Hold the Line is the second edition of the Warrior Reference Guide. It isn't up-to-date by any stretch of the imagination. Gear and items referenced should be ignored.
However, the theory here is the foundation for much of endgame tanking. You would be doing yourself a favor to read many of the sections. Nearly all theory remains absolutely true today, regardless of item or weapon changes.
Once you have read this, touch up with one of the newer guides, and with Satrina's work, to get the up-to-date information.
Thanks, and tank well,
The following is the second compilation of my reference guide written to help those new and old in Warcraft raiding. None of this is a replacement for guild strategy decisions, nor is it the end-all and be-all of tanking.
Enclosed in this guide are four major sections designed to assist dedicated tanks; though it is written for Warriors, it may be helpful to Druids and Paladins, as well as anyone interested in researching certain dynamics of the endgame. The first section covers Main Tanking and leadership qualities related to this role. The second section covers gearing and itemization as it relates to tanking. The third section covers tanking itself, in terms of talents, threat, positioning, and other related subjects. The fourth and final section is a reference guide to specific encounters in the endgame. Addendums to this guide include mods and other various information.
This guide, though long and undoubtedly arduous for the reader, serves the secondary purpose of preparing warriors who are unfamiliar with the endgame environment. If you are a warrior applying to or forming a raiding guild, you are strongly recommended to read this and familiarize yourself with the concepts.
I do not believe in the so-called casual guild. Any raiding guild, by the nature of achieving raid goals, is incapable of being casual and undisciplined. It is instead a high level of discipline and organization devoted to a goal, be it learning Molten Core on your weekends or learning Naxxramas six nights a week. In everything we do, we are given a certain amount of time in which we either put forth our full discipline and attention or we do not; in which we either succeed or do not. This guide is not written for people who do not wish to progress; it is written for those who have a deep desire to progress as fast as time permits. As such, I will not apologize for certain premises you may find in this guide -- for instance, Protection is better for raid progress in most new encounters than either Arms or Fury heavy builds.
This is not an all-encompassing reference guide. Your guild, your experience, and your intuition comes first. I do not pretend to be a perfect warrior; our videos never attempt to show clean-cut kills where nothing has gone wrong. Instead, they show the general reality of encounters, what can go wrong, and how you can recover.
Details in this guide may be off; abilities may be misrepresented; math may need adjustment. The living environment of the World of Warcraft may cause details in this guide to drift off course over the months. For my part, I apologize for error and will make an ardent effort to fix these errors.
Courage alone does not bring victory. It is courage tempered with science, discipline, and fierce determination which bring this. This is as true in a simple raiding game such as World of Warcraft as it is in the corporate world and in the modern battlefield. Prepare.
You've been through 10-man pickup groups formed from Ironforge and Orgrimmar. Not all are successful; not all coordinate around teamplay. The irritating personalities and misdirection often bogs you down. To top it all off, you've run Blackrock 35 times, the Breastplate of Valor has finally dropped and you can complete your Dungeon Set 1, and you just got outrolled by a warrior in all greens.
Endgame raiding is an entirely different experience. Guilds and coalitions that push through the endgame content are focused on team play, coordination, responsibility and fairness. Value to the raid and loot awarded is based on weeks, months, and years of investment.
When changing your mindset to the 40-man dynamic, you will need to keep some general principles in mind.
First, you are not there to be a hero; for example, never taunt off a main tank for any reason unless asked to. Conversely, if asked to do something, try to do it! If you showed an immediate reaction and effort, people will readily look past a mistake. Generally, any time the raid is relying on you as an undergeared app to tank it is because the raid group is on the verge of a wipe in a new encounter.
Second, pay attention to your surroundings and try to make sense of what people are doing. Sure, you can ask questions, but figuring out what's going on from your own intuition will make you more readily prepared to handle future challenges. If everyone is standing behind or to the side of a certain mob or dragon, perhaps there is a cleave or AOE effect you are not aware of? If people are only assisting with ranged attacks, does it make sense to run in and melee a target? Take a few seconds before doing anything and make sure you aren't about to do something crazy. Also, make absolutely sure you stay near your raid group; ideally, one or two yards behind a DPS warrior at all times will keep you in a safe place that you won't aggro other mobs.
Third, don't challenge the status quo. Understand that guilds that have been raiding for months do things for a reason; as a new raider, you will look arrogant if you offer unwarranted advice you heard from a friend or saw in a video (hey, this goes for our videos too!). Also understand that the guild is not there to provide you with loot; simply being on a raid gives you no right to epic gear made possible by the work of the veterans in that guild.
Ultimately, your raiding group is your family. While you are still trying to join with this family, keep in mind that they are fiercely protective of each other and showing arrogance or greed is a quick path to denial of your app or recruit status.
1.1 What is Main Tanking?
Main Tanking is the position of greatest responsibility in any raid; it is a natural position of leadership.
Personally, I classify several warriors as Main Tanks. In our case, Stag, Thinger, and Airknight are Main Tanks as of writing this. Among the Main Tanks, there is a Lead Tank, which is the position I generally take as it corresponds with guild leadership.
Main Tanking is taking absolute responsibility for raid mitigation through several methods: Funneling damage, removing damage, and controlling chaos. While each class has enjoyable and unique raid functions, from Hunter kiting to Rogue and DPS Warrior damage dealing, tanks take complete control of the actual battle. With the greatest risk comes the greatest reward -- and glory.
Understand, however, that Main Tanking is the most stressful position. You will wipe raids many, many times due to mistakes in pulling, positioning, tanking, and any number of unexpected issues. You will often feel overwhelmed upon encountering a new boss fight such as Razorgore where the sheer complexity seems impossible to overcome.
You are also alone in this responsibility. You will rarely have right to blame others for failings, and as such, should never take a stance that it is someone else's fault that you died.Indeed, this is very rarely the case: if you have any cooldown available on your hotbar, be it Shield Wall, Last Stand, or a Major Healing Potion, you are responsible for your own death.
You are not merely a warrior who carries a shield. You are a leader. Buck up, take the responsibility on yourself, take command.
1.2 Time Commitment
The second aspect to Main Tanking revolves around making a time commitment. There is no such thing as a casual Main Tank for a raiding guild; in our guild, our tanks are expected to be at every raid they can possibly be there for.
Real life very much factors into this. Are you single, or does your significant other play World of Warcraft with you? Do you have a schedule at work that can significantly change from week to week or month to month? Are you in college?
To make the fastest progression as a guild, you will need tanks with this particular time devotion. For almost any other class or balance you can compensate; for well-geared warriors, you cannot.
Afterlife, one of the top global raiding guilds and major Everquest guilds, happens to share the same server we do; because they lost several warriors after the release of Blackwing Lair, they lagged far behind the other guilds on our server (including Dawn Eternal, 5th global kill of Nefarian). With a solid grouping of warriors for their guild, they are back on top.
1.3 Guild Loyalty and Guild Gearing
As a Main Tank, your attitude towards your guild and your raid is not optional.
When is it ok to leave a guild as a geared main tank? It really isn't. If you are a member of a cohesive, mobile, forward-moving guild and are performing in a tanking position, you have no in-game "right" to this. Loot was not given to you as payment of services. You are an investment in the raid and guild progression. As such, most raiding endgame raiding guilds will simply not consider people who deserted a position of tanking in a prior guild. However, issues related to real life and necessary circumstance do come up -- this is only a game.
Why take this stance? The phrase, "never put all your eggs in one basket," sums it up best. Unlike any other class, aspiring raiding guilds will gear Lead Tanks and Main Tanks with first choice on new gear.
This is commonly referred to as Main Tank gearing. It comes in many forms: voluntary from other warriors or hard-coded into a DKP system, for instance. In our case, I take a Lead Tank position and do receive first choice on gear; the other Main Tanks also have tank priority. Very occasionally, this steps into cross-class items such as Onyxia or Nefarian's head or the Qiraji Armaments; for these items, we generally take an approach of every-other-drop so other classes get a chance at the items.
Why is Main Tank gearing important? Progression. That's it. If you kill a boss to get the loot in the first place, you don't need better geared tanks to finish that encounter again. But tell me, how many guilds do you know that go to Ragnaros and stop there? Or kill Vaelastrasz and say, "hey, let's relax?"
Gearing a Lead Tank and Main Tanks is a mechanic designed to push guilds to the next level. With each new piece of gear, every raid encounter becomes easier and the 40-man dynamic becomes smoother. A tank wearing five or six pieces of Might on Golemagg could save the guild hundreds of gold in repair bills, as he will be able to survive the encounter with relative certainty - whereas a tank who was only able to get one piece of Might in a free market has a considerably higher chance of being unable to mitigate and survive.
Equal gearing does not help your raid. Five tanks with 1 or 2 pieces of Might or Wrath does not come near the benefit to the guild that one tank with 8 pieces does. This is true particularly in Molten Core. As you progress, the need to continue and expand your tanking ranks extends to more warriors; for certain fights like Chromaggus (sans Timelapse) and Nefarian, you are still dealing with a Lead Tank - although Blackwing Lair is the first of the multi-tank instances.
The reason it is particularly selfish to walk away from a guild that has geared you is that you have been geared by the work of 39 other players who have put in very real hours, both in instances and outside farming gold for repairs. In raiding guilds, taking real life into consideration is important, and as a main tank you have to tether your responsibilities to them as part of a solid team and family.
This leads to one final point: finding the right guild. Ideally, you will find a guild that fits your raiding time and will stick to that schedule to as much of a degree as possible. Having friends in a guild you are looking at is important; however, it is not necessarily the end-all. If you are very serious about tanking and the endgame, try to target the most mobile and active guilds on your server. Warriors applying to raiding guilds generally are expected to be under-par in gear because tank turnover in guilds is extremely low.
2.1 Pre-Molten Core
I don't cover armor too heavily in this reference guide, as the endgame provides you with three amazing sets of armor, Might, Wrath and Dreadnaught. Also, there is such a wide variety of itemization being added to the pre-Molten Core game that providing too detailed a loot list may not be significantly helpful. However, with credit to Evergreen for his compilation, I have added several items into the following subsection.
There are some basic principles to live by when finding pre-Molten Core gear, both as a Main Tank for a new guild and as a player hoping to get recruited to an established guild.
First: Stamina. I will cover each of the reasons why Stamina is your number one attribute in the following two sections. No matter what role, when I inspect a new warrior who is being considered to the guild I will relay any immediate concerns around the level of stamina a player has. Band of the Ogre King and Band of Flesh are two good blue items I remember farming for prior to Molten Core, for instance. I also wore Helm of Narv, an epic mail Stamina helm, all the way through to our first Helm of Might.
You don't necessarily want balanced stats. A balance of Agility and Strength against your Stamina isn't all that important or even helpful. In blue items, you will always be making a tradeoff if you find items that give you both Agility and Strength on top of Stamina. Holding aggro in a new group is not too terribly difficult early on; the game does a good job of scaling gear levels to tanking and experience.
