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So You Want to Be a Prot Warrior: The Dreaded Heroic PUG

Your PUGs may be this successful, but I doubt they'll ever be this cute.

Patch 3.3 is simultaneously the best of times and the worst of times for new up-and-coming tanks.  It’s the best of times because the old sequential gearing paradigm–you need to do normal 5-mans to gear up for heroic 5-mans to gear up for Naxx to gear up for Ulduar to gear up for Trial of the Crusader to gear up for Icecrown–is right out the window.  It is now possible to skip many of the middle steps and load up on tasty Tier 9-level gear by nothing more than running heroic 5-mans and the occasional raid for weekly quests.  (Whether you’ll actually be able to get into a raid once you get that gear is another matter entirely, and not in scope for this post.)

It’s also the worst of times, though, because in order to get that gear, you’re going to have to run a lot of heroics.  And that almost certainly means, unless you are blessed with lots and lots of friends, sooner or later, you’ll end up using the Looking for Dungeon tool and end up as the tank…of a cross-server pick-up group.

(Insert lightning flashes, thunder, and jarring pipe organ chord here.)

You’ve probably heard the horror stories flying around about cross-server PUGs.  Of trigger-happy DPS who throw all their threat-management skills out the window and go balls-to-the-wall trying to top the Almighty Recount, and expect the tank to magically be able to save them from their own e-peenery.  Of healers belittling tanks and bailing on groups when the tank has less than full T9 and 40k health unbuffed.  And yes, those things do happen…but not always.  Not even the majority of the time, in fact.

Are you are a shiny fresh new level 80 tank ready to get on the LFD PUG treadmill to Triumph and Frost Nirvana, but you’re scared to press that first “Find Group” button?  Never fear, Panzercow is here.  What I’m about to tell you is all common-sense stuff that you may have already figured out–trust me, I’m not the brightest bulb in the chandelier, so if I know this stuff, it ain’t rocket surgery.  But it’ll help, and it’ll give you the foundation you need to stride forth into the world of cross-server PUGs and survive.

It all basically comes down to what I call the four “bes”–be knowledgeable, be prepared, be honest, and be confident.

Be Knowledgeable

Know your enemy and know yourself and you can fight a hundred battles without disaster.  –Sun Tzu

Tanking, with any class, is a learned process.  You need to have a sound, well-researched spec.  You need to learn your chosen class’s abilities, rotation or priority system, and emergency buttons.  Then you need to learn how to extend that to controlling agro on multiple mobs.  Then, on top of that, you need to build the situational awareness that all good tanks have, and advanced techniques like LOS pulling.  And then, as the final layer on the cake, you have to know the specific instance–patrol paths, where you can LOS pull safely, kill orders of specific groups, and, of course, boss strategies.

A cross-server PUG, with four people you don’t know, is not the time to be learning all of it.

If you don’t know an instance, run it with friends first–or at least read up on it on any of the various sites out there on the Web.  If your babytank is an alt, start paying more attention to “tanky” things when you’re in the instance on your main.  Watch how your tank grabs groups and where he tanks them.  Watch his facing.  Note which mobs are casters that need to be silenced.

As for your own tanking, it should go without saying…you need to have a solid grasp of the basics of tanking instance pulls before setting foot in a heroic PUG.  Run more forgiving normal groups (PUGs if need be) or heroics with friends.  You should’ve been instancing as you leveled anyway, quite honestly, so by the time you’re ready to do heroics, tanking instances should be second nature to you.  Chances are, a PUG is going to push your tanking skills to (or beyond) their limits, especially if you are a fairly new 80 grouped up with well-geared DPS.  Be ready for it–have your own skills squared away before you queue up.

Be Prepared

Bring war material with you from home, but forage on the enemy… use the conquered foe to augment one’s own strength.  –Sun Tzu

There are some very unrealistic expectations floating around in PUGs these days.  Yes, sometimes, people flip out and drop the group when the tank isn’t already ridiculously overgeared–God forbid some of these mouth-breathers actually have to take ten extra minutes to finish Azjol-Nerub.  You, as a fresh 80, can’t do anything about that.  You have to run the heroics to get the gear.

That doesn’t mean, though, that you can’t be as well-prepared as possible going in.  Once you hit 80, find a friendly neighborhood blacksmith and make friends.  Things like the Tempered Titansteel Helm, Tempered Titansteel Treads, and especially the Titansteel Shield Wall will go a long way toward getting you to where you need to be.  Before trying a heroic, your goals, in my opinion, should be:

  • 23,000 health unbuffed
  • 21,000 armor unbuffed
  • 535 Defense (this is non-negotiable and should be your top priority)
  • 130 hit rating (+4% hit, half of what you need to never miss unless you’re Draenei)
  • at least some expertise, preferably over 10

Now, I know people are often slack about gemming and enchanting sub-ilevel-200 stuff.  The thought is, “why waste the money when I’m just going to replace it in a few weeks?”  Well, sorry, folks, but that’s a bad thought to have.  You should always gem and enchant your gear with something. You don’t need to be dropping 250 gold on Solid Majestic Zircons to put into an ilevel 187 breastplate unless you’re absolutely dripping in gold.  But you can pick up blue- or green-quality gems for a fraction of the cost and use those instead.  Similarly, true, a chest enchant like Powerful Stats (+10 all stats) would be a waste.  But what’s wrong with Super Stats (+8 all stats) or even Powerful Stats (+6 all stats)?  You can snag scrolls of those on the AH for much less money, and they provide a good benefit.  Make sure you get factional enchants (like Sons of Hodir shoulder or Argent Crusade head) as soon as you can–snag them on your main if your babytank is an alt.  It is especially important for a tank to push their gear to the limit and get as much out of it as possible.  Don’t slack.  Gem and enchant, but do it wisely.  Make the most out of what gear you have and you maximize your chances of success.

Also, do not be afraid to use buff food, potions, elixirs, scrolls, or anything else you’ve got in your backpack.  Every little bit helps.  When you’ve got 40,000 health, you won’t have to worry about “flasking up” before a heroic.  When you’ve got 23,000 health, it’s not a bad idea to go ahead and do it, just in case.

Be Honest

If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.  –Sun Tzu

So you know how to tank, you know the instances, and your gear is as ready as you can make it.  And there you are, standing at the entrance to your first heroic…grouped with four people from different servers, none of whom you know and none of whom know you.  And you can tell by your unitframes that they’re all targeting you and wondering why you have 23,300 health when you’ve got the little shield icon by your name.

This is not a situation you can bullshit your way out of, so don’t even try it.  Be honest and get it all out right up front.  Say, “hey guys, FYI, if you couldn’t tell, I haven’t been 80 for long…work with me on this and I’ll do my best for you.”

If people start giving you crap like “lol” and “ffs noobtank” and bailing out?  Screw ’em.  You wouldn’t have wanted to run the instance with them anyway.  I think, though, that you will be surprised at just how many people will respond positively to you being honest with them.  We tend to think of PUGs as being composed of nothing but nasty knuckle-draggers who actually want to make your life a living hell, but that’s not true.  The majority of the hundreds of people in the Cyclone battlegroup that I’ve run heroics with, on five different characters (one tank, four DPS), have been competent, and if not pleasant, at least polite.  They want to finish the run as quickly and smoothly as possible, get their badges, and move on.  No, they don’t want to take an hour to run Azjol-Nerub, but they also don’t want to go hellbent in there, pull all three Watchers at once and wipe, either.

