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The Care and Feeding of Warriors: The newly 85 warrior tank blues

Every week, WoW Insider brings you The Care and Feeding of Warriors, the column dedicated to arms, fury and protection warriors. Despite repeated blows to the head from dragons, demons, Old Gods and whatever that thing over there was, Matthew Rossi will be your host.

Okay, so you leveled as protection. Let's assume you intend to tank on said warrior. Since you're now level 85, it follows that you should look up what the top raiding tanks are doing and do that, yes?

No.

Sweet candy-coated Garrosh clusters, no, you should not do that. Those guys are wearing gear you haven't even started to collect and are in 10- or 25-man raids that are composed of some of the best players in the world. You're just starting. You're most likely going to be tanking in pickup groups where the other four players are complete strangers who neither know you nor care one whit about your gameplay. In some cases, sure, you'll get a good group and everyone will work together and kill the monsters as a unit. That's great.

I'm here to write columns to help you out, and frankly, you don't need help with good groups. You need my help for the groups with the fury warrior in full Firelands gear who shows up in your heroic Deadmines run and does 28k DPS. (I said I was sorry.) You need my help for the ret paladin who doesn't know what his interrupt is called (Rebuke) or the mage who won't cast Polymorph because it's just going to break anyway when he starts jumping around casting Arcane Explosion constantly for no reason.

This week, we're going to talk about how to gear and play a tank starting out in normal level 85 instances and the first tier of Cataclysm heroics.

Hit and Expertise: Why they matter for you

You're going to hear a lot of talk about hit and expertise being useless. Ignore that talk.

I'm not telling you to ignore it because it's wrong but because it does not apply to you. When you start building a ilevel 353/359 tanking set to go into raids, you can start worrying about reforging away hit and expertise in favor for avoidance and mastery. This is because of several related facts.
  1. Raids are usually performed by groups who all have a reason to work together. Whether it's a pickup raid or a guild group, raids that don't learn cooperation and proper tactics, even with the recent nerfs to normal tier 11 raids, will not get that far.
  2. Raids usually have a leader or leaders who will enforce discipline. If there's a fury warrior who keeps pulling threat in a raid, it's reasonable to expect the raid leader or leaders will tell him or her to cool it down.
  3. As a result of 1 and 2, tanks in raids have time to let Vengeance stack up. Vengeance is a great ability, one that was originally aimed at helping tanks who geared for survival keep threat generation on par with DPS who geared for DPS. However, it's become a bit of a Band-Aid lately for tanks who strip hit and expertise off of their gear in favor of avoidance and mastery, especially in raids where the DPS can more often be counted on to give the tanks time to build some threat. A miss or two in a raid in the very beginning of a pull is much less of an issue.
The reason you will want to strip hit and expertise off of your gear in favor for dodge, parry and mastery is that you're starting instances as an undergeared tank, and you don't want to go splat. It's a compelling notion to stack as much dodge, parry and mastery as you can to keep from going splat so that you can run the dungeons, get the justice points and gear, run harder dungeons for even more justice points and gear, and eventually start collecting valor points in heroics. It's perfectly reasonable. And since hit no longer affects taunt, it's more compelling than ever.

But you're not tanking with a raid leader who will bellow at the DPS if they pull threat because they didn't wait to let you get it. You're not tanking with a group that even knows who you are, in some cases. You're tanking with complete strangers who want to burn this stuff down as fast as they can, grab their points, and dump you as fast as they met you. In a perfect world, you could do what the endgame tanks do and gear for avoidance and mastery.

It's my suggestion that you instead prepare for the world you actually live in and have at least some threat pieces you can swap into your tanking set in case you get a group that is less than patient. Again, if you get a group that doesn't go nuts, follows marks, and works with you, then by all means put on your maximum survival kit and enjoy your excellent PUG. It never hurts to keep some of the expertise and hit on a few pieces in your bags for when you need that burst threat at the very beginning of a pull.

Also, don't forget that you can use Retaliation in defensive stance now. This is an excellent ability for compensating for low threat stats on gear.

In the end, I'm not telling you that the prevailing wisdom on hit and expertise for cutting-edge, progression raiding content is incorrect. I'm telling you that if you just dinged 85, you're not in progression content yet, and you shouldn't try and gear that way right away.

Getting a leg up on gear

One of the secrets behind why you should PVP as you level up is that your honor points are effectively a second set of justice points to fudge the cap. If you build up 4,000 JP by the time you're level 85, you can almost immediately buy the tier 11 legs and gloves, or chest and gloves, and have a nice jump on gear. If you also have 4,000 honor points, you can convert it to justice points after you've spent your cap and have another 2,600 or so JPs, enough to pick up your third piece of tier 11 and kick some points towards the tanking ring.

Likewise, reputation grinds are not just there to irritate you. Yes, there's nice gear in the Zul'Aman/Zul'Gurub tier of heroics, and yes, the JPs you get for running heroics can now buy you tier 11 gear, and yes, the valor points can be stockpiled toward getting you pieces of tier 12 and other epics on that level. But reputation gear can get you a leg up on getting into those heroics. And let me be frank here: Picking up a bunch of PVP gear and wearing it to tank in is always going to be suboptimal now because resilience doesn't work against NPC damage anymore.

In The Burning Crusade and Wrath of the Lich King, resilience worked directly against critical hit chance, making it kind of a poor man's defense for warrior tanks. With the removal of defense entirely and the change of resilience to simply reduce damage dealt by players, resilience is now a completely useless stat in PVE content. Sometimes, yes, a PVP piece will have so much more stamina than a PVE piece that you'll be tempted to make use of it as a tank. But in almost every case, you'd be better off with a ilevel 346 blue that has complete tanking stats than a ilevel 384 epic that dumps more than 200 points of rating on resilience. Worse is a tank who has gear that is simply not up to the instance but who uses his or her PVP set to fool the gear requirement check on the Dungeon Finder. A DPSer who does that hurts the group by providing less DPS than needed, but a tank who does that hurts the group by exploding and wiping everyone. Don't be that tank.

We've covered where to get reputation gear from the launch factions and the new Firelands rep and vendor gear as well. When you can easily assemble a fairly solid set of tanking gear purely by doing daily quests, there's no excuse to not do it before heading into instances. There are two ilevel 365 tanking rings, a 365 tanking trinket, tanking boots, and tanking bracers available via the Molten Front vendors, and you can pick up a 365 tanking cape via the Elemental Bonds quests. Don't get greedy and try and cheat with PVP gear.

To sum it all up:
  • Do gear for threat as well as survival. Assemble multiple sets if you need to.
  • Do collect reputation gear, and use honor points to buy justice points for JP tanking gear.
  • Don't use PVP gear to get into instances you're not ready to tank yet.
Next week, we'll talk more about what you should actually be doing when you're tanking. How do you burst as much threat as possible as fast as possible? How do you know when to use cooldowns? Are there some talents better used in raid builds than in your PUG build? We'll cover all of that.

At the center of the fury of battle stand the warriors: protection, arms and fury. Check out more strategies and tips especially for warriors, including Cataclysm 101 for DPS warriors, a guide to new reputation gear for warriors, and a look back at six years of warrior trends.

Filed under: Warrior, Analysis / Opinion, The Burning Crusade, (Warrior) The Care and Feeding of Warriors, Wrath of the Lich King, Cataclysm

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