The 'How do I tank' survey

There’s a game bloggers play where you pass an idea or question from one to another.

Normally, I don’t follow along because I’m stubbornly independent and don’t like being part of a crowd. These ‘memes’ can be very self-serving group-hug techniques used to brown-nose.

This one however is pretty cool because it’s all about tanking!

I see Honors, Wrathy and Renaissance have written up their answers, and Kadomi tweeted she’d do one too. Hinen did one for dps (which I actually read, unlike the healer meme; I skipped them all). I see that Divine Plea and Rhidach did their tank surveys too.

These surveys are a bit long really. I was tempted to skip some questions to make it more readable, but in the end wrote it a lot for myself as an enjoyable exercise of self-reflection. I’d suggest anyone else doing this consider which questions they can talk about in an interesting way and feel free to skip a couple.

What is the name, class, and spec of your primary Tank?

Generally I have two answers here. Fistly when Gravity was very actively raiding Ulduar 10/25 and secondly for my future, when my re-roll DK Industry is geared.

My first Death Knight, named Gravity, is on a Euro server and doesn’t get as much love as he deserves because I’m moving back to Australia, in transition now. Gravity was my main since WotLK, and I prepared for it many months in advance. I recently started levelling a new DK to tank with on an Oceanic server, he’s called Industry (hoping the guy on my server with the name Gravity will accept my 200g offer to delete his character).

I have a long-term view and will be playing WoW through Cataclysm and beyond, so wanted a local timezone server to tank on. I wish you could transfer EU -> USA servers. :(

In Ulduar 25, I was spec’d blood tank with a DPS 2nd spec that varied (dual-wield frost most recently). Currently frost tank.

Hoping I’ll get to raid properly again, even if it’s lower tier content, on Industry from mid to late December.

What is your usual tanking environment?

I prefer 10-mans. More camaraderie, less logistics. I did enjoy the 40-man raids too, though I healed or dps’d then.

What is your favorite encounter to tank, and why?

I really liked Mimiron because of the focus required, with its variety of tank jobs in each phase and how even after doing it a few times, I’d still need to be on the ball. I used to stuff up on the bomb bots though; attacking them rather than using chains of ice.

What is your least favorite encounter to tank, and why?

I like tank/spank bosses like XT, some would put him as least favourite. Tough question. Probably least favourite would be Auriaya because fear is just an annoying mechanic. (Least fav instance? Sunken Temple. I hate that place).

What do you think is the biggest strength of your class, and why?

Versatility. Snap AOE agro in Frost, sustained AOE in Unholy and self-healing in Blood. I can respec a DK tank into any role required within a tank corps.

and weakness?

Being silenced can be devastating.

What is your favorite thing about the class you chose for your primary Tank and why?

The runic resource system. I hated mana, which is why I swapped from my old maintankadin to a DK tank. I enjoy the versatility and the lovely flow of actions you can get into. I like how active it is to tank. Pallys are more rhythmic to tank 969, whilst DKs are more stabby.

In a 25 man raiding environment, what do you feel is the best tanking assignment for you?

A DK is the lego of tanks, so really the player should pick the niche that’s missing in the tank corps and spec into it.

For example, if you’ve a pally tank buddy who’s still happy to mop up the AOE, a DK can go blood tank for single-target pwnage. If the pally is sick of being pigeon-holed into AOE, DKs can spec into Frost instead to smash up the aoe mobs.

So the best assignment therefore is the one you’ve spec’d into. We’re flexible (just don’t like silence much and warriors are much more mobile with intercept and charge), so we can fit in with the corps.

What tanking class do you enjoy tanking with the most?

I loved in my old UK guild when Aleona (pally), Keryth (warrior) and I were the tanks. Covered all possibilities, and shield tanks just look damn cool. I wish I could wield a shield for looks.

Maybe I’ve a soft-spot because they’re friends too. Our superb druid tank Bix only recently went back to bear after being resto to help out with a healer shortage, so didn’t really get to tank much with him.

and the least?

A bad DK tank. I hate bad DK tanks who refuse to improve and don’t have a clue what they’re doing. Seriously, they ruin the reputation of the class.

What is your worst habit as a tank?

Probably tweaking my UI too much. I sometimes break things (like not being able to see my fellow tank’s debuffs) or my FPS goes to crap because of some bloody unidentified addon I just installed. It got so bad I was de-installing and testing them to isolate what was stuffing me on Razorscale, never worked it out really.

What is your biggest pet peeve in a group environment while tanking?

People not learning the fight either before we go in, or worse… not learning during. Doing the same mistake. Not understanding instructions yet not admitting to it. Failing to play well, and also failing to communicate about it, really shits me.

Do you feel that your class/spec is well balanced with other tanks for PvE tanking?

I’d like more threat against a non-melee boss, where currently we are the weakest. We don’t have an attack-power debuff but I don’t think we need one to be considered a balanced. I don’t read many legitimate complaints about our balance other than threat.

I think Blizzard have an extraordinarily hard job to balance the three tanking trees within the DK and then between DKs and other classes. I would not be surprised if Cataclysm gives up on Unholy as a tanking tree and gives it a pvp and utility bias (buffs/ debuffs) in the same way Frost mages are (currently, but that’s changing) more PvP oriented. That could simplify their balancing act.

