[ This Week in Tanking ] The Rites of Passage

I actually spent some time in the last week casually leveling up my Machinist in Final Fantasy XIV so I’ve spent more time with it than my tanks which, I must say, is a nice change of pace. Aside from my Dragoon, I don’t have many DPS or Healer classes going, really, and it’s not often that I get to see tanks from the other side of the looking glass.

However, since my main classes are Tank classes, I still notice things about other tanks in the parties I get slapped into thanks to Duty Finder, things I noticed when I was a tank in my first 1-50 go at it: tanking properly and by the books is almost like the grieving process in that there are steps and once you finally get to the end you come out much, much better for it and it is not easy. So, in the spirit of good fun, I decided to give you the rites of passage for a tank:

Stage One: The Honeymoon Phase

When you start the game with your chosen class, you have the fun of customizing and naming your character, followed by the introduction story, sending you on your way to do various fetch tasks and asking you to kill little critters in order to prove yourself. From that point, going from 1-30 is easy-peasy for just about anyone familiar with MMOs: go over here, kill that thing; go over here, grab that item; go over there, turn in that quest; go over there, perform that redundant task; you basically rinse and repeat those steps until you start grinding out FATEs and participating in Duties.

With tanking, it’s probably the most deceiving process: with healing, it’s quite obvious that going out and killing things isn’t going to be what your class is all about and with DPS you entire raison d’etre is to poke things with the largest and pointiest thing you can find. In tanking, you don’t start really learning about class abilities, mob management, and aggro as a necessity until, at the very least, you start grinding out dungeons. Most guildhests are somewhat passable up until level 30 without a fundamental knowledge of those things and FATEs, well, may as well be a DPS check – a DPS check, for you non-MMO folk, is where the goal is for everyone to flail around wildly and cause the most visual seizures possible in a 5-10 minute period – until you start getting to some of the specialized or hand-in FATEs. If you don’t do some basic reading, an ignorant tank could practically breeze through Gladiator or Marauder for nearly 30 levels before really needing to learn up on your role as your lack of knowledge will keep parties from passing. There’s one word to explain why: Primals.

Stage Two: Confusion

By the time you hit level 30, unless you’ve read a leveling guide, or a tanking guide, you won’t know much about cross classes and, no matter how good of a tank you are, if you do not get your cross class, as a tank, in Final Fantasy XIV, it will start showing in how often you wipe:  the more you attempt dungeons and trials closer to level 30, you will wipe more and more no matter how good of a tank you are.

At some point, if you choose to ignore advice or absolutely refuse any given, you will hit a brick wall called Titan: this Primal requires you to go cross class, so simply being a Marauder or a Gladiator isn’t enough. Titan can change the tide of the battle for a non-synced party in an instant, especially if the party members don’t have a lot of experience with the battle. The only way to reign in a Titan battle as a tank is to follow the mechanics and have your cross class.

Of course, knowing you have to go through cross class training isn’t exactly enough; cross class training involves you finding out which class you need to level to 15 in order to unlock the quest at the NPC that’s responsible for the next job quest chain. For example, if you started out as a Gladiator, your cross class is Paladin: the requirement to unlock Paladin is to have, at the very least, a level 30 Gladiator and a level 15 Conjurer and then the quest chain NPC is found in Ul’Dah in order to gain your first Paladin ability and truly learn what it is to be a Paladin tank. It can be confusing because convenient logic does not lead one to put a pin on which healing class, if any healing class at all, would be required to unlock Paladin training.

Stage Three: Denial

This is the first step that will test your patience – now you’re juggling two classes, two sets of abilities, being told about cross class abilities and where you need to go and what you need to do in order to progress. Things get complicated really quick and if you’re not careful it could get awfully overwhelming rather quick, too.

I reacted, at first, with denial – my thought process was like “I just leveled up to 30 with one class! Now you mean to tell me I have to go half as far with another class just to make this one better?” I was not happy but Titan was the stopping point for me and everyone assured me that the battle would be much easier once I unlocked Paladin and I started getting job abilities.

