Guest Post: Tanks on Healers – A WoS Special

October 28, 2008

Jov is being lazy this week, and instead of providing a post herself, is pulling from the husband archives to provide you, dear readers, with a view from the other side of the healing story.

Since Jov is on vacation this week I, Tarsus, her loving and devoted husband have offered to fill in here with an exciting guest post.  To give you some background, Jov and I have been playing WoW together for over three years now (since March 2005 to be precise, when it became clear after a week of playing that just one account would not be sufficient for the two of us), and for most of that I have played as her Tank.  This is because I love warriors as much as she loves priests.  I love tanking, she loves healing, and together we’re the toughest part of a PuG to assemble.

This also means that I can offer some perspective from the other side to you, dear healers.  We tanks have more feelings than just the searing flames of rage, and though our bodies are made of Steel, Bear Blubber, and Flasks of Fortification, or feelings are not, and occasionally you stomp on them.  Or, you know, do a little jig on their burning embers.

Jov and I have a very good understanding on these things, being that after the raid is over and the video card is cooling we still live and love with each other.  For you healers who are not married to your tanks, however, I have some “learning” for you.

1) A good tank will never complain about healing. You got that?  NEVER.  Even if they go without healing and must pop shield wall in order to live long enough to pop a pot because you are doing something wrong they will never tell you how to tell you how much it hurts.  They do this because despite the repair bills and corpse runs they know where their bread is buttered.  Regardless of this the ancient adage remains true: with few minor and specific exceptions if the tank dies it is the healer’s fault. We’ll just never call you on it, remember that.

2) We hate it when you heal the DPS. We don’t hate them because they can generate more threat than us.  We don’t hate them because they’re too busy watching recount to realize they’re about to die.  We hate them because when they get healed, chances are a healer is about to die.  The only thing that kills healers faster than a tank dying is when you heal the doomed aggro-pulling DPS. The enhancement shaman may be wearing mail, but when it comes down to it they might as well be wearing paper.  We try so hard to make sure you live, but sometimes taunt just isn’t enough.

3) Threat does not grow on trees, but healing does. We tanks can stack as much hit and expertise as possible, but chances are we’re still going to miss some of those crucial first hits.  This applies double to fights which have aggro drops and transitions in them.  Try to keep your heals small and controllable.  Big Heals and HoTs right after the tank gets aggro are going to get you killed. We don’t want you to go splat, even if you do things sometimes that make us die a little inside.

4) Unless you are being hit by something, don’t stand near us. In case you missed the memo, being in melee range of a mob increases your threat significantly.  Just remember that this also works in reverse though, so for the love of God run towards the tank if you pull aggro. We like to joke about how often the mage blinks away when Mr. Mob comes looking for his blood but every tank knows that healers are every bit as guilty of just standing there and get eaten. We know this sounds like a hot cold thing, it’s not really, we just want you to live.

5) The good tank is a grumpy tank, so please stop complaining about it. It isn’t that we’re failing at having fun.  It isn’t that we don’t like epics, or getting hit repeatedly in the face (or shield).  We do like these things – that’s why we’re here after all.  But when you’re job is to be the meat-shield (and most tanks can’t do much besides that) it’s hard not to take it personally when people die.  This goes double for healers.  Really.  If a rogue dies and the tank still has aggro, does anyone care?  No.  But if the healer dies, it doesn’t matter what the aggro status is because everyone’s life just got a lot harder.  We tanks are sensitive.  We recognize this.   We see a special relationship between us and the healers.  And then you go and die on us, so we are sad.  So if we seem a little rough around the edges it’s not because we’re not having fun, it’s because we care.

And so therefore…

6) We are tired of the healer Mafia. We know that we’ve had a cozy relationship in the past and sometimes we’ve made somewhat crass statements that were a bit too “friendly”, but we here down at the Tanker’s Union work hard to bring home the purples and we could really use a break from the threats.  Our numbers are dwindling all the time, and what with the shiny foreign undead competition on the horizon, there is just not a lot of love left for the common working tank.  Sure, people don’t talks smack about the tank like they do the effete elite DPS classes who can make their millions and afford many fancy epic mounts, but we thought you were our friends.  You never hear tanks say they’ll stop saving the healers. A grue eats a kitten every time you think about killing your tank.  So if you can’t care enough about your tank, at least think of the kittens.


  1. I really liked this post. While I too live with my very own tank, all this really goes unsaid, so it’s fun to see it all written out by someone else. I’ve never seen #1 broken (so true), and I especially liked the wording of #6. Bravo.

  2. LOL Awww, so very nice to read. 🙂 It’s fun hearing the perspective from the other side – though I now feel the tiniest bit guilty. 🙂

  3. I disagree with several of these, but you’re a good tank, so I’ll let it slide. 😉

  4. Having been on the other side I know exactly where you are coming from. My priest now has nothing but love for her tanks. Symbiotic relationship and all that.

    It’s the DPS that turn me into a grumpy tank. I have a policy on my tank: If you’re a DPS and you pull something off me before I’ve established aggro, you’re tanking. I go sit my fat bear ass infront of the healers and wait. And usually if it’s my boyfriend healing, he doesn’t even try and save the unlucky DPS. We just wait for it to die and resume the pull, minus one.

