Sunday, October 7, 2012

The Newbie Tanking Compendium (Levels 15-20) - Helpful Settings and Resources

I.     Classes and Specializations
II.   Choosing Gear and How to Spot Upgrades
III.  Abilities and How to Use Them
IV.   Talents at Level 15
V.    Preparing for Your First Dungeon
VI.  Helpful Settings and Resources

VI. Helpful Settings and Resources

So far, this guide has covered all the basics of dungeon running and tanking. For the last section of my guide, I’ll take this opportunity to point out some useful in-game settings that may make dungeons easier for you.

1. Enemy Nameplates
When in game, push the V button to toggle enemy nameplates on/off. Look for some enemy monsters and see how they have a health bar above their heads now. You can use that to help you see where all the enemies are, and click on those nameplates to target them quickly. This can be extremely helpful, especially in a frantic battle against multiple enemies at once. The nameplates can also help you notice an enemy that would otherwise be hard to spot against the background, reducing the chance you’ll be taken by surprise.

You can adjust the behavior of enemy nameplates in game by opening the Game Menu (Esc), then going to Interface > Names. Find the section labeled “Unit Nameplates” and look at the drop-down box options. I personally prefer Overlapping Nameplates, so that the nameplates overlap one another depending on the position of the enemies. There is also Stacking Nameplates (where the nameplates stack vertically if the enemies are close together) and Spreading Nameplates (where the nameplates will scatter all over your screen in an attempt to not overlap). It is up to you which setting you prefer, but I recommend using nameplates whenever you run a dungeon.

2. Casting Bars
You may have noticed that I mentioned some of your abilities can be used to interrupt an enemy spellcaster. But how do you know when they are casting a spell? You can make it easy to see by turning on Cast Bars. Go to Game Menu > Interface > Combat. Find the section labelled “Cast Bars” and make sure both “On Targets” and “On Nameplates” is checked. You will be able to notice whenever your target or one of the enemies on the screen with a nameplate is casting something. If it has a shield-shaped icon around the spell icon, it is uninterruptable. But if it does not have this distinction, you can attempt to use one of your abilities to interrupt the spell before it completes.

3. Target of Target and Assisting

This setting should always be on no matter what kind of character you play, I think. Whenever you target a character (friendly or not), you will be able to see what they are targeting. For a tank, this can help you see if your current enemy target is focused on you (as they should be) or if they are focusing on someone else. Go to Game Menu > Interface > Combat, and make sure “Target of Target” is checked.

Along with this is the Assist function. This allows you to automatically target whatever your current target is targeting. That might sound confusing, I know! But let’s say you notice one of your party members is attacking a monster and has drawn aggro, but it’s hard to pick that monster out in the middle of the brawl. You can click on your party member’s portrait to target them, then Assist them by pushing the F key. You will immediately acquire their target as your own, allowing you to quickly start attacking that enemy and hopefully get aggro back. This is just one situation in which you might need to Assist someone. Keep in mind you can Assist both enemy and friendly targets.

4. Aggro Alerts
As a tank, knowing how much aggro you have is pretty important. Ideally you want it to be at or above 100% all the time. To make sure you always know how much aggro you have, go to Game Menu > Interface > Display. Make sure “Show Aggro Percentages” and “Play Aggro Sounds” are checked. The first setting displays a percentage on enemy targets to show much aggro you have on that target. If it’s anywhere under 100%, you’ll need to change that immediately! The second setting will make a particular sound if you gain aggro. It’s usually a warning if you are a healer or DPS, to alert you that you have pulled aggro on something, but it may be useful to you, the tank, as well. :)

Also take note of the color surrounding your portraits in combat. If you have a red glow, then you have aggro. If you are orange, then that means you are in danger of pulling aggro. Keep an eye on your friends to make sure none of them have an orange or red glow.

5. Action Bars
Eventually, you will have too many abilities for your primary action bar, or you’ll want to be able to put your buttons in different places on your screen for better organization. If you want more button space, you can toggle extra action bars.

Go to Game Menu > Interface > ActionBars, and you can play around with toggling up to 4 more action bars on your screen.

6. Focus Target
Sometimes you’ll want to keep an eye on someone, but can’t target them AND fight someone else at the same time! How can you do it? You can set that person as a focus target. This will make their portrait appear “targeted” but you won’t actually be targeting them for attack. Try playing around with the option by choosing an NPC in town and setting them as your focus target. You can right-click their portrait and choose Set Focus, or you can type /focus with them targeted. You can adjust the position of this focus target on your screen with the right-click menu options so that it won’t get in your way.

You may want to use it to keep an eye on a boss even while you’re switching targets, or perhaps use it to keep an eye on one of your party members to make sure they’re ok. It’s optional if you want to use these while tanking, but depending on your playstyle it may be quite useful to you.

7. Tab Targeting
Sometimes you just want to switch targets fast while in the middle of a fight... but clicking on each individual enemy can be difficult and a waste of time. Tab targeting can come in handy!
Just push the tab key, and your target will change to the next nearest enemy. Push it again to cycle to another nearby enemy. You can use this in a group to switch to each enemy in front of you and more easily attack each one to generate aggro.

Keep in mind that it’s not always a very accurate way to target. You may cycle back to an enemy you already targeted previously, or it may try to target something nowhere near you. Be mindful of what you are targeting as you use tab. :)

These are just a few settings and options that may make things easier for you in-game. Read through some of the other settings and options under the Interface menu to see if there is anything else useful you may want to toggle or adjust.

