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The Warrior’s Charge: Protection tanking in Legion

There were only two dungeons available in the Legion alpha — well, before they shut down the alpha for the holidays, anyway. I’ve now tanked both Black Rook Hold and Halls of Valor and have some impressions for how Protection feels as a tanking spec in Legion.

  1. Does Protection work? Yes. It’s adequate for holding threat and has solid but unremarkable survival tools. Ignore Pain isn’t as good as Shield Barrier, but it works.
  2. Not having Defensive Stance anymore just feels weird.
  3. Second Wind can be a good talent if you end up kiting things, but that doesn’t happen very often. If you do, get Bounding Strike.
  4. In general I felt the lack of damage keenly. Protection really isn’t a powerhouse offensively at this stage of the game.

Now let’s dig into how Protection is shaping up in Legion.

Protection in dungeons

I should start with what I’d call the good news — I tanked the entirety of Black Rook Hold and most of Halls of Valor (up until we ran into the miniboss who was a solid 12 levels above the group — alpha tests get some fun bugs, folks) without a hitch. I certainly missed things like Blood Craze. As of the moment they took the alpha down, I think it’s fair to say that Protection lacks a great deal of self-healing. Second Wind works if you can keep from taking damage for a few seconds, so it’s useful for phases when a boss stops attacking and you need to avoid damage, but in general it’s almost as useless as I thought it was going to be. It’s basically a replacement for eating after a fight. This is a talent that needs another component to make it worth taking.

The upside for Protection in the Aapha is how flexible talent choice is. If you know a fight isn’t going to have much call for AOE, you can immediately drop it for other talents without the need for any reagents. I did a lot of talent switching for specific fights in both Black Rook Hold and Halls of Valor.

Rage generation felt a little wonky. Even when you’re taking a lot of damage it can take a while before Ignore Pain lights up, so you can choose to bank up rage for Ignore Pain or just start using Shield Block up front. Heroic Strike was gone in my last playthough but I don’t know if that’s intended or just an oversight. I did feel very much like rage generation is too linked to how much damage you take and not enough to your damage output. The way active mitigation has worked for a while now is you use certain abilities to generate rage and spend in on your AM.

Warrior Prot

Become a Watcher

Giving Protection Focused Rage still fills the same role as Heroic Strike, even if it doesn’t require you to spam a new attack, and it’s still spending rage on offense instead of defense. Adding that to the rage equation doesn’t seem to help with the whole active mitigation approach, but to some degree it does give you a bit of depth to the tanking gameplay. Do you want to hold back and hit your biggest non-cooldown mitigation ability, or would you rather use a smaller mitigation move and then throw out some offense?

Shield Slam, Revenge, and Devastate work more or less as you’re used to them working now. They generate less rage, but you use them the same way (Shield Slam first, Revenge next, Devastate when nothing else is up to reset your Shield Slams) and fill in the rest with Thunder Clap (especially in AOE tanking situations) and any talents you may have. For trash, I still recommend Shockwave — Siegebreaker’s knockback makes it a boss only ability in my opinion. We covered Protection’s talents before, as of this writing that article still pretty apt.

One place where our toolkit feels pretty strong is in mobility. I know Demon Hunters and Monks are pretty hot, but with Intercept allowing us to Charge enemies and allies alike and the ability to get Heroic Leap on a shorter cooldown with Bounding Strikes, Protection isn’t a stationary tanking spec.  It made certain fights a lot easier — I could kite bosses around quite a bit, or get between them and my party.

Protection for leveling

I have to admit, while I didn’t really notice low damage in dungeons (my threat seemed fine) I really noticed it doing the Artifact weapon quest and then leveling in Stormheim. Now, I know this is an alpha, that they haven’t done a damage pass and all that. But it has to be said now so that when we get closer to the damage pass people are mindful of it: right now, Protection does not hit very hard.

It’s not that it’s bad for solo play. I did about half of Stormheim as Protection and it worked fine. It actually works better when you get three or four on you at once, since you can get enough rage generation for Ignore Pain and you have enough AOE tools between Shockwave, Thunder Clap and Revenge to take them out, plus Victory Rush to heal up as mobs die. I really started to miss Vengeance, though.

Honestly, as a leveling spec Protection works just fine. All of the positives it has as a tanking spec are quite apparent using it out questing — it’s very flexible with the talent choices, you can go for tons of AOE or a more varied approach, it really comes down to what you want to do. It’s very mobile. The Artifact itself has a nice starting power — it’s an ilevel 750 sword and shield to start with, so it’s great both for dungeons and leveling. Protection’s big weakness on the alpha right now is just that we don’t do a lot of damage. Mobs that take two hits to kill in Fury take tend to take ten to twelve in Protection.

The overall report

What’s good about Protection is that you can really make meaningful talent choices, it still works to hold threat (so I didn’t feel stressed trying to stay up while tanking), and it’s very mobile. What’s bad is the damage output is anemic and there’s not much self healing at all, making you feel like a tank without a gun sometimes. We’ll see what we look like once the alpha returns, but for now, I’d give the spec a C plus — functional but not outstanding.

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