The Ironsong Tribe

Full Version: Your Shield and You (Prot spec guide)
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Foreward: It's been a while since I wrote a guide, so bear with me. I will try to cover all of the bases plus a few things extra. I believe that leading a group tends to go hand-in-hand with tanking, so I will cover a bit of that as well. If you have any additional questions, please don't hesitate to ask.


When it comes to being a protection specced warrior, you must accept the fact that you are going to be a tank and nothing else. That's it. You may be able to do enough DPS to avoid embarrassing yourself, but it will still be far below someone specialized for the role. You also must accept that you have chosen a role that will solo slowly and that is meant to shine in groups.

I would also recommend that you write off significant PVP. There are ways to harrass your opponents, carry flags, hold bases, etc... but in the end, you should not expect to kill your opponents without help. You become a very effective speedbump and can certainly have fun, but it is a side of the game you need to decide if you can do without (at least on this character).

Finally, there are those who would argue over wether tanking is an art or a science. Science is based on hard numbers, and art tends to be something you feel. I will tell you that tanking begins as a science and, with practice, becomes an art.

And so, we begin with the science of tanking:

Your talents can be divided into roughly three categories: Damage reduction, threat generation, and (to a limited degree) crowd control. The first two are obvious, but crowd control for a protection warrior is not used to take an opponent out of the fight. It is used to buy time to hold or regain aggro.

I will start with what I consider the must-have talents, and they are certainly not all in the protection tree.

Deflection: You will be hard pressed to find a better damage reduction talent, and it's in the first tier of arms. As an added bonus, parrying will speed up your attacks and thus threat generation.

Cruelty: This is the most basic threat generating talent, and it is in the fury tree. 5% more damage is worth it alone, but a critical shield slam often generates enough aggro that you can comfortably focus on other targets. Finally, you will generate more rage when trying to hold numerous weaker opponents.

Anticipation: The third most basic talent. 20 defense gives more block, dodge, parry, miss chance, and crit reduction. And with a basic requirement of 490, it will eventually allow you much more latitude in your gear choices.

Improved Thunder Clap: While the additional damage is mildly helpful when multi-tanking, the real key here is the additional 10% reduction in attack speed on bosses. That's more time for a heal to land, less chances they get to smash you, and less damage all around.

Toughness: 10% more armor is hard to beat. Absolutely required talent.

Shield Specialization: When combined with the shield block skill, you want your shield block percentage to be as close to 100 as possible. I will explain the reason for this in the gear section below. This talent is also a prereq for...

Improved Shield Block: A second tool for reducing crushing blows. You will be able to block two of them before refreshing, which may (just barely) be enough to negate crushing blows.

Defiance: 15% more threat and expertise. This one should be self explanatory.

Improved Taunt: It may not seem like much, and you'll curse blizzard every time something is immune to taunt, but 2 seconds can seem like a lifetime. This is especially useful when multi-tanking or helping AEing groupmates. More mages probably owe their lives to this talent than iceblock.

Concussion Blow: Much like improved taunt, this talent is limited to opponents who can be stunned. A great deal of trash can be effected by this, and it is a great way to buy time to regain aggro when taunt is already on cooldown. It is also useful if you want to safely change target for a few seconds and not worry about the first target eating a rogue.

One-Handed Weapon Spec: It may not be clear from the tooltip, but this talent adds 10% to ALL DAMAGE when you are wielding a 1-handed weapon. Not just white damage or just damage from your main hand weapon... all damage. That includes shield slam and dual wielding.

Shield Mastery: This may at first appear to be a defensive talent, but it is actually designed for threat generation. This talent effects shield slam damage.

Shield Slam: Without a doubt the most important ability a protection warrior gets. It will be your highest damage attack as well as your highest threat attack.

Focused Rage: One of the best talents available to warriors, period. This will effect every ability you use aside from shield block, spell reflect, commanding shout, and battle shout. If you are protection specced and have taken improved sunder armor instead of this talent, quietly fix it before I find out. Smile

Vitality: In the life of a tank, your skill is often gauged by exactly how hard you can be hit without falling down. Stamina is key.

Devastate: If you've come this far in the protection tree, you should have this. Useful in soloing and in tanking, every bit of damage helps. Be thankful Blizzard fixed it and included sunder armor.

That covers the must-have talents. Now for those in between and my opinions on them:

Unbridled wrath: Unless you are a dual wielding DPS warrior, you should not take this talent. Mathematically, it simply doesn't measure up when using a single weapon. What I recommend taking instead is...

