I started my WoW career as a tank. It was what I did all through classic and much of The Burning Crusade through to Cataclysm. I’ve geared several and had to break through that initial barrier of feeling ready for the end-game many times (considering the need to do so for each expansion). Heck, on older blogs of mine I’d even written guides on exactly how to do this.

Changed up his look again. It’s dangerously close to being Paladin-y, but I’ll take it.

So finding that doing it again was something I was now abjectly terrified of (or at least… You know, as much as one can be within the context of a game) was a bit of a surprise.

I’d boosted this warrior with the specific intent to get me back to tanking at max level. Reading that back, I see I even mentioned being afraid of jumping back into tanking there — but I thought I was being hyperbolic at the time.

Turns out? Not so much, because hoo-boy did I feel unprepared last night when the opportunity to do so was thrust upon me. I’d been working on it, sure. Every day since I boosted (granted, only a few days in total) I’d run every world-quest offering a piece of gear. I’d also run a number of heroics as Fury looking for armour upgrades. I hadn’t switched my loot specialisation to Prot yet though, because I wanted better weapons in particular, to become less of a drag on the groups that I was running with.

Those endeavours helped, no doubt. Much of the starting boost gear of ilvl 390 greens was replaced with blues between 410-420. But I’d still not set foot into a single end-game dungeon as tank.

The Difference in Knowing vs. Doing

To be clear, this was with a group of friends too. This scenario didn’t even call for jumping in with PUGs. And still I thought this was a very bad, no good, quite terrible idea.

I think this difference between knowing and doing, or having put something into practice was one of the key problems that led to my sudden and quite intense aversion to tanking when asked. I’d done my theory work. I’d studied the guides, knew the rotations in theory.

But what this study had shown me, was that almost everything I knew of Warrior tanking before should be thrown out the window. There was no way around the fact that there was going to be a period of adjustment. Of throwing out old reflexes and muscle memory, rewriting them with current information. During which I would be highly unskilled.

And if there is one role where skill is apparent to everyone, in every action you take — it is as tank.

There is no hiding up there, front in centre in everything you do.

Of course — there is only one way to start making theoretical knowledge practical. So after (admittedly much) cajoling, I agreed. I warned everyone to expect the run of Mythic Waycrest Manor we were about to embark on to be a ‘bit of a team sport’.

The Run

It… It wasn’t bad. We didn’t wipe. No-one died. But that was absolutely on the strength of our healer somehow managing to keep me up along with everyone else when the enemy decided to roam free hitting people willy-nilly.

My performance was bad. No two ways about it.

One of those old reflexive things I have that I’m going to have to burn away is hitting Revenge every time it lights up. Revenge used to be a 5 (or maybe 10?) rage ability that you hit as often as you could, behind shield slam in priority sure — but if it was up — putting it back on cooldown ASAP was a pretty good thing.

Now it’s a 30 rage ability, sort of a mini-Shockwave. You only want to hit it when it procs, because then its rage cost is removed. If you use it on cooldown regardless of proc status you’re never going to hit the rage necessary to keep Shield Block and Ignore Pain up as much as you should.

I knew this before the run though — actually stopping that reflexive Revenging is something that’s going to need a little more effort and focus.

I didn’t take any screenshots of this run. No time. Too busy panicking. ;)
This however does show my Warrior in *sigh* Nazjatar. My resolve to ‘never go there again ever’ lasted perhaps a week. I really want the Legendary Cape on my Warrior too though — so I have to go at least as far as unlocking the town and portal again.

The other thing I wasn’t doing correctly was Thunderclapping often enough on trash pulls. The cooldown on TC is really, really short now. So the rhythm of activating it I was used to was just way off base. And it did lead to trash running away from me regardless of a a Heroic Throw / TC / Shockwave opener.

The third and final thing I’ll note on a performance / adaptation front for the time being is getting used to the new rate of Rage generation. It is slow compared to what I remember. This makes absolute sense given how many abilities no longer cost any rage at all, and the fact that Ignore Pain’s only throttling is via Rage (it has no cooldown otherwise) — but the difference certainly had a compounding effect with my overzealous use of Revenge in particular.

So those are the things I’m going to work on first — and on balance I’m glad I went. I’m also glad I went with friends who went in knowing what was coming instead of potentially giving a set of pugs a very bad day.

I also got more loot than anyone could reasonably expect over the course of the run too. Every piece of ilvl 430 gear equipped below came from that run. One or two pieces I was awarded directly by the RNG-lords, the rest came from friends in the group who didn’t need it.

I also thought the least I could do for next time is to enchant my rings and weapon.

What Still Strikes me as a Little Strange Though…

…Is how specific this fear was to max level tanking.

When I was asked to jump onto a 60-something Deathknight I’ve not touched in an equally long time as my Warrior to tank some leveling dungeons? Not a single worry.

