Tanks do a lot of taunting off one another. Last week I was reflecting on a post from Chev about taunting. He has tabulated the number of debuffs your fellow tank should have before you taunt.
What’s remarkable is that a standard table, without many footnotes or explanatory exceptions, is able to capture this taunt dynamic. That’s because there usually isn’t much more to it than simply “at x debuffs, do the tank switch”.
On some fights, you could brief a tank on the entire encounter with just that statement:
- Saurfang: taunt when there’s one debuff.
- Festergut: taunt at 9 stacks.
There you go. Done. Go kill the boss.
For other fights, that have more than one dynamic for the boss it might be 4 words longer:
- Deathwhisper: get adds phase 1, taunt at 3 stacks in phase 2.
Obviously that simplifies it, sure, but it’s actually not that far from the minimum you need to tell tanks on those fights. Raid leaders do need to be aware of the limited number of instructions anyone can remember without having a chance to practice them, so cutting things down to the bare bones is wise.
I expect healers know about the taunt game, or can review the table so they are prepared to switch heal targets. I usually call on Vent when swapping.
Encounter design from tank’s perspective
The more complicated fights involve not just the taunt game, but other mechanics too like tank positioning, chasing things, kiting things, cooldown management and timing. Blizzard were clever to introduce some new mechanics in ICC like vehicles like the Abomination and Festergut’s DPS-boost you enjoy after tanking him.
Older players will remember, perhaps very fondly as I do, the dragons in Blackwing Lair. One in particular had an aura which you could break with line-of-sight, so the tank had to position him exactly, thus allowing healers and ranged to use a doorway to break LOS to the boss whilst still having LOS to the tank. I haven’t seen that kind of mechanic since, but quite liked it (I healed back then).
I think somehow the taunt game leads to some of the camaraderie between tanks, in that you’re protecting one another.
What else can to do when not the main tank?
Once you have the very basics right, a tank can optimise his role in the raid by asking what else can I do when not actually main tanking? Festergut makes this decision very simple for us; your role is to dps your socks off without pulling aggro.
On some fights you may be able switch to blood presence (or dps stance): if you trust yourself to switch back, if you are not taking any damage, if your required taunt is predictably distant and if it’s a wipe when either tank dies (so it won’t matter if you can’t taunt immediately, since it’s already a wipe). On others you can use chains or ice, Paladins can debuff raiders, and so on. This should be 101.
You usually can’t slack off when tanking, and the taunt game is one of those mechanisms which require our attention and quick reaction time.