Tanking Shamans

Post-note: Even if you aren’t that interested in my view on the subject, you may want to check out the comments 🙂 Very nice video of shaman tanking Anub in ToC.  Cheers!

I ran across a thread over on the public forums that I thought deserved a little discussion.  Atalzanger asks why can’t shamans tank 5-man content.  The answer from Netherea is what we would expect on the official forums–sticky issue, lots of balancing, not viable at this time–however, what would be the implications to making the shaman a 5-man only dungeon beast, and would the changes be worth it?

Needed Changes

Sure, it sounds easy, but anytime you add a talent tree to the game, you also have to consider factors that go beyond the individual player and affect the world at large.


Every talent tree must be considered against NPC’s and other PC’s.  Surely you’ve heard the QQ from both PvE and PvP enthusiasts when a favored talent was radically altered because it was causing an unfair advantage on the other side of the fence.  Every available talent has to be balanced against how that ability will be used in all settings, not just the one you’re aiming for.

Particularly in trying to limit Shaman’s to 5-man content, there would be serious issues.  Since raiding instances and 5-man content are currently doing a yo-yo type effect–heroic gear, to purchase raid gear, to access more heroics–where would the line be drawn on talents to ensure that shamans are not raid capable?  Once you have the gear, you theoretically should be raid capable, so the limitations would have to be included in the talents themselves, but if that is the case, wouldn’t you also be preventing shamans from “higher tiered” heroics?


Every role has a piece of gear.  Shamans currently share their gear type–mail–with hunters only, but all other plate classes–paladins, death knights and warriors–are also able to wear this gear type and are tank-capable as well.  Mail pieces are already currently itemized for three distinct roles–physical damage (enhancement shamans and hunters), ranged spell damage (elemental shamans), and healing (restoration shamans).  There is already a certain amount of complaint in the itemization priorities between enhancement shamans and hunters.  While they both provide physical damage, their stat allocation is different requiring some of their gear to overlap, while other pieces are solely for each respective class.

Adding a fourth type of itemization for mail gear would be a difficult proposition, and whether wasted in terms of loot tables.  When would shaman tank gear drop?  When would it stop (because we’re trying to restrict to 5-man tanking role only)?

Although it may not be considered apples to apples, its also worth considering the fate of bear tanks in their itemization.  Druids are the only tanking class that does not wear plate-mail currently.  As such, they are the only class that requires a non-plate drop in order to pick up tanking gear.  However, because of their talented mechanics, they don’t require what other classes would consider “tank-specific” gear, and often are competing with rogues, and feral dps to gain gear.  They also have some rather interesting best in slot pieces–often PvP gear has been considered best in slot for feral druids, especially in terms of weapons.

While bear tanks might be perfectly happy with their gearing options (hey, they can still do some dps by just switching forms–much better than most of their plate-wearing brothers anyway) it is my opinion that because they are a the sole tanking class not wearing plate, their itemization needs have yet to be streamlined to their best benefit.  I can only see shamans wishing to tank being stuck in a similar situation–either their “protection” talents would have to be specifically designed to allow the use of current gear tables, or they would have to be talented to allow them to wear plate.

Who Cares About That — It’ll be Awesome!

While you might not consider the changes a great impedement–either because you’re willing to wait, or you don’t really care, as long as you get to play your class your way (Hey, paladin tank here, I get it!)–the chances of it happening are still pretty much nil in my opinion.  While a racous outcry from the shaman community might make change an opinion, would shaman’s really tank?

I took a rather quick and sloppy perusal over at Armory Data Mining to see what percentage of the current tanking classes are actually tanks.  It’s honestly hard to tell except for paladins and warriors, and of those two classes, 40% of warriors had some type of tank spec, while 30% of paladins had some type of tank spec.  Assuming similar type numbers for DK’s and druids, about 1/3 of players with tank specs available have one.

Get that, only 1/3 of players who have access to a tank spec are willing to even take one–and that’s with dual spec available!  Even if we bump it and say 1/2 of players take a tanking spec as one of their two specs.  Considering that that game was released with one tanking class and their are now four why is there a tank shortage?

People don’t want to tank!  It’s not the mechanics, the class, or the limited availability, come right down to it, and the number of players who enjoy tanking on a regular basis is few and far between.  What would be the benefit of adding another tanking class?  I don’t think it would appreciably raise the number of tanks available by any margin.

And take a look at the people who play shamans.  You have the choice of healing, ranged or melee dps with your and 76% of shamans are ranged (healers or dps).  They don’t stand toe to toe with the boss–they like standing in the back flinging lightning and healing the group.  A very small percentage of shamans like to get toe to toe with the boss, and they don’t even wear a shield!  If I was WoW and was looking at what tree to make a protection like tree, enhancement would be the natural inclination–however, enhancement shamans are actually pretty well balanced, and it would honestly be a shame to tinker them into some broken half-breed to fill a need that doesn’t really exist.

