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The Care and Feeding of Warriors: Protection Warriors in Mists of Pandaria

Matthew Rossi

Every week, WoW Insider brings you The Care and Feeding of Warriors, the column dedicated to arms, fury and protection warriors. Despite repeated blows to the head from dragons, demons, Old Gods and whatever that thing over there was, Matthew Rossi will be your host.

Remember what I said last week? About how the beta is not in damage balancing mode? That goes double for protection warriors right now. Along with feral druids, protection warriors are doing substantially low DPS on the beta. How low? Low enough that threat's a real issue. This low, to be precise.

Ghostcrawler - Protection Warriors & Rage
As I mentioned recently, Prot warrior damage is probably 50% of where it needs to be. When we have that adjusted, your threat will be higher and those Shield Slam and Revenge hits in particular should feel meatier.

When they come right out and tell you you're at 50% of where Blizzard expects you to be, you know it's bad. But again, this is a beta and not one intended to balance our DPS yet. In fact, those prolific data miners over at MMO-Champion have already found signs in the next beta patch that the damage balancing is beginning.

How protection will be changing

In beta build 15544, we're looking at some significant changes to protection. Assuming it's all accurate and comes to pass, here's the gist. Heroic Leap will see its cooldown reduced to 45 seconds (currently, it's a minute on live). Devastate will go up to 180% weapon damage with an additional 40% bonus damage. Revenge will go down to a 6-second cooldown (9 seconds on live) and 200% damage increase. Shield Slam will see a 100% damage increase, while Thunder Clap will see a 75% damage increase. Fury warriors, I will briefly mention that Raging Blow will see its rage cost drop to 10 rage from 30 rage, and its damage will now be 150% weapon damage.

Aside from that Raging Blow change, these changes are all aimed at addressing prot's very low damage on the beta and thus its very low threat. Again, the beta is hardly finished, so there's nothing wrong with having to make adjustments. That's what the beta is for.

That being said, let's stop talking about numbers that are in flux anyway. Keeping in mind that tanking on the beta was harder than it should have been due to the DPS/threat issues, what about the mechanics of beta tanking? What does it feel like?

Well, first off, keeping in mind that my live tanking experience is exclusively in raids, tanking Jade Serpent did feel a little off to me. I'm going to link you to an excellent feedback thread on the beta forums and then discuss my own impressions.

Active mitigation doesn't feel quite active

First off, let me say that I'm not quite satisfied with how our active mitigation is working out in practice. Frankly, I have two problems with Shield Block. One is the problem Omegal mentioned, that Shield Block on the beta only guarantees one block every time you use it. As much as I dislike that, what I also dislike about Shield Block is how passive it is for something we're dubbing active mitigation. Frankly, my feeling is that I'd like to see Shield Block gone entirely. Leave Shield Barrier for magic damage, since that's fairly rare, but rework Devastate and Shield Slam.

Right now, Devastate is an instant attack that neither costs nor generates rage, while Shield Slam generates 10 rage. Meanwhile, Shield Block costs a rather hefty 60 rage for an ability that is, frankly, underwhelming at the cost. However, it would be easily fixed by making Shield Slam cost, say 30 rage and provide the Shield Block effect on a successful Shield Slam hit, while Devastate could be changed to be our rage generation ability. This makes Shield Slam actual active mitigation, that is, an active ability that also mitigates something. Shield Block's tepid 6 seconds of 25% increased block is a lot more acceptable with the Shield Slam attack, since we're going to throw that attack anyway. It's still weaker than, say, Blood Shield, but it's more palatable than its current beta incarnation.

Otherwise, protection feels familiar if you're tanking now. No longer having to hit Rend/TC to make use of Blood and Thunder is a nice streamlining, but it's not particularly new. It's just better. The real interesting thing was that I could now put abilities like Execute or Hamstring on my bar and use them while tanking, since stance requirements are a thing of the past.

Otherwise, it's not terribly changed. Rage is easier to manage with Shield Slam, multiple ways to charge in combat (I had fun using Intervene to move back out of combat, then charge to get back in, and then Heroic Leap to get out again a few times), and Devastate's being free is nice. Heroic Strike, I never even touch it. It's simply too expensive (but part of that is due to the currently abysmal damage we do) for what it does. With Shield Block and Shield Barrier each costing 60 rage, I find myself hoarding for one or both of them.

This is what I'm expected to do, but as I said, Shield Block feels so unrewarding at present that it's not terribly fun to sit there and wait for 60 rage to use an ability that's not exciting. It's not exciting because it's so passive, and so weak for the cost. And being so reliant on it triggers memories of having to use Shield Block to push crushing blows off the table, even if that's absolutely not what it is this time around.

Talents and abilities

The changes to hit and expertise make sense and are easy to understand -- but then again, I'm in current Dragon Soul tanking gear, so my hit and expertise are pathetically low. Dodge has dropped significantly on the beta, and while my block chance is about the same, with block having its own table now, it feels like I'm blocking less than I am on live. Perhaps I am, or perhaps I just have myself believing I am.

My griping about Shield Block aside, protection has a suite of abilities and is much, much better in terms of opening pulls. You no longer have to sweat having enough rage to start a pull, with your biggest attack being your rage generator and Devastate and Revenge having no resource costs at all. Once damage is sorted out, threat will be fairly easy to maintain.

Talent choices are actually hard now. I keep switching between Double Tap and Warbringer, for instance. Similarly, I like Enraged Regeneration for its active button heal, but I also like Impending Victory for being exactly what I'd like to see in active mitigation: an attack that does something cool (in this case, a 10% self heal), although the 30-second cooldown makes it something you'll have to remind yourself to hit. Disrupting Shout is lovely, and while I like Dragon Roar a lot, Shockwave and its 20-second cooldown is a lot easier to use in tanking. (Somehow, I will justify taking Bladestorm in a tanking build. Somehow.) Finally, although Mass Spell Reflection seems to be calling my name, Vigilance is actually a very nice thing to slap on the other tank when you know he's going to take a huge hit.

Overall, it's early to call, but I'm hopeful for protection even if we go live with Shield Block being fairly boring. Yes, the damage is low, but once patch 15544 goes up on the beta servers, I'll have a chance to play around with it and see how threat feels. It's certainly impossible for me to overstate how much I prefer being able to open up on a pull without having to go through a lot of rigmarole, and the streamlined nature of the spec (no more having to Rend, TC, Demo to try and hold packs) is nice. We're still very mobile, which is excellent. All we really need is for that active mitigation to actually feel active, and I'll be happy.

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.

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