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!
So. First off, let me apologize, yet again, for my slackness in updating this here fine upstanding blog. There are a few reasons for this.
First–and I hate to admit it, but it’s true–I wrote most of my blog posts at work. I know, I know, I shouldn’t be doing it, but come on, folks. I know when you people read my blog, and here’s a hint–it’s between 9:00 and 5:00 in your appropriate time zone. Otherwise my readership wouldn’t crash through the floor on Saturdays and Sundays. Let he who is without slack cast the first Nerf dart and all that. Well, a couple months ago, I was moved to a new cubicle that’s very much more out in the open than my old, isolated, rather private digs I had for almost three years. Basically, I can’t keep the WordPress editor up all day and hammer posts into it by the thousands of words like I used to. When I get home, I have a tendency to be pretty tired and more interested in playing games than writing about them. So that has rather badly cramped my output.
Second, RL has been, as it has for the past few years, teabagging me like I’m a dead resto druid and it’s a rogue. No need to go into the details (I’ve got a personal blog for stuff like that, and someday maybe I’ll update it again) but suffice to say that it’s taking a big chunk of my focus just to get through the days and weeks, without a lot left over to produce quality content. And if I can’t at least attempt to produce quality content, I don’t produce content. (Most of the time.)
And third, well, I just haven’t had that much to say about WoW. Cataclysm is humming along. 4.0.6 has caused some of us to have to relearn some of our favorite classes (marks hunter wut wut). Other people in the WoW blogosphere have been doing a fantastic job talking about things that I had formative ideas about. It just feels like that for whatever reason, there hasn’t really been that much for me to say. Like, say, “heroics are hard.” Well, duh. Of course they’re hard, they’re designed to be hard at this pre-raid level of gear a lot of us are rocking. Give it six months and they won’t be (as) hard anymore. The push to get Linedan to 85 and repped up with Dragonmaw and Therazane has, as I knew it would, caused me to back off a little bit and play less while I recharge to get my alts leveled, filling the slack with a bit of Star Trek Online, a bit of EVE Online, and a bit of various single-player games.
So, a quick update from Panzerville, and then I’ll get to why I’m actually posting this. Linedan, the titular Panzercow, is back raiding again as one of the full-time tanks in a 10-man called “Doom and Blet,” expertly cat-herded by former Anvil Chief Cat Herder Dorritow and veteran Anvil raider and Seven Deadly Divas contributor Hammaryn. So far, we’ve been poking at Blackwing Descent, and have dropped tne Omnomnomnomitron Defense System (I can haz tank lootz?) and Magmaw, the Giant Lava Penis, and have gotten Atremedes down to about 55%. That, IMO, is not half bad after four weeks for a raid running only one night a week, 9:00-12:30 Eastern.
Beltar, my dwarf hunter, is my other character at 85 right now. He hasn’t raided, in fact he hasn’t done any heroics yet (I hope to fix that soon). This is largely because of my PUGaphobia, and the fact I’m still learning how to trap and CC. Oh yeah, and re-learning his rotation because 4.0.6 took everything I’d learned about marks and stood it on its head. (Aimed Shot useful again? Seriously? Getouttahere.) All my other characters are at various places between level 82 and level, uh, 5. I’ll get alts up someday, but I need to get over my burnout on the 80-85 Cata zones first.
Anyway. The real reason I’m posting this is as self-motivation. I’ve had an idea bouncing around my skullcage for a while, inspired by some heroics I’ve run on Lin, to do a small series on pulling and initial control of pulls. It’s based on a very, very simple theory, to wit: The first ten seconds of a fight is the most important part. If you can pull properly and control the fight for the first ten seconds, you are well on your way to victory and loot. If you can’t, you’re well on your way to heartbreak, frustration, and getting kicked from PUGs. And with the re-introduction of crowd control into instances with Cataclysm, pulling and grabbing initial control of pulls, especially trash packs, has gotten more complicated. Who pulls, you or the CC? Who decides kill order? Who should you CC, who should you leave? What do you use to pull? Do you LOS? Do you just charge in? This is all stuff that, as a tank, you need to think about before pushing buttons.
So where’s the self-motivation? I’ve told you about it now. I have to write it. Otherwise people on Twitter will hound me to no end about it. Peer pressure is a wonderfully useful thing sometimes, isn’t it?
I can’t guarantee it’ll be done quickly, as I haven’t written any of it at all yet. But watch this space, and hopefully in the next few days, I can get the first installment up. In the meantime, peace out, kids.
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.
What follows, Dear Reader, is a cautionary tale about staying on top of your game, proof that, yes, even Kingslayers can come off looking like that doofball from your Halls of Stone random PUG last week. I don’t tell it just to be funny, though it is (in retrospect). I tell it to make a point, which I’ll get to further on.
So. Last week was The Anvil’s first post-Kingslaying raid sequence. Thursday night was a run back into ICC, in which we did our first heroic modes (just Lootship and Rotface, but, hey, you have to start somewhere, right?). On Friday night, real life dickpunched us again and left us with only about 20 people. So our officers did what we’ve done so often on Friday nights this summer…stalled by doing the weekly in the hopes that competent raiders would hear our pleas, magically drop from the sky, let us fill our slots, and head on to ICC. (They didn’t.)
The weekly was Razorscale. Ho hum, right? Lawl T8 content and all that. So we ended up with a lot of people switching over to alts, and a raid that was about half mains (including Linedan as one of the two tanks) in mostly ilevel 264 items, and half alts of various gear levels, still mostly part-Triumph-geared at worst. Not a group that you would expect to have trouble on Razorscale, considering the last time we had her on the weekly, she dropped like the housing market.
So we cruised through Flame Lootviathan, formed up on Razorscale’s platform, started the encounter…
…and it all went horribly wrong.
There were iron dwarves running loose everywhere. The big Sentinel was whirlwinding its way through the raid slaughtering alts. Gorebash, our longtime warrior MT, was doing fine, but for some reason, I couldn’t hold agro on anything to save my, or anyone else’s, life. I had no clue what was going on until just before I finally died…and that’s when I saw my bar was totally wrong.
I was in Berserker Stance. So I hit F6 and swapped myself over to Defensive Stance…and my bar was still wrong. And then I died.
And that’s when I figured out what had happened. I’d run a random on Linedan earlier in the evening.
And I’d never changed back to Prot spec from his Fury spec.
I’d switched to his Prot gear. But I hadn’t gone in and switched his spec. So he was running around, in his full T10 kit, trying to tank things while generating no threat and no rage, in the wrong stance.
I’ve done some dumb shit in my time in WoW. I mean, really dumb shit. Dumber than you’ve probably done, or at least will admit to like this. But that right there–getting a raid half-full of Kingslayers to wipe on Razorscale, for God’s sake? That’s top 5 all-time, kids.
Well, I fessed up immediately. And actually, everyone was so shocked, we all (well, almost all) had a good laugh about it. And of course we went right back in there and killed us a dargon, with no more fatalities, so we could get our badges and 26 gold and pretend that the whole embarassment never happened.
The whole mess got me thinking, though. Earlier, on Flame Leviathan, I’d been confused. I had my Prot gear on, but Lin’s health wasn’t adding up. He normally has, in the gear he has as I write this, 45,687 health. But while we were waiting to start FL, I noticed he had only a bit over 42,000 health. I checked his ItemRack, because it bugs out sometimes, but nope, he had his Prot gear on. Before I could check any further, we started FL, and off we went. The health difference, obviously, was because he wasn’t in Prot spec and didn’t have his Vitality talent.
This is where another one of my geeky hobbies enters the picture…aviation.
I’m not a real pilot, but I’ve always wanted to be one. I love airplanes and aviation. There’s a reason my Microsoft Flight Simulator 2004 and Flight Simulator X installs, combined, are pushing 100 GB…way too many add-ons, planes, terrain, etc. I’ve used MSFS to learn just a little bit about how commercial aviation works.
Everything in a commercial airliner is done “by the book.” Pilots, in addition to all the pilot training they go through, have to learn a lot of aircraft-specific (and airline-specific) procedures. And most all of it is codified in those wonderful things called “checklists.” The checklists are there so all the flight crew on the same type of airplane at the same airline do things the same way (since pilots and copilots aren’t assigned as a unit). There are checklists in an airliner for damn near everything. There are checklists for first accepting the plane at the start of a day, before engine start, engine start, after engine start, taxi, takeoff, climb, descent, approach, landing, after landing…and that’s just the normal ones. Then there’s an emergency checklist for almost any possible situation you can imagine. Strange indication on one of the engine instruments? Checklist. Engine failure? Checklist. Flight instruments go wonky? Checklist. Fire in the bathroom? Checklist. Pressurization goes kablooey? Checklist. Flight crew eats the fish? Checklist. You get the idea…there are literally hundreds of the damn things, in big books stored in the cockpit.
When the time for a checklist comes around, or something hits the fan, the copilot grabs the Big Book of Checklists (or on the newest planes, pulls them up on screens), finds the right one, and starts reading it off. Each item on a checklist is read, and the checklist says who is supposed to respond and what the result should be–and they don’t go on to the next one until the current one is done and checked. So if the first item on the checklist says “disgronification switch – ON,” the copilot says “disgronification switch,” the pilot reaches up, turns it on, and says, “on.” Then the copilot checks it. Then they go to the next line. And the next. And so on. There is no variation, and there is no exception. By the book, step 1, step 2, through to step N. Boring? Well, maybe. But if checklist items get skipped, and something important gets missed, people can and will die. It’s serious business.
WoW, of course, is not that serious (for most people). But thinking about it…what’s wrong with the idea of a little mental checklist before you start your raid or instance run or PvP? No, you don’t need to put on a white shirt and tie and epaulettes and get your significant other to read the Pre-Raid Checklist to you after she does the safety briefing. (“In the event of Serpentshrine Cavern, the Draenei female members of your raid can be used as a flotation device.”) But what’s wrong with training yourself to make sure that everything’s squared away before first pull?
Let’s go back to Linedan and my unfortunate derp before Razorscale. What might Lin’s little pre-pull checklist look like? Here’s my quick stab at one:
- Spec – verify that it’s correct for the role he’s assigned tonight (Prot for tank, Fury for DPS). If not, change it.
- Gear – verify that it’s correct for the same role. If not, go into Itemrack and change it.
- Stance – verify correct, Defensive for tank, Berserker for DPS. Hit F6/F7 to change appropriately.
- Flask – use as needed (before boss pulls).
- Repair – 100% repair at the start of an instance. At the least, nothing should be showing yellow.
- Buffs – all necessary buffs on, including Feasts if we’ve got them. If not, start bothering slacker paladins.
- Encounter – understand what his role is in the encounter, strategy, what color poo not to stand in.
That whole sequence can be done in, what, maybe twenty to thirty seconds max? Had I done that, I would’ve caught the problem in the very first second when I saw I was still in Fury spec, I would’ve swapped spec, we wouldn’t have wiped on Razorscale, and I wouldn’t have a blog post topic for today.
So basically, I do stupid shit for you, people. All for you.