While I’m all for people playing their class their way, shamans aren’t broken and they don’t need fixing (yes, I’m aware of the scaling issues with elementals, but I think they may be intentional honestly >.<).  I don’t see petitioning for changes that aren’t needed, and won’t provide a tangible benefit to the community.  While I tanked a dungeon or two on my shaman in vanilla, it wasn’t terribly exciting, and I think the directions that shamans have grown in have been exciting and very much fitting of their role.  When I think shaman, it’s almost always as a spiritual advisor type or a warrior on a holy quest kinda thing, of which neither role screams “I stand between my friends and certain doom!”


12 thoughts on “Tanking Shamans

  1. A quick search on YouTube will show you quite a few videos of Shamans tanking current 5 mans.

    The fact is they CAN do it, it's just not as easy and it requires coordination with the rest of the group.

    • That totally defeats the original post by the guy at the forums then 😛 If they're already viable for 5-man tanking, then nothing needs to be done, because the proposal was for shamans to tank 5-man dungeons only.

      Psy officially killed my post with like… research and what-not… move along now.

      • Things could certainly be done to improve it. As I said, it can be done already, it just isn't easy and requires a lot of coordination.

        The main thing that Shamans lack for being tanks is a taunt. The closest they've got is Stoneclaw Totem which really doesn't help a whole lot unless someone body pulled by accident and has done nothing since then to generate agro.

        If shaman's want to be viable tanks then they need a taunt and they need a defensive mechanic added in as well. Druids don't get plate armor, but they do get a massive armor boost when they go into Dire Bear form. Shamans are just stuck with whatever they've got which will definitely be below the performance of either plate wearers or bear druids.

        Right now Shaman "tanks" make up for their lack of armor with gems and enchants focused entirely on avoidance, resilience, stamina. They miss out on other improvements to their performance for the sake of survivability.

        Before Fire Nova came out they only had two viable options for AoE threat generation and those were Chain Lightning and healing themselves, but of course you run into the problem them of losing the majority of your avoidance while casting, which means you better have some strong heals if you hope to pull it off. And the coordination in the group comes from having to hold back to just single target DPS because your tank has no means of pulling agro back off of you.

        • Adding those other components, however, would potentially make them viable for raid content, which would defeat the poster's query asking to be viable for 5-man dungeons only. Paladin tanks in BC, with weird gemming/armor bonuses and a complete disregard for the mechanics of their class became viable as raiders in BC–the fact that shamans are not, even with extra effort being made by players to chant/gem and otherwise enhance their tanking performance, places them exactly where the OP wants them to be without making massive changes to their gear or talent options.

          The difficulty in the OP's request was not making shamans tanks–they originally had talents well suited for this task which could have been buffed before WotLK. However, the need for more tanks in raid settings is negligible imo, and the work needed to make them viable 5-man tanks vs. raid tanks would be much more difficult then simply making them viable tanks for all settings (even if they raped the enhancement tree to do it).

            • It was still good to know. I haven't personally met a shaman willing to tank past vanilla content in ages, so I was under the impression that it had died with the buffing of the three trees into equally viable play options. Apparently I should check youtube in future when researching, but its just not my favorite medium.

              • I think you could probably get around the whole talents issues, taunting etc by just adding 4 tank specific powerful shaman specific totems. Increasing threat etc. Wouldn't really need a lot of talent changing, probably have to throw in some mail gear that was actually stam helpful. I think its a neat idea. One that will never get blizzards attention enough to make them do anything about it, sadly enough.

                • That would actually be some nice utility–right now our shamans are stacking the same totems since we also seem to have a solid paladin core–then again, they might not want that power in a totem for just that reason 😛

                  Interesting idea though, it would solve my problem with screwing a viable tree, and would only require the changes to mail drops… which could be limited for leveling/5-man shamans.

  2. I didn't play WoW when it first released but weren't Shamans able to tank (or tank better) back then? I recall their being some radical changes to the enhancement line.

    As for pleasure in tanking, I'm probably out of the norm because I enjoy it. However I'm aware that most people don't. I think it's a stressful role as it comes with a lot of responsibility. No doubt the dual talent system went a long way towards helping the issue because now players don't need to pick between tanking or DPS.

    Nice post 🙂

    • Yeppers — the original enhancement tree looked more like the original paladin protection tree — both classes *looked* capable of tanking, and often did all the way till end-game, then the door closed.

      I'm a crazy tank nut as well 🙂 I just know how often I've talked someone into tanking with my rampant enthusiasm to have them go *meh, dps spec is more fun* and never don their shield again.

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