A New Sensation

Warning: Prot Paladin talk straight ahead.

There is a Star Wars: The Old Republic beta. I was in it this last weekend.

I’ve read the agreement carefully, and it turns out that’s about all I can say about that subject.

Except maybe for this; I could have spent a LOT of time in the SW:TOR beta this weekend, but I ended up spending most of my game time in WoW.

What was I doing, if I wasn’t lost in a galaxy of laser swords and 2 trillion candlepower pistolgrip flashlights?

I was playing my Protection Paladin in PvP, and doing a LOT of PvE tanking.

My Paladin, affectionately named BigCrankButt, started the weekend Friday night at level 57.

Cassie suggested that I leave XP on and level through BGs until I got the Honor Points I needed to get all that tasty level 60 PvP epic gear. She would level by questing solo through Blasted Lands.

By the time I dinged 60, she was actually a little ahead, and I had won every random BG, so you can see that from our super-small sampling, pure questing is equal to PvP in leveling speed, or much better if you’re losing in BGs a lot. Anecdotal and subjective evidence of no real value in a study, but still interesting.

From the moment we dinged 60 and trained flying, we’ve quested a bit and run instances a whole lot more.

I have just one thing to say about the playing experience on our Prot Paladin and Disc Priest combo.

OMIGOD epic!

The biggest reason for my pleasure has been the Paladin class being godlike in AoE tanking from 15 to, now, 62. There has been some added spice to the yummy feast brought by the sheer power of level 60 PvP epics, but that has just been the last two levels.

The real prize is being a Protection Paladin.

Playing Prot and tanking through the levels has left me, as a Druid tank at max level, kinda feeling like Charlie Brown during Halloween; “I got a rock.”

As a Prot Paladin, I have had all the tools and all of the talents I could ever wish to get and hold aggro during everything that PUGs could throw at me.

We’ve leveled in PUGs almost the whole way, and we’ve seen every kind of pull for the tank, gogogo, shoot the wrong mob, charge the target and stun it type of thing you could imagine, and the Paladin has taken it all with a smile.

A word on that. Of everything I’ve seen, far and away the most annoying has been to throw Avenger’s Shield to pull a group of mobs, only to have a prick of a Warrior charge one as they JUST started running to me, and stun it in place at it’s starting point, WAY THE FUCK OVER THERE, when it’s a casting mob, and now my Avenger’s Shield is on cooldown and I can’t easily pull it back to where I’m taking care of business with all these other casting mobs over HERE.

Congratulations, you prick. Grrr. It’s not a big deal, I either keep taunting it while burning down the caster in my face, then run over there, or just let the idiot that charged it deal with it, but still. I like my pretty little clumps of groups in range of my melee AoE, damnit.

Oh, and if you’re going to roll Need on tanking gear for level 50s, hows about you actually QUEUE as a TANK, you worthless little douchebag. Thank you very much, signed, the actual tank.

Anyway, Protection Paladins are not overpowered. Not from 15 – 62, at least. I don’t want you to get the impression that is what I’m saying.

What they are is tuned JUST RIGHT. They are not ‘snooze and cruise’, you have to use your abilities and there are a LOT of them. But you have all the abilities you need. You are never left feeling just screwed. And you can get and hold AoE aggro. If you play one, you can succeed and have a ton of fun.

If the other tanking classes can’t feel the same level of control on the battlefield in PUGs, and can’t experience the same fun, then it’s not Paladins that are OP, it’s the other tanks that need a buff.

The object of the game is to have fun. If your reaction to hearing I am having lots of fun tanking is to assume the class needs to be nerfed, you need to re-evaluate your baseline assumptions. Tanking shouldn’t have to feel like a pain in the ass sucky job.

I’ll say it again. What has been most awesome about them is that they actually have all the tools they need to get aggro, keep the group moving fast, and HOLD aggro in the face of all that the DPS can do to try to screw you. You’re kept hopping, looking around for distant mobs to nail with Avenger’s Shield, grabbing swarming patrols incoming with Hammer of the Righteous, and so much more.

That is my definition of fun tanking. Being able to respond immediately when shit happens, instead of sitting on your hands helpless.

If Blizzard wants me to have fun as a tank, give the DPS wild shit to do to cause massive threat, and give ME all the tools I need to regain and hold threat. Pop this, pop that, fire that off, and wahoo! Fast paced, pulse pounding action.

