Okay, so in Part I, I talked about a subject I know very well.. Druid tanking.
Now, let’s take a look at my experiences with the Paladin.
The Paladin, and let me be clear on this, is NOT easier to play as a tank.
In fact, I want to go on record as saying that Paladin tanking is NOT ‘ez mode’, a claim I have seen people frequently claim, and in very disparaging tones.
What Paladins ARE, are tanks that have a huge number of abilities that deal Holy damage, and Holy damage, thanks to Righteous Fury, is a Paladin’s bread and butter threat generator.
Paladins have a lot of tools in their toolbox, and most of them have cooldowns that need to be juggled, high mana costs, or both. Many abilities are also situational.
I think this is a key component to understanding the philosophical differences between the two classes, but we can discuss that later.
The tools available, if used properly, can generate massive immediate group threat, sustained AoE threat, and thus reduce the likelihood a Paladin tank may lose aggro on mobs to pre-emptive DPS. They can also effectively cause casters to pick up and move, getting them to cluster closer together, rendering player AoE DPS to be more effective.
Again, however, just because the abilities that are available are highly effective does NOT mean that they are easy to use properly!
That’s the catch on the ‘ez mode’ remarks. Somehow, the idea that Paladin tanks can generate a lot of AoE threat is supposed to equate to being easier tanks to play. The threat generated is great, yes, but it is HOW that threat is generated that requires skill. Skill at time management and multi-tasking.
I did a brief recap of the majority of Druid tanking related abilities in the first section, and remarked on how concise, how streamlined they are.
Time now to do the same for the Paladin. See if you note any differences.
- Ranged Holy attack that dazes and silences up to 3 targets, based on proximity to each other.
- Ranged taunt that does decent Holy damage (conditionally).
- Ranged aggro redirect that tells up to three mobs to leave a poor, scared party member alone.
Key rotation of core abilities based on effective cooldown management, called the “969” rotation.
In no particular order, but always long short long or short long short, are;
- Holy AoE DOT (9 sec)
- Holy attack on up to 5 melee range targets (6 sec)
- Various self buffs/enemy debuffs available for a wide range of situations (9 sec)
- Single target melee range Holy attack (6 sec)
- Self defense that increases block, and deals Holy damage to attackers (9 sec)
Various situational benefits;
- Medium cooldown AoE damage/stun that is only effective against undead and demons.
- Instant cast self shield with short duration.
- Medium cooldown ranged Stun.
Various long coolown abilities that are each very powerful, but if one is used it locks the others out for 30 seconds;
- Self bubble that reduces incoming damage by half.
- Big damage boost (20%, “on the wings”)
- Instant cast full self heal
Various situationally dependant Seals, tanks mainly choosing between single target or multiple target damage boosts.
Oh, and did I forget to mention one of the more confusing, super-powerful party buff systems in the game?
And much, much more!
Yes, so… do you happen to notice any differences there?
To spell it out, Paladins have far more buttons to arrange on their bars, all of which do something that may just turn out to be very, very important at some point in the game.
On the lighter side
I touched briefly on the Druid naming conventions, and how they seem, at least to me, to be evocative of function. To me, a Bash means something quite different, evokes an entirely different feel than a Mangle or a Swipe.
Perhaps others feel differently… but I challenge anyone to tell me that you can easily picture what the difference would be between Shield of Righteousness, Holy Shield, Sacred Shield, Divine Shield and Avenger’s Shield, or between Hammer of Wrath, Hammer of the Righteous or Hammer of Justice, or what about Divine Shield, Divine Intervention, Divine Protection or Divine Plea, or how about Righteous Defense, Hammer of the Righteous, Righteous Fury and Shield of Righteousness, or…
Well, I think you get my point. It’s damn silly, is what it is.
I think the new level 85 ultimate ability for Paladin tanks in Cataclysm should be called “Divine Holy Shield of Righteous Hammering“. A single Paladin protective self-bubble that casts a Judgement dealing Holy Damage on each individual target that tries to hit him. Just go with it. Give in. Do eet!
The lesson to be learned from seeing that list of powers is that Paladins have a lot of choices to make. A lot of options to work from. Many of them are situational. Almost all, if not all, cost mana. Almost all have cooldowns of varying length.
