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Have prot warriors been left behind?

Matthew Rossi

So we've been having a back and forth about various tanking classes, and our overlords have commanded us to share this with you, the readers. So I enter into the fray, girded for battle (you have to gird, you'll pull something) and ready to provide unto you my opinions once again. For I am an opinionated cuss. Also, I just dropped something like 100g to respec fury for the night in SSC because we had a surplus of prot warriors, prot paladins and feral druids for once. So I got to see how the DPS half of the warrior class lives in raids, and it got me to thinking about how, of all three tanking classes, it was the warrior who got asked to respec.

My responses here are unabashedly pro warrior and from my own experiences. Some of them will be extreme cases. Some of them will be stressing a worst case scenario. I'll admit my bias now. I love warriors. I don't love druids or paladins. I try and leave this bias out of the people... I have a lot of druid or pally friends in the tanking corps, because, well, I'm a tank first and foremost and not a DPS player anymore. So fury warriors and I have only our class in common most of the time (except for, say, last night in SSC), while those off spec tanks and I are tanks together. I try very hard never to call for a nerf to another class. And I don't think paladins or druids should be nerfed as tanks now.

If you're interested on a perspective from a hybrid tank, Allison Robert's post is here.

I'm going to reiterate that. I do not think paladins or druids need to be nerfed as tanks now. I hate nerfing. I hate taking abilities away from a class. I do not think they are overly weak, no: in fact, I find them fiendishly strong tanks. Paladins can AoE tank to a degree that I find irritating, to be honest, and ferals are just plain better as offtanks because they can tank as well as a prot warrior (specific boss gimmicks aside) and DPS far, far better than a prot warrior, no matter what gear switching he does. You'll notice that no one asked a feral to respec to offtank and DPS, because that would be absurd. All he needs to do is switch gear. I had to re-train in order to contribute.

This doesn't mean that I don't feel that prot warriors can tank. Hell yes we can. We can tank any boss in the game... if you'll let us. I will say this about the paradigm I'm seeing, the idea that paladins and druids are getting shoved aside for warrior tanks in late endgame raiding, that it's not fair that warrior threat starts to catch up in Hyjal and Black Temple, catch up or exceed. If so, where was all the complaint from hybrids when warrior tanks got to watch their archaic static threat mechanism sideline them to an extent post TBC?

One statement during our exchanges that stuck out in my mind was that people were seeing warriors catch up and even exceed paladin and druid threat once they got Tier 6 gear, if they had windfury totem. My first reaction was so what? Basically you're saying, until they get not only into 25 man content, but into Hyjal/BT, Paladins have much much faster aggro AND the best multi-mob aggro in the game? Ferals have much faster threat generation and can do much more damage? Warriors catch up if they have a totem? I don't know about you, but Blizzard won't let me play my shaman and my warrior at the same time.

If anything, I consider this confirmation of my belief, which is that paladins and druids (to a lesser extent) can dominate tanking up until then. If you're only seeing warriors catch up on threat now that they're in T6, that's unbalanced. Frankly, if warrior threat is so bad that it requires windfury to be viable, that's a problem. Paladins don't require Wrath of Air. If you say 'if he has windfury' that doesn't in any way hearten me, it means that just like the misdirection debacle, warriors don't actually have the threat generation abilities themselves, they have to let someone else provide them. I'm sure you've seen enough pally pulls with the shield to know how much group threat that provides.

Another problem for a tank is making sure he's at the defense cap. Frankly, druid tier gear? It sucks for tanking. It does not have defense on it. That's right, the feral set does not have defense on it. For a druid to tank, he or she needs rings, trinkets, necks, enchants and even gems to get to their defense cap of about 415 if they chose the proper talents. This is a pain, yes. But you know what?

That's no different than my experience as a prot warrior, and I have full Anticipation. Hell, my tanking hat doesn't even have defense on it! Without tanking enchants on the helm and shoulders I'd be up a creek without a paddle. We both have talents that provide some relief (my Anticipation provides straight defense, ferals can talent for -% to be crit) but that doesn't mean we're not expected to enchant and gem for defense if gear that has otherwise awesome stats lacks it. Blizzard's tier sets aren't very good for druid tanks, but trust me when I say I have to watch what gear I pick up and equip very, very carefully. Hell, I'm still using a BWL tanking trinket for the nice shield block, block rating and defense on it.

On the subject of feral offtanks as DPS

Ferals are said to be at a disadvantage when offtanking because, if they switch to a new target, they're hampered by their tanking/bear gear and cannot generate the same level of DPS they could in cat form. Furthermore, a cat form druid in full cat DPS gear does considerably less DPS than a comparably geared rogue or fury warrior.

