The Tao of Tanking
An introductory guide to the finer points of getting your head beat in.

Last Update: 07 Aug 03

This guide is written from the perspective of a 65 warrior who has grown with a guild that has gone from raiding sub-planar targets to being in WToV. There are plenty of mobs I haven't tanked, but this is intended to give folks who don't really know what the heck the MA really does an introductory idea. If you're 65 and spend your time chillin' in the Plane of Fire, by all means, have a look, but not likely you'll get anything from it. As well, while other classes tank, (Well, all can really. Some for longer than others.) I am a warrior. I have noted any differences that I'm aware of in what a SK or Paly would do differently at various points. Having said that, I'm not a SK or Paly so I don't really know any deep dark secrets of playing those classes.)

Choosing an MA (Main Assist)

First off, the main point to having an MA is to make the best use of clerical mana. With Complete Heals being waaaaaay more efficient than any other type of heal, a group or raid will be able to move quicker through a given situation if the cleric is able to continuously Complete Heal a single target. If the cleric has to toss in smaller touch up heals here and there, the mana pool dwindles significantly quicker and the group finds itself sitting on its butt waiting while the cleric meds. So, MA's are good things. The factors in choosing the MA are:

  1. Most HP - Complete heals are more efficient when they can heal more hp's. CH's level out a 7500 hp, but haven't gotten to the point where this is an issue. Yet.
  2. Highest AC - Complete heals are less necessary when taking less damage.
  3. Ability to hold aggro - If you can't keep the mob on you, then there's not much point to MA'ing. I'll get into this in more detail below.
Note that if you're at the level where you aren't playing with Complete Heal clerics, then it doesn't matter that much if there is a single MA for the purpose of healing. It is a good idea to have one person choosing targets so that your CC (Crowd control) can deal with any others.

Run through

For those who somehow may not be aware of it, let's run through a typical situation on a raid or a group. Assuming you've got someone pulling, the puller comes running back with a pile of friends. If the size of the pile is acceptable, the MA tags something and announces that he's building aggro on the mob targeted. (See below for some comments on target selecting and tagging). Mob chugs over, his buddies are mezzed. MA builds a bit of aggro, and then makes a general attack call to the raid. Everyone /assists the MA (thus the term Main Assist) and hops on. MA furiously whaps on target, taunting his butt off in a desperate attempt to hold the mob on him.

Once the first one goes down, the MA announces with the building aggro message, taunts up, breaks mez, and announces again. Rinse and repeat.

That's the standard way of doing things. There are different ways of running a raid or group, some of which are a downright hoot, but this is the way it generally goes.

Target selection

There are a couple of aspects to this.

Working with your puller

The puller comes back with a group of mobs and flops (Feigns Death - Monks, Necros and Shadowknights can all Feign Death, making any mob who is chasing it think they're dead and wander off back to its spawn point) out of aggro range of the main raid body. Do you tag it and bring them to the raid for 'processing' or not? How good are the enchanters? How much combat power do we have? Usually a 'safe' number is quickly apparent. This is where communication with the puller is important. He'll usually say to tag when he thinks its safe to do so and if he's any good, he's the one who knows best. So be ready. Its really frustrating for pullers to have spent 10 minutes on a really beautiful feign death split only to have the MA ruin it all by having his thumb up his ass when its time to tag. If you're playing with a puller you know well, then maybe you know that you tag automatically when he flops unless he says something like "AHHHHHH!!! GOT THE ENTIRE WEST WING!!! FOR THE LOVE OF MY SLIMY MOTHER, DON'T TAG OR WE'RE ALL GONNA DIE SCREAMING". Whatever the method, get it straight with the puller what it's going to be. Too cautious and the raid doesn't move thru the situation quickly enough and folks get bored. Not cautious enough, and you find yourself sitting at your bind point wondering how hard its going to be to get your gear back.

If your puller isn't an FD (Feign Death) puller, you don't have the option of making this choice. You gotta take what he brings. Or the puller has to eat a death somewhere cold and lonely to pay for their ambitious pull. Also known as RD (Real death) pulling.

