I’ve seen second hand how bad warrior tanks can be in early instances. My wife, Vidyala (author of the Pugging Pally blog), encountered many during her travels. I would often look at her screens and wonder what was going on. The tanks were new, yes, but also they seemed made of teflon: nothing was sticking to them.
It actually was the same way when I first levelled a warrior as a tank. I think new tanks worry so much about not getting killed that they pick every talent in the tree that would keep them alive… while disregarding threat. We’ll pick anticipation for dodge and sink 5 talent points in it. We’ll take last stand, shield block, etc. The fact is, in most low level instances, just wearing plate (or mail before 40) and wielding a shield will ensure your survival. Just make sure your healer has full mana before pulling and it will be fine.
I have recently levelled a couple of lower level warriors. I remembered how painful my first instances were so I changed my talent selection to focus on threat. I took all three points in Thunderclap to start with. Funny enough, nothing pulled from me in Ragefire Chasm. Our healer was even smiting, so I’m guessing survival was not an issue either.
Now I’m not advocating tanking at level 80 85 without any survival talents taken, not at all. But I do see too many tanks focus solely on survival in normal levelling instances. Tanking is a fine line between control (threat is a huge part of maintaining control) and survival. Focus too much on one or the other and you will struggle. If one aspect of the equation becomes trivial, you can focus more on the other aspect. I, for example, am currently tanking level 80 heroics without the mandatory 535 defense rating. I have swapped many pieces of gear for dps gear and thus have very impressive threat and dps. Now what allowed me to do this is even with this gear set, my avoidance is high and my health above 40k. Here, survival has been trivialized which allows me to focus on threat. It’s the same for low level instances. The mobs will not kill you quickly, so you can focus on the control.
Focusing on the threat talents is also going to be pretty important come Cataclysm. Since we’ll be forced to pick a tree and stick with it until level 70 or so, we won’t be able to spread our talents around. Now, most sane people would not level just by instancing and will be doing a fair amount of questing. To quest efficiently, you’ll want to be able to generate a fair amount of damage. Thankfully, the same talents that will allow you to generate a massive amount of threat in instances when you’re tired of just questing will also make your questing smoother and faster.
Here is a list of talents that I think fit the goals described above: balance your survivability with your threat output. I understand that making a list of talents using the old trees when patch 4.0.1 will drop in the very near future is pointless. I will instead try to pick some talents that should be prioritized in the new trees.
I would start with Blood and Thunder to give myself a bit more AoE power. I would then go for Incite.
This one is tougher and I’ll know more once 4.0.1 is out. I would start with Hold the Line and then would either go for Gag Order (I love the utility at high level but you might skip it while levelling) or Shield Mastery. Again, I’m not in the beta so I do not know if rage is a problem at lower levels. If it is, then Shield Specialization would be better. Keep the talents in Tier 2 in mind though. It is the busiest level with a possibility of spending up to 10 points here. If there’s a talent you do not pick later on, do come back to this Tier.
Warbringer. No, don’t start with Bastion of Defense. Warbringer is what makes a warrior feel like a warrior should. It gives you the ability to chain charges and intercepts without changing stances. This is probably the most iconic talent currently, so just take it.
Now, while the first choice was very easy, the second one isn’t. Yes, Bastion of Defense would be a logical choice. It will make you uncrittable and give you a 10% damage boost when you dodge, parry or block. The problem is that at those levels, the chance of this happening is around the 15% mark. It’s still probably worth it but do remember this if you decide to pick it. It will become stronger the more avoidance you get.
Last Stand is a very nice “Oh Crap” button. It would probably be my next choice.
Concussion Blow can be good while levelling to avoid damage but I would mostly use it as another interrupt for casters. Since warriors are more vulnerable to spell damage, this is a useful skill.
This is interesting. It seems that you can talent Revenge right away! Except that at that point, you’re level 39 and you won’t get Revenge until level 40 (according to the Wowhead calculator). Right. Revenge is a very good attack and you’ll use it often in the future but I would strongly suggest that you go with Devastate first.
Victory Rush is what will make you unstoppable while levelling. It will heal you for 20% of your total HP while damaging your enemy. You can also talent it so that it can be used when the enemy is lower than 25% of its health but in this case it would only heal you by 5%.
To me, Devastate and Revenge are much more important to talent at this point. I’m not even sure if I would talent it at all for now and might just use the two saved points to go and invest some more in Tier 2. It will be very useful in time, but maybe not while you’re in the mid-40s.
I’ll stop here for this post. The tiers beyond Tier 4 are fairly straightforward and quite honestly, I need to see 4.0.1 for myself before trying to figure this part out. Is Safeguard worth it? Yes, definitely when raiding as you can intervene the second tank and lower the amount of damage they’ll receive by 30% over 6 seconds. But while levelling?
I think it’s very much a question of choice. If you’re mostly levelling and instancing from time to time, I would simply focus on the threat talents and pass on talents like Bastion of Defense for now. If you’re instancing more, then BoD is probably a very good investment. Really, the thing to remember is to adapt your spec to what your needs are.