If you’re a little fuzzy on part of the instance, don’t hesitate to ask.  If you think you need assistance as you’re going along, don’t hesitate to ask–“hey, Mr. DK, think you could death grip that second caster over here when I heroic throw the first one?”  Don’t try to bluff your way through, because it won’t work.  Honesty talks, bullshit walks.

Be Confident

The clever combatant imposes his will on the enemy, but does not allow the enemy’s will to be imposed on him.  –Sun Tzu

Now that you’ve got yourself ready, your gear ready, and you’ve prepped the group for what to expect…take charge.

Now by “take charge,” I don’t mean start acting like a douchemuffin and bossing people around.  That’ll get you votekicked in short order.  But, you are the tank, are you not?  You are the one who does the pulling and controls the agro, yes?  Then do it. Make sure everybody’s ready, take a deep breath, and pull.

“Taking charge” means that you assert yourself as the tank.  You, as the tank, are going to control the speed of the run, so pull at a pace that’s fast but comfortable for you.  Check the healer’s mana before every pull–his is the blue bar you care about far more than the others (except your own if you’re a paladin).  If the healer’s drinking, wait.  If people are falling behind, wait a second for them to catch up, then go.  If they’re yelling “gogogogogo” in your ear, do not speed up unless you and the healer are comfortable with doing so.  NEVER let yourself get pressured into going faster than you can handle.  At your gear level, you are not going to be able to bulldoze an instance at the speed of a well-geared tank, and you’ve already let your group know that up front.  It’s their decision whether to work with you or to bail out.

You may get people who decide that they should pull “for” you.  Personally, I have zero tolerance for this, and you shouldn’t either.  When I’m tanking a heroic, I pull, period, unless I work out with a hunter to do a misdirect pull (very rare).  Otherwise I tend to see mobs running at a squishy while I have no rage to do anything.  So if you get “assistant” pullers, I say let them tank it!  If they somehow manage to live, great.  Before they run off and do it again, tell them in no uncertain terms that you don’t want them to do it.  If they do it again, wish them fun tanking, and drop group.

Likewise, if people are rude to you because they don’t think you’re going “fast enough?”  Let it slide off your back.  If they continue to insist upon being assholes, thank the good people in the group, and leave.  (Or votekick the asshole if possible, which is the best outcome!)  Tanking is a stressful activity at the best of times, you do not need somebody insulting you while you’re trying to give your best effort.  Do not take crap from haters.  Stand your ground, and if it gets too nasty, leave.  Take a break while your timer ticks down.  Then immediately requeue, as soon as you can.  Get right back on the horse.  You’ll probably get a better group and have a more pleasant time.

My final thought is this:  A significant portion of what makes good tanks good is mental toughness.  You’re going to screw up.  You’ll wipe groups.  You’ll get mental midgets who aren’t fit to carry your mousepad insulting you because you’re a “noobtank.”  Do not let it get you down.  Stay strong.  Take a break if you’re not feeling like tanking–hey, it is still a recreational fun activity, right?–but don’t get run off from it permanently.  In the end, if you are knowledgeable, prepared, honest, and confident, you will prevail.


There are numbers, and then there are numbers

As you probably know if you keep up with things involving Prot warriors, there’s a bit of a snitstorm going on regarding potential changes to Warbringer and Shield Slam brought on by the fact that Prot warriors have occasionally been committing unauthorized pwnings of their betters–y’know, mages, hunters, etc.–in arenas.  Now one of the things that we in the Prot community have been maintaining is that Prot warriors generally have the lowest damage output of the four tank classes when we’re tanking, and that this change will lower that damage even further.  Ghostcrawler, while acknowledging that this change will slightly lower Prot warrior PvE damage output, doesn’t seem to think it’s a serious problem:

We understand that warrior damage is on the low end but regarding the raid progression, it’s a hard case to say that your wipe on Festergut (as an example) was caused by the difference between tank damage when the dps from focused classes like rogue, warlock, etc. can probably improve to beat the enrage timer.

And in response to Prot warriors worried that the lack of Prot DPS output will cost us raid spots on balls-to-the-wall DPS races like Festergut, he says:

[…] I honestly think it’s hard to argue that your choice of tank often costs you a kill because of the dps of the tank. Often those numbers are rounding errors compared to the damage capable by the dps specs in the raid. However, I don’t think you even need to invoke that argument. I think it just feels crappy when your dps is lower than other tanks.

(Quotes catalogued by my brother in beef Tarsus over at Tanking for Dummies.)

Now, I don’t know any Prot warrior who thinks we should be cranking out 6000+ DPS like the rogues and the hunters.  That’s crazy talk.  It’ll never happen and it shouldn’t happen.  But there’s an open question here–just how low is Prot warrior damage compared to the other tanking classes?  Is it just a “rounding error,” or something more?

Enter Warwench over at Tankspot, and a Google spreadsheet comprising tank-spec DPS log parses of the top 120 attempts logged at World of Logs so far on each of the Icecrown 25-man bosses currently available.  (The thread over at Tankspot is here.  Thanks to Veneretio over at Tanking Tips for originally Tweeting this yesterday.)  This is an attempt to quantify what tank-spec characters are putting out in the pain department on cutting-edge content.  It’s not complete, because WoL apparently can’t break out tank-spec death nuggets from DPS-spec, so Warwench couldn’t include DKs in the data–a significant omission.  But it’s a start.

The results, I think, are surprising.  Not that paladins are the top DPS-output tanks, we knew that already.  But druids are doing very well for themselves.  Bares, clearly, are storng for fite.  And warriors aren’t just at the bottom…we’re in the basement.  In fact, on some fights, we’re not even in the basement–we’re doing a Jimmy Hoffa in the foundation.

On Lord Marrowgar, for example, we seem to be running about 15% below the average damage output of paladins, bears, and warriors combined.  Lady Deathwhisper?  20% down.  Festergut, the biggest straight-up pure DPS race since Patchwerk?  18% down.  Rotface?  A bit closer at about 11% under average.  Saurfang, a fight where we can just stand in one spot and tee off with occasional back-and-forth taunts?  A very consistent 17% to 18% under average.  Only on Professor Putricide, for some reason–maybe the mechanics?–do Prot warriors seem to be able to score consistently above average.  Warwench also added in a set of about 40 data points for the “gold standard” of DPS yardsticks, Patchwerk.  On those Patchwerk fights, warriors were about 10% under the combined average for paladins, druids, and warriors.

What these numbers seem to indicate is that warriors consistently rank 500 to 1000 DPS behind paladins or druids in every fight in ICC-25 save one.  Looking at Festergut, the average difference seems to be about 1000 DPS.  In a five-minute fight like Festergut, that 1000 DPS difference comes out to three hundred thousand damage. That’s about 1% of Festergut’s health.  How many raids have wiped on Festergut at 1% so far?  A few, I guess, maybe not many.

Numbers can be twisted a lot of different ways–lies, damned lies, and statistics, and all that.  Personally I think Warwench has done the whole tanking community a service by putting these out there so we can see what the top tanks can do in terms of DPS, and how at least three of the four tank classes compare to each other.  But the question still stands–are Prot warriors so far down on DPS that raids might not take them in place of a paladin or druid or DK?

