The Way of the Shield


There’s something about shields. It is not only a piece of armour that marks you out as a defensive fighter but also one that is traditionally decorated to identify the user. Is it any wonder that shield using fighters in games feel attached to their shields? More than that, even though offensive fighters and gladiators in real life did use shields, in MMOs the shield has become associated with tanks.

It is the armour piece that says ‘I’m here to protect other characters’, and ‘this is not my PvP spec’. It’s strange how bound up your online identity can be with one item. Often players like to show off their weapons (sic), and compare the glows, the stats, the size. And you’ll find the tanks in a corner eyeing up each other’s shields instead. Even in a game like WoW which has tanking druids and death knights, there’s always a sneaking feeling that you can’t be a real tank without a shield.

Shields have always been decorative as well as useful, even when the decoration was mainly to mark you out as friend or foe on the battlefield. Graphics guys have really come home for us with shields, even in games that don’t massively feature glowing, speaking, skull-laden equipment. On Spinks, I love that my shield is big and solid and unsubtle. No one could mistake it for anything other than a tank’s shield. And somehow it isn’t as aggressively butch as a glowy weapon. But still, my character feels badass when she picks up a shield. She’s not just getting ready for a bit of light self defence before running off and screaming, she’s a defensive warrior, gearing for action. When a badass monster turns up, she’s going to grit her teeth, find solid footing and stand her ground. She’s the first person into a fight and the last (wo)man out.

I imagine the shield being heavy and unwieldy enough that if any other type of character was to pick it up and heft the weight, they’d wonder at how it could be used in battle and look at our tanks with grudging respect because they shoulder the weight daily.

So, I love shields. I love blocking attacks, I love hitting people in the face with a shield slam,  and I wanted to show off a few of the cooler ones I have come across during my time in WoW.

shield 1

shield 2

shield 3

Draconian Deflector and Red Dragonscale Protector, from UBRS and BWL respectively.

shield 4

Bulwark of Azzinoth, also known as the fridge door.

shield 5

Hero’s Surrender (Naxx).

18 thoughts on “The Way of the Shield

  1. Yeah, shields usually get underrated when it comes to screenshots. But actually they have the necessary space for much more details than swords, axes and all that.

    I did not find any screenshots of my favorite Guild Wars shield type, the Aegis / Shield of the Wing, unfortunately. But it kicks ass, it looks very roman/hellenic. 🙂

    • It’s because although I did level Spinks during Vanilla WoW, I didn’t seriously tank with her until later so I don’t know the non-endgame shields all that well.

      But to correct the mistake, here’s a link to the Skullflame Shield! I see it breaks CC which is probably why I didn’t see anyone using it in MC and so on. Nice shield though!

  2. Right now, Linedan still has a Wall of Terror (from KT in Naxx 25)–he’s the only tank on our raid that hasn’t seen an upgrade yet, but it’s still a good shield for Ulduar/ToC content. On a Tauren, it’s beyond impressive…the shield itself is huge, rectangular, almost as tall as a human, and has a giant glowy skull in relief on the front. It’s practically a garage door. I love that thing.

  3. Bulwark of Azzinoth is the god of current shields.

    And it looks like Blizzard is giving us new massive shields in Icecrown.

    Sadly, my Paladin still uses the Badge shield for tanking – and it looks like crud. For healing, though, I’m using the ToC25 shield which looks really good.

  4. We have a whole cultural history full of guys with shields fighting dragons! (I think St George is usually shown on a horse spearing it with a lance, but that’s not really tanking.) Bears eat fish. That’s the actual reason more people don’t play druid tanks, I’m quite sure.

  5. I love the spiky fridge door. I’m more of a bear tank, m’self, but hey, if I’ve got to be in human form, I’m all for a big old slab of steel.

    Considering the potential in heraldry on a shield, though, I’m disappointed that there aren’t customization options for the beasties. Even if it’s just DNA splicing (put one item’s stats on something else) or an appearance tab for shields.

    Of course, I’d want to design my own heraldry, but that’s a bridge too far for most MMO devs. (Since so many users are so… bad.)

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  8. > in MMOs the shield has become associated with tanks.

    I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of Holy Paladins and Resto Shamans suddenly cried out in terror, and were suddenly silenced…


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