Your big beautiful beefy bulwark of badass.

So you want to be a prot warrior: Levels 10-20


(I know, I know, I said in my last post that this one would be about levels 10-30, not 10-20.  But you really don’t want to read a 3000-word wall of text, trust me.  The only way I can keep these even close to reasonably sized is to go 10 levels at a time.  I’m a verbose Panzercow, what can I say?)

At the completion of your Defensive Stance quest at level 10, you gain a “stance bar” on your UI.  Stances for warriors work similarly to animal forms for druids, and use the same default keys; they also switch the default button bar #1 on your UI, so you have to set your Battle and Defensive Stance keys up separately.  Map your stance bar icons to keys that you remember and can reach; Prot warriors don’t stance-dance as much as DPS warriors do, but it’s still best to keep the ability very handy.  For now, you’ll primarily be remaining in Battle Stance, the default, but you’ll do your tanking in Defensive Stance.

For your next 10 levels, things will start to get more complicated with the introduction of your talents.  (Before I go through the talents, here’s the disclaimers:  I leveled Linedan four years ago, back when trilobites were advanced lifeforms.  I have not yet leveled a warrior 1-70 through this brave new world we call “3.0″.  These are, therefore, my best suggestions and guesses based on my knowledge of the class.  No warranty express or implied, your mileage may vary, void in New Jersey and where prohibited without the express written consent of Major League Baseball, blah blah blah.)

Also, where we’re leading on this journey is ultimately to a 15/5/51 Prot build similar to Linedan’s.  We will take all fifty-one points in Prot first. Suggest this a year ago and you would have been laughed off your server.  Now?  It’s possible, and we’re going to try it.  Hardcore Prot, baby.  Mooyah.  (I’ll talk about some alternatives much later down the road.)

So as you head out into the big wide world, to that special level of Hell known as The Barrens or Westfall, here’s my suggestions for your first 11 talent points:

Levels 10-12:  3/3 Improved Thunder Clap.  Three points in ITC will hugely increase the effectiveness of your Thunder Clap; the rage cost is reduced by four points, the damage is increased by 30%, and the slowing effect doubles to -20% attack speed.  That’s a pretty fair chunk of incoming damage mitigated and outgoing damage increased.

Levels 13-14:  2/5 Shield Specialization.  +2% chance to block, and a 40% chance of generating 2 rage when you do block.  Not bad.  We have to put the points somewhere to get to the next tier of talents, this’ll do nicely.

Levels 15-17:  3/3 Incite.  How does a flat +15% crit chance to your Heroic Strike, Thunder Clap, and Cleave sound?  I thought so.  Incite’s also why good rage management to maximize your use of those three attacks is so important; by level 17, your mere 7% crit on white attacks becomes a pretty nice 22% on your Heroic Strike, Thunder Clap and Cleave.

Levels 18-19:  2/5 Anticipation:  +2% chance to dodge.  We’ll come back and fill this in later, but for now, this gets you more avoidance.

Level 20:  1/1 Last Stand.  Welcome to your first big “oh shit” button.  Last Stand will give you 30% extra health for 20 seconds.  At the end of that 20 seconds, the health goes away.  If you’re below that amount of health, you’ll have 1 health left.  Basically, once you hit this, you have 20 seconds to either kill what’s in front of you, or run away.  Being a Prot warrior, you will, of course, kill it instead of running away.  Right?

Now for your level 10-20 skills, and there are a metric crapton:

Sunder Armor (level 10):  This is a tanking staple.  It does no damage, but it reduces the armor on your target so it takes more physical damage, and it also causes a pretty good chunk of bonus threat.  Sunder Armor is not restricted to Defensive Stance, but that’s where it’s most often used during tanking.  You can use it during grinding if you want, although you’d probably be better off sticking with burning rage on damage-causing moves.