Well…maybe.  I don’t know.  There’s a lot of other factors involved.  The Anvil, for example, has two warrior tanks, and as far as I know, neither of us are going anywhere no matter how many 1% wipes we ever do on Festergut.  Other raids, where loyalty is less important than pushing the envelope, may factor this into their decisions on who goes and who sits.  1000 to 2000 DPS can, as GC says, probably be made up by the DPS classes fine-tuning things (especially since there’s usually about 15 of them compared to two or three tanks).  So no, I don’t think this is the end of the world for warrior tanks.  But it is, as Ghostcrawler says, normal to “feel crappy” when your damage is that far down compared to your brothers in the trenches.

All I know is this…the damage output difference between warriors and the other tank classes, as documented here, is damn sure not just a “rounding error.”  And with the proposed Prot warrior Shield Slam scaling changes, along with some others (Rune Strike changes to DKs a while back as an example), Blizzard seems to be backsliding from the Wrath of the Lich King principle of “threat through damage” and returning to the older paradigm of lower tank damage, but using “bonus threat” to make up for it.  Well, at least for some tanks.


Hit rating: How much is too little?

If you’re reading this expecting an answer to the question above…sorry, folks, I don’t have one.  Because, see, it’s my question.

As I posted in my latest installment of So You Want to Be a Prot Warrior on endgame gearing, there’s certain magic numbers that you strive to hit when you first move up to tanking heroics or raids.  One of those numbers is 263 hit rating, otherwise known as the magic rating number that gives you +8% chance to hit–needed to push misses out of the picture completely.

If you’ve had a chance to run through Ulduar a bit, or have looked at some of the items that come out of there, you may notice that it seems like almost everything’s got +hit on it.  I know many melee DPS, despite their best gearing efforts, who came out of Titan Disneyworld way, way over the hit cap.  My wife, a feral druid who Knows What She’s Doing, is stuck with 313 hit rating–and that’s after replacing some Ulduar pieces with Trial of the Crusader stuff.  Our raid’s Chief Cat Herder was pushing nearly four hundred hit rating–11 or 12 percent +hit–at one point.  Even Lin’s arms gear, a grab-whatever-I-can-find hashup of badge, Naxx-25, Ulduar-10, Ulduar-25, and a couple of ToC pieces, sticks him with 300 hit rating and not nearly enough expertise to balance it.

Lin in tank mode was no exception through Ulduar.  Recently, I finally got his hit rating to about 265, with his expertise in the low 20s–not quite dodge-capped, but close.

Enter Trial of the Crusader and other Tier 9 content.

Suddenly, +hit is gonzo.  Last night, I got a nice upgrade from Faction Champions in ToC-25…the very tasty ilevel 245 version of the Belt of Bloodied Scars, to replace his Shieldwarder Girdle.  The BoBS is great for his “boss” avoidance set.  More strength, more stamina, lots of dodge, parry, and defense.  But…no +hit.  The Shieldwarder’s Girdle had a lot of +hit.

And so, I, der Panzercow, the guy who just told you aspiring nubwarriors last week that you need 263 hit rating…is running around with 159.  Three full percent below what you are supposed to have.  At least I have 28 expertise.

I almost didn’t take that BoBS because of what it’d do to my hit rating.  A couple of my fellow tanks had to smack some sense into me before I went ahead.  But now, here I sit, with a 3.07% chance to miss on every swing.  Every taunt.  Every…well…everything.

Now here’s the weird part.  I’ve spoken to two people, one in my raid, one in another raid that’s slightly ahead of us in progression.  And they’re saying that from what they’ve seen, it’s now no big deal for tanks to be running around at 5% or even lower +hit.  Because, apparently, just as it seemed like everything in Ulduar had +hit, stuff in ToC and Onyxia’s Lair 2.0 doesn’t.  So tanks are having to adapt.

That brings me back to the question at the title of this post.  If you’re tanking a raid at this level–hardmode Ulduar, normal or heroic ToC–are you doing it with less than 8% +hit?  If so, how is it working out?  What are you doing to mitigate the chance of misses, especially on taunt-sensitive fights like Gormok?  Am I being a nubsauce for worrying about this?  Why does it burn when I pee?  And, of course, are we there yet?


So You Want to Be a Prot Warrior: Endgame Gearing, Part II

Yeah, I know, I know.  I’m not exactly the fastest in the world at cranking out these things, but, hey, quality takes time, right?  And if I ever produce something that’s high enough quality to justify taking this much time, I’ll let you know!

Anyhoo…in the first part of our SYWTBAPW treatise on endgame gearing, we talked about stamina and Defense and why they’re your priority stats, at least at first–and why “540” is the first magic number you need to remember when getting ready for tanking heroics and raids.  There are two other magic numbers that we’ll blow through very quickly, because we already talked about these months ago in the SYWTBAPW post on tanking stats:

263 – this is the amount of hit rating you’d like to get.  You have a base 5% chance to miss a mob of your level on any attack, assuming it’s the same level you are and you’re swinging a single weapon.  (When dual-wielding, it’s more like 24%.)  That goes up by 1% for each level higher that the mob is.  Since bosses are always considered as your level +3, you need 8% hit to push misses completely off the table; at level 80, that translates to 263 hit rating.  If you’re a Draenei, or have managed to graft one to your back, you only need 7% hit, or about 230 rating, thanks to the Draenei racial Heroic Presence.

26 – this is the amount of expertise you’d like to get.  Mobs have a base 6.5% chance to dodge you, and each point of expertise reduces your chance to be dodged or parried by .25%.  In order to push dodges completely out of the picture, you thus need 26 expertise points; that translates to about 140 expertise rating.  Note that I was wrong when I wrote months ago; the chance for a mob to parry is actually a lot higher than 6.5% (I don’t remember the exact number, but it’s around 12-15%); it’s probably not feasible to stack that much expertise without crippling yourself somewhere else, so don’t worry about it.  Just remember that any expertise over 26 is definitely not wasted.

Which one you should prioritize?  That’s a tough call.  I’ve heard opinions expressed both ways.  What I’ve found on Linedan is that it seems to be easier to stack hit rating than it is to stack expertise.  You probably won’t have either of these maxed out when you start tanking heroics, and that’s OK.  In general, stacking expertise will increase your threat by the greater amount; stacking hit will too, to an extent, but it’s more helpful in preventing catastrophic failures like a missed Taunt or a missed Shield Slam as an opener.

One thing to remember–expertise over the “magic number” is not wasted.  Hit rating over the “magic number” is wasted.  It’s not an uncommon malady among tanks or melee DPS at the Ulduar level of content to have excessive hit rating, because Blizzard put +hit on everydamnthing in Ulduar.  Linedan, ironically, only has 215 hit rating as I write this, though he is set on expertise (28).  But in his DPS gear, he’s got 300 hit rating.  That’s wasted stat points, but I haven’t been able to get his gear switched around to fix it.

Now, speaking of gear…you may think that a given class and spec only needs one set of gear.  Generally, that’s true.  I can’t think of a circumstance where a marks hunter would need two distinctly different sets of gear to be, well, a marks hunter.  Oh, you may switch trinkets for certain fights, yeah.  But all your stuff?  Nah, that’s crazy talk.

