Welcome to Pulveriser’s Guide to Warrior tanking, this is my third installment and the tips and strategies within are updated as of patch 4.2 In this guide we will be going over the proper talent specialization for a Warrior Tank, useful Glyphs for that spec, important stats for your class, and how to properly tank AOE and Single Target fights.
First off we will go over a few must have talents for tanking in Cataclysm, to start off you must choose Protection as your specialization, this will unlock Sentinel, Vengeance, and Critical Block abilities, and allow you to begin putting talent points in the Protection Tree.
There are a few must have talents and few more you can take depending on your role in a raid. First I will be going over the ones you must have.
Toughness is great for extra armor.
Shield Specialization will help you generate much needed rage; this talent also encourages you to use your Spell Reflect whenever possible.
Shield Mastery gives you shorter defensive cooldowns.
Hold the Line will increase your Critical Block and will be one of the main reasons you will prefer Parry over Dodge. (I’ll go over that a little later)
Last Stand is a no brainer, a great one point defensive cooldown.
Concussion Blow is a very good stun and can sometimes be used to interupt, well worth one talent point.
Bastion of Defense makes you un-crittable to MOST PVE creatures (as a side note creatures can still crit you if the enemy is buffed by a Mind Controlled target such as a Feral Druid, but it's rare. This talent is definitely necessary.)
Warbringer is very useful and is a one of the reasons Warriors are the most mobile tanks in the game.
Improved Revenge is very useful and well worth 2 points.
Devastate is one of our core abilities, it stacks Sunders and triggers Sword and Board which is your next must have talent.
Sword and Board refreshes the cooldown on your Shield Slam and makes it cost no rage.
Shockwave is a great AOE tanking tool but it also a stun, so grab this, it’s a good one.
Field Dressing in the Arms tree is also a must have, you’re a tank, you’re going to be healed (hopefully), you might as well help the healers out with a extra 6% healing on yourself. Also increases the healing done by your Enraged Regeneration, and Victory Rush.
Those are necessary talents for tanking, you will have several points left over to fill in where you see fit, based on your play style. That being said, lets go over some Talents that I have found very useful to spend those extra Talents Points on.
Blood and Thunder is a good one to have unless you are only going to be tanking single targets, I find myself taking this talent in every build.
Gag Order is nice for silencing casters on a pull, and the reduced cooldown on Heroic Throw is pretty sweet. This isn’t a must have talent however.
Impending Victory is situational at best, it has a chance to proc on Devastate but only heals you for 5% of your HP if the mob is below 20%, could be good if the boss has a nasty enrage the last 20% of his life, but the benefit seems marginal at best.
Thunderstruck is nice for AOE tanking because it buffs your main AOE abilities.
Vigilance is a mediocre talent, if you drop a point in here, throw the ability on the second tank in the raid, it will buff your personal DPS slightly when not taking damage yourself, and the taunt refresh is good in certain situations.
Heavy Repercussions is nice for threat, and who doesn’t like to see huge Shield Slam crits, take this one if you have two talent points to spare.
Safeguard is a situational talent and is useful in some cases, its up to the Warrior to determine the best way to use this talent, keep in mind that Intervene reduces the targets threat by 10%, so use it carefully on other tanks.
Piercing Howl in the Fury tree also has its uses for kiting, but this is another situational talent.
Incite, War Academy, and Deep Wounds all have their obvious benefits for threat, you can take any or all, if you have the talent points to spare.
Glyphs are pretty straight forward, for your Prime Glyphs you use Shield Slam, Revenge, and Devastate, these are your only options.
Major Glyphs have a few more options depending on your role, good all around glyphs are Resonating Power so Thunder Clap costs less rage, Glyph of Thunder Clap so your Thunderclap’s radius is larger, and unless your only doing single target tanking, Cleave is a good glyph to have. Long Charge, Rapid Charge, Spell Reflection, Sunder Armor, and Intervene are also other good choices if it suits the fight.
For Minor Glyphs you have a few options, nothing here is going to make or break you. I like Demoralizing Shout, Intimidating Shout and Glyph of Command.
Now that you have your talents and glyphs set up let’s review some of the Warrior Tanks most useful stats.
For survival you will be prioritizing Stamina, Mastery, Parry and Dodge in that order.
