Prot Warrior Tanking 100 (Part 1)

I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback on my 101 post, as well as a few requests for an even more basic, low level Prot Warrior guide… so I’m going to step back for a moment, and go way back to the Vanilla levels to review what a Prot Warrior needs to know about gear and tanking.

The first thing to realize about tanking as a low level Prot Warrior is that you aren’t going to have a lot of Rage. My guild and I recently participated in a project I came up with called TLA (Team Level Appropriate) in which myself and four others rolled level 1 alts of pre-agreed upon classes to form a static 5-man team whose goal was to complete every dungeon in game at the appropriate levels. I rolled a Prot Warrior to act as the team’s tank, and the first thing I had to get use to was the startling lack of Rage.

So, the bad news is that you won’t get a lot of rage while tanking Vanilla content as a Prot Warrior. The good news is that you won’t need much. Your Thunder Clap is going to do a ludicrous amount of AOE threat at the lower levels compared to most DPS classes, making the task of tanking actually very easy unless your DPS are grossly ill behaved.

Your other very early abilities for single target threat are Sunder, Revenge and Rend. Yes, Rend… trust me, if you actually spec Prot for very early tanking you won’t have the Rage to spam Heroic Strike very often.

Using Raid Marks:
You’ll want to set up the Skull raid mark to a handy key or mouse button so you can lead your group’s DPS through target selection more easily… and give you much more room to scream at them for killing the wrong thing first. You can’t really bitch if you don’t mark the intended kill, so mark it, and when they inevitably fail to follow your instruction, you get to be justified in your annoyance.

You can find this setting for Skull and all other raid marks in the Key Bindings off of the options menu. Personally, I like to assign Skull to my middle mouse button. That way a simple click moves the Skull to my current target, even in the middle of a fight, and I can conduct the activities of my DPSers much more accurately and with no down time from generating threat to select Skull from a dropdown menu.

If you want to set up a “kill order” before you pull, I usually go with these marks:


So, skull is first. X is second. Triangle is third (3 sides), and Diamond is fourth (4 sides).

Moon is usually Sheep, Hibernate or Shackle while Square is often used for Freeze Trap (it’s blue, and square, like a block of ice kind of…) The meaning of the other marks vary with the situation and is told to the group at the time they’re used.

Line of Sight:
One of the best things a tank can understand is the simple concept of Line of Sight (LOS). If you’ve ever played a table top war game, you should be familiar with the idea. If you draw a line from you to the enemy unit, and the line passes through cover, they can’t shoot you from where they’re standing. The same goes for casters in a pull. If they can see you, they generally (not always) will stand in one place and lob nukes your way. This is almost always undesirable, as while they are at range, the main source of threat on them is your healer assuming no DPSers are attacking the mob.

So, how do you deal with this? Well, until you get Heroic Throw + Gag Order to give yourself a ranged silence, your only option that does not rely on the competency of other people is to break their LOS. You’ll develop an innate feel for it, but if you’re ever wondering whether or not you’re out of an enemy’s LOS, just put the camera at your character’s back and face the offending nuker. Can you see them? If you can’t, then they can’t see you either. It’s that simple.

Some limitations do apply to LOS. Not everything will break it. Usually corners, columns, and large rocks are a good bet for LOS breaks. Trees are almost never LOS breaks, and rolling terrain isn’t either. The lip of a plateau sometimes is, but most times not. Sometimes, something you’re sure will break LOS doesn’t, and other times something that really only conceals your feet from the enemy will. LOS is, actually, calculated on a line drawn between the feet of both parties and not their eyes. Thus, Tauren are not at a disadvantage to Gnomes when it comes to hiding from incoming fire.

As a general rule of thumb, if you have a definite LOS break handy (corner or outcropping of a cave wall), use it before you try something iffy (large vase or sarcophagus).

And of course, finally, if you absolutely need to pull a bunch of casters out of their starting position and have no LOS breaks, distance between you and the mobs works just as well to make them move. They have a max range just like players, and if you’re beyond that range, they’ll chase you to catch up. It’s not the prettiest option, but sometimes it’s the only one.

Understanding what Taunt actually does is vital for all tanks. Taunt does not generate threat. In fact, Taunt does absolutely nothing if you are already the target of the mob. What Taunt does do, assuming it doesn’t miss, is to force the mob to attack you for a few second *and* makes your Threat Level match that of the person the mob *was* attacking.

So, let’s say the Warlock goes apeshit with seed spam and pulls a mob off. Now I’m going to use entirely made up numbers here to get my point across… so just hang in there.

Warlock: 8000 Threat
Warrior: 3500 Threat

Now the mob is running over to murder the Lock because he’s bad at not being an AOE monkey… assuming you choose to save his life (it’s pretty much in your hands right now… nudge nudge), you’ll target the mob and hit Taunt. When Taunt lands, here’s what the threat levels look like at that very instant.

Warrior: 8000 Threat
Warlock: 8000 Threat

Plus, the Taunt makes the mob attack you. So, what you need to do is to lay some threat onto the mob in addition to Taunting. Taunting *catches you up* to the DPS who pulled off. It does *not* give you a threat lead. You need to hit that mob with some Sunders or what have you to lock it down, and then go back to your main target.

