Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Tanking and healing ain't trivial

I dinged 78 yesterday with my priest in Gun'drak, while on the last quest of the Zul'drak zone. I was in my second pickup group at that point. The first group had a rogue and three plate-wearers: An arms warrior, and two Death Knights, blood and unholy. All of which thought they were tanking. So at the first boss the 4 melee guys all kept slashing at the boss, nobody took care of the adds he summoned, and I died lonely in the back. We still won, because dead holy priests still keep healing in angel form, but it still left me with the impression that none of the three "tanks" really knew what tanking was about. But then that group fell apart, and I had to look for another group to get my quest finished. It just happened that there was a group of 4 desperately looking for a healer. And it turned out that besides a warlock, the other 3 in the group were all healer classes: A druid, a shaman, and another priest. Oh great, first I get a group with three tanks that can't tank, then I get a group with three healers that can't heal. Fortunately the druid was okay as feral tank, the shaman, shadow priest, and warlock were good damage dealers, and with me healing we finished the dungeon with ease.

Nevertheless I couldn't help but wonder what all of these guys were planning to do at level 80. I hear that among the heroic dungeons there are some quite tough nuts. If the players who leveled to 80 with a dps spec stay dps, we'll probably have shortages in tanks and healers. But if the dps warriors, death knights, and paladins switch to tank spec, and the feral druids, enhancement shamans, shadow priests, and some other paladins switch to healing spec, I'm worried about the quality of their performance. If they think that a simple respec and switch of gear will turn them from a dps character into a tank or healer, they are sadly mistaken. Just having the right stats and the spells and abilities isn't enough. You need to *know* how to play a tank or healer to be any good in that role.

That is why personally I level my priest in holy spec, and will level my warrior in protection spec. I'm sure that slows me down somewhat whenever I'm soloing. But in every group I join on my way to 80 I not only do a much better job tanking or healing than somebody with the wrong spec and gear; I also get constant training on how to use my tanking and healing abilities to maximum effectiveness. Both roles take a lot of skill, and constant judgement calls, unless there is just one simple tank'n'spank boss. If you fight several mobs, keeping all the aggro on the tank isn't trivial, and keeping everybody alive when several people are getting hit at once isn't trivial either. Someone who is only familiar with the damage dealing capabilities of his class won't be able to do a good job of tanking or healing on his first try. And even if someone already did some tanking or healing at level 70, there are quite a number of abilities that have changed, and getting rusty on your skills while leveling as dps isn't a good idea.

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