Where to find more warrior information

If you play a warrior in WoW, write about the class, or are looking for more information on how to play a particular spec, look no further.

Kadomi has put together an exhaustive list of warrior blogs and I’d recommend anyone who has any questions to go check it out! Also if you have any blogs you’d like to add to the list, let her know.

And on a similar note, I think the whole community (such as it is) will miss Veneretio now that he’s decided to move on from tankingtips. You only have to read through the (currently 141) comments on his last post to see what an influence he’s had on so many people.

And he also knocked up the banner that I’m using here :) Thanks Veneretio, and good luck! Come back with your shield or on it.

How I’m playing Protection in 4.0

I’ve been experimenting a bit with Protection in the current patch. We’re done with raiding until the expansion and my desire to tank in PUG raids is approximately zero, so I’ve been running a few heroics. (Also mad props to Ele who said, “Lets try some heroics” and queued us straight up for HoR. This is what we call the ‘in at the deep end’ approach.)

Summary: The sky is not falling. AE threat is down across the board for all tanks, but warriors play hasn’t changed greatly. It’s mostly a few tweaks rather than a complete overhaul. Plus you can get some pretty amazing numbers out of Shield Slam. I’m still adapting but definitely still finding it fun.

The only way I adapt to less AE threat is by apologising for poor threat in random instances. But I don’t mean it :) And in Cataclysm when mobs start hitting harder I’ll get back into marking and requesting CC.

Live by the shield, die by the shield

The protection spec is now very oriented towards shield type moves, with lots of boosts for shield block and shield slam. It is now possibly to get some insanely large shield slam crits, especially if you tank in dps gear which you can also do now that we get crit proof from talents. Tankspot has a shield slam bragging thread so I know I’m not the only one who’s dazzled by the big numbers! If you want to test this then wait for a Hold the Line Proc, hit Shield Block and any of your dps trinkets, and then Shield Slam.

Feedback from healers is that I’m easy to heal. Feedback from dps is gogogo. Feedback from me is that threat is more of an issue, but I’m not finding it a major deal except in special cases such as the event in HoS where there’s no real time to build rage up – I think with more practice in managing rage I’d handle this better.

My current spec and thoughts on talents

This is my current spec. (The goal of this spec is to generate huge shield slam crits.) Many of the talents I discuss below are still being discussed in the community at the moment.

Blood and Thunder: I’m not enthralled with this one. Rend doesn’t generate a lot of threat anyway, maybe this would work better for Arms specs or in a raid but trash mobs in instances don’t stay up that long and Thunderclap + Shockwave plus some cleaves and glyphed revenges will be better bang for your buck than slinging rend around.

Incite: Heroic Strike is no longer spammable (thank goodness) and I’m still getting the hang of how to manage rage, but I still think this is more useful than blood and thunder.

Hold the Line: Parry is now your very best friend. Shame it doesn’t work on spells.

Shield Mastery: Reduced timer on shield block is nice. The rest is a bonus. Bear in mind you now use glyph of shield wall to increase the cooldown and increase the amount absorbed.

Shield spec: Not really finding rage to be an issue but need to put the points somewhere.

Bastion of Defense: This is your new anti-crit ability. Compulsary.

Impending Victory: I tried it and wasn’t really impressed with the numbers. Sounds cooler than it is.

Vigilance: Probably mostly a raid talent now, to be put on off-tanks. I find it useful to stick on the most aggro-y dps in heroics at the moment and then make good use of all the free taunts.

Thunderstruck: Way better for AE threat than blood and thunder imo. Note that it stacks three times but you have to spam Thunderclap to do that.

Arms: Field Dressing — this is why healers find me fairly straightforwards to heal at the mo.

Fury: Cruelty — Moar shield slam crits!!

(Blood Craze will probably be ace for levelling and I may swap points from cruelty to blood craze when the expansion drops. Unless I decide to level in Arms spec, which seems really really fun atm from my first forays.)

