This past weekend I was having a conversation with another tank from our guild. His Mage alt was in two separate groups that completely fell apart mid-run, both times due to the ineptitude of the respective tank. That conversation inspired this post.
Tanks have a lot on their plate during a run - situational awareness, status of cooldowns, proper pulling, etc - but you can boil the general job description of a tank down into three interrelated goals:
- Stay Alive
- Protect Your Healers
- Generate Threat
So, what are the "FailTanks" missing?
Goal #1: Stay Alive
Don't sing the BeeGees song. Seriously. Don't.
Gearing yourself is the first step in accomplishing this goal. Most people know what tank gear looks like and how they should gear their tank. Whether you follow the Mitigation philosophy, the Avoidance philosophy, or some combination of the two is up to you, but tank gear is generally obviously tank gear. If the tank in your run isn't wearing "proper" tank gear, they are beyond anyone's help and I apologize.
The other step is learning what your cooldowns do. Tanks have emergency cooldowns to blow and they should learn what they are and when to use them. This is a little bit trickier and subject to interpretation, but I can't imagine even the n00biest n00b Warrior not understanding what Last Stand and Shield Wall are. Again, if they don't, they are beyond help. Tell them it's time to reroll.
Goal #2: Protect Your Healers
I believe most tanks understand this one as well. It directly impacts #1 (Dead Healer = Dead Tank).
If your tank is working with one target breathing in that target's general direction is usually enough to keep that target off of the healers. Really. It doesn't take much.
If more than one target is involved and/or there are adds in the fight, a tank needs to understand that healers draw "global" aggro: meaning that every heal puts them on every mobs' radar. Adds will generally go straight for the healer for this very reason, but, again, it doesn't take a lot for the tank to get their attention.
Goal #3: Generate Threat
Ahh, the mystical concept of "Threat." What causes threat? Damage, heals, buffs, and debuffs all to various degrees. There are also modifiers (i.e. higher threat generated when in Defensive Stance) and certain abilities have innate, or built-in, threat.
Here, in my opinion, is what puts the "Fail" into FailTank.
I've encountered more people than I care to think about who have not understood how to generate threat as a tank. Their gear is usually fine...they know the benchmarks and thresholds and gear themselves to achieve them. They know that the healer must be protected and are more than willing to pull anything off of a healer at any point in the fight. Their deficiency, then, is the inability to generate threat because they don't understand either the concept itself or how to maximize their threat with the abilities that are at their disposal.
Tanks have abilities that, as it often says in the tooltip, "generate a high amount of threat." That means they have innate threat, or, threat that is generated simply because you used that ability. Take the amount of the innate threat, add the amount of damage done, and factor in any multipliers to figure out how much threat that particular ability generates in total. Threat is more than simply the damage done, and a good rotation will recognize that.
Good threat generation allows DPS to do their job while holding back as little as possible. If DPSers can't do their thing, the fight takes longer. If the fight takes longer, the healers mana pool may start to run short. See #1.
How do you maximize threat? Go find someone who's posted a rotation/priority list of abilities that can get you started. Do a little homework, that's all. Use the blogs in my blogroll as a starting point if you need to, but figure out how to generate as much threat per second as possible so your DPSers have room to work.
The bottom line is, people who think that wearing some plate and having a large amount of health makes them a good tank are exceptionally mistaken, and the tank is too important of a role in a group to allow for that level of ignorance.
Career tanks are generally not the problem (note I said generally). Usually it's the person who rolled a tank as an alt (I'm looking at you, Death Knights) and hasn't taken the time to understand their new class as well as they understood their main. When the lack of understanding starts hurting others, though, if becomes unacceptable.
Don't be a FailTank! Do your homework. Learn what you should/shouldn't be doing. Study tanking in general and tanking as a (insert your class here) specifically.
Trust me, your group will thank you.