The Tank's Lament

I've been running a lot of master mode flashpoints over the last few weeks, mostly in full guild groups, and with our raid tanks not having much of a taste for doing even more tanking outside of operations, this has led to a resurgence of me tanking on my alts. Trawling through my blog archives, I'd forgotten just how much time I used to spend tanking years ago, but somehow I just let all of that fade away. My most recent post with the tanking tag is more than two and a half years old.

Anyway, I'm back in the saddle with a total of six max-level tanking alts, three of each class per faction. They are all in full 306 gear, even if it's not optimised, and I think I have a decent grip on mechanics. I'm undoubtedly best at playing Vanguard/Powertech (because it's easy) and worst at Shadow/Assassin (because it's complicated), but I can get by in small group content and on the easier operation difficulties on all of them.

It's been interesting to remember all the things I used to enjoy about tanking: being a group's guide and protector, and having the control to line up a pull just so, for example by popping a reflect at just the right moment to maximise my threat, or by getting a group of mobs to line up perfectly for easy AoEing.

Unfortunately, people don't like to wait three seconds to allow me to do this because they want to pull now, so my reflect is useless because all the aggro is on the healer and since my AoE taunt is on cooldown I end up running in circles like a muppet instead, manually hitting every mob in the face just to prevent the healer from getting mauled from five different directions.

A more experienced tank in the guild has been teaching me all kinds of little tricks that I'm always in awe of and that make me feel very clever when I actually remember them and manage to execute them perfectly, whether it involves standing in just the right place to counter a boss mechanic or using a certain Tactical in a specific situation.

But again, people can't wait three seconds for me to position the boss or swap a piece of gear, because... I don't know? So off they go again pulling everything at random, because "it's one of the easy flashpoints anyway" and as long as we don't wipe it doesn't matter, right?

I've always said that there's a special relationship between tanks and healers - and in hindsight I'm clearly biased, considering that I ended up marrying my last pet tank. You don't have to be marriage material as a tank for me to love you when I'm healing though. I'll want to stick close to you anyway, viewing every group as you and me against the world - I mean, we can do without those pesky damage dealers if we really need to, right?

Unsurprisingly, when I'm tanking I tend to project this attitude onto my own healers, assuming that they'll stick close to me and rely on me for their protection as well. When the healer does appear to share this mindset, it's great and makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside (and incidentally also moves that person up in my healing priority list if we're doing operations together).

Unfortunately, a lot of healers don't have the same view of things as me. So I stand there forlornly with only half health after just picking up my loot, as the healer didn't even bother to throw a heal over time on me after the last fight and instead ran off to charge right into the next pull, AoEing everything as if he signed up for the group as a damage dealer. I thought we had something special! You're breaking my heart, man.


If tank and healer make a really good team, you can even pull off some pretty crazy stunts, such as charging into a huge AoE pull together and not dying.

Or someone else who's not the tank just makes a huge pull without any consideration of the consequences and you wipe.

In fairness, the tank is but one person in a flashpoint group, and who's to say that everything has to be about what they like? Maybe everyone else is just having more fun doing things their way? What makes the tank's sense of fun more important than anyone else's?

Nothing of course. But if you want other people to tank for you, you might want to consider not turning every trash pull into an uphill battle for them. (I sometimes get the impression that a lot of people who don't tank don't even realise what a huge difference it can make for a tank's sense of enjoyment and - maybe more importantly - ability to control a pull to get the initial aggro vs. having all the mobs immediately run off to chase after someone else.) Else you may find yourself waiting on the group finder soon, wondering why your requests for a tank in guild chat were met with nothing but silence.

(I know this post probably sounds a bit emo and it is, but sometimes writing these things down can be really cathartic. It doesn't always get me this down when I'm tanking and people are impatient and uncooperative in their play style, but when I'm in the wrong mood it can be downright depressing - especially when it's guildies, who are supposed to be better than pugs! I've thought of trying to explain some of these things to others before - when they were actually occurring that is - but unsurprisingly, hurrying after impatient players that are about to get themselves in trouble yet again (while also clearly thinking that nothing is wrong) is not exactly conducive to verbalising complex emotions.)

(On a different and more amusing note, as I went through my blog archives about tanking, I found this post about tanking in WoW from more than nine years ago, and I had to laugh at the way past me described pugs as basically having two attitudes to you as a tank: either they think you're their boss or they think you're their bitch. I used to be a lot more patient with the latter group than I am these days. Ain't nobody got time for that.)


  1. No, you're 100% right on this, if people are so trigger happy they don't have a single second per pull to let the tank get off an ability they're just (behaving) bad. Doesn't matter if they're hardcore raiders usually.
    I've had this in Classic WoW recently. You're rage-starved anyway but if they don't let you use a single ability before multishotting the mob group.. there isn't even anything left to do but autoattack a single mob ob the pack. Totally fun, yeah.

    1. Oh man, in Classic that must be so much worse, considering how limited the tanking tools are. I've generally found damage dealers to be pretty well-behaved there - sometimes they might misjudge aggro and use an AoE ability too early, but you can generally tell the difference between an accidental overaggro and "I just don't give a crap".

  2. Honestly, my take is that if you don't have the spare time to let the tank get a bit of aggro, maybe you shouldn't be doing group content. There are any number of things you can knock out in 15 minutes on your own.

