Saturday, June 25, 2011

Speccing Protection Warrior - So many choices!

Me and Love are currently enjoying the warrior tanking fun together. Well not ingame together, since any heroic group only really needs one tank. But being able to discuss the fine intricasies of the class and the way we play it does add something extra to it. I've always wanted to have a buddy priest with whom I could go all nerdy in raids, discussing what talent would be more efficient in what situation and why... but alas, fate did not reward me with such a raiding best friend forever. Instead I turn to you priest bloggers, and that has worked well so far. But now I have finally found a soulmate in one of my other favorite classes, the prot warrior! This is good, because there are way less prot warrior blogs out there than there are healing priest ones, or maybe I just suck at finding them (tips appreciated!).

This newfound companionship in my protiness has allowed me to look at my own warrior with new eyes. Things I didn't think much about earlier have suddenly become really interesting, this time I've especially delved deeper into the matter of talent choice. Turns out, there are loads of interesting choices for the prot warrior to make, and they all have their pros and cons. Blizzard did state in early Cata that they had remodeled the talent trees with precisely this in mind - players were supposed to be able to tailor their role somewhat with their last talent points. In a few cases they've really succeeded, and eventhough there's usually a best-best spec (and there probably always will be), the prot choices really show that you can pick your last talents based on how you want to play your tank and what areas you want to buff. Here is a rundown of the talents I find interesting at the moment, and some thoughts on why you should pick it and why not.

Even when discussing the basic warrior spec we'll run into a couple of cross roads, depending on whether you want to focus on raiding or instancing. I won't go into much detail regarding these choices this time around but for example, I'd choose Incite for raiding and Blood & Thunder for instancing. For raiding I might grab Impending Victory, but skip Thunderstruck and vice versa if I prefer to do instances. For raiding I might go with Safeguard, and how many points I want in Shield Specialization really depends on what I think about my rage generation. I probably wouldn't take Vigilance for instancing. Although I've already discussed them somewhat in my Protection Warrior Guide, I'd like to take a closer look at some of these talents specifically here.

War Academy
[Threat] - The only thing this would boost for a prot warrior is our Devastate, which I personally don't use very often. To me Devastate has always been more of a filler, especially once the Sunder Armor stack is up, and I spend a lot more time using my other skills and turning to Devastate only when I have nothing else to do, or am rage starved. Boosting one of my least used skills by a moderate amount of damage doesn't seem very alluring to me. If we add 15% damage to my Devastate usage across some dungeons, it'll look like this;
  • Lost City: 1,5% dmg increase.
  • Blackrock Caverns: 1,7% dmg increase.
  • Lost City2: 1,8% dmg increase.
  • Blackrock Caverns2: 1,5% dmg increase.
  • Stonecore: 1,2% dmg increase.

Depending on Devastate usage, I don't see this to increase our damage by much more than 2% at best. Is that worth 3 tp? Perhaps if you happen to use Devastate more than the common prot warrior, but considering Shield Slam and Revenge have higher threat, you'll always go for those first. I wouldn't recommend this talent unless you really want some extra damage.

Field Dressing
[Survivability] - To me this is a no brainer. In nearly any situation you will want to improve your survivability as a tank, and getting 6% extra healing from any source is dang useful. Best thing about it is that it is a reliable source of survivability (unlike Blood Craze) because it simply increases the size of the heals you get, which as long as you get heals, is very useful.

Blitz
[Utility] - I initially wrote this off as a pvp talent, but taking a second look at it I am not so sure. This is definitely a utility talent, but it holds some useful possibilites. Getting some extra rage when charging is very handy of course, because it is during the first 10 ish seconds that we establish our most important threat base. Once we've got the first seconds covered, it's usually pretty easy to keep the aggro. If you don't get initial threat you will have hell since no threat means no rage which means no threat. Blitz will also stun 1/2 extra of the closest mobs which I've noticed is both good and bad. It's good in that it allows you to make sure that at least three mobs will be exactly where you want them to be when you charge in, no matter what your dpsers or healer might do. On the other hand it also means that two mobs won't be rushing into your arms when you charge in, but will stand a little bit away being stunned, possibly out of melee range. By being stunned, they will also not give you rage and procs, which the extra rage gained from Blitz is supposed to cover somewhat I'm guessing. Fortunately, in nearly all cases you'll reach them with cleave, thunder clap, shockwave and demo shout anyway, and the extra rage gives you enough for a good start - so I think the gains definitely outweigh the downs on this talent. If you think that the initial first seconds of the pull is what you're having issues with, this is a very handy talent. But of course, only as long as you think you'll do a lot of charging on mob packs, which means this isn't very useful for raiding.

