Who is an "Off-tank"? - The Psychology of Tanking


  • Warrior Alliance Partner

    Main tank vs Off-tank, is there truly a difference? The concept of an off-tank has more or less devolved into "Co-Main Tanks" over WoW's homogenization, culminating in every boss being tauntable, and each tank having agro exactly 50% of the fight as the other resets a debuff. This is not the case in classic.

    However, before we begin, Skarm has a great video on off-tanking, please go watch it first before reading on!

    In it he talks about tanks' egos, and that is where I would like to continue the discussion today. I will be going over both the psychology of the person who can accept an Off-tank role as well as the reasons a guild should name someone a Main tank.

    The role of the Off-tank

    The basic premise of an Off-tank is that you are tanking the less important/threatening mob(s), leading to the misconception that you have less to do in a raid. FALSE! The Off-tank can have as little or as much responsibility as they are willing to take on, and it makes a difference when the officers are considering raid spots. As such, an off-tank needs to be attentive, knowledgeable, and prepared.

    Shot Caller:

    • Using boss mods to call out abilities such as breaths, fears, and add spawns
    • Calling debuffs, kick rotations, and soak groups
    • Moving groups for auras/totems/buffs and dead people (will this be a thing in classic?)
    • Using assist to mark targets
    • Coordinating other peoples battle rezes, innervates, fears/banish, AOE taunts, and other utility tools

    Support the raid:

    • Warriors: Apply TC/Demo/Anihilator/Nightfall/Battle Shout/Sunder
      • Call out other debuffs (Faerie Fire, expose armor, curse of elements/shadows)
    • Standing in the healers/ranged DPS to pick up adds/spawns that get lose
    • Standing in a corner with your lone healer tanking an add while the raid kills the boss
    • Be ready if the Main Tank dies

    Off-tank mentality

    The Off-tank is the most selfless role in the raid:

    • Do not expect to get gear first
    • You may be asked to spec into sub-optimal talents
    • You will probably be asked to sit more than most people
    • You will get 0 credit
    • Raiding may be boring
    • Be willing to bring an alt to raid to fill needs
    • Warriors: You are passing up on the chance to go Fury and see big numbers

    Why am I the Off-tank

    There are a few simple answers:

    • You are a Druid in classic and your guild cannot get over the stigma
    • Your gear is not good enough despite running everything you can for upgrades
    • You are new to the guild and they have an established Main Tank
      • Our Main tank HATED tanking, but since I just joined the guild he continued to tank until I earned my spot and more importantly the healers'/officers' trust
    • The current Main tank is too fragile to handle being demoted
    • I do not have the time to dedicate myself to being a main tank due to real life commitments
    • I prefer being an off-tank (because it makes me a more effective raid leader)

    Basic mistakes

    Looking at that list, none of those are your fault, but these are (in order of severity):

    • Poor attendance/showing up late
    • Having a bad attitude
    • Not gearing/enchanting correctly (and refusing to accept criticism/help)
    • Not running 5-mans if you still need upgrades
    • Trouble generating threat (and not practicing your rotation in dungeons)
    • Not following your assignments in raid
    • Not knowing mechanics on fights
    • Not bringing consumables

    Finally, this last one goes in a category of its own:

    • Taunting/taking agro from another tank who has the mob under control

    THIS IS SO IMPORTANT! Even if you were supposed to tank it and it just briefly got away, never take it back without asking and letting your healers know. From personal experience I can tell you, the sure fire way I knew my other tank was mad at me is if he was constantly taunting mobs off me. It is a power play, akin to taking your ball home so no one else can play once you leave, and not appreciated by healers.

    Why name a Main tank as a Guild/Raid Leader

    • It gives the raid a sense of stability, a Main tank is often associated with the most reliable or trustworthy person in the raid.
    • Names and titles hold power. A term often heard in classic is "Class Officer," the Main tank is often the Warrior class leader and makes handing out raid assignments easier.
    • Helps DPS and healers know who to be focusing.
    • Speeds up and cleans up raids on trash by having one person pulling
    • Preemptively avoid loot drama, especially for items like Thunderfury and Lifegiving Gem

    Life Changing Perspective

    What qualifies me to talk about this? Well, because I was everything you should never do.

    I left my guild because I was our token "Feral Off-tank" and I was benched on Felmyst (a 1-tank fight). Yup! I quit my guild, and abandoned my friends, because I was benched for a screenshot and lost a pair of boots.

    We were a top 50 US guild, every server first in TBC, and I had been in the raid for every kill starting with Leotheras/Solarian. This guild lifted me up from being a nobody, I had never set foot in SSC or TK, I was not even attuned, and the guild accepted me anyway. I owed them everything, and they were my closest friends! And yet, I left. I felt disrespected that I was not in the screenshot, the first killshot I was not in since I joined, my only thought was "1/2 those people don't deserve to be in a screenshot over me." I had the most DKP, so when I heard my boots dropped I had applications posted up to other guilds before they were handed out and was off the server before I went to bed.

    The irony is, when I transferred, I transferred all 3 of my characters at once, including a Shadow Priest. Because of this, in my very first raid I VOLUNTEERED to play my Shadow Priest on Felmyst because we did not have the mass dispels we needed. They very same fight that caused me to become a total egotistical scumbag I was now playing an alt on, by choice! I hated myself immediately after I transferred, I realized how selfish it was, and I knew I had to make changes. I still wish I could talk to those guys and apologize, but I am glad it happened because it was the kick in the ass I needed to turn my life around. I do not regret it because of the friends I made in my new guild, but I still consider it the most cowardly thing I have ever done.


  • Paladin Alliance Partner

    Very nice description of the role, learned a few interesting things!


  • Warrior Alliance Partner

    @Bhelockharyh THANKS! Feel free to take another look through, it hand't quite been finished yet.


  • Partner

    takes a lot of balls to admit you were wrong, and turn yourself around. i commend you on that.