(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’m pretty sure that there’s a rule of WoW blogging, buried somewhere in the middle of the handbook between sections on “How to Handle Trolls” and “Things You May and May Not Call Ghostcrawler,” that sooner or later, you’re required to show your UI off to the world. I have successfully avoided doing this for 15 months because, quite frankly, most of the various iterations of my UI are a horrible mess that are sure to cause panic in the aisles like the original screenings of King Kong. Brave men will go weak in the knees, frail women will get the vapors and faint, children will be scarred for life, and pets will hide under the furniture and not come out, all because my UI finally saw the light of public scrutiny.
The hell with it. A little chaos is good for the world every now and then.
Plus, I’ve actually got it kitbashed up to the point where, while it’s not super-polished and pretty, and still has some problems, I actually get good use out of it. It’s not the most elegant use of phospors and pixels out there, but it actually works for me, and that’s the most important thing, right?
See, my UI, like many, is a work of evolution, and my evolution only occurs when something I already have doesn’t work. Patch days are when my UI takes steps forward out of the primordial ooze. I have this cycle: I find something I like and I use it, and won’t change…until a patch breaks it and there’s no update available. Then I grumble a bit, go find something to “temporarily” replace that function, and fall in love with it so the “temporary” replacement becomes permanent. That’s just how I roll.
So. Without any further stalling, here’s the business. Click to see my UI during a 10-man Saurfang at 1024×768, click again for it in all its dubious full-sized 1680×1050 glory:
I’ve numbered each feature, or at least most of them, so let’s go through them one by one:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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?
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.
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!
Prepare for the Great Wall of Text!
Up until about level 50 or so, gearing up your protection warrior is pretty straightforward. You want gear with as much stamina and strength as you can stack. Agility, crit, hit, and defense are good secondary stats, but not as important–at first–as strength and stamina.
But as you start heading toward being able to tank the high-end “vanilla” instances–Scholomance, Stratholme, Dire Maul, anything with “Blackrock” in the name–or to head to Outland, your gearing requirements begin to subtly change. You have to start looking at more than just raw strength and stamina. You have, in fact, a metric bleepton of stuff to take into consideration as you get closer and closer to level 80, and not all of the stats are as important as others. You need to know what’s indispensable and what you can live without.
If your prot warrior isn’t your first character, you should already be familiar with Blizzard’s sliding-scale “rating” system. Instead of increasing your abilities like Dodge, Parry, Block, Defense, etc. by a fixed amount, these “ratings” are variable. If you get a piece of armor that has +20 Dodge rating, that increases your percentage chance to dodge more at level 50 than it does at level 60. It’s designed to keep you constantly grinding for replacement gear, because your current gear becomes less and less effective as you level.
Now, for this part of SYWTBAPW, I’m not going to get too much into the math behind the numbers to tell you how much a point of Dodge rating gives you at level 60 versus level 69, for example. Why? Because until you reach the endgame, it really doesn’t matter that much. With your newfound warrior abilities and some practice, at level 60 you can walk into any old-world instance and tank the place in any reasonable mixture of easily-obtained items. You don’t have to start really pushing the min-max on your gear until you’re closing in on level 80. That doesn’t mean that you won’t make choices and need to keep your items as updated as possible, but in general, you’re not going to be worrying about squeezing every single point out of what you wear. At this intermediate stage of your career, the concepts are more important than the actual numbers.
(My suggestion, if you’re a number-cruncher like I am, is to go snag a wicked nice little add-on called Rating Buster. This slick piece of work will convert ratings to percentages and put them right into your item tooltips. You can see it in action on most of the tooltip pictures here on Achtung Panzercow. I find it indispensable when I’ve got to make quick decisions about whether or not I’m going to ask for loot during our raids.)
So let’s talk about what each of these various ratings do, why we need them, and their relative importance for a tank…
Dodge. It’s pretty self-explanatory. You dodge an attack entirely, taking no damage. Since druids don’t have shields and can’t Parry, this is their primary method of avoidance, but it’s also quite important for warriors.
Parry. You parry the attack entirely, taking no damage. Note that being parried, however, speeds up the mob’s swing timer so that it can hit you again faster. Back in Burning Crusade, many tanks facing Prince Malchezzar in Karazhan fell victim to “parry gibbing” during phase 2 of the fight when repeated parries caused him and his axes to hit that much faster and spike a ton of damage. It’s still a good stat to have, though. (EDIT: Your Panzercow is a moron. I got this completely backwards. When you parry, your swing timer is decreased by up to 40%. When a mob parries you, their swing timer is decreased. So tanks got parry-gibbed on Prince Malchezzar not because they were stacking too much parry, but because they didn’t have sufficient expertise, and Malchezzar was parrying them or other melee stacked in front of them. This is one big reason for melee DPS to do their attacking from behind. Thanks to Zippy in the comments for pointing this out!)
Block. Block is your chance to passively shield-block an attack, removing part of the damage. Don’t confuse your block rating or block percentage with block value. Your block percentage is how often you block; your block value is how much you block.
Defense. Defense is an interesting stat. It does multiple things. Its primary function is to reduce your chance to be critically hit. Its secondary function is to provide small increases to dodge, parry, and block per point. It can be a confusing stat to track, because it’s actually a skill, same as a weapon skill, and thus levels up from 1 to 400 as you level. Additions to Defense from items use the same sliding-scale rating system as everything else; an item that says it’s got “+40 defense rating” might actually only improve the Defense score on your character sheet by, say, 12 points. Defense is a vital stat for a tank to stack. To give you an example of how important, at level 80, in order to reduce your chance to get critted by a raid boss to zero, you need 540 defense skill on your character sheet; that means +683 +689 defense rating from your items, gems, and enchants, assuming your Defense skill is maxed at 400. That’s a lot. You can, of course, tank with less, but that leaves you risking getting critted for OMGWTF damage and making your healers cry. (Thanks to ribby47 in the comments for catching my error on the needed +defense rating.)
Stamina. Hey, look, it’s your good old friend stamina. Stamina is NEVER a bad thing. Why? Because you get hit in the face for a living, you doofus, and the bigger that pool of health is, the better.
Agility. Agility is both a defensive and an offensive stat; it provides a tiny increase per point to your dodge and your crit percentages. That having been said, it’s not worth intentionally stacking it. The returns are far too limited and you can get more from other things like stamina, or dodge rating.
Hit. Hit rating is good for tanks because, let’s face it guys, whiffing does not impress the ladies. That, and whiffs give you no rage and generate no threat. Fortunately, figuring out how much +hit you need is pretty easy. You have a base 5% chance to miss an attack on a mob that’s the same level as you, and that number goes up by 1% for each level the mob is higher than you–since raid bosses are always treated as three levels higher than you, that means you need 8% extra hit at level 80 to never miss a boss. The tooltip for hit rating tells you what percentage of +hit your current numeric hit rating translates into. (At level 80, you need 262 hit rating to reach the magic 8%.) If you’re a Draenei, or have one for a Siamese twin and are always grouped with them, the handy-dandy Heroic Presence racial means you only need 7% hit. By the way, +hit does not affect whether a mob dodges or parries you. That’s controlled by…
Expertise. Expertise reduces your chance to be parried or dodged by an opponent. It’s a good stat to have, because you get no rage (and generate no threat) if you’re parried or dodged. In order to not be parried or dodged at all, you need enough expertise to get 6% worth; at level 80, that’s 26 expertise points, or about 140 rating. If you’re a human using maces or swords, or an orc using axes, of course, you need less due to your racial abilities.
Crit. Not so important. You get +15% bonus crit to many of your best abilities from your talents, so unlike many other classes, you don’t need huge amounts of +crit to still deliver pain. That having been said, if you’re building a set for daily grinding or other DPS use and not for boss tanking, crit can be useful. (Full disclosure: Linedan uses two crit trinkets in his “trash” tanking set for extra damage output. Handy for powering through dailies or smashing instances he overgears, but when it’s time to head to Ulduar, he puts them away.)
Strength. Still very important, because as you know by now, 1 strength = 2 AP. More AP directly translates to more damage dealt and more threat generated. Strength also gives tiny increases to your parry chance, and to your shield block value.
Putting It All Together
So. Now that you’ve got all this knowledge, how do you actually apply it? I’m going to talk more about that when we get into endgame gearing for the 70s and 80s, but there’s a few principles that hold true through the 50s and 60s as well.
- Stamina and strength are, and will forever be, your friends. More of those is always good.
- Defense is probably the best bang-for-the-buck tank stat there is. It reduces your chance to take painful crits, and boosts all three of your avoidance/mitigation stats (dodge, parry, block). Even in the 60s, good +defense pieces are worth their weight in gold.
- Stamina, dodge and parry are better if you are building a set designed to keep you alive fighting a big boss, because they remove all damage–if you dodge or parry, you don’t get hit at all, but you gain no rage from it. Strength, block rating and block value are better if you’re building a set designed to generate high threat and high damage at the expense of taking more damage yourself; you only mitigate part of the incoming damage on a hit, but you get rage, and the extra strength and block value boost your Shield Slam damage and overall threat generated. You will almost certainly end up building at least two sets of gear, one for avoidance/mitigation and one for threat/damage…but that’s a subject for another post, later on toward endgame.
- Don’t gem for +hit and +expertise if you can possibly avoid it. The “bang-for-the-buck” on hit and expertise gems isn’t generally worth it. You can pick up hit and expertise rating off your gear and save the gem slots for stamina, or defense if you’re approaching 80 and need to reach the defense “magic number” of 540. You can also gem for strength if you need red slots to activate a meta.
Is this a pretty generic post? Yep. Because as with a lot of the other topics in SYWTBAPW, I want to give you the information and then let you use your own brainmeats to figure out how to apply it! There is, for the most part, no One True Way to Tanky Enlightenment. If you’re smart and take time to understand what the various stats do and how they interrelate, you should be able to see how your gearing choices will affect your abilities going forward. And honestly, the game really is much more forgiving than it used to be when it comes to warrior itemization…until you get up to level 80 and the endgame. But that’s a ways off yet.
Next time, we’ll talk about levels 61 through 70 and your fun vacation in scenic, fragmenting Outland. You’ll come for our friendly fel orcs, but you’ll stay for our disintegrating magic-ravaged deserts!
What you aspire to be.
Hey kids! Are we ready to get out our prot warriors and level some more?
I thought you little rugrats were up for it! Come on, let’s go!
OK, now that I’ve finished channeling my bad cable access kid’s TV show host…on with the grind! We last left off SYWTBAPW at level 50. Our build was this 0/0/41 setup right here, and we’d just picked up tasty, tasty Devastate. Well, let me tell you, if you thought Devastate was good, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet. These last 10 points in the Protection tree are going to give you some new and very creative ways to dish out pain in amounts that Prot warriors could only dream of prior to patch 3.0′s release. So grab your talent pane and come along, and let’s see where these last 10 points go…
Level 51: 1/1 Warbringer. Say hello to mobility. Warbringer is one of those talents that you won’t think about after a while, but if you ever change specs, you’ll miss it so damn much. It lets you Charge, Intercept, or Intervene in any stance–and any time you use any of those three abilities, you’ll remove all movement-impairing effects. The simplest application of this talent just lets you Charge in combat (that’s mainly what I use it for). But with some macro fu which is beyond the scope of this guide, you can stagger the use of those three abilities and become a steel-covered pinball of death. And needless to say, the PvP applications of this are pretty staggering. Master the use of this, and you become a mage’s worst nightmare.
