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Protection Warriors were the first tanking class and are one of the four PvE main tank combinations of class and spec in WoW. The other three are Feral Druids, Protection Paladins, and Blood Death Knights. Protection Warriors are probably the most versatile tanks, they have high damage avoidance and a large array of auxiliary abilities which is balanced by having the lowest hitpoints of any tank class. Warrior tanks usually create a little less aggro initially than paladin and druid tanks.
Generating threat and holding aggro
Holding aggro and Rage generation are very tightly linked for a warrior. A tanking Warrior gains Rage mostly from being hit by mobs, and uses this Rage to fuel abilities which in turn will create more threat, helping to hold aggro – and raising the damage ceiling for your DPS before they need to worry about pulling aggro. A fundamental key to understanding Warrior tanking is thus to understand how to efficiently convert Rage into threat.
A tanking Warrior's group will need to help with this, as (particularly at the start of a fight) it is imperative to hold back and let the warrior establish aggro on all mobs in the pull and to generate enough Rage to keep it.
Basic Warrior tanking abilities
The tanking Warrior will find themselves using a small number of abilities over and over again to maintain aggro on the mobs their group is fighting. These are not the only abilities used by a tanking Warrior (certain fights might call for a tank to use almost any ability in the Warrior spell book) but they are the ones used the vast majority of the time.
Sunder Armor and Devastate
Sunder Armor can be used at any time and is only on the global cooldown. It can be spammed (used repeatedly), which creates a lot of threat quickly regardless of weapon type or enemy. Since Patch 2.3, a tanking Warrior that has Devastate should use it in practically every situation where previously Sunder Armor would have been used, as it is functionally equivalent to Sunder Armor but also causes damage and thus more threat. Although the Rage cost of these abilities is somewhat high, it can be reduced by talents.
The further enhances the effectiveness of Sunder Armor/Devastate by affecting another target. Note that this glyph only duplicates the Sunder Armor effect (of both skills), not the damage caused by Devastate.
Using the , the Devastate glyph now only increases Devastate's critical strike chance by 5%. This glyph is considered one of the core tanking glyphs, as with and always having a higher priority then Devastate it is pretty useful to stack up Sunder Armor as fast as possible. Even if the debuff is stacked to the max, this glyph increases the threat generated by Devastate considerably, so it is not wasted on bosses.
The effects of the above mentioned buffs do not multiply, so having both glyphs would only apply two stacks of Sunder Armor to the main and one stack to an additional target. Thus the is not considered very important in most situations compared to other available tanking glyphs.
Of all a Warrior's abilities, creates the most threat per Rage. However, it can only be used after a successful dodge, block, or parry (but as such you can almost guarantee it will be available soon after activating ) and it has a five second cooldown. Even with the extra Rage for the Shield Block, Revenge is a highly efficient threat-generating ability, especially at the beginning of combat, and ideally should always be on cooldown. The grants a free after using Revenge. This helps to create even more threat.
is (since 3.0) trainable by all warriors at level 40. It is an extremely high-threat ability with a substantial damage component, but has a relatively high Rage cost. If Rage is no problem, it should be used whenever it is off its six second cooldown, as of all the Warrior abilities it generates the most threat. Shield Slam's damage and threat increases with your block value stat, which allows a warrior to generate excellent threat while gearing very defensively, something not all tanking classes can do.
This ability becomes very important when the warrior has , which increases the Warrior's block value by 10% for 10 seconds. This period is larger than the cooldown of Shield Slam, as such will effectively add a permanent 10% boost in block value, highly valuable to a tanking warrior.
Although some caution is required when using Thunder Clap, it is a potent tanking ability with a short (four second) cooldown and vital for AOE tanking. Unlike most Warrior tanking abilities, it is a multiple-target attack, and as such should not be used around crowd controlled mobs, as it will cause damage that will probably break the CC. It affects all targets in range, including the Warrior's current target if hostile, and causes a small amount of damage and some bonus threat. It is a crucial ability for holding aggro in any situation where multiple mobs must be kept away from DPS and healers.
However, an additional benefit of Thunder Clap is in its damage mitigation effect. When affected by a successful Thunder Clap, a mob will have its attack speed reduced by a certain percentage, which is increased through a talent in the first tier of the Protection tree. Wise tanking Warriors will seek to affect as many of the mobs hitting them as possible with this debuff, as maintaining it throughout an encounter can result in a considerable reduction in damage taken by the tank.
