Shield me! Quickly!
Okay, let's talk shields. Thanks to the new Shattered Sun Offensive rep vendor, warriors have a new option for shields in the Dawnforged Defender, available at exalted with SSO. The big down side to this shield is that it has no defense, meaning that if you're currently having trouble hitting 490 defense this is not the shield for you. The big up side to this shield? It is a threat shield for a warrior tank stepping into Karazhan, with armor and stamina comparable to the shield that drops off of Nightbane as well as a big dose of Hit and Shield Block Value. For a starter 10 man raiding tank, this shield is astonishingly good if you have the defense on other items. And it's not like you won't be running the dailies anyway. My tauren picked up this shield for off-tanking before he'd even run Magisters' Terrace on heroic.
If, however, you need that defense, there are several optons available to you. An easy BoE world drop that will serve until you get better is the Shield of the Wayward Footman. One disadvantage of this shield is its total lack of shield block value, meaning that it won't help your threat any, but it's got a nice amount of block rating to help push you to uncrushable. The first shield my human warrior picked up at 70 was the Aegis of the Sunbird while grinding Sha'tar rep. It's a solid choice with nice SBV for threat, but lacks in any block rating to help you hit uncrushable, which is a concern when first stepping into Karazhan. The shield I wanted when I was doing all those runs was the Crest of the Sha'tar, which I coveted for those two blue sockets and the SBV. Again, it won't help you hit uncrushable, but it will give you a nice whack of stamina if gemmed properly.
A nice blue option for up and coming tanks is the Netherwing Protector's Shield. If you're going to be grinding Netherwing rep for a fancy ride you'll do the quest anyway and the shield is a solid choice for anyone, with agility, stamina, defense and SBV. I kept it on my tauren over the Platinum Shield of the Valorous, which drops in Shadow Labyrinth and which is a superior shield in most respects but lacks the SBV for threat.
For rep grinds, the Ogri'la Aegis is really kind of disappointing. It's harder to get than most of the other options listed here, and frankly it's not as good. Two red sockets? You will be ignoring that socket bonus. (Well, you could go for dodge, I guess.) But it has defense, shield block value and a decent chance for high stamina if socketed for it, so it's worth mentioning if you're grinding for the crossbow anyway. (We'll come back to why you might do that.)
Finally, two options that require either badge grinding or honor grinding: the Azure Shield of Coldarra and the Gladiator's Shield Wall. The Azure Shield requires 33 badges (and honestly, with options like the Crest of the Sha'tar and the Dawnforged Defender out there, I wouldn't spend 33 badges on it today, good as it is) and is a solid defense/SBV shield. The Gladiator's Shield Wall looks like a bad choice with no defense or SBV on it, but look at it again. It has impressive native block, armor and stamina, and the resilience will cut down on how much you are crticially hit for, meaning that you won't need 490 defense to be uncrittable. Quite frankly, if you've got the honor anyway, you should consider this shield.
A tank shoulders many burdens
Shoulder armor is among the hardest to attain for a starting tank. There just aren't that many options for you before stepping into Kara, and we'll discuss a few here. One of these options is a green, but I'll tell you now: you may not go into Karazhan wearing them, but you most likely will be tanking the five mans in them for a very long time before something better drops. The Nexus-Guard's Pauldrons are threat shoulders, frankly, with Shield Block Rating and Shield Block Value on one item. You may find yourself wearing them over Warchief's Mantle. You even may find yourself in heroic Magisters' wearing them over Warbringer in a gimmicky shield block set that actually allows you to almost totally block those freaking annoying little mana wyrm things. Yes, they're a green, but don't disregard them for that reason. The Warchief's Mantle is easy enough to get as a tank, just run CoT: Old Hillsbrad once. They can be socketed, but they're still kind of underwhelming. Still, I was stuck with them for a very, very long time on my human because I didn't know about the Nexus-Guard's at the time.
You can get Felstone Pauldrons of the Champion if you get lucky and kill Morcrush in Blade's Edge and he drops that, or if someone puts them on the AH. Don't count on them, but if you see them, need tanking shoulders and they're affordable, pick them up. (And for later, you might want to put together a group and farm him, some of the resist stuff he drops is nice.) Similarly, the awful looking Slatesteel Shoulders also come in a champion flavor. These are BoP so you'll have to farm King Dorfbruiser yourself.
