Thursday, April 2, 2009

Mad props for the OT!


There is a certain pride with being the Main Tank of a guild or even a pugged raid - rightly so. The Main Tank is an esteemed position of leadership, solidarity, strength, and skill.

It takes a certain mentality to tank in any capacity, let alone stand tall as THE tank. The one who stands face to face with a mighty dragon, ensuring that the beast's destructive breath does not harm his friends. The one that trades blows with enormous hard hitting foes without balking at the onslaught.

It is a job that takes a steady mind, quick reflexes, and confidence. Often that confidence spills over into the egotistical.

Back in TBC days, the MT of a raiding guild leading the server's progression into Black Temple stood out like a sore thumb while proudly carrying one of the more distinctive shields that I've seen. If I were in a situation that allowed me to raid back in BC and were lucky enough to have gear earned from tanking the biggest baddest meanest bosses at the time, I think I would probably feel pretty good about myself, and the confidence necessary to be a good tank might become something more.

Please note that I am not inferring that all MT's are egomaniacs. I am saying that the role of OT deserves much more respect that it gets.

Been here before?

Consider the following. You're tanking a boss who is hitting you quickly. Your rage bar is full. You're mashing out your top tps "rotation" while wondering if you're keeping Heroic Strike up enough and cursing Blizzard for not improving it's mechanics yet. You're watching your hp and your DBM warnings and using your CD's accordingly. The healers are focused on you and things are fairly cozy.


The MT pulls the boss and turns him from the group. Most of the dps focuses on the boss and starts to burn. Suddenly a couple of mobs pop up and bee-line for the healers. You charge in and engage. A few dps assigned to help on adds start to burn. Pretty simple so far.

Then another group pops up. Charge is still on CD, and you ate up most of your rage on establishing aggro with the first group. You run toward the new mobs to keep them off the squishies. Meanwhile, the crit happy mage pulled on of the original mobs (said mob has enough hp that the mage isn't going to finish him off in time), so you taunt him back and pick up the new adds.

You throw down a TC and Shockwave and wait for sufficient rage to build to use another ability. Omen is telling you that the dps is on the brink of pulling off you again. All this while another group of adds shows up (at least charge is off CD), the boss triggers a hard hitting ability and the healers forget about you for a sec, or your charge pulls you out of range. You're taking a beating and having to think more about balancing mitigation/OS cool downs vs. tps abilities.

You're moving to avoid gooey stuff on the ground, while looking for the next wave of mobs, while trying to get closer to your healer, while keeping up threat on the group of mobs you're kiting.

Oh yeah...and you're watching the boss and the MT, because you guessed it, the MT's down and you better taunt quick-like, or the boss is gonna one-shot his way through the raid for the wipe.

Meh, make him the OT...

This is why it drives me nuts that the "MT" role is almost always attributed to the guy or gal who's gonna go mano a mano with the boss, and this person is by default the tank with the most HP or experience in raids. In reality, the "OT" role often requires more skill, more situational awareness, quicker reflexes, tighter management of CD's, etc. It is a hectic and often stressful job.

Many a blog or forum entry scoffs at talents or glyphs that save or produce rage. I often hear, "Rage starvation is a non-issue." This is frequently true as the traditional MT, but when you're not getting beat on constantly, it's easy to burn through the rage bar. Trying to tank without enough rage to use your abilities is frustrating to say the least.

Obviously the decision as to who will tank what is very situational. You may need the guy with the largest health pool or experience on the boss. You may find also, and I believe more often than not, that your raid would be better served by having the leet tank on the busier, tougher job.

Case in point...

Think I'm off my rocker? Is your ego bruised? Maybe I am, and good if it was.

I was talking with a buddy of mine that has tanked everything in game to date. We were talking about this subject. He agreed with me.

I personally have only off tanked Sarth. The whelps and fire elementals can get crazy thick in a hurry. I was relating to my friend how frantic this encounter is for me. He laughed and said that's why he prefers to MT Sarth. He says, "It's so easy. You just watch your cool downs and strafe to avoid lava walls." I can't personally validate or refute that statement, but OT is busy busy on Sarth.

I don't have any major revelations to post with this entry. I'm not telling anyone to necessarily do anything different. I am saying to at the very least give your OT a pat on the back for doing a tough and often thankless job. And if they're struggling, "reward" them with a shot at the boss while the more experienced meat shield cleans up the trash.


  1. So very true. I was feeling somewhat vindicated recently when our usual MT on Sarth tried to wrangle adds. It was pretty painful.

  2. Excellent Post. Bookmarking for future discussion.

  3. Hear, hear. doing "MT" duty is in most cases dead easy compared to the number of things offtanks need to keep tabs on.

    Something our raids started doing a bit but should expand on is rotating our tanks through different roles, its very interesting seeing and trying (sometimes not doing that great either) quick add control and other things, especially when as you say, we're not fed a full red bar every second from boss attacks.

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  5. Excellent post! It is so nice to hear from someone who recognizes what it takes to be a good off-tank. We hear too little on that subject. It's not the flashy role, but it's just as necessary as the MT. Well spoken, sir.

  6. This is one of the best posts I've ever read on any blog, and I applaud you for it. If only more people agreed on this subject!

  7. @ Tarsus: I have a friend on my server who bounces back and forth between tank and dps specs. The reason is that she has to off tank whenever tank specced, and she hates it. Any suggestion for the MT to pick up the OT spot from time to time is quickly shot down. Honestly I wonder if he's afraid that the guild will see him struggle a bit, which in turn would damage his ego.

    @ Vene: Make it a podcast! I love your podcasts and would love to hear more!

    @ Vads: Rotating tanks should be a must, IMO. Maybe not during progression, but definitely when a raid is on farm status. It will benefit the whole raid.

    @ Aleathea: Thank you! Your support and feedback is always appreciated.

    @ Ariedan: Very flattering! Thank you very much!


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