Hello! my name is Lalasama. I figure introductions are necessary in this post to show both my background and experience with the class. I wanted to make this post because Protection has been a very hot topic these last couple of weeks and I am very passionate about the specialization. Some of the arguments both for and against Protections current viability has me concerned that both the community and Blizzard may not be looking at the right ideas to fix our issues.
I have frequently posted almost every week in the Tanking Tuesday's thread under Protection Warrior to give people advice. I am also a Stormforged member in the warrior community/discord, Skyhold. I am currently 7/8M on an 8-hour raid schedule (2 days a week, 4 hours a night) and am tied for furthest progression in the world for public logged protection warriors (Though realistically I'll likely come in 3rd place out of the 4 current warriors to kill Mythrax). I have played protection warrior steadily since late WotLK, prior to that I only dabbled in tanking off and on before falling in love with it.
Protection does have a myriad of problems both in community perception and in reality that I would like to address. I think a lot of the arguments that pop up often do not have the correct information or valid points as to the weaknesses or strengths of protection currently.
Problems That Actually Hinder Protection in Raids and Mythic+
Our Active Mitigation Has Significant Gaps
Shield Block uptime was heavily nerfed going from Legion to BFA. What was a 13 second recharge became an 18 second recharge (~38% increased CD). This brought our uptime of the buff from averaging around 60-70% depending on most players' haste to 30-40%. This doesn't matter as much in raid because we can have shield block recharge while we are not-tanking after a swap and then go in with full charges again; however, you really feel this in M+ or encounters where you are tanking for an extended period of time. Block is the vast majority of our damage reduction and without it (or against things block does not mitigate) a Warrior feels naked. Proper use of block determines almost the entirety of a warriors survival. Shield Block does need to have downtime though, as it is effectively the strongest mitigation out of any of the tank classes. Giving it 100% uptime like ISB from Monks would be quite overtuned (Not that monks aren't a little busted right now either though). I would like to see it close to Legion levels once again. One of the changes I'll discuss more when I write about what changes I think Protection actually needs in the summary.
Rage Generation is Problematic
Protection rage generation swings greatly depending on number of targets attacking the warrior. We gain 3 rage every time we are attacked (specifically auto-attacks, spells and abilities do not count unless they are attack modifiers e.g. Heroic Strike). We almost double our total rage per second (RPS) from single target by just having 4 extra targets that melee us. Not a hard thing to do in almost any M+ pack. This is a compounding issue in that the more targets attacking us the more Revenge procs we get. It can feel impossible to spend your rage in moments where you have block up, Revenge is proc'd and IP isn't going to do much or you already have it up and you are close to rage capping; making you wish you had that rage for later so you don't have to waste a GCD just spending rage on basically nothing of value or just going over cap. If this kind of rage generation were consistent and we had a way to spend it off of the GCD it wouldn't be an issue, but the other end of the spectrum is also unfortunate. In single target our rage generation is ~8 RPS. In these logs I generated 2349 rage in 294 seconds or 7.98 RPS, the reason my total here is higher than what is added up on resources is because WCL does not show rage generated from us auto attacking (2 per attack) which was an extra 284 rage. With only 8 RPS it wouldn't even matter if IP was on the GCD or not, we wouldn't and don't have enough rage to spend it like we used to anyways. In Antorus our RPS was closer to 20-25 in just single target which supported using IP a lot off of the GCD. This specific log was 25.11 RPS, or over 3 times the amount of rage we generate currently in BFA single target.
We Are Too Dependent on Cooldowns
To be perfectly honest I like this part of Warrior play, but it sucks for the average player and I can understand that. Cooldowns are meant to be used to mitigate that big ol' hit you know is coming from a stacked up tank mechanic or for anticipation of an "oh shit" moment. Warrior does not work this way. Frequently in BFA I will use my CDs almost rotationally to cover moments of block downtime. This is why Anger Management is so mandatory and the synergy of it with other talents that enhance our CDs effected by it makes it absurd. This is hard to manage for lower-skill or even average level players, such frequent use of what are normally 4 and 3 minute cooldowns make it hard to provide consistency to the player and their healers. Remembering what CDs you have all the time, and cycle through is a pain sometimes. Especially when they are fluctuating in CD based on your rage spent. Sometimes Shield Wall will be back up in a little over 2 minutes, sometimes it won't be back up until after 3. Sometimes Last Stand (with Bolster talented which makes it a 2 minute CD baseline) will be back up after only Fifty-five seconds, other times it might take a minute and a half. Making sure not to overlap any of these with block unless absolutely necessary is also tedious. I personally like this playstyle and it's a large part of the fun for me, but I can see why it is problematic to the game since it differs so much from the other tanking paradigms and is extremely difficult to manage.
