Classic WoW - Warrior Tanking Guide
This guide was written during the re-release of WoW Classic (during 2019/2020) and covers (almost) everything you need to know about Tanking on Warriors in Classic WoW. For those of you who don't have any experience on Private Servers and only remember what Classic WoW was from the initial release; you'll be surprised to learn that most of what you knew about tanking was wrong or has changed.
We used to think that mitigation was the most important stat for a tank with a mandatory Defense cap of 440, this has since been disproven and most tanks use a hybrid set of gear which is a mix of DPS and mitigation gear. Additionally, in the high end guilds (mine included) most of our tanks don't even use shields anymore for some encounters, we use dual wield as it allows us to generate more threat. This is what tanking in Classic WoW has become.
To give you a TL;DR version of it, raiding in Classic WoW comes down entirely to threat and threat generation. The reason most Warriors don't use shields now is because they need to generate more threat otherwise they'll never be able to hold agro over the people in their raid. Not using a shield and instead dual wield tanking is what is known as Fury Prot.
Should I go Fury Prot? Depending on your guild and its unique set of problems will determine if a Fury Prot spec is right for you. If you don't have enough DPS that are pushing the limits of your threat generation then you won't want to trade off survivability for more threat generation. Keep in mind too that Fury Prot spec is built around heavy consumable usage and world buffs. If you don't plan on coughing up 100 - 200g + per raid night and going out of your way to world buff then this class/spec is not for you. Last but not least, if you do plan on going Fury Prot it's imperative that you understand the basics of tanking first.
The rest of this guide will be separated into different sections, choose the one based on the spec that you plan to play for your Warrior. Below is a list of helpful links that will take you to other guides I have written about the Warrior class that you may find useful.
Warrior Recommended Addons
General Need to Know Information
No matter what spec you are as a Warrior some things will never change and that's what this section is for! As aforementioned earlier in the guide, what we used to know about tanking has become obsolete - defense and stam are no longer the most important stats for you. Every Warrior is going to want to focus on Hit % and Weapon Skill until a certain point after which you'll focus more on Stamina then you will Defense.
Warriors who go Fury Prot will want to focus more on Crit then get some Stamina, a good mixture of both is what I do on my Warrior. The reason that Hit % and Weapon Skill are so important is because they greatly help with your ability to generate Threat. Having a higher Weapon Skill will cause less Glancing Blows when fighting boss enemies and having a higher Hit % chance will allow you to hit more and generate more threat.
What is a Glancing Blow? A Glancing Blow occurs when you're fighting an enemy that is your level or higher -- OR when the enemy you're facing has a higher Defense skill than your Weapon Skill. Glancing Blows can only occur on your white damage attacks and will reduce the overall damage of the attack. By default, a Glancing Blow has a 40% chance of occuring when you're fighting a boss. Higher Weapon Skill reduces this chance significantly. For more information about how Weapon Skill scales check out my Warrior Math Compendium.
Orc Warriors have a default +5 to Axes as a racial and Human Warriors have a default +5 to Swords as a racial. If you're either one of these classes you'll want to do your best to always use the weapon that you have a racial for. Warriors who aren't either of these two races should instead use Edgemaster's Handguards to make up for their lack of Weapon Skill. This is arguably the most important upgrade you can get as a Tank, especially as Fury Prot as it'll greatly improve your threat generation.
What is the Hit Cap or how much Hit % do I want? Your Hit Cap changes depending on your Weapon Skill and whether or not you're Dual Wielding as Fury Prot or not. Without any Weapon Skill you'll have a default 8% chance to miss with your main hand attacks. If you are an Orc using Axes or Human using Swords then you'll only have a 6% chance of missing your main hand attacks. Off hands require a higher Hit % than your main hand does with (I think) a 25% chance to miss by default. However, there is a "cheap" way to make your offhand never miss by queuing up Heroic Strike, more on that later.
300 Weapon Skill: 9% Hit Cap
305 Weapon Skill: 6% Hit Cap
Note: The first 1% hit you get from Talents or gear is "suppressed" by the game's code. More on this can be found here, here and here. That's why you have an 8% chance to miss but the hit cap is actually 9%.
With all of the information about Weapon Skill and Hit out of the way, let's take a dive into the math behind Threat and your different Threat Modifiers.
This is such an important part of playing a Warrior that I decided to give it a small info section right here. If you're interested in seeing more math, I go into more detail with more math in the Classic WoW Warrior Tanking Math Compendium. As the infograph above states, if you're in Defensive Stance and you have 5/5 Defiance (talents in Protection tree) then you'll have a two different Threat Modifiers which are Multiplicative.
