During World of Warcraft’s vanilla era, Protection Warriors were the de facto tanks chosen to progress groups through end-game content. Paladins simply did not have a complete tanking toolset at the time, and while Druids could theoretically tank in most scenarios, they suffered from the perception problem of being a healing class. While their dominant position has become a thing of the past since then, the Warrior remains the quintessential tank, and this Protection Warrior guide aims to help you master this old stalwart of the game.
Like Protection Paladin, the Protection Warrior wears Plate armour and wields shields and one-handed weapons. Warriors shun the self-healing ways of the Paladins, however, focusing instead on efficiently avoiding as much damage as possible through several active mitigation abilities, and simply being tough and resilient to incoming damage. They are also the most mobile plate-wearing class, able to quickly and efficiently jump from one edge of the battlefield to the other.
In this Protection Warrior guide, we’ll recommend talents that will fit both the levelling process and the endgame, although if you decide to level up your Warrior as Protection, we recommend that you do it through running dungeons instead of questing, as average damage output makes questing slower than with a damage-dealing specialisation. If you intend to level your Warrior via questing, we think you should seriously consider following our Fury Warrior guide instead.
After our talent recommendations, we’ll outline the optimal rotation for generating Rage, the resource that you’ll then use to empower the mitigation abilities that are crucial for your success as a tank. We will, of course, offer a primer on when and how to deploy these, as well.
In future updates to this guide, we’ll include a section on how to upgrade your Artifact Weapon, and some gear recommendations that will compliment your tanking abilities.
All articles in this series
Protection Warrior talent build
This talent choice is meant for optimal ease-of-use while ensuring you don’t lag behind other tanks in survivability or resource generation. It should be viable for every type of endgame content except Mythic raiding.
|Level||Talent Option||Reason for Choice|
|15||Shockwave - Sends a wave of force in a frontal cone, causing damage and stunning all enemies within 10 yards for 4 sec. Cooldown reduced by 20 sec if it strikes at least 3 targets.||While not very useful on dangerous boss fights, this mass stun will serve you well while questing and in Mythic dungeons.|
|30||Inspiring Presence - You inspire your party or raid members within 60 yards, causing them to be healed for 3% of all damage they deal.||A good, passive source of healing that helps out your group.|
|45||Ultimatum - Your Shield Slam critical strikes cause your next Focused Rage to cost zero Rage.||Focused Rage helps you establish threat through an increase in damage output, but hinders your survivability by leaving you with less rage to use on defensive abilities. This talent lessens that problem.|
|60||Bounding Stride - Reduces the cooldown on Heroic Leap by 15 sec, and Heroic Leap now also increases your run speed by 70% for 3 sec.||This faster recharge of your primary movement ability will help you in any fight where you need to get out of range of an attack or quickly move to pick up some adds.|
|75||Indomitable - Increases your maximum health by 25%, and the maximum effect of Ignore Pain by 25%.||A major survivability increase, coupled with a major upgrade to one of your main defensive abilities.|
|90||Vengeance - Ignore Pain reduces the Rage cost of your next Focused Rage by 35%, and Focused Rage reduces the Rage cost of your next Ignore Pain by 35%.||This establishes a synergistic relationship between two abilities that will be consistently used in our recommended playstyle.|
|100||Heavy Repercussions - Shield Slam extends the duration of Shield Block by 1.5 sec, and Shield Block increases the damage of Shield Slam by an additional 30%.||Just as above, this will further tie our rage generators to our rage spenders in a mutually beneficial relationship that will passively improve both survivability and damage output during our regular rotation.|
Protection Warrior rotations and cooldowns
When tanking, rotations are not nearly as important as having good knowledge of each fight’s mechanics, and positioning yourself properly in order to take the least amount of damage while helping your party or raid avoid as much damage as possible too. It is also crucial to know when to weave your defensive cooldowns into your rotation.
However, a good rotation will help you build consistent threat on your targets, preventing them from going off and damaging one of your fellow players, and is also important as a means to generate enough Rage to be able to activate your damage mitigation abilities whenever they are needed. Finally, our talent choices mean that performing the rotation well will boost the effects of said defensive abilities.
