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WoW ClassicAug 29, 2019 5:00 pm CT

How to level as a tank in WoW Classic — and is it worth it?

classic nefarian

I have certain hopes for WoW Classic and one of them is that the community will understand the difference between optimal and viable, and will allow Feral Druids — yes, Feral, there are no Guardian Druids in WoW Classic — and Protection Paladins to tank and main tank for groups.

But Matt, you aren’t saying because I’m writing this by myself, aren’t you the Warrior zealot?

Yes, I am. I love Warriors and I think Warriors are great. But here’s the thing — I tanked throughout vanilla WoW as either an Arms or Fury Warrior who went just deep enough in Protection to generate threat, and I tanked all the way up to Naxxramas. I didn’t do it on a Prot Warrior. Most raid groups didn’t have more than one dedicated Protection Warrior back then, because there simply wasn’t a reason for it — you didn’t need one to tank content.

Why was every tank a Warrior?

Similarly, while there were a few Paladins or Druids who wanted to tank, most of them ended up pigeonholed into healing whether or not they wanted to do it. I didn’t like that then, and I don’t like it now — while I’m on record as having thought Blizzard buffed Prot Pallies and Feral Druids while leaving Prot Warriors in the dust balance wise in The Burning Crusade, that doesn’t mean I didn’t want them to be viable tanks. I just wanted all three tanks at that time to be viable. And the problem was, they all were. Even in vanilla, all three tanking specs were viable, people just didn’t want to believe that they were.

Does this mean that Prot Pallies and Feral Druids will be just as good at tanking in WoW Classic as Prot Warriors? Nope. Druids come closest, but their rage generation and lack of anything like Shield Block plus the way their mitigation works means they end up having threat issues, and Prot Pallies have similar problems. The design for both is a lot better in TBC, but we’re not playing TBC Classic here.

The disconnect between tanking specs and actual tanking

So, what’s my advice to you, if you want to level as a tank? Well, it depends, but I’ll break down a few generalizations. First off, while I encourage you to play a Paladin or Druid if that’s what you want to do, I have to be honest with you — no one is going to want you to tank and you’ll have a very hard time finding groups that will let you do it. So if you’re looking for the easiest time possible, tank on a Warrior. People are just more likely to accept you that way. But if you’re up to trying to convince players that they should let you tank on your Druid, I hope sincerely that you win hearts and minds and end up tanking as much as you want.

Secondly if you are choosing to tank, you should still get comfortable with DPS gear. Frankly, if you’re a Warrior, tanking as pure Protection is torture at this time — your DPS output will be so low that mobs you’re fighting can actually respawn while you’re still working on your previous pull, and you have very little in terms of self healing. Honestly, when I was a tanking Warrior back in the day, my spec was a high Fury build and I used Bloodthirst a lot as the only healing I had — sometimes I would get Blood Craze too, but not very often — and it felt a lot better than my high Protection build did. I think both Protection Paladins and Feral Druids had similar problems, but Ferals could at least go Cat in the same spec for better soloing.

I’m not kidding about this. Tank soloing was so bad in vanilla and even beyond it that we saw whole mechanics developed to give tanks higher DPS in later expansions. In WoW Classic, leveling in a tanking specialization is going to be brutal.

The dedicated DPS tanks of yore

But like I said, if you’re playing a Warrior, you can tank pretty much any endgame content that’s available — from Molten Core all the way to Naxxramas and everything in between — on a DPS spec. I tanked Sapphiron on my Fury Warrior before my wife and I got married and I took a WoW sabbatical so I could move up to Canada and he was as hard a fight as existed back then.

So we have the suggestion to play as a Warrior if you don’t want to deal with people constantly questioning your choice and pointing out that your spec just isn’t as good and making sure you have DPS gear as well as probably not actually using a tanking spec at all. But what else should you do?

Well, keep First Aid current. You’ll need it in all three tank options, especially if you’re playing a Warrior. Remember to use abilities like Retaliation for big AoE pulls, but you’ll only get to use it once every 30 minutes so be careful with it. It’s kind of an “Oh bleep” ability, to be honest. But generally speaking, definitely familiarize yourself with your entire toolkit and remember that certain abilities are more useful when trying to hold threat than when you’re out in the world soloing.

Frankly, it’s not worth leveling in Protection for Warriors in WoW Classic. You can tank everything just fine in any spec by putting on a one handed weapon and shield and switching to Defensive Stance.  Leveling as a Feral Druid, you can at least switch between Cat and Bear and have some leveling utility, but I think Protection Paladins would have it even worse than Protection Warriors. I’d say stick to a DPS spec, and maybe carry around a healing set if you want to heal some dungeons.

Necessary but unsung

Tanking in WoW Classic is really going to depend on the community. Will they let you control the pulls? Will they let you get your threat moves off, will they let you do corner pulls or otherwise group up the mobs before hitting them? Will they assist target and will groups use CC like Polymorph or Sap? I don’t think I’d advise leveling in a tanking spec for anyone — for Druids and Paladins, I wouldn’t because of all the flak you’ll likely take from other players arguing your class can’t tank, and for Warriors I would simply level in a DPS spec and tank whenever you feel like it in that spec. Going 31 or higher in Protection for a Warrior tank is completely unnecessary. I don’t think there’s a fight in all of Classic that a 31/5/15 Warrior can’t tank successfully. If you want more details on Warrior builds, here’s a whole article full of them.

Tanking in WoW Classic will be a very different animal than it is on live. Threat was much harder, there was almost nothing for AoE threat, two of the classes with dedicated tank options were almost never chosen to tank. Shaman players angry I haven’t mentioned that Rockbiter gave bonus threat will also probably remember how hard it was to tank on a Shaman past around level 40 or so. If you’re going to do it, do it with your eyes open.

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