What this means is each time you deal a single point of damage you'll multiply your damage done by BOTH modifiers, as shown above. This is how tanks are able to stay above DPS in threat without doing great DPS themselves. Before moving onto the next section, I have provided a list of each ability you'll commonly be using on a tank and how much threat you should expect it to generate. These numbers are BASE threat values. This means they do not factor in the bonuses you get from Defiance or Defensive Stance.
How Much Threat Each Ability Generates:
Revenge: 315 + threat from damage + 25 threat on stun proc
Sunder Armor: 261
Shield Slam: 250 + threat from damage
Shield Bash: 180 + threat from damage
Heroic Strike: 145 + threat from damage
Thunder Clap: 130 per mob hit + threat from damage
Battle Shout: 55 per player receiving buff
Demoralizing Shout: 43 per mob receiving debuff
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Full Prot Tanking Guide
Combat Rotation: Shield Slam, Shield Block, Revenge, Heroic Strike
Stat Requirements: Hit (up to 6 or 9%), Weapon Skill then Stamina & Defense
Most Warriors that plan to tank will want to go this spec. As aforementioned, unless you are in a guild that has multiple DPS pushing your threat ceiling (aka your threat generation) you'll want to stick with full prot and be a mitigation tank. The only way Fury Prot works is if you're in a guild where the fights aren't very long and your healers can maintain keeping you alive with less mitigation.
As aforementioned earlier in the guide, the main mechanic you have to worry about as a tank is threat. The entirety of your job in Classic WoW revolves around your ability to generate and maintain threat. With Defensive Stance and Defiance you gain a significant edge over the other classes but it can still be hard to hold threat over some of the higher DPS classes like Fury Warriors or Warlocks since they have no threat dump ability.
Full Prot tanks will still want to focus on building up at least 6 - 9% hit as their first priority depending on what their Weapon Skill is. After that they can focus more on Stam/Defense since stacking Crit isn't worthwhile for them without the Flurry talent.
Since you'll be using a shield the whole time as a Full Prot Warrior it's very important that you understand how blocking and the Shield Block ability work. This information is useful for Fury Prot too which is why I recommend any Fury Prot tanks read this guide as well.
Shield Block & Blocking: When you block an attack, you only negate the total damage of your combined block value, which is often >100 total damage. Most raid shields in Classic WoW only have 40 - 80 Block value and then there are some trinkets you can use that will increase that value too. This probably doesn't sound very impressive to you and there's a reason for that - because it isn't. The actual value of Shield Block and blocking comes from the fact that you can't be crit when you block an attack.
What this means is, when you use Shield Block and you have at least one talent in the ability - you're immune to crits for two attacks. The reason you only ever want to put a single talent into Improved Shield Block is because it only ever blocks two attacks - putting any more than one talent point into just increases its duration. Increased duration though is worthless when the buff gets eaten off of you in less than a second.
What About Sunder Armor?: This ability used to be the bread and butter of almost all mitigation tanks and it still kind of is with a few exceptions. During 5mans you won't have the time to stack 5 sunders on each mob before it dies, in raids if you (meaning the tank) stack 5 sunders you'll be greatly hampering your initial threat on a mob. Ideally, you want the offtanks helping you with applying Sunder Armor to bosses and let the main tank go into their regular rotation as fast as possible.
The main reason Sunder Armor is no longer a part of your main rotation is because it only gives you a base amount of threat. If you look at the numbers I posted above, Sunder Armor only generates 261 threat; with no added bonus from the damage it causes. Whereas Shield Slam generates 250 threat plus threat from the damage it causes. For fights where you want to generate more threat as fast as possible you do not want to be using Sunder Armor. Instead, you want your off tanks to use Sunder Armor to help you generate more threat.
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Fury Prot Tanking Guide
Combat Rotation: Bloodthirst, Revenge & Heroic Strike (while tanking)... Bloodthirst, Whirlwind, Heroic Strike (while DPSing)
Stat Requirements: Hit, Weapon Skill then Crit & Stamina
Fury Prot is the spec I play as on my Warrior and as an old school WoW player, it took me quite awhile to switch to this spec. What this spec boils down to is basically you're a DPS-tank hybrid spec and you use dual wield most of the time to generate an insane amount of threat. I, like many others, was very relectant to believe that Fury Prot could possibly be better than full prot but now I can't imagine playing any other way.
I use my shield on bosses/enemies that hit extremely hard - you'll learn to know which enemies these are the more you tank. In Scholomance, Rattlegore and his whole room is a good example. Molten Core, the Molten Destroyers and Lava Packs sometimes Garr/Sulfuron as well. Otherwise, 90% of the time I dual wield, both in raids and in 5mans.