I don’t know what they’re like at max level, but so far from 15 to 62 it’s been a perfect game.

Maybe a lot of that has been having a skilled healer along for every run that, y’know, actually heals instead of doing DPS because “they’re bored”. Amazing concept, but if you want to DPS, queue as DPS. If you queue as heals, keep our ass alive. Cassie has done that, and because of that every run is funtime fancypants mode.

Believe it or not, there is a point to my talking about all this, and it’s not to say “Oh look at me, I’m having fun.”

One response I get from people a lot when discussing tanking, is how daunting, even intimidating PUGs are to try and learn how to tank.

Not “how to tank as X class”, but simply trying to get used to what a tank has to look at and prioritize. How to play AS a tank.

If you haven’t played a tank before, it takes a little bit to get used to the differences from the other playstyles, especially if you’ve mostly been playing a healer looking at health bars and moving your own butt out of fire.

If you want to learn to play as a tank these days, I think the max level PUGs are really the wrong place to try and do it (based purely on the patience level of your fellow players), and once 4.3 rolls around and the Trolls are added into the standard PvE Heroic random mix, it’ll just get worse.

But if you do want to learn to play a tank, I’m thinking a possible idea is to do it in two stages.

First, create a new tank alt and start running random PUGs at level 15. Obviously from my gushing, I’m telling you that I know for a fact a Prot Paladin would be a good choice.

Level up through the PUGs, preferrably with a friend that might want to try a healer for a change, and take on all comers. With the changes to tank threat generation, you’ve got an advantage in getting and holding aggro.

The skills you would want to develop in this way, skills that apply to all tank classes, are;

  • Getting the pull clumped up on casters. (Silencing/pulling casters to you, Line of Sight pulls, charging groups, etc).
  • Watching a 360° radius for patrols and runners and bringing them in to you before they hit anyone else.
  • Watching your own health to time survival/mitigation cooldowns.
  • Watching your party health as a clue to pulled aggro.
  • Controlling enemy groups and maneuvering them out of fire/acid/green/bad.
  • Positioning yourself consistently to make it easier on melee.

All of these skills need to be developed with the following ‘test to destruction’ real world criteria; how well does your chosen method work in a group of strangers?

An example of what I mean; If you want to do a line of sight pull of a caster, and the rest of the group ignores you to run around the corner shooting, then you need to take that into account and come up with a new plan. Maybe telling them what you’re gonna do before pulling, or macroing a “LOS pull, don’t attack yet!” yell, or just trying something else like charging in.

The point being, whatever you do, see how it works in random groups. Tweak it until you can handle what the players will do.

The second step would be to take the generic skills you developed in tanking through the levels, and then apply that to your max level character of choice now that you’ve built up confidence.

I think it might work pretty good.

I am interested in how the other classes feel to tank through the levels. I know from experience that the Paladin feels far more in control of PUG aggro than my Warrior did while leveling. Is it just the Paladin? I could easily have been Warrior tanking wrong. Do all of them really handle the same way until you get to the 80-85 range?

I don’t know. I’m interested enough to try a Death Knight and tank through the levels, though. Just to see.

It’s been a new sensation for me, playing a Prot Paladin.

I feel… epic.

It’s been a long, long time since I felt that.

I’ve gotten used to setting my goal as “I feel competent in my class.”

If I go into a raid, in Firelands or anywhere else, that has been my goal for a year now. “Do I feel competent at my class? Did I do enough DPS to feel that I didn’t suck? Did I tank well enough to meet expectations?”

I never expect to feel badass anymore.

About the best I feel is when someone like Matheo tells me “I don’t know how you get those numbers on a Beastmaster Hunter”.

That feels good. I know I don’t have actual great DPS, just a surprising amount for a BM Hunter with my gear level, that’s all. It’s an “exceeds expectations” evaluation, and oh boy doesn’t that just thrill you.

But playing the Prot Paladin as a tank through the levels… taht brings back the old “epic” feel.

The “I am in command of this battlefield, weep you poor NPC bastards, weep!”

It’s a good feeling.

I’ll admit, since dinging 60 and equipping that incredibly powerful PvP epic gear, it’s gotten even nicer.

