Learning to tank? Learn to drive!

It’s somewhat obvious that many people will have levelled quickly to 80 in a spec/playstyle that wasn’t for tanking. Let’s face it, the survivability is probably less important than the speed at which you can kill, particularly if you’re a class with any kind of healing capability. For warriors, you’re using food and bandages until you get to level 75 and pick up Enraged Regeneration (unless you’re undead and have Cannibalize). But, let’s face it, either DPS spec is faster for levelling than Protection, with Arms probably getting the nod due to ease of charging access, a bit more survivability, and a need for only one decent weapon as opposed to two. But now you’re at 80, it’s time to get into your raiding schedule and you’re struggling to find a regular spot. Your guild already has plenty of melee DPS, you see; death knights, paladins, warriors, enhancement shamen, rogues, feral druids… It’s going to be a while.

Somebody get me a shield!

The decision to take up tanking is an easy one – it’s the hero’s job, after all. Taking the hits for your team, being the focal point of the entire strategy, and filling a smaller specialization percentage will all increase your chances of grabbing a spot. Sticking with it, however, is not so easy. You soon feel the weight of the priority set up and don’t always make the right choice. You’re struggling to keep an eye on Omen as you keep pressing the Tab key, often losing mobs to DPS that aren’t really hitting all that hard because you’re targeting the wrong mob at the wrong time. Cycling Heroic Strike is becoming difficult as you’re not managing rage correctly, and you are forgetting to slot in Cleave when there is more than one mob; sometimes vice versa. Finding a global cooldown for Demoralizing Shout is something you typically forget, as is using Shield Block for more threat or a bit of damage reduction – then, of course, there’s the extra health of Commanding Shout to recall. Throw in a couple of cooldowns, on-use trinkets, situational abilities such as Shield Bash, Spell Reflection and Disarm and it can all become horribly overwhelming for the new tank. Often, it can become overwhelming enough to make you give up and get back to what is far easier and less demanding on the grey matter. Obviously, tanking doesn’t make sense to you; it never will, so there’s no point in spending time gearing and practicing, when you’re clearly meant for dishing out damage. Right?


Think back (those of you old enough) to when you first started your driving lessons. What a great idea! The freedom of the road will save me time, money and hassle. I can get out when I want, I don’t have to rely on public transport or other people and I can start to develop independence that will stand me in good stead for the future. My friends have all told me that driving is easy, it certainly looks that way, so I should be passing my test in no time at all. Provisional licence? Check. Cash for lessons? Check. Time in the schedule? Check. Getting everything booked up? Check. Let’s hit the road! Except, now you’re sat in the car, it’s a whole lot more difficult. You have to keep your eye on the road, obviously; you don’t want to crash. But fitting time in to check your side-view and rear-view mirrors is causing you to take your eye off the road! Yet… You need to know what’s behind you. Meh. You need to speed up, now; time to change gear. So, get your foot off the accelerator and on the clutch (three pedals here, which is which again…?), then check the gearstick to make sure you’re not skipping one by accident, foot off the clutch… EYES ON THE ROAD! Okay, back onto the accelerator and we’re moving forward a bit more quickly now. For crying out loud, nobody said it would be this hard to learn to drive!

“Sod it, driving is obviously not for me.”

Yep, you guessed it. I used the tanking template from above and directly applied it to how every driver felt when they first parked their backside in the driver’s seat. Yet, nobody gives up on their driving lessons and they eventually master the skill, take to the road and (hopefully) drive safely and soundly. All the thinking that was erstwhile expended on whether you’re in the right gear or not, has been rapidly replaced with the concern that grandma doesn’t look so good and may pee in the back seat; swiftly followed by musings on how best to treat the embarrassing eventuality should it come up.

My point here is that tanking is no different. Everyone, repeat everyone, goes through this process whenever they learn a new skill. It’s the transference of the conscious knowledge of the novice, to the subconscious knowledge of the expert. You will learn each section of a skill as you go along, committing it into a habit that you do without thinking and then further merging all of these sections into the complete skill package. As each sub-skill is implanted subconsciously (say, threat building), your conscious mind has time to contemplate what else is going on (boss encounter mechanics). I recall Veneretio describing this in one of his “clicks to keys” blogs and, though difficult to start with, he stuck with it and became a fully-fledged keybinder.

Now, of course, we accept that there are going to be people with natural talent and this will set them apart. Mastering the fundamentals of tanking will not make you into Ciderhelm or Veneretio, any more than a driver’s license will turn you into Jenson Button. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t learn the skill itself to a high degree of competence and carry it out with surety and steadfastness; just look at the motorists on the M1 every Friday afternoon (!). Of course, you could also look over the WoW community forums and see the posted responses whenever anyone asks for a good Fury or Arms rotation. If I had a penny for every post that started and pretty much ended with “it’s easy, your rotation is Whirlwind and Bloodthirst, Slam when Bloodsurge procs and using Heroic Strike/Cleave depending on the number of mobs”, I’d be a rich man. Oh, and a fantastic Fury player. Needless to say, I’m not because I haven’t put in the time to commit that conscious knowledge, that leaves me little time to think about other things, to the subconscious knowledge that would let me think about rage management, positioning, cooldowns such as Deathwish/Recklessness, and overall awareness.

To sum up (or to replace this entire post /blush), I should simply imply:

Stick with it.

What seems like an awful lot right now, will soon be habitual second nature.


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