What tools do you use to evaluate your own performance as a tank?

Lots. I like Skada or Recount, the former being less CPU intensive and has a better UI but it’s death log analysis isn’t great like Recount. Worldoflogs (or WWS earlier). TPS parser. Sometimes I fraps myself to watch replays on new fights. Omen.

As raid leader, I also use Debuff Enough, RaidBuffStatus, Ensidia Fails.

What do you think is the biggest misconception people have about your tanking class?

That we’re squishy. Maybe DKs used to be, when the class was highly geared to cooldowns and you were squishier in between them, but now we’re fairly balanced in terms of mitigation and flat damage reduction.

A bad DK, however, can still feel squishy. If they don’t use their cooldowns (even on 5-man trash), particularly common for new tanks is to not use AMS enough and to forget their interrupt (to stop damage hitting you); badly played this way, a DK can take more damage than they should.

What do you think is the toughest thing for new players of your class to learn about tanking?

Often, it’s how to tank in the first place. Many, many DKs have never been tanks and found it a pretty easy way to level one up. So you get young padawan tanks learning the craft of tanking.

Getting past that, assuming the questions of ‘defence 540′ and so on are handled.

Next is learning to play without constantly looking at the action bars and rune bars. You need to look around you, at the boss, at the adds, and not the complicated series of buttons you need to press and deciding whether to use runic power or not.

That’s the hardest thing. Making the mechanics of being a DK second-nature, so you can then focus on being a tank and broaden your view to the whole game field and your own health bar.

If someone were to evaluate your tanking ability via tools like fraps, recount, and World of Logs, what tendencies would they notice?

A weakness of mine is moving constantly and handling the finger-mangling combination of DK attack buttons. Veneretio posted on this topic once. It can be hard to strafe or move around whilst banging out the threat, and my TPS dips on that kind of fight (eg. Hodir).

Avoidance, Mitigation or Stamina and why?

Stamina. It’s the best in the current and 3.3 game mechanics. Gear gives you enough of the other two. Disretionary spend is on stam. Philosophically I’d prefer to say avoidance, just it doesn’t work out well.

Do you strive primarily for balance between your tanking stats, or do you stack some much higher than others, and why?

Balance, but I bias stamina.

What Tanking class do you feel you understand least?

Bears. My druid only ever healed really.

Addons for tanking?

Listed a few earlier. Others include: Shadowed unit frames, TankPoints, Tank Totals, I might re-install Elkano Buffbar and Mik Scrolling Text (had disabled them while looking for my FPS-destroying addon), Dominos, OmniCC, Fortress, Quartz (for a GCD spark), Rating Buster, Outfitter.

I have macros for rune strike on everything, and I have used Dominos to bind actions to shift-key combinations and other letters around my ESDF movement keys. Like shift-1 is blood tap (one rune reset), shift-2 is ERW (all rune reset), z is DnD, b is strangulate (interrupt), x is mind freeze (interrupt), h is howling blast (aoe).

Who’s next?

This blog game lets me link to a tank to write a survey too: I’ll ask if Everblue and one of the Plagued Candles will join the pain train.

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8 comments to The ‘How do I tank’ survey

  • Perditio

    O.o – Your keybinds are scarily similar to my own, blood tap, ERW, DnD and mind freeze are all the same.
    Great read.

  • Good lord it’s massive.
    Thanks for the tag, and rest assured I am currently working my way through this baby.

    • Gravity
      Twitter: gravitydk

      You could skip some, like the weakness/ strong or the EH/avoidance questions. I think the great questions are about the person more than the class, but whatever, will enjoy reading yours!

  • It seems that a recurring theme amongst tanks is a dislike of immoble patchwerk-esque encounters.  I think that blizzard hasn’t quite pushed the envelope on tanks quite like they did on healers with Firefighter this expansion.

  • Well done!
    I now prostrate myself in obeisance to your greatness and your group hug! ;P

  • Koshea

    I wonder if I’m the only one who uses the keybindings that I’ve come up with, basically I take the whole keyboard and slide it left. I play with my hands on the arrow keys and The 6 keys above it are my most used abilities.
    As a Frost 2H Single Disease DK tank
    Delete = Blood Strike, End = Obliterate, Page Down = Frost Strike, Insert = Blood Boil, Home = Howling Blast, Page Up = Death and Decay, Ctrl+Delete = Plague Strike (I do use it on bosses, the dps usually step it up and I need to as well), Ctrl+Insert (on all my characters) = Health Potion

    A big advantage I feel is the entire keypad (save numlock and keypad enter) is great for storing every other ability I need on a hotkey. All my cooldowns are easily in reach, Keypad 0 is jump and where my thumb rests much like most people use the space bar. I still have to click rarely used things like army of the dead but for the most part it’s a system I’ve been playing with since the game started.

    The biggest advantage I feel though is that such a setup translates really well to alts and almost any class can be played with such a setup.

    I would feel disadvantaged when trying to reply to people while playing (seeing as my hands are no where near the proper typing keys)…except that I don’t feel that while I’m engaged in something that requires keybindings is the proper time to be responding to people anyway and /r sec can be typed out pretty quick.

  • [...] I do follow people that know what the heck they are doing, like Gravity at pwnwear, who laid out his views about tanking, along with a few people he follows. So, to see what a [...]

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