Archive for January, 2012

Positioning, Part 1: Communication and the KHiS Principle

A Misunderstanding

Happy new year everyone, though that sentimony is a probably a little late. Ah well, on to the point.

One criticism I’ve received about my blog is the lack of actual tanking content. After all, this is a tanking blog, right?

So, I started writing up a post about tanking in Dragon Soul but a huge chunk of it ended up going off on a tangent. The more I tried to excise this tangent for the sake of coherency, the more that missing contented started to gnaw at me, like a teething ostrich. Because, dammit, that missing content was stuff that’s actually important to me. So, here it is, my first post about tanking and it’s not what I expected.

Any experienced tank will tell you about attaining CTC or about ideal attack priorities. I could too but frankly, it’s all information that can be found elsewhere and explained better. Like here. The science of tanking is well documented but what about the art?

GRUMPETYNESS

When I’m not raiding, I’ll usually sign up for the Dungeon Finder for some heroics to cap my VP, either as Arms DPS or on my mage or my holy paladin. On the days that I don’t get a tank from my own guild, I find myself stuck with whatever the Dungeon Finder sticks me with.

And more often than not, I get grumpety.

It all comes down to positioning. I dislike tanks that just charge off into a pack of mobs, completely disregarding their abilities or how best to position them or whether some CC would actually make it that much easier. The number of times that I’ve entered Halls of Origination only to wipe on the first trash pack. All because the tank makes a beeline to the big mob standing at the back with no regard to the fact that two of the other mobs will not move unless interrupted and the fourth will just stand around AoE’ing the hapless party members who just stand there, blissfully unaware that moving out of fire is a good thing.

The number of times I’ve entered Well of Eternity on my paladin and grumpily healed up the entire party simply because the tank won’t turn the Dreadlord mobs away from the party. Gah, it annoys me so.

Now, I know, I know, all heroics are faceroll now, stop being an old man and fussing about inconsequential stuff. These are details, this is minutiae. Are you really getting all stressed out about positioning in 5 mans? This isn’t Hardmode Ragnaros, buddy, you need to get yourself a girlfriend!

And to an extent, you’d have a point but I think it comes down to something a real life lesson that I learned a long time ago.

The attitudes and habits that you learn in one workplace will carry over to your next.

As such, the habits and attitudes you bring with you to 5 man tanking will carry over to raid tanking. So, let’s talk about the 5 tenets of good tank positioning.

KHiS

Okay, so just why is positioning important? Sure, some fights it’s obvious – you want to tank the Drone over here because no Spiderlings spawn there, you want to tank Riblimb away from Shannox so that he’s got further to run when Shannox casts Hurl Spear. This is just game mechanics we’re dealing with but beyond that there’s a whole other world of subtlety and it starts with your healers.

The first principle is what I call KHiS – Keep Healer in Sight. Okay, fine, I don’t call it that at all, I made it up for the purposes of this article, I’m really not that pretentious, honest.

KHiS isn’t just about knowing you’re in healing range but it’s very important for those heavy movement fights such as Nefarian (Phase 3 especially if you’re the add tank and doing HM – moving out of LoS of the healer can happen so easily), Beth’tilac and Alysrazor.

If you have a consistent raid team, then odds are it’s going to be the same healer or healers assigned to keep you alive. I keep an eye on them all the time, I get to know their toon’s profile, what gear they’re wearing (so much easier in the age of transmog, ha!), how they move so that I can always see if they’re in sight. This is generally very easy in 5 mans and 10 mans but can be near impossible in 25 mans. Then again, in 25 mans it’s not quite as important to KHiS simply because odds are that more than one healer has their eye on you.

I’ve already gone over Nefarian briefly above and I won’t talk more about it as it’s no longer current content but I’ll be talking about Beth’tilac and Alysrazor as those are two very interesting encounters, in terms of positioning. While Firelands is also redundant content, I’d like to save talking about Dragon Soul encounters for separate and more focused posts in future.

I’m going to assume that you all know how the Beth’tilac fight works, on both Normal and Heroic for the sake of brevity. With Beth’tilac, you got two tanking arenas. While it’s true that the Web Tank can just go up and pretty much stand still, that’s a little lazy. The Web Tank should always drag Beth’tilac away from the central hole – not too much, just enough to encourage your Web DPS and healer to get away from your exit route. There’s nothing worse than having your DPS and healers think they’re being clever by standing next to the hole for fast return below, only to end up creating a bunch of meteor holes near your escape hatch. 😉

On the ground, your tank can keep the Cinderweb Drone positioned either to the south, near where the Drone spawns or in the center area. However, in Heroic, the Drone fixates on people and runs off chasing them. In addition to that, depending on how effective your Spiderling DPS team is, the tank needs to be on the ball and move the Drone away from any approaching Spiderlings. This is where KHiS is really important but also, where the flipside of KHiS is important too – KTiS – Keep Tank in Sight! 😛

It’s very easy for your raid to get spread out and move out of healing range, especially the tank if he has to move the Drone from one end of the encounter area to another. Going back to the point of positioning, this is where strafe tanking is very important (and more on that in the next part). If you’re doing this fight every week, consistency of movement becomes so important. Healers will know how you move, DPS will know how you move and so the fight becomes less random and chaotic. Strafing the Drone around in a consistent, clean arc around the center will help with keeping healers in sight and keeping up high DPS uptime – if the DPS know how you’re going to move, they can focus on nuking and not stressing about you zigging and zagging all over the place. More importantly, you’ll avoid getting people hit by the Drone’s frontal conal attack. High DPS uptime, less overall raid damage going out.

In addition to that, another complication comes from the Spinners that drop down after every Smouldering Devastation. Warrior tanks are hilariously overpowered here – simply slap a Vigilance on the off-tank and bam! Infinitaunt the Spinners down. Again, you’ll have to move the Drone around a lot in order to get within range of Spinners but circling around the center helps tremendously for the above reasons. Once the Spinners are down, they’ll die fast enough to not be anything to worry about.

Finally, the most important thing: Vent.

Don’t be embarassed to shout out and just tell your healer if you’re going to be moving heavily or in a way that they aren’t expecting or accustomed to!

This all leads quite nicely into the next part, where I’ll go more indepth about consistency of positioning.

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