Along with Thunder Clap, Shockwave is an effective threat generating ability, dealing damage to all targets in front of the caster and combined with a 4 second stun on targets, which improves damage mitigation. Combine with Shield Block to allow an incoming damage pause, allowing healing.
Heroic Strike is not a global cooldown ability, and as such can be used in conjunction with other tanking abilities. Heroic Strike no longer works off of auto-attacks and is now just an instant attack. It's still not a global cooldown ability. However, it is a relatively Rage-expensive ability, as not only does it cause Rage to be consumed when it hits but it also keeps the attack from generating Rage for the Warrior to use. Many Warrior tanks only use Heroic Strike when an encounter is well underway and they have a large pool of excess Rage (50 or more) that they will lose if they do not use it before hitting the 100 Rage cap. This is generally only seen on boss fights and in raid encounters.
Usually ignored, Cleave hits like a Heroic Strike on pulls that have multiple mobs. Like Heroic Strike, it should only be used to burn extra rage, but can be incredibly useful for keeping threat on three mobs (four with Glyph of Cleaving)
Shield BashThe subject of this section has been removed from World of Warcraft as of Patch 4.0.3. Removed in Cataclysm.
Many warriors overlook the fact that Shield Bash causes a fair amount of threat – almost as much as a successful Sunder Armor – and causes a small amount of damage as well. In situations where Revenge is on cooldown or inactive and the Warrior lacks enough Rage for a Sunder Armor or Devastate, then Shield Bash should be used if possible – unless of course if the target is a caster, where it must be reserved for spell interrupts. However, on non-casters it is still a valuable skill for threat generation, well-worth mixing in with your Revenge, Sunders/Devastates, and Heroic Strikes. With the Sword and Board talent this ability should be used every chance that it is up.
Demoralizing Shout has a massive benefit against raid bosses. It’s probably 20% less damage from a typical boss and literally like 50% against say Thorim’s Unbalancing Strike
Shield Block increases the chance to block by 25% for 10 seconds and is on a 30 second cooldown. Blocks stops 30% of physical damage. Blocks can be critical which prevent 60% of the damage from landing. Shield Block can be useful as a cooldown. It can also be used as soon as available to reduce overall damage. With the talent Heavy Repercussions, it doubles the damage from shield slam.
The tanking priority system
This section describes the priority system used by tanking warriors as of Patch 3.5.
As a tank you have two major responsibilities in your group. The first one is to survive, the second one is to maintain aggro on your target(s) to prevent the death of your healer(s) and to a lesser (but not neglectable) extend of the damage dealers.
To the first point you contribute actively by using your defensive cool downs if needed, the second goal is the bread and butter of a tank and is accomplished by using your threat abilities in the correct priority.
Single target threat
Unlike, say, Arcane mages and Tankadins , Protection Warriors do not have clear rotation. It is rather priority list. Apart from burst threat, single target threat is easy to maintain for a warrior even against better geared dps. The priority of single threat abilities is as follows:
- If speced into Improved Revenge (what is considered a no brainer nowadays) Revenge is the top damage ability with an amount of threat almost equal to a Shield Slam. In addition it has an incredible low rage cost, so you should use it whenever possible. Revenge also can proc Sword and Board, what resets the cool down of your best threat ability and sets its rage cost to 0.
- The drawback of Revenge is, that it can only be used after you block, parry or dodge an attack. With current avoidance percentages this mostly is no problem if you get attacked fast enough.
- However there are bosses, that attack really slow (here can help to trigger revenge) or solely cast spells. In these situations you may have to fall back to other abilities.
- Shield Slam generates the highest amount of threat on a single target. The cost of Shield Slam is pretty high, but against a heavy hitting boss this should be no problem. Using and / or (improved) you can and should start a fight with a shield slam to generate a high amount of burst threat.
- Shield Slam gets a massive threat boost if shield block is active.
- Shield Slam can come off the gcd and cost no rage if [[Sword and Board] procs from or , so keep an eye on that.
- Devastate applies the Sunder Armor debuff, deals damage and generate a good amount of threat. It should be used whenever Shield Slam and Revenge are not available.
