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The Warrior in Instances

The job of the Warrior in an instance group is usually that of Main Tank (although Fury Warriors have become more popular due to some changes in the Fury tree). The Warrior has access to a huge array of weapons and armor, an immense Armor Class, a large pool of Hit Points, and a large suite of abilities designed to make enemies focus on them and not the (less robust) members of the party around them.

The likelihood of Warriors finding themselves in an instance, and not the Main Tank, becomes much better if there is another Tank (a Protection-specced Warrior, Protection-specced Paladin, or Feral-specced Druid) doing that job already. In these situations, Warriors then become Off-Tanks, Main Assists, or Damage Dealers.

As a Warrior

  • Depending heavily on the situation, Warriors generally have preferential aggro management options compared to Paladins, Bear-form Druids, and certainly compared to Voidwalkers, Felguards, and Hunter pets. More specifically, they are the premier single-target tank, but will find it difficult to simultaneously control more than 2 targets. You will usually be expected to tank if you are in a group.
  • If there is more than one Warrior in the group, decide beforehand who is to be the Main Tank.
    • A higher level helps hold aggro slightly, generally because of increased damage output, but isn't as important as the skillful use of special abilities and how talent points have been spent.
    • A Protection talent build is by no means necessary to be an effective Main Tank, particularly before instances where a raid group is required. Due to the durable nature of Warriors, a Fury or Arms specced Warrior can often do well if need be. However, the higher in level one goes, the harder this tanking becomes unless the warrior has a complete tanking set. Do not expect a Fury warrior to be the best tank, just the same as one would never expect a Feral Druid to heal an entire group perfectly. Be prepared to have a good healer on hand to make up for the additional damage taken.
    • In general, have the Warrior with the highest armor value, including shield, as your Main Tank.
    • Know your role. A warrior, as the premier single-target tank, will often be preferred for bosses and hard-hitting mobs. However, remember your limits. Warriors suffer when they must control more than 2 or 3 mobs. Either have a good procedure for handling CC (Mage polymorph, Hunter ice trap, etc.), or a Feral Druid or Paladin ready to pick up extra mobs as offtanks.

Basics of Warrior Tanking

See the Tank entry. Also:

