1. What is the name, class, and spec of your primary tank?
Theck, a protection paladin. Theck’s been my main since release in November 2004.
Ironically enough, Theck was almost a warrior.I started playing with a group of Diablo II friends, and when I told them I was thinking of rolling a warrior, the ringleader said “No way, roll a paladin instead. They’re just as good as warriors, but they can heal too.” Note that this was at release, and warriors were in a pretty weak state back then, they got buffed a lot pretty early in Classic WoW, if my memory is correct.
2. What is your primary group tanking environment? (i.e. raids, pvp, 5 mans)
Generally 25-man raids. I do enjoy tanking 5-mans, but there’s only so much time in the day, I have a lot of alts, and generally Theck isn’t in need of the valor points.
3. What is your favorite cooldown for your class and why?
It’s a toss-up between GAnK and Holy Shield. GAnK simply because it’s powerful and awesome-looking. It’s one of the best spell animations/effects in the game right now, in my opinion. Holy Shield because it’s a cooldown that I’ve been wanting for quite a while and because I put a lot of time into defending it in community discussions. Even a week or two before 4.2 arrived, I feel like the discussion about Holy Shield had shifted tone towards the positive, and I’d like to think that I played an important role in helping the community change their mind about the ability.
4. What tanking CD do you use least for your class and why?
Guardian of Ancient Kings, actually. I use Holy Shield and Divine Protection pretty heavily, and I’ve gotten pretty good at using AD in situations where I can get the “1up” proc to trigger. Since GAnK is our big cooldown, I tend to hang on to it for really dire situations or cases where none of the other options are available. LoH earns an honorable mention because of its long cooldown, but I use it pretty frequently despite that limitation.
5. What do you feel is the biggest strength of your tanking class and why?
By far, I think a paladin’s biggest strength is our versatility. We have buttons to press for everything. Our utility spells are second to none, and we can make significant threat<->survivability trades on-the-fly. We’re the Swiss Army Knife of tanks.
Sure, we have all the baseline “tanky” stuff, but because of our hybrid / combat support roots we also get things like HoSac, HoProtection, HoSalv, Lay on Hands, WoG, Holy Radiance, and Divine Shield. Other tanks might have an ability that emulates one or two of those, but none have the whole suite. It’s almost unfair – you can play so many stupid game-breaking tricks with LoH or Divine Shield alone that all the other tanks would be jealous, let alone the Hand spells and significant raid-healing capabilities.
6. What do you feel is the biggest weakness of your class and why?
A lot of people would say “mobility” here, and I have to admit that one thing I absolutely love about playing my warrior alt is the ability to Charge, Intercept, and Heroic Leap all over the place. But I don’t really see that as our biggest weakness. Don’t get me wrong, we do suffer in that department. But we have more ranged abilities than the other tanks (Judgement, AS, a second taunt that can pick up multiple mobs, Exorcism in a pinch), which more or less makes up for it. Sure, we can’t move to the mobs as easily as a warrior, but no other tank has as many ways to grab mobs from range and pull them in.
In truth, I think the biggest weakness is a meta-weakness. The protection paladin subspec has been ground up and rebuilt in every major expansion. I certainly think that the Cataclysm rendition is the best one so far – it’s much better than being “the AoE tank” in BC or “the faceroll tank” in Wrath. But having your mechanics rebuilt every expansion is a double-edged sword. The good side is that every iteration, the devs have been learning more about what works and what doesnt, and they’ve been able to incorporate that into our new mechanics. The bad side is that the core mechanics change every expansion, so they never really get the time to mature. That’s not to say that we’re not raid-capable or balanced or anything, but when you look at the mechanics, you can definitely see the “rough patches” around the edges that the devs didn’t have time to smooth out.
The best counter-example of this is the protection warrior; they’ve been tweaking and refining the same basic concept for 6 years now, and it shows. It’s elegant, has all the tools it needs, and in general “just works.” They’ve had the time to take the mechanics and adjust them until they evolve into one coherent, intuitive kit. Druids are pretty well-off, as they’ve kept most of the same core mechanics since BC. DKs are probably still in the same boat as we are.
7. In a raiding environment, what do you feel, in general, is the best tanking assignment for you?
I tend to be an add-hound. My co-tank is also a paladin, so it’s not a matter of which class is better-suited to which role. I have a fairly extensive track record of being good at handling multiple mobs. Whether it’s good reactions, judicious use of mouseover macros, raid awareness, or something else entirely, I just seem to have a knack for “rounding shit up.” So I tend to take those jobs – Felmyst, OS3D, Halion, Maloriak, Nefarian, you get the picture. If there are “many whelps,” I’m the guy who handles it. In many cases, the add tank has a more demanding job than the boss tank – ask anyone who’s tried both roles on Heroic Nefarian.
8. What tanking class do you enjoy tanking with most and why?
I generally find that it has less to do with class than with player. A good player of any class is a joy to play with, and a bad player of any class can be a frustration.That said, I really do enjoy tanking with another paladin. We have such a strong skill set that doubling up on paladins can almost break certain encounters, and it’s nice knowing that the other tank can do everything you can. The downside is that while you can exploit “stupid pally tricks,” you don’t get to exploit “stupid warrior/druid/DK tricks” on fights where those help.
9. What tanking class do you enjoy tanking with least and why?
Warriors. Not because I don’t like warriors, but because every time I see them Heroic Leap I die a little bit inside out of jealousy. Also, I absolutely hate the new sound for Devastate.
