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Blood Sport: Protection warriors overpowered?


Want to crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and hear the lamentation of their women? Blood Sport investigates the entirety of all-things arena for gladiators and challengers alike. C. Christian Moore, multiple rank 1 gladiator, examines the latest arena strategy, trends, compositions and more in's arena column.

Listening Music: Home Video's "You Will Know What to Do." The video is some sweet NASA footage; try to not be mesmerized by it (difficult, I confess). When I first heard Home Video a few years ago (Citizen EP, We and In a Submarine), I thought the band might be a Thom Yorke solo project. That's high praise from me. These guys do not disappoint.

Last Week: Part V of our Beginner's Guide to Arena. After featuring some Miles Davis and John Coltrane, we talked a bit about some of the aspects skilled arena damage-dealers excel with.

This Week: We'll be shifting gears a bit this week. Protection warriors are an important (and hot) topic within the arena community. I was thinking about publishing this article as a stand-alone and continuing the arena guide this week, but I've just been a tad bit too busy recently. More after the break!

Ghostcrawler on protection in PvP

  • Will it nerf them for PvP? Yes. Aside from stuns and Dismantle, rooting or snaring the Prot warrior is the major way to keep him off of you. Considering all of the stuns and silences that Prot has, when they can also jump out of every Frost Nova with Warbringer, then there's not much in the way of skill a mage can employ to stay alive. They just get countered in every way.
False. Polymorph, charms, and other crowd control is much more effective at keeping protection warriors off targets (and will still be after the change). This really isn't a big deal though, Ghostcrawler probably had something else on his mind. However, let's talk about what is far more important here:

We need to drop the idea that kiting or distance is somehow important in arena. It's not. It hasn't been since the early seasons of The Burning Crusade (i.e. when people didn't know how to play arenas).

I'm sure we can all think of times when kiting or distance is important. Yes, if you're talking druid-warrior or druid-rogue compositions in season three or four, you'll probably make a good case that Entangling Roots, Hamstring, and Travel Form worked wonders for kiting, control, distance, survivability and so on.

Likewise, one might argue in support of matters of range when witnessing a warlock-mage combo absolutely destroy one of the best 2v2 compositions of all time, death knight-paladin in season five hayday. Frost Nova and chilly snares keeping the opposing death knight off the warlock while the two crowd controlled and nuked the opposing team into oblivion was a spectacular sight. We can all think of the occasional time it happens now, or scenario where it appeared in the past.

Frankly, if you're talking about kiting, you're going to be discussing 2v2 the vast majority of the time. In 3v3 and 5v5, kiting is about as common as actual kites. Blizzard has wisely eschewed the smallest arena bracket from the highest levels of competitive play for balance reasons, above all else.

I mean, losing due to being excessively kited didn't happen in most games, even in that day. It rarely, if ever, happens in today's arena. With exception to the recent Warbringer nerf, and perhaps another I'm not recalling off the top of my head, developers have been increasing the mobility of melee classes ad infinitum.

Not only do many talents have a get-out-of-jail-free-card when it comes to avoiding snares and roots, but almost every movement impairing effect is dispellable. Let's not even get into Hand of Freedom, Spell Reflect, and teleport stuns. Warbringer is powerful, but only one of almost endless ways to keep mobile. Oh, and the fact that most snares melee has access to are far more easy to apply and baseline effective than 'defensive' snares.


I can hear some very observant readers right now: "Wait, but isn't Moore arguing against himself? If it's so easy for melee to get on a target, and stay on it, then aren't the developers being brilliant by nerfing protection's ability to get out of snares?"

Kiting shouldn't exist. It's stupid. It's not fun for either side. There is no middle ground. There is no skillful dichotomy of play.

Blizzard has stated (and I agree with our developers on most points, this being one of them) that offense always needs to win out. We shouldn't be seeing 20 minute games where neither team can kill each other. Melee needs to be on their target. And that's why this "nerf" is so frustrating to me. Blizzard is committing a double, nay, triple, err, quadruple sin with this philosophy.

  1. Overemphasizing the importance and effectiveness of kiting/distance.
  2. Setting up mages (which have arguably the most tools of any class to control warriors) as a golden standard.
  3. Forgetting that warriors play with teammates, many of which have the ability to easily free them from movement impairing effects.
  4. Worst of all, failing to grasp why players bring protection warriors to the table. (hint: near-infinite stuns + high constant damage)
I know I haven't mentioned the mage golden standard up until now:
  • The problem with the PvP side of Warbringer is that when you consider prot warrior versus mage (just as an example), there was nothing a mage could do to a well versed warrior. The warrior carries a lot of stuns, silences, and then any attempt to root him is broken by multiple abilities. So then the warrior's teammate (like a hunter) is just doing tons of damage while the target has no defenses.
Notice how Ghostcrawler mentions the true essence of why a protection warrior is a fantastic choice for an arena team: stuns and silences. He mentions damage from a teammate but fails to mention the warrior is also putting out a lot of damage (he has in other places, I'm not trying to rag on him for being incompetent here). However, protection warrior constant damage (not burst damage, the two are very different) is vastly underestimated by the developers.

