[WoW] In which I predict shortages of tanks and healers for MoP instances

One of the new WoW features going live in the expansion is changes to how loot is doled out in quests and instances. No more need/greed rolls or eyeing quest rewards that can’t even be used by your class nevermind your spec, the future has the game doing any random loot rolls privately and offering you only rewards tailored to your character’s current spec.

Cuppy voices concerns that she wants to heal in instances but her (druid) levelling spec will be melee dps – and wonders how she can gear up for instance healing. I was wondering about that also but she notes, via Grumpy Elf, that vendors in villages will be selling gear equivalent to that area’s quest rewards to cover off-specs. (So what is the point of the quest rewards then? For the cash maybe? Don’t ask me, I only play this thing.)

I can see a similar dilemma for players who play a different role in raids than in instances. So for example I’m planning to dps in raids but happy to tank in instances if needed. At the moment, you get to roll on all the class-wearable drops regardless of your current spec, so I could queue as dps or tank, let the LFG pick what it needs most, and still roll on my preferred gear. But this new system means it would be pretty suboptimal of me to offer to tank instances while I’m trying to use them to gear up for raids; I would only get tanking drops.

(edit: No, I’m an idiot and read the Blizzard blog wrong. Quest and LFR (random raid finder) loot will be tailored for current spec, instance loot will still be on need/greed, if I read it right.)

So ignoring me being wrong, you can still use your support offspec to instance and pick up loot for your dps mainspec (or vice versa). Although I do wonder if the questing and LFR loot model will start to shape player expectations to be even more vehement about people rolling for offspec loot.

Also if you offtank or offheal in raids,  for those encounters where you are playing your offspec (ie. an encounter needs an extra tank or healer), you will have zero chance for a main spec loot drop. Again, it might be smarter not to offer to help the raid out unless you don’t need any main spec drops from that boss.

I would have preferred a system that lets the player pick the loot they prefer when they queue, and allowing that to be for a different spec than the one they are currently playing.

2 MMO assumptions that are getting flaky these days …

I am really enjoying levelling characters in SWTOR. One thing I personally get from levelling characters in a new game is a reminder about things I like or dislike about diku type MMOs. I like that when levelling, no one really cares about your spec or gear as long as you are helping the team (in PvP) or able to complete the instance (in PvE). And of course if you are soloing, no one else needs to care anyway. So it’s all about you figuring the game out yourself and trying out different strategies/ builds to see which you prefer. You are free to experiment.

I recall that back in the dawn of my personal history in MMOs, I happily ran PvE and PvP on the same character in (mostly) the same gear and if it was sub-optimal then I never noticed and never got called on it. When I first heard of people keeping multiple sets of gear (I think it was druids in WoW beta), I thought they were obsessive min-maxing crazies. That’s how unintuitive that playstyle seemed to me in those days.

Even in vanilla WoW when I was priest officer in a 40 man raid guild, when I personally was taking things a bit more seriously, I knew fine well that at least one of my healers raided in shadow spec because they couldn’t be arsed to respec after PvP (note: this was before the inspect function allowed you to check other people’s talent trees).  I could have called them on it, but we were doing fine and it was more useful that they turned up regularly. We cleared AQ40 with that team, incidentally. The main thing was that they switched into healing gear when they were healing, and that seemed to make the difference.

1. What if I don’t want to play the same character in PvE and PvP

I like playing melee/ tanks in PvE, but I prefer playing healers/ ranged in PvP. There, I admitted it.  I find playing ranged is just flat out easier, and playing healers in PvP is something I learned back in DaoC.

So the MMO eat-all-you-can buffet, wide-variety-of-content model doesn’t work too well for me in this respect. I like my Sith Warrior, but I don’t want to PvP on her because I’m not finding it fun. It’s not that I’m determined never to queue for a warfront with her ever again, it’s just that the PvP gearing requirements need you to grind this stuff and I don’t like the playstyle enough to do that. Clearly it won’t matter if I never PvP – I’m not a completist, I don’t care about the achievements and titles. If I miss out on PvP gear then I miss out on it.

I just don’t like that I have to choose between my preferred PvE type character and preferred PvP type at character creation. Sure, I could have picked a different class, but I’m finding the baseline assumption that at the beginning of the game you’ll be able to make that choice to be irksome.

