Tobold's Blog
Wednesday, April 30, 2008
Are main tanks a mistake?

Does your guild have a main rogue or a main hunter? Silly question, of course not. You might have a class leader for every class, but something like a main rogue simply doesn't exist. But then most guilds have a main tank. Which leads to the question of why you would have a main of one class, but not of all the others. Having a main tank who gets priority over other players in tanking loot distribution is common, but it doesn't always work out that good. Or to quote a comment from Yunkndatwunk from yesterday: "Some of the examples cited are just poor planning: for instance when a whole guild gets together to equip an MT, instead of treating the MT just like everyone else. Then they are shocked! shocked! when the person they treat like a prima donna starts acting like one. It's one thing if it's someone you've known for years, but with most guilds composed of strangers it's just not wise to give so much up front and then hope the person pays you back. People might think that's slower or not progression minded enough, but the other side is you're not progressing when the "emo tank" leaves because you're not babying him anymore like you did last month."

So why do we have main tanks in the first place? Fact is that in a raid of 25 people not everyone is of equal importance. There are quite a number of people who could die without wiping the whole raid. But if the one person who is holding the aggro of the boss mob dies, the main tank, then it is usually a wipe for everyone. Thus if you are looking at things short term, or you naively believe that the main tank will be with your guild forever, piling up the best equipment on this one guy makes perfect sense. Epic tanking gear is the most difficult gear to get in this game, as unlike dps gear you can't get a head-start by using PvP gear. If the progress of the guild as a whole depends very much on the quality of the gear of one or two main tanks, giving them priority on loot advances the guild faster. Everyone is happy - until the day the MT leaves and the guild finds that the not-main tanks have far, far inferior gear. Suddenly the bosses you could still kill easily last week wipe your raid repeatedly this week, raid progress stalls, and other people start to leave to join other guilds which are still advancing. Whole guilds have collapses like that, or at least suffered several months worth of setback.

Adding to the problem is that nobody takes "extra" tanks on a raid. If for some reason a raid needs two warlocks to overcome specific encounters, that won't stop a third and fourth warlock to be invited. But if a raid needs two tanks, the raid leader will invite EXACTLY two tanks, and never three. The extra warlock is useful for his dps, the extra tank isn't, because his dps is so pathetic. Thus for a guild to manage some sort of rotation to equip lets say five tanks equally well is extremely difficult.

Nevertheless I think that for mid-level raiding guilds, where the risk of the best equipped people leaving for a top guild is relatively high, introducing a tank rotation would make sense. Yes, it's complicated. Yes, overall raid progress will be somewhat slower than if you put all the tanking gear on one guy. But the huge advantage would be far greater long-term stability and an "insurance" against setbacks caused by one person leaving. The setback a guild currently experiences if their best equipped "main" rogue leaves is small and easily overcome. If only guilds could organize their tanks the same way!
If your guild is running with one MT whose presence makes or breaks a run, you're up for months of disappointment.

Our guild runs a rotation in that we have 3 Prot Warriors, 2 Druids and 2 Prot Pallies. All are as well geared as each other and everyone knows their role in any given instance.

But until someone has been a MT in a raid, you can't really comment on why they end up taking a leadership role. It happens automatically in a lot of cases! And if they're not in a leadership role formally, you can guarantee they are not that quiet DPSer who you never hear on Vent, and who no one is sure is male or female!
However, in most cases tanking gear isn't going to be useful for any other person except for the tank. Druids wear leather of course which leaves plate tanking gear for the warrior or pally. The occasional ring, neck, trinket, or cloak that has tanking value tends to be pretty rare.

As a former MT of a raiding guild, I found that I got geared up without having to compete with others because no one else could use the gear I needed for tanking. Who else needs +defense? Who else needs plate for that matter?

A guild should be able to spread the wealth between a few plate tanking classes pretty easily without drama and without significant competing priorities.
The Main Tank concept is a hardcore concept. Noob guilds think it will be useful for them too but it isnt. It is however a psychological matter which motivates some people to strive towards the title.