Glyphs

Warrior glyphs are pretty lame and you won’t get a lot of choice.

Prime:

Shield Slam (yay for more shield slam damage!)
Revenge
Devastate (will be your main filler)

Major:
Heroic throw: Heroic throw applies a stack of sunder.
Shield wall: Shield wall cooldown increases by 2 mins but it reduces a lot more damage (60% instead of 40%)
Long charge: charge range increased
You might want to glyph for cleave for better AE threat. Thunderclap (increases range) is another possibility but I’ve avoided that because of issues with breaking CC.

Minor:

Berserker rage: adds 5 rage whenever you use it. Handy for emergency rage generation

Battle/ Command/ Demo — increase range and duration of shouts. Pick whichever.

Warriors do however have the best named glyph in the game which is “glyph of bloody healing”, sadly it’s for fury though.

Rotation/ Priority

Very similar to usual except with less heroic strike. That is to say, protection uses a priority attack system and not a fixed rotation. I’m sure as we all get more practice we’ll get a feel for where it’s worth trying to fit HS in but generally use it when you have a full rage bar.

Shield Slam –> HS –> Revenge -> Devastate (single target)

Shockwave->Thunderclap-> Cleave (AE) (if you use blood and thunder you’ll want to weave rend in as well. Remember if you have thunderstruck you can stack the thunderclaps for more of a shockwave buff.)

Rage — shouts now give rage. Demo shout also still has some threat attached so you can shout and then charge for some starting rage. I like the berserker rage glyph for some extra emergency rage too.

Stats and Reforging: If you’re raiding it will probably be worth indulging in some reforging (if needed) to cap out expertise and hit. If you’re not, I wouldn’t bother, all the equipment will shortly be moot anyway. I haven’t done any reforging myself to gain extra mastery — not inclined to mutilate my gear until some number crunchers have worked out the optimal strategy first.

(You’ll notice that I have zero interest in gear optimisation but that I do quite enjoy experimenting with new talents and specs on my own. That’s my gameplay preference, and I’m glad for anyone who prefers things the other way around because I can steal their gear cribsheets later.)

[Guest Post] The first three seconds

(Salanna is a mage who runs in the same raid group as Spinks, for her sins. Her hobbies are drinking, setting things on fire, and reminding tanks of their own mortality.)

Hi. So, Spinks is away, and has rather unwisely turned her blog over to other people. People like me. A mage. Spinks situates herself in front of the boss, helmet on, shield up, perfectly placed and nailed there with tent pegs, whacking the boss with a fishing pole to show how hard she is. I’m just inside her line of sight, zapping four kinds of hell, with nothing between me and the world but a blue bar, the 130% aggro threshold, and my chef’s hat that I forgot to take off before entering the instance. Tanks taunt the boss, but mages taunt the tank.

Now, about that aggro threshold. Spinks and I, we have a funny relationship with that. This mage, see, has been working on improving my own DPS lately. A DPSer’s trade is never fully mastered, of course, but I’ve had my share of catching up to do. Now I’m not going to get stuck into the whys and hows here – there are plenty of resources for that – but I spent a good while following all the good advice, and it wasn’t clearly helping. Couldn’t work out what was wrong. I was beginning to think that I needed to hit the buttons harder.

Then I started paying attention to the very start of the fight. You know the bit. The tank has no rage yet, they’ve maybe landed a sunder, they’re moving around trying to position the boss so it doesn’t insta-kill the clothies – and those same clothies just let loose. The boss goes on a rampage, the raid leader emits an audible sigh on teamspeak, there are general exhortations in /raid to give the tanks time at the start without naming any names, and we all ress, rebuff and try again. All for the want of one second’s worth of patience from the DPS, on a fight where we’re nowhere near the enrage timer. Absurd, isn’t it?