Levels 52-54: 3/3 Critical Block. This gives you a 30% chance to block double your normal amount on any successful block. It also increases the critical strike chance on Shield Slam by 15%. Remember last time how I said that Shield Slam is your big whammy? It just got a metric crapton bigger. And yes, Critical Block stacks with Shield Block when it’s up, occasionally allowing you to block obscene amounts of damage. (At level 80, raid-buffed, my record block is well above 5000.)
Levels 55-57: 3/3 Sword and Board. Free things are always good, right? Well, Sword and Board gives you free things. Most importantly, whenever you connect with a Revenge or Devastate and deal damage, you have a 30% chance of “refreshing the cooldown of Shield Slam and reducing the rage cost by 100% for 5 seconds”–in effect, giving you five seconds to get off a rage-free Shield Slam. This is a very important ability, and in fact, becomes top dog in your priority system due to the short window of use. You’ll know it procs because of the “clunk” noise and swirling band of shield icons that pop up around you.
Levels 58-59: 2/2 Damage Shield. Warrior thorns, basically. Any time you’re hit, or block, a melee attack, you reflect back 20% of your current Shield Block Value as physical damage, which the target then mitigates normally. And yes, it can crit. (The fact that Damage Shield can crit becomes important later on.) This ability only works if you’ve got a shield on, as far as I can tell…and it is affected by Shield Block, so popping Shield Block gives your Damage Shield damage a noticeable boost. It can have some interesting side effects; for example, if you get attacked by a PvP-flagged mob, even if you don’t do anything, your Damage Shield will do damage to it and thus flag you.
Level 60: 1/1 Shockwave. And here’s the Pinnacle of Prot, Shockwave. It’s a frontal cone attack with an alleged range of 10 yards; in actuality, it’s more like 7 to 8 yards because the cone starts slightly behind you. The base damage is 75% of your Attack Power, and it also stuns anything it hits for 4 seconds. This is a really handy tool, in addition to being a decent source of damage. It provides reasonable AOE threat, it can stun to buy your healers a couple of seconds to patch you up, and it’s great for positioning mobs. On a pull, just gather them all in front of you, and kapowie. It does have a 20-second cooldown, so pick your shots with it.
In terms of new spells…there are none between 50 and 60. You gain new ranks of a lot of your old friends, some of them twice during this period. But there’s nothing shiny and new until Victory Rush at level 62. Your only new active toy will be Shockwave at level 60, plus any reconfiguration you do of your bars and keybindings to take advantage of Warbringer.
The addition of Warbringer, Sword and Board, and Shockwave lays another level or two of complexity on your tanking priority system, and also gives you much more flexibility on pulling and positioning. You now don’t have to worry about changing stances if you want to Charge-pull, which is nice. A typical initial pull might go something like this: Charge one mob, immediately Thunder Clap. As you’re positioning the mobs, hit Shield Block; in addition to mitigating damage (thus reducing the healing you need, thus reducing healing agro) this will increase the amount of Damage Shield damage you’re reflecting back on the bad guys. Perform your usual dance, spreading the love around as much as you can, until 10 seconds is up and Shield Block is down…then make sure everybody’s in front of you, and Shockwave.
Why do it this way? Because you’re getting rage from being hit. When you Shockwave, you aren’t being hit. Getting beaten on for the first 10 seconds of the fight while you’ve got Shield Block up gives you more rage, puts more Damage Shield damage on the off-targets, and lets you drop two Thunder Claps for AOE agro in addition to everything else you’re doing. If Shield Block is up, and you Shockwave and stun all the targets, you’re just wasting four seconds of your precious 10-second Shield Block uptime.
Your normal tanking priority system looks like this now:
- Is Sword and Board up? This comes first due to the short uptime and high damage potential. For some gear configurations Revenge may hit slightly harder than Shield Slam, but Shield Slam has the +15% crit from Critical Block.
- Is Revenge up? Revenge is now your solid #2 move. As always, if you have a Glyph of Revenge, follow the Revenge with an immediate Heroic Strike, since it costs no rage.
- Is Thunder Clap off cooldown and I’m facing multiple targets? Use Thunder Clap to try and keep other mobs beside your current target on you, and for damage mitigation by the 20% attack speed slow.
- Is Shockwave off cooldown and I’m facing multiple targets stacked in front of me? Go for it. Just don’t do it if you need rage from taking a few hits.
- Is Shield Slam up? Give ‘em the pimp hand.
- Do I have more than 40 rage? If so, it’s time for Heroic Strike or Cleave to convert it into damage.
- None of the above? Devastate, for threat and extra physical damage.
- Debuffs: Don’t forget to drop Demoralizing Shout if you have a spare global cooldown.
- Long-cooldown attacks: If Concussion Blow is off cooldown, and you don’t need it to stun casters or runners? Heck, use it if nothing else is handy. It’s extra damage and a stun, why not?
Also, remember, you will certainly have to target-switch and spread the love among the multiple targets you’re no doubt tanking. One trick I find helpful is, when possible, to orient myself so that I have no other mobs than my tank targets in my screen view. Ye olde TAB key is notoriously weird about tabbing to a mob 20 yards away when you’ve got four nomming on your face, so only having those four mobs on the screen helps prevent that.
For instancing, the old world is your oyster by the time you hit 60. You leave behind the piles of suck that are Mauradon and Sunken Temple and head into the Blackrock instances, Stratholme, Scholomance, or Dire Maul. Strat and Scholo in particular will challenge your multi-target tanking skills and push you to improve. Not that many people head into BRD, LBRS, or UBRS anymore, but go if you get the chance. Even though they’re too damn big and too damn long, personally, I still like them just for the look. One thing I wouldn’t do is tank Outland instances until you’re about 61 and have replaced most of your gear with Outland items–then you can look into Hellfire Ramparts and Blood Furnace.
Your gearing priorities start to shift subtly in the high 50s. At 58 you head to Outland, and don’t worry about whatever you’re wearing at the time, it’ll be gone by the time you hit 61–you’ll replace everything in short order. You should start looking, in addition to strength and stamina, for pieces with some +hit and +defense on them. We’ll talk more about this in the next post in the series, which is about tank gearing for the 60-80 stretch.
Now go forth and Shockwave, my minions!
(You might want to wear a little more armor than this, no matter how studly you think you are.)
Hokai. I think I’ve given you, my faithful little tanky padawans, suitable time to get caught up to level 40 and ready to push forward through your next 10 levels of Prot warrior l33tness. By the time you get to level 50, you will (if you’re not just getting blendered) have gained a decent amount of tanking experience in instances, have long replaced all your mail armor with plate, and in general will really be beginning to unlock the power inherent in the post-Lich King Protection tree.
We’ve had some spec divergence in the last couple of SYWTBAPW posts, so in the interest of my own sanity, I’m going to use this 0/0/31 Prot spec as a baseline to work with today. Yours may be slightly different, depending on if you took Improved Disarm earlier on or tried something else, and that’s OK. There isn’t that much flexibility in the cookie-cutter 15/5/51 spec we’re heading toward, but there’s a little. But I’ll use this one spec as a baseline. OK, off we go!
Levels 41-42: 3/3 Focused Rage. We’ll go ahead and finish out Focused Rage so all our offensive abilities now cost 3 less rage. It doesn’t sound like much, but trust me, it adds up fast.
Levels 43-44: 2/2 Improved Defensive Stance. This is another subtle little talent that is totally passive, but a big help. Not only does it cut your spell damage taken by 6%, whenever you block, parry, or dodge an attack, you pick up an Enrage effect that boosts your damage by 10% for 12 seconds. At later levels in particular, with good gear, the Enrage effect is almost constant.
Level 45: 1/1 Vigilance. I’m assuming that you are doing a bit of tanking and not just questing or getting blendered through your 40s. If you are tanking or running with a friend quite a bit, then it’s time to go ahead and get Vigilance. If you are mostly grinding solo, then you won’t see any immediate help from this ability. When you put it on a party member, it reduces their damage taken by 3%; more importantly, it does two things that help your tanking. It takes 10% of their threat away from them and transfers it to you, and also, if they do somehow manage to get hit, your Taunt cooldown is instantly refreshed. If you have DPS in your party that is pushing you on threat, put this on them; you’ll bogart some of their threat to help you stay ahead, and if they do still manage to get agro, your Taunt will instantly be available to save them. Y’know, unless you want to see them die, which is occasionally very tempting.
Levels 46-48: 3/3 Vitality. +6% strength, +6% stamina, and 6 free expertise. Yum yum.
Level 49: 5/5 Toughness. We’re finally filling this out to get maximum armor value from our items.
Level 50: 1/1 Devastate. You can now remove Sunder Armor from your bars, because this replaces it. Think of it as Sunder with benefits; it Sunders, and it does half your normal weapon damage, plus an extra amount for each stack of the Sunder effect on the target. It’s not as important as it used to be pre-3.0 when it was our best spammable, always-there threat move; with the changes to the class, and its relatively inefficient rage-to-damage ratio, it’s now pretty much the “if nothing else is off cooldown” move. But, you do still keep using it. The armor reduction helps you and your melee friends, and in a few levels, this skill becomes even more important because of its synergy with Sword and Board.
We’ve now got a build that looks like this, 0/0/41. There’s some wiggle room in there, for example, taking two points out of Toughness and moving it into Improved Disarm, or possibly swapping the point in Vigilance for, say, another point of Shield Specialization or one in Puncture. If you’re doing much tanking, though, I’d take Vigilance instead. It’s pretty handy.
Believe it or not, between levels 41 and 50, you only get one new skill. It’s at level 50, and it’s called Recklessness. This is a Berserker Stance-only skill on a 5-minute cooldown; when hit, your next three special attacks within 12 seconds have +100% to crit (basically, guaranteed if they don’t miss), but you take +20% damage for that time period. You won’t use it all that much, but on those (rare) occasions where you’re DPSing and not getting hit, it can give you a nice boost, especially near the end of a fight where you’d be getting into spamming Executes.
At level 50 you also get a second minor glyph. There really aren’t all that many good warrior minor glyphs; I tend to prefer the Glyph of Battle because you’ll still be using Battle Shout a lot unless you have a paladin for a Siamese twin, the Glyph of Thunder Clap to give you two yards extra range on those, or the Glyph of Bloodrage so your Bloodrage ability gives you 20 free rage a minute without damaging your health.
Your tanking rotation doesn’t change much from level 40, when you got Shield Slam. You just slot Devastate in there in place of Sunder Armor, and you’re good to go. You should see a decent damage bump when you do get Devastate at level 50, but other than that, you’re fairly steady through your 40s.
Tanking in the 40s can be a pain. In my clanky opinion, there’s only one non-terrible instance for that level range, and that’s Zul’farrak. Zul’farrak has some fun fights, and will keep a level-appropriate group on its toes in terms of crowd control and pulling (it’s a good instance for learning things like line-of-sight pulling and how not to get multiple groups). Uldaman is at the low end of the 40s, and it’s confusing and has way too much outside-the-instance non-elite trash to slog through. Mauradon is a giant festering piece of suck; a few strange people like it, but to me it’s just too big, too convoluted, and ugly, not to mention it’s in one of the ugliest zones in the game, Desolace. At the high end of the 40s is Sunken Temple, although I wouldn’t go in there until the low 50s. Again, Sunken Temple shows a lot of things wrong with “vanilla WoW” instance design, namely being very large, hard to find your way around in, and absolutely jam-packed with trash. IMO, however, it’s a distinct improvement over Mauradon–at least Sunken Temple looks cool to wander around lost in.
