As a note at the start,
I am also posting this in google doc form if you'd prefer to read it there. Thank you all for taking the time to read this, and I hope you enjoy Shadowlands!
Hello, my name is Lalasama. You may remember me from my previous post about Protection Warrior back before 8.1 and from various other things like r/wow’s Tanking Tuesdays and Skyhold the Warrior discord. While I stepped away from the game after Battle of Dazar'alor, I did greatly enjoy Protection Warrior in 8.1 and beyond and I hope to enjoy it again without the growing pains of an entire first patch of the next expansion. I have come back as of the last few months mostly in excitement of Shadowlands. I think there are a lot of very promising features in the next expansion that feel like a lot of fun to do. Playing the beta has been a very nice lens on what problems I currently have with both my class and the overall game. In this post I'd like to once again look at the things I think are going to greatly hinder Protection Warrior in 9.0 content early on and what are possibilities Blizzard can take to address it. I will follow a similar structure as before by talking about the problems that are going to limit the classes ability to function and then afterwards what fixes can be aimed for. Shadowlands is a short 6 weeks away from the time of this post and I don't expect grandiose changes, but something is definitely needed right now.
Problems That Expose Protection Warrior in Shadowlands Content.
Our Mitigation Has Significant Gaps (Again)
Seem familiar? This was a problem for a large part of BFA as well, but after essences came out things like Lucid Dreams, Vision of Perfection, and Ineffable Truth corruption really helped cover this one up. It’s a real glaring issue now with or without Anger Management being the guaranteed talent, but I’ll get to that later. A 16 second Shield Block cooldown means if you are maintaining permanent tanking uptime you will have ~38% Shield Block uptime. Haste and talents like Heavy Repercussions, Bolster, and Anger Management help improve the uptime of our defensives. Alas they all reside on the same talent tier now unlike in BFA. This also makes our cooldowns usage necessary for basic mitigation from melees in order to not die, leaving us empty for actual pressure points and tankbusters. While I still maintain the opinion that Block should have some downtime, it just feels too extreme right now.
We Are Too Dependent on Cooldowns (Now We Can’t Bring Them Back Quickly)
In BFA I mentioned that I liked this part of Warrior gameplay. The cycle of feeding rage into Anger Management in order to gain access to your cooldowns as you would need them again was a lot of fun. I also mentioned though that this can be stressful and keep many players away from wanting to play it as having to use cooldowns so frequently can be difficult to manage. Warrior still has to use cooldowns to cover moments of Block downtime, this has not changed. What has changed is that Anger Management no longer affects Last Stand or Demoralizing Shout. While the loss of Demoralizing Shout can be mitigated by the Thunderlord’s legendary effect in Shadowlands, not being able to reduce the cooldown of Last Stand is brutal to this talent’s strength with Bolster on the same tier.
I really would have preferred to see Anger Management made baseline with this change in some capacity, and had Neltharion’s Fury (our artifact ability from Legion) put here instead. That talent row would look very competitive between Bolster, Heavy Repercussions, and Neltharion’s Fury. The need for more consistent Block uptime favors Heavy Repercussions. The need for an extra burst of Block uptime favors Bolster. Moments of needing a very strong short burst of critical Block would see Neltharion’s Fury used. While I personally really like the idea, it’s just an example replacement and obviously isn’t the only option that someone could come up with.
