The Call to Arms debate continues to rage and after almost everyone agreed that bribes are probably not the way to go, discussion has turned towards tanking in general and why not enough people want to do it. A lot of bloggers have made a lot of good points, but one question keeps nagging at me whenever I read another post about how tanks have too much responsibility and don't get appreciated enough: What about the healers? Aren't healers in exactly the same boat? They carry the burden of keeping the party alive through the most suicidal of pulls, and since the dungeon finder replaces them just as quickly as a bad damage dealer, people are quite happy to abuse and kick healers at the drop of a hat. And yet there is no real healer shortage in the dungeon finder despite of that... why?
There's probably more than one reason, but as someone who mainly plays healers and really enjoys the playstyle, the first thing that came to my mind was that healers simply don't have a choice to not group. If you enjoy the act of healing and playing whack-a-mole with little green bars, you need other people. Yes, you can heal yourself while soloing things in a painfully slow manner, but then you'll probably spend more time focused on killing things than on healing. You could aggro something and just let it beat on you so you can heal yourself forever! Except, you'd be achieving absolutely nothing by doing that. If you want to kill mobs through healing, you need at least one other player who does the actual killing for you while you heal them. Healers need groups; there are no substitutes. Even if the group plays badly and treats you like crap, if you at least enjoyed pressing your buttons to heal them you got something good out of it. From this point of view it's interesting that so many people claim that healing is boring and no fun - clearly it's interesting and fun enough that a lot of players keep doing it despite of the downsides!
Tanks sort of used to be like that once, I think, though that was before I tried tanking myself. They were quite good at surviving attacks from multiple mobs, but they did so little damage that it was always questionable who would wear the other one down first, and self-healing was very limited. Going out into the world and rounding up mobs to tank them only offered a very limited amount of fun. Only a group allowed you to really shine, being the only one who could stand up to the most powerful mobs, with a healer at your back and damage dealers by your side.
But the game changed since then. Blizzard wanted to make soloing for tanks more fun and make it easier for them to gain and hold aggro, so they increased their damage output and their survivability. Successfully! Questing on my paladin tank is easy, I round up a load of mobs, AoE them down effortlessly, and Word of Glory keeps me at full health the entire time. It's just like tanking, only without any other players to pull aggro or otherwise annoy me! Wait, does anyone else see the problem with this?
I wonder how many people out there have a tanking spec these days without actually doing any tanking for groups most of the time. They literally have nothing to gain from grouping in terms of pure gameplay fun. Even if the rest of your party is well-behaved, making sure that nobody gets aggro, waiting for the healer to get mana and so on only adds extra work. Otherwise you could have the exact same fun of being in the middle of a large bunch of mobs and feeling invincible while out soloing elementals or whatever. Or alternatively, you could just be dps and be slightly less invincible while killing individual mobs a bit faster. Not that much difference anymore.
For damage dealers it doesn't make much difference whether they are soloing or grouping a lot of the time, in terms of how fun their gameplay is. In a group you might have to pace yourself a bit and maybe crowd-control something even if you don't care much for it, but on the plus side someone keeps the mobs away from your face and you get heals if you stand in something bad. It's pretty much a wash. A healer may have to deal with people giving him or her a hard time, but on the other hand they get to enjoy the game in a way that's simply not possible while playing solo. A tank only gains more things to watch out for, with no benefits (assuming he doesn't group with people he adores so much that their mere presence makes things more fun - but once again that's something that affects every role).
I've heard some arguments that tanking could be made more fun if only the tanks could have even more power, hold aggro even more easily, vote-kick anyone as they please etc. I have to disagree with all of those because none of them actually make grouping more fun than soloing for the tank. I think if Blizzard could change anything about tank gameplay to make it more fun, they would have to ensure that the tank actually benefits from grouping, and I don't mean in a material way. Like healing, tanking used to be a role that was all about the party, and sometimes it seems to me that even the developers themselves have completely forgotten about that in their endless pursuit of making everything as solo-friendly as possible. No really, tanks don't have to be awesome soloers! They are supposed to be awesome in groups, and when on their own they can switch to their dual spec, just like healers seem to be expected to do. Maybe tanking abilities could be tweaked to require friendly targets to be nearby to have their full effect - just something to make it different and beneficial to be grouped.
Though yeah, improving the quality and attitude of the average dungeon finder pug would be a good thing too of course - for everyone, not just for tanks.
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