There is a question that haunts every tank. Then entire raid is depending on you to stay upright. The Boss whose attention you must control will kill everyone of them with hardly breaking a sweat, unless you stand in the gap. If you die, the raid dies with you in short order.
Even if we never verbalize it, even if no one else knows or even cares, every tank is haunted by the Question.
Do I have what it takes? Will I come through?
There is really only one way to answer that question. You must test yourself. You must, with reckless abandon, throw yourself into the gaping jaws of the beast, invite him to unleash his wrath on you, and wait for the answer.
It was Tuesday night. The raid needed me to help them cut through the swath of undead that stood between them and their true goal, Archimonde.
As we traveled through the Caverns of Time, something unexpected happened. Our Main Tank Warrior disconnected. We waited, and we waited, but he did not return.
Our team began to wonder and question what we would do.
Our Raid Leader (also a Prot Warrior) feels that it is very difficult to lead and raid and Main Tank at the same time. I can attest from my 10 man experiences that she is accurate in that assessment.
So she turned to me.
"You are on tonight."
Tonight, it would be my shield that stood between the raid and repulling 8 waves of trash. A nervous excitement went through my being as the Question loomed large.
I can nearly do Rage Winterchill's trash with my eyes shut, though I continue to tweak my gear to find that perfect balance between AoE threat and survivability. I died once on the Abomination wave, but I had a Soul Stone. I popped back up, and got the pull back under control.
The next thing I know Rage Winterchill is headed into the camp. I set up in my intial position in front of the Alliance footmen. Then I start walking backwards towards Jaina Proudmoore. My dwarf really needs a rear view mirror because I missed where I was walking. I had to reposition after the first Death and Decay.
It had been a long time since I had been a Main Tank, and I was very rusty. I proceeded to make every mistake a Paladin Tank possibly could. I missed Holy Shield cooldowns and got crushed. I missed Judgement cooldowns. I let my Seal expire without a refresh. I stayed in melee range while a Death and Decay was going and was slow on my trinket when I got Ice Bolt. Frankly, I'm amazed I remembered to keep Righteous Fury up.
Here it was, my first test, and the Answer to the Question was not looking good.
Amazingly, my healers kept me up and DPS held back while my threat generation suffered.
On the Only Meter That Matters, it was Dominion 1, Bosses 0.
I sat there as loot was distributed wondering if the Raid Leader would go to bullpen, but as it turned out, my night was far from over.
We got through the next set of trash clean, and I was in position for Anetheron.
This is a stationary, sit there and burn the boss kind of fight.
I was on Anetheron, while the Raid Leader was in full fire resist. We get about halfway through the fight when she disconnects. Our Feral Druid jumps out of melee range and grabs the next infernal until the Raid Leader can reconnect. The healers did an amazing job switching to heal the Feral (who had 0 Fire Resist, not even an aura).
Then towards the end, we had an infernal land on melee. As I had seen our Warrior Main Tank on several occasions, I started to move Anetheron away from the melee group. What I couldn't move or shut down was my Consecrate. Apparently, landing on Consecrated ground made the Infernal quite angry, and he decided he needed to go cook the lousy Paladin that did that. So I'm trying to move away from where he is and he's trying to come after me. Our Raid Leader is trying desperately to get him off me.
"Stop moving!" was the command given over vent, so I stopped. Now I've Anetheron beating on me and the Infernal. One of our Holy Paladins announced she was out of mana. Anetheron was under 10%.
Finally the strain was too much, and I died. Anetheron was at 1% and finished off before he could wipe the raid.
Dominion 2, Bosses 0.
Generally running a healer OOM (Out of Mana) is an indication that you are too Effective Health (EH) heavy and do not have enough Effective Damage Frequency (EDF). In other words, you put too much of your itemization in Stamina and not enough in Dodge. Granted, it was only the one Holy Paladin, but it was something I would need to keep an eye on.
The next boss up was Kaz'Rogal. I think I would have had enough incoming damage to keep my mana pool up to tank him, but I was worried that a 'good run of bad luck' (Dodge, Dodge, Miss, Parry, Dodge) would run me dry at the wrong time, and I'd blow up along with the melee. That is generally considered a Bad Thing.
I stayed in tanking gear as Kaz'Rogal approached. Our DPS was just amazing this fight. If I remember correctly, we got Kaz down before Mark #10. I didn't die despite starting the fight with just 6k mana. (Note to self, do a post on 'How to survive Kaz'Rogal in full Tanking Gear').