Or, as one player said to another in the Hellfire Ramparts run we did Monday;

Player 1 – “How the hell is the tank doing more than twice our DPS?”
Player 2 – “Have you SEEN his gear?”
Player 1 – “Where the hell did you get all those epics?”

It’s true. Thanks to the AoE heavy fights in Ramps and Blood Furnace, my damage output at level 60 was about twice that of most DPS players in heirlooms. DKs included.

In other words, I already felt epic before, but now while wearingthe  epics, I actually feel EPIC.

It’s a good feeling. Turns out I missed it. I wish I could figure out a way we could get it back at high level.

27 thoughts on “A New Sensation

  1. It’s interesting – I did the opposite. My main was a prot paladin – gearing up in early cata (bears are a lot easier in this respect – and you can legitimately use PvP gear) – doing all the reputation grinds.. and he is now holy/ret. I got to a point before 4.2 dropped where I just found the tanking mindless – and having one major point of irritation. Yes I had the tools – and that is one of the things I love about playing my pally – being able to save the day (one particular case in Heroic Stonecore where I LoH the healer just as they were about to die and we finished up the fight for example) – and they bring a lot of buffs to a raid that is hard to compete with… but I just prefer tanking on my bear.

    I noted it being before 4.2 – because I switched over to my bear before they dropped the cooldown on swipe down. I love love loved the challenge and fun that it took to hold aggro on all those mobs – tab targeting with mangle to maintain aggro over that fury warrior who way outgears you – and then finishing second on the dps. Oh… and pulling with magic mushrooms (the pandas want to take that away from me).

    But the biggest pain with pally tanking for me is streaming adds. Hammer of the Righteous is horrible if you play with any form of latency. You try to use it but the local check goes ‘that mob is too far away’ and then when it allows you on the local side it fails server side because ‘Your target must be in front of you’. Playing from Australia I always have enough latency that it annoys me – some fights (i.e. dragonhawk in ZA) you can work around it just by always tanking the boss, but otherwise it is a big big pain.

    But I agree – it is better to tank (and heal) as you go. I’ve almost got my DK to max level (then I’ll have one of each tank… until my panda comes along) and haven’t been doing much tanking – I’ve just been enjoying frost dps too much – and queue times for DPS have been in the sub 10 minute mark – hardly enough time for me to be powerleveling inscription (so I don’t have to do Therezzane rep again). The learn as you level is the reason my bear has never been resto – I started a second druid to learn healing – I think it is generally a good introduction – yes you don’t have all the tools you need, but it does mean you gain and can master them as you go instead.


  2. My current alt-leveling project is a prot warrior, and I’ve been enjoying the heck out of playing her, and especially running her through dungeons. Having run/tanked nearly everything I encounter at some point in the past certainly helps – but like you, I just love the tools that my Warrior has at her disposal. Dinged her 83 tonight (hey, gratz mon!)…I’d imagine if I really pushed it, I could have her 85 before the weekend is out. I do have a bit of an edge on tanking at 85, too … I’ve been buying/crafting/etc gear for her since she was in her 40s..it’s going to be fun.


  3. My husband and I leveled a prot pally/disc priest combo in Wrath and have stuck with those ever since. It’s a lot of fun, especially when you can rely on your tank and healer. Having that communication in the same room without having to type is very nice in heroics. The amount of cooldowns available between the two classes helps out a lot.


  4. Awesome post 3B.

    I’m of slightly different views. I leveled my Pally tanking back in WotLK and do it once in a blue moon (mainly Holy/HolyPVP) but it isn’t as satisfying to me as it is you. Instead of epic, maybe it’s the little girl model, I sorta throw out sparkles and glitter at the mobs until they stand on me.

    Mechanically they’re very solid, tho. No doubt.

    My warrior? Tauren. He’s a beast. He’s *SO* much fun to level as. Charge, thunderclap, cleave, shield slam, charge again, intervene back to pick up a pat I missed, voosh voosh voosh. He’s all bursting from spot to spot as a huge thundering bull god of war. It’s *glorious!*

    Still, glad you’re having fun. It’s so nice to reinvent the game for yourself, eh? ^_^


  5. I love that song!

    I wonder if starting out with a full resource bar does make a difference in the flow/feel of pally tanking opposed to the other classes. I have tried tanking on all classes, and the waiting for your resource bar to give you enough juice for that critical spell that just may come too late or in the nick of time certainly adds a heightened level of urgency to the task at hand. While I haven’t tanked on all classes at max level, I think I’ve had enough overall experience to recognize that pally tanking is a bit more relaxed, possibly contributing to a sense of them being a “more fun” tank class/style.