Defense is secondary, but very important and achievable prior to Molten Core. The warrior community has long held that +Defense gear is godly; it isn't... but it is helpful! You will get a reduction of critical strikes, though almost no amount of pre-Molten Core gearing will keep you from getting critted multiple times during a battle from physical damage. The Block/Dodge/Parry are good too, but at the early stages of tanking, having a higher lifebar for when you do take that huge hit is simply more important. That said, it is possible to find alot of gear with the highest Stamina that happens to have very high Defense with it.
High armor ratings also help; with relatively few exceptions such as the Adamantium breastplate, the armor rating is mathematically matched to the level of gear you've found, so this usually isn't too difficult prior to Molten Core.
All of this said, nothing helps more than simply having good gear. Just because I said Stamina is your main attribute doesn't mean you can go pick up green "of Stamina" boots. After looking at Dungeon Set 2, Heroism, I've found it to be an excellent place to start for players new to the endgame. When applying to an established guild, having gear that takes alot of work to achieve will often do more for you than having optimal tanking gear you bought from the Auction House. Dire Maul still nets the best non-set items and Draconian Deflector from UBRS is still the best pre-Molten Core shield.
2.1.1 Gear Listing (Evergreen)
The following is a rough outline of top pre-MC non-resist gear with full credit given to Evergreen for his efforts. The entirety of his list, including resistance gear and crafting materials, can be found here: WoW Forums -> Error
2.2 Blizzard's Itemization Theory
Blizzard has slowly and, from my estimation, very purposefully been adjusting it's warrior itemization theory. Also, from what I can see, this is definitely for the better.
Many classes can get away with balancing or powerhousing certain attributes. Main Tanks were originally gifted with a Might set that offered Stamina, Strength, and Agility; we also once could get 50% more Defense than we currently do off the same items.
Yet, what Blizzard was mistakenly doing at that time was creating a jack of all trades Warrior class. This class could not carry the absolute highest mitigation levels that it currently can, yet was overpowered and overcapable in certain encounters. As a result of the earlier Warrior design, the more dated encounters like Onyxia never properly scaled to player skill level but strictly to player gear: heavy magical fire attacks were the only balance against near-invulnerability to physical attacks that warriors initially had. Today, guilds with Tier 1 and Tier 2 gear are running 10-20 man raids of Onyxia without serious threat of failing the encounter -- this, not losing our old defense levels of the past, is a gamebreaking issue.
The new itemization theory seems to hold a common goal. Increase the survivability of the warrior in a stable and reliable way while simultaneously increasing their aggro generation capabilities.
Stamina, armor, and defense are built into nearly all item sets in the advanced endgame. Also, with the changes to Shield Slam, shield block is an important attribute that is cropping up in more noticeable places. In terms of steady aggro generation, Blizzard has also been implementing heavy amounts of +hit on Naxxramas level tanking gear.
Blizzard has defined our current Main Tanking role more specifically by giving us specific Mitigation and Aggro gear and encounters. This is further divided by Physical, Magical, and Mixed attacks. There is no longer list of items that will give you the best gear for every encounter, but instead certain gear that will place you in an powerful position per each encounter.
This new mix of encounters can be seen everywhere as Blizzard diversifies it's content. For instance, Patchwerk does not appear to have serious Aggro requirements for the tanks, but it dramatically emphasizes Mitigation gear.
2.3 Brief Summary, by Instance Molten Core
Stamina is key, but as other warriors suggest you don't need to sacrifice defense or armor for the best pre-Molten Core gear. There is a large spectrum of options and ultimately you must choose the gear to put together from what is actually available.
Resists -- You can wear green and blue level gear and survive since very few of the resist fights are benefited by armor class. The first half of the instance does not require a specific set of Fire Resist gear. That said, Ragnaros will require a full set of Dark Iron and Fiery Chain mixed together per your needs - and getting this gear early will significantly improve the flow of lava packs in the second half.
Blackwing Lair & The Shadow Flame
Stamina above all else; by the time you progress through here, you will have significant mitigation statistics from gear. Thanks to the Shadow Flame and other breath attacks used by every boss encounter except Broodlord, you will need this "magic armor" to buffer yourself and survive unexpected damage. Also, note that the items within this zone are health-based, from Wrath armor to Lifegiving Gem to Archimtiros' Ring of Reckoning; each of these items will help you through the zone.
Resists -- You will carry over your crafted Dark Iron gear to the major resist fights in this zone, so don't sweat it too much. The problem comes when you do anything to resist the Shadow Flame: doing so dramatically compromises your armor, defense, and stamina. It is interesting to note, however, that killing Nefarian while on the Ahn'Qiraj questline from Broodlord's head does give you a high-stamina Shadow resist necklace that will help in this instance.
The Temple of Ahn'Qiraj
Ahn'Qiraj as a zone generally relies on multiple tanks performing multiple different roles. As a general rule of thumb, three tanks will cover the lead roles in the major fights in this zone. This zone also does not generally rely on a single tank unlike the traditional Molten Core and Blackwing Lair encounters; instead, fights such as Sartura, Huhuran, and Twin Emperors are best dealt with by two very well geared tanks. Ahn'Qiraj sports the need for heavy armor, stamina, and in some cases heavy defense items.
Resists -- Ahn'Qiraj is relatively heavy on Nature resistance. Do whatever you can to lock down the Green Dragons so you can snag as much epic gear as possible. Most of the Nature resist inside the zone drop prior to Huhuran. Also, with a bit of ingenuity, you can drastically decrease the necessity of Nature resist required for your main tanks.
Naxxramas encourages between three and five capable tanks for most encounters, though much of the tanking is both temporary and not heavily damaging. Heavy tanking gear comprised of solid stamina and armor is most helpful here, and by the time you are in this zone your defense levels should also be very high. This is the first zone where consumables are semi-mandatory for quick progression, so keep an eye out specifically for Flask of the Titans and Greater Stoneshield potions. Another strange bonus for this zone is +hit gear, which will dramatically alter your ability to control certain fights such as Noth.
Resists -- The zone emphasizes Frost Resistance for the obvious reason of Frostwyrm Lair. However, Blizzard has decided not to make the zone into a heavy resistance environment. Occasional Shadow Resist can be helpful, particularly for the trash between Anub'rekhan and Faerlina as well as the trash towards Razuvious, but it is not a requirement. Nature Resist also can be helpful on trash such as Gargoyles, but again, is not a requirement.
2.4 Head, Legs, Breastplate, Shoulders and Shields
This is to address a specific issue I see on many warriors new to endgame.
Your Head and Leg slots on your character are powerhouse items stats-wise. This is the reason they occur so early in the endgame for raiding armor; Magmadar, Garr, then the Tier 2 you get off Ragnaros and Onyxia before you head into Blackwing Lair.
On resistance fights this is particularly important. You will often be faced with the choice to wear a certain resistance or Legplates and Helm of Might/Wrath. Do not be foolish about your stats! Dropping these for blue items can often spell death. Take notice that epic geared resistance items in these slots, such as Dark Iron Helm and Legs, accurately reflect how good the stats should be for these slots.
Also, to get the most of these items, you absolutely must finish your Zul'Gurub enchants. Any serious tank has got to be constantly running Libram quests. Personally, I've applied the ZG Libram to Helm and Legplates of Might, even when I knew I would get the Wrath slots soon. I've also applied this libram to Cenarion Reservist Legplates.
Your Breastplate is the only slot item with better stats. For the most part, these are your rewards for making it to the end of an instance. For Main Tanks, the great breastplates in this game are Might, Wrath, and Breastplate of the Chromatic Flight. I have a friend who, after she reached 8/8 Wrath, continued to run UBRS for her Breastplate of the Chromatic Flight - Situationally, it really is that good.
On Breastplates, the sure fire bet is +100 health. Why? Because for whatever reason, Breastplates got the bad end of the stick in the enchanting world.
Shoulders are another powerhouse item, though in a different way. Shoulders will usually have unique stats to them. For instance, Wrath shoulders double as aerodynamic wings allowing you to Slowfall into Un'Goro crater. Ok, maybe not. In fact, Shoulder slot items will generally have attributes related to tanking. Both Might and Wrath carry shield block bonuses and high stamina. Shoulder itemization is more important to pre-MC players, where items such as the Stockade Pauldrons carry abnormally high defense on top of stamina.
On shoulders, you need to work towards applying +30 Attack Power from Zul'Gurub Exalted status. This is a major boon in holding aggro in endgame; you can read more about why below. Also, any resistance shoulders should have +5 to that resistance applied from the Argent Dawn.
Shields actually have a wide variety and important differences. Unlike set armor from Might and Wrath, you will have to make significant decisions between them for most fights.
The two Bulwarks from Ahn'Qiraj and Blackwing Lair are essentially the top shields before Naxxramas; until then, there are three non-resist shields you can choose between; Drillborer Disk, Aegis of the Blood God, and Buru's Skull Fragment. Though there will be other shields down the road, I will outline these three to help give an understanding of why to make certain decisions when faced with shield choices.
The Drillborer Disk is generally your first tanking shield. Compared to either of the other two shields, it is inferior in all ratings; however, it gives an Arcane damage proc which is very rarely resisted which makes it a shield best suited to Aggro fights where you are unlikely to die. This has the added bonus of allowing you to scale in a bit more damage than the other two shields, thus giving you more rage in aggro fights. Allakhazam.com: World of Warcraft: Item: Drillborer Disk
The Aegis of the Blood God is your melee defense shield, and a fine one. Across the board, this gives better physical mitigation stats than either of the other shields. It is good in controlled damage mitigation fights that do not involve heavy magic damage. Allakhazam.com: World of Warcraft: Item: Aegis of the Blood God
Buru's Skull Fragment is your most rounded defense shield, and the only shield capable of protecting you from magic damage (read the next section). The strength offers the aggro portion that Drillborer Disk does, the armor and defense offer a portion of the mitigation that the Aegis of the Blood God offer. The massive stamina bonus is what makes this gem worth using above the other shields in Blackwing Lair and Ahn'Qiraj. Allakhazam.com: World of Warcraft: Item: Buru\'s Skull Fragment
Need an achievable alternative to your Drillborer prior to entering Blackwing Lair, but unable to get either Buru's Skull Fragment or Aegis of the Blood God? Try Earthen Guard, a high-stamina shield that will help during mixed and magic encounters. Allakhazam.com: World of Warcraft: Item: Earthen Guard
I've been emphasizing stamina over defense through this thread. To be fair, Defense is very good, but it comes naturally through normal raid gearing. Most tanking items you pick up along your 40-man raiding experience will have Defense already built in.
There are some noticeable places where you will have to make a decision. For instance, the Zul'Gurub ring set vs. Heavy Dark Iron Ring early on. Later, ring slots in Ahn'Qiraj will balance against the Signet of the Bronze Dragonflight and Archimtiros' Ring of Reckoning.
It is in the smaller decisions such as this that I always opt for the high stamina over the high Defense. Why is this? Because stamina is, in a way, your only magic armor rating.
