The triangle is an important structural shape in geometry and construction. The nature of the shape is such that force exerted on any point or side is distributed over the rest of the structure. This lends it great strength and a simple sort of fortitude. So too is the simplest design of the Team Dynamic in WoW.
The three components of the group, the tank, healer, and damage dealer, form an interactive network. The performance of each portion of the triangle will in turn determine the relative strain on the rest of the structure. The simplest interaction of the structure is as follows:
1.) The Tank protects the group from the enemy. They have to match their threat to the demands of the damage dealers and vice versa. Similarly the tank has to survive the enemy’s onslaught, where the tanks survivability will determine how hard the healer has to work to keep him alive.
2.) The Healer protects the survival of the team from damage. The damage dealers need to be preserved to ensure the enemy is defeated rapidly enough, and the tank needs to be preserved to take the attention of the enemy as he will also take the least actual damage.
3.) The Damage dealers determine the length of the fight. The longer the fight goes on the more the healers can reach their limits of endurance, but if the damage is too severe the damage dealers can test or surpass the tank’s threat and cause death or undue damage to the group.
There is a balance point to be found that is determined by 4 factors. The three components of the group as described above, and the final external influence. Every encounter is designed to test each of the parts of the group differently. Perfectly executed, the group will be able to counter the demands of the specific encounter and find a balance point where the group can succeed the most easily.
I’ve made a handy graphic to help illustrate this.
I will use the letters as reference for the different sorts of challenges, but first we need to understand Point S. Point S is the balancing point created by the 3 components within the group. The closer point S moves towards each of the 6 internal components the more stress will be placed on the affected part or parts. Here are the 6 directions (moving counter-clockwise):
Tank = when the dps and healers are weak and/or distracted (such as fights where the raid has to dodge a lot of dangers), the tank will carry more of the weight. Here the tank will have to take a higher investment in his own survival.
Tank/Healer = moving towards the border between the tank and healer is a fight where the dps are weak or busy and have to kill the opponent slowly. This puts the pressure on survival first and foremost, and is to the tank and healer to share that burden.
Healer = moving the stress towards the healer is a fight where the whole group is taking heavy damage. Either the group is minimally able to avoid the damage, or they are not being careful enough. In this situation the healer will carry the burden of the challenge.
Healer/Damage = moving towards the border between the healer and the damage dealers is a fight where there are tight time tables, and heavy damage. These fights typically require the damage dealers to avoid obstacles as effectively as they can while still pushing the damage as best they can, but will often rely on the healers to cover them when they need to take more hurt to meet the time demands.
Damage = moving the challenge towards the damage dealers is the prototypical “tank and spank” fight with a tight enrage timer. Here the damage dealers will have to do everything they can to kill the opponent in time.
Damage/Tank = moving the challenge towards the border between the tank and the damage dealers is a fight in which the target needs to die rapidly, but the tank carries a portion of that stress. This may be a fight where the tank has a threat reduction, or a fight where the dps receive special damage buffs.
Note that each of these directions can happen both externally or internally. In other words the design of the encounter will stress your group in a particular fashion, but your group can ease or complicate that challenge further. If you have damage dealers who do weak damage and/or are slow to avoid damage, you may more regularly stress the tanks and healers on survival. If you have a squishy tank, or a tank weak on threat you can heighten the challenge for the damage dealers or healers. If you have weak healers, the tank will have to take a more active role in his survival, and the damage dealers will need to finish the fight more quickly to not run the healers out of capacity.
Let’s consider the same stresses but from external sources:
Type A = this sort of encounter pushes the stress away from the tank and towards the healers/damage dealers. As described above, this is a fight where there are serious raid hazards and strict time requirements. For example, if the fight requires the group to frequently move out of hazard zones that are spawning randomly, this would be a Type A challenge. The tank only needs to hold the target while the healers and damage dealers have to frequently relocate while trying to kill the enemy. WoW examples would include: Koralon the Flamewatcher, Professor Putricide, the Twin Valkyr, and Loatheb.
Type B = this sort of encounter pushes the stress away from the healers and towards the tank and damage dealers. This sort of fight is one where the target has to die quickly and the tanks have to be sharp on picking up their targets and holding threat. For example, a fight with waves of adds, or a fight where the group has to use special encounter buffs to meet the enrage times would fall into this classification. WoW examples would include: Thaddius, Thorim, and Lady Deathwhisper.
Type C = this sort of encounter pushes the stress away from the damage dealers onto the tank and the healers. This sort of fight could be one with heavy tank damage, or it may have heavy damage for the group that could be mitigated by the tank some of the time. For example, this could be a fight where the tanks need to swap to manage a debuff that increases their damage taken, or a fight where the tanks need to pick up and hold multiple targets or targets that will hurt the tanks a lot (typically without the ability to kill these opponents, or where the dps can’t spare the time to kill these extra damage sources). WoW examples would include: Patchwerk, General Vezax, Lord Jaraxxus, and Valithria Dreamwalker.
Type D = this sort of encounter pushes the stress onto the damage dealers. This could be an encounter where there is a very tight enrage timer. WoW examples would include: Malygos, XT-002 Deconstructor, and Deathbringer Saurfang.
Type E = this sort of encounter pushes the stress onto the healers. This could be an encounter where there is a lot of raid hazards that are unavoidable, or fights with high tank damage, or fights that are a combination of the two. WoW examples would include: Kel’thuzzad, Toravon the Icewatcher, Rotface, and the Beasts of Northrend.
Type F = this sort of encounter pushes the stress on to the tank. This may involve complicated movements or special handling of the opponents, or it may require sharp cooperation between tanks. WoW examples would include: Phase 1 and 3 of Mimiron, Anub’arak, the Iron Council, and Ignis.
Likewise as encounters can test a group in specific ways, groups can shift the labor on to or off of parts of the group, and smart strategies will involve finding ways to do this to share the burden across the structure as best they can. This could mean the damage dealers worrying less about the damage they deal and being more wary of the hazards, the could use special tools or not-strictly-required tank switching to ease the healing required, or healers could contribute some damage towards killing opponents faster. The solutions are as numerous as the stimuli.
How to use this to your advantage:
Identify the factors, both internal and external, that shift the stress of your group dynamic. Identify what factors can be changed or removed, identify what tools you have to counter balance the factors that cannot be changed or removed, and make sure that the strongest part of your group is bearing the burden of the remainder.