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Why don't you tank or heal?

Why don't you tank
I had an interesting conversation on Twitter with Bashiok late last night on one of the trickier questions Blizzard face in their current content, and indeed, in queue-able content since they introduced the dungeon finder, and latterly the raid finder.

The key is, of course, the final sentence. How does Blizzard get more people to tank, and indeed, to heal? It seems to us here at WoW Insider that a key part to answering that question is to establish what's stopping people tanking and healing in the first place. Hence the question in the header, why don't you tank or heal?

Why does it matter? Well, for those who don't tank or heal, there are currently rather long queues, in the Raid Finder as well as the Dungeon Finder. If whatever's stopping people can be dealt with, and more players take on these roles, then queue times will drop for everyone. WoW Insider has some theories about potential things that are stopping people, but do tell us what you think.


Under Pressure

In my time playing WoW, I've tanked a lot. When I first started playing my paladin, I was told that tanking is the hardest role in the game, followed by healing, and being the sort of challenge junkie that I am, I decided immediately that I was going to tank and heal on my paladin. My then guild-master immediately told me that that was a bad idea, that I would put myself under too much pressure. Since then, I've spoken to several other friends about why they don't tank or heal, particularly when they've complained about the lack of satchels for DPS, and queue times, and the pressure of the role is something that's come up again and again.

Why don't you tank or healAnd the concerns are understandable. Particularly in the Raid Finder, the pressure on tanks to perform, know the fights inside out, and save other players from themselves can be considerable. Mentioning this on twitter brought out a mixture of comments, from people either recounting their experience of being harangued in the Raid Finder for what the group felt was sub-optimal tanking, but wasn't, or from players telling stories of "terrible" tanks who "deserved" to be kicked. But, no matter what your past experience is, there's no denying that being part of a team of two players in a group of 25 is a pressured situation.

If you're a lower-geared healer in the Raid Finder you might also have some issues. Particularly if the group is wiping repeatedly, and you're at the bottom of the healing charts by some distance. There may also be some calling out of players who are not putting out as much DPS as the group feel they could be, but largely, a less-geared or under-performing DPS or healer can fade into anonymity, thanks to their greater numbers. The same is not true for tanks.


Tactical Difficulties

Strategy is a pressure point as well, as, while it may not always be the case, and this is something of a generalization, the tank is leading the group. This is reinforced in the Raid Finder by the fact that the two tanks are marked as lead and assist, and while, in reality, that means about as much as the Battleground Leader in random BGs, it adds to the feeling that the tanks should know what they're doing, even on brand new bosses that they've never tanked before, which don't have countless videos.

Why don't you tank or healIt's easy, as a healer or a DPS, to head into the Raid Finder without really knowing what's going on. I've done it enough times, just don't stand in the bad, and heal all the players, or DPS all the things. Not only does that not work for tanks, but there's an expectation that the tank should know the tactic inside-out already, before even setting foot in the raid finder. And, in my experience at least, as a healer as well as a tank, there seems to be a considerable lack of sympathy for tanks who don't. Even if wipes aren't the fault of the tank, they'll often shoulder the blame for them, I've seen it happen many a time. It's partly the result of what I consider to be something of a mob mentality in the Raid Finder, where if one person decides that player A did something wrong, others will jump on the bandwagon, and that person, whether blameless or not, will end up back in their shrine. Because of the increased focus on the tanks, it's possible that they're more regularly the targets of this sort of criticism.

How many players still move from attenuation in Grand Vizier Zor'lok in the Raid Finder? How many actually pushed their button in late-Cataclysm Ultraxion in the Raid Finder? How many ignored mechanics on the not-unreasonable assumption that the healers would fix it for them? The proliferation of players who ignore mechanics and expect healers to keep them up, or tanks to pull twenty living sand off them is certainly not helping.


Outside the Raid Finder

One time, when asking a friend who's had a DK main for almost as long as they've existed why he didn't tank, he simply replied that he doesn't know the way. Outside the Raid Finder, in the Dungeon Finder, the pressure on the tank is just as great, and the pressure on the healer increases, too. Particularly for the new tank, who will be both learning to tank and gearing up in 5-man dungeons, while fighting DPS who are pulling 100k+ for aggro, or the new healer who's trying to keep that DPS warrior alive through a gang of mobs that the tank's struggling to get back.

One of the problems with Blizzard's having made just one set of 5-mans this expansion is that they quickly become trivial for some players thanks to gear, and -- again something of a generalization -- it doesn't matter so much if a DPS ends up tanking a mob or two. The same is true in scenarios, where the inherent design is that it doesn't matter if DPS tank mobs -- accidentally grabbing aggro off a tank is a non-issue, as is standing in bad just for a short while. This, combined with the above, means that players' sympathy towards tanks and healers, and their inclination to actively help them perform their roles, is decreasing rather than increasing.


What's the solution?

That's a tricky one. And it's very dependent on whether my theorizing on the reasons why players don't tank or heal is accurate. If the answer truly is that they are pressured, stressful roles, to which players are generally growing less sympathetic, then I'm really not sure what Blizzard could do. I do also suspect that there's a notion among parts of the WoW playerbase that healers, and, possibly, tanks, are "support classes". One twitter-er said last night that, if a raid was a band, the DPS would be the lead singer, while tanks and healers would be the backup. Perhaps it's because I play more tanks and healers than I do DPS, but I see it quite differently.

What about you? Why don't you tank or heal? And if you do, what do you think is stopping everyone else?

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion

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