Overcoming the Fear of Tanking

henryvHenry V tanked the entire french army, but even he was nervous

I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips,
Straining upon the start. The game’s afoot:
Follow your spirit, and upon this charge
Cry ‘God for Harry, England, and Saint George!’

Shakespeare, “Henry V”

Tanking is scary.

Many things in this world are scary. Leading is scary. Giving birth is scary. Spiders are scary. Cycling in London is scary. Doing something new is scary. Just because something is scary doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t do it. Overcoming the fear of tanking is the one single factor that all tanks have in common. If you can crash through the fear barrier, then you have what it takes to become an awesome tank.

For all of us, there was a moment when we stood there with an instance in front of us and an expectant group behind us and knew that there was no going back. This is the source of a lot of tank solidarity, and it’s the reason why tanks will usually help out and support fellow tanks. We were all there once. Happily, after you have gotten your tanking sea-legs and learned to be more confident in yourself and your class, tanking is extremely fun. Soon enough, going into a new instance or tanking a new boss will become a thrill rather than a thing of nightmare.

With the new dungeon tool in WoW, a lot of players are seeing the advantages to them personally of picking up the tanking mantle. How would you like to see queue times measured in seconds instead of minutes? Queue as a tank, and that’s the norm.

I was chatting to a warrior in my DK’s guild about the new instances and how we planned to spend our badges. I said I was spending mine on dps gear and was happy that I was now pushing 3k in heroics, because that’s a good improvement over when I started, but that I’d also been able to pick up enough tanking gear to get myself critproof and thought I would be OK to tank easier heroics too. He said that he was spending his badges on tanking gear. So I noted that I’d be happy to ride shotgun as moral support if he wanted to run some heroics. (By the way, if you know a tank, queuing with them is a great alternate way to get fast instances.) And what he said then surprised me. “Oh, I haven’t really had much tanking practice yet.”

There’s nothing wrong in running instances as dps or healer in order to get your tanking gear. In fact, it’s the easiest way to get into heroics and start grinding those badges out. But the longer you put off ‘that first tanking run’, the harder it will get.

I am guessing that a lot of people are in this situation where they like the idea of tanking now, and are gathering badge gear to help out. But the thought of actually tanking an instance is a tremendous barrier to them, which is unfortunate because the only way to really learn to tank is to go out and do it.

10 suggestions on how to get over the fear. These are all things that have helped me in the past.

  1. Research a good tanking spec and read up on what type of gear is required. There are a lot of sources of information online; I’d start with tankspot since they have guides for different classes.
  2. Practice on your own. Go find some mobs and practice your tanking rotation. Throw on your tanking gear and find a pack to AE tank while you kill them. Figure out which of your abilities are most useful while tanking and bind them somewhere convenient. Interrupts, silences, and stuns can be surprisingly handy. (Pro tip: also keep taunt bound somewhere VERY convenient.) How would you pick up an unexpected extra mob? Where are your emergency cooldown buttons? Practice while doing dailies.
  3. Bring a friend. If you have a friend or guildie who is willing to come along as moral support, invite them to your group first. Even better if they have a tank alt and can whisper advice if you need it.
  4. Talk to other tanks. If you know people who play tanks, you can always ask their opinion on gearing or any aspect of play. No one minds being asked politely ‘How do you tank encounter X, I’ve been having trouble with Y’
  5. Start with easier instances. You don’t need to leap straight into heroics. Start with normal instances and work your way up as you feel more confident. If you get a chance to do some tanking while you are levelling, so much the better.
  6. Don’t be afraid to tell your group that you are new to tanking and will be taking things at your own pace. Tell them (politely, if you like) that if they don’t like it, they can leave. If they boot you, shrug and queue for another group – you didn’t need those people anyway.
  7. Go along on some instance runs as a dps or healer and watch carefully what the tank does. Get familiar with the pulls and positioning, watch the patrols, see if you can figure out what the adds actually do.
  8. Organise your UI and addons to make sure that all the information you will need is easy to see. Can you see when your cooldowns are up? Can you check the health of the rest of the group to see if anyone is being beaten up? Can you actually see the mob through the density of information on your screen? Can you see when a mob is casting a spell that you might need to interrupt? Can you see your own health?
  9. Try some PvP, it’s a good way to practice situational awareness.
  10. Think about what you believe a good tank should do … and then try to do it when you are tanking.