It’s not crazy talk for a warrior.  As a prot warrior, you’re going to find that you need two near-complete sets of gear for your prot spec by itself.  To shorthand things, I’m going to call them the “trash” set and the “boss” set.

A trash set (sometimes called a threat set) is optimized for two functions–large amounts of relatively light-hitting trash, and situations where you’re forced to DPS in prot spec because you may have to either offtank later in a fight, or be ready in case of emergency.  It is a more offensive-minded set of gear, which gives up effective health (stamina and avoidance) to concentrate on stats that give you more damage and threat output.

Trash sets tend to lean heavily on shield block rating and value, because we as prot warriors lean heavily on Shield Slam as one of our two big nukes (Revenge being the other).  Plus, the entire concept of block value is as overpowered against trash as it is underpowered against bosses–you’ve noticed that as you leveled, hitting Shield Block can all but make you invulnerable for 10 seconds against many mobs.  So look for pieces that have high +Strength and/or high +block rating or value.  Pieces with +block value aren’t hard to find.  By the time you hit T8-level gear, a single piece of armor can carry over 150 block value.

A boss set is the opposite.  Boss sets are designed for tanking single, hard-hitting bosses.  They are built around maximizing your effective health, through a combination of high raw health (via +Stamina) and high avoidance (block rating, dodge, parry, defense).  They do this at the expense of DPS and threat.

There’s two ways to build a boss set.  Some go for brute force by maximizing stamina; others try to be slippery and maximize avoidance by stacking +dodge and +parry.  I try to steer a balanced middle ground, but in general, I tend to slide toward the +stamina side of things.  Part of that is with Lin being a Tauren, I just can’t picture him as the most, y’know, agile thing on two hooves.  But I can sure picture him shrugging off a hit that’d cleave a gnome into gnome chops.  The random number generator can always find a way to screw up your dodge and parry, but big health numbers are always there for you.

Now, one caveat here–of course, your trash set still needs 540 defense and enough stamina to survive while tanking (or avoidance to avoid getting hit).  And your boss set still needs a reasonable amount of +Strength so you can crank out enough DPS and threat to actually keep agro.  But within that, you will, after a while, find that having these two sets of tank gear, and being able to switch quickly between them, helps your flexibility…and flexibility, IMO, is a hallmark of a good tank.

Here’s what I mean by that.  Linedan has a boss set and a trash set.  In his current boss set, he’s got a bit north of 550 defense and about 34k unbuffed health, but only 1700ish shield block value even with raid buffs.  In his trash set, his defense drops to 543 and he gives up over 2000 health, but his block value catapults up to a very tasty 2593 with a full rack of 25-man raid buffs.  I even swap in two crit trinkets on the trash set, just for higher DPS output.  When running up against a slightly gimmicky fight like the Nerubian Burrowers on Anub’arak in ToC, all I have to do is swap my two tank trinkets back in but keep the rest of the +block set on, and now I’m only down 1400 health from my boss set, still above the defense floor, still rocking almost 2600 SBV, with a 60% chance (due to Crit Block) of that doubling, and able to double it again 10 seconds out of every 40 with Shield Block–which makes tanking the block-sensitive Burrowers easysauce.  The ability to mix-and-match gear for any situation is a huge help to any tank.  It means you’ll never have any bag space anymore, especially if you’re like Lin and have to lug around a third set of gear for your dual-spec, but hey, bag space is overrated, right?

Now you may feel overwhelmed when first starting out–“wait, I don’t even have one decent set of stuff yet and you’re telling me I need two?”  Well, no, not at first.  Having two sets of gear is something that you tend to end up needing when you raid.  For heroics or regular five-mans, one good, solid set of items that give you the basics–540 defense, 20-21k health for regulars and 23-25k for heroics, as close to 263 hit rating and 26 expertise as you can get–will serve you just fine.  As you work your way up through heroics and maybe get a crack at raids, you’ll find that you can pick up pieces that will serve as the foundations of trash or boss sets.  Don’t sweat it, the gear will come naturally…especially now that Badges of Conquest drop out of each heroic, and the heroic daily gives 2 Badges of Triumph, the Insult Comic Dog.  Run heroics regularly, which you should be doing to keep your tanking chops up, and you’ll have yourself one (hopefully more!) nice set of gear soon enough.

Happy tanking!


The Latisha Experiment: Update #2

Yep, thats Shattrath behind her.  Shes workin on her clown suit.

Yep, that's Shattrath behind her. Thanks for the free flight point Blizz!

So when last we left the intrepid Miss Latisha Morganson, late of Stormwind and Northshire Abbey, she had just broken level 39 and was working through various odd jobs in Theramore while resisting the crude advances of Theramore Deserters.  That was a bit over two months ago.

And here is Latisha now, resplendent in her twink plate, level 59 as of this morning.  (What can I say, I woke up early.)  As I expected, the grind post-40 got a bit easier than the grind pre-40.  She is still pure Prot, currently 0/0/50, although I did deviate from my own build advice a bit; she’s still got 2/2 Improved Disarm.  My plan is to respec her at 60 to the same 0/0/51 build that I reference in the So You Want to Be a Prot Warrior series, dropping Improved Disarm for 5/5 Toughness, and then follow my own advice from there.

I haven’t quite had the guts (or masochism, take your pick) to try tanking a pickup group with her…not that anybody actually gets groups together for old-world instances anymore, sadly.  She’s gotten blendered through Zul’farrak to clean up quests for xp, and other than that, she has been leveling the old-fashioned way, solo grinding.  Not exactly optimal for a prot warrior, but quite workable.  It’s left her gear a tick behind where I’d like it, although it’s certainly not bad.  I got lucky and found some crafted Imperial Plate pieces on the AH for reasonable prices, but before that, she didn’t ditch her last piece of mail until somewhere around level 49.  Why?  Because anything “of the Bear” was commanding triple-digit prices, no matter how crappy it was, and her Raging Berserker’s Helm and Scarlet Leggings were very good pieces of mail armor indeed.  Other than that, she’s geared up through quest rewards and a little AH here and there.  She’s even rocking an honest-to-Light Belt of Valor, picked up on the AH for a mere 20 gold.  Now she’s got something that Linedan never even had.  (Oh, and I did break down and spend almost all of Beltar’s Conquest badges on a Polished Breastplate of Valor for her.  I hardly ever get to raid on the dorf anymore so I figured why not, he can hang with his Naxx gear for now.  Besides, the breastplate’s a lot better looking than the shoulders.)

Particularly past level 50, with Devastate and then Critical Block becoming available, her DPS picked up markedly.  No, she’s no mage capable of vaporizing stuff, but then again, there’s certainly nothing wrong with being hard to kill and occasionally being able to produce a 1300+ Shield Slam crit.  With her gear optimized for simple strength and stamina, with agility here and there, she has a respectable 12% crit.  Yes, she misses a lot still, especially when fighting things over her level, but that just goes with the territory.  Hit and expertise gear is almost impossible to find in the 50s (since expertise kinda, y’know, didn’t exist in vanilla).

