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theorycrafting

The First Ten Seconds: Introduction

The title of this series is “The First Ten Seconds.”  It’s not relationship advice for meeting that certain someone across a crowded room…unless you’re trying to beckon that certain someone over so you can kill her and loot 91 silver off her corpse.  No, it’s based on a maxim about tanking that I just made up a while back, and it goes like this:

As go the first ten seconds, so goes the entire fight.

It’s a little saying that I’d completely forgotten during the later part of Wrath of the Lich King, especially when doing heroics.  WotLK heroics had turned into a complete joke in high-end raid gear, of course, and all of us were just bull-rushing our way through them like our asses were on fire, in the pursuit of the Holy Badgers of Whatever.  Then Cataclysm hit, and suddenly, heroics became, well, heroic again.  They were, as those of us with brains figured they’d be, damned hard.  Crowd control, the fine art of hexing and sheeping and banishing and shackling, went from useless to mandatory in the span of a few weeks.  And with even more difficult heroics on the horizon–the new Zul’whatever heroics in 4.1 will require a minimum item level of 346 just to get past the bouncers at the door–crowd control won’t be neglected anytime soon.

And with the rediscovery of crowd control came the rediscovery of the art of pulling and control.  In late Wrath, control was easy:  charge into the center of a bunch of mobs and push every AoE button you’ve got, then watch as the DPS pulls them off you anyway, but that was OK because the mobs all died in four seconds.  Now in Cataclysm, if you, as the tank, lose the handle on a trash pull, you’re probably going to wipe.  We’ve all had to rediscover the timing and interplay between the tank and the crowd controllers and the healers and the rest of the DPS.

So that’s what this series is going to be about…the first ten seconds of a pull, mostly as it pertains to trash.  It’s going to be about that period of time from the moment the first button is pushed to start a fight, until the mob(s) are settled in on the tank and the fight really “starts.”  In most trash pulls, this (in my experience) takes about ten seconds.  If you, as a group, execute these ten seconds properly, you’ll probably have a boring and uneventful trash pull.  If you don’t, even if you don’t wipe, you’ll probably end up with a bunch of trouble, raw tempers, and frustration.  (And in my case, a tank screaming obscenities at the screen and a wife rolling her eyes listening to me.  “GET BACK HERE YOU LITTLE FUCK GODDAMMIT I’VE GOT NO RAGE LET ME GET AGRO YOU STUPID BASTARDS STOP NUKING FFFFFFFF…”)

Preparation is Key

The next post in the series is going to concentrate on pulling.  Pulling in the latter stages of Wrath, as mentioned before, largely didn’t exist.  You, as the tank, just ran or charged in and spammed whatever you could knowing that it didn’t matter a bit–the DPS was going to go apeshit anyway and even the healer would just spam Smite or Moonfire or Chain Lightning or whatever.

But any tank who survived the sheer hell of heroics in The Burning Crusade knows how important pulling is.  Remember the gladiator hallway in Shattered Halls?  Groups of six mobs down the middle with wanderers in between and a few static singles as filler.  Move too far to one side and you’d pick up a group of five adds.  Don’t get them back far enough, and you’d get the wandering Houndmasters and their dogs, or the guys working out on the target dummies.  At least one, usually two of the group mobs were hunters, ranged and largely immobile.  Given all that, how do you pull it?

Cataclysm heroics aren’t quite that bad, but they’re a step back toward that level of difficulty from the overgeared facerolls of late Wrath.  You will, until we’re all running around in tier 13 or whatever, need crowd control and intelligent pulling to get through them.  Maybe some of you cutting-edge raiders are at the point where you can start to brute-force these things, but those of us down here with our average ilevel in the 330s or 340s (OK, Linedan’s is 351 right now) can’t.

So there you are, the tank, standing at the entrance of your favorite dungeon, ready for another exciting round of Will Anything Drop That I Can Actually Use.  You’ve got buffs, you’ve got food, you’ve got adult beverages (in RL), and you’re staring at the first trash pack.  And four pairs of virtual eyes are boring into your back, waiting for you to get the ball rolling.  The temptation is strong to just put the hammer down and gogogo.

Not so fast.

The first thing you should do, PUG or guild group or whatever, is decide who’s marking targets.  Somebody should always mark targets these days.  And when you decide who should mark targets, you also have to decide what each target means.  In a group that runs together a lot, that’s usually not an issue, everybody knows what each mark means.  But in a PuG especially, you can’t be sure.  A square may mean “mage sheeps it” to you, but to XxArthaslolxX from a PvP server, square may mean that he’s supposed to offtank it.  Never, ever, assume.  Get the definitions straight beforehand.  Somebody needs to, and if nobody steps up, you as the tank should be ready to do the marking and designation.  Put the symbols over the first trash group and say what they mean–“sheep square, trap moon, kill order is skull, X, moon, square.”  It’s not worth having a massive argument over, but it’s still something that should be laid out before the pull actually happens.

The other usual bone of contention in an unfamiliar group is–who actually pulls?  Normally, I always preferred to be the one to push the button to start the fight.  But the way things are working these days in Cataclysm, I now actually prefer to let the crowd controllers start the pull.  I’ll go into more detail in the pulling post, but my standard procedure, after we mark and decide who’s doing what, is to let the crowd controllers cast.  Their cast will aggro the group.  That exact moment is when I hit Heroic Throw on either the kill target, or an unallocated caster mob if we’re short on CC.  (That pulls that one particular mob to me, with a silence component to bring those inconvenient casters that much closer.)  It’s then on me as the tank to get the other uncontrolled mob or mobs on me before they eat the crowd controller.  It can be a tricky dance, but is more easily done with proper positioning.  All people doing ranged CC should stand pretty much together, and in a position where the tank can easily get to them.  (If they have to LOS pull, that needs to be taken into account.)

Again, I’ll talk about this more in the pulling post, but I’ll throw one other tidbit out there for my fellow warriors:  Charge is not necessarily your friend.  Charge Stun only hits one mob.  If there’s a second, it’ll keep on trucking for your squishies, and you’ll be playing catch-up.  And when I get to the post on initial control of the pull, we’ll see why playing catch-up is a recipe for disaster.  If you’re fast on your fingers, Heroic Leap can solve this problem.  I’m not, so often I tend to just run in.

The Gospel According to Marks

Before each pull, unless it’s obviously not needed, mark.  Use symbols consistently from group to group based on what you decided at the start of the run.  And your number one CC priority should be…(drumroll please)…hunter mobs. Casters can be silenced by ranged abilities from at least a few classes–Heroic Throw from me, Counterspell from a mage, Wind Shear from a shaman, etc.  When they’re silenced, they’ll run at their current agro target until they feel like casting again, which will usually get them in range of some sort of centered AoE or multi-target ability (Consecrate, Cleave, etc.).  But pure ranged hunter-class mobs are a stone bitch to position.  A death nugget can Death Grip them, which is hella handy if you’ve got a DK around or you’re a DK tank.  And of course you can LOS them if there’s a corner to run around.  But if you’re DK-less and in an open area with nothing to block sight, that hunter is just going to sit out there plinking somebody, and it’s probably not going to be the tank unless he goes and gets it.  And then we’re back to playing catch-up again.

So my priority list for CC is, in a nutshell:  hunter mobs, spellcaster mobs, and then everybody else.  There’s exceptions, of course, but in terms of keeping things simple, that’s how I like to see things marked.  Which priority you use inside those general categories (i.e., which spellcasting mobs get CC if you can’t get them all) is up to the particular group and instance.  There are even situations where you might want to pick a melee mob over a caster to CC–for example, if the caster is particularly squishy and you know you can (or need to due to mechanics) drop him fast.  This is where a knowledge of the instance is vitally important as a tank, so you can make intelligent choices about which mobs get a knock on the head or stuck into an ice cube, and which just get terminated with extreme prejudice immediately.

Next up:  The pull itself.  How do you get the mobs from points A, B, C, and D to point X?  We take a look at how to get a trash pack moving right where you want it…into the kill zone!


Random Acts of Friday II

I swear I’ve got some good posts percolating.  Somewhere.  No, seriously.  Really.  But in the meantime, have another fun-size grab-bag of “oh shit I really should post something” desperation…

- Bad news, melee DPS and tanks:  Nerfs are on the horizon with the latest 4.0.3 PTR patch build 13245.  MMO Champion has the details…it looks like that passive self-healing took a hit across the board, but none were worse than the nerf to Blood Craze in the Fury tree.  Previously it would heal 2.5% of max health per talent point over 10 seconds (so 2.5/5/7.5%); with 2/2 Field Dressing, that netted out to 9.6% of maximum health restored over 10 seconds, on a 10% chance per hit taken.  Build 13245 slashes that healing to 1/2/3%.  I don’t know what the final number will be with maxed Field Dressing, but I think it’ll be somewhere just north of 4%.  Obviously that’s a significant cut, and it remains to be seen whether that will render Blood Craze a much less “mandatory” talent.  I’ve been of the opinion that it’s a no-brainer to take it just to lessen the strain on our healers, but so far, our healers haven’t been straining, even on ICC-level content.  That may change once we head into Cataclysm and see the instances there.  In the meantime, I’m giving serious thought to dropping Blood Craze at least temporarily and loading those points over into maxing Shield Specialization in the hope of solving some of the occasional rage issues Linedan and Latisha are both running into.

- The Anvil, our 25-man raid, folded up shop for the duration last night with a final run through the raid weekly (Malygos).  We’re now on hiatus and will be back in action for Cataclysm around January 13, 2011.  Our final scorecard:  Cleared Naxx, cleared Ulduar normal with a few hardmodes here and there, cleared Trial of the Wake Me Up When It’s Over, and never bothered with Trial of the Wake Me Up OH GOD MY FACE (the heroic version).  We completed normal 25-man ICC with our single hard-fought and emotional Arthas kill, and did get two heroic encounters in there done, Lootship and Rotface.  It’s not exactly a record that the Paragons or Ensidias of the world would find impressive, but it’s by far the best we’ve ever done for an expansion, and I wouldn’t trade the fun and hilarity we had for all the world-firsts in the, uh, world.  It was a hell of a ride, kids, and I’m glad I was along for it.

- That doesn’t mean I’m quite done with raiding, though.  I tank a 10-man that runs for three hours each Saturday afternoon, and with The Anvil shutting down temporarily, that means we’ll be going back into ICC for more heroic modes (we’re currently 7/12 HM) and a crack at those tasty proto-drakes.  Of course, that means heroic Putricide…and heroic Sindragosa…and what I know is going to be the bane of my existence, All You Can Eat.  Oh God.

- There was a minor kerfuffle in the WoWosphere over the past couple days when Frostheim, WoW Insider hunter columnist and main guy over at the Warcraft Hunter’s Union blog, posted a story about running heroic Old Kingdom and what happened therein.  (It’s too complicated to rehash here…go read Frostheim’s post and the rest of this will make sense.)  Most of his commenters backed him up on it, or at least thought it was funny (and honestly, I can see that).  Well, Amber at I Like Bubbles offers the counterpoint, in which she brings up the valid (and, IMO, accurate) point that when you’re a higher-visibility member of a community, you really shouldn’t go around acting like a penis.  Not that you ever should anyway, but you get the idea.

And, here’s a few random gems from the Interwebs:

Y’all have a good weekend, and remember, it’s all fun and games until Deathwing puts somebody’s eye out.


With great Vengeance

“And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who attempt to poison and destroy my brothers! And you will know my name is the Lord [pulls out his gun and aims it at Brett] when I lay my vengeance upon thee!”    –Samuel L. Jackson, “Pulp Fiction”

I’ve been a bit behind the curve on getting up to speed with the changes that hit us in patch 4.0.1–being out of town for five days just after the patch dropped will do that, since it meant I missed The Anvil’s first 25-man raid last Thursday.  But I was there for this week’s hoedown, and I was front and center in the main tank slot for Sindragosa and Arthas.  It was, in several ways, a very edumacashunal (as we said back in the sticks where I grew up) evening.

Really, tanking last night didn’t feel very different from when I tanked Sindy and Arthas in 3.3.  As a prot warrior, my priority system has changed very little; less Heroic Strike, one Rend at the start of a fight followed by a Thunder Clap to stick it on all mobs, and other than that, it’s the same old same old.  Sword and Board proc’d Shield Slams come first, then Shield Slam, then Revenge, with Devastate as the filler, Heroic Strike to bleed rage, and at least one Thunder Clap every 12-15 seconds to keep Rend and the slow up.  The biggest change to my years of muscle memory is that I now have to unlearn something that it took me two years to learn, which is Heroic Strike spam.  I never used to hit it enough.  Now I’m hitting it too much.  I actually found myself badly rage-starved early in the Lich King fight on two or three occasions, when I got an avoidance streak combined with overaggressive HS use.  Since Lin doesn’t have any points in Shield Specialization, he doesn’t get any rage back when he blocks.  If I’m careful with HS, no problem.  If I’m not, I can dig myself a momentary hole.

The biggest changes had to do with threat.  My main education last night was seeing how threat works in the 4.0 world, and what I need to do as the tank–and what the DPS needs to do–to make everything go smoothly.

Our first Arthas pull was a disaster.  One of our ret paladins ripped agro off me in less than ten seconds.  Then a warlock pulled off her, then a feral druid pulled off him…two people dead almost instantly.  And the DPS didn’t back off to let me get him back.  I admit I let out a growl that scared the cats and probably made my poor wife think I was turning into a worgen IRL.  I hate losing agro…I don’t generally get mad at the person who pulled unless they did some serious durp, I just generally chalk it up to me not being able to put out the threat.

After that, the raid leaders asked the DPS to wait before unloading, both to give me more solid threat time and to give the offtank more time to get more ghouls on him, for Necrotic Plague stacks.  I didn’t have any more significant threat issues after that, but I did notice something.  My snap agro at the beginning of a fight is definitely off from the world of 3.x.  My usual opening combo of Heroic Throw/Shield Slam just wasn’t sticking mobs to me like it used to.  Combine that with the huge DPS gains that certain classes (I’m looking at you, warlocks) have received in 4.0, and the old adage of “wait for the sunders” suddenly becomes more important than ever.  Opening with a big nuke is going to get your face eaten.

And the reason for this, I believe, is the Vengeance mechanic.  It’s a mastery that all tank class/spec combos–blood death nuggets, prot pallies, beardurids, and prot warriors–get in Cataclysm.  Put simply, whenever you take damage, 5% of that damage number is added to your attack power for 10 seconds, up to a total maximum of 10% of your maximum health.  So if Arthas smacks you upside the head for 20,000 damage, you get 1000 added to your attack power for 10 seconds.

When Vengeance first came out in the alpha, it looked pretty much like it does now.  And I was convinced at the time that it would never go live in that form, because the numbers shaped up to be ridiculous.  When tanking ICC, Linedan typically buffs out at over 72,000 health.  So merely by getting hit by Arthas a few times, he could pick up as much as 7200 attack power?  That would put him well over ten thousand AP.  No way that Blizzard would ever let a tank have that much AP, right?

Shows you how much I know.

My first indication of the effect that Vengeance was having was when I started seeing some big yellow numbers float up on my screen during Arthas phase 1.  I mean, big yellow numbers.  Five-digit big.  As a prot warrior, I rarely see five-digit yellow numbers on Lin, so out of curiosity, I opened up his character pane.

Attack power?  Wobbling between 12,000 and 12,500.  His base AP with buffs at pull time was roughly 4700.  Throw in a few other buffs in combat, and the difference would be around 7,000…indicating that he’d hit the ceiling on Vengeance.

You can imagine what a prot warrior with twelve thousand AP was doing.  18k Revenge crits.  15k normal Shield Slam hits without Shield Block up.  The night’s crowning glory was a Shield Blocked Shield Slam crit for precisely 41,564.  On one Arthas attempt where we never got out of phase 1 due to the OT dying, Lin did well over 8000 dps.  On the attempts where we got well into phase 2 before it all fell apart, he was still doing around 6000 dps.  That’s double what he was doing in 3.3.

And here’s the kicker…he needed it.  Because once the DPS got the clearance to put their foot to the floor, that six to eight thousand DPS was giving me the threat-per-second I needed to stay ahead.  Without it, there’s no way.  We had three warlocks each doing well north of 10,000 DPS consistently.  That’s a lot of threat to have to overcome.  At Lin’s normal 3000 DPS, I really don’t think he could have stayed ahead of them.  But at 6000, 7000, 8000 DPS?  He did.  If they gave me 10 to 15 seconds of light DPS at the beginning–not even no DPS, just taking it easy–then dropped the hammer, I could stay ahead of them easily.  If they went for it right from the start?  No chance I could hang on.

So it seems obvious to me after this experience that Blizzard is now balancing tank threat around the Vengeance mechanic.  On boss fights, they are expecting the tank to have a huge boost in attack power thanks to Vengeance, and be putting out damage that’s pretty insane compared to pre-4.0 levels.  DPS threat will be tuned around that.  If we take that as a given–and it’s not, it’s just my observation and opinion, but let’s just roll with it–it leads to a couple of interesting conclusions.

First, every tank class, even prot warriors, the previous “kings of snap agro,” now has a ramp-up time on their maximum threat.  Beforehand, if we had enough rage, we could just unload a couple of high-threat moves and get a solid hold on the target, or a DK could just inappropriately Icy Touch something and it would be stuck on him like glue.  No more.  If our threat in relation to the DPS’ is balanced around us having six or seven or eight thousand more attack power than we do at the start of a fight, where they don’t have the same restrictions, it means we will always need a period of time to take a few hits to the head and get good and pissed off before we’re putting out enough pain to let the DPS go nuts.  This is an important point for DPS to remember.  We massively overgear heroics now and can just durp our way through them (that’s my next rant, coming soon), but that stuff won’t even work in 80+ normals from what I’ve seen in the beta.

Second, tank-swap fights just got a little more interesting.  We saw this on Arthas last night when Haicu (my DK tank partner) and I would swap Arthas at Soul Reaver time.  It’s similar to the problems tanks deal with on Festergut and his damage-increasing Gastric Bloat.  The tank who has just taunted has not taken huge amounts of damage so he hasn’t had time to ramp up his Vengeance.  The tank who has just been taunted from, on the other hand, is probably maxed out on his attack power and hitting like a dump truck with no brakes, full of angry burning bears.  The “from” tank is going to have to watch himself for about 10 to 12 seconds after the swap and perhaps not go full-out, especially if he significantly outgears the other tank, or he may rip agro right back.

It’s very easy to dismiss Vengeance if all you do is normal questing or even random heroics.  Current non-raid content simply doesn’t hit hard enough for long enough to give you the most benefit from the mastery.  But when you get into a situation where you’re on a big boss, especially a raid boss, Vengeance comes into its own.

Now, does a 41k Shield Slam crit make up for not being at Blizzcon this weekend?  No.  But it does soothe the pain, just a little bit…


4.0.1: No, you are not going to die (much)

It’s D-Day, kids.  We’re getting patch 4.0.1 today (or tomorrow for you folks on EU servers), which means we’re getting most of the mechanical changes that come with Cataclysm.  This includes the new trees, new skills, new glyphs, reforging, the removal of armor penetration and Defense…in short, think of it as its own little Cataclysm of how we play the game.

Well, I’ve never been one to avoid rolling with the crowd on a momentous day like today.  I’m a good little lemming, so let’s throw some information and opinions out there on Prot warrioring in the new and (hopefully) wonderful world of 4.0.1…

First of all, let me give you two awesome resources as you start scrambling around.  First, as I linked previously, Naithin at Fun in Games has put together a fan-damn-tastic Prot warrior 4.0.1 guide that will give you everything you need to get started.  There’s really not all that much I can add except to give my own opinions on a few things, which is what I’ll be doing in this post.