    Well written indeed!

  5. Loved the post! Oh so true! 🙂

  6. @Anea – Thanks. Going with the tanking theme of masochism I am also paying way too close attention to the election. Fortunately for all involved I wrote this when Jov was first starting the blog so no references to “Joe the Tanker” are necessary.

    @Avonar – Guilt is to be expected, just make sure you feel the eternal bond of love (and suffering) between tanks and healers as well.

    @Crutches – It’s funny, when I read over it some of them do seem less applicable than they once were since 3.x.x. RIP Threat. Though I will say that the most dangerous time is still the first few seconds. Shield Slams do still miss on occasion and that = Doom

    @Dae – It is written in the good book “If the DPS dies it is their own damn fault.” It’s in there, I swear. Right before “There are no Warglaives, only Zul.”

    @Aendi – Thanks!

  7. @ Crutch — When’re you gonna make your own blog (or provide me with another lazy guest post!) to offer your retort, huh?

  8. THat was fun to read and it got me thinking….exactly how many healer/tank couples are out there??!!? Seriously? Until recently I had my own pet tank too, but he decided to quit WoW and now spends his time shooting people in Call of Duty 4. He is thinking of coming back though….now if only I can convince him that he really wants to tank not dps on his elemental Shammy! 😀

  9. @Ayslin- I think more than you might normally think. Wowinsider linked to this really neat study (http://blog.gamerdna.com/blog/2008/10/17/bartle-gender-and-wow/) that clearly demonstrates a gender preferences for… Warriors (male) and Priests (female). As for your pet tank – tell him to seriously give it a try now post patch. I haven’t had as much fun tanking in years.

  10. I always feel so bad everytime I heal a DPS that does something inane, but my reflexes don’t permit me to do anything else. As soon as the DPS pre-pulls or yanks aggro in the first few seconds, by the time I realize what happened and that I should let him/her die, PW:S is already up and I’m two ticks into a hasted Penance. Sorry tanks!

  11. Hi

    Let me just confirm that all that is listed in the entry is true.
    When I go with my priest (lvl 60) in random 5 man groups it’s really basic.
    1. Most important stat is stamina (equip actual healing gear once you see the tank is good).
    2. Never heal DPS nor use any kind of group heals (maybe later on once they proven themselves) – if DPS wants to tank let them try (and die) chances are, you are better off without them anyway.
    3. I love my tanks they can be wearing white and gray gears but just to see them try to keep aggro makes my eyes tear up. Let the tank die? Seriously!? What healer does that?

  12. Read that whole article and IMed my boyfriend with it. Very interesting, and seems to be true at least for me. I have 4 70’s all are classes females prefer….Priest, Druid, Mage, Hunter.

    Ok now as for the actual post…I have the hardest time letting anyone die. I think it kills me a little every time I do! I have let dps die when I knew healing them would kill me, but I do not like doing it. I am healer due to my desire to help, so it is hard to choose to let a person die…even a stupid person.

  13. @Ayslin & Xtian: Don’t get me wrong, sometimes you need to heal the DPS. Just watch that threat meter – especially if you’re looking at a hunter, rogue, mage, or warlock. I guarantee they’re not going to be thinking of your best interests when they hit the agro dump. Thankfully this has become less of an issue in the middle of combat.

    @Knaz: This is more of a list designed from the perspective of the “good” tank. I would be lying if I said I hadn’t seen the tank trying to do their job with bad gear, or just do their job poorly. I’m sure every healer has had that experience with the crap tank who can’t hold agro and blames the healer for every wipe.

  14. Oh yes those fun tanks! The ones that cannot hold more than one mob to save their soul! Unfortunately the Tank really must get aggro on all the mobs to allow me to heal and I’ve had more than one who just could not seem to grasp the concept!

  15. Nice post.

    1) A good tank will never complain about healing.

    Agree. I wouldn’t say never in Raid situations but for the most part if I shut my mouth especially if I know the healers.

    Big reason is you don’t want being told hey tank harder! dps harder! so I don’t say hey heal me harder!

    4) Unless you are being hit by something, don’t stand near us

    One of my main reasons for this is so I know if a mob is lose and getting away from the pack and I can just taunt it back and yes cleave hurts too.

  16. @Ayslin- To be fair, as a warrior, multi-target tanking was a pain in the butt. You cannot believe how much easier it is now. The TC > Shockwave > Demo Shout > TC rotation with cleaves, etc, is amazing.

    @Herc- Your later point is especially true now that taunt has a substantive range. Well, at least for things that are not immune to taunt. (This is not to say you don’t need to run to the tank – the range is still shorter than most heals and that few seconds could easily be the difference between a live squishy and a dead squishy.)

  17. It will be awhile for me to get used to the new taunt especially I only tank here and there.

  18. Letting the tank die is suicide for any healer who’s not a paladin. It puzzles me that people would actually do this.

    Re #4: What? But if I’m not standing next to you, I can’t catch anything in the Holy Nova spam!

