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The Care and Feeding of Warriors: Tanking stats and design

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.

I decided it was time to give some attention to tanking, because I've been all about the DPS lately. Now, I haven't raid tanked in quite a while, since Tier 14 really, so outside of some LFR and some heroics I haven't really been putting tanking through its paces. Still, I do keep my prot offspec current, keep my gear up as best I can, and run both LFR and heroics as prot to keep my hand in.

What got me thinking about tanking for this week was this older column from Theck that I never got around to discussing. Part of that is the piece is mostly math, which for the average warrior tank just wanting to know what she or he should do is kind of over the top. What's really important about the piece is that it helps to explain why dodge and avoidance are better for warrior tanks than paladin tanks (or, really, any tanks) - basically, it highlights how Revenge works with avoidance stats on gear. It also covers how Revenge as a rage generation ability falls off when you're not getting directly attacked so that you can't dodge or parry anything, and how while it's not a crippling result (He puts it at about 4% of your total rage generation, due to Shield Slam being a higher priority than Revenge) it does cost you.

The Care and Feeding of Warriors Tanking design
So in an indirect way, warriors still generate rage from attacks that the boss makes on them, just not the way we used to. We used to want to get hit so that we'd take damage and convert it into rage. Now we want to dodge or parry hits so that we get a Revenge proc and convert it into rage. And this is why, even if you're using a strategy that values Shield Block over Shield Barrier, dodge and parry are better for warrior tanks than they are for others and we shouldn't ignore or devalue those stats the way other tanks do. It also means we're uniquely penalized for not being melee attacked, since it directly affects our rage generation. It makes tank swapping (already hard in the age of Vengeance) even harder.

Keep in mind that the original post Theck wrote was before patch 5.2 went live. Since then, with Shield Barrier being nerfed by about 10%, some are reporting that Mastery has moved to the top of the heap in terms of statistics for warrior tanks. I don't agree, but we'll see how it ultimately sims out. However, I think a lot of tanks ignore stamina to their detriment nowadays.

Back in the Wrath days, stamina was king. There was no mastery yet, hit and expertise were frankly ignored, and with reforging not existing yet we took dodge, parry and even block (yes, block actually existed as a stat on gear) as we got them, often favoring block for its effect on the combat table. (It was a single roll combat table back in those days.) Since then, Cataclysm's healing changes (moving us to a triage model rather than the incoming huge spikes of tank damage model we had then) moved players away from stacking stamina. With the switch in Mists of Pandaria to an active mitigation model where stats like hit and expertise grew in value, a lot of players simply forgot about stamina.

I get why. Stamina doesn't seem to do anything, really, it just means more health. In an age where we emphasize activity, with hit and expertise valuable because they allow you to contact the boss you're tanking and generate rage to convert into Block and Barrier, and dodge/parry valuable because they prevent damage and convert that avoidance of damage into an attack you can generate rage and threat on multiple mobs it can be hard to look positively at stamina, the stat that basically just makes you a bigger brick of meat. Stamina neither actively generates rage nor passively prevents damage, and you're not going to get a Revenge proc off of stamina. With some other tanking classes putting out ridiculous DPS numbers (thanks to Vengeance) tank swapping is already one of the most annoying mechanics for a warrior tank without the danger of a miss/dodge/parry streak in the first few seconds after a taunt, and stamina doesn't help there either.

The Care and Feeding of Warriors Tanking design

Ultimately, however, Stamina does one thing for tanks - it keeps you alive longer. And it feels to me that some of us have forgotten that staying alive longer is always of benefit to a tank. In those times before you have enough rage for a Shield Block, or after your Shield Barrier has been chewed off by an attack, stamina keeps you alive. If you need math to confirm this, here it is. Those are calculated for a paladin, but they're still basically true for us, and so is the conclusion reached in them that if you were for some reason trying to build a survival at all costs set of gear, stamina would always be your best stat.

You shouldn't do that, however. Tanking DPS for warriors is already fairly low (trust me, they wouldn't keep buffing Shield Slam on the PTR otherwise) and stacking pure survival (Stamina, in this case) will only do half of what you need to do to tank - it will only keep you alive. Every other stat currently valued by tanks generates rage, which can then be used actively to stay upright. Stamina doesn't. Every other stat currently valued by warrior tanks (even the less valued dodge and parry) generates threat either directly or by proccing Revenge, which hits multiple targets and is thus very valuable for keeping AoE threat. Stamina does not.

If you're saying "wait a minute, this is another of those columns where he argues for balance in tanking stat selection" then you're correct. If you were thinking "man, I'd really like a nice chocolate chip muffin right now" I agree. I'm going to eat one. But I'm also going to make the point that with warrior tank DPS on the low side (one could call it abysmally low compared to other tanks) that a strategy of stacking pure stamina and nothing but pure stamina would ultimately be self-defeating. Even if you're not tanking hard mode raids with tight DPS requirements, tank DPS has evolved and you need to be doing your best to put some out. The sheer value of double duty abilities that provide threat and rage for mitigation mean that you really have to work on at least getting the fairly trivial 7.5% hit and expertise caps, and in 522 gear it shouldn't be hard to hit 15% expertise. The real lesson to take here is that gemming for stamina or hitting stamina bonuses on sockets isn't bad, because stamina is never bad for us.

Next week I'm hoping to talk about Tier 15 set bonuses for tanks and DPS alike.

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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