A Different Kind of Pressure

I glossed over our Death Bringer Saurfang 25H kill in my last post because I was still so much in love with the continued success of my Bubble-LOL tactics on sub-1% bosses. Now that I’ve calmed down a little bit, it’s time to look back a little at DBS. For anyone who has read this blog consistently (or even read the sub-heading of the uninspired title) you know that I’m a tank. Like many paladins I collect Retribution and Holy offspec gear for those “just in case” times though knowing full well I am best serving myself and my guild 99% of the time as a tank it really just amounts to little more than loot-whoring but not having to spend DKP for it. I leveled prot. I went from 1-80 in the protection tree. Before I had even started playing WoW, I knew I wanted to be a Paladin tank. I had no understanding of the game, I didn’t know at the time (still then late Burning Crusade) that Paladin tanking was barely viable at any stage of the game, and only truly embraced after a certain gear level in end-game raiding. But I was a nub. I didn’t know about raiding or gear or anything, I just had a romanticized image in my head of a yellow-gold, glowy, tanky dude, and that dude was gonna be me.
What does this have to do with Deathbringer Saurfang 25H you ask? Well, Our primary concern after our first night of wipes was the death of the 5th mark. Our DPS was still dropping the ball a little on targeting, but really, it was the healers that the raid leader felt were ultimately holding back success. Several higher end guilds have noted that Holy Paladin + Beacon = 2 marks become irrelevant (or one mark and still healing the tank). Many guilds run with 2 Holy Paladins in ICC because of the larger tank damage (over time, not spiky) and considerable incapacitating and slowing effects other bosses use, particularly in hard modes (Plague wing, I’m looking at you). The officers didn’t really want to sit anyone for the sake of bringing in another paladin, and they certainly didn’t want to recruit one just for this fight. Our MT offered to bring his fairly-well geared Holy Paladin alt, but, being a warrior, he was already providing considerable utility through intervene, charge, shockwave, and concussion blow which help control the adds and give our DPS a little more breathing room, so he was required to stay put. Our Retribution Paladin didn’t have a Holy set to speak of as he typically off-specs Protection for his own purposes (and cause we only carry 2 plate tanks, so that gear goes to off-spec more). So, enter me, with a fully serviceable holy set. Sub-optimal to be sure, a mixture of gear between 232 and 251 that is completely ungemmed and unenchanted due to the infrequency of use and more-frequency of being awarded off-spec items replacing older ones.
As I said, I leveled protection. I actually have 2 paladins because when I started playing the game, dual-spec did not exist, so I was going to have one for tanking and one for dps because “retribution” just sounded like a cool spec name (again, was new, didn’t know anything about the viability of ret in BC). When dual-spec came out I decided that I’d make my 2nd set for my tank Holy, and my 2nd spec for my Ret a PvP-ret. So as I geared up in heroics the way people did when Emblems of Heroism were still what dropped from bosses I picked up healer plate that no one ever needed. Since it was so long ago (comparatively) at this point, I don’t remember too much of the whole experience, but I walked out of heroics with a reasonably complete and serviceable holy set at the time. Sure, I didn’t have the legs from Oculus, but it used to really suck back then when no one knew what do do and drakes didn’t scale; and the drop rate was (and still is but no one cares anymore) terrible.
The guild I was in at the time was a semi-casual raiding guild that ran Nax and OS, and I was still young, inexperienced, and terrified of the potential time commitment because, at this point, I was still very much in the mindset of “I started playing this game to play with my family” and they weren’t really into raiding. I was tanking with lots of Faction-rep gear and crafted titansteel stuff. I remember I was tanking with a Titansteel Guardian because I didn’t know any better. All I knew was that Consecrate hit for more while I had it on, so somehow my brain equated that with holding better threat (oh the embarrassment, lol) Some of the other members of the guild noticed some of my sub-optimal gearing and took me through a few heroics to try and impress upon me the merits of a better tanking weapon. While I was already basically fully geared up from heroics just from 178 faction-rep rewards and crafted stuff, they began to feel like they had “geared me up” and that I owed it to them to come tank Nax. Well, I wasn’t having any of it because I went out of my way to gear myself by pugging everything specifically so no one could hold something like that over my head, and they decided that I wasn’t welcome in the guild anymore.
As a relatively new player, the shock, embarrassment, and ego-bruising of this caused me to give Blizzard some money to change my character’s gender, name, and I changed spec to holy. I played on a small server, and it was my hope that doing this would allow any baggage from this fallout to be avoided. It was interesting to play the game from a different angle, but healing is an entirely different kind of pressure from tanking, and one that I really don’t enjoy. Tanking, for some reason, to me, generally does not come with much sense of pressure. Maybe it’s because I’m used to doing it, I’m not sure. But, healing 5mans was very difficult for me. Of course I didn’t know anything, so I couldn’t tell myself that we wiped because the warrior tank couldn’t hold agro off the death knight dps or that he was an undergeared tank so it wasn’t perhaps as much my fault as I was internalizing. And I wasn’t geared great or particularly experienced so I wasn’t able to maximize my potential. Healing in 25man raids, though, I found to be very easy. I had heard somewhere, from someone, that Paladins were tank healers, so I always just spammed Holy Light on tanks and occasionally healed other people in the raid, but there were other healers there, so I never felt like it was my job to keep the whole raid alive. Knowing that took a lot of the pressure off of me.