Exaggerations and Community Perception Problems
The following are commonly perceived issues protection supposedly has, but are either not true or only things people perceive as issues.
Warriors Have Threat Issues
Warriors currently having threat issues even on skittish weeks are either running a sub-optimal talent build and playing poorly or are so undergeared compared to the DPS players that they probably shouldn't be in the run they are in anyways. Right now proper play with a Protection Warrior will regularly lead to the Warrior being near or at the top of damage in AoE packs in M+. I have seen too many complaints from Warriors about threat issues and when I look into it they are running things like Dragon Roar or Best Served Cold. They are running things like Vengeance instead of Booming Voice. These statistics are a showing of tank dps on Zul at the 90th percentile. I chose 90th here because for this fight that means all these tanks are doing the same job: tanking the Crawgs and realistically just spamming AoE damage skills to get threat as Crawgs constantly respawn. While this is not a perfect proof of concept I am limited in options as I have not logged M+ myself to show. Another example is Zek'voz since that fight has frequent AoE burst timings. These two statistics combined show that Protection is suitable in both sustained AoE (Zul) and burst AoE (Zek'voz). The recommended talents in places like Icy-Veins and Wowhead are best for both damage and survivability currently, that’s why no Protection Warrior doing well is running other talents on those tiers.
No Self Healing Is What Makes Us Weak
While having self-healing is certainly a nicety in terms of feeling it actually doesn't make a large difference in terms of external healing required in a lot of cases. Often times the healer will still react to the damage you are taking as a self-healing class and either snipe a heal on you before you actually heal, or have their heal potency wasted as you healed a portion of the damage yourself anyways right before. For this comparison I am only going to use logs from fights in which the tanks have a similar amount of uptime and/or doing the same role within a fight. I will use Zek'voz, Mythrax, and Vectis as examples. These fights I have logs of personally and are the only ones in which tanks are doing the same thing throughout the whole fight. In all 3 of these fights the warrior has less EHRPS (External Healing Required Per Second) despite almost the same levels of tanking activity. Another way of looking at this is through the eyes of the tanks HP percentages throughout an encounter: Zek'voz, Mythrax, Vectis. The warriors HP averages higher and does not dip as low under high damage situations. This isn't to say that warriors are super easy to heal compared to other tanks, but that under proper play they only require similar levels of attention as other tanks. Things like HoT effects have much more usefulness on classes like Warrior and Brewmaster that take constant but small chip damage than they do on tanks like Death Knights or Paladins that have much more time spent at full HP and drop lower more frequently.
Ignore Pain On The GCD Makes the Class Unplayable or Makes IP Useless
Ignore Pain being on the GCD sucks, I absolutely agree. It does not however make the class cease to function or break it to the point of unviability. As I addressed earlier on in my post, even if IP was off of the GCD right now there wouldn't be much of a difference in our ability to use it. We do not have the rage income to support it that way. Other systemic changes to the class would need to also be put in for it to have any meaningful impact off of the GCD. The other extreme I see is that it is so useless that it isn't even worth casting as if it is significantly weaker than it's Legion counterpart. It's pretty much absorbing the same amount of damage compared to our health percentage per cast as it was in Legion but at a 20 lower rage cost. My IP Value per cast is about 27k and I have 210k HP (so about 12%), My IP value in Legion was ~1.2 million and I had 9.8 million HP (shockingly about 12%). That was also at the full 60 rage cost. The difference now is cast frequency. Per cast it is still doing the same thing (but cheaper), we just can't cast it as often. That doesn't mean it isn't worth casting.
