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The Care and Feeding of Warriors: Tanking itemization

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.

waiting for the extra 1-h weapon to start looking at Single-Minded Fury. But I did start working on my tanking again recently. I went back to September to look at Theck's posts on warrior mitigation statistics and started thinking about how warrior gearing works now. To oversimplify for convenience, the value of our various active mitigation statistics and our passive avoidance statistics varies depending on how you prioritize Shield Block and Shield Barrier. This means, among other things, that you can gear, gem and reforge differently if you intend to be running primarily five man dungeons vs. raids, and that you can even change your tactical outlay of stats based on whether or not you're running 10's vs. 25's to some extent.

Really, what it comes down to is Shield Block vs. Shield Barrier use and the tension between trying to avoid the absolute most incoming damage vs. trying to create the most predictable spread of incoming damage. Theck makes the point that, while spamming Shield Barrier might cause you to take the least amount of damage overall, you're going to end up taking spiky damage. Spiky damage is something healers hate. A healer would much rather you were taking hits that kept you constantly losing about 60% of your health than be in a situation where most of the time you took no damage, but occasionally you took 90% of your health in one hit, especially when those hits could occur back to back.

As a result, while it may be mathematically best to rely on Shield Barrier, it won't work out that way in actual practice because healer mana isn't infinite and they can't just bomb heal you to full if you go down to almost dead in one or two hits. Damage spikes are the enemy, and a balanced use of Shield Block and Barrier will cause your incoming damage to be far more predictable and easier for your healers to cope with.

The Care and Feeding of Warriors Tanking itemization

As a result, warrior tanks really shouldn't stack avoidance (dodge/parry) or mastery and treat hit and expertise like dump stats. While it's true that for us, avoidance stats also serve as threat stats because we can use Revenge again after a successful dodge or parry, you want that Revenge to hit. Furthermore, since hit and expertise help smooth out incoming rage, preventing that from being too spiky, they're useful for keeping Shield Block up. Right now, the only stat that does basically nothing for protection warriors is any form of haste. We don't generate more rage from haste since our rage incoming is entirely fixed (1 rage every 3 seconds in Defensive Stance) or dependent entirely on special attacks, not white hits or damage taken. This makes haste a dump stats for protection, even if you're concerned as protection with maximizing your DPS output to hit enrage timers. Haste won't help you there, either.

That being said, I'm not aware of any new research that disproves Theck's stat weights for us, and if you are, please point me to it. At present, you want to use different abilities for different situations, which means that you can take several approaches to how you want to gear.
  1. You can go for an overall well-rounded approach, trying to keep hit and expertise as close to 7.5% as possible while favoring mastery, then parry, then dodge, treating none as dump stats. This is the easiest approach to take for a tank who is running a lot of variable content, such as one who does a lot of random heroic 5-mans or runs all of LFR in a week.
  2. You can stack mastery first, with parry then dodge your secondary stats, and leave active mitigation like hit and expertise to the least priority. This assumes you're going to be emphasizing Shield Barrier over Block and relying on Revenge resetting often instead of a more balanced Shield Slam - Revenge - Devastate use.
  3. You can stack hit and expertise to at least 6.5% if not soft capping them at 7.5%, then stacking mastery > parry > dodge. This assumes a heavier emphasis on Shield Block, with Barrier at most filling in for moments of wanting to bleed excess rage.
Now, there are certain fights that demand different approaches, such as Heroic Gara'jal (Shield Block is invaluable here, while Shield Barrier is almost useless in comparison) but most tanks aren't going to be reforging and regemming their gear on a fight by fight basis. If you are, you should look into what kinds of damage the encounter presents you with and how to best avoid or mitigate that damage. If a boss hits fast and often for smaller damage, Shield Barrier gets more potent and mastery's value decreases, while for moments of big spiky physical hits Shield Block rises in importance. Also, with the glyph Heavy Repercussions Shield Block also increases your damage output, which is worth considering on tight enrage fights. Getting 50% more damage from every Shield Slam while Shield Block is up is nice, but once you have a big stack of Vengeance up it gets extremely nice.

I haven't talked about stamina because it's still one of those topics that causes a lot of debate. Should you gem for stamina? Well, right now I'm definitely filling a lot of my blue sockets with stam gems and using two stam trinkets for the following reasons:
  1. I like the effective health I gain from actual health.
  2. I'm generally convinced that it's better to have smoother, more predictable incoming damage than to have spikes. Increased stamina doesn't directly reduce incoming damage, but it does allow you to survive incoming damage and reduces the spiky factor.
  3. To a degree I believe that a larger health pool, although it can lead to the danger of mana-sponge syndrome, also gives healers more room to be efficient and land their bigger, slower heals.
  4. It's often easier to find a X/stamina gem.
I'm not saying secondary stats are bad, mind you, but I also think the value of stamina is going back up in current raiding and should be considered. For enchants, it again depends on what you need to be pushing - River's Song is better as a purely avoidance oriented enchant, but if you're pushing enrage timers Dancing Steel adds a solid bit of parry and damage. Colossus and Windsong are, of course, your "I don't have any sha crystals to burn right now" options. I actually prefer Windsong for my tanking on the cheap and Dancing Steel when I have gold to spend.

The point of all of this is to highlight and emphasize that warrior tanks can actually customize their gear, enchants and gems for their personal playstyle now, which has positive and negative aspects. I can't sit here and tell you the absolute best way to go - there are mathematical leaders, but it often depends on what you, the tanking warrior, do when you're tanking. Do you prefer leaning hard on Shield Barrier? Or do you hit Block as soon as you have 60 rage? Do you bank your rage at all? Do you prefer to be able to rely on your rage generation or are you willing to gamble on a lucky avoidance streak filling up your bar via Revenge resets? All of this informs tanking gear itemization for warriors.

Next week really depends on fate.

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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