Taunt (level 10):  Defensive Stance-only, this “taunts the target to attack you.”  It does it by putting you at the top of the target’s current agro list.  It does not force the target to attack you, so if somebody else is generating more threat than you, it’ll turn right back to them.  We’ll talk about this more when we get into discussing tanking and the concept of agro.

Overpower (level 12):  This is a Battle Stance-only ability that can only be used after the target dodges you.  It’s basically a free weapon hit; the bad guy can’t dodge, parry, or block it (but it can miss).  At 5 rage, it’s very efficient, and should be used every time it lights up.

Shield Bash (level 12):  You smack the bad guy “in da mouf” with your shield.  You somehow don’t do any damage, but you do three things–you daze them (so they move half speed), you interrupt their spellcasting if any, and if they were casting, you lock out that spell school for 6 seconds.  If you try this without a shield in your left hand, I will laugh at you.

Demoralizing Shout (level 14):  Think of it as a reverse Battle Shout.  You lower the attack power of all your enemies within 10 yards by a certain amount.  The catch?  It’ll agro any attackable enemies in that range.  If you’ve got non-aggressive but attackable stuff around you, be careful with your AOE.

Revenge (level 14):  Welcome to your big tank nuke for the next 26 levels.  Revenge can only be used in Defensive Stance, and can only be used after you dodge, parry, or block an attack.  When you do, this lights up, and it hits pretty hard–especially considering it costs a mere 5 rage.  This attack is why I grind Linedan on his dailies in tank gear and in Defensive Stance.  With high dodge/parry/block, this lights up all the time and hits like a truck with no brakes.  For now, you’ll primarily use it when tanking.  Prior to 3.0, it was a good high-threat move, but not much for damage.  The bonus threat is gone, but it’s been replaced by tasty yellow numbers.  Mmmmm.  Pain.  (Note the 5-second cooldown.)

Mocking Blow (level 16):  This is your backup taunt, and unlike Taunt, it’s usable in Battle Stance.  It does normal damage, some bonus threat, and forces the target to attack you for 6 seconds–but doesn’t move you up the agro list, so after 6 seconds, the mob reverts to normal behavior and goes back to nomming face on whoever’s on the top of its list.  It’s your emergency “break glass in case of priest being eaten” move, to be used if Taunt misses or is on cooldown, and is designed to hold the mob on you until you can try Taunt again.

Shield Block (level 16):  Defensive Stance only.  For the next 10 seconds, you hide behind your shield and block everything in front of you–and your shield block value doubles so you block about double the normal amount.  Use this liberally when tanking, especially on bosses.  It’s a lifesaver, even on a 60-second cooldown, which we’ll talent down to 40 seconds eventually.  This ability becomes even more useful later on, but that’s a ways off yet.

Disarm (level 18):  Self-explanatory.  You yoink the bad guy’s mainhand weapon for a few seconds.  Not hugely useful in PvE, but fun.  Handy in PvP.

Cleave (level 20):  Another “on-next-swing” attack like Heroic Strike, Cleave will hit your target and one next to it for weapon damage plus some.  This is handy for multi-target tanking or mob grinding, but since it costs 15 rage like Heroic Strike, use it judiciously.

Retaliation (level 20):  An “oh shit” button for Battle Stance only.  Any attack coming at you from the front will give you a free swing back, for 12 seconds or 20 attacks, whichever comes first.  This is primarily designed for the guys with the big two-handers, but there’s no reason why you can’t use it too.

Stance Mastery (level 20):  A passive ability that lets you retain 10 rage when moving between stances.  Prior to level 20, stance-shifting completely zeroes out your rage.

You may be feeling overwhelmed by new skills at this point.  Don’t be.  For normal day-to-day slaughter, you’ll only use a few.  You can stay in Battle Stance for most fights, or use Defensive if you’re going to try a big pull or a really tough mob.  (Just remember that changing stances dumps all your rage at this level.)

