Last night my 10-man-only guild, the Fancy Hat Club, finally killed Anub’arak in Trial of the Grand Crusader and Algalon in Ulduar (grats on being months behind!). It was precisely encounters like these for which I have been so careful to always keep my dear elemental shaman so close to the bleeding edge of her DPS capacity, spending thousands of gold on gear and many hours on theorycraft, playtesting, encounter strategy and staying “in practice” so that I can be the best asset I can be.
It’s therefore rather ironic that, when we got these kills, I was playing my feral druid. As a tank.
Now for various reasons I’ve not been very keen on my dear old druid this expansion, but a couple of months back I did put some effort into getting him a bit geared up in case we needed the extra tank. There were no spreadsheets or even napkins involved – though I did use Rawr for one or two tricky decisions, it was mostly just rule-of-thumb head maths and vague intuition. I was familiar with the tanking strategies partly because I helped to devise them for our guild and partly because I’m usually the designated go-between for the RL (when it’s not me) and the tanks and healers. I’d never tanked either boss before. I’d only been to ToGC once on my druid, and Ulduar only up to Iron Council with a PUG.
How many tanks am I holding up
When we started 10-man raiding, we had two “main tanks” and two “off-tanks” – that is, two guys who just wanted to MT and were fully focused and geared to that, and two other guys who were playing DPS toons but didn’t mind being the second tank if either of the mains couldn’t make it. Unfortunately over the summer one of our MTs had to call it quits, and we’ve since been relying on our one remaining off-spec tank to pick up the slack. With University semesters starting back, workloads increasing and availability of raiders decreasing, we started using more folks’ offspecs and even some “alts” – such as most recently, my own.
Again with the irony. When we started Ulduar, we had two main tanks but many of the most difficult encounters in the instance required only one (Heartbreaker, Freya+3, Hodir, Firefighter, Vezax/Animus, One Light); our 2nd MT was often relegated to DPSing. When we started ToC, we had only one main tank but every fight in the instance required two. Our poor DPS warrior found himself tanking every single boss of every single raid and feeling like he couldn’t roll on either tank loot (as he wasn’t the MT) or DPS loot (as he never seemed to DPS anymore).
Unnecessarily flamboyant headgear
Fancy Hats are a very casual guild, in the sense that we’re not focused on progression or amassing phat lewts – for us, raiding is about enjoying the WoW endgame. We chose the 10-man format because it was more intimate and fun, and put much less pressure on the group (especially its leaders). However, most of us also come from quite a hardcore 25-man raiding background and are elitist minmaxer types, so we’re able to accomplish quite a lot in our limited raiding time even though we don’t generally race after progression. Though we just killed Algalon and Anub’arak, it was only our fourth night on Algalon (and each time we’d had a different group and an offspec OT) and we spent less than 80 attempts on Anub’arak, again with constantly varying raid configurations.
What I’m saying is, the rest of the group had absolutely put in the effort to have their best gear (even for offspecs) and skill and knowledge of the fights and whatnot. The DPS were pumping out high numbers and controlling their targets and timings perfectly. The healers were performing amazing feats of proactive and reactive healing, cooldown usage, and mana management. On Anub, our MT was quickly grabbing and holding all his targets, placing them perfectly, and using cooldowns – such as locking them out of shadowstrikes – flawlessly. On Algalon he helped keep me alive by taunting and intercepting and whatnot, while closing black holes and stuff.
It’s nice to be not needed
In my past raiding career, there were many times that I felt “if only I was DPSing, we would’ve had that”. Sometimes in PUGs or semi-PUGs I’ve even thought, “it’d make a big difference if I switched to healing for this”. But last night I didn’t have to contribute my heavily min-maxed DPS or my vastly-improved healing skills. I just had to sit in front of the boss and soak up its attention while the rest of the raid got on with all the hard work which they had prepared for so thoroughly.
Now, I won’t indulge in false modesty by claiming that I did nothing. I had after all geared up my druid as best I could given my limited time and energy. I’d prepared special consumables and alternative gear options for each fight, and I co-ordinated with our healers and MT to reduce the gear disadvantage I had as much as possible through careful use of cooldowns, taunts and whatnot.
But I still did much less than everyone else – not much more than turning up, really – and that makes me strangely happy. In the “Why I DPS” post I explained how crucial the DPS role was, and how it was a realisation of precisely that pivotal importance which led me to fill that role in a raid. To see the other guys you raid with perform their roles so well that you aren’t needed in those same roles is just brilliant. To see them fill their roles well enough that they make up for your own lack of gear/experience/whatever is extremely gratifying.
With that in place, all we needed to get our first kills was a second tank – and I was able to fill that role, the one that was needed. I’m not hugely fond of WotLK feral tanking, and my shaman is by far my favourite character. But it was more fun to fill the actual gap than to try and shoehorn myself into a role in which I frankly wasn’t necessary while the raid failed due to lack of a tank.
That almost makes up for the fact that I finally got those achievements on my all but abandoned alt while my shaman, who’s put in all that time and effort, still lacks them!