I needed a few minutes to shift skills around my bars to adapt to the changes, to respec etc, but I had not the slightest consternation about doing so. And while I had a friend coming with me — every other member of the group would be a PUG. Their expectations are likely not going to be any less than that of a player at max level, either. They still want quick, efficient runs with no slow downs or mishaps.

I’m not sure I could tell you then, why this didn’t give me the slightest bit of pause.

At the risk of irritating DK-tanks everywhere, perhaps it has something to do with the fact they’re easier to tank with. I don’t mean to say they’re any less complex or have any less ability for nuanced and skillful play — but they have a lot of tools for either preventing mishaps from happening in the first place (ability to remotely place Death & Decay) or recover from them quickly if they do happen (Death Grip on top of a standard taunt).

That might be it. But I’m also not sure it’s the full story either.

Ah well. We’ll have to see how future adventures in Nait-is-tanking-again go. Ripping off the bandaid with that initial run on the Warrior has helped in getting me looking forward to doing it again though, that’s for sure. :)


Gamer, reader, writer, husband and father of two boys. Former WoW and Gaming blogger, making a return to the fold to share my love of all things looty.


pkudude99 · May 16, 2020 at 2:54 am

I’m kinda running in to that in FFXIV right now. In the Stormblood expansion I swapped to tank main simply so I could get in to quicker dungeon queues for the weekly tokens for gear, and found that I really enjoyed it. Now in Shadowbringers, I had no problem leveling my tanks up, but for the max level dungeons, I’ve had a hard time convincing myself that I’ll be ok. My gear’s good (crafted myself a full set of i480 gear, which is about what the endgame dungeons are dropping right now anyway), and holding aggro in the current expansion is so easy as to be laughable, yet… I dunno what my mental block is this time around.

I’m sure I’ll get there eventually….

    Naithin · May 16, 2020 at 7:44 am

    Is it a whole new set of dungeons when you hit max level in Shadowbringers? I haven’t been through to the end game — although I can imagine having the problem there too. I didn’t at all mind tanking the lower level content, like you, I enjoyed it even. But I’ve still not made it through to Heavensward yet let alone all the way to end game!

    I wonder if it’s something to do with the levelling people you might end up with feeling a bit more transient in nature — people will level at different rates and you feel that there is less chance of running into these exact people again, especially in the world of server aggregation tech for dungeon queues.

    It might not be that we don’t value these people any less, or that we don’t want to not give them a bad day by performing poorly — but even so that the stakes are lower, compared to the max level crowd where this is it. It’s the community for the forseeable future.

    But I’m still not sure if that tracks, again given the server aggregation tech for dungeon queues. Hmm.

    In any case; if you’ve been practicing it on the way leveling up and have equal gear to what is being dropped I bet you’d do absolutely fine once you do break through that mental block. :)

pkudude99 · May 17, 2020 at 11:45 am

Yeah, I’m sure I’ll be fine… eventually. I never had any trouble before, after all. Even when I was “catching up” the gear levels after an 18 month break and thus had a whole slew of new dungeons to do do I never had a problem jumping right in, so I dunno why I’ve got this block anymore. Maybe I should try it a time or 3 as a dps to learn the fights or something 1st?

    Naithin · May 17, 2020 at 12:17 pm

    Going through as DPS certainly would help I think. Even though I’d done the fights before, they were as a healer where all I had to worry about was not standing in the bad.

    I didn’t have to worry about what to interrupt, positioning at close range around the bosses or mobs (cleaves, etc).

    Learning all that from a close-range DPS role in particular might help grow comfort levels before jumping into tanking hot seat. :)

paeroka · May 22, 2020 at 10:47 pm

I get that fear with random people/strangers and in dungeons that I don’t know well. But in order to know one well – especially for tanking – one has to run through it. So… bah.

I never thought I’d like tanking until I ended up playing the Black Orc in Warhammer Online – yeah, I know… what PvE? But there were public quests which required a tank and even knowing how to pull small groups of enemies around a corner and so on! I loved tanking in these public quests even with strangers around (since it’s public, it can’t be avoided anyway). No problem at all. Then I went back to WoW and… nope. Too much fear and too many worries about not being a good enough tank.

In Lotro, I also played a tank, but only with friends in small groups. Absolutely loved every minute of it!

    Naithin · May 23, 2020 at 4:19 am

    That conflict of needing to know for each specific dungeon but only being able to learn (in full) by running them is certainly a factor, I think. It’s interesting that Tank by far and away has this issue the most too. I will comfortably run anything as tank or healer without the slightest foreknowledge and the intent to learn on the go (for dungeons at least, Raids are a little different).

    Tanks though… Nope. xD

    There are fundamental skills you can pick-up for sure (like pulling around corners where needed!) — but I’m just not yet confident enough in these even to run into a dungeon blind yet.

    There was a time when I was, I started my warrior in Wrath and ran into Nexus and Utgarde Keep never having played them in the alpha even a single time. But I suppose too there is a difference in expectation. Leveling dungeons just don’t carry the same weight of expectation that max level dungeons do.

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