  19. stupid

  20. @Kindrie – Your holy nova spam doesn’t produce any threat. Just don’t try it with Circle of Healing.

    Also, I could think of several fights where it isn’t suicide to let a tank die. Void Reaver for one, especially now with the threat generation changes.

  21. I liked the post.

    Just one comment. You don’t generate more threat by standing next to the tank (and thus the mobs). It’s just that the threshold for changing targets in melee is 10% more threat than the highest threat target, while changing to a target out of melee range requires 30% more threat than the current highest target. Thus, if you’re way below threat threshold, you’re not risking anything by standing next to the tank. Well, almost. You’re still risking all the AoE effects.

    For a restoration shammy it’s sometimes worth it though, for the mana returns on Water Shield charges.

  22. Just letting you know that I added you to my blogroll.

  23. Nicely done.

    When I am on my Priest I will admit I am sometimes guilty of healing stray dps. It never even crossed my mind to let my tank die though.

    Hell, on my hunter I have both misdirect and gift of the Naaru macro’d to my focus target, the tank.

    Oddly, I have not played a tanking class outside beta yet. I will be rolling a death knugget on live though once the frenzy dies down.

  24. @ Tarsus –

    I’m aware that under normal circumstances, DPS ought to be healed. While tank is priority numero uno, it’s very rare that a healer is completely unable to heal more than one target (at least in most 5-player content pieces).

    The issue is that many healers just see a health-bar go down and then they immediately start healing. In a lot of situations, the only way you’re going to save someone is by firing off heals immediately (especially in heroics). For me, it takes me a couple seconds to realize that the DPS is getting hit because they did something stupid, not because there is aoe damage or a cleave or adds or whatever. In that time, I’ve already cast the heal, and my realization that the DPS is in fact a moron and that I shouldn’t heal them comes too late.

  25. Forgot to add to my previous comment:

    One thing that PuG tanks can do for their healers is to let them know if one of the DPS is trouble. I know I’m rarely checking the threat bar because my heals rarely surpass the tanks threat (especially post 3.0.x). But if a tank knows that DumbMage69 lays into mobs as soon as combat starts without a care as to threat, they can let the healer know that DumbMage69 is a threat problem, so the healer can either proactively protect the DPS (with a pre-combat shield, etc.), or know to let them die ahead of time.

  26. @Ayeba- You are correct, of course. The effect is pretty much identical though – it is easier to pull agro if you are withing melee range of the mob. This is really less of a problem now that threat is much easier to generate – but it is still something to look out for, especially if you don’t have a threat drop (I’m looking at you Druids and Shamans).

    @Xtian- Rapport between Tank and Healer in a PuG can be really useful, or it can be depressing (see crappy PuG tank example from above). Still, figuring out the character of the people in your group can mean for better use of resources. Hence the best use of the Badge of Shame (aka Vigilance).

    Still, I will say, the problem with DPS pulling agro comes from a landslide of problems that sort of cascade one after another. It sort of goes like this:
    -Tank Looses Threat (automatically at least 10% behind current agro target).
    -Tank is suddenly out of Melee range if noob DPS is ranged.
    -Tank still gets healed (because you had a heal cued up, right? More threat here)
    -Noob DPS gets healed (Yet more threat)
    -Noob DPS dies
    -And then either healer dies, or Noob DPS jr. failed to stop DPS and then there is more problems.
    -All the while, the tank is not gaining more threat and is dropping down the hate list.
    We’ve a lot of toys to deal with this now (vigilance, intervene, Warbringer/Intercept, 3 flavors of stun, baseline improved taunt) but most of those are ineffective against bosses that are immune to taunt and stun.

  27. @Jove: I’m thinking about it. (The blog thing) 😉

  28. I only just got my prot pally t hit the 70 mark at the beginning of the week, but I spent all my time from ~lv40+ tanking my way through leveling. I think I did maybe 10-15 quests between 40 and 60, and no more than 20 in Outland. Needless to say, I intended on the pally being a rad tank from the beginning. (Admittedly, I tend to be the classic “this room, next room, boss”-kill-order pally, but it works! =D)

    Your post has helped me see in words what I’ve been thinking since my pally crusade entered Outland. ^_^ Thank you for that, and I’m glad I’ve found out warrior tanks have hearts too.

  29. @Ninaske – Just not Brains. If I ever decide to do a tanking blog (as Jov has poked me a few times about) it is going to be called “Tanking for Dummies” with a picture of my nice fat 30 Int score right there.

  30. @ Tars — You overestimate yourself. You’re only rockin’ a 28 int score. Noob. ❤

  31. @Jov – Warrior Math. You think I can count that high?

    “Uh, this is going to be… a five pull.” /boomstick

    “There’s only three in that group…”

  32. The tank and healer are the base of the triangle. We let dps feel good about themselves with their big yellow numbers. I have never heard of this healer mafia that you speak of, I can’t imagine why anyone would punish the guy who is most likely to protect them.

    It does not matter what role, a good player will always try to protect the healers. I like to stand near mages or hunters so they can save me if something charges my way (it’s also how I judge if they suck or not).

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