My love-hate relationship with tanks

"British Mark IV Tadpole tank". Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons -
British Mark IV Tadpole tank – Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Recently I read a couple articles about Gaming and Self-esteem (part 1, part 2) at Gamers Decrypted (go read it! It is a pretty good blog!). It made me think about my weird relationship with tank classes in MMOs. It is so weird that it really makes me think if I have some kind of masochist tendency.

But to explain it perhaps I should break into what I love about tanking and the things I hate about it. It might still not make any sense but it will probably be less rambly than if I just try to write into one big piece. Also, keep in mind this all related to group content. Solo and raid content is a completely different matter. In fact I don’t even like raiding so I couldn’t even make any commentary about that.

The things I love about tanking

The thing I like the most about playing tank and the reason I tend to drift to that role is because it is the only group role where there is interesting decisions to make. For instance, which mob do I pull first? Where do I pull it to? What kind of abilities it has that I need to look for? Will any adds come to help? And so on. It is the kind of decision that is different for every dungeon with some variation between encounters. There is no other role I’ve found that gives me the same pleasure. Healers come pretty close but for some reason they just don’t give the same fix. Might be because at the heart I am a melee guy and standing on the back of the fight is just not my thing. As for DPS, I feel it isn’t so much a question of interesting decisions as mastering the best order of abilities. So, interesting in a way but not as much as tanking for me.

Then there is the matter of learning the dungeon layout. The only way I can learn it is if I am the one tanking and leading the way. Otherwise I will go into some sort of auto-mode and follow whoever is the tank. In that case I may do the dungeon a dozen of times and I will still not have any clue about which way to go for what. That makes dungeons less interesting for me.

Lastly, it allows me to set the pace. I tend to play in a more laid back way. Some tanks prefer to clear things as fast as possible and while I don’t mind that in a dungeon where we’ve been done a dozen times if it is a dungeon new for at least one person in the group I’d rather it be done in a more slow way so they can enjoy the place and learn the fights. This way they will have fun and if they ever come back later with other people they will know what needs to be done.

The things I hate about tanking

Anyone who tried to tank knows that it is a hard role to play. And if you fail at it then most likely it will result in a wipe. Worse, unlike healers or DPS it is not a role where you can share the responsibility by bringing another person with the same role. You can’t have two or more tanks sharing the damage or aggro from a single mob (well, maybe there is in specific games but not in the ones I played). That is a lot of responsibility for just one person. Although I don’t usually mind it there are times where I am just feeling brain-dead and would rather play a more relaxed role like… DPS! Except that despite my multitude of alts I have yet to level one to higher levels. So my choices are either tank despite not feeling it or taking the group slot as sub-par DPS. Granted, this is my fault for not leveling another option for grouping and not so much an inerent problem of the holy trinity. Still I wish I could just choose what role I want to play at the time instead of investing hours and hours in one character just to fill a certain specific role.

Then there is the bitter taste of failure. Yes, I know it sucks equally to everyone if the party wipes, there isn’t anything special for tanks in this case. Still, no matter the reason the group wipes I feel responsible for it. If I am doing badly then I feel bad because I should have been a better tank for the party. If there isn’t enough DPS then I feel bad because I should be doing more DPS. If the healer can’t keep up with the damage then I feel bad because I should be able to soak more damage so the healer could have an easier time. The only time I won’t feel bad is for example, if the healer disconnected in the middle of the fght. In that case the fault is in the healer’s ISP. :p

And to be honest I’d probably feel just as bad if I was playing any other role. So again this is mostly a problem of my own mind.

But what about Guild Wars 2?

One of the things I loved the most about Guild Wars 2 is because it gave me the fix that I get from playing a tank class but without all the lone responsibility that comes with it. The responsibility of beating a fight felt a lot more shared equally. Granted, it didn’t give the same feeling of being part of a well-oiled machine that could make short work of any menace as holy-trinity based games have. But still it was nice that my only worry if someone wanted to do a dungeon was if I felt like doing it or not instead of what class I could bring.

Unfortunately I left Guild Wars 2 for a lot of reasons. Part of those reasons were that my friends didn’t enjoy it and without friends to play with I just have a hard time keeping interested in MMOs, no matter how good they are. The irony about it is that I am mainly a soloist in MMOs, that is how I do my leveling up. Yet without like-minded people to talk about anything and nothing at all and to do the ocasional group content I just feel like I would be making better use of my time by playing any single-player game as they are far more satisfying. The only thing MMOs beat single-player games for me is getting friends together without any obligations, at their own convenience. For me this is something precious that no other hobby provides.

So, point is, I do want to play Guild Wars 2 but I am still pondering how I am going to approach it. That is my dillema with the game.

Why not just play another role and forget tanks altogether?

That is the promise I always make myself every time I start on a new MMO. I will play a DPS class. I won’t roll a tank. Then I roll a tank, just as an alt to have some variety. Then before I know it I am spending more time on the tank character than any of my others. And this is the point I am starting wondering if I am a masochist. The reason for that kind of promise is that I am at a kind of middle-life crisis with the tank classes. The kind where you look back at your life and start second-guessing your decisions, wondering if the grass isn’t actually greener in other pastures and even possibly doing some extreme changes to get to that hypothetical greener pastures.

Hm. That sounds more whiny then I intended to. I guess what I wanted to say is, I love tanking but I really wish I spent more time playing other classes too. …. Which is still whiny I guess. *sighs*. Anyway, these are my feelings about tank classes. Do you have a class that you find yourself always playing either because you love it or because of other reasons? If so, whatΒ  are your feelings about it?

