Today, after quite some time, the second of the couple posts about future/past takes turn. In the original post, I have outlined what Shadows were to become (tanks with best survivability - I will talk about that in my next post). Let me now have a look at what our class has gone through since its birth.
Launch - tank with light armour, eh? Shadow's tanking competence had been questioned for quite some time and only capable players (casting aside all the prejudice) carried on playing Shadows as tanks. However, after several moths people realized how op shadows were when played properly and boom, the nerf was about to come. Self-healing was simply way too good and had to be reduced. But not just self-healing got targeted by the downgrade - armour as well. I remember many people fabricating a theory by then that 'Shadows were never meant to be proper tanks and should always be considered only as emergency off-tanks or dps'.
Funny thing is that back then, Shadows were far from being on par with Commandos or Sentinels in terms of dps which would make them (according to the theory) absolutely useless. I even remember some people explicitly saying that people had 'fucked up' when they had decided to roll a Shadow Consular.
But is this truly a spectre of the past? 2.0 out there for a while now, Shadow dps still considered incompetent in its entirety (at least for some serious progression) and now even Shadow tanks are looked at as rather a casual tanking class. Some decide to exclude Shadow tanks from TFB nightmare progression because they don't have a proper gap closer (see Limited Mobility?). That is, in my opinion, ridiculously stupid. If any Shadow tank has issues with getting to the first boss (emerging where he/she/it wants) fast enough, it is not the class - the player is just bad at playing a Shadow tank.
Spikiness on the other hand, that is something we can't do much about. There are however two different things which are sometimes not looked at separately:
1) Default spikiness, meaning the amount of damage shadows are bound to take when they don't shield or parry/deflect/dodge. Some bosses simply hit too hard and when the only mitigation is damage reduction based on Armor Rating, god (healers) help us.
2) Overall damage taken, reflecting the amount of damage effectively mitigated using cooldowns. This is something instrumental and it is up to players themselves to maximize the effectiveness of their cooldowns. Learning what type of damage comes with each particular attack, when are those instances of damage occurring - all that plays a huge role in determining whether the Shadow tank takes insane damage or mitigates as much as possible.
Simply put, not knowing the fight and using cooldowns only in 'oh shit' situations while on a Shadow tank is bound to be a failure nowadays.
The default spikiness is currently a big issue and is very demanding. Unless played very competently, Shadows are ineffective compared to cooldown-loaded Guardians and passively defending Vanguards. Guardians - hate me for saying this out loud if you like - are now overpowered due to the amount of cooldowns they possess. They don't require particularly high skill to be played in order to be efficient and in hands of competent people, they are outstanding. Vanguards don't have that many cooldowns but they have high armour and their stat priority (Defense and Shield rating) doesn't make them that much RNG, and thus, fairly less spiky than Shadows. To put it bluntly, if Guardians or Vanguards don't have their cooldowns and get unlucky with mitigation, it is no end of the world. If Shadow doesn't have a cooldown and gets unlucky, they usually eat dirt.
But to summarize, all this grief makes Shadows challenging and therefore very fun to play. People are usually surprised to see a Shadow doing well - particularly as a dps class. Tanks are still quite common among players but are currently stigmatized. No wonder though, with the amount of Shadow tanks who don't care much about min-maxing at all, I can easily see where the common attitude comes from.
The next post will now arrive much sooner along with the revision of several older posts which will be updated to reflect changes that took place with the level cap increase. Until then...