So You Want to Be(ta) a Prot Warrior: Climbing Trees
(Did you see what I did there with the title? Damn, I’m smooth. Hurr hurr.)
OK, kids, it’s finally time for Uncle Panzercow to take a look at Prot warriors in the Cataclysm beta. Both of mine are over there now. Linedan is casually slaughtering his way through Mount Hyjal in his usual efficient, taciturn Panzercowing manner. Latisha, on the other hand, threw on her bikini and took a little vacation…she went on a “three-hour tour” booze cruise toward an island off Stormwind, but instead of chatting up the hunky SCUBA instructor, she found herself, well, drowning. Then she woke up at the bottom of the Great Sea in the bilge of the SS Poseidon, surrounded by dead Alliance soldiers, beautiful coral, and pissed-off naga. She’s done the first few Kelp Forest quests in Vashj’ir; unfortunately, after taking her back to Stormwind to train Mastery, a bug has stuck her in limbo between Stormwind and Moonglade, and she may be out of action until I can either re-copy her (giving her the T9 shoulders she picked up last night) or wait for a fix. I may just wait for a fix, I want to retain the option to copy another character over at some point.
I’ll do another post talking about the actual Prot leveling experience once I do more of it–Lin’s only 2/3 of the way through 80, and Latisha’s barely done anything at all. What I want to look at in this post are the warrior trees, from a Prot standpoint of course. I’m not even going to suggest specific builds, because really, I haven’t absorbed all of this stuff yet, and I’m sure I’ll be wobbling back and forth on builds constantly over the next couple months. Instead, I’m going to look more at the talents and abilities that you’d see at level 80.
DISCLAIMERS: This is all based on beta build 12759 as of 19 August 2010 and is subject to change anytime Ghostcrawler wants to change it. Your mileage may vary. Void in Middle-Earth and where prohibited. Side effects may include dizziness, nausea, hair loss, carpal tunnel syndrome, hot warrior groupies throwing themselves at you, frequent death, high repair bills, and hearing “not enough rage” in your sleep. Any rebroadcast of these talents without the express written consent of Major League Baseball is prohibited.
Cutting Down the Trees
So that having been said, let’s take a look at the talent trees. The first thing you’ll notice upon hitting “N” for the first time in the beta is that there’s a new first screen where you are shown the various masteries available. (The three Mastery abilities only seem to kick in when you train the Mastery skill.) We’ll be looking at Prot, of course, so you see there’s one ability exclusive to us–our old friend Shield Slam, no longer baseline, sorry Arms and Fury–and three Masteries; Vitality, Vengeance, and Improved Block.
Vitality replaces the old Vitality talent; it’s just a flat 15% boost to Stamina, nothing fancy here. Vengeance is a mechanic that I’m still trying to get my noggin around. The tooltip says: “Each time you take damage, you gain 5% of the damage taken as attack power, up to a maximum of 10% of your health.” Does that mean that my 50,000 health Linedan can get up to 5000 bonus attack power? Well, not practically. Any bonus you get from a particular hit seems to roll off after 15 seconds. So the AP boost seems to fluctuate up and down. During normal questing on Lin, it seems to wobble around +100 to +200 AP, but I imagine it will be considerably more useful on instance fights, especially bosses. Finally, Improved Block is just what it says it is, +15% to shield block chance. Except I noticed something odd on Latisha. When she first arrived and spec’d out, she had exactly 20.00% block chance, which I thought odd. When I trained Mastery, that chance went down to exactly 15.00%, which is what Lin has. I don’t know if that’s a glitch or what. But now both their character sheets show only a 15% chance to block. That indicates to me that either this is a bug, or warriors have a base non-Mastery block chance of zero…which should be a bug.
When you start looking at the trees themselves, you’ll see some familiar talents about where you expect them. Last Stand, Concussion Blow, Improved Revenge, Devastate, Shockwave, Gag Order…old friends, like the crew at Cheers. You just expect Devastate and Shockwave to stand up and yell “NORM!” when you pick talents from this tree. But even old dogs learn a few new tricks, so we need to go through this one talent at a time. Strap in, it’s going to be a long ride…
Incite (3 points): Increases the critical strike chance of your Heroic Strike by 5/10/15%, and your Heroic Strike critical strikes have a 33/66/100% chance to make your next Heroic Strike also a critical strike. This effect cannot occur more than once every 6 seconds. Veneretio had a good discussion of Incite over at Tanking Tips a couple weeks ago. I think the jury is still out on this one largely because Heroic Strike isn’t what it used to be. Remember, it’s no longer an on-next-swing with no cooldown. Now it’s instant and off the global cooldown, but it costs 30 rage with a three-second cooldown. How our rage generation works out will make or break this talent.
