I'm really enjoying playing a Protection warrior in WotLK.
In Burning Crusade, I had been teaming up a lot in the mid-60s with a Protection paladin. I tried a few specs, and concluded that I really like spamming Devastate. So I ended up DPSing with a quirky Protection build that emphasized damage as much as possible.
Now in WotLK, that paladin has found he's much happier playing a hunter. So I'm tanking more, but still using that DPS-oriented Protection build. I haven't actually DPSed in a group with my warrior--but I have tanked instances with a prot warrior DPSing. I believe that Prot warriors do have enough DPS to be legitimate in a DPS role. My only direct evidence for this is that in an instance run where I was tanking in greens and blues with a DPS team in purples, I did 20% of the overall damage. I think that this means that if I were DPSing, I would probably not be leader of the pack on DPS, but I'd at least be in the pack.
There's a very nice interaction of Prot abilities that mean that as a Prot warrior, I'm still Protecting, even when I'm in a DPS role. Here's how it plays out:
- A Prot warrior will use Shockwave a lot for the damage, but it provides a 4-second stun as well. This means that the tank will be taking less damage because the foes are getting stunned.
The Prot warrior as DPS also provides a measure of stability for the group:
- It turns out that I do more DPS with weapon and shield than with two weapons. (I don't do that much more white damage and rage with two weapons because of the hit penalty and the off-hand weapon damage penalty, and using a shield lets me do a Shield Slam when Sword and Board triggers.)
- A Prot warrior will be using a lot of high-threat moves, because Devastate, Shield Slam, and Shockwave all carry high threat. The threat gap between someone trying to tank and someone not trying to is so large that pulling aggro shouldn't be an issue, but I think it's still likely that the Prot warrior would have the highest threat of the DPS. (Vigilance on one of the squishier DPS folks makes this even more true.)
- So: with a Prot warrior as DPS, if something happens to the main tank to make them lose aggro (death or CC are the main candidates), the aggro lands on a plate wearer who already has a shield equipped. So there is more time for the healer to get things under control, and the Prot warrior can just switch to Defensive Stance and carry on tanking.
My one sadness: It's very hard to find one-hand axes with strength. I get a lot of benefit from wielding an axe in the main hand, because of the expertise benefit for orcs. I also get a lot of benefit from strength--strength boosts Shield Slam and it gets boosted by Vitality, so the net result is that I like strength about 50% more than I like an equivalent amount of attack power. But one-hand axes with strength are few and far between.
Since writing this, I've actually had the opportunity to DPS with my prot warrior. I didn't top the damage meters, but I was solidly in the pack, doing a fair share of DPS. (About 28% of the damage, behind a higher-level, better-geared hunter at 33%.) I didn't pull aggro off the main tank on mobs he was focusing on, but I did occasionally grab aggro on a mob that the tank didn't have his full attention on. More often, though, I saw a mob or two go loose and go after the healer, and I would switch to defensive stance, grab aggro on them, and bring them back to the rest of the pack.
This is all confirmation of the theories I stated above.