I had started playing around with other tanking classes a while ago and as a result I’d gotten kind of down on my warrior. It just seemed that other tanks could run through heroics with so much less effort and grief.
However, I’ve been playing him more lately and have found tanking on him to be better than I remembered.
In fact, I now think that warriors are the superior tanks. They are certainly the most fun.
While still the weakest for AOE threat, warriors have the most comprehensive set of tanking abilities. Let’s look at some of the areas where warriors excel.
Warriors can also use Intervene to charge to an ally and take a hit for them. This is also handy for getting away from various types of impending novae — just pick a ranged player who is where you want to be and away you go.
Shield Bash has a short cooldown and is off the GCD, which is pretty handy for any mobs with interruptible nukes like Kel’Thuzad, Jaraxxus and Lady Deathwhisper, though Death Knights have one that is on par.
What they don’t have is Spell Reflect. It doesn’t work on that many raid bosses (though it does on Kel’Thuzad) but it’s a lot of fun otherwise. Incoming nukes become an opportunity to damage the caster.
I always get slightly annoyed when someone dutifully interrupts an Ahn’Kahar Spell Flinger‘s Shadow Blast. I’ve started deliberately marking other mobs as skull in those pulls so people will leave them alone to two-shot themselves on my shield.
Note: In creating the hyperlink to that ability I actually read what it does for the first time. It appears to scale with target health, explaining why a pull with two of these mobs in it frequently leads to instant tank death.
Then there is Heroic Throw, which does high threat and silences at a range of thirty yards.
Finally, Shield Slam, in addition to doing decent damage and threat, also removes a magical buff from the target.
The set of warrior abilities gives you a number of options for handling complicated pulls. While this is no longer necessary in any of the original Northrend instances it certainly has a place in heroic Forge of Souls and Pit of Saron.
My favourite example is the three caster pull, where you have three casters standing far enough away from each other that you can’t even hit two with a single attack and there is nothing to block sight-lines.
Here’s how a warrior can quickly get all three, and any nearby melee mobs, into ideal tanking range:
- Charge caster A and hit Shield Bash, silencing the mob.
- Start moving to caster B, ideally the middle of the three.
- Target caster C and hit Heroic Throw, silencing the mob.
All three casters will now be on top of one another and normal group tanking can commence.
While “wait for five sunders” is not quite the norm these days it is still a useful debuff. With the right Glyph it is very fast to get a full stack up and it is maintained by an ability we’re using regularly. It’s a nice DPS boost for a physical-damage heavy 5-person group and it saves a DPS warrior or rogue from having to spend resources maintaining it.
Warriors also provide a decent health buff, which otherwise can only come from a Destruction lock.
I was helping some guildies out with Children’s Week achievements recently and decided that my warrior tank was the toon to do it on. When I started doing the odd battleground on the warrior I was surprised that many players seem to allow themselves to be tanked — going for me rather than the resto shaman behind me — but I now think I understand why this happens a bit more. Protection warriors are really, really annoying in battlegrounds, and it’s a natural response to try to kill someone who is irritating you.
There’s the obvious raw survivability and good defensive cooldowns. Even with no resilience I’ve never had a single enemy be able to kill me rapidly, and even a few players often can’t get it done, particularly if they continue to ignore the nearby shaman.
Then there’s Spell Reflect. Getting players to nuke / DOT / fear / sheep themselves is pretty fun.
Not to mention being able to disarm, remove magic buffs and reduce attack speed.
We can even break pally bubbles, though this requires a stance dance.
All of these combine to keep warrior tanks near the top of a lot of players hate list.
Harder = Better?
The trade-off for having the most abilities is that warriors actually need to use most of them in order to be as effective as other tanks. But I’ve come around to the idea that this is a good thing.
While occasionally frustrating it keeps me more engaged, even in heroics I’ve done dozens of times. It’s rewarding to work out the most effective way of doing a difficult pull and then executing it.
Now my Druid has gone back to Resto / Balance, my paladin is back to being my 2nd-string healer and my DK is likely benched in Dalaran until Cataclysm hits.
Bonus Warrior Tip
For single target fights, Heroic Strike is a pretty significant contribution to warrior threat. When rage permits it should be used on every attack. However, in low-rage situations — like most heroic fights at this stage — you don’t have nearly enough rage to do this and so using a macro to enable it when the other core abilities are used can leave you rage-starved.
I’d be interested to hear other warrior tips (I know binding it to mousewheel is common) but I’ve been trying a new method that I quite like. My first and second toolbars are identical except that the second one has !Heroic Strike macroed to Shield Slam, Revenge and Devastate whereas the first one doesn’t. In high-rage situations I hit Shift-2 and no auto-attack is un-Heroic. If rage dries up I switch back to manual and sporadic use of Heroic Strike.
I’d like to do the same with Cleave somehow but that might just push the strategy into unwieldliness.