Next up, we’ll talk about levels 51 through 60, and the last 10 points you’ll spend in the Prot tree–the tasty, creamy, luscious dessert after the hearty meat-and-potatoes dinner of the last 40 levels.
ALL RIGHT, MAGGOTS, FALL IN! WHAT? YOU NEED SLEEP? YOU CAN SLEEP WHEN YOU’RE WAITING FOR A REZ, SLIMEBALL!
Let’s talk about your next 10 levels as a Prot warrior. If you’ve been following along with SYWTBAPW up till now, you’re level 30, have all three of your stances, and are running around with one of two different 0/0/21 specs. Where we proceed from here is pretty much the same whether or not you’ve got the 2/5 Toughness or 2/5 Improved Disarm build, so let’s get to leveling!
Levels 31-32: 2/2 Gag Order. It’s a silly name for a very useful talent. Gag Order is a talent that doesn’t really come into its own until past level 40. Right now, it has one nice feature; whenever you Shield Bash a spellcasting target, in addition to interrupting and dazing it, you’ll silence it for 3 seconds. Very handy on those pesky spellcasters. Once you get this, you’ll start dragging the two-hand weapons out of your pack less and less.
Levels 33-34: 4/5 Toughness (or 2/5 Toughness if you took Improved Disarm). We’re just filling in points here to get to the next tier of talents.
Levels 35-39: 5/5 One-Handed Weapon Specialization. The late 30s and early 40s are when the two-handed weapons finally get put in the bank and you become a true sword-and-board devotee. This talent, once maxed, gives you +10% to all damage you deal with one-handed weapons, including if you’re dual wielding. But by level 40, you’ll keep a shield in your left hand instead of another weapon.
Level 40: 1/3 Focused Rage. By now you may have noticed that rage can occasionally be hard to come by. Focused Rage helps that by reducing the rage cost of all your offensive abilities by one point per point spent.
You may be asking, “OK, why didn’t we put any points in Puncture or Vigilance?” Good question. Puncture only reduces the rage cost of a single ability at this level–Sunder Armor. (You won’t have Devastate until level 50.) It’s an inefficient use of points, even though Sunder is your main spammable threat generator. As for Vigilance, it’s a controversial talent. A lot of endgame/raiding builds don’t even take it. I have it on Linedan’s Prot build, and think it’s worth the point…at endgame. For now, I think the point’s better spent in Focused Rage. Remember, this is a leveling build, we’ll tweak it later.
Most of the new abilities you get in the 30s have to do with Berserker Stance. You won’t use them all that much, but they may come in handy if you’re grouped with friends and, for some reason, find yourself not doing the tanking but doing DPS instead. You’re smart, you can figure out when it’s appropriate to use these! And then, at level 40, the skies open, shafts of light come down, and Chuck Norris descends from On High, Mankrik’s wife by his side, to give you the talent that truly sends you on your way to Prot fearsomeness…
Berserker Rage (level 32): aka, “HULK SMASH.” Hit this (Berserker Stance only) and for 10 seconds you are immune to Fear, Sap, and Incapacitate effects; plus, you get extra rage when you take damage. I still use this on fights where I am not tanking and attempting to do “l33t prot deeps” (cough); with so many raid encounters pumping a lot of damage around an entire raid, getting more rage out of that splash damage lets me do more damage in return.
Whirlwind (level 36): Another Berserker Stance-only gem, when you hit this, you hit up to four targets in melee range with your weapon (both, if you’re dual-wielding). Sadly, Whirlwind does not count your shield as a weapon. Even against multiple targets, with a single one-hander, this is very inefficient.
Pummel (level 38): And yet another Berserker Stance restricted ability. This is a spell interrupt; not only does it stop casting, it locks out that casting school for 4 seconds. Unfortunately, Pummel and Shield Bash are on linked cooldowns, so you can’t Shield Bash, then stance-switch for a second interrupt.
Plate (level 40): Not really a spell or ability, but you suddenly gain the ability to figure out how to wear plate armor. It was all alien to you before, but then your trainer showed you how. Miraculous!
Shield Slam (level 40): This is it, baby. It’s clobberin’ time. Shield Slam was originally the Prot 31-point talent, but for patch 3.0, it was replaced by Vigilance and given to all warriors at level 40, to increase off-spec tanking viability. They can use it, but we raise it to an art form. This is your “nuke,” as it were; it hits hard, it removes a magic effect from the target, it causes high bonus threat, and it makes a really cool “CLANK” sound. What’s not to like?
Shield Slam damage, unlike most other offensive talents, does not scale directly from Attack Power. It scales with your Shield Block Value; the “block” number on your shield, modified by your strength (2 strength = 1 SBV). Your 2 points in Shield Mastery give you an automatic +20% SBV, and your 2 points in Gag Order give you +10% net damage on Shield Slam. And yes, when you hit Shield Block to double your block value for 10 seconds, your Shield Slam damage will skyrocket. This is not just a threat move. Shield Slam will, if you’re doing things right, consistently be your #1 damage-dealt move over time.
Getting Shield Slam changes your tanking priority system. You remember it, right? Revenge if it’s up, Thunder Clap if you need it, Heroic Strike if you’ve got the rage, Sunder Armor otherwise, lather, rinse, repeat next cooldown? Well, here’s what it looks like at level 40:
- Is Revenge up? Use it first, even before Shield Slam. Why? Because it goes away after 5 seconds. Your window of opportunity is small, so you have to take advantage of it. Remember, if you have a Glyph of Revenge, follow the Revenge with an immediate Heroic Strike, since it costs no rage.
- Is Thunder Clap off cooldown and I’m facing multiple targets? Use Thunder Clap to try and keep other mobs beside your current target on you.
- Is Shield Slam up? Use it. It hits hard and gives you excellent threat.
- Do I have more than 40 rage? If so, it’s time for Heroic Strike or Cleave to convert it into damage.
- None of the above? Sunder Armor, for threat and extra physical damage.
- Debuffs: Don’t forget to drop Demoralizing Shout if you have a spare global cooldown.
Shield Slam changes the way that you pull, too. Shield Slam should always be your opening move on a single-mob or boss pull, assuming you have the rage. A Charge + Shield Slam combo, with one white attack in there, should give you a solid threat lead on the target. For multiple mobs, you’ll probably still open with Charge, then Thunder Clap; but Shield Slamming the kill target as soon as possible is very much advised.
If it sounds like I’m making a big deal out of Shield Slam, I am, and you’ll see why when you start to play with it. In mostly epic-level Naxx gear and raid buffs, Lin’s dropped 7200-point SS crits on Naxx trash (with Shield Block up). You’ve probably been feeling a bit underwhelmed in the DPS department through the mid- to late-30s, but Shield Slam will give you an immediate damage boost. Combine that with new ranks of Cleave and Heroic Strike at level 40, and you may well feel very invigorated about your Prot warrior.
As always, take opportunities to practice those tank skills. There’s not always a lot of call for tanks at these levels, as folks tend to push through them quickly and prefer to be blendered through instances instead, but if you do get a chance to tank for a group, take it. Shield Slam changes the rotation you’ve probably gotten used to so it’ll take some time to work it in and get comfortable with it. The problem is, most of the instances at this level range suck. Scarlet Monastery is the one good one; your other choices are Uldaman and Gnomeregan, and going to one of those is like being asked “which would you prefer, a one-way ticket to Kabul or Pyongyang?” Learn to love Scarlet Monastery.
Finally, a note on gearing. At level 40, you can wear plate. Save up some money for the occasion and start prowling the AH. Do not switch a mail piece to plate if the plate piece has inferior stats; be intelligent about what you’re looking for. The higher armor from plate is nice, but if you’re 41 or 42 and still have some mail on, that’s OK if it’s good mail. Strength and stamina are still important, but at this level you’ll start to see a very few pieces of gear with other stats on it. You’re not worried much about crit rating. Hit rating, on the other hand, is good even in the 40s, so if it doesn’t cripple your strength and stamina too much, by all means, grab it.
One point to remember: +strength is superior to +attack power. Why? Because +AP just increases attack power. +Strength increases attack power, and shield block value (for Shield Slam damage), and parry percentage. It’s more bang for your gold.
Also, you’ll be able to start using better enchants with items over level 35. If you’ve got the gold to do it, by all means, enchant what you can, although I wouldn’t spend a massive amount on it considering how fast you’ll replace some gear. Weapons are good candidates since you tend to hang onto those a little longer. Fiery Weapon is a good and reasonably available enchant, but if you’ve got the gold and are willing to go all the way, Crusader is probably the best for you under level 60.
Next post covers levels 41-50. You can run any instance you like between 41 and 50, except they all suck! I’M LOOKING AT YOU, MAURADON!
OK, recruits. Back on the leveling train! Let’s pick up the next 10 levels, from 21 to 30, as we work our way down the road toward 0/0/51 tanky goodness at level 60.
The 20s are great levels for getting more tanking practice. For Alliance, that means Deadmines, possibly Blackfathom Deeps or Shadowfang Keep if you’re willing to run a bit, and at the high end, the Stormwind Stockades. For Horde, it’s Wailing Caverns (ugh), Blackfathom, and Shadowfang, and Razorfen Kraul when you’re pushing 30. Finding groups to run instances at these levels might be hard–it depends on the age and population of your server. But keep trying. You may have to run with the dreaded “pug”–a pick-up group put together via the Looking For Group tool or just via a zone general channel. Do it anyway. Pugging can be a horrid experience sometimes, but tempering yourself in the fire of healers that get distracted by shiny objects and DPS that can’t follow a kill order will, if it doesn’t kill you, make you stronger. And, hey, if you get a good group, put them on your friends list!
You’re going to have a few more options for talent point distribution at this point. Again, this is how I’d do it, your mileage may vary:
Levels 21-22: 2/2 Shield Mastery. This is a no-brainer. Two points here give you 20% more shield block value (extra mitigation, and extra damage later on) and a 40-second cooldown on your Shield Block.
Levels 23-24: 2/2 Improved Revenge. You’ve probably figured out by now, if you’ve done some tanking, that Revenge is a heck of a lot of bang for your buck. This makes it better by not only boosting the damage by 20%, but giving it a 50% chance to stun the target. After you get this, you may find it easier to start doing your normal farming and questing in Defensive Stance, even with the 10% damage penalty.
Levels 25-27: 5/5 Anticipation. We’d already put two points in this a while back, now we’re just filling it out. 3% more Dodge means 3% fewer hits–and 3% more chance to proc Revenge.
Levels 28-29: 2/5 Toughness. We’re building this up for later; it’ll come into its own more when you reach level 40 and can equip plate and your armor value increases considerably. Right now, the main bonus is -12% duration to movement-slowing effects. Alternately, if you’d like, you can take 2/2 Improved Disarm. If you grind a lot in Defensive Stance and can remember to use the ability, this makes your Disarm cause the target to take extra damage, and reduces the cooldown to 40 seconds. It might prove useful while leveling, although somewhere between level 40 and level 60, I’d recommend respeccing out of it and swapping these two points over into Toughness.