In comparison, the space flight minigame is independent of your character class, so not dependent on your choices at the beginning of the game. I find that a more appealing model. I don’t want more flexible respec options, or complex Rift-like multiple talent trees to choose from, I just want to be able to earn PvP tokens for my account (ie. to buy PvP stuff for my warrior IF the PvP gear happens to be better for PvE than what I have) on a character I’d prefer to PvP on.

If that was in place, the PvP game could actually be even more separate and more developed from the PvE one. (The goal of having an integrated PvE/PvP game fits better for sandboxes anyway, once you have all your PvP taking place in instances then they might as well be treated as separate minigames.)

2. Stop tying the stats to the gear

There may be players out there who absolutely adore having bags full of gear and having to laboriously click through the whole set to change any time they change spec/ function in the game.

I do not.

Even with WoW wardrobe-like addons that make changing gear a one-click proposal, I resent all the time it takes to set up. I don’t have an objection to collecting the stuff (although it’s not my favourite thing in the world either), but the faffing around with inventories is not a high point of the genre. It would in fact make me happier if I could switch spec or role without having to touch my gear.

Or in other words, I wish devs would stop tying the stats to the gear so tightly. Either use stats that can apply equally to any role that class could fill, or else find some more creative way to tie the stats to the character. Let me change gear for cosmetic reasons only (ie. more similar to real life).

The MMO difficulty curve

We had a couple of inches of snow here on Saturday. It’s a bit earlier than we’d usually get this much snow but hardly anything to get overexcited about. You’d think. Yet when I grabbed my weekly shop on Sunday, the supermarket looked as though it had been hit by a plague of locusts. I commented to the guy on the till that it looked as though the Christmas rush had hit. “You should have seen it yesterday,” he said. “After the snow.” And yet, by the time I went (a day later), the council had put grit down, the roads were a bit safer, and there was still plenty of stuff to buy in the supermarkets (in fact, they hadn’t had any issues with their deliveries anyway.)

Now that Cataclysm has been out for a couple of weeks, players have had a chance to try out the instances. They had been pronounced ‘challenging’ by most people on a first glimpse. Some have even ventured into heroics, and raid bosses have been downed too.

A couple of bloggers last week were writing about how difficulty changes over time. Tobold notes how difficulty in WoW eases off over time, and Gevlon discusses how his two healer tactic for heroics might be seen as a ‘sign of weakness’ by some players. (I suspect all new tactics will go through this stage, after which people start using it more widely and anyone who doesn’t is seen as a loser. Some people just hate new ideas because they are new.)

It’s an interesting time to watch the community, because after a gear reset, everyone should be starting out roughly equal. In practice, this means that after a crazy rush, the really hardcore guys are already farming the heroics that medium hardcore players are tentatively learning and clearing with their guilds. This is also the part of the expansion where players are exploring their identity a bit – who is ultra hardcore, who is merely a bit hardcore, etc. So there’s a rush into heroics because that’s where the progression bar is currently set. If you want to feel the hardcore buzz, the party is (temporarily) in Heroic Grim Batol.

And if anyone is curious, mmo-champion have a poll where people can vote on their easiest and hardest heroics.

And LFD is quite buzzing for normal Cataclysm instances, people are starting to experiment with speed pulls, no one bothers to explain the fight mechanics any more and most of the random groups I’ve had have been fine. (I don’t have the mental fortitude to try a LFD heroic yet.) More casual players are likely still levelling (or levelling new characters from scratch), although the levelling curve is relatively flat this time around.

It feels as if the player base in general has rushed through the introductory learning part of the expansion. LFD is definitely a factor in this. However, there are still a lot of new bosses in those instances, some of which do need some execution knowledge (do you kill the adds first? Is there a position requirement? Does a spell need to be interrupted?) so if random PUGs are tending not to explain then the quality of LFD will probably get worse (as the hardcore stop bothering with normal instance runs) before it gets better.

In fact, I think that in every successive WoW expansion, the adaptation period has gotten lower.

Is it time that heals all difficulty, or just gear?