  • Most importantly, always tank using Defensive Stance with a shield and one-handed weapon equipped. Occasionally you may find yourself needing to switch stances to use an ability in a different stance but 99% of the time you spend tanking you will have a shield equipped and be in Defensive Stance. (Unless, of course, you're far above the recommended level for an instance, or are ridiculously overgeared.)
  • Your job as a tank is not to damage things; rather it is to prevent others from getting hurt. Take aggro onto yourself quickly and keep it there. However, one of the best ways to generate threat is by doing a lot of damage; have a good tanking weapon.
  • Spend some time and money before an instance run acquiring the best armor and shield you can find (and afford) - you'll be taking a beating and armor helps your healer help you. Never use leather or cloth items, no matter how good the bonuses, and after you reach level 40 switch all your tanking gear to plate as soon as you can afford it (a good idea is to search around for Plate BEFORE you're level 40; not only will you be more relaxed (as opposed to a " since I'm 40, I need Plate Armor NOW" attitude), but you can get a feel for what kind of prices you'll be dealing with when you go shopping for Plate).
  • Be aware of which special abilities generate large amounts of threat quickly, including Shield Slam, Devastate/Sunder Armor, Revenge, and Heroic Strike. Know how to use each of these effectively, and their limitations (for example, Sunder Armor stacks up to five times on a single target and continues to generate threat past five applications, but it can be made useless by a Rogue using the Expose Armor ability).
  • When tanking boss mobs, use Shield Block and Revenge whenever possible. Assuming you have aggro, Shield Block will almost always light up Revenge soon after it's activated. Time the use of these two abilities, alternating them to allow for using Revenge every time it cools down. Since [Shield Block] isn't on the GCD keep it up as much as possible while using your threat rotation. (Example: Shield Slam, Revenge, Devastate/Sunder, Devastate/Sunder while hitting Shield Block, whenever it is available.)
  • A successful Shield Bash prevents casters from spellcasting and forcing them into melee. Practice the timing needed to get this right while soloing.
  • Most of your high-aggro moves will be disabled if you are disarmed. Listen for the "shing!" noise of that happening, and start off your being disarmed with a Shield Slam (or Shield Bash), along with Thunder Clap both of which cause decent threat on their own and don't require a weapon. Follow up with Challenging Shout or Demoralizing Shout until you get your weapon back.
  • You cannot Charge in Defensive Stance without Warbringer, so if you're pulling, use a ranged weapon and lure them back to your group. Alternatively, you can Charge and then switch to Defensive Stance to start a fight with more Rage, but be extremely careful that you don't aggro more mobs than you intended to if you take this approach, and switch back to Defensive Stance as soon as you've used that initial Rage boost. (Use Bloodrage for a Rage boost while pulling with a ranged weapon, or before a Charge to generate even more Rage before combat begins.)
  • If a Hunter, Rogue, or Mage is pulling, you can Charge, switch to Defensive Stance, and use Demoralizing Shout to cause aggro on all enemies to gather them up, without causing damage that might break sheeps. If charge is not appropriate, use Bloodrage to get the rage for the shout.
  • Taunt forces a mob to target you for a short time and permanently brings you up to the level of threat of the mob's current target. Immediately after a Taunt, use a threat-generating ability to cement your aggro. In extreme cases (e.g., a higher-level Mage or Rogue), it can be better to stockpile rage until you do lose aggro, then taunt and unload to try and hold aggro longer.
    • Taunt has only a minor effect on an enemy that is already targeting you, it will force the mob to keep targeting you regardless of threat for the duration of the taunt debuff; however, it will not raise your threat at all.
  • Mocking Blow, like Taunt, is temporary aggro only, but without the threat-equalization component. If you use it, use the time it gives you to swiftly generate real threat using Devastate, Shield Slam, Revenge, etc. The same applies to Challenging Shout (sort of an AOE Taunt). Unless additional threat is generated during these durations, the taunted enemies will return to their original target afterward.
  • Only dump Rage if you are confident you have all aggro under control. Otherwise, keep your threat generating rotation up (Shield Slam, Revenge, Devastate/Sunder Armor, Devastate/Sunder Armor.) For multi-mob tanking insert [Thunder Clap] at the start moving the enemies away from any sheeped enemies if necessary and then replace a Devastate/Sunder Armor spot in the rotation with Thunder Clap or mouse-over Sunder Armor.
    • One good quick Ragedump in a hectic situation is: Berserker Stance, Berserker Rage, Whirlwind, Defensive Stance. This causes a satisfying amount of AOE damage, and generates extra rage to counter the Stance Swapping. Works best with Tactical Mastery Talent (3/3), allowing 25 Rage carry-through.
    • Charge followed by Demoralizing Shout, Thunder Clap, Defensive Stance is a good way to get all the enemy mobs to focus on you right off the bat. Generally works best to Charge the moment your party's crowd control (if any) goes off, Demoralizing Shout to immediately get attention, then make sure you dragged everyone far enough back to NOT break the crowd controlled mobs before Thunder Clap. If the crowd is particularly large, it's a good idea to follow up with the previous ragedump Berserker Stance, Berserker Rage, Whirlwind, Defensive Stance to solidify that much more aggro on everyone before starting to throw sunders. Don't be afraid to ask your party to hold off on all DPS for the first few seconds while you do this.
    • In the event of a VERY large crowd, (the Lyceum in Blackrock Depths comes to mind) tanks will want to be alternating Thunder Clap and Whirlwind, and while both are on cooldown jump to Defensive Stance and spam Battle Shout. This gets a small amount of aggro on pretty much everyone around you -- usually just long enough for the artillery to AoE them down.
    • Experiment to find other effective pressure release combos, but always finish with a move back to Defensive Stance. Don't spend too long in other Stances, as this puts the rest of the group at increased risk.
  • As a tank in higher-level instances, you will be "punted" (knockback) fairly often. This reduces your threat, takes you out of the fight for a moment, and can cause falling damage as well. It is possible to switch to Berserker Stance and intercept out of the air, potentially avoiding falling damage and getting you back into the fight a couple of seconds sooner. Remember to switch back to Defensive Stance and Taunt afterwards. If you have a full Rage bar, it may be better to just stay in Defensive Stance and take the damage rather than lose the Rage you've built up.
  • Main tanks can pop Battle Stance just long enough to Execute a target near death (following up by returning to Defensive Stance and throwing Shield Slam . Indeed if he's being beaten on particularly hard, his Rage bar will spike the moment he stance switches and the Execute will do a particularly large amount of damage, and may well finish off the mob. On bosses in particular, repeated high-Rage Executes can out-threat your threat moves! Use discretion though; if you're having trouble holding aggro, keep your focus on holding it and only do this in situations well under control.
    • If there is a Warrior off-tank present however, it's best to let him do this while the main tank focuses on keeping aggro.
  • Challenging Shout is excellent as a 'panic button', it's 3 minute cooldown make it inapropriate as a regular move and should be kept for situations where enemies begin to attack the rest of the group or unexpected add's join the fight and Taunt isn't enough, in these situations it's usualy best to follow up with Taunt and Thunder Clap to cement the aggro. Keep in mind that Challenging Shout forces enemies to attack you for 6 seconds only, if you don't get their threat they will go back to attacking other group members when the effect runs out.
  • Heroic Throw is useful for pulling mobs, instead of using a ranged weapon. However, combined with the Gag Order talent it is particularly useful for pulling Casters as it silences them, forcing them into melee. It can also mean that in a group of both melee and caster enemies, you can avoid the casters staying back, often meaning you lose their threat to dps players in your group. This is extremely useful for many Wrath of the Lich King instances where the small range of Thunder Clap and Warrior's lack of AoE abilities lead to the situation mentioned.
  • Vigilance is a very helpful ability and those with the talented move should always make sure they are using it. It's best used on either DPS or Healers, add-ons that track threat (such as Omen (AddOn) can help identify those with the highest and therefor the best candidate for Vigilance.

