Today I thought I'd give some general pointers towards how to think and behave when you're out and about tanking. Even if you're aiming towards becoming a raid tank, unless you have plenty of friends to boost you around, or plenty of money to buy nice gear, you will have to do alot of instances to get there. So while you're at it, might as well get it done as smooth as possible.
In one of my "How to! Warrior Tank" posts I wrote some pointers on how to tank lowbie instances. So let's check them out again;
"Some general pointers towards being a good tank could be in place here, since the instances will demand more and more from your party and it is therefore good to be on a good foot with everyone.
As a rage using class you don't need mana breaks, but you will most likely be partying with people who do. Remember their mana pools, not only the healer ones! Considering they are the ones dpsing down your mobs, you need to treat their mana pools well. Give proper mana breaks, or at least ask if they're wanted.
If you're doing an instance for the first time, and intend to do it again sometime, take some time to note how the mobs work. What skills do they have? Something to watch out for? Where are they positioned? Do they chain? Do they run? Any pulls that are tricky? Chaining means that when pulling one mob near another you will also aggro the second one. A thumb rule is "the smarter the mob, the more likely they'll chain". Humanoid mobs nearly always chain for instance. Beast don't always though. Learn how this works in every particular instance to make the run as smooth as possible."
These pointers still count towards heroics of course, but once you've done every heroic 20 times you'll probably know them by heart. Something that does change with every instance is the group setting however. If you do random pugs you'll end up with random people, and it could be good to know how to handle these as well to make for an easy and smooth run.
First things first
As soon as you enter the instance, check out the rest of the group. With an addon like Gearscore you can easily see the "quality" of the group. By "quality" I mean what pace you can expect to set and for people to be able to follow. If the healer is really badly geared, you might need go in a slower pace, depending on the instance difficulty of course. Same if all the dpsers are badly geared. If the healer is really well geared you know instead that you probably can do some trickier pulling, and also that it matters less if you happen to drop some aggro here and there. If all the dpsers are well geared you can either decide to do slow pulling because you'll probably lose aggro if you don't, or fast pulling and don't care if you lose aggro.
Vigilance (only applies to warriors of course)
4.0 has changed the way Vigilance works. It is now best to use not on whoever does the most threat, but whoever takes the most damage (apart from you). This still usually is the person who does the most threat however.
As soon as you've decided what pace to go in, go. Make sure everyone, well especially the healer, is ready and at a reasonable amount of mana before pulling of course. Nothing makes healers so cranky as not to wait for them. If you think you can handle the situation without the healer, there is no need to wait around, well all this are things you will have to learn when you can and can't do something. If you've done the right assessment of the groups capabilities, you're pace will work perfectly. If you've set it wrong you'll notice instantly. Worst case scenario you've overestimated the groups capabilities and you'll die. The other scenario isn't as bad as it can be annoying. If you've underestimated the groups capabilities, and go too slow, someone else might try to take "command". Being a tank is about leading, and if people don't think you're doing it good enough, someone else will try to take your place. Being as I am, there are few things that can annoy me as much as when someone either yells "pull, pull, pull" or just goes on and does it. So make sure you show people that you are on top of things. The best way of doing this is to keep as high a pace as possible. Don't let people get bored, that's when they start doing mischief! Keep an eye on the healers mana, and do continuous pulls to keep people occupied.
There will be times, until you yourself have übergear, when someone in your group just greatly outgears you. There isn't much to do about that, and this char might in fact be a better tank than you, even in dps gear! In that case, accept the situation, and let him/her go bonanza if it makes them happy. Remember that the goal of the run is that you finish it without any deaths. Usually this means you should stay in command, but sometimes it might mean you step down when someone better equipped comes along. This rarely happens however, but it is good to keep this in mind.
Speaking of übergeared people, I've noticed that it often doesn't matter if you place marks, alot of people ignore them when it comes to heroics. They've done the instance a trillion times just like you and think it doesn't matter how you do it. Of course that's not the point of the marks, the point is for you to be able to plan your tanking somewhat, but they don't know that or they don't care. And even if two out of three dps follows them, it still means you will have to focus on more than one mob to keep the third from getting aggro. Yet again, it is the best geared dps that decides how you must tank. Either you decide that you want to keep aggro on everything and follow these tips below, or you decide that dpser can handle it themselves and let them go bonanza like I wrote about above. If you decide for the first, you need to make sure you focus your threat towards whatever your dpser is focusing his dps. If he won't take your target, you must take his target and do your best threat attacks (shield slam, revenge) towards it.
One of the most important things about tanking is making sure you get that initial threat. Why is this so important? Well it's especially important as a warrior since without aggro you won't have rage to gain aggro. Getting rage while 5 mobs are running around hitting everything is really a hassle, and something you definitely want to avoid. Charging into mobs is one way to try to get aggro from everything first. By charging, you'll hopefully be by the mobs before everyone else, that is the point of charge. There are some things to think about when charging however. Remember that when charging a group you're only stunning the target you're charging. The rest of the group is free to run away, if someone happens to gain aggro just a millisecond before you. This often happens if the healers uses a heal on you the same second you charge. There is no way you can make the healer stop doing that, so might as well not try. A good healer will think of this and not do it in the first place. But most healers have never tanked, and so they don't think about this at all. Especially disc priests will do this, since they want a shield to be up on you for your pull. So, to prevent this you can either wait a split second for the healer to do that "before-pull-heal/shield", or you can just charge in and thunder clap while you're under way if you see that the mobs are running in another direction. Alot of tanks seem to think that you can't thunder clap until you're by the mobs, but you can in fact thunder clap while charging, as soon as the gcd is back up.
Another big idea about having inital aggro is that if you have everyone collected around you it will be alot easier for you to keep aggro on everything, this is important for any kind of tank class. If you have to taunt one mob, it means retargetting and not doing threat and whatever you're tanking for a moment. It might be enough to lose aggro. If you have to taunt something that has run a distance away from you, you'll also probably lose aggro from that mob again before it has run all the way to you so you can hit it with something. All this makes for some dull tanking, so making sure to get initial aggro as often as possible on as much as possible will make everything alot easier. Yet another reason to keep a good pace by the way.
If you're fighting a mob that spawns or otherwise occurs from nowhere (like Skadi in UP or the NOrthrend Beasts in ToC), in which case charging won't be possible, starting out with a taunt is highly recommended. Even though taunt only lasts some seconds, those seconds will assure you to be in range of the mob, and get rage to do some threat skills. Nothing is more annoying than accidentally standing 1 yard too far away from your target and not being able to hit it and then having to chase after it when it runs off. This can also happen when charging in fact, in which case you have to move a little closer to your targets just after charging in to be able to hit them.
Take no Shit
And last but not least, take no shit. You're the tank and these people need you! If you're well geared there is no one else as important in your group as you. If you're badly geared you might need a slightly more humble approach, but keep in mind that most of the people in your group have waited around 10 minutes for you to show up. Make sure they know that you do this because it's fun, and if they ruin your fun you'll go somewhere else. Great power comes with great responsibility of course, and all these pointers are for you to be able to make a nice and smooth run for everyone to enjoy!