Tanking heroics late in the expansion

September 26, 2010 at 2:49 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

This is an update on my earlier post, Crit immunity: why bother?.  I continue to get a steady amount of traffic to that page as well as incoming traffic related to warrior tanking with armor penetration (ArP) gear, so I figured it was worth describing what I am doing now and some thoughts on how to most efficiently carry out this method of tanking.

As I had mentioned several months ago, my warrior tank runs heroics mostly in dps gear.  As time has gone on, I have replaced more and more tank gear with dps gear.  I would like to discuss two of the reasons why this has become possible: first, my dps gear has improved substantially and, second, I’ve learned a few tricks for keeping myself alive and the pulls under control.

My current heroic tanking gear
I have slowly replaced raid tanking gear with dps gear as the latter has improved.  I am now down to four raid tanking items in my heroics tanking set: the head and shoulders from the T10.264 set, which provide a very nice bonus to two of my primary abilities; the tanking weapon of H Marrowgar 10, which is fast enough to provide me with a lot of Cleave damage; and the shield of H Lootship 10, which is far better than anything else I have.

Total armor is 27.4k (64% mitigation), ~33% dodge+parry, and 36k unbuffed health.  Each of these far exceed the expected values of a tank new to heroics, which I estimate to be roughly 21k armor, 24% dodge+parry and 23k health. So, crits aside, it seems clear that a healer in all blues should be able to keep me alive with some effort if the fights last as long as they did in early 2009. Most fights — including bosses — are brief enough that I do not require a healer at all while in combat.

Damage and threat are very, very strong.  With ~6k AP, 63% ArP, 19% crit, and 30 expertise, I do 4-6k on nearly every fight, trash or otherwise.  The expertise, I found, is important as it is possible to become rage-starved in my spec (0/3 Focused Rage) if attacks are avoided too often. Even with grouping with good dps that I know, they have a very challenging time doing more damage than me across the entire instance.  This is largely because smart dps will wait a couple seconds for the tank to get aggro; this is approximately 10% of the length of most fights.

One interesting follow-on effect of wearing dps gear while tanking is that block value is high as a consequence of high strength.  A block, then, becomes almost as good as a dodge and at a much cheaper price in terms of item budget.  While I have not tested it, I suspect that Lavanthor’s Talisman would provide a significant amount of damage reduction in heroics if that were needed.

Aside from using dps gear isntead of tank gear, I don’t do anything too weird.  Due to how prot generates much of its threat, I feel that going with a shield is necessary.  It might be possible to tank with either a single 2h weapon or two 1h weapons, but I suspect that the loss of ~8k armor, Shield Slam threat, block mitigation and the Shield Wall cooldown would be too much.  Similarly, I have not tried tanking in battle stance for the added 16% ArP and 5% damage, but it might be possible in a group with weaker dps where threat is not a problem.  Has anybody tried this?  My guess is that the loss of bonus threat via defensive stance would be too much in most situations.

Tricks for staying alive
Holding threat isn’t an issue with setup, but staying alive can be.  Average pulls aren’t a problem, but there are a few spots where I find it prudent to use cooldowns preventatively, in anticipation of significant damage, or other abilities.  A few such spots, at which I have experienced wipes or near-wipes, are listed below.


  • Wretched Belcher room, just before the first boss, Trollgore.  Cleaves and an AoE cone attack make these dangerous to both you and your group.  Turn them around and blow cooldowns, especially since it is easy to get a second group.


  • Spell Flingers, in several of the pulls before the first boss.  Their spell takes a long time to cast, but when it hits it takes a substantial percentage of your health.  It is essential that this spell be reflected or  interrupted via shield bash, conc blow, or shockwave.  (I’m not the only one that thinks these are dangerous.)


  • Stormforged Runeshapers, just after the third boss, Ionar.  Their Charged Flurry can hit very hard, so save shockwave as an interrupt.  These aren’t generally a problem unless a second group is pulled by accident, which happens with depressing frequency in LFD.
  • Loken, the last boss.  Use cooldowns for every Nova.  Shield Wall, Last Stand, and Enraged Regeneration should be more than sufficient.


  • At the intersection between the three wings, it is possible to accidentally pull multiple groups of rock critters, dark rune dwarves and giants.  While it takes a little more time, it’s sometimes better to pull an ‘extra’ as the tank than to let somebody else do it carelessly.  In the event of an accidental pull of the caster dwarves, get initial aggro and keep Shield Reflect up.


  • Garfrost.  If I don’t trust the healer, I pop a cooldown during each phase.  Usually Shield Wall late in the first phase, Enraged Regeneration as soon as my health dips in the second phase and Last Stand to begin the third.
  • The hill pulls.  Heroic Throw one caster and charge the other.  If anything goes wrong, use a cooldown.


  • I still swap in some extra raid tanking gear for HoR as the damage can be very heavy.  Controlling the hunters, who apply a Mortal Strike-like effect, becomes more of an issue because of my smaller health pool.  Still, this is an instance where prot warriors can really shine because of their stuns.  Charge, in particular, can be useful for interrupting casters and gaining two seconds respite from incoming melee damage.

In the end, I really like this style of tanking.  It helps to realize some of the pre-Wrath promises of tanks doing more damage and getting the fun feeling of big damage numbers.  Threat isn’t a problem, but it forces me to pay careful attention to survival by using cooldowns intelligently.  The key, as always, is to keep pulls small but rapid; this is not like standard paladin tanking where five groups are pulled and burned down with AoE.  I think it’s a lot of fun.


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