The term off-tank

I have raided as a maintank and as an off-tank. I don’t really mind, as long as the encounter is interesting.

Some people don’t like the term “off-tank” or think it’s out-of-date. Others don’t want to think of themselves as an off-tank because it implies you are of secondary importance.

I like the term, because everyone knows it means “the tank who is not on or is the secondary tank for the big boss”.

  • On some ICC fights, there is no off-tank, so it’s meaningless, like Saurfang, Festergut and Valithria.
  • On other fights, the off-tanking is a kind of dull like non-heroic Blood Queen
  • Some of the ICC raids can be simplified to single-tanking, such as Sindragosa, so the ‘off-tank’ then switches to DPS
  • Professor Putricide is a unique fight with the off-tank driving the abomination (fun the first time, I wonder if it gets boring) then into a crucial tank-swap final phase where all tanks are important
  • Lastly, the off-tank is crucial on a few fights like the Lich King.

We all hope that in Cataclysm, there will be a more consistent number of required tanks in the raids. I’ve written a lot about this in the past. Let’s wait and see on that point.

Tank corp

Since around AQ-20 at least, the concept of a tank corp has been well established. It’s the idea that there is no dedicated main tank (who gets priority on all tank drops) but instead there’s a small reliable team of tanks who get gear with no bias. The idea is to keep tanking interesting too, so that the dull roles get spread around, and so the skill level of all tanks is high enough to MT a boss if another corp member is away.

I think where ‘off-tank’ can be misused is when a guild assigns a ‘main tank’ moniker to a particular person, who then always gets the prestigious tanking roles whilst the nominated off-tank gets whatever is left over. This is bad guild management except when cleverly used by very high-end guilds (like top 500) who have 95% attendance and want to be sure that everyone knows their role inside-out, for the sake of progression.

The worst example is when a bad GMs also does not appreciate the different strengths of various tank classes, and thus end up using their nominated main tank for fights which he is not ideal, whilst relegating the ideal tank class to other duties. That’s just stupid.

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10 comments to The term off-tank

  • Wrathy
    Twitter: AvengingWrathy

    I love the post. Honestly I think that in an ideal situation there is no such thing as an off tank or a main tank, at any level of progression. Coming from the high level of progression perspective you mentioned above, I think that the 95% attendance rate still lends itself to swapping out your tanks for duties. Sure progression requires specialization, however that is only until you get a few kills. You have to remember that even the most hard core tanks have vacations every now and then.
    I echoed your statements a little under a year ago.
    Even us hard core folk need to spread around the talent to have our options :-)

  • I’m one of those who aren’t overly keen on the term “off-tank”, for the reason you stated: it makes it sound like a role of lesser importance than “main tank”. Admittedly I can’t think of a better term (maybe “mob tank” or “add tank”, compared to “boss tank”(s)?) but I think some work needs to be done to make more people aware that tanking stuff other than the boss in a fight is not a lesser role, and indeed in a lot of cases is actually much more fun that staring at a boss’s crotch for 5 minutes :D

  • Xaris

    Sometimes the off-tank has a more interesting job in my opinion.  What’s the main tank do on Rotface?  Tries not to fall asleep by telling people to avoid slime spray.  MT on Professor?  Kites boss away from the vials while telling dps what to remember to do.  On both of those encounters the OT job is far more interesting.
    Or think about toc25 heroic…  what’s the most important/difficult tank job?  Add tank for Anub’arak.

  • Pepe

    Hi!  In mi opinion a really skilled Tank whit an average class is faaaar better than a non top skilled Tank whit the stronghest class. Warrior and Druid for example. I personally prefeer getting more risks whit a nonperfectclassandreallyskilled tank who can prevent a wipe than another whit the supergolden class who maybe cant resolve a mistake.

    (My english is very bad, sorry. I tryed to explain my ideas clearly)

  • brangwen
    Twitter: kowari1

    I always ran with a tank team (We had about 5 tanks all up one of each class and a spare).  All tanks were equal and the term “off tank” was situational, depending on the fight.  We picked who was MT and who was OT based on class, boss and mechanics.  Also, to some extent which tank WANTED to do which role.  Worked quite nicely.

  • Kasgrin

    The term main tank and offtank are fine in itself. It defines who does what. The outdated bit is when people assume that 1 dedicated player is always the MT, and the others are OTs. That’s not just outdated, it’s not seeing what right in front of you. Different encounters call for different approaches, and possibly switching in roles.