6 thoughts on “My love-hate relationship with tanks”

  1. I have a hate-love relationship with tanks. I hate being a tank myself, but I love someone who can tank well. And I want to be that person who can tank well, so that when I see a bad tank, I can say with conviction “I can do better!” But then I play a tank and I remember that I hate being in the lead, making all the decisions. I’d much rather be the healer or the DPS jsut so that weight is off my shoulders.
    I always loved it when you were our tank in EQ2, because I don’t think anyone else was as good at it.

    • Honestly, I think you have the potential to be a good tank. It is one of those roles you have to spend a lot of time doing to be really good at. I have been lucky that I had kind and patient people *cough*youandtheothers*cough* that stuck with me and let me learn the tricky parts of it.

      I got the same feelings as you when I run with bad tanks too though. Fortunately I rarely happen to run into those sort of people. On the other hand I also rarely run with anyone outside our circle of friends, so. :p

      And thank you!

      EDIT: Totally unrelated but something you might like: Five Stages of Watching a Pixar Movie :p

      • I agree with a lot of those stages! But I don’t have Denial. I jsut openly admit I want to see every kid movie, and the Kiddo doesn’t even have to go with me. πŸ™‚
        (Inside Out was great, by the way. I cried through three napkins and Kiddo and my nephew loved it and sang the Imaginary Friend theme song the whole ride home.)

        • Oh, I know you don’t have Denial. Still I thought you would find the other stages amusing. πŸ™‚

          And I am glad you and the kids had such a good time with that movie. πŸ™‚

  2. I really enjoyed this article (and the picture of the tank – haha).

    As you (probably) know, I enjoy healing a lot. Mostly because I’m good at it, so it’s relaxing. I don’t necessarily need to make high numbers (only at specific times when things get tricky): as long as everyone stays alive it’s fine. But what some people might not know, is that I only started considering healing my main role when I started to get into SWTOR. Before that, the “alternative support role” of the lore-master was my all-time favourite, and what I liked so much about it is much the same as what you love about tanking. You see, as a lore-master I need to make interesting decisions all the time as well.

    What damage types and sources are going on in the fight? –> What debuffs should I use and on which enemies (so the group doesn’t go splash)?

    Are there mobs that need to be CC’d? –> Which types of CC should I use? When should I refresh so it doesn’t run out in between doing everything else (you could keep a low amount of mobs perma-soft stunned, if necessary)?

    Which pet is most beneficial to the fight? (How) should I control it during the fight?

    Apart from this, the lore-master had some secondary objectives to do in between things (depending on the fight), such as off-healing, giving power (mana) to people, applying stun-immunity to players, removing corruptions and applying incoming healing buffs to whoever needed it most.

    The role was so versatile! I was/am so in love with it that I’m still jealous each time in a group and someone else gets to take their lore-master! Apart from being indispensable in groups, lore-masters had other optional playstyles as well. You could be amazing at soloing hard fights, for instance, with the crazy amounts of CC you had (check for skills that stunned, for instance!).

    I think you would appreciate the versatility of the lore-master, although you would probably not like playing one because it’s ranged.

    I had to give this playstyle up when I started playing SWTOR, because that game limits itself to the traditional tank – DPS – healer roles (*sobs*). But I think I’ve grown as a player playing SWTOR (also because it’s faster paced and I’ve gotten into PvP). I like challenging myself by playing all different roles. I’ve finally gotten a *lot* better at melee (e.g. DPS) as well.

    Because SWTOR is split into two factions, I play together with different people in two separate raid groups on each side. On the Imperial side I play in a more hardcore group where I heal, so I try to pick a different role for my main Republic character. I’m currently playing tank there and have done DPS in the past. I’m really enjoying that I finally am feeling comfortable playing all roles the game offers.

    So, before you go complaining that this should’ve been a blog post of itself, here’s the proof you asked for it. Rakuno (in article above): “Do you have a class that you find yourself always playing either because you love it or because of other reasons? If so, what are your feelings about it?” πŸ˜‰

    And about Guild Wars 2, I sort of have the same. My gamer friends are playing SWTOR (and/or non MMOs that I’m not interested in), a select few still roam LOTRO, but I only know 2 people apart from Conrad and me in Guild Wars 2. I’m really missing a nice guild with friendly & mature people, one with more social cohesion than the large ones that randomly invite people (shiver). Stupid American/European meta-server + account bound to server disappointment. /sad

    • Thanks! I thought a picture of an actual tank would be the best one to go with it. πŸ™‚

      You might be the first healer I know of that thinks of that role as relaxing. Everyone else I talked about the different roles has always said that is a challenging one which I tend to agree with. But then again healing isn’t usually my first choice of role to play in a game so my opinion is skewed. πŸ™‚

      The lore-master sounds like a pretty fun and fascinating class. And yes, since it is a ranged class it probably wouldn’t be my main one. But when I was actually trying LotRO I kept thinking about making one as an alt. And a Rune-Keeper. And a Warden. And a Ranger. And a… well, you get the idea!

      Hm. I always thought SWTOR had some crowd control/debuff classes too if you specced to it. Guess I was wrong! And playing all the different roles is definitely a good thing. It helps you to understand exactly what a class can do and how  they do it when you group with others. Makes it much easier to come up with plans on how to tackle challenges!

      And I never complain about a blog-sized commentary. I like them plus it would be pretty hipocritical of me if I did considering I do that all the time on yours. :p

      I did think about suggesting people to write a post about it if they so felt inclined. But I thought it might be too cheeky for me to do so and I refrained from it. :p

      Oh, I thought things were better for you in Guild Wars 2 and you had a healthy, sizeable guild to play with. Guess it is one of those games that people will either hate or love so getting friends to play it is hard for everyone. And yes, the region locking with the servers is pretty stupid! It would be nice if we could play together even if it was just for one weekend!

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