Second, the lovely (and freshly Kingslayerish!) Kadomi over at Tank Like a Girl has a great list of 4.0.1 warrior (and other) resource links.  These will get you up to speed on setting up your spec, glyphs, and reforging.

Now with all that linked and at your fingertips, you probably don’t need me durping around giving my half-baked opinions on things.  But, I’m going to do it anyway, because (a) it’s my blog, and (b) I’m out of town for a week starting on Thursday and need a blog post up before I go.  Suck it.

What things you can expect to see when you first log in, other than an assload of LUA errors and “SERVER:  Restart in 5:00″?  Well, your health will go up a bit thanks to a flat +15% from Prot mastery, and your armor will go down a bit, especially if you’re rocking bonus armor pieces like Pillars of Might or the Cataclysmic Chestguard.  The changes are probably within about 10% in both cases.  Defense is gone, and unlamented if you ask me.  Defense gems will change into…uh…something else.  Defense rating on items will change into straight dodge and parry.  There is no more shield block value; successful blocks now block 30% of that hit’s damage, or 60% on a critical block.  Shield Slam damage now scales off attack power like everything else.  You will have a base 30% chance to block, given by your Prot mastery; the only way to raise it is by adding Mastery rating, which will require us to use Reforging to add it to our gear.  And your mastery will give you Vengeance, which takes 5% of damage that you suffer and adds it to your attack power for 10 seconds.  All tanks get this mastery; it’s designed to crank up our damage, and thus threat, while tanking.

The talent tree changes are, obviously, probably the biggest single change we face.  (Hey, at least they didn’t change us over from rage to focus.)  To do a quick recap:  Talent trees are now 31 points deep instead of 51.  At level 10 you must pick a tree, and you are locked into that tree and only that tree until you take the 31-point talent…at level 69.  Only then may you pick things from the other two trees.  Talent points now come one every two levels (one at 10, one at 11, and one every odd level thereafter).  This means that your level 80 warrior tank will have 36 talent points to spend, 31 of which have to go into the Prot tree.  The days of any sort of hybrid build are over.

Now looking at the two-month span between now and the release of Cataclysm, it’s obvious that you won’t be leveling if you’re already 80.  You probably won’t be doing much if any solo questing or grinding (again, if you’re 80), unless you’re doing something like going for Loremaster.  So by elimination, you need a build that’s focused on tanking.

This is my first shot at one.  It gives up some talents that would increase DPS–talents that I’d consider taking in a build where I was doing more simple running-around-and-killing-shit–and leans toward multiple-target threat, damage mitigation, and self-healing.  Looking through the Prot talents tier-by-tier:

Tier 1: Incite just doesn’t grab me real hard.  It looks like a bit of a damage (and threat) boost but I don’t know that we’re going to need it with Defensive Stance giving us +200% threat on everything we do.  Toughness, that’s a no-brainer, especially with “bonus armor” taking the nerf bat in a big way.  Blood and Thunder is actually a fairly effective AOE threat mechanic.  I still think the dear departed Damage Shield was better, but B&T has seemed, in the beta, to be reasonably effective at holding threat over top of healgro.  It won’t save the DPS if they focus the wrong target, but it’s not meant to.  The one disadvantage to B&T is, obviously, you can easily stick a Rend on a CC’d mob if your placement is poor.  So make sure you fight well away from sheeps and saps and such.

Tier 2: Lots and lots of points here.  3/3 Shield Mastery is a no-brainer, as is 2/2 Gag Order.  The jury is still very much out on Hold the Line; I’ve got it on Lin in the beta because his crit is basically non-existent, he’s stacked a bit of parry to help this proc, and the crit boost helps his damage while grinding.  I don’t know how much use it will be in dungeon and raid tanking, though.  As for Shield Specialization, it hasn’t proven to be a “must have” talent.  Rage has not been a huge issue for Linedan in the beta once I learned to back off constantly hitting Heroic Strike like I was tanking Arthas.  My opinion is this:  put 7 points in this tier.  Five of them go into Shield Mastery and Gag Order.  The other two can go either 0/3 Shield Spec and 2/2 Hold the Line for a bit of a damage boost, or 2/3 Shield Spec if you think you’re rage-starved.  For now, I’ll go with Hold the Line here until I get a better feel on rage.

Tier 3: Take it all.  Take ALL the talents.  Last Stand, duh.  Concussion Blow, duh.  Bastion of Defense, duh.  Warbringer, duh.  Fill this tier.

Tier 4: Again, I would take everything here.  2/2 Improved Revenge makes Revenge hit like a truck on fire driven by angry burning bears, plus lets it hit a second target–very important for multi-target tanking.  Devastate is a no-brainer, it’s our major spammable everything-else-is-on-cooldown attack.  Impending Victory doesn’t buy you much against non-elites, but it helps on bosses, and trust me, anything that will take a load off a healer right now is going to be appreciated.  Healers have a brutally tough job in 4.0.

Tier 5: I’m not completely sold on Thunderstruck.  It does synergize very nicely with Blood and Thunder, though, so I’d probably take both points in it if I took B&T.  Vigilance doesn’t transfer threat anymore, instead it gives you the refreshed taunt if the recipient gets hit and gives you a small bit of AP from the Vengeance mastery (you get 5% of 20% of the damage they took as attack power…hence, “small”).  The Taunt refresh is the main use of it now.  Heavy Repercussions doubles your Shield Slam damage whenever Shield Block is up.  I think it’s an inefficient use of points, but we’ve got to put them somewhere, and I think it’s just barely a better deal than Incite.  Granted, I have no numbers to back it up, just a gut feel and an inordinate love for giant Shield Slam crits.

Tier 6: Safeguard still doesn’t seem worth it to me.  Sword and Board is a no-brainer.

Tier 7: It’s OK.  I’ve got Shockwave.

That gives us precisely 31 points in Prot, with five points left to spend.  The last five points are spent on things that help take the load off our overworked healer brethren:  2/2 Field Dressing in Arms and 3/3 Blood Craze in Fury.

This 2/3/31 layout is probably going to be pretty cookie-cutter, but there is a tiny bit of flexibility there in the Prot tree.  If you don’t think you need as much AOE threat but need more raw damage output you can drop the points from Blood and Thunder and Thunderstruck to put them into Incite.  If you’re rage-starved, load up 3/3 Shield Specialization at the expense of Hold the Line.  The thing to remember is that you won’t be able to get any second-tier Arms or Fury talents until Cataclysm comes out, you won’t have the points…and even then, you’ll have to plan ahead.

Now, glyphing.  Glyphs come in three flavors now:  prime (things that increase your primary function, DPS, HPS, threat, etc.), major (useful and helpful things), and minor (“fun” or small semi-useful things).  Prime glyphing a Prot warrior is easy because there’s only three pertinent ones for you to pick:  Devastate, Revenge, and Shield Slam.  For major glyphs, you’ve got more choices…but one of your three must be the Glyph of Victory Rush.  It supercharges your heals from Victory Rush and Impending Victory, and again, in the 4.0 world, you’ve got to do everything you can to make your healer’s job easier.  There are several useful major glyphs to pick from, including Heroic Throw (puts a Sunder Armor stack on the target), Cleaving (Cleave hits 3 targets instead of 2), Resonating Power (-5 rage on Thunder Clap), Spell Reflection (-1 second cooldown on Spell Reflect), Shockwave (-3 second cooldown on Shockwave), or Sunder Armor (Sunder a second target).  You can make a case for any of them, so pick whatever you want.  (I’m so decisive, aren’t I?)  For your minor glyphs, a common suggestion seems to be to stack all three Shout glyphs (Battle, Commanding, and Demoralizing); but don’t ignore the Enduring Victory glyph, which increases the window for Victory Rush use from 20 to 25 seconds.

Your tanking rotation really doesn’t change very much.  You no longer frantically hammer Heroic Strike to get 100% uptime on it (mousewheels everywhere rejoice!); instead you hit it every three seconds if you’ve got rage. You will leave yourself massively rage-starved if you don’t back off that HS key and use it as the rage dump it’s intended to be instead of just mashing it every time it lights up.  I will also be curious to see what the damage relationship is between Revenge and Shield Slam.  In the beta, Revenge is consistently hitting harder than Shield Slam unless Shield Block is up with 2/2 Heavy Repercussions.  When tanking packs of trash, you’ll hit Rend once on one mob at the start of the fight, Thunder Clap to transfer it to everyone, and then make sure you Thunder Clap at least every fifteen seconds to keep Rend refreshed on all targets.


So You Want to Be(ta) a Prot Warrior: Bump and Grind

This week, Blizzard gave us a firm date for the Cataclysm to tear Azeroth asunder…December 7.  With all the new content coming at us in just two months–and with the mechanical changes to classes, talents, items, etc. possibly coming as early as next week–I’ve been putting a bit more time in on the beta servers lately.

As a result, Linedan on beta is now level 85.  (I’ve also been working a bit on Latisha…she’s 82, and I’ll chronicle her story in another update on The Latisha Experiment a bit later.)  Along the way there, I’ve picked up some information that will hopefully help anyone planning to level a Prot warrior from 80 to 85, as Prot, once Cataclysm drops for real.  (PLEASE NOTE:  I’m going to leave lore spoilers out of this post as much as I possibly can, but I will be talking about Cataclysm mechanics and zones in a general sense.  If you want to be totally surprised, stop now.)

First of all, remember that all of the changes to talent trees, class mechanics, and gear itemization will be coming with patch 4.0.1, which could happen as soon as October 12 (that’s next Tuesday as I write this).  I would highly recommend reading Naithin’s outstanding 4.0 Prot warrior guide over at Fun in Games to get a great summary of the changes that we’re going to face in the interregnum between Arthas falling and Deathwing rising.  It’s a good starting point for looking at the new zones and the level 80-85 grind.

Even Flow

The leveling flow through the new zones is pretty straightforward, and each zone is more linear than ever as to how quests are handled.  This is the basic flow you’ll see:

  • Mount Hyjal (80-82) or Vashj’ir (80-82)
  • Deepholm (82-83)
  • Uldum (83-84)
  • Twilight Highlands (84-85)

The reason that Mount Hyjal and Vashj’ir can cover two levels is not that they’re bigger than the other zones, although Vashj’ir is actually three separate maps and covers a lot of ground…uh, water.  No, it’s because of the experience required to level.  80 to 81 and 81 to 82 both require about 1.75 million xp, not too much more than the high 70s did in Northrend.  But when you hit level 82, that changes.  Each of the next three levels required somewhere around 6.5 million xp.  That’s not a typo.  Six point five million xp per level. That’s an intimidatingly large number, but it shouldn’t be.  There are a lot of quests in the 82-85 zones, and they give from 40,000 to 55,000 xp each on completion (except for simple stuff like breadcrumb or “go over here and talk to this person” quests, of course).  Mob-killing xp has been adjusted upward as well, to the point where Linedan was getting over 10,000 per kill (rested) against level 84s in Twilight Highlands.

Within each zone, the quests are organized in a pretty logical manner.  Breadcrumb quests into each of the new zones are easily available from “boards” all over Stormwind, or outside the new Grommash Hold (or, as I like to call it, “Garrosh’s Overcompensation For His Small Wee-wee”) in Orgrimmar.  Once you establish yourself in one of the new zones, portals will open up at Earthen Ring sites in Stormwind and Orgrimmar.  Also, all the zones except Deepholm can be flown into by your own flying mounts, and there are convenient flightmasters scattered around.

Spec Racer

As a Prot warrior, your abilities and rotation haven’t changed that much from Wrath of the Lich King. The changes are subtle, like Heroic Strike being an instant attack for 30 rage instead of an on-next-swing for 15; or the crit-boosting being removed from a lot of our talents (like Gag Order).  But the abilities, in general, do the same things and get used in the same order.  There really are two big changes:  the addition of Rend as a useful ability (paired with the Blood and Thunder talent), and Heroic Strike becoming less spammy and more situational.

This is the spec that Lin entered Hyjal with at level 80.  I went with 2/2 Blood and Thunder more out of curiosity than anything else.  2/2 Hold the Line’s in there because, in T10-level tank gear, his crit dropped at 80 to less than 2.5%, and with almost all of our crit-increasing talents changed, I figured he needed all the help he could get while questing.  His talent choices at each level were:

(I’m probably going to tweak the spec to ditch Incite completely and pick up 2/2 Thunderstruck.)

Grinding it Out

As Prot warriors, we had an extremely easy time of leveling in Northrend.  Yes, our single-target DPS was low.  Who cared?  We could charge into a camp and massacre it in seconds with a combination of Damage Shield, Cleave, Thunder Clap, and Shockwave, while shrugging off the feeble blows of our assailants.

Things aren’t quite as easy in Cataclysm.  The foremost reason for that isn’t the changes that were made to Prot spec.  It’s the mobs themselves.

A level 80 Northrend melee (non-casting) mob has precisely 12,600 health.  A level 80 Cataclysm melee mob has just over 30,000 health.  And it goes up radically from there.  Level 81, about 37,000.  Level 82, about 44,000.  Level 83, around 52,000.  Level 84, around 65,000.  The only level 85 mobs I’ve seen yet had 96,000 health each, but I’m not sure if those were special and if that’s normal for level 85 non-elites.

They’re not just tougher, they hit harder too.  By the time Linedan got to Uldum, the level 84 melee mobs there were hitting him for over 2000 base damage…and that’s with him having over 31,000 armor and a physical damage mitigation right at 60%.  Stuff in Cataclysm doesn’t tickle when it hits.

So when you combine all that health, high damage, and our traditional low DPS, it doesn’t bode well, right?  Well, it’s not so bad.  You’re still a spellcaster’s nightmare, you’ve got your stuns, and you’ve got two other powerful counters to keep you in the fight:  Blood Craze and Victory Rush.  Blood Craze, in my experience, is probably ticking about a third to a half of the time during any given fight.  That’s 1.5% of your max health at the time Blood Craze activated, every second, for five seconds.  Victory Rush, now usable in Defensive Stance, gives you a big heal–20% of your current max health–whether or not the attack actually lands.  And, both these abilities are boosted by Field Dressing from the Arms tree.  Plus, you can take points into Impending Victory to give yourself a “mini” Victory Rush (for 5% of your health) whenever a mob is below 20% health.  If you’re just out grinding, the talent’s usefulness is marginal, but keep an eye on it when you start raiding.  In a long fight, it could provide a useful amount of healing.

So our pull strategy really doesn’t change that much.  We need to pull (fairly) big and (fairly) fast.  Two or more mobs at a time is optimum for us.  By the time you beat down the first one, you’re probably wounded; hit Victory Rush, get 20% of your health back, and you’re good to go on the next one.  If you have to pull one at a time, you have to rush and find the next mob within 20 seconds before Victory Rush wears off.  And even if you can’t, don’t despair.  Out-of-combat health regen on the beta (as of build 13117) is insane.  Linedan is regaining well over 600 health per tick while standing up.  The new bandages also heal for useful amounts (around 20,000 to start with) so make sure you get your First Aid skill trained up pronto.

One thing you will have to watch for is rage starvation.  Our rage generation is generally good enough, due to the high incoming damage and the tuning they currently have in place.  If you take a few points into Shield Specialization, it gets better (especially if you can Spell Reflect something!).  But you must be careful about your Heroic Strike use.  HS is no longer spammable, and it costs 30 rage.  Chances are, you’re not going to be able to hit it every time it’s up, and keep up Devastate spam, Shield Slam/Revenge as available, and Rend/Thunder Clap if you’re using Blood and Thunder.  Be judicious in your use of Heroic Strike.  Cleave, you’ll probably have less trouble with; I never had much problem with rage when fighting 2+ mobs.

Top Gear

You’ll start replacing anything less than T10 gear almost immediately in Hyjal or Vashj’ir.  This new gear is the only way, other than Reforging, to get Mastery rating.  Our Mastery rating increases our block chance, and it is, in fact, the only way to increase our block chance, as there is no more separate block rating.  If you have T10 gear, it will probably hold you into Deepholm or even Uldum.  Currently at 85, Lin is still wearing his sanctified T10 helm and T10-level rings and trinkets, he’s replaced everything else in his Prot set.

One thing to think about…with Defense no longer being in the game, you can become uncrittable by placing 2 talent points in Bastion of Defense.  This frees you up to try Prot grinding with DPS armor.  I have yet to try this, but I should; in tank gear at level 85, Linedan’s crit rating is an appalling 0.75%, and he’s badly short on +hit and +expertise (both of which are still needed).  DPS armor still has a lot of stamina on it, and Mastery rating is Mastery rating regardless of what gear it comes on.  The upside of using DPS armor would be increased +hit/+crit/+expertise at the cost of a bit of health; the downside would be lower avoidance due to losing +dodge and +parry.  Does the increase in offensive stats balance the decrease in health and defensive stats?  It might be worth trying if your grinding feels too slow, but you don’t want to go to, or don’t have, a DPS offspec.  (FWIW, Linedan started at about 2000 DPS in Vashj’ir; he’s now doing about 2800 DPS in Twilight Highlands, and that number increases substantially fighting multiple mobs.)

Dungeoneering

Finally, I’ll briefly talk about instancing…briefly, because I’ve only done it once, on a normal Stonecore run along with my wife and three guys from the LFD tool.  After all, if you’re a dedicated tank, you’re going to want to instance a lot, right?

You may have heard a lot of doom and gloom about Prot warriors’ ability to tank in Cataclysm, and how it’s a fallback to the horrible days of The Burning Crusade, when paladins kicked our asses at tanking heroics.  Don’t panic.  It’s not quite that bad.  Yes, these are not Wrath of the Lich King dungeons.  They do require some amount of brains, strategy, and crowd control to succeed in.  But they aren’t quite as brutal as, say, heroic Shattered Halls.

Crowd control is back, and it’s necessary, but for normal instances, you don’t need a huge amount of it.  One competent trapping hunter or sheeping mage should be able to get the job done in most cases, provided the rest of your group doesn’t break it (this includes you).  On our Stonecore run, we were fortunate to have both a hunter and a warlock with glyphed Fear, which leaves mobs cowering in place instead of causing them to run.  Between that and his Banish, the ‘lock did a great job on CC.

Your tanking doesn’t change all that much.  The difference is largely in the incoming damage, which is a LOT higher (but so is your health).  Also, without Damage Shield to provide that little passive threat boost, this is where Blood and Thunder comes into its own.  It’s not much use just out questing, but in an instance, being able to place and keep a Rend on every mob you’re tanking helps your threat.  Just make sure you’re clear of any CC’d mob before doing this, otherwise the mages will hate you.

Your TAB key will get more of a workout on trash if your group can’t stick to a kill order.  (Kill order is VERY IMPORTANT now.  Seriously.  VERY VERY important.)  You will be shifting between mobs to drop Devastates and other damage.  Take Vigilance and use it–but remember, Vigilance doesn’t transfer threat anymore, it just reduces the damage on your chosen target and refreshes your Taunt.  Use your cooldowns like Shield Block or your emergency buttons (Last Stand/Shield Wall) to try and offload some work from your healer, because healers are really having to work much harder in 4.0.  Because of threat decay entering the equation, you can’t coast at all during a fight–you’ve got to keep pushing your threat as much as you can and stay on top of things.

On bosses, again, it is key to avoid as much avoidable stuff as possible.  Don’t stand in Bad(tm).  Use your cooldowns when something big and ugly is about to land.  Healers are stretched to their limits under these new mechanics, and anything that you can do to help keep yourself alive early in a fight may give them the mana to keep you alive at the end.

