Friday, 13 February 2015

The mystery unveiled: how I ended up playing a shadow tank

If you visit this blog regularly, you might have noticed a mysterious mirialan lady wielding a double-bladed lightsaber appearing in the top banners (I have no idea if anyone actually looks at those, but let's presume you do). Seemingly, there are barely any Ravanels around anymore. And that after 2014 was the 'year of Ravanel'. What's going on?

Tanking is for guardians

Gaïende used to be a happy level 20ish shadow DPS. Okay, maybe she was pretty miserable. I soon found out I suck at shadow DPS in PvP, so I ended up rarely playing her. I had a guardian tank in the same PvP bracket that I enjoyed playing much more.

If I ever was going to tank, I told myself, it would be on my guardian Ravalyn. The guardian class just screams tank to me, and it was so much fun tanking in PvP on her. I was planning to level her up with the 12x XP buff back in the day, but then I heard about Riposte removed to be off the global cooldown and gave up on that. Riposte being off the global cooldown made the class fast-paced and fun to play for me.

Show mercy. I swear, I'm not one of those shadow tanks!

So now I still had a lot of time left to level something else with the 12x XP buff instead. I choose to level up Gaïende for... important reasons. Okay, fine, I'll admit it: it was for fashion reasons. You see, Gaïende was my synthweaver and I liked the thought of reverse engineering PvP and raid gear to get some pretty recipes. I swiftly made it all the way to level 55.

Hey, you look like a tank. Come tank our flashpoint

Then, with the Shadow of Revan expansion, my friends leveled up non-tanking classes first, so when we wanted to try out the new flashpoints we didn't have a tank. But I had a shadow leveled up. So you can understand who all the eyes were looking at. I was up for trying to tank a flashpoint, but I thought it might be a good idea to go for a tactical flashpoint first. You know, because I had never tanked a flashpoint before.

"Sure I can try and tank a FP. But you guys do know I don't have any tanking gear, right?"
"It'll be alright."
Somebody queued us up and we got a pop. Manaan hardmode.
"Uhhh, guys? This is a hardmode flashpoint."
"I know."
"But my gear is crap!"
"Don't worry, I'll just heal through it. I'm sure we'll be fine."

We were not really fine. We soon found out that hardmode is actually hard and wiped quite some times. I was super proud when we killed the bonus boss, which had fun mechanics but was a bit buggy at times. I couldn't make it past the next boss, though. With my paper armor, the adds killed me within seconds and there was nothing the healer could do. But we did earn some comms.

I don't have to tank all these... right, guys?

"Yay, I have enough for a proper offhand now!"
"Uhhh Rav?"
"Why are you wearing a green level 16 unmoddable offhand?!"
"I told you my gear was crap. I didn't have a shield generator so I bought this one on the GTN for a few bucks."

Still, tanking that hardmode flashpoint gave me a boost of confidence. We hadn't been dying because I couldn't hold aggro on the mobs, or because I hadn't been moving the right way. Sometimes being thrown into the unknown lifts up your player skill, just because you have no choice: if you mess up you'll die. Having paper armor meant I had been using my defensive wtf-skills on cooldown. It had been challenging to do both that and try and keep up my rotation while at the same time holding aggro on everything around me. And to me, challenging = fun.

The next weeks I tanked as many hardmode flashpoints as I could, until I could tank and survive them all, including the bonus bosses.

Two walkers and I'm in my bathrobe. This ain't gonna be pretty...

The next level: tanking a raid

Now we came at the point in which we got enough level 60's in our guild to start raiding, but nobody wanted to tank. And who happened to have a level 60 tank...

Even though I now felt comfortable tanking flashpoints, tanking operations felt like I had to start all over again. As a DPS player or healer you function in relative anonymity, but if you make a mistake as tank, everyone will notice. It was super scary, but also exciting. And even though I gave out disclaimers ("Rav is tanking; you will all die"), apparently I didn't mess up well enough to inspire someone else to step up and start tanking.

So now you know the story behind Gaïende the mystery shadow. Sorry it's a bit long: apparently it was a long road to me ending up tanking. Do I love tanking as much as I do healing and DPSing? No. However, it's great fun to try out something new, and it's also nice to be able to help out our raid group in the process. Maybe I'll even post some guides on "tanking for dummies", because then I can cheat during raids by looking up how it's done that surely is super useful to everyone.

Have you ever ended up playing something you never thought you would?


  1. I am the opposite. I do like tanking more than any other role class. Yes, it is a huge burden and responsibility. But it also feels more tactical to me than any other class. As a tank I have to decide where to pull the mob, how to deal with adds, make sure the rest of the party isn't being munched by the adds or boss, deal with any tricks the mobs throw at me and so on and so forth.

    One class I never expected to play was healers though. See, when I began playing MMOs it was korean ones and in those it was nearly impossible to solo as a healer. Since I am a soloist being able to solo at a good pace is *very* important to me. So, playing those classes back in those MMOs was an exercise in trying to find ways to level up without depending on a party all the time. Nowadays that problem pretty much doesn't exist anymore as MMOs are pretty solo-friendly. But it is still not a type of class I enjoy as much as tanking.

    Another type of classes I usually don't go for but can be surprisingly fun depending on the game are nukers. I just don't like squishy classes much, specially if they are ranged (although ranger/hunter type classes I like for some reason), so to me they are classes I don't usually like playing. But depending on the magic system of the game and the special effects that go with them nukers can be quite fun to me too.

