Tanking Basics: Communication
Part One of a Three Part Tanking Guide
A Guide for New Tanks in FFXIV:ARR
This series of guides is intended to help out players who are either new to MMO’s or new to playing the tank role in an MMO. This is the first of a three part guide addressing three primary responsibilities for tanks: communication, control, and mitigation. Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn has two tanking classes, the Gladiator and Marauder. While we detail each of them separately in their own guides, this guide series discusses aspects of both classes in terms of the tank’s responsibilities.
There are a number of ways to tank and a number of tools in the tanking toolkit. Each tank has his or her own preference set for the use of their abilities and most of us will happily tell you that our way is the right/best way. In reality, though, what matters is the success rate on encounters and enjoyment for your teams. If you’re winning, with few or no casualties, and your team is enjoying the game, then what you’re doing is certainly in the realm of “the right way.” Even if you are an experienced tank, if you are routinely failing one of those three tests, you might want to look over this guide to see if a suggestion here can help you out.
Massively Multiplayer Online Games (MMO’s) often emphasize complementary, specialized roles in group game play. To a large number of players this simply boils down to “the Holy Trinity,” which is much adored or despised depending on which circle of players you address. In actuality, there are four roles in the typical MMO party:
Tanks: This player generally wears the heavy armor and takes the beatings. The tank typically has the highest number of hitpoints, the highest defensive powers, and a number of abilities to mitigate or outright negate damage taken. His or her job is to acquire enmity from everything in the encounter and hold onto enmity allowing other players to operate taking little or no damage. The two starting tank classes are the Gladiator and the Marauder. In the end-game, the tanking role shifts to the advanced jobs for these two classes, Paladin and Warrior respectively.
Healers: This player focuses on helping their teammates recover from damage. The healer typically has a low health pool, little armor, but a substantial magic pool. His or her job is to repair the damage taken by other party members (hopefully the tank) and to remove (or cleanse) negative effects placed on party members. The starting healing class is the Conjurer. In the end-game, the healing role is taken over by the White Mage advanced job for the CNJ. Additionally, the Scholar job (off-shoot of Arcanist class) is slated to be a healer. At the time of this writing we do not know how that class will play, and thus can not confirm their effectiveness as a healer.
Support: This player focuses on improving party members (buffing) and reducing the effectiveness of opponents (debuffing). The support classes typically have low armor and low hitpoints. They also provide good to excellent damage output, helping the party to quickly dispatch opponents. None of the classes specifically start off as a support class, although several classes have support type abilities. These include the Lancer’s ability Feint or the Pugilist Haymaker, each of which slows an opponent’s attack speed or the Archer Shadowbind ability which roots a target in place preventing them from moving. In the end-game, the support job is taken up by the Archer’s advanced job, the Bard. The Arcanist job and one of its advanced jobs, the Summoner, are slated to provide support, but at this time of writing we can not evaluate their effectiveness.
Damage Dealers: While every class and job in the game has damage creating abilities, certain classes excel at damage generation. The lancer and pugilist classes each specialize in damaging a single target while the thaumaturge excels in causing simultaneous damage to multiple targets. In the end-game, the damage dealer roles are taken up by the advanced jobs of Dragoon, Monk and Black Mage.
Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn frequently places players into party environments. There are many party-required roadblocks on your character’s progression path. In each of these situations, you need to step into a team and cooperatively overcome an encounter to progress. The game is reasonably forgiving and the designers have gone out of their way to teach and slowly layer on more complex mechanics.
In early parts of the game, there is a lack of a Support Role. When you group up via Duty Finder the game matched up one Tank, one Healer and two Damage Dealers to form the party. Support players should play a more fundamental role in the level 50 end-game.
We encourage new players to take part in parties, to let people know they are new to party mechanics, and to seek out players and organizations willing to help newcomers. Party based gameplay is really the shining gem of the MMO genre, no other genre offers the ability to get 20 or more people working in conjunction to accomplish an objective.
