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


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.

22 thoughts on “Tanking weapon woes, and the challenges of tanking at the end of an expansion

  1. I’m building my first tank ever, a pally, and the Axe of the Sen’jin Protector (Teldrassil Protector for the Alliance) from the Argent Tournament is a good ilvl200 tank 1-hander to start with.

  2. Last Word is a good weapon. People don’t understand the healing buff and so discount it.

    I reckoned that subject to a couple of assumptions it was worth about 50 stamina for a 10 man raider, more for a 25 man raider where you have more heals on you.

    There’s a great quote about this weapon on Maintankadin

    “the RNG of avoidance fails me roughly ~55% of the time; my healers, however, rarely fail me”

    • It did get much better when they made the proc go off more often. But these sorts of things aren’t always as obvious to players as seeing the stats on your sheet. I think all the ICC proc weapons have been subject to that. I do like the little skull on it that you can see in the screenshot, it’s like instructions for dummies (in case of doubt, apply end of mace to opponent’s skull).

      I should really put an enchant on mine someday … *hide*

  3. I probably exchanged my tanking sword/mace/axe out about every to every other patch. Heck, they even implemented a really nice tanking sword in the 5-man heroics for ToC. The one without Defense on it? Yeah, many tanks thrived on that beast. I ended up getting the mace from Marrowgar 10-man as an upgrade from there.

    Tanking Weapons weren’t nearly as bad as Shields. Again, probably goes into the “Conspiracy Theory” bin but WTF was up with Shields?!

    I tanked with the “Wall of Terror” from 25-man Naxx all the way til “Neverending Winter” from ICC 10-man. And that was MULTIPLE TIMES in ICC. I never saw one single shield drop from Ulduar or ToC.

    Actually looking back at it, most of my tanking upgrades were from Badges or crafted because I just had the damndest luck with the stuff.

    I always thought it was me… CONSPIRACY!

    ❤ Your Friendly Neighborhood Fuubaar

  4. I hate Last Word, not because I think it’s a bad weapon, but man, is it ugly, I wouldn’t mind having it for certain situations, but I definitely don’t think it is an all the time weapon. My all the time weapon right now is the Bloodvenom Blade, and I also swap in the Facelifter when I think a little more survivability is warranted, but honestly, it’s not that often.

    I really hope they just kill tanking weapons in Cataclysm anyway. With defense going away, there is really no need for them, just make the socket bonus on weapons Mastery so it is good for both tanks and DPS, and call it a day.

    • Pretty sure I read somewhere that this was the intention. They could have an agility socket bonus too – that would be ok I guess.

      I think warrior tanks will probably want slow weapons in Cataclysm, since Devastate is based on weapon speed, so we’ll be sharing weapons with fury warriors and frost DKs. Unless they normalise Devastate of course, in which case we won’t care!

  5. I’m not sure “Don’t die” could be said to be one of a Tank’s jobs. As a Tank it’s your Responsibility to ensure you’re Def-Capped with loads of Stamina. You can’t do that during a Raid, you can only do it prior to the Raid, so I see that as Preparation rather than a ‘Job’.

    It’s the Healer’s Job to keep you alive; it’s your responsibility to Be Prepared prior to coming to the Raid in order to make the Healer’s Job easier when you’re Raiding.

    It’s also your Job to know the encounters, but that could also be said to be a Responsibility, as Raid Research takes place prior to the actual Raid. But once you’re Raiding it’s your Job to Tank each encounter, and successful Tanking often comes from knowing what’s coming. Can I just Tank & Spank this Boss? Do I need to slowly drag him around the room? Do I have to constantly jump throughout the entire fight to avoid damage? Does he have some tricks that I need to be aware of that require me to Tank him in a specific spot, facing a certain way, etc?

  6. On my tanking character I tanked all of ICC10 normal plus some hard modes with the sword from Ony10. The instance has three bosses with tanking weapons on their loot table, one of which I killed every week without fail, and I never saw any of them. Only recently Putricide finally coughed up a Facelifter. But it was highly frustrating to try to stay ahead on threat when most dpsers had weapons two tiers above my own.

