Tuesday, April 7, 2009

5 Reasons I Fail at Tanking - AKA: WTB Skillz

Also, I can't count, sorry.

I’m pretty hard on myself. If my group wipes, I usually blame myself – sometimes rightly so, other times not so much…but I can’t seem to help it. While this is a character flaw that I am not so fond of, it does present me with that acute sting of remorse that spurs me to take a closer look at what I’m not doing so well.
I’m taking this moment to address 5 reasons that I’m not a great tank. These are not the only 5 and may not even be the top 5 issues with my performance. I think writing them down will help me review and plan for improvement as well as invite you to take a moment to do a self evaluation to identify your own.

PS – If you’re scoffing at this because you’re a great tank, go ahead and put that as number one on your list. No matter how good you are, there is room for improvement. If you cease to find something you could do better, you’re either in denial or it may be time to hang up the shield for the benefit of those behind you.


I could have sworn that Ciderhelm had a video about the three types of awareness up at Tankspot.com, but I couldn’t find it tonight to link it. If someone else did it, and I’m just crediting Cider for your hard work, I apologize. Let me know so I can give credit where it’s due.

It was a great video. I’ve long wished I had better situational awareness. I cringe when my healer’s voice over vent informs me that a mob is pounding his pretty little face. He shouldn’t have to tell me that. That mob shouldn’t have gotten there in the first place.

I admit that I am improving in this area since switching to keybinds, but there is still much left to be desired.

The video also talks about encounter awareness – being the knowledge of who is in your group/raid as well as an understanding of their abilities and how they can be used in the encounter to come out on top. I am extremely weak in this regard. Shammies can do that thingy, and mages make tables. Yeah…I don’t belong at the helm of a raid anytime soon.


Check out Veneratio’s post about movement here.

Keybinding freed me up to mouse turn. That is something I can do well now, and I love it. When the dragonkin in Heroic Violet Hold “blinks” behind me thinking he’s all sneaky rogue-like, I almost immediately smash his face with my shield now. It’s gratifying, that…smashing faces is good times!

Now when movement is required while keeping some semblance of a threat rotation going, Billy fails. I have not yet figured out how to strafe and whack away at the cooldowns. I can’t figure out how you awesome tanks use w,a,s,d to move while also utilizing your keybinds. +25 agility to fingers ftw! WTB that enchant plz.

I’m thinking about picking up a new mouse with more buttons to bind strafe left and right to it so I can have all movement possible available to my right hand, so my left hand can dish out punishment in rage fueled outbursts.

I’m doing my group no favors when I turn my back on a mob instead of strafing and get myself pwned and cause a wipe.


OK – this one gets the numero uno. First place. Grand Prize.

Why? Because everything else on this list improves at least a little with more experience. I have no Vanilla WoW or TBC raid encounters under my belt. Those epic battles I read about where the most precise execution was required to succeed…I can only read about.

Last weekend I did Kara for the first time. We five manned most of it, and three of the five were low 70’s. I remember thinking many times, “Holy Crap! This must have been a bear at 70!” I didn’t have many thoughts as to how I would have had to approach it at the appropriate gear and level, but I’m pretty sure that if I was wiping time after time as a 70, the ideas would have started flowing, and I would have obsessed until we got the kills.

One can learn a lot from failure. My first time in OS, I was tanking the adds on Sarth. His health was low and there were tons of adds popping up. I was losing control and panicked. I popped challenging shout, and to my horror, Sarth turned and sprayed the raid with fire. I recovered quickly and ran to where the MT was standing to protect the raid. I stopped attacking so the MT could pick him back up quickly. I charged back into the adds, and we avoided the wipe and got the kill.

Two valuable things I learned from that encounter: Lesson number one...don't taunt the boss off the MT and into the rest of the raid. Lesson number two...if you are the MT, and someone pulls the boss off of you, don't just stand there spamming shield slam and heroic strike - taunt him back!

I hunger for those opportunities. I feel that they mostly come from raids. So many of the heroic 5-man encounters can be muscled through without much consideration of the boss’s abilities. Not so in raids. Two left feet in Heigan? Wipe. You can’t ignore the dance. That’s not even a very good example, but I hope it makes the point.

To date, as far as raids, all I have under my belt are 10-man OS without drakes twice, VOA 10 and 25 twice (and I hardly count this one due to ease), and 2 wings of Naxx 10-man. That’s it.


I lose my cool. I get really pissed at the Failknight death-gripping mobs off me and stressing my healer. When someone face pulls a group when I have no rage, or we get a pat when my aoe abilities are unavailable, I sometimes freeze. I just stand there autoattacking like a gibbering buffoon while my group gets splattered. Not very flattering as a tank, I assure you.

A huge part of this is situational awareness. I’m trying to always move my camera to spot pats and additional groups, which is extremely helpful. Speed pulling can actually help as well, because it forces me to look and plan ahead. A quick, controlled instance run is great because it is a proactive run. I know that when the mobs are low on HP, I have enough threat built that nobody is going to pull them unless they “taunt,” therefore, I am free to jump into the next group and build very solid aggro before the group can catch up.


…not in the least. Math makes my brain revolt, generates large amounts of painful heat, and emits smoke from my ears. My eyes cross, and I drool on my keyboard. It’s ugly. I tried posting something on Elitist Jerks one time, and a hand reached out of the screen, mashed my delete key repeatedly, and gave me a fat lip. It hurt.

