There’s a lot to love about Mists of Pandaria – the new talent system is not one of those things.
I’ve waxed lyrical about it before and won’t do so again but, suffice it to say, the new talent system is a massive retrograde step for Protection warriors and undoubtedly the biggest disappointment heralded by the new expansion. Our talents aren’t cool or interesting, they’re largely meaningless; and having only six choices from 90 levels still feels as if it’s some kind of bad joke that nobody had the stones to blink off.
But here we are, so let’s have a look at them. I’m only going to talk about Protection in this post, and I’m only going to go to the fifth tier – essentially, we haven’t had the chance to play with the level 90 talents yet and I believe judgement should be reserved on them until we have.
Tier 1, Charge.
First things first – avoid Warbringer. There is absolutely no reason to ever take this talent, it’s practically useless for tanks (and warriors in general). The choice is between Juggernaut and Double Time and I’d previously thought Juggernaut a pretty clear winner because it was simply more consistent than Double Time. Yet, this is an opinion that’s since changed due to the light of reality.
It’s extremely rare when you’ll need to be able to continuously use Charge every 12 seconds, which means the ability to do so is blunted. On the other hand, Double Time functions in a way that actually lines up nicely assuming you’re not just using Charge for the sake of it and it has that extra utility that Juggernaut doesn’t have. Levels 85 to 90 may change things but, right now, Double Time is actually a pretty clear winner.
Tier One Recommendation: Double Time.
Tier 2, Self-healing.
This tier is actually the one where my views have taken a complete 180. I would have previously said take either Enraged Regeneration or Impending Victory – just avoid Second Wind. Now, having played with both the former, the latter is winning easily in my opinion. Second Wind may well be something that only activates given a particular scenario, but said scenario is when you’ll actually want to start helping the healers out a lot more and it has no cooldown.
Essentially, Second Wind has far more potential than either of its rivals. You’re not going to be using either of them on cooldown making the “heals per minute” argument invalid, but both also harbour difficult decision points which you can avoid by not taking them. There are other snags, of course; Impending Victory requires you to actually be able to hit something (not always a given), while Enraged Regeneration practically forces you to hold onto Berserker Rage because of its ludicrous rage cost.
Lastly, however, you can actually feel Second Wind when it heals you. Both Enraged Regeneration and Impending Victory are so abnormally weak that incidental AoE heals are pretty much as good as they are. 10% sounds like a lot when you read it, but when you see it applied to your green bar in combat you end up asking yourself if you actually hit the button. Yes, you can marry up Last Stand/Rallying Cry to make them more powerful but, honestly, the very notion of wasting a major cooldown just to make a talent look good is alien to me. And don’t forget – if you’re using Last Stand, it also works on Second Wind which really makes it powerful when you need it to be.
Tier Two Recommendation: Second Wind.
Tier 3, Control.
Truthfully, I still think Staggering Shout is some kind of bad dream I need to wake up from. Don’t touch it with a bargepole, it’s crap. This decision is all about whether or not you need to kite mobs, or you don’t. If you’re kiting, Piercing Howl is your winner by a landslide and if you’re not kiting, you take Disrupting Shout for a secondary AoE interrupt and you cast-sequence it in with Pummel to save bar space.
Naturally, this means that the vast majority of the time you’ll be taking Disrupting Shout. This is a thoroughly underwhelming tier, so let’s move on.
Tier Three Recommendation: Disrupting Shout.
Tier 4, AoE.
On the face of it, there’s a lot to like on this tier but, for Protection warriors, I’m afraid it’s the Emperor’s New Clothes. Shockwave still wins easily for us because Bladestorm doesn’t allow you to do anything else but shout, while Dragon Roar has the downside of both a long cooldown and an annoying knockback your group mates are unlikely to thank you for. If you’re boss-tanking, Dragon Roar becomes more compelling because it’ll eat less GCD’s you could use for rage building (thus making it an indirect gimme), but this tier should really be viewed as the AoE tier and, for tanks, we need solid, sustained AoE power; not short-term nukes.
Ultimately, if Bladestorm and Dragon Roar are on cooldown, your AoE potential ends up horribly anaemic. The added benefit of access to more frequent trash stuns also means Shockwave has defensive utility far and beyond the other two options.
They say familiarity breeds contempt, but not in this case.
Tier Four Recommendation: Shockwave.
Tier 5, Utility.
If I were to be honest, this is the one tier where we do have a legitimate choice to make. Mass Spell Reflection, Safeguard and Vigilance are all excellent talents in their own right and all, given the right situation, will be valuable. I would suspect that the vast majority of your dusts are going to be used here.
Mass Spell Reflect will be weakened by the fact most bosses don’t have attacks that can be reflected, but that doesn’t mean adds in an encounter will be immune to its charms and I still think of Malygos when I think of how awesome this talent can be. Safeguard loses a little of its bite in PvE because you’re rarely rooted, but it’s a good short term external cooldown that can be liberally applied to the whole raid when it’s available. Vigilance, of the three, is the one talent that doesn’t have a particular downside and it’s a powerful external for your co-tank when required. It does have a long cooldown but, then again, your raid leader can count on you having an external should the raid require it.
I’m not sure I’m going to make a recommendation for this tier. It’s going to entirely depend on which encounter/content you’re running, and how your group wants to tackle it. I’d be inclined to go with Safeguard in the majority of cases, purely due to its availability and multiple applications.
Tier Five Recommendation: Safeguard.
As hinted earlier, I’m not going to talk about tier six until more players have had the chance to test it properly. Also, it’s probably clear to most people that I hold the new talent system in contempt and I’ve made no real attempt to cover that up.
Compared to what we had in WotLK and Cataclysm, it’s robbed us of nearly every meaningful choice we had to make and left us with an extremely sparse six “talents” that, in some cases, will make next to no difference in how we perform. The second tier, particularly, feels like a slap in the face – no matter what talent we go for, our self-healing is still dreadful and all three feel like we’re taking Cataclysm’s Blood Craze.
So there you are. I’ll be packing Double Time, Second Wind, Disrupting Shout, Shockwave and Safeguard – I recommend you do the same, else come up with an explanation as to why not.
I’d love to hear it. :)