These are true statements. A druid who shifts from bear to cat will do less DPS than one who started in cat form with cat gear. Ferals are crit dependent for a great majority of their DPS.

Compared to a prot warrior doing the same thing? Warriors are also crit dependent for DPS. I believe that's standard for melee DPS in the game, and is why they experimented with armor pen on ZA DPS gear. I'm aware that a druid who is in tanking gear will not do that kind of dps, and I'm aware that a druid who is speced purely for feral tanking will do less DPS than a druid who has specific catform DPS talents. But I stand by this statement: a feral can tank nearly as well as my prot warrior, then switch to DPS gear and do more than twice as much DPS as I can if I do the exact same thing. And my weapons and gear for DPS are the same as those the Fury warrior will do mind-shatteringly good DPS with. So it's not my gear, it's my talent spec... the other two tanks can both output significantly more DPS than I can. Pallies can AoE farm down four or five mobs at a time, Ferals can OT and DPS, warriors?

Stuck in nowhere land, and yet, get no tanking benefits aside from being pretty hard to kill. Is being pretty hard to kill good? Yes, but it doesn't outweigh being able to do away with CC/marking, or being way, way more versatile, so that groups who bring a prot warrior are essentially carrying him through most of the instance until we start getting into the harder content in 25 mans, when warriors become viable again.

Of six possible tanks, druids, paladins and warriors, only the warrior was asked to respec in order to contibute in a non-tanking role. The paladins were too valuable for their AoE tanking ability on Tidewalker to lose them, and they can still heal fairly effectively in healing gear if it becomes necessary. (It did not.) Druids can tank and DPS within the same spec (I know I'm harping on this, but a fact is a fact and needs to be harped on). But warriors simply cannot do this. Now, time for an admission here that might hurt my point: when I specced fury, my DPS? Better by far than a feral druid. No feral came close to my AoE damage on the murloc packs, my nearly constant rampage (due in no small part to the talent Leader of the Pack, courtesy of a feral) keeping my attack power easily above 3k and edging at times towards 4k. I was just behind the rogues in damage. But I was in no way a viable tank even in the exact same gear that I can tank SSC bosses in when I am prot spec. Suddenly I lack defense and lack aggro abilities in defensive stance. If warriors are hybrids, then where's my hybrid vigor, so to speak?

"Warriors will always be the premiere tanking class."

They're not the premiere tanking class. There is, at this time, no premiere tanking class in World of Warcraft, there are simply three tanking classes. For good or for ill, that is the way it is. To say that warriors are the 'premier' tanking class because we can tank the 'prestigious' encounters is elitism. It's not only saying that tanking a boss is better than tanking in general (which a great majority of the players in the game might agree with) it's saying that it's okay to lack viability in trash mob tanking so long as you're still strong against bosses. This is a fallacy for a few reasons. First off, it supposes that warriors are somehow unwilling to tank an entire instance when in fact we merely know how unsuited to it we are.

I'd tank the entire of Arcatraz in a heartbeat. I like to tank. Prot warriors generally tank because they like it. This doesn't mean I don't think there's too much trash in modern instances and raids, because boy howdy I do, but that's nothing to do with it. Protection spec warriors haven't been standing around holding up our noses, saying we're too good to tank 5 and 10 man runs, and any argument that acts like they have been derides them. Except for those of us who were at the forefront of gearing, who had a solid guild behind us and who rolled along in groups into endgame, prot warriors have found themselves wrestling with these instances this whole time. They're trying to tank them now. We haven't been waiting for someone to deliver Illidan to us on a silver tray, we haven't been snapping our fingers so that the beleagured raids can deliver us Archimonde. Warriors simply are not suited to tanking the masses of garbage mobs being thrown at us in instances like Shattered Halls, and even when it is possible for a warrior to tank a large trash pull, most groups will trade the warrior's plethora of tanking options for another choice that allows them to nuke faster.

You can't be the premiere tanking class if no one wants you to tank until Reliquary of Souls. (Yes, this is hyperbole. Yes, warriors tank well before that. I myself have tanked pretty much every boss in the game before Kael/Vashj by now and we're working on them. But using Reliquary of Souls as an example of a boss that a paladin can't tank? When we all know that paladin tanks are essential for Hyjal Summit? That would be like me saying that warriors are being pushed out of the game because a paladin can more easily avoid crushing blows on Prince Malchezzar, or can AoE tank 90% of the trash in the instance with ease.)

