Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Rift Warrior Complete Tanking Guide (Dungeons & Raids)

This guide is an overview of everything you need to know to get started as a Warrior tank.


Before going into the specific trees and recommendations, I want to discuss the major stats related to Warrior tanking. I'm going to cover Armor, Percent Damage Reduction talents, Avoidance, and Block. In the movie information box below, I've got a link to a Resistance outline for Warriors dealing with specific Resist-oriented encounters.


Let's start with Armor. Armor is really good. A lot of people don't realize this, but it's by far the most effective stat for damage reduction in the game, and even small increases will have noticeable impacts on your performance. This is why getting a few pieces of gear with small armor upgrades as a tank dramatically affect your survivability even though the other stats you've gained seem small.

In Rift, Armor is part of a trifecta that determines Effective Health, or the amount of raw damage you can take and survive in a worst-case scenario. The other two components are raw health, and percent damage reduction talents such as Accord of Emptiness, Power From the Masses, and Call to Entrench.

Because it would take too much time to get into for this movie, I'm not going to go much further on this subject, but I'll leave it with a recommendation that you never overlook Armor upgrades. In the near future I will be rewriting and updating my original Effective Health article that I wrote for World of Warcraft and reposting it to my website.

Percent Damage Reduction

I mentioned Percent Damage Reduction talents. There are all sorts of these, and they're actually more important for dealing with magic damage in Rift than for physical damage. These talents are pretty straightforward, but I'm going to cover them briefly to explain the math involved and dispel a bad myth I see going around.

Let's take a magic damage reduction ability called Void, in the Void Knight tree. After getting the talent Devourer, this becomes a 20% Magic Damage Reduction buff.

In Paladin, there's a talent called Hardened Will, which reduces magic damage by 9%. In Reaver, a talent called Crest Mastery, which also reduces magic damage by 9%.

Though they're similar buffs, they don't add up together. In other words, you can't add 20% and 9% and 9% and have a 38% magic damage reduction. Instead, you multiply these values and you only get about 34% damage reduction. While this difference doesn't seem big, the more of these you get, the more dramatic the difference becomes.

As a general rule, both physical and magic damage reduction talents are all very good. Just because they don't add together doesn't mean they're not worth getting -- in most cases, you should absolutely be getting them.


Avoidance includes Dodge, Parry, and Chance to be Missed. These are your chances to completely avoid an incoming physical attack, meaning you will take zero damage from them. While Avoidance as a concept is very strong, it's difficult to get significant amounts of Avoidance as a Warrior and instead most Warriors should look at Block.

As of right now, we do not have a 100% clear picture on the roll system, or combat table, that Rift uses. Without going in-depth on this topic since it's not entirely relevant to this particular guide, it means that Avoidance stats may be slightly more or slightly less valuable than they appear, but the difference is meaningless at current levels of gearing.


Block is also an incredibly powerful stat, at least when you're dealing with Average Damage Reduction. Average Damage Reduction is different than Effective Health, in that it only helps you in cases where a healer will have no trouble keeping you alive, no matter what, with their regular healing rotation. For example, a high Average Damage Reduction will mean you can pull more packs of mobs more quickly in a dungeon without a high risk of dying.

Block is straightforward. If you have 50% chance to block -- which is a reasonable amount with Aggressive Block active from Paladin -- with 40% damage reduction, this means that half of incoming hits that would deal full damage to you will instead be reduced by 40%. On average, this means you'll take 20% less damage overall. These numbers get to be extraordinarily good.

The reason Block is so good is not because it's better than Avoidance -- it isn't. Instead, Block is good because you can get a lot of it, and the Block stat has very strong returns. Also, since Strength gives a 1:1 bonus to Block, any Strength upgrades are also big upgrades for gear.

Magic Resist

I won't cover magic resistance too much because it's very specialized and it doesn't have much of an impact on your gearing process. However, I have a detailed write-up on resistance linked in the movie information box.

Warrior Tanking Souls

Warriors have 4 tanking talent trees. These trees are Void Knight, Reaver, Paladin, and Warlord. These trees are genuinely unique from each other, and are each very powerful in their purpose.

Void Knight

Void Knights have the strongest consistent Damage Reduction talents. Reaver has powerful AOE Threat and AOE grinding options through damage-over-time abilities, along with strong magic damage reduction options and great single-target Threat. Paladin has some of the best single-target Threat abilities, along with powerful mitigation, provided through Block, and great Threat and damage talents. Warlord provides great Support abilities.