Stamina is your best stat and will help you survive big hits and massive spell damage which are present in some of Cataclysm raids and dungeons; however unlike Wrath of the Lich King, tanks are rarely in danger of being two shot, get yourself enough stamina to survive a few unmitigated hits then you can focus more on mastery and avoidance. This “stamina sweet spot” will vary depending on what content you are currently tanking.
Since healer mana is such a big concern now Mastery will help you smooth out incoming damage by either blocking for 30% or if it’s a critical block, you will block for 60% reduced physical damage.
Parry and Dodge share the same avoidance percentage per point now, but you will want to prioritize Parry because of the Hold the Line talent which increases your Critical Block chance.
Armor is still a useful stat but at the moment it’s not present on much gear in excess, the majority of all pieces of the same iLevel share the same amount of armor.
For threat you will be prioritizing Expertise and Hit.
If you are tackling progression content (ie: bosses hit you hard) it's a safe bet to avoid any threat stats, and even reforge threat stats into defensive stats where you can.
Expertise will be your best threat stat up to 26 Expertise, if you want to boost your threat and DPS try and reach this number without sacrificing too many defensive stats, but don't worry if you go over, it's still good even after the soft cap of 26.
Hit is not as good for threat as Expertise, you will need 8% Hit to reach the cap, after the cap however, Hit is useless. It's also important to note that interrupts can no longer miss so stacking hit on fights that require interrupts is no longer necessary.
Gems goes hand in hand with the section we just went over, gems are going to add much needed stats to your gear and can help you squeeze out some stats in the area(s) you’re lacking. In almost every case you want to match your gem color with one that’s appropriate for its socket, this is because of how powerful socket bonuses are on Cataclysm armor.
Blue Sockets – Solid Ocean Sapphire is a solid choice but if you want extra Mastery you can go with Puissant Dream Emerald.
Red Sockets – Defender's Demonseye is probably your first choice here, but Fine Ember Topaz is a good choice if you want to favor mastery.
Yellow Sockets – Puissant Dream Emerald is going to be a good option for this socket, but Fine Ember Topaz is what you want if your favoring mastery and avoidance.
Reforging is a great tool Blizzard added in Cataclysm, it allows you to take one of the stats on a piece of gear and reforge some of it into another stat. Just keep in mind what stats are most useful and you should be set. Stamina cannot be reforged but you can for example reforge Dodge into Mastery, or excess Hit into Expertise.
Now that we got our gear set, let’s charge shield first into some tanking!
The most common type of pull in the game is an AOE pull, despite Blizzard trying to make AOE pulls less frequent, they are still a very big part of the game. Warriors have very good control over groups of multiple mobs if executed properly. The following AOE strategy is going to assume you have Blood and Thunder talent in the first tier of the Protection tree.
To start out an AOE pull, Charge into the group and immediately hit Rend, followed by Thunder Clap (this will effect all targets with Rend, producing a steady stream of damage and threat.) The next ability you will use is Shockwave, this is a great AOE threat move and will also stun all the mobs in front of you producing some upfront damage and avoidance. At this point it will become an ability priority system for tanking. The priority for AOE pulls is Thunder Clap > Shockwave > Revenge > Shield Slam. Cleave is now usable every three seconds, does not trigger the Global Cooldown, and hits up to three targets like a truck (if glyphed). Use this whenever your rage allows, but make sure you leave yourself with enough rage to hit your normal abilities.
Don’t neglect your other abilities on AOE pulls, Shield Block will help in between Shockwave stuns to reduce damage. Spell Reflect has a short 7 second cooldown, spam this whenever you’re fighting spell casters. Use Shield Bash to interrupt, and Concussion Blow to stun, Disarm to remove your targets main hand weapon and don’t be afraid to use defensive cooldowns like Shield Wall, Last Stand, or Enraged Regeneration if things get dicey.
Single Target Tanking:
So you’re through some AOE packs, and it’s time to tank a boss. Before you start the pull though, you want to make sure your group is ready. This includes making sure your group members are present, available buffs are up, and your healers mana is topped off.
We will go over the process for starting the pull in a second, but before we do that I want to go over what is expected of you during a boss encounter. When you pull you will want to move the boss into position as quickly as possible so your raid can get to their positions, at this point you're in control over the boss, you have to react quickly to changes during the course of the fight. This includes but is not limited to moving the boss out of the bad stuff, into the good stuff, and leaving your raids DPS and Healers enough room to do their thing. During movement fights keep track of your healers and make sure you don’t go out of their range. Communication is also very important, Vent is recommended for any serious tank.