And it’s in instances, and presumably raids, where Vengeance really comes into its own.  Vengeance gives you 5% of your taken damage as attack power for 10 seconds, and it “rolls”–any number of damage that you take just stays as AP for 10 seconds and then it’s gone, so it wobbles up and down.  Once you see how much damage you’re taking in a Cataclysm instance, you’ll realize that you’re getting an absolutely insane amount of attack power from this mastery ability.  Linedan normally runs around 4500 AP now.  While tanking Stonecore, I opened his character sheet at one point and was shocked to see him–literally–OVER NINE THOOOOOUUUSAANNND attack power.  This directly translates to a big damage boost, and, therefore, a big threat boost. I didn’t think Vengeance was very useful when I first started leveling, but after doing just one instance, boy am I a believer now.


So You Want to Be(ta) a Prot Warrior: Climbing Trees

(Did you see what I did there with the title?  Damn, I’m smooth.  Hurr hurr.)

OK, kids, it’s finally time for Uncle Panzercow to take a look at Prot warriors in the Cataclysm beta.  Both of mine are over there now.  Linedan is casually slaughtering his way through Mount Hyjal in his usual efficient, taciturn Panzercowing manner.  Latisha, on the other hand, threw on her bikini and took a little vacation…she went on a “three-hour tour” booze cruise toward an island off Stormwind, but instead of chatting up the hunky SCUBA instructor, she found herself, well, drowning.  Then she woke up at the bottom of the Great Sea in the bilge of the SS Poseidon, surrounded by dead Alliance soldiers, beautiful coral, and pissed-off naga.  She’s done the first few Kelp Forest quests in Vashj’ir; unfortunately, after taking her back to Stormwind to train Mastery, a bug has stuck her in limbo between Stormwind and Moonglade, and she may be out of action until I can either re-copy her (giving her the T9 shoulders she picked up last night) or wait for a fix.  I may just wait for a fix, I want to retain the option to copy another character over at some point.

I’ll do another post talking about the actual Prot leveling experience once I do more of it–Lin’s only 2/3 of the way through 80, and Latisha’s barely done anything at all.  What I want to look at in this post are the warrior trees, from a Prot standpoint of course.  I’m not even going to suggest specific builds, because really, I haven’t absorbed all of this stuff yet, and I’m sure I’ll be wobbling back and forth on builds constantly over the next couple months.  Instead, I’m going to look more at the talents and abilities that you’d see at level 80.

DISCLAIMERS:  This is all based on beta build 12759 as of 19 August 2010 and is subject to change anytime Ghostcrawler wants to change it.  Your mileage may vary.  Void in Middle-Earth and where prohibited.  Side effects may include dizziness, nausea, hair loss, carpal tunnel syndrome, hot warrior groupies throwing themselves at you, frequent death, high repair bills, and hearing “not enough rage” in your sleep.  Any rebroadcast of these talents without the express written consent of Major League Baseball is prohibited.

Cutting Down the Trees

So that having been said, let’s take a look at the talent trees.  The first thing you’ll notice upon hitting “N” for the first time in the beta is that there’s a new first screen where you are shown the various masteries available.  (The three Mastery abilities only seem to kick in when you train the Mastery skill.)  We’ll be looking at Prot, of course, so you see there’s one ability exclusive to us–our old friend Shield Slam, no longer baseline, sorry Arms and Fury–and three Masteries; Vitality, Vengeance, and Improved Block.

Vitality replaces the old Vitality talent; it’s just a flat 15% boost to Stamina, nothing fancy here.  Vengeance is a mechanic that I’m still trying to get my noggin around.  The tooltip says:  “Each time you take damage, you gain 5% of the damage taken as attack power, up to a maximum of 10% of your health.”  Does that mean that my 50,000 health Linedan can get up to 5000 bonus attack power?  Well, not practically.  Any bonus you get from a particular hit seems to roll off after 15 seconds.  So the AP boost seems to fluctuate up and down.  During normal questing on Lin, it seems to wobble around +100 to +200 AP, but I imagine it will be considerably more useful on instance fights, especially bosses.  Finally, Improved Block is just what it says it is, +15% to shield block chance.  Except I noticed something odd on Latisha.  When she first arrived and spec’d out, she had exactly 20.00% block chance, which I thought odd.  When I trained Mastery, that chance went down to exactly 15.00%, which is what Lin has.  I don’t know if that’s a glitch or what.  But now both their character sheets show only a 15% chance to block.  That indicates to me that either this is a bug, or warriors have a base non-Mastery block chance of zero…which should be a bug.

When you start looking at the trees themselves, you’ll see some familiar talents about where you expect them.  Last Stand, Concussion Blow, Improved Revenge, Devastate, Shockwave, Gag Order…old friends, like the crew at Cheers.  You just expect Devastate and Shockwave to stand up and yell “NORM!” when you pick talents from this tree.  But even old dogs learn a few new tricks, so we need to go through this one talent at a time.  Strap in, it’s going to be a long ride…

Protection

Incite (3 points)Increases the critical strike chance of your Heroic Strike by 5/10/15%, and your Heroic Strike critical strikes have a 33/66/100% chance to make your next Heroic Strike also a critical strike.  This effect cannot occur more than once every 6 seconds. Veneretio had a good discussion of Incite over at Tanking Tips a couple weeks ago.  I think the jury is still out on this one largely because Heroic Strike isn’t what it used to be.  Remember, it’s no longer an on-next-swing with no cooldown.  Now it’s instant and off the global cooldown, but it costs 30 rage with a three-second cooldown.  How our rage generation works out will make or break this talent.

Toughness (3 points)Increases your armor value from items by 3/6/10%. Straightforward, and necessary as always because bonus armor and armor on trinkets get removed in Cataclysm.  Lin’s down 6000 armor from live right off the bat.

Hold the Line (2 points)Increases your critical strike and critical block chance by 10% for 5/10 seconds after a successful parry. This just in:  PARRY GETS LOVE.  About damn time.  Veneretio covered this talent as well and did a thorough job of covering the good and bad of it.  Bad:  Not all that great against bosses.  Good:  Useful against multiple targets, and when your crit percentage is as horrendous as ours is, you take whatever help Blizzard throws to you.  Probably a keeper.

Shield Specialization (3 points)You generate 5/10/15 extra rage when you block an attack.  You generate 20/40/60 rage when you Spell Reflect a magic attack. Hmm.  Note that Shield Spec now doesn’t give you a better chance to block, it’s just about rage generation.  Right now, in build 12759 of the beta, prot warrior rage generation is actually very good, almost too good.  I’m getting full rage bars on Lin while only fighting mobs two at a time without anything to Spell Reflect…with his ICC-level avoidance, that’s shocking.  (It also means I’m not Heroic Striking enough.)  If rage generation is not an issue, then this isn’t necessary.  If we get as rage-starved in Cataclysm as we did in Wrath of the Lich King when grinding, then it becomes much more useful.  Time will tell.

Shield Mastery (3 points)Reduces the cooldown of Shield Block by 10/20/30 seconds, Shield Wall by 60/120/180 seconds, and Spell Reflect by 1/2/3 seconds. Why on earth would you not take this?  It’s better than the old Improved Disciplines because it affects three of our best defensive cooldowns.  You end up with being able to bump your block up for 10 out of 30 seconds, reduce all incoming damage by 40% for 12 out of 120 seconds, and reflect a spell every 7 seconds.  (Also?  Shield Block now costs 10 rage, unfortunately, but Spell Reflect only costs 15, down from 25 in live.)

Blood and Thunder (2 points)When you Thunder Clap a target affected by your Rend, you have a 50/100% chance to affect every target with Rend. OK, maybe I’m missing something here, but…do Prot warriors keep Rend on their bars?  Seriously?  I think I’ve got it shoved off in a corner somewhere bound to ctrl+shift+6+standonmyhead or something.  I haven’t used it in years. Are they expecting us to start?  I don’t think I got that memo.

Gag Order (2 points)Gives your Shield Bash and Heroic Throw abilities a 50/100% chance to silence the target for 3 seconds.  Also lowers the cooldown of your Heroic Throw by 15/30 seconds. It doesn’t have the +5/10% damage to Shield Slam that it used to, sadly, but this is still a useful talent for pulling.  I think it may have gone from “must have” to “nice to have” depending on the composition of instances.

Last Stand (1 point, cooldown 3 minutes)Temporarily grants you 30% of your maximum health for 20 seconds.  After the effect expires, the health is lost. Nothing’s changed here, this is our reliable old ass-saver from live, right down to the three-minute cooldown.

Concussion Blow (1 point, cost 15 rage, cooldown 30 seconds)Stuns the opponent for 5 seconds and deals (38/100 * AP) damage (based on attack power). Again, no functional change here, even the cooldown remains the same at 30 seconds.  It’s just been moved down to Tier 3 in the tree.

Bastion of Defense (2 points)Reduces the chance you’ll be critically hit by melee attacks by 3/6%.  In addition, when you Block, Dodge, or Parry an attack, you have a 10/20% chance to become Enraged, increasing physical damage done by 10% for 12 seconds. Exit stacking Defense, enter Bastion of Defense.  This is how warriors become uncrittable now.  It also takes the enrage from the old Improved Defensive Stance talent, although instead of the chance being 50/100%, now it’s only 10/20%.  If you don’t take 2 points in this talent, GTFO my class and roll a rogue.

Warbringer (1 point)Your Charge, Intercept, and Intervene abilities are now usable while in combat and in any stance.  In addition, your Intervene ability removes all movement-impairing effects. No change from live, this is another near-mandatory talent; it’s what gives us our legendary pinball-of-death mobility.  When I’m in Lin’s Fury spec, honestly, this talent is the biggest single thing I miss.

Improved Revenge (2 points)Increases the damage of your Revenge ability by 30/60% and causes Revenge to strike an additional target for 50/100% damage. No functional change from live on this one either, it’s a big DPS and threat boost so I think it’s mandatory.  But that’s just my opinion.

Devastate (1 point, cost 15 rage)Sunders the targets armor causing the Sunder Armor effect.  In addition, causes 120% weapon damage + 58 for each stack of Sunder Armor on the target.  The Sunder Armor effect can stack up to 3 times. Other than the overall reduction of Sunder Armor stacks from 5 to 3, there’s no change at all to Devastate.  Even the damage is exactly the same.

Impending Victory (2 points)Using Devastate on a target with 20% or less health has a 25/50% chance to allow the use of Victory Rush, but that Victory Rush only heals for 5% of your health. Now this is an interesting little talent.  On low-health mobs, this talent gives you the opportunity to trigger Victory Rush, gaining a single rage-free attack that will give you a mini-heal of 5% of your max health (instead of the 20% from a normal VR).  Even with mobs now having 30k+ health in the 80-81 areas, I can’t see this being useful during level-grinding.  But how useful might this be at the end of a tough boss fight, when he’s sub-20% for a couple minutes?  You’re hitting Devastate all the time anyway, why not have a 50% chance to give you a free attack and heal yourself for several thousand health?  It’s better than Enraged Regeneration by a long shot.

Thunderstruck (2 points)Improves the damage of your Cleave and Thunder Clap by 3/6%.  In addition, your Thunder Clap improves the damage of your next Shockwave by 5/10%.  Stacks up to 3 times. All I can think of for this one is “meh.”  The damage boost is nice, but spending two points on it in Tier 5 doesn’t seem like a very good return.  Maybe someone can prove differently to me.

Vigilance (1 point)Focus your protective gaze on a group or raid target, reducing their damage taken by 3%.  In addition, each time they are hit by an attack your Taunt cooldown is refreshed, and you gain Vengeance as if 20% of the damage was done to you.  Lasts 30 minutes.  This effect can only be on one target at a time. Sharp-eyed readers will notice something missing from that blurb…that’s right, the 10% threat transfer is gone.  Is it worth putting a point into this for a small AP boost and the taunt refresh?  I’m not sure yet.  For grinding, definitely not.  For instancing or raiding, maaayyyybe.

Heavy Repercussions (2 points)When Shield Block is active, your Shield Slams hit for an additional  50/100% damage. Pretty straightforward, although it’s a little disappointing to have to spend two points in Tier 5 for what we used to get for free with Shield Block.

Safeguard (2 points)Reduces the damage taken by the target of your Intervene ability by 15/30% for 6 seconds. Uh…yeah.  Somebody please make a case for this talent, because I’ve never seen it to be useful.  Then again, I know I don’t use Intervene nearly enough.

Sword and Board (3 points)Increases the critical strike chance of your Devastate ability by 5/10/15%.  When your Devastate or Revenge abilities deal damage, they have a 10/20/30% chance of refreshing the cooldown of your next Shield Slam ability and reducing its rage cost by 100% for 5 seconds. Good old Sword and Board, basically unchanged.  DING!

Shockwave (1 point, cost 15 rage, cooldown 20 seconds)Sends a wave of force in front of the warrior, causing (75/100 * AP) damage (based on attack power) and stunning all enemy targets within 10 yards in a frontal cone for 4 seconds. Interestingly, Shockwave, our top talent, hasn’t changed.

Fury

Blood Craze (3 points)After taking any damage, you have a 10% chance to regenerate 2.5/5/7.5% of your total health over 5 seconds. Wow.  This is big, gang.  7.5% of your total health over 5 seconds…in beta!Linedan’s case, that’s about 3500 to 4000 health.  This talent is almost like having an inattentive druid trundling along behind, occasionally pulling himself away from watching “Dancing with the Stars” and dropping a Rejuv on you.  Between this, Victory Rush, and Enraged Regeneration…kids, if you’re a well-geared Prot warrior, and this stuff stays close to the way it is now?  You will have to work to die while grinding.  If you thought we had good survivability before, it’s beyond insane now.

Battle Trance (3 points)Your Bloodthirst, Mortal Strike, and Shield Slam hits have a 5/10/15% chance to make your next special attack consume no rage. Again, the usefulness of this talent will depend on rage generation.  Right now, our rage generation is very good.  I don’t expect that to continue.  I don’t know if spending 3 points is worth it to get a 15% chance of rage reduction on an attack we only fire off every four to five seconds (averaging in S&B procs) anyway.

Cruelty (2 points)Increases the critical strike chance of your Bloodthirst, Mortal Strike, and Shield Slam hits by 5/10%. Gee, you’d almost think they don’t want our white attacks critting anymore.  A 10% crit boost on Shield Slam only for two points…not sure the math on this one works out any better than Battle Trance, to be honest.  We’ll have to see.

Rude Interruption (2 points)Successfully interrupting a spell with Shield Bash or Pummel increases your damage by 5/10% for 15 seconds. This is a Tier 2 talent that’s gotten more press for the alleged political incorrectness of its icon than its actual use.  You can make an argument, as often as we interrupt spells, that the damage boost might be worth having to put 5 points into Fury to get it.  Well, I can’t, but maybe you can.

Piercing Howl (1 point, cost 10 rage)Causes all enemies within 10 yards to be Dazed, reducing movement speed by 50% for 6 seconds. The fact that this is now a Tier 2 Fury talent puts it, potentially, within reach of Prot warriors.  I’m not sold on its usefulness for a PvE tank, but I can sure see Prot PvPers all over it.

Arms

War Academy (3 points)Increases the damage of your Heroic Strike, Cleave, Victory Rush, and Slam abilities by 5/10/15%. Hmmm.  That’s actually pretty tempting.  HS and Cleave won’t get spammed as much as they used to (well, Cleave might, HS, not so much).  But when you see other talents in this tier, it definitely becomes second fiddle.

Field Dressing (2 points)Increases your self healing abilities by 10/20% and all healing effects on you by 3/6%. It doesn’t take too many brain cells to see this being mandatory for tanks, and quite honestly, good for grinding as well.  Right now, normal level 80 trashy quest grind mobs hit a lot harder than they do on live–try three times as hard.  Any boost to the considerable self-healing we’re now provided (Blood Craze, Victory Rush, Enraged Regeneration, even bandages) is a big plus.

Blitz (2 points)Your Charge ability generates 5/10 additional rage and stuns 1/2 additional targets. I’ve always liked the old Improved Charge talent, and this is its successor.  But with only 41 points to spread around, I’m not sure we’ll have room.

Abilities

Phew!  Well, that’s the tree changes…but we’ve still got to get to the major changes to some of our abilities…

On-next-attack abilities are gone. Cleave and Heroic Strike are now instant attacks with short cooldowns.  This means the (probable) end of having to bind HS to your mouse wheel and spinning while tanking.

Shout mechanics have changed. Battle and Commanding Shout are much more like death nuggets’ Horn of Winter.  They generate rage now instead of costing it, but have long (1-minute) cooldowns.  Since our rage decays so fast out of combat, they’re actually more useful to hit in combat as a backup to Bloodrage, which breaks my old technique of hitting whichever Shout I’m using after I kill something, to keep it refreshed.

Victory Rush. As currently implemented in build 12759, Victory Rush has suddenly become your best friend ever.  It’s now usable in Defensive Stance, and as always, gives you a single rage-free attack.  Oh, and now in the beta, it heals you.  For 20% of your maximum health. You heard me right, kids.  Between this, Enraged Regeneration for emergencies, and the Fury talent Blood Craze, a well-geared Prot warrior simply never stops killing.  You need to keep killing to get that tasty multi-thousand-point heal from VR.  And since Victory Rush has no cooldown…you can pull big and hit VR after each mob in the pack dies for a big shot of health.  I will actually be surprised if this goes live the way it is now, because it’s that awesome and I’m that big a pessimist.

No more Shield Block Value. When you block, you block 30% of the incoming damage.  On a crit block, you block 60%.  The Shield Block ability still basically lets you block everything for 10 seconds, but it’s no longer the total immunity against trash that it was in Wrath.

The order in which you get abilities is scrambled. I’m not even trying to figure it out.  I haven’t leveled a Prot warrior in the beta, and probably won’t try it until after Cataclysm goes live and I have some time to work on my mains and existing alts.

Shield Wall isn’t as effective. The damage reduction in the beta is down to 40% from 60% in live…but with three points in the excellent Shield Mastery talent, the cooldown is only 2 minutes.  Basically, you can talent into what is now the glyphed version of Shield Wall.  Less absorption, more often.

OK, that’s enough for one day.  Hell, that’s more than enough for one day.  If you’ve made it to the end of this wall-o-text, congratulations!

Soon I hope to have more posts up on the Prot leveling experience in Cataclysm’s beta…both from the point of view of a highly-geared raid tank (Linedan) and a fresh 80 with relatively minimal gear (Latisha).  Stay tuned.


The Latisha Experiment, Update #3

I'm not overcompensating for anything. I'm too busy trying not to fall over to worry about overcompensating.

I’ll admit, I’ve been slack about reporting on the progress of the Latisha Experiment–my attempt to use my own So You Want To Be A Prot Warrior guides to level a Prot warrior all the way from 1 to 80.  That’s largely because I’ve been slack about leveling her in the first place.  Latisha, sad to say, is not yet 80.  She is 75, but on the upside, she’s a veteran of the Wrathgate, is mostly done with Dragonblight outside of a couple of the dragonshrines and group quests that I’m not worrying about for now due to lack of help, and best of all, is getting xp at a solid clip from a mixture of questing and random dungeons.

