Tuesday, December 22, 2015

What Keeps Good DPS From Becoming Tank or Heals?

I saw this questions posted on the MMO-C forums and without even opening it and reading any responses my first instinct was to come here and make a post about it because I do have some strong views on the answer to that question.

I will start with the TL;DR version and then go deeper if people wish to dig into my thought train on this subject.

TL;DR version

There are three main reasons this is the case.

1) As a damage dealer their is less individual responsibility.
2) It is easier to find a good tank or good healer than it is to find a good damage dealer.
3) There is more of a chance to shine as a damage dealer.

These, in my opinion, are the three main reasons for what keeps good DPS from becoming tanks or healers.

Now to go deeper into my thought process in coming up with these three reasons as the main reasons why you do not see many good damage dealers switching to tank or heal.

1) As a damage dealer their is less individual responsibility.

In a dungeon there is one tank and one healer, in a raid there are 2 tanks and depending on group size anywhere from 2-5 healers maybe.  The remainder of the group is filled with damage dealers.  If a damage dealer messes up, missing an interrupt or what have you there are more than enough other damage dealers to cover up for them and do it.  If a tank misses a taunt in a raid it could mean a wipe, if a tank misses using a cooldown while the healer is spell locked or stunned in a five man it could mean a wipe.  Same pressures fall on to the healers.  If a healer misses their raid cooldown timing or uses it at the wrong time it could mean a wipe.  If a healer makes the wrong decision to save the rogue instead of casting a crucial heal on a tank in need it could mean a wipe in a five man.

There is a lot more responsibility on the shoulders of a tank or a healer.  Some people just do not want to deal with that.  It does not mean they are incapable of doing so, it just means they do not want to.  In the end who really would want to do anything they don't actively want to do.  Some people thrive on the responsibility but I believe those types to be few and far between.

Perhaps there are those people who main tanks and healers and only want to play a tank or healer and nothing else because they like the challenge, they like the responsibility or maybe they are just like me and like the easy route. 

I have a saying about classes, if it can tank it tanks, if it can heal it heals, if it can't do anything else, I DPS on it.  This is why my warrior, paladin, monk, death knight and druid are tanks, my priest and shaman are healers and the only damage dealers I have are the 4 pure damage dealing classes.

The reason for this belief is not because I like the responsibility role, I don't, but because I like the easy role.  In a organized group setting tanking and healing are by far the easiest role in the game.  And to the heart of the question posed, in random group content, the tank and healer role are the hardest role in the game. 

This is why I do not queue as a tank for random content.  I don't want to deal with it and would rather wait in queue than to fill the more difficult role with all the responsibility where I get blamed for everything even if it is not my fault as a tank.  Just, no thank you.  So maybe, just maybe, the reason I do not play a tank in random content is because of responsibility and I bet a great deal of people feel the same about tanking for randoms.  I would tank in an organized group setting any day, I like it there, is a nice and easy and laid back environment.  A hell of a lot less stressful than being a damage dealer, that is for sure.

2) It is easier to find a good tank or good healer than it is to find a good damage dealer.

Just writing that line rings so true.  I believe it would be a rarity to see many cases were truer words were ever written about warcraft than what you see above.  It is much easier to find a good tank or a good healer than it is to find a good damage dealer.

As someone who has been a raid leader since wrath, and started tanking and healing near the end of wrath, I can tell you that the #1 reason I have never switched to a healer or tank full time when the guild needed it was because I knew I could find one.  It might take a little time of course and there would always be people trying out that were beyond dreadful at the job, but it was much easier to find a good tank or a good healer than it was to find a good damage dealer.

It goes back to what I said in the previous point.  In a dungeon you only need one tank and one healer, and more importantly in a raid you only need 2 tanks and maybe as many as 5 healers.  Fewer of them are needed overall to fill a group out, so it is easier, much easier, to fill those positions.

Also to that point, being fewer of them are needed the competition for those spots is usually more fierce.  This means the better players are the ones that rise to the top faster when competing for so few open spots.  This is the number one reason why I say you would be hard pressed to find truer words when it is said that it is easier to find a good tank or healer than a good damage dealer.

So, while I have needed to fill in as a tank or a healer many times over those years, I rarely had to do so for long.  A new tank or new healer came along soon enough.  As I said, there are so few spots for them that there are always capable and even exceptional, tanks and healers out there with no guilds.

But lets look at the other side of the spectrum to reinforce that statement, even if after what I pointed out already it does not need any reinforcement.

Again, in my years as a raid leader I have found it to near nightmare levels of disappointment in finding a full crew of quality damage dealers.   As so many are needed to have an effective group the odds are even when you find yourself with a quality group there will always be that one guy, or gal, who is doing less damage than others, who does not understand an important mechanic, who you can not put on interrupt duty, who you can not count on target switching, or adds work, on getting out of the fire, of not suffering from tunnel vision or just plain old being a slightly lesser of a player than the rest of the group.