A Significant Amount of Damage in M+ and Castle Nathria are Magical or Bleeds (Unblockable)
I feel that there should be a much bigger focus on this from the tanking community as a whole. Many of the tankbuster mechanics in Castle Nathria, and pressure in M+, comes from DoT effects the tank has no good way to deal with. When our active mitigation uptime is so low and we are using cooldowns to cover unblocked melees, this is especially problematic. The emphasis on these things not only makes all tanks heavily desire Kyrian Covenant in order to have the removal potion regardless of the actual class ability we would want, it also greatly punishes specific tanks far more than others. Out of the 10 bosses in Castle Nathria, 7 of them have bleed/DoT based tank mechanics (Kyrian potion does remove these as of the latest testing). Warriors still greatly lack the ability to deal with this compared to other tanks. Our cooldowns often don’t cover the full duration of the DoT (Shield Wall is 8 seconds and many of the DoTs are 10-15 seconds) and Ignore Pain as our only way to mitigate this does not cut it in most cases. Many packs in M+ have stacking diseases, bleeds, or magic effects that tear right through many tanks right now as well. This feels more like a “bring the right healer for the dungeon” enforcement, which also isn’t enjoyable.
This isn’t a Warrior exclusive problem, but Warriors handle this the worst. The type of damage Warrior is dealing with and whether it is Blockable or not heavily swings our sturdiness. I feel like this was a lesson we learned in Nighthold when almost every tankbuster was magical or DoT based, and it feels like we’re repeating it here. We need better tools to deal with these types of mechanics if they are going to be a recurring trend. It is the least fun type of gameplay when tanks are forced into kiting, just for survival, and have to watch the pull from 10+ yards away instead of participating. I feel like I’m doing that more often on the beta.
What Does Shadowlands Do Positively for Protection Warriors?
Talents Actually Have Some Interesting Choices
I actually think the new talent lines are a vast improvement over BFA’s currently, except for the Anger Management problem. I will regularly swap talents based on content I’m doing and what I think will be best for specific content.
Dragon Roar and Booming Voice are both competitive for rage generation and Best Served Cold does fill an AoE damage niche. I’ll likely swap between Dragon Roar and Booming Voice depending on if I need more burst damage or just want a little more consistency. Booming Voice also has a nice synergy with the Thunderlord legendary.
Ravager has strong potential now with the addition of rage generation and damage. It is competing well with Unstoppable Force. This is true even when compared with Thunderlord synergy when running that legendary. I do think the Into the Fray nerf is unnecessary on this tier, with it being 2% haste per stack instead of 3%.
The last tier is where I love the changes, and also have the most issues. Bolster and Heavy Repercussions competing with each other for selection is great and highlights whether you want large bursts of Shield Block uptime, or more consistent overall. The Anger Management nerf largely makes this talent painful to take as your Block uptime will be significantly lower and the talent isn’t strong enough to offset that. I’d love to see another competitive defensive talent instead of Anger Management here, and the Shadowlands version of Anger Management made baseline as I said in my previous post in 8.0. Neltharion’s Fury is still a perfect fit in my mind.
Rage Generation Feels Pretty Good
Unlike the start of BFA where it felt snail-paced, our rage generation feels pretty good. I think the Ravager change, our Covenant abilities, and short CD rage bursts (like Dragon Roar or Booming Voice) are satisfying and useful for keeping us alive. Overall, rage generation controls the flow of the entire spec and in that regard it’s been enjoyable to play. I have no complaints here currently, outside of not really getting to press execute enough without severely sacrificing survivability. That is likely an intentional decision. It’s such a fun button to press again. I didn’t think I’d really miss it much, but i’m glad it’s back.
Protection is on the weak end right now, but has the fun feeling in the right spot. It could use a myriad of different, possible changes to get to the right place overall. Things like increased mitigation uptime, or baseline Anger Management would be good starts. I’d also like to see an overall tweak to tank mechanic design being so heavily based on magic DoT effects and bleeds as well because this is a troubling pattern. This is true for all tanks, and not just Warrior.
Oh yeah, and the Mass Spell Reflect legendary effect is absolutely overpowered for group content and even without reflecting for anyone is absurdly powerful, please nerf it. 60% uptime on a 20% magic DR for the entire party is absolutely insane. I don’t know how it’s lasted as long as it has. I'd love to have some level of decision in my legendary selection but this just removes any choice and makes others an incorrect one. I’m sure dps warriors would appreciate it in the long run too.
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