tl;dr version: Yes, warrior tanks suck right now. No, I really don’t care.
Part One: Warriors are bad…
There’s been a LOT of talk in the WoW community about the abysmal state of the warrior class, both as DPS and as tanks. The situation is summed up quite well in a WoW Insider article (and subsequent comments) by Matt Rossi, who is much better at explaining such things than I will ever be. As far as I can tell, the arguments go something like this:
- Fury warriors: our gear scaling is terrible, we rely almost exclusively on procs to do our damage, and our raid utility is almost non-existent. We’re also squishy as hell.
- Arms warriors: our gear scaling is REALLY terrible, our much-touted mobility is lousy, and we just plain suck in PvP.
- Protection warriors: our gear scaling is terrible, our active mitigation toolbox is both under-powered and resource-intensive, we have no real self-healing, and our raid DPS is awful.
Since I don’t do any PvP except under extreme duress (thanks a lot, Wrathion), I can’t legitimately address the Arms issues. I do use my Fury spec somewhat frequently, mostly for LFR, scenarios, dailies, and the like. I definitely don’t feel squishy when out in the world, since most of my deaths are caused by things like attempting to take on entire Yaungol camps at once, or stupidly tunneling rares while they cast their insta-kill abilities. Totally my fault, not Blizzard’s. Is our gear scaling bad? I really have no idea. If the theorycrafters say it is, then I’m inclined to agree with them. Do we rely on ability procs which rely on critical strikes to do our damage? Absolutely, and I hate it. DPS should be about skill and, to a much lesser extent, gear, not the whims of the RNG deities. As far as our raid utility, we have Skull Banner, and, uh, Skull Banner. So yeah, on most counts Fury warriors aren’t doing so hot.
What about Protection? I play my protection warrior as my main toon and spec, so I think I’ve got a fairly good feel for things. So, I will try to address things in a point-by-point fashion, while stating that this is all based on personal experience and not representative of the community as a whole.
Gear scaling: I’m no theorycrafter, so I tend to defer to the experts on this point. However, from a purely “gut feeling” perspective, I can say that it feels pretty lousy. When I started tanking ToT 10, my tanking set was at ilvl 500 or so; it’s now at ilvl 530 and to be perfectly honest other than a boost in HP I can’t tell the difference when I’m tanking a boss or picking up trash. Hell, I worked my butt off to get the ilvl 600 epic cloak, and the only thing that I noticed from the 98-point cloak ilvl increase was that I had to go and re-transmog it. My guess is that Dodge and Parry simply aren’t contributing much these days, and that Mastery, while nice for blocking, is kind of useless when the bulk of a boss’ big attacks aren’t blockable.
Active mitigation: Our big abilities here are Shield Barrier (SBar) and Shield Block (SBlock). Are they boring? Yes. Are they useful? It depends. When used properly, SBar and SBlock can mitigate a respectable amount of damage. Unfortunately, they both consume a HUGE amount of rage, and thus have a pretty good chance of not being available when needed. Also, SBar needs a lot of Vengeance to work well, which makes it problematic in tank-swap situations.
Self-healing: Let’s see. We have Enraged Regeneration (ER), Second Wind (SW), and Victory Rush/Impending Victory. ER and SW are Tier 2 talents, which means they’re mutually exclusive. So, we get to choose between a once-a-minute mediocre heal cooldown, or a passive if-you-need-this-heal-you’re-already-dead heal. To be fair, SW is GREAT for soloing old content; it just doesn’t cut it for tanking anything in the current expansion. Victory Rush is a decent heal for trash pulls, provided you can get the killing blow most of the time (good luck micro-managing that). Impending Victory is, in my opinion, the most useful of the Tier 2 talents for raid tanking. It’s a smaller heal than Victory Rush, but it’s available every 30 seconds no matter what; this makes it usable on boss fights as well as trash pulls. When combined with the Tier 15 2-piece tanking set bonus, it can be very useful indeed. That’s all we have, though: a choice between 2 crummy heals, and 1 semi-decent one to go with it. We’re not exactly on par with paladins or death knights here… I’ve intentionally left Last Stand out of my list: while it does provide a big self-heal, it’s temporary and more of an “oh shit” button than a reliable heal.
