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Officers' Quarters: The fourth tank's lament


Every Monday Scott Andrews contributes Officers' Quarters, a column about the ins and outs of guild leadership.

It's no secret that tanks are generally in short supply. Blizzard has admitted as much and even designed the Death Knight class specifically to entice more people to taking up the tanking role. They've gone away from fights like the notorious, original implementation of the Four Horsemen encounter that required 8 fully geared tanks and given us more fights like Rotface that only require 2. But for a 25-player raid, you generally need 3.

So what about those fourth tanks? They find themselves riding the pine:

Dear Scott,

I have been playing WoW for just under four months and have worked my butt off to make my Warrior the best tank that I possibly can. I get numerous compliments about my ability and pride myself on being liked by all. I have joined one of the top raiding guilds on my server, but I am finding problems getting selected for raids.

Currently we raid 3 nights a week, and on average, we have 35-40 people showing up EVERY raid night. Obviously, you cannot take 40 people into ICC25 and therein lies the problem. The current state of raids encourages guilds to take 3 tanks at most, and at times, the third tank is running in an offspec, most likely dps. I am one of five tanks in the guild, and the newest of the bunch. All gear is about equal. The other four get selected for raids on a nightly basis based on seniority. I have remained diligent and have shown up for raids every night without fail, only to be told there is no need for me tonight.


I started playing WoWarcraft solely for the end-game raiding scene, and not being able to experience it is extremely frustrating. I've talked to the leadership of the guild and the simple answer I get is "Be patient". It is now going on the 2nd month of sitting out and my patience is running low. At what point should I throw in the towel and look elsewhere for a home? Any advice would be appreciated.

Thanks,

--Frustrated

I empathize with your situation, Frustrated. It's never fun to sit out week after week. The comfort that I can offer you, as someone who's been playing this game for five years now, is that eventually the interest in ICC will die down and you won't have anything close to 40 people showing up for raids. I guarantee it. So you will get your chance if you can be patient.

You don't have to be. I'm sure there are guilds out there looking for a solid tank if you want to explore your options. But if you like your guild and you want to stay, you will eventually get your chances.

The problem may simply be that your officers don't think you have enough raid experience. If you've only been playing for four months, there are many areas where you may not be as skilled as other tanks.

The fact is that tanks often make or break a raid, so raid leaders have to choose very carefully. Tanking can be very difficult in endgame raids, and the success of the run often depends on their ability to think on their feet and react instinctively.

Look at the early ICC encounters. In many of these fights, the tanks have a tough job and experience is a key factor in their performance:
  • Marrowgar: Tanks have to stay together, pick him up quickly after a Bone Storm, and face him in the right direction so people don't take a Saber Lash to the face.
  • Lady Deathwhisper: Tanks have to be on the ball here, picking up all the adds as they come out, knowing which adds to tank and which have to be kited, and managing tank swaps in Phase 2.
  • Deathbringer Saurfang: Tanks have very little to do here. Even so, they could easily cause a wipe by accidentally aggo'ing the blood beasts or failing to taunt when Rune of Blood is cast.
  • Rotface: The slime-kiting tank has a really tough job here.
  • Professor Putricide: Positioning of the boss is critical, and a tank is also usually the one driving the "abomination" vehicle. The order of your tank swaps in Phase 3 can decide whether you're assigning loot or watching your limited-attempt counter tick down.
These are just a few examples, but almost all encounters have a mechanic that puts tanks in the spotlight. That's why many raid leaders are often the most reluctant to sub out tanks over any other role.

Frustrated, it could be that your officers think you lack the raiding experience to cope with these situations. Ask them if they feel you can improve your play in any way and see what they say. Even if they don't have a specific suggestion, they'll respect you for asking them and being open-minded about improving.

Or it could be just a matter of seniority as you suggest. I don't personally believe that seniority is a good way to handle filling slots. It leaves new members out in the cold for long periods of time. What if a long-time member has very poor attendance but decides to show up this week? Should they get a slot over a newer person who's been available for every raid night since 3.2?

It's no easy task to fill slots when so many people are eager to run a new raid zone. Your officers don't have a great system, but at least they seem to have a system. Too many officers just take the players they want with no rationale or policy and expect everyone else to deal. That's probably the worst way to handle it.

Some sort of weekly swapping situation can be a better solution for tanks. That gives all your tanks experience with the fights, which is helpful if one of your regular tanks can't make a raid. Or you could even sub your tanks in from fight to fight based on who still needs the tanking drops from each boss. Either method is preferable to letting your fourth tanks stew.

To all the tanks and other players out there yearning for a shot at ICC, I urge you to help us help you get a raid slot. How can you do that? First of all, if you're new to raiding like Frustrated is, practice, practice, practice. Run PUGs if you have to, but get into some raids and get some boss kills under your belt.

Second, always show up prepared to raid whether you think you'll get a slot or not. Have all the consumables and reagents that you'll need, repair your gear, and know how to get onto your guild's voice chat server. If you get invited and you hold up the raid because you don't have what you need, you're only decreasing your chances of getting invited again in the future.

Third, read up on the encounters and watch videos so you're not walking into a boss fight blind. Raid leaders don't want to explain every mechanic on every boss all night long. They have to go over the critical elements, but they don't want to explain why you shouldn't stand in the green circles. If you're getting benched, a big part of it could be that you just don't understand the fights well enough.

If you're confused about something, ask another player in your role for advice before you ask the raid leader. Particularly in a 25-player run, the RL has enough to organize and deal with. He or she doesn't have always time to personally walk you through all aspects of the encounter. Even so, it's better to ask somebody, anybody, than to die to something silly because you didn't know what to do.

Finally, be flexible. Tanks with no offspec are the most difficult to find slots for, especially if you're new to a zone. You're a much greater asset to the raid if you can swap to a DPS or healing role without causing a major drop in performance. Purchase a dual spec. Learn your offspec as well as you've learned tanking. Gear up that set via Triumph emblems and the new ICC dungeons. That goes for DPS hybrids, too!

All of these steps will improve your chances of getting a slot, in one role or another.

If your guild has any, what do you do with your fourth or fifth tanks?

/salute


Send Scott your guild-related questions, conundrums, ideas, and suggestions at scott@wow.com. You may find your question the subject of next week's Officers' Quarters!

Filed under: Officers' Quarters (Guild Leadership)

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