Before I go rambling on about this spec, let me first give you a TL;DR. What it all boils down to is adaptability, knowing when and how to adapt to every situation and consumables. When you first spec Fury Prot you should expect to die a lot as you learn when to use your shield and when not to.
During your learning period with Fury Prot it's important you don't be an ass and always blame your healers for your deaths. What I like my healers to do is one priest spam nothing but max rank 'Heal' on me and have a Druid load me up with HoTs/spot heal me. Typically a Fury Prot tank always wants two healers on him, one healer can manage with Greater Heal spam but your health will be very spikey and scary.
Before we start talking about hypothetical situations and what you should do in each one, let's take a less indepth look at the consumables you'll need to use. A Complete guide about all of the consumables can be found here. As aforementioned, this spec is basically built around consumable usage.
Fury Prot Indepth Consumable Information
Flask of the Titans: Depending on the raid (or bosses), this should be on you at all times. Before BWL came out, I used to use my Flask in MC around Shazzrah so it was up for Ragnaros. Until Aq40 comes out I will likely always use a Flask in BWL. Once Aq40 comes out I will probably use a Flask around the 3 drakes in BWL so I have it up for Chromaggus and Nef. Most likely, I will always use a Flask while raiding Aq40 and Naxx if I am tanking.
Elixir of the Mongoose: Arguably your second most important consumable as Crit is extremely important for us. More Crit means more Flurry up time which means more raid generation which means more threat
Elixir of Superior Defense: This is a minor boost to your defenses but makes up for the lack of a shield. I'd recommend you use this at all times due to how cheap it is
Greater Stoneshield Potion: Using this Potion will give you (almost) the entire Armor of a Shield. Situationally useful, typically on bosses that hit very hard you'll drink this before the pull
Goblin Sapper Charge: Extremely useful on AoE packs for initial threat generation
Dense Dynamite: Much like the Goblin Sapper Charges they are extremely useful on packs of enemies for AoE threat generation
Elixir of Fortitude: Provides a measly 120 HP but it's enough HP to save you from death
Rumsey Rum Black Label: Much like food buffs you'll drink this just before charging in to fight the boss. Gives you an additional 15 Stamina that stacks with every other buff in the game
Mighty Rage Potion: Extremely useful for some situations and some fights where you need to gain agro on a boss or mob that can't be taunted. Onyxia during Phase 3 is a good example of this
Free Action Potion: Very useful for any fights or enemies that stun you at the start of the fight preventing you from getting agro. Gehennas is a good example of this as are the lava packs in the final portion of Molten Core.
Elemental Sharpening Stone: One of the most useful but most expensive consumables in the entire game. Alliance players technically should be putting one of these on both of their weapons, Horde will only need to put them on their Off Hand weapon since we have Windfury. Each Elemental Sharpening Stone gives 2% crit.
As mentioned earlier as well, world buffs are an essential part of Fury Prot tanking. Many people would argue that world buffs are required to make a Fury Prot spec work properly and this is partly true, world buffs are only important if you're in a guild that does them. If your raid is world buffed and you aren't it'll be impossible for you to hold threat over them; on the flip side if you are world buffed and they aren't you'll be almost impossible to catch in threat.
Here are the different world buffs that are available to you:
Rallying Cry of the Dragonslayer (Onyxia/Nefarian head)
Warchief's Blessing (Rend head turn in)
Dire Maul Tribute Buffs (Talk to Guards throughout Dire Maul North after a Tribute Run)
Songflower (Felwood plant buff)
Spirit of Zandalar (STV Zul'Gurub buff)
For a Fury Prot warrior the most important world buffs for you to get are the Onyxia/Nefarian "Rallying Cry of the Dragonslayer" as well as the Songflower buff from Felwood. I personally do not do the Songflower because it only lasts an hour and I hate getting world buffs. The main reason these two buffs are worth getting over the rest is the bonus crit chance that they give to you.
Fury Prot Hypothetical Situations/Theorizing
This section is going to be mostly just hypothetical situations that you'll run into as Fury Prot and what you should do in those situations. It's designed to help people who've never played this spec before adjust more quickly to it and learn the quirks of it.
Bloodlord Mandokir, Hakkar or any other hard hitting bosses: What I do for these fights is start the fight while Dual Wielding with Death Wish and Last Stand; sometimes I use Ice Thistle E'ko or any other "protection" Trinkets/items. What this does is give me much higher survivability during the initial high threat generation part of the fight. Once Last Stand fades, I have a solid lead, or I start getting hit far too hard I go back to Sword and Shield.