Second Wind
[Survivability] - I remember having this in my prot spec back in Wrath (or was it possibly even back in BC). Nowadays I don't feel like we get stunned or immobilized often enough (although sometimes it feels like it's all the time, like some of the trash packs in Vortex Pinnacle) for this talent to be worth it, even less in raids. What I need when I get stunned isn't extra rage, it's some sort of way to keep aggro and increase my survivability. Second Wind does give you some health when stunned, but I think these talent points can be better spent elsewhere.

Deep Wounds
[Threat] - I remember many tanks specced into this back in Wrath for the extra threat it provided, so I was ready to give it another go. The results weren't as good as they used to be. For both me and Love, Deep Wounds made up no more than 3% of our total damage, at best. This isn't odd at all when you think about it, because Deep Wounds is heavily reliant on crit, and neither me nor Love has above 2% at the moment. Where would we get it? We don't have any agility or crit gear at all. Some talents increase the crit chance of our skills, but that's about all we have. Through talents and in a raid group, a tanking warrior could still hope to get up to 15-20% crit, but that doesn't solve the second issue of Deep Wounds. It's based on weapon damage, and tank weapons aren't known for their high damage. Deep Wounds is designed to work the best with a chunky, slow 2hander. But Deep Wounds is still among the better threat stats to choose from, so if you really want more threat/dps, this is what you should take.

Blood Craze
[Survivability] - More survivability = good right? Overall yes, but we have to make sure it is worth it too. Because of how Blood Craze works, it is the most useful when you're being hit by as many attacks as possible. Since it is a proc, you won't really know when you'll get the heal and can't count on it to save you when needed. Blood Craze should mainly be seen as a cushion on which you can lean while the healers do their job. Question is of course, how small is this cushion? Too small to be worth the talent points? I gathered some numbers and compared them to healing received total from the healer, and also how much of BC that was overheal to get a feel for the overall effectiviness. Let's take a look;

  • Halls of Origination: 481k hp healed - 12% of healers total heal - 10% overheal.
  • Lost City1: 296k hp healed - 3,4% of healer - 4% overheal
  • Blackrock Caverns: 343k hp healed - 5% of healer - 14% overheal
  • Lost City2: 449k hp healed - 5% of healer - 11% overheal
  • Vortex Pinnacle: 597k hp healed - 11% of healer - 6% overheal
Rough numbers, so what can they tell us? First of all, that the overheal of Blood Craze is fairly low. After all, BC procs when you're getting hit, so it makes sense that you need some healing when it starts ticking in. Secondly, it seems to make out roughly 6-7% of the healing needed in an instance, but with a lot of variation. Remember that these numbers are taken from heroics where I usually tank several targets, and they are probably not correct for a raid tanking warrior. But for instance tanking I think this talent is worth the points to get some extra survivability.

Battle Trance (which I couldn't find an icon for)
[Threat] - Just as with Deep Wounds and Incite, this talents usefulness relies completely on our crit, which is very, very low. I don't think the extra rage gain from this talent is significant enough to warrant using 3 tp into it. If you're that desperate for rage there's definitely better choices (Booming Voice, Shield Spec for example). If we assume I'd use the proc on my most expensive skill (Heroic Strike or Cleave), every time (which is ideal, but very difficult to succeed with), the rage gain from Battle Trance would result in;

  • Lost City: 19 crits = 0,5 extra rps.
  • Blackrock Caverns: 18 crits = 0,6 extra rps.
  • Lost City2: 20 crits = 0,5 extra rps.
  • Blackrock Caverns2: 26 crits = 0,5 extra rps.
  • Stonecore: 23 crits = 0,5 extra rps.