Level 30: 1/1 Concussion Blow. Oh, we do love our stuns, yes we do. The original version of this ability did no damage, it just stunned the target. Now, it hits for (0.75 x AP) damage in addition to the 5-second stun, so it’s very handy for DPS rotation even if you get a target that’s immune to stuns. Remember, however, that this stun shares a diminishing-returns timer with many others–second and consecutive stuns on the same target halve their duration, until the target is immune after three or four. (Charge stun will not be on the same DR timer come 3.1; Improved Revenge’s may not be on the same one now, I’ve never tested it and I’ve seen some people swear it is, and others swear it isn’t.) Obviously there’s a world of uses for this nasty little bonk on the noggin. It’s a great second spell interrupt when Shield Slam is on cooldown, it’s fun in PvP, it’s great for stopping runners.
As for your new abilities, you don’t get quite as many as you got between levels 10 and 20, but those you do get are (mostly) useful:
Intimidating Shout (level 22): Will cause up to 5 enemies within 8 yards to flee or cower in fear for up to 8 seconds. It’s one of your few possible ways to get out of a bad situation. Be VERY careful using this in instances, for obvious reasons–fearing a mob into two more patrolling groups is baaad, mmkay? Obviously, you can’t do this if you’re silenced.
Execute (level 24): FINISH THEM! When you Execute, you dump all your rage into an attack; if it hits, you do a pretty good-sized chunk of damage. You can only do this on a target under 20% health, and only in Battle Stance (and Berserker Stance past level 30). You must have at least 15 rage before Execute is available for use. This is not something you’ll generally do when tanking, since you’ll be in Defensive Stance, but if for some reason you find yourself DPSing an instance, or just out in the world trying to beat an elite, this can quickly end a fight. One point about Execute–the damage of your weapon doesn’t factor in to how hard it hits, only how much rage you’re carrying and how much AP you have.
Challenging Shout (level 26): Here’s another “oh shit” tanking button. When you hit this, all tauntable mobs within 10 yards will suddenly find you totally irresistable and be compelled to nom your face for 6 seconds. Then they’ll go back to whoever they were previously nomming. This is your emergency button when that four-pull in Stockades has totally gone to hell. Three-minute cooldown, so use it wisely, and hope you can generate a lot of threat in those six seconds.
Shield Wall (level 28): This ability will reduce all damage taken by 60% for 12 seconds. I think the only damage it doesn’t work on might be falling and drowning damage, and I’m not even sure about those. But it does work on all other types of physical and spell damage. With a 5-minute cooldown, it’s not something you do every fight, but you’ll generally have it handy when you need it. And you’ll need it. Trust me on this.
Berserker Stance (level 30): At level 30 your warrior trainer will give you a quest and send you to an island off the coast of the Barrens, near Ratchet. There you will have to fight a gauntlet of several challengers. When you win, you’ll gain Berserker Stance. This isn’t something you’ll be using all that often as a Prot warrior, but it’s there if you need it. Berserker Stance gives you +3% crit chance at the expense of +10% damage taken (possibly down to +5% in 3.1) and opens up some new abilities to you, such as…
Intercept (level 30): It’s sort of like Charge, except it can only be used in Berserker Stance, and it costs rage instead of giving it. But, unlike Charge, Intercept does damage, and the stun is more substantial–most importantly, it’s on a separate timer. You can thus quickly switch to Berserker Stance (keeping 10 rage), Intercept (burning all the rage), and then switch back to Battle or Defensive to allow you to, basically, “charge” while in combat.
Slam (level 30): No, you’re not reading it wrong–this is a warrior attack with a channeled cast time of 1.5 seconds. At the end of that, you hit somebody a little harder. I don’t ever remember doing this as a Prot warrior. Arms warriors do this all the time, but they take a talent to cut the cast time down to 0.5 seconds. Previous to 3.0, Slam reset your swing timer; now it pauses it, picking it back up from where it left off after the Slam finishes casting.
At level 30, you’ll gain a second major glyph slot. The post on basic gearing has some good glyph suggestions near the bottom, and to those, I’ll add two other potential major glyphs:
- Glyph of Cleaving: Your Cleave will hit three targets in front of you, instead of two. Not something I’d pick as a top priority, but if it’s all you can find, this’ll help you with multi-target threat in instances.
- Glyph of Last Stand: Your Last Stand cooldown is reduced by 3 minutes (to 2 minutes) but the amount of bonus health is reduced to 20% (from 30%). I wouldn’t bother with this one. If you’re having to hit Last Stand every 2 minutes, you’ve got other problems that need to be looked at.
Your basic tanking rotation doesn’t change much during your 20s. You get new levels of your old friends Heroic Strike, Revenge, Cleave, Thunder Clap, etc., and you’ll still be using them. With Improved Revenge and your increase in avoidance and mitigation from filling out Anticipation and Shield Mastery, you’ll probably start to feel a good bit more…well…tanky. Work on grinding in Defensive Stance using your instance-tanking abilities.
Gear-wise, more of the same…strength and stamina. One thing for Horde warriors to note–in your high 20s you can go to northern Thousand Needles and visit Dorn Plainstalker, in a cave along the north wall of the zone northeast of Freewind Post. The quest Test of Faith starts a long questline that takes you through Thousand Needles, Stonetalon, Ashenvale, and eventually to Scarlet Monastery, and the result is the Windstorm Hammer, a very nice one-handed mace. If you can get somebody higher-level to blender you through the SM run–you only have to hit the library–you can get this puppy at level 29, and it will serve you for several levels afterward.
Coming soon, we talk about levels 31-40, in which you will probably get to kill about eleventy-one squillion Scarlets and anything else that gets in your way, and visit new and exciting places where everything wants to eat your face! Yum! Tasty tank face!
By now, if you’re following along at home with our little guide, you’re level 20. You’re ready to tank! It’s time to strap on a shield and go hit the Deadmines or Wailing Caverns or Ragefire Chasm and get beaten to a bloody pulp repeatedly! Yay pulp!
But before you go, let’s talk a little bit about how to tank. Going in to your first tanking experience with a little bit of background on what to do and when to do it will give you a leg up over those of us who had to walk into an instance with four drooling idiots we didn’t know behind us and no clue what we were doing.
If you’ve played WoW for any length of time, you probably know how threat and agro basically work; if you raid, you’ve probably run a threat meter like Omen and actually seen it work graphically. I’ll quickly hit the very basics anyway, because as a tank, you are required to not just know all this stuff, but have it be second nature to you.
Every attack, some special abilities, and most heals, generate threat. A mob will generally attack whoever has the highest threat (special abilities excepted); this is called agro. As the tank, it is your job to maintain agro on every single mob that’s awake and aware, at all times…or at least to try. Certain abilities can be used to decrease a player’s threat; a priest can Fade, a mage can Ice Block, a rogue can Feint, a druid can Cower, a DPS warrior can die, etc. The listing of each party member’s threat is called the agro table. You want to be at the top of the agro table, always.
One interesting thing about threat and agro is that if somebody exceeds your threat, they may not pull agro immediately. There’s a 10% buffer for melee range and a 30% buffer for outside melee range. So a rogue or DPS warrior would have to have 110% of your threat, or a mage or hunter 130% of your threat, in order for them to make #1 on the agro table and attract a mob’s attention. The problem is, when they do pull agro, now you need 110% of their threat in order to get it back. This 10%/30% buffer is why playing “agro pong” is so frustrating for warriors; it gets harder and harder for us to pull agro back on a non-Tauntable mob when the rest of the party are passing it back and forth like a bong at a frat party. Plus, when tanking, we develop a significant portion of our rage from being hit; if we’re not getting hit, we’re not getting enough rage to generate enough threat to pull something away from someone else.
As warriors, we solve this with Taunt. Taunt is what we use when somebody else pulls agro. When you hit Taunt, you are immediately placed back to the top of the agro list and given 1 point more threat than whoever was the current lead. That’s it. That’s all it does. It does not force the mob to attack you in any other way. If whoever pulled agro continues to out-threat you, they’ll pass that 10% buffer and get the mob back in their face. Also, Taunt is an attack, and it can miss like any other attack…and as you no doubt know, there are many instance and raid mobs that cannot be Taunted.
For failed Taunts, there’s Mocking Blow; now that does force the mob to attack you for 6 seconds, but it doesn’t move you back up the agro list. So you’ll need to really pump out some threat, and/or get the rest of your party to back off, so you can be back on top of the list when the Mocking Blow expires. Unfortunately, most Taunt-immune mobs are also Mocking Blow-immune, too.
So at this point you might be wondering, “what’s my tanking rotation?” Lots of classes have fixed rotations of attacks that they use (I’m looking at you, death knights). Prot warriors don’t. We used to, but 3.0 changed that. Now we use what you might call a “priority system,” or, if you’re a programming geek like me, a “case structure.” It’s pretty simple at the low levels, but gets a lot more complex once you’re fully invested in the Prot tree at level 60+.
Your low-level tanking priority system will look something like this, for every single global cooldown:
- Is Revenge up? If so, use it on the next global cooldown. It’s your most efficient ability in terms of both threat-per-rage and damage-per-rage. If you have a Glyph of Revenge, immediately follow the Revenge up with a Heroic Strike, which will be rage-free due to the glyph.
- Is Thunder Clap off cooldown? Use it on the next global cooldown, even on a single mob. It does damage, generates threat, and reduces the damage you are taking–that’s three great tastes that taste great together.
- Do I have more than about 40 rage? If so, hit Heroic Strike (for one mob) or Cleave (for 2+ mobs). It hits harder and (for HS) generates bonus threat. Don’t do this if you’re in a low-rage situation, you’ll starve yourself of the rage you need to perform other moves.
- If none of the above apply, and you’ve got the rage to do it, Sunder Armor on your current target. It reduces their armor so they take more physical damage, and generates threat.
This is the flow you have to work through every second and a half after your pull. Think it’s a bit harder than a good tank makes it look? Now imagine you’ve got four mobs to try and keep on you.
See, warriors are not hugely awesome AOE tanks. We can do it well enough, but not as well as a paladin or DK. Thunder Clap can only be used every 6 seconds. That’s an eternity in tanking. Cleave will hit two mobs in front of you, but what about #3 and #4? The answer is target-switching. You’ll be doing a lot of it. Drop a couple Sunders on mob #1, maybe a Cleave, then tab over to mob #2 and Sunder them a couple times. Then tab over to #3, Sunder x2, then tab over to #4, Sunder x2, and so on. All the while, you’ll be working through that rotation every GCD–Revenge, Thunder Clap, Heroic Strike or Cleave.
Making multi-mob tanking as a warrior work requires three things. It requires you have good situational awareness–basically, keeping a list in your head of how much love you’ve given each mob and when is a good time to switch targets. It requires that your tanking abilities be mapped to keys that you can hit quickly and accurately. And most importantly, it requires a party that works with you.