It just dosnt work in the long run unless your guild is on top of the guild economy on your server. (And maybe needs to be related to continent due to server switching.)
Yes, yes they are.
We've given up on the concept of main tank priorization long, long ago, way before BC came out. And it didn't hurt us in any way. Leaving loot distribution ENTIRELY to a raid point system that everyone in the guild has accepted as being relatively fair (and of course the common sense of the people - usually people can get along and discuss the matter in a peaceful way, but if there is any conflict, the system has the last word) has saved us from any bigger loot drama ever since.

A good and peaceful climate and an objectively "fair" loot distribution (which in turn results in a good climate) are - in my opinion - underestimated factors for being successful in the long run, at least for the usual guild of people who don't sympathize with a "military-style" hardcore guild leadership.
I think the Main Tank is simply the tank that plays their role better than any of the other tanks.

If your raid leader is the MT, then I think you could well be storing up 'issues' for the future.

Certainly in my raid guild, I prefer to see a certain tank as the MT rather than some of the other players.

Inevitably you have to get that guy geared up better than the others if he is going to be taking most of the big hits.

At the same time, you have to give your other tanks that experience, too, or as suggested the 'prima donna' leaves, your guild is in trouble.

We tend to rotate our tanks, so although we might wipe a bit more than if we let the MT be the MT for every encounter, it works out better in the long run.
The concept of one MT who should be geared to the max is outdated. It was true in classic WoW, where you simply needed a good tank and some medium equippted healers to kill everything.
Todays raids are a bit more complex, it doesn't make sense anymore to pour all equip into one guy. A hardcore tank may be useful at one fight, but the next fight would require two medium tanks instead of one good. What then? All the time you won because of your MT in the first fight will be gone because of your poorly geared second tank in the second fight.

And another little advantage of not overgearing your MT:
Primadonna MTs EXPECT to get everything first. If they don't, they get upset and make a scene. If they don't get everything first for a longer term, they will leave and your better off with that. It's simply a great way to sort out foul eggs.
Personally I think it is very rare nowadays to have 1 person who is your 'first choice' tank.

I've used 'first choice' as personally I feel that 'Main Tank' isn't correctly used to refer to the no.1 tank in a guild. For me, at any point during an encounter / pull etc the tank or tanks that are tanking the primary target at that point in the encounter are the Main Tanks.

Looking at the lastest 25 man (SW), boss 1 needs 3 MT's, boss 2 needs 2MT's (generally warrior/druids). Boss 3 is useful to have a Paladin MT and boss 4 requires a warlock MT. That's 5 different people needed to act as Main Tank.

Perhaps in old MC days, where the majority of encounters were 1 MT + OT's then yes having one tank best equipped was more preferential, but nowadays quickly equipping one tank first will be disadvantageous on many encounters and when that single tank encounter comes, what happens when your number one tank isn't available.

Anyway, in all my time of end game raiding, i've never been in a guild that gives priority to tanks. Have a fair dkp system and a group of raiders that respect one another and know when certain items wanted by them might be massively advantageous elsewhere, and problems do not occur.
"But if a raid needs two tanks, the raid leader will invite EXACTLY two tanks, and never three. "

This is a huge problem with the current raid design - almost the inverse of the problems 5-mans are facing at the moment.

One of the reasons I've never raided is because it's arguably harder to raid casually as a tank than any other class. You see people advertising in LFG for more healers or more DPS for a raid, but I've only ever once seen someone advertising for a tank.