Now, this is where I admit I’ve disregarded my own advice in her spec, just a little.  I’ve swapped her spec to be more like Linedan’s…x/3/53 instead of the x/5/51 I originally stated in the SYWTBAPW guides.  See, as I was leveling her, I skipped Vigilance, because I started her before the LFD system, and she didn’t get many chances to tank.  Likewise, it was quicker through the old world and Outland to just quest and grind along.  But now in her 70s in Northrend, she can take advantage of the near-instant queue times that even normal-dungeon tanks get.  So I decided to tweak her spec to be more “tanky” as opposed to “grindy”.  This involved dropping the two points out of Cruelty in the Fury tree, picking up Vigilance, and basically setting her Prot side up to be a carbon copy of Linedan, who is himself fairly cookie-cutter.  There really isn’t that much difference performance-wise between 15/5/51 and 15/3/53 Prot specs right now, but the two extra points over in the Prot tree allow for a little flexibility–in my case, that usually means two more points into Shield Specialization.  Right now, she is 10/3/53, with her last five talent points going to fill out Impale and Deep Wounds in Arms.  I also picked up a Glyph of Cleaving in her second major slot, which is a big help in tanking instances.

Gear-wise, she’s better than I expected she’d be at this point.  She’s got a few pieces to swap back and forth for questing versus tanking.  With her “tank” set in place, she’s got 464 defense at level 75, reasonable avoidance, and about 14.5k health.  So far, it’s been enough to tank any normal instance up through Drak’theron Keep without too much trouble.  I’ve actually been surprised by how well she can hold agro with a level-appropriate group against even large groups of trash.  Having a few years of experience on another Prot warrior helps, of course, but she is proving to be a very competent tank.  I just make sure I go back to the AH every so often and keep an eye out for crafted pieces like cobalt, or later on, saronite.

Tanking normal random PUGs is refreshing, in a way.  I rarely tank heroic PUGs on Linedan anymore.  I use them to practice his Fury spec…and quite honestly, after raid tanking two or three nights a week, I’m happily content to find something to do around the house during the 13-15 minute wait as DPS, and then just merrily roflcowpter my way through an instance as Fury.  Tanking heroics, at this stage in the game where Lin needs nothing more than Frost badges, is just usually not worth dealing with the durpdurp.  But Latisha has to tank…I haven’t bought dual-spec on her yet, and don’t plan to right away, since I save her money for prowling for upgrades on the AH.

So we know heroic PUGs are all about the “gogogogogo,” where nobody talks, tanks pull before everybody’s zoned in, any thought of strategy or skill goes out the window and it’s a straight-up bulldoze toward the end boss at the highest possible speed so everybody gets their two frost badges and gets on with their lives, right?  Well, normal PUGs can be a totally different animal.  I’m on my seventh character over level 70, so I have a bad case of “been there done that”–and I’m surprised at the number of people in normal PUGs who are setting foot inside Utgarde Keep or the Nexus for the very first time ever.  People actually talk.  They apologize when they make a mistake instead of screaming at somebody else.  They make jokes and are even *gasp* social.  Pacing is slower.  There is occasionally even…wait for it…crowd control. Running Drak’theron Keep with a 75 tank and four 74s in the party is a far cry from steamrolling it with five 80s in T9 or T10 gear, that’s for sure.  And I really like it.

Of course, sometimes she does get groups like the one with the two level 80 death nuggets who would’ve had no trouble running it on heroic.  (Tanking for DKs doing 3k dps, at level 75…not fun.)  Or the one with the 74 rogue who did 250 dps for the entire run because she was alternately working up her gun skill and her sword skill…and attacking mobs from the front while doing it.  But for every one of those, there’s been at least one where everybody is pleasant, we move at a nice steady pace, nobody loses their cookies when we wipe, and we have a fun time doing the instances the way Blizzard intended them to be done originally.  It really is a nice change from the typical heroic PUG.

I’ve had people tell me I must be crazy for leveling a second Prot warrior.  Why?  I have a character who, while she doesn’t kill things at breakneck speed, kills them quickly enough to quest efficiently, has tremendous survivability, gets into randoms almost instantly, has a fairly interesting backstory even though I haven’t had a chance to RP much with her yet, and, best of all, uses a playstyle that I’m already fairly good at.  Yeah.  I’m crazy.  Like a fox, baby.


The obligatory ZOMGWARRIORCHNAGES post

Yeah.  Everybody else is going to be dissecting these bad boys like a bucket of frogs in biology class, so why shouldn’t I, right?  Just remember:  half this stuff will never happen as written. Seriously.  We in the WoW playerbase have a tendency to hang on Blue Words as if they’re embossed on stone tablets, carried down the side of Mount Sinai by Moses “Ghostcrawler” Heston.  Yeah, well, read Exodus 32 sometime.  The original tablets?  They got broken. So don’t get too worked up.

That having been said, banzai, my peeps, here we go…
(more…)


Patch 3.3.3: Revenge of the Revenge

YO DAWG. I HEARD YOU LIKE TO REVENGE SO HERE'S SOME REVENGE SO YOU CAN REVENGE WHILE YOU REVENGE.

Yesterday, after the servers came back up and people got to start playing with patch 3.3.3, I felt a great disturbance in the Force.  No, really.  It felt as if millions of Prot warriors simultaneously hit their Revenge button…and suddenly went all Rotface and screamed “WHEEEEEEEEE!”

There was some serious giddiness around the Prot warrior side of the WoW blogosphere yesterday, and no doubt it’ll continue to today.  This is mostly because of the massive double buff that our Revenge ability received in 3.3.3.  Revenge had its damage improved by 50% anyway…and then the Improved Revenge talent was modified to remove the random stun chance, but now buffs Revenge’s damage by a further 30/60% and allows the ability to hit an adjacent target for 50/100% damage.  As I said yesterday, this makes patch 3.3.3 “Revenge of the Revenge.”

I think I can best sum up my opinion of what they did by recycling a tweet I did yesterday afternoon:

“Revenge used to hit like a truck. Now it hits like a truck towing a truck. Full of explosives. Driven by angry bears.”

Seriously.  In terms of raw, single-event damage, talented Revenge has leapt to the top of the charts.  Between these changes and the 3.3.2 damage reductions on Shield Slam, from the numbers I’m seeing in various spots around the Intertubes, Revenge is now top dog, dawg.  For some gear combinations, the change is so drastic that there’s actually talk of moving Revenge ahead of Shield Slam (including Sword and Board procs) in the Prot warrior priority system.  Veneretio espouses this in his post on the buffed Revenge.  He states test numbers of ~3800 damage on Revenge versus ~2000 damage on Shield Slam.  That’s huge.

I decided to try some informal testing of my own.  So I took Linedan out and played around with the big level 82 elite undead giants (Pustulent Horrors) that patrol the top of the Ironwall Dam in Icecrown.  They’re not hard to solo at his T9/T10 gear level, drop decent money, and have 68,000 health so the fights last long enough to get an idea of how things work.

I was surprised to find that my Shield Slams were averaging about 2800-2900 per normal hit.  My Revenges were averaging slightly over that, at around 3000.  That surprised me enough, but when I went back and thought about it, I came up with three things that put Revenge in an even better light:

  • Linedan has 4315 unbuffed attack power–that’s a bit low for his gear level.  He’s short on bonus armor (which translates to AP through Armored to the Teeth).  Revenge scales off AP; Shield Slam scales off shield block value.
  • He’s wearing two-piece T10, which provides a set bonus that boosts Shield Slam damage by 20%.
  • He only had one point in Improved Revenge, not two.  That means he was only getting a +30% damage boost to Revenge, not the full +60%.  (I have since rectified that problem by moving a point from Shield Specialization into Improved Revenge.)

And despite all that, it still scraped out higher than Shield Slam.  So it’s a no-brainer, right?  Revenge moves up in the rotation, Shield Slam goes and sits in the corner for a while.  Right?

Well, allow me to put on my best Jeremy Clarkson voice and say…not so fast.

Here’s the reasons why Shield Slam may still be better than Revenge for threat, even if it isn’t for damage:

  • Remember that Shield Slam, after patch 3.3.2, had its damage reduced but had bonus threat added.  Per folks on Tankspot, Shield Slam gets an extra 770 threat added to the damage, and then that sum is multiplied by 1.3.  Revenge doesn’t get the same bonus threat, it just gets the normal boost from being in Defensive Stance, as does Shield Slam, so that cancels out.
  • Shield Slam’s cooldown is 6 seconds compared to Revenge’s 5, but remember that Shield Slam can also come off cooldown at any time thanks to Sword and Board procs.  I have no numbers to back this up, but it wouldn’t surprise me if, factoring in SnB procs, Shield Slam’s “effective” cooldown is less than 5 seconds, meaning that’s how often you get to use it in a fight.
  • Shield Slam gets +15% crit chance thanks to Critical Block.  In fact, Revenge is one of the few big warrior heavy hitters that don’t get a +15% critical boost from either Incite, Critical Block, or Sword and Board–Heroic Strike, Shield Slam, Devastate, Thunder Clap, and Cleave all do.  Revenge doesn’t.  When you’re a tank like Lin with a base crit chance under 8%, and maybe 16.5% raid-buffed, that extra 15% is massive.

Some of the boffins over at Tankspot have been taking a few pokes at grinding out numbers, and so far, the preliminary results seem to indicate…it’s close.  Very close.  Close enough that there is no one hard-and-fast answer for whether you should prioritize Shield Slam over Revenge.  It’ll largely depend on gear (higher AP favors Revenge, higher shield block value favors Shield Slam), and whether you’re pushing for raw damage or threat.  Personally, I’m probably going to stick with Shield Slam before Revenge on Linedan due to his two-piece T10 set bonus (he’s routinely critting SS for over 10k in raids now), and the fact that I’m old and set in my ways.

One other point of interest.  These changes have revised interest in one of the weirder warrior specs that popped up initially about a year ago…the 37/2/32 (or thereabouts) Unrelenting Assault Arms/Prot hybrid.  Veneretio had an article on it last year.  The spec is designed around the Arms Unrelenting Assault talent–which reduces the cooldown of Overpower and Revenge by four seconds–so you can see why 3.3.3 has brought it out of stasis.  The ability to hit this immensely powerful buffed Revenge every single time you dodge, block, or parry, with no cooldown to speak of, is pretty tempting, and makes the spec capable of simultaneously boss-tanking and putting out high DPS.  There’s a significant cost to pay, though.  It’s horrible on trash, doesn’t work if you aren’t tanking, gives up a lot of the best Prot warrior toys (Devastate, Sword and Board, Critical Block, Shockwave), and requires a lot of avoidance to keep Revenge constantly lit up.  It doesn’t sound like a viable everyday tank spec, but for certain fights, it may be worth playing with.

There’s a bit of irony to this whole thing, at least for me as an old-school warrior who played a bit of Prot during the days of vanilla WoW.  Revenge used to be nothing but a threat ability.  The damage it did was beyond negligible.  It lit up, you hit it, you basically tickled the mob but it pissed it off that much more.  Well, five years on, we’ve gone from tickling with a feather to hitting with a cruise missile.  And I, for one, welcome our new vengeful overlords.


Let me axe you something

Awww yeah. That's one FINE piece of axe right there.

I haven’t been blogging a whole lot about raiding with The Anvil lately.  That’s because we’ve managed to get our collective ankles wedged firmly into a gap that Blizzard’s left in the content.

We didn’t have too much trouble getting through the Lower Spire in ICC 25-man.  Marrowgar, Lady Deathwhisper, the Gunship Battle, and even Saurfang fell before us with relative ease.  I wouldn’t call them pushovers the way that, say, Trial of the Wake Me When It’s Over was when we first started.  But we moved through Icecrown’s first four bosses in fairly good time, and prepared to assault the rest of the Lich King’s stronghold.

Then we slammed head-on into the Plagueworks.

If you’re just getting ready to head into Icecrown, 10- or 25-man, consider this a warning:  There is a big jump in difficulty between the first four bosses and the middle portion of the instance, the Plagueworks (Festergut, Rotface, and Professor Putricide) and the Crimson Halls (Blood Princes, Blood Queen Lana’thel).  That jump in difficulty has stopped us dead in our tracks.

We quickly reached a very unpleasant realization on Festergut, supposedly the “easiest” of the bosses…we couldn’t kill him.  Not “we can’t kill him because we’re making too many mistakes”–a totally unqualified “we can’t do this right now.”  We ran up against cold, hard math.  Festergut’s enrage timer is so short (5 minutes) and he has so much health (40.44 million) that how well we handled the mechanical aspects of the fight with gas spores and healing through his insane damage didn’t matter.  You need a five-minute average of roughly 135,000 dps from your raid to drop Festergut before he splats you.  Before last night, on our best attempt, we had 91,000.  No amount of sleight of hand or focusing on eliminating mistakes could get around the fact that if you don’t bring that 135,000 dps, you don’t kill Festergut.  Full stop.  Before last night, our best attempt on Festergut was hitting the enrage timer at 30%.  Not.  Even.  Close.

Rotface isn’t quite the insane DPS race that Festergut is, but it’s a crazy fight–Grobbulus on speed, with even more raid-wide damage and shadow-crash-style flying angry exploding poo-poos to dodge.  And you still need a ton of DPS, because otherwise, you get so many oozes running around that your coordination breaks down in terms of the kiting that’s required.  Our best attempt to date on Rotface is around 17%, which, considering the insanity of the fight and our relative DPS level, ain’t shabby.

Well, last night, we went to try and sell Arthas encyclopedias yet again.  We did it in the middle of the godawful crippling lag that has had the entire Cyclone battlegroup by the balls since the Love is in the Air event started up.  (Servers in Cyclone, Ruin, Bloodlust, and Reckoning have been getting crushed for days now with 5+ minute zone times, minutes-long loot lag and mailbox lag, etc.  Multiple maintenance downtimes haven’t done a damn thing to fix it.)  The lag was so bad that my wife couldn’t even join the raid, and then we lost two more regulars due to illness.  We managed to pick up enough subs to fill out the roster, and gave it a try.

Go figure, but it was the best raid night we’ve had in a month and a half.  Maybe the lag got people to dial it in and focus, or maybe the phase of the moon was just right, I don’t know.  Not only did we one-shot all four bosses in the front, but we had two near-perfect Festergut attempts and got him to 8%, and then 6%, before he enraged.  Magically, we’ve somehow picked up over 30,000 dps on that fight in just a few weeks.  If we find about 10,000 more in the glovebox and under the sofa cushions, we’ll own that mutant potato right in his ugly face…uh, OK, one of his ugly faces.  He’s got spares.

It was one of those nights that invigorates my desire to raid with this awesome bunch of maniacs I run with, because we were hitting on all cylinders and having a great time doing it.  The one sad part was that my wife missed it…especially when the druid loot dropped.

And out of all that, I got a new toy to play with:

Now, I got a whisper last night asking me why I’d blow a “suicide” on a one-handed DPS weapon that wasn’t a tank weapon, when my DPS offspec is Fury and thus needs two-handers.  It’s a legit question, deserving of an answer.  The short version is, despite it not being a tank weapon, it’s a significant upgrade for me.  Now, the long version–half because I’m paranoid and still justifying to myself why I took it, and half as explanation of why a tank sometimes gets very good use out of a “non-tank” weapon.

Right now, Lin’s tank weapons are a Titanguard and a Burnished Quel’serrar from 25-man Ony.  The Titanguard has been Lin’s bread-and-butter tank sword for almost a full year now, and while it’s an excellent item (it was our first hard-mode Ulduar loot ever), it’s a tier or a tier-and-a-half behind current content.  I picked the BQ up to use as a situational weapon when I had to bring more DPS as Prot; it’s been part of my block-heavy gear set, and also has been what I use to tank heroics.  But it’s not well-itemized, and despite the old-school cool factor of it being a Quel’serrar, I’ve never warmed to it.

True, the Scourgeborne Waraxe isn’t a classic +str/+sta/+defense/avoidance tank weapon.  It is, first and foremost, a rogue axe in no uncertain terms–not really itemized awesomely for hunters and way, way too fast for enhancement shamans.  But for starters, 48 dps more on the tooltip is damned hard to ignore.  It’s even faster than the Titanguard (1.5 vs. 1.6), and fast for a tank weapon is good.  The stat tradeoff is surprisingly even–I lose the +str from the Titanguard costing me 24 shield block value, but I end up net gaining about 10 attack power, the stamina is close to even (loss of ~110 health), and the extra agility gives me enough dodge that even after losing the 33 parry rating from the sword, I only lose a net of 0.30% total avoidance.  In return, I get a huge burst of +crit (over 2%), a token bit of armor penetration, and a sizeable damage increase over the Titanguard, both overall and at the top end for attacks like Devastate.  It’s going to be a significant bump in my threat generation.  And I’m already running with so much excess Defense (578 with the sword), I can afford to lose 7 points of it.

In the end, I had to make a quick decision when interest in the weapon was called; using Rating Buster‘s breakout of stat pluses and minuses (which I trimmed from the tooltip screenshot), I decided to go for it.  And once I get that new axe Mongoosed, it’s going to become my primary heroic and trash tanking weapon.  The Titanguard stays in my bag for situations where absolute maximum avoidance and health are needed and threat is less of an issue–for example, if I’m kiting on Rotface, playing kissyface with Muradin on the Gunship Battle, or eating saber lashes on Marrowgar.

Besides, just look at it, peeps. It’s beautiful.  It’s huge.  It’s so big it goes over my back instead of on my belt.  It’s not standard-issue Wrath of the Lich King Tier 9 Brown, unlike everything else Lin wears.  It has frigging spikes on the blade. How can I not have my Panzercow walking around with something that utterly badass in his humongous three-fingered hand?


So You Want to Be a Prot Warrior: The Dreaded Heroic PUG

Your PUGs may be this successful, but I doubt they'll ever be this cute.

Patch 3.3 is simultaneously the best of times and the worst of times for new up-and-coming tanks.  It’s the best of times because the old sequential gearing paradigm–you need to do normal 5-mans to gear up for heroic 5-mans to gear up for Naxx to gear up for Ulduar to gear up for Trial of the Crusader to gear up for Icecrown–is right out the window.  It is now possible to skip many of the middle steps and load up on tasty Tier 9-level gear by nothing more than running heroic 5-mans and the occasional raid for weekly quests.  (Whether you’ll actually be able to get into a raid once you get that gear is another matter entirely, and not in scope for this post.)

It’s also the worst of times, though, because in order to get that gear, you’re going to have to run a lot of heroics.  And that almost certainly means, unless you are blessed with lots and lots of friends, sooner or later, you’ll end up using the Looking for Dungeon tool and end up as the tank…of a cross-server pick-up group.

(Insert lightning flashes, thunder, and jarring pipe organ chord here.)

You’ve probably heard the horror stories flying around about cross-server PUGs.  Of trigger-happy DPS who throw all their threat-management skills out the window and go balls-to-the-wall trying to top the Almighty Recount, and expect the tank to magically be able to save them from their own e-peenery.  Of healers belittling tanks and bailing on groups when the tank has less than full T9 and 40k health unbuffed.  And yes, those things do happen…but not always.  Not even the majority of the time, in fact.

Are you are a shiny fresh new level 80 tank ready to get on the LFD PUG treadmill to Triumph and Frost Nirvana, but you’re scared to press that first “Find Group” button?  Never fear, Panzercow is here.  What I’m about to tell you is all common-sense stuff that you may have already figured out–trust me, I’m not the brightest bulb in the chandelier, so if I know this stuff, it ain’t rocket surgery.  But it’ll help, and it’ll give you the foundation you need to stride forth into the world of cross-server PUGs and survive.

It all basically comes down to what I call the four “bes”–be knowledgeable, be prepared, be honest, and be confident.

Be Knowledgeable

Know your enemy and know yourself and you can fight a hundred battles without disaster.  –Sun Tzu

Tanking, with any class, is a learned process.  You need to have a sound, well-researched spec.  You need to learn your chosen class’s abilities, rotation or priority system, and emergency buttons.  Then you need to learn how to extend that to controlling agro on multiple mobs.  Then, on top of that, you need to build the situational awareness that all good tanks have, and advanced techniques like LOS pulling.  And then, as the final layer on the cake, you have to know the specific instance–patrol paths, where you can LOS pull safely, kill orders of specific groups, and, of course, boss strategies.

