Care and feeding of your prot warrior, part III: When it goes wrong
In a perfect virtual world, you’d never overpull. Your tank would never lose agro because something shiny distracted him, your healers would never lag out or space out, your DPS would never open every single pull with the biggest shiniest heaviest nuke in their arsenal and land it a second before the tank arrived.
This is not a perfect virtual world we play in. Stuff goes wrong. A lot. And when it does, the protection warrior has a lot of different ways to hopefully make it right again and save the day. In the interest of keeping it reasonably family-friendly around here, I’m going to call these “‘uh-oh’ buttons,” as opposed to what I usually call them–substitute a somewhat earthier term for “uh-oh.”
I’m going to broadly group our “uh-oh” buttons into two types: agro control (what we hit when a mob decides it wants priest tartar) and death prevention (what we hit when said priest tartar doesn’t hit us with the green glowy goodness fast enough). First, the agro control abilities and talents:
(Please note that I’m assuming that you’re familiar with the basics of how threat and agro work.)
Taunt. Baseline ability. Obtained at level 10, requires Defensive Stance, costs zero rage, 8-second cooldown, 30-yard range. This ability taunts the target to attack the warrior. It does this by placing the warrior at the top of the mob’s current agro list. If the warrior is already being attacked (i.e., has highest threat), then Taunt does nothing, but it will eat the cooldown. Now, please note: Unlike, say, a DK’s Death Grip, Taunt does not command the target to attack the warrior through any other mechanic than being #1 on the mob’s agro list. If somebody else in the party continues to pump out more threat per second than the warrior, the Taunt won’t hold for very long, and “somebody else” will become chow. Therefore, a Taunt is typically followed up, if possible, by as much burst threat as possible in order to hold the mob. This is our primary emergency “oh crap it’s heading for the healer grab it now” maneuver. And it doesn’t always work–it can miss, just like any other spell, and is helped by +hit.
Mocking Blow. Baseline ability. Obtained at level 16, requires Battle or Defensive Stance, costs 10 rage, 60-second cooldown, melee range. This is a melee attack that causes normal weapon damage, a “moderate” amount of additional bonus threat, and most importantly, causes the mob to focus attacks on the warrior for 6 seconds. Prior to 3.0, this was basically a useless ability because it could not be used in Defensive Stance (where tanks spend 99% of their tanking time). In order to use it, the warrior had to shift to Battle Stance, rebuild 10 rage, use the ability, and shift back to Defensive Stance. Post-3.0, it’s now usable in Defensive Stance. It’s still a weak-sister backup ability to Taunt due to the 1-minute cooldown and the fact that it doesn’t actually move the warrior back up to the top of the threat list, it just forces the mob to attack him for 6 seconds; at the end of that time, it’ll go back to whoever’s at the top of the list. It’s designed to buy time for Taunt to come back around and grab the mob for real.
Challenging Shout. Baseline ability. Obtained at level 26, no stance restriction, costs 5 rage, 3-minute cooldown, 10-yard range. Hitting this will cause all mobs within 10 yards of the warrior to focus attacks on him for 6 seconds. This is a serious “uh-oh” button, generally used when things are totally falling apart and the tank’s lost control of multiple mobs at once. Like Taunt, it has to be followed up with high threat generation by the tank (or the DPS backing off), or the mobs will switch back to someone else.
Vigilance. Tier 7 Protection talent. 1 point. This replaced Shield Slam as the Protection 31-point talent in 3.0. It’s a buff, cast by the warrior on someone else in their group or raid, with a 30-minute duration. During that time, 10% of the threat generated by that person is taken from them and transferred to the warrior. In addition, their damage taken is reduced by 3%, and if they are hit by an attack, the warrior’s Taunt cooldown is immediately refreshed. It’s a handy, but not essential, talent. Warriors can either place it on a healer for the ability to instantly snap-taunt off them, or they can place it on a high-DPS, high-threat character like a fury warrior or rogue or mage in order to get themselves a nice threat boost (and hopefully keep the DPS from yoinking agro). Because the recipient’s threat is actually reduced, tanks do not put this on other tanks.
There’s a second set of abilities that we have designed to improve our survivability. These are:
Shield Block. Baseline talent. Obtained at level 16, requires Defensive Stance, costs zero rage, 60-second cooldown (talentable down to 40 seconds), melee range. We covered this already in Part II of this series; when activated, it increases the warrior’s shield block rating and shield block value by 100% for 10 seconds. I try to time it for situations where I know mobs will be hitting harder, like enrages or frenzies.
Shield Wall. Baseline talent. Obtained at level 28, requires Defensive Stance and a shield (duh), costs zero rage, 5-minute cooldown (talentable down to 4 minutes). This is the ultimate butt-saving “uh-oh” button we have. It reduces all incoming damage–melee, spell, ranged, whatever–by 60% for 12 seconds. The situations in which this is used are pretty obvious, and varied. It can be applied pre-emptively for situations where you know you are about to take a metric crapton of damage (Kael’thas’ pyroblast, Patchwerk’s enrage), or if you’re quick, you can hit it when you’re low on health and buy your healers time to bring you back from the near-dead.
Last Stand. Tier 3 Protection talent, 1 point. 5-minute cooldown. When activated, this talent increases the warrior’s health by 30% of his current maximum health, for 20 seconds. After that, the extra health goes away. Here’s another serious emergency button. For a raid-buffed, well-geared prot warrior, this can bring their health way over 45,000 for that 20 seconds–and unlike a Power Word: Fortitude, Last Stand actually grants the extra health. If, at the end of the 20 seconds, the warrior would be killed by losing the extra health, he’ll be at 1 health point. Hit this, then hit Shield Wall on the next cooldown, and for 12 seconds, you’re indestructible even if a healer can’t get to you. After that, you’re toast.
I think there’s a misconception among some people who’ve never played a warrior that we have some sort of magic at-will taunt that can save them if they pull agro. We do, sort of. Taunt is effective, but it’s not guaranteed–it can miss. And most importantly, we can only do it every eight seconds. In a situation where two mobs break loose, or things start to fall apart, we may have to pick and choose who we taunt from, and who gets to play tank. (Hint: We’ll save the healer first.) Also, remember talking about kill orders? Because our AOE threat generation is weaker than paladins or DKs, and our reliable taunt is single-target (except for Challenging Shout, which is for emergencies), a lot of potential problems can be headed off by remembering to stick to the kill order.
I hope these three articles help a little bit in explaining about how prot warriors work, how we’re different from other tank classes, and why we do what we do. I don’t pretend to be the be-all end-all expert on the class, but I’ve been prot now for about a year and a half, more-or-less continuously, and have really grown to love it. So if you’ve got any questions or want to see anything else on this topic, just ping me, and I’ll see if I can come up with an answer.
Who knows, it might even be right.