Even when you have the best group you have ever had, there will always be one person who you say "as long as that ability does not go on the rogue we got this" when working progression.  It is extremely hard, nigh impossible, to get a group of all quality damage dealers.  A group where the entire group is capable of dealing with mechanics, of remembering an interrupt order, of target switching as needed, of targeting the priority, or moving as a unit, of doing quality damage, of avoiding the avoidable, and of doing all the little things, is impossible to get, at least in any group under world first contention.

Being so many damage dealers are needed for a group the picking are slim and you usually get a few screw ups in your group.  So again, without a shadow of a doubt, many people like myself that are decent damage dealers, do not switch to tank or heal because it is easy to find a tank or healer but it is extremely difficult to find a decent damage dealer.  So basically the good DPS do not switch because it would be harder to find a good DPS to replace them if they did than it would be to find a good tank or healer to fill that open slot.  That is why good DPS do not switch, because good DPS are to few and far between, they can not be spared to switch, even more so when you need so damn many of them to make a group.

3) There is more of a chance to shine as a damage dealer.

Last but not least is the ego answer.   Some people just like to see themselves being on the top.  Hard to do as a healer because for a healer it is a group effort.  Sometimes the healer that did the least heals was the most important healer on the fight.  Sometimes the healer that was calling out when to dispel and who to dispel was doing a more important job than their healing numbers alone might show.  For a tank you can try to press as much DPS as possible while still surviving so you can toot your own horn but really if you want your ego to go through the roof, you need to be a damage dealer to get your fill of patting yourself on the back.

Admittedly the top damage dealer is not always the "best" player.  Actually in most evenly skilled groups the top damage dealer is rarely the "best" player.  More often than not they are the person that refuses to do special duty, or will not interrupt and say let the lower DPS do it, all because it will hurt their numbers.  So no, being top damage dealer does not mean someone is good, absolutely not, but it does do something for their ego and, as it seems, a great many people like that. They yearn for it.

But it is not only about ego in the sense they want to show everyone how great they are, it is also when it comes to roles, being a damage dealer is the role that you never stop learning at.  No matter how good you do, you can do better.  While some people might like to shine at the tops of the damage charts, there are others like myself that like to shine, even if only in their own eyes, by constantly getting better at what they do.  I know there will always be someone out there that makes me look like a complete noob because I could do better and I like the challenge of playing a role where I can always find something I did wrong so I can try to not make the same mistakes again.  It is also a role in which you can see yourself getting better.

No matter how well you do there is always room to improve as a damage dealer.  Is there something you could have done better in your rotation?  Did you miss a proc, did you focus, rage or energy cap, did you fill every available GCD that you were capable of doing something for, did you miss any auto attacks because you stepped out of range, the list goes on and on, there is never any end.  Can you avoid more avoidable damage, can you solo some mechanics that makes your raids life easier, can you do that special duty while not missing a beat and still rock out like a rock star on the numbers chart.

And as I mentioned earlier you can see yourself getting better.  It is not an ego thing for the world like the damage dealers that post charts all the time showing how awesome they are but it is a personal ego thing in a sense that you can see yourself getting better the more you work at it.

That is something which is much harder to see as a tank or a healer.  You could have some fantastic healers behind you and tank like a god, but not because you are using all your active mitigation and cooldowns correctly, but because they are some really great healers.  If that is the case, how do you know you are actually doing poorly and need to get better?  Or if you do start getting better how do you as the tank know you are getting better.  You were surviving and the boss was dying before, you are surviving and the boss is dying now.  Is you getting better immediately noticeable like it would be with a damage dealer?  So how do you know you improved?  Sure you can find out if you comb through the logs, sure you can ask your healers if you felt easier to heal, but it is not the same as getting better on a damage dealer when you can see it right there, first hand, and notice it.

Same goes for being a healer.  You can get better and better each week, but it is a team effort, and if you team keeps getting better too, you are not going to see your numbers go up because it is not all about the numbers.  If anything you will see your numbers go down.  Everyone will.  People taking less damage as they get better, fights getting shorter as they get better, all the other healers getting more reactive or preplanning as they get better. 

You can only heal a group for as much damage as they take.  If you are in a group with a solid tank and good damage dealers that can avoid stuff, your numbers will be lower than if you were in a group with a bad tank and damage dealers that just set up camp in the bad.  If you fail in a group like that are you doing worse or was it the group?  It is hard to judge as a healer.  Also healers have to be the single worst class in the game to get better at because effectively the better your healers get the fewer of them you need, so if your group gets real good, someone is going to be out of work soon and told to switch to their offspec or just removed from the raid completely in favor of someone that does more damage than they would in their offspec.  Not to mention, as long as the boss dies, you did well.  You can't heal more if everyone lived and was at full health.  You healed enough, more would be impossible in that case.  Unlike with a damage dealer.  Even if the boss died, you could have always done more, there is always room to do more.