- Whenever you have enough rage to burn you should use Heroic Strike along with your other abilities to increase threat. Incite even increases it's critical strike chance so in high rage scenarios like a boss fight you should use HS constantly. Therefore a lot of warriors bind their HS to the mouse wheel to keep it going easily along with the key bound abilities.
- While this ability has a long cool down, don't be shy to use it on enemies out of melee range. It is especially useful against casters, as it can silence them if improved by Gag Order.
- It has no rage cost, and generates a good amount of threat, so it may also come handy if you can not throw out a devastate.
Maintaining multi-target threat means a lot of work for a warrior, especially if you're running with well-geared DPS. However, you have lots of tools to master even these situations.
In regards to the Cataclysm expansion, Blizzard has stated that the way warriors are AOE tanking today is the way they want it to feel for every other tanking class as well. Fortunately, they said they want to reduce AOE-heavy trash pulls a lot too.
- Shockwave affects every enemy in a cone before you and, in addition to dealing damage, also stuns them. This means damage mitigation along with AOE threat. Learn to position yourself correctly and use it whenever possible.
- The most-used ability for AOE tanking affects every target within a certain radius, applying an attack-speed debuff. It should be used whenever it's not on cooldown, whenever Shockwave is not available. It is buffed by Incite and is extremely useful along with a Deep Wounds spec, as it can apply the DOT to every target around you. It also crits, yielding constant threat.
3. Switch Targets
- Fighting against multiple mobs means that you will most likely have to switch targets, applying your single target abilities while you wait for Thunderclap and Shockwave to come off cooldown. This is especially true if your DPS is going all-out on AOE damage, or worse, if everyone focuses fire on a different target.
- Improved Revenge is considered a must-have talent even for single target specs, so it comes in handy in that it buffs Revenge to affect an additional target. As long as there are only two targets, Revenge is still your top-priority ability. Even if you have multiple targets, Revenge is pretty useful when Thunder Clap and Shockwave are on cooldown. You'll be switching targets anyway so the additional target will be another target now and then too.
- Cleave affects two targets (or three if glyphed). It is the Heroic Strike for multiple targets. As you will have a lot of rage in multi-target scenarios, you should use it constantly once you reach an amount of rage you are comfortable with. Consider binding it to the mouse wheel too. Be careful though, as you can easily run out of rage if you don't stop using Cleave as soon as the number of targets is reduced.
- It is also affected by Incite and plays along very well with a Deep Wounds spec.
- While it doesn't generate a lot of threat, the Shout can be useful to generate initial aggro, picking up new adds entering the fight if nothing else is available. It also helps to reduce incoming damage.
7. Passive Effects
- Some things may help if you are AOE tanking a lot (for example, if you are running heroics in order to gear up).
- The previously-mentioned Deep Wounds spec can help a lot, Damage Shield, Incite and any talents improving blocking are good choices too. , , and may be useful as well. Consider using the , as it generates more threat with a main ability and additionally lets you apply Sunder Armor faster.
- is a good choice for a shield enhancement. If you are capped on Defense and have a decent amount of Effective Health, consider using it to improve expertise and hit rating in order to increase threat generation.
Aside from the standard abilities there are other spells that you should use on a situational basis. Wielding the complete warrior arsenal is pretty hard to master, but it has the potential to keep every situation under control.
- Most important usually is to survive. This can depend on your healers, your gear, and your awareness of what's going on with a fight. There are times when you have to use your defensive cooldowns. Some boss abilities for example require the use of a cooldown, no matter how good your healer is. And then there are the panic situations of course, where something went wrong, but sometimes even these situations can be survived using your full arsenal. Shield Wall and Last Stand are quite obvious survival abilities along with any tanking trinkets. To a lesser extent Shield Block can also mitigate some damage. In a critical situation Intimidating Shout can save the day, but you have to be careful with it, as you fear the mobs you may have bigger trouble after the break.
- Maintaining a high amount of threat is clearly the best way to hold aggro, but sometimes you just can't do that. Be it an aggro resetting boss ability, incoming new adds that are just too hard to pick up or the good old "DPS goes all out before any threat could be built up"-situation. In all those cases, where you can't hold a target with your normal threat building abilities there are a few tools that can draw the attention of that mob heading for your squishy group members back to you.
