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The Care and Feeding of Warriors: Heroics, protection spec and build 13033

The Care and Feeding of Warriors is about warriors, who hurl themselves into the fray, the very teeth of danger, armed with nothing more than the biggest weapons and armored with the absolutely heaviest armor we can find. Hey, we're not stupid -- we're just crazy.

Last week, I said that we'd see changes to protection. This week, we're seeing them. It's build 13033, also known (to those of us who care) as the protection warrior pass. Last week firmly started balancing fury's DPS, but this week is definitely protection's turn. Today, in fact, just hours before this patch went to the beta servers, I got done writing a long post talking about protection in the beta, what I saw as its strong points and its weak points.

Every single one of the weak points was addressed in this build. Every single one. This is what you call serendipity. It also means I have to completely rewrite my column with not a lot of time to spare, so as you may understand, I am at once pleased to see things improved and irritated that I spent all that time writing a column that will never see the light of day. It should be noted that these changes are on the PTR, not live on the beta as yet. It's a little odd to see the PTR get updated first, but I'd expect the beta servers will see a new build soon as well.

Having been 85 for a week, as well as having transferred over two level 85 premades, I've been running around testing out various alternate specs and taking them into instances. Why did I do this? Because, as we have already established, I am certifiably insane. Even before this patch, protection stood out as the strongest of the warrior leveling specs, and now it should see increased power as a tanking class. Vengeance is amazing for a leveling protection warrior. It takes the greatest strength of the tanking classes -- the ability to soak up damage -- and turns it into offensive power.

Breaking down 13033

First, let's look at the changes themselves, as presented on MMO-Champion.

Arms Make no mistake. This is a change for protection warriors. Arms warriors will probably be using Blood and Thunder in the protection tree in order to spread Rend around, of course, but this change is directly aimed at increasing protection warrior threat.

Ghostcrawler - Re: Warriors 12984
You shouldn't be dependent on Blood and Thunder to generate enough AE damage. It's there mostly for those cases where you can't always keep reapplying an AE ability but want to keep threat. In other words, a warrior who skips the talent shouldn't feel like they can't AE tank at all. You shouldn't feel like you have to open with Rend every AE pull. A more typical scenario would be on a fight where you know you're going to be AE tanking for a long time, you use Rend after your initial Thunder Clap or Shockwave. (Likewise, Thunder Clap buffing Shockwave shouldn't mean you never, ever touch Shockwave until the buff is applied.)

Thunder Clap's damage may just be too low.



It was, and now it's been increased. Before these changes, maybe Blood and Thunder and Thunderstruck shouldn't have meant that, but in practice, I found that my AoE moves were not doing a heck of a lot unless I got that buff stacked up -- and man, that's a long time to wait. Three TCs with the cooldown before Shockwave hits for anything decent is ridiculously long. TC itself did not have that lauded "snap threat" quality. This is a very positive quality of life change for protection.

Fury
  • Pummel is now usable in Battle and Berserker Stance (formerly, just Berserker).
  • Enrage now has a 3/6/9% chance to proc, down from 4/8/12%.
  • Battle Trance now affects your next special attack that costs more than 5 rage.
The change to Pummel means that arms warriors now have two interrupts, a stun (Throwdown) and Pummel itself. It's a solid change for arms warriors but will not really have much of an effect on fury. The Enrage change will lower fury DPS a touch, but it's not a major change, considering how many buffs fury got last week. And the Battle Trance change will keep the ability from being wasted, as almost any ability you'd want to use will still work with it.

Protection
  • Defensive Stance now increases threat generated by 100%, up from 45%.
  • Thunderstruck now also increases the damage of Rend.
  • Incite "These guaranteed criticals cannot re-trigger the Incite effect."
The Incite change is pretty much how it has been working for a while; it's a tooltip change. The big changes here are to Defensive Stance and Thunderstruck. TS's increasing Rend damage is probably aimed at helping protection warriors using Rend as part of their Blood and Thunder ability, so that it won't be overwritten by arms warriors using Improved Rend, as well as increasing their threat in general.

