Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Letting everyone tank/heal

John P. (Better known as the BBB) had an interesting post today that called for a radical shift in the MMO world – or at least in WoW today. In short, he wants to bring an end to the prima-donna status that many tanks and healers feel that they deserve. From Spinks calling for healers and tanks to get better rewards, to arrogant tanks that will leave their group high and dry on a whim, the situation has gotten steadily out of control.

BBB (if you read this, can I call you John? B cubed?) proposes that every class be given a talent tree that will allow them to tank or heal – but that will effectively reduce their DPS to zero. For the tanks, this means every ability would have massive threat multipliers attached to it, but a shield slam would crit for 5 instead of 5k. I don’t quite know how this would work for healing (rogues stab you with healing poison?), but the same general idea remains – you can heal, but you can’t DPS – maybe even add in a component so you take extra damage. BBB proposes that this would lead to more players stepping up and tanking/healing, and less of the idiocy that we see today.

He makes a few other great points, but you should really just read his post.

Why I think it won’t workat least for now

First and foremost, not everyone wants to tank/heal – period. We already have four classes that are designed with a tank spec, and four healing classes as well. Spend five minutes in the LFG channel, or twenty using the LFG tool, as a DPS, and you’ll quickly see that there’s definitely a shortage of tanks and healers out there.

A large part of this can easily be attributed (at the end game) to the lack of gear that was available when 3.3 came out. Unless you were lucky and had a druid in your tank group, the odds were good that you saw very little tank plate trickle down to the offsets. Plus, you have those tank alts, that never got into a raid in the first place. Same goes for healing gear. I’m fairly certain I didn’t get my Broodmother Eye until after 3.3 had been out.

With the gear reset, and tier 9 gear falling into our laps, you would expect to see more tanks surfacing – but I don’t believe we are. While my data is by no means anything beyond my own experiences and what I’ve read from other bloggers – the sense is that we are still seeing near instant queues for tanks and healers, and slow queues for DPS. Even at the lower levels where the gear isn’t an issue (everyone has just quest rewards).

But why?

So why aren’t we seeing a fresh crop of tanks and healers surface, even if their only intent is to piggy back the system to level 80?

First, I think it has to come with the mindset that has taken root in the game (here’s where this post may get wordy and long). Tanking and healing have both been regaled as ‘more difficult’ or ‘harder’ tasks than just DPSing. Part of this thinking can be linked to the fact that even before tanks were doing 4k DPS in heroics (I was pulling 8k in ICC-10 the other night on trash – that’s sick), the fact remained that if the tank or healer go down – the odds are the rest of the party is soon to follow. Everyone I know has a pile of stories a mile long about fail tanks (especially DKs, more on that in a second), bad healers, etc. While there are just as many (if not more) stories about bad DPS – those aren’t as memorable because they can usually be carried through an instance.

Second, there is an inordinate amount of group pressure placed on anyone attempting to learn the ropes of tanking. From impatient DPS yelling ‘gogogogo’, to those that think everything can (and should) be AoE’d down within 1 GCD of pulling – the tank has a lot going on. Bad pull? Tank’s fault. Someone died? Lrn2holdagro. Heaven help the new Death Knight tank – especially if this is their first crack at tanking.

Next, you have the gear that is required in order to fill the tank/healer role properly. While Northrend has significantly more tanking pieces available than Outland did, most players who are only healing or tanking their way to 80 won’t want to invest in the gear (or spec) required to do the job properly – especially when it comes time to tanking heroics. Even though badges are literally falling off the trees, getting the upgrades you need takes time. If your heart was set on making your DK a PvP juggernaut, your odds of doing that and making a quality tank set are short.

Finally, there’s the stigma against new tanks in general. Don’t have 40k HP unbuffed? Noob, get out of my H-UK. DKs have a bad rap from the first days of everyone thinking all it took was Frost presence and a 2H to tank as a DK. I’ve got more hours tanking than anything else in the game, and my DK still has to work to get the respect out of a group. I’ve gotten many “Wow, a DK that doesn’t suck at tanking”, and several folks who apologized at the end of a run because they thought it couldn’t be done well (and we’re talking lvl 75 regular dungeons here).


