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Here's the thing: I've been a mage from day one, when I first started playing WoW a good two years ago. I always liked being a mage in Dungeons & Dragons, so I figured I would like being a mage in WoW. I was right. In fact, I love being a glass cannon. (OK, I don't love the glass part so much, but I really dig the cannon part.) I'm not a great mage; age and fingers that were broken by judo or baseball have slowed me some. Still, I am a good mage. I hold my own, doing anywhere from 7-12k DPS depending on buffs and what I am watching on TV.
The thing is, as much as I love being a mage, making my own food and teleporting all around, I hate taking forever to queue. I also started thinking, "Hey, there must be more to simulated life than just standing back and blasting things." I decided to try a new character. Not having the patience to level a character from 1 to 80, I figured I'd go the death knight route. After all, DKs are mage-killers; they are the anti-mage. So after two years of being nothing but a ranged DPS machine, I rolled a DK.
My first surprise was that the leveling process was much faster and more streamlined than it was back two years ago. Second, I loved wearing armor -- plate armor, man. I lost count of the number of times I found myself telling people, "Boy, I wish my mage could wear armor." The end result was I made it to 80 quite quickly. I actually went from 77 to 80 over a weekend. It's when I hit 80 and started trying raids and doing tougher instances that I quickly learned two things: I'm not very good at melee DPS, and I am even worse as a tank.
The joy of moving targets
First, the DPS part. I'm used to being a little, breakable ranged dude, where the goal is to stay as far away as possible, lock on the marked target and blast 'em until they are dead. Repeat and rinse on other targets. As a melee DPSer, I thought it would work the same way: Lock on target, give 'em a few diseases, then hack 'em until they are dead.
The thing that never occurred to me was that targets move; therefore, I have to move with them. Yes, I know ranged DPS needs to adjust and move with targets also -- but we can do it from a distance, not locked in chaos like melee. There's just something about having to stay close to a target, surrounded by friends and enemies, that my brain doesn't handle well. I tend to let targets slip out of my range. Either that, or once I kill a target, I have a much harder time locking onto my tank's next target. I tried setting my focus on the tank and then attacking who the tank is attacking, but in all the commotion that is melee, I'm just not that good at it. I'm at the point now where I can maybe just maybe churn out 3K DPS. That's hard for me to swallow.
Tanking is hard work
The next thing I learned was: Dang, tanking is real hard. Since I knew I probably would have a very steep learning curve for tanking, I figured I would only tank non-heroics -- plus I would make sure they were mostly guild runs. To be extra-careful, I also always would force my son and his hunter to be in the runs I tanked; this way, I would have somebody right next to me saying, "Ah, please pick up that mob." (Actually, he never used the word "please" and would more likely scream things like, "Are you blind? Do you know what aggro is?" But still, it was helpful in keeping me in the game.)
Needless to say, I learned to really appreciate a good tank. When you are a ranged DPS, your goal is pretty much singular: Kill current target. As a tank, you have to be much more aware of everything around you, all the mobs and all your party. You need to collect them all, turn them away from the party and keep building up your aggro so that crazy hunter in your party doesn't have a beast rushing at him.
Plus, you have to worry about marking targets, to help make sure everybody is attacking the right target. Mages never have to mark. As a mage, if you screw up, usually you die; as a tank, if you screw up, it's quite possible everybody dies. Tanks are kind of like football offensive linemen; you only notice them when they mess up -- and man, when you mess up, do you hear it! The few times I tanked, the more my appreciation for a good tank grew.
More delicate sensibilities
Finally, I never before realized what a pain it can be to find a freaking mage to port you to town. Man, there never seems to be a mage near me when I need one. Then there's the issue of food. As a mage, you have all the food you need. Snap your fingers and you're fed, mana up, health up. Not so much for DKs. That took a while to get used to. I'm not even going to mention the number of times I tried to buff another player with Focus Magic and Arcane Brilliance.
Who am I kidding? Once a mage, always a mage. Give me something to nuke.
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