The puller, and to a lesser extent, the MA control the pace of the raid. If the two of you really get in tune, you can just handle this yourselves. All the raid leader has to do is say “Clear towards wherever”.

The puller is often more concerned with the 8 things beating on him than watching raid readiness messages, so a useful role for the MA to play is to make sure the puller is aware of things they need to know. Like the fact there's no heals available or there's been a local pop, for example.

Working through the mezzed bunch

Ok, so you've tagged, your enchanters have locked down the others and you've just polished off candidate number one. Now what? Well, you've got to move to the next mob, and taunt him to make him hate you and not the enchanter who just made said sit and drool while you killed his buddy.

As far as I know, taunt works by running an ability check and if successful, puts you at the top of the hate list. But the check fails. Most of the time. So the safe number to use is 3 taunts. It's very rare that I've seen 3 taunts not work in transferring aggro to the taunter, unless someone debuffs while you're taunting. (Meaning if you taunt 3 times and it still goes for someone, then its their own damn fault for throwing in some debuff while you were taunting away.)

Once past 60, it seems like the taunt check starts succeeding significantly more. At 65, I'm finding that I'm often hitting the taunt button once and breaking. It also varies depending on the mob. So check it out and see what works as you move along.

In any event, this is where a good MA can make things move quickly. As soon as the first mob drops, you get on the next target and start taunting. Its surprising how much even a few second delay in getting on target and pressing the taunt button can slow things down. Make it even quicker by holding your taunt when the previous mob gets low so that it has refreshed when you get to the next one. As soon as you have your target selected, hit your “I'm taunting << %t >>. Hold on a second” key so that others can move into position and the CC department top up mez's as required.

Last thing here is to make sure you get on the correct next mob. Basically, you take the toughest first, with the following exceptions:

A handy way of getting on target is the judicious use of the Target Nearest hotkey. This defaults to F8. I have it remapped to E. Move next to your chosen target, and tap the key. CHECK that the right one is targeted, as this doesn't work as one would expect sometimes, and announce your target. This is from a guy who uses his keyboard to move, so selecting with the mouse may be quicker for you mouse-lookers. Either way, make sure you're on the right target. Be careful with this. If you have it too handy, accidentally tap it during a fight and target another mob with auto attack on, your enchanter is likely going to get dirt napped. I doubt I need to say this, but I will it anyway: Break a mez at the wrong time and you can wipe out an entire raid.

Switching targets

Sometimes you have to change targets. Usually, something adds to the combat that the CC crew can't handle and is just too plain boogly to push off into a tank mez. For this express and relatively rare purpose, you have to have a hot key made screaming in big caps that you're SWITCHING TARGETS!!!! WILL ANNOUNCE NEW TARGET!!! When people get this they have to stop attacking so that the CC crew get sort out your old mob. You have to get on target ASA-frickkin'P and get contestant number two onto you before he kills all your conveniently un-armoured and probably-sitting casters. Once he's on you, call the general target call and all hands pile in. Don't do this switch lightly as it's a fairly complicated thing for a raid to actually pull off.

Position, position, position

The combat should revolve around the MA. This means that it's up to you to make sure the fight happens where it should. The ideal setup for a fight is to have the MA whappin away with the mob facing him. EVERYBODY else is attacking the rear of the mob. A couple of reasons:

Getting people new to raiding to do this is like herding cats. It drives raid leaders postal.

Ok, so you've got everyone in proper position. It's now up to you to steer the mob. He'll be beaten towards you, so you have to keep moving back a bit at a time. Damned inconvenient when there's a cliff behind you. Or a pool of lava. Or 92 other mobs just out of aggro range. So what do you do? You steer the fight by either backing yourself in a slow circle over time, and hoping that everyone is on the ball enough to maintain relative position. Or you shout in raid channel “HEADING BACK THE OTHER WAY. SPINNING HIM AROUND”, and swap sides. This is a tricky manoeuvre, as ideally you want to do it without losing sight of your target. (Have seen the situation where missing ONE attack allowed the mob to turn on someone else, usually your medding cleric) For a key clawer like myself I sidestep one way, turn back the other, and move my way around the mob. If you're a mouse looker, you can do it much quicker by turning with the mouse while you sidestep with the keyboard. I prefer the first way, as it gives people a chance to move with you, but the other is also pretty slick.

