Care and feeding of your prot warrior, part I: Basics
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Before the “easymode” prot paladin…before the 40k-health feral druid…and way before the “how many spell effects CAN we put on the screen at one time” death knight…there was the prot warrior. In the Triassic period of WoW, back when dinosaurs roamed the earth because nobody was high enough level to get into Un’goro, prot warriors were “the” tank. And now, years later, though Blizzard has changed tanking to make any of the four main tank-capable classes pretty much equally viable–a good thing, IMO–we prot warriors are still here, relics from a prior time, yet re-invented by 3.0 and Wrath of the Lich King.
Hopefully I can write an educational series about prot warriors for people who aren’t prot warriors and have no plans to ever roll one. I’d like to try an impart some info about the class–what we do, why we do it, how we gear, what to look for, how you can work with us in parties–so that (a) you can appreciate what we do, and (b) we can pwn stuff in the face faster, harder, and better, and get more loot. Loot is good.
So. This post will cover some general information about the class compared to the other tanking classes, just a few high points that will probably get covered in detail later on. It’s not a treatise on making a prot warriors–there’s people out there far smarter than your humble Panzercow about how to build your tank. This is about working with a prot warrior, not being one. So I hope y’all are ready, because I’m pulling…
Let’s cover the very basics of how a prot warrior tanks, so you can make some sense out of all the banging and crashing and booming that’s going on in front of you. Warriors and beartanks, of course, use rage instead of mana. Rage is how we do what we do. A warrior with zero rage isn’t exactly impotent–we have an ability called Bloodrage that gets us 10 immediate rage + 1 per second for 10 seconds, at the cost of some of our health (and a 60-second cooldown). But our best snap-agro move, Shield Slam, costs us 20 rage, talentable down to 17. Heroic Strike is 15, talentable down to 12 or even 9. Our most efficient attack, Revenge, costs only 2 rage fully talented…but it requires that we’ve parried or dodged an attack in order to light up.
So it stands to reason that a warrior with zero rage might actually be pretty pissed off when somebody else runs up and pulls a pack of mobs. It leaves us standing there scrambling to establish agro while the pack that you pulled heads toward your tasty face, pulling out the knives and forks. Omnomnomnom face. Moral of the story: Let the warrior control when the pulling happens, probably by doing it himself. In fact, generally, your tank should either be doing your pulling and marking himself, or keeping ironclad control over when pulls happen. That way, we can use Charge (generates up to 25 rage) or Bloodrage so we have enough rage built up to start actually doing something useful.
Now, threat. Warriors are, as near as I can tell, still the kings of single-target “snap agro.” We can quickly burst out a ton of threat on a single mob. Give me two seconds and a bunch of rage, and I can generally lock a single mob down by using Shield Slam (which on Lin can crit for well over 5k in a raid situation), Heroic Strike (1800+ crits and extra threat), and if I’m lucky, Revenge (4k+ crit and high threat). Single-target tanking, such as raid bosses, is still what we’re best at.
That’s not to say that we can’t AOE tank, of course. But we’re weaker at it than paladins and DKs. (Druids are, unfortunately, still weaker at it than we are, at least for now.) The reason is how we generate AOE threat. Our primary AOE threat generator is Thunder Clap. On Lin, it hits for about 600 raid-buffed, can crit for up to 1600, and hits all targets in 10 yards…but it’s on a six-second cooldown. It doesn’t “pulse” nearly as frequently as Death and Decay or Consecrate, and doesn’t really hit all that hard, but does provide an attack speed slow of 20%, so it’s nice for mitigation as well as damage and threat.
We have two other area-effect threat-builders, one active and one passive. Shockwave (the 51-point Prot talent) is a frontal cone attack that reaches out about 7 yards (don’t believe the tooltip, it says 10, but it lies). It hits hard, 2k regular/4k crit, and stuns for 4 seconds. But it’s frontal, and on a 20-second cooldown. The passive threat-builder is Damage Shield, a high-end talent; any mob hitting the prot warrior takes 20% of the warrior’s Shield Block Value as Physical damage, which is of course mitigated by armor. But obviously, that means the mobs have to be hitting us, which means we’ve already got to have agro on them.
And this means? Well, if you’re running an instance with a prot warrior tank, and you don’t have strong AOE capability or think your tank is somewhat undergeared, this is where setting and sticking to a kill order is very important. Should you dare to enter tanking forums everywhere, you’ll see tales of woe of tanking for groups that simply could not understand the simple concept of “skull, X, square.” If you focus-fire your DPS on the wrong target, chances are very good that you will pull it off the warrior. Using a kill order means that the warrior knows who to focus the majority of his attacks upon, occasionally changing targets to hit the others with some love taps to keep them interested over and above healing or incidental AOE threat that’s being generated. And, of course, using Thunder Clap every time it’s up.
This is all very elementary stuff, right? Well, in Part II, I’ll talk about a prot warrior’s most useful accessory…the shield, and how we use it to Bash, Slam, and Block our way to tanky goodness. Then in Part III, we’ll get to some things that really set the warrior apart…our plethora of “uh-oh” buttons. We have a lot of “uh-oh” buttons. And we get a lot of practice in using them.