- is typically the first choice. It sets your amount of threat equal to the player at the top of the aggro list and forces a mob to attack you for 3 seconds.
- Probably the best stat for building normal threat is expertise.
- With the Warbringer talent you gain a lot of mobility. You can use in combat and Charge and in defensive stance. Use them whenever you need to grab a target and have no ranged abilities available. Be careful though not to get out of heal range or to drag AOEing mobs to your squishies.
- Charge and Intercept can also help on a multi mob pull.
- If you spec into the Arms tree, consider picking up Improved Charge. It generates enough rage with a Charge to use a Shield Slam as initial move.
- Strafe moving works well. A good rule of thumb is to never to turn your back to a boss.
4. Spell Interrupts / Reflects
- Concussion Blow, Shield Bash, Heroic Throw, Spell Reflection and even Shockwave, Charge and Intercept can interrupt spell casting.
- Though a lot of bosses are immune to interrupts, these abilities can be extremely useful on Trash pulls or to keep adds from casting. Some heavy boss spells can even be reflected to generate aggro or at least to not take damage.
- Thunder Clap and Demoralizing Shout apply debuffs that help you survive. On bosses you should have them up constantly. On large groups of mobs or mobs you have trouble to stand against they can definitely give you an edge.
- Sunder armor is normally used.
- Disarm can reduce the damage taken by trash mobs a bit and while most bosses are immune to disarm, it really can shine in situations where you can use it on a boss.
- Battle Shout and Commanding Shout buff your whole group depending on if you want to have more damage potential and greater dodge and parry for yourself from the agility and strength of Battle Shout, or more health. Keep them up constantly. Do not forget Vigilance. Put it on the target that is most likely to draw aggro or that under no circumstances should die. It refreshes your Taunt if your target gets hit.
- It is even possible to put it on another tank. This give quick taunt refreshes and builds more AP from Vengeance.
Taunt is one of the signature skills of a warrior, but should not normally be relied upon as an aggro holding ability. The primary effect of Taunt is to force the target into attacking the warrior for 3 seconds. Prior to patch 2.0.6 or so, this was all that taunt did, the warrior had to use the three seconds to build enough threat so that the mob would stay on him. Since that patch though, taunt also gives the warrior the same amount of threat as the mob has on its current target.
Most warriors choose to save taunt for such special situations and emergencies. There are many situations where taunt is the key to survival for the whole group. Such situations include:
- aggro on the main healer
- mobs without an aggro list (like Lava Annihilator, Berserkers in Zul'Gurub)
- mobs with a knockback.
In lower level instances, Taunt is an anti-newb talent for Warriors. If you've got an inexperienced Hunter or Mage who just has to pull, Taunt means that said player can, and if you're standing in front of the group, you can use Taunt to grab the mob as it runs toward whoever pulled it.
If said newb pulled multiple mobs, that can still be ok as well. Taunt the first mob, and let it hit you until you get enough rage to Sunder. Then cycle to the second mob, Sunder twice, then back to the first mob, and keep Sunder cycling as necessary. Thunder Clap can also really help there as well, but watch for CC.
A word about Multi-Mob Tanking
Paladins maybe the best at multi-mob tanking however, there are methods of warrior tanking that can make multi-mob tanking not only doable, but fun and exciting. One method is commonly referred to as Tab-Target tanking. This is the method of tanking when after the warrior tank gets initial aggro (via Charge, Taunt, Heroic Throw, etc...), they then switch targets by tabbing to the next target and performs a high threat ability, i.e. Shield Slam, Revenge, etc... This way you keep all the targets aggro'ed on you and can now effectively tank multiple targets. Thunder Clap when combined with Rend ticking using the Blood and Thunder talent, is the bread and butter multi-mob tanking ability for warriors.
Best tanking class
Warriors are best for tanking melee bosses with a lot of attack speed and low damage per hit. This is because it makes healing more smooth, and warriors are effective in avoiding melee hits.
Paladins also favor melee hits over spells. They have an even smoother damage intake when facing fast, low damage melee attacks. This is due to their ability to reach the block cap.
Death knights are best for tanking spell casting bosses because they have spell damage reduction cooldowns. Malygos for example casts a breath that hits hard, a death knight can pop his cooldowns and avoid all that spell damage.