Consider your health bar not as a number but as a percentage. At 7,800 health, Nefarian's Shadow Flame does 80% damage to you during a Warrior class call. If your Stamina and health enchants, as well as flasks and consumables bring you up to 10,000 health (an achievable raid buffed health bar), suddenly that Shadow Flame is doing more recoverable damage to your percentage bar. Then, with 15% or even 30% more health by using Lifegiving Gem and Last Stand, 14,000 health during one of the later Warrior class calls on Nefarian will cement your survival. On our recorded Nefarian kill (see Movies listing), I did not raid buff with either a flask or consumables; I actually die as a result of his Shadow Flame bringing my health bar from a reasonably high ~75% to death. While unintentional and my own mistake, this is a good way of illustrating the emphasis I am placing on this.
Stamina is essentially a buffer. Like consumables and flasks, it creates breathing for your healers. Broodlord Lashslayer is known for one-shotting tanks that are new to him -- his Mortal Strike ability is one of the physical abilities that does massive damage regardless of your defense rating (it isn't a critical strike).
Stamina also gives you the ability to gain more rage. Since a stamina build does take more damage than a defense build over the long run since you are avoiding fewer incoming attacks, you wind up with more overall rage to work with.
I believe stamina is the key to guild and raid progression. I feel our healers can recover from regular, sustained damage on a high health bar and high AC rating moreso than they can handle massive damage from the crushing blows I didn't quite parry on a lower health bar.
For purposes of endgame, this is, again, fairly small. However, when you are completely new to the endgame, Stamina lets you survive things you otherwise are not geared to survive. In our guild, we emphasize stamina to be a primary attribute for every class for this reason -- if you can take that whirlwind from Sartura once, you might have time to run away and bandage yourself.
My personal opinion is this: as you progress through the endgame and you are faced with decisions between stamina and Defense on non-armor items, take the stamina; the defense you need will naturally fall into place through normal raid gearing.
To Every Season: Defense vs. Stamina in relation to Healing
For the following, understand that when I use the term Defense I am also referring to static modifiers such as dodge and parry.
As a leveling warrior, you may have wondered why you were forced to take 10% more damage for 3% crit; skills aside, this stance does not offer a fair give and take. Again, with Deathwish and Recklessness, you are forced to make a tradeoff that does not seem fair -- particularly on a 30 minute cooldown.
Taking the path of a stamina build warrior, you make a similar tradeoff -- one I believe Lead Tanks and Main Tanks should make. As a stamina warrior, you will give up between 5 and 10% Avoidance - that is, the chance at complete mitigation of an incoming phsyical attack. However, taken to the fullest extent, your final gear will realize itself as between 515 and 530 base Stamina (not including Naxxramas) - which is up to 10% more Stamina from items than Defense or DPS warriors are capable of achieving.
Understand that the decisions to choose stamina items are based on two things: first, a healing strategy which is more suited to this build, and second, the use of Stamina buffs to further your lifebar to a maximum amount in the 10,000+ range without the use of Last Stand or Lifegiving Gem. Not utilizing these buffs for new encounters negates the entire purpose of going to a Stamina build, because anyone wearing a full Defense suit can just pop those buffs on and be higher than you in terms of their healthbar anyway; good game.
At this point, you've probably realized this guide is about giving you tanking advice to further raiding progression; it has nothing to do with helping on fights you can already do, putting you on DPS meters, making you an uber tank. So, to illustrate how Stamina is particular to your Lead Tanks in a healing situation, I will share our own guild struggles in raiding and why we work around these theories.
From Lucifron to Razorgore, we had 3-4 regular raiding priests and 2 raiding druids. Paladins were in slightly greater supply -- but our healing force was never large. Our first Ragnaros kill sported 3 priests, 3 druids, and 4 paladins. Needless to say, tanking was a struggle.
Healing: The 2.5 Second Struggle
The root of the healing issues we had all revolved around mana effectiveness.
Imagine for a moment that you are a healer. Your regular heals are a two and a half second cast; unfortunately, on new encounters, the boss may very well kill your undergeared Main Tank in that period of time. So you set up a healing rotation: you will begin your heal, then another healer will begin a heal, then another -- maybe not so explicitly, but to the the effect that heals are landing every second or less on the Lead Tank.
As a healer, you don't have a crystal ball. You know that not healing your tank could result in a raid wipe. Perhaps halfway through that heal, you notice the tank's healthbar doesn't seem to be dropping -- he has been mitigating damage by good fortune of Defense statistics. However, you still cannot cancel that heal, because the next split second could very well see his lifebar fall drastically!
The 2.5 second heal is the root of the Stamina gearing theory. In almost every new boss encounter, before healers really get a chance to work out what's going on and the ebb and flow of a battle, they are going to be slamming you with heals... Whether you avoid the damage or not has literally no bearing on whether you receive heals or not -- you are still sapping the healers mana bars.
Defense only saves you in single-mob encounters when your life is critically low and you have to rely on the chance of dodges and parries to survive the encounter. The reality is, whether you avoid an attack has no bearing on your healthbar. Had you simply taken the damage and taken a percentage of your lifebar in damage before receiving a 3k heal is no different than parrying the same attack then taking a 3k overheal.
Defense is relying on good fortune in new encounters, where stamina is a steady, reliable base.
Defense: When it really is better (Preface: You naturally get a very high Defense rate through normal itemization; discussion of critical strike reduction is not included in this guide as a result.)
Most Lead Tanks and Main Tanks are not so gifted as to be able to carry stamina and defense sets; however, with the introduction of Ahn'Qiraj, the DPS warriors in your guild who normally offtank will have access to high Defense (including Dodge mitigation from high agility on Conqueror's and non-set Plate). Rings give good defense bonuses which can be brought in by DPS warriors for certain fights.
As I explain my view on the following, understand you can also gear one or two of your Main Tanks effectively with this type of gear; there is plenty of flexibility and room for choice; I would strongly discourage having either your Lead Tank or first Main Tank go for a non-stamina build, per previous discussion.
The encounters where defense and high agility builds work are very common. This applies to almost every trash mob in the game; an exemplary Defense situation is Zul'Gurub or Ahn'Qiraj 20 man, where there are multiple melee-mobs being handled by multiple tanks. In these situations, Defense tanks will be considerably superior to stamina tanks! Even your DPS warriors will be able to hold weight to your Lead Tank in terms of gear choices.
The reason is specific to healing. Multi-mob encounters very rarely do dramatic damage to warriors; instead, the large total incoming DPS on your raid is not being funneled through a single tank but multiple actors who can be independently healed.
Defense builds have another effective attribute in multi-tank scenarios. They offer you a chance-not-to-die, meaning you may very well parry that one last attack. This kind of chance play is much more readily acceptable when other warriors can pick up the slack in case you do go down.
It is next to impossible to die from not receiving heals in the course of 5-10 seconds in these situations, even on trash mobs in Blackwing Lair and Ahn'Qiraj. Naturally, your priests will be healing many more tanks, but they will be able to make decisions during this process. Every time you avoid damage from a parry or dodge, your health bar simply won't go down. The healer in question doesn't even need to begin a heal on you in this case. Also, if your health slips below a certain percentage, healers can choose to use slower, more mana efficient heals.
Also, mitigation will help a warrior who does not have the skill, talents, or enchants to solidly hold aggro. This is due to a dynamic in the healing process: overhealing does not cause aggro. If you do receive a large heal or multiple heals at the same time and it crosses above the 100% line of your healthbar, the amount of overhealing will have no affect on the healer's aggro.
One thing I never suggest about being a stamina build warrior is that you will take less damage than a Defense warrior; I readily accept the reality I am not the most efficient object in terms of avoidance -- but I believe, for raid progression, simply having more health is more helpful when coming to new encounters. Remember to buff up to maximum hitpoints if you are going to take this path!
I've illustrated stamina to be sort of the magical armor rating of your character. Like your normal armor rating, it only acts as a reduction of damage taken; it cannot outright mitigate it the way defense statistics can.
Consider resistance to be your defense modifier in magical terms. This will make or break some encounters; if you do not have 165 Fire Resistance, you will often die in Molten Core on Baron Geddon; the Lava Packs will be a nightmare.
The primary issues regarding resistance is how it is calculated and how much you need for mixed damage (physical and magical) encounters. As far as calculation goes, there are two schools of thought; first, that there are tiers of resistance rates at intervals along the tree, the first being at 75 resistance, the second at 150, and so on. The other school of thought is that there is a linear progression of resistance, and being just short of the next 'tier' means you'll resist only slightly less than you would at that next tier.
What should you choose? The more stringent of the two. Whether or not it's based on tiers or on a mathematically scaling amount is not clear, and neither posters or Blizzard's own description of resistance seems to confirm either way. Yet it is not your right as a Main Tank to gamble with your raid; choose the stricter path to be sure. If you 255 Nature Resist but the next supposed tier is at 265, it's time you took a trip to Maraudon.
How do you calculate the resistance you need for a mob? The maximum resistance you can have is simply multiplying the mobs level by 5. For a 63 elite (most bosses are considered to be 63 elite), to maximize your resistance you will need 315 of that particular resistance.
Yet, after Molten Core the endgame resistance fights disappear (with the notable exceptions of Firemaw, Flamegor and Huhuran). Instead, they are replaced by mixed encounters where you will have to strike a balance between certain resistances. In Blackwing Lair and Ahn'Qiraj, for the most part, Blizzard has placed a bit more emphasis on the use of your class sets and they will do fine for your armor slots.
I will outline this in more detail in the encounters guide, but the general rule of thumb for me has been that for FR fights I wear Dark Iron Helm and Legs and for Green Dragon fights I wear only epic level NR in armor slots.
When I first began writing this guide I held a certain order of priority for each type of mitigation. Stamina, as you might guess, I considered most important; then I placed defense in close pursuit. Armor in many ways was an afterthought, a trait I believed came naturally enough on it's own.
My views have changed. Armor does not supercede stamina, but it does take a near-equal footing with it in terms of importance.
There is no secret to armor; it simply reduces the physical damage you take from attacks by a set percentage. Yet for the simplicity it offers, it can dramatically alter the course of fights such as Patchwerk.
One thing I have heard often but did not pay serious attention to until recently is that armor is not subject to diminishing returns. Technically, that line is false, but correct phrasing would be: "As armor increases, the effect of increasing the amount of time required to go from full HP to dead is not subject to diminishing returns. Each increase in quantity of armor will increase a tank's lifespan equally (i.e. if going from 4000 to 6000 AC increases your lifespan by 1 minute, then going from 12000 to 14000 AC will also increase your lifespan by 1 minute)." - Satrina, The Mathematics of Armour and Diminishing ReturnsTitle
I mentioned Patchwerk. Here is why. When fighting Patchwerk, we paid particular attention to the damage intake with various debuffs such as Demoralizing Shout and Thunderclap. We also were using Greater Stoneshield potions in bulk quantities before we got him down.
