Protection, The Rock and the Hard Place
Revisited for WoW 3.x
Intro: What Kind of Warrior Shall I Be?
Part 1. Arms, Lords and Ladies of the Battlefield
Part 2. Fury, The Fast and the Furyious
Part 3. Protection, The Rock and the Hard Place
[Note: After rereading this for billionth time, they still need a ton of work. So much has changed and I've only really put a lot of time in Wrath on Protection spec. I can't wait to get back to Arms, but now that Dual specs are in I'm giving Fury a whirl first. So much more for me to learn. However, I've been sitting on these for, oh, ever and it's time to set 'em free. With reservations and promises to revise as much as possible. ;) What I hope is that I've got the flavor down and the specifics I can add in more as I go.]
Are you rough and tough and like to being up front, the point girl for the whole adventure? Dark dank places full of evil make you feel all squishy and excited inside? Do you just like to smash things in the face? Do you thrive on getting whispers every 30 seconds, begging you for assistance with some big bad baddie? Are you truly the original go-to-guy/girl? Do you just like armor with really big glowy shoulders?
Well... who doesn't?
Our final look at "What Kind of Warrior Shall I Be?" is at Protection. In many ways, these Warriors are The Warriors. The pure, front line soldiers. They're the ones that carry a big stick in one hand and a massive shield in the other, and stand toe-to-toe with the bad guy (or the bad guy's crotch, as the case may be).
Everyone is standing around the glowing stone. Excitement buzzes in the air. The adventure is about to begin! The gnome rogue tries to get nekkid and dance with the night elf hunter, who is ignoring him and who's cat is thinking "tasty treat." She's halfway flirting with the gorgeous paladin healer, who removes his helm long enough to straighten a single stray piece from his otherwise perfect hair. The frost mage is jumping up and down and running in circles. No one is exactly sure why. With the summoning done, they wait. The stone flares bright, blinding them momentarily. And out steps the biggest hunk of meat and metal any of them have ever seen.
The Warrior squints and takes in his surroundings and fellow adventurers in one glance. Every one shifts uncomfortably under his scrutinizing gaze. In less time than it takes to blink, he's already assessed and cataloged every strength, and every single weakness, of each person there. What can you do? What can't you do? Will you be a liability or an asset? You're not sure. He knows.
Everyone is still now, waiting for the Warrior to speak. Even a simple greeting would be good. His shield alone weighs more than you. The massive, magically enchanted weapon at his side glows menacingly. He holds his hefty helm under one arm like it's a loaf of bread. There's bits of gore from his last battle with the minions of the Lich King still splattered on his expansive shoulder guards. He's completely encased in Titansteel and has been fighting non-stop for three days. He smells a little off.
Not to worry. A little Old Spices thrown his way isn't going to offend this monster.
He trudges over to the night elf and looks straight at her chest. "Great," he says. "Can you hit anything with those." The night elf crosses her arms over her chest and glares. The warrior pats her giant cat on the head. "You'll do, though." The kitty purrs and the night elf, if possible, looks even more offended.
He moves on to the the gnome and says, "Disappear on me little man and I'll hunt you down and eat you myself." The gnome grins and salutes.
To the mage he says, "Try not to blow your load too soon." The mage just giggles.
He then stands toe to toe with the Pally. The Paladin crinkles his nose a little, but manages to hold his ground. "Just stay at the back, heal, and keep your yap shut. We'll be fine." The Paladin starts to retort... and then thinks better of it.
The warrior hefts his shield, pulls his sword and plods toward the evil lair. "Let's do this," he says softly.
This is the guy that has no fear. He walks into the scary place without batting an eye. He makes sure everyone is set. Then he charges into the group of vicious monsters. Suddenly dust and lightning explodes from around him and the mobs are standing there stunned out of their pants. With a mighty blow from his shield he smashes one in the face and the fight is on. He's very skilled at pissing off bad guys.
Think 300 with more armor. Protection warriors use their shield, sword and even their entire body to dish out death and destruction to their foes. These are the guys and girls that really are ten feet tall and bullet proof and can, literally, shoot lightning bolts out of their arse.
They come in all shapes and sizes, from the lithe Blood Elf to the hulking Orc. They have a wide variety of temperaments. Many are the calm, cool and collected type. Situational awareness is key to their success and survivability. They go with the flow and take care of business, magically appearing in the right spot and the right time when all seems lost. Others are hot heads or control freaks. Expectations are high and to impress this leader you have to be perfect. To this guy, precision and accuracy in a fight are simply what's expected. "Everyone does their job, no one quits, or I'll kill you myself."
These guys and girls are tanks, and if Warriors had a hero class, Protection Warriors would be it. They stand up to the bad guy and take the shots that would kill any other character. They get burned by fire, frozen solid, shot with arrows, pummeled with giant maces, stabbed with all manner of terrible implements, and tossed around like rag dolls by the biggest and baddest monsters in Azeroth and beyond. Then they get up, dust off and go back for more. Getting beaten up is what tanks live for.
