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The Care and Feeding of Warriors: My ludicrous experimentation with offspec tanking

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.

This all started while I was leveling my worgen warrior, above, to level 90. I kept getting into dungeons as fury, then the tank would flake out, display a total lack of understanding of threat mechanics, or what have you. Since I didn't intend to level as prot, I hadn't really gotten a shield or 1h weapon yet, so when I inevitably got asked by a group to tank so that we could keep going through Shado-Pan, I just switched to D-Stance, threw on the few tanking pieces I had, and got to work. And it worked well enough that I decided to finally get off of my backside and work on that level 90 DPS-tank build I promised months ago. Of course, we should clarify that:
  1. This is not a valid tanking strategy for progression content and you shouldn't do it in any situation where you don't know the other players involved, unless you're simply the only alternative to not moving forward at all. After waiting 20 minutes for another tank to sign on, quite a few healers are quite amenable to arms or fury tanking.
  2. If you do this, you are tanking at a fairly steep disadvantage and are demanding a lot more of your healer. This is not the kind of thing to just spring on a poor person trying to keep the group alive, since your active mitigation in this setup is practically zero. I always made sure to tell people up front what I was doing when I was the tank of last resort, and at 90 I've only done this with groups I knew.
  3. This is something I did purely for fun. Sometimes, we actually get to have fun while playing World of Warcraft. I do not expect Blizzard to itemize for this, nor do I expect them to redesign the warrior class around the idea of this being viable.
  4. It is crazy fun, however.
Offspec tanking is one of those things warriors most often find themselves doing because the tanks are dead. In those situations, you can't really do more than hit taunt, maybe switch to Defensive Stance and pop Die by the Sword to try and stay up as long as possible. If you happen to have a Shield Wall macro that equips a shield for you, you can do that too, but that's basically it. Most warrior players who want to tank will do so by speccing protection. Why wouldn't you? It's a great tanking spec.

The Care and Feeding of Warriors My ludicrous experimentation with offspec tanking
However, I'm one of those people who deliberately goes and does something just to see if it can be done and how viable it is. So for the past few weeks, I've been putting together a sort of 'DPS tanking' set of gear and a spec. I experimented with both arms and fury tanking, and both seemed reasonably viable, but I went with fury because of glyphed Bloodthirst heals and the fact that BT is on a 4.5 second cooldown, meaning that you can use it more often. Since I was still using Defensive Stance for the threat generation the smoother rage generation of fury was easier for me to make work. Fury also overcomes the lack of Vengeance a lot easier than arms seems to.

One thing I noticed was that Sunder Armor didn't seem to provide enough threat to really make it worth using compared to a Bloodthirst, Raging Blow or even a Bloodsurge-procced Wild Strike. I ended up just glyphing Colossus Smash to apply Sunders without having to actually apply them.

As I mentioned above, this sincerely lacks in the active mitigation department. You can gear for parry and dodge, slap a couple of Colossus enchants on your weapons, but at the end of the day you're taking a lot more damage than a real protection spec warrior would, which is why (and I repeat this again for people who sometimes think I'm downplaying things) this is not a viable progression tanking choice. Without Shield Block and Barrier, you're going to strain your healer with all the unavoidable damage you take. You're also absolutely not going to do anywhere near as much damage as you would geared properly for arms or fury.

The Care and Feeding of Warriors My ludicrous experimentation with offspec tanking

I used this talent spec to fury tank. I liked having Shockwave for AoE threat, since Defensive Stance throttles your rage generation a lot as fury. When I tanked as arms, I used Dragon Roar instead since arms uses TC to some degree for AoE threat (not having protection's free Thunder Clap meant I was sparing with this) - for gear, I used standard tanking gear, although I tended to lean on parry, hit and expertise since you need to connect to generate threat. I put Colossus on both 2h weapons while tanking as fury - I don't have two decent 1h weapons so I didn't get to test a SMF tanking build, but I'm working on that for a future post. It should also be noted that as of right now, Colossus isn't on the Real PPM system yet. It may work better for DW tanking once patch 5.1 rolls around, it felt somewhat less than reliable during this experiment run.

The rotation is fairly simple. Do the stuff you do when you're not tanking. The real problem comes when you're desperately out of rage. Since you don't have protection's Shield Slam/Revenge/Devastate system of creating rage, you're reliant entirely on Bloodthirst, Charge and Defensive Stance's trickle of rage. Since this is an entirely unsupported method of tanking, you just kind of have to grin and bear it. Arms works pretty well for AoE threat since you can glyph Sweeping Strikes and use a TC to spread Deep Wounds around, but for fury I just found myself using Heroic Leap to open a lot of pulls and then worked to get a Whirlwind or two off.

The Care and Feeding of Warriors My ludicrous experimentation with offspec tanking SatSun

Of the heroics I've tanked this way at 90 (Shado Pan Monastery, Scarlet Halls, Scarlet Cathedral and Temple of the Jade Serpent) Shado Pan was the hardest, Jade Serpent the easiest. There are certain trash pulls in Shado Pan that I deliberately switched to prot and used a shield and a green 1h weapon to tank rather than try it fury, just because I knew without Shield Block and Shield Barrier I wasn't going to survive. But with the use of Die by the Sword, a Shield Wall macro and some luck I tanked all the bosses. I even felt like tanking the Sha of Violence was easier as fury.

In the end, although I don't expect it ever to happen, all that arms or fury would need to be viable tanking specs as they currently exist would be a modification to how they generate rage in Defensive Stance (I felt constantly like I was on empty) and a means to actively mitigate damage. My health was extremely spiky, as you'd expect, but I got some solid parry streaks that kept me up for the most part. One of my healers even complimented me on how well I stayed alive considering my only real mitigation moves were on two minute cooldowns. ultimately, you may ask, if it's so limited in application was the only purpose of doing this just to see if it could be done? And frankly, no. The real reason for doing this was, it's crazy fun to tank as arms or fury. Frankly, one of the biggest problems I have tanking is, it doesn't feel like playing the rest of the game. Even playing protection for soloing before the Vengeance changes never really felt like tanking does. Doing this is not only good training for scenarios, where you need to be able to think like a tankish DPS at times, but it's just plain fun as heck to pop off a Whirlwind into the faces of a bunch of mobs you're tanking.

I also tried this out in ICC 10, and with only two people on Professor Putricide I discovered that this is an extremely good soloing spec, since my partner died at 30% and I had to tank Putricide down solo. He simply could not kill me. So if you like doing older content, keep it in mind.

Next week, we'll talk about Banners.

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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