Mark a kill order–skull, X, square, circle–and make it very clear to your group that they are to stick to it. This way, you can give the majority of your single-target agro generation to the current kill target and use your limited AOE capability (Thunder Clap, Cleave, and/or the secondary Sunder effect of a Glyph of Sunder Armor) to hold the other mobs on you over top of healing agro. If you’re unsure of your tanking ability, ask your group to limit their use of AOE and focus on single-target damage following the kill order. If they won’t do it–they won’t follow the kill order, they AOE too much, they won’t back off when you ask them to–let them die. Healers always get taunt priority over DPS. Always.
This means that you, as the tank, should also be the one doing the pulling. You’ll need to gain experience doing it anyway, and if you pull, you will have at least some initial agro on all the mobs and be able to position them properly–assuming your DPS doesn’t go nuts too fast. There’s a couple different options for a pull. You can be in Battle Stance, Charge in to gain rage, hit Thunder Clap, then immediately jump to Defensive Stance. Or you can stay in Defensive Stance, hit Bloodrage, and pull using a ranged weapon, or even just your face (by running in). I always preferred to Charge-pull whenever possible, but sometimes, you’ll need to bring a group back from where they’re standing. So make sure you have some sort of ranged weapon always ready to use.
When things go wrong, and they will, that’s when your tank fu will truly be challenged. Zoom your camera way back out and try to position it so you can see when something leaves you and heads toward another party member. Have “target of target” turned on in your UI so you can tab over the mobs and see who they’re interested in killing. Remind your party members that if they pull agro, they are to run toward the tank, not away from you. If they bring the mob back to you, you can switch targets and Taunt it, or catch it in a Thunder Clap to get it back. If your Taunt fails, be ready with a Mocking Blow.
As for some of your other abilities…Shield Block is useful for when you’re getting pounded hard, to reduce your incoming damage. It’s particularly useful several seconds into the start of a pull, after your first few attacks; by then you should have plenty of rage built up, so the rage you’ll lose from the lessened incoming damage won’t be as big a deal. Of course, use Shield Bash to interrupt casters, and Shield Bash or Hamstring to slow down runners. Last Stand is your “oh shit” button that can be the difference between a wipe and a great save if the healer is down or indisposed. Disarm big mobs to reduce their damage a bit, and use Demoralizing Shout if you can to reduce the amount of damage you take by cutting the enemies’ attack power.
Other than that, here’s my best advice to you: practice. I have always found tanking to be largely reflex. I actually can’t articulate some of the stuff I do when I tank…I just do it. It’s hard to explain. After a while, you’ll start to pick up on what you need to do from experience, both good and bad. Get out there and tank anything you can. Harass your friends to go places with you. Practice tanking rotations on just regular mobs out in the world when questing. Get a healer friend, pair up, and go pull entire camps of mobs and practice holding agro on them. Just get out there and do it…it’s the only way to decide if the Way of the Meatshield is truly for you or not.
Next, levels 21-30!
After the last two posts in this series have unloaded a waterfall of information on you, you might be a little dazed, like you just took a Shield Bash upside the head, complete with the little stars circling and everything. That’s OK. Warriors get a lot of toys to play with as they level, like other classes, and figuring out which toys are ultra-cool like Transformers and which are worthless like My Little Ponies takes time. (Don’t go hatin’ just because I dissed My Little Ponies, yo. I’m a guy.)
Before we move on past level 20, let’s start talking about your gear. Make no mistake about it–warriors are the most gear-bound class in the entire game. We scale better with good gear than anybody, and bad gear hurts us worse than anybody. It’s not much of an exaggeration to say “we are what we wear.” I’ve leveled one warrior, two hunters (one marks, one BM), one feral druid, one enhancement shaman, and one death knight to 67 or higher. Only the enhancement shaman seems to have anywhere near the gear-scaling issues that Linedan did. The hunters, the druid, and especially the DK could run around in any old mish-mash of greens and still get the job done. Yeah, they kick more ass with blues and purples, but I didn’t have to constantly obsess with upping their inventory every few levels. I could just snag upgrades as I got drops or quest rewards, with only the occasional trip to the AH to fill in a gap. Not so for Linedan.
I can’t emphasize this enough, because take it from me and my hard personal experience, leveling an undergeared warrior, Protection or otherwise, sucks. Dying a lot isn’t much fun, and warriors have very few ways to get out of a fight anyhow. If you want to have fun leveling your Prot warrior into an impregnable fortress of spiky doom, it’ll be to your advantage to use every option at your disposal to make your gear as good as possible at each level.
Now this doesn’t mean you have to be like the bracket-campers in PvP, the level 19s that run around with every slot a blue and hundreds of gold worth of enchants. It just means that you’ll probably replace your stuff more often as a warrior than you do as other classes.
Let’s talk about what you need to look for in gear upgrades as a Prot warrior during your first 30 or 40 levels. In the early levels, your priorities for gear are very simple: strength and stamina. That’s it. Strength directly increases your chance to Parry, but more importantly it also increases your attack power and shield block value. For a warrior, 1 strength = 2 attack power and 2 strength = 1 shield block value. Attack power did not used to be hugely important for Prot warriors, but 3.0 turned that completely on its head. We do so much more damage now than we did before, and generate so much of our threat from that damage, that the ability to pump out pain is now vitally important even when tanking. Stamina, of course, increases health. You’re the guy taking hits, so you need all the health you can get.
At this point in your career, other stat boosts are pretty much secondary. Agility boosts your crit percentage and contributes a tiny bit toward Dodge, but don’t sacrifice strength or stamina for it. If you do find some mail gear or a weapon that boosts your defense rating, expertise, crit rating, or hit rating, feel free to grab it. But again, think strength and stamina first. Later on, these “non-stat” ratings will become vitally important, but for now, not quite so much. Don’t worry too much about the armor of an item, that’ll go up as you get better gear. I would definitely stick with mail only up to level 40, though, because nobody is going to take a Prot warrior in leather seriously. You’re not a druid. Don’t dress like one.
The principle is simply this: Get the best gear you can afford. When you have to go back to a capital city to train every two levels, swing by the Auction House and do some window shopping. See what’s available. If you can find some “of the Bear” greens (+str/+sta), snap those up. You can also look for “of the Tiger” (+agi/+str) or “of the Monkey” (+agi/+sta) greens if you can’t find any “of the Bear.” Obviously blues are better, but they’re also much pricier. Fill all your slots! Get a helm and shoulders as soon as you can, typically around level 14-16. Grab different weapon types so you can keep those skills leveled up; for weapons, look at the damage per second on the tooltip and grab the hardest hitter you can find. And never neglect your shield!
Talk to friends that are crafters, or maybe you have another character that’s a crafter. At low levels, blacksmiths handle all the mail armor duties, so see what armor and weapons your friendly neighborhood metal-banger can make for your baby warrior. In general you’ll be able to get better drops from instances than what smiths can craft for you, but crafted items can be useful for plugging holes in your gearset. With the advent of jewelcrafting, you can now get some very handy rings and neckpieces even at low levels, so take advantage. Again, use all those slots on your character screen, empty slots are just wasted space. As for enchants…I never really bothered using them on gear that I would just dump in a few levels, but if you’re rich or have an alt or friend that can enchant and don’t mind doing it, by all means, go for it. You guessed it…strength and stamina uber alles.
And instance, instance, instance! You need the tanking practice anyway! These are where the best drops for you are going to be found, not to mention some of the instance-related quest rewards are very good for their level. A prime Hordeside example is the Wingblade, which comes from the Horde Wailing Caverns quest Leaders of the Fang. That sword will hold you for several levels through your low to mid 20s. After all, the main reason to level a Prot warrior in the first place is to tank, so you should take as many opportunities to do it as you can. Plus, the experience from instancing now is much better than it used to be, so it’ll help you level faster.
(One more thing–if you’ve got a level 80 character who raids, there’s always Emblems of Heroism and bind-to-account gear. Polished Spaulders of Valor or a Venerable Dal’Rend’s Sacred Charge will relieve you of having to worry about what goes in that slot, and give a +10% xp boost to boot.)
Finally, glyphs. At level 15 you can equip one major and one minor glyph, and you should go make friends with an inscriber or snag some off the AH pronto. There’s no one hard-and-fast best choice at this level, my recommendations (in no particular order) are:
- Glyph of Resonating Power (Major): Reduces the rage cost of your Thunder Clap by 5. Great for tanking instances, because TC is a vital move for holding packs of mobs on you.
- Glyph of Revenge (Major): Makes your next Heroic Strike within 10 seconds of using Revenge cost zero rage. If you are planning to grind and quest/farm in Defensive Stance or do a lot of instancing, this is a very good choice.
- Glyph of Sunder Armor (Major): Your Sunder Armor ability affects a second target, like a Cleave. This is another one that can be very useful for tanking instances, less so for normal day-to-day questing.
- Glyph of Battle (Minor): Increases the duration of your Battle Shout by 1 minute. If nothing else, it’s useful for reducing the pain-in-the-ass factor of remembering to reapply Battle Shout.
- Glyph of Thunder Clap (Minor): Increases the range of your Thunder Clap by two yards. This makes positioning a little easier on multi-mob pulls. Pair it with Resonating Power and you’re a Thunder Clapping mosheen, baby, awwww yeeeeah.
Notice I didn’t give you many specifics on items? That’s because I shouldn’t have to! Gearing a warrior for the first 40 levels or so isn’t really rocket science. Strength and stamina are your most important stats, then agility and all the other various defensive and offensive ratings. Spirit and intellect, obviously, don’t matter. If your character was smart, she wouldn’t be getting conked on the head for a living, would she? Just get the best stuff that you can afford, and continually upgrade as you go. Don’t think of it as an expense, think of it as an investment.
Next time, we’ll talk about Tanking 101. It’s never too early to start learning how!
(I know, I know, I said in my last post that this one would be about levels 10-30, not 10-20. But you really don’t want to read a 3000-word wall of text, trust me. The only way I can keep these even close to reasonably sized is to go 10 levels at a time. I’m a verbose Panzercow, what can I say?)
At the completion of your Defensive Stance quest at level 10, you gain a “stance bar” on your UI. Stances for warriors work similarly to animal forms for druids, and use the same default keys; they also switch the default button bar #1 on your UI, so you have to set your Battle and Defensive Stance keys up separately. Map your stance bar icons to keys that you remember and can reach; Prot warriors don’t stance-dance as much as DPS warriors do, but it’s still best to keep the ability very handy. For now, you’ll primarily be remaining in Battle Stance, the default, but you’ll do your tanking in Defensive Stance.
For your next 10 levels, things will start to get more complicated with the introduction of your talents. (Before I go through the talents, here’s the disclaimers: I leveled Linedan four years ago, back when trilobites were advanced lifeforms. I have not yet leveled a warrior 1-70 through this brave new world we call “3.0″. These are, therefore, my best suggestions and guesses based on my knowledge of the class. No warranty express or implied, your mileage may vary, void in New Jersey and where prohibited without the express written consent of Major League Baseball, blah blah blah.)
Also, where we’re leading on this journey is ultimately to a 15/5/51 Prot build similar to Linedan’s. We will take all fifty-one points in Prot first. Suggest this a year ago and you would have been laughed off your server. Now? It’s possible, and we’re going to try it. Hardcore Prot, baby. Mooyah. (I’ll talk about some alternatives much later down the road.)