Except. That’s the one moment in the fight where everything is aligned for those DPS. Particularly for a class like a mage where mastering your role is in large part about maximising the use of cooldowns, the start is the only place in the fight where all the cooldowns align. The macroed abilities (and mages do like to stack their macros), weapon procs, trinkets with mismatched internal cooldowns, more often than not a Bloodlust – this
is where they all stack, and stack multiplicably.

Which means that if you fluff that part of the fight, you’re not just missing out on a couple of seconds valuable damage time, but you are missing out on the highest potential damage per second in the entire fight. If you don’t keep up here, there is nowhere else in the fight that you can catch up. For a class like a mage with its many cooldowns, the difference does seem to be astonishing – in the right fight it can be the difference between being in
the top third and the bottom third of the meters.

I discovered that the rest of the effort I’d put in before was making a difference – but until I got the beginning of the fight just right, any improvement was getting lost in the noise. I had lost the race in the first ten seconds and could no longer make a sensible comparison.

Which gives me to wonder if this is an intentional design. Competition between DPS is a crucial part of keeping the overall DPS of a given raid group good and healthy. But when the difference to the outcome of the encounter is so small – there are very few fights in any given raid these days where a couple of seconds off the enrage timer is the difference between success and wipe – it seems absurd to put this level of tension between the DPS I reckon it is deliberate at least in principle, if perhaps not fully intended to have turned out the way it has. I can see that there is, and should be, a benefit for DPS and tanks who get to know each other well.

Asking the designers to remove that benefit is unlikely to be successful – and rightly so. But I suspect that how it has turned out in practice is, at least in part, a victim of the funny scaling of threat versus damage. Right now, this problem is bodged by non-tanks who help with threat by means of Tricks of the Trade and Misdirect, and nowhere is that help more important than the start of the fight. But this takes some responsibility for one of the most intricate parts of the fight away from the tank, leaving them with another five minutes of “three-stacks-taunt.”

That’s not a good thing. My raid’s tanks are all great, experts at what they do. I want them to be able to show that skill. I don’t want them to feel like they’re taking the place of an adequately buffed voidwalker. But I’m caught directly between showing proper respect for the tank, by giving them the little time they need, and showing respect for the raid as a whole, by learning to up my DPS.

So Cataclysm will cure all ills, right? Well, maybe. If the level of tension today really is a result of 64 ilevels of threat vs. damage, then it’ll benefit both from the gear reset and from the developers’ work to try to address that scaling in future. Both the risk of pulling aggro and the consequence of it is likely to be lower in a first tier Catclysm raid than in the end dungeon of Wrath; and DPS’ dependence on nailing the first few seconds of a fight will be lower thanks to the proportionately smaller procs and buffs at that tier, so the pressure to ride the edge will be eased. I reckon the measure of a successful outcome here will be if that tension between DPS and tanks can be ramped up a bit over the lifetime of the expansion, without having to resort to outside hackery again, and without sending us all back to Outland to farm the materials for Subtlety enchants for our cloaks.

Tanking weapon woes, and the challenges of tanking at the end of an expansion

thelastword

I wonder sometimes if there’s any player out there who feels that they are actually always lucky with weapon drops. If so, I’d bet good money that they aren’t primarily a tank.

Because one thing that every tank I’ve known personally has always complained about was their poor luck with tanking weapon drops. I have a theory about this. (Yes, it is a conspiracy theory!). I suspect that tank weapons do actually drop less often than the loot tables would imply, to make sure there are always a good supply of tanks with which to run heroics and raids because they’re desperate to get their paws on a weapon upgrade.

As is true of all good conspiracy theories, I do not have a shred of proof for this. Only the anecdotal evidence of having run Utgarde Pinnacle at least 12 times for my Red Sword of Courage, and I forget how many times I had run Kharazan when the King’s Defender finally dropped. And spare a thought for our poor feral druids, hoping desperately to get their premier tanking weapon of TBC as a random drop from Serpentshrine trash mobs. Of course, the time I got  Titanguard from one of our first Ulduar runs doesn’t count. Or in other words, we just remember the unlucky runs more than the lucky ones.

