Over the last few weeks I have had a simple premise. Tank as a Druid, tank as a Paladin, and see how the face to face differences stand now that I’ve had lots of experience and are comparably geared with both.
The test. Run a bunch of random heroics as a Druid tank, and then do the same as a Paladin tank, and be honest with myself about the playstyle differences between them.
The goal I started with was to try and pick out differences in feel. Make some oranges to oranges comparisons. Dig into the playstyles, see how well each performed when challenged by the realities of modern PUG groups.
My test conditions for each class was to perform the initial pull, build group threat, control aggro caused by DPS playing without marks or direction, judge single target threat compared to DPS capabilities, and to hustle as fast as possible chain pulling. Crowd Control, which I normally welcome and adjust small unit tactics for, was not requested, although player initiative is always welcome. :)
I say that’s how this started.
Along the way, my thoughts turned to a more deeper consideration of the personalities and traits of those that may feel attracted to each different playstyle, and how wonderful it is just to HAVE these diverse choices of character types in the same video game.
Part 1: The Druid
While playing the Druid, with all these conditions firmly in mind, a few things became apparent to me.
The tools available as a Bear seemed clear in their function, and simple in their execution. They also had very little overlap in function.
- A single target taunt with a fast cooldown.
- A group taunt with a long cooldown.
- A single target attack with a short cooldown, with a long cooldown kitchen sink ability available (3 target conditional modifier with immunity to fear, removes cooldown allowing it to be chain cast on the GCD).
- A single target instant cast DoT with a slow component.
- A dual target big whammy.
- An instant cast AoE.
- A ranged pull that applies an armor debuff and prevents stealth.
- A group debuff that reduces enemy attack power.
- A single target stun/interrupt.
- An interrupting charge.
It sounds like a lot, but they each have a clear purpose for specific applications.
Interestingly to me, each Bear ability also has a name that feels intuitively linked to what it does. Growl. Swipe. Mangle. Bash. Lacerate. Frenzied Regeneration. Berserk. Each ability seems pretty easy to describe when you recall the name.
Swiping the enemy? Why, of course, that’s hitting a bunch of bad guys with one wild swinging blow.
Growling? Sure, letting loose a blood-curdling roar, striking fear into the heart of my foe, driving him to face me in a life or death panic for survival.
With so few abilities and a clear idea of when to use them, and most of them instant cast restricted by the GCD, actual implementation was very simple, and left a lot of room for looking around, ready to improvise, adapt and overcome if things went wahoonie shaped.
As long as I kept my Growl on cooldown, if someone ran around free for a moment I could Growl them back into line. If someone in the group was hitting a mob outside my AoE range, I could either Feral Charge them and whack them on the snout (the mob, not the player, sadly), or use the ranged aggro (Feral Faerie Fire) to remind them who’s the boss.
Plenty of tools in the toolbox for what needed to be done, but lots of… in-between time. Idle time. If things DIDN’T go crazy, then it left me with lots of time to jump around. And jump, and jump, and jump around. Jump, jump, jump, jump…
When playing with a very good group, not highly geared but highly skilled, there was a clear feeling that everything was smooth as glass, and there was a lot of free time for chatting, looking around, and bouncing for the fun of it. Tanking as a Bear with such a group was relaxing. It was light hearted tanking.
Aggro control was very solid. The times when aggro WAS uncontrolled were when mobs got targeted by DPS outside my range of AoE/Maul, and so long as my attention was on the area around me and I wasn’t just on cruise control, I could pick them back up even at range. If soeone jumped the gun on area AoE before I’d locked things up with Swipe, then Challenging Roar gathered them back up. Single target threat generation was out of sight. No problems.
All in all, results on my Druid initially left me with the feeling that playing as a Bear tank, with so many instant casts at my beck and call, left the playstyle more about art and feel and improvisation than an ordered, regimented process using a specific pre-determined plan.
There are specific areas of challenge for a Druid.
On ranged pulls, there are a few options; Growl or Feral Faerie Fire.
Feral Faerie Fire applies a 5% armor debuff at the same time as it pulls, and also applies threat. Growl acts as a taunt, but doesn’t actually apply any active threat. Neither option has a Silence component such as Avenger’s Shield, or a method to yank them in range such as Death Grip.
This means that the Bear tank has to adapt, and find other means to handle those situations. The solution can involve a slower method, such as line of sight pulls using instance architecture to force mobs to come to you… but about half the time hasty DPS run forward and start damage before the mobs reach the tank, stopping them where they happen to be, or healers begin healing before it’s necessary, and healing aggro overcomes tank aggro as well.
More often than not, the solution I used was to use Feral Charge even more aggressively to come to grips with the casters first, dragging melee mobs in behind me, or in the case of multiple casters, use a kill mark (Skull) on the most distant caster, and run in, swiping as I went, to inflict damage/develop aggro on closer caster targets and then Feral Charge to the most distant target to pin him down until dead, then charge back to the other caster to get him dead, bouncing back and forth in a state of constant movement.
In these situations, Bear tanking becomes dance and movement, and an awareness that the purpose of a Tank is to hold aggro on all mobs, and to keep them steady for melee DPS to kill without chasing them. You do not have to stay on one mob until he’s dead before changing… all you have to do is develop enough aggro that no one will be able to overtake you, and then you can safely change attention to someone else.
Since caster’s don’t move, you can charge one, build massive threat on him, then move on, and melee DPS can continue to stay in place and finish him off. By the time they run to catch up with you on your new target, you’ve built up more threat again, and can pick someone else for your attention.
Using this, plus Swipe, really keeps things under control.
I’ll detail one example most people are familiar with.
For the Forge of Souls groups, I would typically target the furthest spellcaster as Skull, the nearest spellcaster as X.
To start the run I would FFF the distant Skull as I ran in towards the nearby X.
I’d keep Skull as my target, and observe target in case of healer or DPS aggro while I ran in towards the X.
Once on top of the X, I’d Swipe a few times, coincidentally gathering in the melee opponents and developing threat with them as well.
Once I felt my threat on X was enough to stay above healer aggro or DPS AoE, I would Feral Charge into the distant Skull to lock him down.
I would physically turn around to watch the X while staying on top of the Skull and getting the melee mobs in front of me, back to the player group.
As soon as I saw I had an unbreakable threat lead on Skull for the health he had remaining, I would Feral Charge straight into X and start building threat on him, still trailing my little group of melee mobs.
The melee DPS would stay on Skull and finish him off while I began building serious threat on X and the rest of the melee mobs, and kept an eye on things in general.
At all times, Growl would be poised to grab Skull or X (whichever was most distant) if I saw I was losing threat on that mob, and I kept FFF ready as well to add threat.
If I was losing threat on a distant mob using this technique, generally it was to solid AoE DPS landing where it shouldn’t, and not healing aggro. I never, ever had a problem staying on top of healer aggro using this method.
That about wraps up the breakdown for the Druid, so I hope to see you soon for the next part of the series, as I delve into my impressions of the Paladin!