For Battle Stance fights, hit Charge (or pull with a ranged weapon and hit Bloodrage if you need rage to start with), use Thunder Clap, then just beat the mobs down with white attacks, Heroic Strikes, and Cleaves.  Keep reapplying Thunder Clap, and Rend too if you can, and hit Overpower every time it lights up.  For Defensive Stance fights, use a ranged weapon to pull or just run in, and use Bloodrage to get initial rage if needed.  Shield Block when it’s up, use your normal damage attacks (Thunder Clap, Heroic Strike, Cleave, Rend), and hit Revenge every time it lights up.  Having Shield Block up guarantees you at least one Revenge, maybe two if the timing is right.  On any fight, use Demoralizing Shout if you can to reduce your incoming damage.  If you’ve got your shield on, use Shield Bash to slow runners and interrupt casters.  Know where Retaliation and Last Stand are if things get dicey.

At level 20 you can practice with stance-shifting, so you can, say, start in Battle, Charge, shift to Defensive (keeping 10 rage) and then go from there.  This is the preferred way of handling exceptionally tough fights like elites…but fair warning, elites are a BIG challenge at this point in your career unless you’re really twinked.  For any fight, you’ll have to learn as you go about managing your rage.  This is something you’ll pick up through experience…but trust me, play a Prot warrior enough, and you’ll hear “not enough rage” in your sleep after a while.

This turned out way longer than I thought, and I’m sorry, but there’s a lot of stuff in these 10 levels!  Before moving on to levels 21-30, I’m going to look at two other things in subsequent posts.  First will be general thoughts on gearing, including glyphs.  Secondly, we’ll talk about basic tanking 101–threat, agro, and 101 different ways to tell Edwin Van Cleef that his mother was really good in bed last night.  Ta!

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15 responses

  1. Anea

    Thank you (again) for writing this! It’s nice to see an explanation of talents and abilities put in layman’s terms. (Makes it easier for small dorfs to digest!)

    I especially appreciate the rotation paragraphs.

    Lots of lurve from the dorf to you <3

    March 15, 2009 at 19:33

  2. Jack

    Great series man. Real good advice.

    If you don’t mind, I’ll just pitch in my two cents worth. If you do mind, e-mail me and tell me to back off. I won’t take offense. You know, being your blog and all.

    Mocking Blow – Once I mocking blow a target, I just stay on it until I can Revenge him (or Concussion Blow, or Shield Slam once I got those) and that’s usually enough that I don’t have to taunt him.

    Disarm – I always disarm the main target. But that’s with Improved Disarm (level 25) so I’m upping everyone’s dps (including mine, which improves threat) by 10% on that target. Oh . . . and it decreases the damage he does to me, too. But the main reason to use it is for the damage bonus from the talent. At first, I’d disarm a secondary opponent so he took extra damage from my thunderclaps/cleaves, i.e. I build up extra threat on a non-primary target. I figured out pretty quickly, though, that killing the primary target more quickly is a good thing.

    Retaliation is definitely *not* an oh shit button. Use it every pull that it’s off cooldown. Free attacks? On everyone who takes a swing at me? With accompanying threat? Yes, thank you. Used to be it shared a (long) cooldown with shield block. So maybe there used to be a reason to hold off using the ability. Not anymore.

    Even before level 20 I would start in battle stance, charge, thunderclap, switch to defensive, then bloodrage. The thunderclap uses up the rage you’ve generated from the charge so you don’t lose anything from the stance change. Then the bloodrage lets you start hitting specials a little sooner in the new stance.

    It took a little practice. You know how it is, getting excited going into a fight, sometimes I’d charge, hit bloodrage, switch to defensive and try to thunderclap. Just noobish stuff that I was really glad to get out of my system while solo grinding instead of the first time I tried to tank.