Anger management: This is a great rage generation talent, and I regret not having enough points to take it with my other choices. Luckily most opponents will hit you hard enough that rage generation is rarely a problem until you are overgeared. If you want to take this and need to find 2 more points in arms over deflection and improved thunder clap, I recommend improved heroic strike. It is an excellent threat generation tool.

Improved Bloodrage: You will use bloodrage before every pull if it isn't on cooldown. I recommend putting any leftover points you have in this talent, as it will allow you to more quickly open with a shield slam.

Tactical mastery: Not as crucial as it once was. If you do not pvp, you can live without it.

Last stand: I almost put this among the must-haves. It comes highly recommended. As your group/raid progresses past each boss in gear and skill, you will use it less and less. However, when learning a new encounter or needing to hold on just a few second longer, it always pays to have one more "Oh $#!^" button.

Improved Revenge: I have 1 point in this. It is a tough talent to judge, but my reasoning is that 1 point is an infinite percentage increase in my ability to stun with revenge. The stun is short, but useful for interrupting casters now and then, as shield bash and concussion blow have longer cooldowns. And honestly, sometimes it's better to be lucky than good.

Improved Sunder Armor: Only take this after focused rage. The talent is useful, but I find that with the rage generated in most encounters, only a certain number of rage reducing talents are necessary.

Improved Disarm: Never, ever take this. Ever. Disclaimer: Someday, theoretically, a boss may require it. Until then, see above.

Improved Shield Wall: This is much like last stand except it enhances an existing skill. This one is a matter of personal preference.

Improved Shield Bash: I have 2 points in this talent, but it is also a matter of personal preference. I use it for dragging casters back to the group when I don't want to wait for an opportunity to interrupt. Why not wait? Because the longer you tank something in a bad location, the longer Murphy's Law has to take effect.

Improved Defensive Stance: When you compare the three primary tanking classes, the advantage that can most clearly be shown for warriors is that we handle magic damage better. Defensive stance already reduces that damage by 10%, and 6% may seem minor. I prefer to play to my strengths, and have 3 points in it.

I believe that covers talents. That should definitely be the largest section. Next up will be soloing.

I don't imagine many protection spec guides go into much detail on soloing, but I think it's fairly important. For leveling, I would honestly recommend simply being a different spec. The only exception to this (aside from masochism) is if you're leveling with one or more groupmates the majority of the time. When you're essentially practicing tanking on every quest you do, you will have a much better feel for your abilities in the long run.

Now, you may take that to mean you will be bad at soloing. That is definitely not the case. You will be slower at it than most others, but you will actually be very survivable. A lot of that will be about gear as well. When comparing the amount of bandages and food I was going through along with the time they took to use, I eventually switched to soloing in mostly tank gear. Against non-elites, you can be nearly indestructible.

In choosing gear, you should decide between dual wielding and shield slamming. Your talents do not support using a 2-hander unless it far outclasses your alternatives. Personally, I shield slam and use a DPS weapon while soloing. This allows easier interruption/reflection and greater damage absorption. I recommend gauging which you prefer for yourself, as it will vary greatly with gear. Your opponent will also be a deciding factor... I do not use a shield or tanking gear against most elementals because they generally ignore armor (except earth).

I highly recommend soloing in battle or berserker stance. Your damage dealing abilities will be heroic strike, shield slam, devastate, and execute. Heroic strike will be a rage hog, so be careful how quickly you use it. For devastate, you should judge how quickly you're killing a type of creature. If you apply 5 sunders from devastate and the mob is nearly dead, you are probably better off using your rage on shield slam and heroic strike.

Finally, you will be able to handle several opponents at once. However, if things are going badly don't be afraid to switch to defensive stance and run. A high defense score from tank gear will prevent you from getting dazed.

Leading a Group

As I said earlier, the tank for a group is generally the best suited to lead the way through an instance. As such, I will cover some basic do's and dont's here.

Always pull: There may be rare exceptions to this where tricks to the pull are required, but as a general rule you should be the puller. This allows everything to start with aggro on you, which results in greater rage generation, greater threat generation, and you get to choose where you want to fight.

Never be the main assist: Your group should set one, and it should be a DPS class. You need to be free to switch targets at will without the groups damage becoming split across multiple opponents.

Mark targets: Decide on CC target assignments at the start, and try to be quick with marking things. This has the potential to either speed up or slow down a run, depending on how familiar you are with the instance. Don't get stressed over it though... it's better to take a few extra seconds to get things marked than to run back from a wipe.

