Icecrown Citadel: Is tanking getting dull?

So, yesterday I was pondering what makes the tanking side of a raid encounter fun for me. And the reason was that I spotted this thread on the official forums, where an old school raiding tank is finding that the ICC encounters fail to thrill.

…on most of these fights I would much rather just be <…> a DPS spec in DPS gear than having to spend the vast majority of the fight in tank spec in tank gear, doing <poor> DPS, <…> just waiting for that very brief moment or two where I actually may have to do something that requires me to be at my keyboard.

Now that’s fighting talk, but does it speak to a design change in the encounter design. Is Blizzard deliberately trying to make room for at least one less demanding tanking role in the raid?

I thought I’d go through some of the fights and pick apart his thoughts.

1. Marrowgar. The saberlash mechanic (which requires all the tanks to stand on top of each other and move together as a group) is familiar to TBC tanks, but I think this is the first time it has been used in Wrath, at least in a way that required the tanks to move around. I disagree with the poster on this one, I think it’s fine. It isn’t hard per se but it’s an interesting challenge in teamwork to stick together.

I also think he’s rather hung up on MT (main tank) vs (OT) designation. On this particular fight, all three tanks are main tanking. It’s mostly irrelevant who actually has aggro.

2. Lady Deathwhisper. Phase one involves lots of add pickup, plenty of work for all the tanks and again not a clear MT/ OT designation. Phase two involves some tank switches and taunt rotations, plus trying to avoid ghosts. Again, same job for all tanks.

Again, quite a fun fight for tanks. Plenty of running around at the start followed by a more focussed rotation in phase 2.

3. Gunship. Jobs for at least two tanks here, one to defend the home ship by picking up adds, and one to jump across and stop Muradin from trashing the rest of the away team. Not a lot for a third tank to do, true.

Again the MT/ OT designation is irrelevant. It isn’t clear to me that one job is harder than the other, depending on how good you are at managing your rocket pack. I find this fight quite fun, so not really seeing the hate.

4. Saurfang. Again two tanks with identical jobs which involves another taunt rotation whenever a named debuff lands on the other tank.

This is a genuinely dull tanking fight, I can feel myself falling asleep sometimes. But coming after some fun fights, it’s OK to have a change of pace and let the ranged dps have some fun. Again, I’m not seeing which is the MT or which is the OT.

5. Festergut. Another fight which involves two tanks with identical jobs. Tank for a bit, then go dps for a bit.

This is probably more fun for tanks who can actually put out some decent dps when they aren’t tanking. I’m sure it’s a blast for druids. The taunt rotation mechanic is starting to seem repetitive.

6. Rotface. The offtank here has by far the more fun and demanding role, because they get to kite oozes around. The main tank sits on the boss, and tries to stop it puking on too many people.

7. Putricide. There’s some fun abomination driving for tanks in this fight, but phase three is yet another tank switching taunt rotation.

8. Blood Princes. I’ll tank skull, you tank star. The ranged tank looks to have the more fun job here. DPS are required to switch targets and avoid ranged attacks, moving out of fireballs and such like. The non-ranged tanks mostly stand still.

9. Blood Queen. Not quite a saberlash effect but something similar. 100% of the damage done to the main tank also goes to the person closest to the main tank (who will have the blood mirror debuff.)

This is the fight that drove the original poster nuts because his job was just to stand there and take damage. While he could interact with the boss (ie. hit her), he didn’t really feel it mattered. He also couldn’t take part in the fight’s  key mechanic, getting infected by vampirism and having to bite people, because the off tank is immune.

Even if the damage was worth mentioning, my role can still be easily accomplished if a rock was playing my character.

So what’s the verdict?

I haven’t tried all these fights myself yet, but the one I am really looking forwards to trying is Putricide if I get to drive an abomination. The others – maybe he has a point. There is a lot of repetitive tank switching, it’s true. I could see myself volunteering for DPS duties (which would be easier to justify if I could get my Arms dps up a bit) because many fights do sound more interactive for them.

But – we asked for more fights that required several tanks. We said that we didn’t want any more fights like Malygos where the off tank has very little to do. We said we didn’t want more fights like XT where one tank could comfortably manage both boss and adds. And the devs listened.

So what changed? Is it just that we wanted more interesting jobs for those off tanks, or that now we’ve been able to gear up our dps offspecs so feel more able to volunteer for whichever role looks to get a more interesting encounter? Or is this part of Blizzard’s plan to make tanking more accessible and to spread the encounter difficulty between roles more evenly.

Either way, until we’ve seen the last wing of the Citadel, we can’t come to any final answers. But that tank switching mechanic is definitely getting dull.

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19 thoughts on “Icecrown Citadel: Is tanking getting dull?