Another side note to positioning mobs is to keep pets in mind. Pets are stupid when it comes to where they sit. Its also a crying shame to see a mage backstab pet attacking from in front. It means you have to position the mob so that the pet is behind it. Not as important as avoiding falling off a cliff and quite a challenge to arrange on a 5 group raid, but it is a nice little added touch that makes the mage happy. (Remember the "More Damage Good" rule.)

It's all about the Aggro.

All of these things are lovely ideas. And all are totally useless, if you can't keep mobs beating on you. And that is all about the amount of aggro you can generate.

This IS a team effort. No matter how tough a tank you think you are, a similar leveled rogue will ALWAYS out aggro you when he feels like it. Rangers and monks at higher levels are utter savages. And forget about it if a wizard a few levels higher than you decides to get medieval on the poor mob's ass.

So what's the point? All these folks can out aggro most MA's! What have you been rambling on about all this time, Didiaquarr?

The simple fact of the matter is that unless all these folks are total morons or have a death wish they're quite happy to leave the aggro on you. So they don't get all medieval on mobs. They cast jolt spells or flop every now and again when they getting too many hits. They hide and evade in order to avoid hits. That's their part. Your part is to generate as much aggro as you can so that they don't have to. ("More Damage Good", remember?). To do this:

Weapons

Others have different opinions on this. They tell you that you put as fast as you can in your primary hand, and then as good ratio in your offhand, without considering speed.

My opinion is that many hits are more annoying more than big hits. So, get as fast as you can find, loot, beg, borrow, steal or buy in both hands. Yes, generally speaking, the faster weapon goes in your primary hand (your secondary hand can only possibly attack as fast as your primary, so why limit waste speed without good reason) but put speed in your off hand as well. I'm telling ya… It's true. You want that delay number as close to or even better under 20 as possible.

There are a few caveats to this rule:

If you're a Shadowknight or Paladin who doesn't dual wield? Get fast in your primary. And then, if you can't out aggro a warrior or even a ranger with quick stuns, dots, roots, and/or nukes when you put your mind to it... well... maybe you should give up and start a druid. As noted above procs can help with your aggro. In a lot of specific cases, they help a lot. In others, they suck. It depends on the type of effect and how often it actually activates. To give a rough idea from best to worst:

Those are the top ones. Less effective are:

Keep in mind that the damn thing also has to proc in order for the effect to contribute to your aggro. If there's not enough proc action on the go, then it's just a normal weapon with its stats. This is the leading downside to a lot proccing weapons. Some stuff just don't proc worth a damn. If possible check it out or talk to someone reliable who has used one before. There are lots of dingbats playing who will praise a given weapon's proc rate to the heavens (particularly if they have one for sale) and can sucker in folks who don't know any better.

The stat that affects proc rate is Dex. So if you have proccing weapons, it would behoove you to maximize this stat. Shammy's can raise dex, but the best way is to get Boon of the Garou (werewolf form plus 100 dex) or Night's Dark Terror (Scarecrow form plus 100 dex and I forget how much atk) cast on you by an enchanter.

These are pretty broad guidelines. Can an item with a massive DD effect cause more aggro than a crappy slow? Sure. But generally you don't see DD effects that massive on weapons. There are probably all sorts of exceptions to this idea. But this should give a good idea. Again, if at all possible consult someone reliable before dropping every last plat in the world you have before buying something because of its proc.

For me, aggro has always been the most important thing. My weapons have progressed accordingly:

Not to be your hero or anything, just trying to illustrate how a weapon progression could go.