A cross-server PUG, with four people you don’t know, is not the time to be learning all of it.

If you don’t know an instance, run it with friends first–or at least read up on it on any of the various sites out there on the Web.  If your babytank is an alt, start paying more attention to “tanky” things when you’re in the instance on your main.  Watch how your tank grabs groups and where he tanks them.  Watch his facing.  Note which mobs are casters that need to be silenced.

As for your own tanking, it should go without saying…you need to have a solid grasp of the basics of tanking instance pulls before setting foot in a heroic PUG.  Run more forgiving normal groups (PUGs if need be) or heroics with friends.  You should’ve been instancing as you leveled anyway, quite honestly, so by the time you’re ready to do heroics, tanking instances should be second nature to you.  Chances are, a PUG is going to push your tanking skills to (or beyond) their limits, especially if you are a fairly new 80 grouped up with well-geared DPS.  Be ready for it–have your own skills squared away before you queue up.

Be Prepared

Bring war material with you from home, but forage on the enemy… use the conquered foe to augment one’s own strength.  –Sun Tzu

There are some very unrealistic expectations floating around in PUGs these days.  Yes, sometimes, people flip out and drop the group when the tank isn’t already ridiculously overgeared–God forbid some of these mouth-breathers actually have to take ten extra minutes to finish Azjol-Nerub.  You, as a fresh 80, can’t do anything about that.  You have to run the heroics to get the gear.

That doesn’t mean, though, that you can’t be as well-prepared as possible going in.  Once you hit 80, find a friendly neighborhood blacksmith and make friends.  Things like the Tempered Titansteel Helm, Tempered Titansteel Treads, and especially the Titansteel Shield Wall will go a long way toward getting you to where you need to be.  Before trying a heroic, your goals, in my opinion, should be:

  • 23,000 health unbuffed
  • 21,000 armor unbuffed
  • 535 Defense (this is non-negotiable and should be your top priority)
  • 130 hit rating (+4% hit, half of what you need to never miss unless you’re Draenei)
  • at least some expertise, preferably over 10

Now, I know people are often slack about gemming and enchanting sub-ilevel-200 stuff.  The thought is, “why waste the money when I’m just going to replace it in a few weeks?”  Well, sorry, folks, but that’s a bad thought to have.  You should always gem and enchant your gear with something. You don’t need to be dropping 250 gold on Solid Majestic Zircons to put into an ilevel 187 breastplate unless you’re absolutely dripping in gold.  But you can pick up blue- or green-quality gems for a fraction of the cost and use those instead.  Similarly, true, a chest enchant like Powerful Stats (+10 all stats) would be a waste.  But what’s wrong with Super Stats (+8 all stats) or even Powerful Stats (+6 all stats)?  You can snag scrolls of those on the AH for much less money, and they provide a good benefit.  Make sure you get factional enchants (like Sons of Hodir shoulder or Argent Crusade head) as soon as you can–snag them on your main if your babytank is an alt.  It is especially important for a tank to push their gear to the limit and get as much out of it as possible.  Don’t slack.  Gem and enchant, but do it wisely.  Make the most out of what gear you have and you maximize your chances of success.

Also, do not be afraid to use buff food, potions, elixirs, scrolls, or anything else you’ve got in your backpack.  Every little bit helps.  When you’ve got 40,000 health, you won’t have to worry about “flasking up” before a heroic.  When you’ve got 23,000 health, it’s not a bad idea to go ahead and do it, just in case.

Be Honest

If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.  –Sun Tzu

So you know how to tank, you know the instances, and your gear is as ready as you can make it.  And there you are, standing at the entrance to your first heroic…grouped with four people from different servers, none of whom you know and none of whom know you.  And you can tell by your unitframes that they’re all targeting you and wondering why you have 23,300 health when you’ve got the little shield icon by your name.

This is not a situation you can bullshit your way out of, so don’t even try it.  Be honest and get it all out right up front.  Say, “hey guys, FYI, if you couldn’t tell, I haven’t been 80 for long…work with me on this and I’ll do my best for you.”

If people start giving you crap like “lol” and “ffs noobtank” and bailing out?  Screw ‘em.  You wouldn’t have wanted to run the instance with them anyway.  I think, though, that you will be surprised at just how many people will respond positively to you being honest with them.  We tend to think of PUGs as being composed of nothing but nasty knuckle-draggers who actually want to make your life a living hell, but that’s not true.  The majority of the hundreds of people in the Cyclone battlegroup that I’ve run heroics with, on five different characters (one tank, four DPS), have been competent, and if not pleasant, at least polite.  They want to finish the run as quickly and smoothly as possible, get their badges, and move on.  No, they don’t want to take an hour to run Azjol-Nerub, but they also don’t want to go hellbent in there, pull all three Watchers at once and wipe, either.

If you’re a little fuzzy on part of the instance, don’t hesitate to ask.  If you think you need assistance as you’re going along, don’t hesitate to ask–“hey, Mr. DK, think you could death grip that second caster over here when I heroic throw the first one?”  Don’t try to bluff your way through, because it won’t work.  Honesty talks, bullshit walks.

Be Confident

The clever combatant imposes his will on the enemy, but does not allow the enemy’s will to be imposed on him.  –Sun Tzu

Now that you’ve got yourself ready, your gear ready, and you’ve prepped the group for what to expect…take charge.

Now by “take charge,” I don’t mean start acting like a douchemuffin and bossing people around.  That’ll get you votekicked in short order.  But, you are the tank, are you not?  You are the one who does the pulling and controls the agro, yes?  Then do it. Make sure everybody’s ready, take a deep breath, and pull.

“Taking charge” means that you assert yourself as the tank.  You, as the tank, are going to control the speed of the run, so pull at a pace that’s fast but comfortable for you.  Check the healer’s mana before every pull–his is the blue bar you care about far more than the others (except your own if you’re a paladin).  If the healer’s drinking, wait.  If people are falling behind, wait a second for them to catch up, then go.  If they’re yelling “gogogogogo” in your ear, do not speed up unless you and the healer are comfortable with doing so.  NEVER let yourself get pressured into going faster than you can handle.  At your gear level, you are not going to be able to bulldoze an instance at the speed of a well-geared tank, and you’ve already let your group know that up front.  It’s their decision whether to work with you or to bail out.

You may get people who decide that they should pull “for” you.  Personally, I have zero tolerance for this, and you shouldn’t either.  When I’m tanking a heroic, I pull, period, unless I work out with a hunter to do a misdirect pull (very rare).  Otherwise I tend to see mobs running at a squishy while I have no rage to do anything.  So if you get “assistant” pullers, I say let them tank it!  If they somehow manage to live, great.  Before they run off and do it again, tell them in no uncertain terms that you don’t want them to do it.  If they do it again, wish them fun tanking, and drop group.

Likewise, if people are rude to you because they don’t think you’re going “fast enough?”  Let it slide off your back.  If they continue to insist upon being assholes, thank the good people in the group, and leave.  (Or votekick the asshole if possible, which is the best outcome!)  Tanking is a stressful activity at the best of times, you do not need somebody insulting you while you’re trying to give your best effort.  Do not take crap from haters.  Stand your ground, and if it gets too nasty, leave.  Take a break while your timer ticks down.  Then immediately requeue, as soon as you can.  Get right back on the horse.  You’ll probably get a better group and have a more pleasant time.

My final thought is this:  A significant portion of what makes good tanks good is mental toughness.  You’re going to screw up.  You’ll wipe groups.  You’ll get mental midgets who aren’t fit to carry your mousepad insulting you because you’re a “noobtank.”  Do not let it get you down.  Stay strong.  Take a break if you’re not feeling like tanking–hey, it is still a recreational fun activity, right?–but don’t get run off from it permanently.  In the end, if you are knowledgeable, prepared, honest, and confident, you will prevail.


There are numbers, and then there are numbers

As you probably know if you keep up with things involving Prot warriors, there’s a bit of a snitstorm going on regarding potential changes to Warbringer and Shield Slam brought on by the fact that Prot warriors have occasionally been committing unauthorized pwnings of their betters–y’know, mages, hunters, etc.–in arenas.  Now one of the things that we in the Prot community have been maintaining is that Prot warriors generally have the lowest damage output of the four tank classes when we’re tanking, and that this change will lower that damage even further.  Ghostcrawler, while acknowledging that this change will slightly lower Prot warrior PvE damage output, doesn’t seem to think it’s a serious problem:

We understand that warrior damage is on the low end but regarding the raid progression, it’s a hard case to say that your wipe on Festergut (as an example) was caused by the difference between tank damage when the dps from focused classes like rogue, warlock, etc. can probably improve to beat the enrage timer.

And in response to Prot warriors worried that the lack of Prot DPS output will cost us raid spots on balls-to-the-wall DPS races like Festergut, he says:

[...] I honestly think it’s hard to argue that your choice of tank often costs you a kill because of the dps of the tank. Often those numbers are rounding errors compared to the damage capable by the dps specs in the raid. However, I don’t think you even need to invoke that argument. I think it just feels crappy when your dps is lower than other tanks.

(Quotes catalogued by my brother in beef Tarsus over at Tanking for Dummies.)

Now, I don’t know any Prot warrior who thinks we should be cranking out 6000+ DPS like the rogues and the hunters.  That’s crazy talk.  It’ll never happen and it shouldn’t happen.  But there’s an open question here–just how low is Prot warrior damage compared to the other tanking classes?  Is it just a “rounding error,” or something more?

Enter Warwench over at Tankspot, and a Google spreadsheet comprising tank-spec DPS log parses of the top 120 attempts logged at World of Logs so far on each of the Icecrown 25-man bosses currently available.  (The thread over at Tankspot is here.  Thanks to Veneretio over at Tanking Tips for originally Tweeting this yesterday.)  This is an attempt to quantify what tank-spec characters are putting out in the pain department on cutting-edge content.  It’s not complete, because WoL apparently can’t break out tank-spec death nuggets from DPS-spec, so Warwench couldn’t include DKs in the data–a significant omission.  But it’s a start.

The results, I think, are surprising.  Not that paladins are the top DPS-output tanks, we knew that already.  But druids are doing very well for themselves.  Bares, clearly, are storng for fite.  And warriors aren’t just at the bottom…we’re in the basement.  In fact, on some fights, we’re not even in the basement–we’re doing a Jimmy Hoffa in the foundation.

On Lord Marrowgar, for example, we seem to be running about 15% below the average damage output of paladins, bears, and warriors combined.  Lady Deathwhisper?  20% down.  Festergut, the biggest straight-up pure DPS race since Patchwerk?  18% down.  Rotface?  A bit closer at about 11% under average.  Saurfang, a fight where we can just stand in one spot and tee off with occasional back-and-forth taunts?  A very consistent 17% to 18% under average.  Only on Professor Putricide, for some reason–maybe the mechanics?–do Prot warriors seem to be able to score consistently above average.  Warwench also added in a set of about 40 data points for the “gold standard” of DPS yardsticks, Patchwerk.  On those Patchwerk fights, warriors were about 10% under the combined average for paladins, druids, and warriors.

What these numbers seem to indicate is that warriors consistently rank 500 to 1000 DPS behind paladins or druids in every fight in ICC-25 save one.  Looking at Festergut, the average difference seems to be about 1000 DPS.  In a five-minute fight like Festergut, that 1000 DPS difference comes out to three hundred thousand damage. That’s about 1% of Festergut’s health.  How many raids have wiped on Festergut at 1% so far?  A few, I guess, maybe not many.

Numbers can be twisted a lot of different ways–lies, damned lies, and statistics, and all that.  Personally I think Warwench has done the whole tanking community a service by putting these out there so we can see what the top tanks can do in terms of DPS, and how at least three of the four tank classes compare to each other.  But the question still stands–are Prot warriors so far down on DPS that raids might not take them in place of a paladin or druid or DK?

Well…maybe.  I don’t know.  There’s a lot of other factors involved.  The Anvil, for example, has two warrior tanks, and as far as I know, neither of us are going anywhere no matter how many 1% wipes we ever do on Festergut.  Other raids, where loyalty is less important than pushing the envelope, may factor this into their decisions on who goes and who sits.  1000 to 2000 DPS can, as GC says, probably be made up by the DPS classes fine-tuning things (especially since there’s usually about 15 of them compared to two or three tanks).  So no, I don’t think this is the end of the world for warrior tanks.  But it is, as Ghostcrawler says, normal to “feel crappy” when your damage is that far down compared to your brothers in the trenches.

All I know is this…the damage output difference between warriors and the other tank classes, as documented here, is damn sure not just a “rounding error.”  And with the proposed Prot warrior Shield Slam scaling changes, along with some others (Rune Strike changes to DKs a while back as an example), Blizzard seems to be backsliding from the Wrath of the Lich King principle of “threat through damage” and returning to the older paradigm of lower tank damage, but using “bonus threat” to make up for it.  Well, at least for some tanks.


Hit rating: How much is too little?

If you’re reading this expecting an answer to the question above…sorry, folks, I don’t have one.  Because, see, it’s my question.

As I posted in my latest installment of So You Want to Be a Prot Warrior on endgame gearing, there’s certain magic numbers that you strive to hit when you first move up to tanking heroics or raids.  One of those numbers is 263 hit rating, otherwise known as the magic rating number that gives you +8% chance to hit–needed to push misses out of the picture completely.

If you’ve had a chance to run through Ulduar a bit, or have looked at some of the items that come out of there, you may notice that it seems like almost everything’s got +hit on it.  I know many melee DPS, despite their best gearing efforts, who came out of Titan Disneyworld way, way over the hit cap.  My wife, a feral druid who Knows What She’s Doing, is stuck with 313 hit rating–and that’s after replacing some Ulduar pieces with Trial of the Crusader stuff.  Our raid’s Chief Cat Herder was pushing nearly four hundred hit rating–11 or 12 percent +hit–at one point.  Even Lin’s arms gear, a grab-whatever-I-can-find hashup of badge, Naxx-25, Ulduar-10, Ulduar-25, and a couple of ToC pieces, sticks him with 300 hit rating and not nearly enough expertise to balance it.

Lin in tank mode was no exception through Ulduar.  Recently, I finally got his hit rating to about 265, with his expertise in the low 20s–not quite dodge-capped, but close.

Enter Trial of the Crusader and other Tier 9 content.

Suddenly, +hit is gonzo.  Last night, I got a nice upgrade from Faction Champions in ToC-25…the very tasty ilevel 245 version of the Belt of Bloodied Scars, to replace his Shieldwarder Girdle.  The BoBS is great for his “boss” avoidance set.  More strength, more stamina, lots of dodge, parry, and defense.  But…no +hit.  The Shieldwarder’s Girdle had a lot of +hit.

And so, I, der Panzercow, the guy who just told you aspiring nubwarriors last week that you need 263 hit rating…is running around with 159.  Three full percent below what you are supposed to have.  At least I have 28 expertise.

I almost didn’t take that BoBS because of what it’d do to my hit rating.  A couple of my fellow tanks had to smack some sense into me before I went ahead.  But now, here I sit, with a 3.07% chance to miss on every swing.  Every taunt.  Every…well…everything.

Now here’s the weird part.  I’ve spoken to two people, one in my raid, one in another raid that’s slightly ahead of us in progression.  And they’re saying that from what they’ve seen, it’s now no big deal for tanks to be running around at 5% or even lower +hit.  Because, apparently, just as it seemed like everything in Ulduar had +hit, stuff in ToC and Onyxia’s Lair 2.0 doesn’t.  So tanks are having to adapt.

That brings me back to the question at the title of this post.  If you’re tanking a raid at this level–hardmode Ulduar, normal or heroic ToC–are you doing it with less than 8% +hit?  If so, how is it working out?  What are you doing to mitigate the chance of misses, especially on taunt-sensitive fights like Gormok?  Am I being a nubsauce for worrying about this?  Why does it burn when I pee?  And, of course, are we there yet?


So You Want to Be a Prot Warrior: Endgame Gearing, Part II

Yeah, I know, I know.  I’m not exactly the fastest in the world at cranking out these things, but, hey, quality takes time, right?  And if I ever produce something that’s high enough quality to justify taking this much time, I’ll let you know!

Anyhoo…in the first part of our SYWTBAPW treatise on endgame gearing, we talked about stamina and Defense and why they’re your priority stats, at least at first–and why “540” is the first magic number you need to remember when getting ready for tanking heroics and raids.  There are two other magic numbers that we’ll blow through very quickly, because we already talked about these months ago in the SYWTBAPW post on tanking stats:

263 – this is the amount of hit rating you’d like to get.  You have a base 5% chance to miss a mob of your level on any attack, assuming it’s the same level you are and you’re swinging a single weapon.  (When dual-wielding, it’s more like 24%.)  That goes up by 1% for each level higher that the mob is.  Since bosses are always considered as your level +3, you need 8% hit to push misses completely off the table; at level 80, that translates to 263 hit rating.  If you’re a Draenei, or have managed to graft one to your back, you only need 7% hit, or about 230 rating, thanks to the Draenei racial Heroic Presence.

26 – this is the amount of expertise you’d like to get.  Mobs have a base 6.5% chance to dodge you, and each point of expertise reduces your chance to be dodged or parried by .25%.  In order to push dodges completely out of the picture, you thus need 26 expertise points; that translates to about 140 expertise rating.  Note that I was wrong when I wrote months ago; the chance for a mob to parry is actually a lot higher than 6.5% (I don’t remember the exact number, but it’s around 12-15%); it’s probably not feasible to stack that much expertise without crippling yourself somewhere else, so don’t worry about it.  Just remember that any expertise over 26 is definitely not wasted.

Which one you should prioritize?  That’s a tough call.  I’ve heard opinions expressed both ways.  What I’ve found on Linedan is that it seems to be easier to stack hit rating than it is to stack expertise.  You probably won’t have either of these maxed out when you start tanking heroics, and that’s OK.  In general, stacking expertise will increase your threat by the greater amount; stacking hit will too, to an extent, but it’s more helpful in preventing catastrophic failures like a missed Taunt or a missed Shield Slam as an opener.

One thing to remember–expertise over the “magic number” is not wasted.  Hit rating over the “magic number” is wasted.  It’s not an uncommon malady among tanks or melee DPS at the Ulduar level of content to have excessive hit rating, because Blizzard put +hit on everydamnthing in Ulduar.  Linedan, ironically, only has 215 hit rating as I write this, though he is set on expertise (28).  But in his DPS gear, he’s got 300 hit rating.  That’s wasted stat points, but I haven’t been able to get his gear switched around to fix it.

Now, speaking of gear…you may think that a given class and spec only needs one set of gear.  Generally, that’s true.  I can’t think of a circumstance where a marks hunter would need two distinctly different sets of gear to be, well, a marks hunter.  Oh, you may switch trinkets for certain fights, yeah.  But all your stuff?  Nah, that’s crazy talk.

It’s not crazy talk for a warrior.  As a prot warrior, you’re going to find that you need two near-complete sets of gear for your prot spec by itself.  To shorthand things, I’m going to call them the “trash” set and the “boss” set.

A trash set (sometimes called a threat set) is optimized for two functions–large amounts of relatively light-hitting trash, and situations where you’re forced to DPS in prot spec because you may have to either offtank later in a fight, or be ready in case of emergency.  It is a more offensive-minded set of gear, which gives up effective health (stamina and avoidance) to concentrate on stats that give you more damage and threat output.