    I highly recommend you try DK tanking. The waiting on resource issue aside, it’s got somewhat of a pally feel to it… but wielding a 2-hander! Good fun, but ymmv. I was probably doing something wrong, contributing to my resource “issue,” on all the non-pally tank classes. 🙂


  6. Ellifain from Khaz’Goroth here.
    I have retired from wow now, Having played since BC 2.1.

    Out of all the MANY iterations I have experienced with prot pally rotations/talents/abilities/gear, 4.3 stands out as the best yet. At 85 end game as well as while leveling, the rotation is interesting and meaningful, with few gaps in it, and all the associated abilities make things “work”.
    The move to active mitigation in the future will only require a few minor changes to Holy Shield and bringing WoG back off cooldown.



  7. Back in Wrath I leveled a Paladin…started him as Ret, but switched to Prot around level 30 and never looked back. But, unlike you (and others), I never once stepped into a dungeon during that leveling process. I was having too much fun AoE questing. “Go kill 10 things or bring back 15 items? Ok, be back in about 3 minutes!”. It was great fun gathering 5-6 mobs at level and whacking them down in a short period of time.

    I have to admit, however, that by questing only it left me with a lot of “What do those buttons do?” moments when I did try to tank at max level. I never had to use that spell (can’t even remember the name for it) that pulls, what…up to 3 angry mobs off a friendly target (?) while I quested, so when I did start tanking I never even thought about it. If a friendly was in trouble I would just run to them and hope I had some kind of AoE off cooldown so I could pull the baddies off them. While questing I NEVER had to use my “bubble”, not to mention I couldn’t even tell you the name of the “bubble” spell if you asked me…Divine somethin’ or other?

    I don’t play my pally much, but I did have fun while I leveled him. He sits at 85 and acts as my go to tank for old content (raids/dungeons) to solo or tank for guild groups looking for moggin’ gear. I still don’t know what half his abilities are, let alone use them…but I can agree with you on the fact that Prot Pallies do have A LOT of stuff to use….you just never “need” to use them while questing. I really wish Blizz would bring back class quests, and expand on them, for players like me to give us a good way to learn what all those abilities are really for….lol.


  8. You should have been playing while Prot/Ret was popular during wrath. I always thought that that was what tanking should always feel like (though the actual act of pressing the buttons was too easy and the DPS was too high, but it felt so damn entertaining).


    • Oh, I did. I had a max level Paladin, Ret/Prot, and played at 80 in both tanking and DPS in instances with the Zug Initiative on Kael’thas. I just didn’t transfer that character over to the new server.


  9. For Z runs, I enjoy my prot pally more than my prot warr (who are both about the same 360 ilvl), but my bears still win on my fun meter (albeit with better gear).

    The biggest problem I find with the pally is the lack of *zerg*. If there’s a spot where I want to cull as many mobs as possible asap, the Warr pops a cd putting Cleave & HeroicStrike on the GCD (rather than 6 sec cd), or the bear goes berserk and mangles them… the pally chugs along without dying, but doesn’t have that spark. eg silly pull of extra adds (especially fire mages); or the cat phase of the last boss in ZA; or killing the big mob after the 3rd chain is down at the end of ZG.

    It’s not the tanks job to do massive dps, but to paraphrase what you’ve said above, different strokes for different folks. Applies to games, but also applies to what makes a tank fun.

    My main bear feels epic 🙂


  10. I absolutely loved “leveling” my Prot-Paladin! But, I’ve found myself going back to my Hunter (Main) once the Pally reaches level 85. I find myself getting actually “scared” to tank level 85+ heorics (the + being Trollroics). I’ll log on with the intention of using the LFD tool; and then start to get those stomach quivers.

    Man, I hate those.

    So, I’ll do a couple of dailies and then log onto my Hunter.

