First reflections on paladin tanking

10th October 2009 – 3.35 pm

What the shield giveth, the shield taketh away. Kiska, my World of Warcraft paladin, is setting herself up to be the tank of the group, which is fine with me. My warrior on the same server is specced to be a tank, as is my warrior on a US server, and the death knight on the same US server is not only tank-like but has fulfilled the rôle on many occasions. A crucial aspect of tanking is damage mitigation, as every mob is expected to be hitting the tank at the same time and, for this, armour is important. The death knight has a special presence for tanking which significantly increases the armour values of equipped gear, but for the warrior and paladin a shield is vital.

A shield can easily offer 60% additional total armour in a single item, which is why equipping one is important as a tank. The drawback to strapping a shield to your arm is the corresponding reduction in DPS, a restriction of having to wield a single one-handed weapon instead of a two-handed weapon or dual-wielding one-handed weapons. I have never found the drop in DPS caused by wielding a one-handed weapon to be an issue when playing a warrior, because the warrior's martial training provides many nifty uses for shields. The shield can be slammed in to an opponent for damage and to dispell buffs, reflect spells back at casters or interrupt the casting itself, or enable a powerful counter-attack whenever the shield blocks a weapon hit. Spending certain talent points makes each use of the shield more potent or more likely to proc, making the shield truly a valuable weapon for a warrior, and certainly worth sacrificing a bigger weapon for.

The paladin, on the other hand, does nothing with a shield except hold it in front of her. Of course, this gives all the benefit of the additional armour and block values, as well as any magical aid the shield offers, but it remains just a shield. This is fine when tanking in a group, as all I really need is the protection provided by the boost in armour. Equipping a shield also forces a one-handed weapon on me that, frankly, I want when tanking. One-handed weapons can be swung considerably faster than two-handed weapons, and I need to be able to hit multiple targets quicker than every four seconds, in order to maintain more threat than the DPS classes and healer. But when I am thrust back out of a swirly instance portal in to Azeroth, away from the harder elite to the squishy normal mobs, the shield becomes dead weight on my arm.

I don't need extra armour when fighting normal mobs. Or, at least, not when it significantly compromises my DPS. I wear heavy armour to start with, have plenty of healing available, and have a spell or two available to stop incoming damage in an emergency. What I really need is a honking great weapon to cut a path of destruction through the mobs to my target, normally a mineral vein. What matters to the non-tanking paladin is damage, not damage reduction, and without any special attacks that rely on having a shield equipped, all I am getting from the shield is damage reduction. Unlike my warriors, I see a real need for switching between one-handed weapons when tanking as a paladin and two-handed weapons at other times. Trying to solo mobs when I have a shield and one-handed weapon equipped would be a ponderous affair, offering no benefits beyond being able to go AFK and grab a snack.

Needing to switch between weapons as a paladin has drawbacks, the least of which is always making sure I have both a suitable tanking and DPS weapon. Although, as DPS is a secondary, if not tertiary, requirement when tanking, there isn't as great a need to ensure the one-handed tanking weapon is the best available. I find the main problem is dealing once again with the pointless weapon skill in World of Warcraft. One-handed and two-handed weapons rely on different weapon skills, which need to be improved separately. One of the great benefits of being a protection warrior is never having to worry about weapon skill as long you run around with a shield and a sword, and there is little reason to change from that configuration.

My paladin needs to change between a one-handed and two-handed weapon frequently and I am finding that my weapon skills are continually having to catch up with my level, whether I've been running solo in preparation for an instance run, or coming out of dungeons with a couple more levels under my belt. Weapon skill is a silly mechanic. Never the less, weapon skill is a mechanic I must tolerate so that I can be as effective as possible whether fighting solo for the light or ensuring the safety of my group. I can at least look positively on the need to have two different fighting styles as an opportunity to experience the paladin class from two perspectives, and enjoy playing a hybrid class.

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