Eventually I went back to being a tank because it was just more comfortable for me, and while I continued collecting holy gear, I never healed again until I custom-built a Holy Shock + Flash of Light + Cleanse-spam pvp-ish spec specifically designed to make me more useful on Heroic Faction Champs where taunts didn’t work and my highest-armor-in-the-raid made me the least likely person to ever get agro. That never really panned out either to be honest. I mean, I worked out fine as a cleanse-bot, but me going heals was never what was going to make or break our success in that encounter. So, now, many months later, here I am dusting off my holy set and respecing for a 25m hard mode.
My holy set is pretty good, and with full blue-quality +16 int gems and full enchants, I sat around 38k mana fully raid-buffed which is at least respectable I guess. I was really just there to heal the 5th mark anyway, so I spent most of the first several minutes of the fight judging the boss, using Hand of Protection on blood boil targets, and healing the tank-of-the-moment. But because we had 2 other Holy Paladins I was never in a position where I couldn’t just hit Divine Plea and sit there doing nothing but regenerating mana. The first attempt I don’t think we got to a 5th mark as the 3rd or 4th died for some reason. The next attempt we switched things around in healer chat and I had missed my instructions. I was supposed to switch to the third mark (which ended up being on a hunter out of my range of all things), but I missed the DBM announce and he got blood boil so his Grid Status Debuff icon for Mark of the Fallen Champion was overwritten with blood boil so I couldn’t find him that way either. He died before too long. The next attempt I was the first person to get the mark. When the 4th mark came out I got blood boil and died. Don’t know which healer was supposed to be keeping me alive, but I know it wasn’t me (though I had been healing myself occasionally). On our successful attempt I was once again back on the 5th mark to go out, and once it came out near the end of the fight (it was on our Resto shaman) I just beaconed the tank and started spamming her. As the boss got lower I used a Hand of Protection on her but continued to spam since the tank was beaconed (and I believe both other Holy Paladins had changed back to our earlier strat of “they beacon one mark then spam another” so I felt a little more wary of not contributing to the tank a little more.
We completed the fight just as the 6th mark came out. We used 3 Holy Paladins (though I barely count I guess) 2 Resto Shamans, and 2 Priests (our Resto Druid has been having computer issues and was unable to attend). So we 7-healed a fight most guilds are 5-healing, and somehow had the DPS to annihilate blood beasts and kill him by the time he got a 6th mark out. To my knowledge, at no point did anyone with Mark of the Fallen Champion deliberately run into the melee (which has been a strat many guilds have employed when downing him) to make use of AoE heals like chain heal, prayer of mending, holy light splash, or wild growth jumps (not that we had a wild growth that attempt). My responsibilities were not exactly complex so I can’t get too worked up about my success other than the fact that I did my job and we cleared the fight.
A healer, I am not. I really only understand the basics of a Holy Paladin on a very general level and am not someone who should be come to for advice, though I’d say I’m far from ignorant. As I said, it is a completely different kind of pressure from tanking. With a screamy-GM there is always a little bit of extra pressure, but I had forgotten the pressures of healing until we got to the instance that day. As I stood there on Deathbringer’s Rise, in the guild healer channel I suddenly had the feeling of, “What was I thinking!?” come over me. Bad enough there is the potential to get yelled at as an next-to-zero-responsibility paladin tank in this encounter, how much more have I opened myself up to the potential for failure as a role more directly linked to the success of the encounter mechanics. Panic definitely set in, and even by our 4th or 5th attempt, whatever one it was that we downed him in, I still had not really felt comfortable in my job, even though all I had to do was watch grid, use HoP, watch grid, heal the tank occasionally, watch DBM after 4 marks had gone out so I’d see when my mark came out, watch Saurfang’s blood power to see how long it would be, target my mark, beacon them, spam the tank, and hope everything worked out in the end. I have been Ret far more than I have been Holy in my Paladin’ing lifetime, so I guess it really just comes down to an issue of comfort and familiarity. What was an interesting side effect to providing this alternative-utility to my raid was that I was still spec’d into Holy when we tried Dreamwalker on hard mode. It was nice to get to go into the portals for once, even though it doesn’t exactly look especially interesting in there. That is definitely going to be one heck of a fight to coordinate for the healers. Whether I will have to be holy for successive Saurfang 25H kills or 25H Dreamwalker attempts remains to be seen, but it was an interesting opportunity, though one I’m not too sure I’d be in a rush to volunteer for again. Everything always sounds so easy on paper afterall doesn’t it. 🙂

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