Thursday, April 5, 2012

What Happened to Paladin Tanks?

Throughout Firelands, I never felt like I had a problem as a Paladin tank, I could handle every single encounter, even heroics, just okay, I didn't feel like I was holding the raid back. Dragon Soul on normal mode was also the same, in that I thought we were just fine and I solo-tanked almost every boss in here except for Ultraxion and Warmaster. We might have been a bit overpowered in Tier 11 (remember all the add-tanking fights where we basically put up Holy Shield and giggled? Paladins were gods on Nefarian, arguably the toughest normal-mode boss in T11 which was full of tough, tough fights.)

So, going into Dragon Soul heroics I felt confident of my ability to continue to lead the tank-team as my co-tank puts out amazing 40k+ DPS in her beloved Frost spec anyway, we were both happy. Then we ran into two nights of wipes with Heroic Yor'sahj.

World of Glory just wan't enough to keep things going during Purple phase and if I ran out of cool-downs, I was dead. Lay on Hands was an uber-powerful tool but I really only got to use it once during the entire fight. After trying many, many, many strategies, we swapped me out for the DK. He died in 4 pulls.

I shrugged it off, I didn't think it was going to be indicative of a long-term problem, and my ego is strong enough to handle the fact that I don't get to tank EVERY fight in the entire expansion, that's okay. So we get to Heroic Hagara and every time she puts up Focused Assault, I get gibbed unless I'm hitting so many cooldowns that I have nothing left to go for the second cast of Focused Assault.

After the fourth or fifth time I was gibbed right out of the gate, I frowned and looked through my combat log looking at the damage done, whether I had Holy Shield up or not and... it didn't seem to be making a difference. I check my block-macro and it shows me a big, happy 102.7% coverage number which is 0.3% over where I need to be. Curiously, I do a couple of searches for Holy Shield and Hagara and, sure enough, Focused Assault is unblockable.

From the description of the Mastery, the Protection Paladin class is build around being able to soak through some of the incoming damage on their shields. There is a reason block-capping was not removed and Mastery was not nerfed throughout the expansion - because it became an easy metric to balance encounters around shield-tanks. Ferals had their physical damage shields and DKs had Death Strike.

The model worked - tanks were generally balanced enough that using shield-tanks didn't stone-wall raid groups. Until we get into a fight where the primary point of execution for a tank is to survive a narrow band of burst damage... using tools that are ineffective against the source of damage.

Now, there are ways around it, but none of them are pleasant or reliable.

  • Kiting is unreliable at best, and risky given the stacks built from Shards.
  • Bubble/Taunt is a weak, weak solution prone to its own problems
  • Taunt/juggle only works if you have a Paladin healer

So, rather than try all of that, we had our Boomkin go Feral just to see how it handles, and he is gear a little bit better than Firelands - 380something while I am at iLevel 397 in my tanking set. The healers never lost him to a Focused Assault.

It was jaw-dropping to see the difference in damage intake - and depressing.

Am I going to be able to tank Heroic Zon'ozz or do we have to let the DK handle it as well due to the amount of Magic AoE damage in phase 2? That would be three fights that I'm useless for as a tank, and if I didn't keep a set of DPS gear and play the spec at a reasonable level of competence, I would have to be benched because my class cannot do these fights, or at least not without making things unnecessarily difficult.

It isn't all doom and gloom - this week, our DK was missing and I was able to tank Heroic Yor'sahj with very, very twitchy fingers over my cool-downs and I was in constant communication with the healers. It felt more difficult than it needed to be, but I'm not concerned with that - I will always, always take the most difficult job whenever I can. What botherse me when I feel like I'm holding up the progression and making life hell for the healers by insisting I tank through mechanics that are not ideal for me. This is the second boss Paladins should be benched from tanking in Dragon Soul.

For the first time in this expansion, I'm feeling weak as a tank-class. And it feels like crap.


  1. Interesting perspective. As a DK tank I've often felt that Pallies and blocking is just so OP. My latest Hax-moment was when I learned that Pallies can handle all platforms on Madness without any sort of outside cooldown. While I'm left begging our priest or holy pally to give me delicious cooldowns at the right time on the 3rd platform.

    Of course, if you get your Death Strike and blood shield right you're practically unstoppable as a DK.

  2. I completely agree in terms of Paladins being OP.

    As I said, T11 and T12 were shining, shining moments for Paladin tanks. Holy Shield before it was nerfed was way, way OP. Tanking Bethtilac on her web without a healer for 20, 30 seconds at a time, handling the adds on Heroic Rhyolith was a piece of cake, and Heroic Baleroc/Decimation Blade was giggle-worthy in terms of how easy it was to survive, soloing cleaves on H:Domo before that strat was nerfed, the amount of control we had on Rag...

    And you're right, I've been solo-tanking Madness with 2 healers since early January without any problems whatsoever, even if I have had to handle 2 Impales occasionally pre-nerf.

    I think it's that level of competence that I'm used to, that when I suddenly have to bench myself, it's just so shocking. :)