Monday, June 22, 2009

Shared Topic: Situational Awareness, or Driving The Tank

This week Blog Azeroth's Shared Topic is "Situational Awareness in Raids".

Lissanna writes "I thought it would be neat to see how all the classes (even tanks and DPS) handle the multi-tasking that is required during raids. Do tanks and DPS sometimes have tunnel vision and forget to watch for the AOE effects or whatever they need to move out of? How do other healers deal with avoiding the tunnel vision problem?"

You have to do a ton of multi-tasking as a Tank.

As I'm tanking a Boss, my tasks are:

§ Make sure the boss if properly position (don't get the melee dps cleaved, dragon breathed, etc)
§ Keep track of the Threat meter
§ Watch my own health and mana reserves
§ Make sure I have the proper buffs up (Holy Shield, Divine Plea, Sacred Shield, Righteous Fury, Seal, Blessing are all on timers)
§ Watch for special moves the boss does (Plasma Blast, Frozen Blows, etc)
§ Watch the Deadly Boss Mod timers/warnings
§ Keep track of my next panic button (have I used my Pot? Healthstone? Trinkets? Divine Protection? Lay on Hands?)
§ Communicate with my healers (I've got move, use a cooldown)
§ Keep track of bad places to stand (like red/green/blue circles, fires, etc)
§ Maintain a good threat rotation

So how do I handle it all?

It's very similar to driving a car.

There are a myriad of things you are watching (your own speed, the other cars, what lane you are in, gas needle, etc), yet most of us don’t feel overwhelmed. On the contrary, we are so comfortable driving that we add even more to our multi-tasking. We listen to music, talk on our cell phones, shave/put on makeup, or grab a quick bite to eat.

It's because driving comes pretty naturally. We simply scan around without a whole lot of conscious thought.

You ever been driving somewhere and realize you were driving like you were going home, or to work, but you had intended on going somewhere else. You were simply driving out of habit. That's what my threat rotation is like. I can almost feel when certain abilities are ready to use, and which spell in the rotation I need to hit next. 4-2-1-3-5 (Judgement, Shield of Righteousness, Holy Shield, Hammer of the Righteous, Consecrate).

It's so ingrained I have to set up my alts with similar keybinds (first priority attack is 4, then 2, etc.) because that's the key I'm going to push almost reflexively.

How many times do you actively check your speedometer while you drive? Probably dozens of times without even thinking about it. You simply see the general area the needle is in, and you watch the other cars around you. It's the same with watching Omen. I glance over and can tell just by the color and length of the bars what the situation is. It takes factions of seconds.

With all this happening almost without thinking about it, you can concentrate on singing along with the radio/Ipod, or chatting on your cell phone.

In Wow, you can communicate on vent, or pay special attention to the Bosses buff bar or your own debuff bar. You can watch timers on Boss abilities.

Just like you are always looking for the other drivers to do something crazy like suddenly stop or cut you off, you can keep a steady eye for loose adds or red circles.

I can glance at my screen and know immediately what's going on, just like you glance around in traffic and know what's going on. Most things just look right and in place. It’s when something out of the ordinary happens like brake lights on the Interstate or the Boss suddenly targeting a Mage that gets your attention.

Of course, I'm not immune to tunnel vision, driving or tanking. I'll get really into a song, and have to slam the breaks to avoid a wreck, or miss my exit. Likewise, I'll get focused on Omen, and miss moving out for Flash Freeze. It happens.

Some people use accessories like a GPS to help them navigate around. In WoW, I use Addons to help remind of the buffs/debuffs I need to maintain: Tankadin2 for Righteous Fury alerts and PallyPower for Blessings/Aura.

Knowing the fights in advance can really help you get to the level of comfort. Just like having driven somewhere before makes it easier to navigate there again. Watch videos, read strats/blogs, and talk with other tanks who have tanked that content.

Try to keep your eyes moving. Use your mouse to pan your camera around (without moving or turning your toon). You can do this with a single click on the left mouse button.

Situational Awareness is just part of being a good tank, and it's one of those things that differentiate tanks. It's a skill of the man (or woman) behind the keyboard. Like most skills in Tanking, practice is the best way to get better.

Next time you are tanking and feel you have the situation under control, give yourself something else to do, push yourself a little bit. Only by pushing the limit of what you think you can do, can you discover you could do more than you thought. Try to single tank a fight you normally double tank, or take Adds instead of the Boss. Check the Damage Taken after a fight and see how much the Adds did to your DPS, aim to reduce that next time.

Improving your situational awareness will make you a ‘go to’ Tank, regardless of the color of your Raid Bar.
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