Home > Player Blogs, Secondmile's Blog > Growing Pains: Low-level Tanking

Growing Pains: Low-level Tanking

I just wanted to take a short opportunity to further elaborate on a topic that came up on The Guardian Tank two weeks ago. Eldoric was describing how low level tanks could expect their heals to come (i.e. A lot of HOTs from droods, shields from priests, shamans being good at AOE heals). I would like to further that idea when it comes to low-level dungeon tanking. Having been taking all the healing classes through dungeons and taking all but a bear through tanking as well, I have noticed similar trends no matter what I choose to play that day. Join me as we look at how you will be healed and what you can expect so that you can punch bad guys harder.

Overall // When tanking low level dungeons the first pull (assuming everybody is ready and actually playing) will be the pace setter. There are a few things you need to look for:

-Is your healer wearing heirloom gear? (learn what it looks like)

-What percent are you at when the first heal lands?

-How high does it jump when it does land?

-Is the healer dps’ing?

Why do those things matter? Well, I’m glad you asked! Most (read MOST) healers are alts now and are usually wearing some combination of heirlooms. As a result they land REALLY BIG HEALS. It is not uncommon for me when healing a tank to let them get between 40-50% before landing my heal. I know that seems weird as you would probably be more comfortable staying around 70-90% but trust me, I have a good reason. My heals land for big numbers. If I heal you at 70% I may be wasting 30-40% of what I could heal you, in other words, an overheal. You will find that many healers operate this way while leveling. It is ok, trust me. As you progress you will begin to trust your healers and be able to focus on what you are doing.

Now, when to use the “oh, poo” buttons. If your healer lets you get down to 30% it’s time to bust out the big buttons. As Eld has said before on air, only use one. Often times stacking your cooldowns will not gain you much more than one well timed CD. If you’re at 30% there is usually a good reason why: your healer may be OOM, stunned, out of range, dead, or making a sandwich. If this is the case then one well timed CD will be all he/she needs to get back and get a good heal on you.

Alright, so now that we’re not freaking out about being sub 50% sometimes, lets take a good look at how each class heals you and what you can expect to see.

Shaman // Starting here because I’m most familiar with them. They also happen to be the easiest in my opinion. Earth Shield is our best friend. This one buff does almost all of our work with a small heal thrown in when things get a bit hairy. Seriously tho, I led dps for about 40 levels while having ES do all my healing. What this means for you: you will have a ball of dirt going around you that has 9 charges. Periodically (read very often) when you are hit, a charge will dispel and heal you for a significant chunk. Your shaman healer will probably be casting offensive spells in the meantime because he will also have healing stream totem down which heals the group every two seconds for a supplementary amount. Once you get up a few more levels you will start seeing a spell effect of water washing over you and HOT hit you. This is called Riptide, the butter to our bread. It is an instant cast spell that gives an instant heal and a Heal Over Time, it’s awesome. Takeaway: Yell at your shaman if you don’t have a ball of dirt around you.

Druid // Most interesting and maybe active healer here. Drood’s rely on a series of HOTs (Heal Over Time) and spells that are more powerful if they consume a HOT that is already on a character. With this healer you will not see very many big heals come down the pipe, instead it will be many slow heals. Magically while getting beat on by a bunch of mobs you will see your health bar slowly climb up after each hit you take. It will seem weird getting healed by a drood as much of what they do seems very behind the scenes. Expect to see Regrowth on you almost all the time which ticks and heals. If things get hairy your Regrowth will be consumed when they cast Nourish for a nice big heal as they get a 20% additional heal if they have Regrowth on you. Takeaway: Always yell “DRUID BUFF!” and look for lots of leaf looking buffs on you.

Paladin // Paladins were weird for me, I always felt like I should be doing more. Paladins are great at healing single targets and while I hesitate to use the word struggle, it is tougher spreading the love to the group. Paladins have two instant heals they can use among the standard cast time heals. At later levels (60ish) you should be looking for “Beacon of Light” to almost always be on you, it heals you when a pally heals someone else in the party. Pally’s will follow the “Overall” standard for healing and just hit you for big heals (Holy Shock), stand there, big heal (Word of Glory), stand there, big heal… They are built for it and they excel at it. Some might say they are overly powerful at it? Also, their “oh, poo” button is bigger than yours (Lay on Hands). Takeaway: You have no worries, just yell “Gimme beacon you big pink OP punk!”

