Upon further consideration…

Yesterday I put up a rather long post about what I see as some of the reasons for the disparity in the amount of tanks and/or healers available in the game. The post did not draw a huge amount comments, but it did draw some pretty insightful ones.

After reading those and doing a bit more thinking on the subject some of my opinions are somewhat changed. I thought of simply putting this all in the comments, but it actually deserves its own post.

Remember when I said I might hijack some of your comments for further posting?

I wasn’t kidding 🙂


In yesterday’s post I broke it down into four categories, mostly to help me keep my thoughts in order. I did, after all, write that before I finished my morning coffee.

Today I am going to go about it just a bit differently..


TheReaper brought up a few good points last night.

In my opinion tanks are far easier to gear than any other archetype in the game.
Are you defcapped? Yes? Stack stamina. No? Get more def rating.

Avoidance automatically increases with gear and unless you went really wrong somewhere threat generation isn’t much of a problem either these days.

There are certain encounters where a specialized set of gear comes in handy, but those are usually hardmodes that I don’t worry about on my twink (even though I have successfully tanked all raid instances in the game and my paladin is currently sitting just shy of 5400 gs).
On my rogue however, gearing is a nightmare. What stats do I look for?
Sounds complicated? Well, it gets worse…
Expertise pretty much trumps everything until you hit the dodgecap (26 expertise).
Hitrating is imperative up to the poison hit cap, which differs depending on: specc, group composition, available debuffs, race and weapon. If you wanted to really squeeze every last drop of dps you might need up to 5 different sets to hit the different hitcaps.
Hitrating raises your soft crit cap, its great if you reached the cap, pretty bad if you didn’t.
Agility/critrating are good until you hit the soft crit cap, but fall behind AP/haste above it.
So every time I could get a new piece of gear I have to pull up my spreadsheet, see if equipping it would bump me over my soft crit cap, regem/reequip hitrating accordingly, figure out if the upgrade is still worth it at that point and so on.
 Sorry for the wall of text, but gearing a dps class is by no means “easier” than gearing a tank or healer.
Gearing becomes difficult when you try to maximize your effectiveness, I want to do that on my rogue, so its hard, I don’t want to do that on my paladin, so it appears easier to me.
Someone with a pally tank main and a rogue alt would probably react in the exact opposite way.


I will admit that when I look back at it with a more critical eye I see that I may have filtered my perceptions of the complexity of gearing through the lens of my experience. Then again, I think we all would.

Today I am both properly caffeinated and looking at this from a wider perspective. The relative difficulty of gearing any character for a specific role will be different for different people. It will also to a large degree depend on who is doing the gearing and why.  

First, how familiar are you with the class and role?

If you are gearing a character class you are familiar with for a role you are familiar with it will be a lot easier. Like any other task, it will be easier with experience. The more you do something the easier it seems.

Secondly, What are you gearing for? The reasons you are gearing up will also influence not only your gear choices, but how in depth you need to go into “perfecting” your gear, spec, and play style.

For instance, I enjoy battlegrounds on occasion, but have no desire to do arena. My gearing for PvP would be simplistic in comparison to someone who was playing on a top rated arena team. Someone who levels up and decides just to stay in 5 mans will have less of a need to min-max their character than someone who plans to see Arthas fall in Icecrown 25.

As TheReaper said, Gearing becomes difficult when you try to maximize your effectiveness.

There are the absolute basics like he mentioned about gearing a tank, and I mentioned about gearing a hunter at one end of the spectrum. At the other there are calculators, spreadsheets, stat weighted gear sorters, and just about any other thing you can think of to help min-max. I suppose it’s really about how far you want to go down that particular rabbit hole.

Fortunately (in my opinion) the stats are planned to be streamlined in Cataclysm which should make the learning curve a bit less steep when deciding to change how much you choose to focus on a given role.


A few people touched on the social aspect.

Isa wrote (in part)

… While a different game design could make tanks and healers less obvious points of failure, and thus less scary, I think it’s this social mechanism you’ve mentioned that drives the shortage, and not the design. In other words, I believe game design can be a solution but it’s not the real problem.

