Here is an introductory lead post to provide a rough overview of how to operate as a Protection warrior and hopefully answer some of the more commonly asked questions. A basic knowledge of tanking mechanics is assumed -- if you've been out of the loop since 4.0 was introduced, refer to this post for a brief rundown. While some of the details are a little out of date, it should give you a good idea of what has changed for Prot.
The following is a bare-bones spec which illustrates all of the "must have" talents for a proper Prot talent build: WoW Talent Calculator - Sigrie
(Note: Incite and Gag Order are OPTIONAL talents which were added as filler for this example. You may pull points away from them as you see fit, as discussed below.)
There are a lot of viable options to spend those remaining 13 points. Here's a quick breakdown of most of them, along with with example builds depending on what theme you decide to emphasize:
Example AoE / Trash Focused Spec: WoW Talent Calculator - Sigrie
- Blood and Thunder and Thunderstruck: If you need strong AoE threat and/or the ability to hold aggro while kiting a group of mobs, these talents are extremely helpful. While these were basically a "must-have" in Wrath, the importance of CC and the lowered frequency of AoEing down elites means that their usefulness is now more situational. These two talents compliment each other and should generally be taken together to maximize their effect.
- Gag Order: While an invaluable talent for pulling caster mobs, its usefulness is limited everywhere else. Great for trash, often worthless for bosses.
- Blood Craze: While it's questionable whether or not the minor health regen is worth the three talent points, what isn't questionable is that this talent has much more uptime when you're getting hit frequently. Use it for trash or adds-based encounters; don't bother when you're fighting a lone boss.
- Rude Interruption: Situational, but essentially 5% free damage when applicable. One point should be sufficient to provide high uptime.
- Piercing Howl: Very situational, but excellent when a dedicated kiting role is required. Best to swap in the Piercing Howl glyph when you expect to use it in an upcoming encounter.
- War Academy and Incite: These two talents significantly improve the damage of HS/Cleave, and thus are great for boosting single-target threat. Keep in mind however that when Inner Rage is active your usage of rage dumps will become less frequent, and the benefit of these talents will be reduced accordingly.
- Safeguard: This talent's effectiveness ranges from mostly worthless to unbelievably awesome. Best used in a raid encounter on a fellow tank who is anticipating a large burst of damage.
- Deep Wounds: This talent provides a good chunk of added DPS over the course of a boss fight. However, it does not play nice with CC, and the manner in which it provides its damage -- a DoT with a ramp-up time -- means that it will not aid in the initial snap threat that is required for a mob to actually stick to you. Considering that Vengeance as a mechanic was specifically designed to make sustained aggro irrelevant, this talent may be obsolete from a threat perspective. Use it when your personal DPS matters, most notably against 5-man bosses.
- Impending Victory: Awkward talent with limited benefit even under ideal conditions. 5% healing is not very significant, 20% target health window doesn't encompass much of most encounters, inconsistent proc chance means it can't be relied upon to use reactively, and requires a significant DPS loss to activate. Simply isn't worth the points.
- Battle Trance: Under ideal conditions, will only conserve 1 rage per second (or 1.5 during Inner Rage). Only useful if your rage income is extremely low.
- Everything Else: Not worth the points, at least for PvE.
Example Hybrid Spec: WoW Talent Calculator - Sigrie
If you want a general purpose tanking spec which you can use as an alternate for a DPS spec, you'll probably want something resembling the above. Highly customizable.
- Shield Slam, Revenge, Devastate: The only viable options.
- Shockwave, Thunder Clap, Cleaving: All excellent choices for AoE situations.
- Spell Reflect, Long Charge, Rapid Charge, Sunder Armor, Intercept: Decent choices, especially if AoE threat is a non-issue. Spell Reflect in particular can be of great use against caster trash.
- Piercing Howl, Victory Rush: Piercing should only be used if you plan to be kiting things around for extended periods, Victory Rush only if you're leveling from 80-85.
