Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Tanking 401 - Becoming the MT (and beyond)

In all honesty, this article should be titled “becoming the master of Zen”, because as a MT, that’s what you’ll have to do in order to be more than just another tank.

In and of itself, being the MT of a guild/raid probably won’t garner you any special benefits or privileges. If anything, more will be expected out of you than ever before – both in the raid and in the guild. In my opinion, the MT (second only to the Raid Leader) is the fastest burnout position in the game. While this has changed with the advent of dual-specs and the increase in Prot DPS, being the MT is a largely thankless job.

The History of the MT

During the Vanilla days, a guild MT was easily spotted across IF/Org. It was the one or two guys in their T2/T3, Thunderfury strapped to their backs, and rocking the best of everything. These players were the rockstars of their guilds, and they rarely broke out to do anything but raid. Most of their time was spent on an alt trying to farm the money needed for repairs and consumables, or paying the 50g (which was a lot of money in Pre-BC days) respect fee a couple of times a week. The overwhelming majority of MTs (and tanks in general) were Warriors, as the Druid and Paladin tank were not generally seen as overly viable. There was also such a high need for cleansing and healing, that those classes were pushed into healing roles.

Over time more classes were allowed to step into mainstream guilds as MTs, and in Wrath you can reasonably expect to find any of the four tanking classes listed as the MT. Fortunately the game has changed in such a way that the class you play is not as important as the skill that you bring to the table. While there are certainly some fights (especially early on in Wrath) that favored one tank over another (Sarth 3D with DKs), the designers have specifically stated that they don’t want that trend to continue. What you are instead finding is that the right tank is used (except in ) based on their toolbox of spells and abilities.

What you can expect to get

If you find yourself elevated to the position of a guild MT, you can reasonably expect a few perks/benefits to be heaped upon you.

· You get the expectation of never missing a raid. Ever. Even if your cat is on fire and has stapled itself to the dog, you’re expected to raid.

· Pre 3.3 (and possibly as much now with the instant queues tanks get) you’ll get asked to chain tank heroics until your shield falls off and you kick your tower over.

· You may get a chance at priority loot, providing your guild loot system works that way (I am personally against this).

· You will get extra blame if things go wrong.

· You get to spend the foreseeable future staring at the crotch of whatever boss you’re facing.

· Finally, you can expect to get challenged by every upstart OT who read my Tanking 301 module that is looking to take your position of presumed power and glory.

Fortunately, it’s not really all doom and gloom. A MT is generally respected within the guild, and throughout the server if they’re a member of a successful guild. Sorry to say, the MT of a guild that just got Naxx on farm this far into 3.3 probably isn’t going to have the notoriety that you may be looking for.

What’s really different from being an OT?

First, and possibly most important, you will never have to sit or miss a raid. You will never be asked to spec DPS for a fight, and you won’t spend the encounter time running around picking up trash. As a MT however, it is expected that you are intimately familiar with all the bosses/trash you face – preferably before the first time you actually pull them (unless blind runs are your guild’s thing – which I totally approve of).

Second, you have to maintain an almost inhuman awareness of what’s going on in the raid. This is probably a significant contributing factor in why so many raid leaders are the MT. Knowing how many raiders are dead, what raid CDs are available (much less of an issue now with the reduced CDs and removal of drums), and what your healer situation is will allow you to make calls on your own CD usage. You need to maintain an eye on adds, OT debuffs, raid/boss positioning, portals, timers, etc. More importantly, you need to know who you can call on to get the information you need, when you need it.

Next, you need to be doing everything that you did as an OT (or that your OT is doing) to be successful. Lots of raid AoE damage? Throw your Sacred Shield on someone a touch more squishy (Arcane mages love this for the DPS increase). Keep an eye on your threat meter and be proactive with Salvation. Don’t be afraid to heal yourself if you’re not being beat on and things are going sideways (Marrowgar on Heroic 25 would probably be an instance where this would ring true).

Finally, you’re going to have to make sure that your gear is the absolute best it can be. You should have multiple sets (block, mitigation, avoidance, threat), and every piece should have epic gems and top of the line enchants. Even though the content is fairly easy (ok, trivial for cutting edge guilds – challenging for your average raid group), there will come a day where you’ll be happy that you hung onto that random stat trinket.

Things to remember

If you take nothing else away from this, remember that you are not a unique and beautiful snowflake. There are plenty of other tanks sitting on the fringes that would love to have your spot, and they’re probably just as good. The things that set you apart are attitude, attendance, and dedication. Your guild is depending on you to be there every night for them (raid nights, not 24x7 – nobody should expect that), and that you’re going to be the keystone that they can build successes on.

Train your OTs, and don’t be afraid to swap roles with them (particularly if they are a different class). If you have to miss a night, the raid should be able to continue without you. This will also build a sense of cohesion amongst your tanks. You don’t want your OT stepping into your place without knowing the role (unless you’re trying to set them up for failure).

Read, read, read. The blogsphere is full of information just waiting to be found. It’s not at all uncommon for me to find a tip here or there on a spell or build that I’ve never thought of trying. Be adventurous, and don’t be afraid to think outside the proverbial box.


Being the MT of a guild/raid is a huge responsibility, and not a position to be taken lightly. Be prepared to give your best to your guild, and they’ll take care of you. At the end of the day, there’s 9/24 folks counting on you to be there, and that’s a big weight for the old shoulders. Remember that this position isn’t for everyone, and you shouldn’t feel bad if you’re not ready/willing to step up and fill it.


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