Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Battle of the AoE Tanking Abilities

Though AoE tanking is apparently at least somewhat on its way out in Cataclysm, for the remainder of Wrath of the Lich King it is alive and well. For today's post I decided to take a quick look at the different staple AoE tanking tools available to the various classes. Which are strong? Which are weak? Which will cause a killing streak? Find out my thoughts below and feel free to share yours in the comments!


Swipe: It is always easy to identify Feral Tanks in real life because they are the ones with the rippling muscles on their left index finger. Why are their digits so pumped up? Why from mindlessly hammering the Swipe key thousands upon thousands of times of course.

Swipe is really a Bear's only true AoE damage dealer and, as a result, it is only ability we absolutely need to hit when holding a pack of mobs. It is a great spell because it costs little rage (which we have a near endless supply of anyway), does solid damage to large packs, and has no cooldown. It is simultaneously terrible because it needs to be pushed ad nausea to be effective and provides no benefit other than a small burst of damage.

Where Druids Shine: The real strength of Swipe is that it can theoretically be used infinitely with little to no restrictions. A Bear Druid loaded with mobs will have near endless rage and can therefor pound Swipe as fast as a finger allows. For fights where wave after wave of mobs are rolling into your raid, a Druid will always be ready to Swipe and has no reason to worry about much of anything else. Additionally, Swipe is a physical attack, leaving the Druid free from the fear of an ill timed silence.


Consecration: The ability that single-handedly defined Paladins as "the AoE" tank is still alive and well. Consecration is great because it is the ultimate set it and forget it spell. You lay it on the ground and, until it expires, mobs are stuck to you like glue.

Back in the day, Consecration occasionally caused mana issues for the overzealous tank, but no more. Now, so long as the modest cool-down has run its course, keeping consecrate up on a pack of mobs shouldn't come close to depleting a Paladin tank's mana pool.

Where Paladins Shine: Where a tank needs to hold both a single high priority target and several smaller adds, the Paladin is feeling good. A Consecration every eight second will get the AoE job done and you are free to focus on your priority target. Sustained AoE aggro with little effort or attention is the Paladin's true strength. Also, if the mobs happen to be undead, other tanks can forget about it as the addition of Holy Nova to the mix makes Paladins all-stars. If a silence enters the mix, however, you may very well end up with some dead healers.


Thunder Clap: Just as Consecration defined Paladins as the AoE tanks, the existence of Thunder Clap and ONLY Thunder Clap has long relegated Warriors to the AoE tanking bargain bin.

In recent times, Thunder Clap has started to hit harder and generate more delicious aggro, but it still feels lacking. Perhaps the cooldown is just too long, or maybe the supplemental slow just isn't enough to get a plate wearer out of bed in the morning. Whatever it is, Thunder Clap is far from a Warcraft media darling.

Where Warriors Shine: In terms of snap AoE aggro, it really is tough to beat a Warrior. Thunder Clap hits hard and generates tons of threat. After that, however, it's time to wait out the cool down. Grabbing AoE mobs is in a Warriors wheelhouse, holding them is often the problem.

Death Knights

Death and Decay: You mean to tell me that Death Knights can lay down a Consecration equivalent at range?!? Why yes they can.

With great power, however, comes slightly greater cost. While a Paladin using Consecration only loses a bit of constantly replenishing mana and can move on with his or her life, a Death Knight must fork over one of each and every rune in his arsenal to generate a bed of AoE hurt. Not only does the Death Knight need to consider Death and Decay's own huge cool-down, but also the fact that using the ability actually can put his other skills on cool-down as well.

Blood Boil: Though Death and Decay gets all the Death Knight AoE press, Blood Boil is the behind the scenes workhorse of the class's AoE skills.

For the cost of a single Blood Rune, a Death Knight can instantly ding all nearby targets for decent magical damage. Add diseases to the mix and that damage goes up appreciably. Limited only by the speed rune generation, the ability is available pretty often and offers decent bang for its buck.

Where Death Knights Shine: Death and Decay makes Death Knights both exceptionally flexible and inflexible AoE tanks. They can snap a group of mobs anywhere and hold them with a set and forget AoE, but only once every thirty seconds and only if they want to sack half their runic resources for a little while. With time to prepare, a Death Knight can AoE tank like nobody else, but when caught without cool-downs, Blood Boil can be a bit too little too late.

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