Let's begin by covering Void Knights. Void Knight is presented as an anti-caster tree, a role it excels at. The class is built around the use of Pacts, a special counter that increases in number based on ability and talent usage. With Insatiable Hunger and Blood From a Stone, Pacts will be generated off of auto-attacks; with Quality Care, Pacts will have a high chance of being generated from incoming healing; and with Pact Conversion, you can quickly apply Pacts to yourself.

Why are Pacts important? For main tanking purposes, they're important because they will maintain your Ravenous Strength and Ravenous Defense buffs, which I'll cover shortly. Prior to Patch 1.2, Pacts only refreshed these buffed when they were generated, so rate of Pact gain was more important than your total Pact Count. As of Patch 1.2, these buffs stay active based on your total Pact Count instead, making them incredibly easy to maintain.

Void Knights bring Spell Sunder, an offensive purge, and Spellbreaker, a friendly dispel to the table. These are both situationally useful. Additionally, Void Knights have Rift Summon, a long-cooldown Death Grip ability that instantly pulls a target to your location.

Let's get into the damage reduction portions of the tree. The Void Knight tree is the king of Effective Health and a necessary tree to invest in for maximum damage reduction potential. This is not even close -- Void Knight blows the other trees out of the water.

Working our way up from the bottom:

We start out with Void, a 5% magic damage reduction buff. This makes the tree good to use as a tertiary soul if you want a free buff but don't have any more talent points to spend.

Ravenous Strength is effectively a 50% Strength Bonus. Keeping in mind that Strength converts to Block at a 1-to-1 ratio, this is a massive increase to your Block. While Block is not an Effective Health stat, it's still a wonderful stat, and Ravenous Strength is great for it.

Ravenous Strength is also required for the strongest physical damage reduction talent in the game, Ravenous Defense. This is a 50% Armor bonus, and it is mathematically stronger than any other physical damage reduction talent Warriors have. Ravenous Defense requires an 18 point investment into the tree, and is effectively the minimum you must invest into Void Knight.

Devourer is a 5 point talent that converts Void into a 20% magic damage reduction buff. Like Ravenous Defense, this is mathematically stronger than any other magic damage reduction talent Warriors have. For magic damage reduction, 25 points is a bare minimum investment in Void Knight.

With Patch 1.2, we now have Accord of Emptiness, a 20% physical damage reduction and 10% magical damage reduction buff. This is a 51-point ability.

Let's start with the physical damage reduction aspect of this. Because Paladin and Warlord armor buffs are in the first tier of their respective trees, you can afford to max these out even with a 51-point Void Knight build. Additionally, you can still afford more Block and Threat Generation out of Paladin with the 5 remaining points. Because Accord of Emptiness can be combined with all of this, it is hands-down the best physical damage reduction investment possible.

Magic damage reduction is a different story. Accord of Emptiness is effectively a 26 point additional talent investment to get there from Devourer, the really good magic talent in Void Knight. Those same 26 points, when invested into Reaver, and the remainder in Paladin, give significantly better returns on Magic Damage Reduction, in addition to being far more exciting to play and holding aggro more solidly.

Here's my personal commentary: Void Knight is a poorly designed tree that is not enjoyable to play and consists of huge amounts of situational abilities that never come into play in the encounters that matter. Until 1.2, it's primary builder ability, Reckless Strike, was not even functioning correctly.

With 1.2, the class is easier to play since maintaing your Ravenous Strength and Ravenous Defense buffs is now incredibly simple. However, when half of your abilities relate to building Pacts and building pacts is no longer terribly important, Pacts become a useless mechanic. It's certainly an improvement over the previous design, but it's still not fun.

The problem with Void Knight is that it's also hands down the king of physical Effective Health. For whatever reason, the anti-caster tree is actually more strongly suited to physical damage reduction. The extreme physical damage reduction offered by this tree makes little sense unless this class was originally intended to tank without a shield.

Put more simply, what bothers me most about this tree is it's necessity to any tank that cares about maximizing their survivability. At the same time, the abilities are only fun to use on targets with mana bars, which accounts for very little in the game. The fun parts of other trees are locked out for tanks who invest too deeply in Void Knight.