You can't be the premiere tanking class if you're not tanking anything, just sitting there for 80% of a run whacking things ineffectually while watching paladins and druids tanks masses of mobs you could never hope in a million years to hold and thinking to yourself "Why the hell am I not fury? Oh, right, because then I couldn't tank at all for the Netherspite fight coming up" I'll never forget that experience. Thank God for ZA with all the really complicated fights, and SSC/TK with a need for more tanks than just two paladins. No one asks for one of us to tank a heroic even in T5/equivalent. You would never ask a warrior because of the paradox: the better a warrior's gear, the worse he is at holding aggro on weaker mobs.

Imagine this. Not only do we not get to run those instances when we're gearing up, we don't get to run them once we have! It's bad itemization and bad class design that a warrior can only effectively tank a narrow band just above and below his current gear level: the better my block, parry and dodge get the more I have to fight like a fiend to try and keep one mob locked down.

Yes, this is also true for druids: a 'lucky' dodge streak can lock them out of rage generation where a paladin could just throw mana at the mobs until they're all locked down. This is in fact a problem for any rage generating tank: the better your avoidance is, the more you completely avoid damage. The more you completely avoid damage, the less rage you have. The less rage you have, the less threat you have. At least druids do more damage when tanking, but with rage normalization, even that's not as good for rage anymore. And God help them on a bleed immune mob. But warriors are even worse because of their static threat generation: if you start avoiding too much, you have to bloodrage, maybe rage pot, and hope for a big crit on a shield slam or you are going to lose aggro. Even on pulls where you could sit there with your 15k health unbuffed and just soak up the entire pull's damage forever. It's gotten to the point where, if I find myself tanking a heroic, I do it in full DPS gear.

So basically, what are we saying? Warriors are shown the door from Hellfire Ramparts right up to RoS? Clearly they're not, but then, are paladins and druids being showed the door after? Again, no. Essentially, we're told "Stand in the back, the real tanks will handle this." Imagine being in this situation after being a dedicated tank since December of 2004, constantly shoved aside in the expansion for pallies and druids. Druids after the expansion launched were so crazy with their threat generation, damage and armor/health that they were soloing elite quests in Nagrand by tanking everything down. To finally see light at the end of the tunnel and know "Hey, if you can just hold on till Tier 6, you'll be viable again" and then be told "But we're considering if that's fair to the paladins and druids who got us there" when you'd have happily gotten them there yourself is kind of maddening.

Some consider 5 and 10 mans scut work. We'd have loved to do it. But we have to fight like animals to get groups to let us. I showed up for a heroic Sethekk run the other day and they wanted a blue geared feral who didn't even have 420 defense to tank it! I had to explain that T5 prot warriors do not DPS.

"Stand in the back, the REAL tanks will handle this." That's finally started to change, but many players have no idea how much resentment it caused, and how little solidarity we feel with players who got so many buffs to their tanking styles while we sat in "Oh, thunderclap in D-stance? That's it? Only hits four mobs?" land since January of last year.

"I feel like I'm being punished for not being a warrior."

During the discussion, this is one sentence that really stuck with me. Because it wouldn't be fair to make tanking get worse just because you're not the 'right' tanking class. It did set me back on my heels to read it. But then I thought about my first days through the Dark Portal. My first attempt to tank Hellfire Citadel, where the paladin decided he was going to tank everything (even though I was recruited to do the run as the tank) and just threw on Righteous Fury and tanked everything.

Yes, the healer hated him for it. Yes, he would have rather had me to heal and proper CC. But there was nothing I could do. I could not get aggro back. I could not stop him from tanking all the mobs, breaking all our sheeps and saps, it just wasn't possible. This was the moment when I realized that the game had radically changed, but warriors did not change with it.

That sense of helplessness... not that I'd done anything wrong, not that I was a bad tank, but that my class had no way to recover from bad behavior from another player... has always stuck with me.

It must suck to be entering 25 man content, or progressing through it, and suddenly your gear doesn't facilitate main tanking anymore, But from my perspective?

It's been the same here in inverse. I had to struggle to maintain my tanking skills in the face of group after group after group that didn't want a warrior. They wanted AoE tanking so that they didn't have to worry about marking, CC, or moderating their DPS to let a tank build threat. They wanted paladins or druids. They wanted faster threat generation.

I wasn't tanking even in five mans, because that's where all the druids and paladins were superior tanks. Flat out superior. Just plain better, with no better gear, with no better experience, just abilities that worked better. I got punished for being a warrior for up until January of this year, when I joined my new guild and was finally chosen to tank and even Main Tank again in raids. This happened because my wife had me come in and tank a run for her guild, and they got to see me do it.