In short… before you can effectively tank as a Paladin, you have to give careful thought and devote time and effort into researching your abilities, understanding what they do, how they are meant to be used together, what situations each is effective with, and why. If you don’t, it gets ugly.
Let’s talk about the simplest of Paladin pulls.
Three mobs standing close together, one a caster.
The Paladin makes sure he’s got the right buff for the encounter… let’s say Blessing of Sanctuary. It’s the most obviously “tanky” one. He makes sure he has Righteous Fury up, so that his Holy abilities deal a LOT of boosted threat. He makes sure he’s got an appropriate Seal active… we’ll say Seal of Command because it’s 3 enemies and none of them are bosses, so the multiple mob attack is more beneficial in this situation.
He triggers Divine Plea, so that his attacks will return a portion of mana, and does it now so that he doesn’t waste a precious GCD during his rotation later.
Now, he steps forward and tosses his Avenger’s Shield, applying a light daze that slows all three, and silences the caster so all of them step forward, closer together and facing the Paladin.
He drops a Consecrate, his persistant Holy AoE DOT. This triggers a 9 second cooldown.
Next he lets loose with Hammer of the Righteous, which hits all three mobs for a nice big chunk of threat and triggers a 6 second cooldown.
This is followed up with, in this case, Judgement of Wisdom. There are many Judgements he could choose from, ones that slow the enemy or get healing back, but with worthless trash like this in the way, the more mana back the better to prevent having to stop and drink. This triggers the 9 second Judgement cooldown, shared amongst all Judgement effects.
Now comes the other 6 second cooldown ability, Shield of Righteousness, that deals solid single target Holy damage and threat.
Finally, we have our third 9 second cooldown ability, Holy Shield, that increases your chance to block attacks, and deals out Holy damage to anyone that tries to attack and gets blocked. In effect, another short lived Holy AoE.
Now we have come full circle. Hammer of Righteousness has come off cooldown, and once that is popped Consecration is in the chute and ready to rock. The 969 rotation is in full play.
During the entire sequence, the Paladin has to remain aware of the situation. Is his mana level dropping too fast? Is he not taking enough damage for heals to replenish his mana? Should he drop one or two abilities from his rotation to conserve mana for later? Are the targets undead or demons, and would Holy Wrath be more useful here? Is he taking enough damage that using a Divine Protection mini-bubble is called for? Should he use Avenging Wrath instead for increased damage and faster mob kills?
Are the rest of the party suffering from excessive AoE damage of their own? Can the healer keep up, or should Divine Sacrifice followed by Divine Protection be used to slow their rate of death and give the healer a chance to keep up (such as can happen with Forgemaster Garfrost in Pit of Saron).
You get the idea. I intentionally didn’t mention many of the variables that really go into normal Paladin tanking, because I think the point is made. The act may appear simple, but Paladin tanking is a dance among the activations… and there is rarely down time to be looking around and bouncing wildly. It’s all careful planning, preparation, knowing what you CAN do, and being prepared when the moment comes.
What I found, personally, while playing my Paladin was that it felt very smooth, very tightly controlled. Having the ability to Silence your opponent is, frankly, overpowered, but then again Feral Charge is on a damn short cooldown.
Everything else is fairly comparable, and once the proper groundwork is laid, the Bear and the Paladin are on very even terms. Drastically different styles, but equally effective.
Without a Silence or Death Grip, Bears tend to be more mobile, running all over the place. Paladins and Death Knights are more about bringing the mobs to them.
This plays out in the AoE, as well. Bears have traveling AoE, Paladins mostly stationary. Mostly.
Since we’re on the subject, let’s talk about some of the few areas Paladins have a bit of a challenge.
First, moving threat generation.
Consecration is awesome, but it is stationary. Hammer of the Righteous is amazing, but is only effective against targets in front of you. Holy Wrath kicks butt, but it’s on a moderately long cooldown. Everything has a cooldown.
Paladins do not have a comparable, spammable, moving AoE threat generator.
Take a Bear up the tunnel in Pit of Saron, and it’s a bouncefest. Mobs get Swiped and dragged behind, no worries, no issues. It’s relaxing, in a way.
