Protection Warrior in Shadowlands - Tank Strengths, Best Covenants, Soulbinds and Legendaries
Shadowlands launches on November 23rd / 24th and all classes will be getting new toys to play with -- from Covenant abilities, to Conduits and returning Legendary effects! This article, written by Llarold, will provide details on the current state of Protection Warrior in Shadowlands, helping you to prepare for the upcoming expansion!
Protection Warrior Class Guide
Hi, I’m Llarold! I’m the Brewmaster Monk and Protection Warrior guide writer for Wowhead. I‘ve been tanking since Vanilla, and I began playing all the tank classes and writing tank guides in MoP. If you want a detailed guide on how to play Protection Warrior in Shadowlands,
here you go!
As it always goes with analyzing beta content, there are no guarantees. Big changes have already been made, and you never know when more will happen. Be ready for anything!
Let me begin by saying Protection Warrior is doing pretty well now!
Check out all our Shadowlands Launch Opinion articles by our Class Writers and members of the community! Click on any of the colored specs below to see what articles we've released so far.
These guides were meant to give you a preview of what's to come in the expansion, but don't worry -- our full Shadowlands Class Guides will be updated soon!
Blood Death Knight
Frost Death Knight
Unholy Death Knight
Havoc Demon Hunter
Vengeance Demon Hunter
Beast Mastery Hunter
What Has Changed for Protection Warrior?
New Baseline Protection Warrior Abilities
Protection Warriors have not received a huge number of changes since the previous “Protection Warrior State on Shadowlands Beta” article, but the changes they’ve been given have been pretty huge. You can find the previous iteration of the
Protection Warrior State on Shadowlands Alpha article here
, just in case you want more context.
had its damage reduced by 45%. It also deals reduced damage when hitting more than 5 targets.
was redesigned to instantly throw down a banner that buffs you and two allies who remain within its 15-yard radius. It grants 10% Crit Chance and 20% maximum health for 20 seconds, and has a 3 minute cooldown. It also grants you -- just you, not your allies -- a small Critical Damage buff as you spend Rage while within the Banner’s radius. This is arguably a buff from its prior iteration, but it’s still not very appealing.
was slightly redesigned. Instead of debuffing enemies, it leaves a damaging area on the ground that will deal damage over time, siphon Rage, and periodically knock down enemies within it. This is arguably a buff over the previous version. While it generates considerably less Rage than it used to (a maximum of 80 Rage per cast, down from 210 Rage per cast), it is much more useful as a crowd control skill. This is especially true against caster mobs, since the knockdowns can randomly interrupt without triggering diminishing returns on stuns.
The damage over time effect of
was also reduced by 45%, but the initial hit was unchanged. It is close in value to
in terms of DPS potential.
The follow Legendary balancing changes were also implemented:
was nerfed, to the point of probably no longer being useful. Instead of
affecting the entire group, it now only affects the closest ally. This makes it difficult -- if not impossible -- to use effectively for reflecting fast or instant casts on allies.
was nerfed. The cooldown reduction effect was reduced by 50%, and capped at 3 targets. It is still the option with the highest upside in AoE situations, such as tanking Mythic+, but it is no longer a dominant choice in every situation. It's really bad in single target, and should only be used for AoE.
was buffed, generating 5 extra Rage per Shield Slam, up from 2, and reducing Shield Wall's cooldown by 5 seconds, up from 4. The Shield Wall cooldown component is nice, but much less impressive than the Rage generation increase. The Rage is a big, big deal, and makes this the #1 option for Warriors in single target/raid situations.
was buffed slightly. The free Revenge cast deals increased damage. This is still a bad legendary.
had its extra Revenge proc buffed from 30% to 40%. It's a small DPS increase in AoE, but not a huge deal, really.
The reshuffle to the talent tree is the biggest and best change Protection Warriors have received in the later stages of the beta.
Protection Warriors now have two standard setups, one that functions similarly to how the class has played in BFA, and a second, more cooldown-oriented setup that has much higher Shield Block uptime and much higher burst damage in exchange for a larger number of keybinds and less sustained damage in between offensive cooldowns.
This is the standard, simple talent setup. It is the most similar build to BFA Warrior, and it should remain very popular and effective.
are competitive options.
adds more Shield Block uptime throughout an encounter, but does not increase Rage generation. It is less consistent throughout an entire encounter, providing the Shield Block uptime as a huge chunk on a 2-minute cooldown, rather than a small buff spread throughout a fight.
