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The Care and Feeding of Warriors: Protection warriors 101

Matthew Rossi

The Care and Feeding of Warriors is's weekly column for warriors. This week, we jump on the bandwagon. Matthew Rossi tends to miss jumping on bandwagons, fall, and hurt himself, followed by a lot of swearing. It's actually somewhat entertaining to watch.

There is, ultimately, only one thing warriors actually do.

We hit things. We don't poison them, we don't electrocute them, we don't burn them or freeze them or hit them with diseases or the Holy Light. We just hit them.We don't turn into anything, we don't stand back and let an animal hit things for us, we just plain hit things. We hit things and get angry, and we get hit and get angry about that, too.

That being said, warriors can specialize in one of two ways to hit things. One is to heft a big two handed weapon (or two of them) and hit things to death. The other is to put on the heaviest armor we can find, strap a car door to our arm, and get things to hit us as hard as they can, and then hit them back.

This week, we look at protection, the "Is that all you got? Is that it? COME ON!" spec.

1. What is protection?

Well, read the above. Now we'll go into more detail. The warrior protection spec is the oldest actively used tanking spec in World of Warcraft. Tanking is the role in a five man, 10 man raid, or 25 man raid (and originally 10, 15, 20 and 40 man raids as well) where one player deliberately attempts to hold a mob or multiple mobs attention so that they do not attack the healers and/or damage dealing players. To do this, tanks need to work on two separate but equally important aspects of play.
  1. They must hold aggro. Aggro (derived from aggression) is the hostile attention of the mob or mobs in question.
  2. They must survive the damage inflicted on them by the mob or mobs long enough to be healed.
  3. No, really, you need to do these two things. Otherwise, you're not tanking, you're just a greasy stain on something's fist and/or other means of killenating.
  4. Yes, I said killenating. What, you're too good for made-up words?

2. What are the benefits of protection?

Okay, now that we've covered what protection spec is meant to do, what are the benefits and disadvantages to choosing a warrior tank over another tanking class? Well, of course, there's flavor reasons. Not everyone wants to be a bear, or harness dark evil forces of blood, ice and unholiness, or become a shining bastion of purity. For those of us who want to remain grounded in the grit and mire of the Warcraft setting, the warrior tank is an ideal choice.

From a mechanical perspective, what warriors lack in focus they gain in one of the most varied bags of tricks of any current tank. Warrior tanks can silence casters at range, interrupt spellcasting or even sometimes reflect damaging spells, can charge into combat or intervene to protect a friendly player. Depending on their talents selected a warrior tank can address a wide variety of tanking conditions.

3. What are its drawbacks?

Warrior tanks have the lowest damage output of any tank currently, and some argue that warriors are behind other tanks in terms of effective health, threat generation and panic button cooldowns. It's fair to say that warrior tanks require more activity on the part of their players to generate area effect (AoE) threat on multiple mobs, but they certainly have tools to do so, and many warrior tanks say they prefer the frenetic pace of tanking on a warrior to other classes.

Of the three warrior talent trees, protection is most likely the hardest to gear for and the one most required to gear successfully. A damage dealing (or DPS, for damage per second) warrior can get away with being poorly geared much more readily than a tank. Until Cataclysm comes, a protection warrior must be able to stack enough defense rating to become immune to critical hits if he or she is going to tank in raids, although 5 man dungeons are not designed (especially leveling ones) with an uncrittable tank in mind.

4. What stats am I looking for as protection?

  • Stamina: You don't want to die. Stamina translates into health, and the more health you have, the less likely you are to die from any one hit. Every point of stamina past the first 20 provides 10 points of health (the first 20 points of stamina provide 1 health per point). The talent Vitality increases a protection warrior's base stamina.
  • Defense. Defense is a catchall skill with two separate but equal results. First off, defense skill reduces your chance to be hit or critically hit: 540 defense is the amount needed for a level 80 to push critical hits off of a level 83 like a raid boss (skull level bosses in raids are effectively level 83 for this purpose). In a heroic or 5 man dungeon, 535 defense will suffice. Note that I'm saying the defense skill itself, as seen on the image to the right, and not defense rating, which converts to defense based on level. At level 80, you will effectively need 690 defense rating on gear to remove the chance for a raid boss to critically hit you. It's important to note that defense never 'caps' exactly. While it's true that you only need 540 defense at 80 to remove any chance to be critically hit, defense will continue to contribute dodge, parry and block: for every point you have in defense skill you gain .04% chance to dodge, parry and block. In addition, it also adds a flat .04% chance to be missed by an attack as well. So every 25 points of defense adds 1% chance to dodge, parry, block and not be hit even after critical hits are no longer a factor. It should also be pointed out that while the chance to dodge, parry and be missed granted by defense suffer from diminishing returns (that is, the higher you stack them the less they contribute) the chance to block granted by defense does not suffer from DR in this fashion.
  • Defense rating at level 80 - 4.92 rating equals 1 defense skill point. A standard level 80 character will have 400 defense skill once it is maxed, the same as weapon skills and so forth. It takes 540 defense skill to reach uncrittable for raids and 535 skill for heroics. So you need 689 rating on gear to be uncrittable for raids, and 664.4 defense rating to be uncrittable for heroics.
  • Armor: Unlike Dodge, Parry and Block (the first two of which are avoidance stats and the third a hybrid stat worth discussing on its own) armor on your gear is a mitigation stat: the higher your armor, the higher the percentage of incoming physical damage reduced. Unlike avoidance stats, armor has no effective diminishing returns, due to how it functions. While it's true that as armor increases it takes more armor to reduce incoming physical damage, as your armor value increases each percent of damage reduction becomes more valuable. (This is an important part of a concept called 'effective health' but for a primer like this one, you don't need the full detail.) Basically, you want as much armor as you can get. While this EJ post on prot warriors is out of date the math on armor and DR is pretty solid still.
  • Dodge: Unlike armor, dodge is an avoidance stat. It either completely reduces the damage of an incoming attack to zero, or it does nothing. Also unlike armor, dodge is actually subject to diminishing returns as you stack more and more dodge rating. Like armor, dodge works only on incoming physical damage.
  • Parry: Another avoidance stat that works on incoming physical damage and is subject to diminishing returns.
  • Block: Block is actually two statistics, Block Rating (shown there as a percentage) which tells you how often you will block (like an avoidance stat) and Block Value, which tells you how much damage you'll block for. We've talked a lot about Block lately.
In addition to the defensive stats, you should also pay attention to the offensive or threat stats of Hit and Expertise. For a tanking warrior, hit rating's value depends on whether you're trying to cap spell hit for taunts or not (almost no warriors do) and Expertise is generally considered to be the far more valuable of the two. You want at least 5% hit (163 hit rating) and 26 expertise (enough to eliminate boss dodges) which would be 214 expertise rating unmodified by talents.

So these are the stats you want, but how do you want them? Well, you want to get defense to the point where you will not be crit. Once you've reached that point, Stamina becomes very attractive, and is potentially your best stat to stack. Then armor and dodge can be considered to be 'too close to call' and you'll want to get both of them, keeping in mind that armor never diminishes but dodge completely avoids damage. After that, get your expertise to 26, then worry about hit to at least 5%. (Higher will mean less missed taunts, but is not crucial.) Finally, Parry and Block round out the tanking arsenal.

Okay, so that's it for stats. But there's more to a warrior tank than the gear she or he wears and the stats it gives him or her.

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