Warcraft has always had issues with gear scaling. An instance that is designed to be challenging at gear level X will be much easier at gear level X+10. Other MMOs just don’t seem to scale gear quite as aggressively; the LOTRO instances in Moria for example are still quite interesting after you outgear them – and they’ve recently been tweaked to scale with level anyway. Blizzard could, if they wanted, make the difficulty less gear dependent. But … players enjoy being able to outgear content that was once challenging, and that’s the design choice they have made and it doesn’t yet seem to have affected the longevity of the game. The improved accessibility for non-hardcore players seems to outweight the hardcore guys getting bored.

So I imagine the current heroics will ease off a lot once everyone is in full blue heroic gear (iLvL 346 if anyone is counting). And then the complaints about the game being too easy will likely start up again. Then again, for people who preferred more chilled out runs, this is the point at which the game gets playable and more fun for them.

Point is, it’s part of the whole MMO notion that all players are thrown into the same game world together. So if the MMO gets very gameplay oriented, this brings up a slew of issues about how devs should design difficulty for such a huge range of player and playing styles. A game that was entirely designed around the hardcore, and also assumed that they’d always be in well organised optimised groups, would be inaccessible to the majority of other players. Totally inaccessible. And those same players will walk over any other type of content.

Grindfests, whatever people thought of them, didn’t really have this type of issue. Neither does PvP (it has different issues.)

Time and the difficulty curve

So what this means is that if you enjoy the increased difficulty, you do probably want to press into heroics quickly because they will become much easier. If you don’t, then don’t stress over it. In a few weeks things will have eased off, and meantime you can work on your archaeology or raise you reps in normal instances. The heroics will still be interesting, and there are some cool bosses in there.

Plus as more of the playerbase is ready to try heroics, it’ll be easier to get guild groups in less hardcore guilds, which will probably be more fun in itself.

But the fact that the playerbase adapts so incredibly quickly to the new content these days is an issue – whether it is to do with access to information, or gear, or easy LFD access.  And I suspect it’s the core reason why MMOs, as they become more gamelike, are becoming less compelling.

Quote of the Day: On scaling with gear

Scaling awesomely with gear as compensation for doing bad damage when undergeared is not good game design.

-Ghostcrawler

This quote, in a nutshell, describes the issues with gear scaling.

The idea that you start off weaker in return for being stronger later on sounds like a payoff that most people understand. A lot of players make these assumptions too — if a character is easier/ faster to level they feel that there should be some kind of built-in cost. It just doesn’t work in an MMO with multiple classes who are all required to end up at around the same level.

Or rather, because everything in MMOs is weighted towards endgame, there is no amount of weakness early on that could really make up for being overpowered at the end. One is just more important than the other. Plus it makes the early game miserable.

In this quote, he’s talking about Fury warriors. (I wish mine did that sort of damage. I think I lost my Fury mojo from doing too much tanking … or something.) But this also represents the challenges of Cataclysm. Blizzard is going to try to make all classes scale evenly and equally with gear. That isn’t currently the case, and it’s accepted as an issue. So good luck to them on that. Unfortunately it isn’t the kind of flashy player-pleasing fix that grabs headlines and draws in the crowds, but it’s probably the biggest long term endgame fix that they’ve ever made to the game.

But do you agree with the quote? Surely in a gear based game, being able to scale awesomely with gear is one of the great motivating factors to progress your character?

5 great ways for you to help new players

Blog Azerorth has a particularly challenging Shared Topic this week – it’s about helping new players.

Here are some other bloggers on the topic:

I do not spend a lot of my time  helping new players, if only because I don’t encounter very many. It also can be tricky to spot the new guys, often indistinguishable from experienced players who just act like newbies. So before I tackle the topic, here are a few pointers for newbie spotters. This is how you know you’ve got the Real Deal on your hands.

  • Player has not yet figured out how to use chat channels. They may use say or whisper instead, if they’ve worked those ones out.
  • Player does not know how to find the bank or auction house (or add any essential facility of your choice.)
  • Player is confused by need/greed conventions. Unfortunately this is easily mistaken for ninja behaviour. This could also just mean an experienced solo player who hasn’t grouped much.
  • Player can’t ask for help because they don’t really know what sort of help they need. If you are struggling with how to start combat, there’s no point asking for help with complex rotations.
  • Player went exploring and ended up in a totally inappropriate zone for their race/class/faction, and doesn’t know how to get back. (It’s the not knowing how to get back which scares newbies, more experienced explorers usually have A PLAN involving a bucket, 50’ of rope, and/or a hearthstone.)
  • Player got lost. (This does not hold for instances such as BRD where everybody gets lost.)
  • Player wants to improve or learn how to do something better. This is how you know you have a live inexperienced newbie and not an experienced zombie.