    Out of curiosity, when did you do Patchwerk? That is one fight where I don’t remember us ever having any threat issues, only tanks dying. At the start of the expansion he was a massive gear check. I remember a guild on my server that had breezed through Naxx at super speed grinding to a halt at Patchwerk as their Sunwell-geared tanks had to pick up some heroic blues just to get their stamina up.

    • This issue with being unlucky with the weapon drops is partly what I was getting at. Typically, your tanking weapon will contribute much more threat than survivability (for warriors, at least) so if threat is an issue and you don’t need the defence, swapping it out for a dps weapon is a viable tanking choice sometimes. I tanked a lot of ICC with the dps axe from Marrowgar-10 — which also looks much nicer than The Last Word.

      And with Patch, I tanked Naxx when the expansion went live. I switched to as much dps gear as I reasonably could (ie. while still hitting the defence cap and a decent amount of health) as soon as we knew the healers could keep us up and we were gunning for the 3 min achievement (so probably after I mostly was geared up in Naxx-25 gear).

  7. Spinks,

    Some kind of unrelated questions and a beg for some info.

    My wife and I have recently started kicking around in WoW and I am somewhat lost. We played three years ago and got to level 60ish right after BC, so we are really still newbs nowadays. I was a paladin back then on Horde side, Lothar.

    This time around I’d like to go warrior and have rolled a Tauren.

    I’m too wordy. My question is…what’s the best site for warrior info? I stumbled on The Tankspot and that seems really good. Also, what’s the best place to find general newb WoW info? Like, I have no idea about addons or what I need (auctioneer etc?) Also, are there new interfaces that I could download that are more functional/better set up than the default? I foudn wowinterfaces.com, but is there a suggested one for warrior tanking?

    You can email me at castillionblackmoon (at gmail) if that’s better or if you have time.

    Thanks Spinks!

    • Hi,

      I’m publishing this comment so that other readers can also make suggestions.

      Tankspot is great. They also made a set of tanking reference videos (for newbies) which might be useful.

      I have a prot warrior guide here which isn’t a bad place to start either. It hasn’t been updated to the current patch but the build and glyphs I suggested are still fine.

      With addons, it’s all so much down to what you specifically want to tweak that it’s hard to really make suggestions. If you’re not looking at raiding, some of the things that people most commonly mod are:
      player/group/raid frames (eg. xperl, pitbull)
      quickbars (bartender)
      timers (ntk, dotimer)
      damage meters (recount)
      auctions (auctioneer, auctionlite)

      I’m just giving examples of some of the more common addons I know of there.

    • “Scrolling combat text” is also really good – you can move those annoying damage/heals numbers to the side of the screen away from your character, and make them smaller.

      Addons can be downloaded from Curse Gaming (google it!). I suggest looking at their “most popular” addon list for ideas.

      Tankspot is the best warrior site I’ve found. Landsoul has a great “how to” guide for fury, and there’s loads of prot stuff there too. Veneretio’s “Tankingtips.com” is a slightly more philosophical site for the end game tank, and worth checking out when you hit max level.

    • Also – on interfaces generally – I think you’ll need to experiment to see what works best for you. There is a UI forum on tankspot where you can see what addons people use. Try some of those out – Lore (the famous paladin) uses Icehud, for example, which I can’t stand. Try it out to see if you like it.

      Similarly, Powerauras is an addon I use all the time to give me a big, obvious warning of procs, but I know a lot of people who can’t be bothered to spend the time to set up all of the graphics that you need to make it useful.

  8. I’ve never gotten a tanking weapon from five-mans. I went into Naxx with the level 74 quest mace. Now I’m tanking LK with Titanguard.

    Titanguard was the big exception to rare drops in my experience. It dropped so often we were giving it out for off-sets. Made for paranoid muttering about “If they’re trying to get the tanks all geared up quickly how hard are the bosses in here?”

  9. The tanks in my raid have disgusting luck with weapon/shield drops.

    My boyfriend’s pally picked up the mace from Marrowgar AND Neverending Winter on our very first trip into ICC10. Our resident DK pugged ICC25 once and wound up with Bryntoll. Even our DPS warrior has a fantastic tank set.

