Care and feeding of your prot warrior, part II: The Shield
(Part I of “Care and Feeding of Your Prot Warrior” is here.)
If you don’t believe a shield can be a weapon…insult a protection warrior’s mother.
It’s just a piece of wood or steel or titanium or saronite strapped onto the left arm of a prot warrior. It looks cool. But it’s just a shield, right? You block stuff with it. You hide behind it. Wouldn’t it be better to have something sharp and pointy, or big and bashy, in that left hand, to do l33t d33ps with?
Not if you’re a prot warrior. If you’re ready to do a little more hardcore theorycrafting than in Part I, then come along and see why prot warriors dual wield even when they’re sword-and-boarding…
(Caveat: Yes, it is possible for a warrior to tank without a shield in lower-level instances. Practical? Smart? Nope, unless they seriously overgear the instance. IMO, especially if you’re a prot warrior, you’re gimping yourself badly if you don’t walk the traditional 1H + shield path when tanking anything, no matter what level.)
There are two important shield-related numbers for a warrior. They’re Shield Block Rating (SBR, or “rating”) and Shield Block Value (SBV, or “value”). Rating is the percent chance you have to block an attack passively. Value is how much you block when you do block, passively or actively. Value is a function of the “block” number on the shield, any items or enchants you have that explicitly increase your SBV, and your Strength. Post-3.0, 2 Strength points = 1 SBV. (Prior to 3.0, it was 20 Strength for 1 SBV.) This change to SBV is one of the biggest reasons that post-3.0, Strength has become a vitally important stat for prot warriors–so important that existing Outland Tier 4 through 6 tanking gear was retconned to include it at the expense of avoidance stats.
There are three shield-related talents that every warrior has, regardless of spec. They are:
Shield Block: Gained at level 16, and requires Defensive Stance. Increases the warrior’s chance to block and block value by 100% for 10 seconds, 60-second cooldown (talentable down to 40). Basically, when a tank hits this, they’ll block every blockable physical melee attack that hits from the front for 10 seconds, and have double their normal SBV. Prior to 3.0, this ability was on a short cooldown and blocked one (talentable to two) attacks. It was part of our spammable rotation. Now things have changed, and Shield Block is our shortest-duration “uh-oh” button. I use it on initial pulls, when I know hard hits are coming, and when bosses are getting ready to enrage.
Shield Bash: Gained at level 12, requires Battle or Defensive Stance. Bash the target with the shield, dazing them and interrupting spellcasting, which prevents any spell in that school from being cast for 6 seconds, 12-second cooldown. This one’s pretty self explanatory. It does no damage, and has two main uses–interrupting spellcasting, and slowing down runners. A Prot tree ability called Gag Order makes this even more useful; it adds a 3-second silence to Shield Bash. (See below.)
Shield Slam: Gained at level 40, no stance restriction, 6-second cooldown. Slam the target with the shield, causing (variable by rank) damage, modified by shield block value, and removing 1 magic effect from the target. Also causes a high amount of threat. This is the prot warrior’s big nuke. It used to be the 31-point Prot talent, corresponding to Mortal Strike for Arms and Bloodthirst for Fury, but Blizzard took it baseline in 3.0 to give non-prot warriors better tanking ability. Because Shield Slam damage is modified by SBV–which is now in turn heavily influenced by Strength–here’s where that “2 str = 1 SBV” equation shines through.
But, that’s just baseline stuff. Now let’s look at abilities and talents that let prot warriors take that moderately-useful shield and truly turn it into a fearsome weapon:
Shield Specialization: Tier 1 talent, 5 points. For each point, the warrior increases their block rating by 1% and has a 20% chance to generate 2 rage on a successful block. Useful, but not always 100% necessary–Lin does OK with just having 2/5 in this talent. A more purely mitigation-oriented build would probably take 5/5 here.
Shield Mastery: Tier 3 talent, 2 points. Increases shield block value by 15% per point and reduces the cooldown of the Shield Block ability by 10 seconds per point. This is a must-have. Two points here boosts SBV by 30%–nice scaling there for an 11-point talent–and cuts the cooldown on Shield Block to 40 seconds. Remember, Shield Slam scales off SBV, so the bigger the SBV, the harder that guy gets smashed in the face.