  1. One “tanking problem” I’ve noticed is less that the encounters are boring, but more that the glory is shared between tanks. You have 3 MTs, not a MT and 2 OTs. Which is different from the way it was seen back in Burning Crusade. Back then it was the great and mighty MT, and his OT sidekicks.

    It requires a tanking TEAM now. Everyone needs to be geared, everyone has a role. I will admit, there are some fights where being a 3rd tank is boring, but I’ve found some fights where “MTing” is really the boring job.

    We’ve seen it in our own guild though… people who believe they are owed the glory and might of the grand MAIN TANK spot, which [as far as I can tell] no longer exists.

    • Oh, I agree with you (although I don’t think it’s a problem :) ). The problem there is people who hold onto attitudes that might have been relevant over a year ago!

      • oh I don’t think it’s a bad thing! It’s great to have our warrior tank on Jaraxxus for extra interrupts, for example. Or the pallytank on add duty, whatever the fight needs. Most of our tanks have cultivated dps sets for fights that only require one or two tanks and we swap off there but eh, it’s wonderful working together like that! Real team feel rather than a hierarchy… at least to me :D

    • It’s kind of funny that you mention glory, cause I often like to think of tanks being the teamsters union of the wow world.

      “OK boys, you see that dragon over there? I need you to move it to the other side of the room and spin it around a bit, ya got that?”
      “Sure thing boss, you want it next to that rock there or by the lava?”
      “By the lava, oh, and if it breathes at you, just hop in for a bit”
      “We approved for overtime for this?”

  2. I dunno, I started leveling a tank in BC after I watched my old guild’s tanks having trouble with Alar, and I thought to myself, “I can do that”. Now, I just find that if a fight requires alot from me personally, I focus on that, and if it doesn’t, I focus on watching positioning and calling out things. On Rotface for example, I call out oozes in the raid and dangerously placed slime puddles.

    Playing “Let’s see if I can get a dps kicked” on Festergut is also tons of fun. If I can get the scepter from Marrowgar tonight, I think I might be able to break 5k on next week’s 25, especially if I can get enough badges for the Cataclysmic Chestguard too.

    • Great point. When tanks have a boring job, I ask them to call stuff out for me when I am raid leading. Especially during Twins, my tanks loved to get another job, it helps the raid as well. Sometimes playing one role is about helping out the raid more than about having a ton of things to do.

    • Slightly different technique Tarsus. A saber lash is an attack that is deal damage to the target, and it’s two closest allies. While Koralon Meteor Fists, which is, like any other meteor effect, spread amongst all players within the area of effect.

      The primary difference being that on Koralon, if you’re standing outside the AoE, you will take no damage. A saber lash, however, can be chained along all sorts of annoying paths. I once saw a caster DPS get saber lashed despite being behind the boss.

  3. I’ve been a tank since the end of Vanilla, all the way through now to ICC. The job for me has not been about flashy encounter design, it’s been about coordinating and executing a goal, my job is 1 in 25 and without it the raid would not succeed. Sure, it’s fun to hop around and avoid fire and green shit, it’s great to control a vehicle for a fight, or kite an ooze, but the bottom line is I chose this role because it give me the ability to control a major aspect of the fights. Major damage that a rogue or a priest could not withstand gets absorbed and avoided by yours truly nightly. If it’s a fight where I need to move around, I move around. If it’s Rotface, I call shit out and make sure people are getting dispelled on time and what not. If you’re bored by the job, you should just do another one. DPS or heal or something because leadership is not for you.

    • Not all tanks are raid leaders, though. I’m not sure how thrilled my RLs would be if I started shouting instructions out, it can be chaotic enough without that.

      • I’m not saying your tank should always be the raid leader, but tanking does come with some degree of leadership, no? Even if I’m not “leading” per se, I’m proactive.

  4. I’ve just picked up raid tanking after years of dps and some healing. So far I love it and even if Saurfang isnt the most exciting boss for a tank I still have fun. Taunt switching might be simple but if you mess up it’s still a wipe most of the time. Its an empowering feeling to know your really making a difference instead of being a faceless dps.

  5. I think the big thing is that we haven’t really seen a “new” boss mechanic aimed at tanks in a while. The last new mechanic was saberlash, introduced in Zul’Aman, I believe.

    Also, we haven’t seen a fight which really involved manipulating threat this expansion. For example, a threat knockback fight like Broodlord Lashlayer in Blackwing Lair

    • True, I think having almost all bosses be tauntable and taking threat out of the equation has cut down on available tactics. It makes fights a lot more manageable if something goes wrong, but it’s an aspect of play that’s pretty much gone. I guess it does mean that balancing tank threat hasn’t been much of an issue though.

    • I will concede it’s annoying that all the bosses are tauntable so far. I kind of liked showing that I indeed could toss out boatloads of threat and take aggro back. Makes it a little more trivial, I’ll give you that.

