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!
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:
- Syl at Raging Monkeys gives us non-healy types a lesson on the Good to stand in come Cataclysm.
- WoWPhiles Podcast, episode 47. I’m on it, Liala is on it, Bliky is on it. You go listen. NAO.
- Liala gets the twofer this week with a post over at Disciplinary Action about how to work dat booty and get phat loots at the same time.
- Galertruby has a few issues being a cultist at Need More Rage.
Y’all have a good weekend, and remember, it’s all fun and games until Deathwing puts somebody’s eye out.
“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…
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.
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.
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.
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:
- 81: 2/2 Field Dressing
- 82: 2/3 Shield Specialization
- 83: 3/3 Shield Specialization
- 84: 1/3 Incite
- 85: 1/2 Thunderstruck
(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.
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.)
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.
(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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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?