Tanking Basics: Communication
The tank often becomes the de facto party leader. Besides the healer’s ability to keep a party standing, your ability to control the flow of fights is the most crucial ingredient to a successful party outing. Because of this, a good tank typically focuses on coordinating the party’s movements through a group objective.
This is not always true, it is just often true. If you have another party member who is very well versed with the encounter and the party’s capabilities, it may make more sense to let them take on the communication role. Also, in some encounters, the number of mechanics a tank must counter can get to be pretty extreme, in these situations, a less-taxed party member should take on communication roles. However, the team always needs a communicator and as a tank, that job typically starts with you.
The main communication task for the tank is play calling. This entails how a fight should proceed and the order of precedence for the actions of your party. This does not mean you should tell someone how to play their class, it means you should tell the party what to attack, when to attack, and what to avoid.
One of the easiest tools in your arsenal are your signs. FFXIV:ARR provides a number of signs which can be placed over the head of any player or monster. These signs include attack signs, lockdown chains, and ignore signs each with numerical indicators for priority. You also have a set of generic signs (square, circle, etc.) to work with.
You apply these signs by dragging the sign from the menu bar to one of your action bars. From this point on, simply target a player or monster and click the sign hotkey and it will be applied. For instance, in the screenshot below I have the Attic Bat marked #1 and the Divan Mold marked #2. This tells my party to attack #1 first and then attack #2.
To be clear, marking alone doesn’t get the job done. You need to explain at the start of the dungeon that you mark, how you mark, and what you want done. I always let people know as we start, “hi everyone, I will be marking targets, please attack and kill them in consecutive order.” Also, when we are going to use Sleep effects (which render a monster unable to act until it is attacked or the spell wears off) we let the party know which mark to look for to know what target not to attack.
In addition to hotkeys, you can build macros that assign or target these marks. Macros, though, are a more complicated target and are not necessary during your first forays into tanking. We cover macro building in another guide. Once you are comfortable with how you use marks, we encourage you to look over macros and think about ways to integrate mark macros into your communication toolkit.
You don’t have to use signs, but I advise it. You could, alternately, just tell players to “assist” on your primary target (or initial target). Your goal in either case is to get the players to focus their offense on a single target, dropping it as quickly as possible. A dead monster deals no damage (except for bombs).
Starts and Stops
Players can easily get excited and want to forge ahead and rush to the next fight. A good tank (or healer for that matter) knows that sometimes it is time to hold off for a moment. Even the best party is easily defeated if they are resource deprived. This can happen if a key member of the team is away from keyboard (afk) or if a teammate is low on tactical points (TP) or magic points (MP). Sometimes waiting a few moments is best.
Location, Location, Location
In your early dungeons, fights are nicely spaced apart and your team has plenty of room to operate with impunity. As you progress, though, dungeon complexity increases. For example, Haukke Manor features a number of wide-ranging patrolling monsters. These creatures can wander right into your party while it is already engaged in combat, such situations rarely go well for the team.
Part of your job as the communicator is getting people set up in the right place to improve your odds of success. In the situation in Haukke Manor, this means fights should be pulled backwards rather than your team rushing forwards.
Knowing is Half the Battle
Your first time through any fight is always the most exciting. You don’t know what to expect and you have to figure out your counters on the fly. While I find this part of party play a ton of fun, it loses its luster once you know the drill and are grouped with people who don’t know the drill.
Everyone has their own unique perspective on learning fights and mechanics However, in general it is best in a Duty Finder pickup group to check to see if everyone knows a fight’s mechanics before you begin. I believe it is best to save the learning fights for dungeon runs with your friends or free company companions.
If people are new to a fight, share the basic details with them. Talk over their specific responsibilities and the general timing of them (e.g. “around 50% health, the boss brings in adds”). Make sure everyone is ready and then go in and get it done.
This concludes part one of three on Communication. In our next guide we discuss the importance of Control.