Optional Macros, Keybindings, and Addons

This section will briefly cover some more advanced settings you can use to make tanking easier. At this level, you may not need to use any macros, keybindings, or addons. Try it the standard way first to see how it feels. If it feels like something is missing or if it seems awkward or difficult to perform some ability, you may find use in macros, keybindings, and addons!

1. Macros
Macros are essentially a bit of script code that you personally create to make your own custom buttons. By doing so, you can make some actions even more simple to perform.

For example, let’s recall my suggestion for letting the party you’re in know that you are a new tank. If you don’t want to have to quickly type that every time you get into a new dungeon, you could create a macro for it (illustrated in the above screenshot).

To make the macro, go to Game Menu > Macros, then click the New button on the bottom. You’ll be prompted to type a name for the macro, and choose an icon. You can call it whatever you like and pick whatever icon you want. After choosing Okay, put your cursor in the empty space where it says "Enter Macro Commands" and type the following:

/p Hi everyone! I am new to tanking, so please be patient with me. Thanks!

As you can see, it looks like a bit of programming code! And that’s basically what it is. It uses the same command as typing in party chat, plus the text, but now you’ve put it into a button form. Now click Save, then drag the icon of your new macro onto your action bar. From that point forward, you can use the macro like any other spell out of your Spellbook and you will automatically say that phrase in party chat. That’s convenient, right? :)

I’m not going to go into a listing of useful macros here, as that’s probably a bit too much. The point of this example is to give you a taste of what macros could be used for. If you are interested in learning more about how to make your own macros, you can start by visiting the UI and Macros forum:

If you search for useful macros online, be sure to check if they’re compatible with the latest patch, as some macros may be broken and out-of-date.

2. Keybindings
Keybindings are, as the name suggests, a way for you to bind abilities/actions to one of your keyboard buttons. You can then use that key as a shortcut to cast the spell, instead of having to click on it.

Your basic action bar already has some default keybindings (you can click on the abilities, or you can push the number keys to activate them). But if you want to keybind other keys... you will need to use the keybinding menu.

Go to Game Menu > Key Bindings, then check the “Character Specific Key Bindings” box at the top of the window (otherwise all your keybindings will be applied to every single one of your characters, and you may not necessarily want that). From this window you can bind all kinds of actions to a key, and look up what the default bindings are.

Let’s say I want to bind my ability Charge on my warrior, to the T key. First, I’ll need it to be placed on an action bar. I’ll set it to the Right Action Bar that I’ve toggled on. Next, I’ll go to the Key Bindings menu, and find the section that contains the Right Action Bar bindings. I’ll find the corresponding button I put Charge at, and then click that slot. I then push T and... ta-da~ That button is now bound to T.

If you make a mistake or want to reset everything to default, there’s a Reset to Default button at the bottom of the window as well.

Keybindings are largely personal, and you can customize everything from your movement keys to your targeting keys.

3. Addons
Like keybindings, addons are very personal choices. Some people don’t use addons at all, some use a few, while others use dozens or even hundreds of addons to customize their game. Addons are safe to use as long as you get them from a trusted source. Such sources include and

I won’t list a ton of addons and tell you to use them, but I’ll briefly mention a few you might find use for. As a tank, you may find it helpful to have an addon that modifies your nameplates (making them more useful or informative than the standard ones), or a threat meter to see who has aggro. It all depends on your personal preferences. I don’t really use any particular addons for tanking, myself; but other players do.

You may also find use in UI changing addons, if the default one is not to your liking or you would like to be able to keybind abilities easier. Again, it’s all up to what you feel comfortable with!


The following are SUGGESTED addons; none of these are required, and I do NOT recommend you rush out and download all of them at once. Read them to see if they sound like something you would like, then try them one at a time to see if you like them. Also, there are other addons that can do the same thing as the suggested addons named here; search around and see which ones you prefer.

If you find an addon you like, be sure to check if it’s compatible with the latest patch, as some addons may be out-of-date. Out-of-date addons MAY be able to still work in-game (check the "Load Out of Date Addons" button on the Addons window from the character select screen), but you would have to test that yourself to find out.

If you have any addon suggestions that would be useful for a new, LOW LEVEL tank just starting out, please let me know and I will add them here if I think they are appropriate for the guide.

UI/Keybinds (change up your UI or how it works!):
- Bartender
- Clique

Nameplates (modifies the look of nameplates and the information they provide):
- Tidy Plates
- Threat Plates (must be used in conjunction with Tidy Plates)

Cooldown/Proc (helps remind you of timings on buffs, procs, cooldowns, and such):
- Power Auras
- WeakAuras

Unit Frames (modifies look of party/raid frames):
- X-Perl
- Shadowed Unit Frames

4. Resources

- Wowhead
- Wowpedia

Official Forums
- WoW forums
- New Player Help and Guides
- UI and Macros
- Class Forums
- Tanking Forum

Dungeon and Tanking Guides
- Maps For Tanks
- Wowpedia dungeon articles

Addon Sites
- Curse
- WoWInterface

Thank you for reading the guide, and I hope it has been able to help you out! Any comments/suggestions/contributions are welcome.

Special thanks to all the people who critiqued, made suggestions, and contributed ideas and screenshots to the guide! There are so many of you who helped me, and I really appreciate all of it. /hugs

Nearly all the characters that are named or appear in the screenshots used belong either to me or one of my guildies. Other players unknown to me who appear in the screenshots have had their names removed.

Happy tanking!

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