Bringing her to Outland at level 58 has proven to be a mixed bag.  She actually hasn’t died yet, her closest call being in Zeth’gor where she ended up killing two grunts, a wolfrider + wolf, a peon, and a bonecaster + skeletons and came out with exactly 23 health after blowing all cooldowns and using a potion.  But she’s really being pushed to the limit.  Her agro range at 58-59 means she’s always got an escort of helboars anywhere she goes, and makes working around Zeth’gor problematic as hell, because that place will unload an assist train on you in a heartbeat if you’re not very careful.  She misses a ton fighting level 60-61 fel orcs, and forget getting her across the Path of Glory to burn Horde siege engines quite yet.  Sure, my DK Moktor blew through Hellfire Peninsula like it was a kiddie ride…but let’s face it, a level 58 DK fresh out of Acherus with a diploma and a full set of blue gear is redonkulously overpowered compared to a level 58 prot warrior with mostly level 52ish greens.  My advice to prospective prot warriors is, if you want to try HFP at level 58, go for it, but make extra-sure your gear is up to snuff beforehand.  Otherwise you’ll just frustrate yourself.

So sadly, she may have to retreat back through the Dark Portal for a level.  That would give me time to complete some quests in the Plaguelands that I want to do, or maybe visit Silithus.  (OK, Plaguelands.)  It’ll also give me a chance to catch her mining up to where it needs to be.  She has picked up enough initial upgrades–sword, pants, shield–that nothing back in the Plaguelands should give her much trouble.  And at level 60, I can train the huge amount of new ranks of abilities she gets, plus Shockwave, and be much more ready to face Hellfire Peninsula.  Plus I need to get her rested XP built back up, I burned it all leveling her quickly between 54 and 58.

I’m looking forward to leveling her in Outland.  It’s been long enough since I leveled a character there–my last was Moktor many months ago–that I’ve gotten over any burnout I suffered with it.  I’m going to try and hit some areas that I skipped on Moktor, places like the Bone Wastes, and maybe head to Netherstorm and Shadowmoon instead of just immediately hopping the boat to Northrend at 68…because quite honestly, having gotten four characters through the 70-80 grind in 10 months, and with two more now at 72, I’m fried on Northrend leveling.  I really want to see how Prot Warrior v3.0 carves a path through Outland content.  I expect it’ll be pretty damn fun.

If you’ve got any questions about her experiences leveling as pure Prot through the 40s and 50s, fire away!


Four whole seconds to spare

Yeah, uh, Orkin here, were gonna have to charge extra for this one...

Yeah, uh, Mr. Fordring? Orkin here. Listen, we're gonna have to charge extra for this one...

Well, actually, four and a half seconds if you’re being really precise.

That’s how much time The Anvil had left on the enrage timer last night when we finally downed Anub’arak in 25-man normal Coliseum, after three weeks of trying.

To say that Anub’arak was a notch higher on the difficulty scale than the rest of the fights in the Coliseum (Faction Champions excluded, but more on that later) would be an understatement.  After all, Northrend Beasts is basically three gimmick fights in a row.  Lord Jaraxxus makes the healers cry, but as long as people know to run toward the wall and not stand in Bad(tm), it’s not too rough.  Twin Val’kyrs?  The ultimate gimmick fight, but if you can tell light from dark and can interrupt Twin’s Pact, it’s no big thing.

The Nub is a little rougher.  We’d gotten several good shots at him last week but the healers were having real trouble keeping the offtanks up.  Our plan was to have the offtanks grab and hold both pairs of Burrowers so DPS could focus on the big guy; otherwise we had no shot at dropping him inside his short enrage timer.  But despite having excellent healers in the raid, our DK offtank (who’s got more health than any of the other three of us) kept falling over.

It was then that our raid officers, looking through the logs, discovered what Spinks posted about over at Welcome to Spinksville yesterday:  The Anub’arak fight is one of the only encounters in WoW where Shield Block rules.

The Nerubian Burrowers stack a debuff called Expose Weakness.  Each stack causes you to take 25% more damage, up to a maximum of 225% (9 stacks, down from 10 pre-3.2.2).  But the catch is, apparently if you block one of their attacks, your shield block value is subtracted from their damage before the Expose Weakness debuff multiplier is added.  Burrowers only hit for about 2500 to 3000.  See where this is going?  Our 46,000-health DK, with no shield, had no way to mitigate the 12,000 to 15,000 he was taking per hit from two burrowers except his jealousy-inducing 33%+ dodge.  Our warrior, the other offtank, did.  The DK died.  The warrior didn’t.

So last night I was the #3 tank, and I was on burrower duty.  I dutifully loaded up my “trash” set instead of my normal boss-tanking set.  My trash set is a real hash of things, built for block value over even block rating.  I still rock the T7 helm with it, plus some of my four T8 pieces, other bits and pieces from Ulduar and maybe one other from Naxx still.  It isn’t so much designed for block tanking as it is designed for DPS…I even normally run two crit trinkets instead of tank trinkets (although for this fight, I strapped my tank trinkets back on) because it’s a set designed for light-hitting trash and any situation where I need to rip an 11k Shield Slam out of my ass.  I ended up losing about 10 points of Defense, a crapton of dodge%, and maybe 1500 health from my boss set, but my buffed shield block value was a tasty 2593, and I was still at 543 Defense and 42,200 fully buffed health.  My block rating was a bit low at 22.78%, but as a warrior, I’ve got two other tricks up my sleeve for that–Shield Block, for almost complete immunity to damage for 10 seconds out of 40, and 3/3 in the recently-buffed Critical Block talent, meaning 60% of those blocks wouldn’t be for 2593, they’d be for almost 5200.  I couldn’t block everything, but when I did block, I made it count.

The strategy, I’m pleased to say, works like a charm, and you don’t have to build a super-block set that gimps everything else to do it…well, on normal, at least.  (On heroic, yeah, you probably do.)  We did run into trouble on the first time we got Anub’arak to phase 3 when we had four burrowers up.  As good as our healers are, keeping up a tank with two burrowers, with 50% haste, and 9 stacks of Expose Weakness, and Swarming Leech, just wasn’t happening.

The last two attempts we got him to phase 3 with only one set of burrowers up, and as long as we kept the burrowers separated so they didn’t buff each other, the healers could keep myself and the other OT (paladin) up without much trouble.  Tanking one burrower, even with 9 stacks of Expose Weakness, isn’t too bad.  The first attempt, we just ran out of time and he enraged at 4%, finishing the last of us at 2%.  On the killshot, I thought we weren’t going to make it because he was still at 18% health with one minute left.  A couple of the healers shifted over to DPS, we lowered everybody else’s health in the raid even more to slow down the Leeching Swarm, and all of us blew everydamnthing we had (I was tanking a burrower while beating up on Anub).  And he fell over with precisely 4.5 seconds left on the enrage timer.

Now is Blizzard going to “fix” this little trick?  I don’t know.  Shield Block has evolved into a mechanic that doesn’t really fit with anything…it’s overpowered against trash and underpowered against bosses.  It’s good to see a fight where it actually matters, and fortunately Anub’arak is quite easy for a druid or DK to tank so there’s still great use for them there.  It seems mighty cheesy to be able to build a set that allows one warrior to tank four burrowers–on heroic, no less, as Spinks documented–with impunity, but that’s a very extreme example.  I wouldn’t put it past Blizzard to break our little Shield Block trick, but if they don’t, and until they do, we’re going to take full advantage of one of the few bones they throw us on a fairly challenging fight.

Oh, and as you may remember from the rant immediately below this one, I kinda hate Faction Champions.  And by “kinda,” I mean I’d like to find the guy at Blizzard who thought this was a good idea and beat him silly with a wiffleball bat.  Well, there was a little patch note in the 3.2.2 release that mentioned some changes had been made to this fight.  We didn’t know what to expect going in last night.  But here’s what you need to know.