- Intervene: Terrible glyph that is liable to get you killed if used in a raid.
- Demoralizing Shout: Required if there's any chance you'll have to use Demo during a fight.
- Battle, Command: If you're in charge of using either of these shouts to maintain their buffs, use the appropriate glyph.
- Intimidating Shout: Surprisingly good glyph for instance trash. Potentially 8 seconds of CC onto an entire pack of enemies with no downside. Great panic button, or simply to use as an additional interrupt.
- Berserker Rage: Filler glyph. 5 rage every 30 seconds is barely worth mentioning, but you may as well use it if there's no utility glyph to put in its place.
Single Target Threat Priority:
Shield Slam > Revenge > Rend > Devastate
Note: A single Rend application is only worth using on a 30%-bleed debuffed single target if it ticks at least four times. Unbuffed, it must tick all six times. Never refresh an existing Rend -- always wait for it to run its full duration or else you lose the initial application tick.
Whenever possible, immediately follow up a Shield Slam with either a Revenge or Devastate. The Sword and Board talent is most effective when it procs the first GCD after a Shield Slam is used. If it fails to proc, use the remaining 2 GCDs to refresh debuffs/buffs as needed.
Applying three Sunder Armor stacks should typically be a high priority, as should be applying damage-reducing debuffs such as Demoralizing Shout and Thunder Clap. The exact order and urgency of applying debuffs isn't set in stone, and it's up to you to prioritize personal threat, group DPS, and reducing incoming damage depending on the circumstances.
AoE Threat Priority:
Rend > Thunder Clap > Shockwave > Revenge
This is assuming you have Blood and Thunder talent. Using T. Clap like clockwork will help your threat somewhat, especially by adding Thunderstruck charges for the next Shockwave, but the most important step is to keep Rend rolling on all your targets. It makes a dramatic difference in your sustained threat versus not having the talent. Remaining GCDs should be occupied prioritizing Revenge and then single-target abilities.
Burning Excess Rage (updated for 4.0.6)
The above rotations only cover how to occupy your GCDs. At the same time you're going to be able to have to utilize Heroic Strike, Cleave and Inner Rage to use the remainder of your rage income and maximize your threat. A simple rule of thumb is that if you have over 50 rage, use either Heroic Strike or Cleave as appropriate. If you still have over 50 rage despite using these abilities on cooldown, consider activating Inner Rage.
With the change to Inner Rage as of patch 4.0.6, it is a less situational ability for both Protection and DPS warriors. It's beneficial to activate in any situation where you are gaining rage faster than you're able to burn it, but due to the cooldown can never have more than 50% uptime. In order to get the most out of it, use it when you expect 15 seconds of sustained heavy rage generation -- activating it before the boss channels a randomly-targeted spell, or right before you stun a group of mobs with Shockwave, is less than ideal. When possible, combine its use with Shield Block and/or Berserker Rage in order to maximize your rage generation while it is active.
Spell Reflection > Pummel > Shockwave > Concussion Blow
Protection warriors have a slew of abilities that can be used to reduce incoming magic damage, particularly when Spell Reflect can be used. Beyond the rotation listed above, you can also use Charge, Intercept, Heroic Throw, even Intimidating Shout to interrupt a mob's cast if necessary. Many caster mobs in heroic 5-mans are no joke and they will kill you if left unchecked. Be proactive and make it your job to shut down casting whenever possible.
Survival Stat Priority (Updated):
Stamina â‰¥ Mastery > Parry â‰¥ Dodge
Your first priority when gearing up is to ensure that you have enough health to survive unavoidable burst damage. Whether it's a Mangle + Melee on Magmaw, a simultaneous Crackle + Shadowflame Breath on Nef, or any number of other nasty combos, you don't want to be vulnerable to getting one-rounded if you can help it. So be sure not to skimp on the stamina, especially if you're just starting to gear up your character for tanking.
