I find myself wondering about protection warriors as tanks. Clearly, we're neither the most nor least popular tanks, holding steady in the middle of the pack - both blood DK's and protection paladins absolutely own tank representation. Blood is at 4.2% and prot pallies at 4.1% of total class/spec representation in Throne of Thunder, with prot warriors at 2.7% and guardian druids in about the same spot as brewmaster monks, 2% for guardians and 1.8% for brewmasters.
It's fairly clear that fury warriors, despite being a relatively smaller fraction of total class representation, are by far the most popular warriors in current raiding. Protection is not only second, but a distant second, and arms (despite being a solid 3% of the total player base overall) is vanishingly under-represented in raiding. We'll worry about arms in raids later. For now let's ask why protection warriors aren't being seen in raids. It's not based on class popularity by itself - based on looking over Realmpop for a couple of hours I'd argue that warriors are holding pretty steady at about 9.6% of the total population. (It's a slight drop from the 10.14% we saw last December) World of Wargraphs puts the number at about 9.5%, so either way, there are a lot of warriors. But looking at the Wargraphs data, two things come to mind.
With an eye to the recently announced changes to Vengeance for patch 5.4, it's not likely to affect warrior representation. Warriors main issues as tanks are that we can't cheese encounter debuffs and single tank bosses that are meant to be tank swapped and we don't have the AoE burst of DK's and pallies (and for that matter, druids, who are even lower represented) due to the way Thunder Clap and Shockwave work. In part this is due to how absolutely useless haste is for prot warriors, but ultimately it's due to how we scale with attack power as our gear improves. Since warriors get revenge procs from dodges and parries, pure avoidance gear is better for us than it is for DK's and pallies, although it's still not great, and in general we stack less hit and expertise (and far less haste) than any other tank. We're not putting on gear with threat stats the way other tanks do, so we do less DPS, exacerbated by how our abilities work. It's not crippling, it's just a factor. It does mean we're less likely to feel the Vengeance changes as strongly as other tanks do, but make no mistake - if you're currently tanking in a raid you'll definitely feel the very large reduction in attack power from 100% to either 50% or 30% of your current max health.
Frankly, no tank (including warriors) is really having any trouble getting and holding aggro in most situations so its likely the Vengeance change is aimed at runaway tank DPS on some AoE fights. With threat being 5x the damage dealt for tanks, it's not really necessary for tanks to do 400k or more on an AoE pack. I really want to see how this is implemented before I'm willing to go into why I think this could be good for tanks overall, but I am at least not seeing any evidence that the sky is falling for tanks, especially tanking warriors, at this news.
Arms representation in PvE has always been low, especially considering the huge spike in interest in arms PvP at the beginning of the expansion and the subsequent drop (although even now arms commands a very high 7.9% representation in 2200 and above PvP) - arms warriors were nearly 14% of this bracket last December. We've seen no bump for them in raiding, and it seems likely that the roughly 1% drop in the class as a whole came from the ranks of those who rolled warriors to PvP and left as soon as the class wasn't considered overpowered due to the old Taste for Blood and chainable stuns with Charge, Storm Bolt and Shockwave. I myself raided arms and have been easing back into PvPing with it now that I no longer have to for my legendary quest, and it's still possible to spec into a decent amount of stun and retain some burst, but the burst has definitely been toned way, way down, probably too far. Still, can't argue with arms numbers in PvP - they may be lower than they were, but they're still very high = considering that only 3.5% of all players are arms warriors, the idea that almost 8% of 2200 rated players are arms is still arms doing very well.
It's just as clear that fury is the dominant DPS spec for the class, although its not inflated for PvE the way arms is for PvP. It's possible to do solid DPS as arms, so I assume players are still chasing after the advised 'perfect' spec that does the absolute most damage. Without actually sitting down and armory stalking every fury warrior I can't tell what percentage raid SMF vs. TG - while SMF is still superior on paper, I raid TG, and it works out fine (TG has excellent AoE DPS). Looking at the overall class distribution, warriors are literally in the middle of the pack - there are five classes with higher representation and five with lower. Looking at the raiding and PvP numbers, it's easy to work out where these warriors are and why - tanks are tanking at expected rates, fury is almost entirely PvE focused, arms majority PvP.
For now at least, we seem to be healthy, able to tank or DPS or PvP. We'll see what the future brings.
At the center of the fury of battle stand the warriors: protection, arms and fury. Check out more strategies and tips especially for warriors, from hot issues for today's warriors to Cataclysm 101 for DPS warriors and our guide to reputation gear for warriors.