It's rather ridiculous that there's a situation where, if there are 4 tanks in a guild, there's such competition for their two "slots" on each raid. No wonder no-one can find a tank for a 5-man - they've all respecced DPS so that they can actually get into a raid occasionally!
I am the main tank and the RL for my guild. We are currently starting SSC. It has been necessary for us to prioritize loot for the tanks in the guild with regard to tier 4 pieces and this has met with some resistance. Why do we prioritize that loot? Because as you have noted it is far far easier to adjust to poorly geared Fury Warriors/Boomkins( and cats)than it is to try and make up for undergeared tanks on fights. Another issue is the availability of tanks in general. It is almost impossible to convince a Fury Warrior to go prot to help out the guild when the majority of their time is spent in pvp. Tanking requires a skill set that doesn't magically appear with a respec and some gear. But getting some gear (especially the tier 4) helps give a new tank the margin for error to learn without everyone else around them getting frustrated in kara/Gruul/Mag.

My guild faces a constant problem of motivating healers / tanks to raid at this point because there are so many other alternate things to do that give out better rewards if you respec to a dps spec. Prioritizing loot first for tanks (and to a lesser extent healers) is a necessary evil for us that we use but try to use sparingly.

A second reason to prioritize is in fact pvp. Many of the players that choose to come into raiding at the lower end of the raid circuit come from a game very different from the one I played in. I advanced all the way through MC/BWL/Nax content and knew every aspect of class roles/specs in raiding. Most new players have no idea why pvp specs underperform in raid settings. Days past a warrior got his prot set first. It was the most important gear he had. Today I run into warriors who don't have a single piece of prot gear so even if they are willing to learn and help out they start from scratch and that is a very difficult gear issue to overcome. They learned how to play entirely in pvp/solo and aggro management is an entirely foreign concept.
I'll also point out a problem that I've seen as one who's looked at DPS, tanking, and healing gear. One big issue right now (trying to help a friend gear for Kara tanking) is that DPS and healers can pretty much craft and PvP themselves into Kara-ready gear, but a tank really cannot. In a way it's good that tanks have to get their gear from instance runs (including instance-related rep grinds) -- but the problem is, the DPS and healers you need for instance runs aren't nearly so tied to a need for running instances over and over and over, so IMO getting good groups is impeded by Blizzard's design.
I think the whole idea of tank/dps/healing is getting outdated actually. It puts too much importance on some people over others, and frankly, it doesn't make any sense that the boss is attacking the guy who's actually the least threat to him: the guy not healing anyone, hardest to kill and not doing much damage.

An alternative system where the boss does less damage, has less health, but can't be controlled by a tank can be more fun, but it might also be much harder for the more casual minded people.
I'll never understand game design where only ONE character, out of a raid or group, can survive more than one hit from a target.

It is just stinks in my book, as a mail wearing DPS class, that I will drop just as fast as a class wearing cloth, because there is really no defense to any DPS class.

It really is conflicting in my mind. On one hand, MT allow for content to be much more controllable, allowing the designers to balance it far more.

On the other hand, it really pigeon holes what other classes are doing. Healing is so stupidly simple because it comes down to gear and casting the same heal on the same target repeatedly. Almost no healing needs to be performed on anyone else, because they are dead if they get hit usually and healing them will probably pull aggro or switching heal targets causes the MT to get face planted. I can count on NO hands how many 5-mans I've run where healing outside of the tank is needed. Sure, maybe a low level 5 mans...

This isn't even mentioning that these tank mechanics DO NOT and WILL NEVER transfer to PvP (aka e-sport in WoW).

Right now, tanking, is by far the biggest roadblock in WoW for casual players. Which is funny, since raids almost always start because a main tank is available, but often times raids are short on healers.

Somday, a game will launch that has far more dynamic content than the getting-old-fast aggro system. Yes, I understand that players need feedback, but I am really sick of threat meters....
I'm in a raiding guild that definitely has the diva/prima-dona/MT 'problem' in place. The MT has priority on loot, meaning if any item drops, be it for tanking or otherwise, the MT has priority to receive it before other classes. Raids live and die by the presence of this single, one person. Raid schedules are adjusted to accommodate this one person. It also doesn't help that this MT is the GM.

