Hello, I'm Sunnyskies and I've been warrior tanking since Burning Crusade. We are in a much better place on warriors nowadays than we used to be, and this guide is for protection warriors in normal / heroic dungeons. A great deal has been written about theorycraft, but that's written with raiders in mind and is about min/maxing. While this is by no means an exhaustive list of things you need to know to warrior tank, for normal /heroics, the pragmatic tips below should help.
Protection is much better than it used to be; rage generation comes from Shield Slam and Revenge instead of being hit, and the damage of vanilla protection is more than sufficient for general questing. What's more, tanking dungeons is engaging due to having to always be looking about and looking out for your party members. Lastly, you get (near) instant que's; you also get Savage Satchels that drop a pile of gold (~175G) and a account bound item creation consumable. Not to mentions that as the tank you set the pace and the flow of the dungeon; that's important to remember since it's a big part of whether or not you succeed or fail.
Bonus Armor > Armor > Strength > Crit > Mastery.
Everything else is gravy. If you're not sure if a piece of gear is good for you or better than what you have, I would suggest the wowhead item comparison tool.
Glyph of Unending Rage is mandatory, everything else is taste. I would say Glyph of Gag Orders is highly recommended as well since it gives you a ranged silence that lets you bunch caster up with the rest of the mobs your thunder clapping. I like Glyph of Intimidating Shout as well, since it roots the mobs during fear; mobs normally run during fear and can pull other groups.
Talents are a matter of taste in many cases; I prefer to pull with charges or to pull around corners with Heroic Throw. The Talents below are what I consider suitable for 5 mans.
15: Juggernaut - I like to pull with charges, lower reset means more charge pulls.
30: Second Wind - 5 Man healers can be iffy; this gives you a bit of a buffer against player RNG.
45: Unyielding Strikes - Devastate is going to be up more than Shield Slam or Revenge, and at six stacks, Heroic Strike is basically free.
60: Shockwave - A second stun/interrupt and also damage mitigation if yus
75: Vigilance - The other person only needs to be in LOS to use this; toss it on whomever is taking too much damage from somebody being bad.
90: Avatar - More damage and less roots. Also, the other two choices are DPS talents.
100: Anger Management - Gladiator Stance is awesome. It's also mostly for raid offtanks so they don't have to try and collect and entirely new gear set while still being effective DPS. Anger management reduces the CD's on your abilities, giving you more wiggle room in when to use them.
Critical Strike if you're feeling feisty; or slightly more optimal
If your enchanting blues you're either very rich or a silly bastard, probably both. Critical Strike if you must.
Smash. Smash shows you your optimal rotation at any given moment and can be moved around on the screen. I put it to the left of my character. Some might call it a crutch, but as a tank you need to be looking at what's going on around you, not looking at your hotkey bar to see what CD's are up.
Smash will show you your single target rotation, but here it is.
Shield Slam> Revenge > Devastate
Short and sweet because, as a tank you have more to worry about than button mashing. When your target is 20% health or below, Execute > Shield slam. If you're too busy trying to round stuff up to even look at your rotation mod, mash Devastate.
When in doubt, rage dump to Shield Barrier. No, not to Heroic Strike. A more nuanced explanation is, if you're dps'ing as a tank, you're doing it wrong. If you're not holding threat, you're doing something terribly wrong; probably not prioritizing Shield Slam and Revenge, and Heroic Strike will not help you threat better than if you prioritized those. If your healer seems to be keeping you alive just fine, use heroic strike, but LFG being what it is, your results may vary.
Threat != Damage output. As long as the threat meter on the enemy's unit frame is red, your good. Having more threat doesn't make you a better tank like having more damage makes you a better dps. Keeping things attacking you makes you a better tank. It's generally a non-issue if you follow the single target rotation.
On Multi-Target Threat....
Pull, let the enemies gather, Thunderclap. Then Shockwave; but make sure you are facing the enemy clump, backing up a bit might help. If there are many melee enemies, Demoralizing shout. As long as your party members don't outgear you, Thunderclap should be enough to hold threat on what isn't being focus fired, but even so, switch targets. Every Thunderclap, click on another target and start building single target threat on that target. And when you Thunderclap again, switch again. If you can do that, you will be MLG pro. If all else fails, everything is going to hell, and your healer is dying, drop Mocking Banner and pray.
On Damage Mitigation...
Shield Block is nice, but only affects Melee hits and then only from the front. If your facing a big melee group, use Shield Block. Shield Barrier affects all damage, but only soaks a certain amount adjusted for the rage it used up (min. 20 - max. 40); unlike Shield Block, if you have the rage, you can Shield Barrier. Your "OH SHIT" buttons are Shield Wall (40% straight damage mitigation) and Last Stand (30% more life).
By the way, use your OH SHIT abilities. Don't wait for that special moment; if you think your health is getting too low, too fast, use them. Your healer will be thankful if you are being aggressive with mitigation cooldowns, and with Anger Management, the time between cooldowns will be noticeably reduced.