As a rule, I put talents into Void Knight, but use abilities from other trees exclusively. Void Knight is a necessary investment. Accord of Emptiness is not a necessary investment, unless we see a raid boss with purely physical damage.


Reaver is our next tree. Reaver is the strongest AOE spec, with very strong damage output and self-healing. Reaver is also a staple of any magic damage reduction build. Despite being an AOE-centered spec, Reaver is necessary to maximize single-target Threat generation as well.

The core of Reaver is an ability called Plague Bringer. This ability turns all of the damage over time abilities, or DOTs, in the tree into multi-target DOTs. This makes pulling easier with ranged DOTs like Soul Sickness and Necrotic Wounds, and dramatically increases your damage output.

Reaver DOTs are also among the highest potential damage abilities available to tanks when they're allowed to tick for full duration. Additionally, they have incredibly high Threat.

For soloing and introductory instances, Reaver also has competent self-healing.

Wasting Away is a wasted talent, at least so far as we currently have seen. I haven't tested this in a while, but it had no visible impact on mobs I've tested it in the past. Unless this changes, don't pick these points up.

Crippling Infestation is an oddball, and a difficult one to pick up in hybrid builds where you need Power From the Masses. On a one-minute cooldown, Crippling Infestation will reduce damage output on the target by 15%. This works as advertised, even on raid bosses. However, it's important to note that Mage's Power Drain, a 10% damage output reduction, also works on raid bosses and can be kept up most consistently. Even though the additional 5% is helpful, it's usually not a worthwhile investment.

Enraged Essence is another ability that is only situationally useful. Beastmaster pets provide this same buff, and while they currently both show up on the buff bar, the buff caps at 5%. However, it's still worth getting for general usage if you can afford it, unless you're absolutely sure you'll always have it available when it matters.

Reaver's damage reduction comes almost entirely in the form of percent damage reduction talents. While you do get Crest of the Abyss early on, a flat 320 Armor buff when stacked, talents such as Power in the Blood, Imbued Armor and Power From the Masses are all percentages off both Physical and Magical damage. Crest Mastery is another 9% Magic Damage Reduction.

Power From the Masses has a few quirks that players should be aware of. First, you can use a companion pet -- yes, a little non-combat pet -- and get stacks of the buff while solo'ing. Additionally, you can keep very high up-time on the buff with 3/5 points in, provided you're using primarily Plague Bringer DOTs in your rotation. That said, for progression content where your survivability is absolutely imperative, only 5/5 points will guarantee the buff does not fall off you.

Shroud of Entropy, the 44 point cooldown, is the strongest minute cooldown ability among all four trees for current content. However, this deep of an investment is not practical when compared to hybrid builds, especially when taking the actual dungeon and raid encounter mechanics into account.

For progression content, either in difficult dungeons or difficult raids, Reaver is best suited as a hybrid build with Void Knight and Paladin for the powerful magic damage reduction potential.

My personal commentary: Reaver is second only to Warlord in difficulty to play at maximum potential. However, the tools this of the build allow you to play it well while making lots of mistakes, or just spamming a single macro. Because of this, it's one of the best introductory trees for players.

Combined with a low investment in Paladin, Reaver is the king of both single target and AOE Threat, and this is concerning to me. When AOE abilities on a class are generating more single-target threat than many of the best single-target abilities from three other trees, the balance is screwy. In addition to this, the fact that Blood Fever can be spammed -- even without being allowed to tick it's DOT component a single time -- and a player can hold aggro through this is poor design.

Reaver also has energy issues, and these aren't fully resolved with Binding of Death, the 38 point Binding buff.
I use Reaver a lot, and one of the best advantages it has is the ability to pull a pack of mobs by hitting all of them with Soul Sickness and Necrotic Wounds immediately. This is one of the best ways you can pull, and while Paladin has something similar, it's far deeper in the Paladin tree and not as strong.

Reaver is a lot of fun as a class. Ability usage is certainly not as bad as Void Knight, and the complexity of abilities is well-thought out. Like most trees, going deeper than about 26 points in Reaver is usually not worthwhile. Reaver also leaves a lot of room for player skill, since you can definitely pump out more damage by using your abilities in coordination with each other, rather than spammed through a couple macros.


Paladin is our next tree. This tree has some incredible low-level talents that both augment other trees and dramatically increase survivability and Threat.

