Sunday, December 19

Emergency Tank!: Or, When Things Go Really Wrong

I've always been enamored with the idea of an Arms tank, not because I want to do it but because I think Arms Warrior is the best class/spec in all of WoW and we should be able to do everything and anything and be completely OP all the time. I still don't understand why we can't run up behind a tank and heal them. Really? I make an wicked good band-aid!

Ah well, you can't have everything . . .

So, three times so far in Cataclysm, I've had to take over the tank roll mid-fight. In one case, the healer went nuts and tried to top everyone off in Blackrock Caverns and promptly went OOM. One time in Stone Core when the tank pulled without any cc. And then last night the tank missed running into the 'lectric triangle in on the last boss in Vortex Pinnacle.

er... um.... yah... k.... Might would be good. Yah. And a freakin' nuke if ya got one.

In each case it was a good healer and good tanks. First time for all over them in those dungeons and after the initial mistake they learned and didn't repeat the error.  In fact, everyone of those runs was freakin' awesome fun! 

Things go all f#$ckity more often in Cata dungeons, so if you find yourself suddenly without a tank and the ball is passed to you, here's some thoughts for how be a backup quarterback.

The most important things to take care of, in order, are: Staying alive (Def Stance), getting everything under control (Challenging Shout, or Taunt), and then start hitting stuff to generate threat (Thunderclap and Sunder Armor being your initial priorities). 

After that you can start getting fancy.

Well . . . That's not good.
#1. Pay Attention.  The days of ignoring what's happening with the tank and the healer and just flailing away on bad guys are gone. Fugitaboutit.  Two things you need to know all times: healer's mana and the tank's health.  You need to combine these two things with what the healer is doing and what's going to happen to the tank next (for example:  is she at quarter health and about to take a 40K shot in the noggin?).

You absolutely must know when the tank goes down.  You have only a few seconds to react before everyone is dead. Anticipation is the first trick to pulling this off.

#2. Get into Defensive Stance. That's F2 normally. Do not tank from Battle Stance. You will die.

#3. You need a sword & board swap macro. In many cases you can tank with a 2-Hander, but it's not pleasant for the healer. So swap out for a shield and a one-Hander.  You're gonna have trouble with making cute little threats quickly, so make it a fast weapon if possible, because you want to stack Sunder Armor (and hit Revenge whenever it comes up) as quickly as possible. 

Here's an easy-peasy weapon swap macro, though there are all-in-one solutions out there. Type /macro into your chat to open the macro maker thingie.

/equip [nomodifier] Vir'naal Guardsman's Axe
/equip [nomodifier] Catapult Loading Scoop
/equip [modifier:shift] Axe of Earthly Sundering

Change the names of the items to whatever you have. (Just open your bag and shift click them to copy the name right into the macro and don't forget to update the macro when you get better gears.)  Now when you click this button, it'll swap in your one-handed weapon and shield. Holding shift and clicking the button will bring back your 2 handed weapon.
No really! It's epic enough! It is! Really! AAAAAAAHHHH FUUUUUU . . .

#4. Keybind your basics. You need Challenging Shout, Taunt, Intimidating Shout, and Demoralizing Shout to get things under control.  To keep them under control you'll need Thunderclap, Sunder Armor, RevengeShield Block, and Rend (particularly handy if you're using Blood & Thunder). Maybe Bladestorm will work but I've never gotten to the point where I could try it. Theoretically . . .

#5. Screw everyone, you first priority is to pry any mobs off your healer. You need to know which mobs are on your healer so that when you peel them off with Challenging Shout you can lock them down fast. Everyone else can wait.

#6. A warning macro is handy. Something like "/yell Friday is TANK. Heals on me! Shouting in 3... 2... 1..."  I bind something like this to Shift-F2, so that when the bad stuff hits the fan I hit F2, Shift-F2, Challenging Shout (or Taunt on a boss fight), Weapon Swap.

All of this happens incredibly fast!  Don't be surprised if it doesn't work, at all, the first few times you try it. Mainly, get into defensive stance and shout. Worry about staying alive and holding everything long enough for your healer to figure out what's happening.
Turtle, turtle, turtle, lalala!

Things to think about from an Arms Warrior what is not a tank (proper tanks already know this stuff):

Challenging Shout only lasts for 6 seconds and has a ten yard range. After that the mobs will go back to whatever devious plans they had before you scolded them. So, if you use it to pull multiple mobs, you need to stack threat on each target to continue to hold them. It also has a 3 minute cool down, so you won't get another shot at it. As an Arms warrior you might be able to stack threat using Sunder Armor on two or three targets at best.  So prioritize quickly. Anything going after your healer, that is.

Taunt is better but only effects one target at a time. You can yank the target to you, smack it, and lock it down pretty effectively. Use this on boss fights, particularly.  It also has an 8-second cool down, so after your initial shout, you can pick a high priority mob and lock him down quickly.

You have very little in the way of threat generation other than raw strength. Thunderclap works, but it's very easy for DPS to pull them off you if that's all you've hit the mobs with. If you're feeling fancy, macro or use an add-on to slap a raid marker on the one you want DPS to hit. Hopefully they see it before they die. Better, they figure out you're suddenly tanking and use target-of-target. Fingers crossed.

Thunderclap is also useful because you don't have the Dodge, Parry, and Block mitigation of a proper Protection Warrior.  Thunderclap slows all the mobs down, making it easier to get a handle on them. It also decreases their attack speed, which can really help your healer out.  If the opportunity presents itself, use Demoralizing Shout, as well. Popping Shield Wall is pretty much a must ASAP. It gives everyone a few seconds to change their underwear and figure out what's going on.

After running a dungeon, go back through and look around. Beautiful!
If you need a few moments to get your head around the issue, so to speak, Intimidating Shout can scatter 'em for a few seconds.  Just be carefully not to send them running into another pack and make the situation worse. (You can glyph to fix this, but since you're not a proper tank that glyph is not really one an Arms warrior goes around packing for PvE stuff.)  I'd really only use this on Boss-With-Adds type fights where there's no chance of bringing friends. Yelling for everyone to CC the crap out of everything is not a bad idea, though, just to buy time.

There's plenty more such as Spell Reflect and interrupting with Shield Bash. . . but those are super fancy moves that you probably aren't going to get a chance to use anyhow. If you PvP as Arms you're at an advantage here because you probably use all of this stuff already. If not, just practice a bit while you quest. Maybe jump in some PvP and just practice staying alive as long as possible in Defensive Stance.  You'll get it.

There's no chance you're ever gonna be a proper tank playing Arms. You can however, use your wide variety of abilities and versatility to be the hero of the day in a pinch.  Pay attention, practice using those abilities you rarely even think about, and stay calm.  What's the worse thing that could happen? So you die a little. :)


Yo' Mama!
Bonus Section: Selected Taunts from the old Tank days

"I can see your ass crack you worthless son/daughter of a Trogg!"

"I'm rubber you're glue, your frostbolt bounces off me and sticks on YOU!" /cast spell reflect

"Your Mama is SO FAT they call her Therazane, Part 2!"