That’s why I started reading blogs. If it weren’t for Veneratio first and foremost (his being the first warrior blog I found), Yakra, Ciderhelm, Kadomi, etc. I would be worse than lost. So thank you professionals, I bow to your greatness.

I do have a cursory understanding of stats. I’m smart enough to avoid raid bosses when crittable. I planned in advance my gear acquisition so I was uncrittable almost immediately after my 80th Ding. I try to have enough of each stat but struggle very much with the ideas of min-maxing and establishing different gear sets. I wish I understood it better, but atm theorycrafting and I have a relationship very similar to Homer Simpson’s relationship with his brain. “Now brain, I don’t like you, and you don’t like me, but lets just try to get along.”


I frequently qq about not being able to raid, but if I’m being honest with you and myself I have to confess that I have turned down opportunities. I have excuses at the time that seem decent. Sometimes I legitimately do not have the time or am unimpressed with the group. Farming repair bills blows by anybody’s standard. But there have been the times where I was afraid.

This might tie for Number One. I am working on finding a balance with my time to open up raiding opportunities. I am confronting my fears and performance anxiety, because if I don’t, I will never get better. I will never get the experience I need to improve. I will never see content. I will lose out on great opportunities to hang out with like-minded peeps.


So there's my 5 (+1...it's like leaving a drake up on Sarth. If you read all six you get bonus loot. RTU [Billywallace's Love Sack])

I have good nights and bad. I want to have more good nights. I want to be a better tank.

I continue to put forth my best effort to become more aware of my situation, personal and group abilities, encounters, etc.

I need to figure out how to move better while fighting simultaneously.

I need to keep my cool and react quickly to the unexpected. No more will I drop my hands in exasperation, but will mash something on my keyboard. Usually doing something is better than doing nothing. And if it was worse than doing nothing, I will learn from it and not do it again. But at least I will be establishing the habit of reacting quickly rather than freezing.

I will man up and schedule time to raid, so that I can be building the experience I need to develop my skills as a tank.

I will spend a little more time looking into the more technical aspects of my role (including the math stuff *cringe*) and make a plan for in-game implementation of what I learn.

Summary: I will do what it takes to be a better tank!


  1. Nice post!

    I'll follow up on this and do some self evaluation as well. :)

  2. I would say you have everything to be a great tank. Knowing your weaknesses means you know where to improve, and that's worth a whole lot. A lot of people never consider their weaknesses.

    The mark of a great tank is to not freeze when things go to hell, but to figure out what cooldown to blow to still make it happen.

    Try running Zul'Aman sometime. To date still my favorite raid. Tuned perfectly, with very diverse encounters.

    Keep up the great work.

  3. It can't be so bad, you've got a plan to deal with most of the things you don't like about your tanking.

    Except for the fear bit. I recommend Scotch.

    (Also, regarding hotkeys and using WASD to move: Generally you're only using A & D to strafe, so try to pick your hotkeys to be useable by the fingers you don't use for those keys. In my case it is my middle finger (2-4 keys), Pinky (Shift and Ctrl), and Thumb (C,V,B,N). It will take your muscle memory a bit to get used to it, but it works.

  4. Sydera from World of Matticus, just did a post in which she touches on the value of failure.

    She states, "I’ve always told my students that failure is instructive. Errors are acceptable–even a good thing–while you’re learning a language, and they’re acceptable when you’re learning a new class role as well. If you never allow yourself to make mistakes, you’ll never learn. You’ll just continue doing what is comfortable and never branch out."

    I can identify with every one of your points, but most especially with fear of failure. The fact that you are confronting your failures head on and have the courage to speak out about them says a lot about you.

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts so openly. Somehow, it does help to know I'm not the only tank who struggles with these things.


  5. Thanks to all for the responses and support. I assure you that I'm not walking around with me head down and tail tucked between the legs. But I often ponder on what I need to be better.

    I also like to push others to be better and hope that this entry invites other tanks to do some introspection and planning for improvement.

    I'm mulling over a near-future post of the reasons I'm a good tank too. I hope it's as beneficial (for myself more than anyone) as this post has been.

    Thanks again for the support. I love the tanking community!

  6. I have a Zul'Aman run set for Friday night. I was planning on taking only low 70's to it so would still be challenging. MT is all you.

  7. Firstly-Nice post, and as a warrior tank, and judging by your post, at about the same level as yourself, I think I can idendify with all your points especially awareness and "cringe" fear.
    I think the awarness problem (after pulling your view back as far as possible and always keeping the cambera moving to best advantage) will come with experience. But the fear factor (for me anyway) comes mainly from joining pug groups who always seem to be alot better geared, skilled and experienced than myself, and when we have a bad wipe(9 times out of 10, admittedly-my fault)get alot of nasty comments, which shouldn't bother me-but really seem to,ergo I pass up a lot of chances to progress through end game content. Guild runs might be better way of getting round this problem,it's always better to play with friends (receiving constructive critisism, rather than just critisism)but not know what your guildies are like can't comment. For me although my guild mates are a great group of ppl, don't seem intrested in taking it to the next level.It can be dishartening to turn up for a guild raid to find out that i'm the only one who's researched the bosses/has omen/DBM or similar installed and then leaving when obviously we wipe.I don't know what your guild's like so can't comment. So, firstly, your not alone and secondly I'll give you a piece of advice i got from a great tank-"tanks don't get the best armour for nothing, you need to be thick skinned-just get in there and it'll all come together (sooner or later)".So good luck and "get stuck in there".


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