Greysmoke wrote (in part)

… There does seem to be a pervasive idea that once you hit 80, you should know perfectly whatever role you’re playing, so if you’re wanting to switch from dps to heals or tanking, you’re either going to take a lot of abuse OR you’re going to have to rely on friends and guildies to see you through the learning curve. And it seems to be much worse for tanks than healers, in my experience. …

Humans are for the most part social creatures. That is one of the big reasons Wow is so damn popular. If I got this level of enjoyment out of a solo console game I would have saved a bloody fortune over the last four years. Hell, if I were not a social creature I would not be writing about it and you folks would not be here commenting.

One of the things many people fear in a social situation is rejection by ones peers. They may not admit it, or even consciously know it, but it will influence their decisions.

The steeper the learning curve would be to achieve success the fewer will be willing to climb that learning curve. The greater the cost, or more visible the failure would be, the less likely people are to take the risk.

This can be lessened somewhat by being able to practice alone. Target dummies and random critters out in the world do a good job of that for Dps classes. Battlegrounds (especially AV) can be a good training ground for healers.

I have yet to find a way to “practice” tanking in a way that does not involve running a five man.  Of course, having said that someone will come by and tell me how to do it now.

The only ways to eliminate that would be for Blizzard to somehow put in the ability to practice tanking into the game, or to eliminate the distinctions between tanks, heals, and dps. Somehow I think that the simulator is more likely in Wow, and eliminating the distinctions is more likely to happen in the next generation MMO, but that is a whole other post.

As Isa said, game design can be a solution but it’s not the real problem.


The more I think about this the more I think it boils down to two major reasons for the disparity.

The first is the fear of failure, particularly of public failure and the ridicule that can go with it.

That goes a long way to explaining not only why people tend to not play the single point of failure roles, but why many that do will have periods of “burnout” where they drop that role in favor of Dps. Whether actually performing the tasks to play the role well is more difficult or not, the perceived stress coming from the fear of failure will get to some people after a while.

I know there was a time when I took six months or more off healing and went shadow on my priest, just because I was tired of getting blamed for choosing to throw my heals on the tank who is holding the boss and letting some idiot that was standing in the bad die.

*note to all:  if your feet are on fire… please move.*

The second is the ability to practice and improve ones performance outside of a group setting.

How much “soloable” content that can be practiced on may not be a factor, but I do see a direct relation to role choice. It may be coincidence, but then again it might not.

  • Dps

Training opportunities include everything from “kill ten rats” quests, to target dummies. There are lower level instances to run solo or in a group, battlegrounds to fight in, mobs wandering the countryside, in short it’s a Dps paradise.

By the time people leave their starting zone they have the beginnings of a grasp on Dps. Unless you heal or tank instances as you level every character is a Dps’r all the way to the level cap.

Most training opportunities, most common role.

  • Healing

Training for healing is a good bit harder to come by. Since the only way to learn group healing is to heal groups your choices pretty much boil down to healing instances, healing raids, or healing in PvP. I suppose we could throw in the odd group quest while leveling that requires a bit of healing, but honestly most can be solo’d by a Dps class.

That’s pretty much it for healing. Sure there are a few times here and there where you can learn healing outside of running instances and raids, but not much at all.

Much leaner training opportunities, much fewer players in the role.

  • Tanking

Training for tanking is simple. Run five mans, or run raids. That pretty much covers it. Perhaps a few group quests would count here as well. I can think of no ways to practice holding threat and managing cooldowns as a tank in a group other than being the tank in one.

Could you go practice your rotation of a target dummy, or random mobs out in the world? Sure.

Will that show you whether you would actually be holding aggro against high output Dps? No.

Will that get you practice in using your “oh crap” buttons at the proper time? No.

There are a very few skills you could actually practice, such as line of sight pulling of casters, but there is really not much you can do without a group.

Least amount of training available, fewest people willing to step into the role.


I don’t see these things so much as a reason people will not roll a tank or a healer. I see them more of a reason that tanks and healers both will tend to find groups of friends while learning their trade. Friends that will help them out and not give them a bunch of grief as they learn the ropes of that role.

Once a person has done that why would they want to run with strangers? Why take a further chance of getting crap from people you will never see again in favor of rolling with folks you know you can depend on? Why put yourself out there in a spotlight ready to be criticized if someone pulls aggro or stands in the fire?

In the bigger picture I don’t really think that there exists a disproportionate number of Dps. I simply think it much more likely that people choosing the tanking and healing roles are less apt to run with strangers. The are a lot more likely to run with those they have had good luck with before.