Patchwerk does a physical damage attack that does between 22,100 and 29,900 damage instantly to it's targets. Seems like a lot, huh? It is. Though we didn't use this, the Hateful Strike Calculator will help illustrate where I'm going with the emphasis on heavy armor: Patchwerk Damage Calculator
First, using a base armor of 9500 with Defensive Stance (and assuming we are not using Greater Stoneshields), the damage range comes out as between 7,503 and 10,151. This is much lower than the nearly 30,000 max damage a Hateful Strike is capable of, though the damage is still very dangerous.
Now, let's add Greater Stoneshields to this. The damage range changes to between 6,633 and 8,975. This is over 1,000 less maximum damage using a consumable -- meaning more healing efficiency overall through the course of the fight (Assuming three Hateful Strike tank rotation, Patchwerk uses Hateful Strike roughly every ~3.6 seconds on a target).
When you look at your character pane and see an increase of just 2 or 3 percentage points of mitigation with armor, it may not seem very impressive. But when your armor is reaching near the 70% total mitigation range, 2 or 3 percentage points will change your actual incoming damage up to 10% on something like a Hateful Strike.
Overall I am not a math expert in any form, nor am I particularly skilled at explaining math concepts. If you don't have a clue what I just said, that's forgivable, I didn't really have a clue what other people were saying until I could see the tangible effects of armor in a raid -- I learn more through tactile and visual interaction than I do from reading.
This said, my previous stance on Conqueror's armor and other high-armor items is retracted. I do believe Conqueror's is legitimate and good tanking gear. I also recommend an emphasis on heavy armor as you progress your character.
Shield block was originally placed as a small addition to the armor and stamina sections above. However, gearing around your shield block value and percentage now dramatically changes tanking ability. It is important to note is that your Shield Block ability is an Instant ability and can be used at any point during combat; it does not affect your global cooldown.
Shield Block -- Critical & Crushing Blow Negation
Any attack blocked with your shield in a raid environment cannot be a critical or crushing blow. This occurs because all attacks in raid content are based on a combat table that is additive between your avoidance abilities.
For example, if you have 10% Dodge, 10% Parry, and 10% Shield Block, your combat table would have a 30% chance of affecting any incoming blow. Using the Shield Block ability, which temporarily raises your block by 75%, this pushes you well above 100% of incoming attacks affected by your combat table. In turn, this means that the mob is unable to affect attacks on you -- a critical strike or crushing blow cannot share the same space on the combat table with a blocked attack.
For more specific detail, please read Satrina's analysis: Blocking
Shield Block Value -- Damage Reduction
Basic shield block value is in the same league of mitigation as armor and stamina; when you wish to use it, you can guarantee a 100% block rate just due to itemization and your Shield Block skill. Shield block is, thus, a constant reduction of damage taken in. It is particularly useful on mixed boss fights which deal magical damage as well, because it is more likely you will block every incoming attack.
Also, note that the dynamic of shield block value is unique to mitigation: it is added after all other mitigation is calculated and is not based on a mitigation percentage. While blocking 150 damage from a mob that just laid out 4,000 to you may not be impressive, blocking the same 150 damage from a mob that is dealing small hits of 200 damage is similar to a Shield Wall.
Shield Block Value -- Shield Slam
Shield Slam adds your shield block value to a base damage amount and does straight damage. Since Shield Slam obeys the same modifiers as your other special attacks, it is also impacted by your One-Handed Weapon Specialization talent in your Protection tree. The effect is dramatic; with about 200 block, it is possible to crit an unarmored target for 1200 damage.
Shield Block Percentage
Most trinkets or items which increase your shield block value will also increase your shield block percentage. Having a very high base shield block percentage will allow you to be more flexible in your rage conservation in certain fights such as Noth the Plaguebringer. In general, having high shield block percentage in addition to a high dodge and parry rate will keep your Revenge ability available for use every time the cooldown is free.
It is your responsibility to keep yourself alive through whatever means possible. If you die at any point and had a cooldown available, it is generally your fault. If you die due to unexpected burst damage, it is again your fault if you did not utilize every constant effect buff prior to the fight.
Firstly, your skills: Shield Wall and Last Stand. I'm a big fan of Improved Shield Wall, because almost any time I use Shield Wall it's because the healers have to recover from some tragedy or I want to cement a kill in stone; both of these times, the additional five seconds is a boon. Last Stand is the same way: if you are going to Main Tank, this ability is not necessary but it may be irresponsible to take new content without it.
Next, Healthstones. You can hold three healthstones at a time, a 1440, a 1320, and a 1200; this naturally requires 3 warlocks, one of whom is a raid build (1320 has to be a conscious decision while choosing talents). These will act as your Major Healing Potions, because unless you are on a pure melee fight, you won't be touching Major Healing Potions.
Why not? Because you will have Greater Protection Potions. These are preventative potions that will not mitigate melee damage but will mitigate a very high amount of magical damage. Unless you are in the most dire cirucmstance where the melee damage is likely to kill you, you should be using these every 2 minutes or at intelligent intervals. For instance, Chromaggus does two types of fire breaths, an instant massive breath and a DOT breath; your healers can heal through a DOT much easier than they can heal a very large drop in health, so save your protection potion for the massive burst damage. The reason you use Protection Potions instead of Major Healing Potions is that the healing potions won't save you after you die; the protection potions will prevent that death.
Not in a resistance fight? Try Greater Stoneshield Potions for the tough physical encounters in the endgame. This will give a static 2,000 Armor bonus for 2 minutes and can be refreshed accordingly. This should be considered a necessity for getting through new encounters.
Finally, Lifegiving Gem. Wear it. Your Onyxia Tooth Pendant does not warrant removing what I consider to be the single best warrior trinket in this game. If you have it in your bags and you die, you have absolutely no right to complain to a healer.
Not everything is about health recovery; many of the buffs you will want for fights will extend your health bar, aggro, armor, defensive statistics. There are plenty of relatively easy to acquire buffs and consumables you can use through fights to ease progression through new content. The following is short checklist of constant effect buffs you can utilize:
Flask of the Titans (Lasts through death)
Flask of Chromatic Resistance (Lasts through death)
Lung Juice Cocktail (Does not stack with Zanza's Spirit)
Elixir of Giants
Elixir of Brute Force (Does not stack with Priest Fortitude)
Elixir of Fortitude
Elixir of Superior Defense
Elixir of the Mongoose
Dirge's Kickin' Chimaerok Chops
Tender Wolf Steaks
Major Troll's Blood Potion
Gift of Arthas - Covered in section 3.1
Also, be aware that the Darkmoon Faire can benefit your entire raid if utilized while it's in town. For a major health bonus from your fortune teller, you must a) Confiscate the corn and b) Speak against your brother.
A Dire Maul Tribute run will net you a great 2-hour health buff. Don't forget to stock up on Grog after the run for an easy 10 Stamina!
The Heart of Hakkar turn-in will net you a bonus to all stats, including your Stamina. This is particularly sweet in that it lasts through death.
The Onyxia or Nefarian head buffs will give you a large Attack Power buff, helpful for holding aggro off the rest of the raid that just got that same Attack Power bonus as well as crit increases.
I am a Julie's Dagger warrior; This means that my experience with tanking partially relies on the fastest 1h weapons, disregarding mitigation statistics. These weapons are used strictly for the adrenaline fights where everyone assists instantly and holding aggro takes priority above all other functions. Why? Heroic Strike (please read Attack Power, Crits, and Steady/Irregular DPS section). Also, since there are no mitigation characteristics on these weapons such as Parry, you will gain overall more rage when being attacked over the duration of a fight. On dragons that normally have a high parry rate, missing a single attack due to bad luck will not pull you down the way it can with slower weapons.
-Aggro Weapons are generally used for Onyxia, MC mobs, Baron Geddon, Shazzrah, Ragnaros, Vaelastrasz, BWL mobs, Broodlord, Firemaw, Ebonroc, Flamegor, AQ40 mobs, Skeram, Sartura, Huhuran. Also used for Green Dragons, Azuregos, and Kazzak.
(Note: As with all weapons, but particularly for aggro weapons, make sure you are applying Dense Weighstones or equivalent to your weapon, popping a Gift of Arthas before tanking, and have a raid-build rogue applying Hemorrhage to the mob. This will pop up a healthy 23 extra damage per strike... which on the Silithid Claw pops it up to the ~70 dps range)
The 1.7/1.8 Speed Weapon (AGGRO/MITIGATION)
There is a fairly odd set of weapons that seem oriented towards tanking warriors. These provide high speed and generally pack good mitigation statistics. These revolve around tanks using Heroic Strike, unlike the slower mitigation weapons. Beware - one-hand items in this category are just fast enough to be prized by rogues as well.
Weapon (MITIGATION/MORTAL STRIKE)
Mitigation weapons are weapons that provide bonuses to stamina, block/dodge/parry, defense, +weapon, or various other procs. Weapons in this category do not generally have the quickest attacks, which can be used to an advantage by Mortal Strike warriors who are put in a position to tank. The particular use of these weapons is for long, phased fights in which you are not likely to lose aggro- however, you may very well be taking large damage hits. A good example would be Chromaggus or Ossirian, where large amounts of time are dedicated to avoiding events and raid members are very unlikely to pull aggro.
-Mitigation weapons are generally used for Lucifron, Magmadar, Gehennas, Garr, Sulfuron, Golemagg, Majordomo, Razorgore, Chromaggus, Nefarian, Kri/Yauj/Vem, Fankriss.
A Note on Thunderfury
Thunderfury is, as might be suggested by it's Legendary status, the best of both worlds. While it is neither the highest aggro or best mitigation weapon, it combines them so well that this is the gold standard.
A Note on Widow's Remorse
Widow's Remorse is the best pure tanking weapon in the game prior to the Burning Crusade. It is as fast as nearly all aggro weapons and has the highest mitigation statistics of any available weapon. There's really not much else to say.
A Note on Quel'Serrar
Quel'Serrar isn't a godsend weapon. It's fame is derived from availability, not superiority. A better alternative that doesn't rely on a proc is the crafted Blackguard; this weapon can be interchanged as an Aggro or Mitigation weapon due to the 1.8 speed, and it's parry is a static increase. Beware! It's just as ugly as the Quel'Serrar!
Enchanting your weapon!
There is no magic pill in tanking for enchants. Each enchant offers something slightly different, and given the specific weapon you are enchanting you'll have a variety of choices. Regardless of whether your mainhand slot is considered an Aggro or Mitigation, choose from the following based on what you generally have problems with.
Crusader - A good all-around enchant, this is a solid base for any tank. The healing, however, will grow relatively useless later in the game, where your health is precariously at 20% one second, the next your receiving 4k overheals. The additional strength? Forget about the minimal block increase of 5 damage, just enjoy your 200 attack power boost! Also, note that Crusader does give you a small amount of healing aggro.