So, assuming that you’d like to help new players, how do you do it? Here are five things I try to do – and you will notice that I don’t go too far out of my way. I’m in game to play and have fun, not to act as teacher or big sister to the unwashed masses (err, excluding my actual sisters). I have also learned through experience that I won’t be helping anyone if I’m grumpy and out of sorts.

1. Answer (sensible) questions on global channels

A lot of people goof off in trade chat or the local equivalent, which is all well and good. But one easy way to help newer players is simply to answer questions on the chat channels. If someone has gotten as far as asking a question, it means that they’re taking the first steps towards helping themselves. And if you happen to be in the area covered by the channel and aren’t busy, why not answer?

I sometimes talk to people via whisper if they are asking warrior or tanking questions. For example, I spoke to a player last week who was asking how to gem gear for a protection paladin – it’s not a difficult question, and it’s also very little effort for me to give a basic informed answer, and offer signposting to decent tanking websites if the guy wants to read more.

2. Help new players to settle into your guild

If a new player joins your guild, you can help to smooth their experience. This doesn’t mean that you need to talk to them extensively every time they log on, especially if your guild isn’t chatty anyway. But you can help by making sure they know about guild activities, bulletin boards, addons, bank, or any other way in which your group usually communicates and organises.

It might mean as little as checking that someone has read the guild info tab (if your officers are organised and put useful information in there). Or asking if they want to join some regular guild activity if they are online and appropriate level.

3. Gold$$$

You can, if you choose, help new players by either giving them gold or sharing gold making tips. (Do lots of dailies to get gold for your epic mount, is a good one in WoW for example. Or start with two gathering skills.) A lot of players are ethically opposed to giving gold to beggars. Others may be amused enough by a good pitch to help an enterprising new player out with some starting cash.

I have been in guilds – and am sort of running one at the moment – where we aim to give people gold to buy their flying mounts at level 60 if they don’t already have the cash. The idea is that people can pay it back to the guild bank later and since we’re careful with invites, the facility won’t be abused.

If you’d rather give goods, then bags are always helpful to new players. So if you get chatting to someone after giving advice on a chat channel and would like to help them further, a gift of bags will not compromise your gold giving ethics but is a very helpful gesture. If you are a crafter, there may be other low level gear you can help players with. Glyphs and potions can be helpful too, if you don’t mind explaining how to use them.

In general, giving stuff to everyone who asks will make you feel like a sucker unless you just won the in game equivalent of the lottery or are a generous drunk. But giving stuff to ‘worthy’ newbies is a time honored way of helping new players.

4. Don’t bitch at people in low level instances

News flash. You will sometimes find new players in low level groups or instances. Do not expect these low level groups to function like well drilled raid groups in which every player has been studying their role for several years.

Instead, go in to have fun and be entertained. If the group upsets you, then you can always leave. But newer players can have an infectious enthusiasm and the better ones will take tips and advice if it’s offered in a generous way.

Low level instances are also often harder than higher level ones if you tackle them at the intended level and gearing. (I have come to the opinion that LBRS is the hardest instance in the game. It’s certainly the one I have seen completed least often lately.)

Give the lowbies a break. Assume they might be new. Give them a chance to take advice before you give up on them.

5. Don’t socialise if you are in a bad mood

This is the biggie. You cannot help anyone, newbie or otherwise, if you are burned out, stressed, bad tempered, or feeling anti-social. The kindest thing you can do for your fellow players in that case is to take yourself away from the social scene and either stay offline or maintain radio silence.

Never mind if you feel an obligation to help newbies. Never mind if you promised them an instance run. If you don’t feel up to it, make your excuse and back out. It’s allowed. And you need to put your own fun and welfare first.

It’s probably better if you don’t agree to do anything that you know you didn’t really want to do in the first place. People can take no for an answer. I know a lot of players who do have trouble with saying no, but it’s just one of those life skills that you need to learn for your own protection.

Harnessing the desire to show off in front of noobs

If there is one thing that all human beings share, it’s the desire to show off in front of other people. If we’ve picked up useful skills, knowledge, gear, or achievements, they just seem more meaningful after they have been paraded in front of other people. We imagine the awed silence as the pecking order rearranges itself around us — just as well we imagine it because the actual reaction may be less enthusiastic.