So in the role of a damage dealer you have a lot more room to shine, be it for bragging rights or to see yourself continuously get better as a player shining in your own eyes.  You can shine more so and easier than it would be to shine as a tank or a healer.

So there are my three reasons that answer the question in the topic.  Now I am off to read the replies of others.  Perhaps something I read there will open my eyes and make me look at it a different way, but this is how I felt best answered that question.  Why do you think it is that good damage dealers do not become tanks or healers?


  1. It ties into your responsibility mention, but as a dps you don't have to show up to every raid. If you are missing your main tank it's a bigger deal.

    You also kind of touched on it in your healers section, but having to be replaced for fights that don't need another tank or healer. This is less of a thing for tanks anymore as it seems every fight is designed for two tanks now, but used to be "ohh we only need you to tank these fights the rest you can sit for."

    Having to try and gear two specs without being able to really get gear for one of them unless no one else wanted it.

    Which class you played as a tank used to matter a lot more as well. I remember during wrath being asked to switch from tank because they wanted a DK. Only to be asked to switch back for Heroic LK because druids had the highest health pools.

  2. I personally agree with #1. I have one of each role in my 100 stable and the DPS currently has the best gear out of all three. Despite the 30-45 minute random queue timer, I love to be able to simply sit in the back and dps instead of actually 'knowing' the fight. My healer is now starting to catch up, because she can hide among the other 4-5 healers in LFR. She won't ever be the top healer because she is doing her dispells.

    Tanking has always been a bit difficult because you're often considered the automatic raid leader of the group. While I do my research, I haven't tanked this before on higher levels. It's very intimidating when you're the cause of the wipe (like when I pulled aggro off the better geared tank in Siege).

  3. The tanking metrics aren't great because there is so much that is situational. The Theck-Meloree Index (TMI) from Paladin theorycrafter Theck, KRSI (Kihra's Resolve-Weighted Survivability Index) and EHRPS from Khira of WarCraftLogs, and the "Heal Req/s" at AskMrRobot all can show misleading numbers making you think the tank is great when really they just taunted too early and ended up tanking the boss longer or something simple and dumb like that.

    ... HOWEVER ...

    I can't speak for healers, but for tanks (DK tank here) as you get better you focus less on mitigation and more on damage.

    This was extremely relevant in Mists of Pandaria with Vengeance. While it is less applicable now that Vengeance is gone and Resolve has no damage dealing element to it, tank damage can still be equivalent to 1 dps (or more) worth of damage rather than 1/2 a dps.

    Death Knights were using Breath of Sindragosa to deal massive damage in prior 6.x patches, it had massive RNG but someone found out you could pair it with Chains of Ice to reduce the RNG.
    Troxism from mmo-champion forums originally called it Chains of Cancer, but re-evaluated and decided that reducing the RNG was a positive change and allowed for smart tanks to trade surivability for damage, which he deemed an interested gameplay decision for good tanks to not get bored being super surivable.
    * http://www.mmo-champion.com/threads/1607763-Blood-DK-Warlords-of-Draenor-Patch-6-2-Guide-(Long-but-has-TLDR-Version)?p=33588609&highlight=google#post33588609
    * https://docs.google.com/document/d/1NFWCisTeIjwQM_OSCKVonGw5cLg1eF5dTw8Z63QOAAM/edit

    ...but that got nerfed to be just pure RNG.

    As someone in a non-progression guild who carries players like you describe, I never felt comfortable using Breath of Sindragosa. However, over time, I have created a "tank dps" gear set with multistrike and some dps-ish trinkets (currently using fully upgraded Knight's Badge with flat bonus armor and proc crit, and Discordant Chaos with flat strength and proc cleave) and discarded the set bonus in favor of better stats.

    Depending on the fight, I will beat dps and/or healers, so I don't prioritize survival gear unless we are wiping repeatedly and I am a factor in it.

    tldr: tanks can measure improvement by wearing more dps-ish gear


    1. another chains of sindragosa link from before it was nerfed



  4. Anon, Grumpy's former Guild Leader:

    I know you firmly believe in a class tanking or healing if it is possible for the class. It was always one of the points on which we totally disagree. Being a tank is not as easy as you make it sound, at least not for everyone--and it is on that clause, that I base my disagreement. You are one of the very few players I have ever seen who really can switch from class to class and role to role to role with no problem. There are a fair number who can handle one of the roles, a lesser number who can do two roles well and only a relative few players who can master all three.

