So You Want to Be a Prot Warrior: Levels 61-70
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!