Druids are best at tanking burst damage bosses because they have huge health pools.
In classic WoW (before the Burning Crusade expansion), warriors were the best -and practically only- choice for tanking raids. Paladins and feral druids were able to tank lesser instances. And, of course, Death knights had not yet been added to the game.
Talent spec and gear
A warrior who wants to main tank should spend at least 41 points in protection, up to 56 are not uncommon. See the Warrior builds article for a more complete discussion. For a list of equipment, see WotLK tanking equipment (warrior).
Traditionally (for example in games like Everquest), a tanks performance is determined by his amount of health (= stamina) and the quality of his armor. WoW adds to these two basic stats the avoidance stats like dodge, parry and block. The crucial difference between druid and warrior tanks is that warriors cannot hope to catch up with druids in health and armor (druids will always be superior in that respect), but a warrior's true strength lies in the avoidance stats.
In general, higher health and armor make a healer's job easier - there's more tolerance for errors (or for incoming damage spikes) with more health, and damage reduction by armor is smooth and constant. Healers usually don't like the avoidance stats very much, because they give a spiky and uneven damage distribution. However, the total amounts of damage reduction which a highly avoidance-based tanking class (such as the warrior or paladin) can reach with avoidance and armor is closer to the damage that can be soaked by high effective health tanks. In other words, a properly geared warrior can effectively absorb damage just as good as druids, even though a decently geared druid's healthpool might suggest otherwise. Healers who want to perform at the peak of their ability just have to adapt to the spiky damage flow.
Thus the avoidance stats are an integral part of the warrior class, and an itemization which concentrates on stamina and armor alone will never realize the full potential of a warrior. Spiky damage is more of a challenge for the healers, but that's what sets apart a good healer from a bad one - a good healer is able to draw maximum advantage from the mana breaks offered by a series of dodges and parries, and is also able to quickly react to a sudden increase in damage.
Stamina is a secondary stat for a tank. It should be high, but not at the cost of sacrificing avoidance or mitigation. Stamina is very important to a point, that point is being able to survive a round of max damage from a mob. After that, stamina simply acts as buffer for the healers to give them breathing room. Efficiency is better than a buffer in some boss fights.
A high armor class is the best source of damage reduction. It's consistent so healers love it. An equal amount of damage reduction through higher armor will always be just a little bit better than an equal amount of damage reduction through avoidance. Unfortunately, Armor has a kind of "diminishing returns" effect built in and a cap (at 33k armor), a point of armor spent near the cap is about 1/3 as effective as a point at the beginning of the curve, see the Armor article for details.
One problem for warriors and paladins is that the available plate gear does not offer very much choice. There are hardly any pieces which have bonus armor, whereas nearly every plate item sports Stamina and some avoidance statistic.
Avoidance and Mitigation
Dodge, Parry and Block are the stats which give an advantage to a warrior over a druid. 1% avoidance is just a little less efficient than 1% mitigation from armor. Not being hit has normally beneficial effects beyond the pure damage avoided, because some mobs can proc nasty effects on hits. Only through avoidance can Warriors realize the full potential of their tanking capability. Note that dodge and parry both avoid 100% of the damage.
Dodge: 39.35 Rating = 1% at level 80
Parry: 49.18 Rating = 1% at level 80
Why is parry a bit more hard to get than dodge? - When you Parry, your next attack comes a bit faster.
What should I favour over the other? - Well, between an item with 40 Dodge and an item with 40 Parry, favour Parry if you have a slow weapon (speed > 2.5 sec). Also remember that Parry and Dodge are subject to diminishing returns while Block is not.
Block is often lumped in with avoidance but is actually not the same. Avoidance results in a missed attack that does no white (normal) damage. Block reduces the amount of damage taken (sometimes to zero) but does not avoid the attack.
Was removed in a patch.