Know the crowd control potential of the group: It can be assumed that mages will sheep and warlocks will banish. I find it's best to ask rogues if they'll be comfortable sapping or if warlocks will be okay seducing. For priests, shackle is good, but mind control is another area that can be tricky. Hunters can be very good or very bad with freeze traps. Ultimately, the responsibility for tanking everything comes down to you, so it's good to know how reliable the CC will be. Get a feel for it on early pulls and know which targets to watch.

Make sure the main assist knows the kill priority: Good communication with the MA is key. Dangerous casters and aggro-breakers should die first, barring crowd control. This also lets you decide where secondary threat needs to be applied.

AoE is usually bad: There are exceptions to this, as there are pulls meant to be AE'd. Just know that, despite what suicidal mages may tell you, it is almost never required outside of boss fights. Trash is rarely worth dying on, but if the group can handle it, then let them. But be aware that it will make it next to impossible for you to hold aggro. Ever see a tank ask "Why can't I hold aggro" and then describe how their group was AEing? Don't be that tank, just accept that the mages life is out of your hands.

The "V" key is your friend: Have it on. It helps with targetting, decision making, and keeping track of what you've hit already.


This is where your talents will shine. You have a lot of tools at your disposal, and it can be somewhat overwhelming at times. Hopefully I can cover the specifics of it here.

For starters, when tanking any opponent or group of opponents, your choice of what ability to use at any time can be broken down into three options:

1) Threat (Shield slam, heroic strike, revenge, cleave, devastate, possibly thunder clap)
2) Mitigation (Demoralizing shout, Thunder clap, Shield block, Spell reflect, "Oh $#!^" buttons)
3) Debuffs (Sunder armor/devastate)

Generally you will always be focusing on either threat or mitigation while keeping sunder armor refreshed. The only ability that really doesn't fall in those categories in shield bash, because your goal in using it depends largely on what your opponent is trying to do. Also note that shield block, spell reflect, cleave, and heroic strike are not linked to the global cooldown of your abilities (the 1.5 seconds you have to wait between other abilities). This means you can have heroic strike queued while hitting shield block and another ability at the same time.

In any given fight you're going to have a skill priority, meaning wether you're focusing on threat or mitigation. Within threat there will also be shifting priorities based on how many opponents you're fighting, what CC is active, and what type of opponents they are.

I will start with single target, as it tends to be more straight-forward. Always lead off with shield slam. This helps to gain an early threat lead and let your DPS use their big openers as well. Continue to use shield slam whenever it is up. If you have plenty of rage, queue heroic strike continually, but don't let it drain your rage to zero.

At this point you should determine if you need to focus on mitigation or not. If it is a boss, generally it is good to apply Demoralizing shout and thunder clap early while hitting shield block. Shield block will reduce the crushing blows you take while it is up, as I will explain later.

If this has been done, or you are not in danger of a quick death, then start devastating until you have 5 sunders applied. This boosts the damage of all physical DPS classes in your group by a significant amount. It is your job to keep it refreshed.

If 5 sunders are up, revenge then supersedes devastate in order of importance for threat. So when all debuffs have been applied, your priority becomes Shield slam, heroic strike, and revenge, followed by demo shout, devastate, and thunder clap to refresh debuffs.

Sound complicated? Well, it is, but you get a feel for it with some practice. However it really has nothing on multitanking. This is where the true skill of a warrior can be gauged. Of the three tanking classes, we definitely have the hardest time of it. This is because where the other classes can passably get by being "one-button-wonders" (no offense to any of you out there Wink ), our multitanking abilities are spread out among several skills and require constant target switching.

This is generally where the science of tanking becomes art. You need to develop a feel for your specific group. With practice you will be able to gauge how long you can leave a target with just one shield slam applied before it switches to someone else while you're attacking a different target.

In general, you still want to lead with shield slam when multitanking. The only exception to this is packs of non-elites, where thunderclap is a better choice.

Once that initial shield slam is applied, you need to judge the positioning of CC'd opponents. Avoid thunderclap around crowd control unless you do it very early. Cleave is easier to use as it is frontal and based on range. Demoralizing shout is completely safe and a very good idea, as multiple opponenets tend to hurt. It will do almost nothing for threat, however.

I generally use alternating shield slams and cleaves while multitanking, with revenges thrown in while shield slam is on cooldown. Keep demo shout up. Use your V-key health bars to switch targets and keep track of what the DPS is hitting and what you have already hit. Do not trust tab for targetting. Be prepared to taunt.

Finally, two minor tips on tanking special cases.

