Thursday, April 07, 2011

Carrying a Tank

Tobold asks a question: How do you Carry a Tank?

It's pretty rare, but I've seen a group carry a tank before.

I define "carrying" as when a character performs significantly below normal, to such an extent that it requires other characters to perform significantly above normal in order for the group to be successful.

I was once put into a Dungeon Finder group with three DPS and a bear tank, all from the same guild. The bear tank had a 150k health, so I thought all was good.

As we progressed through the instance I noticed two things. First, the DPS was very good, all pushing 10k. Second, the bear was taking a ton of damage. I was having to chain Divine Lights and pop cooldowns to keep him up. I found this amazingly odd, given that the tank came from the same guild as three top-notch DPS.

Mid-way through the run, I inspected the tank. The tank was in full PvP gear. So he had a lot of health, but was missing all the avoidance and mastery that would have significantly reduced his damage taken. He was also missing the talent Natural Reaction.

The tank had enough health so that he wasn't one-shot, but he took damage at a rate that required me to burn mana at a much higher rate than normal. However, the DPS performed at such a high level that they were able to end the fights before I ran out of mana, in addition to requiring the barest minimum of healing themselves.

It's fairly obvious that the group decided to have their druid respec and wear PvP gear, and let the DPS carry him through the instance, rather than face 45 minute queue times. I think the Natural Reaction thing was just a mistake, as the druid spec looked good otherwise.

The point is that because the tank performed at such a low level, the DPS had to perform at a much higher level so that the run was successful. The performance of the DPS effectively carried the performance of the tank in that run.

The moral of the story is that very high DPS forgives a lot of sins.


  1. This sounds more like the tank playing in sub-optimal spec and gear knowingly, rather than the tank "performing significantly below normal" (though I guess you could call it that..:P).

    If he happened to be totally unable to hold aggro as well, you'd need some ridiculous DPS for things to go smoothly - but I do get your point about the survivability side from a healer's perspective.

    Are you sure he wasn't in a DPS/PvP Feral spec ? My first thought was that he's normally a DPS Feral who slapped on some pvp gear and queued as a tank with his 3 DPS buddies.

  2. Sounds a bit like the healer carrying the tank, too.

  3. My GL and our main healer often notes that in Cata tanks who are gem stacked for Stam are MUCH harder to heal in heroics, for similar reasons you mentioned about the PvP geared tank. They don't have their block or dodge or parry at the optimum levels and take a rap-ton of damage.

    I'd also like to point out that DPS gets SO much grief these days because there's "too many" of us or DPS QQs too much about queues (I honestly don't care how long the queue is) or about how our classes are "easy." If you are a healer w/a bad tank or a tank w/a bad healer, DPS CAN SAVE YOUR RUN!

    Glad to see at least someone recognizes it. :P

  4. If he happened to be totally unable to hold aggro as well, you'd need some ridiculous DPS for things to go smoothly

    Within the guild, we carry a new tank by taking him in a dps role along with an experienced tank. We give him all the tank drops until he both has the gear and knows the role.

    So, yeah, we carry the tank by carrying the dps ;P

  5. I agree that good dps can make up for a poor tank. However in my opinion it is much more important that they understand the boss mechanics and react accordingly to avoid damage. A decent healer will always be able to keep up a tank in a heroic, even if the tank is not using cooldowns or damage mitigating abilities (a few exceptions but this is almost always true.) However, if they constantly have to direct heals at the dps who are not moving out of the fire etc, then there is a much higher chance that the tank will drop.

    I would argue that healers are able to carry a group much more than a tank or a dps.

  6. @Rammurg, well, knowingly performing badly, and unknowingly performing badly kinda all ends up in the same place.

    It may have been a PvP spec. To me, it looked like a bear spec (didn't have most Cat talents) only inexplicably missing Natural Reaction. So I chalked it up to a mistake made by someone respeccing quickly.

  7. In following this discussion on several different blogs, the issue is all the differing opinions on what it means to "carry" someone. In the example Rohan gives here, the tank may not have been properly geared or spec'd, but the fact that they were able to complete the instance would suggest that he still had a good grasp of situational awareness and aggro generation. So while it is true that the rest of the group had to compensate for him somewhat, I would not call it "carrying" him per say.

    To me "carrying" someone would mean that person benefiting when they had absolutely no right to do so. In other words, they fail at executing even the basic requirements of their role, but the rest of the group is still able to complete the run regardless and the "carried" player receives the same benefit as the other players. That may sound like "splitting hairs" on the surface, but it is a fundamental difference in my opinion. The bear tank Rohan talks about here is obviously not an ideal tank, but it is equally obvious that he is not incompetent. He's doing the best with what he brought.

  8. @ Ghira: Can I join your guild?

    I have been on both sides of this equation.

    I didn't begin tanking until I hit 80 back in WoLK. I had no clue what to or when to do it. I had to run a crapload of PUGs to get points to buy tank gear. I was carried on more than one occasion by ICC geared DPS who were doing their daily frost run.

    I eventually became a solid tank after studying, practicing and frankly, failing on many occasions. It took a dedicated effort on my part and I'm sure some patience from PUGs and even guildies.

    As a DPS and even healer I have run with really bad tanks. Sometimes I will offer some advice but most of the time it isn't worth it. Just DPS through the fight and avoid the discussions. Or, heal my ass off and try to prevent a wipe. It may mean letting the tank die in lieu of the top DPS in the group, but if that's what is carrying the run why let the Hunter die?

    Point is, DPS carrying a tank happens more often than one might imagine. Tanks may even appreciate it.

  9. We regularly brute force Heroic and 85 level normal content with raid geared dps and heals when our alternate tanks are learning boss fights and gearing up.

    It makes the learning curve much less steep and gives everyone a chance to see the content without the crushing burden of PUG Tank expectations.

    I refuse to PUG Tank. I can brute force stupid as a healer, but overcoming crap dps and an undergeared/clueless healer is much harder.

  10. I healed Halls of Stone (I think) one time with a tank who was a total incompetent, chain-pulled everything and couldn't hold aggro if his life depended on it. Fortunately I was way overgeared, but I had to work my ass off to keep the dps up. I think the tank took less than a third of the total damage on the run.

  11. I must be a bit of a sadist, because I really enjoy tanking pugs as long as they don't do anything dramatically retarded. It's kinda fun when the party screws up and I end up saving the day by healing myself AND my party while tanking and pulling back aggro from a DPS that got too excited, followed by a chorus of "BEAST TANK!" from the group.

    ::pets his perky pug::