I remember the first instance I tanked with my original paladin. It was normal difficulty Stonecore. Some introduction, huh?
Thing is, that instance was *hard*. I’d geared up in the lvl 80 blacksmithing stuff, was lvl 83, and had even enchanted my stuff… and it was a slog. I forgot my cooldowns, couldn’t position mobs properly, didn’t have an off-GCD interrupt but that wouldn’t have mattered since my skills were getting muddled, etc. Every sin I complain about tanks committing, I committed there and then. A couple of months later that pally was tanking BWD and BoT like a machine, and everything was smooth as silk. The paladin tank has a very simple rhythm, and once you have that heartbeat it just flows.
Last night I took my lvl 81 dk into her first cata instances. Now, I’ve been tanking instances with her since Ramparts, so at least the toolbox is familiar. This was really the first chance that I had to compare with my experiences on the paladin in dungeons that I’ve done on both, though. Did two runs in BRC and one in TotT.
For a start, the dk is not smooth. There’s no real rotation. It really does play like a dps character. I’m reminded of my Arms warrior rather than my pally. Resource management on a prot pally is a matter of hitting Judgement on cd and SotR/WoG on 3 holy power, and occasionally using DI for Inq prepull. The dk has a multiple resource system that can be in many states, has debuffs to maintain, and has manual methods of regaining resources when required. That said, the dk prio seems to work pretty well as a self-reinforcing resource loop. If you manage the prio right – I did fumble a couple of times last night after getting flustered by badly-done pulls.
Pally self-healing is handy, but not really attractive at the moment compared to the threat and damage that SotR brings. With the dk, on the other hand, I’ve managed to self-heal through packs in BRC when the healer inexplicably left* or fell over dead**. It feels really strong right now.
The dk toolbox is good. Like, really good. I’m used to Avenger’s Shield for a pull, but I have to say it has nothing on a death and decay > deathgrip > strangulate opener. Okay, it really helps that I can ask my fiancee to DG in loose casters as well, but there really is no positioning tool like DG in the paladin arsenal. Even if I can’t get things in heartstrike range, blood boil picks up closer ranged mobs like nobody’s business. Dks excel at picking up ALL THE THINGS.
As far as cooldowns go… I’m not as good at using them as I should be. That’s going to hurt me later, I know. Working on it. Dks do have a cd for every occasion, and while right now I can get by with the occasional vampiric blood and a blood tap or two on low health, I somehow doubt that’s going to cut it in heroics. At least I’m getting better at maintaining my bone shield uptime.
The dks tools are precise. If I place a DnD, it’s going to be exactly where the sigil showed. If I deathgrip, it’s bringing that mob right here right now. Even BB gives a much better indication of its range than HotR. The only real exception is heartstrike, which has a tendency to cleave unexpected mobs. That said, with dk positioning capabilities, it shouldn’t really be a problem.
As for coolness factor… the pally has a holographic angel or something that shows up and makes him tougher for a bit. The dk summons a ghoul straight out of its grave, which then goes to town on my target. Or summons a mass of ghouls to eat the faces of everything in the general area. Hilarious on the final boss of BRC. The pally farts out a puff of glowing smoke that sits around him and generally isn’t even worth the mana cost. The dk summons a baleful runic circle right under the mobs’ asses, and threat ensues.
The only slight sore point is that applying diseases to a trash pack takes 3 GCDs, and dps don’t seem inclined to wait that long before opening with their AoE, so I generally have to wait until I have a couple of BB/HS off before I can actually apply them. This makes me kind of squishy in the opening part of a pull. Outbreak isn’t up nearly often enough to be useful.
All in all, the dk seems like a much more active tank than the pally. While the pally is indeed very smooth, almost soothing in its tempo, the dk is a frenetic bundle of pain and misery brought to a point against its enemies. Looking forward to how it’ll shape up. Oddly, the groups we’ve seen in dungeons so far have mostly been much more friendly and polite than those in heroics or LFR lately, with the exception of a mage who insisted on pulling ahead of me and promptly earned himself a votekick. I’m enjoying this.
* probably because we wanted to do Corla – my first BRD run resulted in no-one taking the second strand and a zealot evolving, but we managed anyway. That said, I can imagine why it’s not popular with healers.
** a lvl 80 healer that managed to get 1-shot by meteors, died of the pulse on Karsh (my fault really) and any other time there was randomly-targetted damage…