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Protection Warrior Tank Rotation, Cooldowns, and Abilities (WoW 4.3.4)

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In this article, we list your Protection Warrior (WoW 4.3) core abilities and how they should be used together (rotation). We also explain when to use your various cooldowns. Then, we go deeper and present all the subtleties that playing a Protection Warrior will face you with. The other articles of our Protection Warrior guide can be accessed from the table of contents on the left.

1. Basic Single Target Rotation↑top

The single target rotation of a Protection Warrior is rather simple and can be summarised as thus (without taking survival abilities into account):

  1. Shield Slam Icon Shield Slam;
  2. Revenge Icon Revenge;
  3. Rend Icon Rend (only refresh it when it has run out);
  4. Devastate Icon Devastate;
  5. Heroic Strike Icon Heroic Strike (when over 50 Rage).

In order to properly use your character to its maximum potential, you will have to combine this rotation with your survival abilities (detailed below). Also, your raid might require you to keep up a buff, Commanding Shout Icon Commanding Shout or Battle Shout Icon Battle Shout, and some of your debuffs, Demoralizing Shout Icon Demoralizing Shout or Thunder Clap Icon Thunder Clap.

Once you are surviving and holding aggro, the best way for you to maximise your performance is to deal as much damage as possible.

2. Basic Multiple Target Rotation↑top

  1. Maintain Rend Icon Rend (through Thunder Clap Icon Thunder Clap after the initial application);
  2. Thunder Clap Icon Thunder Clap;
  3. Shockwave Icon Shockwave;
  4. Cleave Icon Cleave (when over 50 Rage).

In addition, you can switch through targets and apply single target abilities to those on which your threat is lacking (such as Shield Slam Icon Shield Slam and Revenge Icon Revenge).

3. Taunting↑top

Taunt Icon Taunt is your main taunting ability. It only works on a single target and has an 8-second cooldown (which is refreshed each time that the player on whom you cast Vigilance Icon Vigilance is attacked). For more explanations about Vigilance Icon Vigilance, see our dedicated section.

Challenging Shout Icon Challenging Shout is an AoE taunting ability. It forces every tauntable enemy within 10 yards of you to attack you for 6 seconds. It has a 3 minute cooldown. Note that this taunt has no effect on the aggro of these mobs, and when the 6 seconds wear off, they will simply return to their previous target (unless you have generated enough threat to keep aggro on them).

4. Defensive and Offensive Cooldowns↑top

To perform properly, you will need to make regular use of both defensive and offensive cooldowns.

Defensive cooldowns:

Additionally, you can provide your raid with Rallying Cry Icon Rallying Cry. It increases the maximum health of all party and raid members by 20% for 10 seconds. Note that it shares a cooldown with Last Stand Icon Last Stand.

Offensive cooldowns:

  • Inner Rage Icon Inner Rage: reduces the cooldown of Heroic Strike Icon Heroic Strike and Cleave Icon Cleave by 50% for 15 seconds. Excellent for bursts of threat and dumping excess rage.
  • Recklessness Icon Recklessness: increases your chance to critically hit with special attacks by 50%, but increases your damage taken by 20% for its 12 second duration.
  • Retaliation Icon Retaliation: causes you to deal damage to anyone who attacks you, once for each attack made, for a period of 12 seconds or a maximum of 20 attacks.

5. Stance↑top

You should be in Defensive Stance Icon Defensive Stance at all times, as this provides you with a crucial threat-modifier which allows you to keep aggro. There is a single exception to this, namely when needing to switch to Battle Stance Icon Battle Stance in order to cast Shattering Throw Icon Shattering Throw (described below), though should only be for a few seconds.

6. Mastering Your Protection Warrior↑top

The guidelines given above will enable you to play your Protection Warrior with good results. If you want to push things further and master your character, then we advise you to continue reading.

6.1. Rage Generation

Warriors use a resource called Rage (Feral Druid tanks are the only other class in the game to use it). For you to properly master your Warrior, you must understand how Rage works.

The Rage bar has a maximum capacity of 100, and is empty by default. Rage decays at a rate of 1 per second when out of combat. In combat, Rage does not decay.

Rage is generated through three sources: taking damage (all sources, except for fall damage), dealing damage (only white attacks) and through the use of certain talents and abilities.

Taking damage generates rage, depending on the amount of health you have and the damage you receive. "Taking damage" includes every possible source of damage (including magic damage), except for fall damage. While the formula itself is not public, and not very relevant, all you need to know is that if you are taking a lot of damage from boss hits, then you will have ample rage. Otherwise, your rage generation will suffer.

This does not mean that you should ever increase the amount of damage you take (through unequipping gear, for example) to generate more rage.

Dealing damage generates rage, depending on your base weapon speed. Rage is only generated from white attacks, so not from special abilities (yellow attacks). The formula for this is simple: 6.5 * the base weapon speed. Off-hand attacks generate only 50% of the rage of a main-hand attack, but this is not relevant as you will never use an off-hand as a Protection Warrior.