First week, seven wipes.  Second week, five wipes.  Third week, three deaths.

Faction Champions got nerfed TO THE GROUND, BABY.

The biggest change?  Taunts no longer have diminishing returns on them.  Think about that for a second.  That one change alone, not even including the damage reduction they put in, turns the fight into cheesymode.  Seriously.  They assigned me to harass the death nugget.  I could just spam Taunt every 8 seconds, with total impunity, to pull him off of a squishy for a few…enough time for me to drop a Charge or Intercept on him, or Shield Bash him to slow him down, or Concussion Blow or Shockwave to stun…oh, and they didn’t go immune to my stuns, either.

Sure, there were times where the DK got away from me.  But not many.  And when he did, I got him right back.

As much as I hate that fight–and I still do, with every flabby fiber of my being–I almost felt dirty at the end of it, that’s how easy it was.  It reminded me of an AB match when a premade runs up against a PUG, except the Faction Champions didn’t /afk out halfway through.  Yep, after whooping it up at our expense for a couple of weeks, ol’ Wrynn the Chin saw his boys and girls get a straight-outta-Compton gangsta beatdown, Hordesiyyyyyde style.  Word up, yo.

Finally…so what reward does ol’ Tirion Fordring give us for completing the Trial of the Crusader?  The chance to do it all over again on heroic!  Well fuckin’ yay there big guy, excuse me if I’m somewhat less than enthused about going Groundhog Day on your little spectacle.  Catch me next week and we’ll talk about it.


So You Want to Be A Prot Warrior: Endgame Gearing, Part I

You’ve arrived.  You’re level 80.  No more level grinding for you, no sir!  Now it’s time to go forth and tackle the real game of World of Warcraft!  TO HEROICS!  TO RAIDS!  LET’S DOOOO IIIIIITT!  (Done in my best TF2 Demoman voice.)

Not so fast, Spanky.  Uncle Panzercow is here to give you a little 411 on the reality of being a prot warrior starting at the endgame.

It’s a sad fact of life, really, but a fact nevertheless.  You, as a prot warrior tank, have extra steps to take before you’re ready to sally forth and start acquiring tasty, tasty epix.  See, because of the bog-standard “1/1/3” method of instance grouping (one tank, one healer, three DPS), Joe Scrubdeeps can finish opening his package from Rhonin and promptly walk into a heroic dungeon…and if the other four members of the party can write their own name and all five of them aren’t the product of a brother-sister marriage, generally, he can survive.  It’s possible to carry one weak DPS through a heroic…hell, even two, if your third DPS is really tricked out and your tank and healer are either very good or very overgeared, or both.  It’s also difficult, but possible, to work with an undergeared healer in a heroic–again, everybody else has to be on their game, the composition has to lend itself toward crowd control, and the healer has to be very good at what they do, just lacking high-level items.

You can’t do that with a tank.  If you walk into a heroic–or God forbid, a raid–wearing a mish-mash of level 77 greens and a couple of quest-reward blues, rocking 500 Defense and 19k health, and try to tank it, you’re going to die.  The DPS can’t just turn it up to 11 to compensate for you, because then they’ll yoink agro off you and they’ll die.  There’s no way around it.  The one member of the group that absolutely, positively, has to be geared up somewhat before they can enter a heroic is you, the tank.

Fortunately, things aren’t quite like they were in Burning Crusade, where if you were a warrior, it felt like you needed to be wearing Tier 5 epix from SSC/TK before you could even think about tanking a five-man heroic.  If you’re smart about your gearing and willing to be patient, you can be quite ready to run a heroic without setting foot in one–and you don’t need a raid willing to carry you through Ulduar and give you a full rack of T8 to do it, no matter what that idiot death nugget told you in your last PUG.

So what I’m going to do here is tell you what stats to prioritize.  I am not going to give you a hyper-detailed gear list.  There are a lot of them out there that are much better than anything I could come up with.  A number of the excellent tank websites like Veneretio’s Tanking Tips, or Elitist Jerks, or Tankspot, or even the Blizzard warrior or tanking forums, have great and specific lists of gear that you can look for.  I’ll mention a few pieces, but not many.

The two most important things to worry about first off, in my opinion, are Defense and Stamina.  Stamina is a no-brainer, of course–more health is always good.  But especially in the beginning of your heroic career, you simply cannot brute-force stack enough stamina to handle a heroic without also loading up on Defense.  The reason is critical hits.  Defense reduces your chance to get critted.  Pushing critical hits off the table smooths out the damage that you take and makes it easier on your healer(s).  Damage doesn’t necessarily kill you, but damage spikes will.  And a crit is the ultimate damage spike.

You have a base 5% chance to be critted by a mob of the same level at level 80, plus 0.2% for each mob level over 80.  So since heroic bosses are level 82, you need to reduce their crit chance by 5.4%; skull-level raid bosses are always considered your level +3 (level 83), so you need 5.6% crit reduction.  In order to completely remove your chance to be critted, you need 535 Defense skill for heroics, and 540 Defense skill for raids. 

I italicized “skill” because the pieces of gear you get will have Defense rating on them, and as you should know by now, rating != skill.  At level 80, to reach the “floor” of 540 Defense skill (often erroneously called a “cap”), you need a base Defense skill of 400 augmented by 689 Defense rating from your gear.  It sounds like a daunting number, but actually, stacking 689 Defense rating isn’t that hard.  Defense stacking should be your number-one priority when getting ready to tank a heroic, and Stamina stacking should be number two.

Fortunately, you can load both stats off the same pieces of gear.  Blacksmiths can make some really good “starter” gear for the budding heroic tank–for example, Daunting Handguards and the Tempered Saronite set (especially the Tempered Saronite Helm) are easy to make, relatively cheap, and provide the basics of Strength, Stamina, and Defense while filling in gaps in your current set.  If you have built up a significant amount of money–enough to afford things like Titansteel Bars and Frozen Orbs from the AH–then you can go for the high-end blacksmithing gear and be really good to go–the Tempered Titansteel Helm and Treads, and the Titansteel Shield Wall.  Expect to pay several thousand gold to get all three of those crafted, though, unless you have friends and/or a guild to help out.

If your healer’s willing to risk it, of course there’s nothing stopping you from tanking a heroic with less than 535 Defense skill.  Each point of Defense below 535 means there’s a 0.04% chance of you eating a crit, every hit.  Hey, if you want to swim with great white sharks wearing nothing but a chum bikini, go for it.  Me, I’d take the safe route and load up my Defense first.

Now, on to Stamina.  Once you get your Defense up to scratch, start adding in +Stamina pieces as you can.  You might be wondering, “how much is ‘enough?'”  When I first started tanking heroics on Linedan several months ago, he had between 22,000 and 23,000 unbuffed health.  Compared to the 33k+ he’s got nowadays that doesn’t seem like much, but add on a PW: Fortitude or Blessing of Kings and Commanding Shout and you’re looking at between 26,000 and 28,000.  That should be more than enough to handle some of the “starter” heroics like Utgarde Keep, assuming your healer is reasonably competent and your DPS pumps out enough pain to kill stuff before your healer runs out of mana.