Potential Changes That Could Fix Our Issues.
I don’t think we can realistically expect overhaul levels of changes mid-expansion so most of my points here will be based much more on either small tuning changes or tweaks to talents. I could be fanciful and hope for a lot of different changes here but I’m going to remain somewhat simple with it for the sake of ease.
Reduce the CD on Shield Block?
I touched on this before, but I'm still going to address it here. Shield Block uptime needs to be brought up. Power needs to be shifted away from our cooldowns and into our baseline mitigation and the best way to do that is bringing block's CD back to what it was in Legion. Obviously that would mean either lowering the cost or increasing rage generation to not affect everything else in the kit by making us cast more shield blocks, but I'll get into that below.
Normalize our Rage Generation Between AoE and Single Target
The extremes of our rage generation are… well… Infuriating. Either having no realistic way to spend it well or having to play very carefully with the rage we have is such a drastic difference. I think a solid middle ground between our rage generation now and what it was in Antorus would be much appreciated. Somewhere around 12 to 15 RPS. Cutting the value of how much rage we get from being melee'd and increasing the base amount we get from either our auto attacks or from abilities like Shield Slam and Thunder Clap feel like the correct way to go about this.
Change IP Back To a Variable Rage Cost
I honestly am not sure why we lost this still. Ignore Pain being a static rage cost instead of the variable it was before is a big part of why I feel like people are so upset with it. Even if it won’t come off of the GCD (I wish) I’d like to see the rage cost be converted back to a variable for a shield similar to the value per rage spent like before.
Replace Indomitable With… Something
Indomitable is a boring and uninteractive talent that has no change at all to what we do in any given situation. I’d like to see it replaced with something that can actually compete with Bolster in some way. If I were the more imaginative type I’d come up with something nice, instead I’ll just say give us the Legendary bracers effect there. The Bracers effect competing with Bolster would actually be an interesting decision to have depending on encounters. Do I need the extra block uptime and shorther CD on Last Stand to survive bursts of damage? Take Bolster. Do I want to help healers slightly by managing small chip damage with bits of rage I spend? Take the Bracer Effect.
Nerf Anger Management's effect on our defensive Cooldowns. Alternatively, make it baseline but weaker and give a new talent.
Anger Management is pretty much the only reason warrior is currently viable. It’s also a lot of fun, albeit difficult to manage for most players. Consistently bringing CDs back from pull to pull at certain times can certainly seem daunting to players not experienced with the class. It is one of the nuances though that makes Protection unique compared to other tank classes and has been a core part of it for all of Legion and a staple so far in BFA. I’d personally like to see it stay in some form and have a different decision to make on our 110 tier instead. Neltharion’s Fury would be a good addition to return here. It would be competing with more consistent Shield Block uptime increase in Heavy Repercussions, or a slightly longer CD but stronger defensive option against multi-target melees in Ravager (yes this involves making ravager something besides a terrible meme).
Replace our Mastery with… something.
Looks familiar right? Well with the PTR datamining that was constantly going on we did have a glimpse for a second that they might be working on a different idea for our Mastery. Crit block as an effect is either too powerful or too weak I feel like. At high gear levels it becomes such a strong part of our mitigation and mastery is amazing. At low gear levels I dread getting mastery pieces over versatility because I cannot depend on crit blocks at all. What to replace it with? That’s a good question because I’m honestly at a loss for what would be realistic. Maybe this is where you could put Anger Management instead of it being a talent. Maybe you just make it increase ignore pains value and % reduced or something, I dunno.
I think Protection has a far worse community perception than it deserves. It is indeed weaker than the other tanks by a small margin but most of that comes down to the fact that it is just so unforgiving on even the slightest mistakes or errors because of the downtime on our mitigation. It is perfectly viable under all current content that is out assuming proper play; but it makes average players suffer much more than the other tank specs. The only way I can think of to significantly change that is to increase our effectiveness with our rotational abilities and remove the dependency on such tight CD management. I’d love to see other potential changes and ideas that others come up with though, and hope that everyone can continue to enjoy Protection going into 8.1 and beyond like I have throughout the years.