Gag Order: Tier 5 talent, 2 points. Gives the Shield Bash and Heroic Throw abilities a 50% per point chance to silence the target for 3 seconds, and increases the damage of the Shield Slam ability by 5% per point. Hey, look, more scaling for Shield Slam damage. You’d almost think Blizzard wanted us to rely on it or something.
Critical Block: Tier 9 talent, 3 points. Successful blocks have a 10% per point chance to block double the normal amount, and increases the chance to critically hit with Shield Slam by an additional 5% per point. Well, well, well. Put 3 points in this pup, and suddenly all blocks have a 30% chance to double the damage mitigated. And yes, it stacks with Shield Block, so while under the effect of Shield Block, this can also fire, and the tank blocks roughly quadruple his normal SBV. And look at the second part. 3 points, +15% crit to Shield Slam. Between the occasional significant boost to block value and the +15% crit to Shield Slam, this is pretty much a Prot-tree must-have.
Sword and Board: Tier 10 talent, 3 points. Increases the critical strike chance of the Devastate ability by 5% per point, and when the Devastate or Revenge ability deals damage, it has a 10% per point chance of refreshing the cooldown on Shield Slam and reducing its rage cost by 100% for 5 seconds. This one doesn’t boost Shield Slam damage…but it gives a chance to get a free one. And considering how hard Shield Slam hits, free is very good.
So let’s put it all together. At level 80, Rank 8 Shield Slam has a base damage of 990-1040. That’s modified by SBV, of which your average well-geared prot warrior will probably have around 1000 or so nicely buffed, maybe more if they gear to stack it (high +strength and +SBV pieces). Shield Mastery boosts that SBV by 30%. Gag Order increases the total damage of Shield Slam by 10%. And Critical Block increases the crit chance of Shield Slam by 15%. That’s not even factoring in the indirect effect of talents like Vitality (+2% Strength per point) or Improved Defensive Stance (50% per point chance to be Enraged on a block/dodge/parry, increasing all damage by 10%) or in Lin’s case, Impale (+20% to all critical damage on “yellow” attacks).
The bottom line of all this theorycrafting? To use some numbers from Linedan, who is a moderately-geared warrior for 25-man content…raid-buffed, he runs a crit chance of around 11-13%, +5% if he’s lucky enough to get a druid in his group. He has 1100-1200 SBV with those same buffs. That translates to Shield Slams around 2000, crits for well over 4000 normally, and as high as 6000 when Shield Block is up (remember, my SBV is doubled, and that factors in to Shield Slam as well, so Shield Block has a useful defensive and offensive component), with a crit chance bumping 26-28%. Every 6 seconds. For 17 rage. Whether or not he’s even tanking, because Shield Slam is not stance-restricted. Consistently, on instance after instance, raid after raid, whether I’m tanking full-time or not, Shield Slam is my number one damage dealer, usually running 20-23% of my total.
3.0 threw the old prot-warrior DPS paradigm out the window. Back in Burning Crusade, prot warriors who had to DPS would throw on some DPS gear, dual-wield two one-handed weapons, jump into Berserker Stance, and spam Devastate (and Heroic Strike if they had the rage). The theory was because Shield Slam really didn’t hit very hard (remember, 20 Strength = 1 SBV), it was better to dual-wield and spam instants. Post-3.0, even with the craptacular rage generation that 1H + shield causes, our DPS is higher if we keep the shield on, get in the DPS gear if we can, go Berserker Stance, and just try to be as efficient as we can with our rage management and Shield Slam every time it’s available–plus, Devastate if we can, to try and get a free Shield Slam. If we can’t get in DPS gear and have to stay in tank gear because the fight requires it? Our tank gear still has massive +strength on it, allowing us to bring Shield Slam pain even in our 540+-defense prot suits.
We will never do seriously awesome DPS when not tanking. I run about 800-1000 when not tanking during a 25-man raid (where I’m still in my low-crit high-defense tank gear), and more like 1200-1300 while tanking. We’re generally the weakest tank class in terms of DPS while tanking. But that 1200-1300 is still four times what I did tanking 25-mans at level 70, wearing 4/5 Tier 5.
And now you know why a shield is a prot warrior’s best friend. It’s not just for hiding behind anymore.
Coming in Part III…when things go to hell in a bucket, we’ve got a wide variety of ways to get the bucket back. Warrior “uh-oh” buttons, and how you can keep us from having to use them, next, on Achtung Panzercow.
(Part III, “When It Goes Wrong,” is now up! You can read it here.)