    Your wrong assessment of your playing ability clouds your judgement on this. You think you are a slightly above average player, when in truth you are absolutely one of the best players world wide. Sure there are a ton of players who are better than you, but remember a ton is only 2000 pounds and allowing around 150 pounds per player...Ok, that part is a joke, yea, but the point remains that while there are players who are a lot better than you, most players would be happy to reach your level in one role--much less all three roles.

    I have more to say on this but for this posting alone, my point is that the trinity roles are not easily filled with competent players and certainly not ones who can switch from one role to another.

  5. I think it goes both ways. Usually, people stick to their chosen roles, the one they enjoy the most (and is closer to their personality). If they have an offspec, it's for questing or shorter queues, backup at best, but not something they're willing to put up as main.

  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

  7. I sticked to the hunter class for 11 years because of the responsibility. There are several bosses in hfc alone whete i am always in because of some special role (eg xhul add kiting duty, archy fire soaking).

    Also I expect that high skull difference among dps ("that one terrible guy" vs 2 or 3 ppl constantly on top) is mostly due to the numbers. You have 5-8 times nore dps than tanks in a raid. Of course the bell curve for skill is going to be wider, it is natural to have a wider skill gap than between 2 tanks or 4 healers. Your point of smaller number of spots for tanks and healers still stands.

  8. I think the problems you describe here are real and the dynamics accurate. However, I don't think they take in the whole complexity of the issue.

    The social arrangements and obligations we have to our raidmates and friends can be quite significant, and I feel they influence the migration of players. Both healers and tanks have very defined numbers within a raid group, and as you say, the more accomplished the group, usually you need less healers, and definitely no more tanks. So, what happens to a person on a team that wants to switch to one of these roles that has a spot filled. Sure you can put it up for discussion see if ppl want to switch up roles and make room for them, but if they really want to be a healer but there isn't room, they are faced with a choice: Do I stay with my team, my friends, my connections, and my schedule or do I go in search of a new team (and all the implicit and explicit uncertainty involved in that). It is the same issue for tanks as well, but DPS are much much more fungeable. Having a great DPS player (not just numbers) can really cover for teams that have other weak technical players. There is a value and contribution to the team that the good player can see and feel viscerally. There's the social status and respect you get from the team on your performance which should not be discounted either. There's a whole host of reasons why staying is preferable, and only a few reasons why a good player would leave a comfortable team. Either their life conditions (work schedule, family obligations, etc) change and they have to change raiding times or they have one or more goals that they want to achieve but feel they can't with the current team. Then consider, they are going to be trying out for a new team in a new role? If they are progression oriented, their best chances are putting their skill forward as that great DPS. If its a life change, then that performance level pressure isn't there and the good dps can change roles.

    So, how often do both the good dps player wants to change roles and they have a team that will adjust or find a team that will accept them in the new role? I think of all the personel changes to a team, this confluence of factors happens a small percentage of the time.

    I just believe there are a lot more pressures or reasons on a good DPS not to move teams or switch roles. In fact, I think there are a lot of pressures not to have any change roles. Hopefully ppl find teams with the maturity and flexibility to allow people to change up as needed between tiers.

  9. Anon, Grumpy's former Guild Leader:

    For a long time, I was the principal healer in our guild, dungeon and raid after dungeon and raid. There really isn't any great secret to being a competent healer. You see a player take damage, you cast a heal.

    The good healers cast the spell that will be best suited to the damage being taken, whether it is a HOT or quick expensive heal or a slower less expensive heal. It is really that simple.

    The trick is picking the right spell time after time, watching the health of the others (as well as yourself--something all healers seem to have a problem with at times) and making sure to keep all the other little things going on, like stepping out of the fire, etc.

    So yes, I think healing is a relatively easy part of the trinity of roles. Doesn't mean everyone can do it well, even for those who use add-ons to basically try to automate as much as possible.

    Partly I would say that is because ending the fight with the boss dead, and the players all alive and healthy is as good as a healer can do. No one likes giving healers credit for that state, assuming that it is what should be the result. No Glory in other words.

    Also in this vein, is the fact that healing numbers mean virtually nothing, unlike DPS numbers. The good or bad play of the tanks and DPS are far more influential on the numbers a healer has than the skill level of the healer.

    That is why DPS don't become good healers by switching specs or classes. There is nothing for them to gain other than healing gear and a headache.

  10. I seems that 10man gave much more opportunity for healers to shine than 20man now. We used to run heroics with 2 healers usually - they had a much tighter toolkit to deal with. Fewer cooldowns, frequent range issues (you coulnt just assign one healer to follow 2 players with a special task far apart thebulk) one healer CC'd meant lots of stress for the other one to make up for it. One of the healers, along with one of our tanks who was a beast (a bear, incidently) were the superstars of our team. This has completely changed in 20 mans. Usually the DPS who ranks highest on special high danger targets, think doomfire or phantasmal resonance, are hailed (good times for hunters...)