Tanking Test! Druid vs Paladin I


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!

18 thoughts on “Tanking Test! Druid vs Paladin I

  1. @Firecroch: Gameldar is right, it is NOT an interrupt. Meaning it does not apply an Interrupt effect. If it were it WOULD work on bosses. If you use MikScrolling or maybe other combat texts, you’ll see 2 affects showing up if a target is stun immune and un-interruptable when you bash, likewise with root-immune if you charge. However when you concussive blow (which I still call bash when I play my warrior) you’ll only see the one “Immune” pop up because, as previously mentioned, it is not an interrupt. The reason it functions as an interrupt on most trash is that it stuns them, therefore they are unable to finish casting. Hopefully that clears the air on a few things.


  2. Love this post, BBB, and thank you. I started my druid with the intent to heal but quickly found how much I liked the tanking job. Since my main’s a mage, it’s an utterly different experience and I need just the kind of detailed specifics you regularly include, as well as the theory and practice thereof.

    And obliquely, I like the action names for the bear too, but share some of the paladin’s pain. My Arcane mage casts Arcane Blast, Arcane Barrage, Arcane Missiles, and AreTheyDeadYetKane?


  3. First @Kaethir: If you have hot AOE and hot single target, are you mauling your FFF target while spamming swipe? If so and still having trouble, most of my close friends know I won’t taunt off them anymore, lol, and it’s always a laugh.
    Second @BBB: I love it, tanking as a bear in an instance with good players really is a joy. I have a whiskey and a cigar during the first 5 bosses of ICC, it’s great. And I agree with one of your posters about swiping while closing with a caster mob after hitting it with an FFF, and you can save your Charge if there’s an extra caster you want to mess with. But yeah, generally I grab the melee and bring them into at least swipe range of the caster mob(s) which is a 360* 8yd AOE and with a fat bear butt in the mix that’ll hold any # of casters in any pull in any post-vanilla dungeon if you position yourself between them!


  4. @Gameldar – Conc Blow is indeed an interrupt but it doesn’t work on bosses, and neither does interrupt that comes from using Revenge or Shockwave. Shield Bash is the only interrupt that works on bosses.

    My baby druid is planning on going Feral/Boomkin once I get dual spec so I’m very interested in bear tank related. Having a warrior tank I think is definitely a plus since rage mechanics are slightly familiar. Funny how all my alts are spec’d to take advantage of the short LFG time. lol


  5. Great topic BBB! I am new to the tanking game in general (I’ve had a hunter for a long while) and big round bear butt is what I chose for my first endeavor into this facet of the game. I’ve been following your blog for a few months now, and it’s always been a very entertaining and informative narrative with each new post. I can’t wait to see what you have to say when you give your final comparisons with two classes -I only expect about approximately a 3% skew in favoring the bear tank 😉 . I love taking something that is not particularity the best at a certain task (I don’t think anyone who is into min/maxing would put the feral tanks at the top of their lists) and excelling with it. That’s why I chose the Druid for my stab at tanking… but I’ve also had my share of second guessing since starting down the feral tank path; whether or not I should have rolled a pally instead. But I’m loving every minute of my feral tanking runs! My big black bouncing bear butt and Sprite Darter companion are having a great time! But, still, there’s always that nagging voice that tells me “what if…” So I’m awaiting your follow up posts with baited breath!

    Oh, and thank you so much for posting your specific tips on pulling those multi-caster groups in FoS. I’ve had so much trouble with those, and the groups in PoS… ugh… damn warlocks! I can’t wait to try the technique out for myself! Thanks!


  6. Hehe, I feel ya on the range mob pulling. In most of the random PUGs I’ve been in, most *seem* to acknowledge that I’ve got to LOS the caster mobs and wait a bit. For Forge of Souls where there is not all that much room for LOSing, I find myself running from mob to mob like my tail’s on fire. Probably not the best thing, but it has worked out pretty alright so far as long as skull is taken down first and foremost. Bashing is pretty useful to gain some control of the situation, and thank Blizzard for FINALLY making swipe 360 degrees. It was an absolute horror to use the old version which only hit 3 targets in front of bears.