I believe having a very well geared MT in a raiding guild creates a single-point-of-failure. There is no redundancy. No backup. This is not good for complex systems and not a good system for raiding guilds. Oddly enough, we recently acquired a new, well-geared prot warrior, who finds himself relegated to raiding with us 50% of the time, for resist fights (Hydross) and the random chance that a feral druid sits out. Judging by his gear and experience, this new guy would have no problem tanking any of the encounters we’re currently doing. The issue here is trust and control.

The guild is more of a self-serving machine for GM/MT vs. a guild with redundant pieces and parts so that on any given night, we have the pieces in place to succeed regardless of the presence of the MT. I believe this is more of a guild control/philosophy vs. MT issue however.

I’m all in favor of well geared tanks, just not in favor of the raid dying when this single player is unavailable.
So we had a guy who started raiding after BC, who really wanted to be the "guild MT". He put a lot of time into getting geared, which I can respect. But it became clear that helping himself was more important than helping the guild, even if he didn't see it that way. He'd demand first dibs on loot. He'd try to force the raid to fight bosses he needed. He'd get saved to other guilds' instances because he needed better gear, despite the fact that he was plenty geared for the content we were running, and this meant he then wasn't available to help our raids. He was attracted to the glamor of the position, but he subscribed to a raiding model that doesn't work anymore. Not being available, halting progression because he only wanted to do certain fights, forcing rogues and shamans to pass on tier gear (he was a paladin tank)...these things were all bad for guild morale.

And it's also bad for performance. As another tank and an officer in the guild, it was really frustrating for me. You HAVE to run a strong tanking corps in TBC, there are many bosses who will be tanked by multiple guys, and they all have to be able to handle it. But also, you HAVE to have strong DPS or bosses will enrage and squash you, no matter how much gear you're wearing. In the level 60 endgame, you needed enough DPS that guys would go down before the healers ran out of mana. Gearing one tank worked there, because every improvement in tank gear extended the fight longer. In TBC, you just need enough tankage that tank doesn't die. You can't extend most fights beyond 10 minutes, so it doesn't work quite the same.

I have no interest in being an MT, I don't have the time or want the stress. So I really tried to teach this guy that he didn't understand the nature of the BC game, because I wanted to channel his enthusiasm properly. The position he desired was a leadership position, and looking out for the welfare of everyone was part of that, but it never sank in. He eventually, of course, left the guild. I've had a lot more fun raiding as a result, to be honest.

I think there are two types of tanks. The first wants the challenge and recognition from being in a premier guild position, and is generally loud and assertive. The second just enjoys tanking, quietly and competently doing their job. I think the level 60 endgame favored the first type, because having one strong MT to pull a guild through content was the fastest road to progression. You needed one of those type A tanks. But the Burning Crusade changed a lot about raiding, and I think there's a disconnect between people who realize this and those who still subscribe to the old way. Raids are smaller, yes, but it is the increased tokenization, greater use of enrage timers, and larger number of non-traditional fights that has made the old MC/BWL model obsolete.

Speaking as a Tank:

Rotate your tanks. You're going to burn out your "Main tank" really fast if you required his/her attendance every raid.

Bring an extra tank on 25 man raids to learn the pulls, boss fights, etc. An extra tank is an extra cc on trash pulls. And really, is that random dpsers you pick up off looking for group; or that Blue geared alt Hunter really going to be the deciding factor in Gruuls/Mag?

As for gear, I say, maybe, split the tier gear up among the tanks and the healers first. Getting Tier gear first as tank/healer is a reward for being tank/healer. Grinding blows, and you get your ass handed to you on pvp server. But what ever you do with your raid loot, make sure everyone knows. I kind of like DKP system, but that's me.
This why I won’t join a Guild unless they Guild Leader is also the Main Tank or a close real life friend of the Main Tank. It was worse Pre-BC, but this is still a failed mechanic.