While not strictly mitigation, Shockwave will stop a group from attacking you and give your healer some breathing room; ditto for Intimidating Shout. Vigilance will mitigate damage on somebody else, but is has a Cooldown. Spell Reflection will reflect single target spells back to any caster that completes a spell that targets you while Spell Reflection, but wait until the enemy cast is almost done to use Spell Reflection since the buff only lasts 5 seconds.
Stuns & Silences
You get Pummel and that's about it. Shockwave also stops ability casting, but doesn't silence casters for 5 seconds like Pummel does; once the stun wears off, they will try to use the same ability again. If you took Glyph of Gag Orders, your Heroic Throw will silence; useful to pulling in distant casters. In a pinch, you could Intimidating Shout, but mobs have the same behavior as Shockwave when it wears off. It's not really your job as tank to Stun/Silence, but if you get an opportunity and your dps aren't doing their job, by all means, stun/silence. In general, prioritize healing spells and then any kind of defensive buff spell.
Taunt will set your threat level to the level of whomever currently has a threat lead and then add a tiny bit more threat to push you into the lead. If the Mob isn't attacking anybody and you taunt it, it will give you a bit of threat lead and make it try to eat your face; but then, getting your face eaten is your job.
Berserker Rage will break incapacitating effects, and Avatar will break roots and snares; both increases your damage. I like to use the two together at the beginning of the fight and then use them as they come up. You may need to hold off on using Berserker Rage if you know there is a fear coming. Otherwise, treat both cooldowns as you would your mitigation cooldowns. The Smash mod will prompt you to use both.
Use Vigilance to reduce incoming damage on your healer or one of the DPS if they look like they are getting low.I like to follow Vigilance up with Intervene and then a quick Thunderclap if it's up and/or grabbing his attacker with single target threat.
Mocking Banner can be used when a pull goes sour and mobs are running everywhere. Just be careful you don't pull a nearby mob pack that you aren't fighting and keep in mind that when mocking banner has ended, if you don't have sufficient threat on the mobs, they will go back to eating the rest of your party.
There are lots of way to pull. Charge, Heroic Leap, Taunt, Heroic Throw and even just running at a group. Pulling mindlessly is bad, always pull with purpose. To that end, observe what patrols are present and how they move; having a patrol walk up behind and eat your healer is never fun and usually means a wipe unless you can quickly Vigilance and Intervene. Make sure the mobs you pull get moved far enough away from other nearby groups that you or your party members don't accidentally aggro. Most DPS will kill what you are targeting and/or have marked but if a DPS pulls on purpose, let him die. I'm serious, I have a strict "You Pull It You Tank It" rule.
It's a good idea to kill Healers > Casters > Melee. Depending on what kind of abilities the DPS casters or Melee have you might have to prioritize them first; Melee that cast conical stuns and casters that us abilities like Dragons Breath are notable exceptions.
When pulling, it's important to realize that casters / ranged mobs will run to the edge of their maximum range and then shoot. If they can't see you, they will run until they can see you and will stop as far away as possible; you can use this behavior to your advantage by pulling with a ranged ability like Heroic Throw or Taunt and then running away and hiding behind a pillar or around a corner or anything that breaks Line of Sight. That's LOS pulling and you will be MLG Pro if you do it. Related to LOS pulling, a silenced caster mob will behave like a standard melee mob and will close to melee distance if possible.
One last trick, if you have a mob running wild, follow up a Taunt with Heroic Throw to get a nice threat boost on it.
Showing your back to your enemy is bad; you have no armor value from behind and cant block/dodge. If you have to move quick, it's better to strafe unless the boss has stopped attacking to cast or channel and you need to get away from him in a big hurry. Many abilities are conical, strafe just enough to the left or right avoid it and then strafe back in front of it when the casting is complete.
In general, move as little as possible without standing in fire/poison/magma/void/etc. Many bosses drop effects on the ground, but you can control how much of the ground it covers by how you move. Your goal should be to have them to cover as little of the ground as you can while moving through the effect itself as little as possible; this a reoccurring raid mechanic and if you can master it early, your raid leader will love the ever-living bajeezus out of you for it.
Turn the mobs/boss away from your party as much as possible; most boss abilities are directional and in front of them, so you keep it from hitting your party that way.
Watch your party's health bars, if everybody is going down and it's not a boss mechanic, you probably have a mob running wild.
Tanking is a fun and engaging activity, it requires you to be watching the whole screen and adjusting your ability use accordingly. It's rarely boring due to the challenging nature of juggling a slew of abilities based on situations that you only partially control. What's more, with the dearth of tanks in WoW today, Blizzard generously rewards those who do take on the responsibility. There has never been a better time to be a Warrior tank, and I would encourage you to give it a shot.
yep you are J