  7. Thanks for this BBB – I’ve been very interested in the comparison of tanks recently since I’ve switched from Warrior tanking to Paladin tanking recently (and just posted a bit of a guide about it) – so I’m looking forward to seeing the other half as well. Still working on my baby druid for the comparison there but reading this actually shows me that there is a bigger difference between Warriors and Druids than I thought too.

    I understand the comment about remembering Lacerate – it wasn’t till I was finishing off my post that I realised Concussion Blow isn’t an interrupt – explains a few missed interrupts trying to do Less Rabi on my Warrior.
    .-= Gameldar´s last blog ..Pally tanking for Warriors =-.


  8. Meh. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again… I’ve got it stuck in my head that Lacerate adds a slow. Don’t know where I got it from, every time I read it I remember… and as soon as I walk away, I forget again.

    Old bears don’t learn new tricks easily. 🙂


  9. Hm, curious what you’ll have to say about the paladin! My last post was actually about this subject as well, though it was much shorter and I simply came to the (admittedly somewhat subjective) conclusion that druid tanking has very much fallen behind compared to paladin tanking.
    .-= Shintar´s last blog ..Druid vs. paladin tanking =-.


  10. I think I have been confused about this as well, but Infected Wounds is on Mangle, Maul, and Shred.

    Lacerate doesn’t have the slow effect.


    # A single target attack with a short cooldown, with a slow component, 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 that generates extra threat.
    # A dual target big whammy with a slow component


  11. BBB,
    Love your experiment. Can’t wait to read the next segment. I follow your blog religiously, and have learned most of my tanking skills from your suggestions (and many epic fails on my end). At any rate, I have a suggestion which I have been using for pulling (and would like thoughts as to whether or not you think it is effective). When I pull a caster, I FFF followed immediately by Feral Charge–not only does this bring the caster closer (pulling melee with it) by the time the caster has come midway, I’ve charged to him and swiped the Melee into submission… Does that make sense? Interested to hear your thoughts.
    .-= Metaphoria´s last blog ..Holy Violet Citadel Batman! =-.


  12. Well, to add one thing to Kay’s comment… her computer sits four feet from the computer that I use for my Pally main tank so any time she’s looked to my side of the desk, she’s seen pally tanking (not always uber pally tanking, but I’m pretty solid raid after raid). So, she had an experienced tank right beside her and it was the tank style she’s seen me talking about and researching for a couple of years now. It all added up to the pally version of tankage being more familiar to her even before she threw her first Avenger’s Shield or dropped a Consecrate in the middle of an LOAD of baddies.


  13. I don’t know, as somebody who doesn’t play his druid much, I find most of the druid names confusing. Bash, swipe, mangle, lacerate, claw? Aren’t those all kind of synonyms? That said, the paladin names are just as bad or worse. It is like they have some rule that all paladin ability names have to be phrases made of words from a set of about five. Holy Shield protects you, Shield of Righteousness hits the guy right next to you, while Avenger’s Shield is a ranged attack…


  14. Very interesting! My short time with tanking on Kay… well, I did all right, but I was scared….. well you KNOW… every time I did it, I dont think I did it enough to get really comfortable with it… and then I keep coming back to the fact that Kay is a healer, first and foremost… Heck, she’s barely even boomkin! I did it for the first time in 2 or 3 patches Tuesday night against Saurfang 10… We 2-heal that fight, and I’m well used to being one of the two healers… but Tuesday, I was the only healer with sufficient hit gear on my person to help hold and kite the blood beasts… but I had no experience in the task… needless to say, he is still alive…

    We go back tonight, but I have overhauled the boomkin set, re-done my talents and hopefully if I’m called to repeat, I’ll be better prepared…

    My paladin came up ret…. and I LOVE ret, it is FUN… my paladin is fun! Well, in the 70’s I started to build a tank set, got her dual-spec, and began practicing… And all without the terror factor I had every time I went bear on Kay… The only time I seriously screwed up… well, we had wiped and I kinda forgot to re-activate righteous fury.. ::grinblush::

    But I do have a much easier time tanking on the paladin than on the druid… But I honestly think it’s due more to the characters themselves than to the mechanics of class. and yes, my toons ARE characters… that’s what defines whether a toon lives or dies with me.. .:) They must become their own character… develop their own personality and story, etc… 🙂

    I cant wait to hear about your paladin impressions… my only question is do you think the shorter time of tanking as a paladin will influence your views at all? And no, I’m not trying to be nasty, I’m honestly curious as to tha. You’ve been a bear tank a long time and seen a lot of changes and evolution… Your paladin is quite a bit younger, so I wanted to ask. 🙂


  15. As a tank player, I am enjoying the new festival bosses (3 undead alchemists).

    During a run for the pet/mount drop, I cycle through my tanks (except Warrior that is not 80 yet), and I need to approach each tank with a different style.