The Defensive Stance change incorporates the inconsistent threat warriors have been seeing on the PTR and beta. To quote myself: "Some abilities, including AoE Threat moves, seem undertuned. Thunder Clap in particular does not seem to hit very hard at all. Shockwave seems to underperform unless you get the buff from Thunderstruck stacked up. Cleave and even Improved Revenge seem like they might have had an error in their threat calculation, and Blood and Thunder doesn't and isn't designed to fix all AoE problems. (It is a nice talent, though, with possibly the best name ever.)"

I was seeing some really strange threat behavior when tanking heroics this week: mobs running right through Thunder Clap, mobs ignoring a really hefty Revenge or Shield Slam, mobs stunned by a Shockwave and then ignoring me as soon as they came out of it. It seems likely that the separate threat modifiers from various abilities have simply been removed and folded into Defensive Stance, and that in some cases, those modifiers had been removed beforehand, leading to inconsistent threat. At any rate, this change, combined with the Thunder Clap and Thunderstruck changes, will hopefully address the inconsistencies I and other tanks have been seeing.

But let's talk for a moment not about the new talent changes but about what you'll be using them for -- namely, tanking in heroic dungeons. Heroics came out this week, as well.

Heroics are exactly that

Have you gotten out of the habit of using Demoralizing Shout or cooldowns to reduce incoming damage when tanking heroics? Get back into those habits. If DPS players decide to go all out on every pull before you've had a chance to establish threat, welcome back to letting them die, because they are not going to be able to fall back on, "It's OK, I'll just burn it down before it reaches me." Yes, DPS players, you have 80k health now in those level 85 blues. It will not save you.

I watched an ogre mob from the first pull inside Deadmines hit an elemental shaman for 66k with one hit. I admit it, I could have taunted it off. It was Sacco, though, so I figured I'd just watch. Seriously, though, when the difference in 85 blues between tanks and DPS is a mere 20k or so health, you have to realize that you're going to need to get back into the habit of actively reducing how much damage these things can do to you. Trinkets with coodowns? Use them. Last Stand, Shield Wall, Enraged Regeneration? Use them. One of the reasons I love Heavy Repercussions so much is that it makes your necessary defensive use of Shield Block add some offensive oomph. Make no mistake, you will need to figure out which mobs hit the hardest and use Shield Block carefully to keep them from crushing your face.

This is also why I think it might be a good idea to take the attack speed debuff off of Thunder Clap and make it part of Demoralizing Shout instead. There are times where you absolutely need to use TC to get those mobs to swing more slowly, and having it break CC is just so frustrating; it's like being asked if you'd prefer to die because the big mobs beat your face in or because you broke a sheep while trying to maneuver around CCed mobs. Being able to apply those debuffs is vital.

If you are a long-time tank, you'll adapt to it. It's basically somewhat of a return to the original/BC model in which you actually had to CC certain mobs because they simply did too much damage (either to yourself or because they stood at range and nuked someone down super-lickety-split) or would otherwise run amok. Thankfully, you should have more tools to deal with those situations than you did back then. If you came up during Wrath, however, you may be in for a surprise at just how much face-rocking these instances have in store for you. Someone seems to have informed them that you are a microphone, and they intend to be not just the Vandals but indeed also the Ostrogoths, Visigoths and maybe even the Heruli. It definitely takes some adjustment, but keep at it; after a while, you'll grow accustomed to the slower, more thoughtful, much more harrowing pace of pulling slowly and watching 60 percent of your health drop in 2 seconds.

None of the changes to talents we're seeing here will make the need to play defensively for a tank any less crucial. But they should help with threat, which is good.

Check out more strategies, tips and leveling guides for warriors in Matthew Rossi's weekly class column, The Care and Feeding of Warriors.

Filed under: Warrior, (Warrior) The Care and Feeding of Warriors, Cataclysm

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