The next time you are in a pug 5 man and one of the players says “Hey guys, My gearscore is low and I am new to this role. How about you help me learn the ropes?”

Are you going to be one of those that just bail and leave that person hanging, or will you be one of those that says “Thanks for the heads up, we can do this.”


Think about it.



15 Responses

  1. Excellent points all.

    On your last question, I tanked a heroic the other day with four guildies, and we pugged the last DPS. The last time I did this, I got HoL, and while we were getting things set up, getting buffs, what have you, the pug (a DK) simply said… “gooooooo”. So I went, chain-pulling as best I could, until he dropped group without warning about three pulls before the last boss. So we grabbed a guildmate and finished up.

    This time, I got HoL, and lo and behold, another DK. I winced when I saw the red name. But this one was cool. He (or she, but it was a male toon) said right off the bat, “hey guys, I just dinged 80 yesterday, so forgive me if I suck. I just wanted to let you know in case you want to kick me or something”. I said, “sorry dude, you’re stuck with us.”

    And stick with us he did, and we all wished him good luck after Loken was disposed of. His DPS wasn’t stellar, and he hung around the whirlwindy dwarves a few times too many, but his attitude was good, and overall he was a pleasure to have along. It turned out that this was his 3rd 80, and first melee DPSer, which explained the whirlwind deaths.

    In the end, we did what we went there to do, and really, what more can you ask for?

    • There was a time not long ago that I ran as Dps on my Death Knight. The original plan was to gear her through Triumph Emblems and then switch to tanking once I would not be way overgeared by the Dps.

      Anyhow, I zone into Utguard Keep and start going through. I have recount pulled up and I am doing what I consider a respectable 1900ish Dps in quest blues and crafted stuff.

      There was a mage with us that decided that he was going to chew me out for slacking since he was pulling nearly 4k in full badge gear.

      Oddly enough the tank paused in his pulling and both he and the healer proceded to berate the mage for being an asshat.

      Not really the same, but your story of the second DK made me think of it.

  2. This morning, before work, I logged in to my rogue to run a quick heroic… I get HToC, and there is a druid in blues and greens from questing healing. He says first thing, “I don’t think I can heal this guys.”

    I assured him that if he just kept hots rolling from the beginning and spammed Nourish, he would do fine. And he did. AND he got a bunch of upgrades, which otherwise would have been sharded. Never thought i would say this, but I am tired of enchanting mats…

    Truly, I am happy to carry a new alt or true newb through, as long as they aren’t just bad through idiocy. I’ll give pointers, answer questions, etc. It is much better than a silent 3x5kdps untouchabletank infalliblehealer run.

    • There are three major reasons for underperforming in an instance.

      1) You are new to the class or spec and simply need experience.

      2) You know what to do but your gear is way behind the power curve. This ususlly goes hand in hand with number 1.

      3) You are simply not trying to play your class up to it’s potential. Maybe you are distracted by other things in the real world, maybe it’s just an off day, maybe it’s yout 13th heroic and you are just phoning it in, or maybe you simply are not any good.

      The first two I can work with, it’s the third that irritates me.

      Even when it’s me thats having the off day.

  3. Gearing a rogue is incredibly irritating – I finally had to figure out how to use a spreadsheet. I’m jealous of those caster DPS that don’t have to worry about expertise.

    Fantastic post. Fear and lack of confidence is definitely a major component in preventing people from tanking or healing.

    I learned to heal in guild groups, and now that I have confidence I find it a blast. I found that battlegrounds were also a risk free way of practicing – after all, who is going to notice if you fail? I had a PUG tank tell me “great heals” today, and that was satisfying, but not enough to make me prefer PUGS over running with friends.

    I also discovered another way to practice tanking. It requires a high level healer to accompany you. You can practice pulling/your rotation in instances, and have the healer keep you up while applying dots to the mobs to try to get threat off of you.

    • You do realize that you just volunteered to help my baby pally learn to tank right?

      Actually if I hit you up for the whole L2Tank project it would likly be for my DK in like normal Nexus or somewhere equally simple.