For all that, this happens any time a group of people with similar interests get together. We showed off in front of each other in school, our parents showed off in front of each other at parent-teacher meetings, we show off at work, we show off in our hobby groups, we show off in our games. It isn’t always a negative trait. In fact, one way to show someone else that you know more than they do is to offer to help them.

I ran a couple of PUGs this week and I was thinking about this phenomenon.

At this phase of my WoW playing, I’m way overgeared and experienced to run heroics. They are trivial. There is no challenge there that really interests me. They’re just ‘stuff to do to get badges’, as easy as falling off a log. And sometimes it makes the runs more interesting if I get to show off a bit, which means running with people who aren’t as well geared and showing them how much easier things get with a really good tank.

So with that as background, here’s how my PUGs went.

In which I take a day off from tanking

I was knocking around Dalaran late in the evening, feeling as though I ought to have a crack at the daily instance (because it was Violet Hold and was located approximately 30s from where I was standing) but also feeling too lazy to put a group together. So I hopped onto LFG and immediately heard someone asking for dps for that instance.

I thought – fine, I have a dps spec. So I paged the guy, who was another warrior. He asked about my stats. I said ‘It’s violet hold heroic.’ (this implies ‘don’t be stupid’).  He laughed and invited me. We rolled into the instance and things didn’t go so well. The tank wasn’t familiar with the minibosses we randomly were assigned so we wiped a couple of times on the ethereal boss. I normally don’t step in when someone else is tanking, it just seems rude. But after two of the mouthier dps split, I suggested I’d grab a couple of guildies and maybe I would tank and he could dps so he could see how to kite the boss around the top balcony.

In a vision from bizarro world, it turns out that he had awesome dps gear and had only been tanking to get the badges (which is funny because I have great tanking gear and had been dpsing in my offspec for the same reason). Much hilarity was had and we knocked out the instance fairly swiftly after that.

In which easy mode is not that easy

The second instance group wasn’t actually a PUG although it felt like one in some ways. I was invited to come tank the daily heroic by a guildie and noticed that it was a guild group, but also contained two of our less experienced/ competent/ geared dps. (Fortunately not THAT GUY who always grabs aggro off the tank in every instance or raid or city or … actually any time he’s even in the same zone;  I suspect every guild has a version of their own. If you are THAT GUY, don’t take this personally but all the tanks hate you and try to avoid grouping with you whenever they can.)

So we pick up a healer who is someone’s inexperienced alt and head off to the Halls of Lightning. I eye the group and decide that in order to get a smooth run, we won’t try anything fancy. The last member of the group, who is a raider, asks if we can get the achievement on the first boss. I say no, and whisper him to explain that I don’t think the group will handle it well. He doesn’t agree but goes with me anyway.

All goes well. A few rooms further in, after various people have pulled adds with their arses or forgotten to turn off growl, he whispers me again to say that I am a tanking goddess and he should have had himself flayed with knotted ropes for ever thinking to disagree with my judgement. OK, he actually said ‘lol I see what you mean.’ But that’s what he meant.

The point of this is not to have a go at my guildies, who are nice people who pay attention and just happen not to play as much or as hardcore. What actually happened is that we had a clear run through the instance, everyone got their badges, and we did (somehow?) manage to get the speed kill on Loken for the achievement at the end despite the fact that two of the dps were showing lower on the damage meters than I was.

Nope. My point is that regardless of how uber I am, I cannot solo that instance. Taking less hardcore players along cost us a few minutes (I’ll say we could maaaybe have saved 15 mins if we had speed pulled HoL with a geared group, because I paused to explain the boss fights) and some achievements that no one cared about. That was the only cost.

There’s really no reason to be nasty about people’s gear for heroics. Even if someone is low on the damage meters, they’re still helping you get badges. And if you decide to spend 15 mins waiting around in chat to find better geared people then congratulations, you probably would have got through it at about the same time if you’d taken the first guys in the list.

On another note, I totally nailed the annoying HoL pull with the two runecasters. I was quite proud. No one else probably appreciated it. But I think this does prove the point that in games, just as in life, by the time you have the experience to ace all the challenges, you probably don’t need it any more.