This same refrain–Defense and Stamina–holds true for enchanting and gemming…up to a point.  I’ll talk more about enchants in the second part of this post, for now, I’ll just say this about gems.  Do not gem for Defense or any other rating-based skill (parry, dodge, hit, crit, expertise, etc.) unless you absolutely have to.  Why?  Those slots can be better used giving you more Stamina or Strength, depending on what type of set you’re building.  (More on that in the next part, too.)  If you’re turning up a few points short of 535 or 540, then go ahead and slap in something like a Thick Autumn’s Glow.  But remember, you’re only going to get about 3 points of Defense skill per blue-quality yellow “pure” +Defense gem, and slots are precious on “starter” heroic/raid gear.

In Part II of my extremely long-winded treatise on endgame gearing, I’ll talk about why you, as a level 80 tank, need not only one set of good gear, but two–a set for big bosses and a set for small trash.  I’ll talk about avoidance versus health, enchanting, and after all that, I’ll throw in how version 3.2 throws the old gearing paradigm out the window because of the easier availability of badges and Tier 8-level gear.


A Latisha update (for reals this time)

latisha2

I should have worn the red shirt, shouldn't I? Damn.

Now that I’ve gotten my silly cheesecake post for her out of the way…if you remember, Latisha Morganson is my little experiment to test how well my own So You Want to Be a Prot Warrior guides work.  I am leveling her according to the guides, straight up from 1 to 80 (or until I lose interest, whichever comes first).  When last we saw her, Latisha was level 22 and splitting her time in between Menethil and Lakeshire.

Now, a few weeks later, with 2 days and 12 hours played, Latisha has just hit level 39 and is, for now, going to be based out of Theramore while I rapid-fire the various Dustwallow/Mudsprocket quests to try and push to 40.  She is, as per the SYWTBAPW guide, 0/0/30, and now stands 62,000 or so xp away from the big Four-Zero, the ability to wear skimpy plate bikinis as opposed to chainmail halter tops (sigh, Blizz, just sigh), and most importantly, the Holy and Inviolate Shield Slam.

I’ll admit, I borrowed my wife and her level 80 shaman to blast me through Scarlet Monastery and pick up a few things.  Those are Scarlet Gauntlets and Scarlet Leggings she’s wearing, along with Herod’s Raging Berserker’s Helm, and her weapon is the SM quest reward sword, the very nice Sword of Serenity.  (No, she can’t kick ass like River Tam when she wields it.)  The rest of her stuff is a mixture of 30ish greens, either AH purchases or quest reward items like her Crest of Darkshire shield.  I haven’t been able to keep her quite as upgraded as I’d like, mainly because of the utterly ridiculous prices that mail and plate warrior items command on the Feathermoon AH.  Seriously, guys, WTF.  30 gold for a level 30 green set of boots?  Two hundred and sixty gold for a level 40 plate breastplate “of the Bear?”  Do people actually pay those stupid prices?  Well, maybe they do, but I don’t.  I’ll muddle along without, and so far, so good.

Nothing that’s happened to her so far has really caused me to change my original premises in SYWTBAPW.  Yes, you can level with a full Prot spec and have fun doing it.  No, you won’t kill as fast as a DPS warrior or any other class except maybe a prot paladin or holy priest.  Yes, you can survive stuff that would kill those other, higher-deeps classes.  But actually going through the steps myself has shown me a few things that may be helpful for anyone else wishing to walk the first portion of the Way of the Meatshield…

– Your #1 problem, if you choose to level via the sword-and-board route, is going to be rage generation.  I can’t understate how horrible your rage gen is in the 20s and 30s when using a single one-handed weapon.  You must learn to be extremely judicious with your special attacks because you won’t have the rage to spam anything.  Going in Battle Stance and using a two-hander–pretending you’re an Arms warrior–gives you much better rage generation and higher DPS, but you trade it off against taking more damage and needing more downtime.  The choice is yours.  Personally I have done most of my work with Latisha using 1H+shield, and just accepted the lousy rage generation.

– One rage strategy that’s easy to learn is this:  Switch to Battle Stance when targeting a mob, get in Charge range, hit Charge, and as you start moving, hit Defensive Stance.  If you time it right, you’ll shift into Defensive Stance before your first weapon hit lands, preserving that rage.  Even if you mistime it, you’ve closed the distance to the mob, stunned it momentarily, and bought yourself 10 rage.

– Rend is more useful than I gave it credit for being.  I still have it on her bar, although it may go away when she hits 40 and gets Shield Slam.  Most of your fights will last long enough for it to tick its full duration and it’s a good bunch of extra damage for the rage cost.

– Shield Block is so your friend at these levels.  Basically, with any sort of reasonable gear, hitting Shield Block will give you 10 seconds of effective frontal invulnerability against all but the strongest melee mobs.  In addition, it guarantees at least two, usually three Revenge chances in a 10-15 second span, and until you get Shield Slam, Revenge is your big whammy.  By level 30 you’ll have it talented down to 40 seconds cooldown; since you kill slowly, you’ll have it ready almost every fight.  This is an absolute lifesaver when you’re pulling an entire camp.  Shield Block early and there’s a good chance, with all those Revenges, that you’ll have one mob dead or seriously injured quickly.  Plus, again, since you do not kill quickly, you’ll probably have Shield Block back up later in the fight when you need the damage mitigation.

– I went with the Improved Disarm version of the Prot build, taking two points out of Toughness and moving them over to Improved Disarm.  This gives a 40-second cooldown on Disarm and causes the mob to take 10% more damage while disarmed.  I don’t remember to use it that often during normal grinding, but against things that are 3 levels over me, or the occasional elite, it’s very handy.  I’ll probably swap the points back sometime in her 40s.

– Get used to missing.  It’s hard for me going from an Ulduar-geared prot warrior who’s very close to both the hit and expertise caps, down to a mildly-geared alt with no +hit and only the human racial +expertise with her sword.  She whiffs and clanks her swings.  A LOT.

– Shield Bash isn’t just your primary caster interrupt.  It’s also your best way to handle runners.  Go upside their head when they’re at about 20-25% health, since you can’t Hamstring in Defensive Stance.  And if Shield Bash is on cooldown, there’s always Concussion Blow.  CB hits hard enough that it’ll probably kill a runner instead of just stopping him.

Glyph of Revenge is awesome for leveling.  With your rage so hard to come by, a free Heroic Strike after each successful Revenge is too good to pass up.

– Don’t be afraid to pull more than you think you can handle.  More than likely, you’ll surprise yourself with how capable this class/spec combination is.  Just scout out a good spot to pull the mobs to to minimize or eliminate getting any adds, and also a spot you can safely rez if you do indeed bite off more than you can chew.  If you’re lucky enough to have a healer friend?  Pair up with them and you can work on your tanking skills while tearing a path of total destruction across the landscape…albeit slowly.

– One day, I’ll figure out why Blizzard had such a boner for putting +spirit on low-level warrior gear.  Spirit.  On warrior mail.  And it’s everywhere.   So not only is she running around in some bizarre scalemail version of bondage gear, it’s poorly itemized too?


So You Want to Be a Prot Warrior: Levels 71-80

OK, gang, this is it.  The last 10 levels.  You’ve hung with me this far, and I appreciate all the great feedback and comments that I’ve gotten over the last few months of writing the various chapters of SYWTBAPW.  (And it’s not over yet, more on that later.)  So let’s get down to it, and start grinding through Northrend to get you those last 10 levels and arrive at your ultimate destiny–the endgame.

