Biggest Changes to Tanks in Classic WoW if You've Played BFA
Welcome to our overview of the biggest changes to tank classes in Classic WoW as compared to Battle for Azeroth! While tanks have been around since vanilla, much has changed over 15 years. If you've been playing BFA without any Vanilla experience but want to get into Classic, or are a Vanilla vet that wants a refresher course, these are the largest changes to tanks you should know about.
Before we get into the differences, we wanted to highlight our Classic Tank Class Guides:
Available Classes and Races
There are fewer races and classes available in Classic WoW--no Allied Races, Goblins, Worgen, Draenei, Blood Elves, or Pandaren. In addition, some tanks did not have access to as many original races in Classic WoW:
Druids cannot be Trolls
Paladins cannot be Tauren
Each faction only had access to a few tank types, as Paladins were unique to Alliance, and Monks, Demon Hunters, and Death Knights are not present in Classic WoW.
Each class in Classic WoW has a series of class-specific quests with notable rewards, emphasizing the identity of their particular role. These can teach new abilities such as
or useful gear like
. Every class has a special questline that will take them into
at higher levels.
Starting in Phase 2, Paladins and Warriors also have the famous questline for
. You can learn how to acquire this item in our
If you're coming from Battle for Azeroth or any of the previous expansions then you might be accustomed to a simpler consumable system of 1 Flask and 1 Food Buff to increase your primary stat. In Classic WoW, there are many types of elixirs which all stack with each other, covering a variety of stats instead of the usual primary/secondary ones.
For example, you can have all the following elixir buffs active at once, which provide benefits to your threat or mitigation:
. Learn about all the consumables available in Classic WoW and how they stack with the
Classic WoW Consumable Guide
There were also more consumables you could utilize in-combat. Engineering had explosives which can be used to deal extra AoE damage to increase threat, such as
. Potions were not limited to one per battle, and so you could burn through more per encounter as well.
As bosses could only have sixteen debuffs active concurrently, raids had to plan what debuffs they wanted active--and what abilities players needed to avoid casting, to avoid knocking valuable debuffs off.
to a boss was very important as it generated threat for the tank and increased the damage of physical DPSers. For melee-heavy groups, tanks can choose to use
as well, which causes the enemy to take more physical damage when struck in combat.
If you need extra defensive measures on a boss, Warriors can also apply the
debuffs. Learn more in the
Debuff Management Guide
Tier sets in vanilla were also hit-or-miss, providing bonuses that were somewhat useful to all roles, instead of bonuses that changed per specialization. However, Warriors are a bit lucky as their sets are generally designed to provide tanking bonuses. For example, the 3 piece bonus of Warrior Tier 1 (
) increases the block value of your shield, while Paladin Tier (
) triggers a heal.
Feral Druid itemization may also surprise players, as the best Phase 1 mitigation weapon (
) is a level 43 drop and the threat weapon
comes from Gnomeregan.
Collecting gear overall in Classic will require a different mentality than BFA, as nothing can Titanforge. This means you will be working towards a clear Best-in-Slot set, targeting certain bosses for their drops. Players may also want to collect different sets for high threat generation, damage mitigation, and magical resistance.
Check out our BiS guides for more details:
Battle for Azeroth has a lot of "Active Mitigation" cooldowns, but basically outside of
in Classic WoW, all mitigation was passive through stats, such as armor which reduces physical damage, dodge that is increased by defense and agility, parry from defense and talents, and your health pool that you can pay for each attack with. Because of the passive nature of mitigation, the biggest impact on your survivability is going to come from your gearing decisions.
One notable mitigation stat is Defense, removed in Cataclysm. Defense is an attribute that helps prevent Physical damage by reducing the chance to be hit or critically hit.
Like Weapon Skill, you need to level your Defense Rating - By letting enemy NPCs hit you. The default defense cap is
for level 60 players.
Every point of Defense gives 0.04% dodge, 0.04% parry, 0.04% block, 0.04% reduced chance to be hit, 0.04% reduced chance to be crit.
At 300 Defense, you still have a chance of being critically hit/crushed against Boss (level 63) mobs. Tanks need to increase their Defense Rating to avoid this.
At level 60, you need
Defense Rating to avoid being critically hit by level 63 mobs. This requires a fully leveled 300 innate Defense, and an additional 140 Defense Rating from gear.
This may be difficult to reach and focusing gear with +defense may leave your gear lacking in other important tank stats. Consider striking a balance between melee mitigation (Stamina, Armor), resistance gear when useful, and threat gear (Hit Chance, Crit Chance) instead of prioritizing the defense soft cap.
In Battle for Azeroth, six classes can be tanks, while in Classic WoW, only three classes have tank options. However, these three classes are not created equally. Warrior Tanks were designed by Blizzard as the "true" tank class for raiding. Feral Druids and Prot Paladins
tank, but have more weaknesses and omissions in their toolkits. This design philosophy is different from Battle for Azeroth, where each class that fulfills the same role gets roughly the same toolkit.
