So you want to be a prot warrior: What do all those stats do?
Prepare for the Great Wall of Text!
Up until about level 50 or so, gearing up your protection warrior is pretty straightforward. You want gear with as much stamina and strength as you can stack. Agility, crit, hit, and defense are good secondary stats, but not as important–at first–as strength and stamina.
But as you start heading toward being able to tank the high-end “vanilla” instances–Scholomance, Stratholme, Dire Maul, anything with “Blackrock” in the name–or to head to Outland, your gearing requirements begin to subtly change. You have to start looking at more than just raw strength and stamina. You have, in fact, a metric bleepton of stuff to take into consideration as you get closer and closer to level 80, and not all of the stats are as important as others. You need to know what’s indispensable and what you can live without.
If your prot warrior isn’t your first character, you should already be familiar with Blizzard’s sliding-scale “rating” system. Instead of increasing your abilities like Dodge, Parry, Block, Defense, etc. by a fixed amount, these “ratings” are variable. If you get a piece of armor that has +20 Dodge rating, that increases your percentage chance to dodge more at level 50 than it does at level 60. It’s designed to keep you constantly grinding for replacement gear, because your current gear becomes less and less effective as you level.
Now, for this part of SYWTBAPW, I’m not going to get too much into the math behind the numbers to tell you how much a point of Dodge rating gives you at level 60 versus level 69, for example. Why? Because until you reach the endgame, it really doesn’t matter that much. With your newfound warrior abilities and some practice, at level 60 you can walk into any old-world instance and tank the place in any reasonable mixture of easily-obtained items. You don’t have to start really pushing the min-max on your gear until you’re closing in on level 80. That doesn’t mean that you won’t make choices and need to keep your items as updated as possible, but in general, you’re not going to be worrying about squeezing every single point out of what you wear. At this intermediate stage of your career, the concepts are more important than the actual numbers.
(My suggestion, if you’re a number-cruncher like I am, is to go snag a wicked nice little add-on called Rating Buster. This slick piece of work will convert ratings to percentages and put them right into your item tooltips. You can see it in action on most of the tooltip pictures here on Achtung Panzercow. I find it indispensable when I’ve got to make quick decisions about whether or not I’m going to ask for loot during our raids.)
So let’s talk about what each of these various ratings do, why we need them, and their relative importance for a tank…
Dodge. It’s pretty self-explanatory. You dodge an attack entirely, taking no damage. Since druids don’t have shields and can’t Parry, this is their primary method of avoidance, but it’s also quite important for warriors.
Parry. You parry the attack entirely, taking no damage. Note that being parried, however, speeds up the mob’s swing timer so that it can hit you again faster. Back in Burning Crusade, many tanks facing Prince Malchezzar in Karazhan fell victim to “parry gibbing” during phase 2 of the fight when repeated parries caused him and his axes to hit that much faster and spike a ton of damage. It’s still a good stat to have, though. (EDIT: Your Panzercow is a moron. I got this completely backwards. When you parry, your swing timer is decreased by up to 40%. When a mob parries you, their swing timer is decreased. So tanks got parry-gibbed on Prince Malchezzar not because they were stacking too much parry, but because they didn’t have sufficient expertise, and Malchezzar was parrying them or other melee stacked in front of them. This is one big reason for melee DPS to do their attacking from behind. Thanks to Zippy in the comments for pointing this out!)
Block. Block is your chance to passively shield-block an attack, removing part of the damage. Don’t confuse your block rating or block percentage with block value. Your block percentage is how often you block; your block value is how much you block.
Defense. Defense is an interesting stat. It does multiple things. Its primary function is to reduce your chance to be critically hit. Its secondary function is to provide small increases to dodge, parry, and block per point. It can be a confusing stat to track, because it’s actually a skill, same as a weapon skill, and thus levels up from 1 to 400 as you level. Additions to Defense from items use the same sliding-scale rating system as everything else; an item that says it’s got “+40 defense rating” might actually only improve the Defense score on your character sheet by, say, 12 points. Defense is a vital stat for a tank to stack. To give you an example of how important, at level 80, in order to reduce your chance to get critted by a raid boss to zero, you need 540 defense skill on your character sheet; that means +683 +689 defense rating from your items, gems, and enchants, assuming your Defense skill is maxed at 400. That’s a lot. You can, of course, tank with less, but that leaves you risking getting critted for OMGWTF damage and making your healers cry. (Thanks to ribby47 in the comments for catching my error on the needed +defense rating.)