If you decide to farm for the Shoulderguards of the Bold, be prepared for pain. They're solid enough shoulders, and socketable, but Murmur is an absolute pain in the tuckus. I guarantee you, the only way these shoulders will drop is if your tank is a druid and there's no warriors in the party, unless there's a hunter in the group farming for the Sonic Spear. Then they may drop, since Murmur hates hunters even more than he hates warriors. (I've seen hunters in Tier 5 still farming for that spear, gibbering in madness, drool coating their chins as they whisper of the dark secrets of the void, their souls crushed. Two epic axes on their hips, still they farm, endlessly PuGging for the spear, their wills to live totally broken. Then it finally drops on their 6000th run and a ret pally outrolls them for it. Ah, the memories.) Frankly, I'd skip Slabs unless you're just more lucky than me (this is always possible) and just go farm the Spaulders of Dementia or Fanblade Pauldrons. Being heroic drops, you'll only do these instances once a day instead of six, seven or more, and so won't go insane quite so quickly when they don't drop.
Finally, for tanks who are starting to gibber as no shoulders drop and they're expected to tank Nightbane, there are two PvP options that will serve. The Savage Plate Shoulders have good stamina and resilience to reduce crits, and can be socketed for more stamina. (I used their predecessors, the High Warlord shoulders, for quite some time at 70.) Properly gemmed and enchanted, these are a reasonable option for a warrior. If you have the honor, the Gladiator's Plate Shoulders are a better version with the same benefits.
The enchants for shoulder armor depend on Aldor or Scryer faction. Aldor eventually gain Greater Incscription of Warding, while Scryers gain Greater Inscription of the Knight.
Bracers can be among the more difficult spots to gear for at the pre-Kara level. There's not much rare quality tanking gear for the 70, but some badge and crafted gear can fill the gap.
Heroic Ramparts drops the non-epic Vambraces of Daring. These are exceptional for the quality, with solid stats, defense and the ever-excellent SBV for threat. Heroic Ramparts is, in my opinion, one of the easier heroics so these should definitely be on your pre-Kara shopping list.
Before that, however, the Sha'tari Wrought Armguards are obtainable from a Shadow Labyrinth quest. Always grab a quest drop when you can if it fits the need, as it's a guaranteed slot filler instead of hoping for a drop. These are solid if unremarkable, the Felsteels of your wrists.
If you have the money, (or if you can farm up the pattern and are a BS) however, you can obtain Bracers of the Green Fortress. They contribute to stamina, uncrushability and defense for crit removal.
And if you're running Steamvaults for a certain cape we'll be covering later, why not run it once on Heroic to get badges and a shot at Amber Bands of the Aggressor? These are excellent offtank bracers with a nice array of stats.
Finally, I mention the very affordable Bracers of the Ancient Phalanx. Frankly, they're better than anything else on this list for a warrior tank. 35 badges for bracers you'll use for quite a long time, with coveted expertise on them.
Gird your loins, or at least cover the things so I don't have to look at them
Leg armor is a lot easier than shoulder armor, thanks to the Felsteel Leggings. Step one, either be a blacksmith or go to the AH. Step two, make or buy these legs and slap some gems and a clefthide or nethercleft on them (if you're a big spender). Step three, profit by having solid tanking legs right out of the box at 70.
On your way to 70, however, you can always pick up Legguards of the Resolute Defender from the quest Destroy Naberius in Netherstorm. These are a solid option and if you already have them, I would skip the Felsteels and go straight to grinding Caverns of Time reputation for the Timewarden's Leggings. With three sockets and a very high base stamina, these have 'tank in me please' written all over them, and even if you keep some other pair of legs around for higher base avoidance or mitigation, these will stay in your stam set for quite some time. Besides, you're going to want Keepers of Time rep anyway for the Glyph of the Defender, and while you're farming that, the Legplates of the Bold might drop. You can mix and match between Bold and Timewarden depending on what level of content and what kind of mobs you're facing: I preferred the Bold for trash pulls up to Curator and the Timewarden's for bosses.
Finally, my personal favorite: the Greaves of the Shatterer. Almost as much stamina potential as the Timewarden's, or you can socket for a chunk of SBV and make them your threat pants. Plus they look like Wrath, and looking like Wrath is the most awesome thing you can do as plate. (I'm a Wrath partisan. You should know this going in. I know a lot of you hate the set, but I used to love swimming over to Onyxia with my helmet fin sticking out of the water.)
The best way to a warrior's heart is directly through the breastplate
We've covered pre-Kara breastplates before: as far as tanking goes, that list is still pretty dang solid. I like the Jade-Skull myself, I've worn it on three characters now, and the Breastplate of the Warbringer has hit rating, which you don't see on a lot of tanking plate at this level.
Sadly, this list of gear is already so massive that I feel we need a breather before discussing the rest of slots available to Protection warriors and then moving on to DPS gear. Next week, I promise.