    Back in the olden days of EQ and DAoC being big deals, you pretty much had to have a group for everything. It was frustrating on the balance, but it also meant that playing your role well in a group was an essential skill. Back then, DPSers that couldn't be bothered to let the tank get some aggro before unleashing hellfury on a mob were considered crappy DPS. They didn't get groups.

    The opposite way to handle this is to simply give tanks such massive threat generation that they can lock down a group regardless of what the DPSers decide to do. This is the tack that COH uses for example.

    In any case, in the modern era of DPSers being absolutely obsessed with trying to top charts to "prove" that they are "a skilled player", and being willing to wipe the whole party and blame it on the tank to try and squeeze out 5% more DPS, I don't play tanks any more.

    1. The thing is, SWTOR doesn't even have regular damage meters, just an external parser that allows you to see your own numbers, but you can't see anyone else's unless they specifically opt in for it. So I'm not sure what's driving this rushing and pulling thing, wanting to be top dps certainly can't be it as there is no data to show you where you are compared to others in the group.

    2. Yeah, that is certainly a puzzle. It can't be just damage meters, because I see the same behavior in games like DDO where there isn't even as much tracking as SWTOR has available. It's just a type of behavior I noticed getting worse once meters came on the scene, especially in WoW. However, maybe it's just a general lack of patience with content you repeat for whatever reason, meters or no.

    3. I totally agree with you Yeebo. If you are in such a rush as to not let the tank enjoy his/her game too, go do something else please.

  3. You know what is the killer for me in this post of yours? When you say you're doing fps mostly in guild groups, and, I mean... That doesn't help, yeah? We can chalk a lot of pugs by virtue of being pugs, we expect more - better - of those people we are more connected to and that are more aware that this is not preferred role.

    Of course, the flip side of this, is being familiar with people, knowing their personality and their ability and just running ahead and pulling everything before stealthing out just because you're intimate enough to know it'll be a laugh or whatever. Mind you, for THIS to be true, it shouldn't end in a wipe (unless it ends up being wipe by being punted outside of bridges/rails/etc). Either way, the main thing is, I think READ THE ROOM. Geez.

    (TL, DR: I knoooow that's why I quit tanking when 5.0 dropped, it was too much hassle, specially in an unforgiving levelling scheme)

    1. Indeed, it being guildies has been a big part of what's made it so painful. And like you say, there's often an aspect of "wanting to mess around with your friends", but it gets really awkward when you repeatedly try to tell them gently that you're not enjoying their shenanigans and they just keep on going... you don't want to majorly freak out/ragequit on your guildies, but what do you do when you're getting incredibly frustrated and people just can't take a hint? Feelings are hard. :P

  4. The thing that used to drive me crazy in EQ was when healers (almost always clerics) who took a huge pride in healing the tank at the very last moment. Because for years the apogee of healing was the cleric's Complete Heal, a ten second cast that completely restored the target to full health, some clerics did their absolute damndest to time tht ten second cast so it would land when the tank was around 10% health. It was extremely mana efficient and some clerics deemed it to be evidence of the highest skilled play but I played both a max level cleric and a max level tank for abou two years so I could see both sides.

    Yes, it was extremely satisfying to land that complete heal just before the tank bit the dirt but waiting for that heal as a tank was no fun at all. Not even witha healer who really was as good as they thought they were, let alone all the ones who weren't.

    As a cleric I made it my practice to use plenty of top off heals and HoTs to keepthe tank in a good health. I kept my Complete Heal back for when it was really needed. I didn't run out of mana and I had plenty of tanks who preferred to take me as a healer than other clerics who liked to show off their timing skils.

    I do think that very few players think about the experience from the point of view of other classes or archetypes in most MMORPGs. People who play a lot of alts tend to be much more sensitibe to the needs of other classes than the traditional Main and one Alt types.

  5. I feel the same way, and it's really sad.

    The only thing I can think of to say in defence of those gogogo-types of players is that many MMORPG-dungeons aren't very interesting or engaging to run these days, yet you're expected to run them again and again for your tokens or whatever. FFXIV is really bad in this regard imho, just one trashmob-filled corridor after the other. Even as a tank I can relate to the 'getting it over with as quickly as possible'-mindset.

    Still, I'd rather be in there three minutes longer and be able to do my job properly and maybe even have some fun, thank you very much.

  6. I agree that there is a special bond between healer and tank. When I first started healing, I tried to focus on healing everyone until I realized that the tanks were the ones I especially needed to keep an eye on because they take the bulk of the damage.
    Not too long ago, my guild was killing a world boss and I was running around trying to heal our two tanks and casting a general heal on everyone else. After the fight was over both tanks thanked me and told me that I did an awesome job keeping them alive. I think I'm finally getting the hang of this healing thing.

    1. By the way this is Chash Larol. For some reason google is refusing to sign in to my account.

    2. When people have an appreciation of what good tanking or healing looks like it can certainly be extremely satisfying to keep them alive!

  7. Wow, this post was older than I thought. I've been learning to tank lately from an older guildie of mine, and our latest Dread Palace run reminded me of this post. There I am, trying to position myself to pull and one of the damage dealers starts the fight for me. We finish and they force-speed away to grab trash. *sigh* What can I do?


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