So as you head out into the big wide world, to that special level of Hell known as The Barrens or Westfall, here’s my suggestions for your first 11 talent points:
Levels 10-12: 3/3 Improved Thunder Clap. Three points in ITC will hugely increase the effectiveness of your Thunder Clap; the rage cost is reduced by four points, the damage is increased by 30%, and the slowing effect doubles to -20% attack speed. That’s a pretty fair chunk of incoming damage mitigated and outgoing damage increased.
Levels 13-14: 2/5 Shield Specialization. +2% chance to block, and a 40% chance of generating 2 rage when you do block. Not bad. We have to put the points somewhere to get to the next tier of talents, this’ll do nicely.
Levels 15-17: 3/3 Incite. How does a flat +15% crit chance to your Heroic Strike, Thunder Clap, and Cleave sound? I thought so. Incite’s also why good rage management to maximize your use of those three attacks is so important; by level 17, your mere 7% crit on white attacks becomes a pretty nice 22% on your Heroic Strike, Thunder Clap and Cleave.
Levels 18-19: 2/5 Anticipation: +2% chance to dodge. We’ll come back and fill this in later, but for now, this gets you more avoidance.
Level 20: 1/1 Last Stand. Welcome to your first big “oh shit” button. Last Stand will give you 30% extra health for 20 seconds. At the end of that 20 seconds, the health goes away. If you’re below that amount of health, you’ll have 1 health left. Basically, once you hit this, you have 20 seconds to either kill what’s in front of you, or run away. Being a Prot warrior, you will, of course, kill it instead of running away. Right?
Now for your level 10-20 skills, and there are a metric crapton:
Sunder Armor (level 10): This is a tanking staple. It does no damage, but it reduces the armor on your target so it takes more physical damage, and it also causes a pretty good chunk of bonus threat. Sunder Armor is not restricted to Defensive Stance, but that’s where it’s most often used during tanking. You can use it during grinding if you want, although you’d probably be better off sticking with burning rage on damage-causing moves.
Taunt (level 10): Defensive Stance-only, this “taunts the target to attack you.” It does it by putting you at the top of the target’s current agro list. It does not force the target to attack you, so if somebody else is generating more threat than you, it’ll turn right back to them. We’ll talk about this more when we get into discussing tanking and the concept of agro.
Overpower (level 12): This is a Battle Stance-only ability that can only be used after the target dodges you. It’s basically a free weapon hit; the bad guy can’t dodge, parry, or block it (but it can miss). At 5 rage, it’s very efficient, and should be used every time it lights up.
Shield Bash (level 12): You smack the bad guy “in da mouf” with your shield. You somehow don’t do any damage, but you do three things–you daze them (so they move half speed), you interrupt their spellcasting if any, and if they were casting, you lock out that spell school for 6 seconds. If you try this without a shield in your left hand, I will laugh at you.
Demoralizing Shout (level 14): Think of it as a reverse Battle Shout. You lower the attack power of all your enemies within 10 yards by a certain amount. The catch? It’ll agro any attackable enemies in that range. If you’ve got non-aggressive but attackable stuff around you, be careful with your AOE.
Revenge (level 14): Welcome to your big tank nuke for the next 26 levels. Revenge can only be used in Defensive Stance, and can only be used after you dodge, parry, or block an attack. When you do, this lights up, and it hits pretty hard–especially considering it costs a mere 5 rage. This attack is why I grind Linedan on his dailies in tank gear and in Defensive Stance. With high dodge/parry/block, this lights up all the time and hits like a truck with no brakes. For now, you’ll primarily use it when tanking. Prior to 3.0, it was a good high-threat move, but not much for damage. The bonus threat is gone, but it’s been replaced by tasty yellow numbers. Mmmmm. Pain. (Note the 5-second cooldown.)
Mocking Blow (level 16): This is your backup taunt, and unlike Taunt, it’s usable in Battle Stance. It does normal damage, some bonus threat, and forces the target to attack you for 6 seconds–but doesn’t move you up the agro list, so after 6 seconds, the mob reverts to normal behavior and goes back to nomming face on whoever’s on the top of its list. It’s your emergency “break glass in case of priest being eaten” move, to be used if Taunt misses or is on cooldown, and is designed to hold the mob on you until you can try Taunt again.
Shield Block (level 16): Defensive Stance only. For the next 10 seconds, you hide behind your shield and block everything in front of you–and your shield block value doubles so you block about double the normal amount. Use this liberally when tanking, especially on bosses. It’s a lifesaver, even on a 60-second cooldown, which we’ll talent down to 40 seconds eventually. This ability becomes even more useful later on, but that’s a ways off yet.
Disarm (level 18): Self-explanatory. You yoink the bad guy’s mainhand weapon for a few seconds. Not hugely useful in PvE, but fun. Handy in PvP.
Cleave (level 20): Another “on-next-swing” attack like Heroic Strike, Cleave will hit your target and one next to it for weapon damage plus some. This is handy for multi-target tanking or mob grinding, but since it costs 15 rage like Heroic Strike, use it judiciously.
Retaliation (level 20): An “oh shit” button for Battle Stance only. Any attack coming at you from the front will give you a free swing back, for 12 seconds or 20 attacks, whichever comes first. This is primarily designed for the guys with the big two-handers, but there’s no reason why you can’t use it too.
Stance Mastery (level 20): A passive ability that lets you retain 10 rage when moving between stances. Prior to level 20, stance-shifting completely zeroes out your rage.
You may be feeling overwhelmed by new skills at this point. Don’t be. For normal day-to-day slaughter, you’ll only use a few. You can stay in Battle Stance for most fights, or use Defensive if you’re going to try a big pull or a really tough mob. (Just remember that changing stances dumps all your rage at this level.)
For Battle Stance fights, hit Charge (or pull with a ranged weapon and hit Bloodrage if you need rage to start with), use Thunder Clap, then just beat the mobs down with white attacks, Heroic Strikes, and Cleaves. Keep reapplying Thunder Clap, and Rend too if you can, and hit Overpower every time it lights up. For Defensive Stance fights, use a ranged weapon to pull or just run in, and use Bloodrage to get initial rage if needed. Shield Block when it’s up, use your normal damage attacks (Thunder Clap, Heroic Strike, Cleave, Rend), and hit Revenge every time it lights up. Having Shield Block up guarantees you at least one Revenge, maybe two if the timing is right. On any fight, use Demoralizing Shout if you can to reduce your incoming damage. If you’ve got your shield on, use Shield Bash to slow runners and interrupt casters. Know where Retaliation and Last Stand are if things get dicey.
At level 20 you can practice with stance-shifting, so you can, say, start in Battle, Charge, shift to Defensive (keeping 10 rage) and then go from there. This is the preferred way of handling exceptionally tough fights like elites…but fair warning, elites are a BIG challenge at this point in your career unless you’re really twinked. For any fight, you’ll have to learn as you go about managing your rage. This is something you’ll pick up through experience…but trust me, play a Prot warrior enough, and you’ll hear “not enough rage” in your sleep after a while.
This turned out way longer than I thought, and I’m sorry, but there’s a lot of stuff in these 10 levels! Before moving on to levels 21-30, I’m going to look at two other things in subsequent posts. First will be general thoughts on gearing, including glyphs. Secondly, we’ll talk about basic tanking 101–threat, agro, and 101 different ways to tell Edwin Van Cleef that his mother was really good in bed last night. Ta!
So. Now that certain people are actually taking me seriously (oh, the silly, silly geese!), I’m under a bit of pressure to actually deliver some good stuff here. No worries. I am, after all, der Panzercow. Compared to the horrors of getting teabagged by an Eredar for months on end, this whole writing-a-guide thing should be easysauce, right?
With your shiny new warrior at level 1 and standing in front of their first little yellow exclamation point in their newbie zone, it’s time to take those first few tentative steps down the path toward saronite-covered studliness in a mere 79 levels. These first few steps are, in fact, not a whole heck of a lot different than the first few steps that any new character takes, of course. You don’t have to start thinking too much until level 10 when your talents open up (which is next post). But even in the single digits, there’s a few things you can do to prepare, and things that you can start doing now so you’ll engrain them as habits as you move forward.
One of the things you’ll have to get used to is the rage mechanic. Rage is our mana. Without rage, we stand there and auto-attack (much like paladins). Rage starts at zero and goes to 100, no more, and decays fairly quickly out of combat. Rage is generated from normal auto-attacks through a complex formula that I can’t even hope to accurately quantify–basically, the harder you hit, the more rage you get, and crits give you even more. You also gain rage from being hit. Rage management is key, especially for Prot warriors, because of the three warrior types, we generate the least because we have far and away the lowest “white” auto-attack damage. You’ll get a feel for it as you work through your newbie quests. Too little rage in the bank is bad because it limits what you can do; too much is bad because it’s wasted. If you find yourself consistently with 80-100 rage, it’s time to throw in more special attacks to burn it off, called “rage dumping.”
Another thing I would emphasize strongly is keeping a broad spectrum of weapon skills leveled as you level up. Don’t just pick one thing and stick with it. Yes, orcs love them some axes and get benefits with them. What happens if you’re using the [Axe of Crap] and you get a nice [Hammer of Pwnliness] off some mob…but the icon’s red because you haven’t trained maces? Bad warrior, no biscuit. If you are able to pass your baby warrior a few gold from your other characters, do so, and then visit the weapon trainers in your faction capitals and train everything. Yes, daggers and crossbows and thrown weapons too, everything. I’m a firm believer that a true warrior needs to be able to kick ass with whatever’s to hand, be it a sword, a mace, an axe, or a gnome. (They make decent clubs if they’re armored.)
If you are a race that doesn’t start with a shield, like Tauren, that’s OK. You’ll loot one soon enough. Keep it, and get a 1H weapon (you’ll get those soon enough too) and start using them early on. Get used to the lower rage generation of 1H + shield versus 2H weapons. Always have your best weapon handy for tougher quests, but if you get some quests that are easier, swap your less-used weapons in and level your skills. And, even if you’re planning to be a tank, level those 2H weapon skills too. You may decide to go DPS instead for a while, and that’s OK. Again, flexibility is the key. I’m a big booster of it.
It goes without saying–buy your baby warrior some bags. If I twink nothing else on my alts, I at least go and get them some store-bought 8- or 10-slot bags if I can’t get my wife’s tailor character to whip them up some nicer ones. We don’t have the bag space problems hunters do, but still, more bag slots = less trips back to town = more time pwning face and getting xp.
You’ll start to get your first warrior skills in these first 10 levels, and they will serve you from now on. This is building-block stuff; you’ll be friends with these skills for 80 levels and beyond. They are:
Battle Shout (level 2): Increases your attack power. You yell, you hit harder. Just imagine your troll making Bruce Lee noises as he whomps on things. Keep this up as much as you can, it only lasts 2 minutes. This is one of the very few short-duration abilities (like Blessings, Seals, etc.) that Blizzard has never extended the duration on and has no plans to.