Haste

Get as good an item as you can, and make sure when you've got an enchanter, (preferred haste) shaman (they don't suck at haste and can give you oodles of other great buffs beside from haste) and/or bard in your group, take care to have as good haste as you can get applied to you. Only one item's haste applies (the higher) only one spell (whichever is up) and one bard song. The three of these categories combine or stack, as the term goes. As far as I understand it, the max haste you can have from spell and item haste is 100 percent and the minimum weapon delay can be reduced is to 10. Bard haste can break these caps. Note that I've never sat down and figured this out for myself, as it's just TOO dorky, even for me, but it's what I've read.

Whatever the magic formula, its not like I'm going to start telling the enchanter to cast a lesser haste on me.

Taunt

Other than when you're breaking mezzes: It's a crutch. Now, sometimes we all need crutches and that's ok. But don't ever believe that this ability will compare with the primary way you piss things off. And that's by beating them about the face, torso and legs with pointy pieces of metal as fast as you can.

Plus, when you hit 50, anything that isn't even to or lower than your level will NOT be affected by your taunting. At that point, its old school. Everyone except warriors can wave taunting yellow's and red's good-bye at this point. Warlords (60-64 warriors) and Overlords (65 Warriors) can taunt up to 5 levels higher.

Get up in the Mob's face

Proximity counts. Get close to the mob as you can. With different mob animations, you can actually find yourself looking out the back of the mob and still attacking. That's tanking.

Root

If taunt is a crutch, root is a prosthesis. Still, if you simply can't keep the mob on you, set someone up to root the thing. Rooted mobs attack the nearest player no matter what. Keep in mind that rooted mobs still move due to attack push. Mage earth pets pretty much constantly cast root spells, so these can be useful in tricky aggro situations. (It also drives some melees nuts, because the actually have to pay attention to their location relative to the mob.) Root can also be handy when breaking mezzes. If you're in a big hurry, (say, lots of mobs, and a LOM chanter) get someone on the job of throwing in roots on mobs just as before you break mez. You don't have to bother with pausing for the 3 taunts.

One more aggro-related note I'll throw in here: early aggro counts more than late aggro. If you take time to whap on a mob BY YOURSELF when you first engage it, you have a much greater chance of keeping it on you than if all hands jump in right away. So, build in a little pause between breaking a mez and calling in all hands on a mob. Curse loudly in the open raid channel or even better, in /shout, in big bold capitals on anyone who hops in before you call. Play with the timing a bit to see how short you can make this pause. The need for it diminishes as you gain levels. (I noticed a difference at 55 and at 60. At 65, I don't wait too long, if at all). Not like I can measure it empirically though.) Again, this is the "More Damage Good" rule. The sooner you can get all hands attacking the mob, the better. This early aggro effect seems to vary widely depending on zone and/or mob type. You can beat on elementals in the Hole for 30 seconds and they'll still go for a sitting cleric. Froggys in Seb stay on the MA quite easily.

Welcome to High End Tanking

Defensive Discipline

At 55 warriors get what defines them as high-end tanks: Defensive Discipline. When kicked off, you take a lot less damage and give a lot less. (There is a formula; I won't bore you with it.) Seeing as your job is to take it as opposed to dish it out, this tradeoff is usually advantageous. It's a big deal. Many high-end game (where one raids with a force of 24 level 60 players) encounters are way more difficult or just plain impossible without a defensive tank.

There are some who propose that use the level 53 disc Evasive means you take less damage against some mobs. I tried this once against Vindi (one of said Evasive mobs according to the peanut gallery) and found it to be not only lies, but damn lies. If you care to hit the Steel Warrior boards and check out the threads on this, knock yourself out but I'm sticking with defensive. Maybe the math works out if you're decked out in Elemental Armor and have an AC of 2000 or some such.