Now that we have that out of the way, let’s start a pull!
Begin with your Battle Shout or Commanding Shout for upfront rage, and Heroic Throw the boss. When the boss is moving towards you, close the distance with Charge and immediately open up with a Shield Slam. From here it’s another priority system, the list is Shield Slam > Revenge > Rend > Devastate. Rend only has priority over Devastate if all three Sunders are applied and you don’t currently have a Rend on the target. Heroic Strike is like Cleave in the fact that you can use it every three seconds off the Global Cooldown, but it hits one target very hard, use Heroic Strike whenever you can to burn off excess rage. You can also rotate your longer cooldown abilities like Shockwave if Shield Slam and Revenge are on cooldown. As early in the fight as you can muster without risking loosing aggro to greedy DPS, put up your Thunder Clap and Demoralizing Shout debuffs, and keep them up throughout the fight.
Another very useful new ability that Warriors have acquired with Cataclsym is Inner Rage, if you find yourself with a lot of rage you can use this ability to reduce the cooldown on Heroic Strike and Cleave by 50% for 15 seconds. This is very good to use as often as possible on boss fights and big AOE packs where rage is frequently available in abundance.
The last thing I want to go over in this guide is mobility. Warriors have many tools that are unique to the class such as Intervene, and Heroic Leap. We also have Charge and Intercept, with all these abilities we can get from place to place very quickly, helping us get out of bad stuff with speed, or quickly picking up loose adds. Familiarize yourself with these abilities and look for unique ways to use them during encounters, it adds a lot of depth to the class and it’s a lot of fun!
So there you have it, we're at the end of the guide. We’ve gone over the basics that every Warrior Tank needs to know, but the best way to improve your tanking is going out there and playing the game. As time goes on new trends will emerge and you will have to learn to adapt to those changes, if you’re interested in keeping up with the latest news on Warriors you can always visit your favorite World of Warcraft fan site such as MMO-Champion, Tankspot or Elitist Jerks and browse the Warrior forums there. Good luck, and happy tanking!
I find that macroing in “/startattack” on all of my primary abilities helps a lot, it starts auto attacking even if you don’t have enough rage to hit that particular ability.
Heroic Leap – This is a spamable, so you can spam it while you’re waiting for your current GCD to finish and it won’t toggle off./startattack
/cast Shield Slam
Warbringer – This Charges the target and allows you to use Intercept on the next key press, it resets after 15 seconds because that’s the cooldown on Charge. Be careful not to spam this, or you will use Charge and Intercept at the same time.#showtooltip Heroic Leap
/cast !Heroic Leap
Cleave – I use this macro as a filler in between my other higher priority AOE tanking abilities, you can also use this macro between GCD’s to trigger Cleave but not Devastate.#showtooltip
/castsequence reset=15 Charge(Battle Stance), Intercept
Heroic Strike – I use this macro as a filler in between my other higher priority single target tanking abilities, you can also use this macro between GCD’s to trigger Heroic Strike but not Devastate.#showtooltip Cleave
Inner Rage – One button cast and cancel Inner Rage, careful not to spam this unless you want to trigger Inner Rage and Immediately cancel it, this macro does not trigger a GCD.#showtooltip Heroic Strike
/cast Heroic Strike
Ohh Sh*t – Last Stand and Healthstone are usable off the GCD, so when you hit this button those abilities will activate, you might have to keep spamming it if you want to trigger Enraged Regeneration whenever your current GCD is done.#showtooltip
/cast Inner Rage
/cancelaura Inner Rage
Shattering Throw – Be careful using this, when you switch out of defensive stance you could possibly be crit and you lose your -10% damage that Defensive Stance awards.#showtooltip
/cast Last Stand
/cast Enraged Regeneration
Stance Specials – These are useful if you want to use one button to control Shield Wall, Retaliation, and Recklessness in the appropriate stance.#showtooltip Shattering Throw
/cast Battle Stance
/cast Shattering Throw
/cast Defensive Stance
Trinkets – You have to customize this one, its useful if you have two trinkets with “on use” procs, change the “reset=60” to the number of seconds on the shorter cooldown of the two. “13 and 14” are what blizzard identifies as your two trinket slots.#showtooltip [stance: 1] Retaliation; [stance: 2] Shield Wall; [stance: 3] Recklessness