The only factors which affect offensive rage generation, outside of base weapon speed, are attack speed and chance to hit (only up to the point where you are guaranteed to hit, so 8% chance to hit). This is because the more you attack, the more times you will generate rage. For more details on white (normal) and yellow (special) attacks, and how they are influenced by Hit and Expertise Rating, you can check our guide on the mechanics of melee attacks.

When choosing the Protection specialisation, you gain the passive ability Sentinel Icon Sentinel. Among other things, Sentinel affects your offensive rage generation in the following way: the rage generated by your white swings, when attacking a target of which you do not have aggro, is increased by 50%. This is designed to make up for the damage loss that Protection Warriors suffer because they receive no rage from attacks when they are not the active tank.

Rage is also generated through a variety of talents and abilities. We will detail these in their relevant sections.

6.2. Vengeance

Vengeance Icon Vengeance is a passive ability which you receive for choosing the Protection specialisation. Essentially, it increases your attack power for 5% of the damage you receive, up to a maximum of 10% of your maximum health. It is an essential mechanic in allowing you to maintain aggro of mobs.

6.3. Threat and Damaging Abilities

You will find yourself using most of these abilities during any encounter, either to generate threat, or simply to deal more damage.

  • Shield Slam Icon Shield Slam: this is your main threat-generating ability, and one which you should always use on cooldown. In addition to its damaging effects, it also removes one magic effect from the target. Thanks to the Sword and Board Icon Sword and Board talent, your Revenge Icon Revenge and Devastate Icon Devastate have a chance to reset the cooldown of Shield Slam and cause the next Shield Slam to cost no rage.
  • Revenge Icon Revenge: this ability costs an extremely low amount of rage, and causes a high amount of damage and threat. It is only available after you block, dodge or parry and attack. In addition to this, it has a chance to proc Sword and Board Icon Sword and Board. With the appropriate talent, it also damages a nearby enemy.
  • Devastate Icon Devastate: applies a stack of Sunder Armor Icon Sunder Armor to the target (stacking up to three times) and deals a moderate amount of damage. In addition to this, it has a chance to proc Sword and Board Icon Sword and Board.
  • Heroic Strike Icon Heroic Strike: this ability is mostly used for dumping excess rage. It generates a high amount of threat, and causes a moderate amount of damage. Note that it shares a cooldown with Cleave Icon Cleave.
  • Rend Icon Rend: places a bleed effect on the target, which can be spread to other nearby enemies through Thunder Clap Icon Thunder Clap, when the Blood and Thunder Icon Blood and Thunder talent is taken.
  • Thunder Clap Icon Thunder Clap: this is your standard, low-cooldown AoE ability. It deals a moderate amount of threat and debuffs all affected enemies with an attacking-speed reducing debuff.
  • Shockwave Icon Shockwave: your 31-point ability, Shockwave deals a moderate amount of damage and stuns all enemies in a cone in front of you (naturally, as a stun, it does not work on raid bosses).
  • Concussion Blow Icon Concussion Blow: allows you to stun a target for 5 seconds and deal a moderate amount of damage to them. Deals a high amount of threat.
  • Cleave Icon Cleave: the AoE equivalent of Heroic Strike. Note, however, that it does not benefit from the same extra threat coefficient that Heroic Strike possesses.
  • Heroic Throw Icon Heroic Throw: this is your only ranged ability (outside of shooting with your ranged weapon, which not only has a cast time but also generates a pitiful amount of threat). It deals a small amount of damage and a moderate amount of threat. It is on a 60 second, but Gag Order Icon Gag Order lowers it to 30 seconds and attaches an interrupt and a silence effect to it.

6.4. Movement and Utility Abilities

While not strictly involved in your rotation, these are abilities you will find yourself using often in encounters.

  • Charge Icon Charge: charge towards an enemy mob, stunning it for a short amount of time and generating a small amount of rage. It is a very useful ability for reaching mobs before other players (or getting away from mobs).
  • Intercept Icon Intercept: this ability works exactly like Charge, except that it costs rage instead of generating it, and the stun lasts slightly longer.
  • Heroic Leap Icon Heroic Leap: allows you to leap to a target location (within 40 yards), dealing a small amount of damage when you land.
  • Taunt Icon Taunt: gives you threat equal to whoever is currently on top of the target's threat table, and forces the target to attack you for 3 seconds. If you are already at the top of the threat table, then it has no effect on threat.
  • Challenging Shout Icon Challenging Shout: forces all enemies within 10 yards to attack you for 6 seconds. Unlike Taunt, it has no effect on threat.
  • Pummel Icon Pummel: interrupts the target's current spell cast. If Gag Order Icon Gag Order is talented, it also silences the target.
  • Vigilance Icon Vigilance: places a buff on a friendly raid member, which causes the cooldown of your Taunt to be refreshed each time that raid member is attacked. It also generates Vengeance Icon Vengeance as if 20% of the damage received by the target was received by you.
  • Berserker Rage Icon Berserker Rage: removes all Fear, Sap and Incapacitate effects from you, grants you immunity to such effects and doubles the rage you gain from taking damage, for 10 seconds.
  • Spell Reflection Icon Spell Reflection: causes the next spell cast against you to be reflected back to the caster (instead of affecting you). This ability only works against single-target spells, but most boss abilities are not affected by it.