Warriors have good options for both defensive gearing (mitigation) and offensive gearing (threat), as well as tier sets with bonuses and itemization for tanking. They are also the only class that has defensive cooldowns (such as Shield Wall and Last Stand) allowing them to tank in situations where no other class can.
Druids lack the defensive cooldowns of Tank Warriors, but they have comparable threat generation. Due to the nature of
, Druids can reach armor levels Warriors can only dream of. Through clever uses of items such as
, Druids are able to create huge bursts of threat, making them ideal for certain bosses. Druids also bring a lot of utility in the form of
making them uniquely viable in some end-game scenarios.
What's the catch? Although they are extremely useful in certain situations, Druids ultimately fall short of Warriors due to the lack of a
, as well as lack of a self-fear break
. Horde Feral Druids will also struggle to keep aggro, because melee players will be dealing extra attacks from a Shaman's
, which the Druid does not benefit from.
As for Prot Paladins, they lack a major defensive cooldown such as
but they also don't have access to an ability such as
to gain back threat if they lose aggro. However, items like
in combination with spells like
make Paladins able to generate some serious AoE threat. And due to abilities like
, which are strong against Undead, Prot Paladins may be good for running Scholomance or Stratholme.
Over the years, many stats have been added and removed to World of Warcraft. While Mastery and Versatility were not present in Classic WoW, there are many stats modern players will be unfamiliar with when playing Classic.
Classic WoW Stats Guide
describes all stats in a bit more detail. Some things to be aware of as a tank:
While we generally associate Plate tanks with Strength and Stamina in Battle for Azeroth, Classic tanks wanted to collect stats like Agility and Attack Power for threat.
Some notable tanking stats were removed in Cataclysm like Block Value and Defense.
Critical strike, haste, and hit were around in Classic, but they were split between melee and spell variants.
Mitigation stats like resistances were important to surviving encounters like Ragnaros and Huhuran.
The talent system went through a major overhaul ever since Vanilla. In Battle for Azeroth, instead of having three trees of talents with mostly small tuning pieces, you must choose your specialization, which then unlocks the core abilities and traits of it. You can preview the vanilla talents in our
Classic Talent Calculator
In Battle for Azeroth, you can change your specialization at any time, without any cost, as long as you're out of combat. In order to change talents, you must be out of combat and you either need to be in a resting zone, like a major city or inn or to be under the effect of special items that allow you to change talents on the fly, like special Tomes.
In Classic WoW, players must visit a Class Trainer in order to change their talent tree selections. This process has a cost attached to it, which starts as a small fee but increases every time you perform it, up to a cap of . This cost is reduced by per month, to a minimum of . Therefore, players generally stick with one talent build as they level, instead of constantly swapping.
However, class specialization trees are less niche in Classic than they are in BFA; it's not uncommon to see someone with points in a DPS tree tank, or other hybrid builds of multiple specs.
As for class abilities, they are awarded automatically as you level up in BFA, but in Classic, you must go back to your trainer to learn them at various levels. Many abilities also have ranks, with higher ranks providing stronger versions of an ability.
Threat is very important in Classic WoW. The more threat that the tank is able to generate increases the amount of damage your DPS players will be able to do before pulling threat (ideally they will never pull threat). All players can generate threat by dealing damage, healing, casting beneficial buffs and removing harmful debuffs--and threat is only wiped by a player death. If a non-Tank player is high on threat, they may hold back on casting abilities, which in turn hampers their performance.
Therefore, the higher a tank's TPS is, the higher a party/raid's DPS can be. You may hear the phrase "wait for 5 sunders to DPS" tossed around in order to ensure a DPS will not rip aggro off a tank at the start of an encounter.
Alliance players can more easily manage their threat generation due to the
, whereas Horde players must be within range of a
Learn more about this mechanic in our
Comprehensive Classic WoW Threat Guide
Weapon skill represents your proficiency with a type of weapon, and increasing your weapon skill reduces your chance to miss when attacking a target.
Enemies have a Defense that corresponds to 5 time their level (63=315, 62=310, 61=305, etc.) This is then checked against your Weapon Skill to determine your chance to miss and glancing blow damage reduction. Enemy mobs that have more than 10 defense skill more than your weapon skill also apply an additional 1% chance to miss. For the clearest example of the benefits of weapon skill, let's take a look at the benefits of having +5 weapon skill vs a level 63/boss enemy as a tank:
Reduces your chance to miss from 8% to 6% as well as removing the 1% hit penalty. This means that +5 weapon skill (305 weapon skill) effectively gives you a 3% hit bonus against a level 63/boss mob.
Reduces the damage reduction penalty of glancing blows from 35% to 15%, glancing blows are however unavoidable as they simply happen 40% of the time.
Decreases the chance for the mob to dodge your attacks from 6.5% to 6%.
Learn more in the
Classic WoW Weapon Skill Guide
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