Secondary/Off Tank

  • If no shield, use Battle Stance and a two-handed weapon, or Berserker Stance and two fast one-handers. (A shield is sometimes unnecessary in this role, but ask your healer which they would prefer you use.) Also, a Slam rotation with a slow two-handed weapon is good for both dealing damage and avoiding stealing aggro (since it doesn't generate as much hate as Heroic Strike).
  • As mentioned above, Vigilance should always be in use by those who have it. It the rare situations where the main tank and off tank are both Warriors it's best to work out who will use it on who. Some bosses that require passing aggro back and forth between tanks for various reasons can benefit from the tanks using Vigilance on each other.
  • Avoid high-threat-generating abilities, and instead concentrate on other Warrior attacks: Rend, Hamstring, etc.
  • Take on the Shouting for the both of you: Battle Shout and Demoralizing Shout. Keeping these going frees up the Main Tank to concentrate on generating threat. If you're both 80, work out with the Main Tank who's going to keep Commanding Shout up.
  • Thunder Clap can help, but watch your spacing, avoid drawing new enemies into the fray with it, and avoid breaking crowd control with it. This is an ability that causes extra threat, so the Main Tank may prefer to use it.
  • Be aware that without being attacked, you will generate Rage at a much slower rate; make best use of Bloodrage to compensate. Charge is also a good quick burst of free Rage, but be careful using it that you don't trigger fresh enemies. Rage Potions can help as well - collect Sharp Claws and Large Fangs for them.
  • Act as personal bodyguard for the healer. Be ready to switch to 'Tank Mode' if any mobs get through, and the real Main Tank can't get to them in time. Switch to Defensive Stance and use Taunt until the tank can get there, then switch back again once the situation is under control. (If you're in Battle Stance, Mocking Blow can help in an emergency, but a stance swap is more reliable).
  • Execute mobs that are about to die, as many times as it takes. (The Main Tank is certainly capable of doing this as well, but his focus should be on aggro management and shouldn't divide his attention unless the situation is well under control).