Trash sets tend to lean heavily on shield block rating and value, because we as prot warriors lean heavily on Shield Slam as one of our two big nukes (Revenge being the other).  Plus, the entire concept of block value is as overpowered against trash as it is underpowered against bosses–you’ve noticed that as you leveled, hitting Shield Block can all but make you invulnerable for 10 seconds against many mobs.  So look for pieces that have high +Strength and/or high +block rating or value.  Pieces with +block value aren’t hard to find.  By the time you hit T8-level gear, a single piece of armor can carry over 150 block value.

A boss set is the opposite.  Boss sets are designed for tanking single, hard-hitting bosses.  They are built around maximizing your effective health, through a combination of high raw health (via +Stamina) and high avoidance (block rating, dodge, parry, defense).  They do this at the expense of DPS and threat.

There’s two ways to build a boss set.  Some go for brute force by maximizing stamina; others try to be slippery and maximize avoidance by stacking +dodge and +parry.  I try to steer a balanced middle ground, but in general, I tend to slide toward the +stamina side of things.  Part of that is with Lin being a Tauren, I just can’t picture him as the most, y’know, agile thing on two hooves.  But I can sure picture him shrugging off a hit that’d cleave a gnome into gnome chops.  The random number generator can always find a way to screw up your dodge and parry, but big health numbers are always there for you.

Now, one caveat here–of course, your trash set still needs 540 defense and enough stamina to survive while tanking (or avoidance to avoid getting hit).  And your boss set still needs a reasonable amount of +Strength so you can crank out enough DPS and threat to actually keep agro.  But within that, you will, after a while, find that having these two sets of tank gear, and being able to switch quickly between them, helps your flexibility…and flexibility, IMO, is a hallmark of a good tank.

Here’s what I mean by that.  Linedan has a boss set and a trash set.  In his current boss set, he’s got a bit north of 550 defense and about 34k unbuffed health, but only 1700ish shield block value even with raid buffs.  In his trash set, his defense drops to 543 and he gives up over 2000 health, but his block value catapults up to a very tasty 2593 with a full rack of 25-man raid buffs.  I even swap in two crit trinkets on the trash set, just for higher DPS output.  When running up against a slightly gimmicky fight like the Nerubian Burrowers on Anub’arak in ToC, all I have to do is swap my two tank trinkets back in but keep the rest of the +block set on, and now I’m only down 1400 health from my boss set, still above the defense floor, still rocking almost 2600 SBV, with a 60% chance (due to Crit Block) of that doubling, and able to double it again 10 seconds out of every 40 with Shield Block–which makes tanking the block-sensitive Burrowers easysauce.  The ability to mix-and-match gear for any situation is a huge help to any tank.  It means you’ll never have any bag space anymore, especially if you’re like Lin and have to lug around a third set of gear for your dual-spec, but hey, bag space is overrated, right?

Now you may feel overwhelmed when first starting out–“wait, I don’t even have one decent set of stuff yet and you’re telling me I need two?”  Well, no, not at first.  Having two sets of gear is something that you tend to end up needing when you raid.  For heroics or regular five-mans, one good, solid set of items that give you the basics–540 defense, 20-21k health for regulars and 23-25k for heroics, as close to 263 hit rating and 26 expertise as you can get–will serve you just fine.  As you work your way up through heroics and maybe get a crack at raids, you’ll find that you can pick up pieces that will serve as the foundations of trash or boss sets.  Don’t sweat it, the gear will come naturally…especially now that Badges of Conquest drop out of each heroic, and the heroic daily gives 2 Badges of Triumph, the Insult Comic Dog.  Run heroics regularly, which you should be doing to keep your tanking chops up, and you’ll have yourself one (hopefully more!) nice set of gear soon enough.

Happy tanking!


The Latisha Experiment: Update #2

Yep, thats Shattrath behind her.  Shes workin on her clown suit.

Yep, that's Shattrath behind her. Thanks for the free flight point Blizz!

So when last we left the intrepid Miss Latisha Morganson, late of Stormwind and Northshire Abbey, she had just broken level 39 and was working through various odd jobs in Theramore while resisting the crude advances of Theramore Deserters.  That was a bit over two months ago.

And here is Latisha now, resplendent in her twink plate, level 59 as of this morning.  (What can I say, I woke up early.)  As I expected, the grind post-40 got a bit easier than the grind pre-40.  She is still pure Prot, currently 0/0/50, although I did deviate from my own build advice a bit; she’s still got 2/2 Improved Disarm.  My plan is to respec her at 60 to the same 0/0/51 build that I reference in the So You Want to Be a Prot Warrior series, dropping Improved Disarm for 5/5 Toughness, and then follow my own advice from there.

I haven’t quite had the guts (or masochism, take your pick) to try tanking a pickup group with her…not that anybody actually gets groups together for old-world instances anymore, sadly.  She’s gotten blendered through Zul’farrak to clean up quests for xp, and other than that, she has been leveling the old-fashioned way, solo grinding.  Not exactly optimal for a prot warrior, but quite workable.  It’s left her gear a tick behind where I’d like it, although it’s certainly not bad.  I got lucky and found some crafted Imperial Plate pieces on the AH for reasonable prices, but before that, she didn’t ditch her last piece of mail until somewhere around level 49.  Why?  Because anything “of the Bear” was commanding triple-digit prices, no matter how crappy it was, and her Raging Berserker’s Helm and Scarlet Leggings were very good pieces of mail armor indeed.  Other than that, she’s geared up through quest rewards and a little AH here and there.  She’s even rocking an honest-to-Light Belt of Valor, picked up on the AH for a mere 20 gold.  Now she’s got something that Linedan never even had.  (Oh, and I did break down and spend almost all of Beltar’s Conquest badges on a Polished Breastplate of Valor for her.  I hardly ever get to raid on the dorf anymore so I figured why not, he can hang with his Naxx gear for now.  Besides, the breastplate’s a lot better looking than the shoulders.)

Particularly past level 50, with Devastate and then Critical Block becoming available, her DPS picked up markedly.  No, she’s no mage capable of vaporizing stuff, but then again, there’s certainly nothing wrong with being hard to kill and occasionally being able to produce a 1300+ Shield Slam crit.  With her gear optimized for simple strength and stamina, with agility here and there, she has a respectable 12% crit.  Yes, she misses a lot still, especially when fighting things over her level, but that just goes with the territory.  Hit and expertise gear is almost impossible to find in the 50s (since expertise kinda, y’know, didn’t exist in vanilla).

Bringing her to Outland at level 58 has proven to be a mixed bag.  She actually hasn’t died yet, her closest call being in Zeth’gor where she ended up killing two grunts, a wolfrider + wolf, a peon, and a bonecaster + skeletons and came out with exactly 23 health after blowing all cooldowns and using a potion.  But she’s really being pushed to the limit.  Her agro range at 58-59 means she’s always got an escort of helboars anywhere she goes, and makes working around Zeth’gor problematic as hell, because that place will unload an assist train on you in a heartbeat if you’re not very careful.  She misses a ton fighting level 60-61 fel orcs, and forget getting her across the Path of Glory to burn Horde siege engines quite yet.  Sure, my DK Moktor blew through Hellfire Peninsula like it was a kiddie ride…but let’s face it, a level 58 DK fresh out of Acherus with a diploma and a full set of blue gear is redonkulously overpowered compared to a level 58 prot warrior with mostly level 52ish greens.  My advice to prospective prot warriors is, if you want to try HFP at level 58, go for it, but make extra-sure your gear is up to snuff beforehand.  Otherwise you’ll just frustrate yourself.

So sadly, she may have to retreat back through the Dark Portal for a level.  That would give me time to complete some quests in the Plaguelands that I want to do, or maybe visit Silithus.  (OK, Plaguelands.)  It’ll also give me a chance to catch her mining up to where it needs to be.  She has picked up enough initial upgrades–sword, pants, shield–that nothing back in the Plaguelands should give her much trouble.  And at level 60, I can train the huge amount of new ranks of abilities she gets, plus Shockwave, and be much more ready to face Hellfire Peninsula.  Plus I need to get her rested XP built back up, I burned it all leveling her quickly between 54 and 58.

I’m looking forward to leveling her in Outland.  It’s been long enough since I leveled a character there–my last was Moktor many months ago–that I’ve gotten over any burnout I suffered with it.  I’m going to try and hit some areas that I skipped on Moktor, places like the Bone Wastes, and maybe head to Netherstorm and Shadowmoon instead of just immediately hopping the boat to Northrend at 68…because quite honestly, having gotten four characters through the 70-80 grind in 10 months, and with two more now at 72, I’m fried on Northrend leveling.  I really want to see how Prot Warrior v3.0 carves a path through Outland content.  I expect it’ll be pretty damn fun.

If you’ve got any questions about her experiences leveling as pure Prot through the 40s and 50s, fire away!


Four whole seconds to spare

Yeah, uh, Orkin here, were gonna have to charge extra for this one...

Yeah, uh, Mr. Fordring? Orkin here. Listen, we're gonna have to charge extra for this one...

Well, actually, four and a half seconds if you’re being really precise.

That’s how much time The Anvil had left on the enrage timer last night when we finally downed Anub’arak in 25-man normal Coliseum, after three weeks of trying.

To say that Anub’arak was a notch higher on the difficulty scale than the rest of the fights in the Coliseum (Faction Champions excluded, but more on that later) would be an understatement.  After all, Northrend Beasts is basically three gimmick fights in a row.  Lord Jaraxxus makes the healers cry, but as long as people know to run toward the wall and not stand in Bad(tm), it’s not too rough.  Twin Val’kyrs?  The ultimate gimmick fight, but if you can tell light from dark and can interrupt Twin’s Pact, it’s no big thing.

The Nub is a little rougher.  We’d gotten several good shots at him last week but the healers were having real trouble keeping the offtanks up.  Our plan was to have the offtanks grab and hold both pairs of Burrowers so DPS could focus on the big guy; otherwise we had no shot at dropping him inside his short enrage timer.  But despite having excellent healers in the raid, our DK offtank (who’s got more health than any of the other three of us) kept falling over.

It was then that our raid officers, looking through the logs, discovered what Spinks posted about over at Welcome to Spinksville yesterday:  The Anub’arak fight is one of the only encounters in WoW where Shield Block rules.

The Nerubian Burrowers stack a debuff called Expose Weakness.  Each stack causes you to take 25% more damage, up to a maximum of 225% (9 stacks, down from 10 pre-3.2.2).  But the catch is, apparently if you block one of their attacks, your shield block value is subtracted from their damage before the Expose Weakness debuff multiplier is added.  Burrowers only hit for about 2500 to 3000.  See where this is going?  Our 46,000-health DK, with no shield, had no way to mitigate the 12,000 to 15,000 he was taking per hit from two burrowers except his jealousy-inducing 33%+ dodge.  Our warrior, the other offtank, did.  The DK died.  The warrior didn’t.

So last night I was the #3 tank, and I was on burrower duty.  I dutifully loaded up my “trash” set instead of my normal boss-tanking set.  My trash set is a real hash of things, built for block value over even block rating.  I still rock the T7 helm with it, plus some of my four T8 pieces, other bits and pieces from Ulduar and maybe one other from Naxx still.  It isn’t so much designed for block tanking as it is designed for DPS…I even normally run two crit trinkets instead of tank trinkets (although for this fight, I strapped my tank trinkets back on) because it’s a set designed for light-hitting trash and any situation where I need to rip an 11k Shield Slam out of my ass.  I ended up losing about 10 points of Defense, a crapton of dodge%, and maybe 1500 health from my boss set, but my buffed shield block value was a tasty 2593, and I was still at 543 Defense and 42,200 fully buffed health.  My block rating was a bit low at 22.78%, but as a warrior, I’ve got two other tricks up my sleeve for that–Shield Block, for almost complete immunity to damage for 10 seconds out of 40, and 3/3 in the recently-buffed Critical Block talent, meaning 60% of those blocks wouldn’t be for 2593, they’d be for almost 5200.  I couldn’t block everything, but when I did block, I made it count.

The strategy, I’m pleased to say, works like a charm, and you don’t have to build a super-block set that gimps everything else to do it…well, on normal, at least.  (On heroic, yeah, you probably do.)  We did run into trouble on the first time we got Anub’arak to phase 3 when we had four burrowers up.  As good as our healers are, keeping up a tank with two burrowers, with 50% haste, and 9 stacks of Expose Weakness, and Swarming Leech, just wasn’t happening.

The last two attempts we got him to phase 3 with only one set of burrowers up, and as long as we kept the burrowers separated so they didn’t buff each other, the healers could keep myself and the other OT (paladin) up without much trouble.  Tanking one burrower, even with 9 stacks of Expose Weakness, isn’t too bad.  The first attempt, we just ran out of time and he enraged at 4%, finishing the last of us at 2%.  On the killshot, I thought we weren’t going to make it because he was still at 18% health with one minute left.  A couple of the healers shifted over to DPS, we lowered everybody else’s health in the raid even more to slow down the Leeching Swarm, and all of us blew everydamnthing we had (I was tanking a burrower while beating up on Anub).  And he fell over with precisely 4.5 seconds left on the enrage timer.

Now is Blizzard going to “fix” this little trick?  I don’t know.  Shield Block has evolved into a mechanic that doesn’t really fit with anything…it’s overpowered against trash and underpowered against bosses.  It’s good to see a fight where it actually matters, and fortunately Anub’arak is quite easy for a druid or DK to tank so there’s still great use for them there.  It seems mighty cheesy to be able to build a set that allows one warrior to tank four burrowers–on heroic, no less, as Spinks documented–with impunity, but that’s a very extreme example.  I wouldn’t put it past Blizzard to break our little Shield Block trick, but if they don’t, and until they do, we’re going to take full advantage of one of the few bones they throw us on a fairly challenging fight.

Oh, and as you may remember from the rant immediately below this one, I kinda hate Faction Champions.  And by “kinda,” I mean I’d like to find the guy at Blizzard who thought this was a good idea and beat him silly with a wiffleball bat.  Well, there was a little patch note in the 3.2.2 release that mentioned some changes had been made to this fight.  We didn’t know what to expect going in last night.  But here’s what you need to know.

First week, seven wipes.  Second week, five wipes.  Third week, three deaths.

Faction Champions got nerfed TO THE GROUND, BABY.

The biggest change?  Taunts no longer have diminishing returns on them.  Think about that for a second.  That one change alone, not even including the damage reduction they put in, turns the fight into cheesymode.  Seriously.  They assigned me to harass the death nugget.  I could just spam Taunt every 8 seconds, with total impunity, to pull him off of a squishy for a few…enough time for me to drop a Charge or Intercept on him, or Shield Bash him to slow him down, or Concussion Blow or Shockwave to stun…oh, and they didn’t go immune to my stuns, either.

Sure, there were times where the DK got away from me.  But not many.  And when he did, I got him right back.

As much as I hate that fight–and I still do, with every flabby fiber of my being–I almost felt dirty at the end of it, that’s how easy it was.  It reminded me of an AB match when a premade runs up against a PUG, except the Faction Champions didn’t /afk out halfway through.  Yep, after whooping it up at our expense for a couple of weeks, ol’ Wrynn the Chin saw his boys and girls get a straight-outta-Compton gangsta beatdown, Hordesiyyyyyde style.  Word up, yo.

Finally…so what reward does ol’ Tirion Fordring give us for completing the Trial of the Crusader?  The chance to do it all over again on heroic!  Well fuckin’ yay there big guy, excuse me if I’m somewhat less than enthused about going Groundhog Day on your little spectacle.  Catch me next week and we’ll talk about it.


So You Want to Be A Prot Warrior: Endgame Gearing, Part I

You’ve arrived.  You’re level 80.  No more level grinding for you, no sir!  Now it’s time to go forth and tackle the real game of World of Warcraft!  TO HEROICS!  TO RAIDS!  LET’S DOOOO IIIIIITT!  (Done in my best TF2 Demoman voice.)

Not so fast, Spanky.  Uncle Panzercow is here to give you a little 411 on the reality of being a prot warrior starting at the endgame.

It’s a sad fact of life, really, but a fact nevertheless.  You, as a prot warrior tank, have extra steps to take before you’re ready to sally forth and start acquiring tasty, tasty epix.  See, because of the bog-standard “1/1/3″ method of instance grouping (one tank, one healer, three DPS), Joe Scrubdeeps can finish opening his package from Rhonin and promptly walk into a heroic dungeon…and if the other four members of the party can write their own name and all five of them aren’t the product of a brother-sister marriage, generally, he can survive.  It’s possible to carry one weak DPS through a heroic…hell, even two, if your third DPS is really tricked out and your tank and healer are either very good or very overgeared, or both.  It’s also difficult, but possible, to work with an undergeared healer in a heroic–again, everybody else has to be on their game, the composition has to lend itself toward crowd control, and the healer has to be very good at what they do, just lacking high-level items.

You can’t do that with a tank.  If you walk into a heroic–or God forbid, a raid–wearing a mish-mash of level 77 greens and a couple of quest-reward blues, rocking 500 Defense and 19k health, and try to tank it, you’re going to die.  The DPS can’t just turn it up to 11 to compensate for you, because then they’ll yoink agro off you and they’ll die.  There’s no way around it.  The one member of the group that absolutely, positively, has to be geared up somewhat before they can enter a heroic is you, the tank.

Fortunately, things aren’t quite like they were in Burning Crusade, where if you were a warrior, it felt like you needed to be wearing Tier 5 epix from SSC/TK before you could even think about tanking a five-man heroic.  If you’re smart about your gearing and willing to be patient, you can be quite ready to run a heroic without setting foot in one–and you don’t need a raid willing to carry you through Ulduar and give you a full rack of T8 to do it, no matter what that idiot death nugget told you in your last PUG.

So what I’m going to do here is tell you what stats to prioritize.  I am not going to give you a hyper-detailed gear list.  There are a lot of them out there that are much better than anything I could come up with.  A number of the excellent tank websites like Veneretio’s Tanking Tips, or Elitist Jerks, or Tankspot, or even the Blizzard warrior or tanking forums, have great and specific lists of gear that you can look for.  I’ll mention a few pieces, but not many.

The two most important things to worry about first off, in my opinion, are Defense and Stamina.  Stamina is a no-brainer, of course–more health is always good.  But especially in the beginning of your heroic career, you simply cannot brute-force stack enough stamina to handle a heroic without also loading up on Defense.  The reason is critical hits.  Defense reduces your chance to get critted.  Pushing critical hits off the table smooths out the damage that you take and makes it easier on your healer(s).  Damage doesn’t necessarily kill you, but damage spikes will.  And a crit is the ultimate damage spike.

You have a base 5% chance to be critted by a mob of the same level at level 80, plus 0.2% for each mob level over 80.  So since heroic bosses are level 82, you need to reduce their crit chance by 5.4%; skull-level raid bosses are always considered your level +3 (level 83), so you need 5.6% crit reduction.  In order to completely remove your chance to be critted, you need 535 Defense skill for heroics, and 540 Defense skill for raids. 

I italicized “skill” because the pieces of gear you get will have Defense rating on them, and as you should know by now, rating != skill.  At level 80, to reach the “floor” of 540 Defense skill (often erroneously called a “cap”), you need a base Defense skill of 400 augmented by 689 Defense rating from your gear.  It sounds like a daunting number, but actually, stacking 689 Defense rating isn’t that hard.  Defense stacking should be your number-one priority when getting ready to tank a heroic, and Stamina stacking should be number two.

