At work today I was forced to take a good long look at my performance evaluation and my development plan. It was an interesting exercise because it made me reflect on all of the work that I did last year and if I could go back again and do it all over, what I would do differently. The short and sweet answer to that question is not much, but I would tweak a few things here and there for a larger shift in outcome. Why am I talking about my job when I should be talking about tanking? Well, in WoW, as in the real world, you should always look to do better and periodically evaluate yourself to see how you can improve.
This day of introspection at work came a day after I had a long conversation with someone from one of the best alliance guilds on the server, and his explanation of their LK HM wipes. He was talking about their tanks, and when and why they were dying, so I took a look at their armory and noticed that their specs were less than ideal and their gearing was probably a bit off as well. While we discussed their specs, what they should be doing, and why they were probably having issues, I was reminded that these tanks do not like constructive criticism, and that they thought they had it under control (we will come back to this part)….
Get to the point Wrathy!
What I mean by all of this is to ask you all the following question:
When was the last time you evaluated yourself as a player, as a tank, and as a member of your guild?
This is something that most of us do to infrequently. Introspection is a powerful tool in your arsenal, and is something that you should consider employing more often. If you can give yourself mini performance reviews every now and then, you can see where your areas for growth are and bolster said skills to be a better player. While your eyes are probably not as perceptive as a third party viewer, they are probably more critical than your fellow raiders, at least I know mine are.
Introspection is something that will help you improve as a player. While you will more than likely not have the answer to the problem or area for growth you find, you can get that answer from a wealth of knowledge on theory crafting sites and blogs. If you have made it here, you are already well versed enough in the resources that you have at your disposal to look for answers to your specific issues. I know what you are thinking, and I have met plenty of players who think this way, “I am already a great player, I don’t have any room for improvement!”
That is the biggest lie you can ever tell yourself. There is ALWAYS room for improvement. I learn something new every raid, and I try my best to remember it and employ the new found knowledge in order to retain it later on. I have tanked with other players who were too cocky, too naïve, or too sensitive to be able to improve beyond their current limited skill level. The true alpha dogs of the tanking community are always looking to learn something new, and they usually have to butt heads with other big name tanks to get there, however they are trying, looking, and perceiving how they can get better.
So I ask you again
When was the last time you evaluated yourself? For me personally, It was a few months ago (but weeks in play time because of my break). Sometimes you have fallen off the horse and not strove to be better every week and something like threat issues centers you again. I have watched countless videos of tanks from every class and how they approach encounters. You have to see all the angles, and if you can, then you can figure out where you need to improve. I have learned about movement, positioning, camera angle, key bindings, cooldown usage, gear choices, tactics, user interface, preparation, management of other tanks, management of a guild and raid, vent communication, instructing others on strategy, and the list goes on.
Most of this was from looking with in myself to understand how I can be a better player. When I take a look at my last performance in ICC 25 man hard mode, I noticed that there were some areas I was sluggish. Now whether my guild noticed or not is another issue, but I knew, so I had to figure out how to fix it. Some of it was knocking off the dust of a month of absence from raiding, and some of it was tweaking in the way I did things.
As we acquire new members in our guild, I am faced with teaching new people the ins and outs of tanking, paladins, raiding with CF, and our strategies. This forces me to re-evaluate why we do things they way we do, and is a powerful method of finding flaws in design and subsequently correcting them. Teaching others forces us to not only know how to do something, but why we do it. Introspection is basically teaching yourself. As a new member of your guild asks questions as to why you do something a certain way, so should you on a periodic basis. Your explanations will either re-enforce the power of the idea or bring a more critical eye to a flaw.
What should I look at?
So I have convinced you that you should take a closer look at your ability, performance, ideas, and execution, now where do you start looking? Honestly, this is a list that is always changing and always tailored specifically to the person. Different expectations are set for different skill levels, and each skill level will probably want to look at different things. Someone who is new to tanking is not going to want to scrutinize why their guild’s strategy for Professor Putricide is a certain way, that comes later. Conversely, a main tank of an end game guild should probably not have to look at their rotation to ensure that they are using a 969 rotation (I stress the SHOULD). Here are some questions that I have asked myself over my career of tanking. There are many more that I have asked and many more you can, but this is a sample:
- Is my rotation correct, and are my ability usages optimized?
- Are my cooldowns being used properly?
- Am I Keybinding the correct abilities to the right keys?
- Is my camera angle appropriate for this boss?
- Do I let my teammates die too often because I didnt taunt?
- Is my threat good enough for our dps?
- Am I taking too much damage?
- Am I using the correct gear make up, enchants, and gems?
- Am I planned and predictable (aka does your dps know what you are doing, does your healing corps know what you are doing?)
- Are my abilities and spec right for this boss?
- Do I employ both predictive and reactive pathing?
- Have I handed out the correct assignments to my tanks?
- Am I standing in the correct position for this fight?
- Is there a better way to (INSERT ANYTHING HERE)?
These are just some of the examples of questions that you can ask yourself to see if you are doing your job right. However there is even more that you can do to improve yourself with in the game. You can ask yourself how you are interacting with your raid members and guild mates. This is a team game, and one that takes 25 people (or 10 people) to play when it comes to raiding. And as such, your interactions, interpersonal skills, communication, team building, and personal and raid wide development are all things that you can work on. But one thing at a time. Start with yourself!
Being receptive to feedback
The nature of feedback cycles is that you do something, you receive feedback and you either do it again or make corrections to obtain the desired outcome. In simpler terms, if you do something good you will like it and do it again, if you do something bad there are consequences and you will not do it again. Feedback is essential to development. I have, too many times, heard of players who are not receptive to feedback, or just plain think they don’t need it. On both accounts, it is their loss, and they are worse in the long run as a result.
Constructive criticism is the most important thing you can receive in a game or in real life. This feedback is some times very hard to accept, and even harder to figure out a solution to, but it is essential to healthy and profitable development. As a tank, if someone tells you that you need to work on something, it is more than likely not because they just want to hurt your feelings, its because you have an area for growth that they are trying to help fix. Now there are those few people, I know my guild has some, who just like to push peoples buttons. Even these people have good ideas, you just have to learn to filter the bantering from the feed back.
The worst thing you can do is ignore it, or think that it is a personal attack when someone gives you feedback. Sure it may not be what you want to hear, but in the end having that tough conversation will help you out and make you a better raider. I have met my fair share of tanks who get annoyed, frustrated, or down right defensive when you provide them with feedback, and in the end they were beat by someone who was not so stubborn, received and interpreted the feedback, and in turn improved beyond the tank who now sits on the bench or is deferred to another guild.
So, with my parting words, there is very real power in incremental improvements which are derived from feedback and introspection. Take some time this week or next week during your raid and ask a few questions of yourself, to make sure that you are really doing the best you can to perform.