A Disappointing First Look
When the Patch 9.2 tier bonuses were initially unveiled, nearly all of the tank bonuses appeared to be tuned towards Mythic+ much more than raids. Protection Warrior was the lone standout, with consistent, powerful bonuses that are strong in every situation.
The 2-piece bonus adds burst damage and Rage generation, and the 4-piece adds even more value onto Avatar
, including some much-needed damage reduction. This also pushes players from the safe-but-boring Heavy Repercussions
playstyle into Anger Management
, and smooths out a lot of the accompanying defensive concerns. This is great. It all looked great.
Unfortunately, there are several overlapping bugs and design flaws that seriously limit the value of both the 2-piece and 4-piece bonuses, and simply fixing the bugs won’t be enough to make this set function effectively.
Bugs Are Bad
Let’s start with the list of bugs:
- The 2-piece will sometimes stop working, and you will no longer be able to generate stacks by spending Rage until you relog.
- If you cast Ignore Pain while you have 6 stacks, and you would generate both a 7th and 8th stack, the buff is consumed because you used Ignore Pain, but you do not receive an empowered Ignore Pain, because you didn’t have the buff when you cast it.
- The increased Rage generation from the 2-piece’s interaction with Shield Slam does not interact with Heavy Repercussions or The Wall. The extra Rage does not get multiplied. The extra duration from Heavy Repercussions does not get multiplied. The cooldown reduction does not get multiplied.
- The increased effect from the 2-piece’s interaction with Thunder Clap does not interact with Crackling Thunder or Thunderlord. You do not get a 90% AoE slow. You do not get triple the cooldown reduction.
The first bug on the list kept triggering while attempting to test. It made testing much slower than it should be.
Design Flaws Aren’t Great, Either
Now let’s jump into the issues with the design.
- The 2-piece cannot go above 8 stacks, so using Avatar at any point while above 0 stacks wastes value from the 4-piece.
- The Shield Slam interaction with the 2-piece adds the most damage and the most Rage. It is the only one ever worth using.
- The Thunder Clap interaction adds less damage, even in AoE, than the Shield Slam interaction due to being able to dump the extra Rage with Revenge.
- The Ignore Pain interaction grants 50% extra power from a Ignore Pain cast. This is worse than the Shield Slam interaction in literally all situations!
- It adds no damage!
- Casting Ignore Pain gives you an extra 50% for free.
- Using Shield Slam gives you an extra 30 Rage – 75% of an Ignore Pain! -- for free.
- 75 > 50
- Using the 2-piece on anything other than Shield Slam is a trap.
Numbers Are Our Friends
On average, a Protection Warrior in single target generates about 8-10 Rage per second. There’s a good bit of variance thanks to Shield Slam
resets, taunt-swapping, and good old RNG, but this is a decent range.
The 2-piece triggers every time you spend 240 Rage. This means it triggers every 24-30 seconds. If used on Shield Slam
, as it nearly always should be, it grants an extra 1-1.25 Rage per second, and an extra ~300-360 dps. For a reasonably skilled player, that’s 4-5% more single target DPS. Pretty good for a 2-piece.
The 4-piece bonus complicates everything, and not in a good way. If you are running Anger Management
, you don’t really ever want to let Avatar
sit on cooldown, but using Avatar
while you have stacks of the 2-piece wastes them. If you’re at a high level of stacks, wasting a bit of Anger Management
may be worthwhile, but generally speaking, you’re going to waste a lot of 2-piece stacks while using this bonus.
If Anger Management
has an average cooldown of 45 seconds (a totally reasonable assumption), you get an extra 2-piece proc every 45 seconds, which is worth about .667 Rage/sec and 200 DPS, or roughly 2%-2.5% ST DPS. This is enough to compensate for the wasted 2-piece stacks, but it’s really not a great bonus once that waste is factored in. This part of the tier set’s interaction feels like a snake eating its own tail.
The other component of the 4-piece bonus: “Avatar increases your damage dealt by an additional 10% and reduces your damage taken by 10%” is terrific on the defensive end. With an average uptime of 45-50% on Anger Management
, the offensive component is worth about 4% more damage in both ST and AoE.
Compared to other tank bonuses, these numbers are really disappointing, especially considering that 4% more damage on a Protection Warrior is noticeably less than an equivalent amount of damage from most other tanks. Even worse, both the 2-piece and the 4-piece’s direct interaction with it are direct single-target DPS increases only. Rage generation from being autoattacked is higher in AoE, but not by enough of a margin to affect balance in a meaningful way. The Thunder Clap
2-piece bonus simply does not add enough damage and Rage to ever be worth using. Even in AoE situations where a single Thunder Clap
cast can deal more than a single Shield Slam
, the 30 extra Rage can be spent on Revenge
, which will add substantially more damage than wasting the bonus on Thunder Clap
. The only time you should use the 2-piece on Thunder Clap
is if you need the AoE slow.
The only time you should use the 2-piece on Ignore Pain
is if you need the extra 50% RIGHT NOW and can't even wait literally 1 second to get more value out of using Shield Slam
. This should never happen. If it does, you've already made bigger mistakes than just wasting your 2-piece bonus.
Can It Be Fixed?
Absolutely. There are several ways to make this set of bonuses work much better than they are currently, and I'm just going to list off the ones I think are best.
- Remove the Thunder Clap and Ignore Pain interactions from the 2-piece. They are traps. Retuning them to be competitive isn't complicated, but they just aren't as satisfying to press as Shield Slam.
This would fix the 6-stack Ignore Pain carryover bug, too.
Change the 2-piece to allow stacking up the 8-stack buff while an Empowered Shield Slam
buff is active and has not yet been consumed. This eliminates the waste caused by the 4-piece bonus.
Lower the stack count of the 2-piece from 8 to 6 to compensate for the 4-piece's waste.
Make triggering the 2-piece bonus grant a free Ignore Pain
buff (potentially at 50% effectiveness).
Protection Warrior’s defensive capabilities have been inconsistent throughout Shadowlands. In some situations they're pretty good (i.e., blockable attacks), in some they're underwhelming (i.e., unblockable damage). This tier set could provide some much-needed stability to the class' defensive and offensive kit, but it needs more attention from Blizzard in order to function effectively.
In addition to their defensive inconsistencies, Protection Warrior's damage output has been underwhelming all expansion, and while this set of tier bonuses is capable of being a successful band-aid on both of those issues, it’s nowhere near there yet. The good news is that it’s fixable, and if the Brewmaster Monk 4-piece is any indication, the devs are hearing feedback and acting upon it, so I remain very hopeful that this tier set will be reworked. The fundamental idea is good. With a few big tweaks this can be a really nice set of bonuses for a spec that could use a boost.