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.
2.2 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 Stamina: Magic Armor
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.
2.4 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!
2.5 Resistance: Magic Defense
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.
2.6 Heavy Armor
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, http://evilempireguild.org/guides/diminishmath.php
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.
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.
2.7 All About Shield Block
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:
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.
2.8 Self Sustenance; Consumables
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)
- Zanza’s Spirit
- 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.
Notice: The Burning Crusade expansion will dramatically change certain aspects of section 2.11. Read a quick overview of Devastate in the Addendum. If you are a full Protection warrior, be on the lookout for very slow, high-damage weapons.
Note that 2.11 was written near the time Ahn’Qiraj was released; weapon itemization has changed significantly.