Protection for Beginners

As with the Fury Guide, this is not a guide to levelling as a protection specced warrior. It is also not a beginner’s guide to tanking.

Instead it assumes that you have a level 80 warrior and want to either try Protection as one of your dual specs, or are coming back to tanking after a break and want to know what has changed and how things work these days.

Here’s how to set up dual specs.

If you want a more detailed and theorycraft oriented guide, check Ciderhelm’s Wrath of the Lich King Reference Guide.

The Role of a Protection Warrior

As a Protection Warrior you have two jobs:

  1. Control mobs by keeping threat/ aggro on them
  2. Take as much damage as possible without dying

You have to do both of these at the same time. That means all your choices of talents, gear, glyphs, etc have to balance both survivability/ mitigation and threat.

The most common mistake new protection warriors make is to focus too much on the mitigation side. It doesn’t make you a better or more hardcore tank to put 61 points into the protection tree and gear purely for stamina.

Threat output in Wrath/3.1 is more closely tied to your damage output than used to be the case. So threat stats, abilities, and gear will also mean that you do more damage. Although people don’t typically take tanks for their damage, if you have more threat you’ll find it easier and more fun to control mobs.

Talent Spec

This is the 15/5/51 spec that I use at the moment. It’s THE most popular tanking spec, it works fine, and it’s a good place to start.

It’s a good balanced PvE spec which takes all the important mitigation talents from Protection, and adds in Deep Wounds from the Arms tree for extra threat. A lot of the new Protection talents in Wrath give extra crit chances to key abilities such as Shield Slam and Heroic Strike, which is why Deep Wounds/ Impale offers more threat/damage than maxing out Cruelty (which doesn’t apply to Shield Slam).

Sword and Board: This is the key to Protection Warriors in Wrath. Shield Slam has become baseline and keeping an eye on the Shield Slam procs is the most important part of your tanking ‘rotation’.

Gag Order: This is how you pull casters. The extra damage to Shield Slam makes it a must have.

Vigilance: Quirky and not well understood ability. Put it on whichever dps in your group is likely to generate most threat.

Warbringer: Once you’ve gotten used to having Charge available in combat, you’ll never want to go back. Since the last patch, Intercept can be used in defensive stance also if you have this talent. If you are ever tempted to think that Blizzard hates protection warriors (they don’t), look at this talent and smile.

Shockwave: Shockwave and Thunderclap make AE tanking more fun and less of a chore than it used to be. Note that mobs need to be in front of you for the Shockwave to affect them. Veneretio has a great article on tankingtips.com about how to cluster mobs and move them around.

Talents I didn’t take

Improved Spell Reflect: It looks like a good talent but in PvE is very situational. A lot of bosses are coded to be immune to Spell Reflect.

Improved Disciplines: Combined with the new Shield Wall Glyph (see below) you can take this talent to lower the cooldown on Shield Wall from 5 mins to 3 mins. Again, in practice this is very situational. Because usually once  every 5 mins is plenty.

Puncture: Used to be key in TBC when Devastate was our main tanking ability. This is no longer the case, and now Devastate is only used to apply and renew Sunder Armour.

Improved Disarm/ Intercept: These are more PvP oriented talents. In PvE both of them are very situational.

Glyphs

  • Major Glyphs: Blocking, Revenge, Heroic Strike
  • Minor Glyphs: Thunderclap, Charge, (*coff* I realise I haven’t filled the third minor glyph, but Bloodrage is as good as any)

This is what I use for both 5 man and raid tanking so again, a good place to start, but by no means the only options.

Blocking: The only glyph that provides extra mitigation. Also more damage to Shield Slam if you can use it within those 10s, which is likely. Ideally this glyph will have 100% uptime.

Cleaving: Can be useful if lots of AE tanking. Heroic Strike is a  better choice than Cleave otherwise.

Devastate: Lets you stack Sunder more quickly.

Enraged Regen: More healing is always good. But again, bit situational. Think about how often you use this ability before deciding whether to glyph for it.

Heroic Strike/ Revenge: Good for threat in low rage situations. Also will be used a lot because Revenge and Heroic Strike will feature strongly in your usual ‘rotation’.

Last Stand/ Shield Wall: Both of these reduce cooldowns on emergency recovery abilities. You’ll have to decide whether you would use them enough to need the reduced cooldown.