I’ve mentioned it before but the math just doesn’t add up for Tanks and Healers. In most 25 man raids, you need 2-3 tanks and 8-9 healers. If you take the standard 5-man group ratio and times it by 5, you end up with an excess of two or three tanks and a shortage of 3 to 4 healers. What happens to the excess tanks? Where do you get extra healers?
Bad game design, too much focus on one aspect of the encounter.

What is interesting is how adaptable and flexible the players are at tackling the problem. Good guilds bring an extra (need 2? take 3) tank to help gear him up, accepting a slight dps penalty. Bad guilds don't.

Creating a wider gap between skilled and unskilled players is generally seen as quality game design. Compare the best tic-tac-toe player to the worst player. Not much different. Compare the best go player to the worst.

So if bad game design leads to a wider skill range, does that make it good?
[i]"In most 25 man raids, you need 2-3 tanks and 8-9 healers. If you take the standard 5-man group ratio and times it by 5, you end up with an excess of two or three tanks and a shortage of 3 to 4 healers. What happens to the excess tanks? Where do you get extra healers?"[/i]

You are right, the numbers are broken.
In the case of our guild, pally and druid tanks work on healing sets.
And run dailies to pay for respeccing.
To push endgame you need a MT, because that guy needs to be geared to fuck. You gear your MT up at the expense of EVERYONE else in the guild.

Its a real prick if that said MT chooses to leave.

We have 2 MTs. Most of the time these guys aren't even tanking. As soon as a boss is on farm, they are then on AFK in Shatt duty in their shiney epics. They are both there PURELY to tank the current boss encounter being learned. Alts are used for the rest of the bosses. We have like 7 warrior alts who are all BT+ geared and tank everything except Eredar Twins (current cockblock).

The only times our 2 MTs tank anything except the progression stuff, is when there is a particular drop off a particular farmed boss that is best-in-slot for them, like for example, axe off supremus, etc, in those cases, our MTs actually tank the farm content.

It works well for us

Then again, we don't use DKP either, everything is assigned/decided on by the members of a particular class, and failing that, by our leadership group. We have a tight knit guild, and we only raid 3 nights a week, we don't pull off world firsts, but we do manage server firsts, and as an oceanic guild playing on 500ms pings against our american counterparts, we're pretty proud of it

The sacrifice is we have to minmax everything. Every player, every spec, is minmaxed, we stack melee in certain bosses, and stack casters on others. Every member has pretty much 2+ characters in T6+ gear, and we swap and chop the raid depending on what we have available.

With that said we also can't be "casual" friendly in our progression stuff.

We have a bunch of people in the guild who are "friends" rank, these are the wives, girlfriends, children, and mates of the members, (we have a few members of the old married men club, myself being one of them) and we try and get everyone in on ZA/Kara/T4/T5/and some T6 content, hell my wife has her priest with Hand of A'dal title, and T6, and she's as casual as they come.

Its nice when you can take your mates through heroic slave pens for the first time, and its them on their fresh level 70 priest, healing a sunwell geared tank and dps. :D
Also, just wanted to add to previous post - I think the reason our setup works is because the "core" group of the guild, have all played online games together since Team DM netquake in '95/'96 onwards. We've pretty much grown up together from teenagers in the 90s to adults, most other guilds are comprised of random people who have never meet each other in real life, where as we're a guild comprised of members who have attended each others weddings and childrens christenings etc
In my Guild there isn't a "Main" Tank. We have several Warriors, Druids and even a Tankadin so we can select the "right" Tank for the Boss. I must admit among the Warriors and Druids there is one person per class, who is preferred if the Boss requires extra-care from the Tank, but usually we leave it to the Tankpool to deside who will take Lurker today.
"Epic tanking gear is the most difficult gear to get in this game"

Sorry this just isn't true, we have tanking gear dropping like water in Mh/BT at the moment, so much so that our resident wannabe paladin tank is taking allot of it now and we have only just reached Illidan.
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