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Archive for March, 2009

I can’t go, Coach

I love my raid.  Notice I didn’t say I love raiding…my interest in raiding, and WoW in general, waxes and wanes with time.  But even if I’m not playing WoW every night and indulging in other timesinks, I still love my raid.  We’ve had the same core of good people together for almost three years now, and honestly, it’s been really good to me from every standpoint I can see–it’s made me a better player, gotten me lots of phat virtual loot, let me see and experience things in the game that I never thought I would, and given me some awesome memories.

Because of all this, I’m loyal to them.  I want to be there for every raid that I can possibly make, real life permitting.  (We have a very strict “real life first” policy…missing raids due to RL scheduling interference is understood and expected.)  Admittedly, part of my pushing for 100% attendance is because I have that lovely little phenomenon known as Performance Issues…even after all this time, I can’t quite shut up that annoying little voice at the back of my head that says “if you aren’t there, they’ll figure out they do better without you and you’ll never get invited again…”  It’s BS, and rationally I know it’s wrong, but rationality is not always the Panzercow’s strong suit.

So at 8:00 Eastern last night, I faithfully answered the call for whispers, and was at Naxx well before 9:00 for first pull.  This, despite the fact that I felt like, to dredge up a term from my old Star Wars fan days, bantha poodoo.

See, sometimes I get headaches.  Nasty headaches.  Not the classic migraine where you get incredibly photosensitive and have to lie down in a dark and quiet room.  Just slowly building headaches that get worse and worse until nausea kicks in and sometimes I throw up.  I used to get them more when I was a kid, but I grew out of them; nowadays they’re exceedingly rare.  This was the first one in a couple of years or more.  I know that if I don’t nip these things in the bud and take some painkiller–just a couple of Advil work fine–early on, and I let them go, they get ugly.  Problem was, we had nothing in the house but some Tylenol PM, and I’m not taking sleepytime medicine before a raid.

So I figured I’d tough it out.  And at first I didn’t feel too bad, but I could tell I was definitely off.  The pain wasn’t intense, but it was enough that I was out of it, a tick slow here and there.  That all culminated 30 minutes into the raid where I got assigned to tank the frontside of Four Horsemen…and made a massive cock-up on a target handoff that wiped the raid.  (Protip:  If you’re tanking Rivendare and supposed to switch to Korthazz with the other tank, mis-targeting and taunting Rivendare again is counter-productive.)

Now I screw up a lot, more than I should.  I’m hard on my own performance.  But rarely do I epic fail so hard that I actually, demonstrably, wipe the snecking raid.  If my headache wasn’t bad before, it sure as hell got worse on that long quiet run back from the entrance.

The second time through 4H, I bore down, concentrated, and did my job right that time.  And indeed, we went on to have one of our better Naxx runs ever.  We cleared all four downstairs wings in 2 hours and 54 minutes, a first.  I tanked Loatheb, Gluth, and Anub’rekhan without difficulty, nobody died on Patchwerk, we even got a couple of achievements along the way.  I picked up a couple of nice pieces of loot, and in general the raid was steamrolling everything in our path.  It was a good raid night.

And I was miserable the whole way.  It was taking a massive effort to keep focused and do my job while railroad spikes pounded into my left temple and I wondered if that Quiznos sub I had for dinner was going to come back up and visit me.  I hung on by my thumbnails, and when we dropped Maexxna at three minutes to midnight, I was grabbing my emblem and hitting my hearthstone before her legs stopped twitching.  I didn’t do any of my usual post-raid ritual of repairing, selling, checking Recount and post-morteming things with my wife.  I landed in Dalaran, logged off, took two Tylenol PM, laid down in bed, and spent an unpleasant hour waiting for the acetaminophen and sleep aid to kick in.

Now, I don’t tell this story to show that I’m some kind of studmuffin.  I’m not.  Ask my wife, I’m a freaking miserable SOB when I get sick.  I tell it to illustrate a point–I probably shouldn’t have been there in the first place.  As much as I love my raid and want to give 100% for it every time I’m there, I might’ve been more of a liability than an asset in the shape I was in.

And that’s the topic for discussion, Gentle Readers.  Most of us want to be there for our friends and raidmates, and we want to do our best even if we aren’t at our best.  At what point do you go to your raid officers and say, “Sorry, guys, I feel like crap tonight, you might be better off taking somebody else?”  To use the sports analogy, when do you bench yourself?  Pro athletes almost never do it…but for them, it’s a livelihood.  For us, it’s a diversion.  The rules are a little different.

Discuss among yourselves!

What do I call this thing?