Priest // Priests are boss. Just boss. Not gonna lie, this is the one I am least familiar with and in fact am actually currently healing as a shadow spec. So first of all, it’s easy enough to do while shadow, that should say something. Second of all, Priest’s have two routes they can go in healing. Holy or Discipline. First, Discipline. Discipline is tank healing the way it should be. Disc focuses on mitigating damage and shielding damage which means they probably won’t top meters later in raids. Excellent in 5 mans when damage is already negligible. Look for shields and light heals from these guys. Second, Holy. Holy is the most adaptable of all healing in any class. They are excellent at AoE healing and are superb as well at tank healing. Look for big heals from them and big numbers. Refer to the “Overall” strategy when in group with a priest and rest easy, they’ll take care of you, big boy. Takeaway: Don’t be mad when they yell “CLICK THE LIGHTWELL!” You get to yell at all the other healers, be nice to priests. Also, click the Lightwell.

Well I hope this gives you some idea of what is going on behind the scenes and in the minds of your healers. Let it make you rest at ease knowing that everything is going to be ok. Disclaimer: All bets are off if you have a bad healer. Bad = Bad. Good luck!

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  1. September 23, 2011 at 7:59 pm

    A really neat post. And no doubt helpful to many new tanks. I will definitely forward this to one of the newer tanks I know.

    Interestingly enough, we seem to complement each other quite well, as you seem to have a more firm grasp on paladins and shamans while my expertise lies more with druids and priests. As such, I do have some additions that aren’t major but might cause a stir in some groups if left unchanged:

    Druids: Regrowth (or the green leaf, as some might call it) doesn’t tick for much or for long these days. The main reason for a druid to cast Regrowth is if someone wants a fast direct heal (comparable to Flash Heal, Flash of Light and Healing Surge, only with a short and small HoT component and not as much direct healing as its counterparts). The HoT that you want your druid to have on you the whole time is Rejuvenation (or the purple leaf). Also, Lifebloom, once the healer is 64+, should always be on the tank with 3 stacks.
    Another thing you got wrong (again, not a major thing) is that Nourish (small, slow direct heal; comparable to Heal, Holy Light and Lesser Healing Wave), while being more effective with a HoT (not just Regrowth) on the target, does not consume any HoTs. There is a spell that does this, however: Swiftmend (15 sec. CD) will consume a Rejuvenation or Regrowth on the target for a direct heal. There is a prime glyph that takes out the consumption of the HoT effect, though, so after level 25 there is no reason a Rejuv or Regrowth HoT on you should fall off mid-duration.

    Priests: every one of the major tracking devices for healing (Recount, Skada, WorldofLogs, whatever) are now treating absorption as healing in their charts (with Recount and WorldofLogs it’s standard, with Skada you have to display “Absorption and Healing”), so there is no reason for Disc Priests to be below everyone else (no more excuses, Disc priests!).
    Also, there is a Discipline spec often called the Atonement/Archangel (or A/A) spec where your damaging enemies with Smite and Holy Fire automatically heals the most injured target nearby. Just so people don’t get puzzled over where their heals come from if all the priest does is damage the mobs. These priests are very easy to spot as they are likely to grow glowing wings from time to time.
    And although Holy priests are not in a very good position when tank healing at the moment, this is nothing that has to be mentioned due to this being for leveling tanks. They are not bad at it, mind you, just not as good as the other healing specs. /random rant off

    And last, but not least: I love the Lightwell comment!

  2. secondmile
    September 24, 2011 at 9:42 pm

    Thank you for the clarification especially on droods & priests and for the complements. My intention (which I did not state very clearly) was for very new players and in the levels of 15 to about 45. I also appreciate your point on Disc priests concerning absorption and meters.

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