Fortunately, you can load both stats off the same pieces of gear.  Blacksmiths can make some really good “starter” gear for the budding heroic tank–for example, Daunting Handguards and the Tempered Saronite set (especially the Tempered Saronite Helm) are easy to make, relatively cheap, and provide the basics of Strength, Stamina, and Defense while filling in gaps in your current set.  If you have built up a significant amount of money–enough to afford things like Titansteel Bars and Frozen Orbs from the AH–then you can go for the high-end blacksmithing gear and be really good to go–the Tempered Titansteel Helm and Treads, and the Titansteel Shield Wall.  Expect to pay several thousand gold to get all three of those crafted, though, unless you have friends and/or a guild to help out.

If your healer’s willing to risk it, of course there’s nothing stopping you from tanking a heroic with less than 535 Defense skill.  Each point of Defense below 535 means there’s a 0.04% chance of you eating a crit, every hit.  Hey, if you want to swim with great white sharks wearing nothing but a chum bikini, go for it.  Me, I’d take the safe route and load up my Defense first.

Now, on to Stamina.  Once you get your Defense up to scratch, start adding in +Stamina pieces as you can.  You might be wondering, “how much is ‘enough?'”  When I first started tanking heroics on Linedan several months ago, he had between 22,000 and 23,000 unbuffed health.  Compared to the 33k+ he’s got nowadays that doesn’t seem like much, but add on a PW: Fortitude or Blessing of Kings and Commanding Shout and you’re looking at between 26,000 and 28,000.  That should be more than enough to handle some of the “starter” heroics like Utgarde Keep, assuming your healer is reasonably competent and your DPS pumps out enough pain to kill stuff before your healer runs out of mana.

This same refrain–Defense and Stamina–holds true for enchanting and gemming…up to a point.  I’ll talk more about enchants in the second part of this post, for now, I’ll just say this about gems.  Do not gem for Defense or any other rating-based skill (parry, dodge, hit, crit, expertise, etc.) unless you absolutely have to.  Why?  Those slots can be better used giving you more Stamina or Strength, depending on what type of set you’re building.  (More on that in the next part, too.)  If you’re turning up a few points short of 535 or 540, then go ahead and slap in something like a Thick Autumn’s Glow.  But remember, you’re only going to get about 3 points of Defense skill per blue-quality yellow “pure” +Defense gem, and slots are precious on “starter” heroic/raid gear.

In Part II of my extremely long-winded treatise on endgame gearing, I’ll talk about why you, as a level 80 tank, need not only one set of good gear, but two–a set for big bosses and a set for small trash.  I’ll talk about avoidance versus health, enchanting, and after all that, I’ll throw in how version 3.2 throws the old gearing paradigm out the window because of the easier availability of badges and Tier 8-level gear.


A Latisha update (for reals this time)

latisha2

I should have worn the red shirt, shouldn't I? Damn.

Now that I’ve gotten my silly cheesecake post for her out of the way…if you remember, Latisha Morganson is my little experiment to test how well my own So You Want to Be a Prot Warrior guides work.  I am leveling her according to the guides, straight up from 1 to 80 (or until I lose interest, whichever comes first).  When last we saw her, Latisha was level 22 and splitting her time in between Menethil and Lakeshire.

Now, a few weeks later, with 2 days and 12 hours played, Latisha has just hit level 39 and is, for now, going to be based out of Theramore while I rapid-fire the various Dustwallow/Mudsprocket quests to try and push to 40.  She is, as per the SYWTBAPW guide, 0/0/30, and now stands 62,000 or so xp away from the big Four-Zero, the ability to wear skimpy plate bikinis as opposed to chainmail halter tops (sigh, Blizz, just sigh), and most importantly, the Holy and Inviolate Shield Slam.

I’ll admit, I borrowed my wife and her level 80 shaman to blast me through Scarlet Monastery and pick up a few things.  Those are Scarlet Gauntlets and Scarlet Leggings she’s wearing, along with Herod’s Raging Berserker’s Helm, and her weapon is the SM quest reward sword, the very nice Sword of Serenity.  (No, she can’t kick ass like River Tam when she wields it.)  The rest of her stuff is a mixture of 30ish greens, either AH purchases or quest reward items like her Crest of Darkshire shield.  I haven’t been able to keep her quite as upgraded as I’d like, mainly because of the utterly ridiculous prices that mail and plate warrior items command on the Feathermoon AH.  Seriously, guys, WTF.  30 gold for a level 30 green set of boots?  Two hundred and sixty gold for a level 40 plate breastplate “of the Bear?”  Do people actually pay those stupid prices?  Well, maybe they do, but I don’t.  I’ll muddle along without, and so far, so good.

Nothing that’s happened to her so far has really caused me to change my original premises in SYWTBAPW.  Yes, you can level with a full Prot spec and have fun doing it.  No, you won’t kill as fast as a DPS warrior or any other class except maybe a prot paladin or holy priest.  Yes, you can survive stuff that would kill those other, higher-deeps classes.  But actually going through the steps myself has shown me a few things that may be helpful for anyone else wishing to walk the first portion of the Way of the Meatshield…

- Your #1 problem, if you choose to level via the sword-and-board route, is going to be rage generation.  I can’t understate how horrible your rage gen is in the 20s and 30s when using a single one-handed weapon.  You must learn to be extremely judicious with your special attacks because you won’t have the rage to spam anything.  Going in Battle Stance and using a two-hander–pretending you’re an Arms warrior–gives you much better rage generation and higher DPS, but you trade it off against taking more damage and needing more downtime.  The choice is yours.  Personally I have done most of my work with Latisha using 1H+shield, and just accepted the lousy rage generation.

- One rage strategy that’s easy to learn is this:  Switch to Battle Stance when targeting a mob, get in Charge range, hit Charge, and as you start moving, hit Defensive Stance.  If you time it right, you’ll shift into Defensive Stance before your first weapon hit lands, preserving that rage.  Even if you mistime it, you’ve closed the distance to the mob, stunned it momentarily, and bought yourself 10 rage.

- Rend is more useful than I gave it credit for being.  I still have it on her bar, although it may go away when she hits 40 and gets Shield Slam.  Most of your fights will last long enough for it to tick its full duration and it’s a good bunch of extra damage for the rage cost.

- Shield Block is so your friend at these levels.  Basically, with any sort of reasonable gear, hitting Shield Block will give you 10 seconds of effective frontal invulnerability against all but the strongest melee mobs.  In addition, it guarantees at least two, usually three Revenge chances in a 10-15 second span, and until you get Shield Slam, Revenge is your big whammy.  By level 30 you’ll have it talented down to 40 seconds cooldown; since you kill slowly, you’ll have it ready almost every fight.  This is an absolute lifesaver when you’re pulling an entire camp.  Shield Block early and there’s a good chance, with all those Revenges, that you’ll have one mob dead or seriously injured quickly.  Plus, again, since you do not kill quickly, you’ll probably have Shield Block back up later in the fight when you need the damage mitigation.

- I went with the Improved Disarm version of the Prot build, taking two points out of Toughness and moving them over to Improved Disarm.  This gives a 40-second cooldown on Disarm and causes the mob to take 10% more damage while disarmed.  I don’t remember to use it that often during normal grinding, but against things that are 3 levels over me, or the occasional elite, it’s very handy.  I’ll probably swap the points back sometime in her 40s.

- Get used to missing.  It’s hard for me going from an Ulduar-geared prot warrior who’s very close to both the hit and expertise caps, down to a mildly-geared alt with no +hit and only the human racial +expertise with her sword.  She whiffs and clanks her swings.  A LOT.

- Shield Bash isn’t just your primary caster interrupt.  It’s also your best way to handle runners.  Go upside their head when they’re at about 20-25% health, since you can’t Hamstring in Defensive Stance.  And if Shield Bash is on cooldown, there’s always Concussion Blow.  CB hits hard enough that it’ll probably kill a runner instead of just stopping him.

- Glyph of Revenge is awesome for leveling.  With your rage so hard to come by, a free Heroic Strike after each successful Revenge is too good to pass up.

- Don’t be afraid to pull more than you think you can handle.  More than likely, you’ll surprise yourself with how capable this class/spec combination is.  Just scout out a good spot to pull the mobs to to minimize or eliminate getting any adds, and also a spot you can safely rez if you do indeed bite off more than you can chew.  If you’re lucky enough to have a healer friend?  Pair up with them and you can work on your tanking skills while tearing a path of total destruction across the landscape…albeit slowly.

- One day, I’ll figure out why Blizzard had such a boner for putting +spirit on low-level warrior gear.  Spirit.  On warrior mail.  And it’s everywhere.   So not only is she running around in some bizarre scalemail version of bondage gear, it’s poorly itemized too?


So You Want to Be a Prot Warrior: Levels 71-80

OK, gang, this is it.  The last 10 levels.  You’ve hung with me this far, and I appreciate all the great feedback and comments that I’ve gotten over the last few months of writing the various chapters of SYWTBAPW.  (And it’s not over yet, more on that later.)  So let’s get down to it, and start grinding through Northrend to get you those last 10 levels and arrive at your ultimate destiny–the endgame.

When we left you back at level 70, your build looked like this:  5/5/51.  For this guide, we’re taking all 10 of your last talent points into the Arms tree to reach the “cookie-cutter” 15/5/51 build that’s the most popular prot warrior build right now, and for the foreseeable future.  As we go through the talents, I’ll explain why we’re going 15 deep into the Arms tree, which might seem surprising considering we’re, y’know, tanks.  There’s a reason behind it, don’t worry.

Levels 71-73:  3/3 Improved Heroic Strike.  One of the more messed-up mechanics of the warrior class (IMO) is that when tanking, in order to maximize your threat, you will be spamming Heroic Strike every time your rage permits it.  If you’re tanking heroics or raids, there’s a very good chance that your rage will always permit it, hence you’ll literally be smashing that button on every weapon swing.  With that in mind, having it take 3 points less rage can’t hurt, and it will let you spam it more in situations where you have decent, but not unlimited, rage.

Levels 74-75:  2/2 Improved Charge.  This is a tossup.  We’ve got to put these two points somewhere in the Arms tree in order to open up the third tier of talents.  You can make a case for putting them in Iron Will instead for the stun and charm resistance, especially if you PvP a bit on the side.  (Note that a dedicated Prot PvP spec is very different from what we’re working with here.)  I put them in Improved Charge because I rarely PvP on Linedan anyway, and the ability to generate 10 extra rage on a Charge, for a total of 25, gave me more options when initiating combat.  Improved Rend would be a waste; it doesn’t do a lot of damage with a one-hander anyhow.

Levels 76-77:  2/2 Impale.  Increases the critical strike damage bonus of all your “abilities”–i.e., yellow-damage attacks, really anything but a normal melee swing–by 20%, giving you +120% damage on crits instead of +100%.  You don’t have the high crit percentages of a DPS class as a prot warrior, but with several talents giving you +15% crit chance to some hard-hitting abilities (Shield Slam, Heroic Strike, Devastate, Thunder Clap, and Cleave), you’ll crit enough to where this talent adds noticeable damage output.  Plus, it’s required for…

Levels 78-80:  3/3 Deep Wounds.  I covered in a prior post several months ago why a prot warrior can get good use out of Deep Wounds.  The quick recap:  ANY crit will make your target bleed for 48% of your mainhand weapon’s damage over 6 seconds (3 ticks 2 seconds apart), and it “rolls,” basically stacking as the 6-second durations of several Deep Wounds applications overlap.  The numbers don’t seem huge at first.  Linedan, in largely Ulduar and Naxx-25 gear, puts about 280 to 290 extra damage on a target with a single Deep Wounds while raid-buffed, in three ticks of 95 or so points each.  But, remember, Deep Wounds activates off any crit, and warriors throw out a LOT of attacks…including the passive damage from Damage Shield.  So you will be able to keep Deep Wounds on your targets quite a bit, and over a fight, the high uptime means that the damage adds up to surprising numbers.  Looking back over the last four Ulduar raids I’ve had him on, Deep Wounds is between 6% and 10% of Linedan’s total damage output.  That’s a lot when you consider that he’s doing between 7 and 9 million damage output on a three-hour raid night.  And it’s all bonus.  More damage = more threat.  More threat = the other DPS being able to push hard without fear of me losing agro.  More DPS = stuff dies faster.  It’s win-win-win all the way around.

And hey, there’s three new spells you get to play with!

Level 71:  Shattering Throw.  You throw your weapon at the target, doing some damage, reducing their armor by 20% for 10 seconds, or removing any invulnerabilities.  Basically, it’s a ranged five-stack Devastate.  The trick is that it removes invulnerabilities–yes, folks, Shattering Throw will literally burst bubbles.  Or Ice Blocks.  It’s primarily a PvP move as far as I’ve seen, and I don’t think I’ve ever used it in anger, but I might going forward, because it hits harder than firing a gun or bow, and while I haven’t been able to confirm it, it may apply the silencing effect that Heroic Throw does due to the Gag Order talent.  I’ll have to check into that.

Level 75:  Enraged Regeneration.  Yes, you, a warrior, now have a self-heal.  You have to be Enraged to use it, but with 2/2 Improved Defensive Stance and decent defensive stats, you’re Enraged most of the time anyhow.  Hit this, and it burns the Enrage (and prevents reapplication of an Enrage for the duration), and heals you for 30% of your total health over 10 seconds.  Protip:  If you really want to get the most out of this, pop Last Stand and then pop Enraged Regeneration.  ER uses whatever your total health is at the moment you hit it, so it will calculate that 30% heal including the extra health from Last Stand, making it more like a net 40% heal.  Three-minute cooldown.

Level 80:  Heroic Throw.  This is Shattering Throw’s more useful cousin.  It does a reasonable amount of damage, silences the target for 3 seconds (if you have Gag Order), and generates significant bonus threat, which Shattering Throw doesn’t.  It’s an awesome pulling maneuver, and something I use frequently.  Bloodrage for initial rage, and Heroic Throw to pull, and pulling casters is now no big deal anymore.  It does, unfortunately, have a one-minute cooldown.

As for how you do your leveling from 70 to 80, it hasn’t really changed.  You are at the peak of your survivability.  You are one hard mofo to kill.  Grinding entire camps of Northrend mobs should be a non-issue, if you’re keeping your gear up to date.  You can easily hammer down some of the wussier elites solo.  But again, let me emphasize–the point of this spec is to tank.  You should be tanking instances every chance you get.  I’m a broken record, I know.  (Or a “skipping CD” to you younguns.)  But if you’re not going to tank, there’s very little reason to go prot and stay prot.  Keep tanking instances to keep your skills sharp–warrior tanking is a lot more than just hitting “969.”

Your tanking rotation does not change between level 70 and level 80.  You will have more pulling options with Shattering Throw first and Heroic Throw later, and Improved Heroic Strike makes your Heroic Strike spam easier, and you’ll have new ranks of your same old friends, but the foundational basics of how you gain and hold agro, and the priority of your attacks, haven’t changed.  What you’ll find in the Northrend dungeons is, mercifully, a move away from the godawful huge five- and six-mob mixed melee/caster groups in Outland instances like Shattered Halls and Shadow Labyrinth.  You’ll still have casters and melee mixed up, but rarely more than four at a time, which makes handling them much easier because you’ll need to stack less crowd control in your groups.  Maybe even none, once you get more confident.

Just because we’ve dinged 80 and gotten our special present from Rhonin in the mail, though, doesn’t mean the grind is over.  Ohhhhh no.  Far from it.  In the next installment of SYWTBAPW, our talk will move from talents and skills to gear and enchants and gems, as we talk about your progression toward being ready to tank Northrend heroics and raids.  In another installment down the line, we’ll talk about alternate warrior specs–why dual-spec is a fantastic thing for many tanks, whether you should use that second spec for DPS or not, and possible other tank specs besides 15/5/51.  We’ll also be looking at the differences between raid tanking and instance tanking, which are bigger than you’d think.


So You Want to Be a Prot Warrior: Levels 61-70

A group of tanks meet to discuss strategy, resplendent in their high-60s Outland gear.

A group of tanks meet to discuss strategy, resplendent in their high-60s Outland gear.

Well, here we are again, gang.  I’ve gotten you to level 60 and all the way through the Prot tree up to the pinnacle, Shockwave.  And there you are, in Hellfire Peninsula, ready to rock and roll your way through Outland and get ready for the ultimate challenge of Northrend.  So let’s see if we can get you Northrend-ready!

Here is our starting spec for this discussion:  0/0/51.  All Prot, all the time.  (Yes, I know I have too many glyphs in there for a level 60; don’t sweat it.)  Now, you’ll start learning that yes, Virginia, there are other two other warrior trees, and they can serve you well even as a tank!

Levels 61-62:  2/5 Cruelty.  Finally, we branch out into the Fury tree and take what is, for any DPS warrior spec, a 5/5 required talent.  2/5 Cruelty gives us +2% crit chance.  Why don’t we take 5/5 Cruelty as a tank, you may ask?  Because we already have +15% crit to five of our most important abilities from our talents.  So instead, we take…

Levels 63-65:  3/3 Armored to the Teeth.  When you’re running around Northrend at level 80 with over 24,000 armor value in your epics, you’ll really appreciate Armored to the Teeth and its 3 bonus AP for each 180 armor value you wear.  Even a modestly decent set of Outland tank armor, with a good shield, will give you over 200 bonus AP with this talent…you’d be hard-pressed to squeeze that much out of stat boosts on your gear.  Now note that this gives AP, not Strength, so it won’t boost your block value or the damage on your Shield Slams.  (The originally planned version of this ability did give +Strength, but Blizzard changed it.)  But the bonus AP will increase your damage output on all your weapon-based attacks, and more damage equals more threat and faster kills.

Levels 66-70:  5/5 Deflection.  Pretty straightforward here…+5% to your Parry.  Yes, a handy defensive talent in Arms, supposedly a DPS tree.

Now you can change the order up on these to suit your needs.  If you are running around with gear that gives you adequate crit, but you’re short on AP, take Armored to the Teeth first.  If you’re tanking a lot of instances, you can load up on Deflection first for better damage avoidance.  The journey here is not so important, it’s the destination–5/5/51 at level 70, so we can load the last 10 points in the Arms tree in Northrend and come out with our cookie-cutter 15/5/51 spec at level 80.

As for spells and skills, you start getting some new ones again after going for quite a while only leveling up old ones.  (Remember, starting at 60, you can train something every level, not every two levels!)

Victory Rush (level 62):  Yay for free attacks, boo for stance restrictions.  Victory Rush allows you to get what amounts to a free attack within 20 seconds of getting the killing blow on something that gives you honor or experience.  It costs no rage, so it literally is free except for a global cooldown cycle.  The catch?  You can’t use it in Defensive Stance, and you’re going to be in Defensive Stance most of the time from here on out because it’s more efficient to grind that way.  Still, if you’re DPSing in a group or find yourself in Battle or Berserker for whatever reason, it’s free damage.

Spell Reflection (level 64):  CRY MORE, MAGES.  As if being able to slam somebody in the face for 6000 damage isn’t enough reason to carry a shield, this skill seals the deal.  It’s expensive at 25 rage, but hit it, and it will reflect the first spell cast on you within five seconds back at the caster, hitting them with the full normal effect of their own spell.  Now there are a lot of restrictions with it.  It won’t stop you from taking AOE damage in, say, a Hurricane or Blizzard.  It’s on a 10-second cooldown and only lasts 5 seconds, so timing is critical.  It reflects one spell, although sometimes, latency will cause weird things to happen like being able to reflect two or three that hit you at the same time–don’t count on it, though, it’s not reliable.  And certain mobs simply are not reflectable, because Blizzard loves giving us abilities and then making them useless on many boss fights.  (I’M LOOKING AT YOU, KARAZHAN.)  Still, this is an awesome ability.  It’s one more weapon we have against casters both in PvE and PvP.

Commanding Shout (level 68):  A very, very nice ability for tanking instances and raids, especially if you’ve got a paladin with Greater Blessing of Might in your back pocket.  It adds a significant amount of health to everybody within range in your group or raid.