Toughness (3 points): Increases your armor value from items by 3/6/10%. Straightforward, and necessary as always because bonus armor and armor on trinkets get removed in Cataclysm. Lin’s down 6000 armor from live right off the bat.
Hold the Line (2 points): Increases your critical strike and critical block chance by 10% for 5/10 seconds after a successful parry. This just in: PARRY GETS LOVE. About damn time. Veneretio covered this talent as well and did a thorough job of covering the good and bad of it. Bad: Not all that great against bosses. Good: Useful against multiple targets, and when your crit percentage is as horrendous as ours is, you take whatever help Blizzard throws to you. Probably a keeper.
Shield Specialization (3 points): You generate 5/10/15 extra rage when you block an attack. You generate 20/40/60 rage when you Spell Reflect a magic attack. Hmm. Note that Shield Spec now doesn’t give you a better chance to block, it’s just about rage generation. Right now, in build 12759 of the beta, prot warrior rage generation is actually very good, almost too good. I’m getting full rage bars on Lin while only fighting mobs two at a time without anything to Spell Reflect…with his ICC-level avoidance, that’s shocking. (It also means I’m not Heroic Striking enough.) If rage generation is not an issue, then this isn’t necessary. If we get as rage-starved in Cataclysm as we did in Wrath of the Lich King when grinding, then it becomes much more useful. Time will tell.
Shield Mastery (3 points): Reduces the cooldown of Shield Block by 10/20/30 seconds, Shield Wall by 60/120/180 seconds, and Spell Reflect by 1/2/3 seconds. Why on earth would you not take this? It’s better than the old Improved Disciplines because it affects three of our best defensive cooldowns. You end up with being able to bump your block up for 10 out of 30 seconds, reduce all incoming damage by 40% for 12 out of 120 seconds, and reflect a spell every 7 seconds. (Also? Shield Block now costs 10 rage, unfortunately, but Spell Reflect only costs 15, down from 25 in live.)
Blood and Thunder (2 points): When you Thunder Clap a target affected by your Rend, you have a 50/100% chance to affect every target with Rend. OK, maybe I’m missing something here, but…do Prot warriors keep Rend on their bars? Seriously? I think I’ve got it shoved off in a corner somewhere bound to ctrl+shift+6+standonmyhead or something. I haven’t used it in years. Are they expecting us to start? I don’t think I got that memo.
Gag Order (2 points): Gives your Shield Bash and Heroic Throw abilities a 50/100% chance to silence the target for 3 seconds. Also lowers the cooldown of your Heroic Throw by 15/30 seconds. It doesn’t have the +5/10% damage to Shield Slam that it used to, sadly, but this is still a useful talent for pulling. I think it may have gone from “must have” to “nice to have” depending on the composition of instances.
Last Stand (1 point, cooldown 3 minutes): Temporarily grants you 30% of your maximum health for 20 seconds. After the effect expires, the health is lost. Nothing’s changed here, this is our reliable old ass-saver from live, right down to the three-minute cooldown.
Concussion Blow (1 point, cost 15 rage, cooldown 30 seconds): Stuns the opponent for 5 seconds and deals (38/100 * AP) damage (based on attack power). Again, no functional change here, even the cooldown remains the same at 30 seconds. It’s just been moved down to Tier 3 in the tree.
Bastion of Defense (2 points): Reduces the chance you’ll be critically hit by melee attacks by 3/6%. In addition, when you Block, Dodge, or Parry an attack, you have a 10/20% chance to become Enraged, increasing physical damage done by 10% for 12 seconds. Exit stacking Defense, enter Bastion of Defense. This is how warriors become uncrittable now. It also takes the enrage from the old Improved Defensive Stance talent, although instead of the chance being 50/100%, now it’s only 10/20%. If you don’t take 2 points in this talent, GTFO my class and roll a rogue.
Warbringer (1 point): Your Charge, Intercept, and Intervene abilities are now usable while in combat and in any stance. In addition, your Intervene ability removes all movement-impairing effects. No change from live, this is another near-mandatory talent; it’s what gives us our legendary pinball-of-death mobility. When I’m in Lin’s Fury spec, honestly, this talent is the biggest single thing I miss.