Being Threatening:
So, the basic, very early trash pull of multiple mobs looks like this:

1)      Mark the first target to kill with a Skull and make sure your group understands that the Skull dies *first* and not *last*. Best targets for this are enemy healers, extremely high damage mobs, or any mob with an ability to summon reinforcements or disrupt the group with fears, mind control, sleep, etc.

2)      Initiate the pull. If they’re all melee, just use a ranged weapon to pull them back to yourself. If the area is totally clear of other groups, then you can charge for a Rage lead. Remember that until you have Warbringer way down the Prot Tree, you can’t charge once you’re in combat.  If the pull does have casters, find a corner, wall, pillar, etc to break their line of sight on you so they’ll have to come to you in order to attack.

3)      Once the mobs are gathered together, open with a Thunder Clap. At higher levels, Shockwave would be used as well, but that’s quite a ways off.

4)      With AOE threat on the pull high enough now to keep them off your healer, you can start to Sunder the Skull marked target. Sunder currently stacks to five (changing in Cata… FYI) and you should bring it up to five stacks. At very early tanking levels, I’d put a Rend up after the first Sunder to get a little extra threat from the bleed ticks. Later, it becomes far less beneficial relative to other threat abilities. You’ll also be using Revenge when it’s up.

5)      Thunder Clap every time it’s off of cooldown, and be sure to also apply your Demoralizing Shout to the mobs if you’re taking too much damage. A word of advice though… if the damage is fine, and your Rage is dry, do NOT Demo Shout. If you’re bone dry on Rage and not in any danger of dying, the last thing you want is *less* incoming damage. Damage = Rage. Mobs with debuffed attack power give you less rage.

6)      When the Skull dies or is about to die, switch to your next target and start to Sunder it. Once the Skull is dead, click your mapped button to put the Skull on the new target.

7)      Repeat until the pull is dead.

For tanking a boss, it’s pretty similar early on. You’ll want Rend up for added damage simply because the boss will live long enough for it to matter. Sunder to a full stack, keep Thunder Clap and Demo Shout up, and use Shield Block when it’s available. The only real difference early on is that for a boss, you should invest any extra Rage into Heroic Strikes for added threat. Just don’t run yourself totally dry in the process. Heroic Stike anywhere above 50% rage is generally safe and well advised.

Things change slightly once you pick up Shield Slam at level 40. Shield Slam is your first threat move that you’ll perform on the kill target, even before you Sunder. It’s a very high bit of burst threat and can put you ahead of even zealous DPSers. At 40, your threat rotation on a single target looks like this.

Shield Slam > Thunder Clap > Sunder to 5 > Rend — Heroic Strike when Rage > 50

Prevent your 5 stack of Sunder from falling off > Revenge > Shield Slam > Thunder Clap > Refresh Rend > Sunder — Heroic Strike when Rage > 50

Or… since I know plenty of people don’t know how to read rotations like this, I’ll put it into plain terms.

Open with Shield Slam, then Thunder Clap, stack Sunder to 5, and then apply Rend. At the same time, you should hit Heroic Strike any time you have more than half a Rage bar.

To maintain your threat…

If Revenge is available, use it first.


If everything is off of cooldown, use Shield Slam.
If Shield Slam is on cooldown but Thunder Clap is available, use Thunder Clap
If both Shield Slam and Thunder Clap are on cooldown and Rend has fallen off the target, Refresh Rend
If Shield Slam and Thunder Clap are on cooldown, and Rend of on the target, then Sunder.
If you are ever over half a Rage bar, hit Heroic Strike
If it is ever in jeopardy, always prioritize saving your 5-stack of Sunder above all else.

It sounds complicated when it’s written out, but it’s really not. It’ll become second nature in no time.

Keep in mind that the rotation at 80 is similar but different. I’ll go over that in the Tanking 102 post, since this post is about leveling as a Prot Warrior through tanking dungeons with a focus to pre-BC content.

This is getting really, really long… so I’m going to continue with Gear, Glyphs and Spec in another post later.


~ by Udiyvli on 07/05/2010.

2 Responses to “Prot Warrior Tanking 100 (Part 1)”

  1. Very interesting post! I have to say though, that even at level 26, all my Warrior has to do is Thunder Clap and /very/ occasionally Sunder to hold aggro.

    My AoE tanking rotation is basically Thunder Clap > Imp. Revenge > Cleave. The amount of damage I can churn out with this is sickening and I’ve never lost aggro yet :]

    I suppose I really /should/ start practising a “proper” rotation though, for when I hit hit higher levels.

    Looking forward to the next instalment,

    Shortfuse, Gnome Protection Warrior of Anachronos-EU.

    • Yeah, early on, it’s really insanely easy to hold threat as a Warrior. Your DPS has to be pretty heavily geared for their level *and* stupid as dirt to pull off of you.

      But, yeah, the way I see it there’s no time like now to start getting use to where all your vital abilities are. 🙂

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