6.5. Pulling

The sequence of abilities you use when you pull a boss (or a group of mobs) can determine whether or not you are able to hold aggro for the remainder of the fight or not. As such, it is important that you familiarise yourself with the best way to do this.

6.5.1. Single Target

In the case of single target pulls, you want to use the following sequence:

  1. Heroic Throw Icon Heroic Throw;
  2. Charge Icon Charge and Heroic Leap Icon Heroic Leap (this means you should leap while your character is charging);
  3. Shield Block Icon Shield Block (for Heavy Repercussions Icon Heavy Repercussions) followed by Shield Slam Icon Shield Slam;

After this point, you will want to get Rend Icon Rend, Thunder Clap Icon Thunder Clap and Demoralizing Shout Icon Demoralizing Shout up, as your threat level allows. Additionally, you will want to get 3 stacks of Sunder Armor up through Devastate Icon Devastate. Any Sword and Board Icon Sword and Board procs that you get should be used on Shield Slam immediately, as the more Shield Slams you can squeeze in while your Shield Block is active, the better.

6.5.2. AoE

For AoE pulls, your main priority is to apply Rend Icon Rend to a target and then spread it to the others through Thunder Clap Icon Thunder Clap.

You should use Charge Icon Charge and Heroic Leap Icon Heroic Leap to get to the enemies faster, and you should use Shockwave Icon Shockwave early, to keep the mobs in place and allow you to cast Rend and Thunder Clap without losing aggro.

6.6. Advanced Ability Usage

6.6.1. Shield Block

Shield Block Icon Shield Block serves two purposes:

  • It provides you with considerable damage reduction (physical damage reduction through increasing your chance to block and critically block, and magic damage reduction thanks to Shield Mastery Icon Shield Mastery).
  • It provides a 100% increase to the damage done by your Shield Slam Icon Shield Slam, thanks to Heavy Repercussions Icon Heavy Repercussions.

Because of its low cooldown, you will want to use it often. When using it, you should keep in mind the extra damage to Shield Slam, and you should attempt to maximise the number of Shield Slams you can use during its uptime. Shield Block has a 10 second duration, and Shield Slam has a 6 second cooldown, so even without any Sword and Board Icon Sword and Boards, you should be able to time it so that you can Shield Slam twice.

You should also use Revenge Icon Revenge and Devastate Icon Devastate as many times as you can while Shield Block is active, in an attempt to reset the cooldown of your Shield Slam.

If there is a particular spike of damage during the encounter, which you need to mitigate, you can save Shield Block for this moment.

6.6.2. Shield Wall, Last Stand and Enraged Regeneration

These are your three defensive abilities with longer cooldowns. The way in which you use them will vary greatly based on the encounter and the way you coordinate with your healers, but the following guidelines are useful:

  • Shield Wall Icon Shield Wall, because it provides damage reduction, is a cooldown which should be used proactively, before you anticipate that you will take a great amount of damage.
  • Last Stand Icon Last Stand, because it provides an instant heal for 30% of your health (and increase your maximum health for its 20 second duration), should mostly be used reactively, when your health reaches a low value. It can, however, be used proactively, to provide you with enough health to survive a particularly big hit.
  • Enraged Regeneration Icon Enraged Regeneration, because it is based on your current maximum health, should be used while Last Stand (and any trinkets which provide health increases) is active.

Note that if you lack an Enrage effect from Bastion of Defense Icon Bastion of Defense (a requirement for using Enraged Regeneration), you can use Berserker Rage Icon Berserker Rage.

6.6.3. Vigilance

Vigilance provides two benefits:

  • Resets the cooldown of your Taunt Icon Taunt, each time the target of your Vigilance is damaged by an attack.
  • Provides you with Vengeance Icon Vengeance as though 20% of the damage received by the target of your Vigilance was received by you.

For both these reasons, it is advisable to use Vigilance on someone who is taking sustained damage; this will, in most cases, be one of the other tanks.

6.6.4. Rage Issues

If you are having problems with rage generation, do any of the following things:

  • Use Berserker Rage Icon Berserker Rage, which doubles the amount of rage you gain from damage taken, for its duration. It also grants you 5 rage with the appropriate glyph.
  • Use your Commanding Shout Icon Commanding Shout or Battle Shout Icon Battle Shout, as they provide an amount of rage.
  • Use Recklessness Icon Recklessness, as the extra damage taken from caused by this ability also increases the rage you generate.

If you have an excess of rage, you can simply dump it with Heroic Strike Icon Heroic Strike (or Cleave Icon Cleave, in the case of multiple targets). In addition, you can use Inner Rage Icon Inner Rage to allow you to use these abilities more often.

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