PUG Tank Brutality

A slender Paladin picks up her shield, and shifts her shoulders slightly. The armor is heavy. Heavier than her normal gear. The plate will protect her from the beasts she is about to encounter. But she is nervous…fear settles in. It is her first time to wield the sword and shield, to become the bait for these hideous creatures to beat upon. Yet this is not what scares her.

Behind her stands her battle-hardened comrades, soldiers all. The tall one with the pointy ears cocks an uneasy eye at her. The little one, with a dagger in each hand, harumphs! is disgust.  A fat little bearded being lazily leans upon his rifle, yawning as his wolf pet stares at the wall in utter boredom.  And the man with the giant axe won’t even take the time look at her, eagerly pacing behind, ready to jump into battle alone if need be.

Yes, she is a noob tank, and they are not afraid to let her know it.  Her gear is the best she can afford, yet still rubbish when compared to her war party’s collection.  Her skill is top notch, and she fights hard to control the battles, yet that is not enough.  Not enough for them.  If they had their way, she’d be on a one-way ticket to the Deadmines to beat on hapless Defias miners.

Such is the life of a tank.  Or rather, those starting out and gearing up as tanks.

PUG Tanking Brutality

Recently, I began a project to gear up my second Ret Paladin to gain raid worthiness.  It took me a little less than one and a half a weeks, and along the way, I gathered up some tanking pieces.  After my project was complete, I bought my off-spec, and proceeded to set myself up for tanking.

Now, about two out of every three groups were nice, and mostly just glad to have a tank after sitting in 15 minute queues.  It was that other one out of three that always had something smart to say about my gear, gear score, or how hard I was to keep up.

Were they justified?  Let’s see…

First, let me acknowledge my own weaknesses:

  • Not quite defense capped (close)
  • 29k HP unbuffed
  • Some DPS gear, though at the 232 level
  • Scattered defense gear, half at 232 and half at 200

I am a few gear pieces away from being defense capped, so I’m not too concerned there.  Regardless, the only things hitting me really hard were a select few bosses.  The other times I got in trouble was when DPS decided to disregard my original pull, and pull more to us.

My 29k HP actually shifts to 33k or 34k with party buffs in most cases.  The only instances I would have trouble with are Heroic Pit of Saron and Heroic Halls of Reflection, which I have not attempted thus far as a tank…by choice.

The DPS gear has stamina, and that’s about it stat-wise for tanks.  However, as an AoE tank, the DPS gear actually serves a slight benefit in holding threat.  I do admit that that does not even come close to out-weighing the need for defense stats on gear.  I’m just using the best I have to work with.

And now my strengths:

  • ZERO threat issues.  DPS is high, combined with Righteous Fury and threat enchant on gloves.
  • Extensive knowledge of dungeons, including line of sight (LoS) pulls, dungeon layout, and mob abilities.
  • 100% knowledge of my own limitations, including how much to pull at a time.

Skill will always win over gear, and you know what?  Even with my current gear set-up, I can tank everything up to Heroic Forge of Souls with absolutely ZERO issues…IF I have an average healer and average DPS at least.

If I have a struggling healer, or DPS all below 2k, then my effectiveness becomes a moot point, and we all become a group of noobs getting laughed at by the now-easy 5-man dungeons.

Here are the complaints I have gotten:

Convo 1

Healer: “You are getting hit like a truck, I can barely keep you up”.

Me: “You’re right, I do take damage, but you have to heal me more than once every 5 seconds.  I’m not an ICC geared tank, it’s not going to be as easy to heal me at times.”

Healer: “I know, that’s why it’s a pain in the @#$%.”

Me: “…”

Convo 2

Shammy Healer: (Upon zoning in) “Oh great, anuther nub tank.”

Me: “Not a noob, scrub gear maybe, but not a noob.”

Shammy Healer: “Still a nub.”

Me: “Fine Heals, you better keep up then.”

Convo 3

DPS: “LOL how sad is it I pulled threat from an AoE tank with my worse gear score!”

Me: “Dude, you didn’t pull threat.”

DPS: “I had like 4 guys beating on me at once, I got dropped in about 2 seconds.”

Me: “I know, I pulled this pack to right here, and you went and pulled the next pack and brought it back here.  You didn’t pull threat, you had it all along.”

DPS: “AoE should have caught them still.”

Me: “They were hitting you before you got to me.  I know my limitations and what I can and cannot pull.”

Convo 4

DPS: “Dude WTF DPS gear as a tank, go get more tank gear and come back.”

Me: “I’m gearing up right now, this is how you do it.”

DPS: “Have you even tanked this before?”

Me: “Yep, and all have been flawless runs.”

DPS: “You probably had uber healz.”