    March 15, 2009 at 22:03

  3. Hmmm. Good advices, I’ll try them with my new warrior. ;)

    March 16, 2009 at 06:25

  4. Jack–please don’t stop commenting! This is great stuff, the more advice we see on posts like this, the better. Plus you’re actually leveling now, post-3.0, whereas I haven’t. I have a baby level 10 warrior I might start trying to push up, but there’s only so many hours in the day…

    Your point about Retaliation is a good one, and here’s why I threw it in as an “oh shit” button even though it’s a reasonable 5-minute cooldown. Back in the day, Retaliation, Recklessness, and Shield Wall were not only on 30-minute cooldowns, they were on the same 30-minute cooldown. So they truly were only used in dire emergencies.

    Grinding in Defensive vs. Battle…around level 20 it’s hard to say. It’s something that depends on gear, really. Because it only activates on a block, dodge, or parry, Revenge becomes more useful as you gain avoidance, which you won’t have a huge amount of in the teens and twenties. Factor in the -10% damage penalty while in Defensive Stance, and a relatively low activation rate on Revenge, and Battle Stance might be the better stance for normal questing–although you made a good point in your other reply that grinding in Defensive gets you used to using your tanking tools. It’s worth experimenting to figure out which works better for your warrior.

    Improved Disarm as a leveling talent. Hmm. I hadn’t thought about that; it’s not really useful in endgame raiding so I’ve tended to ignore it. Let me think on that some more, that’s interesting.

    March 16, 2009 at 14:54

  5. As someone who has leveled a prot warrior in semi-more recent times (I’m thinking 2 years ago as opposed to 4), dumping all of your initial points in prot is defnitely a viable way to level.

    At least if you’re like me, and you decided that dying sucked, and the slower mob deaths was worth the reduced down time…

    March 16, 2009 at 15:01

  6. Something to remember also – at level 15 (at least I’m pretty sure it’s level 15) you get your first Glyph slots, a Major and a Minor. Given the prominence of Thunderclap in any AoE DPS rotation, you could do worse than go with Glyph of Resonating Power and Glyph of Thunderclap.

    March 16, 2009 at 16:58

  7. My baby Orc is now level 12. We’re following your guide — but cheating a little, with the heirloom 2Her instead of a MH and shield. That will come when we start instancing! :D Thanks! This is a great series.

    May 17, 2009 at 17:54

  8. Pingback: Rummys Blog : Achtung

  9. Pingback: Some thoughts on Leveling a Warrior Tank « Tanking for Dummies

  10. Pingback: A leveling guide for Protection warriors; Search and you might find… « Heals and Dots

  11. deimonia

    Many thanks for this excellent series. Thus far I’ve sunk all my points in Protection.

    Aiyanna is level 15 at the moment and is able to handle 5 mobs at a time. I’ve been stacking strength and stamina, and have some lowbie enchants. A few moments ago I sent her my clothie BOA shoulders. I figure I can use those until I have enough shards to purchase the tanking shoulders.

    As much as I would love to solo more with her, I’m leveling her with a blogging buddy in the evenings after my daughter is sleeping so I’ll save the spare time I do have to level my second Holy Priest.

    July 9, 2009 at 15:43

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  13. Warrning

    What Glyphs are useful?
    and by the way, before I read this, I lost aggro, and people got mad at me, and now, only time I lose aggro in instances (well… only instance I’ve been in so far is deadmines) is when I don’t have rage at start and stuff, mage ninja pulls, but this thing is so awesome, I actually manages to get the mobs off them now :D

    February 2, 2010 at 17:11

  14. I’ve got a “basic gearing” post in the SYWTBAPW series (it’s the one after this one, in fact) that talk about glyphs. My suggestion is to get Glyph of Revenge for your first major; the ability to get a rage-free Heroic Strike in after you pop a Revenge is huge, considering how rage-starved you are at low level. Plus, when you hit Shield Block, that’s 10 seconds of guaranteed blocking, which means you’ll get at least one, probably two, possibly even three Revenges, and a rage-free Heroic Strike after each one. That’s a decent burst of DPS at these levels.

    I’m glad these posts are helping you out! Tank on!

    February 3, 2010 at 12:57

  15. Pingback: Warrior Twink Introduction: Cynderblock « Cynwise's Warcraft Manual

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