Classic Warrior Tank Spec, Builds, and Talents
Talent Builds for Warrior Tanks
Warrior tanks can customize their playstyle, ranging from very defensive to very offensive, by changing their talents. While a large number of possible builds exists, we will provide a framework for the three main playstyles: defensive, balanced, and offensive. Keep in mind that the gear you wear, and the consumables you used, also influence your playstyle and your effectiveness heavily.
If you were looking for leveling builds, please refer to our leveling guide for Warriors.
There are very good arguments for 2H tanking as a Warrior, especially while leveling and when doing dungeons.
The main reason to use 2H to tank dungeons is because Sweeping Strikes, from the Arms tree, hits extremely hard with a 2H and allows you to gain significant AoE threat, which is direly needed in dungeons: you simply cannot be a tank if you cannot hold the threat on enemies!
Going full protection will also usually cause you to take too little damage, thus leaving you Rage starved, which will also stop you from being able to build adequate threat.
Once you are past the dungeon stage and ready to be a raid tank, we advise you to respec to one of these three builds, depending on your personal preference and gear level:
Defensive Warrior Tank Talent Build
You should use this sort of talent build when you first swap to a pure tanking build after hitting max level. The reasoning of the build is simple: take every single defensive talent available except Anticipation, which has a very poor return for the talent points required, and fill the rest by personal preference.
In the case of the listed build, we opted to fully reduce the Rage cost of Sunder Armor, to compensate for having so few threat-oriented talents (and, likely, bad gear). Improved Revenge enables constant stuns during dungeons for only three talent points. Finally, Improved Taunt allows you to Taunt an enemy for the 3-second guaranteed aggro, follow up with Mocking Blow for 6 seconds of guaranteed aggro, and Taunt will be ready once again a little before Mocking Blow's effect finishes, effectively enabling you to build massive threat on two targets at once.
Balanced Warrior Tank Talent Build
You should use this sort of talent build once you transition to raids where bosses cannot be taunted, thus removing the need for Improved Taunt. These points can then go to Improved Heroic Strike, for a small threat generation increase.
The full Improved Shield Wall talent is taken in this build specifically because, at this point, you should be tanking bosses where the 5 extra seconds will make or break a kill in bosses such as Nefarian.
The preference points are similar to the defensive talent build. Feel free to fill out Improved Revenge or get some points in Improved Taunt if you do dungeons often, by dropping out some points in Improved Heroic Strike or Toughness, if need be.
Offensive Warrior Tank Talent Build
This is the sort of build to run when speed running or overgearing group content in WoW Classic. The reasoning behind this build is the opposite of the defensive build: talent only into the most impactful defensive talents and run as many threat or DPS oriented talents as possible. In fact, you will be using so many DPS talents, that dual-wield tanking should be the default playstyle, with a shield equipment swap always ready, in case your damage taken gets scary. Do not attempt this build in end-game raiding without a lot of stacked consumables and world buffs on yourself and, especially, on the group you are running with, as your massive threat generation will be wasted unless everyone is going full-out.
If you do decide to go ahead and play this build, your rotation will vary from the standard tank rotation. Your goal is to generate as much threat as possible through dealing high amounts of damage, meaning you can essentially follow the rotation on our DPS Warrior page.
While points on this build are as tight as you can get, you can swap points between Dual Wield Specialization, Piercing Howl, Blood Craze, and Improved Battle Shout on the Fury tree, and between Improved Sunder Armor and Toughness on the Protection tree.
Notable Warrior Talents for Tanking
Warrior tanks do not invest a lot of talent points into Arms, but this tree still has some fairly useful talents.
Tactical Mastery is required for stance swapping to work. For example, without two points in it, you would not have the 10 Rage required to Intercept an enemy after switching to Berserker Stance. It also helps conserve any extra Rage you pick up in other stances, as you switch back to Defensive Stance.
Anger Management generates 1 Rage every 3 seconds, which is not clear at all from reading its tooltip. This makes it a fairly good Rage generating talent and, combined with Bloodrage, enables you to have higher Rage on the most important moment of a fight for threat generation: the pull.
Impale, once at decent levels of gear, is a major damage and threat contributor to a Warrior tank, while only requiring an investment of 17 points into the Arms tree, allowing for deep Protection to still be reached.
Cruelty is a staple of all kinds of Warriors, as trading one talent point for 1% extra chance to critical strike is usually a good deal.
Unbridled Wrath is a simple, yet effective talent: the more often you attack, the more often you activate this talent for extra Rage.
Piercing Howl can provide a reliable source of soft crowd control in an emergency. Whether it is because you lost aggro on some enemies of a pack, or because you need to run away to recover health, Piercing Howl will make things more manageable.
Improved Battle Shout is a nice damage boost for a full party of melee players. Since you are able to provide it at little cost to your performance, it is a good idea to do so.
Enrage is a counter-intuitive talent to take as a tank, since you usually do not want to get hit with critical strikes. The catch is that you need to have it in order to reach the powerful Flurry anyway and, as long as you have enough health to survive a critical strike from the boss you are tanking, odds are that the healers can top you up or you can swap to a shield and Shield Block before the next hit arrives, while still keeping the Enrage buff.
Flurry increases your damage substantially, as long as you are dealing some critical strikes of your own.
Bloodthirst provides an extra attack, to further increase your damage and threat generation.
The meat and potatoes of a Warrior tank, Protection has the best density of defensive and threat related talents and, thus, should almost always be heavily invested in.
Shield Specialization, besides being a requirement for the specialization-defining Improved Shield Block, both increases your block chance and grants you Rage when you block, which you will tend to do very often during your sword and board days.
Anticipation is not quite as good as it might look at first glance. While 10 Defense is a strong defensive boost, it comes at the cost of 5 precious talent points, which can generally be better spent elsewhere.
Toughness is another example of a talent that looks better on paper than what it actually is. Only your armor value from items is increased, yet you get much of your armor from raid buffs and consumables. Still, it is a better defensive talent than Anticipation.
Improved Shield Block, ironically, is your best defensive one pointer, but is also one of the worst Warrior talents to place any extra points in, beyond the first. Being able to block two attacks every 5 seconds with Shield Block, instead of one, allows you to effectively become critical strike immune, without requiring good gear, against most bosses, since they will not be able to swing twice before you refresh Shield Block. Since Shield Block already lasts as long as its cooldown by default, and is removed once you take two hits, increasing its duration is effectively pointless.
Last Stand is a strong defensive cooldown, on a cooldown of only 10 minutes. This is short when you consider that a Warrior's staple, Shield Wall, can only be used every 30 minutes.
Improved Revenge is another deceptively powerful defensive tool, as you should be able to cast Revenge on cooldown when facing the trash mobs that can be stunned by its effect to begin with. Its only, yet major, weakness, is that bosses are typically immune to stuns.
Concussion Blow is a strong stun that you can use to lock an enemy down, while you focus your threat-building efforts on a different enemy, allowing your party members to go all-out.
Shield Slam is a powerful attack that causes a lot of threat and also dispels a magic effect on the target 50% of the time. While this is rarely useful, it is good to have a passive magic dispel from enemies that self-buff.
- 11 Jan. 2020: Updated the Tank Talent guide with 2H tanking as well as all talent builds.
- 20 Jul. 2019: Changed the balanced talent build based on feedback.
- 12 Jun. 2019: Page added.
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