    I’ve not had the time to study up on the Heroic dungeons, so that leaves me feeling that not only that I’ll epicly FAIL; but also that I “shouldn’t” go in as a tank. I have a Ret spec, but I’m doing abysmal dps with it. 😦



  11. My main is a warrior tank, but I do also have a prot pally alt. I have to admit – randoms are easier on my pally.
    It’s just nice to be able to start out on “full”. Except for holy power, you can do everything at the start. Shut those casters down with the shield, hit more than one on the ranged pull, then again hit more than one in melee… Taunt multiples off the hunter. And then, perhaps, a casual glance at the mana bar 😉

    Of course it really really helps to run with a healer that you trust 😉


  12. Everyone will have a different opinion on SWTOR and WOW. As long as they have enough people to keep the servers turned on I’ll be happy. Something that’s a deal breaker to one person, might only be an annoyance to someone else. I hope, likely in vain, that the tribalism so often seen among mmo fans won’t develop between wow and SWTOR. Play and pay for what you like.


    • Oh I heartily agree there! For instance, I tried Guild Wars when it first came out, and there wasn’t a “jump” option, so I never went back – but thank goodness there was a large enough player base that they’re coming out with GW2 – a game I’ve tried and really enjoyed.

      I’m glad there are different game styles – not just genres – being developed – one size fits all, never does. As long as the harshest criticism for a game is “it’s not for me”, the innertron will be a fairly nice place to be.


    • You’re absolutely right.

      One thing I was sad to see was the level of bickering between people that continued to play WoW and those that left to play Rift and were enthusiastic about it.

      I tried Rift, I thought it was a great game. I still do. Again, somehow it wasn’t as good a fit for me as WoW still is.

      What I think is, if one game is good, it does not detract from another game being good too. Sometimes it feels as though people act like there is a set “Good Bar” that gets shared among MMOs, say 100 points, and if one game gets a 50 then the other games all have to share the other 50 points left over. You know what I mean?

      Like, if one person wants their game to be liked more, than for it’s score to go above 50, then all the other games have to be disliked more to give up their points. “Come, agree with us that x is great, so your chosen y isn’t as good.”

      I don’t have a problem with a world where there are two absolutely great MMOs out, and if I don’t play both, or quit one to play another, it’s okay.


      • I think that we are have been indoctrinated with a philosophy of scarcity. This idea abounds that there are only limited resources (in this case “players), and that you have to have all or none! I don’t buy that. So much is renewable. For instance, I’m fully prepared to run instances with my two children when they finally come of age. There is more than enough people, and future potential customers, to go around in the MMO universe.



  13. Hear hear! I’ve just chain-tanked my way to Level 80 on my newly rolled Prot Pally and I can say that everything – from ‘the right tools for every situation’ to that epic feeling that you describe is spot on.

    Overall, it has made me feel “THIS is the tank that Blizzard designs encounters around.” And, just to be clear, I have a level 85 Bear and DK tank who both raid as well as an 85 warrior tank working my way through the troll 5 mans. (I rolled the Pally to complete my set.)

    It makes me wonder what it would be like – today – to reroll my bear main and chain tank my way up. Or the DK, or the Warrior. I suspect I would still feel the Pally is THE tanking experience. Which leaves me kind of a sad bear as I had always bore a bit of a fun grudge against those pally tanks but now that I’ve drank from the well of light-based kook-aid, I have to say again I agree with what you’ve experienced as well.

    I suspect I will not forsake my raiding bear – the wannabe RPGer in me just won’t let that go – but my Pally will become Tank #2…


    • I really do feel the same way. I am really wondering if I should try chain tanking a new feral Bear druid up through the ranks, see if I can’t get that same sweet spot out of it.


      • I am leveling a second druid these days, mostly as a pvp cat but I did tank a few instances too. Now that we get swipe early, bears are pretty easy to tank pugs with. With heirloom gear, bear dps is pretty high.

        I did it for the pvp aspect though, I macroed charge to /roar. Now when my cat charges out of stealth, roaring and lands a ravage for 75% of my target’s health, it does feel rather OP. 😀 With a mouseover feral faerie fire macro bound to mousewheel up, my feral druid is a rogue hunting machine.

        OP gear is fun, in instances, a kitty in pvp epics swiping away turns packs of adds into mulch. In BGs if you have a bunch of enemies at a flag and go into berserk swipe mode, they die before they know whats going on.

