Finding a new tank

Its been a busy day, and I really have not had time to sit down and write until now. I wanted to step away from the myriad of posts regarding min / maxing and the push between maximizing stamina and maximizing balance to talk about managing your guild. Specifically, what do you do when you have to replace a tank. For our guild, we have lost two tanks in the past few months to graduate school and a changing work schedule. As a result we were down to two tanks that were there the entire time, and a the other two that we would lean on from time to time to get things done. In the end, you will always survive, as we have continued to progress through the Trial of the Grand Crusade, but you have to deal with turn over on a regular basis, and there are a few things that I have learned over the years that help me with this.

Performance speaks for itself

Gear is replaceable, and is easily obtained when you are farming an instance. Specifically with the current difficulty, any one can obtain some T9 and badge loot. Performance however is not something that can be faked. In general, we make any applicant to our guild run in our alt 25 man ToTC so that the officers can monitor the play style, gear selection, and overall performance of any person that is interested in joining our raiding core. However with tanks you need even more scrutiny. For us, this is because tanks get gear for free. We prioritize all gear to our main tanks and they don’t need to worry about dkp at all. This is the way of a progression guild. From my perspective, in order to fall into this lofty category of loot sponge, you have to earn the right to bypass long standing guildies.

When we try out a new tank, we put them right into the furnace and we see what they are made of. Every new tank that has applied to our guild has been forced to main tank a progression style instance. And right behind that main tank are the officers alts, and our former main tanks turned casuals. By making someone MT an alt run, they are forced to show you their abilities, play style and demeanor when it comes to leading, all while knowing that they have no less than 7 sets of eyes fixed to the back of their heads. Now it helps us that a few of our officers alts are in the top 30 best geared on the server for their class, but none the less, we place pressure when it comes to threat, movement, marking, and overall cooldown management, to see how someone reacts in a dynamic situation.

For the last two tanks our guild has recruited, I was very impressed in their abilities to react quickly to the changing situations, and perform their jobs with relative ease. However, what happens once they have been let into your inner circle, and how do you incorporate them into a team of players that must act both selflessly and in unison to get a job done.

Creating an Environment of Inclusion

When dealing with our tanks, I always try to keep an open mind about where they are coming from and why they are here. There is no reason that we can not all have a great time, and be able to feel like we truly contributed to the raids success. When it comes to boss fights, unless it is a progression fight, we rotate who is on what in order to spice things up and ensure that every tank knows what each other is doing during the fight. If you only let a tank be the off tank that is on X mob, they will never have the confidence to step up the day that your “main tank” is not there, and after all tanking is all about confidence. By rotating the tanks around to different spots and different responsibilities, they all feel like they are equally essential to the raids success.

I think one of the true tests of a tanking core is gear selection and the method in which gear is handed out. For our guild, there is a “loose” loot council when it comes to tanking gear. What I mean by that is that the three of us decide who can benefit most by picking up a piece of gear. In the end if there are any disagreements, there is DKP and officer opinion, however we have yet to run into an issue where one tank will pull the dkp card. We all understand the loot, the gearing philosophies, and the needs of the individual character, and we put our best foot forward when it comes to upgrades. The fact that we distribute loot to the person who can benefit from it the most, and not necessarily the person who has the most dkp or is the most greedy to get that gear score up separates us from most wow players. When you feel like you have the power to get any piece of gear that you need, you are more willing to work with your fellow tanks.

Leading the tanking ranks

I find that one of the things that I enjoy the most about being an officer and a tank is that I get to lead the tanking core. This really forces me to learn the mechanics of fights better than the person next to me. Understanding the ins and outs of the fight means that you are prepared for what is to come. Assigning taunt rotations, placement, and movement is something that I really enjoy. This role becomes a bit more difficult when you bring a new tank into an existing core on farmed content. You have be sure that you communicate their specific role to the best of your ability so that there is no confusion when the encounter starts. The success of the raid is dependent on the consistency of the tanks and their ability to eliminate the guess work from the encounter.

I experienced this first hand last night on Anub’arak 10 man Hard Mode. In explaining the fight and how we do it to our new tank, I neglected to truly explain how to position him to help the add tank with pick ups. Essentially, the positioning was making the pickups and the interrupts difficult. This is something that I originally overlooked, and as a result cost us a few wipes. In the end, you have to ensure that you approach your tanks differently than the rest of your raid, as they are truly different. This is not to say that we are special, or we are more important, but we serve different roles, and become the focal point of a raid. There is more pressure on the tank than there is on the dps, and what we do effects everyone.


1 Response to “Finding a new tank”

  1. October 1, 2009 at 10:03 pm

    This is an excellent post, and one that I’m going to spend some time thinking about, because I think (god forbid I lose another tank), that I can probably improve our process some.

    For contrast, it takes us a very long time to bring up a tank in Edge. Our tanking corps currently has one of each class, but the warrior and DK are “OT/DPS”, and the druid and I are “MTs”, generally speaking. We started WotLK in great shape on the tanking front, we had 5 Sunwell-seasoned tanks, some of the greatest players I’ve had the pleasure of playing with. We didn’t really carry an MT, per se. We lost 3 of them to RL in the interminable break between Naxxramas and Ulduar, and it’s basically taken until now to rebuild our tank corps into a high-functioning team. We went through a couple of warriors and a few DKs throughout Ulduar progression. You spoke of confidence, and the confidence of the tank is one thing, but I think the truly critical intangible for a tank is the RAID’s confidence. So much is focussed on the MT for a given encounter that I find that the raid really needs to believe.

    Given that, for us, bringing up a tank involves a very careful application procedure, and the vent interview for a tank is probably a lot more painful than for a DPS. I normally talk with them for around 2 hours, part of the time just shooting the shit to make sure there won’t be a personality clash. When they transfer over, they get some face time on some fairly easy bosses. Maybe they tank Hodir to see what their threat is like, and Ignis to see how positioning is, without really tossing them into the fire, per se. They’re encouraged to tanks lots and lots of 10-mans, to get to know the guild, and most importantly, to get the guild to know them. Their quirks, how they move, how they think.

    All told, it probably takes between 4-6 months for us to fully integrate a tank into the group, to get a sense of their strengths and weaknesses, to teach them how to play bingo, and to get the raid to both believe in them, and to know what they’re going to do. You can lose a lot of DPS if you and the tank move in opposite directions from the “fire”. You can gain a lot if you know what way the tank is going. This sort of thing is important to us.

    The reason we run two “MT’s” and two “OT/DPS” isn’t an FoTM thing. I was MTing in Ulduar, when Paladins were arguably the worst possible option. It’s a seniority thing, it’s a trust thing, it’s a loot-distribution thing. It simply makes more sense for us, at the pace of progression we push, to make sure that the loot isn’t split many ways. And it makes sense for us to choose the guys who’ve been around for 2 years or more, “shedding blood in the same mud”, as it were, the guys who have the total confidence of the raid group.

    It’s really hard to recruit a tank and integrate him or her into the raid. WMO can only tell you so much. Gear can only tell you so much. A vent interview can only tell you so much. And it’s easy to shatter the raids confidence in a really good tank, it’s almost impossible to earn it back. Edge doesn’t have very much churn. We have 21 of the same people we raided Sunwell with. We have a long institutional memory. So I’m careful putting new tanks into a position where they can lose before they’ve had a chance to win. Is it fair? Probably not. But, then, we’re tanks, we’re already a little bit masochistic.

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