When we left you back at level 70, your build looked like this:  5/5/51.  For this guide, we’re taking all 10 of your last talent points into the Arms tree to reach the “cookie-cutter” 15/5/51 build that’s the most popular prot warrior build right now, and for the foreseeable future.  As we go through the talents, I’ll explain why we’re going 15 deep into the Arms tree, which might seem surprising considering we’re, y’know, tanks.  There’s a reason behind it, don’t worry.

Levels 71-73:  3/3 Improved Heroic Strike.  One of the more messed-up mechanics of the warrior class (IMO) is that when tanking, in order to maximize your threat, you will be spamming Heroic Strike every time your rage permits it.  If you’re tanking heroics or raids, there’s a very good chance that your rage will always permit it, hence you’ll literally be smashing that button on every weapon swing.  With that in mind, having it take 3 points less rage can’t hurt, and it will let you spam it more in situations where you have decent, but not unlimited, rage.

Levels 74-75:  2/2 Improved Charge.  This is a tossup.  We’ve got to put these two points somewhere in the Arms tree in order to open up the third tier of talents.  You can make a case for putting them in Iron Will instead for the stun and charm resistance, especially if you PvP a bit on the side.  (Note that a dedicated Prot PvP spec is very different from what we’re working with here.)  I put them in Improved Charge because I rarely PvP on Linedan anyway, and the ability to generate 10 extra rage on a Charge, for a total of 25, gave me more options when initiating combat.  Improved Rend would be a waste; it doesn’t do a lot of damage with a one-hander anyhow.

Levels 76-77:  2/2 Impale.  Increases the critical strike damage bonus of all your “abilities”–i.e., yellow-damage attacks, really anything but a normal melee swing–by 20%, giving you +120% damage on crits instead of +100%.  You don’t have the high crit percentages of a DPS class as a prot warrior, but with several talents giving you +15% crit chance to some hard-hitting abilities (Shield Slam, Heroic Strike, Devastate, Thunder Clap, and Cleave), you’ll crit enough to where this talent adds noticeable damage output.  Plus, it’s required for…

Levels 78-80:  3/3 Deep Wounds.  I covered in a prior post several months ago why a prot warrior can get good use out of Deep Wounds.  The quick recap:  ANY crit will make your target bleed for 48% of your mainhand weapon’s damage over 6 seconds (3 ticks 2 seconds apart), and it “rolls,” basically stacking as the 6-second durations of several Deep Wounds applications overlap.  The numbers don’t seem huge at first.  Linedan, in largely Ulduar and Naxx-25 gear, puts about 280 to 290 extra damage on a target with a single Deep Wounds while raid-buffed, in three ticks of 95 or so points each.  But, remember, Deep Wounds activates off any crit, and warriors throw out a LOT of attacks…including the passive damage from Damage Shield.  So you will be able to keep Deep Wounds on your targets quite a bit, and over a fight, the high uptime means that the damage adds up to surprising numbers.  Looking back over the last four Ulduar raids I’ve had him on, Deep Wounds is between 6% and 10% of Linedan’s total damage output.  That’s a lot when you consider that he’s doing between 7 and 9 million damage output on a three-hour raid night.  And it’s all bonus.  More damage = more threat.  More threat = the other DPS being able to push hard without fear of me losing agro.  More DPS = stuff dies faster.  It’s win-win-win all the way around.

And hey, there’s three new spells you get to play with!

Level 71:  Shattering Throw.  You throw your weapon at the target, doing some damage, reducing their armor by 20% for 10 seconds, or removing any invulnerabilities.  Basically, it’s a ranged five-stack Devastate.  The trick is that it removes invulnerabilities–yes, folks, Shattering Throw will literally burst bubbles.  Or Ice Blocks.  It’s primarily a PvP move as far as I’ve seen, and I don’t think I’ve ever used it in anger, but I might going forward, because it hits harder than firing a gun or bow, and while I haven’t been able to confirm it, it may apply the silencing effect that Heroic Throw does due to the Gag Order talent.  I’ll have to check into that.

Level 75:  Enraged Regeneration.  Yes, you, a warrior, now have a self-heal.  You have to be Enraged to use it, but with 2/2 Improved Defensive Stance and decent defensive stats, you’re Enraged most of the time anyhow.  Hit this, and it burns the Enrage (and prevents reapplication of an Enrage for the duration), and heals you for 30% of your total health over 10 seconds.  Protip:  If you really want to get the most out of this, pop Last Stand and then pop Enraged Regeneration.  ER uses whatever your total health is at the moment you hit it, so it will calculate that 30% heal including the extra health from Last Stand, making it more like a net 40% heal.  Three-minute cooldown.

Level 80:  Heroic Throw.  This is Shattering Throw’s more useful cousin.  It does a reasonable amount of damage, silences the target for 3 seconds (if you have Gag Order), and generates significant bonus threat, which Shattering Throw doesn’t.  It’s an awesome pulling maneuver, and something I use frequently.  Bloodrage for initial rage, and Heroic Throw to pull, and pulling casters is now no big deal anymore.  It does, unfortunately, have a one-minute cooldown.

As for how you do your leveling from 70 to 80, it hasn’t really changed.  You are at the peak of your survivability.  You are one hard mofo to kill.  Grinding entire camps of Northrend mobs should be a non-issue, if you’re keeping your gear up to date.  You can easily hammer down some of the wussier elites solo.  But again, let me emphasize–the point of this spec is to tank.  You should be tanking instances every chance you get.  I’m a broken record, I know.  (Or a “skipping CD” to you younguns.)  But if you’re not going to tank, there’s very little reason to go prot and stay prot.  Keep tanking instances to keep your skills sharp–warrior tanking is a lot more than just hitting “969.”

Your tanking rotation does not change between level 70 and level 80.  You will have more pulling options with Shattering Throw first and Heroic Throw later, and Improved Heroic Strike makes your Heroic Strike spam easier, and you’ll have new ranks of your same old friends, but the foundational basics of how you gain and hold agro, and the priority of your attacks, haven’t changed.  What you’ll find in the Northrend dungeons is, mercifully, a move away from the godawful huge five- and six-mob mixed melee/caster groups in Outland instances like Shattered Halls and Shadow Labyrinth.  You’ll still have casters and melee mixed up, but rarely more than four at a time, which makes handling them much easier because you’ll need to stack less crowd control in your groups.  Maybe even none, once you get more confident.

Just because we’ve dinged 80 and gotten our special present from Rhonin in the mail, though, doesn’t mean the grind is over.  Ohhhhh no.  Far from it.  In the next installment of SYWTBAPW, our talk will move from talents and skills to gear and enchants and gems, as we talk about your progression toward being ready to tank Northrend heroics and raids.  In another installment down the line, we’ll talk about alternate warrior specs–why dual-spec is a fantastic thing for many tanks, whether you should use that second spec for DPS or not, and possible other tank specs besides 15/5/51.  We’ll also be looking at the differences between raid tanking and instance tanking, which are bigger than you’d think.


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

A group of tanks meet to discuss strategy, resplendent in their high-60s Outland gear.

A group of tanks meet to discuss strategy, resplendent in their high-60s Outland gear.

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!