    It’s our healers are the ones that cant’ get a weapon drop. I finally have Trauma, but I ran ICC for ages with Seethe on. And I only got it because I rolled lucky, our druid is running with a DPS staff and our shaman has a 232 dagger from HPOS, I believe.

  10. Some items each iLvl do seem less attainable than others. At the start of Wrath, KT’s axe was the only tank weapon, and it took me forever to get it. The tank shield never dropped for me in EoE.

    But, I think Blizz did a great job of making more accessible tank weps/shields in the later part of Wrath. Having the iLvl251 mace and shield drop in the first 3 easily pug’able bosses of ICC10 has made it so that any (and every) yahoo in T9 can get them. Plus, the iLvl232 sword in the new 5-man is very accessible.

    Bracers on the other hand … our guild never saw the tank bracers drop of reg Marrowgar, not once. First drop was the iLvl277 version. Same for Marrowgar’s caster shield. At least tanks has shield options in ToC that were easy to get from early bosses. Casters had to get to Anub in ToC10 of FC in ToC25, neither of which are PuG friendly.

  11. While I’ve certainly griped during small droughts overall, I’ve always had fantastic luck with weapons. To quote just a few:

    – Both Thunderfury bindings in 3 weeks.
    – Mallet of the Tides, week 1
    – Brutalizer, week 2
    – Red Sword of Courage, 1st run
    – Ardent Guard, week 2
    – Troggbane, week 1

  12. During the entire time we were raiding Naxx, I got exactly 1 drop that I wanted.

    I had to buy my tier with badges. I was still carrying my heroic trinkets and weapons into Ulduar.

    I’m going to cry a little now.

  13. The shield situation is the most ridiculous, I think. The Royal Creast lasted me until I get Wall of terror, some 2 months after we first defeated kel’Thuzud. There not being a tanking shield in Ulduar-25, the Wall of terror lasted me until we got to Trial of the Crusader.

    Over the course of 3 months (i.e. 12 or 13 raids), our DKP database records 7 Barriers going to players. I remember sharding at least 1, probably more (we don’t record disenchants).

    Fast forward to icecrown – still waiting on seeing a single Glacial Wall. While on the subject, still also awaiting seeing a single Devium’s ring. And for goodness sake, will you STOP giving us MORE Last Words, please?

    Tanking weapons haven’t been evry well done in the last two tiers, certainly. 2/3 of the iLvl245 weapons originating with Anubarak 10-man hardmode was stupid. Even more when you consider that the ridiculously good weapon that won’t be replaced until the heroic Troggbane, or possibly normal Mithrios, dropped, while the not-brilliant mace required you to get to a Tribute Chest with a certain number of attempts.

    Last Word isn’t popular because it’s a really boring proc. The strength is nice, but we’d have done just as well with a passive +100 strength – that’s what it is, after all. The extra healing proc… meh. It might be doing something, but I sure as anything can’t see any hard evidence. None of the healers admit to noticing any difference.

    Meanwhile, compare it to Nibelung – or “Undead flappy harem staff”, as one of our Shadow priests likes to call hers – you get flappy white obvious pets to come out and smite your enemies. It might not be amazingly effective compared to raw stats, but it’s _fun_ and _unusual_.

    If we’re on other rare drops:-
    *Gargoyle Spit bracers. Took me a grand total of 27 Deathbringer Saurfang kills spread across 3 characters before I saw these. Thankfully, it was on the right character.
    *Heart of Iron. Dropped once in 6 months of Ulduar, one of the few nights when I wasn’t there.
    *Jaraxxus’ cloak. Dropped once in 3 months of ToC.

  14. Shields for me… I’ve had over 20 kills now of BQL and H gunship 10… of those one shield dropped and went to a paladin tank who is now on a break. I’m the Raid Leader and primarily MT… and every other shield using tank has a better one than me. Even a lot of alt tanks…

    We’ve see one ring from valithra and one pair of boots. The boots I won but the ring went to our GL and my co druid tank.

    LK hasn’t dropped a tanking weapon yet… but I do have the last word unenchanted and sitting in my bank. I prefer facelifter.

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