Affliction warlocks do a lot of damage in PvP, perhaps the most out of any class if you leave them to free cast their dots. While spamming damage on multiple targets with relatively little disruption, a skilled affliction warlock can put out almost as much dps as a skilled protection warrior. This is fine until you realize that the protection warrior is perhaps the most disruptive class/spec to see on the other side of the arena, far more than an affliction warlock.

Ghostcrawler mentioned that the kill target has no defenses (because of Warbringer, mind you). Once the Warbringer nerf goes live, what options does a mage have now that he didn't before? Frost Nova + Blink is not going to solve this problem.

Other classes don't even have that defense to rely on. Simply put, this nerf solves nothing.

I don't say that lightly. I'm not a gloom and doom, the sky is falling kind of person. I believe Blizzard will get this right eventually. Protection warriors are a relatively new sight in arena. The only other time I've played with or against a protection warrior was a combined six games in season four and season six -- three for fun and three because the opposing team was just trying something different. We'll get there, it might just take some time.

Checking out armories to solve arena dilemmas
  • Now the damage change. As Bornakk posted recently, what we essentially did was look at some of the successful Prot PvP characters and compare them to some of the Prot tanks out there. We nerfed the block conversion to Shield Slam damage so that it would hit the PvP guy without really hitting the PvE guy. (The PvP warriors aren't stacking a ton of Shield Block Value, but they do have a lot of Strength which also converts to block for purposes of making Shield Slam hit harder -- many of these guys are wearing PvE dps plate.)
  • Will it nerf them for PvP? Yes. We want Prot to be able to hit reasonably hard, but they also need to pay some price for their massive survivability. We thought the Warbringer change alone would nerf the warriors vs. e.g. mages but wouldn't control their damage. Those big Shield Slam crits should go down a lot.

A few things here which I've already touched on:

  1. Protection warriors aren't going to get any worse vs. mages and certainly not vs. any other class because of the Warbringer nerf. Swing and a miss, not a big deal.
  2. While dropping burst damage is great, the overall damage is the bigger problem.
  3. The even larger problem is the stuns and silences protection warriors have access to.
Again, keep the changes in perspective. We want Prot to be PvP viable. We don't want Prot warriors to dominate PvP or have everyone feel like they need one for their team. Likewise, we want Prot to do higher damage than the almost trivial damage that they did in BC. But that doesn't mean they need to be competitive with the dps while they're tanking.

Okay, so this article was primarily negative. This is in contrast to most of my work and posts, and I'm okay with that. This is an issue many arena players feel strongly about. I was personally on the fence about this issue until about a week ago. Here are some positives:

  1. Blizzard's stance on changing things quickly is fantastic. I am relentlessly glad we won't see 700 rated protection warrior heroes Skillwaving their way to the top ten spots on the arena ladder.
  2. Blizzard wants all thirty specs to be viable in PvP.
  3. With the exception of season four to season five, each arena season has tended to be more balanced than the one preceding it in terms of class representation.
Quick Solutions
  • Cut damage away from protection warriors, up their threat modifiers to make up for it.
  • Take the blanket silence off of Shield Bash and Heroic Throw. Change Gag Order into an interrupt effect.
  • Make protection a more defensive-utility spec rather than being offensive. Improved Spell Reflection is the best example of a wonderful arena talent that isn't mind boggingly overpowered.
  • Shave the stun duration on Shockwave and Concussion Blow by one second each.
  • If it hasn't been fixed already, have Shockwave apply diminishing returns on itself.
Instead of protection specs fitting a normal 'damage-dealer' role in arena, a utility-based concept could evolve where they're actually protecting their team and making it better because of the defensive abilities they bring to the table.

Think of a protection player as a healer who doesn't heal. He adds survivability to the team (main role) while doing a bit of damage as well (secondary role).

Next Week

We'll probably continue on with our arena guide -- this article was a nice break. I don't think we'll be able to get to positioning next week, but we'll be doing something interesting. Let me know what you thought of this article in the comments below, and feel free to suggest some listening music!

Want to ascend the arena ladders faster than a fireman playing Donkey Kong? Check out's articles on arena, successful arena PvPers, PvP, and our arena column, Blood Sport.

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