Haste needs to be better. Granted, we're always going to stack whatever the best stat is for us (crit), but I'm not as concerned for haste as a DPS warrior stat - we're doing okay right now. We're certainly not destroying the charts, but we're competitive enough. Haste's complete uselessness for protection warriors combines with our general lack of oomph to put us way, way down at the bottom of tank DPS, and it's one of the issues that's hurting warrior tanks. Right now, if a guild has a warrior tanking, it's often because that warrior has been tanking for a long while and knows the role. Since we know that fury warriors are extremely popular in PvE right now, the fact that warriors are behind the curve in class representation in PvE comes down to their other two specs. Arms warriors are so vanishingly rare in PvE that the fact that my raid has one comes down to the fact that we have four raiding DPS warriors and are therefore a massive outlier. (And since I'm raiding as TG right now, I'm not that fourth arms warrior anymore.)
So why does prot lag behind, and what can we do about it? Well, for starters we could make warrior DPS while tanking scale more with our stats. Hit and expertise work fine, but haste (which pops up a lot on otherwise suitable mastery/hit/expertise gear) does basically nothing for us. It doesn't lower our GCD, it doesn't increase our damage in any meaningful way, and it doesn't increase our rage generation. Since rage generation only counts for DPS if we're using Heroic Strike or Cleave, and is far more commonly used for Shield Block/Barrier, I don't think more rage is going to fix warrior DPS issues.
So what will? For starters, letting haste do something for our DPS. It would be nice if haste could lower the cooldowns on warrior tanking abilities like Thunder Clap or our big three AoE abilities (especially Shockwave, which is probably still the favorite for tanking) - getting TC down to a four second CD with haste or Shockwave down to 30 seconds (15 if hitting 3 or more targets) would go a long way towards making haste a useful stat for prot as well as increasing our overall damage. It wouldn't be the only fix needed for protection warrior DPS, but it would be a nice bump.
The bare fact of the matter is, warrior tanks just plain need more damage. Pretty much every single ability except Shield Slam needs a significant boost to their baseline and their attack power coefficient. Devastate, Revenge, Thunder Clap, they could all use buffs. Another thing that could happen would be to make Heroic Strike and Cleave less punitive for warrior tanks. If we could hit Cleave on trash packs without costing ourselves rage for a Block or Barrier, we'd be more likely to do it, and I think the way here is a class ability that gives Devastate a chance at a free Cleave or HS. Perhaps something similar to how Wild Strike works, where you get a chance at a lowered GCD, and your next two or three Cleaves or Heroic Strikes either cost no rage, or even generate a little rage. It would definitely help warrior tanks put out more damage if these abilities didn't force as much of a tradeoff as they currently do.
Of course, I'd like it if haste increased how much rage you generate in Defensive Stance if you're prot spec. But I can't see that happening.
Finally, I think prot spec needs to get some damage out of its mastery. Making it so Critical Block added a percentage of damage to your Shield Slam would be a nice way to make Mastery do more for warrior tanks. And if haste then allowed you to Shield Slam more by lowering its cooldown, the two would have some nice synergy. Yes, I know Heavy Repercussions adds damage to your Shield Slam when Shield Block is active, and I like the glyph, but I think that we've moved past the design that has glyphs that increase your damage. Just bake HR into the class, give us a fun cosmetic glyph that makes Thor or Odin appear over your head screaming Viking war oaths when you Shield Slam, and then let haste and mastery buff the attack more. It's not like warriors are one shotting people in PvP as prot.
How Not To Die
So, now that we've taken a shot at buffing protection, how do we get DPS warriors to not die? One of the ways that comes to mind is the concept of negative health.
This isn't an immunity, exactly. Imagine an ability that, when activated, allowed your warrior to go below 0 health. As long as the ability is up (say 20 seconds) they can drop to a certain threshold (say -35% of max health) and they won't die until either the ability ends or they hit that threshold. As soon as one of those two things happens, they keel over dead unless they're back up to above 0 health. So suppose you're in a raid and you know an attack is about to go off that automatically reduces you to 0 health. You trigger Nope Not Gonna Die Now and the ability goes off. Now you're at 0 health. You don't die. You take another 20,000 damage. You still don't die. All the healers are dead and you didn't take Second Wind, so you don't get healed. At the end of the 20 seconds, Nope Not Gonna Die Now expires and you keel over dead.
It's not an immunity - you still take the damage. it's not a self-heal - as soon as it runs out, you die without a heal. It doesn't make you unkillable - there's a specific threshold of death you can be pushed below. It's similar to Last Stand, which gives you more health, but it has a specific condition that would make it useful against abilities that would otherwise guarantee a kill. (Any ability that does, say, 100% of your health wouldn't kill you, since you can take up to 135% of your health before you die in this scenario.) And it fits the warrior style - it's you taking a beating and just being too blasted ornery to keel over, even though on paper you're not just dead, you're really dead. 35% might be too low for this kind of ability, or it might be too much. It would certainly make people wail in PvP.
Frankly, considering how much warrior representation see-saws in PvP, maybe that would be a good thing. We've tried the burst damage rodeo for four expansions now, and it just leads to the same cycle - warriors get buffed, everyone moans and cries, warriors get nerfed. Perhaps instead of two shotting people, warriors need to be almost impossible to kill. Making it an ability means it would have a cooldown, meaning you'd save it for specific moments and it could be countered by forcing you to use it early, but it's something.
However, now we move on to my favorite part of these kinds of columns: you. What do you think warriors need? What abilities would you like to see? What would address our tanking DPS woes or properly buff our survival, or just plain is something you've always wanted warriors to have? Diablo III style mighty weapons for TG warriors? A rhino mount in Onslaught for our class mount and why have none of you made me one of those yet?
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.