There are several competitive talent tiers in each talent setup.
are both viable options.
deals more damage and generates more Rage throughout the course of a fight due to Shield Slam resets, but the difference isn’t very large, and some players hate the playstyle. That’s okay,
is pretty good.
are both viable options.
deals more burst damage, but it generates less Rage, making it a little less effective defensively.
is the only tier that’s absolutely not worth changing, ever. It’s the best talent in all situations. Set it and forget it.
Shadowlands Leveling Perks
Protection Warriors gain one active skill while leveling to 60, and three passive perks. The active skill is
, gained at level 54, and it shouldn’t have a huge impact. It can be useful every now and again during add fights or trash pulls gone bad, but the cooldown is long enough that it isn’t going to be a regularly-usable tool. Monks have
can’t compete with that.
The passive perks are a little bit more useful.
(Level 52) - Generates 10 more Rage.
(Level 56) - Grants an additional 5% temporary and maximum health.
(Level 58) - Reduces damage taken by an additional 10%.
These are all fine. None of these bonuses are so large that they will impact gameplay in a meaningful way, but they’re nothing to complain about, either.
Protection Warrior Covenant Abilities
is the Kyrian Covenant Warrior Class Ability, and it’s great. It deals a lot of AoE damage, generates a decent chunk of Rage, provides a unique kind of mob CC by confining enemies to a small circle for 4 seconds (
, but cooler), and it looks great! The primary drawbacks it has are the ground-targeting, which requires an extra click or @cursor and @player macros, and the 1 minute cooldown. Using this in conjunction with
is a great way to deal massive AoE burst damage. Unfortunately, their cooldowns do not line up cleanly, so they are a good way to start out a pull, but less useful as a combo throughout the rest of a fight.
is the Kyrian Warrior Conduit, and it is pretty good. It makes
deal more direct damage and generate more Rage. Those are the reasons it’s good. This makes it better. Nothing bad about that!
provides a potion that can be used to clear debuffs, and it is on a separate cooldown from health potions available from Alchemy, so it’s easily the best defensive Signature skill available to tanks. The potential to remove bleed debuffs has been valuable in raid and dungeon testing, but that interaction with raid mechanics has been removed, right at the end of beta (lol). Even so, having a third instant heal (along with health potion and healthstone) is always valuable. The steward offers some helpful non-combat utility, such as free respecs and vendoring out in the world, which is cool. The steward is also very cute and friendly, and that’s always worth something.
. It deals Shadow damage, is usable when targets are above 80% health or below 20% health, and adds a substantial defensive component onto
, which fixes one of the biggest problems the ability has. This might wind up being the best single-target damage option for Warriors, but that’s not as big of a deal as it may sound. Generally speaking, this probably will not be a competitive option under most circumstances. Execute is still a Rage dump, and it’s pure single-target damage. That just isn’t really compatible with the areas in which tank damage is more important (AoE damage, Hectic Add Cleave encounters, Mythic+ trash packs). It’s tragic, because this is an incredibly fun ability for both Warrior offspecs, but for Protection, it’s just not remotely competitive where you need it. It’s legitimately very disappointing, #1 on my "fun but unusable stuff" list.
is the Venthyr Soulbind Conduit and it is an extremely misguided design. Buffing single-target skills only while in AoE is stupid. This is a much better concept for Arms, who can cleave their Executes to two targets via
, and Fury, who can spread their Executes to 4 extra targets with
. The implementation of Execute into Protection Warrior’s toolkit in Shadowlands was a complete afterthought, and this Conduit demonstrates it perfectly. This Conduit was also brutally nerfed recently due to its strength on the other specs, with zero regard for how it would affect Protection Warrior balance. It's legitimately embarrassing. The class designer was just trying to get their job done and move on to something else, and it shows.
ranges from excellent to nearly-worthless. The cast time makes it mostly useless mid-combat, especially as a tank, but gaining access to a ground-targeted blink is exceptional for skipping trash packs when pushing Mythic+, or during mobility phases in which you need to run around damage pools. It is fairly redundant with Heroic Leap, but more mobility is not a bad thing. It can no longer be used to blink anywhere within line of sight, and now requires a direct path to the destination. Unfortunately, due to the nature of WoW’s pathing, this means you will encounter spaces in the world (such as in the Venthyr Class Hall, lol) through which you cannot blink despite having line of sight and a clear path.
is the Necrolord Covenant Class Ability for Protection Warriors, and although it has been redesigned, it still features a lot of the same drawbacks as its initial incarnation. It is a relatively short buff for its long cooldown, it’s a relatively weak buff for its short duration and long cooldown, and the 15-yard radius is pretty small -- especially for a weak buff with a short duration and long cooldown! If you use it on cooldown, it’s only up 11% of the time, which is an average of 1.1% more Crit chance for you and two allies. That’s just bad. The other perks of the ability simply don’t outweigh the negatives.
