We tanks are an egomaniacal bunch, in general. There’s two tanks in a 25man raid, and there’s 18 DPS. We’re NINE TIMES as important as DPS. The math doesn’t lie.
Tank theorycraft, in our infinite ego, tends to gloss over any contributions that healers might have to our survivability, and focuses entirely on that which we can control through gear and direct fight interactions. We make one more mistake that’s perhaps even more critical, though: whenever we actually acknowledge that there might be some kind of contribution made by a healer, we assume that all healers behave like our healers.
We throw words at each other like “total damage reduction” or “burst tolerance” and assert that our way “improves survivability because it improves healability” without generally considering healers as anything more than an automated health-recovery system. I’ve been guiltty of this myself, frequently, until fairly recently. It’s been in conversations with Ana and Theck, or with Derevka* that I’ve come to realize the surprisingly obvious: healing teams are different.
It’s not so much a question of skill as it is a question of style and composition. One team may believe in following assignments very strictly, and another may believe in heavy crosshealing. One team might believe in starting heavy on healers and removing some as you get used to fights, and another might believe in starting light and adding a healer only if absolutely required. All of this has an impact on tank survival, and it’s the sort of thing that we should probably discuss more often.
No tank can be effective in the endgame without being just a little bit of a theorycrafter. You have to be able to evaluate logs and deaths and figure out how to increase the odds of your survival. You have to be able to do it yourself because only you will really have a good understanding of your healers and their strengths and weaknesses. When someone else does it for you, they’ll be making implicit assumptions that may or may not be correct. And yet, of course, we do. Even when we know better, we’ll look through other peoples logs and try and help out when it might generate anything but useful advice.
Perhaps something that we should open a discussion on is tank/healer theorycraft. Tank and healing-team interactions. It might very rapidly scale into complexity as we start separating by 10H and 25H, now that there’s more than one endgame in WoW, and as we start talking about the continuum between anarchic crosshealing and assignment tunnel-vision, and the spectrum of available healing (which tends to increase rapidly with encounter familiarity, so what is optimal for pull 1 is not always optimal for pull 20), and the large but discrete number of possible healing combinations in all their strengths and weaknesses. And we should probably consider what might be different about healing each different tank class…
All of a sudden we just started scaling into fairly ridiculous levels of complexity. And yet, I think that tank/healer interactions might be one of the most critical things for any tank to get a basic understanding of. I think it’s something we need to make a point of being aware of when doing any kind of tank theorycraft, because no discussion of tank survival can make any sense at all without being placed into the context of a particular healing environment.
The next time you find yourself having a tank theorycraft discussion in the Crossfire style (Assertion! Counterassertion! LOUDER ASSERTION!) take a step back and start thinking about context. Explain yours and ask for the context from the other side. I think I’m going to start doing more of this, and maybe I can start getting a better understanding of tank/healer interactions.
I know that many of my own personal leanings for gearing and survival don’t match the prevailing wisdom. I tend to value stamina much more heavily than most – and so do my healers. I’ve traded away stamina for mastery before, and I get nothing but complaints, even when I don’t tell them about it. “I don’t know what’s going on with Mel tonight, he’s way harder to heal.” The Edge healers love having a huge healthpool on tanks. I think part of the reason for that is that we have a very crossheal heavy raid culture.
We’ve found – again, I’m assuming it’s because of the heavy crosshealing that we tend to do – that tanks receive a ton of incidental healing during low damage/non-bursty phases. Between HoTs and splash heals, and lightwells, and PoMs and the tank healer casting out of boredom, nobody actually notices the difference between a dodge, a block, and a hit most of the time. What makes our healers have to work tends to be heavy tank damage (burst), or heavy raid damage (reductions in incidental healing, plus burst when the raid damage also hits the tank) or long periods of movement (5+ seconds – anything less is easy to cover with instant tools) or some combination of all of the above.
And nothing covers for bad shit like Stamina. So that’s what they want to see on their tanks. They tell me that less stamina, even when it’s traded for a better overall damage reduction, makes them feel like they have to work harder to keep me alive, and that they spend more mana to do it – because they’re working harder.
That’s my context. And those are my choices. They make sense in the context of my raid. They certainly don’t match the prevailing wisdom from the forums that I’ve seen, but I hesitate to question that prevailing wisdom – because I don’t know the context from which it’s being dispensed, or the context TO which it’s being delivered.
I feel like I should note that I often change gear around based on encounter, as well, and will often trade stamina flasks for resist/mastery elixirs, or stamina trinkets for mastery/resist trinkets, etc. Tune the gear to the encounter, just like you tune the healing to the encounter.
So tanks: Talk to your healers. Healers: Talk to your tanks. It’s a co-operative effort. Raiding is a team sport. But in the game of progression tanking, survival is king, and neither tanks nor healers can do that as well separately as they can by working together. And we’re still nine times as important as the DPS. It’s science.
*he’s spent the last three months pestering me for a shoutout. I couldn’t deal with the whining anymore.