Me: “I’m sure I did.  If they keep me up, I’ll keep them off of you.”

Needless to say, all of these dungeons went flawlessly, with the exception of Convo 1.  Healer didn’t keep me up on King Dred, who does hit pretty hard, which prompted his nice chatter.  Shammy healer in convo 2 did fine, except he DC’d before second to last boss.  We had to replace him.  Darn.  Convo 3 guy didn’t say anything else, and Convo 4 guy and myself actually ended up with some friendly banter and challenging chat talk throughout the run.  He acknowledged I was not as scrub as I appeared to be.

The bottom line here, is, despite my successful track record, and possession of enough skill to knock out 5-mans, I still caught tons of flak at some point or another because of my gear.  Why? Why are people so hell-bent on knocking the tank?

More to come…Part 2!


  1. Ronark says:

    People expect tanks to be the “best” geared out of everyone first off. Not only that, but in today’s world (where anyone has access to “the best gear”) people expect everyone to have already farmed for 40 days and nights by the time you hit 80.

    People also look to GearScore as the absolute means by which to determine a player’s ability- When used correctly, GearScore is ok (just like if I looked up your Armory page), but unfortunately people can’t see beyond that.

  2. Cloud says:

    Crappy attitudes like that are the main thing that bother me about this game. How else do people expect you to get geared? I once was actually told that I should gear up my alt more before running a heroic VH lol
    Oh well. Great site Khor, I love what you have going on around here :)

  3. stríke says:

    retri tanking ftw, only heroic that is hard or impossible to tank is halls of reflection. With retri tanking i mean tanking in ret gear (pvp or pve gear) and specc with righteous fury. I’m reaching up to 33k Hp with pvp gear in difference to 26-27k hp in pve gear unbuffed, so switching to pvp gear makes you more safe. A geared healer is to prefer, atleast for the later heroics that have been released. Threat is never going to be a problem, you cant lose aggro while ret tanking.

    Its a risky playstyle which requires a healer with their eyes on you and fingers fast enough to cast out an instant heal incase you get smashed by multiple mobs at the same time. Pala stuns is good in those moments. The big bonus with having a ret tank, is that the Dps from the party will be much much greater and leads to that you as a tank dont take that many hits from the mobs you’re facing (“killed already?”). You can say it’s faceroll as long as you dont have problem with the healer not healing you…=P I think its fun and it reduces the dungeon finder time for me pretty much;)

    Don’t QQ about spelling and grammar fails, hope you get the point!
    Have a nice day!

  4. stríke says:

    my post was some kind of an introduction, forgot to point that out.

  5. Khor says:

    Hey, Ronark, on a different note, I sent you an email about your site :)

  6. Silverblaise says:

    As a paladin tank that now has a few ICC10 (and a couple ICC25) pieces, random heroics are a non issue. I’ve been using heroics to raise some of my other weapon skills just because i got a piece of equipment to do it with.

    Now my fiancee who just got her DK to 80 and has been tanking for a while gets attitudes like this all the time. We’ve had healers check her gearscore and state “you’re not a tank” then drop group entirely. The more prominant one is the healer that is just too lazy to heal a tank without defense cap (or far exceeded in my case) and 40k unbuffed health. Now we’ve run with people from guild healing and they have absolutely no problems keeping her little DK alive. (had a priest healing in shadow gear for one of em so it can’t be overly hard) yet these people immediately deride her and say she should go back to regulars.

    I realize with this that i’m preaching the the choir. guess i just wanted to add in my two cents.

  7. Kharner says:

    As someone who just started playing WoW in May and got my first 80 with a Pally, your website has been awesome. This article hits home for me as in all my previous MMO games (4+ yrs), I tanked which is my strong suit. But after hitting 80 and getting a few tank pieces, I gave tanking a go, and after 4 runs I know have a ret pally. I have to say that alot of people don’t give you a learning curve and assume you are a crappy tank if you aren’t ICC tank ready. Just my 2 cents. Also want to say thanks for all the advice. Going on 2 weeks of a fresh 80 and am close to being ready to go for the ICC. Hopefully I can get a group who is willing to teach a noob the ropes.

  8. Ana says:

    The people that I feel sorry for are the ones that get pugs like that when they are new to tanking. That’s the attitude that can cause tanks to switch to a dps spec.

    Personally, having had you tank for me on your main Khor, I would have no problem with you tanking on your alt. But it’s because I know that you DO have the skill and experience. When I see a new tank in a pug, I do try to be nice and patient. I just know that when I’m healing them (or the rare occasion dpsing), I have to pay more attention. I don’t understand why people are such jerks about it.

