This was the first column I ever wrote for WoW Insider. A lot of things have changed in that five-year period; for one thing, I got five years older. In that time, I've written about tanking shortages, about dungeon etiquette, about killing Cyclonian and rage normalization. Together, we've tanked and DPSed our way through The Burning Crusade, Wrath and now Cataclysm. (I did vanilla before I joined the staff here, so I was woefully alone. Well, OK, my wife helped me out.)
There have been a lot of ups and downs over the years. Warriors had some dizzying highs and some painful lows. Our tanking was weak in The Burning Crusade, with lots of AoE needed that we didn't have, yet later, certain raid bosses were designed to be tanked best by a warrior, putting all those paladins and druids who put us out of work earlier in the expansion suddenly out of work watching us tank. Wrath balanced things for all tanks, but DPS warriors got to ride the roller coaster of rage starvation until getting geared, the big Ulduar nerf, and the ascendency of armor penetration. Cataclysm has had peaks and valleys for us, but on the whole, we've weathered this expansion as a strong tanking class (once you're familiar with all we can do), and both fury and arms have been contenders for best DPS spec at one point or another.
Strange as it may sound, Cata was probably the best overall expansion warriors have had. We've had issues (PvP), but overall, we've been in the hunt if not top of the pack. I wanted to take the opportunity of having a milestone like this to sit back, reflect and consider the pros and cons not only of the class but of my demented love affair with it -- and your participation in it. After all, without you, this would just be me writing these things to myself.
The Burning Crusade was a hard time for me as a warrior. Rage normalization in The Burning Crusade didn't work. I went from tanking endgame in vanilla WoW to barely even able to hold threat in starter dungeons because rage was so bad. Even after it was fixed, warriors simply didn't have the AoE tools other classes had, and so it was hard to get groups as a warrior tank. Since this was before the time of the modern Dungeon Finder with its group sorting and selection, it was up to you to make connections and assemble your own groups, and you saw a lot of "LFM Shattered Halls, need paladin tank and CC."
This left warriors out in the cold, since not only weren't we wanted as tanks, we didn't (and still don't) have any CC. Many a Shadow Labyrinth group only took me as a tank because they couldn't get a pally or druid. When I finally got into BC raiding, I ended up tanking most bosses because warriors had the best toolkit to deal with them, which made the pally and druid tanks who were doing the lion's share of the tanking in heroic dungeons and for most of Karazhan angry. I can't say I blame them, although at the time I enjoyed their anger and frustration, because it was the exact same way I'd felt watching them thumb their noses at me with their superior group threat. After all, tanking Zul'Aman's dragonhawk boss or Hyjal trash as a prot warrior was excruciatingly painful.
What prot needed
It was in writing for this site and getting exposed to other warriors that I started to really think and write about what protection warriors needed. While the piece was colored by my bitterness, it still had some good points that Wrath of the Lich King addressed. Making us able to use Thunder Clap in Defensive Stance (which actually happened in The Burning Crusade because we just couldn't hack multiple targets), taking away its target limit, introducing Shockwave all helped our AoE threat. Concepts like Vigilance and Warbringer gave warriors an exciting new feel as tanks, an identity we'd lacked since late vanilla. I'm proud that so much of what I suggested prot warriors needed dovetailed into what we got.
But more than that, I will have to admit that I learned a great deal about my class from seeing it through your eyes, arguing with you, debating with you. We didn't always agree, but the experience of having all those discussions, having to defend my ideas -- it made me a better tank and a better player, and it taught me how to let go of my class prejudice and tank with tanks of any class. Today, I really notice what class the other tank or tanks in a group are, and that's because of my working here and talking with you.
I tanked for most of Wrath, converting from DPS in mid-Ulduar. It seems I don't ever really want to get away from tanking. But I make sure to play as DPS (I even raided as DPS for most of Cataclysm) because of the perspective I've developed writing this column. (Well, that and Titan's Grip.)
It's interesting to realize we've had TG for almost four years now. I remember the very last week or so of The Burning Crusade, when we got all the new Wrath talents. Tank threat shot up, and DPS? Oh, my word. Titan's Grip was a crazy revelation for me. I'd DPSed some in vanilla WoW mostly because you often needed five or six tanks for trash and one or two tanks for bosses (Four Horsemen aside), but that was usually as an arms warrior, both because I had a good two-handed weapon and because back then, the main warrior raiding specs were a 31/5/15 spec heavily weighted toward arms or the 31/0/20 spec, which was considered a dedicated tanking spec. We had one tank back then who specced full prot, and he was an anomaly at the time.
Titan's Grip turned me from the guy who resisted putting on DPS gear to always being willing to go back to Stormwind or Orgrimmar and respec. Then, in patch 3.1, dual spec was introduced and finally, warriors actually were the hybrids everyone always argued we had been. Before dual spec, I would argue that only paladins and druids were able to make any use of their hybrid abilities. Everyone else had a talent specialization that more or less made them as pure as any DPSer, since the time and cost of going to change your spec made it a huge pain in a raid or group situation. But with dual spec, that changed. Now, you just had to take five seconds to cast the spell switching your talents, throw on some DPS gear, and you could do credibly or better in your new role. Sure, you still had to learn it -- but dual spec made that not only feasible, but it meant you were capable of being a tank or a DPS on a pull-by-pull basis.
Face first into PvP
It was also your influence that led me to repeatedly throwing myself face first into PvP against all those rogues and mages, so I guess I should be at least a little resentful. To be fair to you, I did a fair amount of PvP back in vanilla, enough to earn a PvP rank and realize how very much I hated the ladder and to convince myself I'd never do it again. And then there you were, and so I found myself PvPing again in The Burning Crusade, and then again in Wrath, and then again in Cataclysm.
I did Arenas, Wintergrasp, Tol Barad, and rated BGs entirely because of some of you who emailed and tweeted and commented about it. I never really got any better than adequate at it, but I did it because so many of you were so interested in the subject. As I write this, I just got out of a Twin Peaks game where I held one flag for the entirety of the game. And they say prot PvP is dead. Mostly because it is.
Writing for this site has probably kept me invested in my warriors more than any other factor -- specifically, getting to talk about the class, argue about it, experience it through new eyes as new people comment and communicate their view of it with me. You guys haven't always been the nicest about it, but then again, neither have I. Maybe it's something about people who play warriors. Maybe some of that cantankerous nature rubs off on you, or maybe we're all born ornery. But whether it's been raiding heroic Dragon Soul, farming for transmog outfits, seeing if I could solo Naxxramas (not yet, but we'll see if I can do it in five levels) or twirling like a pretty ballerina of death in AV, I've enjoyed the ride in great part due to being able to share it here with you guys.
Thanks. Let's see if we can go another five.
At the center of the fury of battle stand the warriors: protection, arms and fury. Check out more strategies and tips especially for warriors, from hot issues for today's warriors to Cataclysm 101 for DPS warriors and our guide to reputation gear for warriors.