When I played WoW in 2006-2007 (1.5 years), my only endgame character was a Druid which I played as Feral.
Back in Vanilla veteran Druids frequently warned newer Druids such as me not to fall in love with Feral while leveling because “your heart would be broken at endgame.” But I’m a stubborn person, and after (accidentally) realizing at level 36 how good a Bear could tank, I stayed exclusively Feral. I played the 11/33/7 Bear-tank spec at endgame, and I faced prejudice from the very narrow-minded WoW community, even in the guild I was in. There was limited non-set Leather Agility gear and people generally believed that gear belonged to Rogues.
In TBC once Feral and Prot Pally were made as viable raid tanks, people were finally supportive of having me MT – especially when they say how effective it was in the hands of a competent player. There were still many flaws with Feral, e.g.: we had to shift to normal form between Feral forms, we couldn’t proc weapon enchants in Feral form, Feral itemization was craptastic, we couldn’t use consumables in Feral form, our PVP gear had hybridized stats (e.g. +healing, +Agi, etc), there were Feral-specific weapons, etc.
Over time I got burned out of WoW’s grindy nature (rep grinds, gear tier grinds, grind this, grind that, etc) and I didn’t like the PVP system, so I quite cold turkey and had no plans to return.
I came back to WoW in 2010 after a 2.5 year layoff, as my gaming friends said that the things I hated had been largely addressed – both for the game as a whole (in terms of getting PVP gear) and for the Druid class.
When I came back in WotLK, I decided to try Balance spec. In WotLK, there were serious (and continue to be serious) flaws in the mechanics for Balance, but I played it anyway. At times I got very tired of the lack of balance (no pun intended) for Balance Druid against other Casters. I saw Blizzard’s preliminary changes for the Balance Druid in Cataclysm and was not encouraged.
To “hedge” for Cataclysm I decided to level a 2nd character to 80, so that I would have two characters close to the new level cap. The question was, which class? The classes that made my short list were Paladin and Shaman.
After watching some “Protribution” (aka Prot Pally) PVP videos on YouTube and reading Stax’s Protribution Guide, my choice was Pally. So I bit the bullet and leveled an ancient toon from 40->80. I detest the leveling process in most games, and WoW is no exception, because leveling tends to be tedious and I enjoy endgame.
When I dinged 80 on my Pally I had a 2.5k GS (it was pitiful) and I was basically a weak DoT running around chasing people. I eventually got geared up with a full set of baseline PVP gear and Prot was fun.
Then 4.0 launched, and there were so many changes! A lot of Pallies hated (and IMO didn’t understand) the new class mechanics, especially Holy Power. I loved the changes overall. HoPo gave us another resource to work with, and I’m used to having multiple resource bars from other games – in every case they have made a class more dynamic to play.
Prot Paladin was OP at 80 in 4.0.1 WotLK, so some major nerfs came our way in Patch 4.0.3a. But Cataclysm hadn’t launched yet and I was not ready to throw in the towel. Oddly enough, Feral Druid got buffed to the point of silliness, but I don’t like to play FOTM specs. I wanted to see for myself if Prot would be viable at 85 in Cataclysm, and if that was the case, I wanted to provide helpful material (Guide + narrated videos) to other players who were trying to figure it out. I have a habit in games of playing specs that other people don’t believe are viable or weak in PVP, e.g. LOTRO Captain, LOTRO Orc Reaver, WAR Swordmaster, etc.
There are things I miss about my Druid, especially the awesome mobility and fun of forms. But Prot enables me to better support other players the way I want to (e.g. bubble, Lay on Hands, offhealing in the same form), and of all the class archetypes, the one that I gravitate to the most is the durable melee who can support / offheal. E.g. LOTRO Captain, WoW Prot Pally.
Long story short, I’m really glad I made the decision to invest in Prot :)