Paladin has the strongest Threat generation talents. These come in the form of Aggressive Guardian, a 2 point talent that increases Threat generation by 10%, and Small Arms Specialization, a 5 point talent that increases damage by 10%, which also increases Threat by about 10%. Additionally, tanks who are not hit capped already will find it very important to invest in Shield of the Hero and Graceful under Pressure for a combined 14% Hit.

While Reaver and Warlord also have talents that benefit those trees, Paladin talents will augment these and improve them, which makes Paladin a strong tertiary soul.

Paladin also has Retaliation, the strongest Threat ability we've tested to date. Since this is a low point cost and off the global cooldown, any build with Paladin points should have this macro'd into every single attack to improve Threat output.

Face Slam is similar to Retaliation in that it's off the global cooldown, but the energy cost makes it prohibitive to use in standard rotation.

Paladin's Shield Throw is a ranged Taunt, though the travel time of the Throw makes it less ideal when compared to an option like Sergeant's Order in Warlord.

Shield Charge is in the same vein. While Shield Charge is a lot of fun to use, it quickly becomes apparent in dungeons that you need to be pulling with either Light's Decree or Reaver DOTs, and once you've spent global cooldowns on this it's too late to effectively charge, except in rare cases.

Balance of Power and Tip the Balance have internal cooldowns attached to them, so even though they look good, MMO veterans should not assume these talents can be used to break the game, so to speak. This is a logical decision on the part of the developers, but not a very fun one for those of us who like to take advantage of these kinds of abilities.

While the other abilities in this tree are good, especially Paladin's Reprisal, the most mechanically important ability for Paladins to be aware of is Light's Decree. This ability can be used to pull, but should also be used in any AOE threat generation macro you're using, and the macros should be designed to utilize single target attacks.

Light's Decree will deal AOE damage on every single target attack you use. This includes abilities off the global cooldown, such as Retaliation and Face Slam. For very specialized usage, it's important to note that it also applies to Plague Bringer-buffed Reaver DOTs, which means you can sustain even more AOE damage with a hybrid Reaver and Paladin build.

As a final note, Pacifying Strike, a core Paladin ability, will overwrite all 5% Spellpower and Attack Power debuffs currently on the target. At this time, it has not been determined which is stronger, but keep it in mind.

Let's get into damage reduction. Like Warlord, Paladin also brings a tier 1 Armor buff, and this should be included in any tanking build utilizing Paladin.

The armor from Shield of the Chosen stacks with other armor buffs, such as Empowering Strike from Warlord.

Block is the core of Paladins, and with only six points invested you will gain 25% additional Block for your character. This is done by keeping Aggressive Block active, and taking the talents Stalwart Shield and Shield of the Hero.

Unyielding Defense reduces damage by 20% when you Block. So, for instance, if you block 50% of the time, you'll reduce your overall damage taken by 10%. The ability shines in expert dungeons and other locations, but is weak when raid main tanking burst-oriented encounters like Greenscale or Plutonus, where strings of unblocked hits will occur and Effective Health is more important.

Hardened Will is a solid 9% magic damage reduction, and it does stack with both Reaver and Void Knight damage reductions. It should be included in any hybrid magic damage reduction build.

Touch of Life is low enough in the tree that you'll find you're able to get it in most tanking builds. This is one of the best cooldowns available to Warrior tanks.

My personal commentary: Paladin is a good tree, but it needs work.

One of the biggest problems I see in the community are people who play Paladin because they love the look and feel of the class, and have played similar classes in the past. However, if you want to be a great tank, you can't go too heavily into this tree.

The Paladin tree needs work. As it stands, Paladins will massively improve the damage, Threat, and survivability of any other build, but you wind up using core abilities from the other trees. The playstyle rarely feels like Paladin.
Additionally, the 38 point ability, Preservation, is virtually unusable. In theory, the ability makes you an incredible off-tank for encounters where the main tank really needs a hand, but in practice, you're always too deep in Warlord or other builds on those encounters to go to Preservation.

One of the problems with Paladin is that the talents that are best are so low in the tree that there's very little need to go further. The talents that are further are underwhelming, and don't compete well against hybrids. A lot of this stems back to the issue of how powerful Void Knights are in raw damage reduction.

Shield Charge doesn't get much love, and I feel this particular ability needs to have the proc that Light's Decree currently has. At the very least, it needs to do initial damage to mobs surrounding where you charge.

