It's been a little while since I wrote about warlock-tanks, but there has been so much to write about I don't know how to fit it all! I've only got time to write one post a day unfortunately. But I get to it eventually, so you just have to be patient.
In this second post about alternative tanks I thought we'd look at my favorite wannabe-tank, the shaman. I actually enjoy the idea of shaman tanking so much I've discussed how to make it a real, viable raid-tank with Love. We had some ideas and I might make a post about it. But since those are only dreams, and not facts, I won't talk about them here. This post will be about what a shaman-tank actually can do, and what skills they actually do have at their disposal, rather than what could be with some engagement from the Blizzard devs.
Tankability: approximately level 1-40ish
The shaman tank has a smaller tankability level-span than the lock, but is before level 40 actually a better tank than a lock or hunter. The reason for this is that the shaman can use a shield, which means he can be a tank himself and doesn't have to use pets. I actually think low levels shamans make such decent tanks that it is a real shame that they can't queue for it. Before level 40 shamans have leather-gear, which doesn't differ very much from the mail-gear that other tanks have (or the druid bear-form armor for that matter). The shamans armor will be greatly boosted with a decent shield anyhow, so the difference to a "real" tank won't be very big. Most importantly, by being able to wield a shield, the shaman can block incoming physical damage, which a hunter or warlock can't. Edit: The drawbacks of a shaman tank are the same as with any other wannabe-tank, the lack of taunts and aoe-threat abilities. These will have to be worked around, and can be coped with fairly easy at lower levels, so don't let it get you down. So let's check out what makes the shaman a good tank;
- First of all, like mentioned they can use shields, which nearly make them like any other tank on lower levels. Later on, at 40+, the armor difference between the shaman mail-user and the tank plate-user (and druid dire bear form armor) will be too great to handle, but until then...
-Secondly, the shaman has a high-threat attack in Frost Shock, just like the warlock, to keep aggro on themselves. This attack also reduces movement speed of the target by 50%. Since it only has a 6 second cooldown it works fairly well to keep aggro. You get it at level 20.
- Thirdly, they can enhance themselves (and the rest of the group) with their totems. All the regularly used totems are also good for tanking, like stoneskin/strength of earth, mana spring/healing stream, windfury totem and searing/flametongue totem.
- Forthly, shamans actually have talents that improve their ability to tank well, more about that in the next section.
There is only one viable spec if you intend to tank as shaman, and that is the enhancement tree. The reason is simply because no caster can do much good when standing in close combat, as most of their abilites will be constantly interrupted by attacks. Also, the enhancement tree offers some talents that will improve the shamans tankability, such as;
- Toughness - increases the shamans health and reduces the effect of movement impairing effects used on them.
- Anticipation - increases the shamans ability to dodge and the effect of disarm used on them.
- Enhancing totems and Guardian totems - improve the shamans totems.
Normally an enhancement shaman would take talents such as Spirit Weapons, Dual Wield and eventually Lava Lash. If you intend to go hardcore shaman-tanking these are not recommended. Spirit Weapons does give you parry, but at the cost of 30% less threat! You'll have to choose and see which one you think is most beneficial, having parry or having more threat. If you don't pick Spirit Weapons you can't pick Dual Wield either, but you won't really need it since you're going to wield a shield instead!
There are also talents in the other trees that are recommended, such as Elemental Warding and perhaps Reverberation for more threat, in the Elemental tree.
Now remember, after level 40 you'll have to abandon this ship pretty much anyway, so you won't be able to grab all the decent tank-talents. You can try to hold on, and fight against all the lolbois who'll never understand the glory and commitment of shaman tanking, but eventually you'll have to fight against the Blizzard programming itself, and you know you can't win that.
Except for the shield, there is of course no tanking gear for a shaman. As with warlock you'll have to compensate the lack of avoidance by having alot of stamina instead, so stack it high (like a druid). Edit: Another good tank-stat to look for is agility, which gives dodge, amongst others. Caster shields and tanking shields have the same amount of armor usually, and since both caster and melee stats are useful to a shamans you can just pick whichever comes into your hands first, and then always upgrade to whichever has more armor.
Edit: There is a way to increase your avoidance as shaman actually, and that is by using pvp-gear which has resilience. I talked about the lack of proper tankgear for lowbies in another post, and the solution (resilience gear) is of course open for shamans to use as well. If you get really much resilience it might be possible to be crit immune even at low levels and thus extend the level range at which you will be able to tank (I have heard of a shaman who tanked like this in northrend raids, so it is possible with some dedication!).