The Lollipop of Death?  The Broken Railroad Signal of Doom?  The Most Real-World Impractical One-Handed Sword Design Ever Seen in WoW?  How about just…Broken Promise?  I got lucky and obtained this last night during the Anvil’s first one-night four-wing Naxx 25 clear, along with Heritage, a good tanking neck.  Tonight, it’s just Sapphy, KT, then on to Sartharion…and maybe Malygos after that.  Great.  Considering that I’ve never successfully completed Aces High, this should be suitably humiliating.  Let’s see, how’s that Blue Dragon Waltz go again?  1123 step, 1123 step, 1123 step?

Further actual content on raiding will be forthcoming later today.  Last night put a question in my head that I think will make an interesting point for discussion.

So you want to be a prot warrior: Levels 21-30

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!

That’s three

Illy hit 80 over the weekend, I just hadn’t gotten around to the post before now.  She’s my third level 80 (as compared to my wife’s four, probably five in a couple weeks when her now-71 resto druid gets there).  As you can tell from her stats, she’s not exactly uber-geared…most all that stuff is a mixture of mid-70s instance and quest reward blues, with the exception of a couple of heroic pieces and one incredibly lucky drop, her new mainhand sword, Avool’s Sword of Jin.  Because, hey, fresh 80 beastmastery hunters need a 143 dps mainhand, amirite?

She can limp along through heroics…she plus her new pet (a purple wasp named Indigo) can combine for about 1400-1500 dps if I push it as hard as I can, hit Bestial Wrath and Kill Command every time they’re up, and keep my rotations tight.  Not great, but I’ve seen worse.  I’d like to get her ready to be able to sub on Naxx runs, but that ain’t happenin’ anytime soon unless I can radically gear her up.

(Wasps, by the way, are just cool as hell hunter pets.  They don’t scale down in size very much when you tame them, so she’s got this eight-foot-long insect following her around constantly cleaning its mandibles.  And when she hits Bestial Wrath, let’s just say Indigo gets pretty intimidating.  And hurty.  I find my love of a wasp as a pet ironic, considering I’m phobic around stinging insects in real life.)

New 3.1 info–UI changes

Ghostcrawler’s got some info on 3.1 UI changes up on the official WoW site.  The highlights:

  • You’ll be able to switch specs anywhere out of combat (except Arenas or Battlegrounds), only taking 5 seconds to do so.  The only downside is that you zero out your energy, rage, mana, etc. when doing so.  No Lexicon of Power is needed to switch.  (This is perfect for me as a raid off-tank…switching between tank and DPS mid-raid on the fly.  Awesome.)
  • There will be a UI option to preview your talents before committing to them.  (HELL YES!  No more blowing a 50g respec because you fat-finger one click!)
  • It still costs 1000g to activate dual specs, but the minimum level is now 40.  (Twinks rejoice.)
  • The Equipment Manager (the built-in UI version of current addons like Closet Gnome or ItemRack) will move stuff to and from your bank if you’re at a bank while using it.  And you can hotkey your item sets.  (Handy!)
  • The UI will include expanded quest-tracking abilities, including putting icons on your window to use quest items without digging through your bags.
  • New LFG window improvements.
  • You’ll be able to queue for a Battleground from anywhere.

Go read the whole thing–there’s some seriously tasty stuff there.

(Hat tip:  TankSpot.)

So you want to be a prot warrior: Tanking 101

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!

So you want to be a prot warrior: Basic gearing

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!

So you want to be a prot warrior: Levels 10-20

(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!

Saturday morning thought

There are a lot of things I want to do in WoW.  I’d like to get some factions to Exalted, get the various Dungeonmaster titles, drop Sarth + 3 drakes and win the roll on a spiffy new proto-drake.

But you could give me every level 226 epic in the game and every single achievement in the list, and none of it would compare to the joy of lying under the covers in bed with my wife on a cold, rainy Saturday morning, with our three-year-old daughter in between us “reading” us a story from a book of dog pictures.

Keeping it in perspective

Tarsus over at Tanking for Dummies has a great post up about the achievement system and why it’s not always a good thing.  I don’t have a whole lot to add other than that, he nailed it:

I have made no mystery about how yawn worthy I think Achievements are.  I have even recommended that guilds (and the players that want to be part of them) need to build achievements into their charters and core concepts because they be downright divisive. This is a design issue.  Achievements should be an assessment of your skill as a player, but far too many of them depend on luck or persistence or both.  Raid achievements are particularly pithy and either represent more of a gear check, or a ping count.  Some of them outright require that you piss off your fellow raiders.  The new measure of dedication to your WoW buddies must be if you’re still friends after you’ve gotten your Proto-drake.

The thing that I think is perhaps most laughable about this situation is the pursuit of achievements can fly in the face of what, by more practical considerations, are actual achievements.  Did the raid get an upgrade in terms of gear?  Did you finish the raid quickly with minimal deaths?  Did you make efficient use of consumables?  Did you run every raid you could?  Including Archavon?  Did you find a new raider to add to your raid team?

Is your raid stronger today because of what you have done?