Dominion 3, Bosses 0.
Kaz dropped the Shield. Kaz'Rogal's Hardened Heart. The Raid Leader actually deferred to me. Since we are both 'Main Tanks', we get priority on tanking upgrades. She was using the shield from Dragonhawk (Bulwark of the Amani Empire), and I have Aldori Legacy Defender.
The shield would have been an upgrade for either one of us. I decided to pass.
First of all, there is another shield that drops from BT trash called the Illidari Runeshield. It has the same Armor and Block, but trades Hit (threat stat for Warriors) for Spell Damage (threat stat for Paladins). Of course, there is no guarantee the Runeshield will drop, so if another Hard Heart drops, I'll bid on it. The Warriors won't see a shield upgrade until Illidan. I generally will pass on a 'Warrior' item when I know there is a 'Paladin' one at the same tier. This doesn't really become an issue until Tier 6 because there aren't Paladin flavored drops before then.
I also know that the Raid Leader has been wanting that Shield. She does so much work both in game and out to organize our raids, keep us going and take everyone's complaints. It was really nice to see her get a tangible reward for all the effrot she puts into the game and the guild.
I know it was Kaz (who drains mana), but the same Holy Paladin that I ran OOM was OOM again on Kaz. That got me thinking that perhaps it wasn't just me. I don't remember her going OOM with our regular Main Tank, but then again I wasn't really paying attention back then.
Our final test of the evening would be Azgalor. Once again, I was going to be Main Tanking him. I know this guy hits like a runaway freight train. We use a 'no melee' strategy on Az. What that meant was no Demo Shout, no Thunderclap and no Commanding Shout for your humble author.
I was really regretting not getting Deathfrost on one of my weapons. It's like a poor man Thunderclap.
I was going to do everything in my power to stay alive. Flask, and Stamina Food were a given. I also broke out a stack of Ironshield pots.
I am really glad Azgalor can't crush. More than once I would need to refresh my Holy Shield during a silence. If Azgalor could crush, I would have been "squish, like grape". I managed my cooldowns pretty well and used Seal of Vengeance. Both the Vengeance DoT and Consecration were happily ticking away even while I was silenced.
About halfway through the fight I got nailed and my health dropped uncomfortably low. My Lay On Hands was burned during the trash. I quickly hit my Healtstone and activated Moroes Lucky Pocketwatch. I forgot about our no melee strat and asked the DPS Warrior (not sure if he's Fury or Arms) to put up Demo. Of course, he's 40+ yards away helping kill Doomguards. I felt pretty silly once I was reminded of this.
Within seconds my healers had me back to full. As Azgalor neared 30%, I felt the Question being answered. The healers, those amazing healers, had settled into my rhythm. I was between 15 to 20% ahead on Omen. I had what it takes. I was coming through for my raid.
Dominion 4, Bosses 0.
4 Bosses 1 shot including all trash, and the path to Archimonde was wide open.
After the raid I had two burning questions in my mind. How hard was I to heal and how was my threat generation.
I spoke with two people in the raid. The healer felt like I was pretty easy to heal and the DPSer felt like threat was good, although the silence probably helped.
It was an absolutely amazing night. I don't know what it was, but everyone was really on their game last night. Healers were absolutely on the ball. I think we had maybe 3 or 4 deaths over the entire raid all night. One of the Rogues commented that his repair bill was only a couple of gold, which was much smaller than usual.
All the frustrations of the weeks leading up to last night seemed to melt away. I had proven myself to my Raid, to my Raid Leader, and perhaps most importantly, I had proved myself to my worst critic, me.
In my experience playing World of Warcraft for the past 18 months, there is nothing in game, or really outside the game, that can compare with Main Tanking. It is such an intoxicating mix of fear, nerves, excitement, and elation. All the time you put into researching your class and your gear and the bosses comes together in this moment when the Question is answered. You stand before the Boss, take his best shot, and when the dust settles, it is you and your raid who are still standing.
Last night is going to stay with me for a long time.
I said when I left Mal Katai that I didn't need to be the Main Tank all the time, and that's entirely true. I know I will be handing the Main Tank duties back to our Main Tank Warrior when he returns. But I learned last night, that I do need the occasional opportunity where I am able to Main Tank a boss or a couple of bosses. It doesn't necessarily have to be every raid or even every week, but it does need to happen.
I can only hope that the Tanking Team for Dominion can work it out in such a way that everyone can get a little 'crotch time' from time to time.