The effect of Blocking comes from two stats - Block Rating and Block Value. Block Rating increases the chance of a block occurring while Block Value increases the amount of damage that is absorbed by blocking. At face value, a successful Block will negate some 800-900 hp from an attack which usually does some 3000-5000 damage. It is good mitigation, and over the course of a full boss fight, a warrior can block thousands of damage. Based on the damage reduction alone, block is a nice stat which should be taken when possible. Compared to Dodge and Parry in Cataclysm it may be used to more quickly approach or reach the block cap. It blocks 30% of incoming damage and 60% for critical blocks. Shield block adds 25% to the chance to block for 10 seconds and at some levels of gear, may make the warrior block capped for 10 seconds, meaning that they will at least block 30% of physical damage. Because of diminishing returns, the block cap seems to be 102.4%. One adds the chance to Dodge, the chance to Parry, and chance to block together to see if they are block capped. Mastery is the main source of block and critical block, and some tanks have been favoring it over Dodge, Parry and even Stamina. Since excess block is converted to critical block, exceeding the block cap, apparently even with avoidance procs, can provide movements of high physical durability for a block tank.
16.39 Block Rating = 1% at level 80. So it's easy to get block, but doesn't do much without strength or Block Value.
Before patch 3.0 Block was important because increasing it to very high levels allowed warriors to avoid Crushing Blows, however mobs now need to be 4 levels above you in order to crush you. Since raid bosses are only 3 levels above you, crushing blows were effectively removed from raid encounters.
Expertise reduces the chance for a mob to parry or dodge you. This just like Hit Rating is a threat stat, and is good to have up to a certain amount if threat is an issue. 6.5% of expertise is minimum (soft cap), you can also consider taking it up to 10.5%, considering that the mob has 6.5% chance to dodge you, and 14.5% chance to parry you(parry varies per boss). If expertise < 6.5% then expertise can be more important than hit.
0% hit rating is generally needed for an endgame warrior tank to stay effective. Suggested hit chance for tanks is 0%. 8% hit chance is the melee cap (263).
Agility and Dodge
Agility was changed to not effect dodge as of patch 4.2
Naxxramas 10man tanking
A warrior can probably farm Naxxramas 10 when he has:
- 540 Defense rating
- 60% Armor damage reduction
- 25K health
- 20% dodge
- 15% parry
- 5% expertise
- 5% hit rating
- 2500 Attack power
The role of gems is to give you the stats you are missing. They can be used to fine tune your stats and change a piece of armor to better serve its role. Its role may be Survival, hit for interrupts, or expertise for threat.
- Factions: The Earthen Ring (Revered) sells tanking enchants for head, Therazane for shoulders.
- Leatherworkers: Leg armor enchants.
- Blacksmiths: Titanium weapon chain, Gem socket for belt
- Enchanters: All kinds of enchants
Potions and elixirs
Flasks and elixirs don't do as much difference as they did pre WotLK, but they can help in some situations. Note that you can only have 1 battle elixir and 1 guardian elixir.
- Indestructible potion
- Elixir of Expertise (battle)
- Elixir of Accuracy (battle)
- Elixir of Defense (guardian)
- Elixir of Agility (battle)
- Elixir of Strength (battle)
- Lesser flask of resilience (battle + guardian)
The secondary tank (also known as the off tank), in contrast to the main tank, is there to do damage. They should also intercept mobs that break away from the primary tank and they care more about buffing the group. Secondary tanks tend to go for armor similar to a primary tank, but forgo a shield in lieu of a two-handed weapon. This information is outdated.
Off tanks in Wrath of the Lich King raids - and even in lower-level raids with the changes to all class mechanics since Classic WoW - will want to have a good one-handed weapon and shield. In Wrath of the Lich King, few if any encounters that require an off tank won't require that tank to be wearing their best tanking gear. Vault of Archavon as of patch 3.3 is a good example of the several different functions of an off tank:
- Archavon: Tanking the boss when the main tank is crowd controlled, or has had their aggro wipe (in this case, both)
- Emalon: Tanking the extra adds that the main tank cannot safely take at that gear level - as well as grabbing new adds that spawn during the fight
- Koralon: Absorbing Cleave-style damage that would otherwise also be applied to the main tank - effectively halving the damage they take
- Toravon: Taunting the boss back and forth as he applies a [stacking debuff] that would otherwise overwhelm the main tank
- In the cases of Archavon and Toravon, the two tanks should have similar gear levels to each other, unless one is highly overgeared for the raid (neither should be undergeared for this) as there is no real "off" tank. Both need to be just as able to survive the boss as the other.
- In the case of Emalon, they should still be close to each other in terms of gear - determining who is on the adds should depend on which tank has the better AoE control and which is better for single-target tanking, not by their gear. Warriors probably shouldn't be on the adds unless both tanks are warriors.
