"A group of intrepid heroes gathers around and discusses a plan of attack for a newly unveiled evil in Magister's Terrace. A powerful fire mage, a stalwart holy priest, the cunning combat rogue and the uplifting enhancement shaman all prepare for battle. However, they notice that there is a piece of the puzzle missing; a brave soul needed to encounter the evil doers head on in melee combat. The quartet set on a journey to locate such a hero."
At first, the group starts by interviewing potential candidates for the role...
Enhancement Shaman to Random_Warrior_1223: Hey, would you like to join us in Magister's Terrace? We need a tank.
Random_Warrior_1223: lolz prot sux - i'm arms.
10 minutes later....
Fire Mage to Paladin_Bob: Hey, can you tank Magister's for us?
Paladin_Bob: Sorry, I'm Ret.
20 minutes later....
Enhancement Shaman to Dr00d_342: Hey, we need a tank for Magister's. You want in?
Dr00d_405: I'm in a group already -thx.
30 minutes later...
Priest: Afk kids
45 minutes later....
The combat rogue skulks away into the depths of the Arathi Basin never to be seen again, the priest has been afk dealing with her kids and eventually times out and DCs and the mage is trash talking people in trade channel about the most important topic in WoW; Chuck Norris. All warriors asked are dps. All paladins asked are either holy or ret. All druids asked are either resto pvpers or are already in a group. Ultimately, the band of intrepid heroes is defeated by the quest for the tank. Deep within Magister's Terrace, Kael'Thas laughs at their expense.
Sound familiar? This seems all too common on Twisting Nether. Blizzard has surely made some adjustments to the warrior, paladin and druid classes but why are people not taking this role? What is causing tanks to be an endangered species?
Let's start by saying that tanking isn't easy. There is some math involved and there are as many bad tanks in the game as there are good. Not all warriors can hold AE threat, taunt when needed or have taken the necessary time to collect the required gear for the role. This makes finding a good tank even more difficult as players have to sift the wheat through the chaff. For the purposes of this article, we will stick with examining exactly why there are so few people specced protection, the skill of the player aside.
The first reason that comes to mind for the lack of protection warriors, pallies and feral tanking druids is that a PVE tanking role is so focused that it doesn't perform optimally in the solo aspect of the game. I can't really speak about protection paladins with much expertise so I'll refrain from making any judgements about them. However, I have a 70 druid and a 70 warrior so I can comment with a fairly high degree of experience about both. With the protection warrior, I can stack Shield Block Value and grind or I can dual wield and devastate spam. I have about 600 Shield Block Value which is about average these days and grinding is slow although most mobs never hit me. Dual Wield spamming trades significantly more efficient killing with extra downtime due to eating more frequently. I normally sub out most of my protection gear and wear fury gear for dual wield grinding. Devastate scales with attack power so it only makes sense to gear accordingly. My big issue with this is that grinding becomes spamming one button; devastate. Sure, I can toss a whirlwind in but it's not required. It's functional but it's not optimal and it's boring.
The druid is in the best position in solo content. Currently, my druid is a resto healbot however she was leveled primarily feral and did a fair amount of tanking at all levels of play. The major upside the feral druid has over both the prot warrior and prot paladin is that Mangle, the primary feral tanking tool, is also a hell of a dps ability in cat form. All the druid needs to do is collect a feral dps set and he's good to go. I'll go on record and say Mangle is the most overpowered ability in World of Warcraft. Sure, its a 41 point talent but the degree of flexibility it provides the feral druid is something I'd just kill for on my warrior. Clearly, if shield slam was doing bloodthirst kind of damage, there would be QQers crying about "balance" issues but druids can get away with it, primarily because there is nothing to compare with Mangle. Each druid talent tree is so different from the other, it makes any sort of "balance" issue without tangible comparison. I don't have concrete math to back this up with but I'll guesstimate there are more tanking druids at this point then there are tanking warriors or paladins in part due to this issue.
Another issue with being protection specced as a warrior comes when involved in world PVP. With the druid, I have far better success simply because mangle can pump out some respectable damage and whenever a feral druid is out soloing, he is normally equipped in cat dps gear. Druids also have a significantly better survivability rate as well as more escape methods (root, Cyclone, cat form, dash, prowl or simply run in travel form till out of combat and fly away). However for the warrior, players see a Kings Defender and some Tier 4/ZA tanking gear and they smell an easy kill. Some protection specs are more PVP friendly then others but if a player has one of the two most popular choices for PVE tanking (12/5/44 or 8/5/48) neither are designed for PVP. This makes the solo experience even worse. Resilience is now the primary survivability PVP stat, rendering the high armor and HP values protection gear less useful. Players with high resilience will be nearly impossible to damage down with the mild damage protection outputs. Thus, as a protection warrior, players have very little strengths in PVP and a high volume of shortcomings. Players on PVP realms usually feel better with some degree of confidence that they can fend off a ganker. Most protection specs don't provide that confidence.
These two issues result in the worst case scenario for Blizzard:
In the many aspects of the WoW experience, particularly on PVP realms, the protection warrior in it's current manifestation has too many instances where the spec is simply unfun.
In a nutshell, this is why there are so few tanks, let alone good tanks.
Now, I know what some of you are thinking. Here is the natural response to this is:
"So, if it's not fun, don't play protection. Go respec arms or fury and enjoy the game."
This line of thinking is flawed in that, this is what the warrior community is doing and it's why the same people spouting this dribble are the same ones begging for a tank and crying that there's a tank shortage. Hypocrisy? You bet. Let's try a more proactive approach.
There are some options to work with the strengths of the spec or overcome it's disadvantages in various game play scenarios. The first is obvious; respec when required and use a dps spec when grinding solo. This is all well and good but even with the plethora of daily quest gold in circulation, this could potentially get expensive. The second is a bit more difficult. If possible, be proactive and get involved with an active guild or a small group that plays together regularly. This ensures an instance group for every evening and a group doing daily quests together on a PVP realm is a much safer group then the players who goes it alone.
The lesson is that for the foreseeable future, there will be a tank shortage, particularly on PVP realms. There is nothing from Blizzard in the way of change as noted by the minimal changes for warriors that came from 2.4. Remember to take care of the warriors in guilds who tank often as it can be a frustrating experience. This is why tanks burn out so quickly. Keeping the game fun is the key. The consequences for not doing so may be the difference between tank endangerment and tank extinction.