    My main raid tank is a paladin – I am very used to tanking with her and have build up good muscle memory for her key abilities.
    How I do the fight:
    Start with the “pink” boss (use pink immunity perfume) – Judge Light and Hand of Reckoning. Wait for the “green” boss to became active and hit him with my throw shield.

    Then I focus on building and maintaining a threat lead on both through AE damage (Consecrate & Hammer) and staying out of range of their AE explosion. As soon as pink boss is down, I switch to the green immunity poison and tank the green boss down. The lastly chase the 3rd boss all over the place.

    I am fairly immobile, except to move out of the poison puddles I am not immune to, as well as the AE blast they do.

    On my Heroic/Emblem geared Druid bear.
    I level as Feral Kitty, and learned bear tanking in instances. Little muscle memory – and i still use the skill and abilities in the wrong order – but getting better.

    A very chaotic fight, as I bounce all over the place with Feral charge until I have threat on both pink and green bosses. Once they are locked down – similar to Paladin, stay out of bad poison and move out of range of AE blasts. Between swipe, FFF and mangle and alternating hit on each boss – I stay ahead of the DPS. Big health pool helps healer a lot.

    Lastly DK Unholy/Frost tank.
    Since this tank is designed to eat magical damage with her two anti-magic abilities – the encounter is much much easier. I just do my normal DK rotation, spread the diseases, Death grip and boss that gets away from me back, and lock them down. Between the perfumes and the anti-magic shells, and self-heals – the healer usually focus much more of the group than healing me.

    So using the same encounter to rate them:
    DK is the easiest just due to her talent spec. Then paladin due to knowledge and skills using her to tank. Last is the Druid – more due to not being that familiar and used to tanking with a Druid. Also comparing how a warrior tanks, this fight would be very very “target switching” dependent.

    I cannot wait for your paladin analysis.
    .-= Dracomage´s last blog ..Blizzard incoming! Level 80 Alts are useless? =-.


  16. I’ve recently begun tanking on my Warrior in addition to my Paladin. It is fun to see the differences between the two tanking types.

    I love the AoE threat I can put out on the Paladin. I love the single target control I can put out on the warrior (multiple stuns, a silence, spell reflect). I am still having trouble tanking Heroic Halls of Reflection on the warrior, but I don’t know if the fault is mine or if it is over-zealous DPS.


  17. Honestly Druid is an interesting mix between BC Paladin and Vanilla Warrior for feel I’ve found, and I love it to death. You have to show off your old Vanilla pulling skills (LoS, beating your healer till they understand they can LoS for you too…), but you have the AoE tanking ability with the claw storm that is a swipe spamming Druid, while having limited options towards dealing with casters (the BC Paladin side).

    Makes me wonder what kind of additions we’re going to see with Cata for bear. Maybe we’re finally going to get a tool for controlling casters in some way that doesn’t literally lock them down. Maybe we’re going to get an animation with a directional component for FFF. That’s right bad guy, you’re angry at me because I just farted sparkles on you!


  18. Excellent as always BBB!

    In my experience, the only issue I ever have is that I cannot simultaneously put down super single-target threat AND super AOE-threat. So if I have an exceptional single-target DPS and an exceptional AoE DPS in the same group, and neither of them are willing to slow down for me. Then again, if I have that much DPS it usually doesn’t matter if they pull aggro a little bit. Because everything except Maul is limited by the GCD, I can either Swipe every GCD and have enough AoE threat to keep up with really awesome AoE, or I can build up lacerate stacks and use FFF and out-threat single-target.

    I guess that’s as much an issue with DPS that don’t try, but that’s a challenge for me.

    It’s also incredibly frustrating to me that we can’t make casters move, at all. No silence that doesn’t also stun or immobilize, and no Death Grab to pull with.
    .-= Kaethir´s last blog ..It’s 5 o’clock somewhere… =-.


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