      • Having bosses Tauntable by default is just a pain in the backside, by just about any metric. I doubt I need to remind people of the likes of Grobbulus, Sartharion, ignis etc – add spawns, taunt the boss instead, woops, I just got the entire raid Breathed on because Sarth reared up as I was clicking to target.

        However, I question, as you did, the original argument. There’s only so many ways in which you can give 3 tanks meanginful jobs to do in a boss fight. When you go to the effort of honing tanking gear and skills, the last thing you want to do is spend half the time as sub-par DPS because you have low priority on non-tanking drops.

        While we may have seen rather a lot of variations on the “Debuff #3 landed, Taunt please”, theme, I’m not sure that’s any less interesting than the Golemagg model, where there were a couple of invulnerable mobs that would never be DPSed to keep tanks busy. It would be great to have some tremendously complex boss and adds fight where the three tanks had to keep 3 mobs interweaving in a celtic cross and switching targets every 15s – but I just shudder at the thought of repeating a boss like that often.

        Definitely happy here with the trend that ICC has more bosses that involve all the tanks. Although if there’s another boss that makes me stop using half of my attacks every time it’s my turn to tank, I’ll be less happy!

  6. I reckon said tank’s disgruntledness (?) may also originate from simple jealousy?
    After all, he mentions DPS 3 times in one sentece and we’re already far from those times where, as lonomonkey put it, you’re just one of the faceless DPS if not tanking or healing. I dare DPS have at least as much work cut out for them as us tanks these days. Our guild currently working on beating the 5min enrage timer on Festergut25 is painfully aware of this. Each and every person who is healing/tanking/DD-ing counts.
    Honestly I like the encounter designs in ICC and it seems the majority of tanks feel similarly, I feel that on most fights both MT/OT have serious responsibilities. This guy seems to be forgetting the main point of the game is to *play for fun* xD

  7. I pretty much agree with your assessment 100%. The constant taunting back and forth is getting a bit old, but otherwise I see no problem with tanking in ICC so far. They clearly went for an approach where different roles get to shine on different fights, and that’s quite alright with me. Saurfang is boring to tank, but exciting to heal. Lady Deathwhisper is boring to heal, but interesting to tank or dps, and so on. Makes for a nice rhythm of excitement and relaxation as you make your way through the wings.

  8. A friend once caught the right sentence: “Tanks are divas”.

    I still remember the time, that loot was primarily given to the main tank, as well as “selling Items” to pay for his repairs.
    This did not happen out of courtesy but rather out of the fact that your tanks gear defined your progress.
    Of course you could not advance further if your Raid lacked DPS or Healing, but this lack did not become as obvious,
    as seeing your tank dying after the first attacks.

    Another point was, that your tanks abilities, determined your DPS by large margins. Althoug we had taunts, losing Aggro was usually a desaster.
    Remember the typical “Hunter Aggro” Wipe. A poor hunter drawed the attention of the fierce Dragon towards him. Which in those days ment, 130% of the tanks Aggro. So our unfortunate hunter became the “tank”. Which means, everybody in his surrounding was allowed to have 100% Aggro. Usually the hunter feigned death at this point, passing the “tank role” to another ranged class next to him, which lost its 130% Aggro Ranged privilege thanks to the hunter.

    This usually ended in Bosses slaughtering the Ranged Classes and especially healers.

    I started tanking in Classic, which might be confusing out of the fact that I play a Paladin, who did not have a taunt at that time. As you might imagine, times where pretty rough for me, on the other hand I was stubborn enough to refuse taking another role. At the end, I found my niche in fast, Aggro build up and AE intensive Fights.

    Later in BC Tanks main concern was surviving. If you timed your Survival abilities wrong the fight was over. Remember how crucial it was to avoid getting stunned, or how invaluable your shield was to avoid crushing blows. At that time, Aggro-Meter made the Aggro mechanism trivial, but it was still a challenge to find a balance between Aggro generating abilities and survival abilities.

    One short story is very characterisiq in my eyes for the situation right now.

    We had severe issues with our Internet Connection, which very often threw me out of the game. The ones were your screen freezes for a Minute. In two cases we were even able to win the fight, just because my auto attacks, and the hunter and rogues routine were enough to keep me on top.
    Another Time, I was able to tank Lady Deathwisper with 5 Stacks, through Phase 2 after my fellow Tank died.
    Both situations were not depending on my actual abilities.

    All in all, I have not found one challenging fight so far in Wrath of the Lich King. The only challenge I have at the moment is keeping my fellow tank alive in his tank phase.

    One must value the steps of Blizzard taken, to encourage more players to tank. Unfortunately the measures taken, went into the wrong direction.
    Explaining this, would bring us away from the topic. As always, things are connected in a such complex way, that you can not point on a single problem, without considering the rest.

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