BBB has it right – it will take a complete shift away from what we know now to make it work. Tanking and healing specs will have to be free. No extra gear can be required, there will have to be a mechanic for turning your AP into Stam (or as he mentions, spread the damage out more with everyone doing a little healing). I certainly think it’s a possible scenario for an MMO to pull off – but I don’t think WoW will ever go that route.

I’d be willing to bet that you’re still going to have five people standing there saying “Who’s tanking, I’m DPS”.


  1. Great Blog addressing a big issue in WoW (other than loot or other worn out ones...)

    First of all, I'm a Resto Tree for those that don't know and member of OP's guild.

    In response, I think the LFG tool has exasperated this issue to the forefront as it isn't as big an issue "within" guilds per se as it is in LFG situations.

    It would be very radical to turn the environment on its head by removing say a tanking role or healing role as the fantasy environment has always had the Magic, Warrior, Rogue/DPS standard for well, decades now. I know the point wasn't necessarily to remove them all together rather spread or redirect maybe, but would have to say that the roles are very important in their own rights with the following points:

    1) Although pulling aggro is bad for the raid, I will make an assumption that raid wipe % is highest from the tank/healers till they get the instance figured out truly, where the damage is going most, who tends to take/will take the most, and when to taunt off/blow lifesaving CD's. The more people you get involved in this area, the greater the sophistication required to tweak a strat.

    2)Perception and blame for bad things happening go by the "guilty till proven innocent" rule for tanks/healers always, not the other way around whether we like it or not. Spreading responsibility will remove accountability for a big part of a raids success or failure.

    3)This is all made worse in a 5 man group and lessened a bit in 10 and 25 pugs, and really not an issue in Guilds that are mature for the most part.

    Another reason the tank/healer issue has come to the front of the gripe line most recently is (as you said earlier) people are trying to get into LFG faster by "posing" as tank/healer and not really wanting to. One group I was in, the Pally actually chose all 3 roles to get in faster and pissed everyone off when he got the healer role and said it was no problem in his Prot spec to heal, everyone started arguing with me to heal (I was enhance shaman) and I had a hard time convincing people my agility gear wouldn't cut it...lol.

    So ya, most of the grumbling in Tank/Healing has spawned from the LFG demon in my opinion...

  2. I'm a little surprised by the number of warriors and DKs I see in my randoms as dps. My main spec is moonkin, but when I pug I tank because I want to get my daily dose of heroic done and do more of something else. Why waste 10-15 minutes sitting around?

    I admit though, that I hate the gogogo attitude of some dps, and that would be awful for a budding tank. I can chain pull on my main because I'm overgeared, but a newly geared tank, especially one that's new to tanking entirely, needs time to learn the pulls and what they can handle.

  3. "Second, there is an inordinate amount of group pressure placed on anyone attempting to learn the ropes of tanking."

    I actually blogged about almost this very thing yesterday. I've spec'd my warrior prot and am not a "natural" when it comes to tanking. People tend to be extremely impatient and down right mean at times, even if you start the instance off explaining to them that you are new at this. I largely suspect that it is those types of negative experiences in a potential tanks' infancy that are the crux of why there is a tank shortage.

  4. Falling - I read your post yesterday - and I think this reasoning is why there are fewer tanks now (Wrath era). I think that coming up into BC and Wrath the issue was two-fold.

    In Vanilla tanks did minimal DPS - you essentially tanked and then switched specs if you wanted to PvP/Farm.

    In BC - Tank DPS went up some, and as more gear became available at the end via badges it was easier to gear up - but you still had too many non-tanks that couldn't gear.

    Now you've got a great opportunity for new tanks to obtain gear and experience, but their pushed/intimidated by bad groups.

    Maybe I should start a tanking support group...


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