All of that said, going 32 points into Paladin is justifiable, if not ideal in higher tiers of content. There are some great abilities along the way there, and the build isn't horribly far behind. The playstyle is unique, engaging, and certainly a lot of fun.


The final tree I want to discuss today is Warlord. Warlord is a very powerful support tree, and a tree I find myself frequently using in both 5-man dungeons and raids. However, it is a very technical tree if you want to take advantage of it, and you'll need to know very specific things to understand how and why the tree works. That's what I'm here for.

Warlord is a strong tanking build, and it deserves a spot in many builds, but a number of the support options it brings to the table are not worthwhile, while a few are very powerful.

Let's start with Call to Battle. This buff does not stack with similar raid buffs provided by other classes, and the additional Attack Power is negligible. Don't use this ability unless a spellpower buff is not available.

Call to Entrench is the same deal. It does not stack with similar raid buffs provided by other classes. The additional 3% damage on the Warlord is a separate buff, and that component does stack, but because it's a separate buff, the two do not combine for 8% damage reduction.

Aspects also don't stack with other raid buffs, rendering Dramatic Presence useless.

Spotter's Order, on the other hand, not only stacks with every other raid buff, it's one of the most powerful raid buffs available in the game. DPSers can see over 100 DPS increases in certain scenarios while this is active. This buff should be kept active by any Warlord, regardless of what finishers they have available from other trees. Even though you lose out on some damage as a tank, don't forget that it benefits your other damage output.

Despite the name, Spotter's Order is considered a call, and will activate Battlefield Awareness and benefit from Commanding Presence.

As far as abilities, Warlord has an interesting suite of great abilities. First, Sergeant's Order is a very short cooldown death grip, which you'll be able to use multiple times during a pull. This is touchy, and you'll need to get used to it as mobs will stop mid-pull if they hit rocks or terrain bumps.

Second, Intercept is a reliable Threat transfer that's off the global cooldown. I macro this ability into all of my attacks.

The biggest buffs Warlord brings to the table are Rallying Command, Aid Command, and Assault Command. Though Assault Command can be provided by other classes, Rallying and Aid Command are exclusive to Warlords, and can make or break progression raid encounters. In my Raid Tanking souls guide, linked in the movie information box, I describe in detail all of the places I use Rallying and Aid Command. These are primarily buffs for raiding, and I don't pick them up in my expert dungeon builds.

Rapid Recovery is incredible energy returns, especially while tanking multiple mobs. This is the primary reason I use Warlord as my expert dungeon role of choice.

Let's get to damage reduction. Warlord brings Empowering Strike, a strong armor buff that stacks with other buffs, including Paladin's Shield of the Chosen. Like Paladin, Warlord has a 10% Armor bonus in tier 1, which should be a priority for any Warlord.

Intimidating is a 5% Attack Power and Spell Power debuff which will be applied to any mob, though it's critical to understand that Pacifying Strike will overwrite this if you're mixed with Paladin. Don't put points in here unless you're aoe tanking.

5% Dodge and 5% Block both work as advertised, as does Call to Entrench.

While Warlord damage reduction isn't strong in the deeper tree for raiding, this generally doesn't matter since the tree can hybrid well with other builds, and the encounters you can use it on are generally low-damage.

For Experts, though, there are a ton of great talents and abilities that can be used, including Pin Target, Weapon Blow, Locked Down, and Untenable Position. These work as advertised on nearly everything except bosses.

My personal commentary: Warlord is a well designed tree, but needs to be better focused.

Like other trees, there's no justification for going too deep into this tree, and there's never any justification for going past 32 points. Even though you do have the new 1.2 ability, General's Order, this is not even remotely justifiable.

I think the tree should remain a tanking support tree that's viable for both experts and raid tanking, but part of achieving that means offering something better for damage reduction. When Void Knight is blowing everything else out of the water for physical damage reduction, and a hybrid Void Knight/Reaver/Paladin are necessary to reach maximum potential on encounters like Greenscale, Herald Gaurath, and Plutonus, Warlord always winds up being a big sacrifice.

The sacrifice is worth it, and I believe any serious raid tank should have Warlord in primary builds. But no tank finds it fun to choose helping the raid over sacrificing overpowered damage reduction combinations from Void Knight, or alternatively sacrificing fun and useful abilities from either Paladin or Reaver.


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