Stamina. Hey, look, it’s your good old friend stamina. Stamina is NEVER a bad thing. Why? Because you get hit in the face for a living, you doofus, and the bigger that pool of health is, the better.
Agility. Agility is both a defensive and an offensive stat; it provides a tiny increase per point to your dodge and your crit percentages. That having been said, it’s not worth intentionally stacking it. The returns are far too limited and you can get more from other things like stamina, or dodge rating.
Hit. Hit rating is good for tanks because, let’s face it guys, whiffing does not impress the ladies. That, and whiffs give you no rage and generate no threat. Fortunately, figuring out how much +hit you need is pretty easy. You have a base 5% chance to miss an attack on a mob that’s the same level as you, and that number goes up by 1% for each level the mob is higher than you–since raid bosses are always treated as three levels higher than you, that means you need 8% extra hit at level 80 to never miss a boss. The tooltip for hit rating tells you what percentage of +hit your current numeric hit rating translates into. (At level 80, you need 262 hit rating to reach the magic 8%.) If you’re a Draenei, or have one for a Siamese twin and are always grouped with them, the handy-dandy Heroic Presence racial means you only need 7% hit. By the way, +hit does not affect whether a mob dodges or parries you. That’s controlled by…
Expertise. Expertise reduces your chance to be parried or dodged by an opponent. It’s a good stat to have, because you get no rage (and generate no threat) if you’re parried or dodged. In order to not be parried or dodged at all, you need enough expertise to get 6% worth; at level 80, that’s 26 expertise points, or about 140 rating. If you’re a human using maces or swords, or an orc using axes, of course, you need less due to your racial abilities.
Crit. Not so important. You get +15% bonus crit to many of your best abilities from your talents, so unlike many other classes, you don’t need huge amounts of +crit to still deliver pain. That having been said, if you’re building a set for daily grinding or other DPS use and not for boss tanking, crit can be useful. (Full disclosure: Linedan uses two crit trinkets in his “trash” tanking set for extra damage output. Handy for powering through dailies or smashing instances he overgears, but when it’s time to head to Ulduar, he puts them away.)
Strength. Still very important, because as you know by now, 1 strength = 2 AP. More AP directly translates to more damage dealt and more threat generated. Strength also gives tiny increases to your parry chance, and to your shield block value.
Putting It All Together
So. Now that you’ve got all this knowledge, how do you actually apply it? I’m going to talk more about that when we get into endgame gearing for the 70s and 80s, but there’s a few principles that hold true through the 50s and 60s as well.
- Stamina and strength are, and will forever be, your friends. More of those is always good.
- Defense is probably the best bang-for-the-buck tank stat there is. It reduces your chance to take painful crits, and boosts all three of your avoidance/mitigation stats (dodge, parry, block). Even in the 60s, good +defense pieces are worth their weight in gold.
- Stamina, dodge and parry are better if you are building a set designed to keep you alive fighting a big boss, because they remove all damage–if you dodge or parry, you don’t get hit at all, but you gain no rage from it. Strength, block rating and block value are better if you’re building a set designed to generate high threat and high damage at the expense of taking more damage yourself; you only mitigate part of the incoming damage on a hit, but you get rage, and the extra strength and block value boost your Shield Slam damage and overall threat generated. You will almost certainly end up building at least two sets of gear, one for avoidance/mitigation and one for threat/damage…but that’s a subject for another post, later on toward endgame.
- Don’t gem for +hit and +expertise if you can possibly avoid it. The “bang-for-the-buck” on hit and expertise gems isn’t generally worth it. You can pick up hit and expertise rating off your gear and save the gem slots for stamina, or defense if you’re approaching 80 and need to reach the defense “magic number” of 540. You can also gem for strength if you need red slots to activate a meta.
Is this a pretty generic post? Yep. Because as with a lot of the other topics in SYWTBAPW, I want to give you the information and then let you use your own brainmeats to figure out how to apply it! There is, for the most part, no One True Way to Tanky Enlightenment. If you’re smart and take time to understand what the various stats do and how they interrelate, you should be able to see how your gearing choices will affect your abilities going forward. And honestly, the game really is much more forgiving than it used to be when it comes to warrior itemization…until you get up to level 80 and the endgame. But that’s a ways off yet.
Next time, we’ll talk about levels 61 through 70 and your fun vacation in scenic, fragmenting Outland. You’ll come for our friendly fel orcs, but you’ll stay for our disintegrating magic-ravaged deserts!