When Kitai hit 70, after much encouragement from our resident prot warrior, I decided that if I had enough gold on her after purchasing my epic flight I would dual spec her prot. As the level came, I got her all the “cobalt” tanking gear crafted, added up my defense and hit the dual spec button. My first reaction was “OH GOD WHY ARE THERE SO MANY BUTTONS?!?!”. And then, panic. I was positive that I had just flushed my 1,000 gold down the drain and that I was never going to tank on this toon. I mean, I had more than two full bars of “useful” buttons.
Again with some encouragement from Even, who said “just thunderclap lots and shockwave, you’ll be fine” (p.s. he lied!), I took a deep breath and decided to take the plunge. I gathered up some moral support to go with me, namely a healer from my guild that was leveling another healer, and one of Brade’s alts…and armed with my new shield and matching gear, I bravely queued us in the dungeon finder system. And so thus began my adventure in The Nexus.
Upon zoning in, I told everyone in the group that this was my very first time tanking, and that I apologized in advance if it was a little bit sketchy. I also asked everyone that if they pulled agro, to please come up to me…and if I don’t get it off of you to please say something, because I may have likely missed it. Luckily the first few pulls in the nexus aren’t too taxing and I was largely able to get my feet wet nice and slowly.
Then came what ended up being the pull from hell. Using my bow, I pulled up a group of 3 mobs in that area with the ice cubed people. Of course, my “moral support” started out his very first spell, chain lightening, the second I pull. What does this mean? It means that the two mobs that aren’t to me yet have threat on Brade, and I have no rage as I struggle to get them under control. Of course, as if this isn’t enough of a panic for me, my “moral support” decides it would be best to knock those mobs back…right into another pack. So here I am, no rage, no fucking clue what I’m doing, 6 mobs running around, and the deathtard in my group spamming his death and decay/pestilence button blindly oblivious to what is actually occurring around him.
Only my healer was good enough that nobody died.
The deathknight starts in on me. “God you are fucking terrible, can you even hold agro on anything”. I again reminded him of my disclaimer at the start of the instance and flat out told him if he didn’t like it, he could leave. He took me up on that offer. The two remaining people were my moral support and a hunter. I apologized and everyone, including the hunter told me not to worry about it, with my healer even pointing out that nobody even died. But, I still felt guilty. Sometimes people will do stupid things, and I am supposed to be able to counter that stupidity to an extent. I actually felt pretty bad about it, and if I hadn’t of had the foresight to have brought my moral support with me, I might have lost any tanking nerve I had then and there. Then again, on my third pull EVER I think I probably should be given a little bit of bloody slack. So, we seek out another DPS and keep trucking along.
Our group is filled with another DK, this one level 63 (oof), but I remember vigilance! I again go through the whole “Hi, I’m just learning how this works” bit, and he is like “cool” and we go on our way. Each pull I did better. Each pull I figured something new out. Each pull I became more confident in what I was doing. I did struggle with the caster boss, and we wiped twice as I tried to figure out how to handle the mage split (hello beru, I am your charge button, I can be used in combat and will get you from one place to another very quickly). This new deathknight was supportive, never treated me poorly because I stumbled, and even offered to tank the boss if I wanted. But, I wanted to learn, so for we came up with an earth elemental solution that bought me the time I needed to stumble around and do what I needed to do.
I managed all of the larger dragon pulls after that almost never losing agro on anything, and we successfully completely the rest of the instance without a hitch. Well…almost! But this one wasn’t my fault ;) We had an “I forgot to jump” incident with our DPS on Keristraza, but came back the next time and finished her out. Of course we joked about my fail tanking abilities later, and my healers need for therapy after…but truth be told, it really wasn’t so bad.
After that first run, I did a couple more, doing two all alone through the dungeon finder (and holy cow does that sucker pop fast when you are a tank!). With each instance I became more comfortable in my tank skin, and made fewer errors. I decided that warrior tanking was kind of like playing “Simon”. In between thunderclap and shockwave and cleave I just hit tab and click whatever is all lit up! And even though it seems a bit more complicated, I actually think I far prefer it to my DK. I like the idea of actively smacking shit around to get its attention. And I’m even getting ballsy enough to try incorporating things like shield bash for silencing casters and spell reflect.
In my first unsupported instance (UK), I’m feeling decent about my tanking. I’ve worked out this wonky clicking/keybind moving thingie that is working pretty well for me. Oh, and before I forget to mention, I always check to make sure my healer is with me and has mana for the pull (ahem). So we do the entire instance without anyone pulling anything off of me (I was really excited about that) and no deaths.
And then we get to that guy at the end. Now, I know that I have to strafe away from him when he does that roar thingie. I struggle at the strafing, and inadvertently ran out of the wrong thing, which meant the boss followed me instead of staying put. I then struggle a bit trying to reposition him so that he’s not facing the rest of the group. In all of this, I miss the part where I actually am supposed to run away (oops :(), but it’s ok! All my cooldowns are available so I hit last stand, shield wall and a health pot to buy the healer some time to save me. And yes…I fully recognized that was exactly what the healer was doing, saving my ass. Apparently at some point in all that panic I also failed to move from a whirlwind. (Um…am I supposed to move from that? I don’t think Brade ever does, so I guess that’s just how I know the instance :().
Somehow in all of this, the rogue dies to the whirlwind that I didn’t move from. (Because my failing to move from the big shiny axe prevented his moving from it, amirite?). The boss was almost dead and so we finish the instance with just the one death, the rogue. That’s right, the ENTIRE instance and only ONE death at the very end. For my third instance ever, I’d say that’s not too bad!
Of course the rogue disagrees and there is a “wow…wtf” in party chat, followed by something along the lines of “don’t you know anything, you aren’t supposed to face him at the raid, and you killed me in the whirlwind because you didn’t move”. I did politely point out to the rogue that considering he was the only death the entire instance, I really didn’t think it went to badly. Then I left the group.
But, I got to thinking. No fucking wonder there is a tank shortage. If all tanks are treated with the same shitty attitude that I got for ONE mistake, even when I gave fair warning that I was just learning how to tank, who in their right mind would want to tank? It’s stressful, and it requires a good deal of attention. Hell, I have TWO BARS of buttons that I’m supposed to be using. You have, what? 5..at most? And even then, there is a good chance that you aren’t even paying attention to what is going on, and expect me to make sure that you stay alive.
Everyone has to learn. This includes tanks. Unfortunately when a tank makes a mistake, its a lot more obvious than when you, mr. dps, make a mistake. But guess what?! Mistakes happen. I sure didn’t start telling you what a shitty player you were when you weren’t attacking the proper mob. I didn’t yell at you when you pulled threat from me because you weren’t paying attention. Why? Because you are learning too.
As a healer I thought I had a pretty raw deal at times, but I think tanks are probably getting is just as raw.
So you, Mr. DPS, next time you are in your 30 minute queue and wondering why there aren’t more tanks, perhaps what you really should be asking yourself is if you’ve hugged your tank today. It doesn’t take elite end game bosses that hit the bejuses out of you to kill a tank. No siree, all it takes is that one person, in that one nexus run at level 70, where a tank is trying to blossom and learn, to kill a tank. Just something to keep in mind.