The Necrolord Conduit is
, which makes
a bit more powerful for the Warrior, but still not by all that much. The issues of low uptime are way too much for this little Conduit buff to overcome.
is a 4-second channel that generates an absorb shield equal to 20% of your max health. If you’re next to a corpse, the absorb shield can scale up to 50% of your max health. This sounds like a good ability for tanks due to providing direct defensive value, but 20% of your max health is only a little more than one Ignore Pain cast. A 2-minute cooldown, 4-second channeled Ignore Pain is not a good bonus. Channeling mid-combat is a terrible idea while tanking since you can’t block, dodge, or parry, meaning you should easily take more damage than you are shielding. It just isn’t enough of a defensive benefit to justify the downsides for tanks, and while starting off combat with a 20% absorb shield sounds nice, it’s not a huge gain. Couple that with the disappointing Class ability, and this is an easy pass.
is a direct competitor to
that has some upsides and downsides. It’s easier to use (no targeting reticule, just a frontal cone), and it has an initial 1.5 second stun that does not trigger the diminishing return on stuns. It’s useful as an impromptu AoE interrupt, but you probably will just want to use it on cooldown as much as possible since it’s such a large burst damage cooldown. It deals more damage per cast time than
(about 10-15% more) and generates 16 Rage per target over 12 seconds. At 3 or more targets, the Rage generation is better than
, but the delay is not great. Being forced to keep enemies in its debuff area for 12 seconds can result in lost DPS due to needing to move for mechanics, or enemies leaping around. It also has a longer cooldown, which is actually a good thing. A 90-second cooldown lines up much better with Warrior’s other cooldowns than a 60-second cooldown. Or rather, it would, except…
is the Night Fae Warrior Conduit. It reduces the cooldown of
, bringing it down to 75 seconds, so that it also does not align with literally any other Warrior cooldowns. Idiotic, right? This means that both
ultimately deal fairly similar damage, generate somewhat different amounts of Rage depending on how many targets you are facing, and both have cooldowns that do not line up with anything else in the kit. This is bad class design. Awful. Take a lap.
is a simple mobility cooldown. It grants an instant 15-yard blink upon casting it, and a 50% movement increase for 15 seconds. It can be reactivated to blink again, which makes it useful for skipping over dangerous raid mechanics. Unfortunately, it’s on the GCD and it will break if you cast most offensive skills, so it’s not all that great. Given that Protection Warriors already have a ton of mobility, this isn’t a big deal.
Choosing a Covenant
is a stronger skill than
under ideal conditions, dealing about 15% more damage throughout the course of a fight. If that were the entire choice, Night Fae would arguably be the superior Covenant -- but it isn't.
is slightly stronger when facing groups of 3-5 targets. In single-target, the Rage generation difference keeps them comparable. If you have to move around,
loses a lot of value, whereas
is more resilient against movement, and more versatile overall.
Once you factor in the relative value of
, as well as the respective Covenant Soulbinds, Kyrian pulls ahead of Night Fae in most situations. It's not that far off, so if you have your heart set on Night Fae, or you think the 12 seconds of knockdowns sounds appealing, go for it.
If you want to go Venthyr to be a better Fury or Arms Warrior, go for it. You won't be
of playing Protection without being Kyrian or Night Fae, you'll just be less competitive. Man, what a stupid system! There's not even a way to catch up your offspec, it's just inferior forever. It's literally easier to optimize playing two different classes of different specs than it is to optimize two specs on the same character. So dumb!
Protection Warrior Soulbind Powers in Shadowlands
The preferred Soulbind setup as Kyrian will use Pelagos, and look like this:
. The Mastery buff from Combat Meditation is excellent, and lasts for a long time if you do a good job of picking up orbs as they spawn. Let Go of the Past is worth an automatic 4% Versatility. It's outstanding, one of the few legitimately powerful Soulbind traits remaining. The cooldown reduction on your Kyrian Potion from
is also fine, but not a huge deal.
As a Kyrian tank, it's Pelagos or nothing. The other Soulbind options cannot compete.
Now, let's say you want to be different. You hate Pelagos, even though he's the best. Maybe you hate him because he's the best -- you resent his greatness. That's understandable. Kleia is a usable option. She offers
right off the bat, offering a powerful reactive heal that can apply to any of your nearby allies. Is she as good as Pelagos from the top of the tree all the way to the bottom? Of course not, but she is better than Forgelite Prime Mikanikos. He's the worst Soulbind in the entire expansion. What were they trying to do with that guy? Make a PvP Soulbind? Just for one Covenant? Who knows?! Whatever it was, it was not successful!
