So you want to be a prot warrior: Levels 31-40
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!