I’ve really been loving playing my young Paladin the last few weeks. Well, I suppose I fell in love with her months ago, but it’s definitely been one of those off and on sort of relationships. I know that I’ve said this before, but as a long time caster and healer, a Paladin was by far the most intuitive tanking class to pick up. I love having a mana bar, the “feel” of casting instant spells, and the sense of insurance that comes with being able to fill up on resources before plunging into a group of angry beasties with axes. I love Righteous Defense – it’s just easier for me to click on my healer’s frame to pull multiple mobs off of him than target and taunt each of them or run around like a mad person hacking at every loose add. As someone who has never played a melee class before, I adore the simplicity of the early Paladin melee attacks (read: auto-attack) – it gives me some free time and cooldowns to watch the field, taunt loose mobs, keep track of my healer and his mana, manage my health and defensive cooldowns, and generally pay attention to all the new and interesting Tanking Stuff without obsessing over maximizing a fancy sword rotation. In short, I loved Paladin tanking to death from about level 18 to 22. Then I just kinda got bogged down with the hassle of dealing with PUGs.
Sure, I’d just leveled two healers back to back in the dungeon system (not to mention gearing them up in heroics), and was a bit burned out on random PUGs. But mostly it was just stressful and annoying to try to figure out all the Wonderful Tanking Niftyness while herding badly behaved dps and healers who were paying more attention to the television than my health bar. It just wasn’t the fun and relaxing break from raiding that it was supposed to be. So what changed? Well first, I found a resource that is actually helpful in getting my head around thinking like a tank. And second? I have my own healer. A couple weeks ago my boyfriend offered to heal for me, and that has made all the difference in the world. Errrrr…I guess it didn’t exactly transpire like that. He…ummm…asked me if I would heal his new Paladin on my baby shaman. I jumped at the chance of spending some quality leveling time with him again…and then I somehow talked him into rolling a second shaman to heal my fledgling tank instead. (This is less a reflection on my persuasiveness as it is of his being a real sweet guy.) In fact, after talking it out with him, he insisted.
I have to admit that I completely underestimated how much having a healer I could trust would change everything, beyond just feeling secure I wasn’t going to die on any given pull. It’s done wonders for my confidence – and confidence is everything in tanking. First off, I have someone in vent to ask which way to go if I get lost (I’m looking at you Gnomeregon), and that alone makes me look and feel less like an unsure noob. Second, I have an experienced tank on hand in case I happen to have any questions or can’t figure out why a group or pull isn’t working. Third, if anything needs to be said in party chat (whether it’s giving directions, correcting an issue, or arguing with someone acting like a jerk) he takes care of it, freeing me up to keep moving – something that makes all the impatient dps in Azeroth happier. All in all, this has resulted in smoother, faster runs and a much more relaxed and confident Paladin. While there’s always going to be the occasional annoyance, I haven’t had a single bad run since he joined me. Win.
So we’ve been playing about over the last couple weeks, meandering our way through Stocks, and RFK, and Gnomeregon, and it’s been fun enough and I’ve been fairly competent and decently paced – but this weekend something just clicked. Both my Resto Shaman and my tank hit 29 – time for SM: Graveyard. I got lucky with some late night Graveyard runs on my Shaman; I chanced across a good tank (another Pally in fact) up for doing chained runs for a couple levels. So, I got to get used to the layout and pulls while healing before trying them from the perspective of a tank. So yesterday when I queued up with my boyfriend and another guildmate, I actually felt like I might finally know what I was doing. And, it seems like I really did. Oh, there’s still a ton of things I need to improve, but it all just started to click. Suddenly, it was just blatantly obvious that a pull would go more smoothly if I silenced that group of casters over there, or used a cooldown here, or line of sighted those two groups around this corner.
After a clean run at a reasonable pace, he suggested* I do more chain pulls and pulling multiple packs, eventually talking me into doing the entirety of the run in three pulls. (I’m pretty sure we even did it in two once.) And that, my friends, was seven quick levels of glorious fun. In fact, it was much more fun than I ever expected tanking to be. Maybe because it actually felt like I was tanking. It’s a damned efficient way to level – twenty percent of a level in three minutes is wicked xp, and everyone loves to queue up again for quick successful runs. It also did wonders for my mana – a result I still find slightly confusing. I don’t suppose it sounds like much in these days of gogogogo roflstoping Heroic dailies…but it was sure impressive to me. I’m not entirely sure how I went from starting to remember where I’d keybound my Hand of Reckoning to chain pulling half an instance, or pulling four packs of mobs and the boss all at once overnight – but it seems that I did.
So that is the story of how I figured out that I actually enjoy tanking. I finally got into the headspace where I was comfortably managing spinning half a dozen plates at once – running into a pull, while generating threat, while making sure everything is attacking me from the front, while silencing casters, while keeping an eye on my health and mana and cooldowns, while shepherding loose mobs, while making sure my healer (and his mana) is keeping up, while making mental notes of how to streamline that pull for the next time around. I just like thinking that much. I simply adore the strategy involved in planning and implementing efficient systems. I find that if I know my way around, I rather like facilitating the pace of the group, while working with my healer to keep everyone alive. I imagine other people like hitting things with big swords, but I don’t get that at all.
*And by “suggested” I mean he tactfully started throwing Lightning Bolts at nearby groups and drew them into my pretty crackly yellow aura of doom until I gave in and range-pulled them myself.