If you opt for Night Fae, the best Soulbind setup is with Korayn:
is a decent offensive increase, and
is an excellent, consistent source of defenses.
is also a fine option in the final tier, but physical damage reduction is less valuable to Warriors than any other tank due to diminishing returns, the stand-still nature of the bonus is prohibitive, and it forces you through another Finesse Conduit, which isn't great.
Dreamweaver is also a viable alternative, but the good bonuses, such as
, force you through Finesse Conduits, and an ideal tree will only pick up a single Potency conduit. Not very good.
Protection Warrior Soulbind Conduits
Conduits come in three forms: Potency buff damage skills or the Covenant ability, Endurance buff defense and self-healing, and Finesse grant utility.
In the case of Protection Warriors, Endurance Conduits add minor defensive gains, the general Protection Warrior Potency Conduits add minor offensive gains, and the Finesse Conduits are pretty forgettable. The whole system is forgettable, really.
Let’s start with the Potency Conduits:
increases the damage of your next
increases the critical strike chance of
by 3% for 8 sec, stacking up to 8 times.
(Kyrian Potency Conduit)
's instant damage and Rage generation are increased by 25%.
(Venthyr Potency Conduit)
damage dealt and prevented are increased by 1.5% for each nearby enemy, up to 1.5%.
(Necrolord Potency Conduit)
immediately grants you 5 Glory, and while the banner is planted your Strength is increased by 10%.
(Night Fae Potency Conduit)
cooldown is reduced by 15 sec, and its damage is increased by 4%.
Below is an ordered list of the Potency Conduits available to Protection Warriors. It's not definitive, as things can -- and probably will -- change, but it's good for now:
rules. It's a good source of damage and Rage, and those are both great.
substantially increases Ancient Aftershock's damage per encounter. Causing it to desync from other offensive cooldowns is pretty annoying, but it's still a good Conduit.
is a fairly minor AoE DPS increase. Doing more damage is always good, this just doesn't add a ton of it. It is weaker than all of the Covenant Conduits, but stronger than the other Conduit available to Prot.
makes a very weak cooldown slightly stronger. It's not great, but if you really want to be a Necrolord Warrior for some reason, you should use this.
is a terrible design that was then nerfed into the ground. It's awful.
is a baffling bonus. In what galaxy will Protection Warriors be able to Execute so often while tanking difficult content that they can maintain this buff? And even then, it only grants a small Crit buff to Execute, nothing else. No resource generation, no cooldown reduction, no reliable damage increases. Just awful. This might be the worst-designed bonus in the entire expansion.
Endurance Conduits are up next, and they are a mixed bag:
- 6% of damage you deal adds to your active
- You are healed for 15% of the damage dealt by
heals you for 200% of the damage it dealt over 8 sec.
- The cooldown of
is reduced by 20 sec.
increases your Rage generation by 30%.
Here is a ranked list for Endurance Conduits available to Protection Warriors. Again, it's subject to change. It will change. Isn't that great?
causes you to leech into your Ignore Pain shield, which is actually a pretty nice concept, since it won't be wasted as overhealing. The tuning is fairly weak, but the concept is not bad.
is a very weak bonus on its own. When combined with
, it can actually be a useful part of a build that has a surprisingly short cooldown on Shield Wall.
grants literally dozens of healing per second. It's a fine concept, but the returns are so small as to be meaningless.
piles more defensive value onto an already-powerful defensive cooldown. This is a design that doesn't really make much sense, but Blizzard loves bonuses that make defensive skills add
even more defense!
-- as though you can block an enemy to death. This just isn't very good, and Last Stand isn't often enough for this to really have much of an impact.
is useless in most tanking circumstances. It's a world questing bonus.
And finally, here’s the Finesse Conduits:
can withstand 80% more damage before breaking.
's cooldown is reduced by 5 sec.
's duration and health granted are increased by 20%.
reduces damage taken by the target by 8%.
Finally, this is a ranking of the Endurance Conduits available to Warriors. This is by far the least important ranking, but it's probably the least likely to change, so take that with a grain of salt, why don't you?
into a pretty juicy group cooldown. The personal defensive value is pretty low, but the group utility is good.
is better on paper than it is in practice. It's very undertuned at lower ranks, and generally not as useful or usable as
if you really want to add more defensive group utility.
has potential synergy with
to really lower Shockwave's cooldown -- but just sticking with
is probably a better idea if you really want more stuns.
is horrible. Ignore it.