Warriors can tank anything in the game, but we're the single most dependent tanking class on group goodwill. Group effort. Letting us do our job.

Where does the resentment come from?

Now, this might just be the culture of Norgannon. Maybe druids and paladins were just the FoTM for a year. Maybe people got intoxicated by being able to DPS faster and harder and didn't care about the benefits to emergency situations that warriors bring. Maybe the pendulum is swinging back now. I can't say. All I can say is, we were promised that druid and paladin tanking viability would allow warriors to spec DPS and go on runs (for the most part, no, it didn't, at least not in the five mans) and that it would be good for us as tanks (nope).

Instead, I got pushed aside. It's taken a year to get back to where I was pre-BC, without a big guild to sustain me I was out on my own, PuGgging endlessly, trying to get groups. I had to log on at 2 or 3 in the morning to find groups desperate enough to take me. Always afterwards came the "Wow, you're a great tank" comments. Why was it a surprise to people? Because no one expected a warrior to be a good tank anymore. Warriors weren't tanking, not even tank spec, tank geared warriors, because there was no point unless you were already in a guild that would support and even carry you to some extent.

What's the solution? I don't know. But I resented it then and I resent it now and I further resent any suggestion that paladins or druids have it harder than warriors because once you start hitting Tier 6 content, warrior threat starts to catch up again. They flat out do not.

The resentment is because we were promised this so-called benefit, that we'd be able to off spec more, that it wouldn't cost us tanking spots, but none of that happened. They didn't get to respec fury and go on instance runs. They didn't get to see off spec viability the way shadow priests did. They got nothing but a huge, disemboweling rage nerf that hammered our already feeble threat generation so hard that other tanks didn't move up to stand beside us as tanks. They moved up to shove us out of the way to tank. It takes up to Black Temple for us to catch up? There are a few bosses in the hardest content in the game a warrior might be the best choice to tank?

That's where the resentment comes from. Combine that with things like druids and paladins coming into the warrior forums to post TPS numbers or gloat about tanking six mobs in Shattered Halls... believe it or not, those 5 mans, heroics and so on are the majority of the tanking in this game. We didn't feel liberated when we were no longer wanted for those roles, especially not when leveling up.

Are paladins and druids viable tanks, and are warriors?

Yes, all three are viable tanks at any point in the game. There are certain parts of the game where one or another shines the most, but in the end, it's not really the classes that make most of the distinction, it's the players, and not even the players of those classes but rather the healers and DPS. Paladins reward players who don't want to wait for aggro, because they can throw mana at mobs until aggro is locked down. Druids reward players who want a tank that can provide fast aggro genearation, a good deal more pure armor and health to make healing less jagged and spiky, and the ability to provide excellent DPS if they're not tanking. Warriors reward players who want a very rugged tanking class with the most panic buttons of any tanking class. Both warriors and druids are outshined by paladins in initial threat, but both druids and warriors can sustain a longer period of threat than a paladin and are better on fights when a single target must be tanked, while paladins are absolutely the masters of AoE tanking.

My personal opinion is that paladin tanking is exactly where it should be. Druid tanking requires minor tweaks to its itemization (there should be more defense set gear for druids, or at least more defense on leather, so that druid DPS gear is more easily differentiated from druid tanking gear) and the dodge/no rage issue needs to be addressed for a class which tanks with such high dodge.

For warriors, static threat needs to be heavily re-evaluated. Warriors need a means to put a burst of threat on targets that doesn't rely on someone else providing it for us (Earth Shield, Misdirection, Prayer of Mending, all of which come from other classes and which all tanks can use) and frankly, archaic limitations like thunderclap's four target restriction need to be removed or expanded. AoE tanking is simply too crucial to too man encounters in the game for warriors to be this bad at it.

The bias in the five mans released with TBC has led to a cascade effect. Warriors were the ones who suffered for this bias, as groups found themselves unable or unwilling to crowd control pulls of five, six, or seven mobs, and gravitated towards the classes that could most easily tank without that crowd control. Warriors who remained tanks have, with the dawning of the 25 man raid, started to climb back to a position of prominence as they are still among the best choice to tank most boss encounters with their vast array of emergency abilities. But that return may come at the cost of some of those feral druid and prot paladin tanks who so dominated the pre-raid and made up a large proportion of the ten man tanks. Whether this is a necessary rebalancing or just an inverse case of flavor of the month syndrome is also beyond my ability to determine.

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