A few weeks back, I had someone in my guild make a comment to me. The general flow of the conversation went something like...
Them: I can't figure out what it is you tank with?
Them: Well, (TankX) tanks with their mind - analyzing everything. (TankY) tanks with their gut, going off instinct. (TankZ) tanks with their sense of humor. And I can't place what it is you tank with. I think it may be some combination of the three.
While this is just one person's view of three tanking styles - it does speak to how people approach the game.
Charging into combat with a head full of book knowledge, and perhaps even a rehearsed playbook does great on technical encounters. Malygos, Thaddius, Heigan - mostly predictable fights that focus on one monster or have specific gimmicks - are where this approach shines. When things break down, or where there is an unplanned high degree of chaos, though - you can spend too much time trying erasing and re-writing the plan.
Tossing the Rulebook and tanking on gut instinct is great when there are all sorts of unknowns or random elements. Gothik, Maexxena, OS Drakes or Adds - all sorts of things can go wrong, and you need to be flexible (in plate, nonetheless) to keep things from falling apart. The problem arises when some important factor *needs* to be known ahead of time (some timer or ability that trumps instinct).
And finally - Humor. This one is tough, but I'd say that humor really ties into playing the raid members as much as your playing the monsters. I'll spare giving example fights, because I think that its universally applicable. When all that can be done as a tank, with a monster, is done - the only thing left is to bolster the raid.
I don't think any of the tanks that this person talked about are 100% in any one direction. But being mindful of these mindsets, and consciously shifting myself into one of these modes - has helped give me focus. Just like when you pick out a gear set for the fight your going into, shift your mental stance/form/presence to the appropriate one for the encounter.
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