Sunder Armour: Useful for AE tanking.

Taunt: Unmissable taunts. The glyph is a bit situational (ie. for a situation where taunt absolutely must not miss), because we already have an AE taunt and mocking blow available as backup if a taunt is missed.

Vigilance: A pure threat talent, but unlike Heroic Strike/ Revenge, it doesn’t add any extra damage. Might be useful later on in raids as dps gear up more highly but not necessary right now.

How to play as protection/ ability rotation

Protection warriors don’t use a fixed rotation, instead it’s a priority system. So you will always be checking which abilities are available and picking one. Usually this will mean picking the one which does most threat, but you may need to weave in debuffs, interrupts/ spell reflects, and AE.

Shield Slam will do significantly more damage if Shield Block is also up. So if you don’t need SB for extra mitigation, aim to weave it in just before a Shield Slam when it is up.

Single Target Priorities

  1. Shield Slam
  2. Revenge
  3. Shockwave/ Concussive Blow
  4. Devastate

If you have a lot of rage (ie. 40+), use Heroic Strike on any spare cooldowns.

Technically, Devastate has priority over Shockwave/ Concussive blow if Shield Slam is not about to come up on the next cooldown (because Devastate can proc a Shield Slam via Sword and Board, and Shockwave can’t), but Shockwave does more threat.

AE Target Priorities

  1. Shockwave
  2. Thunder Clap
  3. Shield Slam
  4. Revenge

If you have a lot of rage (ie. 40+) use Cleave on any spare cooldowns, or Heroic Strike after a Revenge if you have the Revenge glyph

Initial Priorities

At the beginning of a pull, you want to get the mobs safely under control as quickly as possible, and to stack up 5 sunders (via Devastate) on whichever dps are going to kill first.

So usually, aim to pull with heroic throw. Hit bloodrage while the mob/s is heading towards you. If it is an AE pull, get in a Thunderclap as soon as possible, then Shield Slam the first mob and switch to your usual priorities, weaving in Devastate where possible.

Useful Macros

Charge/ Intercept (this will use charge if it is off cooldown, if not it will use intercept):

/castsequence reset=15 Charge, Intercept

Revenge/ Heroic Strike (if glyphed). You can actually single target tank effectively by spamming this macro whenever Shield Slam isn’t up:

/cast revenge
/cast !heroic strike

(note: Thanks to Jacob for the amendment to this macro)

Stats for Protection Warriors

Remember I was saying earlier that prot warriors need to balance mitigation with threat? This is where a lot of the balancing happens because they both use different stats.

In addition, there are two different ways to take less damage. One is to be better at soaking damage (mitigation) and the other is not to be hit in the first place (avoidance).

Although hardcore tanks often have several specialist sets of gear, in practice you’ll usually be using a mixed set. You will need a minimal amount of health in any case, and after that it’s more down to personal choice (plus what is available).

Tanking gear will usually come with plenty of stamina, strength and armour, regardless of what other stats it has to offer. And you can use the same criteria when deciding on gems and enchants (don’t forget to pick up a belt buckle for an extra belt gem).

Mitigation/ Avoidance Stats

Defence: You need 540 defence to be uncrittable by raid bosses, 535 defence to be uncrittable by bosses in heroic instances. Your first goal as a level 80 protection warrior is to achieve these levels of defence. Defence is still useful after this (it adds extra avoidance) but not as big a bang for the buck as dodge or parry would be.

Stamina: As much as possible. Stamina is one of the few mitigation stats that helps you survive magical damage as well as physical.

Armour: Helps soak physical damage.

Dodge/ Parry: Dodge provides more avoidance per point than parry. However your next attack immediately following a Parry will be faster so effectively you get more threat from a parry (yes this is weird, yes it does also apply to monsters). Both apply only to physical attacks.

Spell Resist: Only used for specialist raid encounters where all the damage is going to be of one spelltype. It is a great way to mitigate spell damage but you need to know exactly what type of damage to expect and you need to stack a lot of resist to really see much of a difference. In practice, when you stack that much spell resist there just isn’t room on your gear for many other tanking stats.

Threat Stats

Expertise: This ability makes it less likely for mobs to parry or dodge your attacks. Since almost all your tanking abilities need you to hit the target (unlike a paladin, for example, who has a lot of attacks which do spelldamage), this is your most important threat ability. Veneretio has a great explanation of expertise here. Assuming you have Vitality, with 20 expertise skill, you will not be dodged and with 58 expertise you won’t be parried.