Improved Revenge (2 points): Increases the damage of your Revenge ability by 30/60% and causes Revenge to strike an additional target for 50/100% damage. No functional change from live on this one either, it’s a big DPS and threat boost so I think it’s mandatory. But that’s just my opinion.
Devastate (1 point, cost 15 rage): Sunders the targets armor causing the Sunder Armor effect. In addition, causes 120% weapon damage + 58 for each stack of Sunder Armor on the target. The Sunder Armor effect can stack up to 3 times. Other than the overall reduction of Sunder Armor stacks from 5 to 3, there’s no change at all to Devastate. Even the damage is exactly the same.
Impending Victory (2 points): Using Devastate on a target with 20% or less health has a 25/50% chance to allow the use of Victory Rush, but that Victory Rush only heals for 5% of your health. Now this is an interesting little talent. On low-health mobs, this talent gives you the opportunity to trigger Victory Rush, gaining a single rage-free attack that will give you a mini-heal of 5% of your max health (instead of the 20% from a normal VR). Even with mobs now having 30k+ health in the 80-81 areas, I can’t see this being useful during level-grinding. But how useful might this be at the end of a tough boss fight, when he’s sub-20% for a couple minutes? You’re hitting Devastate all the time anyway, why not have a 50% chance to give you a free attack and heal yourself for several thousand health? It’s better than Enraged Regeneration by a long shot.
Thunderstruck (2 points): Improves the damage of your Cleave and Thunder Clap by 3/6%. In addition, your Thunder Clap improves the damage of your next Shockwave by 5/10%. Stacks up to 3 times. All I can think of for this one is “meh.” The damage boost is nice, but spending two points on it in Tier 5 doesn’t seem like a very good return. Maybe someone can prove differently to me.
Vigilance (1 point): Focus your protective gaze on a group or raid target, reducing their damage taken by 3%. In addition, each time they are hit by an attack your Taunt cooldown is refreshed, and you gain Vengeance as if 20% of the damage was done to you. Lasts 30 minutes. This effect can only be on one target at a time. Sharp-eyed readers will notice something missing from that blurb…that’s right, the 10% threat transfer is gone. Is it worth putting a point into this for a small AP boost and the taunt refresh? I’m not sure yet. For grinding, definitely not. For instancing or raiding, maaayyyybe.
Heavy Repercussions (2 points): When Shield Block is active, your Shield Slams hit for an additional 50/100% damage. Pretty straightforward, although it’s a little disappointing to have to spend two points in Tier 5 for what we used to get for free with Shield Block.
Safeguard (2 points): Reduces the damage taken by the target of your Intervene ability by 15/30% for 6 seconds. Uh…yeah. Somebody please make a case for this talent, because I’ve never seen it to be useful. Then again, I know I don’t use Intervene nearly enough.
Sword and Board (3 points): Increases the critical strike chance of your Devastate ability by 5/10/15%. When your Devastate or Revenge abilities deal damage, they have a 10/20/30% chance of refreshing the cooldown of your next Shield Slam ability and reducing its rage cost by 100% for 5 seconds. Good old Sword and Board, basically unchanged. DING!
Shockwave (1 point, cost 15 rage, cooldown 20 seconds): Sends a wave of force in front of the warrior, causing (75/100 * AP) damage (based on attack power) and stunning all enemy targets within 10 yards in a frontal cone for 4 seconds. Interestingly, Shockwave, our top talent, hasn’t changed.
Blood Craze (3 points): After taking any damage, you have a 10% chance to regenerate 2.5/5/7.5% of your total health over 5 seconds. Wow. This is big, gang. 7.5% of your total health over 5 seconds…in beta!Linedan’s case, that’s about 3500 to 4000 health. This talent is almost like having an inattentive druid trundling along behind, occasionally pulling himself away from watching “Dancing with the Stars” and dropping a Rejuv on you. Between this, Victory Rush, and Enraged Regeneration…kids, if you’re a well-geared Prot warrior, and this stuff stays close to the way it is now? You will have to work to die while grinding. If you thought we had good survivability before, it’s beyond insane now.
Battle Trance (3 points): Your Bloodthirst, Mortal Strike, and Shield Slam hits have a 5/10/15% chance to make your next special attack consume no rage. Again, the usefulness of this talent will depend on rage generation. Right now, our rage generation is very good. I don’t expect that to continue. I don’t know if spending 3 points is worth it to get a 15% chance of rage reduction on an attack we only fire off every four to five seconds (averaging in S&B procs) anyway.
