Storming through dungeons vs. questing through the world
I'll just come out and say it. Leveling as protection is slow unless you just chain dungeons, and frankly running dungeons just isn't nearly as rewarding as questing once you've done the dungeon's initial quest. The vengeance change means that to level as prot you need to pull big packs and do so with as little downtime as you can possibly arrange and so you end up in these awful, ten minute AoE clusters that are simply not a lot of fun. It's certainly a lot easier and faster in most cases to level as DPS and just burn through a zone's quests. What I ended up doing was leveling during the day as DPS, then switching to prot and chaining dungeons with guildmates for three or four runs, then going back to questing. It's possible to purely level as a tank, but it's a lot slower now.
Leveling in PvP
PvP is viable if you win a lot. Victories net some significant XP, but defeats don't really feel at all like they were worth your time. Trying to run a battleground as prot right now is just asking to be killed, really. Even abusing Shield Barrier, you just won't generate enough rage to stay alive, even if you're in Berserker Stance to get rage from incoming damage. You can still flag carry or tank bosses if you like, but with Vengeance gone from PvP since mid-Cataclysm, I'd say if you want to level in PvP it's a lot easier as a DPS spec. With the talent system changes, you can probably pick whichever style you prefer. I had some fun as an SMF warrior doing some battlegrounds this week before getting serious about leveling on Wednesday.
The nuts and bolts of tanking
Tanking itself seems fine. I haven't tanked any heroics as of writing this column (I just hit 90) but I tanked all four leveling dungeons and have done several scenarios as protection and I haven't felt any glaring weaknesses. I haven't gotten a single tank drop save for a shield, so right now my tank set is ilevel 410 gear from heroic Dragon Soul and not gear you'd get in the dungeons (while there are some iLevel 429 tank greens in my bags, in general I use the gemmed and enchanted tanking gear from 85 raiding at the moment) so I may be skewing the results a little. Frankly, losing 2 piece Tier 13 is going to hurt. I hit revenge very often, and it's a nice chunk of damage absorption on top of Shield Block/Barrier. I don't really feel the Vengeance change that bad in 5-mans, although I have forgotten to switch to Defensive Stance without abilities reminding me that they won't work outside of it. Habits die hard and all that. I find myself tweaking my talents for specific fights like the Sha of Doubt or Taran Zhu (I use Dragon Roar over Shockwave on Taran Zhu because, well, no adds) which is an interesting game to play with our talent choices.
Standing as DPS
As for DPS, I've used Titan's Grip fury, SMF fury, and SMF arms. They all seem within tolerance of each other. I get the most damage in trash heavy dungeons out of arms just because you can chain together Sweeping Strikes, Thunder Clap's Blood and Thunder spread of Deep Wounds, and of course, Bladestorm or Dragon Roar to good effect. I still prefer Bladestorm for trash. I carry about 10 Tomes of Clear Mind around so that I can switch to Dragon Roar for bosses. I admit to feeling somewhat hampered on rage generation by the high concentration of fights that have stuff on the floor, like (as an example) Xin the Weaponmaster, which is quite possibly the worst fight I've ever seen for melee. This is a fight I actively loathe as DPS. I don't even like tanking it, not because it is difficult, but because it is tedious to try and find a place in that room that isn't full of spinning axes and flying daggers to plant his giant mogu butt so the DPS doesn't get slaughtered.
In short, the results of my trip to 90 have me convinced that dungeon leveling needs a tweak to get more people tanking those dungeons (the XP is just not worth it compared to questing) but that the class's mechanics, while possibly not as elegant as we could hope, are functional for their purpose. I've managed to accumulate enough gear to get in the door of heroics but since none of it is tanking gear, I'm going to run some DPS runs to hopefully pick up a few upgrades before switching over to tanking on heroic. Next week I'll bring you the results.
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.