Friday, December 4, 2009

Glass Ceiling For Tanks

Gravity over at pwnwear did a series of posts explaining the game design issue of the number tanks required at each level of PVE content, 5 mans, 10 mans and 25 mans. He even tried to apply some supply and demand dynamics to the issue.

The posts were so well done they prompted a response from Veneretio of Tanking Tips. Vene’s post underscored that the ratios were not the issue, but the design of fights was. He went on to give some examples of what he felt like were well designed fights and poorly designed fights. What was interesting to me was that every example he gave of a fight where he felt Blizzard got it right was a Burning Crusade fight.

Both come to the conclusion that Tanks really just want to Tank. Sure, we can put on DPS gear and switch to a DPS spec for fights that only need one tank, and contribute to the raid, but we aren’t playing our toon in the way we really want to.

They both also realize that the core issue is one of encounter design. If Encounters were more consistent in their need for Tanks, they would be more Tanking positions for Tanks to fill. It does not appear their design philosophy has apparently not changed in Ice Crown. Let’s look at 5 of the fights that were tested on the PTR. I’m using the Tankspot write ups to determine the number of Tanks each fight needs.

Lord Marrowgar – 3 Tanks
Gunship – 2 Tanks
Deathbringer Saurfang – 2 to 3 Tanks
Lady Deathwhisper –3, one for each Adherent
Festergut – 1 Tank, strict enrage timer
Rotface – 2 Tanks

These are for the 25 man versions of the fight. I’m assuming the 3 Tank fights will become 2 Tank fights in the 10 man. But what you can see here is the vacillations between 1, 2 and 3 tanks.

What ends up happening is you create a glass ceiling for Tanks.

A new Tank attacks his uphill climb, and survives a couple of PuGs to start gearing up. He continues to work and work but the deeper he gets into the endgame, the less opportunities he finds to Tank. The closer you get to guilds running current content, the less you see openings for Tanks. The few Tank spots in those guilds are held down by established Tanks who may have been in those guilds for months and sometimes years. And even when those guids have one of their tanks stop playing or stop tanking there are usually several tank capable DPS ready to take the spot.

This new Tank is basically all dressed up with no where to go. So our new tank becomes discouraged and goes to either DPS or PVP. Then suddenly the PuGs are decrying the lack of Tanks available for runs.


Feist said...

The problem is that every fight needs to have a 10 man version, and many, if not most multi-tank mechanics are difficult to scale down to reduce the number of needed tanks.

How would you set up the tanking requirements for a fight like Maulgar or Karathress on a 10 man without totally gutting the fight or requiring 10 man groups to have absolutely absurd ratios - 3 tanks with the positioning you'd see is going to require at least 3 if not 4 healers, which leaves very little room for DPS after all.

Sorry guys, I'm afraid this is a case of not being able to have the cake and eat it too.

Anna said...

Honors -

This is not unlike the problem that happens with healers as well. Granted, you need 5-7 healers in a raid at any time instead of 1-3 tanks. But the better your raid gets, and the more your raid gets gear, the fewer healers you need. So a raid that needs, say 7 healers when starting Heroic ToC to compensate for the beating might only be raiding with 6 healers after a few weeks... and then dropping down to 5 or 4 for "farm content".

Those healers that aren't on the "list" then either get benched or have to switch to a sub-par/non-preferred spec in order to keep their raid spot. Healers that put in the time on the hard stuff, earned their stripes wiping, and have the repair bills and migraine headaches to prove it are being benched during the "easy" stuff (and the money-making/alt-spec gearing stuff) because they're just no longer needed.

Add to that the innate stress of the job (which is not unlike tanking, while still being completely different) and the general thanklessness (which is also not unlike tanking) and you've got a perfect formula for why there is a shortage of healers.

Grats Bizz!

Karl said...

The situation gets worse when you try to recruit, and you pick up tanks as off-specs or alts in the process.

I'm fighting this right now, as an over-eager officer brought in all kinds of people as we were trying to make our 10-man guild a 25-man guild. I wound up sitting out of H ToC last night because said officer invited too many tanks, and promised raid spots to too many new people. I'm not pleased.

Tengen said...