Strength - This offers everything Crusader does, except without waiting on the proc. 30 attack power and 1 tiny mitigation point from a shield, this will actually average out to a better aggro lock than the Crusader would -- even if it procced at the start of the fight. This will add about 2.15 Steady dps to your character (please read Attack Power, Crits, and Steady/Irregular DPS section).
Superior Striking - Among the less used enchants, +5 to damage can mark a significant DPS increase in particular situations. This enchant is a bit of a misnomer, as it does not add 5 damage to each attack. Instead, it adds 5 damage to the low end and top end of the damage spectrum. This is ideal for very quick weapons without a focused damage spectrum, where it will add a relatively stable and significant amount of DPS. On the Silithid Claw, this contributes 3.125 Steady dps.
Lifestealing - This is the more advanced version of Fiery. Rarely resisted and a common proc, Lifestealing will not only do 30 damage to your attacker, giving aggro, but will also heal you for 30 -- also giving you aggro. Like Crusader, the healing eventually phases itself out, but the added damage is always nice!
Crusader - Again, the jack of all trades enchant. The 5 damage mitigation received during course of proc on all blocked attacks is helpful, and the attack power doesn't hurt. The healing is very useful in early stages of raiding - but be warned, it does lose it's usefulness as your raid progresses.
Agility - This enchant provides an odd set of mitigation statistics in spades. 0.75% Dodge as well as 44 Armor, this happens to also add 0.75% Crit in pure Irregular damage.
Unholy - Often inflicts a curse on target, reducing melee damage by 15. In all seriousness, the raid needs these, preferably on rogue offhand weapons. However, if you can't convince them, then provide it yourself - only Agility is better for damage reduction.
3.1 Attack Power, Crits, and Steady/Irregular DPS[/b]
There are two primary avenues of warrior damage: Irregular damage, revolving around critical strikes, burst damage, and spiked damage; and Steady damage, based on slowly driving your enemy to a certain doom. While irregular damage is the bread and butter of a Arms or Fury warrior and can be effectively combined with high attack power, it is next to useless to rely on for tanking.
Attack Power (STEADY)
Each Strength point gives an additional 2 attack power; to simplify, each Strength point gives you an additional 0.142 dps. This is the single most steady form of DPS, as the additional damage will be constant.
The Silithid Claw has a damage range of 64-120 damage- the first 20 seconds of a fight could realistically all be strikes for under 90 damage. This is your unmodified "white" damage. Adding significant attack power to this changes the ballgame entirely; with 1044 attack power (battle shout buffed), an additional 74.6dps boosts this up. Instead of 64-120 damage, the damage range on this weapon is 110-166. Raid buffed, this damage range increases more dramatically.
Attack Power is reliable; it is steady. It may not provide the glorious numbers or prolonged DPS that burst damage does, but it removes any short term chance play and you will never gamble with your raid. For this reason, Attack Power and Strength are a pillar of your character.
Heroic Strike (STEADY)
Heroic Strike is one of the gems in the tanking arena; often overlooked and forgotten about for characters leveling to 60, it quickly becomes the basis of tanking DPS.
First, as far as additional damage goes, the modifier is simple. Using my DPS example from the previous section we can modify the 110-166 damage one step further; with Heroic Strike rank 9 (157 additional damage), this damage range becomes 267-323.
Now take notice of how Heroic Strike changed those numbers- more than doubled my damage spectrum, even with attack power factored in. This weapon, like all Aggro weapons being utilized by a tank, has become a Heroic Strike delivery system. Note that this additional damage is not balanced by weapon speed; a much faster weapon really will bring far more of these high damage attacks to bear.
Next, look at the ability. It is not a normal ability; specifically, it is a NEXT MELEE ability. What this means is that the attack is applied to your weapon much the same way a weightstone or poison is applied to a weapon. This is important because it does not use any global cooldowns -- all other abilities remain available to you while Heroic Strike is applied. This includes Shield Bash, a utility skill necessary for fights like Skeram and Yauj.
There is still more. Heroic Strike causes considerable additional threat on top of everything else. This makes quickly striking a mob with this ability applied to your weapon an incredibly good tanking maneuver that you can build your character around.
Yet, for all of this, Heroic Strike and Aggro weapons are not without their due consequence. To effectively use Heroic Strike, you need to have rage. Lots of it. Every attack you do now will suck rage away from you and you will be stunted from rage gain by your own action. Yet, you still want to use rage on other abilities like Revenge...
There is only one good solution: get used to the ebb and flow of the battle and consciously choose to take more damage from the mob you are fighting at specific times. How do you do this? It's up to you. Stop using Shield Block. Stop placing demo shouts up. Spec for Deathwish (21/30 fury/protection) and you get the additional damage and 30 second fear immunity.
Or just take your shield off for for a couple seconds when your healers aren't looking.
A Note on Cleave
All of the dynamics that apply to Heroic Strike apply on a lesser level to Cleave; the same modifiers come into play except for the innate threat generation. This is useful in very specific encounters.
Raid Buffing for DPS (STEADY)
There are plenty of great buffs that are tough to snag on a populated server such as ours. It's very hard to get an Onyxia or Nefarian head buff, despite how much we'd all like free Attack Power. Instead, there are small things you can do to increase your aggro DPS as well as benefit the entire raid.
Dense Weightstone, lvl 35
Applying this to your weapon every 30 minutes will increase damage by 8. This is best used on high speed aggro weapons.
Gift of Arthas, lvl 38
You may have missed this beauty on the grind to 60. Pick it back up. This gives you a buff to Shadow resistance which helps in the better half of Blackwing Lair, it also places an infectious disease on the target which increases damage taken by 8. Not only will your own dps go up but every rogue and warrior in your raid will see an increase in DPS. This is best used with high speed aggro weapons.
Hemorrhage (Subtlety Build, Rogues)
This is similar to Gift of Arthas. The debuff will cause your attacks to do an additional 7 damage to that target. This must be constantly applied, as it runs out of charges in the span of seconds. This is best utilized by high speed aggro weapons.
Critical Strikes (IRREGULAR)
Per my belief, Aggro encounters go hand in hand with Steady DPS. Conversely, Mitigation encounters go with Irregular dps - the most notable of which are critical strikes.
Crit is the byproduct of the mitigation attribute Agility. Many of the top mitigation items carry Agility, not Strength in their tag. Master Dragonslayer's Medallion and Archimtiros' Ring of Reckoning. It isn't coincidence that warrior crit percentage is based on the same attribute that gives us dodge and armor.
In prolonged encounters, you are unlikely to lose aggro. Generally these are endurance based fights meant to test a coordinated movement of events. Chromaggus, for instance, or Majordomo, the tanks will have time to build up aggro. It is because of this fact that warriors do not need immediate base DPS and do not need to build around it.
This is where crit damage really shines. You will, in the long run, build more solidified aggro with crits than you can in aggro fights, ironic as that is. This is because you are going to have several critical strikes with a higher damage weapon over the course of the downtime; these crits are enhanced by the use of a Mitigation weapon, which generally are much slower and provide more burst.
Critical strikes offer another advantage. Unlike Heroic Strike, you are not completely out of rage; instead, crits are giving you substantially more rage to work with. This rage can be used to put out your full array of abilities, from Rend to Demoralizing Shout to Thunder Clap. You can also effectively keep Shield Block up.
Even 10% crit base is enough to take advantage of this in most fights.
The general rule of thumb in tanking is to never rely on procs to hold aggro. The exception to this rule is for Mitigation encounters where you have time to wait on these abilities to pop up.
One example is the Quel'Serrar. This is probably about as bad a proc as you can get on a weapon. Not only are you relying on a proc, but your relying on a proc that gives you 13 defense -- which in turn acts like a proc, as it merely raises your chance of block/dodge/parrying attacks. However, if you have no threat of losing aggro, this weapon is good through much of the endgame.
All proc-based enchants take advantage of this, also. Crusader is the best proc-based enchant utilized in these conditions.
Nearly all tanking related gear will have heavy stamina built into it. Trinkets, however, rarely have any direct attributes (stamina, strength, or agility) built into them.
1 Stamina = 10 Health
Strength is a secondary attribute applied to most tanking gear. In some cases, such as ranged slots, Blizzard prefers to give a direct Attack Power bonus in place of the attribute.
1 Strength = 2 Attack Power*
22 Strength = 1 Shield Block Value
*14 Attack Power = 1 Damage Per Second, thus 7 Strength = 1 Damage Per Second.
Agility is generally not placed on heavy armor; however, in noticeable places such as the Conquerors armor set, it is used to great effect. Though agility is helpful for armor, it is valued primarily for avoidance through dodge.
1 Agility = 2 Armor
20 Agility = 1% Dodge
20 Agility = 1% Critical Strike
Understanding the Combat Table
Avoidance and mitigation skills are based on an additive, not multiplicative, combat table. For example, if you have 10% dodge and 10% parry, you have a 20% damage reduction against an equal level creature with level 60 weapon skill. Shield Block is also factored into this table.
Because of the current combat table, it is possible to have enough avoidance and shield block when using your Shield Block skill to remove the chance of a crushing blow or critical strike occuring. Read more about this in section 2.9, All About Shield Block.
At one point, an Italian magazine reported that there was a 60% avoidance cap. As myself and many others have said over and over again -- this is absolutely false. If you hear someone say it, they are wrong! However, note that this is not to be confused with an Armor mitigation cap of 75%, which appears to be real although it has not been verified by Warriors as of this time (Feral Druids have done some testing).
1 Defense = Increases Miss Percentage by 0.04%
1 Defense = Increase Block Percentage by 0.04%
1 Defense = Increases Dodge by 0.04%
1 Defense = Increases Parry by 0.04%
1 Defense = Decreases chance of being affected by a Crushing Blow by 2%, up to a minimum chance of 15%*
*This was taken directly from Satrina's research.
Dodge Percentage is complete damage avoidance against physical damage. A dodged attack also cannot affect any channeled abilities (what, you don't use Slam?).
Parry percentage is complete damage avoidance against physical damage. In addition, a parry also counter-attacks your target for weapon damage and resets your swing timer. This counter-attack is benefited more by slower weapons. I have verified this through testing.
Miss percentage is complete damage avoidance against physical damage. A missed attack cannot affect any channeled abilities. Miss percentages are countered directly by hit percentage.
Shield Block Percentage
Shield block percentage increases your chance to block an incoming physical attack on your combat table.
Shield Block Value
Shield block value ist most effectively increased through shield, gear, and enchants, though your strength attribute will benefit this. Shield block value is critically important for Protection talented warriors. Read more in 2.9, All About Shield Block.
Critical strike percentage increases your chance to deal a critical strike to your target. A critical strike can never miss; a critical strike percentage of 15% means that, on average, you will critical strike 15% of the time. Also note that if you have no hit percentage modifiers, crit percentage will replace hit percentage, not expand your hit percentage.
Hit percentage is a direct reduction to the rate a creature you are attacking would otherwise be missed. Each increase in hit percentage is an equal percentage decrease in the creature's miss rating. Hit does not affect dodge, parry, or block rates.
