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Hero Moments: What it means to be a tank

Matt Walsh

Every week, WoW Insider brings you The Light and How to Swing It for holy, protection and retribution paladins. Protection specialist Matt Walsh spends most of his time receiving concussions for the benefit of 24 other people, obsessing over his hair (a blood elf racial!), and maintaining the tankadin-focused blog Righteous Defense.

When thinking about the biggest perks to being a tank, I keep getting stuck on the intangibles. It's much like the reasons why Indiana Jones would rob old men in yachts of their jewelry: fortune and glory. Well, perhaps more the glory -- fortune is awfully tangible.

But yes, glory. Glory is a powerful drug. For a tank, the thankless job that it is, glory can be all the fuel needed to keep going, to keep chugging along while various DPS players sip their piña colodas and sling insults at you from the safety of their deck chairs for not tanking to their exacting specifications.

And what better glory is there than those moments when it's you versus the world and all the odds are arrayed against you? Whether it's a moment when the entire raid has kicked the bucket, and it all falls to you to see the boss take his own fall, or (like a digital Leonidas) you hold off a boss for as long as possible so the rest of your comrades can flee past the reset point without accumulating a repair bill -- those moments of personal glory pop up from time to time.

Taking on the world

Right now, you're probably thinking of one of your own hero moments and recalling how great it felt that first time that all the eyes of the raid fell upon you, depending entirely on you to pull their bacon out of the fire.

I remember when I first started seriously raid tanking at the beginning of Wrath. Like many new tanks in that expansion, I cut my teeth in Naxxramas. At the time, the guild I was in was fairly dysfunctional (to put it kind it kindly). At any time, we had three different tanks vying for the top job. The raid leader was feckless (again, this is putting it kindly) and wouldn't commit to one name or another. So figuring out tanking assignments was often akin to playing king of the hill.

One of the first times I really distinguished myself as a tank in that guild was on a particularly haywire Kel'Thuzad attempt. The two other tanks who usually gobbled up the better tanking duties had both managed to get themselves killed around the 20% mark, one who was on the boss and the other who was tanking one of the Icecrown Guardians. I quickly leapt into action, dragging my Guardian over to the center, grabbing big KT, and then the other Guardian. And with adrenaline coursing through my veins, I held the line, as the healers worked up a mighty sweat keeping my poor blood elf from being ground into a Bloodthistle stain on the floor.

When Kel'Thuzad finally keeled over, there was a shout and everyone congratulated me on doing an excellent job of not dying. Obviously, back in early Wrath (and in the pre-OP Ardent Defender days), there wasn't much a paladin tank could do to actively tank other than keep the enemies in front, pray for Divine Protection to come off cooldown, and nervously wait for the best time to use Lay on Hands. But still, I felt like a million bucks having just gotten a big, sloppy kiss from RNG.

In the weeks following that raid, my stock began rising precipitously within the guild, to the point that I became one of the main go-to tanks, while the two DKs who dropped the ball that night both eventually slunk away to try different roles. That encounter gave me the boost of confidence I needed to pursue a more active role in both the raid and the guild.

The last man standing

Another one of my favorite hero moments was also from the Wrath days, from the halls of Icecrown Citadel. On the night of our first heroic Blood Queen kill, we were struggling with raid DPS that was ... middling. Combine that with people fumbling their bites, and it was a total night of frustration. Eventually, as the night went on, we got closer and closer, but every time we got within spitting distance of the finish line, we ran out of time and wiped to the enrage.

Finally, with frustration setting in, we redoubled our efforts and made it through the fight with no bite fumbles and the necessary DPS numbers. As we approached the end of the line, it appeared that we were about to come up short.

Preparing for the inevitable, I watched the clock, and just as it was about to strike the end, I taunted and popped Divine Shield, attempting to tank her through the immune effect. As she turned red and angry and my allies began dropping left and right to her Shroud of Sorrow effect, I held on as best as I could. Once the bubble was gone, I threw up some trinket buffs and white-knuckled the next few seconds as RNG favored me with a generous avoidance streak. At this point, everyone was dead except for me, but thankfully, she finally broke off for the center of the room to take to the air and rain shadowy death upon me. Right as she hit her apex, the last of the DoTs still on her ticked away the remaining bits of health, and she fell to the floor with a thud.

Simply by living a little bit longer than everyone else, I had given the DPS a chance in absentia to kill the boss. Unlike my first big hero moment, this was definitely more the result of my own actions than dumb luck (well, other than that avoidance streak, which was pretty lucky).

So now I turn to you, dear readers: What have been your greatest moments of glory? Any epic hero moments where you stared down the odds and gripped the muzzle of fate between your two mighty hands, bending it to your will?

The Light and How to Swing It shows paladin tanks how to take on the dark times brought by Cataclysm. Try out our four tips for upping your combat table coverage, find out how to increase threat without sacrificing survivability, and learn how to manage the latest version of Holy Shield.

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