I can definitely empathize with this. Pugging was pretty much the only way I got a tank spot in the beginning because the guild I joined had lots of tanks. I had leveled prot and geared prot in heroics, so I didn't have any kind of offset gear. I had to pretty much be bullheaded in order to get a tanking spot in a raid. Now, many, many, many months later, I'm considered the defacto MT of my guild, but it was a big hassle to get to that spot. I always hate it when tanks apply to my guild because I know that we can't support them, even if they are good. They'd, at best, be a 4th string tank. But then the problem arises of we run 2 10m ToGC groups so we need 4 tanks, which means either a "mainspec" tank has to DPS in 25man, or a 25m DPS needs to gear up well as a tank to tank 10m H stuff. Not only is tank variety an inelegant system, but the 10/25 split is further inelegant. Healers do suffer from this to a lesser extent, but they still suffer. And we have lots of 25m DPS being left out because we can't support a 3rd 10m H group or we'd need another 2 "tanks-half-the-time" people and more healers, who then would have problems getting a spot in 25s.

Paul said...

So is it worth it to become a tank? Leveling a Ret Pally currently. I was Prot for a bit and had a blast tanking a few PUGs. It looks like more PUGs for the time being until I hit lvl 80 and get enough decent gear to attempt to join a Guild.

Tigrinum said...

This is exactly what has happened to me and other newer tanks in my current guild.

I started a Death Knight about two weeks after WotLK was released because I was tired of fulfilling a strict DPS role as a Warlock and wanted the opportunity to tank. Things started off great as I picked up better gear as I leveled and tanked the instances without issue. Once I had ran heroics enough to obtain a decent set of gear to tank Naxx, I went in with my guild and was told to take a DPS role as the current tanks (who have been in the guild for years) had better gear having already downed some of the bosses in there before I could join them. This makes sense to some degree, as it certainly makes everyone else's job easier as the tanks have more health and can (typically) generate more aggro. On the other hand, it makes other individuals that really want to tank take another role in the raid as they most likely will not have the opportunity to tank unless the main tanks can't make it one night or take a break from WoW.

That being said, I do love my guild and have been running with them for about two and a half years now with a lot of success. My DPS set is awesome, but I'm still running around tanking heroics in Naxx level stuff because I can't roll, or lose the off-spec roll on tank gear in TotC. That's one reason I'm looking forward to the emblem update in the next patch so I can quickly upgrade my tank set.

Tegoelf said...


While this is a valid point that the scaling becomes an issue, there is also the problem with things like a fight which requires just one tank and has a strict enrage timer, those 2 things create a situation where you need to switch out your OT's (either for their off spec, or completly) it would be better handled by having a fights with one or the other of those requirements, that's one of the reasons patchwork works, strict enrage, 3 tanks, and the scaling isn't so hard, they have shown that before, for example looking at beasts, Grumlock: 10 man 11 to 12 second impale cast, 30 second debuff, want for no more than 2 stacks: works out to 2 tanks each eating 2 stacks, and then being able to switch back after their stacks fall off. 25 man: longer debuff, meaning either each tank takes 3 stacks and switches, or you add a third tank and each still only takes 2 stacks, but its a three switch fight, after that, the third tank gives you room to have a tank go down on the worms, and possibly loose one on icehowl.

Bottom line, giving a fight with 1 tank and a strict enrage means you are going to have to make your OT's dps or replace them with DPS. if the enrage isn't as strict, it makes sense to keep them as backups, they may not tank, but they don't have to try and be leet dps either

Crofe said...


The way that I've seen the healer thing combated is by doing it "backwards" from the way you have it. That is to say, when first starting a place have some DPS Hybrids switch to healing. Then as less healing is needed, have them switch to their "main" spec of DPS.

That's what's been happening with me in my current guild. I play Elemental Shaman as my main, but I keep a decent enough Resto off set that our attempts in 25m ToGC saw me as a healer. (Granted, we never killed Beasts in 25m ToGC, but it wasn't from people dying).

Dargnash said...

Another problem with the number of tanks needed per fight is if you are asked to dps a fight instead of tanking your gear might be sub-optimal. If you are an OT and tank half a raid and DPS the other half, both specs really are your main spec. Most guild would not let you roll MS on both specs, and should not IMO. If you roll MS on the tank spec you DPS will be behind, sometime until the next tier comes out; if you roll MS on DPS you will become under geared for tanking and get replaced.

Anonymous said...

At least druid tanks have good overlap with their gear for dps spec. I realize they need different gemming, enchants, and stat priority, but it's still much better than plate tanks having nearly two complete sets to have the almost required flexibility of tank / dps.

Similar with healers: druids, priest, and shaman can at least reuse several pieces for both specs where paladins are left needed a complete set (granted their heal gear usually has little competition, it's still hard to get offspec plate dps).

Gravity said...

Thanks for the mention, Honors.