1) If you find that CC has broken and the mob is on someone else, but you don't want to risk breaking the CC again once it's applied, I recommend rear-taunting. I'm sure I'll get some jokes over that one, but what it means is that taunt is 360 degrees. Back up to whatever needs CC'd and taunt while it's behind you. This keep it off of the healers and buys time for the shackle, sheep, or seduce to still be applied.

2) When fighting an opponent that you know is going to clear aggro, stun you, or make you lose threat in any way, always apply thunder clap and demo shout immediately after you shield slam. This will buy its next target a little more time for the healers to save them and for you to reach them once the effect on you has cleared. Ushers in Karazhan are a good example of this.

Next stop will be gear and mechanics.
Combat Mechanics

This section needs to be covered before gear, since the gear recommendations will require some explanation and interpretation.

To begin, I should explain how attacks function in WoW. Many people believe dodge or parry or block happen in some specific order of operation, with one check happening before another. These people are wrong. If that were the case, specific abilities would carry more weight than others. Blizzard has confirmed that things actually work in the form of a look-up table.

When a mob of equal level attacks you, a table is generated that looks something like this:

1-5 Dodge
6-10 Parry
11-15 Miss
16-20 Block
21-95 Normal Hit
96-100 Critical Hit

A roll is then made and compared to the table to determine the outcome of that attack. It is not actually 1-100, it is more like 1-10000, but for the purposes of these examples, it is simpler this way. The percentages on the table are based on a comparison of your opponents weapon skill (level x5 for mobs) vs your defense skill. It works the same way but in reverse for players attacking mobs and other players.

As your defensive abilities improve, the "normal hit" category shrinks as the others expand, like this:

1-15 Dodge
16-30 Parry
31-35 Miss
36-50 Block
51-95 Normal Hit
96-100 Critical Hit

Now for a boss or anything else 3 levels above you, you add in crushing blows. Their chance to miss and be avoided (parry, block, dodge) also shrink and their crit chance increases because their base weapon skill is now higher than your base defense. This is only an example, as the actual numbers become harder to determine:

1-14 Dodge
15-28 Parry
29-33 Miss
34-48 Block
49-79 Normal Hit
80-94 Crushing Hit (always 15% for bosses)
95-100 Critical Hit

With that basic understanding of how the system works, I can now explain what specific stats and categories do.

Defense: Defense is the foundation of a tank. At level 70 vs. an equal level opponent, each point of defense over your base amount adds .04% to Block, Dodge, Parry, and your chance to be missed. It also reduces their chance to critically hit you by the exact same amount. So for every 25 points of defense you have, you're gaining 1% to all of those categories.

The point at which a raid boss can no longer critically hit you in 490 defense, or 5.6% reduction. This would be 331 defense rating from gear and talents. So with 490 defense vs. a boss, the table then looks something like this:

1-10 Dodge
11-20 Parry
21-30 Miss
31-40 Block
41-85 Normal Hit
86-100 Crushing Hit

Dodge: Dodge is fairly straightforward. In addition to defense, your agility will also boost it. For a warrior, every 30 points of agility is 1% to dodge.

Parry: Parry is generally harder to obtain than dodge, as the rating system values it more highly. This is because whenever you parry an attack, your next attack occurs twice as fast. Defense and parry rating are the only way to raise your parry skill. You will also only parry things in front of you.

Miss Chance: I will go over this in both directions, because hit raiting is important as well. The only way to raise the chance of an opponent missing you is through defense skill. In reverse (you attacking an opponent) you want hit rating. Hit rating is still important for a tank because it effects both the taunt skill and your threat generation. Missing too often early in a fight generally leads to deaths. You can consider hit rating to be adding to your chance to get a normal hit on the table.

Base miss chance vs. level 70-73 (bosses) opponents:
70 5.0%
71 5.5%
72 6.0%
73 9.0%

That is also the base chance your taunt will be resisted. For completeness sake, when you dual wield you add 19% to your base miss chance. Mobs are also affected by this. Note that the dual wield penalty only applies to white damage however, not special attacks.

Block: Unlike the other types of avoidance, blocking an attack only deflects part of the damage, determined by your shield's block value plus any modifiers for gear and strength (roughly 20 strength per point of damage blocked). You can only block attacks from the front.

The key to the block skill is that it is the one percentage on that table that we can modify with a usable skill, ie. Shield Block. You will note that shield block can add more to your block rating than there would normally be room for on the table. What happens in this case is that an opponents ability to to crit, crush, and get normal hits get pushed right off the table.

So when you have shield block active, the table looks like this:
1-10 Dodge
11-20 Parry
21-30 Miss
31-100 Block

Keeping shield block up is how warriors survive bosses with crushing blows.