Intervene (level 70):  This is the third leg of what I call the “mobility trinity,” Charge and Intercept being the other two.  Intervene allows you to charge at a group or raid member and intercept the next attack made on that person; in addition, it lowers their total threat by 10%.  Personally, I don’t use it as much as I should, because it’s tricky as hell to switch targets mid-fight.  There’s ways around that with macros, though.  It has a myriad of uses; in PvP, it’s great for catching up to friendly forces, in PvE, it’s obviously good for saving squishies that pull agro.  We used it in Gruul’s Lair for occasionally eating hits off the main tank to keep rage up and stay higher on the threat list (when I was supposed to be eating Hateful Strikes).  Blizzard added the 10% threat reduction specifically to break this strategy of using Intervene on a main tank.  Your talent point in Warbringer allows Intervene to be used in any stance, and it does not share a linked cooldown with Charge or Intercept.  Once you get good at using those three abilities, you become a giant plate-clad pinball of doom.

You can hit Outland as early as level 58, and most people nowadays do that.  The reason is simple–the gear they throw at you in the introductory quests is a quantum leap over anything but the best of old-world dungeon blues or level 60 40-man raid gear.  You’ll start building your “Outland clown suit” not long after you set foot on Hellfire Peninsula.  You may have a little trouble with some quests at first if you’re 58 or 59 and your gear is weak coming in, because certain areas (Zeth’gor comes to mind) are crowded and can have fast respawn rates.  Just consider it good practice for instance tanking, and learn to love the inherent survivability of the Prot spec as you slowly grind down entire groups of fel orcs.  This is where all those hours spent leveling first aid, cooking and fishing can pay off; a good stock of bandages and buff food will go a long way toward making the early Hellfire levels less painful.  Once you push forward into Zangarmarsh or Terrokar, things actually get easier; your gear’s improved, you’ve got a few levels, and the mob concentration is more spread out in most areas.

Instance tanking in Outland is simultaneously better and worse.  Better because the instances are no longer as massive or confusing as a Mauradon or BRD; worse because some of them feature huge trash pulls that will push your tanking skills to the limit.  Prior to 3.0, despite Linedan being very well-geared, I would simply refuse to tank heroic Shattered Halls or Shadow Labyrinth (OK, I wouldn’t tank most Outland heroics), simply because both dungeons featured many five- and six-mob pulls that were beyond brutal for a warrior to keep agro on.  With our new and highly improved AOE tanking abilities, it’s a lot less painful now, but still not easy.  The same tips still apply–use a kill order and crowd control in level-appropriate groups on big pulls.  Work on line-of-sight (LOS) pulling to bring casters to you, this is a skill that you should learn now because you’ll surely need it in raids.

Again, I can’t state this enough–tank something every chance you can get.  Tank outdoor group quests, tank instances, act like you’re tanking when you grind by pulling multiple mobs and practice shifting targets to spread agro.  You don’t want to get to level 80 and then have to learn this stuff on the job in a Northrend heroic.  A significant part of being a good tank is mindset.  You need to have the mindset that you WANT to tank.

My apologies if this is a little disjointed today.  I’m tanking three projects at work while I’m putting this together.  But, hey, at least I’ve got solid agro on ‘em all, eh what?

Coming soon to SYWTBAPW…welcome to Northrend!  It’s cold.  It’s full of things trying to eat your face.  And it’s where you’ll finish your journey–for now–and get ready for the ultimate test of your tankitude, level 80 heroics and raids.  Tune in again, same bat-time, same bat-channel!


So you want to be a prot warrior: What do all those stats do?

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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…

Defensive Stats

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.

Offensive Stats

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!


Care and feeding of your prot warrior, part III: When it goes wrong

(Part I of the series is here; Part II is here.)

In a perfect virtual world, you’d never overpull.  Your tank would never lose agro because something shiny distracted him, your healers would never lag out or space out, your DPS would never open every single pull with the biggest shiniest heaviest nuke in their arsenal and land it a second before the tank arrived.

This is not a perfect virtual world we play in.  Stuff goes wrong.  A lot.  And when it does, the protection warrior has a lot of different ways to hopefully make it right again and save the day.  In the interest of keeping it reasonably family-friendly around here, I’m going to call these “‘uh-oh’ buttons,” as opposed to what I usually call them–substitute a somewhat earthier term for “uh-oh.”

I’m going to broadly group our “uh-oh” buttons into two types:  agro control (what we hit when a mob decides it wants priest tartar) and death prevention (what we hit when said priest tartar doesn’t hit us with the green glowy goodness fast enough).  First, the agro control abilities and talents:

(Please note that I’m assuming that you’re familiar with the basics of how threat and agro work.)

Taunt. Baseline ability.  Obtained at level 10, requires Defensive Stance, costs zero rage, 8-second cooldown, 30-yard range.  This ability taunts the target to attack the warrior.  It does this by placing the warrior at the top of the mob’s current agro list.  If the warrior is already being attacked (i.e., has highest threat), then Taunt does nothing, but it will eat the cooldown.  Now, please note:  Unlike, say, a DK’s Death Grip, Taunt does not command the target to attack the warrior through any other mechanic than being #1 on the mob’s agro list.  If somebody else in the party continues to pump out more threat per second than the warrior, the Taunt won’t hold for very long, and “somebody else” will become chow.  Therefore, a Taunt is typically followed up, if possible, by as much burst threat as possible in order to hold the mob.  This is our primary emergency “oh crap it’s heading for the healer grab it now” maneuver.  And it doesn’t always work–it can miss, just like any other spell, and is helped by +hit.

Mocking Blow. Baseline ability.  Obtained at level 16, requires Battle or Defensive Stance, costs 10 rage, 60-second cooldown, melee range.  This is a melee attack that causes normal weapon damage, a “moderate” amount of additional bonus threat, and most importantly, causes the mob to focus attacks on the warrior for 6 seconds.  Prior to 3.0, this was basically a useless ability because it could not be used in Defensive Stance (where tanks spend 99% of their tanking time).  In order to use it, the warrior had to shift to Battle Stance, rebuild 10 rage, use the ability, and shift back to Defensive Stance.  Post-3.0, it’s now usable in Defensive Stance.  It’s still a weak-sister backup ability to Taunt due to the 1-minute cooldown and the fact that it doesn’t actually move the warrior back up to the top of the threat list, it just forces the mob to attack him for 6 seconds; at the end of that time, it’ll go back to whoever’s at the top of the list.  It’s designed to buy time for Taunt to come back around and grab the mob for real.

Challenging Shout.  Baseline ability.  Obtained at level 26, no stance restriction, costs 5 rage, 3-minute cooldown, 10-yard range.  Hitting this will cause all mobs within 10 yards of the warrior to focus attacks on him for 6 seconds.  This is a serious “uh-oh” button, generally used when things are totally falling apart and the tank’s lost control of multiple mobs at once.  Like Taunt, it has to be followed up with high threat generation by the tank (or the DPS backing off), or the mobs will switch back to someone else.

Vigilance. Tier 7 Protection talent.  1 point.  This replaced Shield Slam as the Protection 31-point talent in 3.0.  It’s a buff, cast by the warrior on someone else in their group or raid, with a 30-minute duration.  During that time, 10% of the threat generated by that person is taken from them and transferred to the warrior.  In addition, their damage taken is reduced by 3%, and if they are hit by an attack, the warrior’s Taunt cooldown is immediately refreshed.  It’s a handy, but not essential, talent.  Warriors can either place it on a healer for the ability to instantly snap-taunt off them, or they can place it on a high-DPS, high-threat character like a fury warrior or rogue or mage in order to get themselves a nice threat boost (and hopefully keep the DPS from yoinking agro).  Because the recipient’s threat is actually reduced, tanks do not put this on other tanks.

There’s a second set of abilities that we have designed to improve our survivability.  These are:

Shield Block. Baseline talent.  Obtained at level 16, requires Defensive Stance, costs zero rage, 60-second cooldown (talentable down to 40 seconds), melee range.  We covered this already in Part II of this series; when activated, it increases the warrior’s shield block rating and shield block value by 100% for 10 seconds.  I try to time it for situations where I know mobs will be hitting harder, like enrages or frenzies.

Shield Wall. Baseline talent.  Obtained at level 28, requires Defensive Stance and a shield (duh), costs zero rage, 5-minute cooldown (talentable down to 4 minutes).  This is the ultimate butt-saving “uh-oh” button we have.  It reduces all incoming damage–melee, spell, ranged, whatever–by 60% for 12 seconds.  The situations in which this is used are pretty obvious, and varied.  It can be applied pre-emptively for situations where you know you are about to take a metric crapton of damage (Kael’thas’ pyroblast, Patchwerk’s enrage), or if you’re quick, you can hit it when you’re low on health and buy your healers time to bring you back from the near-dead.

Last Stand. Tier 3 Protection talent, 1 point.  5-minute cooldown.  When activated, this talent increases the warrior’s health by 30% of his current maximum health, for 20 seconds.  After that, the extra health goes away.  Here’s another serious emergency button.  For a raid-buffed, well-geared prot warrior, this can bring their health way over 45,000 for that 20 seconds–and unlike a Power Word:  Fortitude, Last Stand actually grants the extra health.  If, at the end of the 20 seconds, the warrior would be killed by losing the extra health, he’ll be at 1 health point.  Hit this, then hit Shield Wall on the next cooldown, and for 12 seconds, you’re indestructible even if a healer can’t get to you.  After that, you’re toast.

I think there’s a misconception among some people who’ve never played a warrior that we have some sort of magic at-will taunt that can save them if they pull agro.  We do, sort of.  Taunt is effective, but it’s not guaranteed–it can miss.  And most importantly, we can only do it every eight seconds.  In a situation where two mobs break loose, or things start to fall apart, we may have to pick and choose who we taunt from, and who gets to play tank.  (Hint:  We’ll save the healer first.)  Also, remember talking about kill orders?  Because our AOE threat generation is weaker than paladins or DKs, and our reliable taunt is single-target (except for Challenging Shout, which is for emergencies), a lot of potential problems can be headed off by remembering to stick to the kill order.

I hope these three articles help a little bit in explaining about how prot warriors work, how we’re different from other tank classes, and why we do what we do.  I don’t pretend to be the be-all end-all expert on the class, but I’ve been prot now for about a year and a half, more-or-less continuously, and have really grown to love it.  So if you’ve got any questions or want to see anything else on this topic, just ping me, and I’ll see if I can come up with an answer.

Who knows, it might even be right.


Care and feeding of your prot warrior, part II: The Shield

(Part I of “Care and Feeding of Your Prot Warrior” is here.)

If you don’t believe a shield can be a weapon…insult a protection warrior’s mother.

It’s just a piece of wood or steel or titanium or saronite strapped onto the left arm of a prot warrior.  It looks cool.  But it’s just a shield, right?  You block stuff with it.  You hide behind it.  Wouldn’t it be better to have something sharp and pointy, or big and bashy, in that left hand, to do l33t d33ps with?

Not if you’re a prot warrior.  If you’re ready to do a little more hardcore theorycrafting than in Part I, then come along and see why prot warriors dual wield even when they’re sword-and-boarding…

(Caveat:  Yes, it is possible for a warrior to tank without a shield in lower-level instances.  Practical?  Smart?  Nope, unless they seriously overgear the instance.  IMO, especially if you’re a prot warrior, you’re gimping yourself badly if you don’t walk the traditional 1H + shield path when tanking anything, no matter what level.)

There are two important shield-related numbers for a warrior.  They’re Shield Block Rating (SBR, or “rating”) and Shield Block Value (SBV, or “value”).  Rating is the percent chance you have to block an attack passively.  Value is how much you block when you do block, passively or actively.  Value is a function of the “block” number on the shield, any items or enchants you have that explicitly increase your SBV, and your Strength.  Post-3.0, 2 Strength points = 1 SBV.  (Prior to 3.0, it was 20 Strength for 1 SBV.)  This change to SBV is one of the biggest reasons that post-3.0, Strength has become a vitally important stat for prot warriors–so important that existing Outland Tier 4 through 6 tanking gear was retconned to include it at the expense of avoidance stats.

There are three shield-related talents that every warrior has, regardless of spec.  They are:

Shield Block:  Gained at level 16, and requires Defensive Stance.  Increases the warrior’s chance to block and block value by 100% for 10 seconds, 60-second cooldown (talentable down to 40).  Basically, when a tank hits this, they’ll block every blockable physical melee attack that hits from the front for 10 seconds, and have double their normal SBV.  Prior to 3.0, this ability was on a short cooldown and blocked one (talentable to two) attacks.  It was part of our spammable rotation.  Now things have changed, and Shield Block is our shortest-duration “uh-oh” button.  I use it on initial pulls, when I know hard hits are coming, and when bosses are getting ready to enrage.

Shield Bash:  Gained at level 12, requires Battle or Defensive Stance.  Bash the target with the shield, dazing them and interrupting spellcasting, which prevents any spell in that school from being cast for 6 seconds, 12-second cooldown.  This one’s pretty self explanatory.  It does no damage, and has two main uses–interrupting spellcasting, and slowing down runners.  A Prot tree ability called Gag Order makes this even more useful; it adds a 3-second silence to Shield Bash.  (See below.)

Shield Slam: Gained at level 40,  no stance restriction, 6-second cooldown.  Slam the target with the shield, causing (variable by rank) damage, modified by shield block value, and removing 1 magic effect from the target.  Also causes a high amount of threat.  This is the prot warrior’s big nuke.  It used to be the 31-point Prot talent, corresponding to Mortal Strike for Arms and Bloodthirst for Fury, but Blizzard took it baseline in 3.0 to give non-prot warriors better tanking ability.  Because Shield Slam damage is modified by SBV–which is now in turn heavily influenced by Strength–here’s where that “2 str = 1 SBV” equation shines through.

But, that’s just baseline stuff.  Now let’s look at abilities and talents that let prot warriors take that moderately-useful shield and truly turn it into a fearsome weapon:

Shield Specialization: Tier 1 talent, 5 points.  For each point, the warrior increases their block rating by 1% and has a 20% chance to generate 2 rage on a successful block.  Useful, but not always 100% necessary–Lin does OK with just having 2/5 in this talent.  A more purely mitigation-oriented build would probably take 5/5 here.

Shield Mastery: Tier 3 talent, 2 points.  Increases shield block value by 15% per point and reduces the cooldown of the Shield Block ability by 10 seconds per point.  This is a must-have.  Two points here boosts SBV by 30%–nice scaling there for an 11-point talent–and cuts the cooldown on Shield Block to 40 seconds.  Remember, Shield Slam scales off SBV, so the bigger the SBV, the harder that guy gets smashed in the face.

Gag Order:  Tier 5 talent, 2 points.  Gives the Shield Bash and Heroic Throw abilities a 50% per point chance to silence the target for 3 seconds, and increases the damage of the Shield Slam ability by 5% per point.  Hey, look, more scaling for Shield Slam damage.  You’d almost think Blizzard wanted us to rely on it or something.

Critical Block: Tier 9 talent, 3 points.  Successful blocks have a 10% per point chance to block double the normal amount, and increases the chance to critically hit with Shield Slam by an additional 5% per point.  Well, well, well. Put 3 points in this pup, and suddenly all blocks have a 30% chance to double the damage mitigated.  And yes, it stacks with Shield Block, so while under the effect of Shield Block, this can also fire, and the tank blocks roughly quadruple his normal SBV.  And look at the second part.  3 points, +15% crit to Shield Slam.  Between the occasional significant boost to block value and the +15% crit to Shield Slam, this is pretty much a Prot-tree must-have.

Sword and Board: Tier 10 talent, 3 points.  Increases the critical strike chance of the Devastate ability by 5% per point, and when the Devastate or Revenge ability deals damage, it has a 10% per point chance of refreshing the cooldown on Shield Slam and reducing its rage cost by 100% for 5 seconds.  This one doesn’t boost Shield Slam damage…but it gives a chance to get a free one.  And considering how hard Shield Slam hits, free is very good.

So let’s put it all together.  At level 80, Rank 8 Shield Slam has a base damage of 990-1040.  That’s modified by SBV, of which your average well-geared prot warrior will probably have around 1000 or so nicely buffed, maybe more if they gear to stack it (high +strength and +SBV pieces).  Shield Mastery boosts that SBV by 30%.  Gag Order increases the total damage of Shield Slam by 10%.  And Critical Block increases the crit chance of Shield Slam by 15%.  That’s not even factoring in the indirect effect of talents like Vitality (+2% Strength per point) or Improved Defensive Stance (50% per point chance to be Enraged on a block/dodge/parry, increasing all damage by 10%) or in Lin’s case, Impale (+20% to all critical damage on “yellow” attacks).

The bottom line of all this theorycrafting?  To use some numbers from Linedan, who is a moderately-geared warrior for 25-man content…raid-buffed, he runs a crit chance of around 11-13%, +5% if he’s lucky enough to get a druid in his group.  He has 1100-1200 SBV with those same buffs.  That translates to Shield Slams around 2000, crits for well over 4000 normally, and as high as 6000 when Shield Block is up (remember, my SBV is doubled, and that factors in to Shield Slam as well, so Shield Block has a useful defensive and offensive component), with a crit chance bumping 26-28%.  Every 6 seconds.  For 17 rage.  Whether or not he’s even tanking, because Shield Slam is not stance-restricted.  Consistently, on instance after instance, raid after raid, whether I’m tanking full-time or not, Shield Slam is my number one damage dealer, usually running 20-23% of my total.

3.0 threw the old prot-warrior DPS paradigm out the window.  Back in Burning Crusade, prot warriors who had to DPS would throw on some DPS gear, dual-wield two one-handed weapons, jump into Berserker Stance, and spam Devastate (and Heroic Strike if they had the rage).  The theory was because Shield Slam really didn’t hit very hard (remember, 20 Strength = 1 SBV), it was better to dual-wield and spam instants.  Post-3.0, even with the craptacular rage generation that 1H + shield causes, our DPS is higher if we keep the shield on, get in the DPS gear if we can, go Berserker Stance, and just try to be as efficient as we can with our rage management and Shield Slam every time it’s available–plus, Devastate if we can, to try and get a free Shield Slam.  If we can’t get in DPS gear and have to stay in tank gear because the fight requires it?  Our tank gear still has massive +strength on it, allowing us to bring Shield Slam pain even in our 540+-defense prot suits.

We will never do seriously awesome DPS when not tanking.  I run about 800-1000 when not tanking during a 25-man raid (where I’m still in my low-crit high-defense tank gear), and more like 1200-1300 while tanking.  We’re generally the weakest tank class in terms of DPS while tanking.  But that 1200-1300 is still four times what I did tanking 25-mans at level 70, wearing 4/5 Tier 5.

And now you know why a shield is a prot warrior’s best friend.  It’s not just for hiding behind anymore.

Coming in Part III…when things go to hell in a bucket, we’ve got a wide variety of ways to get the bucket back.  Warrior “uh-oh” buttons, and how you can keep us from having to use them, next, on Achtung Panzercow.

(Part III, “When It Goes Wrong,” is now up!  You can read it here.)


Care and feeding of your prot warrior, part I: Basics

Congratulations on your purchase of a new Protection Warrior!  We have engineered your Protection Warrior to the highest quality standards, and with proper care and maintenance, it will give you years of enjoyment.  Please take time to read these instructions, as improper use of your Protection Warrior can cause injury and void your warranty!

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.

(EDIT:  Part II of “Care and Feeding of Your Prot Warrior,” “The Shield,” is here.  Part III, “When It Goes Wrong,” is here.)


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