  9. Haven says:

    I agree with all the posters as I experience the same scenario not just tanking but as a Dps. I gave up on healing. I like my guild but it seems the guildies are on a different path of goals and the runs are few and far betweens. I’m sorry, I’m still upset about the scenarios and just not finding a solutions.

    Tbh, I don’t get it why its so hard to understand that you have to start somewhere to get gear upgrades not like its insta raid. And make a big grief about gearscore.

    Skill> GS/CS

    I was “benched” because my “gear” is not up to par. Ya think? *sarcastic* Help has been offered but when I redeem it its only one run. I’ll work for my emblems but don’t offer help if its only one run. I took myself out of the raid scene and just help out the fresh 80′s and run Naxx as a tank for exp and practice and possible upgrades.

    I truly understand the tank issues and its burden.

  10. Khor says:

    Hey Haven. Sounds like an unfortunate situation you’re in :( It’s far too common to see people with little or no patience in PUGs, and most of that is thanks to 2 years of WotLK.

    Cataclysm will be a clean slate for everyone, so you can gear and upgrade as needed with your guild. If they continue to exclude you, or not rotate you in regularly, there may be other guild politics in play :(

    At that point, I guess you can either ‘heart’ your guild and stay, or maybe find greener pastures that give you more opportunities to grow.

  11. Morgh says:

    I read your article while I was researching the class for my new paladain (level 50 currently) and I thought this article was saddly true. I have a warrior tank that sort of became my main since the guild needed an OT for ICC 10. Right from Deadmines to Halls of Ref., you get some nasty PUGs along the way. You just have to get mean. DPS and healers will come and go, but uou’re the tank and as long as you know what you can and cannot do and can play within those boundries, the rest of the group is just filler. Luckily, I am long past tanking in PUGs but I remember those days well.

  12. Haven says:

    Khor wrote:

    Hey Haven. Sounds like an unfortunate situation you’re in It’s far too common to see people with little or no patience in PUGs, and most of that is thanks to 2 years of WotLK.

    :+: Indeed it is but it is no longer a stranger to me but more like a thorn by my side.

    Cataclysm will be a clean slate for everyone, so you can gear and upgrade as needed with your guild. If they continue to exclude you, or not rotate you in regularly, there may be other guild politics in play

    :+: I’m hoping so until then I’ll keep researching, tweaking and keep up on the updates on this wonderful forum =) :+:

    At that point, I guess you can either ‘heart’ your guild and stay, or maybe find greener pastures that give you more opportunities to grow.

    :+: Indeed it is but it is no longer a stranger to me but more like a thorn by my side. My toons are a bit spread out on different guilds to be an observer and how each of these guilds function.

    Its going to be a very long, bumpy journey until I finally settle in a “guild” that holds true to their conviction not just a fan of smoke and mirrors.

  13. Arutha says:

    Hell, I just gotta say thankyou for writing this. My main is laser chicken so kinda not relevant to the thread I guess but I raid/heroic generally as boomkin and was up until recently offspeced resto. After a few lucky drops I had enough bits and pieces to consider tanking, just for the novelty of instant random queues. My first 2 runs went beautifully, got some very good advice from some folk who have tank mains, and general encouragement all round. Then I landed PoS and i gotta say after that storm I was to embarrassed/nervous to try again. Just the knowledge that some people out there have the understanding and intelligence to realise that I cant be instantly awesome is kinda gratifying…

  14. JustARet says:

    People have become extremely lazy these days. A result of end game content and high level purples being more easily obtainable no doubt. Healers expect to sit on their hands the whole run with popping out 1 or 2 HoTs or insta heals to show their presence where as DPS don’t even care about aggro management anymore, I swear they don’t even look at the screen anymore, the only thing that matters on it is the little box in the lower right corner that says recount. Yes I play a ret pally too (Horde side, Eonar US) and I have wanted to try myself out as a prot as well but mostly because of this I never did. So I dual specced ret, PVE and PVP and doing arenas instead. In conclusion people should relax more and not get so hell bent over actually having to do some work in the 1 single daily heroic that they have to complete.

    p.s. Great site Khor , keep it up.

  15. Arencey says:

    I hate to break it to you pal but Ive been a full time tank for 2 almost 3 years and it doesnt get any better. The bastards keep you out of raiding even when you get all the heroic gear you can, and after that dont expect to be taken far in icc 10 unless you have 25 man gear.(thats right people want to make tanks farm 25 man gear to do 10 mans).

    Luckily blizz is fixing that issue when cata is released by making 25 man gear the same as 10 man, as for the getting into raiding after heroics issue I find that the best remedy is to host your own dang raids until you get some raid gear and t10 then boot all healers who make any crude remarks about your gear or hp even after you tell them you have full heroic gear.

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