Still, I do think that the distribution of tanking weapons has been an issue in Wrath. They haven’t been evenly distributed between 10 and 25 man, which is why I was using my trusty Titanguard well into ICC. I have been running 25 man raids continuously through Wrath, but I haven’t always had a 10 man group (or fancied PUGging it.)  This at least is one thing that will get fixed in Cataclysm when both sizes of raids use the same loot tables.

In any case, as you can imagine I was quite pleased when I did finally pick up a tanking weapon from ICC 25. Unfortunately it was The Last Word, which is a notoriously poor tanking weapon compared to the alternative which (naturally) only drops in 10 man. I took it anyway – an upgrade is an upgrade, however dubious – but recently I’ve really started to warm to the poor old thing.

It may be a fugly mace with dubious stats and a dodgy proc but it hits like a truck.

The eternal tanking balance of threat and survivability

This is not going to be a proper theorycrafting post which describes how to carefully balance all the stats on your gear. However, as a tank, you have two main jobs:

  • Grab threat/ keep threat
  • Don’t die

These two functions generally require different stats. In the cases where one stat will help with both, it’s still not always the most efficient way to gear. So really, as a conscientious tank (with too much time on your hands), you could be looking at every single fight to try and decide if you want to tweak your gear appropriately.

In general terms, as the raid moves through an instance and everyone gears up, dps classes generate much more threat. Healers also put out more healing, and tanks get more survivable.  Now that the ICC buff is up to 30%, everyone has 30% more damage and 30% more health. DPS threat has increased massively. Tanking threat … hasn’t quite kept pace.

This means that you have some options to swap out tanking gear in favour of high dps/threat gear. It’s fun to see how high your stamina can go if you try to stack it, but high stamina is not the only function of tank gearing. Putting out more threat while still staying alive will make you even more popular with your dps players. And deciding how to balance those functions in your gear is part of the art of tanking. I remember tanking Patchwerk with two dps trinkets, for example. (And so did most of the other well geared tanks at the time – we all recognised that we didn’t really need the extra survivability because we weren’t in much danger of dying.)

If your raid is threat capped, then looking for ways to put out more tanking threat will improve everyone’s performance. And suddenly, The Last Word has become rather a decent option for a tanking weapon. The stats may be so-so, but it still carries a fair whack of stamina whilst the high dps contributes directly to better tank threat.

[Cataclysm] Specialise or die

Blizzard have spoken before about plans for the classes and talent trees in Cataclysm, but now with a new beta patch, we have some actual talent trees to study.

So the way this will work is that at level 10, you will pick one of your class talent trees in which to specialise. The other two will be locked out to you until you have either spent 31 talent points in your primary tree or bought dual spec. When you pick your primary talent tree, you will also get some extra abilities which are associated with that tree.

For example, Protection Warriors get Shield Slam, Vitality (improved stamina) and Vengeance (the stacking damage ability which is common to all tank specs). That means that no non-Protection warriors can ever have Shield Slam, as opposed to now where it’s a baseline skill. Similarly, only Fury warriors can dual wield and only Arms warriors get 2H weapon specialization. So if you want to dps as a protection warrior, you’ll need to do it via sword and shield.

So none of this is finalised yet but I think it’s the clearest picture that we’ve had yet of where the devs plan to go. And it’s somewhere that, “An Arms warrior can throw on a shield and tank an instance,” has no place. It’s also somewhere that you’ll get some of the most iconic abilities for your talent tree as soon as you pick it, rather than at much much higher level.

That at least is a boon. But less so when it means the other specs lose a baseline ability to make it happen.

This mostly affects levelling. It has been fairly common up until now for players to level in a dps spec and still find themselves well able to tank/heal levelling instances. I remember healing a lot of instances while levelling my druid as feral, for example.

That may change. It’s difficult to know yet if there is still the intention to let players heal/tank as offspecs while levelling. But if not, expect longer waits on the LFG. Although many players who intend to play healers will happily accept slower levelling speeds in order to have their healing spec, far far more will decide to just learn to heal later on and go for the fast levelling instead.