They aren't just aggro dummies, though. To hold a group of nasties requires tremendous skill. They can dish out as much as they take. They know precisely where to strike and when to smash to completely obliterate an opponent. There's a huge difference between a good Protection Warrior and an Awesome Protection Warrior. The great ones can get the job done and lead their fellows to victory at the same time. In many ways, this is most trying Warrior type to play. If you want to test your mettle and skill, this is the spec to choose.
Are you a Protection Warrior?
The job is to be as bad ass and threatening as possible. Every enemy you encounter has to see you as the greatest threat to their personal well being. You have to leak "Danger" from your pores. You're the one other players will unconsciously scooch over a bit when you sit down at a table. Protection talents focus, to a large extent, on being threatening. Threat is a Protection Warrior's DPS. Knowing a few choice curses and creative insults about a monster's mother and a group of ogres, a gnome, and some sticky spider silk is handy as well.
Protection Warriors can take massive amounts of damage. Hits that would one-shot most classes are nothing to a Prot tank. This kind of Warrior is fast and agile, as well. Despite the impossibly heavy armor they wear, they can dodge, parry and block, using everything they have - sword, shield, arms, legs, toenails - to avoid damage. They know how to turn, how to position and how to roll with a fight to take less while dishing out more.
They're also incredibly strong. If there's a Superman or Wonder Woman of this game, it's Protection Warriors. Lifting a Mechanostrider over their head and tossing it would be child's play for these warriors. When they hit something, it generates all kinds of attention. These guys and girls dish out hurt in all kinds of interesting ways.
That sound like you? You're a Protection Warrior.
The Good Stuff
* I'm not afraid to say it, even with my obvious bias: Protection Warriors are the best tanks in the game. Always have been. Period. Argue if you like, but it won't change the fact. :) /trolloff
* You're invincible. Pretty much, anyhow. With a competent healer, a Protection Warrior can stay on their feet longer than any other class. Even without healing, if you're planning on taking down a Prot, you'll wanna bring a lunch. And maybe dinner, too. And a snack.
* Some of the best and most wicked Warrior abilities are in the Protection tree. Shield Slam is awesome. Sword & Board makes it better. Improved Thunderclap rocks. Spell Reflect is the ultimate "Ha!" Strip your enemies nekkid with Sunder/Devastate and then beat them stupid with Revenge. And what instrument of destruction wouldn't love Shockwave? Wargasm!
* High mobility. You can move around a fight quickly with abilities like Charge, Warbringer and Intervene. Taunt and Challenging shout, combined with Area of Effect abilities like Improved Thunderclap, Damage Shield and Shockwave, give you control of the flow of the battle and ensure all bad guy eyes are on you (and not your friends!).
* In most cases, you get first pick on loot. :) Everyone wants a well dressed tank.
The Bad Stuff
* These days? Not Much.
* If thrown into a DPS role, you will most like under-perform. You need to be front and center, hitting and getting hit to generate Rage, which allows you to use all those nifty abilities. You can't do that from behind the mob. This is very much the sort of spec you'll choose to be hitting things face first.
* To offset the "Best tank" comment above, I'll also throw in this: Protection Warrior is probably the hardest kind of tank to play. There's a wide variety of abilities that you have to learn to use at exactly the right time. It is somewhat unforgiving as a spec. Miss a sunder and someone could die very easily. Thunderclap too soon and your healer will pull aggro from the caster you missed. It's not really a class/spec you can play on auto pilot. Ya gotta be on top of it, all the time.
Traditionally, leveling a Protection Warrior was . . . how shall we say? A pain in the ass? It was slow and took forever. Protection Warriors in the past were all about absorbing or mitigating damage while generating Threat. That's changed recently.
In many respects, Protection may (arguably) be the BEST leveling spec for a Warrior. Prots have great damage output now. Blizzard recently made a shift to Threat generation being more dependent on DPS. To make Prot tanks viable, they up'd the amount of DPS they can do. Poof! Leveling is easy-sauce now.
Simply round up a pile of mobs and beat them silly while you watch your health bar remain relatively unchanged. If you want to level or grind quickly and without a lot of down time, you won't go wrong with a Protection Warrior.
You should complete the quest for Defensive Stance (at Level 10) as soon as possible. For the most part, you'll just stay in Defensive Stance. You may switch to Battle Stance on occasion to boost DPS a bit, but you loose a lot of your abilities. Stance-wise, Protection Warriors are a bit limited because most of their best abilities are only available in that stance. No matter. They work fine in Def and the others are there for those situations where you'll need them.
Talent-wise, many leveling Prot Warriors will go to the Arms tree first, even if just for Deflection. You can start right in the Protection tree, though, and do fine. By the time you're hitting levels 30-40, you really start seeing the power and survivability of this tree.
Solo'ing is really nothing to a Prot Warrior. For a specialization that's designed to be group oriented, these days they do astonishingly well on their own.