Weapon Skill (Glancing Blows)
Weapon skill lowers the damage reduction that naturally occurs on higher level mobs you are attacking. This has minimal impacts on tanking, but does emphasize that if you have an available weapon skill modifier such as human or orc racials it can be helpful to choose a weapon in line with that racial.
3.3 Tanking: Talents, Skills and Preparations
The following subsections deal with aspects of tanking. It is prefaced by an outline of a real-life military battle that illustrates many of the core principles of a a dedicated tank.
3.3.1 Preparation, Discipline & Science
In the most basic sense, tanking is not difficult. When you stand facing the dragon you are merely an object performing your duty. The abilities you use most commonly are not complex or difficult to understand. Yet, as a dedicated tank, you have a far greater responsibility than most. Every person who stands by your side is your support class; channeled through you, victory is achieved.
The following is not a political or historical argument but instead an illustration of basic principles you should adhere to. This scenario has been played out a thousand different times between victorious and defeated armies.
Preparation and discipline must be the foundation of anyone who wishes to succeed. Courage alone does not bring victory. In 1993, a warlord by the name of Farrah Aidid held control over large sections of Mogadishu, Somalia, and much of the surrounding countryside. In this nation with no government his lieutenants exercised brutal authority -- starving over 300,000 men and women to death by seizing Red Cross shipments as they entered the ports. A group of men entrusted to dismantling this regime was sent deep within the city to capture top lieutenants; their mission was, in terms of a modern scientific military engagement, a catastrophic failure.
These Rangers and Delta Force units were not sabotaged by outside forces but instead by a lack of preparation. Bringing extra provisions -- specifically water, body armor and ammunition -- is a standing requirement for operations by these units. However, upon learning that this mission was planned as a standard 2-hour fast-rope extraction, many units scaled down their gear. It was hot and heavy gear would only make it hotter; the mission was simple and quick; there had never been serious issues with prior missions.
Eighteen soldiers died, dozens more were wounded. Units had split across the city to take care of wounded soldiers -- most of whom were wounded due to lacking key body armor. Dehydration and ammunition supplies forced units to stay in extremely hostile areas -- and the resupply hawks were in danger of being shot out of the sky to bring it to them. The decorated Rangers were facing a strategic loss which would permanently tarnish the prestige of the organization.
Simple loss of discipline -- lack of preparation -- is responsible for many of the greatest defeats in military history. While the Black Hawk Down is one of the most dramatic examples, keeping this military principle in mind will help you as you take on the roles of a dedicated tank.
Your enemies learn, too. In Mogadishu, the warlord's men had watched military extraction missions take place for weeks. They adjusted by preparing smoke signals and ground-to-air RPG fire using ditches, (prior to this, RPG fire on helicopters was considered impossible). When the Rangers let their guard down, the Somali combatants seized on this.
Whether your 'enemies' are competing guilds or a push to succeed in new content, you must be able to adapt to it and not let your guard down. You must be surrounded by others who will not relax on their duties in a raid environment; nothing will wipe a raid faster than players who relax on an easy fight. Nothing will slow progress more than wiping repeatedly to content you have already completed the week before.
Finally, take science to heart. A scientific attitude means that you constantly ask yourself how you can build and improve upon what you are doing -- indeed, it requires following the scientific method in it's heart. You must try to disprove yourself rather than rigidly following beliefs.
In the Black Hawk Down incident, eighteen soldiers were killed. Aidid lost nearly 3,000 men. To a simple society this would seem to be a clear victory for the soldiers; indeed, the objectives had been met and the casualty ratio was intensely in favor of the soldiers. To a scientific society, it was a backwards step and a tragic and preventable failure on the part of the men involved.
The foundations for progressing your raid and yourself as a tank are two-fold. First, gear choices are a critical component of pushing forward. Second, and as importantly, efficiency of talents and skills and an understanding of their uses is necessary.
Raid gearing affects your mitigation and your damage output. As a tank, damage output will generally be the only control you have in scaling your aggro accumulation against the raid -- abilities such as Sunder Armor will never increase their threat until trained at a higher level. This is why Attack Power and Shield Block Value are emphasized. Gearing is covered in sections 2.1 through 2.11.
Talent and skill efficiency, however, is a separate control you have over your aggro and mitigation abilities. Discerning where and when to efficiently use each of your skills is not only helpful, it is absolutely required to be anything more than a temporary target dummy in a raid.
Talent efficiency involves the intelligent layout of your talent points given your needs as a tank. The most efficient talent tree designed for raid progress is Protection -- this is a premise that no serious tank, guild officer or guild leader should back down from. While it is true that anyone can tank if they have personal skill, it is also true that an equally skilled tank will be considerably more efficient in raid encounters when specced into Protection.
Ultimately, tanking revolves around your preparations before the fight itself. Your overall efficiency, gear, and strategy development are what you go into the fight with -- everything else is just a matter of execution. This differentiates you from others; healers, for instance, are skilled and reactive creatures who adjust to a constantly changing environment during the course of the encounter.
3.3.3 Skill Usage & Threat (Kenco)
Holding aggro on a mob as a Protection warrior is not a complex matter -- as your gear and experience increases, so too will your ability to control successively more difficult creatures. Merely causing the creature to latch onto you is basic -- if that was all there was to being a tank, trust me, I wouldn't have written this wall of text.
Please note that the terms aggro, threat, and hate are considered the same in this guide. I generally use the term aggro and aggro accumulation.
Warrior defensive abilities are generally unique in that they carry with them a threat value separate of their damage, whereas most classes threat is based strictly on their damage or heal amounts. Since each of these abilities carry a base value, it stabilizes and increases threat at the beginning of a fight. This is because, although your weapon damage will not be as high as it will later on since the target has heavy armor, other classes will also have their weapon damage limited at the beginning. Also, no spell vulnerability is generally present at the start of an encounter. For this reason, the base threat of your attacks will go farther in securing aggro in the first seconds of a fight than they would otherwise.
Also note that 1 damage is equal to 1 point of threat, according to Kenco's research. Kenco's guide, which goes into great detail on threat, can be found here: A Guide To Threat
You have several abilities at your disposal. Currently, on a fight where aggro is standard and I do not have to worry about issues such as rage conservation, I use the following as often as cooldowns permit, in order of priority:
Heroic Strike (Threat: 175 + Damage) is used as available. More on using this strategically can be found in section 3.1.
Shield Block is always kept active unless the fight does not require heavy mitigation -- in which case I generally allow myself to take heavier hits for the rage build. Shield Block is instant and does not affect the cooldown of any other ability.
Demoralizing and Battle Shouts are kept up as often as possible. Some creatures are affected more noticeably than others in terms of damage reduction from Demoralizing Shout. For instance, Patchwerk will generally do at least 500 dps less on the main tank with Demoralizing Shout applied.
Thunder Clap is applied as well if a Thunderfury debuff is not available. This is generally applied by another warrior who is not currently tanking the creature.
Taunt is unique in application. Taunt gains aggro and places you at the threat of the creature's current target. The Taunt debuff also forces the creature to attack you for 3 seconds regardless of threat level. Taunt does not place you at the top raid aggro -- only at the aggro accumulation of the creature's target. Taunt can be useful at the very beginning of a fight to allow everyone to assist instantly while you finish a Shield Slam, Heroic, Sunder combination to lock aggro.
Mocking Blow and Challenging Shout add a bulk of aggro to your aggro accumulation but do not otherwise gain permanent aggro on the creature. Though the debuff forces the creature affected to attack you, once it wears off it will most likely return to it's original target. Mocking Blow is particularly useful to use if your Taunt fails to buy time before you can use your next Taunt. Challenging Shout is situational and you have to keep your eyes out for situations where it can benefit you most -- though it can be helpful on groups of mobs, it is often very helpful to use to pull two or more otherwise separate mobs closer to each other to allow cleave/blade flurry/multi-shot damage from your raid.
While there are a bulk of commonly used abilities such as Bloodrage, Concussion Blow, etc., they are self explanatory and often situational.
3.3.4 Efficient Tanking Talents
Two principles need to be kept in mind when choosing your talents. First, what will help you deal with your weaknesses, either in general or in specific encounters you are working on; then, what will emphasize the strengths of your character.
There is no single perfect talent build for a tank. There are times when Tactical Mastery will benefit you immensely, such as Battleguard Sartura. There are times when Heroic Strike and Sunder Armor rage reductions will greatest benefit your character (for instance, having the 5-piece Wrath bonus mixed with these improved talents will greatly improve your rage efficiency).
Nearly all good builds for a dedicated tank now revolve around Shield Slam. The only reason a dedicated tank would not go this route is when dealing with a fight with serious Fear issues; at these times, getting Deathwish can be helpful despite stopping you in completing the Protection tree.
I have had a difficult time writing this section of this guide for one reason -- I did not really know what to say about talents that you couldn't get from the tooltip. So, for the most part, I won't bother!
To check out the talents I consider very helpful for endgame raid tanking, check out my rigged World of Warcraft talent list. There are more points in this than are actually available to spend at level 60 (and when we get above level 60, I sure as heck won't be recommending all of these), so you will have to make decisions: WorldofWarcraft.com -> Info -> Classes -> Warrior -> Talent Calculator
Using the above talent list, here are the flexible talents you can generally move in and out as necessary for each encounter:
Use Improved Heroic Strike, Unbridled Wrath, Improved Sunder Armor strictly for high-rage Heroic Strike builds. Your aggro efficiency with these abilities will be incredible -- but you are definitely going to have to give up mitigation statistics to get these, as well as Tactical Mastery.
Tactical Mastery is not required; it is, however, very useful in giving you flexibility. Also on a fight like C'Thun where you need to travel a distance to quickly handle new tentacles or eye spawns, this can be very helpful. In situations such as handling Wyrmkin in Blackwing Lair or trash in the Abomination wing of Naxxramas, it can be helpful to intercept immediately after the creature uses a stun. It is also nice in conserving some rage for Shield Blocks when you have to stance-dance to break fears. I personally include Tactical Mastery and Anger Management in most of my builds.
Cruelty can be helpful in building up overall irregular aggro through the course of the fight. This talent is by no means necessary, and many tanks choose not to get it at all. I do find that in my current situation I have the flexibility to use it on most builds.
Anticipation is not always necessary though is generally helpful. Using five talent points to get 10 Defense is nice, but it is costing you something else. If you actively use Shield Block and know you will safely avoid critical strikes and crushing blows, ignoring this talent is fine. However, take note -- if you are a stamina build, this is exactly what I mean by speccing to your weakness. For the reason that I have made tradeoffs in gear for higher stamina, I nearly always spec into Anticipation.
Improved Shield Wall and Improved Taunt -- these are great! These are actually often-overlooked talents that greatly impact raiding. It is for the reason that people do not value these that I'm adding this note. Improved Shield Wall greatly affects fights which have a Paralyzation and nearly all fights which have an enrage or berserk of any sort at a low health marker. Creatures, particularly trash but also some bosses such as Sartura and the three drakes in Blackwing, are built around the 8-second Taunt timer. Between Improved Shield Wall and Improved Taunt, these are four very helpful talents.
