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!