Saturday, August 11, 2007

The Care and Feeding of Warriors: Another tanking class can be good for you.

Every week Matthew Rossi writes The Care and Feeding of Warriors, a column dedicated to the plate-wearing, rage-using, every-weapon-but-wands-wielding men and women out there in the worlds of Azeroth and Outland.

Well, we don't know many specifics yet, but we do know that the first Hero Class in World of Warcraft is coming with the Wrath of the Lich King expansion, and it's going to be the Death Knight. We know that much, and we know they're going to be tanking/dps hybrids who will, according to Blizzard, tank with 2h weapons and while dual-wielding. You know, those things most warriors get yelled at when they try and do them. Hell, I've even told you not to do them, and now here comes the DK and he not only can do them, he's expected to.

And it's not as if the Death Knight will be arriving as your sole competition for tanking roles. We already have Feral Druids and Protection Paladins fighting for the tanking spot in instance runs, each bringing abilities to the table that no warrior can match. Ferals have much higher armor and HP and can feral charge in combat without having to switch stances, and paladin tanks are the unquestioned kings of AoE tanking with their Consecrate and Righteous Fury/Improved Righteous Fury talents.

Warriors are not the only tanks and haven't been for a long time now. In fact, for a while after the release of The Burning Crusade, warriors weren't even the preferred tanks in the new five man instances, with both ferals and paladins seen as better equipped to hold aggro on the multi-mob pulls required. A buff that allowed warriors to use Thunder Clap in defensive stance helped us a bit, but even now warriors are mostly seen as the kings of high-end raid tanking, especially on bosses, rather than all-around first choices for tanking in any situation.

Believe it or not, that can actually be good for you as a warrior... if you are lucky enough to run with groups that are educated to a warrior's particular strengths. I used to be very opposed to other classes coming in and tanking, it's true, but I've seen good tanks (and, admittedly, some really bad ones) of other classes and I think that having more options in the tanking role can be beneficial to everyone, if there is a willingness to let warriors fill more than the tanking role themselves.

The first thing to keep in mind is that an Arms or Fury warrior can tank, even in TBC instances. It's been stated before that an Arms warrior is intended as the baseline of warrior tanking, while protection is seen as a more dedicated tanking spec and fury is the pure DPS tree. As it's worked out, arms talents are also highly effective in PvP, especially in arenas where you need to do as much damage as fast as you can before you're wiped out. The added bonus of the Mortal Strike debuff forcing enemy healers to burn more mana to heal and possibly running out faster helps contribute to the spec's popularity in PvP. But it's far from being a worthless talent tree for tanking. Talents like Second Wind and Improved Discipline are useful for mobs that stun or immobilize you, and there's no way to argue that being able to use Shield Wall more often is a bad thing. By speccing arms a warrior can be a credible tank while still maintaining the ability to apply decent burst DPS when needed.

A fury spec warrior might have more difficulty staying upright, but with the right combination of fury and protection talents, you can DPS very effectively AND hold aggro with abilities like Enrage and Flurry. A tanking warrior with a high crit rate who can use Rampage to increase his attack power liberally can get more aggro simply because he's doing more damage than otherwise, and Improved Cleave is never a bad thing when tanking multiple mobs (unless you have the bad fortune to be trying to tank them in the middle of CC, which can happen).

Obviously, both of these specs will require some talents in prot. But what they really are is an example of how warriors can do more than one thing in an instance. When the improvements to feral and paladin tanking were first implemented, both groups argued that warriors should welcome the change, as it meant they wouldn't have to tank every single time they did a run anymore. Which would have been a welcome change, had it happened more than it really has. The problem is, not many people want warriors to do more than tank. If a group already has a tank, many times there won't be serious consideration given to a warrior in a DPS role even by people who would have no difficulty arguing that warriors do more damage than they should. If warriors are such overpowered DPSers, why is it so hard for them to get groups outside of guild runs as DPSers? A DPSing warrior cannot simply flip a switch and become a main tank... his gear won't be optimized for it, and slapping on a shield won't make up for all the defense and stamina and other tools tank gear brings to a tanking warrior... but he can go from DPS to offtank to save a group in much the same way that a feral in cat form can switch to bear to pull a mob off of a healer. Taunt works no matter what your spec is. You can sunder with a 2h or two weapons equipped. No, it wouldn't suffice to actually tank the entire dungeon. But it can and often does save a group from a wipe.

Protection spec warriors will always be, and should always be, the kings of warrior tanking. But with ferals, prot pallies, and now DK's coming into the mix there needs to be more flexibility in terms of allowing warriors into groups, be they tanks or not. If the argument is going to be made that having other tanks allows warrior to not always tank all the time, then they actually need to be allowed to perform other roles, otherwise you're allowing them to not always tank by not letting them into groups at all. That way, it actually is good for everyone to have more options in tanking and DPS. For that matter, a group that contains a warrior and a feral can actually have options as to who will tank which boss or which groups of mobs. Is the feral a better choice for this particular pull, while you'll want to have him go catform while the warrior tanks the boss mob? Now you can. Would you rather have the prot pally tank the large pull while the mage AoE's them down due to his superior AoE and group taunt, but you need a little extra healing for the pull after that, which can be easily tanked by the warrior with his superior mitigation?

Too many folks are stuck in the mindset that a specific class always has to fill a specific role and stay with that role for the entire instance or raid. Classes that have more than one strength should be used to their fullest, and for a warrior, sometimes that means letting someone else tank. With the Death Knight incoming, we'll hopefully see more groups willing to let particular tanks work to their strengths, sometimes DPSing, sometimes tanking, instead of trying to fill a scorecard of roles.

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