Beyond that, it's in your best interest to stack stats which reduce your overall damage taken and allow your healers to be as efficient as possible. Mastery is unmatched for this purpose. It doesn't suffer diminishing returns, offers both defensive and offensive advantages, and provides the most consistent damage reduction of the avoidance stats. Your ideal set will include Mastery on every individual piece of gear, with the possible exception of trinkets.
Parry and Dodge are still valuable stats and should not be neglected. The way you prioritize one over the other, however, isn't perfectly obvious. The short answer is that Parry is better than Dodge due to the Hold the Line talent, but diminishing returns discourage you from ignoring Dodge entirely. Against a single mob with a normal attack speed, there exists a "sweet spot" ratio of Parry:Dodge which you should strive for. Here is a graph made by swcarden which illustrates the ideal ratio depending on your character's Mastery rating and combined Parry/Dodge ratings.
Keep in mind that the above graph assumes you're being attacked once every 2.5 seconds. The advantage of Parry over Dodge is reduced as the frequency of incoming attacks increases, since the uptime of Hold the Line will naturally improve as you're attacked more often. If you're tanking multiple mobs or a single fast-attacking mob, it may be best to gear for a 1:1 Parry/Dodge ratio to minimize the impact of DR since you will have 99%+ Hold the Line uptime regardless. Use your discretion.
Threat Stat Priority:
Expertise > Hit >>> Strength > Crit
In a real-world situation nothing beats Expertise for producing consistent threat output. A string of parries against a fresh mob is what gets DPS killed. Hit provides similar benefits to Expertise once you defeat a target's dodge chance, and is of particular importance when using interrupts (since targets cannot parry or dodge while casting). Strength and crit, while not specifically bad for tank threat, are never worth gearing for.
Wowhead to the rescue! They have a powerful, easy-to-use gear database filter which you can use to find all any potential upgrades. Here's some handy examples:
5-man Normal Mode Drops or Equivalents (ilvl 333)
5-man Heroic Mode Drops or Equivalents (ilvl 346)
First-tier Epics (ilvl 359)
(The above links have a few matches which aren't appropriate for a tank -- trinkets, mostly. They should be obvious and easily ignored.)
Is Shattering Throw worth using?
Yes, absolutely. It's a minor TPS loss for you, but if you have even one physical-based damage dealer in your group then the total DPS gains are significant. Best used while everyone's DPS timers are active (e.g. during Bloodlust), and in a situation where shifting to Battle Stance and casting a 1.5 second spell won't get you killed. Convince your DPS-specced warrior friends to use it as well -- just not at the same time that you do.
Are agility-based weapons worth using?
Not unless it's significantly better than what you're using in terms of base DPS, stamina or ratings. Strength now provides a small amount of parry in addition to its TPS benefits, and you'll never have to worry about speed being too fast (all strength-based one-handed weapons are 2.6 speed). Never tank with a fast weapon.
What's this Heroic Leap thing?
Press the button to produce a targeting circle, click where you want to go within 40 yards, land there a second later and do damage in a moderate radius. It will definitely come in handy sometimes, as it's basically a targeted Blink on a one-minute cooldown. Unfortunately it's also like Blink in that it has a very high failure rate if you're not on perfectly level ground. When it does fail, it will simply give you an error message and you'll remain where you are. If you were trying to use it to avoid something, your face will subsequently be smashed.
Can I use Colossus Smash while tanking?
Sure, though there are drawbacks. Beyond the low-threat GCD you spend, you'll need to burn all your rage and leave yourself open to crits momentarily by shifting to and then from Battle Stance. Potentially following it up with a Heavy Repercussions Shield Slam -> Revenge -> Sword and Board Shield Slam combo is a huge burst of damage however, so you can use it against a single target under the right conditions.
If you have any comments on how to improve this post, feel free to PM me.
Update 2/11/11: Changed the "Burning Excess Rage" subsection to reflect the new Inner Rage.
Update 3/19/11: Added more notes to the "Survival Stat Priority" subsection.