The Fear of Max Level Tanking
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.
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’.
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.
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.
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. :)