    The terms are fine, as long as possible grasp that it’s not cast iron, but just a definition of a role in a fight.

  • Anafielle
    Twitter: Anafielle

    ICC has been a fabulous place for tanks. Basically, the Plagueworks wing was a big huge present from Blizz to all the “offtanks”, co tanks, and second tanks out there. I always enjoy Plagueworks, on normal or on heroic.

    – Festergut first tank
    – Rotface slime kiting – quite possibly one of my favorite jobs, especially on heroic playing the wonderful Avoid The Ranged game!
    – Putricide abom riding. I get really sad when I can’t do this. I’ve been main tanking my own 10m lately and I miss the abom desperately.


    I always think of my RL/MT as “the MT” regardless of what he’s doing. He’s leading. I’m the OT, regardless of what I’m doing. It’s just how I think, and those are the terms I apply to our roles.

    But what we happen to be doing … can vary. In the raids I have been in, the question of who does what is based on many, many considerations.

    - Which tank class is a better kiter?
    - Which tank class has the powerful AE snap threat?
    - Which tank has X cooldowns/skills useful for this role?
    - Which job is more difficult? (When I was a newer tank, my MT would give me the boss if it was the easier job.)
    - Which job is more conducive to raid leading? (Slime kiting on rotface might be harder but it is impossible to watch the whole room while doing so.)
    - Which tank has built the better gear set for this role?

    Of course, when you run dual pally tanks as we do, the question is more like: has Anafielle bribed Rhidach enough to reserve the fun jobs for herself?

    Anyways… I have no problem with being the OT. I love it, and my job is WAY more interesting now than it was several patches ago. Blizz has done a fine job and I have truly enjoyed tanking in ICC more than any of the previous dungeons.

  • Aiun

    I like the term.  It describes what you’re doing.  That’s it. 
    In my 10M guild, we have about 3 reliable tanks.  There’s me, always on, then there’s the other two who can only be on some of the time.  Others have tank alts, but their either undergeared or we need them in their main role far more.

    There’s a difference for us between ‘Guild MT’ and ‘Encounter MT’.  For example, I am the prominent tank in the guild.  Highest gear, most experience, most consistent in attendance.  That’s the ‘main’ part for us.

    For encounters, however… When we do LK, I’m OT for phase 1, then MT for phase 2 and 3 (and transitions).  I’m OT for Rotface, kiting the slimes around.  MT for Queen/Marrowgar/Sindi.  Loot ship, the terms are irrelevant.  You have ‘jump’ or ‘stay’. (I usually jump.) Also irrelevant for Saurfang/Lady D. I do the Putri OT.  In short, if it’s simple tankn’spank, one of the less experienced guys does it.  If it’s uber-hard-hitting, I do it.  If it’s pretty technical and tricky to learn, I do it.

    This works for us, because I’m always around.  It works for me.  But I do need to start swapping our roles more, because my 10 guild ran a 25 PUG, I realized my guild isn’t the only one that does this… and two of our PUGs were guys who had only ever performed those non-technical, ‘stand and take it’ roles in 10s.  And if that’s what I’m doing to my guys, I feel guilty, because what happened to these pugs might be happening to them:

    A pug guy who normally MTs Rot had to suddenly learn how to kite oozes, because in 25m they can get away from just one kiter… things went bad. DPS were moronic, e-peen-comparing tunnelers who couldn’t improvise kiting to step up.  I did my best to explain, and they certainly tried hard, but there’s some advantages only experience can confer, and when your DPS is barely up to scratch and heals are struggling, is not the time to learn it.  The time to learn is in safe, comfy guild environment with people who won’t cuss out your learner-tank and /raidquit because of ‘failraid’.  (Whereupon the rest of the raid decides we won’t be able to recruit another 2-3 at 7/12 and disbands.  Despite the fact that Rot is easily 20-mannable without the enrage timer and shamans with infinite mana…)

    OTing in ICC can actually be harder than MTing, depending on the fight.  (OTing Sindi and being forced to take all your threat abilities off your regular rotation must be mind-bending murder!)  The term is only deceptive if you’re hung up on rank and prestige. 

    …I’m glad I don’t play with anyone like that. :)

  • Gravity
    Twitter: gravitydk

    @Aiun, you’re right about the guild being a safe place to learn. I agree. Much better there (on farm content) than in a PUG.

  • [...] Almost a full year ago, Wrathy described a tanking corps without a Main Tank. More recently, Gravity posted on the term off-tank and why it has little relevance to today’s tanking [...]

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