More WOW class guides:
|Death Knight||Demon Hunter||Druid|
|Blood Death Knight guide||Havoc Demon Hunter guide||Balance Druid guide|
|Frost Death Knight guide||Vengeance Demon Hunter guide||Feral Druid guide|
|Unholy Death Knight guide||-||Guardian Druid guide|
|-||-||Restoration Druid guide|
|Beast Mastery Hunter guide||Arcane Mage guide||Brewmaster Monk guide|
|Marksmanship Hunter guide||Fire Mage guide||Mistweaver Monk guide|
|Survival Hunter guide||Frost Mage guide||Windwalker Monk guide|
|Holy Paladin guide||Holy Priest guide||Assassination Rogue guide|
|Protection Paladin guide||Discipline Priest guide||Outlaw Rogue guide|
|Retribution Paladin guide||Shadow Priest guide||Subtlety Rogue guide|
|Elemental Shaman guide||Affliction Warlock guide||Arms Warrior guide|
|Enhancement Shaman guide||Demonology Warlock guide||Fury Warrior guide|
|Restoration Shaman guide||Destruction Warlock guide||Protection Warrior guide|
Other WOW guides:
The main purpose of this rotation is to generate the Rage needed to activate your two primary defensive / active mitigation abilities, Ignore Pain and Shield Block. These don’t have strict positions in the rotation, as you should try to sync their usage with periods of incoming damage where they are the most effective.
|Action||Condition / Further Instructions|
|1||Shield Block||Try to use it as much as possible throughout the fight, but delay it a bit if you know that a major damaging attack is coming within the next 12 seconds.|
|2||Shield Slam||Immediately after Shield Block, and as many times as it is available during Shield Block’s duration. Only cast it outside of Shield Block if you need to generate Rage. (under 30 Rage is a good byline, as 30 Rage is enough to cast both Shield Block and Ignore Pain together during a dire situation).|
|3||Devastate||If Shield Slam is on cooldown (this has a chance to reset it). If the cooldown is reset, go back to step 2.|
|4||Revenge||If Shield Slam has less that 1.5 seconds remaining on its cooldown.|
|5||Focused Rage / Ignore Pain||Alternate between these two to benefit from the previously picked Vengeance talent. Prioritize Ignore Pain if you expect moderate incoming damage or unblockable damage|
|6||Repeat from Step 1.|
Defensive cooldowns are the abilities that you want to save for use as “panic buttons” when your health drops to scary levels, or to survive highly damaging fight mechanics. Here’s a primer on when to best use them.
|Last Stand||On a 3-minute cooldown, you can reasonably expect to use this twice or even trice in most boss fights, and also on the occasional tougher trash group. Activate it in preparation for a major block of incoming damage, or if you are near death and Shield Wall is on cooldown.|
|Shield Wall||This is your most powerful defensive ability, but its 4-minute cooldown means that you will usually only be able to use it once per fight, or, very occasionally, twice. Save it to use as a last resort.|
|Demoralizing Shout||At a 1.5 minute cooldown, you can be more liberal with using this one, and should do so as often as possible during each fight - but delay it a bit if you expect a period of increase damage to come soon, and especially if you have exhausted your other defensive options.|
|Spell Reflection||While most boss spells are not reflectable, this still gives you a very meaty 30% damage reduction VS spells for its 5-second duration, and a 25-second cooldown means you can have it up very often, so use it liberally against casters.|
|Neltharion’s Fury||You only get this once you acquire your artifact weapon. Whenever it is off cooldown, look for an opportunity to use it - either just before an incoming large blow, or optimally, a large series of more moderate attacks. And remember that you can combine it with both Shield Block and Ignore Pain!|
That’s it for the first version of our Protection Warrior guide. Tune in soon for an Artifact upgrade guide, and a breakdown of the effects of primary and secondary stats on your playstyle, in a way that will help you optimise your gear selection.
Did we forget something? Take to the comments section below and let us know what you think!