- In the case of Koralon, you don't really need a true off tank - a cat druid going into Dire Bear Form would likely be able to survive the Meteor Fists, and other tank classes could theoretically just pop their emergency buttons and stand next to the main tank for the same result. However, this isn't advisable. It adds risk where it isn't necessary. However, an off tank warrior or paladin could remain in their Prot spec and switch weapons/stances, a bear druid could go into cat form, or a death knight could enter Blood or Unholy Presence until it is time to help the main tank. While this does help the DPS finish the encounter more quickly, the function of an off tank is to help prevent a wipe as best as possible, not to end the encounter as quickly as possible.
- 177 Dodge rating gives 1% increased dodge
- 177 Parry rating gives 1% increased parry
- 4 Strength rating gives 1 parry rating
- 179 Mastery rating gives 1 point of mastery
- 1 Point of mastery gives a 1.5% increased chance to block and critically block
For warriors, trying to hold aggro by dealing damage is generally frowned upon. It has been proven many times that a warrior trying to tank not in defensive stance, using DPS moves and wearing DPS gear is a worse tank than a properly specced and equipped protection warrior. DPS tanks will take substantially more damage and create less aggro. This way of tanking should be a last resort, only used if there's no alternative.
In many situation a fully equipped protection tank will be too good for the job. If the gear is too good, the warrior will not take enough damage to build rage, and this in turn hampers the ability to create aggro. Endgame protection tanks usually have to wear some DPS gear to make them able to perform in normal mode instances. In such a situation, DPS tanks are of course better suited to the task.
WARNING: Do NOT ever try to DPS tank in endgame instances. It just won't work. However, even protection tanks should use the extra abilities given by Berserker Stance where necessary.
DPS tanks have to Stance Dance a lot. It is a difficult style, but makes it possible to tank for PvP meat cleavers.
A pull should always be started in Defensive Stance, this creates good initial aggro, followed by a few Sunder Armors or Revenges. Then, a DPS tank should switch to Battle or Berserker (depending on how much healing is available) and start dealing heavy damage.
In Berserker Stance, a warrior deals the highest damage, and it allows simple multiple-target tanking by spamming Whirlwind. It also makes the warrior immune to fear, even protection warriors need to use berserker stance when encountering mobs with fear.
The disadvantage of berserker stance is that the warrior only generates rage from damage dealt, and that damage mitigation is decreased. Still, if specced that way, berserker stance should be preferred over battle stance.
Battle Stance is good for generating rage, and few situational abilities like Overpower. Apart from that it doesn't really have any advantages over Defense Stance - since in Defensive Stance the reduced damage generates more threat, it evens out - and Defense gives better abilities.
Tanking with a 2h weapon or dual wielding is theoretically possible with a very good healer and a group having a very high DPS output as a whole. Groups made entirely of casters in particular may be vulnerable to this tactic. This is however an unrealistic way to tank an endgame instance (particularly in pre-raid gear) as the initial bout of damage taken after aggro will be impossible for many healers to heal through. It may also be desirable to tank without a shield on enemies that use elemental melee attacks (a good example of this is Hydross the Unstable in SSC). Such attacks may not be blocked and therefore using a 2h weapon or dual wielding may provide a bonus given sufficient +hit and proper stats on the weapon(s).
However, tanking without a shield is not something a warrior should ever aim to do. Druids tank without "weapons", merely equipping the weapons for their stats, but their class is designed to work with this. Death Knights cannot equip shields, but their Frost Presence is vastly more powerful than a warrior's Defensive Stance - their class, too, is designed to work with this. Warrior and Paladin tanks are not. In many cases the Warrior or the Paladin will not only receive better stats from the weapons (even in a battle with zero physical damage, the stamina from the weapon and shield are still better for them than a two-handed weapon), but their abilities are designed to work with this setup.
Using a two-handed weapon for tanking in any situation other than fooling around is very unwise, and will often get you kicked out of the group you're in. There is a very low tolerance for tanks who refuse to do their job properly; their role is usually the most complex and most vital of the three roles (though healers might argue this) and a tank who refuses to tank properly from the get-go is usually a very bad, very obvious sign to the rest of the group.