Healers are your friends - CH Chains

Strictly speaking, this is not a tank thing but its important. Say you're a level 60 warrior with 7000 hps. Even with defensive, you'll find yourself facing mobs that take much less than 10 seconds to do 7000 hps of damage. Complete Heals take 10 seconds to cast. So, a single cleric cannot keep you alive using CH's. You need more than one (sometimes as many as 10) clerics and/or druids casting Complete Heal every so many seconds. This is known as a CH chain. Healers have all sorts of methods for doing them which I won't get into. But, tough guy, keep in mind that the real reason you can tank big assed mobs is because the gaggle of healers standing behind you keeping you up. While you can do stuff to screw it up, it's the healers who have to really perform to make it all go. So, don't get tooooo cocky. Just maybe chuckle a little when the clerics break out the hammers and start going on about how they can tank. (Like I said: "Anyone can tank. Some just can't tank for very long.")

Get out of Jail free - AE taunt

Get this AA ability as soon as you get on the AA train. Do not pass go, do not collect 200pp. Just get there. (I did Run3 and 3Sta's for my Baron, went to ND3 for Archtype then AE taunt.) This is a taunt that always succeeds. It also happens to taunt everything in a small radius around you (including people's horses, kind of amusingly). So, for those pulls when taunt just won't get the mob off of the early slow, or you need to buy a few seconds for an evac, get this ability. In day to day grouping, I tend to save it for situations where someone's about to die because the mob is ignoring me. You can only do it every 15 minutes (unless you spend more AA's to decrease the timer). But if you're in a group situation where you'd want to use it more often, it's probably time to consider moving your camp.

Tank Changes

Ok, so you're fighting a mob that is going to last longer than your defensive discipline, (3 minutes) and the mob is bad-assed enough that you need a defensive tank… hmmm… well now… What to do? Well, young grasshopper, you change tanks.

In the olden days of yore, before AA's, this was a major pain in the butt. The MA had to warn when his disc was wearing out, a 2nd tank had to step up and start attacking, the CH chain swapped to him, everyone held attacks for a sec and the mob went onto the new tank, (Or, the mob killed the first tank when the CH chain switched, and then went onto the new tank. Either way, it's all good.) Either way it was a tricky situation.

With AE taunt, it's still a pain in the butt, but less of one. Now MA number 2 has a sure fire way to get the mob on him as MA number 1's defensive wears off. MA 1 announces the swap, MA 2 steps up gets in position, healers change CH targets, when the first heal lands, MA 2 kicks off AE taunt, and off we go.

Hotkeys

Everyone has their own preferences for this. The following kind-of-sucky table maps out the hotkeys on my bank number 1:

Melee AttackRange Attack
TauntKick
Assist PullerAttack Target Now Call
Switch TargetsDefensive Disc
Incoming CallTaunting Call

Melee and range attack kick off those attacks, Taunt and Kick are pretty self-explanatory as well. I used to have a socials key made up in place of the Taunt key that would also perform a beg and disarm actions (extra aggro), but I found it hard to time when the Taunt was refreshed (the social key wouldn't refresh like a pure taunt key) and it just annoyed me after a while. Defensive disc kicks off my defensive discipline (55 disc that means I take significantly less damage, while also doing less) and announces it to the group. Assist puller is a key to /assist whoever's pulling. I put the person's name in on the /assist line in the social. Can be a pain to target them and just use an empty /assist key.

The rest are announcements that have 2 lines, one for group, one for channel /1. ATTACK TARGET NOW broadcasts for all hands to join in on the attack. SWITCH TARGETS warns people to stop attacking and that I will announce another target once I get on it. The Taunting call announces that I'm annoying the hell out of the target and for everyone to hold on a sec.

AE taunt also works its way onto Bank 1. If I'm pulling, it goes into the Assist Puller slot. If I'm assisting a puller, it goes into the Incoming Call slot. The positions don't mean anything, just are were my keys ended up as bank evolved.

That's all folks

There's probably a pile of stuff I'm omitting, or don't even know, but hopefully reading this will give folks just coming up thru their 30's some ideas about how to play the role of MA on raids and groups. Feel free to razz me up over this if you think I'm on crack or something.

Didiaquarr Thul
Seofon, Xev Server
www.guildseofon.com

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