May 19th, 2011 by admin
Posted in Uncategorized

It’s been several months since I hit level 85 on my main character, mage Romy, but until the last few weeks I really hadn’t worked on other characters that much since Cataclysm had been released.  But a few days ago, I finally hit level 85 on my paladin, Alfred.

Decision Time

Back in the vanilla days when we only had one talent specification per toon, Alfred was always retribution-spec while leveling up, and holy-spec the rest of the time.  Since we’ve been allowed to have dual talent specifications, I’ve had one set up for retribution and one for holy.

However, now that he’s gotten to 85, I am considering changing from retribution to protection.  Alfred’s primary role at level 85 is being a healer, but I’m sure there will be times when I’ll want to run something and someone else will already have the healer’s role covered.  I don’t have any great interest in trying to make Alfred into a DPS toon, so I’m thinking maybe tank is the way to go with the secondary spec.  That would give me a lot of options, and it will be interesting to tank on a paladin again.  I’ve done it before, but it was a long time ago…

Paladins in the Early Days

Back in the very early days before any expansion packs had been released, paladins as a class were generally something of a hybrid role.  They had great buffs, so they were very desired in raids, but they didn’t ideally fit any of the other roles.

Paladins weren’t usually the best healers, compared to Priests or Druids.  They would generally do OK in a regular dungeon instance, but in raids paladins would not be main tank healers, for the most part.  They might be assigned to an off-tank or as backup, but mainly they’d be keeping an eye out on the rests of the group.

Unless they were insanely geared, Paladins didn’t have great DPS, so they would normally get a DPS slot in a raid only if the group was otherwise good on DPS or if it was understood that they’d be healing people occasionally as well.

As tanks, Paladins were sort of unfinished back in those days.  It seemed clear that tanking had been somewhere in the original plan for paladins, but many of the basic tools that a tank requires were simply missing.  There wasn’t even a Taunt equivalent in the earliest days!  This meant that paladins were suitable for tanking only in very specific situations.  In a raid, a pally might off-tank a mob until another mob was killed.  This would usually build up enough aggro that when the rest of the group attacked the pally’s target, it would still stay focused on the pally.  And if it didn’t, then it was likely the main tank could take over since the first mob was now dead.

In 5-man instances, pally tanking was generally not a good idea unless the DPS players were fairly disciplined about target selection and careful to give the paladin time to establish aggro.

Alfred was my second toon to hit level 60.  My warrior, Sunny, would ultimately be the tank in the family, but until she hit level 60, Alfred was pressed into tanking every now and then.  It was always an interesting run, but given the shortcomings it was clear that this wasn’t going to be an everyday thing.  By the time later patches would give Paladins better tools for tanking, Sunny had hit level 60 and was the go-to toon for tanking.

Alfred’s First Level 85 Instance Run

I hadn’t really played him much during the Wrath Of The Lich King days, so Alfred was still just level 71 when Cataclysm was released.  I hadn’t done any instance runs or raiding with him since level 70 and Karazhan or Gruul’s Lair.

When I did start playing on Alfred again, I tried to get in at least a couple of instances per level as a healer.  However, I generally avoided the Random Dungeon Finder tool.  I either queued for specific dungeons that I needed for quests, or went on runs with at least a couple of guildies.  I had been a fairly decent healer in the past, and after a couple of runs to get back in the groove, I seemed to be doing OK.

I didn’t immediately jump into an instance run upon hitting level 85, but a day or two later, I decided to queue up.  I first asked if anybody in guild chat was interested in doing a run, but everybody was busy with something else so I switched over to my healing gear and talent spec and queued up solo.

I wasn’t really worried too much about that first run in most respects.  Alfred’s gear was fairly decent for a brand new level 85 toon, with an average item level of 326, just a few points off the minimum requirement for doing heroic dungeons.  It was better than Romy’s gear had been right after hitting 85.

However, things did not go as I hoped they would.  The instance we got was Halls Of Origination, which is not one of the easier ones out there.  I’d hoped for something easier my first time out, but didn’t want to queue for specific dungeons.

The very first group of mobs, I noticed two things.  First, the tank was taking bigger chunks of damage than seemed reasonable.  Then all three of the DPS toons started taking damage too, and it got harder to keep everybody up.  Nobody died, but by the end of the fight I was down to under 20% on mana.

I sat down to drink, but I’d only gotten back to about 60% when the tank and the rest of the group ran up and attacked another group.  This fight went a little better at first, mainly in that the DPS didn’t take quite as much damage, but at the end I was coming up empty on mana and one of the DPS started taking damage again and died.

At this point, I noticed that the tank was at the top of the damage meters, so I took a look and discovered he was wearing DPS gear instead of tanking gear.  The DPS toons weren’t doing anything great damage-wise, but it was more than sufficient for a normal difficulty dungeon, so there was no reason at all for the tank to think he needed to compensate.  And this was right at the very beginning of the instance anyway!

No doubt his gear choice was contributing to the tank taking bigger chunks of damage than he should, but the bigger problem was that the DPS was taking too much damage.  Even the ranged guys were getting knocked down below 50% in just a few seconds sometimes.  Sure, a lot of fights have a bit of incidental damage you simply can’t avoid.  But I wasn’t taking any great amount of damage and I was right there next to everybody else, so that doesn’t explain it.  I said something in party chat to the effect of “DPS is taking unnecessary damage… watch your targets” and one guy said something about the tank needing to hold the mobs better.

The next group of mobs went a little better, but I was still drinking to recover mana and was only at about 50% when the tank rushed up and attacked the first boss, Temple Guardian Anhuur.  I had to run up just to get in range to heal.  Despite this, the fight started out relatively OK and we got through the first time the boss did the Shield Of Light thing OK, except that the DPS weren’t really taking out the Pit Viper adds and for the first time I had to worry about keeping myself alive as well as everybody else.

At that point, I was coming up empty on mana, so I took a Runic Mana Potion, even though it doesn’t give me enough mana back for even one healing spell.  That raises a question: Why did Blizzard decide not to add new high-level mana and health potions in Cataclysm?

Anyway, as a result of my mana situation, two of the DPS died at this point.  This actually made it a bit better for me, because I was able to get ahead of the mana situation.  However, the second time that the boss did the Shield Of Light thing, the remaining DPS totally ignored the Pit Viper adds and I got swarmed and died myself.  Fortunately, the boss was close to dead and the tank and remaining DPS finished him off.

I was really not a happy camper by the end of the fight.  The big problem is, if you’re not paying enough attention to know your healer’s not ready when you start the fight, then you’re just going to blame them when things go wrong.

I’m not giving up… but I think Alfred’s next few dungeon runs will be be with guildies if that’s at all possible.

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