        I got the honor epics at 70 and it was a hoot! What sucks though is how your dps actually goes down as you level past 70… the combat ratings curve is steep and at 73 you’re usually doing less dps as a cat than you were at 70. 🙂

        It IS fun to be OP. 😀


  14. I understand perfectly. You should never play a game if it doesn’t really “click” with you. We all have games that we seem to fit in like a glove. I will always love reading your blog, no matter what. 😉


  15. I do love pally tanking, I totally agree with you that Pally tanking is a world different from Warrior tanking, although I do love Warrior tanking as well. I have never tried Druid or DK tanking but the difference between the Warrior and Pally tanking makes me appreciate both of them when I go tank one after the other. Where pally tanks have a lot of OHSH*T buttons, the mobility of the Warrior tank makes it very different, not better, not worse just very different. Cheers for trying Pally tanking, I hope you continue at it. More of less Pally tanking at 85 for normal 5 or heroic 5 is pretty much as you have it now… but if you tank a lot on a Pally you might get spoiled so you need to hit up the other tanks to appreciate the difference and I guess embrace it.


  16. ❤ Go go baar!

    One thing to add to your shiny shiny post of happiness!

    Best thing about tanking is that as long as you play an MMO with threat skills, ALL the skills you listed are transferrable.

    It's really kinda neat. XD A tank knows a tank anywhere. As long as the threat mechanic is there, it doesn't matter that hugely what the game is.


  17. BBB, I am an avid reader and big fan of you and your blog. That said, I am seriously dissapointed that you would blow off a chance at SW:TOR so easily.

    I took part in last round if beta and am not looking back at WoW ever again. While opinions on games can differ, and your mileage may vary during gameplay… I think you might need to at least give next beta round a chance.

    Yes, there are bugs. Yes, there is a bit more polish that needs done. I just personally prefer SW:TOR now.

    My background in WoW spans since Vanilla up to raiding Firelands, for those wondering. ; )


    • No, that’s cool. I’m sure that a lot of people will find SW:TOR to be brilliant. No judgment call there.

      I played it hard the first night, and the second day started tapering off.

      I’m not saying one is better than the other, but I am saying that for me It wasn’t love at first sight, and it wasn’t immersive for me. It wasn’t my thing.

      I think I gave it a pretty good try, did a lot of class starts, was impressed by many things. Just played it enough to learn it wasn’t *my* thing.

      I’m pretty sure I can say it’s going to be a massive hit, and also I think a pretty long lasting one. It’s certainly not a one night wonder.

      If not getting into it makes me a bad person, well, I can do without being good then. 🙂


      • +1

        Was in the same beta as you, BBB and felt the same way. I really wanted to like it – I’m a pretty big SW geek anyway, but that game, just wasn’t for ME.

        The way I’ve come to describe it – SWTOR is an AMAZING!!!! Single player game. It’s (imo, of course) crap for a MMORPG. But that’s just me, and I have friends who are fawning over it. There were other issues that were game killers for me too – most blatant was the very “loose” character movement control. I need it tight! WoW has very tight character control. SWTOR doesn’t. It’s my personal litmus test, and it failed. No biggie – other people obviously have no issue with that – that’s cool. Just, not for me.

        Anyway. Back on topic.

        Love my pally. I was Holy for all of WotK with her, then Cata came out, changed her into a him (cow) and HATED Holy. Leveled from 80 to 85 as Prot on a suggestion from our primary raid tank (paladin). Loved it. Hitting 85 though, as with every other class I’ve played to 85, sucked. It takes A LOT of good gear to turn an 85 back to feeling epic again. Have that kind of gear on my druid – love my druid (resto/balance) but wouldn’t want to tank on him. My pally though… epic at questing, decent at tanking non-trolls – haven’t even touched a troll with him for fear of failing… (tbh, I hate the trolls regardless of what class / role I’m doing so there’s that).

        Regarding the PvP gear – I actually took off my heirlooms on my shaman when I got the 60 gear, and then rolled pvp long enough to get the 70 gear (the 60 stuff easily lasts that long – and the 70 actually has resil on it, for better pvp management). Was a blast doing dungeons in the epic gear. Good choice!


  18. If you do decide to try a DK, dont try to tank until 60. That is when you get Death and Decay. Heart Strike is good, but does nothing for groups over 3.


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