So you want to be a prot warrior: Levels 41-50
(You might want to wear a little more armor than this, no matter how studly you think you are.)
Hokai. I think I’ve given you, my faithful little tanky padawans, suitable time to get caught up to level 40 and ready to push forward through your next 10 levels of Prot warrior l33tness. By the time you get to level 50, you will (if you’re not just getting blendered) have gained a decent amount of tanking experience in instances, have long replaced all your mail armor with plate, and in general will really be beginning to unlock the power inherent in the post-Lich King Protection tree.
We’ve had some spec divergence in the last couple of SYWTBAPW posts, so in the interest of my own sanity, I’m going to use this 0/0/31 Prot spec as a baseline to work with today. Yours may be slightly different, depending on if you took Improved Disarm earlier on or tried something else, and that’s OK. There isn’t that much flexibility in the cookie-cutter 15/5/51 spec we’re heading toward, but there’s a little. But I’ll use this one spec as a baseline. OK, off we go!
Levels 41-42: 3/3 Focused Rage. We’ll go ahead and finish out Focused Rage so all our offensive abilities now cost 3 less rage. It doesn’t sound like much, but trust me, it adds up fast.
Levels 43-44: 2/2 Improved Defensive Stance. This is another subtle little talent that is totally passive, but a big help. Not only does it cut your spell damage taken by 6%, whenever you block, parry, or dodge an attack, you pick up an Enrage effect that boosts your damage by 10% for 12 seconds. At later levels in particular, with good gear, the Enrage effect is almost constant.
Level 45: 1/1 Vigilance. I’m assuming that you are doing a bit of tanking and not just questing or getting blendered through your 40s. If you are tanking or running with a friend quite a bit, then it’s time to go ahead and get Vigilance. If you are mostly grinding solo, then you won’t see any immediate help from this ability. When you put it on a party member, it reduces their damage taken by 3%; more importantly, it does two things that help your tanking. It takes 10% of their threat away from them and transfers it to you, and also, if they do somehow manage to get hit, your Taunt cooldown is instantly refreshed. If you have DPS in your party that is pushing you on threat, put this on them; you’ll bogart some of their threat to help you stay ahead, and if they do still manage to get agro, your Taunt will instantly be available to save them. Y’know, unless you want to see them die, which is occasionally very tempting.
Levels 46-48: 3/3 Vitality. +6% strength, +6% stamina, and 6 free expertise. Yum yum.
Level 49: 5/5 Toughness. We’re finally filling this out to get maximum armor value from our items.
Level 50: 1/1 Devastate. You can now remove Sunder Armor from your bars, because this replaces it. Think of it as Sunder with benefits; it Sunders, and it does half your normal weapon damage, plus an extra amount for each stack of the Sunder effect on the target. It’s not as important as it used to be pre-3.0 when it was our best spammable, always-there threat move; with the changes to the class, and its relatively inefficient rage-to-damage ratio, it’s now pretty much the “if nothing else is off cooldown” move. But, you do still keep using it. The armor reduction helps you and your melee friends, and in a few levels, this skill becomes even more important because of its synergy with Sword and Board.
We’ve now got a build that looks like this, 0/0/41. There’s some wiggle room in there, for example, taking two points out of Toughness and moving it into Improved Disarm, or possibly swapping the point in Vigilance for, say, another point of Shield Specialization or one in Puncture. If you’re doing much tanking, though, I’d take Vigilance instead. It’s pretty handy.
Believe it or not, between levels 41 and 50, you only get one new skill. It’s at level 50, and it’s called Recklessness. This is a Berserker Stance-only skill on a 5-minute cooldown; when hit, your next three special attacks within 12 seconds have +100% to crit (basically, guaranteed if they don’t miss), but you take +20% damage for that time period. You won’t use it all that much, but on those (rare) occasions where you’re DPSing and not getting hit, it can give you a nice boost, especially near the end of a fight where you’d be getting into spamming Executes.
At level 50 you also get a second minor glyph. There really aren’t all that many good warrior minor glyphs; I tend to prefer the Glyph of Battle because you’ll still be using Battle Shout a lot unless you have a paladin for a Siamese twin, the Glyph of Thunder Clap to give you two yards extra range on those, or the Glyph of Bloodrage so your Bloodrage ability gives you 20 free rage a minute without damaging your health.
Your tanking rotation doesn’t change much from level 40, when you got Shield Slam. You just slot Devastate in there in place of Sunder Armor, and you’re good to go. You should see a decent damage bump when you do get Devastate at level 50, but other than that, you’re fairly steady through your 40s.
Tanking in the 40s can be a pain. In my clanky opinion, there’s only one non-terrible instance for that level range, and that’s Zul’farrak. Zul’farrak has some fun fights, and will keep a level-appropriate group on its toes in terms of crowd control and pulling (it’s a good instance for learning things like line-of-sight pulling and how not to get multiple groups). Uldaman is at the low end of the 40s, and it’s confusing and has way too much outside-the-instance non-elite trash to slog through. Mauradon is a giant festering piece of suck; a few strange people like it, but to me it’s just too big, too convoluted, and ugly, not to mention it’s in one of the ugliest zones in the game, Desolace. At the high end of the 40s is Sunken Temple, although I wouldn’t go in there until the low 50s. Again, Sunken Temple shows a lot of things wrong with “vanilla WoW” instance design, namely being very large, hard to find your way around in, and absolutely jam-packed with trash. IMO, however, it’s a distinct improvement over Mauradon–at least Sunken Temple looks cool to wander around lost in.
Next up, we’ll talk about levels 51 through 60, and the last 10 points you’ll spend in the Prot tree–the tasty, creamy, luscious dessert after the hearty meat-and-potatoes dinner of the last 40 levels.