This was calculated by converting all my Shield Slam crits into corresponding rage (10 SS crits = 300 rage) and dividing it by my active combat time. I think it is pretty safe to say that the extra rage gain from Battle Trance is extremely low, at best, and my results come close to the EJ estimate; "Under ideal conditions, will only conserve 1 rage per second (or 1.5 during Inner Rage). Only useful if your rage income is extremely low." Not a recommended talent.

Booming Voice
[Threat] - It's unfortunate that prot tanks don't have access to this talent more early on in the levels, because that is mostly when we could need the ability to cast our Shouts more often. In endgame tanking I'd probably always forget to recast it unless I had an addon that reminded me, simply because I very rarely need that extra rage.

Rude Interruption
[Threat] - Possibly quite useful, but also very reliant on how often you get to interrupt. Some raid bosses require a lot of interrupts, like Maloriak and Nefarian in p2, but otherwise you probably won't be interrupting very often in a raid environment. So what about instancing then? Looking at most heroics nowadays, it seems like just about every pack has some sort of mob that requires some sort of interrupting. The possibilities to get this buff are rather promising. From testing I can tell of another added benefit - you will get less annoyed at your fellow dpsers when they fail to help you interrupt, you might possibly even get annoyed if they do so! Kidding of course, but seriously - this talent will turn you into a ninja interrupter in no time. I don't waste any opportunity to interrupt a cast if I can help it. Let's look at some numbers;

  • Vortex Pinnacle: 10 Pummel = 150 sec buff or 16% uptime over total combat time.
  • Deadmines: 14 Pummel = 210 sec buff or 11,5% uptime over total combat time.
  • Halls of Origination = 12 Pummels = 180 buff or 10% uptime over total combat time.
  • Shadowfang Keep = 36 Pummels = 540 sec uptime or 27% over total combat time.
  • Lost City = 8 Pummels = 120 sec buff or 11% over total combat time.

These are idealized numbers of course. First of all I'm assuming you'll get to spend the entire buff in combat doing damage with it, which on the other hand nearly always is true. Secondly I'm assuming the buffs won't overlap, which probably also nearly always is true since Pummel has 10 second cooldown and Rude Interruption a 15 second uptime (with only 1 tp, and I wouldn't take more anyway)), it is difficult to cut. As a final verdict I would say that the average uptime of Rude Interruption, if you use Pummel when you get the opportunity and don't have a trigger happy interrupter already in your group, is about 10% at least. Where does it leave us? With a rough 0,5% dps increase. Not very fancy unfortunately.

Piercing Howl
[Utility] - As with Blitz, this could be used as a helpful tool when trying to gain control over unruly mobs. You really have to take a look at your own tanking situation and see if you feel like this could help you out, personally I don't feel like I need it, but being able to slow an unlimited amount of enemies close to you could be perfect for when that fire mage decides to steal all aggro with some burst aoe. On the other hand, maybe that is was Challenging Shout is for. I'd consider this mainly a pvp talent.
 
Incite
[Threat] - Just as with Deep Wounds, Incite relies heavily on your crit. It also relies on how often you use Heroic Strike. Heroic Strike and Cleave are basically two versions of the same skill, where one will hit one target a little harder and the other will hit two (or three if you've glyphed it) targets for a little less. Therefore, you'll mostly use Heroic Strike against single target mobs, which usually only is bosses unless you have some special reason to avoid using Cleave like cc and such. In heroics I use Heroic Strike very rarely, actually nearly only against bosses. Most of the fights are made out of mob groups that consist of more than one mob, so I use Cleave a lot more. In raids the relationship is the opposite however - here you will mostly use Heroic Strike. If we also consider that eventhough most tank warriors run around with very low crit, the one surrounding where their crit might actually get half decent would be in a raid. My numbers from heroics show that Incite is a dps increase of less than 1%. Simplified we could therefore say that the threat increase also is less than 1%. I don't think the numbers are significantly higher for raiding warriors, a rough estimation based on our MT shows numbers around 1-2%. On the other hand one might still consider it more useful than for example Blood & Thunder in a raiding environment.

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