Early on, if you go into the DEF tree at the start, you're just wicked tough and hard to kill. It won't take long for you to be rounding up two or three mobs at a time. By the mid levels, you've got all sorts of tricks up your sleeve to stay in the fight longer. You're killing mobs in groups and then going straight to the next batch without bothering to stop and heal. By the top levels, there's not a lot left that can touch you and you'll be solo'ing wild quest bosses that would crush other classes.
Not a whole lot to say here. You're perfect for groups. In instances, you're required. If you prefer to play in a group, going Protection is the way to do it. You'll never be wanting for friends. :)
In groups your job is to keep all the nasties off the other players, and thus keep the other players alive. Grouping requires mastering skills and concepts such as pulling, holding aggro, threat rotations, and situational awareness.
For the most part, you get the hang of these concepts as you level, but practice makes a huge difference. No one likes a lazy tank.
You'd think, by the same token, there would be people falling over themselves to get you into raids! Not so, unfortunately.
In raids, Prot Warriors are the best of the best. And to get into raids, you'd better be the best. If there's two slots open for a 10-man, there's going to be Druids, Death Knights, and Paladins all competing for those slots along side you. Of all the Warrior types, raiding as a Protection Warrior is probably the most challenging and competitive slot available. It requires a huge amount of skill, ability and even leadership to be a raid tank. Main Tank in a 25-man raid group is the top of the ladder for the Warrior class.
Just be the best and you'll be fine. :)
This part will probably change considerably as WoW continues to develop. It always does. As I write this, Protection is probably the best way to go if you're going to PvP with a Warrior. The simple explanation is survivability. With most other classes doing massive amounts of burst damage, Prot warriors are the only ones that can survive long enough to get anything done.
And killing DKs who are overzealous with Death Grip is all kinds of funny. :) Getting up close and personal in a fight with a Prot Warrior is a Very Bad Idea.
Your main tools are your mobility and ability to stun an opponent in quick succession. Many times this is just giving your burst happy teammates time to take the enemy down, but it works. The longer you stay on your feet, the better your chances. Prot Warriors have a wide variety of skills to defend against just about any sort of attack.
The "Types" of Protection Warriors
I'm a big believer in "the spec how you want" way of playing WoW, though you'll want to read the first post in this series about how I qualify that belief. Shop around for some of the "top" specs and study them when you're ready to get serious. All I'm going to talk about here are some general themes for Protection. I'll leave the math and perfect specs for those more qualified. No matter what spec you choose, you DO have to practice it. You have to use what talents you've taken to best advantage.
Each of the two spec's here are just demonstrations to show the idea, as well as give a general feel for what playing a Protection Warrior is like, and not necessarily optimal builds! Big. Grain. Of. Salt. Yum.
Your Basic Prot Warrior (15/3/51) - This is pretty much your standard, generic, does the job Protection spec. It's primary concern is loading the 51 points to the Protection tree and getting the big items. Then it takes Armored to the Teeth for a bit more punch and Deep Wounds, both of which help increase threat. This is also called the Deep Wounds Tank, or a Bleed Tank. You won't have many threat problems with this build.
The Balanced Protector (5/8/58) - This is probably the most popular Warrior tank build, and for good reason. It has an excellent balance of defensive and offensive capabilities. It takes all the major goodies from the Protection tree and adds on nice damage boosters from the Fury tree. This one offers up a few more survivability options to keep you on your feet longer.
The PvP Damage Tank (12/8/51) - This build offers up more damage, but maintains some of the situational and panic button survivability of the other two specs. It is often used in PvP builds. It is, of course, perfectly acceptable for basic tanking duties, as well.
More than any other Warrior class, though, I think tanks tweak and customize their builds to their play style. One tank may love the extra rage from Improved Charge, while another could care less and would much rather have more damage from Cruelty. Some tanks never bother with Last Stand, preferring to panic button with trinkets and such, while others swear it's saved their asses more times than they can count. And so on...
In addition, raid level tanks often spec specifically for certain encounters. So which bosses you'll be MT on and which you'll be OT on come into consideration. Which abilities better fit the mobs and bosses you'll be fighting? Raid tanks have a tough job because they'll often need to respec, re-glyph, and put on new cloths to fight in certain situations. While way outside the scope of this guide, careful study of both the encounters you'll be going into and the various specs, abilities, and techniques used to conquer those encounters, will be required.
To Protect and Defend!
Deciding to play a Protection Warrior is a big step. You're literally stepping into the leadership position, whether you intend to or not. No other Warrior type is more dependent on being tuned into the ebb and flow of a fight. While DPS Warriors may rely on situational awareness to kill stuff, it does tend to focus on what they're killing. A Protection Warrior has to have an expanded awareness, to be able to take in not only what's getting killed, but also keeping track of every other player at the same time. The up and down applies to a Prots game-life, as well. I've literally had nights where nothing went right and went to bed completely deflated and depressed. I've had just as many nights where everything went perfect and couldn't sleep because the whole experience was so full of awesome. Tanks are a passionate lot and they like it that way. This is the specialization for those Warriors that revel in the agony of defeat and the thrill of victory!