This happens a lot with tanks that you can see early on as they’re refusing to follow advice and orders from more experienced players, making things much harder than they need to be and I was no different. I tried Titan many times as a Gladiator and I failed nearly every time; it wasn’t until I understood tanking as a Paladin that I decided to challenge myself on it as a Gladiator and it was hellish. I won’t be doing that again.

Once I finally went through the hoops and I finally embraced the cross class training and went through some of the quests I started to understand why it was so important.

Stage Four: Acceptance

This stage usually is a short one – most tanks will either linger here only for a short time and progress to the next stage or ignore this stage entirely as the next stage will most definitely happen and how quickly that is depends on the person.

For me, this stage involved me asking a lot of questions of the Free Company I was with on my old server – they’re called Materia Breakers, though I’m not sure if they’re still around – and they gave me a hand with where to go, what to do, and how I should be playing my character at that point. However, though, I was anxious to kick Titan’s ass as he was representative of all the roadblocks that had been put in front of me, normal progression be damned.

As things started getting easier for me and Ifrit turned into a constant breeze I was becoming more and more confident with my Paladin, even though it was still very early on: that was my first mistake because I should have kept learning and perhaps entered Titan with a learning party. However, I slapped Duty Finder on and decided to go for it. Big mistake.

Stage Five: Your First Rage Quit

Whether you abandon a party in a Duty, whether you stop marking mobs like you should, whether you just refuse to play your way that you should or you even just let people get way under your skin and you decide to blow up the chat, it’s going to happen: you’re going to feel that all your hard work has been for naught and you’re going to get frustrated.

For me, it was Titan, yet again: my first time back into it after going Paladin through the Duty Finder saw me proud. No more shit talking about me still being Gladiator. No more complaining about my losing enmity or getting knocked off by Landslide. No more getting pissed off at random parties and a trial that, beyond all this, is actually fun and pretty bad-ass.

None of that went the way that it should. Nothing I tried to do went right and people were flinging accusations all over the place. I’ve written about this before in way more detail and I can assure you it did not go well. My problem was that I felt entitled to my victory for doing everything the way that it should be done.

Stage Six: Acceptance

I actually took a break from the game for a short while and buckled: I looked up a Titan fight video. Actually, I made the mistake of looking up a hard mode video first and went through it because I had not realized what different difficulties there were for dungeons and trials. I was actually prepared for worse.

A lot of the stuff I had mentally readied myself for on my first return to Titan were things that I’d already learned and that’s when it hit me: at that level, you just couldn’t carry an entire Light Party on your own. Every piece of the puzzle has to work just so and it has to do everything the right way or else you’ll never get anywhere.

After realizing this, I went back to Duty Finder, I calmed down, changed my rhetoric in chat, got extremely lucky with the party I had – not that we were much more successful, at first, as we wiped a couple of times, but we had finally passed it, after learning where we were at fault and how we needed to change as we got through.

Stage Seven: Moving On

It’s from this point where you start to see tanks moving on and becoming their own style of tank. There’s a lot that just follow the guides, strategy videos, and rotations to the letter and there’s those, like myself, who like to play it loose and fast. There are some that haven’t even gotten to the acceptance part of being a tank and take deviation from theory or procedure very personally and start going off the rails the moment things go wrong.

Towards level 40 and beyond you really start to see the differences in the tanks you play with and I know I didn’t really come into my own until I was close to 50 and I really started adapting between Paladin Oath abilities.

Playing a DPS class like Dragoon and Machinist has also helped me gain respect for the role as a whole and has definitely opened my eyes to what it’s like to be a tank – be you good or bad at it. With the introduction of the new complex tanking class of Dark Knight, I’ve also gained respect for those who have mastered their tanking craft with the challenges that class has brought.

In Conclusion…

Almost sounded directly like counseling, doesn’t it? Tanking, in my opinion, separates the children from the adults, for sure, and it shows just in how they play the role. You can tell a lot about a person by how they tank – the other roles, not so much.

What do you think? Did I hit the nail on the head or do you think tanking is a little simpler? Drop a comment a let me know!

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