10. What is your worst habit as a tank?
Cooldown Hoarding. It’s something I’ve actively been working to fix lately. I have a tendency to sit on cooldowns and save them for emergencies. Often that means I don’t pop them until it’s too late. It’s one of the reasons I loved the new Holy Shield implementation – it gives me the guilt-free cooldown I needed, so that I can hit it at the first sign of danger. I’ve been getting a lot more liberal about my cooldown usage in general lately though, since the Firelands encounters I’ve seen so far seem to have fewer prescribed “use this cooldown here” mechanics.
11. What is your biggest pet peeve in a group environment while tanking?
Other tanks that are taunt-happy. It’s one of the few things that drives me really batty, especially when it’s a new app tank. Spreading the mobs around to minimize the intake on each tank is one thing, but taunting my only mob away when you already have a few of your own is just irritating. Watching you go splat after you do is kind of fun though.
12. Do you feel that your class/spec is well balanced with others tanks for tanking?
If anything, I think that paladins are a little stronger than the other tanks right now. We have pretty high baseline mitigation and a lot of cooldowns to leverage. The best analogy I can come up with is that we’re a DK with a shield – lots of cooldowns with much less spike damage. And of course, the versatile raid utility spells we bring to the table doesn’t hurt our case.
13. What tools do you use to evaluate your own performance as a tank?
Surprisingly, I don’t look at my own WoL parses very much. Most of my self-evaluation comes more immediately and in-game, either by looking at Acheron death logs to see what I did wrong or by figuring out which fight mechanics I need to react to more quickly or effectively. If I didn’t die or screw up, then generally the only room for improvement is micromanaging a little better to boost DPS. While that’s a laudable goal, it’s secondary to “getting the job done.” A dead boss is a dead boss, whether it was a pretty kill or not.
14. What do you think is the biggest misconception people have about your tanking class?
That paladins are a faceroll class. It’s a stigma that we acquired in Wrath and never really went away. The “new and improved” 939 rotation isn’t a huge help in that department, since it’s so similar to the old 969. I’d argue that it’s finally on-par with the difficulty of a warrior or bear rotation, but the cost of failure (i.e. hitting the wrong buttons) is much less severe for a paladin. It’ll take a complete re-work of our rotation to fix that though, so I don’t expect to see it happen until 5.0.
15. What do you feel is the most difficult thing for new tanks of your class to learn?
I think that smart use of party/raid utility is probably the toughest thing. The rotation isn’t hard to pick up, nor is the basics of using cooldowns. But they’re often so focused on these “must hold threat, must survive” parts of tanking that they miss the more subtle aspects of their toolkit.
Learning how to use utility spells is more of an art than a science. Saving party members and avoiding wipes through the use HoSac, HoSalv, HoProt, WoG, Holy Radiance, and so on is one of our biggest strengths. But it’s not something that beginner tanks normally concern themselves with, and it’s one of those things that you just have to get a feel for through practice.
16. So, how about that whole vengeance mechanic, eh?
Mel and I have had long, longconversations about this. In short, I don’t think it’s a fundamentally flawed mechanic, but the implementation causes more collateral damage than it needs to. I think that with some refinement, it could be a lot smoother and more enjoyable.
For example, if it stacked faster and/or stacked on dodges or parries as well, it wouldn’t be as subject to avoidance-related RNG issues. Similarly, it’s basically useless for an off-tank in its current form, and makes tank-swapping unnecessarily complicated (“hey, stop attacking for a few seconds until I get some Vengeance”). If there was an additional “underdog” component, something like “You also gain Vengeance when attacking opponents of higher level,” it would make the off-tank feel less useless, would stack faster in PvE, but wouldn’t have any effect on PvP.
17. Stamina, Combat Table Coverage, or total Damage Reduction?
I’ve generally been in the Stamina/CTC camp. TDR was relevant when healers ran OOM healing a tank in the first month or two of Cataclysm, but I think most raiding guilds have progressed past that point. In T11 I went for a balance of Stam and CTC since block-cap carried a significant health cost. As I accumulate more T12 I’m going to aim for CTC to block-cap and then convert any excess itemization to stamina.
18. What tanking class do you feel you understand least?
Death Knights. I tanked some ICC raids on a warrior alt in Wrath, so I’m pretty familiar with warriors. I’ve tanked a few heroics at 85 on my druid alt, so I feel like I have a rudimentary understanding of how they work. But I’ve really never played a DK at anything near the level cap, so I just don’t have a firsthand feel for how their mechanics work.
19. What add-ons or macros do you use, if any, to aid you in tanking?
Lots. I run around 150-200 addons at any given time, though most of them aren’t strictly tanking-related. The tanking-specific ones I do use are TidyPlates, BigBrother to tell me when someone’s taunted my target, PowerAuras for special boss notifications/reminders and rotation assistance, Grid and Clique for efficient Hand/Taunt/WoG use on party members, and PitBull for a more informative unit frame layout.
I also use a lot of macros. The one I use most heavily is my mouseover/taunt/cleanse macro, but I also have a keybind or two for targeting or encounter-specific macros that get swapped in and out. I also make use of macros for self-WoG, self-HoSalv, self-HoFreedom, a cancelaura macro for Divine Shield, and probably a few others I’ve forgotten.
20. Do you strive primarily for balance between your tanking stats (stam, mastery, avoidance), or do you stack some much higher than others, and why?
It depends on the encounter that’s giving us the most trouble at the time – I don’t generally bother tailoring my gear for farm content. In the past, I’ve switched from full stam stacking to full CTC depending on what the fight rewarded most. I haven’t yet stacked avoidance for any fight, but I could see it happening for heroic Baleroc, for example. If I’m not trying to optimize for any particular fight, I tend to go for a mix of stam and CTC, though now that block-cap is fairly easy to reach I’ll be pushing for that first.