And alternatively, there may also be plans to bring down the cost of dual spec (a long long overdue change) and make it available at a lower level.

Guild Wars 2 breaks the shackles of life, death, and the holy trinity

I feel increasingly that big upcoming MMOs are now marketing to the post-WoW player base. Instead of “If you like WoW, try this too; it’s like WoW with new content/ free,” we’re getting more targeted messages which can be interpreted as, “If you liked WoW but are tired of it, try this; it’s like WoW with a new twist.”

So we have Final Fantasy 14 with the ability to switch classes any time you like. We have SWTOR with the long class specific storylines and smart companions. And then there is Guild Wars 2.

Of all the new AAA MMO devs, Arenanet seem most inclined to pry apart and rebuild their MMO from the ground up. Maybe once we all get to play it, the reaction will be, “Huh, it really is just like WoW with a couple of minor twists. Psych!”  Or maybe they’ll be forced to make the game more WoW-like after taking player feedback.

But the current dev blog slips some intriguing details about their plans.

Always look on the bright side of death

In GW2, there will be a two stage death process. After your character has lost all their health, they are downed. They will still have some special last ditch abilities that can be used in a downed state, so they can still contribute to the fight while hoping someone else will come heal them. If you actually manage to kill an enemy when you are downed, then you recover!

Then if a downed player is attacked some more, they can be defeated – which sounds more like a classic MMO death. You can either be ressed by another player or return via a waypoint/ graveyard (and they will let you pick any waypoint which you have already discovered on the world map which opens up some possibly unintentional opportunities for death travel.)

This has similarities with the current D&D rules, in which a player isn’t actually dead until they are on –10 health. At 0 health, you’re down and bleeding but not yet out.

I find this concept very appealing. I like the idea of having a last ditch chance to throw a rock at an enemy, get in a lucky shot from prone position, or something similar. I do think it will make near death experiences a lot more exciting in the game.

Also, does any warrior not wish they had this ability (given as an example of how some character abilities will interact with the fallen/ defeated state). Res/ rally someone by killing a monster nearby? Yes please!

… when a warrior uses “I Will Avenge You,” and then kills an enemy nearby his fallen allies, his allies will rally.

It’s always people who hate healing who want to destroy the tank/heal/dps trinity

Every time I’ve read an article by a player or developer who wanted to destroy the holy gaming role trinity, it’s always been someone who hated healing. Is it really only healers and support classes who benefit from the trinity setup? I always rather liked having such different roles available.

Anyhow, the GW2 devs want to go a different route.

We keep hearing other MMO developers espousing the “holy trinity” of DPS/ heal/tank with such reverence, as if this is the most entertaining combat they have ever played. Frankly, we don’t like sitting around spamming “looking for healer” to global chat.

It might be truer to say that they aim to redefine the trinity and share the responsibility across all classes. So instead of dps/heal/tank, they discuss dps/support/control. I think it’s a great idea to identify tanking with control and share the responsibility around the group.

But their definition of support is focussed on short term buffs and situational abilities rather than healing. I think it sounds fun and fast paced, but not entirely sure how much dedicated support players are going to like it.

Healing is for when you are already losing. In Guild Wars 2 we prefer that you support your allies before they take a beating. Sure, there are some healing spells in Guild Wars 2, but they make up a small portion of the support lines that are spread throughout the professions.

Having said that, the idea of someone at the back of the group casting heal spells while you take damage has never been particularly immersive.

Maybe it’s because I could use a break from the WoW-type formula that I’m intrigued to try this myself. I wonder though whether this new scheme will tend to encourage an ‘each for himself’ mentality in groups as opposed to deep roles for players to learn. It will be interesting to find out.

Does the notion of a more PvP style of PvE appeal to you?

(Hm, I wonder if it’s really a good idea to tag this post with ‘holy trinity’ …)