  4. My WoW Career started with Vanilla where I rolled a Hunter and then a Shaman, lvl 41 being the highest I got. Then I found out some friends played when BC hit so I went over and joined them rolling a Belfadin. They were already max level and got bored so 4 of us switched over to Alliance on another server. For some reason I rolled Priest, no idea why as the choices for me were another Pally, Mage or the Priest. This Priest has been my main ever since and has always healed. I learned healing when we 3 and 4 manned dungeons. We cleared Scarlet Monestary as a 3 man team. I healed through BC Heroics. Despite the fact I switched mains briefly to my Shaman (who I now want to regear as Resto) my Priest has always been there and seen much more. It’s a class I am comfortable playing now. Unfortunately I don’t know anyone that plays anymore and I am guildless so only get to PUG, but learning the ropes as I levelled taught me a great deal and even though Priest talents have changed it is those first times through stuff with friends that helped me learn what to do. I have a 66 Bear Tank too and I will admit that I am learning things, I’ve had some nice comments come my way too. I try and treat others the same way I have been treated when it comes to learning new stuff.

    • I am putting together a four or five person team right now actually, all family from around the country.

      We are planning to level to 20 seperately and then run those toons with only one another as we instance our way up.

      Interestingly enough it will be an all stealth capable group.

      Me, resto Druid.
      My Son, Feral (tank) Druid.
      Mother in law, Rogue
      Daughter, Feral (cat) Druid
      Brother in law, Balance Druid (if he decided to run with the group)

      I am thinking it will be a lot of fun to run witha group like that.

  5. Dechion, maybe if u need an alternate for when someone isn’t around for one of those all-fam runs, u should hit up ur awesome nephew. 🙂 let me know

    • Sounds like fun. The group is Keal’thas alliance side and will start off at level 20.

      I would suggest a Druid since we can swap out roles as needed depending on who shows up. If you roll one let me know, I’ll send over some bags and such to get you started.

    • lol. Sounds great. I was just running dungeons with my DK(61) last night on that realm. Actually had 3 very solid groups. Actually one had a mage that was, kind of justifiably, berating a rogue for only putting out ~140dps (way too low for a lvl 60– especially a rogue! I mean cmon that’s a dps class. Shoulda been getting 400 just facerolling ffs.) It was kind nice though to know I could help carry dps when basically 1 man short, though.
      Anyways, yes! I’ll roll a drood and race him up to 20 over this next week there. I’ll shoot u a message with the name and all. Thanks!

  6. I just wanted to comment quickly on the tanking issue :

    the amount of effort required to be at the top of your game is the same for all roles – tank, dps, healing. That said, only a small portion of the WoW population actually puts that much effort into gearing, speccing, glyphing.

    For the vast majority, however, this level of effort isn’t invested.

    What does this mean? Well, if you’re a DPS, and you don’t invest this level of effort, your DPS may be 4k instead of 5k (or whatever arbitrary number you want). What the other players do has little impact on you unless the tank can’t hold aggro or the healer doesn’t heal you. You can faceroll your way through the instance and as long as you aren’t below 2k, few people will comment.

    The tank, however, has to pay very close attention to their rotation. If you don’t, and you just faceroll your way through the instance like the DPS, someone will pull aggro off of you and (if they’re a dick) will heap scorn on you. In order to be able to do your job, you HAVE to have a better understanding of how threat works and what your rotation should be than the DPS needs.

    Healers fall in between – rarely do they have a set rotation, but they need to have a reasonable understanding of what they are doing.

    I think that this is the main reason why we see a lack of tanks, and, to a lesser extent, a lack of healers in WoW.

    • I think you made the point better than I did here.

      The effort to be on the top of your game is similar to all, but the minimum level of effort required for DPS is, on average, low, for healers, dependent on the tank, and for the tanks, the highest average.

  7. Completely agree with wanting to learn the ropes when tanking or healing with your mates. My DK has 27k health which isnt great but its 7k more than i had when i first tanked Heroics on my warrior in the first few weeks or wotlk. People shout NAB TANK and leave the group before the first pull becasue i dont have 40k health fortunately i have a dps spec so i can farm the triumph badges to get tank gear.

    It does take the fun out of tanking heroics. it seems now that people are only happy with a tank that completely outgears the instance. You dont need 40k hp to tank violet hold heroic.

    oh well i’ll have farmed all the t9 in a week or so it wont be an issue and i can do any 5 man by dropping death and decay happy fun times!!!

    • I tried the same thing only to realise the I really don’t care for melee Dps in a group setting. It just annoys me, so I gave up.

      I actually went back and am leveling a Prot Pally and Resto Shaman purely through the new LFD.

      I got to have my fun without people bailing on me or screaming to pull faster.

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