Heroic Strike (level 2): Hitting this will cause your next attack to do extra damage and generate extra threat, but instead of generating rage, it will cost 15 rage. A rule of thumb is to use this if you’ve got more than about 30 rage in the bank. Remember that Heroic Strike does not activate instantly, it’s an “on-next-attack” spell. You hit it, it lights up, and your next swing makes a “whump” noise and gains the bonus damage and costs you the rage. If you do something in the meantime to get below 15 rage, you get a “not enough rage” message and the melee swing is just a normal “white damage” swing.
Charge (level 4): You charge the target, generate rage, and stun it for 1 second. This should be your opener whenever possible. Generating rage is ALWAYS a good thing.
Rend (level 4): A damage-over-time bleed effect. It used to be a complete joke and useless after about level 20 except to keep rogues from stealthing in PvP. 3.0 changed it so that it does reasonable damage all the way up. Not something you’ll be using a whole lot as a tank; Arms warriors, however, use the heck out of it now.
Thunder Clap (level 6): This is a meat-and-potatoes move for any tank. You slam the ground with your dainty little foot (or hoof, if you’re a Draenei/Tauren), causing all enemies in about 8 yards to lose 10% off their attack speed and doing damage to them as well. Do this. A lot. It’s not rage-effective in terms of damage on a single target, but the slow effect reduces your incoming damage, and against multiple targets, it’s reasonably hurty. Plus, it’s good practice for when you start actually tanking, because on multi-mob pulls, this is one of your primary abilities.
Hamstring (level 8): Doesn’t do any damage, but it slows the mob down. Since you have very little ranged capability, this is how you stop runners from going to get their friends.
Bloodrage (level 10): Takes a percentage of your base health and gives you 10 rage, with one additional rage each second for 10 seconds. It’s a way to build rage on those fights where you can’t use Charge.
At level 10 you’ll get a quest from your friendly local warrior trainer. Do it immediately. This will give you Defensive Stance, which is your tanking stance (and your leveling stance at the higher levels). For now, when grinding, stay in Battle Stance (the default). Defensive Stance reduces your incoming damage by 10% and increases your threat generated by 45%, at the cost of reducing the damage you do by 10% (possibly to be 5% in 3.1). Certain of your abilities can only be used in certain stances.
During these early levels, being a warrior is simple. Charge your enemy or enemies, build up enough rage, then Thunder Clap. Rend for the extra damage, and then once you have extra rage, work in a Heroic Strike every now and then. If the mob you’re fighting is a runner, Hamstring it when it gets to about 30-40% health. Loot, lather, rinse, repeat.
Next time, we’ll look at levels 10-30, including the first 20 points of talents, and how to level with them if you decide to go hardcore Prot. It used to be crazy to do it, but now, it’s quite viable. Have fun!
TOO SOON, EXECUTUS! YOU HAVE PULLED THOSE MOBS TOO SOON!
Now that you’ve made the decision to head down the Way of the Meatshield, you’re probably sitting at your handy-dandy old Blizzard WoW character creation screen, and might be thinking, “OK, Panzercow, which race makes TEH BEST Prot warrior?”
Answer: All of them.
Seriously. I had this big long post written comparing each race’s racials and which ones were good for a warrior and which ones weren’t…and after 800 words, I deleted it all because it simply doesn’t matter. No racial is so good that it really makes one race over the other. Play what you like. Pick something that you don’t mind staring at on your screen from now until whenever. If you want to be a big studly orc, then a big studly orc you shall be. If you’d rather fap to some Draenei /waggle action…I sincerely hope I never group with you, but, hey, it’s your character, go nuts.
(As always, there’s one exception to the rule. Humans have what I believe to be the single best racial in the game…Diplomacy. Does it make you hit harder? No. Does it give you more health? No. Does it make every stinking ridiculous rep grind in the entire game 10% shorter? Hell yes.)
As for male vs. female, again, it doesn’t matter stat-wise. But you do need to know that the platemail that makes your male human look studly is probably going to be a metal bra on your female human. Yes, that’s right, a 30-armor cloth robe will give you burqa-like coverage; a 600-armor piece of platemail is two steel pasties and a piece of piano wire to hold them together. Hey, I appreciate a well-populated chainmail bikini as much as the next guy, don’t get me wrong. But when the same piece of armor looks like this on a dude, and this on a chick…yeeeeah. Mercifully, for female avatars tired of being harassed by the Beavis and Butt-Head crowd, this sort of look is somewhat less common in Outland, and goes away completely in Northrend, probably because platemail Wonderbras and titanium thongs don’t keep you very warm when standing on a glacier.
Faction-wise, again, it’s down to what you like. I’m primarily focusing on PvE here because I don’t PvP very much; there’s a whole different set of faction dynamics where PvP is involved, where racials like Every Man for Himself and Will of the Forsaken become a little more important, the smaller “footprint” of a gnome can be an advantage (little bastards are HARD to target when they’re in full-on scuttle mode), stuff like that. In PvE, there’s not much difference in the long run between Alliance and Horde. Things vary too much by server type and individual server to make blanket statements about one being “better” than the other.
Now, professions. Start on your professions early, and keep leveling them as you go. Otherwise, you’ll be level 80 and running around the Barrens punching hyenas in the face to skin them. Not fun. To get the obvious out of the way first–keep your First Aid leveled. You command no green sparkly goodness, therefore, bandages are your friend. As for Cooking and Fishing…honestly, I should have leveled these on Linedan, but I never did. Don’t make the same mistake. Take a little effort to level them as you go along and you’ll thank yourself when you’ve always got tasty stat-boosting food in your bags. A couple stacks of bandages and food, combined with the natural resilience and toughness of the Prot spec, will keep you out and grinding for a very long time.
Before you pick your “main” professions, ask yourself–do I just want to make money to get things on the AH, or do I want to actually make stuff I can use? If the former, you might consider a double-gatherer setup, say, Mining/Skinning or Herbalism/Skinning. (Mining/Herbalism might be the best moneymaker of the double-gatherer type, but since you can only search for ore or plants at one time, not both, it’s slower.) If the latter, you’ve got a few obvious options for self-sufficiency: Mining/Blacksmithing, Mining/Jewelcrafting, Herbalism/Alchemy, Mining/Engineering. It gets easier if you’ve got other characters, of course, because they can help your warrior out. I went Mining/Blacksmithing on Linedan; the problem is, in “vanilla” WoW, there’s very few things you can craft that are actually better than you can loot or buy. Engineering has some really, really nice toys, but leveling it is hellish.
The other consideration is, do you have alts that can twink out your warrior? If you’ve already got a 450 Blacksmith, obviously your new character doesn’t need Blacksmithing. For alts, I tend to like the double-gatherer setup, so they can feed my higher-level crafting characters (or my wife’s).
Next: Starting out, and leveling as Prot instead of DPS.
Foolishly you have sought your own demise. Brazenly you have disregarded DPS beyond your understanding. You have fought hard to invade the realm of the tank. Now there is only one way out — to walk the lonely path…of the meatshield.
Yes, I’m crazy enough to try it. I’m crazy enough to create a guide to making and leveling a Protection-spec warrior, despite the fact that somebody, sooner or later, is going to be gullible enough to actually try and use what I write here and then tell all their friends “zomg wtf that Panzercow is a nubsauce.” Well, since I am a nubsauce, that’s no matter. Let’s put some disclaimers right up front, then.
First off: Understand that 3.0 turned the warrior-leveling paradigm on its head. In “vanilla” WoW and Burning Crusade, you just did not level a warrior as Prot. Period. You leveled Arms or Fury and then switched to Prot when you started tanking heavy-duty stuff like heroics or raids. If you tried to actually grind and quest as Prot, even Holy-spec priests would look at you and think you were a masochist, that’s how bad it was. Yeah, you were pretty tough, but you did the DPS of a stuffed teddybear. And while your DPS wasn’t any worse than, say, a protadin, the prot paladin had many more tools to actually survive taking five minutes to kill anything–little stuff, like, say, heals? I ground Linedan from 56 to 60, and from 65 to 70, as Prot-spec. It sucked a golf ball through a soda straw. The only reason I did it was because my gear at the time was so bad, trying to level as DPS was actually worse.
Enter Wrath of the Lich King. The ol’ Lich King may have pretty much wrecked one continent and did his damndest to wreck two more, but his introduction to WoW gave Blizzard the chance to give Prot warriors some love. And I don’t mean the kind of love we’re used to, which generally involves references to Turkish prison bathrooms. I’m talking wine, candles, soft music, backrubs, and a good dinner that we didn’t even have to pay for. That’s what 3.0 did to the Prot tree.
So the main thing to remember is this: Protection is not just an end-game raid spec anymore, it is also a viable leveling spec. It is now quite possible to end up at level 60 with an 0/0/51 spec and not have a hugely unpleasant time getting there.
Disclaimer the second: Prot is not about big numbers. Prot leveling is about endurance. You aren’t going to vaporize mobs like a mage or rogue or Fury warrior. You’re going to stand in toe-to-toe against them and chip them down like a stonemason, one smack at a time. Your leveling speed does not come from rapid killing, it comes from minimizing downtime. This is where Prot shines. You won’t kill quickly…but you won’t stop killing all that much either. Maybe a bandage here and there, or a quick snack, but then you’ll be right back in the game.
That does not mean, however, that you don’t have to use your brain–far from it. In fact, you have to be savvier than most other classes when you’re out killing for your living, because you don’t have the escape options most everybody else does. There’s no pet to sacrifice, no feign death, no agro dumps, no blink, no bubble, no vanish. The only way you’re getting out of a fight is running away or killing what’s in front of you. So you have to be smart about picking your fights to maximize your chance for survival and avoid pesky corpse runs and expensive repairs.
Which leads me to the next disclaimer: I’m assuming that you’re leveling a Prot warrior as an alt, not a main. Leveling a warrior as a main, or even as an alt on a server where you don’t know anybody, can be tough, though certainly not as tough as when I started Linedan four years ago. There were times in his teens he literally did not have the money to repair his cheap self-crafted gray gear, and I doubt anybody today would have to deal with that. Warriors work much better as alts, and that’s because nobody scales better with gear than a warrior. It’s simultaneously our blessing and our curse: a blessing because it makes us quite powerful in the endgame, our curse because Blizzard keeps “balancing” aspects of the class, especially PvP, around the top 1-2% of players with top-drawer items and ganks the rest of us as a result. If you can slide a few gold to your warrior every now and then so he or she can visit the AH, do so, it’ll make the game go much more smoothly. If you can’t, at least pick up one gathering profession if not two. On a mature server like my Feathermoon, old-world ores, leathers, and herbs fetch very good money on the AH now.
Finally, the last part: I’m not going to go into exhaustive detail. I don’t have the time or the energy to write a level-by-level detailed diary of where you should go and what you should do. Heck, if I did, I’d probably try to actually get it printed and sold and make some money off it. I figure you’re smart enough to already know, or figure out, the basics about leveling any character. Hopefully I’ll provide the Prot-specific advice that can help you create the next generation of warrior tank.
The posts will dribble out over the next few weeks, interspersed with the usual random snarkery and weirdness I toss up here when I’m in the mood. I’ll try to cover character creation, talents and builds, gear, leveling, and then get into some of the mechanics of tanking instances.
Just remember, the advice is worth what you paid to read it. But I do hope it’ll be helpful.