, this should almost always be up on big boss fights. Also usually lights up Revenge of course, which is critical to that ol' threat thing.

- Health Potions. Never be without one. Or 15. Goes for those yummy warlock cookies, too. And go bug a herber for some nightmare seeds.

- Concussion Blow. An extremely useful ability. The few seconds stun this causes can give that lovely healer the time needed to fix you right back up. Or, if your lovely healer has been eaten, then it can give you some time for some self-healing: a quick bandage, a quick look in the mirror and assuring yourself you're the hunkiest tank there is… or doing what all heroes do once in a while, and running away. (This is not as silly as it sounds – the extra time gained from the monster chasing you down can give the rest of the group time to burn it down, or for other healing to kick in.)

Concussion Blow can also be of use when tanking multiple mobs. Stunning one will reduce the damage taken, and you should still have plenty of fuel for rage from the others pounding on your head. However, it isn't of much use against bosses, who are generally immune to your concussive charms. But that said, some big bad guys aren’t – see the 5-man elite Socrethar in Netherstorm... but I'm too busy being heroic and all that to give you a better list of non-immune big guys right now.

- Intimidating Shout. Fear can be pretty useful when used at the right time. If you have the space, it can be used to get rid of multiple mobs while your group concentrates on one. If things are going very badly, you can use it to buy time like Concussion Blow, bandaging while the beasty is busy cowering in fear. Be careful to immediately stop attacking your target after casting, as any damage will break the incapacitation (which makes this tactic somewhat difficult when in a group).

The following is a useful macro to play with (especially in solo mode), and will fear, bandage, then resume attacking on successive clicks (do the first two clicks as quick as possible):

/cast Intimidating Shout
/use [target:Arudar] Heavy Netherweave Bandage


- Trinkets. There's some fancy tanky trinkets out there, and they have some equally fancy uses. Early examples are the Regal Protectorate, which acts similarly to Last Stand, and Argussian Compass, which acts a bit like a minor Shield Block. Further into raid content, you'll come across the likes of Moroes' Lucky Pocket Watch, Ancient Aqir Artifact and Scarab of Displacement, all with similarly useful "oh crap" uses. They have short cooldowns, so stick 'em on an action bar and activate them as often as you can. The Commendation of Kael'thas of course can't go without a mention - one of the best trinkets in the game, and not so hard to get hold of. And the extremely nice use is even a passive one, meaning you can be a big fat lazy tank, too.

- Shield Bash and Spell Reflection. The interrupt of Shield Bash can be a useful and cheap damage reducer. And the more you can reduce the damage you take, the more likely the lovely healer will kiss you at the end. So sharpen those reflexes and bash those casters good. Spell Reflection can be thought of as the older, classier sister to Shield Bash – she reflects the spell, which can cause some nifty damage and threat, not to speak of the no-damage time as the mob is left casting... but she'll cost you: 25 rage is a fair chunk. But hey, if you're well rage-endowed, it’s well worth a click or two.

- Commanding and Demoralising Shout. Commanding Shout may be a pain in the ass to keep up, due to the piffy 2 minute duration, but 1080 heath is no mean boost of health. As such, try and keep this buff up as much as you can. It also has the added benefit of giving your party-mates the same health boost, and us tanks do so love to be loved. Demoralising Shout is not to be underestimated either. The reduction in enemy attack power is a reduction in damage, and us tanks do so love a kissy healer.

- Thunderclap and Disarm. Again, think damage mitigation, think affectionate healers. Use Thunderclap with caution around sheep and such, else your mage's head is liable to explode. It's pretty much an essential spell against fast-hitting bosses (see Prince Malchezaar phase 2, or Morogrim Tidewalker). Disarm has less use against (usually) immune bosses, however there are some exceptions (see Attumen).

- Team experience. There’s nothing like a good team to back you up. Players that are aware enough to notice when the tank is taking too much damage can employ plenty of tricks to help out: stuns, roots, slows, shields, dazes, off-heals. Make the most of these by knowing when to bandage or when to run away all heroically again. And importantly: ensure that you still take the credit for staying alive. Us tanks do so love to be conceited.

No doubt I've forgotten one or two things in this ramble-fest, so replies to this post in the form of additions, corrections, or love-letters are more than welcome.


Anonymous said...

Good tips for neophyte warriors like myself! I had some idea of many of the skills you listed, but the added information was helpful.

I'd like to point out, however, that the role of DPS has increased substantially since the pre-expansion days. The story of the AFK-Autoshot or AFK-Autoattack DPSer was prevalent because you had the flexibility to do that in many of the fights. A forty-man raid usually had a core of twenty-five dedicated and skilled players while the other fifteen were your cushion to prevent failure. Fights could typically drag on indefinitely if needed, as long as healer mana was willing.

The introduction of enrage timers changed this substantially. No longer were you limited by the healers' mana in fights, but you also had to balance that with the need to maintain a specific amount of DPS in order to down the boss before it reached the point where it could one-shot the tank. This added a new dimension to the game that required DPS to be a bit more on the ball. One rogue dying might be something to disregard, but lose a substantial amount of DPS and you're looking at a wipe no matter how resilient your tanks and healer are. And with those tauntable bosses you see every once in a while, losing a tank might not even be as bad as losing DPSers!

Good post and awesome insight!

Arudar said...

You're of course right about the importance of dps, Cynraanar. Fights like Vashj have made it so that every role is equally important - you lose one dpser early in that fight, and no way she's going down.

Of course, us tanks will nevertheless have an inflated sense of our own worth, and flaunt it in the rogue's face at every opportunity. It's just the way we be.

Friday said...

Loved this post. :D Nothing to add or comment on, just wanted to shout out and say thanks. Added ya to my blogroll.