Protection Warrior Legendaries
Shadowlands is bringing back Legendary bonuses, but players will have significantly more control over them than they did in Legion. This is good!
General Warrior Legendary Powers in Shadowlands
gains 2 additional charge.
: Legion Legendary
This was a fun mobility Legion Legendary that was virtually useless in combat. It’s great to have a set with this in it to quickly leap 3 times in a row while out of combat, but that’s about it.
lasts 60% longer and applies to your nearest ally.
: Torghast Anima Power
This was poised to be a mandatory choice for Warriors in Mythic+, but post-nerf, it's pretty much useless. There's some potential for protecting your co-tank in raids and cheesing some mechanics, but otherwise it seems like a PvP choice.
hits 3 or more enemies, it hits them 1 additional time for 40% damage.
: Legion Legendary
This has modest potential as an AoE DPS increase, but it most likely won’t be very competitive. Even if it winds up dealing good damage, it’s mechanically very boring.
randomly casts one of the other two abilities at reduced effectiveness.
: Torghast Anima Power
and suddenly losing control of your character for 3+ seconds as it uses
while tanking? That’s a yikes from me, dawg.
would be great, but giving up other, better bonuses is not worth the reward.
Protection Warrior Legendary Powers in Shadowlands
- The first Intercepted attack grants you
and make your next
cost no Rage and deal 200% more damage.
slightly more valuable, but it’s a relatively small bonus that won’t do anything in most scenarios outside of taunt-swap boss encounters or fixate mobs in trash. The damage increase on the free Revenge will add up to literally dozens of DPS (Warning: DPS increase may not actually be that large).
generates an additional 5 Rage and reduces the remaining cooldown of
by 5 sec.
: Legion Legendary
This is a revamp of an unpopular Legion Legendary. With the substantial increase to its Rage generation potential, it has become a very appealing option. It doesn't have quite the same potential upside in AoE as the next option, but it is a very good choice in every scenario, and that kind of consistency and reliability is very appealing when tanking. When combined with Anger Management, this can bring the average cooldown of Shield Wall to less than 1 minute. Crazy!
- Each enemy you hit with
reduces the remaining cooldown on
by 1.5 sec, up to 4.5 sec.
: Legion Legendary
Thunderlord was nerfed pretty hard. It's still very good in AoE, reducing the average cooldown of
from the default 45 seconds to around 20 seconds. That's good enough for around 40% Demoralizing Shout uptime, which is a big improvement from the baseline 17.8% uptime you get without this legendary. That being said, this was nerfed pretty substantially from the >80% uptime increase it was early in the beta, and losing that does hurt.
'My name is Thunderlord, legendary of legendaries:
Look on my works, ye Warriors, and despair!'
now grants 50% of its effect to all party members.
: Warrior T13 Prot 4p bonus
Item - Warrior T13 Protection 4P Bonus (Shield Wall)
Boooo. It’s back from Dragon Soul and it’s still super lame! Group-wide 25% damage reduction is a lot, but no one should use their #1 defensive cooldown to buff the group. There may be some specific encounter mechanics that force Warriors to use this, but this looks like it will be a low-value bonus 99% of the time.
Protection Warriors have a few interesting Legendary effects in Shadowlands, and the two that stand out are
(ST, raid, general use) and
(AoE, M+). The rest of the pack really isn't close.
The previous "State of Protection Warrior" article ended like this:
“There’s still time to fix it!” are the famous last words of every spec that releases in a disappointing state (I see you, Enhance Shaman), but there is still time to fix Protection Warrior. Despite the loss of virtually every bonus that has defined the class throughout its high points in BFA, Blizzard still has plenty of time and options for getting the class into a good, competitive position in Shadowlands.
The good news is this: They actually did it. Protection Warrior has been nerfed from BFA. It is not in a position to be the standout #1 Mythic+ tank in Shadowlands -- at least not yet -- but it is still fast, fun, and dynamic. It has terrific damage mitigation tools, a powerful collection of offensive and defensive cooldowns, a fun rotation, a lot of mobility, and unique defensive utility with Intervene, Rallying Cry, and Spell Reflection.
Protection Warriors are poised to be competitive in Mythic+ and decent in raids in Shadowlands. That's a much more hopeful expansion start than Protection Warriors usually have.
Protection Warriors are in the best starting spot they have been in several expansions, and it should be a fun, effective, and versatile class in Shadowlands. I am genuinely enjoying Protection Warrior more than I have in a long time. The potential to play with multiple talent setups is really appealing, and being free to use
in Mythic+ and raids without other major playstyle alterations has breathed some fresh life into a spec that had gotten, frankly, a little stale. The future is bright!
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