Raid DPS: Bottom line: it’s bad. Up until MoP was released, I expected to see myself at the bottom of the DPS meters with the other tanks. I’m still at the bottom, but the other tanks have since moved up into the ranks of the dedicated DPS classes. When my DK co-tank can pull 2-3x my DPS in lesser gear on the Horridon fight, something is definitely amiss.
Conclusion: For the most part, yes, protection warriors suck.
Part Two: … and you should feel bad.
This is where things get a bit dicey. In light of a lot of damning evidence, it’s hard to plausibly deny that Protection warriors are in a bad place right now. What really gets under my skin are the extreme attitudes that the warrior community displays as a result of the situation. At the risk of over-generalizing and exaggerating to make my point, the prevailing opinions seem to be:
- If you’re still playing a warrior, you’re either stubborn or ignorant,
- If you actually ENJOY (gasp) playing a warrior, you’re fooling yourself,
- If you’re a raid leader and haven’t benched your warrior tanks, you’re a bad raid leader,
- If you’re a raiding warrior tank and you haven’t re-rolled or resigned, you’re intentionally holding back the rest of your team and are a bad person,
- If you’re a warrior tank and your raid group is doing well, they would still do much better with someone else.
I’m not going to waste much space addressing the first two points, as they’re purely opinions and have no actual basis in empirical data. People enjoy playing all sorts of classes and specs in WoW, and just because you’ve moved on doesn’t mean that those who haven’t are somehow inferior. I suppose haters gotta hate, but leave me out of it.
The last few points are debatable, depending on context. Guilds that are pushing the envelope of heroic progression are going to min-max the hell out of their raid composition out of necessity. With warrior tanks languishing in the DPS and self-healing basements, it makes sense to bench them in these situations. I get that. In normal (and flex, soon enough) difficulties, I sincerely doubt that such drastic measures are necessary. If your raid is hitting Berserk timers due to slightly inadequate DPS, dumping your warrior tank seems to me to be the nuclear solution. Wouldn’t it make more sense to, I don’t know, push your DPS classes to do a wee bit more DPS? That is their job, after all. If your healers are always going OOM from keeping the warrior tank alive, that can be a legitimate problem. However, how much of that is the tank’s problem and how much is poor mana management? I can’t really say, but it’s rarely the case that the problem is ALWAYS one player’s fault (tunnel-visioned fire-standers notwithstanding). The last bullet point is the one that bothers me the most, probably because it seems to be based on any number of assumptions that may be completely false. It presumes that raid progression is a simple function of HPS/DPS/TPS. In my admittedly limited experience, this is often not the case at all. My guild has a limited amount of time each week for raiding: 4 hours per week tops, less if Real Life happens. As such, our progression in ToT10 is best described as “slow but steady”. It may take us a few nights, but once we get a boss figured out it’s on insta-farm and we move on to the next challenge. For us, the limiting factor is a combination of face time and ability to learn boss mechanics. Could we progress faster with someone other than myself as a tank? At the risk of sounding self-serving, I don’t think so. What would happen with a tank that was easier to heal? Our healers that currently have plenty of mana at the end of a fight would have slightly more mana left? Whoop-de-doo. What if we got a tank with better DPS? We could get Council of Elders down with 3:40 to spare instead of 3:15? Whoop-de-doo, again. I hate to be a lone dissenter, but I fail to see where I’m holding back the raid.
Bottom line: warrior tanks have problems. In bleeding-edge heroic progression scenarios, it probably makes sense to opt for tanks of other classes. Do I still enjoy playing MY warrior tank? Yes indeed. Am I gimping my raid by sticking with it? Nope. Am I delusional, ignorant, and selfish? Quite possibly, but not because I play my beloved Prot warrior!