Unlike defence, it’s not necessary to cap expertise before doing anything else. But it is your primary threat stat.

Hit: Assuming your attack is neither dodged or parried, it also has to hit the target.

Block Value: Affects the damage/ threat done by Shield Slam.

Strength: Will affect the damage/ threat done by Heroic Strike and also affects your Block Value.

Block Value/ Rating

There are two stats which apply to shield block.

  1. Shield Block Rating, which affects your percentage chance to block.
  2. Shield Block Value, which affects how much you will block for. Your Shield Slam will also hit harder if you have more SBV.

You won’t prioritise these stats in a standard tanking setup.

To understand why, you need to know how shield block works. When you block a physical attack, you take less damage by the amount of your shield block value. e.g.. if an attack would normally hit for 10k but you block it and have 2k SBV, it will actually hit for 8k. So the damage is reduced by a fixed and non-scaling amount.

This means that it is comparatively more useful when you aren’t being hit very hard, and less useful (blocks a lower percentage of damage) when you are. As a mitigation stat, dodge and parry both DO offer scaling stats (ie. a percentage change to block or parry physical attacks, regardless of how much damage is incoming) and are better bang for your buck.

It may be worth collecting shield block gear for a specialist set, in case you need to tank lots of mobs which each do little damage (e.g.. adds on Sartharion) but Shield Block Value has become more of a threat stat these days, because of the effect on Shield Slam.

Gear

There are about a zillion and one gear lists for tanks on the internet, or addons to help with working out if a new bit of gear is an upgrade or not. There are also lots of different ways to ‘rank’ available gear in terms of desirability. Some lists separate threat gear, mitigation gear, and block value gear.

These are the gear lists from tankspot.

Rawr is a popular standalone program which helps with gear comparisons and figuring out good upgrades.

Ratingbuster is an addon to help you compare gear easily in game.

Gearing up as a new 80 is easier than it has ever been. There’s plenty of good crafted, rep, and quest rewards out there. In particular:

Tempered titansteel helm and titansteel shieldwall. Tempered saronite belt, bracers, and legs. These all have plenty of defence on them, which is important when you are gearing for heroics.

Reputation wise, the head enchant comes from being Revered with the Argent Crusade. Wyrmrest Accord rep provides a good cloak and chestpiece.

There is also a tanking axe available as a reward from the argent tournament. It’s Axe of the Sen’Jin Protector for Horde, Teldrassil Protector for Alliance.

(note: thanks to KiwiRed for looking up the argent tournament rewards).

Addons

You will need a threatmeter. When dps come too near to your threat, activate your special tank ability ‘Shout at DPS’ (or just TYPE IN CAPS if you aren’t on voice chat).

I don’t use many addons for tanking. You will need to see the Shield Slam procs, so either powerauras or whichever scrolling combat text addon of your choice.

You do need to be able to see what’s going on, so however you arrange your UI, try not to let it get too cluttered.

More References

There are plenty of good blogs and websites about tanking in general, and protection warriors in particular. (If you are wondering which of these to read, read all of them cos they’re all good :P)

tankspot.com. They have awesome instructional videos for tanking pretty much every raid boss.

Ciderhelm has also put out some amazing video tutorials for tanks. I love how he always sounds so laid back on the soundtrack (yeah, here’s another 17 unexpected mobs, we’ll just pick them up after I’ve finished my beer,  etc etc)

tankingtips.com. Veneretio writes well thought out and authoritative guides and tips for protwarriors here. He’s recently been discussing mitigation vs avoidance gear.

mirrorshield – Yakra’s reflections on tanking.

Tank like a Girl

Tanking for Dummies – Tarsus blogs about his experiences as a prot warrior but also throws in some useful guides and tips on what works for him.

Darraxus the Warrior

The Wordy Warrior

I haven’t specifically linked to Elitist Jerks, because although it’s a great place to go to stay up with the latest discussions, I don’t find it such a good reference as tankspot.

Remember, this is just the beginning. The only way to learn to tank well is to go out and do it. Take some friends, hit some heroics. For all of us, there is a point where you have to just pull the boss and see what happens.

And good luck!