    1. Funny to read that your 'gaming role career' developed exactly the other way around!

      The tactical play side of tanking that you mention is something that I really enjoy myself as well (and at some points am terrified of in fear I might mess up :P). I find that a large part of tanking is "waiting around, just smashing the boss/adds until something happens", too, though. Which is less interesting. Of course I'll try to max my DPS output and survivability, but in the case of shadow tanking that pretty much comes down to following a set rotation. I think what calls to me as a healer is that I've developed a sort of instinct about how to heal. I don't think anymore about what I do, I just do. If there is time leftover, I can always DPS a bit on the side (but there rarely is room for that if we're doing HM progression). I guess the feeling is addictive. Maybe I'll reach that kind of gameplay in tanking at some point too, though. I might just need to spend more time doing that.

  2. Started swtor as shieldtech powertech and tanked EV and KP for my guild and another guild that I met doing dailies on ilum. However the majority of my time ended up being spent on my healing scoundrel through everything up to tfb (normal and possibly hm, can't remember) short of nightmare modes (that's about when I burned out on swtor). Unfortunately that has spoiled me for healing on any other class / in any other game. Merc does seem pretty fun but I haven't healed anything but leveling flashpoints as one.

    As far as this blog entry goes, great one. Thank you for the enjoyable read.

    1. So glad to hear you enjoyed the post. I'm always a bit hesitant when it comes to writing the more personal stories about my characters and what they do. I usually think people are not interested in that.

      Funny to hear you took sort of the same road as Rakuno... I have no idea why mine went the opposite side. I'm certainly a more capable healer than a tank! I like merc healing so far; I've mostly healed PvP, though. It might be something of a late bloomer now they get Kolto Shell much later than before. They certainly perform fine at end game level (I heal together with one on my sorc with my Imp progression team).

  3. Mine was also tanking, but not with the "favored" or usual class either. If I'm going to tank, I need to really pay attention, so I need a class where tanking isn't just a faceroll. I've been fond of melee DPS since my early days in WoW. As long as I stayed out of goo and didn't pull before the tank, no one yelled at me or blamed me for failure. It was a real stretch for me to be willing to tank, I always felt such a sense of responsibility and guilt if anyone other than me got beat up. Then I played with a rather chaotic bored friend who didn't really care about getting beat up or making life easier for the tank. He helped me achieve that calm attitude of "you pulled it, you tank it" that I needed in order to enjoy the class.
    I love the utility of the Shadow/Assassin tanks. Being able to sneak in and mind maze stuff almost makes up for not being able to toss your lightsaber at things.

    1. Hehe, "you pulled it, you tank it" is like my motto. I think it was less hard for me because I was already used to giving that kinda treatment as a healer (I guess I don't fit the stereotype of the "nice healer"). :P

      Don't forget the epic Project Storm shadow tank animation, smashing all those rocks into the enemy's face... I certainly can't get enough of it!

  4. I have to admit I was wondering why you were playing a Mirialan in the last operations screenshots you posted... but then, that was a different character yet again, your Sorcerer! Keeping up with what everyone is playing can be hard in a game that encourages alts as much as this one does. :)

    1. I know it's confusing. And then to think I only have three level 60 characters at the moment (as opposed to Conrad's 12 level 60 chars)! This is how it works: I do progression raiding on Imp side on my mirialan sorc healer (so the hardmode kill posts usually show her), and other raids on Rep on my mirialan shadow tank or on my human sage DPS/heals. When in doubt: I've updated this cheat sheet with all my characters, including pictures to identify them. ^^

  5. Hmm, my comment from yesterday got eaten. Sad face. Here goes again!

    Whoo-hoo for shadow tanks! Although I think the only time I ever went with a tank-y build was the last fight of the original Consular story where Qyzen just couldn't hold up the aggro and I got desperate (it was like 3:00 in the morning and I wanted to finish the darn thing!). Switching in Theran and playing with the skills actually made it an easy fight - I impressed myself! So much for pure DPS.

    And at least you know how a tank should work even if you're not totally confident in the details. I was doing LotRO group content for a little bit on my Minstrel, starting to learn my way around healing, and kept dying because people don't understand this thing called aggro and holding the mobs. Or even the concept of having a puller instead of running in four different directions (and all out of range). I made sure to give the same disclaimers that you did ("Seth is healing, you will all die.") but no one listened and it was mostly me that died.

    Tank was my first angle back on EverQuest, too, in the olden days when we just had one button labeled "Taunt" and had to try and hold attention with damage aggro and blinding spells. I will definitely read your guide to see how it's done right. :)

    1. Aww, I'll give Blogger a stern talking to. It lives on a diet of spammers using the Anonymous commenting option, but it seems the temptation of eating a high-quality comment sometimes takes the better of them.

      Nothing as horrible as a bad tank; I can concur as a healer having done stuff with "tanks" that think their job is to just hit the biggest guy.

      And oh dear, don't expect too much of that guide now (I wish I hadn't said anything :P). I don't plan on a thorough explanation on how to tank - there are other sources for that - but just though to give some pointers on some specific boss fight (especially the ones I keep forgetting the mechanics of and what defensive skills are good for what and that sort of stuff).


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