Cruelty (2 points): Increases the critical strike chance of your Bloodthirst, Mortal Strike, and Shield Slam hits by 5/10%. Gee, you’d almost think they don’t want our white attacks critting anymore. A 10% crit boost on Shield Slam only for two points…not sure the math on this one works out any better than Battle Trance, to be honest. We’ll have to see.
Rude Interruption (2 points): Successfully interrupting a spell with Shield Bash or Pummel increases your damage by 5/10% for 15 seconds. This is a Tier 2 talent that’s gotten more press for the alleged political incorrectness of its icon than its actual use. You can make an argument, as often as we interrupt spells, that the damage boost might be worth having to put 5 points into Fury to get it. Well, I can’t, but maybe you can.
Piercing Howl (1 point, cost 10 rage): Causes all enemies within 10 yards to be Dazed, reducing movement speed by 50% for 6 seconds. The fact that this is now a Tier 2 Fury talent puts it, potentially, within reach of Prot warriors. I’m not sold on its usefulness for a PvE tank, but I can sure see Prot PvPers all over it.
War Academy (3 points): Increases the damage of your Heroic Strike, Cleave, Victory Rush, and Slam abilities by 5/10/15%. Hmmm. That’s actually pretty tempting. HS and Cleave won’t get spammed as much as they used to (well, Cleave might, HS, not so much). But when you see other talents in this tier, it definitely becomes second fiddle.
Field Dressing (2 points): Increases your self healing abilities by 10/20% and all healing effects on you by 3/6%. It doesn’t take too many brain cells to see this being mandatory for tanks, and quite honestly, good for grinding as well. Right now, normal level 80 trashy quest grind mobs hit a lot harder than they do on live–try three times as hard. Any boost to the considerable self-healing we’re now provided (Blood Craze, Victory Rush, Enraged Regeneration, even bandages) is a big plus.
Blitz (2 points): Your Charge ability generates 5/10 additional rage and stuns 1/2 additional targets. I’ve always liked the old Improved Charge talent, and this is its successor. But with only 41 points to spread around, I’m not sure we’ll have room.
Phew! Well, that’s the tree changes…but we’ve still got to get to the major changes to some of our abilities…
On-next-attack abilities are gone. Cleave and Heroic Strike are now instant attacks with short cooldowns. This means the (probable) end of having to bind HS to your mouse wheel and spinning while tanking.
Shout mechanics have changed. Battle and Commanding Shout are much more like death nuggets’ Horn of Winter. They generate rage now instead of costing it, but have long (1-minute) cooldowns. Since our rage decays so fast out of combat, they’re actually more useful to hit in combat as a backup to Bloodrage, which breaks my old technique of hitting whichever Shout I’m using after I kill something, to keep it refreshed.
Victory Rush. As currently implemented in build 12759, Victory Rush has suddenly become your best friend ever. It’s now usable in Defensive Stance, and as always, gives you a single rage-free attack. Oh, and now in the beta, it heals you. For 20% of your maximum health. You heard me right, kids. Between this, Enraged Regeneration for emergencies, and the Fury talent Blood Craze, a well-geared Prot warrior simply never stops killing. You need to keep killing to get that tasty multi-thousand-point heal from VR. And since Victory Rush has no cooldown…you can pull big and hit VR after each mob in the pack dies for a big shot of health. I will actually be surprised if this goes live the way it is now, because it’s that awesome and I’m that big a pessimist.
No more Shield Block Value. When you block, you block 30% of the incoming damage. On a crit block, you block 60%. The Shield Block ability still basically lets you block everything for 10 seconds, but it’s no longer the total immunity against trash that it was in Wrath.
The order in which you get abilities is scrambled. I’m not even trying to figure it out. I haven’t leveled a Prot warrior in the beta, and probably won’t try it until after Cataclysm goes live and I have some time to work on my mains and existing alts.
Shield Wall isn’t as effective. The damage reduction in the beta is down to 40% from 60% in live…but with three points in the excellent Shield Mastery talent, the cooldown is only 2 minutes. Basically, you can talent into what is now the glyphed version of Shield Wall. Less absorption, more often.
OK, that’s enough for one day. Hell, that’s more than enough for one day. If you’ve made it to the end of this wall-o-text, congratulations!
Soon I hope to have more posts up on the Prot leveling experience in Cataclysm’s beta…both from the point of view of a highly-geared raid tank (Linedan) and a fresh 80 with relatively minimal gear (Latisha). Stay tuned.