/cast [stance: 1] Retaliation; [stance: 2] Shield Wall; [stance: 3] Recklessness
Vigilance – A handy Vigilance macro that allows you to cast the ability on a player without directly having to target them, instead just hover over their unit frame and press the macro.#showtooltip
/castsequence reset=60 13, 14
Focus Intervene – This will Intervene your focus target. If you know at some point during the encounter you will have to intervene a particular person, this makes it a lot easier. You can also adjust this macro for any other ability by changing Intervene to the ability of your choice.#showtooltip Vigilance
/cast [target=mouseover] Vigilance
Stance Dance - This next set of macro’s I have been using for a very long time to stance dance, one macro always cycles through stances to the right, and the other cycles to the left, this enables you to access all stance with just two hotkeys instead of a separate hot key for every stance.#showtooltip Intervene
/cast [target=focus] Intervene
/cast [stance:1]Berserker Stance;[stance:3]Defensive Stance;[stance:2]Battle StanceTaunt - You want to make sure you can switch to defensive stance and Taunt at the push of a button no matter what stance you’re in. You will have to spam this twice if you’re out of defensive stance, once to put yourself into defensive stance and the second to actually taunt. Neither Taunt nor stance changing is on the GCD, so you can use this macro to pick up a loose mob within a split second./cast [stance:1]Defensive Stance;[stance:2]Berserker Stance;[Stance:3]Battle Stance
Example of encounter specific macro - This example is for my old school brethren, but its good to make macros for specific uses to make your life easier, especially if your pugging.#showtooltip Taunt
/cast [stance:2] Taunt; Defensive Stance
/use Tainted Core
/y <------- TAINTED CORE TO: %t!!!
/s <------- TAINTED CORE TO: %t!!!
/run local t="target" if (UnitName(t)~=nil) then SendChatMessage("You have the core.","WHISPER",nil,UnitName(t)) end
Tanking requires absolute control over your character and the boss, having proper key-bindings for your abilities in easy to reach places is extremely important. The picture and descriptions below is how I key-bind my abilities. I have adapted this setup over several years of tanking, your preferred setup might differ based on your keyboard setup, size of your hand, flexibility of fingers etc. (One size does not fit all :P )
First you want to make sure you have one hand over the "WASD" movement keys and the other hand on your mouse at all times. This allows you to control your character and the camera at the same time, you do not want to set your camera in a fixed location and put both hands on the keyboard. Using easy to reach key-bindings and modifier keys will give you plenty of buttons to bind your abilities to and still have proper hand placement.
Green keys and MMB (Middle Mouse Button) are keybound to my main abilities, these keys are accessible to use while still keeping your hands on the "WASD" movement keys.
Red keys are modifiers, I use them in conjunction with the easy to reach Green keys for all my main abilities. The use of Red modifier keys allows you to key-bind 3 times more abilities than you would be able to with just using the green keys by themselves, and your able to do this while still keeping your hands over the "WASD" keys for quick character movements, and the other hand on the mouse for camera and character control.
Orange keys are other abilities that are not typically part of your rotation and have longer cooldowns (ie: Battle/Commanding Shout, Potions, and other abilities you use primarily out of combat). Reaching for these keys usually means you have to take your hand off the "WASD" movement keys which is not ideal during battle.
Yellow key is what I use for Vent, communication is very important for tanks and I find that having my Push to Talk key where I can easily reach it is just as important as your main abilities.
Gear and Enchants:
This portion is courtesy of Xebtria who had a nice writeup on the matter.
Originally Posted by Xebtria
Addons seen in video:
The bolded addons are the ones I recommend for tanking, others are just personal flavor.
1-06-11 - Added blurb about Disarm.
1-08-11 - Added Gem section, clarified Stamina stat description, added Safeguard to talent section, added Macro Section.
1-16-11 - Added Key-binding section, clarified Threat Stats description.
2-02-11 - Guide was stickied, Gear and Enchants section added. Thanks Xebtria and Battousai.
2-11-11 - Updated Inner Rage blurb per patch 4.0.6.
Clean up and add Glyphs to Glyph Section, add FAQ section.