Take a Paladin up the tunnel, and it becomes a bit slower, a bit more careful, as you back up part of the way, or stand still to turn around and get threat off your party members, or use Righteous Defense on your healer. It’s manageable, but certainly a noticeable change. It’s not as easy.
At this point, someone will ignore every single other thing said in this post to object to that characterization, stating that they certainly don’t have a problem with moving threat. In anticipation, I invite you to think on this and wait unti the end; I didn’t say they can’t, I said they had more difficulty. If you haven’t yourself played a Bear tank, and have a direct means of comparison, I invite you to pretend I actually have compared this, multiple times, and also asked other Paladin tanks about their experiences for comparison. Okay? Of course they can do it, the point I’m making is, which can do it smoother.
Likewise, the mana efficiency and management issue can come into play if you are overgeared and overpowered for the content you are running, and the fight drags on a very long time. Even in a level 80 heroic like Halls of Stone, the Brann fight can go on long enough, with just enough time between waves, that your Divine Plea keeps fading and your mana starts struggling. Much lower level content and it’ can be worse.
With a Druid, the lower the content with big waves of mobs, the better, because every time you Dodge or you Crit, you get fed lovely, lovely Rage. Rage. It’s whats for dinner.
These are, again, not insurmountable problems. Just differences in feel.
In the end, my conclusion for the Paladin tanking style is that it has it’s own strengths and weaknesses, but it is truly equally effective. Not more, not less… because each situation faced is different, and what is awesome for one may not be the best choice for another.
The biggest conclusion is the no brainer of the evening – the playstyles of each are radically different.
My conclusion on playstyles.
The thing that really stood out to me, once I began delving into Paladin tanking, was that there are certain similarities amongst those who prefer it.
Players who love Paladin tanks seem to share an interest in careful planning, dedicated research, and careful micro-management of a lot of different abilties to keep them busy all the time.
You could say that they like to have a LOT of things to keep them busy all the time. A constant stream of activity.
I’ve seen some folks make statements in fora that seem to indicate that, to them at least, having more abilities to manage means that their class requires ‘better’ players. More skillful players.
It’s an interesting point of view, but having played both, I choose to disagree. I think that, once you have seen a Bear tank bounce around annoying all the mobs and never losing aggro because moving is part of his style, just as your standing there and getting everyone to come to you is part of your style, you’ll agree that there is skill used on both sides… it’s just used in different ways.
Another interesting thing of note.
If you look at the Paladin tank bloggers out there, and the Paladin tanking community websites, look at the tone of the conversations.
These are people who like to discuss the best situational use for Divine Sacrifice. The timing involved when using Divine Plea, and whch Seal is most advantageous for different scenarios.
They get into, and are passionate about, the minutia of Paladin tanking. Adjusting and debating placement of the cogs, sprockets, wheels and gears, always seeking to fine tune the accuracy to that of the finest Swiss watch mechanism.
To be blunt, players who seek out and love Paladin tanks seem to posses certain common traits; orderliness, stubbornness,a compulsion for carefully precise planning, and a control of potential variables.
Paladin tanks are the stamp collectors and bird watchers of WoW.
Bear tanks are about movement and flow, improvisation and adaptation, and getting stuck into the face of the mobs out on the deep end.
Bear tanks are, basically, the surfers and base jumpers of WoW.
Someone, somewhere, is going to take serious offense to that. My work here is done. :)
I am struck, in hindsight, by all the questions I’ve had over the years from Paladin tanks branching out into Druid tanking for the first time.
The most common question from these people has tended to be, “Is this really all there is? I feel like there should be more. That I’m missing something. It feels… boring. Static. Easy. Oh, and by the way, how come I can’t seem to hold aggro while I stand there waiting for all the mobs to come to me?”
This is where I bring it all back to how I kicked things off in Part 1.
I find it wonderful that the programmers of Blizzard have developed two tanking classes that are each, in their own way, equally effective in the game, right up to the top… but in the way they are played, how they handle on the racecourse of WoW, they appeal to drastically different attitudes and temperaments.
Whether by careful planning or fortuitous luck, the end result is nothing short of amazing.