Critical Hit: As I mentioned under the Cruelty talent, it never hurts to have a higher crit rating for building threat. It is 33 agility for 1% crit chance.

Resilience: Resilience will reduce your chance to be critted, and that percent chance does stack with defense rating. However, resilience is meant for pvp, druids, and magical attacks. As a warrior you want defense.

Expertise: Expertise reduces the chance that you opponent will dodge or parry your attacks. Only expertise rating can increase this. It is a very nice enhancement to have for generating threat, and I have come to value it highly.

I believe that covers the mechanics of a warrior. With that in mind we can tackle gear.


As a tank, you want to be the most survivable piece of meat you can be, and gear is how you accomplish a large part of that. Each piece of gear, aside from stats, will have ratings attached to it. The conversion rates for the relevant warrior ratings at level 70 are:

Expertise: 15.76 rating for -1% chance to be dodged and parried
Hit: 15.76 rating for 1% to hit
Critical Strike: 22.08 raiting for 1% crit
Haste: 15.76 rating for 1% haste
Defense: 2.37 rating for 1 defense skill point
Dodge: 18.92 dodge rating for 1% dodge
Parry: 23.65 parry rating for 1% parry
Block: 7.88 block rating for 1% block

My recommendation for gear is to start with defense and stamina. The others tend to build themselves as you acquire better gear. 490 defense should be your first goal, although I recommend against taking "of defense" gear. You want each piece to have stamina on it as well.

Once 490 defense has been achieved, continue to build stamina but consider armor with crit, hit, and expertise on it. These will help a great deal with threat generation. Tanking pieces are generally fairly obvious and come with a mixture of everything.

When comparing two pieces of gear, always consider that it is spike damage that kills warriors. Avoidance should definitely be developed (dodge comes easiest), but always make sure you will be able to take the hits that are coming at you when they hit.

That said, it is worth making a note on gems. Some people like to put 12 stamina gems in every slot and ignore the socket bonuses. This is completely viable, and a matter of personal preference. Just remember that those socket bonuses can add up, and some are better than others. If an item gives +3 stamina if you put a 6 stamina/4 dodge rating gem in it, put the mixed gem in. If it gives +3 parry rating, it may be too small to notice.

When collecting tank gear, you're going to have to do a bit of tanking to get it. You can outfit yourself in a good starting set by completing the group quests in later zones, but more than any other class it is crucial that you improve incrementally. DPS can survive if they are under geared in most cases. You cannot. Also note that you will find no tanking gear from pvping.

I believe that covers the majority of my knowledge on tanking and protection specced warriors. I hope you have found something in here educational, and that I didnt make it overly complicated.

As a final note, I should comment on your healers. They are your best friends. Treat them like your grandparents. In each fight, they have to learn how to go about healing you while you're learning to tank it, and you must trust them to do their best. If you die, you get up, scrape yourself off, and thank them for keeping you alive as long as they did. Joke with them, but never give them a hard time with any serious intent. And if you have the room, carry some water or reagents.

Good luck, and please feel free to contact me if you have any questions.
hey Kosath, when you get a chance can you go over avoidance? It is the miss chance that confuses me. Thanks!
Ah, the guide is done. Hopefully that section on combat mechanics answers your question, Efluvious. Let me know if you need more specifics.
*attempts to stuff Garudo into a closet*
Wanted to just add a few extra bits on a players chance to be missed.
Both normal mobs and bosses have a base 5% chance to miss you, no matter the situation.
Defense of course increases the chance you'll be missed further, 5.6% at 490 Defense. Very useful. If you had 530 Defense your chance to be missed would be 7.2%.
The Hunter ability Scorpid Sting increases mob's chance to miss by 5%(If a hunter does not use this on a boss mob, for shame!)
The Druid Balance talent Insect Swarm increases mob's chance to miss by 2%(If a druid has this and does not use this on a boss mob, for shame!)
I have a questions about weapons.
Do I want a one hander that is slow but big damage? Or fast but lower DPS?
You tend to want a fast weapon for tanking so that you can spam Heroic Strike to dump rage. However a slower weapon will do more damage with Devastate. I prefer the faster weapons myself.
I have both for tanking. I find that using a weapon like mallet of the tides is great for most tanking needs, but then I use a 2.7 speed dps weapon (Talon of Azshara) for a fight like Voidreaver where you are not taking direct hits sometimes, but it great for threat from devastate.

Over all, faster weapon is better. The slow weapon is for special cases.
Aye, Jivundus and Efluvious have it right. If you notice, most specialized tanking weapons are under 2.0 speed.