Grouping tips for all Warriors

  • Piercing Howl (Fury Talent Shout) helps chase down runners and is worth investing in (as well as extremely helpful in PvP).
  • Shouts do not break Polymorph (commonly known as 'Sheep') or Sap. Thunder Clap will.
  • Be wary of using Intimidating Shout in an instance – it rarely helps due to the fact that it's a Fear-type effect. Intimidating Shout is particularly dangerous as it affects up to 5 nearby enemies, not just one, like the Warlock AOE Fear. It can be used in situations where all enemies have been cleared out in a large area, so that you don't have to worry about adds. Also, the enemy you have targeted when you use this skill will not be feared, but frozen in place. In a close fight where there's just one enemy left but your party needs a few moments to bandage and get enough mana for another spell, this can buy you the time you need. And in instances such as the beginning of Shattered Halls, Intimidating Shout can be very helpful.
  • Hand over any mana potions and mana drinks you loot to those who need them, especially your healer.
  • A full Rage bar grants no additional bonuses. Should your Rage bar become full, you still have plenty of available attacks, and you should use them as soon as possible. If the main tank starts raging up past 40'ish it's probably time to ragedump by spamming Heroic Strike with the sunders and Slam (see here)---> [1].
  • All warriors should have a good shield and good one-hand tank weapon. Carry them with you at all times, they don't do you any good when they're in the bank. Being ready to off-tank will make you far more popular in groups, particularly raids if you carry a tanking set of armour. Level 70 DPS warriors should consider investing in Felsteel armour as it's easy to buy and a good entry-level tanking set.
  • Use Battle Shout and Commanding Shout effectively. If your group is taking heavy damage, then Commanding Shout may provide enough additional health to keep them standing (Over 1000 hp without talent points). If you have a large number of melee players then consider Battle Shout for the attack power bonus. In groups where there are multiple warriors, co-ordinate before you begin, as you need to avoid using the same shouts.
  • Demoralizing Shout generates threat, so DPS warriors must wait until the tank has sufficient aggro before using this.
  • If your main-tank dies towards the end of a boss-fight, it is often critical that you step in and take over tanking. Although you will not last very long, with a good healer you may buy enough time for the other DPS players to finish killing the boss. This is more commonly successful in non-heroic encounters or when a boss is at very low health.

Working with a Warrior

  • Warriors actually do best when being beaten on - their Rage, increases when damage is dealt and when taken. Check your skill's tooltips and avoid using anything that increases 'threat' where at all possible, as this will make the enemies more likely to turn to you.
  • Don't run from an enemy that is attacking you. This is very important: call for help, but stand still! Usually the first thing people do is to start running to get away, but this will make it more difficult for a warrior to help getting that mob off you. Warriors generate threat quite quickly and can Taunt to lure the enemy into attacking them, but these actions take a few seconds of uninterrupted fighting to charge up and have an effect, and this is difficult at best if the Warrior has to chase the enemy down first.
    • If you do feel the urge to run from a mob, at least run to the tank; that way the mob is inside their melee range, so they can pull it off of you.
  • Buffs to Stamina are particularly useful to the Warrior, greatly increasing available HP (Power Word: Fortitude, etc.). Buffs that increase the damage done, either via Strength, by the weapon itself, or damage shields (Thorns, etc), will help the Warrior maintain aggro.
  • Avoid using damage absorption buffs (i.e. Power Word: Shield, Blessing of Protection) on Warriors, as this can slow the rate their Rage charges up. Best saved for when the Warrior is unable to be healed normally for any reason.
  • Avoid using pets that actively Taunt themselves; Bear Growls, Voidwalker Taunts, etc. In particular, 'Rogue' or 'Mage' type pets work best if someone else is on tanking duty. If possible, turn these abilities off. Shamans should avoid using Stoneclaw Totem.
  • Warrior Crowd Control is practically non-existent, being mostly Snare-type movement debuffs, so it generally falls to others to finish off runners and deliver killing blows. Watch the main fight and save a bit of mana or your combo points for a few instant casts: Frost Nova, fast large Direct Damage nukes, Kidney Shots or Eviscerates, etc.
  • Casters: Standing outside melee range helps the Warrior to maintain Aggro. Characters standing out of melee range will not draw aggro until they exceed the threat level of the mob's current target (which should be the tank) by 30%. Inside melee range, characters draw aggro when they exceed the tank's threat level by only 10%. Make a warrior's job easier (and increase your chances of survival) by backing up a few steps before you unleash your fury.
  • Warrior tanks build threat slowly when compared to paladin tanks. Because of this, you must avoid attacking until they have sufficient threat. This is particularly important in encounters where mobs are immune to taunt.

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