Edit: This is a repost with some edits of my first post at Sword and Board. This is the first of a series of posts focusing squarely on the warrior in Cataclysm. I will go through the basics all the way to current raiding levels.
Wrath of the Lich King is where, to me, the protection warrior really came into its own. Mind you, my experience with the game started only a few months before the end of the Burning Crusade and thus I cannot relate to prior versions. I leveled this first character as a protection warrior teamed up with first a priest and then a mage. Leveling was slow, the amount of damage I could generate was quite laughable as I was reminded of once when I went to PvP as Protection. The tauren shaman just looked at me, proceeded to wipe out my colleagues and even took the time to laugh at me before leaving me, alive, unharmed but properly dishonoured.
The Wrath of the Lich King patch changed this dramatically. No longer were we the indestructible peashooters of old. We were now juggernauts of raw, unstoppable power! Even raiding at the end of the expansion changed dramatically. One did not have to respec to complete puny dailies; you could do it as a tank using tank skills, gather the enemies and grind them down using our impressive arsenal of tricks. I leveled as protection in Wrath of the Lich King and the experience was completely different from my first 70 levels.
On our old server, a protection warrior was first to reach 80 and it was no surprise to me. I was the first in our guild to achieve this new plateau. I have been tanking every encounter available in this expansion since. Some patches were quite disappointing, others were like candy. Tank classes went up and down. Through it all, the warrior remained a solid choice: never being the worst but also never the favourite. In Cataclysm, the warrior has been strong while not really being on top except for a little while at the beginning when our cleave was simply devastating and has since been nerfed.
I have tried a few other classes in the meantime with only the Death Knight making it to 80 and going on to become a Kingslayer. The DK was fun and each class has their strengths and weaknesses (yes, even pallies, my old nemesis). They were interesting but they always seemed to be lacking something. I’ll try to explain now what is so wonderful about the warrior with a specific focus on the protection warrior.
The warrior has unmatched mobility in the field. The protection warrior (through the talent Warbringer) does not only have the ability to charge – it can also intercept an enemy or intervene back to a raid member. I would suggest that this is really what defines a warrior tank. They feel fast. Suppose a patrol comes in behind your healer; just charge at them, thunderclap, and then intercept back to your original group. The other tanking classes have tools to do something similar. Death Knights can put Death and Decay at a distance to get the attention of the new pack, and pallies can throw their shields. Yes, any of those would work, but they could never feel as active as the warrior’s technique.
For many new players, the warrior feels overwhelming. I use about 36 buttons to control all of my abilities. When changing stances, it will add even more to the number. It is a wonderful challenge to master them. For me, the iconic raid instance showing the raw power of the warrior tank is Trial of the Crusader. No one else could stun lock any mob like the warrior can.
The other fight in this instance that showcased the warrior’s abilities was the last fight against Anub’Arak. No, the fun part of the fight was not fighting Anub himself. It was fighting the adds – those giant ants that spawned on often opposite sides of the room. Who better to pick those up than a warrior using his charge? That same warrior could then control the adds and stop their shadow strike by stunning them with shockwave
Here are some of our tools:
- Shield Slam (Massive damage plus dispell on effect from the target)
- Concussion Blow (Nice little stun)
- Pummel (10 second interrupt. Can be talented to silence)
- Heroic Throw (talented to silence)
- Shockwave (Our best tool for stunning targets. Conal effect, unlimited number of targets, 4 seconds stun)
- Intimidating Shout (Mass fear)
- Piercing Howl (Mass slow)
- Spell Reflection (Ask a mage or warlock how they like this one in PvP)
- Heroic Leap (A 45 yard charge including thunderclap)
Again, keeping track of them all is not the easiest. The warrior even came with his own fear breaking ability. Who can ask for more?
Now this will sound bizarre for most as the rage is one of the things warriors complain about the most. The tank starts a fight with nothing to fuel his abilities? Yes, it can be as bad as it sounds. Having a pack of new enemies charging your group as you stand there, not enough rage to thunderclap, no range to charge, berserker rage on cooldown, shouts on cooldown… No, not fun at all. This also makes the warriors a rather poor off-tank when he’s not receiving damage. No damage means little rage and so your dps is very limited (It is much better in Cataclysm with the advent of Vengeance and getting extra rage when hitting something that is not targeting you). But the warrior is also the only tank who actually becomes stronger as a fight goes on. Once that rage bar is close to full, heroic strikes come in and its aggro generation is quite remarkable. To me, the rage that many consider an issue, is actually another great challenge, a tactical puzzle to figure out for each fight.
I could go on and on about other reasons why the warrior is the best class out there but I think the main reason is it’s a very active and complex playstyle. It’s definitely not for everyone. I raid with some tanks who actually have the time to chat while tanking. To a warrior, this is almost impossible to fathom as every global cooldown is important which is probably a reason why protection warriors seem to have a reputation as being all business. Or it could just be me.