Lately, I’ve seen lots of complaints and confusion about our class, whether we’re underpowered and squishy or whatever. I’ve seen the same complaints for every other tanking class, so I’m pretty sure it’s not just us.
So if it’s not our class, why are heroics so hard?
New Tanking Paradigms
Changed health paradigm: Our health pools are proportionally much larger than what we’re used to, and it takes some practice to get accustomed to the new way you take damage. Where in Mists, if we dropped below 50% health, we would have to panic to recover in time, because it was likely the next attack could finish us off. And we could pretty easily move from 50% health to 100% with a single Expel Harm. Damage intake was bursty, and recovery was bursty.
In Warlords, being around 50% health is the norm, not a panic moment. A single heal won’t bring you anywhere near 100%, but, unless you’re about to be the victim of a special attack, you also are unlikely to die in the next hit.
This is a major and subtle change. Experienced tanks have our panic moments built in. We don’t need to think about using Expel Harm after dropping below 50%, we just do it. I think this is where the majority of difficulty lies. We need to change our panic points so that we don’t throw everything we have to recover from what is now a stable health situation. This will only come with practice. (Luckily, practice is the solution to a couple other issues, too.)
Tank death in this new paradigm is unlikely to occur because of burst damage and failure to react to burst damage. Now, your death will either be due to a failure to react to a special ability or a slow and gradual inability to catch up while taking damage.
Changed healer-tank paradigm: In a similar vein, tanks are now much more dependent on healers. This is a big change for both of these roles, and it will take some getting used to. You’ll still have a good amount of control over your survival, and especially preventing and reacting to attacks the healer may not know about, but it takes two to maintain your health.
Your heals are going to feel weak compared to the power they once held. You can’t fill your health pool with a simple Expel Harm + Chi Wave combo. They’re still worth using, but it’s understandably jarring to see when you’re not used to it.
Resolve: Resolve, while similar to Vengeance on the outset, is very different in the minutiae. Resolve will go from high to low very quickly, so it’s important to watch it or at least learn where it’s going to be high. If you’re not taking damage, even if it’s for something short term like a boss charging someone else, your resolve will be very low, if not 0. If you are taking damage, especially if you just took a big attack, your resolve will be high. I personally dislike the way Resolve requires lightning fast reflexes to get the biggest heals and shields, but it’s still better than the alternative.
General Heroic Tips
Heroics are hard for freshly level-capped tanks. For anyone, really. They will get easier the second time you do them. Even if you have the same gear as your first time, the second time will go so much smoother you’ll be wondering if there was a hotfix. I really can’t stress this hard enough — content you’ve never seen before is supposed to be hard, and experience is the cure.
Some other tips:
- Crowd Control: Even just a Paralysis can be useful (though it’s even better if someone else in your group remembers how to use crowd control).
- Marking: Try to use these things if you can. I have “skull” and “X” markings keybound, since those traditionally designate target #1 and #2. Focusing targets is another greatly underestimated way to alleviate tank damage.
- Interrupts: There are lots of casters in this expansion, and even lots of melee trash that cast a stun or knockback.
- Don’t be ashamed to run normals. I know it’s tempting to get pvp gear and enter the heroic queues asap, but as a tank the success of the dungeon lies in your hands. Doing the level 100 normal dungeons will be a far more forgiving way to learn boss and trash strategies while also getting some useful tanking gear and practicing with the new skills and paradigms.
- Use Guard, followed quickly with your healing spells, to catch up should your health drop uncomfortably low (like 30%). In Mists, this wasn’t always useful because we could expect to be at max health quickly, but things are different now. You’ll probably spend most of your time around 50%, and a 30% healing boost is going to be important. (I still recommend against using Glyph of Guard as a permanent healing boost. Guard itself is far too powerful a cooldown to lose, and we won’t have much in the way of self healing until we get more multistrike.)
- Speaking of healing, don’t forget about ox orbs. I find that they heal more than the average Expel Harm and Chi Wave. They’re a little rare at this gear level, but pretty great.
- Purifying: I’ve been using Purifying Brew around 20% or higher stagger (if you’re using my aura). That’s still a light stagger (almost a moderate) but since we have so much free chi you can use it frequently.
- On the pull, I do something like this:
- Keg Smash
- Blackout Kick
- Jab/Rushing Jade Wind
- Tiger Palm
- While Serenity is up: Blackout Kick spam, Purifying Brew any stagger, Guard and heal as needed
- Enjoy 1min+ of Shuffle, worry about Purifying Brew and threat instead.
- Do not spec into Chi Explosion! DON’T DO IT!! It will give you great aoe dps, but at the rather large expense of shuffle uptime and chi pooling ability. It’s also a pain to use at low haste, so go with Serenity instead. You can use Chi Explosion later, when you get more gear and don’t have trouble staying alive.
- With Serenity, use often. With it used on cooldown, you can easily forget about maintaining shuffle and only worry about purifying and threat.
- Soul Dance is useful for caster mobs, like the latter half of Auchindoun. Serenity is only useful against bosses that deal some physical damage, so you might as well try Soul Dance on those caster fights.
- Keep a huge stack of Tomes of the Clear Mind to try out different talent and glyph sets.
- Recommended talents for undergeared 5 mans:
- Tiger’s Lust (Momentum and Celerity are fine, if you forget to use Tiger’s Lust.)
- Chi Wave (I find Zen Sphere too weak in situations where resolve is dropping to 0% often, and Chi Burst is of course difficult to cast when movement is critical.)
- Charging Ox Wave or Leg Sweep (Ring of Peace is depressing now)
- Chi Brew (Power Strikes if you forget to use Chi Brew)
- Healing Elixirs (This is an incredibly powerful heal now, with our proportionally higher health pools and its independence from Resolve)
- Rushing Jade Wind (If you want to be fancy and swap talents for boss fights, Xuen is good, too.)
- Serenity (Soul Dance for caster bosses)
- Glyphs (obviously can’t have all, but these all have uses)
- Fortuitous Spheres
- Expel Harm
- Keg Smash if you aren’t using crowd control (because it will find a way to break your crowd control)
- Breath of Fire
- Fortifying Brew
You can’t really afford to be picky when you just hit 610 item level. Every agility/bonus armor piece in heroics will be an upgrade, despite their secondary stats. You can use the cheap ring/neck/cloak enchants to get a pretty nice boost in stats you want to customize, and trinkets are also a good source of customization. I’m personally aiming for a control build (multistrike and crit), though a smoothing build (versatility with some mastery) is also viable.
Once “sidegrades” start dropping, then you can start picking gear that matches your stat priority. More info on brewmaster stats.
With Serenity, haste is even more invalidated than before. It’s not necessary for tanking, though it may be necessary for your sanity (I know I want to claw my eyes out when I have just 11 energy per second). Only take as much haste as you need to keep yourself from going crazy, then branch into the better stats. Haste is a little more beneficial with Soul Dance and Chi Explosion, so in future it may be useful to keep a haste trinket or haste food on hand for when you spec into those talents.