You have a degree of flexibility in assigning your talent points. All of the talents in the above tree are tried and true for endgame raid tanking.
The following is a list of general creature abilities which will can be found in most encounters. However, with each encounter they are factored differently, and often you will find a mix of these abilities. Some mobs have special, hard-coded and unique abilities such as Golemagg's reactive damage proc; these mob-specific abilities are not covered here.
3.4.1 Threat Reduction & the Ceiling
To preface the following list of creature abilities I would like to make a few notes about general aggro issues regarding bosses.
Regarding the Aggro Ceiling. This phrase is used by people to describe arcane and sometimes mythological contraptions used by Blizzard to create incredibly complex aggro issues. It also is completely misunderstood, partly by the way people originally presented this theory to MMO gamers.
There is no Aggro Ceiling. There is, however, a limit to raid aggro output based on the mechanics of certain fights and abilities. The simplest way of explaining this is that certain abilities drop the aggro on the creature's target -- the tank -- by either a percentage or a set threat value. As the same tank continues to have his overall aggro reduced, the raid generally has a higher chance of pulling aggro. This can be solved from two directions -- dropping overall raid DPS to compensate and/or utilizing multiple tanks so the aggro reduction is substantially more limited. Innovate.
These abilities come in many forms. An aggro reduction can be attached to any ability a creature has. These triggered threat drops are a standard part of Warcraft and were introduced originally in Blackwing Lair but more heavily in Ahn'Qiraj and Naxxramas.
There has beeen discussion of an Aggro Floor as well. This is based on misconceptions of the Aggro Ceiling and has never been seen to date in a Warcraft encounter.
3.4.2 Knockbacks, Knockups, Knockdowns, and Stuns
These abilities represent the ability of the creature you are fighting to directly control your character's position or ability to respond. These abilities are also standard, unlike programmed invulnerabilities or immobilization.
Let's start with the most common and most difficult of the abilities to deal with -- Knockbacks. A Knockback has two critical components. First, it attempts to physically move your location on the battlefield. The simple solution to this is to use positioning and your environment to your advantage.
The second component to a Knockback is an aggro reduction. Nearly every Knockback in the game -- I cannot recall an encounter where this isn't true -- removes a portion of your accumulated aggro on the creature. Any creature with the Knockback ability is highly prone to aggro loss, and creatures which are immune to Taunt require innovative thought or careful raid aggro output.
Dealing with the aggro component of a Knockback often requires multi-tanking. This is particularly true for Onyxia, Broodlord, Firemaw, Ebonroc, Flamegor and any other fight with a propensity towards rapid Knockbacks; it would otherwise be impossible to handle these fights with a single tank. However, if multiple tanks are vying for aggro on untauntable mobs, threat will generally pass back and forth and essentially cut the risk of losing to raid aggro in half. Keep in mind, however, that any time a new tank is added into the rotation they must have a higher accumulated aggro than anyone else in the raid; Knockbacks are not standard aggro exchanges. Once the additional tanks have gained aggro at least once, though, they will be held to standard aggro mechanics for the remainder of the fight.
Another key note for dealing with Knockback abilities is that cutting your raid damage output can be detrimental to the course of the event; though the tank gains the temporary benefit of not losing aggro on a given Knockback, the increased duration of the fight means any Knockback which reduces a percentage (as opposed to set amount) of accumulated aggro will build up over time until it passes the point of no return.
A helpful way of dealing with some Knockbacks is to stance-dance and Intercept back to the creature, particularly if it is an immobile creature such as Ragnaros.
Knockups are the same as Knockbacks except that they do not include the threat-reducing effect. This is characterized by being knocked upwards, either vertically such as with Anub'Rekhan or at a slight angle. Fall damage is nearly always incurred in a Knockup, so identifying positioning where a balcony or overhang will limit your fall damage is helpful.
Knockdowns are a short immobilizing effect which make you incapable of interacting with the creature in any way. A Knockdown can often occur near the time you engage on a creature, particularly with Molten Destroyers, so the raid needs to be made aware if you will be unable to accumulate aggro early on to avoid aggro issues.
Stuns are similar to Knockdowns but have the key component that they can be broken through the use of trinkets or abilities. Stuns can also be resisted.
3.4.3 Triggered Memory Loss
Triggered Memory Loss can be found in stand-alone creature abilities or attached to other abilities such as Core Hound stuns. A Triggered Memory Loss is a temporary threat wipe which causes the creature to attack other players or generally stop attacking you.
Recovering from a Triggered Memory Loss must happen in one of two ways. Either you must physically engage the target again or it will happen automatically once a debuff or impairing ability wears off. On tauntable mobs, it can often be helpful to have another tank in between the creature and the rest of the raid so that once the memory loss occurs he can pick it up and bring the creature back to you.
A Triggered Memory Loss is always temporary and has no impact on your accumulated aggro; it is not the same as a Triggered Aggro Loss.
3.4.4 Triggered Aggro Loss
This is one of the most difficult abilties for a tank to deal with. A Triggered Aggro Loss is a complete erasure of your accumulated aggro. Examples of Triggered Aggro Loss include Shazzrah and Noth the Plaguebringer. Triggered Aggro Losses usually require innovative thinking because they are different for each encounter.
Some creatures with Triggered Aggro Loss are impossible to maintain regular aggro with, such as with Naxxramas Cultists; much of the time you can ignore these. However, most creatures give you the ability to maintain them for a set amount of time before they erase their accumulated aggro again.
Dealing with this is relatively simple in theory. Once the aggro wipe occurs you will want to rebuild it as you would normally -- ideally quickly, so the raid can fully assist on bringing the creature down. Shazzrah and Noth both sport relatively long damage timeframes you can use before the aggro loss reoccurs and these encounters are designed around utilizing it.
What makes aggro wipes particularly difficult are that the ability itself does not cancel any spells or damage in progress at the time of the wipe. This means that a massive Aimed Shot or Shadowbolt crit may hit Shazzrah immediately after -- not prior -- to the aggro wipe. Since the aggro has accumulated onto that Hunter or Warlock, it is generally made doubly difficult to get back off because you will then have to gain the threat of the other player's damage and an additional 10% to get the creature to attack you.
Dealing with this is best as a two-pronged approach. First, if there are timers involved and slower, sustained DPS will defeat the creature, cancel any ranged DPS in particular near the time of the Triggered Aggro Loss. Second, it will help you a lot to practice rage conservation -- if you know Noth is near blinking away, make sure you have enough rage to use Shield Slam and Heroic Strike to get him back immediately.
3.4.5 Fear & Intimidating Shout
There are two general types of fear effects: Intimidating Shouts and Fear. Intimidating Shouts are much more common in regular creatures, whereas Fears are commonly used by bosses.
As a general rule, an Intimidating Shout effect cannot be removed, cannot be broken, and cannot be avoided. While an additional Fear effect is applied to others in proximity, the Intimidating Shout immobilization is specifically applied to the player the creature is aggro'd to.
In most cases, the Intimidating Shout will cause the creature to continue attacking you as normal. You will be unable to move for the duration of the effect. However, in some cases an Intimidating Shout is the precursor to a Triggered Memory Loss or Triggered Threat Drop -- this is most effectively dealt with by having two tanks, one in range to eat the Intimidating Shout and another out of range to taunt the creature as it runs towards your raid and bring it back to the first tank.
Fears are handled differently. A creature which utilizes a Fear will cause all targets -- including the tank -- to run in fear. Also, a tank who is feared is unable to regain aggro through normal means during the actual Fear effect.
Dealing with Fear often involves multi-tanking. Though a Dwarf Priest can be helpful for most encounters through Nefarian, more complicated fights such as Gluth require you to use the Fear effect for tactical advantage to clear your debuffs. Also, multi-tanking is generally very helpful for any fight where fears come more often than 30 seconds -- even with the Deathwish talent, a fight like Nefarian is still very difficult to single tank.
Multi-tanking for Fears is simple in theory, more difficult in practice. First, you will need to utilize one of your early skills of stance-dancing -- that is, changing to Berserker Stance, using Berserker Rage, then switching back to Defensive Stance. When you do this, the other tank will generally eat the Fear. Once the next Fear is ready to occur, the other tank must use Berserker Rage to the same effect.
Coordinating this between two skilled tanks will become second nature.
However, there are two common issues involving Fear effects. The first is with the secondary tank getting aggro after you are Feared; the second involves special cases where the creature targets you during the fear and positioning is compromised.
Secondary tank aggro does not follow the normal rules of aggro exchange when involving Fears. Normally, a tank rotation or aggro exchange occurs through a melee player reaching 110% accumulated aggro or a ranged player reaching 130% accumulated aggro. However, this threshold never takes place on the first Fear which lands on the first tank -- the second tank has to literally have the second spot in raid aggro or the creature will ignore him. This means that through the first fear your raid has to watch aggro accumulation carefully. Once this first transition between the tanks has taken place, however, aggro is built against both tanks and pulling aggro will be much more difficult.
The next issue is quite a bit more technical in nature -- sometimes when Feared, the creature will target you either during or immediately after the Fear when he otherwise should not. This is a particular issue for multi-tanking Onyxia or Nefarian, where the dragon facing you while you are feared into the raid can wipe you immediately. Don't lose hope! This is not normal game mechanics and is avoidable!
If you are dealing with mid-Fear aggro, watch your reactive procs -- this includes Gift of Arthas, Thorns, Sanctuary, Retribution Aura, Essence of the Pure Flame, Drillborer Disk, any number of buffs which react to incoming damage. Dragons are notoriously bad for Cleaves, and while they are hitting the new tank they have a tendency to Cleave -- when that Cleave hits you while feared, having a reactive proc will signal the dragon that you are back in the game and capable of dealing damage to him -- then he will face you, regardless of your position or ability to control your actions.
If you are dealing with post-Fear aggro before you can move back into position, there are three ways of dealing with this in limited form. First, watch that you don't engage the target or buff yourself in any way prior to reaching the normal positioning on the mob. Second, avoid any party or raid buffs or heal-over-time spells such as Renew or the Transcendance eight-piece bonus near the timeframe of the Fear -- once your Fear has completed, a tick of a heal-over-time will make the creature aware of your presence again and he has a high likelihood of approaching you immediately. Finally, if the Fear effect is less than 5 seconds long on a fairly large-bodied creature and positioning is the only issue, try to position yourself in a corner that, even after your fear, does not put you out of melee range of the creature -- if he remains within melee range, he will not adjust his position when he attacks you again.
However, when dealing with post-Fear aggro, it is not always completely avoidable. The introduction of pulsed combat checks cause some aggro problems immediately after a Fear in certain encounters. Also, since Blizzard allowed health/5 items such as the Onyxia trinket to work in combat these items act like a constant heal-over-time and must be replaced.
