I strongly believe that one of the worst things that ever happened to leveling tanks was WoWpopular.com. Not just that particular site, of course, but it and all its ilk. Sites that recommend specs, glyphs, talents, even high-profile bloggers who are working on top-tier, hardmode content, and thus provide a cookie-cutter raiding spec with discussion of maybe the one or two talents they consider controversial or interesting.
The problem with this is that these are the results that Google comes up with when the level 10 nub, looking for where to spend his first talent point, searches “Best [class] tank spec.” These are the results that the DPS who doesn’t actually care about tanking finds 5 minutes before he slaps on a shield and queues for randoms with the coveted Tank Queue.
Shortly after the Frozen Throne wing was released I remember seeing a spike in obviously new warrior tanks, tanks who could barely handle H FoS, much less H ICC, maxing out Safeguard at the expense of Focused Rage, following Veneretio’s venerable example, though in most cases probably second- or third-hand. Months later, when my own guild was working on LK 10 30% easymode and I specced Safeguard for the OT utility, I got to see this phenomenon first-hand: not a month later a guildy dusted off an old warrior alt, copied my spec point for point, and complained that he was having a hard time with threat in heroic dungeons.
I was baffled. Apparently, a significant portion of the five-man tanking population completely misses the point. (Not that raid tanks are necessarily any better; just that I don’t see many of them.)
What is the point? The point is that talent trees exist for exactly one reason: customization. If you’re not looking at your talents and thinking, “How will this work when I’m using it?” you’re doing it wrong.
That’s not to say that all the discussion that goes on in the tanking community, on blogs and forums and in private conversations, isn’t valuable. Quite the contrary – do you intend to calculate each talent’s usefulness on your own? Will you catch every implication, crunch every number? Never overlook a potential gain in performance because of your prejudice against the previous version of the talent/ability? Of course not. But ultimately, all of the theorycraft in the world should only inform your choices in talents. To make the best choices, you need to also consider yourself, and the content you’re running. The question should never be, “What are the best talents for tanking class x y or z?” The question should be, “What are the best talents for me in my situation?”
On December 7th, tanks who had formerly been doing nothing but 25-man raiding, concentrating themselves on bosses bosses and more bosses, will have to shift gears all the way back down to 5-man content. Plate DPS who queued as tanks for instant heroics and let the overpowered DPS and healer carry them through instances tuned for 20k health blue-geared tanks will have to step up or stop tanking. And all of the speccing recommendations and principles to live by which we’ve used for raiding will be out the window.
So let’s practice thinking about our new priorities.
One thing I’ve noticed a lot when talking to or just inspecting newer protection warriors is a lack of perspective on their talent trees. This is only to be expected, of course – no one goes into a new class with a complete understanding of how it ticks. The surprising thing is that, with exceptions, the people who did some research into their specs are among the worst off. They’ll read a guide that tells them for example that Improved Revenge and maxing Shield Specialization are optional, and that Toughness and Anticipation are mandatory; and though this is certainly true at level 80, a level 24 warrior specced into 5/5 Anticipation and 5/5 Toughness is making life a lot harder for himself than it needs to be.
A leveling spec is a work in progress, and what’s best for the spec at any given moment may not be what’s best for the spec in the long run. New levels bring changes to your abilities, talents, playstyle and gear, and your speccing priorities should change with them. It’s important to take into account not just what will be good at level 80, but also what’s good right now. Read more…