With Antorus on the horizon, we have official reached the twilight hour of Tomb of Sargeras. For my raid team, since we’ve all gotten our Ahead of the Curve achievements, this has meant that we are in a period of relaxation. Our typical raid nights have changed from progression focused to alt focused as we push as far as we can into Heroic ToS in the five hours we have each week.
Even for someone like me, who loves her Holy Paladin to the ends of the earth, these alt-nights have been a fun break from a spec I probably play too much of. Heck, even a fun break from a role I play too much of. For the first couple of nights, I brought a DPS character, and learned that, despite my best intentions, I am not very good at damage dealing classes.
Many moons ago, my mage was my predominant raiding character. I would sling ice at whatever threats faced Azeroth. I eventually switched over to healing full time (and never looked back) but my gnome mage has always held a special place in my heart. And one day, I always hoped to get back into the raiding groove with her.
My triumphant return was a lot less triumphant and a lot more terrible. I’d thought I’d kept my mage pretty well geared and prepped all things considered, but I could barely pull my own weight. Even more embarrassingly, I died almost every single pull. Keep in mind, these are boss fights I have done dozens upon dozens of times. I know them so well I can do them in my sleep. But somehow, I could not make the jump from healing them to DPSing them.
Alright so, mage is a bust, what about some of my other characters? Maybe a melee DPS? I brought in my monk and was met with even worse results, despite the fact that my monk’s gear is a tad stronger. Now this was just getting silly!
I was beginning to think that healing was just about the only thing I could do. That wasn’t the worst thing in the world; there’s enough different healing styles that I don’t think I could ever get bored. But I’m supposed to have a competent offspec for raiding and, judging by my performance, it’d probably make more sense for me to sit than to bring a DPS character.
But then, I found it. My second calling. And it was in one of the most unexpected places.
This past Saturday, more as a joke than anything else, I joined raid in protection spec on my paladin. My gear wasn’t the best in the world but really, the bigger hurdle was that, other than an odd mythic+ here or there, I hadn’t tanked all expansion. I only vaguely knew what my abilities did. I certainly didn’t know what the tank mechanics were other than the ones I had to heal through. And yet, there I was, joke-threatening to tank Heroic Maiden.
Maybe they had faith or maybe they were just as crazy as I was, but my guild gave me the go ahead and I, joined with one of the main tanks, gave it a whirl. And… we didn’t die right away. And then, when we did wipe, it wasn’t my fault. What is this sorcery?
As I discovered, quite literally on the job, Heroic Maiden isn’t too difficult of a fight to tank. The only major mechanic is the taunt off after every infusion or smash (depending on what your own infusion is). A quickie cooldown or Eye of Tyr for each Hammer Smash and I was pretty much golden!
We tightened up mechanics on Maiden a bit and then got her down within the first half hour of raid, no mean feat considering the number of alts and folks who’d never seen the fight before. I even netted a pretty slick tanking trinket (to replace one of my healing ones I’d been wearing because I was suuuuuper prepared). Next up was something a lot harder: Heroic Avatar.
As we’re riding the elevator down, one of the other main tanks who was on a DPS alt for the night whispered me, warning about the difficulties of the next boss. Grunty and Smashy, as they are affectionately called by my guild, are mean like bees and unforgiving to tank error. And, not only was I new to this fight, I was also playing a protection paladin, a spec that had encountered additional difficulties with almost all of the Tomb of Sargeras bosses.
Still, I wanted to give it at least a couple gos. After all, I’d just gotten a new tanking trinket and now had a somewhat stronger idea of what my tanking CDs did! I pulled up my belt, taunted the Maiden, and we were off.
I very quickly learned that Heroic Maiden is a walk in the park compared to Heroic Avatar. The fight features two mobs, the Avatar and a Maiden, that needed to each be tanked by one of the tanks for the start of the fight. The tanks would then switch who they were tanking after the person handling the Avatar got two stacks of Devastate. This is further complicated by the fact that the Maiden has to be dragged all around the room to intercept beams of fel that are empowering the Avatar. And it was all just as hectic as it sounds.
I started with the Maiden and I won’t lie, it took me a few tries to get the taunt swaps mixed with the movement correct. Those first couple of pulls, there was just so much going on that I’d lose track of my own health and then forget to use a CD when I needed to and would very quickly end up as a splat on the floor. But before long, I found a rhythm.
Once I found that groove, I really started to get into it. There was something so steady and dependable about taunting off at the two stacks. And yet, the movement around the room kept the fight interesting and ever-changing. It was fun, and fun in a way I would have never expected. As the patterns got smoother and smoother, the stress of having the entire raid rely on myself began to fade away. I knew what I needed to do and knew how to do it. Unlike my DPS characters, when stuff went wrong, I could instantly identify where the error had occurred.
Even though we were wiping, I could have kept going for hours. The zone, as I like to think of it, is something I love so much about healing – a mindset where I’m totally on top of the encounter but also completely relaxed. I’ve never reached that with DPS characters. And yet, on my first night of tanking, in Heroic difficulty no less, I found it right away.
I’ve tried to get into tanking multiple times. I’ve tried leveling solely as tanks, tried testing it in battlegrounds, even tried throwing myself into mythic+s. But apparently, the push I needed, hilariously enough, was the high stress atmosphere of Heroic raids. That is something I never would have guessed!
The test going forward will be to see if this newfound excitement persists. I’ll probably never move past my love of healing, but tanking is promising to become a close second. I can’t wait for the next raid!