3.4.6 Stacking Debuffs
There are three prominent types of Stacking Debuffs -- and plenty of less prominent ones. These three are as follows: damage over time, damage vulnerabilities, and Mortal Strike. Damage vulnerabilities are almost always environmental and the effects cannot be avoided.
Stacking Debuffs are universally used to enforce or encourage speed-killing, resistance gear, or more commonly, multi-tanking. This is done by slowly making it more difficult to the creature -- raising the temperature to the point where it is no longer safe to continue fighting the creature.
If a creature can be killed quickly but applies a high-damage debuff, such as a gargoyle from the necro wing of Naxxramas, chances are that is exactly what you need to be doing to avoid the debuff stacking too high. Further, these fights are generally made clear very quickly -- such as the six second timer on the gargoyles to burn them 30% -- and are used as gear checks for your raid.
If a creature is stacking a particular spell vulnerability or low-damage DOT but cannot be killed quickly, such as Firemaw, it suggests that resistance gear may be very helpful. As with all resistance-based fights, it relies on a small bit of luck, but generally will never get to a point of severity. Firemaw, for instance, will generally clear debuffs before 10 debuffs stack if you are wearing 315 fire resistance, yet one fun memory I have is reaching more than 30 debuffs before they reset.
If a creature is using a high-damage DOT or spell vulnerability and cannot be killed quickly, it must be multi-tanked to force the debuffs to clear. An example of this would be Huhuran -- regardless of strategic tank switching, be it temporary using Limited Inulvnerability Potions or Blessing of Protection or whether it is tank alternating, the fight requires debuffs to clear in terms of a long-term strategy.
In fights such as Huhuran where you need to multi-tank to clear a Stacking Debuff, you will need to set up a system for aggro alternation. The process I generally use with my tanks is to gain aggro through the first set of debuffs then stop attacking the creature. During the time I am not attacking, the other tank is working on gaining aggro. After gaining 110% accumulated aggro the creature begins attacking him and he immediately stops attacking. I begin attacking again until I have aggro and repeat the process. This method of tank alternating is very effective but requires raid aggro -- damage -- output to dip a bit lower than it normally would be. The advantage to this tank switching is that we can drastically reduce the amount of resistance gear we need to wear for encounters such as Huhuran because our Stacking Debuffs never accumulate enough to be dangerous.
Stacking Debuffs have specific rates of re-application. Prior to Ahn'Qiraj, most stacking debuffs have a six-second window prior to their clearing when the debuff will either be resisted, avoided, or will stack again; using Limited Invulnerability Potions can strategically guarantee the debuff clears in some fights. However, in Ahn'Qiraj and Naxxramas, Stacking Debuffs have two points in their timers at which they can be reapplied -- for instance, a debuff which would clear in 30 seconds may have a chance of being refreshed both at the 14 second marker and again at the 4 second marker. This is used generally to limit the chance of Invulnerability or Blessing of Protections from clearing these debuffs. Another thing to note is that a Stacking Debuff, once it has checked for reapplication, has a chance of being removed several seconds early. For instance, gargoyle poison volley debuffs can completely clear several seconds before the timer has completed.
As a special note to Mortal Strike Stacking Debuffs, these currently come strictly in increments of 10% healing reduction. In fights such as Fankriss, these debuffs can be helpful in reducing overall healing aggro across the raid.
Also, there are other forms of Stacking Debuffs which have to be handled through innovative thought on the part of your guild. Gluth's Zombie Chow apply a debuff every time they use a melee that increases melee damage taken the next time they hit you; this nasty debuff is meant to suggest that you need to find a way to limit or avoid contact with the Zombie Chow altogether.
Paralyzation is a rare immobilizing effect found in specific raid encounters such as Lethon and Maexxna. A Paralyzation is generally designed to affect much of the raid so as to stop healing from occuring during this time. Paralyzation effects do not affect avoidance statistics -- you are fully capable of avoiding damage and blocking while paralyzed.
Survival during a Paralyzation effect is primarily a strategy developed through your healing force. However, you can greatly increase your chances of survival by timing key skills. First, hold off on your Shield Block -- ideally Improved through talents -- and use the ability immediately prior to the Paralyzation. Second, use either Last Stand or Lifegiving Gem as necessary either immediately before or after the effect. Improved Shield Wall can also be particularly useful for handling Paralyzation as a fight draws near a close. Finally, if dealing with an enrage, forcing a tank rotation through the use of Limited Invulnerability Potions or Blessing of Protection immediately prior to the Paralyzation will temporarily move the creature onto the secondary aggro target.
Positioning will be different for nearly every fight and situation. Though certain classes of creatures such as dragons have general positioning guidelines, instanced encounters nearly always rely on using built-in terrain features to your advantage.
The physical location of a creature will be built around a strategy you have developed. In some cases, the location itself will be shifting and the raid will be moving in relation to your actions as a tank -- for instance, Ossirian and Sartura. In other cases, positioning can be very strict depending on elements of your strategy - avoiding Line of Sight on Firemaw or Chromaggus or gaining maximum range from healers with torches on the Twin Emperors.
Positioning itself is a critical element of tanking. There are some general guidelines and tips which will help you with this.
3.5.1 Tactical Entry Tips
As you enter into nearly all encounters in this game -- with notable exceptions such as Ragnaros and C'Thun -- the way you approach the first several seconds of entry can give you immense control over positioning through the course of the fight. Here are some tips.
Bloodrage builds a small amount of aggro on the creature you are engaged with. Using this ability at the beginning of an encounter when no other player has developed any aggro will lock the creature onto you. These few seconds before engagement -- the calm before the storm -- allow you to pull a creature any distance and to any location.
To use this effectively, no one else in the raid can use any buff, debuff, or ability. It will work on creatures that are pulled with hunter pets or are pulled through body aggro by any member of the raid; it will also work on creatures you ranged pull. It is particularly useful to use a Bloodrage on extended pulls such as Chromaggus or Baron Geddon and move yourself to whatever position you will need to be in for the fight -- the creature will find his way to you.
For entries to encounters that involve immediate contact but significant movement before you are in position -- such as Gluth or the Twin Emperors -- as well as for encounters that require constant movement or kiting, strafing is an important skill to develop. Strafing is generally accomplished by using your "Q" and "E" buttons in the default Blizzard interface; this is the act of running at full speed while facing 90 degrees away from the direction you are travelling.
Strafing allows you to utilize all of your avoidance statistics while moving, as well as continue with standard abilities such as Shield Slam. It is useful for quickly covering distance you would otherwise walk backwards towards. When strafing, it is helpful to angle yourself very slightly inwards towards the creature attacking you -- this ensures that when dealing with turns or any degree of server lag that your avoidance statistics are still in play.
3.5.2 Camera Spin & Jump Shot for Tanks
Camera control is important for quickly altering or changing positions. Any time you need to make a quick move or alteration in a given direction, the most effective way to prepare for it is to angle your in-game camera in the direction you want to move (behind you, for instance, when kiting Anub'Rhekan). Then, when you need to move, you can click your right mouse button -- or whichever key is bound for Steering -- and you will be moving in that direction immediately.
Using your in-game camera to your advantage in movement as well as giving yourself an awareness of your surroundings is often very important and is a skill you will pick up naturally. I would suggest practicing mouse-movement and steering by engaging in active player-verse-player combat.
There is a small trick I do which often helps me in quick positioning of a mob while still mitigating damage. Often, when flipping the position of a creature from front to back or when I need to move the creature farther back without incurring too much unavoided damage, I will do a more simplified version of the Hunter jump shot.
Jumping gives you the ability to move in one direction while faced in another if you are quick with your camera. This means that you can move at full speed in the direction you need to go and, if you turn, also use Shield Block and any other ability during the course of the jump. You can also use the jump to readily put you in a good direction for strafing, allowing you to continue moving in the direction you need. You can repeat this as much as you need to until you are in the position you need to be.
Jumping to get access to your avoidance and abilities while moving away from the creature is particularly useful when flipping a creature. Using this once you pass the central axis point, covered in the next section, is ideal.
Dragons, as a general rule, illustrate most of the basic creature dynamics you will come across in this game in terms of positioning. The following is a repost of a section of the first edition of this reference guide called Dynamics of the Dragon.
One notice I did not include in the following is a small detail regarding frontal breath attacks (as well as nearly all animated attacks in-game). When the animation for a breath has started, the damage has already been fully done -- the raid may feel free to move into a danger zone instantly as the ability goes off and they do not need to wait for the animation to finish.
The Dragon's Center
Of all of the things you need to know about dragon encounters, this is the single most important thing to understand when learning new encounters.
When you click on a dragon, you get a very wide underlying targetting reticule. This circle represents the dragons in-game circumference. Most of your abilities will work outside this circumference, and from a signficant distance away, so don't rely on it too much for positioning. However, pay attention to this reticule and estimate where the center of it is. Using this, you can roughly determine the pinpoint focus center of the dragon.
This matters for one very specific reason: All Line of Sight (LOS) abilities stem from this point. Not your own, mind you - you do not need exact Line of Sight on any creature, you just need to be in range of the reticule itself.
Instead, the dragon's own abilities that it would use to destroy come from it's belly, not it's head.
Why is this important? Firemaw. Chromaggus (dog-dragon!). Any strategy that relies on breaking line of sight relies on understanding this. Just because you can physically see and even attack the mob does not necessarily mean the mob can physically see and attack you with certain abilities.
As a tank, this is particularly important for positioning. It's a way of saying, don't stress yourself out too badly on certain pulls. Chances are, if you needed a specific position and you are off by a small amount, you are still fine.
Also, this is important for turning dragons or other mobs. This central point is also their spinning axis. To do a complete 180 degree flip of a dragon, you want to run through it -- as long as you are still facing the center, the dragon will not change its position, except for the couple seconds in which you run past it's axis and it flips with you.
The Dragon's Maw
This is a dead zone that only your tank should be in at any given time for most dragons. Generally, the maw includes both the breath and cleave attacks from a dragon. This area is determined through the following geometry (I'm no math major, bear with me):
From the focus point of the dragon, a straight line to the tank represents the direction of the dragon. From this line, the maw is determined as a 30-90 degree arc extending from the focus point. Any attacks made in this arc, such as a 90 degree cleave, will then do a secondary check - anyone inside the targetting reticule (underneath the body) are not hit with the frontal cleave. Instead, the player will generally have to be in front of the actual flailing dragonlegs.
This really plays itself out on the Nefarian Rogue class call. While you may have saved all of the rogues from a 30-45 degree Shadow Flame, you may not have saved them from the 75 degree cleave that kills them.
On the other hand, letting your rogues die on Nefarian makes positioning really easy the rest of the fight.
The Dragon's Tail
Normally this doesn't matter all too much to a tank, but has some weight in where you position the dragon for the raid.
Dragon Tails don't kill people; they just do weird things to them. Like, say, aggro a cave of whelps, aggro a pack of trash at green dragons, aggro giants, aggro... well, you get the idea.
The epitome of knockback, try to avoid putting a dragon tail in the middle of the raid.